Sunday, September 26, 2010

An apple crumble a day...


I really enjoy making desserts with apples this time of year.  I think it starts with Rosh Hashanah and i stick with apples for a while.  Especially since i found a "keeper".

Beth and I were talking about our Rosh Hashanah dishes, and we both mentioned that we do an apple crumble (or maybe she calls hers an apple crisp).  She told me hers is a super easy apple crumble that her sister-in-law made and everyone loved.  I thought the apple crumble i made for Rosh Hashanah was good, but apparently there was room for improvement.  I then decided to make Beth's/Andrea's apple crumble for break fast, and i practically got a standing ovation.  Debbie said this latest one was definitely much better than the earlier one, and Enrico devoured two plates full.  So now we're all making Andrea's super easy apple crumble, and this is definitely a keeper.

This afternoon at lunch, Karen mentioned that she wants this recipe, and I realized i never blogged about this delicious crumble since i had forgotten to take pictures of it.  When i went into the market today the Fuji apples were staring at me so i decided to buy a few apples to add to the ones i have at home and make this "keeper" to bring to my office.  I'm hoping it comes out as good as the last one because i realized while making it that i have one big problem -- no oats.  Instead of going back to the market, i decided i could use a cereal i have that i use in my morning yogurt.  It's Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola.  I was confident this would work.  The question is: will it be as good as using regular oats?  We'll find out tomorrow.  (Debbie, Karen, Elliot, i hope you'll post your honest opinion of this crumble.)

Oops... one more ingredient i didn't have was brown sugar.  I opted to use three-fourths demerara (partially refined cane sugar, as opposed to regular brown sugar which is fully refined with molasses) and one-fourth muscovado (unrefined natural cane sugar with a natural flavor of molasses).  I guess i should have some regular brown sugar sitting around, just in case.

Now that i've finished cooking this dish, my only question is, why did this dish come out with much more liquid than the last two?  Perhaps we should pat the apples dry before adding them to the baking dish.  (I keep the sliced apples in an acidulous bath until i've finished peeling and slicing all of them.  Perhaps they take on too much water.)
 Mixing oats, flour, sugar...
... and now i've added the melted butter.

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 7 apples, peeled and sliced
  • a few hand fulls of berries (I used raspberries, but Beth's recipe called for blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour and melted butter and mix until crumbly. 
Place half the mixture in a baking dish.
Spread apples and berries over mixture.
Sprinkle with white sugar & cinnamon.
Top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake 40-45 Minutes until golden brown.

Ready to pop in the oven.
Serve  warm, and enjoy with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jammin! Go fig-ure.

Fresh fig jam
I've often thought how fun it would be to make jam.
  1. the choices and combinations are endless;
  2. i love the idea of using fresh fruits (especially summer fruits) and enjoying them all year long; 
  3. how wonderful to make something delicious, made with love and enjoy it for weeks or months to come; and
  4. probably my favorite reason -- those cute hats and bows that you can do to decorate the jars!
Sweet and delicious mission figs
 So a few weeks ago i decided i would make a fig jam since i so love figs and they're in season right now. I kept thinking a fig jam with balsamic vinegar and vanilla would be good. Although it has no vanilla, i was leaning towards Thomas Keller's recipe in ad hoc at home.  In fact, last week i was in the Santa Ynez Valley and found a fun little olive oil and vinegar store.  The store was darling - about the size of my kitchen (tiny) and you could sample the various vinegars.  I immediately saw a balsamic with vanilla and fig and had to try it.  YUMM!  This was the best.  It was also aged 18 years so it was nice and thick.  This over ice cream or grilled stone fruits would be wonderful.  Or even on a piece of french bread.   And if you still haven't figured out how much i enjoyed it, let me tell you that straight from the little tasting cup was perfect for me.  The deliciousness of this vinegar confirmed that i had to make a vanilla balsamic fig jam. 

Other than adding a vanilla bean, i stayed pretty true to Thomas Keller's recipe from Ad Hoc at Home. Let me tell you, this jam came out absolutely DELICIOUS!!! It would be wonderful with goat cheese, on a slice of toast, or just a spoonful out of the jar.  Perhaps even on a piece of turkey.

Figs and company macerating before turning on the heat.
And i had a lot of fun with the fabric and the bows.  I'm really looking forward to giving my mother a jar.  She's the ultimate fig lover, and taught me, whether a fig newton or a fresh fig, they're all pretty delicious!

Ingredients -
  • 2 pounds of fresh figs (i used mission figs)
  • 1 lemon (both zest and juice)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1-1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns tied in a sachet
Mix all ingredients in a large pot and put on medium-high heat on the stove.
After the mixture comes to a rolling boil, turn the burner down and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the consistency is syrupy.
Remove from the heat use an immersion blender to chop up any large chunks, then pour into sterilized jam jars.
That's it for the cooking... now you get to find cute ribbons and fabrics and go to town.

I'm looking forward to making more jams.  In fact, next on the list is a blackberry bourbon jam that Laurence's name on it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Delicious wild rice medley with just about everything but the kitchen sink

Wild Rice Medley with Everything but the Kitchen Sink
I've started attending a support group for those of us that have gone through weight loss surgery and I met some wonderful people.  I really appreciated the wisdom and openness from everyone.  We seem to have a lot of the same issues, fears and of course desires, which all revolve around food.

One particular woman appeared to be the envy of all.  Women wanted to be her, and men... well, you know the rest.  The woman leading the group was quick to point out that both this wise blond and I love to cook, so after the group she i started talking.  She told me about a rice dish she made, based on the wild rice salad served at Gulfstream in Century City.  I know this rice salad well and it is delicious, but i haven't ventured near rice since my surgery - one year ago.  I know i'm "safe" with brown rice; it's hard to overeat that nutty nice.  On the other hand, sticky white rice could be another story.

Dawn said that Trader Joe's has a brown rice medley that contains long grain brown rice, black barley and daikon radish seeds.  She suggested adding freshly shaved white corn, sliced almonds, jicama, carrots and onions.  Well, i think i went overboard.  I felt as though i needed a nap after all the chopping i did.  Although i must say this rice medley was delicious without adding anything to it.  It will definitely become a staple.

TJ's Wild Rice Medley, Cooked
Some of the goodies that i added to the rice...
My rice came out delicious, although i don't know that i would add quite this many ingredients.  Especially since i googled this dish and found the recipe and there's really not nearly as much in it as i thought.  Either way, my dish came out delicious and made enough to feed an army or two.

Ingredients -
  • 1 16 oz. bag of TJ's Brown Rice Medley
  • 5 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 piece of jicama
  • 1/2 cup of diced dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup of diced dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 bunch of green onion tops, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of edamame, shelled
  • 1 cup of baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup of Lucini's Fig & Walnut Savory Artisan Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Sliced almonds
Make the rice separately by bringing 5 cups of stock to a boil.
Add the butter and then add the bag of rice.
Bring back to a boil and reduce the heat.  Let simmer covered for 35 minutes.
Remove from the stove and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the vinaigrette and toss well.
Add the dried fruit and then refrigerate.
After the rice has cooled down, add the other ingredients, and toss well.
I forgot to add the sliced almonds, but can still do it.  I also felt as though mine needed a little olive oil which i drizzed on top and then tossed again.

This dish was delicious and filling!  What a treat.  A healthy and delicious brown rice dish with a lot of healthy goodies.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fresh arugula with oranges, shaved fennel & onion

On one of my trips to Ojai i had dinner in a little bistro in the middle of the village where all of the produce was fresh from local farmers.  I had a delicious salad with arugula, shaved fennel and some other goodies, but it was my first foray into raw fennel.  I loved it, but i knew i would since i adore licorice.  And yes, black licorice at that.  You can't have fun with fennel like you do with licorice whips -- no biting off the ends and using it like a straw in a soda pop.  But fennel has a nice crunch unlike licorice whips.  

I decided to make a salad to bring to Debbie's for lunch today, and I wanted the salad to be simple since i knew she had a lot of other dishes to go with it.  So, as delicious as the salad was in Ojai, i opted to leave out the berries, cheese and celery.  I'll save those goodies for another time.  I think most people enjoyed the salad i brought.  My only concern is should i not have dressed it until i got to Debbie's?  I knew she would have a lot going on, so i tossed mine with the dressing before leaving my home.  The fennel and onion didn't get soggy, but the arugula was a bit soft.  Either way, i think it had nice flavors and was different out of the ordinary.

Shaved fennel... paper thin

Shaved red onion... paper thin
Ingredients -
  • one large fennel bulb
  • one sweet red onion
  • 1 package of fresh arugula
  • two oranges, sectioned and sliced into bite-size pieces
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red-wine vinegar
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
Shave the fennel into paper thin slices.
Shave the onion into paper thin slices.
Mix into bowl with arugula.
Lightly toss with extra virgin olive oil, a couple splashes of vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.
Toss in orange segments.

Optional additions are shaved parmaesan, feta or goat cheese, along with either dried cranberries or sliced dried apricots or figs.

Voila!  Light and healthy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

APPLE OATMEAL CRISP not quite sweet enough for Rosh Hashanah

A good apple crumble... just a bit too tart to start off the new year.

Monday i was thinking about Rosh Hashanah and decided it would be nice to make something a little different (or "different" insofar as the holidays are concerned).  I've already offered to bring a round challah,  so now i want to think of a sweet apple dish.  Well, i guess i wasn't in the mood to think too hard.  I found what looked like a simple recipe for an apple crisp.  This recipe came from the Cafe Beaujolais cookbook which I've had for over 20 years and can tell you it's provided me with some wonderful dishes and stories that i will never forget to go along with those dishes.  This recipe (and probably most recipes that call for apple slices) called for soaking the apple slices in lemon juice.  I get the idea of not wanting the apples to oxidize so you keep them in an acidulous bath, but... Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be sweet, sweet, sweet.  No tart.  No sour.  We want to start the year out on the sweetest note possible.  So why did i use the lemon?  In fact, i also used granny smith apples which tend to be tart.  Next round i'm using golden delicious (sorry, Rosa.  I'm aiming for sweet on the second version).  I made the apple crumble (which smelled delicious as it was cooking) and brought it to my office on Tuesday.  The RPD taste testers seemed to like the dish, although some commented on how tart it was.  In fact, my sister said it reminded her of a lemon meringue pie.  Not a good sign, especially for Rosh Hashanah. 

Apples bathing in lemon juice and zest.  Bound to be more tart than sweet.
What was i thinking?!?!
 I decided that the second apple crisp would be made with apple juice, honey and a splash of lemon juice, and i would try golden delicious apples.  Yes, the honey and golden delicious apples should make a tremendous difference, and hopefully this dish will be perfect for the holiday! 

Although the pictures in this posting are from the tart apple crumble made on Monday (with the lemon juice and lemon zest), as i write this post i'm in the process of baking a new, revised crumble using the apple juice/honey/splash of lemon juice mixture along with golden delicious apples.  I'll have to post tomorrow after our Rosh Hashanah lunch to let you know the consensus.  I have a feeling this one will be a lot less tart.

Assembled and ready to bake

Fresh out of the oven and smelling delicious!

Recipe is adapted from Margaret Fox's Cafe Beaujolais, Mendocino, California

When i refer to "my first crumble", it's the tart version; "the second version" is the one i'm hoping turns out much sweeter.

Ingredients -
  • 6 firm apples, peeled, cored and cut in 1/4-inch slices (my first crumble i used granny smith; the second one i used golden delicious) 
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon (i omitted the zest on the second version)
  • 1/4 cup of apple juice
  • 1/4 cup of honey (this became an afterthought that i used in the second version only)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinammon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 3/4 cup of light brown sugar (I used 3/4 cup of demerara plus 1/4 cup of golden brown sugar for a little extra sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup of regular oats
  • 1/4 cup of slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  • optional toppings:  vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or vanilla custard sauce
Mix together the apple slices, lemon juice, lemon rind and apple juice (or brandy, water or Calvados).  Place in a buttered 9-inch round cake pan.
Using an electric mixer at slow speed, blend the sugar, butter, flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger until crumbly.  
Mix in the slivered almonds.
Scatter evenly on top of apples.
Bake at 350°F. for 1 hour.
Serve warm.

And enjoy this dessert knowing i send you best wishes for a new year filled with an abundance of health, happiness and peace.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    One bean, two bean, three bean, four!

    Three bean, four bean, five bean and tomato salad
    I've had such a craving for legumes lately.  Clean, satisfying proteins.  I decided between fresh beans/peas and the delicious heirloom tomatoes, i would make a bean and tomato salad.

    When i was at the farmer's market i bought a variety of beans -- blackeyed peas, some kind of a bean in a purple hull, and fava beans (one of my favorites).  They're all so beautiful in their raw state.  It's a shame they lose their vibrant color when you cook them.  And i also had chickpeas that i had cooked up and froze, although not quite sure what i plan to do with all of them.  Fava beans are interesting -- they're in a thick and padded hull.  The inside of the hull has almost a cotton-like padding.  And still, with this thick hull, the beans are in yet another shell-like compartment.  Once you cook them out of the hull, you have to yet again take off the outside layer of the bean.  I've heard people say that, to cook fava beans, is a labor of love, and i agree.  They're time consuming, but in my opinion, well worth the effort. 
    Fava beans, blackeyed peas, and purple-hulled beans.

    The well-protected fava bean.

    Beautiful beans.
    I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, so i took all the beans out of their pods or hulls and boiled them

    A beany jacuzzi
    Once the beans were cook, i drained them and immediately put them in an ice bath so that they would keep their colors.  I then marinated them in olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, fresh oregano, a sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. 

     I then sliced a delicious heirloom tomato and spooned the bean mixture over the tomato slices.