Monday, November 30, 2009

A Spring Soup to Fall for - Potage Saint-Germain

Potage St. Germain

An elegant and delicate French soup of green peas, leeks, lettuce, and mint, Potage Saint-Germain is traditionally enjoyed in the spring, when fresh green peas are in season. I stumbled upon one lone packet of shelled peas while marketing for Thanksgiving produce. Among the rutabagas, yams, and green beans, they looked like foundlings in need of a good home. So I adopted them. Days after the feast, they provided the perfect remedy for a jaded appetite, a jade-colored purée of simplicity and good taste. I felt renewed. It felt like Easter.


Autumn Potage Saint-Germain - Loosely based on the Epicurious recipe

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Ingredients

2 large leeks (white and green parts), trimmed of roots and coarse leaves
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 generous cups fresh or frozen green peas, rinsed
1 heart of romaine lettuce, stemmed and chopped, including unbruised outer dark green leaves
3 cups vegetable stock (I used mushroom)
1/2 cup milk or cream, any fat content
Small handful fresh mint leaves, chopped (or if tiny, keep whole)
1 teapoon salt (omit if you've used well-salted stock).
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Optional garnishes:
1/4 cup cream, any fat content
A few reserved mint leaves
Snipped chives
Croutons

Method

Slice leek stalks into coins and separate into rings. Soak rings in bowl of cold water for ten minutes, agitating occasionally. (N.B. - Leeks notoriously harbor sand in their very finely ribbed recesses. Special care must be taken to rid even the smallest particle, which will impart a nasty grit that will ruin the recipe.) Transfer rings into colander (sand will have sunken to bottom of bowl) and rinse under running water. Pat rings with toweling to remove excess water, then add them to a large saucepan where you have gently warmed the butter or oil over very low heat.

Sauté leeks until limp and golden, about 6 minutes. Add peas, lettuce, and stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover saucepan, allowing some steam to escape, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender, adding mint leaves. Purée until smooth. (Take care; it will be very hot.) Transfer purée into clean saucepan. Add milk or cream, black pepper, and salt. Stir briefly over very low heat. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Ladle into serving bowls, drip optional cream onto surface, and swirl with a skewer or toothpick. Add optional mint leaves, chives, and/or croutons. Serve immediately.
Fresh Peas
Fresh peas.


This recipe is for Sra of When My Soup Came Alive, hosting MLLA 17. Sra will have the round-up online as soon as possible. Do stop by and peruse the menu. I'm sure there is yet another feast coming up.

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Been There, Done That ~
Piyaz
Chickpea Caldo Verde
Cannellini, Fennel, and Olives

Other People's Eats ~
Revithia

Black Bean Soup with Fried Egg
Rigatoni with Legume and Vegetable Soup


Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting Your Goat (Cheese) - A Giveaway

Goat Feta on Olive Oil
Feta on Olive Oil.

Life's little luxuries. They are often unexpected gifts: the hand-written thank-you note from a far-away friend; the cat who spies the spider before it lowers itself onto your head; the Valentine extravagance of Italian black lace languidly pooled in a glossy white box. We all have our favorites. And sometimes, we have to get them for ourselves, like the parcel of certified organic goat cheese I purchased from an artisan dairy hidden in the mountains of Montana, brought to my attention by Toni of Daily Bread Journal, who wrote to me of her visit there while wandering the wilds on a recent vacation.

Amaltheia Organic Dairy has been in business since 2000. Named for the Greek mythological she-goat who nursed the god Zeus, the 20-acre, 500-head operation was recognized in 2008 with a Montana Eco-Star Award for its commitment to fully sustainable farmsteading. The owners, Mel and Sue Brown, have also enjoyed awards from the American Cheese Society for their distinctive, vegetarian-friendly chevres. The Browns pride themselves on products that are made exclusively with their own born-and-breed livestock, without dependence on offshore ingredients of any kind.

For the health conscious, goat cheese is high in Omega-3 fatty acids yet lower in fat than cow's milk cheese. It is generally easier to digest and rich in potassium, Vitamin A, thiamine, and niacin. Four ounces provide 16 grams of protein at the same calorie count as a candy bar, but with no refined sugar, hydrogenated fats, or artificial flavors or colors.

Now, it is your chance for a little luxury of your own, courtesy of Amaltheia Organic Dairy*. I will be conducting a random drawing to select one winner who will receive 8 ounces each of the following chevres: Plain, Roasted Garlic and Chives, Spiced Pepper, Sun-Dried Tomato, Perigord Black Truffle, Whole Milk Ricotta, and Feta - a total of 3.5 pounds of cheese. For inclusion in the drawing, please leave a comment on this post by December 1, 11:59 p.m. New York time. You do not have to be a blogger to be included in the drawing. For the purpose of fairness, anonymous readers who are not bloggers must identify themselves in the comment with a first name and first initial of surname which must match the name given me to ship the prize should you be the winner. Due to the perishable nature of dairy products, this prize can only be awarded to residents of the continental U.S. Family and friends are not eligible to win. The winner will be announced in a post on December 2. Good luck, everyone!

For those who'd like to try Amaltheia Organic Dairy products for themselves, as I initially did, they are available online or in selected markets nationwide.

Black Truffle Goat Cheese
Flavored with Perigord Black Truffle.

*Amaltheia Organic Dairy is the sponsor of this giveaway. I have not been personally compensated either financially or with products in exchange for discussion on this site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All About Eve - Baked Mutsu Apples

Baked Mutsu Apple

There are certain popular and common fruits that I can pretty well pass up. Take apples, for instance. Really, you take them. I buy them by the bagful for Scott, an Apple-a-Day man, if ever, but once they get the tumble into the cavernous glazed bowl on the sideboard, I never look at them again. I'd much rather cup a sweet palm of berries to my mouth or leisurely sink my teeth into the yielding, succulent curvature of a pear. Until fairly recently, I just hadn't found apples particularly hedonistic in texture nor flavor, especially when eaten out of hand, and have a hard time believing that Eve really seduced Adam with one.

Of course, Eve never had a microwave, nor did Mutsu apples grow on the Tree of Knowledge. A Mutsu in a microwave is a miraculous thing; it has restored my faith in apples. Hissing cinnamon vapors, its golden haunches gashed and splayed, bleeding brown sugar, it looks like a crime scene. It tastes like a sin.


Mutsu Apple
Also known as Crispin, Mutsu is not your typical baked apple.

Baked Mutsu Apples – My own off-the-cuff recipe. Substitute your own spices, sweetener, fruit, and nuts, if desired.

Ingredients – (Per serving, although Mutsu can be very large, easily serving two.)

1 Mutsu apple, washed and cored
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup brown sugar, packed (this can be omitted if you prefer less sweetness)
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons shelled walnuts, coarsely broken

Method

Center apple in a microwavable serving bowl that is large enough to accommodate the expansion of it once it is cut open. Microwave on high power* for 3-4 minutes or until apple yields when pushed down gently with a spoon. Remove bowl from microwave and cut apple into quarters, letting them fall away from the center. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon. Return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Remove again, distributing brown sugar on and around apple. Toss raisins and walnuts in center of apple. Return to microwave for another 2 minutes or until brown sugar is melted and apple is soft. Remove carefully from microwave (will be very hot) and serve immediately. Continue to use caution; hot sugar can burn the mouth.

* Microwave power and cooking duration vary among brands and models.
This post is for Paru of Brindavan, hosting MEC (Microwave Easy Cooking) - Sweets 'n' Savories for Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons, the creator of MEC.

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Been There, Done That ~

Cardamom Apple Custard
Sourdough Waffles with Pumpkin Butter
Cream Cheese-Filled Pumpkin Roll Cake

Other People's Eats ~
Mele Cotte
Baked Apples Baklava
Three Things to do with Baked Apples

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Intriguing Ingredients - Dundee Cake

Dundee Cake

It started with a cake. It was the kind of cake that Arthur Rowe "...always liked, especially rich Dundees and dark brown home-made fruit-cakes tasting elusively of Guinness." One did not expect to happen upon such a treat during the rationing days of World War II, when England was at constant risk from aerial bombings. It was the kind of cake that drew a crowd of admirers, longing for a cut of buttery crumble, baked light with "real eggs," to cheer the heart and sweeten the tongue. Others were fixated on that buttery crumble, too, but their hearts held secrets that could not be cheered, nor did they want them to be. But it seemed like Rowe's lucky day, that he should win that "magnificent cake" at a fundraising fair, much to the consternation of those others. As it turned out, it was not his lucky day at all.

Billed as "An Entertainment" by its author, Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear charts a distinctive, enigmatic, and malevolent storyline segmented by the state of mind of its protagonist, Arthur Rowe. Haunted by a crime committed as an act of compassion, conspired against by a fifth column costumed as fortune teller, séance medium, and charity league, Rowe is a man whose fate is as existential and bleak as the irony that grips and plunders his sanity and safety.

Life, unfortunately for Arthur Rowe, was never wistfully sweeter than during the brief respite of a seemingly innocent cake in an era when loyalty and love were especially unkind.

Dundee Cake – Adapted from the recipe on Food Down Under

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger
1/3 cup ground almonds (also known as almond meal or flour)
2/3 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup dried currants
1 cup mixed candied fruit peel
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange extract
3 tablespoons golden syrup, honey, or light-colored fruit jam
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped, slivered, or sliced

Method

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch X 3-inch springform cake pan, then line the pan's bottom and sides with cut-to-fit baking parchment, slightly overlapping the side strips. Grease all interior surfaces of parchment. (You may have to clip the side parchment to the pan to keep in place.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and spices. Set aside. In a small bowl, toss raisins, currants, and fruit peel with ground almonds until fruit is uniformly covered with the almonds. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric beater until soft and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange extract. Slowly beat in dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time, into butter mixture, until batter is thick and well combined. Stir in fruit mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Place pan on center rack of oven. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven, glaze cake with syrup, and scatter almonds on top. Return to over to bake another hour or until center tests clean with a slim knife or skewer. Remove cake from oven onto rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove from pan, peel off the side parchment, then carefully slide the cake off the pan bottom with the bottom parchment intact. Return to rack to cool completely. Once cool (it will take at least four hours), cake can be lifted to peel off bottom parchment. Cut with a serrated knife. Serves 16 (realistically, 8). Best served the same day, when it's very moist and tender. Leftovers must be wrapped tightly in plastic; it is discernibly dryer as it matures, like most fruitcakes, accounting for the tradition of soaking to cure in whiskey, stout, or rum.

This recipe is for Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, hostesses of the quarterly Novel Food event, featuring food and drink inspired by the books we love to read. Special thanks to both ladies for waiting on my post.

Half a Cake...

Been There, Done That ~
Simnel Cake
Candied Lemon Loaf
Extreme Gingerbread Muffin Makeover

Other Peoples' Eats ~
Mini Dundee Cakes
Christmas Marzipan Cake
Candied Lemon Peel