Monday, August 30, 2010

Raspberry Ricotta Pancakes ... yum.

The first day of school is coming up fast. The pace picks up when busy mornings get even busier for most families. If you think it takes too much time to whip up a special breakfast on harried weekdays, this recipe will change your mind. Hint: Mix batter the night before and refrigerate - an easy timesaver in getting food on the table and everyone out the door on time.


Special thanks to Tinky Weisblat, foodie and blogger extraordinaire, for all her encouragement and caring in pulling together so many of us to celebrate Massachusetts Farmers Market Week last week!

RASPBERRY RICOTTA PANCAKES
1 cup biscuit mix
2/3 cup low fat milk
1 rounded tablespoon ricotta cheese
1/4 cup egg sustitute (or 1 small egg)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Using a wooden spoon blend biscuit mix, milk, cheese and egg until smooth. (If making the batter the night before, refrigerate before adding raspberries.) Gently fold in raspberries. Set aside for a few minutes while lightly oiled griddle heats up over medium heat. Spoon about 1/8 cup onto prepared griddle. When bubbles form over the top and the sides look dry, turn the cakes to cook another minute or two or until bottoms are lighltly browned. Serve with a dab of butter and raspberry or maple syrup. For an extra special treat add a dollop of Creme Fraiche instead of butter and drizzle the syrup on top. Makes 6-8 cakes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Because fresh is best!

Don't let my last name or the fact that I make golumpki and pierogi with my husband fool you. My maternal grandmother, Maria Cavelli, was my first cooking teacher. Lasagna and insalata caprese served with hot crusty bread was the first menu I learned to make. A great meal anytime of year but not as good as what came during harvest season.

Stuffed eggplant dinner was something she made in late summer and early fall when the locally grown eggplants and tomatoes are ripe and fresh. When Tiny Weisblat from In Our Grandmother's Kitchens asked me to participate in the blogathan during Farmers Market Week, I knew this was the recipe to share.

Thanks to Farmer Paul, access to garden fresh (and I mean just picked fresh) fruits and veggies are at my fingertips daily. But not having backyard bounty is no excuse for not making the best of the harvest season. Shop at farmers' markets and roadside stands -- loving local this time of year comes easy.

My grandmother was a fabulous cook and her mantra was that it's not the time spent slaving over a hot stove that makes a great meal, it's quality ingredients. Please consider making a donation to support Massachusetts Farmers Markets. Remember, buy local because fresh is best! Or as my grandmother would have said, " Compra fresco locale è meglio."

STUFFED EGGPLANT ROUNDS
1 large eggplant
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 pound Italian sweet sausage
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup milk, for dipping eggplant
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Olive oil cooking spray

Remove sausage meat from its casing and sauté on medium low heat until cooked through and crumbly. In a food processer add cheese, egg parsley and sausage and pulse until filling is well mixed. Do not over-process, sausage crumbles should be visible and distinct. Slice eggplant very thin with a very sharp knife. Dip eggplant slices into milk, coating both sides. Add 1 tablespoon filling to the center of each round and roll. Secure with a toothpick if needed. Lightly spray oil in the bottom of a baking pan. Place each roll in the pan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then lightly spray the oil on the tops of the rolls. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Top with fresh sauce (see below).

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE
6 large ripe red tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Using a sharp knife, slice a thin slice from one end of each of the tomatoes. Use a cheese grater and grate the tomato from the cut end over a bowl. When you finish the skin should be left in your hand and fresh tomato sauce in the bowl. Toss basil into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste, cover and set aside. In a medium sized pan, sauté garlic in olive oil about 5 to 6 minutes. Cook on medium-low, do not allow the garlic to brown. Remove from the heat. Pour tomato mixture into the hot pan. Spoon over stuffed eggplant rounds immediately and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Hint: This sauce is also wonderful when tossed with hot pasta as a side.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spice Islands Supper

Today was not the welcome relief of a crisp sunny day at the end of summer heat. The weather here in western Massachusetts turned raw and rainy. It made me wish for a warm beach and turquoise waters.

Spicy and infused with subtle local flavors like coconut milk, West Indies and other island recipes are fusions of African, Asian, Indian, Spanish, French and Dutch cuisine. In the islands, you're more likely to find a main dish kabob prepared with goat or lamb. I use beef sirloin tip, a tender, flavorful and economical substitute. Spoon whole kernel corn over brown rice for a side and your island style dinner is served.

Add a little spice island style to your life -- I think you'll like it!

ISLAND HOPPER BEEF KABOBS
1 pound sirloin tip steak, cut into one inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
1 teaspoon red chile paste, or 1 finely fresh chopped hot chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut or sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Skewers, soaked in water for an hour to prevent burning

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except meat. Place meat in a large zip-loc bag. Pour marinade over meat in the bag. Zip closed and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Thread seasoned meat on moistened skewers. Discard marinade. Cover kabobs with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to grill.
Preheat grill for medium-high heat (450 degrees F). Brush grate liberally with oil, and arrange kabobs on grill. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, turning as needed to brown evenly. Serve with peanut dipping sauce.

WEST INDIES STYLE PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon peanut or sesame seed oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon chile paste, or 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut milk

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Use puree cycle, adding more coconut milk to get your desired consistency. Serve the sauce warm or at room temperature.

Makes four servings.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Warm-your-insides Hot Cherry Peppers

On cool weather weekends, a good pot roast with hot cherry peppers on the side is a family favorite around our house. This year the peppers will be from our garden instead of the grocer's shelf.

Preserving food was a fact of life years ago. Today it's an artful craft resurging in popularity. Bringing freshness to the family table from the family garden creates an intimate relationship with our food.  And the taste can't be beat.

It won't be long now!

HOT CHERRY PEPPERS
2 pounds raw hot cherry peppers, mixed green and red
3 cups vinegar
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Leave peppers whole, cutting stems close to the top. Set aside. Combine vinegar, water and garlic in a large saucepan. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simme five minutes. Strain out garlic. Pack peppers into hot pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over peppers leaving the headspace. Press down on the peppers with the back of a spoon to release bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process ten minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 3 pints.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peaches, peaches everywhere ...

Imagine my surprise to find a 1/2 bushel box of peaches sitting on the picnic table out back. Firm, juicy and ripe and all the way from Maryland. Farmer Paul's fishing buddy Joe dropped them off -- my guess? A peace offering for sweeping said Farmer Paul off to the river for two days.

Good plan, pal, because those peaches kept me busy and happy all day. Can't wait to try this salsa on tomorrow's grilled mahi!

SWEET HEAT PEACH PEPPER SALSA
9 large ripe but firm peaches - peeled and diced
1/2 cup white onion - fine grated
3 hot peppers - chopped (I used Portugal peppers, a hot orange pepper but jalapeno work nicely)
1 sweet red pepper - chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro - loosely packed
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic - grated
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack into hot jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Check altitude directions for canning in your corner of the world. Makes four 8 ounce jars plus another 4-5 ounces to use right away. And it is one of few recipes that doubles up w/o losing anything.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From the Cabbage Patch

With the tons of tomatoes, peas, pasta and beans my Italian grandmother's minestrone didn't actually taste very cabbagey. Then I married Farmer Paul. If you're part of a Polish family you can't escape cabbage. Sure I like golumpki, I would tell my husband's mother and aunts. But I unwrapped the cabbage rolls and ate the insides before discreetly tossing the actual cabbage part in the disposal.

Sometime in my mid-twenties I decided to give the whole golumpki a try and found I didn't hate cabbage at all. And from then on it was cabbage heaven for me. These days I wait impatiently for our garden to produce. Golumpki, kapusta, cabbage pierogi are standard cooked cabbage fare. Shredded cabbage instead of lettuce on tacos, and summer slaw are two favorite ways to use raw cabbage.

SUMMER SLAW
1 medium cabbage, chopped or coarsely grated
2 carrots, peeled and coursely grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
black pepper to taste

Combine the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Whisk together the mayonnaise, heavy cream, sugar, vinegar, celery seed and pepper in a medium bowl. Add dressing to the cabbage mixture. Mix well to combine. Taste for seasoning; add salt, more pepper, or sugar if desired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why do you think he grows cabbage?

I married into a Polish family. Try as I might my golumpki never came out right. Tough cabbage, stuffing mix like lead, or worse -- a crumbled heap of meat and rice. I tried adding egg (meatloaf golumpki?), tomato soup, every trick I could find in the cookbooks the church ladies sold after Mass once a year. My husband poured on the Heinz to make them palatable.

After close to twenty years of frustration I threw up my hands and said, "Make them yourself." So he did. But first, he asked the experts for advice. Turned out Farmer Paul is his mother's son, his aunt's nephew and a pretty good Polish cook. It took time, but we've got a system now. He still likes ketchup on them but these Polish yummies don't need a thing beyond a fresh slice of seeded rye bread on the side.

CIOCE SOPHIE'S GOLUMPKI
1 medium cabbage, frozen whole at least 24 hours up to 3 weeks
1 cup of cooked River brand rice
1 pound hamburger, 20/80 fat to lean
1 one inch cube salt pork, chopped small
salt and pepper to taste
large oval baking dish


In a small fry pan, sauté the chopped salt pork until crispy and the fat has been released from the meat. Strain and reserve fat, discarding the pork meat. Put your ground beef in a large bowl. Add 1 cup (still warm)cooked rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix with hands until well blended. Add reserved fat, should be about one tablespoon, and mix again until evenly blended. Cover and refrigerate while your cabbage boils.

Cioce's secret (I should have asked sooner) to getting cabbage leaves thin, tender and easy to work with was to freeze the raw head in advance then cook on a low boil for twenty minutes. Set for about 10-15 minutes on a plate to drain and cool. Reserve one cup of the cabbage water. The leaves should come off easily with little effort beyond cutting them away from the core.

Line the bottom of your baking pan with the darker and less tasty leaves on the outside of the cabbage. Take a hefty size tablespoon full of the meat-rice mix and place on stem end (hint: cut away the thickest part of the stem) of a cabbage leaf. Bring each side of leaf over into middle and roll. Place roll in baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat until all meat is used. Should make about a dozen golumpki.

Pour the reserved cabbage water over top of rolls. An added delicious treat is to place sliced kielbasa around the cabbage rolls if you wish. Cover with double layer of foil and bake about an hour on 350 degrees. Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving. Individually wrap extra rolls in plastic and freeze, they taste great as a microwave meal on busy weeknights.