December 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The first time I saw a matzo ball was when I moved to Brooklyn 11 years ago, at age 23. I was intrigued by the pale color and the little pool of broth it rested in, with bitty flecks of carrot and onion. I did not want to eat it. Growing up in Maine I had zero exposure to Jewish food.
April 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The old adage says, “when life hands you too much basil, add lemon and make pesto.” Or maybe not, but that’s what I do when I’ve got lots of basil. I’m not sure if this is a true pesto, but it is a Crafty Fork version I whipped up in the blender in three minutes and it is equally delicious and versatile.
Basil is one of my favorite herbs. I like to try to use it the day I buy it. When I bring it home, I trim the ends of stems and stick it in a glass of water like flowers in a vase. Tent with a plastic bag and refrigerate to keep (use the plastic! The gases from other fruits and veggies can make basil go bad, and fast). When I’m ready to use the herb, I soak the basil leaves in water with a cap full of white vinegar for 2 minutes or so, then drain and give it a few twirls in the salad spinner. Often I tear the leaves and use it as a fresh pizza topping, or even throw a few torn leaves into a regular green salad to jazz it up.
It is impossible for me to use an entire bunch of basil without having to freeze some of it. It just turns so fast! I received a giant bundle of organic basil from my CSA this Wednesday, but haven’t had the time to cook anything until today (Sunday). It was starting to get a bit wilty so the thought hit me: pesto! I could puree in the blender and get some major use out of it right away. I’m using half the batch on a whole wheat flax pizza crust with fresh tomatoes and artichoke hearts this evening, and the other half I’ll freeze in my covered ice cube try (from back in the day when I was making baby food) and use as I want.
Three Minute Fresh Basil Pesto
1 large bunch fresh basil, washed, dried, and torn
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aka Parmesan cheese)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the blender. Blend (chop, puree, whatever) on a medium-style setting, while drizzling the rest of the olive oil through the lid, approximately 45 seconds.
Remove lid and add “dry ingredients” (cheese, salt, pepper) and then lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
Add more olive oil and pulse to combine if you want a runnier sauce, or leave as is. I like to leave the pesto on the thick side, then thin with additional olive oil in cooking as called for by the individual recipes.
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March 13, 2012 § 3 Comments
This is a great cake, all-around. It’s got a complex sweetness to it, much like most of my vegan friends. It is very moist but crumby too, in a good way. The orange flavor isn’t overpowering, rather, it lends itself to being a more “adult” style cake, though I’d imagine it would make a divine birthday cake for kids of any age if it were smothered in chocolate icing. I should mention that I’ve already test-driven this cake on my kid so I assure you it can be considered a “toddler-style” cake as well. If you’re eager to get to the recipe, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this post.
This cake had been calling to me for years, as I’d leaf through my trusty copy of The Joy of Cooking. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered it is possible to make cake from scratch without going through multiple, seemingly endless steps (sift, sift together, then sift some more? No thanks.) We had some orange juice that had been hanging out in the fridge for a while so I decided to give it the Ultra-Orange Cake a shot for an afternoon coffee treat.
The Ultra-Orange Cake is relatively low in fat compared to some, due to the fact that there are not any eggs in the batter. Rather than butter, this recipe calls for canola oil, and only 1/3 cup of it.
I used my 8″ x 8″ baking pan, and cut the cake into 9 even and quite large squares. I promptly froze 7 of them in individual containers and the hubby, daughter, and I shared 2 pieces. While I usually like my baked goods warm and fresh from the oven, I’ve got to say that one of those frozen pieces, thawed on the counter for 30 minutes or so, makes an excellent treat on its own.
Ultra-Orange (Vegan) Cake
from the updated edition of The Joy of Cooking
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar (J.O.C. says white, but I prefer brown)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Lightly grease the inside of an 8 x 8″ baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, whisk to combine: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt.
To dry ingredients, add remaining ingredients (OJ, oil, zest, vinegar, vanilla) and stir until mostly smooth. Do not over-stir as this would result in a chewy cake.
Pour batter into lined pan and gently shake to level. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
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March 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
Eggs. They’re affordable, loaded with protein and valuable nutrients, and have a long shelf-life. In addition to being high-nutrition for low-cost, it is possible to buy cruelty-free eggs. Look for “free-range organic” on the label; if you can purchase eggs straight from the farm and see “happy chickens,” that would be the best way to go.
Recently I partook in a fun food-blogger challenge called Kitchen Bootcamp, for which I invented my Inside Out Egg Sandwich. Jen, the woman who hosted the challenge and writes My Kitchen Addiction, made a Ham and Asparagus Strata for the challenge. It looked so good, I had to try it, making a few Crafty tweaks here and there. I didn’t stray far from her recipe though. This strata (or casserole if you prefer) is hearty, covers all basic food groups in one dish, and keeps well in the fridge. The three of us ate off of this one dish for about a week, sometimes breakfast, sometimes lunch, and sometimes dinner.
As mentioned, I use organic, free-range eggs. I also only buy nitrate-free ham (and other meats) from ethical companies, organic milk from pasture cows, and organic bread and vegetables. If you’re really interested in learning more on why you should consider cruelty-free, environmentally friendly animal products, I highly recommend you read nearly anything by Peter Singer. Although the truth is that might persuade you to consider becoming vegan.
Strata with Ham, Gruyere, Asparagus, and Dijon
adapted from My Kitchen Addiction
8 egg whites
1/2 cup milk, any type
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, cubed
7 ounces cooked ham, cut into chunks
1 1/2 pound asparagus spears, washed and very lightly steamed, trimmed to fit casserole dish
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (approximately 1 heaping cup full)
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
pinch garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9″ x 13″ baking dish (I use my favorite 3 qt. Pyrex casserole for this).
Combine egg whites, eggs, milk, dijon, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Whisk until well blended.
Spread bread evenly on bottom of casserole. Layer ham evenly on top of bread. Slowly, evenly pour egg mixture on top of bread and ham, being careful to evenly distribute egg mixture. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
Next, layer asparagus on top. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.
Bake for about one hour, or until egg is fully cooked and top is golden brown. Run butter knife around edges to prevent strata from sticking to casserole dish. Cool for 30 minutes.
Serve warm with Dijon mustard as condiment. Can be stored in fridge and re-heated for up to five days.
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March 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This is the quintessential Saint Patrick’s Day “Corned Beef and Cabbage” meal served in New England. My paternal grandparents were 2nd generation Irish. Scotch Irish to be exact (and those from New England know there is a difference). I don’t think Gram used wine in her broth for this dish, although she sure did serve and enjoy with beer in celebration of the Irish holiday.
This dish is a family favorite, and really could feed up to 8 people if you stretched it with appetizers, beer, and served with biscuits or a hearty soda bread. This version is heavy on the veggies because that is how my family likes it. If you are planning on entertaining a group or have a lot of meat-eaters in your clan, you could double the meat, wet ingredients, and spices and the results would be as good or maybe even better. If you’re eager to get the recipe, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.
Potatoes, rutabaga (or yellow turnip), carrots, and onion are added to the expected corned beef and cabbage, rounding out the meal and making it more family-friendly. You can also add parsnips to the mix if you’d like.
Classic Irish American Boiled Dinner
1 corned beef brisket (up to 4 lbs), with excess fat trimmed
3/4 cup dry white wine; I use Chardonnay
32 ounces chicken stock or broth
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
2 large yellow onions, quartered then cut into eighths
6 large white potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 large rutabaga (also known as yellow turnip) peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks
5-6 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 large head green cabbage, core removed and quartered (you can halve the quarters into eighths if you wish)
In large stock pot, place corned beef in bottom. Add 1 onion, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic. Pour in white wine, and then enough broth, just enough to cover the meat. If you need to add water to cover the meat that is fine. Simmer, covered, until “fork tender” and fork inserted in the middle glides in easily. This usually takes about 3 1/2 hours, but begin checking after 2 1/2 hours.
When meat is done cooking, remove to a platter and cover with foil. Add potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and remaining onion to broth and bring up to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook covered until potatoes are still slightly firm, about 20-25 minutes or so.
Add cabbage, replace cover, and simmer until cabbage is tender but still green. Do not overcook the cabbage.
Remove from heat. Slice meat across the grain when ready to serve. My mom used to cut the meat into large (4 inch) chunks and put back into the broth with the veggies. This is an excellent way to serve.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
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March 2, 2012 § 1 Comment
Growing up, Mom made a salmon pie that was just salmon, potato, and crust. The addition of a little seasoning, some fresh dill, and an egg to hold it together brings the filing to a more modern level. Swapping out Mom’s old shortening crust for an updated all-butter crust brings this classic pantry dish into the 21st century. This pie is a crowd-pleaser and a family favorite. You can use any canned salmon, and any type of mashed potato (fresh, leftover, or even instant). I’ve entered this recipe in a contest on food52.com for “Your Best Canned Fish Recipe.“ If you’re eager to get to the recipe, go ahead and scroll to the bottom of this post.
I grew up eating this dish probably twice a year, so I’ve never been squeamish about canned salmon. I know some people are, especially if you’ve only had it once and picked the type that has the skin and bones in the can along with the flesh of the fish. Personally, I opt for the no skin, no bones variety of canned salmon. However, there is actually more nutrition (more omegas, more calcium, etc.) in the “with skin and bones” variety. I’ll leave it to you to experiment and determine which you prefer.
Salmon, potatoes, onion, fresh dill, and one egg to “glue” it together. This recipe is very, very easy to make, even for beginner cooks, but it ends up being a pretty impressive dinner centerpiece.
I have to apologize for not having a photo of the whole, fully baked (and perfectly flaky and golden-crusted) pie. I left it on the counter to go pick my daughter up from daycare, and returned to a pie minus two large pieces. My husband apologizes. Such are the pitfalls of being a food blogger with a (hungry) foodie husband.
21st Centery Salmon Pie (like Mom used to make, but better)
4 six-ounce cans of Alaskan salmon (or equivalent), drained (yield 19-20 ounces of drained fish)
2 1/3 cups mashed potato, salted and peppered to taste
3 heaping tablespoons diced red onion (approximately 1/2 small onion)
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped (you can use dried dill here too, cut to 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch garlic powder
all-butter pie dough for a double-crust 9 inch pie (see my preferred painless pie crust recipe here)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In large bowl, flake drained salmon with fork. Add egg and stir well. Add mashed potatoes to salmon mixture and mash until combined.
Add onion, dill, pepper, and garlic powder to salmon mixture and stir.
Assemble as you would any double-crust pie.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and quickly protect edge crust with foil. Return to oven and bake another 15-25 minutes. Pie is finished when it is pleasantly golden brown.
Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with yellow mustard if desired.
NOTES: You can use instant mashed potatoes for this recipe – I have with excellent results. I wouldn’t skimp on the crust, though. I always use Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee.
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