Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Noodle Bowls


“Wow, that was a really good meal” “What a great deal.” “What a fun evening” These are some phrases that are never heard after a night out in Fairbanks! Most often whether it is a meal in a restaurant or any sort of Fairbanks event whether it be a beer or wine tasting and a dinner event we always walk away somewhat disappointed. When we first moved here we gave it the good old college try. We went to all the restaurants that the locals recommended. In the end we realized it was much easier and more satisfying to eat at home. With that said, we somehow ended up with our social calendar booked for this last weekend. It all started last Friday night after work with Bad Girls of the North an annual Fairbanks Art Show at the Westmark Hotel. Unlike food, there are some really amazing artists here in Fairbanks and throughout Alaska. I zeroed in on some pottery nearly as soon as we walked in the door. I am a huge fan of practical artwork and have quite a large collection of handmade pottery. As soon as I saw Lori Jean’s noodle bowls, I knew that I had to have one (or two). We have been eating a lot of soba and udon noodles lately, so I could not resist. I also picked up a little sea salt canister as well.
Last night I could not wait any longer to use our new noodle bowls so I made a simple Udon dish with fried tofu, garlic, fresh ginger, cilantro, cayenne and lemon juice. It was the perfect simple meal for our new bowls.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Calypso Farm Auction and Dinner


Last night was the annual fundraising auction for the Calypso Farm and Ecology Center. The place was packed with supporters of the organization. They provided a meal with all locally grown and raised food. This is where we purchased our CSA from this year. I think most of the folks that do aren't really looking for a CSA as much as they just want to support the organization. To say that our share was meager would be an understatement. Now, I will admit that it was a pretty sad year for growing just about anything. I have heard from other folks that it didn't really make a difference in past years. I'm not really sure that their small farm can support all the special activities and workshops along with a CSA. We will continue to support the organization in other ways, but we need to eat too! I am on the waiting list for a couple other highly recommended CSA's in town for next year.
In any case I donated a couple jars of lemon and raspberry curd for the silent auction. We watched other folks pay $150 for a plate of fudge or a box of homemade caramels and then came home and had a couple more slices of leftover Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake.

In other news, if you notice those little white things on our deck in the picture. Yes, our very first snow of the season came yesterday!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake


I have been promising David for two years that I would make him a homemade Birthday cake. The first year was a matter of logistics and just didn't have a place to bake one, so I bought a perfectly good cake from a bakery in Victoria and promised that I would make a "real" cake later. Well, by last March (his birthday month) I still had not made his cake from the previous year yet. So, I knew that I would have to make one for sure. Then disaster struck, the cake he picked was a total failure. He wanted those chocolate molten lava cakes. Well, actually he wanted the cake his mother used to make, but that is another story for another post. Anyway... the lava cakes were problematic as you are supposed to wait for them to harden in the fridge before you bake them and well...I didn't. David's Birthday cakes were a big gloppy mess! So it appears that I now owe him two birthday cakes and if I don't get on it, three in March. When one of my co-workers brought in this Peanut Butter Chocolate cake that his girlfriend had made for a reception at work, I knew it would be the perfect cake for one of David's birthday cakes. He let his girlfriend know and she directed me to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe. This past weekend I baked the cakes and like everyone warned they were incredibly soft. I also knew that we probably were not up to the 3 layer version, so I only made two layers and a few cupcakes as well. I wrapped them in plastic and put them in the freezer. Last night when I got home from work I made the frosting. After dinner I removed the cakes from the freezer and spread the frosting. This seemed to work really well as I had none of the crumb problems that other people had mentioned. The only problem I had is once the frosting was on we really wanted to eat this cake. I was barely able to get a photo. So, we skipped the ganache altogether. If I was taking this cake somwhere I would probably use a little ganache for decoration, but not nearly as much as the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake post on Smitten Kitchen. Although it is a beautiful picture, this cake is really rich without the ganache and I think it might just be over the top for us. So, finally I think I have one birthday cake down, one to go! Happy Birthday David! Thanks for being so patient!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
from Smitten Kitchen
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosting, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Suppa Club #1- Cheese and Potato Soup


I have joined an online supper club that Molly from Batter Splattered started. The premise was that we would all have one meal "together" each week. In the end we agreed that it would be difficult to all have our meal on the same night. This week Molly and a few others are making their soup on Friday. David and I will be at Bad Girls of the North friday night followed by the beer tasting at the Carlson Center. We will be eating brats and potato salad according to the flyer. So, in the end the supper club decided that we would all cook the same recipe sometime during the week. Each week a different person will host the supper by choosing the recipe. We are free (and encouraged) to make any changes as we see fit. To start things off Molly chose a potato soup...

Cheese and Potato Soup
Bon Appetit December 1995

Serves 4.

2 tablespoons vegetables oil
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 10- to 12-ounce russet potato, peeled, diced
1 cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped ham
Hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
Chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, onion and thyme and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth, then milk. Add potato and bring soup to boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup until potato is tender, about 20 minutes. Add cheese 1/3 cup at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Mix in ham. Season soup to taste with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

The results: This soup is a very simple easily adaptable recipe(check out the Bon Appetite site for even more variations). I think I was a little overambitious considering it was the first recipe for the supper club. First off, I am not a big fan of ham, so I knew right away that I would substitute bacon. Then, I doubled the recipe. I used all local veggies from our farmer’s market. The addition of red and blue potatoes would give the soup a nice color. Fresh thyme from my herb garden was substituted for the dried thyme. Medium white cheddar cheese was used instead of the sharp cheddar so the color of the veggies would stand out more. Also, I had a lot of leeks so I used them instead of the onion. When cooking the potatoes I put a few in a pot on the side with half of the chicken broth, when cooked I pureed them with an immersion blender and then added this to the soup. In the end, the combination of leeks, bacon, and the white cheddar made the soup somewhat bitter. It didn’t help that I burned the bacon slightly. The pureed potatoes made the soup a weird consistency, almost as though the milk had curdled (it didn’t). The soup was still good, I am eating it for lunch today. Next time, I won’t make quite so many changes!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sex and the City

One of my biggest guilty pleasures is my love of the television series Sex and the City. I own the entire series on DVD. I don't know why my Alaska loving self absolutely adores a show about four women in New York. The funny part is I feel like I can relate somehow. Ok, so my shoes are El Naturalista, not Monolo Blahnik. I love the new Yggdrasil Tall Boot. Maybe I don't own a Louis Vitton bag, but I sure have my share of backpacks, and I own a cloth grocery bag in every color of the rainbow. It is probably the relationships that really tug at my heartstrings. Of course, I relate the most with Carrie and her neurotic tendencies. One day I realized that I was nothing like Carrie. I was sadly lamenting the breakup of Carrie and Aiden to my friend Maria, when she explained that Aiden was not the right man for Carrie, Aiden would have been the right man for one of us. How right she was. In any case I still love the show. Over the years I have tried to recruit as many people as possible to watch. I even converted a construction crew once.
So, in celebration of the DVD release of the movie and my last night of bachelorettehood (David will be back from his trip tomorrow). I decided to have a few friends from work over for a little Sex and the City party. April made some yummy goat cheese and basil appetizers. We all made tamales and had a great assortment of chocolatey goodness as well for dessert. I finally used those yummy looking tomatoes from the market last Saturday in a fresh salsa. I love the flavors in an uncooked salsa. Every time I make it people always ask for the recipe. Sometimes people refer to it as Nicole’s salsa, but the recipe actually belongs to my friend Dan who adapted it from a restaurant in Las Vegas. I figure since I have never known Dan to cook anything else in the nearly 20 years I have known him, it would be important that he gets credit for his salsa!

Dan’s Salsa (adapted)
4-5 fresh tomatoes diced ( I like to use an assortment)
4-5 cloves garlic finely chopped
Juice from one lemon or lime
3-4 green onions finely chopped
Approx. ½ cup of finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalepeno pepper finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl and serve. Tastes even better after it sits for a while.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Creme Brulee


Creme Brulee is one of my favorite desserts of all time. The best part is that it is the easiest thing to make. I have been using this recipe for years and it always turns out perfectly. I don't know where it originally came from as it is just written on a sheet of paper amongst the stack of many sheets of paper with recipes in my kitchen. I always make at least 1 1/2 times what the recipe calls for, sometimes I double it. I prefer the 6 ounce ramekins, and this only yields 4 servings if I push it with the standard recipe. I used fresh local eggs, so they are exceptionally yellow. Also, I have never used a commercial torch. I find the broiler works just fine, especially if you like the top exceptionally dark as I do.

Ingredients:
8 egg yolks

1/3 cup granulated white sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup granulated white sugar for carmelizing

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla and continue to whisk until well blended. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off any foam or bubbles. Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Put the ramekins in a pan and put on the center rack of the oven, then carefully fill the pan with warm water until the level reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Close the door and begin timing. Bake until set around the edge but still loose in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. Carmelize the sugar with a small hand-held torch or place the ramekins under the broiler until the sugar melts. Rechill custards for a few minutes before serving.
Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Popovers


Last night was our first hard frost. With a chill in the air I decided it might be nice to turn on the oven and warm up the kitchen a bit. I had no idea what popovers were when I met David. I had heard of them, but couldn't tell you what was in them or what they looked like. Now, they have become a weekly staple in our house. David usually makes popovers every Sunday, but he is out of town this weekend. The last time I tried to make popovers myself they turned into little hollow rocks with about as much flavor. This time I took them out of the oven only 5 minutes after turning the heat down and they turned out much better. The inside was the nice custardy texture that I really like. I filled the tins a little higher than recommended and only made 6 rather than the 10 that the recipe is supposed to make in muffin tins. One of these days I will buy a popover pan.

Popovers
from Cook's Illustrated
2/2004

Unlike most popover batters, this one is smooth, not lumpy. High heat is crucial to the speedy, high rise of the popovers. When it's time to fill the popover pan with batter, get the pan out of and back into the oven as quickly as possible, making sure to close the oven door while you pour the batter into the pan. Popovers made in a 12-cup muffin tin won't rise nearly as high as those made in a popover pan, but they can still be quite good. See the variation that follows if you can't locate a popover pan.

Makes 6

2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until well combined, about 20 seconds. Whisk the flour and salt in a medium bowl and add to the egg mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or spatula just until the flour is incorporated; the mixture will still be lumpy. Add the melted butter. Whisk until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 30 seconds. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. While the batter is resting, measure 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil into each cup of the popover pan. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place the popover pan in the oven, and heat to 450 degrees. After the batter has rested, pour it into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or another container with a spout (you will have about 2 cups batter). Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and distribute the batter evenly among the 6 cups in the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, without opening the oven door. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown all over, 15 to 18 minutes more. Invert the pan onto a wire rack to remove the popovers and cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

3. Muffin Tin Popovers
Makes 10
Proceed as above, using a 12-cup muffin tin in place of a popover pan and using only the 10 outer cups of the tin. You will need an extra 2 teaspoons vegetable oil to grease the muffin tin.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce


Chimichurri Sauce
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. cilantro
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 lemon wedge (juice of)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
Pulse parsley and cilantro in food processor to chop. Add remaining ingredients and blend.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chipotle Pasta with Acorn Squash


A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe online for pasta with a chipotle cream sauce. Last night it sounded like the perfect dinner, but I searched the internet and couldn’t remember where I had originally found the recipe. The recipes I did find sounded ridiculously loaded with fat (not that my version isn’t). So, I just decided to wing it. The end result was really tasty, although not really so pretty. I was also having trouble with the lighting in my kitchen, so the pictures make it look even worse! The days are getting short really quick in Fairbanks and I am going to have to find some other non-natural lighting sources soon. David thought that it might be better with yams instead of the acorn squash. We both agreed that chicken would also be a good choice. I thought the amount of chipotle sauce was perfect, but David thought it needed more. Be warned, this is not a “light” dish!

Chipotle Pasta with Acorn Squash
1 lb. penne pasta cooked al dente
1 acorn squash roasted and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 chipotle peppers in adobo
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 large cloves garlic
3/4 cup heavy cream
fresh grated parmesan to sprinkle
parsley for garnish
Set oven 400 degrees. Cut one acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash on baking sheet and place in oven for 45 minutes or until soft. While squash is roasting toast pumpkin seeds (spread a single layer ½ cup of pumpkin seeds in a shallow dish, small baking sheet, or a sheet of foil and place in oven 5 minutes or lightly browned). Add heavy cream to 1 quart saucepan over medium heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Combine toasted pumpkin seeds (leave a few whole for garnish), garlic, and chipotles in food processor, blend until a thick paste. Remove squash from oven and cut into cubes. Remove cream from heat and add pumpkin seed mixture. Drain pasta and add cream mixture and squash and mix well. Top with parmesan, pumpkin seeds, and parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chicken Caesar Salad


I feel like a squirrel these days. After work I run home and try to pick as many berries as possible before dark. I moved to Fairbanks exactly a year ago and with all the commotion of the move we did not have much time to plan for winter. In many ways we didn’t really know what to expect. In those cold, dark days of January it sure would have been nice to have just a little taste of summer. I know these berries that I am freezing and preserving now will be just the thing to chase the winter chill away (not to mention that cranberry liquor). Last night I made jelly with the precious few Cloudberries I had in my freezer and also made a test batch of rose hip lavender jelly. I have made jam many times, but never jelly. I was inspired by a beautiful article in one of my favorite new magazines, Hobby Farm Home. They had a little article on jelly and the jars looked so pretty capturing the light. I’m a little worried however as they don’t really seem to be setting up. The recipe said it could take up to a week for the jelly to set, so I will wait. I guess that Cloudberry syrup wouldn’t be so bad!

As I prepare our meals these days, I fall back to the old standbys. If I ask David what he wants for dinner, his first answer is always Pizza, but my guess would be that Chicken Caesar salad runs a close second place. I have a sentimental attachment to these two meals as it reminds me of when we first met and started dating. At the time I was living in the small town of Port Townsend, Washington and David was living in Victoria, Canada. We would alternate weekends in each place. With all the traveling and running around we ate out quite a bit. One of our favorite places was Waterfront Pizza in Port Townsend where we would go nearly every weekend and share a Caesar salad and a pizza. Once we moved to Fairbanks, we soon realized that if we wanted a good meal it was going to have to be made in our own kitchen. I went to work on recreating the Waterfront experience. One year later the pizza, Caesar, and beer are just as good as anything we had at Waterfront. If you ask me, the view and ambience have improved!

There is nothing special about this Caesar, no homemade croutons or dressing. I think the secret to a great Caesar is lots of lemon, garlic, and good parmesean.
Chicken Caesar Salad
2 chicken breasts grilled
1 head romaine rinsed and chopped
2 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
3/4 cup parmesean cheese plus extra for sprinkling on top
1 tbsp. store bought Caesar dressing
1 cup store bought croutons
juice of one lemon
In a large gallon size ziploc bag add romaine, garlic, lemon juice, and parmesean.
Close bag and shake well. Add one tablespoon of any store brand Caesar dressing (I use lighthouse). Again, close bag and shake until dressing is evenly distributed. Place mixture on plate, top with chicken, croutons and a sprinkle of grated parmesean. Serve.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cream of Celeriac and Leek Soup


Tonight was my time to catch up on odds and ends. I wanted to do something with the two cups of Cloudberries I picked before the rain came this summer. I am making a few small (I mean really small) batches of jelly. I'm hoping to save the Highbush Cranberries that I picked tonight and add some more tomorrow night to make a "real" batch of jam. In the meantime, I still have to eat. Tonight I made the Cream of Celeriac and Leek Soup from the Calypso Farm Note. I added a few more potatoes to the recipe, but that is all I really changed. I was worried it wouldn't have much flavor without the addition of any spices beside salt and pepper. The flavor was great, but I wouldn't recommend it for dinner as it is really light. It would make a very nice first course to a fall meal.

Cream of Celeriac and Leek Soup
originally from The Victory Garden Cookbook
3 leeks
1 1/2 pound whole celeriac
1 large potato
3 tablespoons butter
4-5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup light cream (I used about 1/4 cup)
Salt and pepper

Wash and slice leeks, approximately 2 cups. Peel and chop celeriac into 1/2 inch cubes. Peel and coarsely chop potato. Melt butter and cook leeks until wilted. Stir in celeriac and potato, then add 4 cups broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Pass through a sieve or puree. If very thick, thin with light cream and additional broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Dirty Little Potatoes"

Many years ago I had a boss who also became a good friend. She once confided that the only problem she had with her marriage was that she couldn't eat broccoli for dinner anymore. Now, it wasn't that her husband didn't like broccoli, it was just that he wouldn't have been too excited to sit down to a big bowl of broccoli for dinner. For most people in couplehood a dinner consists of more than just a vegetable or two.
Tonight, I picked up the final share of our Calypso Farm CSA.It was more plentiful than most this season. Finally, our share had the potatoes we were promised and the garlic I had heard so much about. We go through two to three head of garlic a week, so this is a nice treat. I remember thinking as the guy from the farm was weighing out my potatoes that they sure were small and dirty. I was in a hurry to get to my yoga class and didn't give it much more thought. All of a sudden during yoga, the thought of those "dirty little potatoes" with fresh garlic was more than I could take. I was trying my best to concentrate on the instructor and our relaxation meditation and just as I was pulling myself together the ice cream truck went by....
Normally on Monday night I try and cook a recipe from the Farm Note that comes with our CSA. Tonight I was on my own for dinner. I decided to have myself a good old fashioned single girl's supper of Pan Browned Brussel Sprouts and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. It seemed like a wonderful way to celebrate the last CSA of the season. I'll cook something from the Farm Note tomorrow night.

Although I didn't really follow the recipe, my inspiration for Pan Browned Brussel Sprouts came from Batter Splattered. I skipped the nuts and just put the Brussel Sprouts on top of the garlic until it all turned brown.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pannukakku with Lingonberry Sauce


Our Alaska Lowbush Cranberries are actually the same berry as the Swedish Lingonberry. As I mentioned earlier, this year we have a bumper crop. If I continue and this cranberry kick I will have to change the name of my blog to "The Red Kitchen". This morning I decided that it would be great to make a traditional Lingonberry dish for breakfast, a celebration of a beautiful fall day and a bountiful harvest. Growing up the Suomi Cafe was the local place for a hearty breakfast and they served Pannukakku and although I have probably only eaten it once or twice, I have always wanted to try making it at home.
I started the Lingonberry sauce last night before bed. I like my sauce pretty tart, so up the sugar to 1- 1 1/4 cups if you like it sweeter. This can be served warm or cold. I put the sauce in the fridge overnight and served it cold on the Pannukakku. The Pannukakku recipe I found on the Kreative Kirstin blog was good, but I could tell that the amount of butter was WAY off. I used half a stick and it probably would have been fine with 1/4 stick.

Lingonberry Sauce
3 cups lingonberries or cranberries
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan combine cranberries and water. Boil over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from head and add sugar, stir until dissolved. Let cool. Transfer to refrigerator. Serve.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cranberry Liquor

This was a very poor year to grow just about anything in Fairbanks. It was also a really poor year for picking wild blueberries, but it was a steller year for cranberries. They are just dripping off the plants. We picked well over a gallon today and I got almost a gallon last week. They were really quite beautiful today. Most will get frozen and made into Cranberry Relish over the holidays. I couldn't resist getting a little cranberry liquor going that will be ready just in time for the holidays. Notice, I need to run out and get a little more vodka as mine did not fill my jar all the way!
Cranberry Liquor
6 cups cranberries
1 large bottle of vodka
Place clean, stem and leave free, dry cranberries in a 1/2 gallon canning jar. Put lid on jar and shake vigorously to break up cranberries and release their juice. Fill jar to top with vodka and place in a cool, dry place for about 3 months.
Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain mixture into a bowl. If you want the liquor to be clear, not cloudy do not press the cheesecloth.
Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water and adding two cups of sugar. Stir until melted and remove from head. Let cool and add to liquor. Return liquor to canning jars or individual bottles to package as gifts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stir Fried Brussel Sprouts with Soba Noodles

From Asparagus to Zucchini has been my CSA bible this summer. Not only does it have some really great recipes, but it is a great resource for storing produce as well. This book was put out by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. It is arranged by vegetable rather than season like a lot of farm cookbooks. There are a lot of simple recipes that I have really appreciated. I am feeling rather sad that our fresh produce season has nearly come to an end. It was a really poor season this year for the farms in Fairbanks and although I was sad we never got fresh garlic and our CSA was quite meager, I was also thankful that I have not bought produce with the exception of garlic and ginger at Fred Meyer for over 2 months now. Between our CSA and the Farmers Market we have still eaten quite well. Our garden didn't do so well, but it was really a hard season for a first year garden. We will try again next summer. We will enjoy our last week of fresh produce here in Fairbanks and we will stock up on squash, potatoes, and carrots along with the 20 lbs. of raspberries in our freezer to make the season last a little longer. The thing I will miss the most is all the fresh herbs from Basically Basil. They have brought us some wonderful Spanikopita and Tabouli salad this summer. I couldn't resist the Brussel Sprouts fresh on their stalk at the market today. I made Sesame Garlic Brussel Sprouts and added them to a stir fry with snow peas, chard, carrots, garlic, ginger and soba noodles and of course pork dumlings on the side!

Sesame Garlic Brussel Sprouts
from Asparagus to Zucchini
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed
4-5 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, crushed pepper, garlic, and 3 tablespoons water in a large bowl. Blanch the brussel sprouts in boiling water until partially tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain well. Heat wok, or large heavy skillet over high heat 2-4 minutes. Add a small amount of the peanut oil, swirl the pan to coat the surface, and add about a third of the sprouts. Stir-fry until bright green and crisp-tender. Drain on paper towels. Stir-fry the remaining sprouts similarly, in batches. Add stir-fried brussel sprouts to soy sauce mixture and toss well. Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

With a whole bowl of pork dumpling mixture waiting for me to get home tonight, I decided that something simple would be good for dinner. With it being the peak of the fall season here in Fairbanks I also was craving something hearty as well. This is my quick Chicken and Dumpling recipe. David says this should go on the weekly winter menu. We will have to do some serious skiing if we eat this every week this winter! By the way that recipe from last night made way more than 40 potstickers.

Chicken and Dumplings
Stew
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
4 carrots , peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ribs celery , sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion , minced
6 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 rotisserie chicken
1 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Dumplings
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled

Stew: Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves.
Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, add it to the stew. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.
Discard the bay leaves. Bring the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve.
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