Pickled Beets with Cumin

March 22, 2012

Pickled Beets with Cumin.  Who would have thought that such a short list of ingredients could produce a condiment with so much flavor, texture, and interest?  After making these for the first time, I have been determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with them ever since.  A huge thanks to Linda Ziedrich to introducing me to this recipe via The Joy of Pickling.

To prepare, roast the beets until just tender.  Peel and dice them into small chunks, then drown them in red wine vinegar infused with peppercorns, salt, and of course cumin.  Cap them off and keep them in the refrigerator.  Letting them sit at least a few days will allow the flavors to meld.  They will keep up to 3 weeks.

These tasty chunks of beet are fantastic on their own, but pair them with feta and you have a very tasty snack.  Toss a few in the salad along with the vinegar and finish up with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy salad dressing.  There are probably a million more ways to eat these, but the beets never stick around long enough for me to dream up new ideas.  How will you eat them?

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Pumpkin Coconut Pudding

November 19, 2011

Pumpkin pie is essential at any Thanksgiving feast, but to be honest it is not the part of the meal that I look forward to.  After a heavy meal of turkey, gravy, and of course stuffing, I find it hard to rally excitement for pie.  Generally I enjoy a few bites of the filling and leave the crust lonely on the plate.  This is what got me thinking about skipping the crust completely and making a pumpkin pudding in its place.

Pumpkin Coconut Pudding is a thick, silky coconut milk based pudding seasoned with traditional pie spices.  This rich pudding is familiar enough to satisfy the expectation of a Thanksgiving pumpkin dessert, yet different enough to stand out as something special.  Using coconut milk means that the pudding (without the whipped cream) is actually vegan, so you can safely serve to a mixed crowd including those lactose and gluten intolerant folks who seem to be cropping up in every family.  This pudding could not be simpler to make.  Heat the coconut milk and pumpkin, then stir in a slurry of spices and cornstarch to thicken it.  For a casual fare, spoon it directly from a serving bowl and let guests add their own toppings.  For a fancier presentation, spoon hot pudding into beautiful dishes or glasses and decoratively top before serving.  This may be a break in tradition, but who knows, perhaps I am not the only one who is happy to leave the crust behind.

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Mango Cranberry Chutney

March 24, 2011

Have you noticed the beautiful mangoes in the market this month?  They are abundant, inexpensive, and delicious!  Mangoes have firm flesh and a sweet and tangy flavor.  This makes them incredibly versatile.  They are hardy enough to cook, soft enough to eat raw, and excellent in salads and of course chutneys.  First though, you have to know how to cut into the fruit.  Since mangoes have a disc-shaped seed in the center of fruit, it is important to locate it and cut around the seed.

First peel the fruit.

Then, hold the fruit upright and slice down, guiding the knife along the side of the seed.  Repeat on the other half, so you end up with two halves and one seed pod with minimal flesh attached.  Slice or dice the mango halves depending on what you are using it for.

Mango Cranberry Chutney is a medley of sweet mango, tart cranberry, spicy peppers and zippy ginger.  I love having a stash of it in the pantry.  It is a wonderful accompaniment to a cheese platter.  I made this batch especially to serve with Redwood Hill’s cheese at the Sono-Ma Soiree tomorrow night.  It is also delicious as a side to any Indian meal.  Try it with Divine Indian Butter Chicken.

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Irish Watercress Soup

March 15, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day in the United States is best known for the table top spread of corned beef, cabbage, and generous glasses of Guinness.  While my family does enjoy this time-honored meal (I am curing my own brisket for the occasion as we speak), there are many other dishes that can also serve to mark the day.  This year, I made Irish Watercress Soup in addition to the standard fare .

Watercress first came into my awareness while reading the children’s classic, Trumpet of the Swan.  Reportedly, it is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables to play a role in the human diet.  It comes from the same family, Brassicas, as broccoli and mustard, and the same genus as nasturtiums. The peppery bite is very reminiscent, though milder than the spicy taste of nasturtium flowers.  Blended into a traditional potato leek soup, it imparts a beautiful green color and bright peppery flavor.  This soup has a rich taste, despite being vegetable based and fairly low-fat.  It is hardy enough to serve as a main dish with a side salad and crusty bread.

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Meyer Lemon Curd

February 6, 2011

Oh la la, lovely lemon curd.  Lemons have always been a favorite.  Growing up on the San Francisco Peninsula, we had a Meyer lemon tree.  I would sneak outside to pick the lemons and eat them whole, despite my mother’s warnings that I was ruining my teeth.  Now I am a bit  (not much, but a bit) more sophisticated and like my lemons seeped in vodka or cooked up with butter and eggs (much healthier, I am sure).

Deep in winter when the trees are dripping with lemons, one fabulous way capture the fresh tang of lemons is lemon curd.  This lemon curd is intense, lemony, creamy goodness.  Meyer lemons work best here because of their balance of sweet and tart.  You can use Eureka lemons (standard supermarket variety) as well, just increase the sugar.

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Santa gave me my first lesson in eating with the season.  Each year, nestled deep in the toe of my gargantuan knit stocking, I would find an orange.  First I would be disappointed- all that valuable stocking space used up by something destined for the communal fruit basket!  Then I would be perplexed.  Why an orange?  Sure, I liked oranges, but they were nowhere near my favorite.  Why not a juicy peach?  Strawberries?  Papaya?  Sweet watermelon?  OK, I understand why Santa couldn’t put a watermelon in my stocking.  Still, it never occurred to me that he was simply offering the sweetest treat that winter had to offer.  Though we had an orange tree in our backyard, it had not fully dawned on me that oranges are a winter fruit.   Vibrant, sweet, and juicy citrus is ripe for the offering right at the time when Santa swings through town.

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I know it is too early in the winter to feel this way and I am going to suffer when the wet and cold months roll on, but I have spring fever.  We had a couple of warmish days around here and all I can think about is firing up the grill and bringing dinner outside.  Alas, this cannot be done as it is still dark long before dinnertime and truly not all that warm.  A girl can dream though, can’t she?  We did manage to grill up some chicken burgers before the sun set and then rush inside to warm our bones while eating the burgers with a side of Chipotle Black Bean and Butternut Squash Salad.

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