Sunday, December 28, 2008

GF Restaurant Review: Raul's Mexican Grill

Raul's Mexican Grill
162 Glen Street
Glens Falls, NY 12801

Right on Centennial Circle in downtown Glens Falls, lies this little, pie-shaped restaurant with fantastic, fresh food. Raul's Mexican Grill is small, with only seating for about seven or eight tables, but what the restaurant lacks in size it makes up for with a mighty stupendous meal.

My husband and I enjoyed a meal for two last night, with drinks and tip, for only $50 and were very pleased (and stuffed). I had fresh crab cake tortillas and he enjoyed a “Black Goat” (veggie taco) meal. Hubby is gluten-free, and the wait staff was very knowledgeable about all the ingredients in the food and offered several alternatives, so we really felt pampered. We don't dine out much because of the arduous back and forth you have to go to many times in educating servers and chefs about gluten-free stuff, but Raul's made us right at home so Dan could relax and enjoy his meal.

Raul's doesn't take credit cards, but they do take checks and our waitress pointed out that there are several ATMs right on their block, so the payment issue isn't a negative. We walked in without a reservation early Saturday night and they were able to seat us right away, but quickly filled up while we were dining, so weekend reservations are recommended.

The Raul's menu has interesting variations on traditional Mexican quesadillas, salads, tacos and burritos, and we are looking forward to making our way through them on future visits. We have a new favorite Mexican place!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pasta with Anchovies, An Heirloom Recipe from a Sicilian Mamma

From the same great cucina that brought you Pasta con Sarde comes a Pasta with Anchovies that even won over my previous hater of salty little fish, husband Dan. He picks them off his Caesar salads and won't let the "hairy eyebrows" near his pizza pies, but my mom's friend's mom, Rose, introduced him to anchovy love with her simple recipe. I even got a few capers into his gullet with this magical mixture, so a big thank you to Rose for bringing our culinary predilections into greater alignment.

Cooking anchovies blunts the sharpness of their salty tang and melds them into a mellower paste that gives this simple, frugal pasta sauce a great flavor. It's not really fishy so much as pungent and garlicky.

Rose's Pasta with Anchovies

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin)
Handful of capers, rinsed (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 (2 oz.) cans of anchovies with capers
1 lb. pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta until al dente in boiling water, but be sure not to add salt to the cooking water. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on it to keep from burning. Add capers and anchovies and smash down with wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook a few minutes longer to let anchovies dissolve.

Toss pasta with anchovy sauce and serve topped with grated Parmesan.

Serves 6.

Now, to make Dan a fan of Pasta alla Puttanesca!

I discovered a new foodie event, Presto Pasta Nights, the invention of Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast, where pasta lovers converge on Friday nights to share their wonderful recipes for every kind of noodle, from elbow macaroni to tagliatelle to Thai rice noodles. I am submitting this delicious recipe for Presto Pasta Nights, where Ruth will provide a tasty and filling roundup after the January 8th, 2009 deadline.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays to All

May everyone enjoy as restful and happy a holiday season as my sweet dog Martha. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Soybean and Feta Dip, Grown my Own Self

Yet another snowy December day out there in our winter wonder corner of upstate New York. It's been a hectic holiday week, but I am looking forward to a cozy meal with my family tonight and the anticipation of a decorated tree when I return home after work tonight. I made a few snacks and baked a few items for our Christmas feasting in between ice storms, kid chauffeuring, book selling and shopping errands this week and one of the delights was my blogger friend Deb's Edamame-Feta Dip.

I have bags of frozen, blanched green soybeans in our freezer from our summer garden and this was a new way to munch on them. I discovered that I didn't have any lemons on hand for this recipe, but after perusing my ever-present table of condiments in the fridge, I came up with most of a 15 oz. jar of pickled red peppers. Once drained and chopped, they subbed in the acid tang of the lemons and added Christmasy color as well. Delicious!

I am submitting this dip as my contribution to Andrea's Recipes end of the year Grow Your Own Event. This fun event celebrates the home-grown, foraged, fished and hunted items for the table from great home cooks around the world and will be running through December 30, 2008. Be sure to check Andrea's roundup after that date to see what we all made during this festive month.

Here's wishing a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a Happy, Healthy, More Peaceful New Year to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Novel Food: Snowballs for Robertson Davies

It is time for the sixth mouthwatering installment of that fun foodie event for brainy cooks, Novel Food. This quarterly blog event is co-hosted by Simona of Briciole and Lisa of A Champaign Taste and offers participants a chance to share some favorite books and the culinary creations inspired by them. In the past I have joined in Novel Food fun with a delicious Yemenite Eggplant Salad inspired by Diana Abu-Jaber's novel "Crescent" (and now am looking forward to reading Abu-Jaber's food-laced memoir "The Language of Baklava" for the second Cook the Books event).

One of my all-time favorite authors is the late Robertson Davies. I have enjoyed reading my way through his body of works, which include ghost stories, plays, literary criticism, essays about books, humor, and of course, his novels. The greatest of these is his Deptford trilogy, begun in "Fifth Business" with a young boys' snowball fight. Dunstan Ramsey uses a minister and his pregnant wife as cover from his friend/enemy Percy, and the unfortunate mother-to-be is struck in the head by a snowball with a stone center, causing brain damage to her and a difficult birth for her infant son. Throughout the remainder of this book, and the successive novels in the Deptford Trilogy, "The Manticore" and "World of Wonders", this single act follows Dunstan and the other characters, including the premature baby, for the duration of their lives.

Davies' literary works are packed with plot lines and musings on art, magic, music, psychology and philosophy, and yet they remain easy to read and get lost in. They resonate with wit and passion and I have enjoyed everything I have dipped into, even his editorial pieces from the Peterborough Examiner writing under his curmudgeonly alter-ego, Samuel Marchbanks.

To honor Davies and his wonderful writings, I fashioned some snowballs of my own, although they are of a decidedly less dangerous and more delicious nature. The oldfashioned treat, popcorn balls, are incredibly easy to make with the following recipe which I found here.

You have to work quickly and carefully to shape the popcorn balls before the mixture cools and hardens, but they are otherwise easy little snack treats to whip up and will be enjoyed by my daughters' indoor soccer team (if they last around), rechristened as Soccer Balls.

Be sure to check back with Briciole in a few days to see the roundup of a culinary-literary World of Wonders with Novel Food.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

La Cucina Roundup of Italian & Sicilian Recipes

The first roundup for the Cook the Books Foodie Book Club is up. 12 of us read Lily Prior's novel "La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture" and headed to our kitchens and keyboards to blog about dishes we made inspired by the Italian and Sicilian cooking scenes from the book. If you would like to see what we all made head over to the Cook the Books blog and stay tuned to see who will be judged to have the best post by our featured author herself.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feeding my Hungry Guests with Chili-Fried Shrimp

There is an exciting new band of food bloggers joined in raising awareness of and funds for hunger issues. Val of More than Burnt Toast, Ivy of Greek Hospitality and the various folks at Equal Opportunity Kitchen are the beautiful minds behind BloggerAid. Through December 28th, 2008 Equal Opportunity Kitchen is hosting an event, "BloggerAid: Because We Can Help" that asks for recipes that one would feed a hungry guest visiting during the holiday season.

The Dance of the Holiday Shrimps immediately popped up in my mind. Everybody likes shrimp (except for the allergic and kosher crowd, but I would make those guys something equally scrumptious) and they cook so quickly that a Crispy hostess can always throw something together that is speedy and splendid for her hungry guests. I will share my recipe for Chili-Fried Shrimps that can be served with a trio of dipping sauces that are just right for noshing throughout the holiday season.

Chili-Fried Shrimps

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (frozen, thawed shrimp works just fine as long as the little pink beauties are thoroughly patted dry). Leave tails on for dipping handles or remove them if your family is tail-phobic, as mine is.

1/2 cup white rice flour
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

3 Tbsp. peanut oil

Mix rice flour, cornstarch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and black pepper in brown lunch bag or other bag. Shake to mix. Pop in the shrimps and shake them to coat them well.

Heat wok or large frying pan. Add oil and heat until a shrimp dropped in sizzles and bubbles at the edges. Fry shrimp in batches, about 5 minutes for each batch, stirring and turning until they curl up and are completely pink. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Serve with a variety of dipping sauces. We like the following:

Spicy Peanut Sauce:

1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 scallions, finely minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Standard Shrimp Cocktail Sauce:

1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. ground horseradish
1 tsp. lemon juice
Splash of hot sauce

Creamy Dill Dipping Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt
3 tsp. snipped dill
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt

A platter of fried shrimps with dipping sauces makes a nice part of an appetizer spread or could serve as the main meal, paired with some steamed rice and a green salad, for 4-6 people.

Equal Opportunity Kitchen is also donating the proceeds from some lovely handmade gifts, including bookmarks, keychains and cell phone charms, to the World Food Programme as part of this wonderful BloggerAid event. They can ship anywhere in the world, so do consider these beautiful little gifts during this holiday season.

You can find more out about the events and membership of BloggerAid by clicking on the badge to the right directly under my About Me information. If you are a blogger, I would like to extend a warm invitation to you to join us in planning some fun events for the future to help alleviate hunger throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Crispy Tidbits to Chew On

I have several newsy bits which may be of interest to readers of the Crispy Cook.

First, I am delighted to announce that Lily Prior, author of "La Cucina", the first book pick for the new foodie book club, Cook the Books, will serve as judge in choosing the winning blog entry. The cohosts of Cook the Books are me, Johanna of Food Junkie and Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, and we are thrilled that Ms. Prior is taking time out of her busy schedule to judge our humble book club entries. If you are planning to cook up and blog about something inspired by "La Cucina", be sure to have your post submitted by midnight, December 15 (Eastern Standard Time). I am the first host of this new bimonthly foodie book club and so I will endeavor to have the roundup of delicious entries posted at the Cook the Books blog as soon as possible. Deb, Johanna and I will then be announcing the next foodie book club pick.

Second, Capital District residents may be interested in attending a meeting of the newly formed Saratoga County Food Allergy/Sensitivity Support Group. The group is meeting on December 15 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at KD's Fish Fry, 418 Geyser Road, Ballston Spa (Country Club Plaza). Dawn of KD's and DAFFI is hosting the meeting and will provide samples of her allergen free foods. There is no charge to attend or join. Please register with Sue at 884-8003 or or treat yourself to some awesome gluten-free fried fish and seafood at KD's Fish Fy to learn more. And don't forget the cole slaw!

Third, I am proud to say that my Mocha Pepper Sandwich Cookies received third place in the Leftover Queen's last Foodie Joust! This fun foodie event challenges participants to come up with creative recipes that involve three specified ingredients; in this case, black peppercorns, honey and coffee. Check out the other entrants in this event, as some of them are truly amazing, like deep-fried spicy ice cream, homemade duck bacon, chocolate-drizzled panforte, and the winning entry, a stellar Lantana cake of coffee sponge layered with a white chocolate filling and covered in a peppery, chocolate glaze. Whoa!

The next Royal Foodie Joust has a Caribbean theme to celebrate the publication of Barbados food blogger Cynthia Nelson's "My Caribbean Cookbook: Tastes Like Home". Stay tuned to see what yours truly concocts using bananas, rice and coconut.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pasta con Sarde or St. Joseph's Day Pasta

I wanted to learn more about Sicilian cooking after reading Lily Prior's sensuous foodie novel, "La Cucina" for the Cook the Books foodie book club. I even treated myself to an early Christmas present (hey, Dan just has to wrap it up) with a copy of "Sicilian Home Cooking: Family Recipes from Gangivecchio" by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001).

I asked my mom if she had any good recipes handed down from my Italian grandfather, but alas, his folks were from Naples and he left the cooking up to my Russian grandma, so there are no heirloom recipes there. Mom did, however, remember a Pasta con Sarde that her friend Marilyn's mother had made for her one St. Joseph's Day (March 19th). I contacted Marilyn, who consulted with her gracious mom, Rose, for this classic Sicilian recipe. St. Joseph's Day usually falls during Lent, so this meatless dish, which always has sardines, fennel and breadcrumbs, is perfect for Lenten feasting. St. Joseph, or San Giuseppe, was the Virgin Mary's husband, and is the patron saint of fathers, the working man, and carpenters. The breadcrumbs in this dish are representative of the ever-present sawdust that carpenters produce.

Rose's delicious recipe uses Cuoco brand "Seasoning for Macaroni with Sardines", which I tracked down at Roma's Import store in Saratoga Springs and which should be available at most larger Italian delis. The Cuoco Seasoning contains wild fennel, sardines, black currents [sic], onion, sunflower oil, salted sardines puree and salt. I easily made this recipe gluten-free for my family by using gluten-free pasta and gluten-free bread crumbs (we always keep a bag in the freezer of gluten-free bread scraps for crumbs and croutons).

Pasta con Sarde alla Rose

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 (14.5 oz.) can Cuoco's Seasoning for Macaroni with Sardines (bright yellow label)

1 lb. pasta

1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Grated Parmesan

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain, rinse in hot water and keep warm.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in frying pan. Saute garlic until golden. Add Cuoco's Seasoning. Swirl about 1/4 of the can's worth of water in Cuoco can and add to pan. Bring to boil, slowly, stirring.

Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in another frying pan. Add bread crumbs and garlic powder and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Rose advises keeping a close eye on this to avoid burning the crumbs.

Mix cooked pasta with sardine sauce. Top each serving with some crumbs and then sprinkle on grated Parmesan.

Serves 6.

While the Crispy Cook really enjoyed the strong fennel taste of this pasta, the Crispettes and Crispy Husband did not, so I ate it myself over the course of several days and enjoyed every bite. It has a slight sweetness from the currants, but I didn't really taste much of the sardines or the salt in the Cuoco seasoning, so this must really blend in.

Rose has generously also provided me with the recipe for her Pasta with Anchovies, which I'll be making soon and will report back on here at the Crispy Cook. Thank you Rose and Marilyn!

For those interested in making a Pasta con Sarde from scratch, The Tornabene cookbook has a delicious sounding Pasta con le Sarde di Nonna Julia. Nonna means grandmother in Italian so you know this is going to be awesomely good. Her ingredients include chopped fennel tops and bottoms, anchovies, fresh sardines, currants, pine nuts and saffron, so I will have to try that sometime. As I don't want to reproduce the recipe without the authors' permission, I will refer you all to a similar Pasta con le Sarde recipe at In Mama's Kitchen.

Look for more Sicilian and Italian gems after the December 15th deadline for submissions to Cook the Books, when I'll be posting the roundup as the first host for this new food-centric book club. Until then.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jerusalem Artichoke and Greens Spread

Dan and I are still playing around with our garden harvest of Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchokes. We dug up these perennial tubers last month and are storing them, after subjecting them to vigorous scrubbing to remove dirt from all their knobbly crevices, in a bag in our refrigerator vegetable drawer. We like to slice them up raw for crunchy additions to our green salads and have recently started to enjoy them roasted.

I saw a recipe for Jerusalem Artichoke Dip on the Crazy Orange Turtle blog and thought I would make a batch up for noshing in front of the Giants football game. With a few substituted ingredients and a tweak here and there, here's my adapted version, which proved to be a great dunker for corn chips and celery sticks. We even thinned the leftovers with some more olive oil and enjoyed it as a pasta sauce. It's similar to the cholesterol-laden hot artichoke dip recipe that you commonly see at gatherings (and which is awesome in SMALL amounts), but this similar spread is much more heart-healthy and full of good green vitamins so you can snack away.

Crazy Orange Turtle's recipe calls for peeling the Jerusalem artichokes after roasting, which was rather tedious, but then I remembered that we had just eaten the chokes, peel and all, after roasting, so I gave up on that and just left them with skins on. They end up being smashed around in the food processor, anyway, so my revised version calls for leaving the chokes alone.

One word of advice about Jerusalem Artichokes bears repeating, so to speak. Jerusalem Artichokes repeat, as in causing a fair bit of gas in the old digestive tract, which is a consideration if you are planning on serving them as a party dish. And don't try to preempt the problem by ingesting a couple of Beano tablets if you can't handle the gluten. I had to return a bottle of Beano after reading the ingredients label back at the Casa Crispy and finding out that wheat starch is in there.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Greens Spread

1 lb. Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed unmercifully and cut into large chunks
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press or finely minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
5 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (I had some snipped cilantro in my freezer and it worked fine after I thawed it and squeezed it out a bit)

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Add spinach and bring to boil a second time. Drain spinach, cool, and squeeze dry.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss artichokes with olive oil in a glass baking dish. Roast 30 minutes, or until soft when poked with a fork. Let cool and then scrape chokes and oil into a food processor or blender. Add spinach and remaining ingredients and pulse until mixture is thoroughly blended.

Makes about 3-1/2 cups dip. Serve at room temperature.

I am submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a food blogging event that highlights unusual plants and vegetables, edible flowers and of course, herbs. Jerusalem Artichokes, though native to North America, are fairly uncommon edibles, so I thought this would be an appropriate recipe to submit to Ivy at Greek Hospitality, who is this week's host. Ivy is one of the founders of Blogger Aid, a new initiative to raise funds and awareness of world hunger and I am happy to have joined this great group of bloggers. You can learn more in the Blogger Aid button on the right-hand side of the Crispy Cook. Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once is now the headquarters for Weekend Herb Blogging and has a lovely blog of recipes and photographs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Panforte and Madeleines with Gluten Free South Africa

Sea over at the Book of Yum had a thematic Adopt-A-Gluten-Free-Blogger event to prepare recipes for the holiday table and I knew immediately who I was going to adopt: Aylena of Gluten Free South Africa. Originally from Ireland, Aylena moved to South Africa two years ago and blogs about the beautiful landscape and gluten-free restaurants, bakeries and bed-and-breakfasts in the Capetown area. And then there are those wonderful recipes for baked goods that she provides with equally enticing photographs! Her recipes are provided in metric measurements, but these are easy to convert to American measurements if you click on the Cooking Conversions link at the lower right-hand side of the Crispy Cook links section.

I was lured in originally by her panforte recipe. Panforte is a classic Italian dessert studded with lots of fruits and nuts, somewhat like a fruitcake, only without those nauseating clots of candied fruit. Aylena's recipe makes use of some non-traditional nuts and seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and adds a tasty bit of cocoa. Based on Aylena's photo, I assumed they would be more chocolate-y than they are. Rather, this panforte version is more spicy from the ginger and makes a sophisticated sweet treat. You could make one giant panforte or make smaller panfortes for, as Aylena puts it, versions of the "original energy bar".

Aylena's recipe was easy to follow, and though I couldn't find my candy thermometer, I was able to determine when the heated syrup was ready through the old soft ball test (a drop of syrup is plopped into cold water and it can be squished between one's fingers to form a soft ball). I decided to divide my panforte into two separate batches. One was formed into small patties and baked on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and the other half was pressed into some silicon Christmas tree forms.

The Christmas trees really came out well as the syrup base of the panforte oozed into all the crevices of the silicon mold. If you go this route, though, you have to let the panforte cool completely before popping them out. These were intended as holiday gifts for some friends, but I notice that my panforte supply has been tapped by hungry members of the Crispy Cook brigade and I will have to do a better job of protecting my homemade holiday gift supply. Or make more panforte!

Thrilled with Gluten Free South Africa's panforte goodness, I decided to make a second recipe from Aylena's wonderful blog and got another hit with her Baby Marrow Madeleines. Marrows are also known as courgettes or zucchini, and I had a bag of frozen shredded zucchini from our garden which I thawed out and squeezed dry for this lovely recipe. I actually have a madeleine pan (from the Dollar Store, woo hoo!) which formed the lovely shell shape for these appetizers. We ate them with some other snacks while waiting for the main part of our Thanksgiving meal to cook. They are like mini-quiches, delectably moist and cheesy and were so easy to make.

Two stunners from Gluten Free South Africa! Thank you, Aylena! And thank you Sea for hosting this great gluten free blogging event. It is so much fun to roam around the gluten free blogosphere in search of new recipes and blogger buddies. Be sure to check back at the Book of Yum for Sea's delicious and festive roundup.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Grow Your Own #21 Roundup

I have had the honor of hosting the 21st round of Grow Your Own, an always fun, always informative food blogging event which is the brainchild of Andrea's Recipes. Grow Your Own (GYO) has grown to become a twice-monthly project "that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products" (from Andrea's Recipes).

For GYO #21, ten home cooks around the world invited us into their kitchens and so I will take you now on a virtual tour to see what's cooking. Here's a map to see where we will be going:

On the tiny island of Hong Kong, effervescent Rita of Mochochocolata-Rita has no backyard or balcony for growing her own garden, but undaunted by a lack of real estate and by being a self-described "plant murderer" (her writing is very funny) she has taken over the care and feeding of a potted mint plant, named "mint jai", and used some of "his" carefully suntanned and watered leaves to make delectable Lamb in Creamy Coconut Milk and Mint.

Winging over to the Republic of the Philippines, we have two wonderful entries:

First up is the guest host of GYO #20, Ning of Hearth and Home, who prepared Steamed Milkfish en (Faux) Papillote using wine, tomatoes, peppers and some homegrown dill. Her recipe post provides some good points about using the freshest ingredients and sealing up the packet of fish and seasonings to let everything steam up inside for the best flavor. Check out this luscious photo:

Gay's blog, A Scientist in the Kitchen, offers another scrumptious dish from the Philippines, Inihaw na Liempo and Dill. Inihaw na Liempo is grilled pork belly, which Gay cooked up at a recent Sunday picnic in the garden. She chopped up the pork and tossed it with tomatoes, onions, soy sauce, Thai chilies, homegrown dill, and calamansi juice. Calamansis are a kind of citrus fruit grown in Southeast Asia. What a delicious combination of flavors!

From the Philippines we head west and north to arrive in the Mediterranean city of Athens, Greece, where Ivy of Greek Hospitality invites us to share some Tyrokafteri, a spicy cheese dip made with feta and Xynomyzithra, a sheep's milk cheese that her relatives from Crete made from their own flock. When there were no chili peppers to be had at the market for Ivy's traditional Tyrokafteri recipe, she improvised with harissa and roasted green bell peppers and a new recipe was born! Ivy is also organizing a new initiative to raise funds and awareness about hunger issues through Blogger Aid, so be sure to visit her site to learn more.

From Greece we trek north to Hamburg, Germany, where PG of My Kitchen Stories tempts us with Black Olive and Sage Pesto. The sage is from her garden and she used her aromatic pesto as a topping on toasted bread and mixed with zucchini, mushrooms and other ingredients for a heavenly sounding pasta dish.

On to London, England, where two food bloggers provided two seasonal entries using homegrown apples.

Abby of Eat the Right Stuff tried her hand at Apple and Lemon Curd, a favorite bread spread remembered from her childhood days. Using apples from a friends' trees and an overabundance of lemons from a supermarket order mixup (when life hands you lemons....) Abby whipped up 5 jars of curd from butter, lemons, apples, sugar and eggs. While curd is perishable and must be eaten within 4-6 weeks, she reports that only one jar was left after only three weeks, so you know this recipe must be a treat!

Jeanne is a transplant from South Africa living in London and blogging about food, gardening, travel and photography at Cook Sister!. She was also in food preservation mode and tried hot water bath canning for the first time with a batch of Spicy Green Tomato and Apple Chutney. Bravo Cook Sister! That made good use of some of the numerous green tomatoes she was tenderly rearing during a decidedly unsunny English summer.

Crossing the pond, we arrive at the southern United States and into Nashville, Tennessee, home of country music and Tamra, the food blogger author of Eat Seasonally. Tamra participates for the first time in Grow Your Own with a savory Pumpkin Coconut Soup using pumpkin and cilantro from her garden. This recipe tempted me so that I have a can of coconut milk in the pantry awaiting its marriage with a certain winter squash from our garden. Perhaps dinner tonight? Welcome to GYO Tamra and I look forward to more of your homegrown recipes.

Heading east in to Virginia, we visit our Founding Mother, Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, who used homemade vegetable broth and sage from her garden to whip up a batch of Risotto with Onions and Sage. Andrea served this elegant risotto with her Thanksgiving turkey and that must have been some feast! Making risotto is a time-consuming but not difficult cooking skill if you follow Andrea's instructions (guided by Italian kitchen goddess Marcella Hazan), but you do need patience and a strong stirring arm.

The final leg of our culinary journey takes us north to my Zone 4 garden in upstate New York. Rachel, the Crispy Cook, has only a few windburned Brussels Sprouts plants and a hardy thyme plant soldiering on. For my GYO entry I headed to the freezer, where I have several bags of frozen, blanched green soybeans. We harvested these easy-to-grow legumes from seeds we saved over the last several years and they are great steamed green and sprinkled with kosher salt in the Japanese manner, as Edamame, or tossed into stir-fries. I tried Roasted Soybeans for the first time with my GYO entry and they were delectable.

I hope you all have enjoyed this peek into the kitchens and gardens of fabulous cooks from around the world. I know I have enjoyed this armchair travel and learned a few new things about food from my other blogging buddies. Thanks to all who contributed their recipes and insights. And now off to make Tamra's Pumpkin Coconut Soup!

The next round of Grow Your Own will be hosted by Andrea herself at Andrea's Recipes, so be sure to visit to see what's in season and in the cooking pot. Andrea is looking for more guest hosts for future GYO adventures so visit her wonderful site to learn more.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leftover Mashed Potatoes Go Gourmet

My sinister plan to cook all day Tuesday and Wednesday for our family Thanksgiving feast and a weekend's worth of subsequent meals has so far worked out great. Noone's complaining about a lack of food in the fridge and I've been free to slave away at other projects. This morning, though, I was doing leftover inventory control and noticed that my big bowl of mashed potatoes had not been dented.

Hmmmm. I didn't feel like doing my usual potato cake strategy, as they always fall apart in the flipping stage anyway. Hmmmmm again. Some perusal of my cookbook collection inspired me to do a sort of mashed potato kugel recipe in my trusty clay pot and so in less than an hour we had a Sunday breakfast of colorful, reinvigorated potato leftovers that turned out rather successfully. There were no leftovers this time around.

Roasted Mashed Potato Remix

4 cups mashed potatoes (Yukon Gold potatoes looked beautiful in this dish)
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated on a box grater
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 bunch parsley, minced (comes to 3 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak clay pot in cold water for 10 minutes.

Melt butter in frying pan. Add onions and garlic and saute over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add carrots and saute another 5 minutes. Add parsley and fennel seeds and saute 2 minutes longer.

Turn out sauteed mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add mashed potatoes and mix with your hands to blend ingredients well. If too dry, add olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain clay pot and add potato mixture. Cover and place in cold oven. Turn oven heat to 450 degrees F and bake 30-35 minutes or until potatoes are brown and CRISPY at the edges.

Serves 4-6.

I wanted to use my clay pot roaster for this recipe because I wanted a nice brown crust on my potato casserole and so it is necessary to soak the clay pot right before cooking so it can steam the food inside while it's baking at that high heat. If you wanted to make this Potato Remix in a regular baking dish I would try baking it at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes.

I am submitting this recipe to the indefatigable Joelen at Joelen's Culinary Adventures for her monthly Tasty Tools event which is now featuring recipes made in roasting pans. Well, I made my Roasted Remix in a clay roasting pot, which I think is covered under this category. This clay pot works great in roasting foods so that they both steam in their own juices and seasonings and get CRISPY and brown at the edges.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bhajis Enable My Legume Love Affair

Some time ago I discovered Jeena's Kitchen's fabulous Onion Bhaji recipe. It was an instant hit with my family and has become one of our quick and easy recipes for weekday nights. I have made these Indian oven-baked delights with various kinds of vegetables, including thawed (and squeezed out) packages of our garden string beans, diced par-boiled potatoes, blanched cauliflower and even blanched Brussels Sprout halves, and they are always winners. The vegetables get delightfully CRISPY and we make bhajis at least a couple of times a month.

Dan even made bhajis one night for supper using a jar of my pickled dilly beans thinking somehow that they were just like our frozen green beans, and while they were not great, they were edible. Their taste was how I imagine a deep-fried pickle is.

Jeena's Onion Bhaji recipe is fantastic and uses buckwheat flour and a great mix of spices. Her recipe blog, which features many other gluten-free recipes, is a great resource and has many detailed instructions and photographs to guide you along on your first go at these delicious little fritters. She has also recently added a video of this marvelous recipe so you may want to view this step-by-step instruction before you whip up your dinner.

We make our bhajis and like to accompany them with some rice, a dab of Cucumber Raita and some Apple Chutney. One batch of bhajis with these condiments makes a hearty dinner for four, but they can also be served as an appetizer or first course for more hungry mouths.

I like to make Jeena's recipe with chickpea flour, or besan, which I find at my health food store. Larger urban area grocery stores may carry this in the natural foods or Indian foods section. The buckwheat flour version is fluffier, but the chickpea flavor seems to be our favorite. We also add in chopped pickled ginger, snipped fresh cilantro or chives from the garden and substitute cumin seeds for ground cumin for a little variety.

Here's my tweaked-up version of the Jeena's Kitchen recipe using green beans and our customized seasonings. No doubt we will keep playing around with this versatile recipe. I plan to try it with shredded zucchini and summer squash and perhaps chunks of sweet potatoes. Hopefully you will love this recipe too and come up with your own special version.

Green Bean Bhajis

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups blanched green beans (I use frozen green beans) squeezed dry
Olive oil

First Seasoning Mixture:

1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

Second Seasoning Mixture:

2 Tbsp. pickled ginger, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. chickpea flour
1 tsp. tomato puree or sauce
Several Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in frying pan. Add onions and saute until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add beans and heat through, another 2-3 minutes. Add first seasoning mixture and continue to cook, stirring, another 2-3 minutes, or until spices are fragrant.

Take off stove and pour into medium-sized mixing bowl. Add chickpea flour and second seasoning mixture. Stir to coat beans and onions well. Add tomato puree and a tablespoon of water to make into a batter consistency. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, if needed for right consistency. You don't want the bhajis to be runny, just moistened. If you think your bhaji batter is too wet, add another tablespoon of chickpea flour.

Drizzle olive oil to coat two cookie sheets. Drop about 2 Tbsp. bhaji batter onto your sheets for each bhaji. Flatten a little with spoon.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove trays, flip your bhajis so they brown evenly and return to oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Bhajis are best served right away, but for the rare occasions when we have a few leftovers, they are also good reheated in the microwave over some more rice.

Serves 4 as dinner, or more for appetizers.

This is so delicious, you will have to try it. Make sure to try Jeena's original Onion Bhaji recipe too with the buckwheat flour and her delicious spice combinations to see which you enjoy best. I know my husband pouts when I promise him a bhaji dinner and then make something else, so you know this is good!

Simona at Briciole, a wonderful food blog that offers definitions (and audio file pronunciation) of Italian culinary terms AND mouthwatering recipes, is the current host of My Legume Love Affair, which celebrates the awesomeness of the legume and is the baby of Susan over at The Well-Seasoned Cook. This Green Bean Bhaji recipe is my contribution to MLLA, which runs until tomorrow. Be sure to check back with Briciole to see a noteworthy roundup of beany recipes.

Simona is also the co-host of another event, Novel Food, which invites readers to select a novel, short story or other literary work and cook up an inspirational recipe. I have something in mind for this fun event, which runs until December 20, 2008. If you would like some more Foodie Fiction fun, be sure to check out Cook the Books, a new book club started by yours truly and two other blogger buddies, Food Junkie and Kahakai Kitchen. We are reading "La Cucina" by Lily Prior and cooking and blogging about Sicilian foods inspired by this lush and lusty novel by the December 15 deadline. Come joins us!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thyme for Mirepoix

Thanksgiving logistics hinged on lots of aromatic and flavorful magic from sauteed carrots, celery and onion, infused with fresh leaves from my still verdant thyme plant in the garden. Making two different stuffings (bread for the kids, rice for me and Dan) and two different gravies (turkey drippings-based for the meat lovers and mushroom-based for the vegetarians) was made a whole lot easier by chopping up a whole bunch of celery (leaves and all), 6 big, scraped carrots and 3 onions, sauteeing the lot in a stick of butter and then seasoning with salt, pepper and a handful of thyme leaves stripped from their stems.

In classical French cuisine, this fragrant mix is called mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwah) and it forms the basis for many soups, stews and braised dishes. I made up a whole mess of mirepoix and then divided it into fourths to make my vegetarian vs. carnivore, kid vs. adult, celiac vs. non-celiac menu dance a little easier. The Crispy Cook didn't need to get any crispier during Thanksgiving meal prep.

For a traditional bread stuffing for the kids, I took the 1/4 of my master Mirepoix mess and mixed it in with an assortment of torn up stale bread, frozen waffles they refused to eat and subsequently lounged about for months, leftover hot dog rolls from a Labor Day cookout and a few other stale oddments of bread that I had cleverly stashed in the freezer. I then added enough vegetable broth (a la crockpot) to moisten, threw in a beaten egg and then tamped the lot into a greased baking dish and baked it 30 minutes.

Another quarter of my Mirepoix was then added to 3 cups of cooked brown rice and augmented with 10 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced and sauteed in butter. More veggie broth moistened it and I threw in about 2/3 cup grated Asiago cheese and that was an awesome mushroomy rice stuffing for Dan's Thanksgiving portabellas, with much more rice stuffing baked up on the side.

The rest of the Mirepoix was divided in half and each portion formed the basis for gravy. Dan's gravy was started with 2 cups of vegetable broth and a quarter of the Mirepoix in a small saucepan. I had some of those sauteed mushrooms reserved from the rice stuffing above to throw in and then I used some of the hot broth mixed with cornstarch to make a paste which I then whisked back into the boiling broth. When it was thickened, about 10 minutes later, I turned off the heat and I was done. I added a further bit of richness to his gravy by adding some wheat-free soy sauce.

The final quarter of the Master Mirepoix was mixed in with drippings from our roast turkey and the same cornstarch paste technique was applied to thicken it up. Dan's gravy had sliced mushrooms floating in it, so it was readily identifiable.

The thyme was the perfect seasoning for all of the four gravies and stuffings above: it was nicely herbal without being too overpowering or musty, like sage can be and having the fresh herbs was a treat now that the garden has largely gone into hibernation. And the Mirepoix certainly kept me delightfully sane in the Crispy kitchen when I was juggling all my family's food requirements and holiday requests. Thank you, Mirepoix!

I am submitting these tips for using thyme and mirepoix to this week's round of Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB), a food blog event that celebrates the use of herbs and unusual plant ingredients now maintained by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything Once. Our host for WHB #161 is Scott the Real Epicurean, a U.K. blogger who likes to focus on wild and seasonal food and sustainable foods. Be sure to check out Scott's blog, especially after November 30th, to see an always-intriguing, always-educational roundup of recipes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roasted Soybeans, a Grow Your Own #21 Entry

I am honored to be the current host of Andrea's Recipes' Grow Your Own event, which stars the homegrown veggies, herbs, fruits, and other foraged/raised edibles from good cooks around the world. Entries are already coming in from Asia, the United States and Great Britain, so keep them coming until the midnight, November 30th deadline to be included in a tasty roundup. I imagine homegrown goodies will be the centerpiece of many an American Thanksgiving feast so feel free to join in the fun. The rules for entering Grow Your Own #21 can be found on this previous post.

My contribution to this round of Grow Your Own is a Roasted Soybean Casserole. We've grown soybeans for several years now and are delighted with what a pest-resistant and easy to grow crop they are. With the exception of a stray Japanese beetle chomp here and there on the leaves, soybeans are pretty hardy and don't get the insect damage we see on some of the other plants in our organic garden from voracious flea beetles and early spring cutworms. We did have some baby bunnies mow one row of soybeans down last year when our farmer neighbor had a tall corn crop they could hide in, but he's taking a few years to let the soil rest with a low, green cover of alfalfa, so the varmints left our soybeans alone this year. Here's a shot of them in midsummer when they were nice and leafy.

We plant the seeds in early June and when the plant sets its seeds in the pod and they are still green and young and the husk has not yet turned brown you can pick them and prepare them in the Japanese manner as edamame. You steam them right in the pod for a few minutes and then sprinkle with kosher salt for a nice snack or appetizer. They taste a bit like boiled peanuts, sort of nutty and creamy.

Our original package of soybean seeds came from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine, but we've since used the many seeds we dried from plants that escaped our notice during the busy August harvest season and shriveled up into brown stalks. You can easily pull the dried seeds out and we've had success planting seeds that were two years old.

The soybean plants are very productive and we usually have many more soybeans left over from our edamame meals so we bag up and freeze the remainders for inclusion in stir fries and casseroles. I thought I would try oven roasting some of our frozen soybeans as a side dish for dinner this past week and the result was received with gusto at the Crispy Cook cantina, so we'll be making this recipe again. Given the price of frozen packages of edamame in the "Natural Foods" section of the supermarket ($5!) I would encourage you to Grow Your Own.

Roasted Soybeans

2 cups blanched, frozen soybeans, thawed or 1 pkg. overpriced green soybeans or edamame, thawed

2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. garlic powder

Drain soybeans and pat dry. Toss with olive oil. Add herbs and spices and mix together well.

Place in small baking dish, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove cover, stir, and bake, uncovered, 10 minutes more to get things nice and CRISPY!

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Grow Your Own, Baby! It's so satisfying to pull a jar of homegrown, homemade tomato sauce or jam out of the pantry or a frozen package of garden gold, like these soybeans, and feed yourself and your family nutritious, non-processed, and frugal meals. See you all at the GYO #21 Roundup after November 30th.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is this Thursday and I will be preparing a fairly traditional New England-style dinner, incorporating lots of the bounty from our summer garden. All will be gluten-free, however, and there will be a little of everything to accommodate my omnivorous family. A bunch of tried-and-true favorites are there but I will be trying out a couple of new recipes that may end up in the former category if all goes well. Here's what's on our menu after my Sunday food shopping trip:

2008 Thanksgiving Menu


Grandma’s Stuffed Celery

Gluten-Free South Africa's Zucchini-Cheese Madeleines

Spicy Toasted Nuts

Main Event:

Roast Turkey, Bread Stuffing and Gravy (for the Carnivores)

Portabellas with Rice Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy (for the Vegetarians)

Copper Pennies

Mashed Potatoes

Cranberry Sauce (Despite all my best efforts Dan prefers the jiggly straight from the can stuff, blech)

Apple Chutney

Brussels Sprouts in Lemon Balm Vinaigrette

Sweet Potato Casserole

Roasted Asparagus

Mashed Turnip

Relish Tray – Dilled Green Beans, Sweet and Sour Wax Beans and Black Olives

Cole Slaw

Sweet Endings:

GF Mommy’s Frozen Pumpkin Pie

Apple Sour Cream Pie


The feast will be just for the four of us, as we will have our bookstore open on the following day of what is usually a big weekend of sales. Having an excuse to do lots of cooking is great during this busy time, and I am counting on the feast leftovers to fuel us all for several days. Then again, my kids are now teenagers, so who knows how long my fridge will be full.

Our Thanksgivings are quiet and simple during this stage of life, but there are many memorable and interesting Turkey Days in my past:

***As a kid, our small family would assemble at our house, with my Mom preparing the turkey after it did a short headless jig in the sink while she was rinsing it down. My grandmother would arrive with all her recycled pickle and olive jars filled with her creamed onions, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and her famous Stuffed Celery and Apple Pie (she always put tapioca in the filling to catch the juices) wrapped in brown grocery bags tied up white string.

***A college Thanksgiving smorgasbord organized by my housemates one year when we didn't feel like twice making the 8 hour drive home during the four day weekend. A Cuban buddy made pasteles, these cute tamale-like parcels; I made cornbread stuffing and sweet potato pie, my Florida friend cooked the turkey and a whole bunch of other student friends brought the remnants of our meal.

***At my first job in the Albany State Capitol, my office mates and I spent the day cooking and waiting tables at the Community Feast sponsored by the human service organization Equinox and then went back to our bosses' house for a meal and marination in Red Zinfandel followed by a mandatory sleepover. We all woke up with purple teeth.

***As a newlywed, my husband and I had long, chatty meals with my much-loved in-laws. They came of age in the 1940s-50s so there was always a cocktail hour (or two!) before the feast with Chicken Liver Pate, Chex Mix and other snacks that used to fill me up before we even got to the main event, all bathed in a blue haze of cigarette smoke. I always found room for my father-in-law's awesome Cole Slaw. He wouldn't part with the recipe after many requests, stating that he would leave it in his will for me. After his death a few years later, my mother-in-law gently informed me that it consisted of cabbage, mayonnaise and a packet of seasoning from the produce aisle.

***I had a turn at the family Thanksgiving headquarters one year and invited my husband's family over for a non-traditional Crown Roast of Pork supper. This was in an apartment with a balky stove, which silently and unfortunately turned off after the first hour of cooking so that despite my best efforts to baste and brown this large cut of meat it just kept looking gray and sweaty. The cocktail time now long over, several in-laws got into my tiny kitchen and figured out that the stove timer was kaput, so it wasn't until some ridiculous time of night like 10 pm that we picked at our holiday meal, since we had long since polished off all the hors d'oeuvres.

***When our first baby arrived, it was time to show her off to other relatives on Long Island. There are only a handful of bridges to funnel visitors onto this metropolitan New York real estate and they are jammed all through any holiday weekend, so needless to say, Dan and I grimly memorized every road sign and every piece of curbside trash that we inched by on the Throg's Neck Bridge while our infant daughter screamed and twisted in her car seat. Thanksgiving appetizers consisted of several aspirins and a large glass of wine, as I recall.

***My grandparents had no plans one Thanksgiving, so we trekked down to visit them for the day when my girls were ages 2 and 5. Grandma and Grandpa weren't up for cooking a huge meal then and we proposed taking them out to dinner at their favorite restaurant across the street. I don't much remember the meal, but the pre-dinner show was amazing. My creative and bossy eldest daughter had made American Indian drums and attire at her kindergarten and she got my youngest costumed in a quasi-Pilgrim outfit complete with bonnet and black patent leather shoes. They sang and danced and made music and it was better than any Broadway front row tickets for my grandparents.

I hope that all my blogger buddies have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with your loved ones and have many things to be thankful for in your lives.

If you would like some other gluten-free Thanksgiving menu ideas, I can point you to some other blogger buddies for inspiration:

Fresh Ginger's Mexican and Mostly Home Grown/Raised Thanksgiving Feast

Carrie the Ginger Lemon Girl's Southern Style Thanksgiving

Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness' Thanksgiving Roundup

Karina the Gluten-Free Goddess' Southwestern Style Recipes and Cooking Tips


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thankful for Mom's Tasty Cooking

With the American Thanksgiving holiday arriving next Thursday, it is time to reflect on the many things that we can give thanks for in our lives. Ivy of Kopiaste...To Greek Hospitality is currently hosting a blog event, Time to be Thankful, which celebrates this theme and is a continuation of the focus on hunger awareness showcased last month on World Food Day (October 16).

As a food blogger, I am certainly thankful that I and my family and friends are not hungry and that we have such a bounty of food from our markets and gardens. Ivy's event gave me the extra impetus to make a donation at the Hannaford Supermarket when I was waiting in line yesterday. Hannaford has $10 boxes which contain non-perishable items that represent a meal for a family of four that are donated to area food banks. You receive a $50 coupon book when you check out as an added bonus, so if you live in the Capital District you may want to look into this easy way to help out our local community at a time when many folks are financially hurting.

I am also thankful for my Mom, Carol, who has always supported me throughout my life and given advice, comfort, and wisdom whenever I have needed it. Mom's the reason why I love to putter around in the garden and has passed on her love of nature, art, books and animals on to me. She is always eager to try out some new gluten-free recipes since my husband entered Planet Celiac and has to avoid wheat, barley and other forms of gluten for his health. I am submitting Mom's refreshing potato salad recipe for A Time to be Thankful as one way of saying thank you to my cool Mom.

Mom's Red Potato Salad

2 lbs. red potatoes, eyes cut out, but skins left on, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 eggs

2 Tbsp. minced sweet onion
3 Tbsp. pickle relish or minced pickles (I used my bounty of garlicky refrigerator pickles that are starting to go soft)
3-4 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. parsley, minced

1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sugar

Boil up your potatoes and eggs until done (about 15 minutes). Let cool, then chop up in medium size bowl.

Add onion, celery, pickle relish,and parsley and blend well. Season with lemon, salt, pepper and sugar. Add mayonnaise and blend well.

Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving. Sprinkle on paprika on top. Enjoy!

(Thanks mom!)

Ivy's Time to Be Thankful event ends today and she will be posting a roundup in the next day or so, so be sure to go to her blog and see all the deliciousness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Copper Pennies - Carrot-Pepper Salad with Tangy Tomato Dressing

I used to work with a fun and feisty woman, Diana, who was a terrific cook. My office mates and I would always lick our chops and surround her like saber tooth tigers when she arrived at the office bearing some home cooked treat, like her almond-scented Danish Puff, or her homemade candies. Diana was also one of the organizers of a monthly theme lunch in the main conference room which some of us would cook for and all of us would attend (we sold lunch tickets for $3 as I recall), with the year's total donated to a local nonprofit that provided needy area families with clothes and gifts for kids at the holidays. We would "adopt" a family and get the list of what items were needed and then we'd shop and bring the presents to our December lunch for a group wrap-up. Great food for a great cause and it was all so much fun.

There were never any leftovers with Diana's contributions to these monthly lunches; the bowls were scraped clean, the crockpots scoured, the tins of cookies reduced to a meager crumb or two. One of the great recipes that she shared was for Copper Pennies, a carrot and pepper salad that was bathed in a sweet and tangy tomato dressing.

I made this salad a long time ago according to Diana's recipe and it was awesome. However when I took it out the other day, I wanted to tailor it to my family's updated cooking and eating habits.

First to go was the can of tomato soup called for in the recipe. While there are probably gluten-free canned tomato soups out there, I don't want to have to read three crowded paragraphs of ingredients and frankly, I am spoiled by the taste of my own homegrown, homemade tomato sauces and soups, so I substituted tomato sauce or puree. I also slashed the amount of sugar called for in Diana's recipe by 2/3 and did a little other seasoning adjustment. The result? Still as tasty as I remember and still a winning salad dish. I think Diana would approve.

Copper Pennies

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins (a food processor works great for this)
3 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced into thin slivers
1/2 Bermuda onion, sliced thin and separated

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce (check to make sure it's wheat-free)
1 cup tomato puree or sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. prepared mustard

Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a soup pot. Cook carrots until tender, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool.

Mix together oil, vinegar, soy sauce, tomato puree, brown sugar and mustard.

Layer carrots, onions and peppers in 2 quart serving dish (looks lovely in a clear glass bowl). Pour sauce over vegetables. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours to marry flavors.

This recipe keeps very well, so you can make it several days ahead of any big feast, like Thanksgving.

When your salad veggies are gone, use the remaining marinade as the basis for a Catalina style homemade salad dressing.

Allergy Mom over at The Allergic Kid is rounding up recipes in her Thanks for "Nothing" Thanksgiving that are gluten-free, vegan, and allergy-friendly, and the Copper Pennies cover all the bases. Be sure to check back with her blog for more recipes to share at your holiday feasts that would be safe for everyone to enjoy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Grow Your Own #21 Food Blog Event Announcement

Ning of Hearth and Home has passed the torch to me as the next guest host for Andrea's Recipes great Grow Your Own blog event. This twice-monthly event celebrates recipes and informative blog posts about food that bloggers have grown themselves, foraged, fished or hunted and it is always so dazzling to see the dishes that are submitted from around the world. I will be the guest host for the 21st round of GYO from now until November 30, midnight (Eastern Standard Time), so if you would like to participate see the event rules below.

While the garden harvest is winding down in the northern hemisphere, food bloggers in the southern parts of the globe are planting and foraging spring goodies, so keep your eyes peeled for a variety of recipes about any number of interesting foods. In Ning's Grow Your Own roundup alone, there were dishes from six different countries and included such intriguing edibles as Rhubarb Schnapps, Old-School Pork Chops with Apples and Tarragon, Steamed Colocasia Rice with Coconut Gravy and Prawn Pot Pie, among others.

I have enjoyed participating in Grow Your Own over the last year with such recipes as Creamy Brussels Sprouts Soup, Dried Apples, Roasted Ambercup Squash, Roasted Rainbow Beans, Tomato Sauce (Canning), Italian Fried Peppers, Black Raspberry Parfait, and Tatsoi with Mushrooms and Indian Spices, so you can see that this event is near and dear to my culinary heart.

To join Grow Your Own #21, follow these rules from Andrea's blog:
  • Make a dish that uses at least one item from your very own garden or farm and post about it. Your garden doesn’t have to be big. Container gardens are welcome! If you hunted or foraged, those items are also eligible. You can also use something that was given to you, but the giver must have personally grown or raised the item. If you paid for it, then it doesn’t count.
  • Anything edible that you have grown or raised qualifies, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, sprouts, edible flowers, nuts, grains, legumes, dairy products, eggs, livestock, and anything else I might have forgotten. Produce from both indoor and outdoor gardens are welcome! Different regions will have different things available, so feel free to feature things unique to your area. Andrea's Recipes GYO page has archives of previous roundups to give you an idea of what kinds of recipes have been submitted before.
  • Please make sure your dish is posted during the month of the event because we like to celebrate seasonal items. One post per blog, please.
  • As a courtesy, please include a link to this announcement and this announcement in your blog post, and then update later with a link to the round-up.
  • Feel free to use the GYO badge in your post or one of the other GYO badge designs which can be found on Andrea's Recipes GYO page.
  • Let me know that your post is up by sending me an email by November 30 at oldsaratogabooks [AT] gmail dot com with: 1) your name and location, 2) your blog name and URL, 3) your post URL and recipe name, and 4) a photo of your creation (300 x 300 pixels or smaller).
I look forward to your posts!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Short Foodie Exploration of Ithaca, New York

Every year my girlfriends and I plan an escape weekend to leave motherhood, wifery and jobs behind and just enjoy each others' company. We shop, eat out, sight see, and most importantly, reconnect with each other back at the hotel room accompanied by a bottle or two of red wine and a bucket of nail polish for our pampering pedicures. Over the years we've watched our friend Laura race in the New York City and Philadelphia marathons, shopped at outlet malls, gotten roped into judging a costume contest at a Mystery Weekend and attended a crafts fair in Vermont. We are lucky to have our super-organized friend Lisa make all the arrangements and are always amazed at how she pulls it off without procrastinating. Without her, I'm sure we'd have only escaped once or twice instead of the dozen junkets we've attended.

This year we planned our annual retreat in Ithaca, New York, a funky college town set among beautiful steep hills and 19th century homes at the southern tip of the Finger Lakes region. We arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning and managed to pack in a lot of fun into our 48 hour pass. We ate out, shopped for crafts and clothes in Ithaca Commons, tooled around the Farmer's Market and Cornell Campus, attended an elegant opening at the Henry F. Johnson Museum of Art and, of course, squeezed in a lot of chatter and laughter. Here's a view of the gorgeous and steep hills of the western campus at Cornell to give you some idea of the terrain in this area of New York State.

We all arrived in Ithaca in the evening last Friday and after a round of hugs we made a reservation for our group of ten at Viva Taqueria at the corner of State and Aurora Streets in the downtown area. Whistles were wet with a round of Margaritas while we waited for our table and we enjoyed the Mexican folk art and friendly ambiance of the wait staff. I don't have to eat gluten-free (husband Dan is the celiac) so I joined the majority of our group in feasting on a Chicken Mole Burrito that was tasty and beautiful with its white and brown sauce adornment. Numerous entrees were vegetarian or could be made vegan on the Viva Taqueria menu. Our bill was amazingly inexpensive as an added bonus. Drinks excluded, but with the tip, we each dined out for a mere $14.

The next morning was all about the Ithaca Farmer's Market, located in an open-ended, wooden trussed structure that ended in a beautiful dock on Cayuga Lake. We all purchased goodies to pass around and had a smorgasbord of crepes, muffins, Chinese stir-fries and of course, chocolate. After an enjoyable "drive by", I settled on some Cambodian food, as I don't ever think it is too early to dine on spicy stuff. I got a wokked-up to order batch of Me Ka Tang, with flat noodles, tofu, spicy chili sauce, Chinese cabbage and garlic, which warmed me and my fellow samplers from the inside out. Perfect!

There were great crafts about, and two of my buddies snapped up felted hats to warm their heads on this chilly, drizzly morning. There were wonderful leather crafts, pottery, silk-screened clothing and photographers at every turn and we all came away with a holiday gift or two. I had a nice chat with a young man at the Bellwether Cidery booth about the various types of hard cider he had for sale. I fancied the still varieties, or those without carbonation, and will report back in a future blog post about the two bottles I brought back as a souvenir for my imbiber of gluten-free spirits.

Several of our party opted for the prehistoric looking stalks of Brussels Sprouts and my friend Laura carried a gorgeous bouquet of red, orange and yellow carrots that she couldn't resist toting around all day like a Veggie Ms. America. I was delighted to find some garlic for planting at the artful vegetable counter of Muddy Fingers Farm and the young gent manning the station was kind enough to permit a photo of his beautiful vegetables. Those would be two of my mischievous friends mugging in the background which I didn't notice when I took this shot.

Dan and I planted the bag of garlic this past weekend and are looking forward to our first garlic harvest next summer. I also used one of the garlic bulbs for cooking and while it is a similar size to the garlic I get at the supermarket, each clove was about three times as fat and made a lovely garlicky shrimp scampi the other night.

I searched in vain for some gluten-free bakery items in my reconnaissance and found none, so I would have to say that this was my only negative comment about this lovely farmer's market. Surely this is a niche that could use filling. The Ithaca Farmers Market is open on Saturdays from 10 am to 3pm through December at Steamboat Landing and open many more days and hours during the growing season.

Afterwards, our party of ten split up into two groups: one was into shopping at the array of shops in the downtown Ithaca Commons and the other was headed by our Cornell alumni buddy Anne, who wanted to stomp around her alma mater. Parking on the Cornell Campus is tight, so I would recommend taking the frequent shuttle buses to get there, particularly if there is a Big Red football game going on, as we found out the hard way.

This public university graduate was very impressed with her first visit to an Ivy League school. The Gothic architecture of the western campus was just beautiful. We toured the library and Student Union and marveled at the murals, woodwork and Hogwarts ambiance. Anne was interested in checking out her old engineering haunts at the other end of the Cornell campus, peppered with less architecturally-interesting Sixties buildings and we managed to sneak into a Stem Cell Symposium, where the bolder members of our group helped themselves to refreshments while the others tried to look like scientists and scanned the handouts and displays. One interesting tidbit about Cornell that Anne told us was that well-mannered dogs are allowed to attend classes as per an unusual endowment by a caninophile alumnus, which explains the large friendly dogs population we encountered.

I nipped into Autumn Leaves Bookstore for a couple of quick purchases before going back to our downtown hotel room to doll up for Saturday evening's festivities. We began with a swingin' art opening at the I.M. Pei-designed Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art back at Cornell. We had spied a flyer about that night's event during our campus wanderings, so we duded up and had a blast at the opening of an exhibit of 19th century Japanese prints, serenaded by a jazz quartet and helping ourselves to free nibbles of marinated olives and artichokes, cheese, and fruit.

By group vote, we had decided on Madeline's for dinner, although I was sad to miss vegetarian icon, the Moosewood Restaurant, having cooked from their various cookbooks over many years. Madeline's was wonderful, however, and we wined and dined ourselves over the course of two hours, capping off a terrific dinner with bits of each other's desserts. Dessert was mandatory, as Madeline's big selection of elegant sweets made on premises by their full-time pastry chef beckoned to us from its prominently feature glass case.

We had to leave the next morning to make our way back to our various homes in New York and Pennsylvania, but this trip was a delight from start to finish and I am anxious to come back to Ithaca with my family for a holiday sometime soon.

Herbed Feta Fritters

There was a sweet and tasty post over at Food Buzz recently by Sam the Greek Gourmand in which his plans to produce a banquet for the 24,24,24 Blog event (24 feasts in the same 24 hours by 24 bloggers from all over the world) was interrupted (happily) by the early arrival of his new son!

Sam took it all in stride, and changed around his plans to provide an awesome Greek feast for the hospital staff that so lovingly took care of his new, expanded family.

I prowled around his great blog and found myself bookmarking recipes right and left. The first thing I decided to try out were these magnificent Feta Fritters. Sam's recipe, handed down from his Aunt Dimitra, consists of mashed potatoes, feta cheese, egg and crumbs with a luscious infusion of dill and mint. I went out to the herb patch to gather my ever-present dill but the mint plant had closed down for the season. I have contained the invasive mint in its own large container and I guess this caused the plant to hibernate early. Luckily, though, I still had a shrubby rosemary plant hunkered down in another section of the garden that I hope will overwinter in our Zone 4 climate. The mint no doubt would give the fritters a different taste, but I figured rosemary plants, a Mediterranean native and a distant relation in the mint family, would also work well, and happily, it did. I subbed in an equal amount of finely minced rosemary leaves for the mint (sorry, Aunt Dimitra!) and substituted brown rice flour for the all-purpose flour called for in Sam's recipe to keep them gluten-free, and man, they were good!

Sam serves the feta fritters as an appetizer, but I served them as a hot garnish for a nice tomato, lettuce, and caper salad tossed with an herbal vinaigrette and they were a beautiful and fragrant meal. I even had leftovers for two lunches the next day, though the fritters are less yummy when cold.

After three years of herbal fun, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, the founder of the Weekend Herb Blogging, has passed the reins on to Haalo, an Australian food blogger and author of the gorgeously-photographed Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. This week's guest host of Weekend Herb Blogging is Diary of a Fanatic Foodie, where the accent is on Italian cooking, Baltimore food favorites and other luscious posts. I am submitting this adapted version of Sam's Feta Fritters as my entry for this week's round (#158!) of WHB and urge you to try it soon, that's how yummy these fritters are. I'll be making them again in the near future, perhaps over a Greek Salad with Kalamata olives and sliced Bermuda onion. Be sure to check back with Diary of a Fanatic Foodie after Sunday for the complete WHB roundup.