Thursday, April 30, 2009

Easy on the Eyes and the Wallet: Three Yummy Bean Dips

Warmer weather means more picnics, parties and outdoor socializing is going on, and so I came up with a beautiful dip to share with family and friends that couldn't have been easier to put together with a few pantry staples.

We are BFFs with the legumes, so I always have a few varieties of canned and dried beans in the larder, and some homemade pesto in the freezer from at least one or two garden seasons. Throw in a jar of roasted red peppers and some seasonings, and you're good to go in replicating this pretty tri-color bean dip.

The April Royal Foodie Joust is winding down over at the Leftover Queen's Foodie Forum and this time the three required Joust ingredients are not so much ingredients as colors: Red, Green and White. I thought about making a more complicated Joust entry like a Vegetable Terrine, but our family is in the midst of Spring soccer, softball, SAT test review, music concerts, etc., so I ended up serendipitously coming up with this yummy bean trio during an interlude in between all my chauffeuring.

We dunked baby carrots and red pepper strips in it and topped a few salads with a dollop of these three gorgeous bean dips, and I know I'll be making it again soon for friends.

Here's the easy recipe:

Red, Green and White Bean Dips

2 (15.5 oz.) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. ground sage

3 Tbsp. basil pesto
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives (scallion greens would be a good substitute)

2 roasted red peppers, drained and rough chopped

Place beans, garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil in food processor and pulse until smooth. Mentally divide bean paste into thirds, Remove two of these portions and place each third into its own bowl to mix in red and green ingredients.

Return to remaining third bean spread in food processor and add ground sage. This is your White bean spread. Pulse until blended. Scoop out into small bowl and let sit.

Return one of the other third portions of bean spread into food processor and add pesto and snipped chives. Pulse until blended. Scoop back out into its own bowl and reserve. This is your Green bean spread.

Rinse out food processor and dry. Add third portion of bean spread and add in chopped roasted peppers. Pulse until blended. Scoop back out. This is your Red Bean Spread.

You can either serve these three bean spreads in separate serving dishes or try arranging them together in a 4 cup serving bowl by making three distinct mounds and then swirling the edges together in a hopefully attractive manner. The Red bean dip is a little runnier, so try molding the other two first.

Makes 4 cups.

The entries for this tri-color Royal Foodie Joust are just stunning already so be sure to head over to the Foodie Forum to see gorgeous red peppers, beet gnocchi, the visual pun of avocado "guacamole" ice cream (with chips!) and some other stellar interpretations of this fun foodie event.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Foraging up some Spring Tonic with Dandelions and Fiddleheads

My dog Martha and I headed out in the alfalfa fields behind our house to stretch our six legs on a glorious, if windy, Spring afternoon last week, and while we were puddle-hopping off into the forest line (it is the height of Mud Season, that fifth part of the year packed in between the six months of Winter and three weeks of Spring that we get in the Northeast) I spied some lovely coiled ferns getting ready to unfurl. I picked a generous handful to bring back to the Crispy Kitchen dreaming of steaming them up for an elegant pasta topper.

When I got home and perused my home library, I found I was once again foiled in my efforts to snag a free meal from the great outdoors. Last year, my trusty Nettle hunting hound and I gathered stinging nettles much too late in the season to make them palatable and it seems my impromptu fiddling with ferns needed further research as well.

I assumed fiddlehead ferns were a variety of fern, when in fact there are several edible ferns which one can harvest, some of which cause FOOD POISONING. Plus, you are supposed to scout out your fiddlehead patch the summer before when you can correctly identify the fern species from their height, leaf patterns and seeds.

Reading of my copy of Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop by the late Forager King Euell Gibbons stated that the bracken fern was edible and delicious raw or cooked. I thought I probably had collected the tips of the bracken fern, the most common fern in our area, which Euell said were covered with a "rusty, cottony felt" when then emerged in the Spring. They certainly were sweatered up and it took a laborious and incomplete removal of their fuzzy bits by rubbing them with my fingers. After reading here that ingesting raw bracken ferns are linked to stomach cancer (I'll have to research what Euell died from) I decided to nibble on cooked fiddlheads only.

I got a small pot of lightly salted water going on the stove and boiled them up until they were tender, hoping the remnant fuzz would fall off, which it didn't. I then scarfed up two ferny bits and found them unbearably bitter and hairy, so into the compost bucket they went.

All was not lost however, when I went back out into the sunshine to root out some young dandelion greens (you gotta get 'em before they flower or they are too milky and bitter) from my garden beds and lawn. Many, many cold water rinses and hand pickings later, I had 2 cups of springy, tangy greens to saute up with some garlic and oil and toss with last night's leftover rice for a Spring Tonic lunch for the hubby and I. And it was a delicious success!

Here's my easy recipe for a Somewhat Free Lunch:

Spring Tonic Dandelions and Rice

2 cups fresh, young dandelion greens, washed and picked over carefully

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups cold cooked rice

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. cider vinegar

Heat oil in frying pan. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes, or until golden. Add dandelions and cook down, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add cider vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss in cooked rice and stir until heated through, adding a splash more of olive oil if needed.

Makes 2 hearty and supremely satisfying servings.

I am submitting this post to the Grow Your Own event started by Andrea's Recipes and which is being hosted this month by House of Annie. This fun event rounds up posts about foods grown, foraged, fished, and hunted up by great cooks around the world, so be sure to check back after May 1st at House of Annie to see an always-interesting roundup.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rounding up those Herbs, Veggies and Flowers: Weekend Herb Blogging #180

This past week I had the privilege of hosting Weekend Herb Blogging, one of the longest running and most informative (not to mention tasty) food blog events on the web. Now, in it's fourth year, Weekend Herb Blog was started by Kalyn's Kitchen and is now organized by Haalo at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. The event features recipe and informational posts about herbs, vegetables, flowers and unusual plant ingredients.

There were eleven entries this week from bloggers from six different countries, and the spotlight ran the gamut from the commonplace (zucchini) to the unusual (wisteria flowers). Let's dig in!

First up is Alice from Malaysia with a lovely photo of Pan-Fried Salmon with Fresh Thyme. Her stylish blog, Bits of Taste, has many Chinese, Japanese and Asian recipes, all so beautifully photographed. My bookmarking finger certainly got a work out when exploring her wonderful blog.

Grazia joins us from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs) in Italy where she foraged some young dandelion greens for a delicious spring salad. I'm glad to discover Erbe in Cucina, as this blog has many recipes, garden tips and other information about many different herbs and vegetables, including several for the garden-hogging lemon balm-lets that are invading my asparagus patch. Grazie, Grazia!

Arika of the Mississippi, USA blog My Yummy Life, provided some kofte, which she amusingly describes as essentially a meatball grilled on a stick and served in a pita. Her take on kofte, redolent with mint, is stuffed into pitas with chopped romaine and a minty, lemony yogurt sauce and paired with a brown rice and vegetable salad.

Kalyn, of Kalyn's Kitchen and the founder of WHB, checked in with a batch of Farro Salad with Asparagus, Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette. Farro is an unusual variety of wheat, so it's off-limits for the gluten-free diner, but I imagine this salad would be fantastic made with quinoa, rice or even steel-cut oats. I like how Kalyn saved the stalks from an earlier asparagus meal and then pan-fried them to mix into this tasty sald.

The Happy Cook from her Belgian food blog, My Kitchen Treasures, made use of lots of garlic, onions and parsley in her Escargot with Garlic Butter recipe. Escargot are snails, and I once had this dish as an adventurous budding foodie on a family vacation in Montreal. It was tasty, but a little too chewy, as I recall, but I may have to revisit this dish after seeing Happy Cook's creation.

WHB Host with the Most, Haalo from Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once in Australia provided a portion of her Stuffed Zucchini for us to savor. Haalo's mom is credited with the creation of this recipe, which uses onion, parsley, sage, and garlic to spice up a beef filling. As Haalo cautions, pick your garden zucchinis when they are small and tender, because those gargantuan zukes get unappetizingly stringy and seedy almost overnight!

A luscious dessert, individual Lemon Blackberry Pudding Cakes, was served forth by our blogger friend in Ontario, Canada, Jerry of Jerry's Musings, Thoughts and Rants. These sound fragrant and delectable, and Jerry included a wealth of information about blackberries' powerful anti-oxidant properties and how to buy and store them.

Cinzia from the bilingual Cindystar blog in Italy provides the most unusual item for our WHB sampler this week with Fried Wisteria Flowers, including many delightful shots of the blossoms and the various insects that swoon over their perfume. In Italian, the sound of these Fiori di Glicine Fritti, makes it sound even more elegant.

Joanne in Massachusetts, USA, provides us with a sunny yellow Curry Pumpkin Hummus, which looks so inviting. Her blog, Eats Well with Others, showcases healthy recipes with an adventurous and tempting array of flavors.

An Easy Thai Red Curry with slices of yellow squash, eggplant and red pepper, was plated up for our delectation by MomGateway in the U.S. I believe this is Momgateway's first contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging and I offer a hearty welcome to our WHB table and look forward to seeing some more of her healthy, kosher recipes.

Finally, I tried out a new way of combining the intense summer flavors of zucchini, tomato, garlic and basil in an easy Zucchini Trifolati. My inspiration came from reading, no, devouring, Donna Leon's wonderful Inspector Brunetti mystery series which I recommend highly for a cheap and evocative armchair trip to Venice. And my new WHB buddy, Jerry (see Lemon Blackberry Pudding Cakes above) shares my reading recommendation!

A big thank you to all the WHB contributors this week and to our host, Haalo. Next week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Maninas: Food Matters, so head on over there with your recipes and blog posts to join in the fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cook the Books: A Vegetable Navarin Inspired by Kitchen Confidential

The third book selection for the bimonthly foodie book club, Cook the Books, is Anthony Bourdain's dishy, entertaining and often over-the-top memoir, Kitchen Confidential". Jo in Athens, Greece, the blogger extraordinaire at Food Junkie, not Junk Food, is the current hostess in the lineup that includes yours truly, and Deb the adventurous foodie at Kahakai Kitchen in Honolulu. Jo picked a great book to "sink our teeth into" and one which I had read several years back and enjoyed as much again on the second reading.

Kitchen Confidential
inspired a mini publishing boom among other restaurant chefs and food industry types, and I have read many, but Bourdain's vivid prose and no hold's barred writing style makes him the king of the kitchen confessional. He has written a couple of foodie/Mafioso novels, but it's his non-fiction that is the most striking. I have a review of his book, Nasty Bits, Hooves and Snouts over at the Book Trout if you want to sample more of his essays about various cuisines, food trends and restaurants.

For Cook the Books, readers are asked to come up with a blog post and dish inspired by the current book pick. There were many luscious French and Italian foods which Bourdain describes in Kitchen Confidential which I thought about making, including a CRISPY grilled whole fish, and I also toyed with the idea of actually making a luscious brunch spread that didn't just consist of chopped up bits of leftovers from the weekend dinner rush, but ultimately, I found that a passing reference to the complicated garnishes for a lamb navarin that clog up Bourdain's "meez" (mise en place) to be the impetus for my Cook the Books dish.

Since the Crispy Husband shies away from eating meat, making him one of "the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food" (Bourdain's meat-crazed, provocative definition of a vegetarian), I searched out a Vegetable Navarin recipe. I found an elegant Spring Vegetable Navarin here, but without fresh fava beans (just planted some in the Crispy Garden this week!)and other baby spring vegetables available in the local markets yet, I tweaked the recipe a bit to make do with what was in the larder.

A navarin is a French culinary term for a stew that traditionally incorporates lamb, herbs, potatoes and spring vegetables. The object is to infuse the stew with all the flavors, colors and textures of the produce without overcooking them, so it was a fun project to attempt during a luxuriously unhurried weekend afternoon. The result was quite delicious and I would even have offered a soup plateful up to Monsieur Bourdain if he had shown up at my door. I think he might even have liked it, meatlessness notwithstanding.

Spring Vegetable Navarin

6 medium turnips, stem and root tip trimmed off and cut into six or eight wedges

2 cups fresh string beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths


3 shallots, peeled and diced

3 cups vegetable broth

1-1/2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into six or eight wedges

1 cup baby carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

3 fat leeks, trimmed and washed carefully to remove silt, then cut into 2 inch strips

1-1/2 cups frozen petit pois

4 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

++++Be prepared to wash a lot of cooking vessels for this luscious dish, but it's worth it!+++++++

Bring 3 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a medium saucepot. Place steamer basket full of cut up turnips and bring back to a boil. Cover and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove steamer basket and dump turnips into a colander. Rinse with cold water and let drain and cool.

Place steamer basket back in saucepot and add string beans. Bring to a second boil and cover and steam 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.

Remove steamer basket and dump beans into colander. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking and let drain and cool with the turnips.

Heat 3 Tbsp. butter in large, heavy-bottomed saucepot. Add shallots and saute until lightly browned, stirring often, about 8-10 minutes. Add vegetable broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 8-10 minutes.

Add carrots and leeks and simmer, covered, until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add in steamed turnips and string beans, frozen petit pois, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, uncovered, another 5-10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and broth is slightly reduced. Add in chives and parsley, reserving some to garnish each serving. Add an additional tablespoon or two of butter, if broth is not rich enough. Optional garnish of dried cow hoof (available in better pet food stores) for carnivorous rock star writer guests.

Be sure to check back at the Cook the Books blog to see the roundup of all the blog posts, book reviews and cool recipes that Jo will be putting together for us after the April 25th deadline.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #180 Announcement

I am honored to be the host of Weekend Herb Blogging #180. Weekend Herb Blogging is a food blog event that focuses on recipes and informational posts featuring herbs, vegetables and other plant ingredients. Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once is the coordinator of Weekend Herb Blogging and you can find out more about the event, who some upcoming guest hosts will be, as well as WHB roundup archives on her site.

Here are the rules for submitting an entry:

1. Entries to Weekend Herb Blogging must be posts written specifically for Weekend Herb Blogging. This means they cannot be cross-posted in other events.

2. Weekend Herb Blogging entries should have the goal of helping people learn about cooking with herbs or plant ingredients.

Only two types of entries will be accepted:
* Recipe posts where a herb or plant ingredient is one of the primary ingredients in the recipe
* Informative posts that spotlight one herb or plant ingredient, particularly including information about how they are used in cooking.
Naturally, posts can be a combination of both these criteria.

3. Posts must contain the phrase Weekend Herb Blogging with a link to the host for that week (The Crispy Cook) and to Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once.

4. The posts may be written anytime during the week but you must email me with your submission at oldsaratogabooks AT gmail Dot com with WHB in the subject line by Sunday, April 26, 2009, 5 pm Eastern Standard Time. I will endeavor to have the roundup posted the next day.

5. In your email please include the following information:

* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo (250 pixels wide maximum)

You can catch last week's informative roundup which featured Rose Vinegar, Asparagus Souffled Omelet, Tanglad Juice, Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Prickly Pears and Cabbage with Fresh Coconut, among other deliciousness in the tasty spread hosted by The Cabinet of Professor Kitty.

For my entry this week, I was inspired by reading Donna Leon's wonderful Venetian mysteries featuring the philosophical and stout-hearted Inspector Guido Brunetti. He is always in search of real truth and justice for the victims of the murders he investigates, despite the corruption swirling around the police and government offices, the grinding criminal justice system and his suspicious and vainglorious boss. Brunetti is enamored with his wife and children, his history books and his meals, which often are preceded by a glass of Prosecco. I searched out a bottle of this sparkling white wine and Dan and I enjoyed it while I prepared a version of Zucchini Trifolati, as mentioned in one of the most recent Brunetti books I inhaled.

I typically saute up coins of zucchini with garlic and basil and tomatoes from the garden all through August and September, but this time I wanted to try slicing my zucchini into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler to make the dish a little differently and it was terrific. The zucchini gets soft and slippery almost like a noodle and cooks up very quickly. In this dish, I used slow-roasted tomatoes from last year's garden that were thawed from our freezer, so they added a nice rich flavor, but you could use canned plum tomatoes as a substitute.

Zucchini Trifolati

2 medium zucchinis, ends trimmed, cut in half widthwise, and then peeled into ribbons with a vegetable peeler (see photo below)

5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup roasted tomatoes (or drained meaty canned plum tomatoes)
2 Tbsp. basil leaves, rough chopped (mine came from the freezer)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Romano cheese for garnish

Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add garlic and cook, stirring 2 minutes, or until golden. Add tomatoes and stir around 2-3 minutes. Add zucchini ribbons and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until nutty and crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with cheese.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #180. I have already received some entries for this always-flavorful, always-delicious, foodie event, so feel free to join in the fun by the April 26 deadline.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tea-Flavored GF Shortbread: A Product Review of Biscottea

The Issaquah, Washington-based Biscottea company recently launched a line of gluten-free, tea-flavored shortbread cookies and asked if I would like a free sample to review. I am always in favor of blogger swag, and delighted when it turns out to be high quality swag that I can heartily endorse, as is the case with this trio of sweet treats.

Biscottea sent a package of their Blueberry and White Tea, Chai and Earl Grey shortbreads for Dan and I to sample and we were happy to conduct a teatime taste test. I brewed up a pot our own home-grown and dried mint leaves in my vintage tea pot, which was a long-ago gift from my wonderful Aunt Priscilla. I just recently noticed that it is decorated with wheat sheaves (!), ironic for our gluten-free kitchen, but I do love it still.

Dan and I tried each of the three GF shortbreads and found that each was delicious and CRISPY and full of tea flavor. I liked the Earl Grey the best. It has that lemony bergamot perfume that makes Earl Grey so distinctive. Dan grooved on the Chai Biscottea with its cinnamony spiciness. We both ranked the Blueberry version third, though it was pleasant enough with its nuggets of dried berries. The two other flavors just seemed much more flavorful and buttery.

We enlisted the tasting help of our younger and perpetually-hungry athlete daughter (Go Bulldogs!) and she just shrugged and said they were "alright". I suspect that is because youngsters favor sweeter, gooier cookies in general. Shortbread cookies just don't compare with fudgy soft brownies and chocolate chip cookies for the juvenile palate. But both snobby, sophisticated adult taste tasters gave these delightful cookies an enthusiastic thumbs up!

The Biscottea website doesn't yet indicate what local retailers are carrying their products and even the uber-retailer Amazon doesn't yet have the GF Biscotteas available for sale. One can buy Biscottea's non-GF shortbreads on Amazon in boxes of a dozen packages containing two cookies each for $19.94 plus shipping, so hopefully the GF Biscotteas would not be priced any higher. They would certainly make an elegant addition to a tea gift basket and were a sophisticated gourmet treat for the two of us on a blustery afternoon.

I applaud Biscottea for adding a gluten-free line to their existing tea and coffee flavored shortbreads, and wish them well in marketing these delicious cookies. I look forward to buying some from my favorite upstate New York retailers when they become more widely available. Thanks Biscottea!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Risotto with Radicchio and Roasted Garlic

The reddish purple leaves of radicchio have always beckoned me from the produce aisle and seed catalogues, but somehow I have never played around with this pleasantly bitter Italian vegetable before. It is a beautiful deep color and makes a nice addition to green salads, both for its visual appeal and bitter, chicory-like flavor, not to mention the benefits of its high level of natural anti-oxidants. Traditional Italian preparation of radicchio includes serving it grilled, in pizza and pasta dishes and in risotto.

I was inspired to do make a radicchio risotto after watching my new favorite foodie guru, Lidia Bastianich on television visiting the vegetable markets of Treviso, where radicchio is a jewel in their culinary crown. Ever since we got our new television converter box for our rural home we've been picking up the Vermont public station's broadcasts of Lidia's Italy, so now I get to see my new kitchen hero slurping pasta, knocking back big glasses of wine and bantering back and forth with her lively mama and intelligent offspring.

When I caught the Treviso show, she went back into the kitchen with a very shy rising chef from New York City and they made a batch of risotto with radicchio and speck, a kind of Italian ham. I wanted to recreate this sumptuous sounding dish at home for my non-Speck eating husband, so I consulted various risotto recipes and came up with this version below which substitutes the richness of the meat with roasted garlic, red wine and extra grated cheese. You could use white wine instead red, but I thought the wine-tinged rice would add an extra shade of purple to the palette of cooked and raw radicchio. The result was regally good, but then again, it's hard not to get transported by a pot of slow-cooked risotto.

Below is my vegetarian version of Lidia's Radicchio Risotto recipe, suitable for those luxurious days when you can spend an afternoon adrift in the kitchen.

Risotto with Radicchio and Roasted Garlic

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil

5 cups homemade vegetable broth

2 Tbsp. snipped chives
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 small (baseball size) heads of radicchio, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for the table)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. minced flat leaf parsley

Drizzle garlic cloves with 2 tsp. olive oil in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Place in 375 F degree oven for 30 minutes, or until they are soft and brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then squeeze out the soft, mellow roasted garlic insides out into a dish. Let cool and reserve. (You only need six cloves of roasted garlic for this particular dish, but if you are garlic-rich, you might as well roast a whole head or two at once, since roasted garlic is wonderful added to other dishes, or squeezed warm onto bread or mixed in dips.)

Meanwhile, bring vegetable broth to a boil in saucepan. Reduce heat so that it just has the gentlest of simmers going on.

In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add chives and stir 1-2 minutes, or until soft. Add rice and stir to coat each grain with oil. Rice will squeak a bit when you are stirring it. Slowly add in wine, continuously stirring, and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

Reduce heat to low and start adding ladlefuls of hot broth to the risotto pot, stirring constantly to ensure that the rice absorbs the liquid evenly. Continue additions of hot broth when the pot gets dry, stirring often, if not constantly. Constantly is better, so fortify yourself with additional red wine, if needed. Toss in roasted garlic during one of the broth additions. The whole addition of the broth process will take 20-30 minutes.

Add sliced radicchio to the pot, reserving 1 cup for later. Cook, stirring, several minutes, or until radicchio is wilted.

Take the risotto pot off the stove and mix in several tablespoons of butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add thyme. Mix thoroughly. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.

Garnish with reserved sliced radicchio, extra sprinklings of Parmesan cheese and minced parsley.

Serves 6.

Thank you Lidia, for inspiring me to play with some radicchio. It was certainly a delicious experiment and I look forward to trying it on the grill this summer.

I am sending a plateful of this delicious purple treat over to the Cabinet of Professor Kitty, an interesting blog of radio playlists, recipes and ruminations. The Professor is this week's host of Weekend Herb Blogging, the weekly blog event that showcases posts about vegetables, herbs, fruit and other members of the Vegetable Kingdom. Weekend Herb Blogging was started four years ago by Kalyn's Kitchen in Utah and is now headquartered in Australia at Haalo's lovely food and informative blog, Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. The recap for WHB will be up after Sunday's deadline and then I am delighted to report that I will be hosting next week's edition, Weekend Herb Blogging #180 (!), from April 20-26.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wrapping up a Culinary Tour Around the World with Sweet Potato Pudding

The fun and informative Culinary Tour Around the World started by Joan at Foodalogue concludes with a tribute to the food of the Southern United States. Joan has been a wonderful guide and explorer and I have learned much and had fun in the kitchen exploring the foods of Norway, Poland, Mongolia (I know, I know, my contribution was only Mongolian-esque, not a true dish from Mongolia!), India, France and Ethiopia.

I wish I could have joined the intrepid Joan on more of the stops along the way, but that's what I could research and whip out for each weekly deadline. I stand in awe of Joan in her talents in coming up with beautiful food and photos for each stop on our journey.

For the last stop on this culinary itinerary, we are exploring the Southern United States. The sweet potato is a Southern food staple, loving the region's long, warm growing season. My family does enjoy its orange taters, whether roasted plain or mashed up with butter and brown sugar and roasted again as Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes. We do love our Smoky Sweet Potato Soup and Sweet Potato Fries, but the best-loved Sweet Potato recipe in the Crispy Cook repertoire, is Sweet Potato Pie.

Fiddling with pie pastry, gluten-free or in the halycon Pre-GF days, however, is not my forte, so I decided to just go ahead and make a Sweet Potato Pudding the other day to serve as a side dish. No crust, just filling, and why not? It was yummy and full of Vitamin A, fiber and sweet flavor. And I didn't have to drive myself crazy with trying to pat a slippery Franken-crust together.

Just be sure to protect your delectable dish from roving Chow Hounds while it's cooling!

Here's my easy recipe for:

Sweet Potato Pudding

3 large sweet potatoes

3 Tbsp. softened butter
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger

Prick sweet potatoes with a fork several times and place on baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree F oven until soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel and mash sweet potatoes.

Grease a 2 quart casserole dish with softened butter.

Mix potatoes with eggs, evaporated milk, brown sugar, salt and spices until smooth. Spoon into prepared casseroled.

Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned on top, about 35-40 minutes.

Serves 6.

Joan has a great Foodalogue Family Food Fight to conclude her great Culinary Tour Around the World so be sure to hop over there for some entertainment and some mouthwatering recipes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Condiment Queen Makes Her Own Mustard

Ivy, the big-hearted host of Kopiaste...To Greek Hospitality, and one of the three founders of BloggerAid, the initiative to raise money and awareness of global hunger issues, is this week's host for Weekend Herb Blogging, so of course I had to cook up something interesting to blog about and send over to her for the roundup.

Weekend Herb Blogging is a weekly food blogger event that was started by Kalyn's Kitchen to highlight recipes and information about fruits, vegetables and herbs. Now in its third year, the popular event is now headquartered over at Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once.

After a recent trip to India Bazaar in Albany where I stocked up on grains, legumes, and bulk spices, I wanted to experiment with making my own homemade mustard. I had a big bag of yellow mustard seeds (about 3 cups worth for $3.99) and after performing some condiment research, I settled on this recipe which made a little over a pint of bright yellow and SHARP mustard.

Of course I couldn't wait a week for the mustard to mellow before trying some, and it really does clean out your sinuses. It is SHARP, SHARP, SHARP! Even a week later, I've tried a little smidgeon on a sandwich and it is quite assertive, almost like a wasabi mustard. A dab on a piece of Cheddar is delightful, but it is a strong condiment, so I'm using it very sparingly.

I am looking forward to trying out some other mustard recipes once I get back to India Bazaar. I think next time I'd like to make a coarse-grained brown mustard with lots of crunchy seeds to pop and my daughter is wild for honey mustard, especially with her French Fries, so anyone else out there in cyberspace has experimented with making their own mustards, I'd love to receive any recipes or tips.

This mustard trial has prompted me to seek out making other homemade condiments. I've canned homemade spicy salsa many times, but perhaps some homemade ketchup or hot sauce may be concocted in the Crispy Kitchen this summer. Saveur magazine recently had a great web article about making various homemade condiments, including a grainy Guinness mustard (I'll have to try that with a gluten-free Redbridge beer), red curry paste, sofrito, and a bunch of other spicy condiments.

Ivy will be posting the roundup of other blog posts from around the world highlighting vegetables, herbs, fruits and seeds, so be sure to check back in at Kopiaste after the Sunday deadline.