Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

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Salad assembled but before dressing. Don’t dress it until you are ready to serve. Such pretty colors!

It’s been rather warm here in Colorado. No snow in Boulder at all. Temps in the 60’s and 70’s. One good thing: my lettuce is still chugging along. Usually, we’d have had a hard freeze by now that freezes the leaves solid.

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Chicken wire essential to deter my dog, who loves lettuce!

But, it’s still fall after all. That means that thoughts (and produce sales) are featuring veggies like sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t dream of sweet potatoes this time of year? And turkey! Sorry, I love Thanksgiving food.

This salad combines some classic fall flavors: sweet potatoes, cranberries, and orange. Compared to so many Thanksgiving sweet potato dishes, this is light and refreshing. Now, I’m not saying I won’t make rich and sweet sweet potatoes this year. But, in a year where summer is hanging on until past Election Day, this is spot on.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
(serves 6-8)

2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
leaves from 3 6″ sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
leaves 3 6″ sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup cranberries, rinsed and dried (see Note)
3/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 orange, zest and juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 medium shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups lettuce or arugula (or a mix), washed and dried

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large dice. Toss with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, generous sprinkle of salt, light sprinkle of black pepper, and chopped herbs. Put on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until potatoes are browning at the edges and tender.

While the potatoes are roasting, place the cranberries in a small baking pan and drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon sugar. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to let them cool while you make the dressing.

Place the sherry vinegar, zest and juice of the orange, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper into a blender jar. Blend for a few seconds to mix. With the blender running, slowly add the remaining 5 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallot and parsley and mix with a spoon. (If you blend it, the parsley will turn the dressing green. Which isn’t the end of the world but it’s prettier if it’s orange.)

To assemble, place the lettuce in the bottom of a large bowl. Pour on the sweet potatoes and distribute over lettuce. Do the same for the cranberries. When you are ready to eat, pour over the dressing and toss it all together.

Note: You can use fresh or frozen cranberries. If using frozen, thaw them before roasting.

Adapted from a recipe in Sweet Potatoes by April McGreger, The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

 

Apple Cheesecake Tart

I made this tart, which is really a cross between a tart and a cheesecake, for a party. Huge hit! It’s apple season so why not make a rich and creamy dessert that features this most-loved American fruit?

Though this isn’t a true cheesecake, some of the hints in my Cheesecake – You crack me up! post are also relevant here. It is vital that your cream cheese and egg are at room temperature. You will get a lumpy mess if you try to make this without having the foresight to warm up your cream cheese and egg.

Apple Cheesecake Tart
(makes 1 9″ tart, serves about 12)

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large apples (I like Honeycrisp but Jonathan or Cortland are also good)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice. Gently stir in the flour until well blended.

Press the dough evenly into the bottom and at least 1″ up the sides of a 9″ non-stick springform pan. Refrigerate while you work on the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a clean large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown sugar. When this mixture is fluffy and there are no lumps, beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat again until smooth.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/4″ slices.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Add the apples and toss to coat evenly.

Place the pan on a rimmed sheet pan (just in case your pan leaks). Pour the cheese filling into the tart shell. Gently cover with the apples, scraping out all the sugar and cinnamon. Move the apples around to cover the filling completely.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for another 40  minutes.

Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the crust. Release the springform but don’t try to take the sides off until the tart cools for 10 minutes. It’s just too hot to handle right out of the oven. When you remove the springform, if some pieces stick to the pan sides, scrape them off and put them on the top of the tart. It’s a rustic tart. No one will notice.

Allow tart to cool completely before serving. Once the tart is completely cooled you can remove the pan bottom by running a knife under the bottom crust and then carefully using a large flat spatula to release the crust all the way to the center. Gently slide the tart onto a serving plate. Or not, you can serve it on the pan. I do all the time!

This tart can be refrigerated overnight before serving. Any leftovers (yah, right) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

Apple Fennel Sauerkraut

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A friend had a bumper crop of cute lady apples (a type of crabapple). I picked a few quarts. Some went for a plum-apple jam. What to do with the rest? Ooooh! Sauerkraut! You don’t need to use crabapples. Any apple will do.

I love sauerkraut and this is really good sauerkraut. This is a true sauerkraut, fermented for about 3 weeks (you can make it more or less tart by varying the ferment time). At 3 weeks, it’s crunchy and tangy perfection. The apples do not make the sauerkraut sweet. The sugars in the apples are food for the bacteria, making it tangier than typical. Which is just fine with me!

Some notes on making sauerkraut:

  • You are going to need a good sized crock or plastic container. You don’t make small batches of sauerkraut. This recipe requires a 2 gallon container. Crocks are traditional but they are awfully heavy. I prefer a plastic container, which you can get at restaurant supply stores (brand name is Cambro). It’s lightweight, easy to see what’s going on, and inexpensive. I discovered that the plastic does retrain some of odor of fermentation. From now on, it will be my sauerkraut bucket. At about $5, a very worthwhile investment.

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  • It’s vital that you massage the salt into the cabbage to get the cabbage to release its liquid. The resulting brine is where the magic happens. You want enough brine to keep the cabbage covered.
  • On keeping the cabbage covered – it will float, and you will need to weight it down. I mention this here because you need to consider this when selecting your crock. You want to make sure that you can easily fit something – a plate, a bowl – into your crock that you can place a weight on. This will keep your cabbage submerged.
  • Sauerkraut doesn’t need a lot of care during its ferment. You are supposed to spoon off any scum. I admit that I did not (I was away on vacation part of the time). Seems it turned just fine with my neglect. I never noticed anything funky growing in it, at least while I was home. Funky growths like mold don’t usually clear up on their own, so my guess is that nothing ever started. It helps if you keep everything well submerged in the brine.
  • Temperature is important. Higher temps make for faster fermenting and more sour flavors. You also run the risk of bad actors invading. I started this batch in early September, when the temperature in my house was consistently in the low 60’s. You can make sauerkraut even when the temps are running around 70-72 but the fermentation will go faster. It’s not recommended that you try it in temperatures much above that. Cold temperatures slow the fermentation. At refrigerator temp (40 degrees), it stops entirely. Given all this, I wouldn’t try making sauerkraut in the heat of summer, unless you have A/C and keep your house rather chilly!
  • Many modern books say to use unrefined sea salt because of extra stuff in refined salt. I use pickling salt. There is nothing extra in pickling salt – no anti-caking agents, no iodine added. Just plain ole NaCl. It works and it’s cheap.

Apple-Fennel Sauerkraut
(makes about 1 gallon)

3 Tablespoons pickling salt
7 1/2 pounds green cabbage (about 1 1/2 large heads)
1 3/4 pounds apples, thinly sliced
1/2 pound onions, thinly sliced (1 medium)
5 teaspoons fennel seeds

Peel off the large outer leaves of the cabbage and reserve. Cut the cabbage into 1/4’s, core and shred. Place 1/2 the cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt and massage vigorously to release the juices. Don’t be shy. I split it into two batches because a) it’s a lot of cabbage, and b) when you are massaging the salt in, you need extra space so cabbage doesn’t go everywhere. Place the first 1/2 in another bowl. Repeat with remaining cabbage. Mix all the cabbage together with the apples, onions, and fennel seeds. Taste for salt. The salt level is somewhat up to taste. At 3 Tablespoons, I found it about perfect. But, you may want more.

Pack it all into your 2 gallon container. And I mean pack. No air bubbles and totally immersed in the brine. Place the large outer leaves on top. Then place a plate or bowl on top of that. Weight that down with something heavy – I used some heavy jars. Cover the whole thing lightly with plastic wrap. Don’t seal it tightly because you need to allow the CO2 a way out. Place your container on a rimmed sheet pan to catch over-zealous fermentation. Put the whole thing in a spot out of direct sunlight and where the temperature remains fairly constant, within the parameters discussed in the notes above.

Check daily for fermentation. You’ll know it’s happening when bubbles start to form. If any scum forms, skim it off and push down the kraut so it stays submerged. Same for any mold. For more troubleshooting tips, visit Fermentation Gone Bad. Lots of great tips and photos to help you out.

I let my sauerkraut go about 3 weeks. Your mileage may vary. Temperature, your local flora, and your own tastebuds determine when you say it’s done. Taste it and see what you think!

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, pack into jars and refrigerate. This will stop the fermentation. Consume within a few months for best crunch. It will soften up as it sits.

Recipe proportions from Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey, Storey Publishing, 2014.

My life in the pickling trenches

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Not my photo but this is exactly what my grapes look like when ripe, a lovely mix of green and pink.

Yes, friends, I have been away for a while because I have been canning, pickling, and fermenting my life away. When the garden delivers great bounty, you have to find a way to preserve it before it all rots. Or at least use a controlled form of rot to preserve it. (Coming soon: my experience with sauerkraut, an example of controlled rot.)

Here’s a quick little pickle that you can use on grapes. I have pounds and pounds of grapes from my vine this year (variety Canadice, a N. American hybrid originally from New York State). Last year, I got nothing. This year brought great fruit set and my electric fence held the raccoons at bay. Without that fence, I’d have nothing again. Evil bastards, those raccoons.

These grapes are a wonderful condiment with grilled meats or on a cheese plate.

Quick Pickled Grapes
(makes about 4 cups)

3 cups seedless grapes (a mix of red and green is nice)
8 fat cloves of garlic, halved
1 1/2 cups natural rice vinegar (see Note) or white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 quarter-sized thick slices of fresh or frozen ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon medium-hot red pepper flakes (Aleppo or Korean)

Wash and stem the grapes. Place the grapes and garlic in a medium non-reactive bowl.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour over the grapes. Cover. Allow to pickle for at least 2 hours at room temperature. For longer storage, refrigerate in the brine for up to 2 weeks. Drain before serving.

Note: Natural rice vinegar has no sugar added. Many types of rice vinegar have sugar added because they are meant to make sushi rice. Since we are adding sugar, we don’t need the sugar in the vinegar.

Recipe from Nicole Routheir’s Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routheir, Workman Publishing Company, 1996.

Photo credit: By Biberbaer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tis the season for pumpkin, pumpkin pancakes

 

Is everything pumpkin this time of year? Seems so. Last month’s Trader Joe’s flyer was pages of pumpkin. Why not jump on the bandwagon?

This is a tasty way to use up part of a can of pumpkin puree, something that I find shows up in my fridge this time of year. Again, my pancakes are not very sweet. You can serve them with maple syrup or honey to sweeten them up.

You can also use pumpkin pie spice instead of the separate spices in the recipe, if you have that in your pantry. Use 1 Tablespoon to replace the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves.

You don’t need to add the granola (see photo below), but it adds some nice crunch. I like using Nature’s Path Pumpkin-Flax Granola but you can use whatever granola you have, including my recipe made with some pumpkin seeds. 🙂

Don’t crowd these pancakes because that makes them harder to flip

Pumpkin Pancakes

(serves 5-6)
Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour (can use 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder*
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cloves
Wet Ingredients
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
2 cups low fat buttermilk
oil for greasing griddle
about 1 cup pumpkin seed granola (optional)
Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, fat, and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in the pumpkin puree and buttermilk. Stir in the dry ingredients until the flour is incorporated with the wet ingredients. Some small lumps are OK.

Heat a well-seasoned or non-stick griddle over medium heat. Brush lightly with vegetable oil. Use a scant ¼ cup for each pancake, spreading out the batter to a 4″ circle. It’s fairly thick so it doesn’t spread much on its own. Sprinkle on about 1 Tablespoon of granola, if desired. Don’t crowd them in the pan. They can be tricky to flip. Flip when the bottom is nicely browned and the edges have set. Repeat greasing and pancake-making until batter is gone. Serve hot with maple syrup or honey. They are best hot from the griddle, like all pancakes. But if you find you have extra, they can be refrigerated and reheated, either in the oven at 300°F or in the microwave.

* This is the proper amount for Boulder elevation, about a mile high. If you live at sea level, use 1½ teaspoons baking powder. The amount of baking soda does not need to be adjusted.

Cranberry Walnut Upside Down Cake

I pulled this recipe out of a Gourmet from November 2005. It’s a delicious butter cake made seasonal with cranberries and walnuts. As cakes go, it’s quite easy. I brought it to a party and it was a huge hit.

You can get the recipe on-line from Epicurious:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/cranberry-walnut-upside-down-cake-233012

Some notes on the recipe:

Recipe says it serves 8. I’d say 10. It’s sweet and rich, though if you want to cut it into 1/8th’s, I would eat the whole piece. 🙂

The cake is baked in a 10″ cast-iron skillet, not a cake pan. You’ll also need an electric mixer for creaming the butter and sugar. Unless you have very strong arms. 🙂

The only altitude adjustment I made (I live at 5300 ft.), was to reduce the baking powder to 1 teaspoon, from 1 ½ teaspoons. There is also baking soda in the recipe, but I left that as-is. The baking soda interacts with the buttermilk for leavening while the baking powder gives some extra lift. It didn’t over-rise, so I think my adjusted leavening measures are good for Denver altitude.

Pumpkin Apple Breakfast Bread

A not-too-sweet quick bread with chunks of apple and the flavors of Autumn

I am a big fan of quick breads. They are yummy for snacks and as an on-the-go breakfast. But, so many quick breads are really cakes in disguise. They are so damn sweet they make my teeth ache. Admittedly, I don’t eat a lot of sweet things. Which is my way of saying, this quick bread is not very sweet. I’m just giving you heads-up on that. Don’t expect cake. If you need to sweeten it up, slather on some apricot jam or apple butter. It does taste of the season with pumpkin, apple, and warm spices like cinnamon, but minus a lot of the sugar.

I specify separate spices but you can use premixed pumpkin pie spice instead. Substitute 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice for the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Pumpkin Apple Breakfast Bread
(makes 1 9″x5″ loaf, about 12 servings)

non-stick cooking spray
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder (use 1 tsp. at sea level)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
⅓ cup low-fat or whole milk
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼” dice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, both sugars, and the oil. Beat until smooth – brown sugar tends to be lumpy. Add the pumpkin puree and milk. Beat again until well-combined. With a spatula, mix in dry ingredients, walnuts (if using), and apple pieces. Do not over-mix; mix only until all the flour is incorporated into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap a few times on the counter to shake out any big air bubbles in the batter. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean with no liquid batter sticking to it. Set the loaf to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn out and let it finish cooling to room temperature. You won’t be able to slice it until it’s completely cool. To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. It can be stored at room temperature for about 3 days. After that, store in the fridge to prevent mold.