Category Archives: Kitchen Talk

Beej

Sunday dinner

My friend BJ and his dog Chaco are living at the homestead for a bit. In turn, my kitchen has become the grounds for a highly competitive cooking show. One night, BJ cooks. The next, I do. Dog-eared cooking magazines, pages graffiti-ed with greasy thumbprints and splatters of spice, sit in a pile on the counter top. Coupons for staple ingredients are clipped to the side of the fridge. The Dutch oven is either on the stove, bubbling — or full of delicious leftovers.

These are delightful problems to have.

We’ve gone at this back and forth pace for a few weeks, each impressing the other with our culinary prowess. So far, BJ’s greek yogurt dip is the winner. Paired with his curry chicken and spiced couscous, I thought about climbing into the bowl for a swim.

Sunday dinner

Last night, I threw down saffron almond chicken from the October issue of Bon Appetit. Saffron is stupidly expensive. Apparently I’ve never cooked with it before and I was not forking over $10 for two tiny packets. As such, we actually ate smoked paprika almond chicken. (Note to self: do saffron research. Determine why it is so pricey. Consider hitting spice markets next time you travel internationally.)

Sunday dinner

This was tasty. The sauce is thickened with chunks of bread added to the almond/spice mixture in the food processor. As such, this is not a fat-free, paleo-loving or any other specific diet happy meal. Unless you just really like good hearty food. Then it is — wait for it — a winner, winner chicken dinner.

 

Sunday dinner

Sunday dinner

I also served roasted pasilla peppers stuffed with cheese as a side dish. If I had unlimited funds, I would have a massive greenhouse where these peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peas would grow all year long. Oh, and saffron.

Your turn, BJ. Game on.

-k

 

 

 

Recipe: Best Soup Ever

Potato poblano soup

Stop what you are doing right now and figure out how you can make time to create a culinary masterpiece. That’s right. Throw humility out the window, hit the market and buy:

Ingredients:

3 large carrots

3 stalks celery

1 large yellow onion

2 vegetable broth boullion cubes

1 large golden yukon potato for each person being served

As many roasted Hatch or poblano chiles as you can find (I’d go with 4-5)

1 small container of cream cheese

Potato poblano soup

Now, if you’ve got all day to smell a lovely pot of magic bubbling on the stove, take this slow. (If not — it will cook in an hour or so too.) Start with a large Dutch oven. Add a dash of olive oil. Dice up your carrots, celery and onion. Let those cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Then add 64 ounces of water, along with your 2 broth cubes. Bring this mixture to a boil while washing and cutting up your potatoes and chiles. The size doesn’t really matter — you are going to blend this soup to perfection. Add the potatoes and chiles, let simmer with the lid on for 30-45 minutes. Again, let it go all day if you have the time. About 20 minutes before serving, add a dash of salt, pepper and cumin. Then throw in your cream cheese and bust out the immersion blender. Carefully as to not send potato soup all over yourself — ahem — blend that pot of gold glory into the yummiest soup you’ve ever eaten.

Potato poblano soup

And oh, it’s vegetarian. And possibly vegan if you leave out the cream cheese, but why would you do that?

The Best Soup Ever is even better the next day, reheated. Get after it, people. You’ll be thankful you did.

-k

Recipes: Roasted Apple and Pork Loin

The crab apple trees in Golden are ripe for harvesting, and that’s just what several friends and I did the other day. I came home with more than 50 pounds of fruit and an idea. What if I put together a meal with apples in each course?

Apples!

As my friend Juliann says — the best parties are themed.

And so began the Apple Extravaganza! Green salad with apples, stuffed pork loin roasted on a bed of apples and apple crisp for dessert. If I’d really been on my game, I would have come up with some signature brandy drink, but alas — I love grapes too much in that department to stray. And of course in the middle of whipping up this ridiculous meal, I didn’t take any photos of the completed project. You’ll have to take my word for it: it was good.

Apple party

Apple crisp

Roasted Apple and Pork Loin*

Ingredients:

12 small crab apples, or 6 larger apples — cored

1 pork loin

A bit of butter, or olive oil

1/2 cup goat cheese

1 cup porcini mushrooms, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, diced

dash of rosemary, salt, pepper

1/4 cup white wine

Apple roasters

Directions:

Place cored apples in roasting pan. Butterfly pork loin. In a cast iron skillet, cook onions, garlic and mushrooms in butter over medium heat until onions are translucent — about 10 minutes. Place butterflied pork loin on top of apples.

Stuffed pork roast

Pour onion/garlic/mushroom mixture down center of the loin. (It’s okay if some falls out. It will all still be yummy.) Add goat cheese on top of mixture, with a dash of rosemary, salt and pepper. Close pork loin flap/sandwich and contain with a handful of toothpicks. Sprinkle another dash of salt and pepper on top of closed roast.  Roast at 360 for 1 hour or so, until a meat thermometer reads at least 160. Apples should be warm and mushy.

Place apples and pork loin on a serving dish. Add a 1/4 cup of white wine to the roasting pan and place back in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove, scraping at bits left in the pan. Pour au jus into a separate serving dish.

Voila!

Great game

Apples to Apples afterward, over dessert? Divine.

~K

* An improved take on this recipe.

 

Recipe: Bill’s Baba Ganoush

Baba ganoush

Baba ganoush

My friend Bill mentioned a couple weeks ago that he makes his baba ganoush by starting at the BBQ. With a hot grill and a bit of olive oil, the smoky flavor of charred eggplant comes through beautifully. When I ran across eggplant at the market a few days later I thought I’d give it a try. If you like baba ganoush, this recipe couldn’t be easier. Just give yourself enough time to let the plants cool before trying to open/scrape them into the food processor.

Ingredients:

1 eggplant per person served, brushed with olive oil

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup tahini

1 lemon, juiced

1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Smoky paprika for garnish

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Baba ganoush

Directions:

Grill eggplant until charred. Let cool. Slice, scoop out inside of eggplant into food processor — adding as much or as little of the charred exterior as desired. (I added very little and this was sufficiently smoky.) Add other ingredients and pulse. Top with paprika, enjoy with pita, vegetables or grilled meat. Easy, delicious and the presentation is fabulous for a dinner party.

Hummus

While you have the food processor and the tahini out, might as well whip up some hummus too.

Eats

Both go well with chips and a summer appetizer board on the patio.

~K

 

Ounces and Pounds and Booyahs

Finny recommends buying a good kitchen scale to see just exactly what you are getting out of your garden vs. the money you put in.

Kitchen scale

Of course this system doesn’t equate time spent tilling, weeding, watering and even praying bees have an orgy in your garden — but hey. It does give you some solid numbers on what you are “producing.”

Kitchen scale

The girl has figured this stuff out to a science. Why not add one more fun kitchen tool to the mix? I’ll give my end of summer numbers when the first frost hits. Otherwise, I’m on the hunt for some Fall seeds before it gets too cold. I’m thinking onions, cabbage, broccoli, beets, carrots and maybe even some rhubarb. I’m definitely learning a ton this year on how gardens work in Colorado — and how they don’t. I’m excited to have a greenhouse to put to use this winter. We’ll see if my winter crops make it to the new scale.

Kitchen scale

In the meantime, there is a dentist office in town with a giant crab apple tree over flowing. I’ve become a wee bit obsessed with harvesting free fruit and putting it to use. I made the French apple cake out of the September/October 2012 Cooks Illustrated this weekend, and topped it with stewed brandied apples.

French Apple Cake

It was fantastic. I can’t wait to make it again. (Although I had a really hard time getting it out of the pan, so it doesn’t look as pretty as it tasted. Don’t you hate it when that happens?) I think I’ll add some of those peach preserves next time.

A win for local eating, and my belly.

~K

We be Jammin’

Palisade peaches are in season. Last September, during a visit my Dad said, “That is the best piece of fruit I’ve ever eaten!” He’s mentioned it several times since.

Peaches, people. My quiet father is still talking about peaches nearly a year later.

I’ve watched all summer as people stand in line at the local farmer’s market to pay $40 for a box of these golden beauties. My dad knows his fruit.

Peach jam

Peach jam

Peach jam

Peach Jam

What’s the best way to send your father in Texas peaches from Colorado? Booyah.

Peach Jam

Adding to the pantry shelves:

  • 2 quarts halved peaches
  • 7 jars stewed peaches
  • 7 jars peach jam

It is fun to watch this little pantry grow, holding on to the flavors of summer. I am dreaming of putting together beautiful baskets for Christmas with a variety of jams, pickles and sauces I’ve put up from the garden and market. One of these days I’ll get jam to set up properly! These are still a bit liquid-y. (Finny says it takes a lot of patience and practice. Gah.)

 

~K

Tomato Feta Sandwich: August

Remember how Bon Appetit has that “Cook the Cover” contest each month? Last time I participated, it was the apple and porcini stuffed pork loin.

The August is cover caught my eye at an airport and I danced a little jig when I soon saw it in my mailbox. Bread? Cheese? Tomatoes? What’s not to love?

August cover

With a garden bursting at the seams, full of tomatoes and basil, and a full calendar of house guests, I’ve been whipping up these tomato feta sandwiches as an appetizer.

Alma's visit

Alma's visit

{Disclaimer: tomatoes technically not from my garden. Farmer’s market finds.}

Alma's visit

Alma's visit

I like to brush both sides of the bread with a bit of good olive oil and rub them with garlic. Then top and place on the grill at a low heat for 6-8 minutes. They are best served immediately, when everything is toasty. The next batch will get a lot more cheese.

Good work, BA. Please consider squash and pumpkin recipes for Autumn covers. I’ll have a wheelbarrow full come mid-October.

~K

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

A friend visiting my home this week mentioned the crab apple tree on the side of the house had bent limbs from all the fruit.
“What apple tree?”

“That one by the mailbox. You know. There are little apples all over the ground?”

“Those are apples? Are you sure?”

“Yes.

“Edible?”

“I’m not trying to poison you, dummy.”

We walked outside and he ate a handful of the tiny golden red orbs to prove his point.

Huh. Buckets of fruit at my fingertips, growing in my own yard and I had no idea.

Free fruit.

FREE FRUIT!

Of course I quickly played around in the kitchen to see what I could make, landing on spiced crab apple jelly for the first run.

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

IMG_42Spiced Crab Apple Jelly66

Next up: apple chutney.

~K

 

Tomato! Tomahto!

Raise your hand if you have a bookshelf full of creative tomes you’ve never read. You saw them at the bookstore and just had to have them. This pattern! That recipe! This idea!

I believe the creative publishing industry is successful because of an average consumer thought process that goes a bit like this: “Oooh. Pretty photographs! This pillow case/tote bag/lemon cake is so different from the other 12 sets of directions I already own…”

Canning

And then it ends up in the pile with the others to gather dust. You try not to look at that shelf when you walk by, because nothing makes you feel like more of a failure than all the money spent on more books for ideas you’ll likely never even start, much less finish.

Thanks Finny!

But wait! There is the ocassional ray of creative hope! Finny sent this canning book for my birthday. I’m not much of a canner, but I’ve always wanted to be — in part because Fin sends the most delicious Christmas packages with pickles and jams and other goodies she’s made from her garden. I have a serious case of, “Why can’t I do that?! Gah. I wanna!” every time I get such a thoughtful gift. I also grew up with pantry shelves full of delicious jellies, pickles, beets and asparagus — much of which came from family friends in Minnesota.

Canning

Canning

Canning

The other day I saw that canning book on the dreaded shelf where ideas go to die, and dusted it off. I put it on the kitchen counter and have been browsing here and there, thinking of what I can do with this or that out of the garden. Well! When my friend Rae recently went out of town leaving me with a CSA basket full of tomatoes, and my Jess said she’d be interested in coming over to help — I knew canning day had arrived.

Canning

{Side note: Jess is La Domestique. If you’ve never visited her food blog, it is what I aspire to be. Her photography, recipes and dedication to the craft are A+.}

Canning

Three hot and sweaty hours later, tomatoes with basil from the garden — canned!

Sweet tomato action

(Really, only six jars of tomatoes? I KNOW. I so value homemade canned goods now. I didn’t appreciate how much work went into saving food this way.)

Next up: transforming tiny crab apples on my tree into chutney and jam. And perhaps dusting off that shelf and making a donation to the local library. Life is to short to be burdened with literary guilt.*

~K

*Speaking of, did I mention I’m in a summer book club trying to tackle Infinite Jest? The chances of me finishing this thing before I burn it are slim to none.  As one book club member recently mentioned, “Uh, I totally get why DFW killed himself. Dude had demons.” And, if that doesn’t make you want to curl up and read, I’m not sure what will.