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Mint-Plum Sauce Lamb Chops

I gotta admit off hand, most of this recipe is about the plum sauce.

Mint-Plum Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 6 plums (no need to immediately pit)
  • shallow water
  • 1 pkg. fresh mint leaves
  • 2-3 T. honey
  • ¼ c. sherry wine
  • 1-2 t. ground ginger
  • 2 small cloves garlic, finely minced

Rinse six plums, and set them in shallow water in a saucepan (should rise no higher than an inch and a half). Drop in one sprig of mint leaves. Start burner, drop to medium to medium high, and wait for simmer. As plums cook down, stir periodically to prevent skin (which will simmer off) from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As plums soften, open with slight pressure from a set of tongs and remove pit, then dispose. (Remember that you will have a total of six pits!)

Once plums have cooked down into a homogeneous purple substance, add remaining mint leaves, then stir. Allow mint leaves to cook into the fruit sauce. Add honey, stir, and allow to cook further. Add quarter cup sherry wine (which, remember, will slightly sweeten the sauce) and bring back to a simmer. Turn to low, add ground ginger. Peel garlic, crush under a knife blade, and finely mince it; then add that to the sauce; simmer for no less than five minutes more. (Get the flavor of the garlic, which is also sweet but mildly pungent, cooked thoroughly into the bulk of the sauce.) Turn off burner, let cool.

Suggest serving over grilled lamb, with a side of quinoa and briefly steamed kale (2-6 minutes, to taste).

lamb with plum sauce—blog ready

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2017 in Recipes, Uncategorized

 

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Blackberry Noir

Blackberry Noir

Playful desert combining elements of blackberry, honey, anise, and dark sugar on a Cajun style pastry dough

The other day, I made a mistake, a bad thing, that led to an idea, which ended up being a good thing. There is no innovation without adventure, and what better way to adventure in a kitchen than by messing around with the established ingredients? It began as a recipe for cherry turnovers, which unfortunately bled through the otherwise well-fluted seam and smoked up my kitchen; but the resulting flavor had a sharp and original kind of sweetness to it. I combined it with notes from an older original from years ago, using blackberries instead, and came up with this wonder. It has an accent to its taste not different from a sweeter form of licorice root, and is surprisingly filling without any foul notes of bleached white sugar in it. I’m hoping to return to this after consulting with my sister, to create a gluten-free version (it seems to be prime for it). Serves four to eight, depending on how much of an appetite your guests have saved.

Pastry Cups

Note the pricks along the bottom. If air or grease evaporates and expands beneath the pastry while it cooks, it can contort it. The ventillation prevents that.

Simple Pastry Dough:

  • 2c all-purpose flour
  • ¼ t sea salt
  • ½ c cold unsalted butter
  • ½ c cold whole milk

This pastry dough is derived from one of my favorite pastry recipes, but as any experienced baker knows, there’s more to a good pastry than simply its recipe. If you have a feel for pastry making, feel free to experiment; I intend to return to this after some meditation on it. It’s hard to find anything that this Cajun dough is not good with, but I feel that maybe I can improve on it, even further, in the future. I’ll put up a detailed explanation at some point, but for now, there is a wonderful video tutorial at the link if you are curious. Simply combine flour and salt; pastry-cut in butter until granular and homogeneously distributed, shaped kind of like small marbles. Gradually add milk and fold mixture until combined. Wrap into ball, cover in plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least one hour.

Grease four 10 oz. custard cups (or if unavailable, muffin tins). Heck, even cupcake tins will do if you’re willing to work with much smaller quantities of material per pastry, but it might be a little difficult to separate afterward. (Custard cups are cheap.) I recommend using a little bacon grease or coconut oil, though butter and lard are acceptable in a pinch. Failing that, canola or vegetable oil will also work, but I don’t recommend olive in this instance.

Cut dough into quarters, roll out into four square sheets with a rolling pin and pastry board, and place dough in custard cups. Fold ends of dough over the side, push the center against the bottom (did you remember to grease the cup??). Ventilate the bottom of the pastry with a fork, to prevent deformation in the oven.

Berry Mixture

Combine everything before stirring it together, spices last. Grind the anise stars until you only have coarse chunks of petals left, no need to overdo it. The flavor will seep out on the stove.

Combine:

  • 16 oz blackberries, frozen is fine
  • ½ c dark brown sugar
  • ½ c honey

Grind together in mortar:

Add spices to blackberry mixture, pour into pot or wok and heat, on low, stirring periodically to prevent separation of honey. (If you don’t have the patience or attention for this, find someone who does to help—smoked honey has its uses but this isn’t one of them.) Mixture should begin to bubble slightly before being removed from heat. Using a ladle, pour blackberry mixture evenly into dough cups. Fold hanging edges of dough over the cups.

Heated Berry Mixture

Stir periodically to keep the honey from sinking to the bottom. Heating it creates a more unified filling, you will find that the flavor changes dramatically.

I recommend against trying anything clever like sealing them at the seam. Kudos to you if you accomplish it, but the dough will be slick from the blackberry juice and reluctant to seal; all you are likely to end up making is a mess. You will find that the corners hang fashionably in place over top when left alone, and after a short while in the oven they seem to seal on their own.

Unbaked Blackberry Noir

It’s acceptable for the edges to simply hang over the top like this, they will recline and partially seal as they bake.

Bake for at least ten minutes in a stove at 400° F. The surface of the tart will be visibly darkened, but not burnt. (If you overfill the custard cups with berry, there is a chance that it will boil over, try not to do this. If it does happen, you can usually do a quick clean-up with a spatula and scrape it off of the bottom of the stove before it chars there and smokes up your kitchen. Take precautions not to burn yourself, 400° is a lot cooler when it’s on paper.)

Serve in the custard cups, best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (The juice seeps through the bottom of the pastry and goes everywhere, and who wants to waste good blackberry juice?) Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Recipes

 

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Calamari Chowder

No shell.

No shell.

For those of you that are allergic to shellfish, or whom have lovers or friends that can no longer enjoy them, I present an alternative. Sparo does, unfortunately, react to shrimp; and she likely reacts to other shellfish as well. Every now and then, you get a serious jones for clam chowder; and of course it’s out. However, squid are not shellfish.

They aren’t even vertebrates.

So, this should work out pretty well for you. You will need:

Chowder, made from calamari, shellfish free

Chowder, made from calamari, shellfish free

  • a decent meal’s worth of calamari, breaded and fried
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • sea salt (optional, to taste)
  • preferred calamari seasonings
  • about two cups of milk
  • one pint cream
  • several large russet potatoes, chopped
  • corn (Sparo’s suggestion)
  • three or four cloves of garlic
  • chopped green onions

Make in a crock pot, on low for most of the day. If your calamari are not already fried, you may consider breading them with a measure of spices and doing this first. The squid should be chopped into bite-sized rings, but as it isn’t easy to find whole squid this has probably been done for you.

Add the calamari to the crock pot, along with the potatoes, milk, and if using it then corn. Add the cream, and stir with a wooden spoon, and start the crock pot on high. Dice the onions and crush the garlic under the flat of a blade, then chop it and add to the pot. Cook for at least six hours, until the potatoes and milk have blended into a decent chowder.

After the first few hours, I suggest tasting the soup with the wooden spoon, and then adding an appropriate measure of pepper and sea salt. For a soup like this, you are generally playing it by ear. Decent additional vegetables include chopped celery, or chopped black olives (conservatively). The soup can also benefit from a little parmesan cheese, if you have the taste for it. I generally don’t recommend adding lemon to it, or to any hot milk dish, as the acid tends to interact with the dairy in an unpleasant way. The dairy denatures—it’s complicated. It’s not that it isn’t possible to combine the two properly, it’s that it’s a task, and the flavor would not blend well with a chowder.

The differences between this and clam chowder are mild and pleasant. I’m sure you’ll agree.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Recipes

 

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A Rather Excellent Split Pea Soup

All this time writing and I completely space on updating the blog. Well, mostly. Anyway, I’ve made a number of original things over the past week or so and they all deserve a place on this page, inclusive of an excellent split pea soup.

I tried to take a photo of it; did take a photo, actually, but the lighting in here combined with the unique color and texture of the soup makes for an unpleasant looking and entirely false sort of blue-grey.

Definitely not what looks like. I'm not even sure that it's the same bowl, come to think of it.

Definitely not what looks like. I’m not even sure that it’s the same bowl, come to think of it.

 

So, as to what you can expect, it’s a very rich green. It’s almost a thin gelatin, liquid when hot but congealed when cold. For ingredients, you will need:

  • About 32 oz. dry split peas
  • A couple of ham steaks
  • one bunch green onions
  • four cloves of garlic
  • one to three tablespoons coriander
  • one and a half tablespoons curry
  • two cans chicken stock

Well, really, you can measure the spices to your own taste; all curries are different and I honestly eyeballed them to begin with. If you would like a vegan preparation, simply ignore the ham and replace the chicken broth with water, with a little sea salt to add zest. I’m not a vegan—not even distantly—but I respect the lifestyle.

Meats

Seriously, not a vegan. Most days, I’ll eat anything that so much as looks at me funny.

Begin by soaking the peas in water, overnight. They will rise by about twice their dry volume, so have room in the pot to compensate for that.

After the peas have expanded, drain the water out, and empty into either a heavy kettle or a slow cooker; my preferred method is the slow cooker. Add both cans of chicken stock, along with the spices, and turn the slow cooker on high.

Chop the ham into bite-sized cubes; if you have a bone, go ahead and throw it in, it will add flavor. Add the cubes as soon as they are ready. Dice the green onions, short of the very tips, and shuffle the chopped bulbs and stems into the soup. Peel your garlic, and crush it carefully with your palm under the flat of a kitchen knife; chop the crushed garlic as finely as you reasonably can, and scrape it into the pot. Allow to simmer in the slow cooker for at least six hours, preferably all day.

The completed soup will be a nearly homogeneous paste, in a brilliant green color. Season with sea salt, black pepper, and/or ground red chile.

Split pea soup is, even at its most basic, a relatively complete meal. It’s easy to overdo it when trying to improve it. While generally I encourage people to be creative, I will caution you about this; there is a capacity to the number of ingredients you can add to this soup. If you are going for something vegan, you may want some form of additive to make up for the lack of ham. A spicy tofu or perhaps chopped eggplant would do nicely, but serve it as a side. If you would like to add something to the soup itself, red potatoes would do very well and are not as likely to lose their consistency. In any case, this soup is excellent when served with a little toasted pumpernickel, perhaps with some butter or cream cheese.

By my count, this was around eight nutritional and filling servings.

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Recipes

 

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Fruit Bread Pudding

Fruit Bread PuddingFruit Bread Pudding

1 loaf French bread
4 tablespoons softened butter
8 oz blackberries
1/4-1/2 lb figs
16 oz sliced strawberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk
1 cup condensed milk (or if unavailable, one additional cup milk)
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Roughly 1/2 cup chopped pecans, almonds, walnuts, or other favorite nuts.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease a baking dish. My personal favorite is coconut oil, but butter or plain old cooking grease work as well. Beat eggs thoroughly in their own bowl.

Image

Layer the bottom of the baking dish with strawberries, figs, and blackberries, scattered and mixed. Tear off chunks of the loaf of French bread, and drop them over the berries; stir in nuts, then slice the butter and gently fold it into the bread-nut mixture.

In a saucepan, heat milk and condensed milk just until bubbles form around its edge. Turn off the heat and beat in the sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Stir in the eggs and beat until, again, the mixture is homogeneous. Any stray traces of egg white will cook into hardened egg white, which can be detrimental if they are too prominent. Add cinnamon and vanilla.

Pour milk-egg mixture over the baking dish. If the bread is not completely covered by the mixture, press it down into the mixture with a spoon until the entire surface is wet. It should flatten out as you do so. If your baking dish demands it for even cooking, then place it inside a larger baking dish and fill the larger dish with about an inch of water; if you are using a ceramic or clay dish like I am then this shouldn’t really be necessary.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife can be inserted in the center and pulled out clean. Allow to cool for about a quarter of an hour before serving, can be served warm or cold. Serves eight.

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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Recipes

 

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Banana Chai Bread

I’m not generally a big fan of bananas. However, banana bread is a secret weakness, particularly when it has been modded, mucked with, and spiced up in original ways.

I would like to complement this with a picture or two, but we’ve already eaten it all. That’s how good it was.

You will need:

1 bunch ripe bananas; the riper the better
1 can condensed milk
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla (or roughly a cap full)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch sea salt
cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper
nutmeg
clove
1 ½ cups flour
molasses (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Peel the bananas, and mash them into a paste in a baking bowl. Add the condensed milk, stir until homogeneous, then add the dark brown sugar. Afterward, add the vanilla, the baking soda, and the sea salt. Measurements of the spices are to taste, but I recommend about a tablespoon of cinnamon, half a fresh ground nutmeg seed (roughly a teaspoon), four or five ground cloves, and for personal taste I used a little more than half of a teaspoon of black pepper. Taste it as you go to come to a consensus on what works for you, there isn’t any egg or anything harmful in it yet (depending on just how ripe those bananas were).

Add the beaten egg, stir everything together, and gradually add the flour, stirring as you go. You should have something of the consistency of pancake batter. Pour it into a baking dish. Mine was an old round ceramic baking dish, but these are relatively hard to find; any bread pan will do. Drizzle the molasses over the top of the batter—do not stir it in—and cover if possible. Bake for roughly thirty minutes, when it’s finished you should be able to insert a knife into the center and pull it out clean. Allow the bread to cool.

Banana Chai Bread has a charming peppery after taste without being intrinsically hot or sacrificing sweetness. It makes an excellent breakfast with a little cream cheese or condiment molasses, and is an excellent compliment to a spiced tea.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Recipes

 

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