Friday, August 31, 2012

Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice Pilaf

I love going for walks in the evening these days. It is so perfect just as the moon creeps up behind the Watermelon Mountains and the air is fresh and cool. I enjoy walking along the ditch banks underneath the ancient cottonwoods and elms. The sunlight filters through their branches in a soft amber glow. I always pass a group of velvet black cows grazing in the sweet green grass beneath the apple trees. I pass faded red barns and under the canopy where a great horned owl once perched last autumn and I always yearn to see him there again.

Even if I only have the time for a short walk, it certainly opens my eyes to the world around me. It reminds me to savor this transition from summer to fall, since it always happens so fast and is so easy to miss.

Since I really do see this time of year as an overlaping of seasons, I prefer to use recipes that also blend the flavors of the two seasons. This particular pilaf is one that my family really enjoys in the fall and winter months. But when I came across these large white patty pans I thought that it would be the ideal stuffing for them.

I used a blend of wild and mahogany rice for this dish, but it would really work with a great variety of rices. I also enjoy forbidden rice which is a beautiful dark purple color. The nut and dried fruit variety used in the pilaf can also change from season to season. To me sour cherries seem so summery, sunny and bright. And a mild green olive is a perfect but unexpected contrast in flavor, adding a slight saltiness to the dish.

Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice Pilaf
makes 3 servings

3 large patty pan squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, diced
1/2 cup wild rice, cooked
1 1/2 cups black, mahogany, or brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup mild green olives, chopped
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, steam the patty pans until they are slightly tender, but not too soft. Take them out of the pot to cool. Lay out the chopped pecans on a cookie sheet or small pan and toast them in the oven or a toaster oven. Set them aside.
2. In a cast iron skillet heat the olive oil and saute the shallots until they are lightly browned. Leave the stove top on medium heat and mix in both rices, olives, dried cherries, toasted pecans, and salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes and then take the pilaf off the heat.
3. When the patty pans are cool, cut a circle around the stem and pop off the top as you do when carving a pumpkin. Scoop out the insides with a melon baller, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 an inch on all sides. Fill each squash with the pilaf.
4. Place the filled patty pans in a cake pan or on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake them in the oven set at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes.

Recipe from the kitchen of Cirque Du Souffle :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Grilled Corn Soup with Green Chiles, Queso Fresco, and Squash Blossoms

A couple summers ago when I was volunteering at a local organic farm, there was a huge harvest of squash. Throughout the entire month of August the squash plants were bursting with fruit, forcing the farmers to pick a new load every morning. The farmers became desperate to get rid of the squash and they did almost everything to defeat the monster vegetable (ie. catapulting it, feeding it to the pigs, graciously welcoming invasions of squash bugs to lay new colonies). Yet despite all this, I still love squash :) My family's plants have yet to bear fruit. But we have plenty of blossoms. So here is one recipe that utilizes them in their most natural form. Plus, they are simply beautiful garnish for any dish.

The reason I made this soup was not really because of the squash blossoms, however, but because of the corn. At this time of year the most bought produce during my weekly rounds to the farmer's market switches from peaches to sweet white corn. For my family this corn is almost like candy. We eat ear after ear.

Since writing a thesis last year about the decreasing biodiversity of seeds utilized in agricultural practice worldwide, I have had a greater respect for buying local as much as possible, and all the better heritage, ancient or heirloom varieties of produce. Living in New Mexico it is much harder to find local year round produce than places like California. So being able to find ingredients that are grown in this soil is a rare treat. In the modern day I hope that I can say that alot more people are becoming educated about the current food system, and more people can see that there is an abundance of issues that are being caused by industrialized and mono agricultural farming practices. But I think that alot of people don't realize that at the heart of the problem, is the seed. I could go on and on but moral of the story- buy in your region as much as you possibly can and try and grow your own (easier said than done- our garden is always minature because it is sitting in solid clay. Any compost, minerals, etc. we try to put in it somehow disappears immediately).

Also I bought our first batch of freshly roasted green chile this year! It would be terribly wrong to not dedicate a sufficient number of posts to chile, being from New Mexico after all.

Printable version of recipe:

Grilled Corn Soup with Green Chiles, Queso Fresco, and Squash Blossoms
makes about 4 servings

5 ears corn, grilled in husk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
5 roasted green chiles, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow crookneck squash, diced
4 small squash blossoms
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1 red bell pepper, chopped

1. Slice corn kernels from cobs. Heat olive oil in a large, wide pot over medium heat and add onion, chiles and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and corn kernels and cook 3 minutes more.
2. Pour just enough water into pot to cover corn. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the squash and cook 3 minutes more. Let cool.
3. In batches, whirl corn soup in a blender until very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh colander into a bowl, mashing to press out liquid (if too thick add water). Season with salt.
4. To serve, return soup to pot and gently reheat. Divide among 4 bowls. Top each bowl with diced red pepper, 2 squash blossom halves, and queso fresco.

Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine August 2008

Friday, August 24, 2012

Spicy Cornmeal-Sesame Fried Okra (GF)

It is okra season around here. Last weekend baskets of okra could be seen on nearly every stand at the farmer's market. Naturally, I had to buy some :)

At the downtown farmer's market I also bought some unique ingredients that I am very excited about displaying in future posts as well as this beautiful flower boquet. It is so great when I get the chance to try recipes and ingredient combos that I have never tried before and savor the rare cornicopia of late August.

I am not sure exactly what it is, but there is always something about late August that gets me dreaming about autumn. As much as I love summer, I love the fall even more. I think that perhaps it is the lighting these days, the cool evenings and mornings, and the air just beginning to smell of green chile roasting. Whatever it is, I gladly welcome the season of harvest.

As for preparing the okra, I stuck with what I consider a very "traditional" way- frying it. But I thought that it would be a nice twist to add some spice with cayenne, and nuttiness with sesame. I served it on top of a salad of greens, avocado, purple tomatoes and sweet white corn from the farmer's market.  

I'm looking forward to sharing more recipes that utilize the most wonderful flavors of late Summer.

P.S. I have joined pinterest- so you can follow me there if you like :)

Spicy Cornmeal-Sesame Fried Okra (GF)
makes about 4 servings

canola oil for frying
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup Artisan GF flour blend (see raspberry scone post)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoons cayene pepper (can use more or less)
1 pound fresh okra, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) to 350 degrees F. The oil should be almost half way up the sides of the skillet.
2. Combine the cornmeal, sesame seeds, flour blend, garlic salt, pepper and cayene in a bowl.
3. Dip the sliced okra in the buttermilk and then dredge in the flour mixture until well coated.
4. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping one coated okra in it. The oil should sizzle around the okra. Cook the okra in batches, and take them out of the oil and place them on a paper towl when they turn golden- brown.
5. Serve hot.

Recipe slightly adapted from Jessa of Heed The Feed

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Le Petit Plum Crisp (GF)

Hello again! Glad to (hopefully) be publishing a steady stream of posts. Sometimes it can be alarming how quickly time flies by. I always plan out a billion things I want to do, to bake, to draw, to photograph, but time just won't allow me to do half of those things. Of course this also includes all the billion of recipes I want to try. But, I have learned to appreciate the time I do have to create, to find unique ingredients, to be innovative and artistic. These are things I truely relish.

Speaking of unique ingredients, no those are not olives, but tiny plums. I bought them at the Corrales farmer's market. For being so tiny, they certainly have alot of flavor. They are extremely tart which I love. But after buying them, I wondered for days what in the world I could do with them. I finally settled on a very simple crisp. I thought the sourness of the plums would be perfect with the nuttiness of the brown sugar and oats. And I was right!

This recipe is extremely easy, which makes me think it would be a perfect last minute dessert. The plums can be substituted with really any fruit, but since the topping is pretty sweet, I would not use a particularily sweet fruit.

I am not quite sure why I chose to draw an absurd number of stars. I guess that the theme of Le Petit Plum Crisp made me think of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which I lately have been wanting to reread.

Anyway, serve this crisp with vanilla ice cream, and you have it made. An effortless but delicious late-ish Summer dessert.

Le Petit Plum Crisp (GF)
makes one petite 6-inch crisp

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons Artisan GF flour blend (see raspberry scone post)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup gluten free granola (I used Udi's GF Au Naturel)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 pound ripe plums, pitted and cut in half if large

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the flour blend, 1 cup sugar, granola, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until coarse crumbs form.
2. In a 6-inch baking dish, toss plums with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons of the flour blend. Sprinkle with granola topping. Place dish on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until topping is golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

"Italian" Gazpacho

I know it has been a while since my last post, and this post may not be extremely interesting visually, but I really hope that you do try the recipe. I have some catching up to do with savory posts. The time has come when there are a great variety of vegetables at the farmer's market. I am sure to take advantage, it has just been a busy time lately!

I must confess that I really enjoy watching the little Yahoo cooking videos called Chow Ciao with Fabio Vivani. His accent and his humor are just great. I finally decided I needed to try one of his recipes. Hence, Gazpacho "with an Italian twist" :)

I believe the two ingredients that make this chilled soup most untraditional in terms of autentic Spanish gazpacho are the basil and the canned plum tomatoes. But supprisingly they make a big difference in flavor. The soup is truely a perfect summer soup, blending a melody of vegetables and herbs that simply taste of summer- sun, flowers, and Italian villas if you will :) And the jalapeno adds just the right amount of heat.

"Italian" Gazpacho
Makes about 4 servings

1 quart tomato juice
2 red bell peppers
1 green jalapeno
1 large English or Armenian cucumber
20 leaves of fresh basil
pinch salt
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
6 canned plum tomatoes
additional basil leaves or parsley for garnish
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

1. Pour tomato juice into a jar blender. Slice 1 red bell pepper, the entire jalapeno, and half of the cucumber, and add to the blender. Add basil leaves, a pinch of salt, and balsamic vinegar.
2. Slice 3 of the canned tomatoes, and add to the blender. Puree until no chunks remain.
3. Transfer soup to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
4. To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Dice the remaining red bell pepper, cucumber, and plum tomatoes. Chop basil for garnish.
5. Generously garnish each bowl with diced tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and red peppers. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe very slightly adapted from Fabio Vivani's Chow Ciao

It is as simple as that! So enjoy, and as Fabio says "BOOM!" 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lavender Peach Crostada (GF) and Summer at Los Poblanos Farm

I had planned on using this post to describe the incredible adventures that I had this past week, but I just became overly enthusiastic about another subject, and had to post it immediately. Last week I went on cross country running camp with my ex high school team and marveled over the magnificent Grand Canyon, making stops to hike other beautiful destinations like Humphrie's Peak. But alas, I had made the last minute decision to leave my camera behind, as it was not a very realistic running accessory.

As this is a food blog, I also decided that we are witnessing the time of summer when the bounty of certain produce is at its height. And it is something that cannot be missed. Hence this post, capturing two of my most favorite things- peaches and lavender, in a particularily tasty way.  

But, before I can continue on I must also say that although witnessing a declared wonder of the world- like the Grand Canyon- is pretty amazing, there are also little hidden gems close to home that are so unique and have so much character that they deserve just as much recognition. One of these such places is Los Poblanos Inn and Farm in Los Ranchos.

Los Poblanos is one of my favorite places to go as a photographer. I see it as the perfect mix of New Mexican Heritage, farming, animals, art, and of course it is a foodie paradise. I know I will never tire of the little farm shop, the lavender fields, the goats and chickens, or the beautiful pond with its massive lotus plants and ethereal flowers.

Hopefully this post can portray some the charm at Los Poblanos. I highly recommend visiting if ever in Albuquerque :)

As for the crostada, it was fantastic. It is the perfect combo of all flavors summer. I bought the peaches at the growers market. The are so sweet and juicy. There is just someting so stunning about their appearance- like a sunset in a fruit. And I can never stop raving about lavender. The smell is the essense of long summer days, the purple hue intense and magestic.

The recipe that I developed for the gluten free pie crust is great. It is just as good if not better than traditional pie crust. When baked, it became golden brown, flaky and light. The balance of the buttery crust and the bright, distinguished flavors of the peaches and lavender were terrific.

Probably one of my favorite things about baking and cooking in the summer is that it is much easier to have a higher ratio of local ingredients to non local ingredients. Of couse I bought the culinary lavender from the Farm Shop (there is also an online store) and I decided to serve the crostada with a locally made gelato. Van Rixel Bros. has a great variety of gourmet flavors. Both the Butter Pinon and the Tuscan Roasted Hazelnut were amazing with the peaches.

Alot of people aren't used to cooking with lavender, but this combination is one of the best I have tried. So I encourage you to try it!

Summer is flying by, but I find it so fufilling to cherish every little thing that makes it so special.

Enjoy :)

Lavender Peach Crostada (GF)
makes one 10 inch crostada

Processor Crostada Dough

1 1/2 cups Jeanne's Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (see below)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold butter, cut into chunks
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Place the flour mix, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 5 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour, then pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle with the water and process until the dough starts to come together (but not until it forms a ball). Carefully take out the blade, and press the mixture together to pick up all the bits of dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking.

Recipe from Family Fun Magazine

Peach Filling

6 peaches, sliced (keep the skin on)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of culinary lavender
3 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
coarse sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the peaches in a medium sized bowl and carefully toss with the lemon juice. Sprinkle the sugar and lavender on top and toss both in as well. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and roll out the dough so that it is a quite thin round.  In the center of the round, pile the peach filling. Distribute the pieces of butter on top of the filling. Fold the edges of the pie crust over the filling part way all the way along the round. If the pie crust is too soft, put the entire crostada back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before baking. Beat the egg, and using a pastry brush, brush a little all over the crust. Dust with sugar and then place the crostada in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Serve warm.

Jeanne's Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix

1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 1/4 cup white rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup sweet rice flour (Mochiko)
2 scant teaspoons xanthan gum

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together thoroughly.

Recipe by Jeanne Savauge of Art of Gluten- free Baking