Vegetarian


So we here at Kitchen Confit realize that we haven’t posted in a while.   A combination of vacation, school, family and life in general caught up with all of us. When that happens it is hard enough to remember to cook, let alone post.  But now we’re back and we’ll do better!  Besides it’s fall – that means there are wonderful new foods to cook.  As I’ve mentioned before, fall to me is apples.  Usually the first apple recipe I make in the fall is homemade applesauce – and this year was no exception.

When I was growing up, I don’t think I tasted store-bought applesauce until I went to school.  My mother made homemade applesauce all through the fall and froze it so that it lasted well into the winter.  The homemade stuff was rosy pink, tangy and sweet without being sugary.   Compared to Mom’s applesauce, the store-bought kind  is pasty and pale and way too sweet.  I find it amazing that so many people actually eat the store-bought kind – I always figure that when they realize how easy and good homemade applesauce is, they’ll never buy Motts again.

The only special equipment you need is a food mill.  I’ve made applesauce before with a potato ricer, and if you peel the apples you could even use a food processor to mash them up.  But really, you don’t want to peel the apples – it is too much work and the peels give the finished product this wonderful pink tint.  Just buy a food mill – they’re relatively cheap and it makes the whole applesauce thing as easy as turning a crank.

So you’ve got your food mill.  The rest of the recipe is simple.  Get a stock pot (I used an 8 quart aluminum one).  Get some apples (for this batch, I used a combination of three kinds – Cortlands, Romas, and Johnsons – but feel free to mix it up with different apple varieties appropriate for applesauce).  Cut the apples into quarters and core them.  Throw the apples into the pot; add a bit of water, cider, or liquid of your choice; cover and set over medium heat for 30 minutes.  Stir a few times, so that apples at the top go the bottom, but generally just let the apples become mushy.  After 30 minutes remove the pot from the heat and run the mushy apples through the food mill.  Voila – you have warm, yummy applesauce.

At this point, you could freeze some of the sauce; to defrost, just let it sit in the fridge over night.  I’m actually not sure how long it lasts in the fridge – we always eat it up long before it could go bad.  As for how to serve it,  well, my mom always served it straight up, but I like a little nutmeg and cinnamon.  If you like your applesauce on the sweet side you could also add a tablespoon or so of sugar.  Just be sure to do it while warm – that way the sugar will dissolve seamlessly into the sauce.  But really, as long as the apples are ripe and in season, you won’t need sugar.  And the end product is just so much better than anything you could ever buy, I can guarantee you’ll be making this every weekend come the fall.  Just like mom.

Mom’s Applesauce

Ingredients:

10-12 pounds of apples – or enough to fill up a large stock pot when quartered and cored.

1/2 c. to 1 c. of water

Directions:

Fill up a large stock pot with quartered and cored apples.  If the apples are firm and crisp you might want to cut them into smaller pieces.  Depending on how juicy the apples are add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water to the pot.  Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes.   Stir several times so the apples evenly cook.  After the apples are mushy remove from the heat.  Run the mushy apple mixture through a food mill.  Store the finished applesauce in a covered container in the refrigerator.

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Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas

Have I cooked dinner all week? No. Do I come home, eat pizza, and lie on the sofa watching Seinfeld? Yes, yes, and yes. I am a poor excuse for a girl who fancies herself as a foodie. It’s been a lazy week, but I have the perfect lazy, summertime recipe to share with you. This salad is a no-cook (except for the orzo) dish that completely blew my expectations out of the water. When I first saw it, I immediately wanted to try it, but I thought it was going to be your average pasta salad — tasty but nothing especially stellar. I was wrong.

Sliced English Cucumber

The salad has quickly become our new favorite dish. It makes for the perfect dinner on steamy summer nights. I don’t know about you but I’m not much in the mood to stand over a hot stove this time of the year. Plus it’s light and the perfect depository for all of those lovely vegetables you bring home from the farmers’ market wondering what to do with them.

It gets better.

The salad (minus the romaine) keeps beautifully overnight. What was a delicious dinner one night becomes the perfect lunch for the next day. The flavors mingle together to become one very tasty dish.

Chopped Heirloom Tomatoes

Given how easy this is to toss together, I have no excuse for my couch potato ways. And it’s done long before the pizza guy can deliver the goods.

Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2008

3/4 cup orzo
1 (15 oz) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced (1 cup)
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped oregano
2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped romaine
1/2 lb feta, crumbled (1 cup)
4 to 8 peperoncini

1. Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.
2. Toss all ingredients together except romaine, feta, and peperoncini. Marinate for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Place mixture over romaine and top with feta and peperoncini.


Frank Stitt's Pea Cake

Frank Stitt's Pea Cake

Fresh summer peas are really a southern thing. Up north we have sugar snap peas and snow peas, but the idea of fresh, shelled, green peas and beans were not really anything I grew up with. Oh, I may have heard of other children being forced to eat peas, but my mother – due probably to the fact that she didn’t like them herself – never made us eat them. And even if they were eaten up north in other families’ households, they just don’t seem to have the cult-like following summer peas have down here in the south.

Fresh Limas

Fresh Limas

My dear mother would be proud, as I held out almost three years down here before I gave in to the pea cult. But the pea/bean stand at the Nashville Farmers’ Market has a homey charm I can’t quite withstand. Plus I had my brand new Frank Stitt cookbook, Southern Table, waiting to be cracked open and put to good use. If you don’t have this cookbook, you need to buy it – now. Mr. Stitt not only provides recipes for his fabulous dishes, but he holds forth on all the wonderful southern ingredients that people take for granted – like corn, peaches, and, of course, peas.

Chives

Chives

Mr. Stitt suggests using various types of peas I had never heard of to make his pea cakes – chowders, pinkeyes or butter peas. After consulting with the pea lady at the farmers’ market, I went with limas, which she assured me are also called butter peas. I’ll be honest, in the end, I’m not sure what kind they were, but when I cooked them up with some thyme, bay leaf and onion they tasted absolutely delicious. For a moment I considered stopping right then and forgetting about adding in the cornbread, egg, and chives and just eating the warm, fresh peas straight out of the pan.

Pea Cake Mixture

Pea Cake Mixture

But I persevered – I sacrificed my delicious peas to make pea cakes and I was glad I did. Savory and tender and with a nice crispy fried crust, they were like nothing I had ever had before. C and I devoured the first batch while we were waiting for the second to fry and we continued eating them all through evening. They were absolutely delicious. And as for southern peas, I can honestly say this northerner has been converted to the fresh summer pea cult – I can’t wait to make them again.

Frying Pea Cakes

Frying Pea Cakes

Pea Cakes

Taken from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked peas, such as pink eyes, butter peas or crowder (recipe below), cooking broth reserved.

1 cup crumbled corn bread or more if needed

1 T. chopped chives

1 T. minced hot red chili

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 T. AP flour, plus extra for dredging

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large egg beaten

2 T. vegetable oil

Directions:

Puree 3/4 cups of the peas with 1/4 cup of the reserved broth in a blender until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl, add the remaining whole peas, 1 T. reserved broth, the corn bread, chives, hot pepper, olive oil, flour, salt, pepper and mix well. Add the egg and mix again. You may need to adjust the “wetness” by adding a little more corn bread or broth to the mixture; it should be moist enough to hold together.

Form 8 to 10 small cakes by shaping about 3 T. portions of the mixture into 2-inch-wide disks, compressing the mixture with your fingers and patting it together.

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Dust the cakes with a little flour and gently place them, in batches if necessary, in the hot oil. Lower the heat to medium and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

Cooked Butter Beans

Ingredients:

6 cups of water

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

4 thyme sprigs

4 savory spring

Kosher Salt

1 pound small green butter beans, picked over and rinsed

2 T. fruity extra virgin olive oil, bacon fat, or butter

Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Combine the water, onion, herbs, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes. Add the beans, adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the beans are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if necessary. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beans rest in their liquid for 10 minutes. (For the Pea Cakes you can stop here)

To serve cooked – sprinkle with herbs and drizzle with olive oil. Finish with cracked black pepper.

Chopped Spring Vegetables

I have this weird love of all things pickled. The addition of a vinegary bite to crisp vegetables makes them even better in my mind. And while I will buy pickles by the boatload at the store, I’ve never tried my hand at making them at home. I’ll be honest – it’s the fear that I will unleash toxic botulism into innocent cucumbers, which will inevitably lead to the headline “Home Cook killed by Pickles’ that keeps me from trying home pickling.

PepperCarrottsAsparagus

Until, that is, I ran across a recipe for Spring Giardiniera in a Cooking Light cookbook. I’ve been trying in vain to eat healthier and this recipe had vegetables out the ying yang. And not only vegetables, but pickled vegetables. Rather than scare me by requiring me to sterilize every inch of kitchen, the recipe only called for a brief (8 hours) pickling period in a big zip lock bag. So I shook loose my fear of botulism and bad press and gave in to the alluring appeal of pickling.

Garlic ClovesBay leafDill

If you merely read the first sentence of the recipe ‘combine first 8 ingredients in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil’ it all seems pretty straightforward, but it does not begin to convey how the smell of boiling vinegar will permeate every corner of your home nor how the vapors will bring tears to your eyes. This should not dissuade you from trying this recipe; just perhaps save it for a day where the windows in your home can be thrown open and a nice breeze will usher fresh air through your kitchen.

Boiling hot pickling liquid

The rest of the recipe is easy. Put chopped veggies in a ziplock bag, pour in liquid, let sit in a the refrigerator for 8 hours. What comes out is perfectly pickled spring vegetables – a nice healthy snack without even a hint of botulism.

Spring Giardiniera

Spring Giardiniera

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
2 bay leaves
2 cups small cauliflower florets
2 cups (3-inch) diagonally cut asparagus
1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
1 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
1 cup red bell pepper strips
6 green onion bottoms, trimmed
4 garlic cloves, halved

Preparation
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Arrange cauliflower and remaining ingredients in a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Carefully pour vinegar mixture over cauliflower mixture.Seal bag and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove vegetables from bag with a slotted spoon. Discard bay leaves.

Japanese-Style Fried Brown Rice

It was a dark and stormy Wednesday night, and I had gotten home from work late with nothing planned for dinner. What to do? What to do? I had the phone in my hand and pizza on my mind when I suddenly recalled seeing a little recipe tucked up in the corner of the latest issue of Saveur magazine (my absolute favorite food magazine). I flipped open the magazine and there on page 75 was a recipe that promised dinner on the table in only six ingredients and a mere 5 minutes of over-the-stove cooking time. I paused, weighing the options — wait an hour for pizza or whip together a quick homemade dinner. The answer was clear.

Brown Rice

This dish is unbelievably simple, and the completed dish certainly adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. The only thing that takes some time is waiting for the rice to cook, but while you’re waiting you pour yourself a glass of something and chop the scallions. Once the rice is cooked, it comes together in a flash — literally 5 minutes of actual cooking time. This would be the perfect recipe for leftover rice, which we always seem to have on hand and never know what to do with it.

Whole Scallions

When the dish was finished, S and I snuggled down at our TV trays (our tiny Uptown Charlotte apartment has no room for a table) to a hearty and tasty dinner. The recipe makes the perfect amount for two people (a rarity). I was surprised by how much I loved the pine nuts. They aren’t my favorite nut, but they lent a pleasant crunch to the dish. Speaking of texture, the chewiness of the rice somehow made the dish more filling for me. The rice wasn’t a vehicle for other things; it was truly substantial.

Scallions

We followed the recipe exactly, but this fried rice is practically a blank canvas waiting for your stroke of creativity. You could add anything here and it would only improve what is already excellent. Vegetables, seafood, chicken, tofu — the possibilities are endless.  The next time we make this, S and I agreed that the dish could use extra spice.  The spiciness was subtle, but if your preference is for heat, definitely add a bit more dried pepper. 

Spicy!

One of my favorite things about this fried rice is that it provided the perfect place for me to use the dried chilies from my mother’s garden. My family is in Kentucky, and I miss them more than words can say.  It was nice to pull down the chilies that my mom and I picked together last summer and put them to good use. She would be proud. So now put down that phone, refile that take-out menu and head to the kitchen. You’ll be glad you did.

Quite Tasty

Japanese-Style Fried Brown Rice
(Matsunomi-No-Cha-Han)
Saveur, May 2008

2 dried chiles de arbol – sliced into thin rings
2 tbsp. Asian sesame oil
7 scallions – thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 tsp. light soy sauce
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice – cooled

Heat 2 tbsp. sesame oil in a 10″ nonstick skillet over high heat.
Add scallions and 2 tbsp. pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the scallions wilt slightly and the pine nuts take on a light golden color, about 2 minutes.
Add rice and soy sauce. Cook, stirring to break up the clumps, until the rice is hot and all the ingredients have mingled together, about 3 minutes.
Garnish with chiles.
Serves 2