Friday, December 30, 2011

Smoked Turkey Pasta Salad with (Highbush) Cranberry Apple Butter

What is it with this dish? It's really weird, but super delicious. Borderline addictive. Smoked turkey atop noodles over a bed of lettuce. It doesn't sound that good. But the strong flavors are refreshingly unique, and surprisingly cohesive.

(Highbush) cranberry-apple butter
My, how I love highbush cranberries. They have that earthy, skunky smell that is so quintessentially fall. I've made killer syrup and liqueur from wild Yukon cranberry. Yum. This time, I didn't have the wild variety in store, so I used fresh domestic cranberries. The result was still good, but my mouth waters thinking about how much richer the flavor would be with wild highbush.

Interestingly, the Fiddlehead debunks a longstanding belief about highbush cranberries which is that you wait until after a frost to harvest them. On the contrary, FH recommends picking them before they freeze and mush/rot.

This butter is a concentrated, smooth, spiced fruit spread. The recipe makes a large quantity using a pound of dried apple and four cups of cranberry. The yield is about four pint jars of the tasty condiment.

Start by soaking apples in water for an hour:

Mix in the cranberries and heat, then add spices:

Strain out seeds and skins through a sieve. Save the pulp and measure it to know how much sugar to add (you'll need 3/4 the quantity of sugar as pulp):

The butter is so smooth. Take a look at the pan on the left pictured below:

Pour it into canning jars:

Seal the jars according to directions. A pressure cooker would be easier, and my pot wasn't quite big enough:

Smoked turkey pasta salad

Luckily, Jerry's Meats sells delicious smoked turkey in reasonable quantity:

Tear the turkey in pieces:
Chop tomato and green onion; shred carrot:

Prepare a batch of Fiddlehead vinaigrette and toss into cooked fettuccine noodles (I used this sprouted whole grain--read hippie food--noodle that was hearty and great). Next toss in your chopped vegetables:

Plate your meal by setting the dressed noodles on a bed of lettuce. Top with turkey and dollop with the cranberry-apple butter. (Note: plating was inspired by an episode of 'Chopped.')

Serve & enjoy! The richness of the smoked turkey pairs well with the sharpness of the vinaigrette and fruit butter. This is a creative way to eat up holiday leftovers, but is delectable anytime of year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alaskan Coastal Salad

Too many sweets this holiday season? Here's a low-calorie, sugar-free, and savory respite to the pile of cookies on your counter: Alaskan Coastal Salad.

This is a very simple salad: a curried mayonnaise (from scratch) brings together seafood and tomato slices.

Choose your own seafood--I used salmon because it was what I had in the freezer. To poach salmon, boil water, white wine (I used red), lemon slices, and bay leaves in a pan. Preheat the oven, and when hot, pour over a filet of salmon and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Homemade mayo: who knew it was as easy as blending egg yolk and oil?! I feel like that's a big childhood mystery revealed. It's fairly quick to make, and it's all from things in your fridge or cupboard. The particular sort of mayonnaise in this refreshing salad recipe is curried, which is a tasty--and unusual--experience.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chicken Marsala

This wine and mushroom sauce in this chicken dish is to die for. Even a mushroom-hater was loving it!

First, chop up your mushrooms:

Next, pound your chicken breasts flat:

Dust your chicken in flour and salt & pepper, then brown the breasts on each side in butter in a pot. Next, add marsala wine, orange zest, and mushrooms. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. It's as simple as that.

Remove the chicken and boil the sauce down. Serve over hot rice. Garnish with chives or parsley.

Linzer Cookies

It's nice around the holidays to go to a Christmas cookie baking party. Everyone makes their dough ahead of time, so the host's kitchen doesn't explode in a frenzy of flour and butter. At the end of the night, everyone goes home with a nice assortment of cookies. I thought immediately of the Linzer Cookie recipe for this event--partly because I'd made the Linzer torte and knew it was scrumptious, and also because it is one of the less than 30 recipes left in the cookbook to make. As you may recall, it's a very spicy, nutty, and citrusy dough. We chilled it so we could better roll it out once we got to the party.

Things didn't quite go as planned, on a number of fronts. First of all, the proper Linzer cookie is made by sandwiching jam between two layers of cookie--a smaller cut-out is placed decoratively atop a slightly-larger, but same-shaped base. We didn't have nestled cutters to exactly accomplish this, but we did have some similarly-shaped trees, plus we had candy canes, gingerbread men, and whale cutters. But then we didn't have the heart to attempt the photo-finish layering effect when the cookies came out of our friend's oven looking like this:

Never fear, there was a salvageable tray, though the conjoined mass was better nibbled and crumbled in pieces for ice cream topping:

I chalk the disastrous baking up to cooking in an unfamiliar oven. Turns out the oven hadn't been preheated and so the dough slowly melted across the tray. And perhaps the ugly sweaters and spiked egg nog had the party bunch distracted? In any case, it was still a fun and festive evening. Everyone went home with a variety of cookies--including unidentifiable (but tasty) shapes of Linzer Cookies...

Sourdough French Bread

My sourdough pot

Bread-making is no easy task. You have to start early, knead until your arms ache, and plan your day around letting the darn thing rise four different times. Ugh--who has time for it anymore? Just kidding, I don't mean that. It's good practice to make a loaf from scratch from time to time. And I've been following directions for 26 long years now, so I could manage the tedious steps for Sourdough French Bread outlined in the Fiddlehead.

Start the night before by taking your Sourdough Starter out of the fridge. Set a 1/4 cup in another bowl with one cup each of flour and water to be used for your bread. Replenish the starter part with the same addition.

The next morning, put your starter back in the fridge (the Fiddlehead offers some great advice on how to feed, store, and maintain your sourdough properly).

Bloom some yeast in warm water with honey, then add flour and knead for ten minutes.

Let rise in a draft-free, warm location (a great location is in the microwave above the stove with that overhanging light on, if that's how your kitchen is set up).

Once it's risen, punch it down and let it rise again.

Next, roll it out into a 12" x 8" x 1" sheet and roll up from the narrow end, pinching the seams underneath. Let that rise.

Finally brush with egg yolk and water, sprinkle with sesame seeds, score the top, and bake in a hot oven for 20-30 mins.

It turned out alright. Better than any sourdough bread I've attempted before. My primary criticism is that I got a little too crazy with my scoring, so it sort of unhinged from the center. Next time I'll try shorter score lines. Overall, a successful loaf: the taste was sour, the texture fluffy, and my belly happy.

(Wild) Blueberry Pie

Nothing beats a classic blueberry pie. And the Fiddlehead has a great go-to recipe. It's easy and quite delicious. It wasn't a great berry year, and so I used domestic berries from Costco--not quite the same as harvested wild blueberries, but still tasty.

Stir flour, sugar, spices, and lemon juice in with your blueberries and dump into an unbaked pie shell.

Cover with a top crust, bake, and enjoy. Serve a la mode (though it'll be a bit soupy when warm). Or enjoy a room temperature slice for breakfast.

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