Sunday, October 30, 2011

Organic Food Home Delivery and Recipe Testing

As I walked to the car from the last farmers market of the season this past Saturday I was a bit sad. Not only is it a weekend tradition for the 5 months that it is open but it also meant the end of truly fresh local veggies and culinary exploration in my very own backyard. We did see some thing that we found fascinating like this Massachusetts grown ginger. I don't know about you but ginger is one of those things I have never seen outside of it root form normally available in the local grocery store usually imported from a much warmer place, never grown locally.
Isn't it gorgeous!!! It was the inspiration for the cranberry sauce that I created this evening whom I will share with you later this week. There is also a local ice cream company called Batch that makes a ginger ice cream that is one of my last meal request kind of food loves. Truly, truly special. If you are from Boston check them out. It is absolutely worth it!
I had toyed with the idea of signing up for a local winter CSA for awhile but truth be told I don't like putting that large of a payment upfront for something that I have not seen and could be not very pleased. Then I heard about a delivery service in the city that drops off organic produce at your door. You get to choose the size and type of box and if you want weekly or bi-weekly deliveries. I chose the local box which is half fruit and half veggies and is all source in New England. I am curious what that will consist of during the winter months so we shall see. I plan on giving it a shot for a few weeks to see if it fits into our schedule and eating preferences. One criticism I found online was that only weak minded people need someone to tell them what to eat each week. I think just the opposite. You have to be a good cook to be able to work with whatever someone gives you. I consider it a culinary and dietary adventure. Part of the plan is to share with you how this works for us as well as some photos of the contents of the box. Wish me luck!
Tonight I created a ginger cranberry sauce made with local cranberries. Total cook time 10 minutes. I plan to photograph it tomorrow with my new camera I am thrilled about. The second recipe is a pumpkin hummus that I lightened calorically by using less tahini and olive oil.
Hopefully that will get photographed tomorrow as well but with the ever shorter days I am finding less and less moments of natural light available to me. Looks like a light box may be in my future!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reflecting on the Holidays

Food is my life. Literally. As the manager of a division of a catering company we start work on the holidays in the summer. While the rest of the working world is taking summer vacations we are already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving dinners and what is the latest trend for the corporate Christmas party. By the time the actual holidays come around I am usually pretty burned out and rush through the food preparation in daze. (Yes, I still make everything from scratch)
This year I have decided to test some of the ideas I have had for my own holiday and share them with you. As a child I remember being given the job of opening the cans of cranberry sauce. Shaking out the can shaped blob and listening to it slap onto the plate with a sucking kurplunk. I took great pleasure in slicing it into measured discs and artfully arranging them on the special plate my grandmother kept for it each year. It never occurred to me cranberry sauce even came in different forms! So my next project is a homemade cranberry sauce that is not only delicious and will thoroughly impress your family and guests, but is easy enough you can not make an excuse not to try it this year with me! Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kaddo Bourani (Afghani Pumpkin with Yogurt and Meat Sauce)

Once in a while my fiance and I will look on the internet for a new cuisine, use to find a new restaurant, and head out for an entirely new experience. This time we found a small Afghani restaurant and I read that the pumpkin was one of the must have dishes on the menu. There are times when just a bite is enough to create a last food memory. The longer I work in the food business the harder it is for me to experience something entirely new and when it does happen the rush is something I never forget. The ambience, the smells, tastes and textures as well as the company get seared in my memory. The pumpkin dish is one of those moments.
I was determined to find the recipe to recreate it at home. I came across a recipe based on Helmand in Cambridge. Tonight I tried cooking the recipe with a few alterations to improve the healthiness of it.

It came out exactly as I remember! Each bite a delicious juxtaposition of sweet, savory, creamy, tart and earthy. What I love about this recipe is it's seasonality. Sugar pumpkins are only available for a short time during the fall months peaking in October. This past weekend I grabbed 4 while at the farmer's market. Two for pie filling and 2 for this recipe. Here is the recipe as it was written and I will indicate the changes I made as well. You choose which one you make and let me know how it turns out for you! I halfed the recipe as it was for only 2 people and it still make a great deal of food, the recipe here is as I stated, the original recipe.

Servings: 4
For the Pumpkin:
2 Sugar Pie Pumpkins, approximately 3 lbs each ( I used just 1 pumpkin)
6 Tbsp Corn Oil (I used 3)
3 C. Sugar (I used 3/4 C) I felt the sugar in this recipe was ridiculously excessive and a significant waste of calories

Yogurt Sauce:
2 C Plain Yogurt (The recipe was insistant not to use lowfat yogurt but I used non-fat greek yogurt and it turned out great)
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 tsp Dried Mint
1/2 tsp Salt

I chose to skip the entire yogurt step and just used plain yogurt. It tasted exactly as I remember.

For the Meat Sauce:
1/4 C. Corn Oil (I just used a Tbsp)
1 Large Onion, finely minced (I used 1/2)
1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef (I used 3/4 pound 93% lean)
1 Large Tomato, Seeded and and Finely Chopped (1/2)
2 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 1/4 tsp Coriander
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste (I used 1 at first but it didn't get the taste or texture right so I found it needed 2 even for the half quantity)
1 1/2 C. Water (I used 2/3 C)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Wash the pumpkins skin and using a large knife cut in half. Scrape out the guts and seeds. I was able to peel of the skin and any green portions with a standard vegetable peeler. Then cut each half into 6 pieces and place them in a single layer hollow side up in a baking dish. Brush each piece lightly with oil and spread the sugar evenly over the pieces. It will look like an excessive amount even if you cut it back but it will work out in the end.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Baste the pieces with the pan juices, cover again, and bake an additional 45 minutes.

The sugar will have all melted away and a small part will be absorbed. The pumpkin will be dark orange and translucent. You will need a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer it to a plate.

For the Yogurt Sauce:
Mix all ingredients and refridgerate

For the Meat Sauce:
Brown the onions in the oil. Add the meat and brown over medium-high heat. You will want to break the meat up in small pieces. Add all the other through turmeric and cook, stirring, a few minutes. Stir in tomato paste and water. Lower the heat and cook until it has a thick texture.

To Plate:
Put a portion of pumpkin a plate with the curved side up. Place a small portion of meat sauce across the center with a dollop of yogurt on top. The largest portion of the meal should be the pumpkin.