a great haul for $35…

vegetables & fruit from the farmer's market

$35 for that haul

I love going to the farmer’s market. You never know what treasures you may find. And it’s great to know that you’re supporting local farmers and that you’re actually buying that what’s in season. Plus, you can’t beat the price. I got all that for $35. Yup, you read that right. That would be: a bunch of beets, one fennel bulb, one Kohlrabi bulb, 3 Cara Cara oranges, 2 red onions, 4 avocados, 2 baskets of strawberries, a bunch of asparagus, 5 Asian lemons, 2lbs of fava beans, fresh peas, a bunch of Cilantro, a bunch of purple basil and red walnuts. Just awesome!

I used to hate Kohlrabi as a kid, but I decided to give it another shot and try it in a salad. The inspiration was this winter salad I found via Epicurious, and since I like adventurous salads I thought I should see if I will change my opinion. The beets will be pickled, the fava beans might just become a fava bean spread, peas for a fresh pea risotto, fennel for salad, the strawberries are so good that they’re not going to make it through the weekend, same with the Cara Cara oranges, and the rest I’ll figure out as inspiration hits.

I know I’ll be going to this farmer’s market again!

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sugar apricots

I came back with a bunch of Turkish sugar apricots from my latest grocery expedition. They looked so cute and delicious, and they’re quite a bit smaller than regular apricots. And yes, they live up to the expectation of the name – they really are sweeter.

So what to make with them? This nectarine galette came immediately to my mind – rustic and flaky, and perfect for fresh seasonal fruit. It’s easy enough to make – I used a bit too much water while bringing the dough together, so it was a bit sticky, but sticking it in the fridge helped . I forgot to take it out in time to roll it out, and since I didn’t want a finished tart that was done around 11pm, I placed the rolled out dough in the freezer, just long enough for the dough to firm up, but not long enough to freeze. If you’re doing the same thing, make sure you check on your dough frequently and that you don’t get side tracked, otherwise you have a frozen dough with lovely cracks. Which defeats the whole no-tear concept and the juices will run out.

I used up every single apricot – sadness, since I wanted to eat at least one. But it sure did look pretty, with all those apricots arranged. I placed the tart on a pizza stone, which was great, and the tart came out really nicely. It’s easy peasey to make (God, I sound like one of those Food Network Chefs – I can’t remember who says that), and the crust is lovely and flaky and delicious. I made one with plums, and it’s just as good.

fruit tart

apricot tart, plum tart – baked on a pizza stone

Failure. Tasty, tasty failure.

Last time we had blackberries, I’d planned to make these blueberry muffins, substituting blackberries for blueberries. But my berries were a bit smushy, so I wasn’t sure how they’d hold up in the muffins. So instead I made blackberry butter bettys, with blackberries rather than strawberries (obviously). I had too much filling, so I quickly made a few more toast pieces brushed with regular butter (I’d used up all my brown butter), filled all the little tarts, and popped them in the oven. Btw, if you’re using other fruit that you’re not cutting into pieces, make sure you make less of the crumb filling – the filling sticks to the cut sides of the fruit, but if you’re using whole berries or other whole fruit, they won’t really stick, so use less crumbs. Or you could sprinkle them over some yoghurt with fruit. Or make sweet dumplings and coat them with the crumb mixture.

The blackberry bettys were so delicious that I scalded my mouth a bit while trying eat them while fresh out of the oven. (Note to self – baked fruit can get really really hot). I did eat one with a dollop of creme fraiche, which was an excellent serving suggestions. The blackberry brown bettys were polished off so quickly, I’ll have to make them again. Plus, they’re an excellent last minute dessert – you just need some toast and some fruit, some pantry staples, and you can easily toss this together. I bet the betties would be great with apples, too – a quick non-pie apple dessert.

Blackberry sinkhole

Back to the topic on hand. We were invited to our friends’ place for a birthday party/barbecue/cookout (remember my post on the birthday dress and apron), and they have cherry trees, red currant bushes, a gooseberry bush, apple trees and a lovely lovely blackberry hedge. What’s better than eating sun-warmed berries directly from the bush? We went blackberry picking together and a took a portion home to eat with yoghurt for breakfast. I couldn’t finish up all the blackberries and so here was my chance to try and make those muffins. For breakfast. Yum!

I started mixing the butter and the sugar and started whipping them up. In the meantime, I measured the flour, got my other ingredients ready, and went to get out my eggs. But – no eggs. They were all gone. Even though there were still 2 left the day before. Someone – you know who you are – was my saboteur and didn’t tell me they’d eaten my eggs. If I’d known that I didn’t have eggs, I wouldn’t have started making the muffins. And I didn’t have any of the common egg substitutions on hand – no tofu, no smushed bananas, no egg substitute. I did have homemade apple sauce that a friend had made, but when I opened the bottle, the apple sauced started foaming. Not a good sign. It probably wasn’t conserved properly. So no apple sauce available. I guess I could have tried soaked flax seed as a substitute but I just couldn’t imagine it.

Then I started searching for recipes of muffins where the butter sugar mix would fit ingredient-wise – btw, I’d already buttered the pan. I also wanted a recipe where I could use my blackberries. I finally found a recipe for black-bottomed cupcakes. They called for a cream cheese filling with chocolate pieces – yum! – and though I didn’t have any cream cheese, I figured I could try and mix up a filling out of blackberries, yoghurt and bread crumbs that could kind of work.

I had to do some math to figure out all my substitutions – I didn’t have enough brown sugar, I added some oil to the butter (and had to do some match to figure out the additional moisture requirement), and left out the cocoa powder. I had some doubts if all the recipe would work out with my modifications, but hey, I figured it would be worth the experiment. I added my ‘filling’ and, taking care not to overfill the forms, I sent them off into the oven.

Well, I’d overfilled the muffin forms. I got quite a bit of muffin top (which btw tasted delicious). And then I tried to get a muffin out of the form. Which I’d made sure to butter beforehand – but failed to put in cupcake liners since I didn’t have any. Clearly I need to stock up my pantry, because I seem to need to replenish my staples. Anyway, the cupcakes refused to leave their forms. No amount of loosening along the edges and careful prodding with the spoon got them out of their form. Finally I ended up spooning pieces out and eating them right then and there.

blackberries in muffins

As you can see, I had some ‘release’ problems

Since I couldn’t get them out of their form, you get a photograph of them pre-‘release.’ The berry filling made for a sunken filling – but also tasty. Overall, the muffins were soooooo delicious. They were a bit more cakey, which probably was part of the problem with them sticking. This is a recipe worth tweaking I bet I can ultimately get some awesome blackberry muffins out of this. Ultimately, this experiment was a failure. But a very very tasty failure. And it was a good reminder that baking is really about chemistry, about proper proportions, and that you just can’t substitute all over the place.

Or, I could just try and make these lemon ricotta blackberry muffins instead. Don’t they look delicious?

Got the blueberry blues

Picking your own blueberries. Picking them from a bush in a field that has been bathing in sunshine so that the blueberries are lovely and warm from all that sunshine. Eating fresh and sweet blueberries directly from the bush. Eating as many blueberries as you’re collecting in your basket. Mmmmmmm.

It’s berry season! That means it’s time to make all kinds of berry-licious things – cakes, tarts, muffins, jams, syrup, cobblers, crumbles, pies, waffles, salads and breads. I think I’ve listed all the possibilities but let me know if I’ve forgotten anything. Anyway, time to get picking. And whatever doesn’t get used up you can freeze easily.

I’ve added blueberries to salads before but I haven’t really found a recipe that has wowed me. My favorite thing to make out of blueberries is cake. Ok, cake and jam. But really, cake is a the god of desserts. And blueberries fit in perfectly.

IMG_4917

lime yogurt cake sans blueberry sauce

I made a blueberry sauce to go with this delicious yogurt cake. It was pretty tasty so I didn’t get any pictures of the sauce before we ate it. The original sauce recipe called for blackberries, but I didn’t have any, and so I substituted blueberries. In retrospect I think I should have left out the water, or used a tablespoon at the max. I strained the sauce through a sieve but I should have used an even finer mesh sieve or a piece of muslin instead. As for the cake, it was very yummy. At least I thought so, even the rest of them weren’t wowed by it. Philistines. Oh, and I only had a smaller cake pan so I had a rather tall cake. Which meant that there wasn’t as much of the crust left which was unfortunate since that was the best part.

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The blueberries really make the cake

Then there’s this cake. Well, boy bait. Yes, you’re probably wondering why it’s named that. I have no idea. Actually, some quick googling yielded this answer from Samantha’s Bread and Butter: “Blueberry Boy Bait is a buttery, thin, blueberry cake. It is said the name of this man-luring dessert was coined by a young girl in 1954 after she stole the show in a junior Pillsbury Bake-Off. She named this dessert “Blueberry Boy Bait” because of the effect it had on boys.” Ha, a boy luring cake. How awesome. It really was very tasty – see, I didn’t even take any pictures until this cake was almost all gobbled up. I can also imagine a raspberry or blackberry version. And if you really want to splurge you could always a add a bit of a mix of yogurt and whipped cream or creme fraiche as a topping/side with the boy bait.

Blueberries are easily suited to porridge, especially steel-cut porridge, or to a quick dessert. This one was a quick, last-minute dessert made of a mix of ricotta, blueberries, and a mix of frozen berries, plus a bit of whipped cream on the side.

Blue(s)berry Dessert

I remember Mom making a blueberry cake when I was little. She was making it for guests, and the dough was just too moist so she added some semolina to the dough. The finished cake was so delicious, but she doesn’t remember the proportions since she was fudging it. But here is another cake recipe that sounds really interesting. A moist blueberry cake with light lemon icing from I adore food. It uses a lemony frosting which is great since I love that kind of frosting. And the cake itself looks moist and fluffy. Plus you can use fresh or frozen blueberries, perfect. I’ll make this asap, and I hope it’ll be as delicious as it looks!

Doesn’t this cake look scrumptious?

Next on my plate – blueberry crumble, this one with an oatmeal crust (my favorite kind). And  I’ve eaten blueberry muffins before but haven’t yet found the recipe to end all recipes. Smitten Kitchen has one, and I’ve usually like all of those recipes. But let me know if you have any recommendations!

O.M.G.

Hey guys, I’m traveling today & tomorrow. I’ll be back online on the 22nd, so I apologize ahead of time if my response isn’t timely.

I love Potbelly’s chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. That darn small cookie bag gets demolished really quickly in this household. So, I’ve been looking for a recipe to make my own. I tried to modify my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, but it turned out a bit too dry (for my taste). I’d made them for my sister as an any-time-of-the-day, satisfy-the-cravings-after-a-nursing cookies after the birth of nephew #1. She really liked them and has been after me to make them again. I wasn’t to thrilled with that version and have since been on the hunt for a better recipe.

So anyway, the other day I was looking for other things to make with pomegranate seeds when I came across this genius recipe by Hidden Ponies for – wait for it – chocolate chip oatmeal pomegranate cookies. Wow. And I learnt some stuff too, apart from finding an awesome recipe. Want to know what? Well, first of all those little pomegranate seeds aren’t called seeds, they’re called arils (always good to learn something new). And second of all, it’s way easier peeling pomegranates in a bowl of cold water. Why didn’t I think of that before?

cookies!

chocolate pomegranate oatmeal cookies – even better than the Potbelly ones!

chocolate pomegranate oatmeal cookies

Guess who is eating warm cookies? Oh the temptation…

These cookies are so fast to make and so delicious. They still pretty soft when you get them out of the other and it’s hard to check the underside of the cookies if they’re a golden light brown, so I’d stick to the time recommended. Let them cool before trying to remove them from the cookie sheet and trying to devour them. Seriously, they’re that good. Prepare for a cookie eating attack.

Second of all, you can reduce the amount of sugar – the chocolate gives it plenty of sweetness. And the last few cookies were basically clusters of chocolate and pomegranate held together with the last little bits of cookie dough, so you can easily reduce the amount of chocolate chips.

The cookies are delicious and chewy (I’m not really a fan of thin hard cookies), and the pomegranate adds a burst of freshness. The others didn’t love them as much – boo – but that meant there were even more for me. My waistline is not happy.

Oh, and I thought that the cookies wouldn’t keep long because of the extra moisture from the pomegranates, but they actually lasted quite a bit (not withstanding my cookie munching), so they’ll easily keep over a week to two weeks (I even found two cookies that ‘someone’ (not me!) had put away in a tin and even though they were three weeks old, they were still good and still somewhat moist).

Try them, and I’m sure you’ll discover a new favorite cookie.

cookies in progress

cookie making steps

Mother’s Day deliciousness

(Yes, these are petit fours. No, I didn’t make them. But they were so ridiculously cute, so Mom got them for breakfast. Ok, we split them. I think a petit four per person is plenty. I didn’t have time to make a big breakfast anyway since we went to an Indian dance performance on Sunday morning. I will make my own petit fours one of these days, I promise).

Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to be in town so you can actually prepare a meal for your mom for Mothers Day. I already mentioned the salad that I made, but I also made a cake. Yum. I have a huuuuuge sweet tooth. I love cake, especially homemade cakes. You know that someone put in a time and effort to create something that you think and hope the recipient will like.

We have a few standards around here – nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you feel like branching out. And sometimes a recipe lands in your inbox that you just HAVE to make. That was the case this time around. I got an email from Sassy Radish with the recipe for an awesome cannoli cake. Cannoli. Cake. And Crepes. (I love the alliteration). Just repeat these words. You it has to be good. Add orange puree and you have a homerun.

And yet – I just had to tinker around with the recipe. No great modifications, but something to suit my tastes, and the ingredients I had handy. For example, I had a few overripe mangoes that were just too mushy to use in a salad. Ergo – mango puree mixed with the orange puree. I modified the crepe recipe to get thinner crepes. I used orange and lime zest. I used less sugar – most recipes can stand a reduction of sugar, and still taste just as great.

This was my first time to make my own ricotta. It turned out beautifully and I think I’ll try to use as much homemade ricotta as possible. I couldn’t find any cheesecloth for the life of me so I just used an organic baby diaper cloth made of muslin. With that fabric it took 6 hours til I got the right consistency of ricotta. I got about 2 1/2 cups of ricotta out of the recipe. The 2 cups of ricotta filling weren’t enough for me, so I stretched the filling by using that last 1/2 cup with lime zest, and approximately 1 1/2 powdered sugar. I also used less powdered sugar in that first batch of ricotta filling.

The crepes: The first crepe was thicker which was perfect for the bottom layer. But I didn’t like that thickness for the remaining crepes, plus I would only end up with a few layers. I stretched the crepe batter by adding a bit of milk and some water – probably 1/4 cup of milk, and 1/2 cup of water. I used less than a 1/4 scoop of batter – however much I needed to just coat the bottom of the pan, resulting in perfect thin crepes. They also didn’t cook as long, max 1 minute on the first side and about 20 seconds on the other side. I had an awesome non-stick pan where I barely needed any butter to cook the crepes.

And the orange puree. I had 3 mangoes which were going to into that puree. I had one orange – and no zest. My zest had been used up in the ricotta filling, and smarty pants that I am, I didn’t read the recipe closely enough and realize that I’d need two oranges. So, no orange zest, and no simple syrup. The mangoes were sweet enough to make any added sugar unnecessary. The resulting sauce is still ridiculously delicious – I had it for breakfast, for example on my porridge. Mmmm.

The finished cake. Don’t you want to try some, too?

Since I had so much orange-mango puree I used about 1 1/2 tbsp fruit puree between the layers. And since I wanted the finished cake to look extra pretty, I added a final layer of fruit puree on top. It almost looked like a fruit glaze. So good. I refrigerated the cake before serving it made it easier to cut lovely wedges that wouldn’t slide apart during serving. I served the cake with extra fruit puree and a slight dusting of powdered sugar. I let the photos speak for themselves:

A brief meditation over sal –

Sal – ad
Sal – sa
Sal-oon
Sal – on
Sal – t

Ok, salt still does apply, but as an ingredient. Yes, today’s post is about the first two “Sal”s. How do you decide which one to make – salad or salsa? What’s the defining line between the two? I’m sure Dictionary.com and those other websites will come up with all kinds of definitions that explain the difference. But when you’re throwing things together, when is it a salsa and does it become a salad? And lets ignore the other S word that I keep typing accidentally – Slaw. Another favorite of mine.

Yes, I know that the word salsa means sauce. Yes, you use a sauce to accompany something. It’s an accessory. But then there are the salsas (is that the correct plural?). A bunch of them include ‘color names,’ letting you know more about their ingredients, such as salsa roja, salsa verde, salsa negra and so on. I guess the kind of salsa I’m thinking about goes more in the direction of a salsa fresco, or also known as pico de gallo. (Btw, there are versions of salsa throughout many cultures, not just the Mexican version that most of us know).

Le salad

Salsa or salad, I was planning to make something fresh, to match this lovely warm weather. We had fresh mangos so I thought I’d go with a classic: mango black bean salsa. And I had feta, and I’d seen recipes for mango black bean feta salsa, so that was the plan. I also came across a quinoa black bean mango salad which sounded delicious. It included a red bell pepper which a) I couldn’t quite figure out how it would fit in there and b) I didn’t have anyway, so the point was moot. By now I’m all set on my menu.

But then. Then I realized I had a pomegranate that really needed to be used up. So hey, I could just toss in a pomegranate too – pomegranate and mango should go well together, right? Some quick googling showed more pomegranate mango body soaps and lotions rather than salads and slaws, but I’m always up for an experiment. So first I added the black beans, the pomegranate, and then I started prepping my mango. Darn. My mango was too soft. It would get all mushy when tossing.

Ridiculously awesome dressing

Ok, alternate plan. I’d seen a recipe for a zucchini, mint and pomegranate salad. This one used feta, which I did have, and zucchini which I didn’t have. Another salad recipe combined pomegranate and feta, plus spinach, red onion and walnuts. By now I was grumbling at myself for not planning out my menu more carefully. Then there was this quinoa herb & pomegranate salad. This one also used mint, so mint was the way to go.

Back to my black bean and pomegranate mixture. The pomegranate arils added crunch which contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the black beans. The color contrast was ok – the dark red and the dark brown weren’t that visually interesting. Time to add the mint, and then the feta. Now it looked better, but I still wasn’t satisfied. I still wanted to add something interesting. And then, then I found two pomegranate salad recipes that used (mandarin) oranges – a cauliflower pomegranate orange salad, and this really awesome arugula, fennel, apple, mandarin orange and pomegranate salad from Bon Appétit. My orange was meant to go into this Cannoli Crepe Cake (oooh, alliteration!), so that was a no go. Instead I used a small can of mandarin oranges.

And now I had the perfect salad – crunchy because of the pomegranate, creamy because of the black beans, slightly salty from the feta, minty because of the mint and orangey and slightly sweet from the mandarin oranges. The accompanying dressing totally rocked it. Btw, I make my dressing in a glass jar – I just have to shake it to create a great emulsion. Just make sure that your lid fits on tight. Plus it’s easy to save any extra dressing since your dressing is already in a jar.

Salad with awesome chicken (stay tuned!)

Now, this was a spur of the moment salad/salsa, so I used what ingredients had. If you want to cook your own black beans instead of resorting to the can, go for it! Same with the mandarin oranges – you can easily use fresh mandarins or oranges. Grapefruit or blood oranges would be great as well. I would use orange juice, fresh preferable as a substitute for the mandarin syrup. Make sure to use plenty of mint – it really really makes the salad. Also, I used a light canola oil (organic) since I didn’t have any good quality olive oil handy. Here’s the recipe for my pomegranate black bean feta mandarin mint salad:

Ingredients:

one pomegranate
15 oz low sodium black beans (one can)
150g feta
11 oz mandarin oranges in light syrup (one small can)
a handful of mint

Dressing:

2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of honey
1/4 cup mint
syrup from the mandarin can
pinch of salt

Preparation:

Remove the arils from the pomegranate and clean properly. Remove the black beans from the can and drain properly. Cut the mint into a chiffonade. Remove the mandarin oranges from the can and halve. Mix the black beans and the pomegranate. Crumble the feta into the salad. Add the mint, and add the mandarin oranges at the end so they don’t fall apart.

Cut your mint into a chiffonade. Mix the salad dressing ingredients except for the mandarin syrup. Taste and add the mandarin syrup in small batches so the dressing doesn’t end up too sweet. The syrup is a nice balance to the acidity in the dressing. I like my dressing on the tangy side. I did make a really big batch of dressing, so I scaled the ingredients up in order to have leftovers. Toss your salad with part of the dressing, and slowly add more dressing so your salad is evenly coated without becoming too soggy. Don’t forget that the mandarin oranges fall apart easily.