Category Archives: Sauces

Strawberry Preserves & Hand Pies

I think it’s nearly impossible to walk past fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market without buying a pint. (Or four.) So between our Greenling Local Box and two trips to the farmer’s market last week, I had six pints of local strawberries in the fridge on Saturday morning. Two pints were from Gundermann Acres in Wharton, two were from Naegelin Farms in Lytle, and two pints were from Two Happy Children Farm in Taylor, Texas.

So many strawberries won’t keep more than a few days, so I decided to make some jam to use up my haul of berries. I am an inexperienced canner, so Michael Chiarello’s recipe for strawberry preserves seemed like a great place to start: not-to-sweet, and no added pectin. His recipe calls for a lot of berries, some citrus, and a pinch of rosemary and black pepper. I made it my own by substituting oranges for the lemon, omitting the salt, increasing the rosemary and pepper, and cutting the sugar down a bit. The rosemary I used is from Pure Luck in Dripping Springs, and the oranges are from G&S Groves down in McAllen, Texas.

Here’s my version of the recipe, scaled down for just one pint of strawberries.

Strawberry Preserves (Each pint of strawberries will yield about 1 cup of jam)
Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s recipe for strawberry preserves
1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
pinch black pepper
juice of 1/2 an orange, about 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

In a saucepan with high sides, mix all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Keep close watch on the pan with a spoon at the ready– strawberries will foam up if you’re not careful! Once the mixture comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until jam is thick and syrupy. Around the half-hour mark, the consistency of the jam will be thick and the mixture will look glossy. You can test the consistency of the finished jam by spooning a blob onto a very cold plate. Wait a minute, then draw your finger through the jam. If the jam stays separated on the plate, it’s ready! If the jam runs back together, keep cooking. Once the jam is set to your standards, transfer it to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and use it up within the week.

My six pints of berries made a huge batch of the jam, and while it’s not as good as Confituras‘ I am really pleased with my first-ever attempt at strawberry preserves.

You can see that the preserves have a lovely texture: soft, chopped pieces of berries are suspended in a thick syrup. Homemade jam usually has a softer set than store-bought, and this is wonderful to spread on muffins, toast, or swirled atop oatmeal. Next time I make it I am going to experiment with increasing the sugar and using lemon juice to try to get a brighter flavor from the berries.

Tonight I used some leftover pie crust and 1/4 cup of the preserves to make these pretty hand pies. They’re kind of like strawberry Pop-Tarts, only they taste like real strawberries and there’s no red food coloring.

The finished hand pies were lovely, except for one that I overfilled. A whole chunk of strawberry spurted out of the side of the pie while it was in the oven.

I giggled when I saw it because it looked like it was blowing me a big raspberry! Er, strawberry!

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Advertisements

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with raw tomato sauce

When I Googled “Raw Tomato Sauce” and came across Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe for an easy, no-cook pasta sauce, I thought it might be too good to be true. I love her radio show, and the recipes posted on the website usually work well for me. Still, who would guess that raw tomatoes, a few herbs and a little olive oil could come together to create such a fresh, flavorful sauce for pasta? And in less time than it takes to heat up a jar of sauce on the stove? I didn’t, but I’m glad I gave her recipe a shot. It’s a weeknight winner, especially with fresh, early spring tomatoes from Gundermann Farms and green garlic from Texas Daily Harvest.

Tomatoes from Gundermann Farms

For my own version of this dish, I stuck to Lynne’s ingredient list pretty closely and altered the method to fit my busy schedule. Instead of basil, I tossed in a handful of the tops from my green garlic (shallot tops would have been nice, too). And to save time, instead of dicing the tomatoes by hand as she suggests, I gave them a rough chop and tossed the pieces along with all the other ingredients- even the garlic clove- in the food processor.  One minute of whirring later, voilà! Pico de pasta sauce.

To serve, I tossed the raw pasta sauce with two servings of just-cooked spaghetti and grated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over the top. The heat from the spaghetti warmed the sauce through and melted the cheese.

I’m not going to lie, the pasta sauce probably would have tasted better if I had basil on hand to use in addition to the green garlic tops. As it was, it was a quick and easy  dinner that dirtied just two prep dishes total. It’s hard to argue with that! I’ll probably add this recipe, or variations of it, to my regular weeknight rotation going into summer. As soon as I find a version that sticks, I’ll share it with you! Until then, here’s Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe.

Red Enchilada Sauce

Like most Austinites who’ve been here longer than a few years, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of Tex-Mex cuisine.  I love comparing notes with fellow foodies about which restaurant’s margaritas, salsas, and enchiladas are the best in town, and although we rarely agree, it’s a nice way to build up a good appetite.

There are several excellent bloggers who write extensively about Tex-Mex home cooking; my favorites are superstars Lisa Fain of Homesick Texan and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes. Though neither writer is based in Texas, their recipes demonstrate that staples like tacos, enchiladas, and burritos lend themselves beautifully to the peppers, greens and tomatoes that grow nearly year-round in Austin. As I’ve experimented with their recipes and others, I have learned that most Tex-Mex food is easy to prepare with everyday ingredients and tools in your kitchen. Take for example this vegan enchilada sauce. If you can use a knife, a stove, and blender, you’ve got what it takes to make killer Tex-Mex.

Half of the sauce from this recipe will cover a 9×13 pan of enchiladas, leaving the rest for whatever creative use you can dream up.  Here are some of my favorite things to do with enchilada sauce, besides topping enchiladas:

At breakfast

  • over a few fried eggs with tortillas
  • with soy chorizo and grits (vegan!)
  • with melted cheese, scrambled egg and chorizo on a tostada shell

At a party

For dinner

Whatever you decide to do with it, I hope you enjoy this simple, healthy enchilada sauce!

Red Enchilada Sauce (yields about 6 cups sauce)
1 yellow onion
3-5 mild or sweet peppers, any variety
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2, 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes and jalapeno peppers
1, 15-ounce can vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cumin

To prepare sauce: dice onion and peppers. Peel and mince garlic.  In a large sauce pan, cook onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until they are very mushy, about 15 minutes.  Increase heat to medium and add tomatoes, vegetable broth, chili powder, salt, and cumin. Stir to combine. Cook sauce, covered, for 15 minutes to develop the flavors. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool before processing it in a blender until smooth. Store finished sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Apple Persimmon Compote

Persimmons and apples are a natural duet;  the spicy sweetness of the persimmon is complemented by the apple’s tart flavor, and the flesh of both fruits are similar enough that they cook at the same speed.  I originally conceptualized this apple-persimmon pairing as a filling for mini pies, but it has lots of other delicious uses.

Image by Nathan Russell

Traditionally, compotes are served as a dessert, either chilled or warmed and garnished with whipped cream.  However, you’re selling the dish short if you limit it to just desserts!  Here’s are some ideas for how to use this recipe in your meal plans:

  • Breakfast: as a topping for oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Breakfast: in a parfait with yogurt and granola
  • Breakfast: with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Breakfast: over pancakes or waffles or in crepes
  • Snack: instead of applesauce
  • Snack: as a dip for cinnamon sugar pita chips
  • Lunch: with cream cheese in a sandwich
  • Lunch: with roast turkey and Dijon mustard in a sandwich
  • Lunch: with goat cheese in a quesadilla or Panini
  • Dinner: as an appetizer, baked in Phylo dough with a round of brie
  • Dinner: heated over top of baked pork chops, chicken, or turkey
  • Dinner: over top of a baked sweet potato
  • Dessert: over ice cream or whipped cream
  • Dessert: in mini pies (the flavor is too strong for big pies)
  • Dessert: as filling in a pastry braid or sweet rolls
  • Dessert: as a filling for a spice cake with cream cheese icing

Preparing this compote is quick and easy.  The most difficult part of the process is identifying which kind of persimmon you’re working with, and then peeling and coring fruit.  There are two kinds of persimmons: Fuyu and Hachiya.  Hachiya persimmons are heart-shaped, with pointy bottoms.  Fuyus have flatter bottoms and look more like tomatoes.  This recipe calls for the firm-fleshed Fuyus.  However, you could substitute the pulp of very ripe Hachiyas if that’s what you have on hand.  Here are detailed instructions for ripening and cooking with Hachiya persimmons.  Below are instructions for coring and peeling apples and Fuyu persimmons.

Here’s the full recipe.  It doubles or triples well if you’re looking to feed a crowd, and the finished compote will last about a week in a tupperware in the fridge.

Apple Persimmon Compote (yields 2 cups)

4 Fuyu persimmons
3 apples
1/4 c. butter or vegan margarine
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (about a 1 inch section)
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice, apple juice, or rum

Peel, core, and dice persimmons and apples.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet and saute fruit for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften and give off a little liquid.  Meanwhile, grate ginger and measure out cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, ground pepper, brown sugar, and rum.  Add all ingredients to the skillet, cover and continue to cook over medium heat for about half an hour, until the fruit reaches desired tenderness.  Stir occasionally and add a little water if necessary to keep compote from drying out. (Shouldn’t be a problem if your skillet’s covered, but burned brown sugar and fruit is no fun to clean up later!) Serve creatively and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and also appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

the flesh of both fruits is similar enough that they are easy to cook together, and

Central Texas Cheeses with Red Pepper Relish

Tonight’s dinner was one of the best kind: romantic, inexpensive, and no cooking involved.  I bought all the ingredients for this cheese plate from Wheatsville Co-op and Greenling, but you can find Texas artisan cheeses and fresh produce at almost any farmers’ market in Austin.  The whole presentation was ready from fridge to table in less than 10 minutes, except for the pepper relish which I made the night before.

Tip: Wheatsville Co-op will often place very small pieces of local and other sustainably-produced cheeses in a basket together in the cheese cooler.  These odds and ends are typically less than $2 each and they’re a great way to try new cheeses and plan a sustainable, ultra romantic date night for under $10.

Red Pepper Relish (yields about one cup)
6-8 sweet or hot bell peppers, seeded and cored
1 yellow onion
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Chop the vegetables and put them in a medium saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and red pepper flakes.  Bring mixture to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight before serving.

The texture of this relish is not as thick as commercially processed relishes which use cornstarch or corn syrup for consistency.  If prepared correctly, the peppers are soft and sweet, and the relish will be about the consistency of pancake syrup.  It’s terrific on sandwiches, in tuna salad, and served as a dip over top of cream cheese or chevre.

Rosemary Pecan Pesto

So I’m working really hard to perfect my potluck recipe for Greenling’s Best of Austin Bash next Thursday. I’m not ready to share the whole thing, but I do want to tell you about this fabulous rosemary pesto recipe I created en route to the finished product:

Rosemary Pecan Pesto
1/4-1/3 cup fresh rosemary needles
1 cup fresh Italian curly or flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup olive oil

This pesto is very aromatic, and a nice change from the traditional basil/pine nut preparation. Go easy on the rosemary at first so the flavors don’t get too strong.  Preparation: Strip needles from rosemary stems and chop parsley. Peel garlic. Combine all dry ingredients in food processor and blend or process until coarsely ground. With processor running, stream in oil until pesto reaches desired consistency. If the rosemary flavor is too intense, you can fix it by adding more cheese and parsley to balance it out.

My potluck recipe for the Bash will use the pesto above, plus some other delicious local ingredients. I hope to see some other local food bloggers & their recipes there! 🙂

happy Deck day!

Today is my sister and her husband’s first wedding anniversary! They spent the weekend in Washington DC celebrating. While they were gone, their cat Sebastian suggested that I should cook them a surprise anniversary dinner so we could all hang out together when they got home.

Sebastian

Sebastian likes boxes.  He also like surprise dinners. My sister and her hubby’s flight landed around 5:30 PM, so the timing was perfect for some stealth dining preparation.  One tiny bummer was that the happy couple chose to get married at the end of the month, so I only had $15 to put together a fabulous meal. Here’s how I did it:

First, I chilled some free champagne. (I had a bottle left over from my So You Think You Can Dance 100th episode celebration, and since I paid for it last month, it counts as free this month.)

Then I made some Corn Dog casserole.  This was inspired by the free lunch I ate yesterday courtesy of the Casserole Queens.  I know it’s not the fanciest casserole in the world, but it is delicious.  Plus, what is more romantic for your first wedding anniversary than hot dogs, cheddar cheese, and cornbread? Total cost only $9, and I splurged on name brand hot dogs!

For a side dish, I served steamed baby carrots with honey mustard sauce.  I chose mustard sauce to compliment the corn dog flavors, and I chose baby carrots just in case Beth and Andy are trying to conceive. Get it, “baby” carrots?  Recipe for honey mustard sauce is as follows:

2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. dijon mustard
4 shakes of cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp.)
4 shakes of cumin (about 1/4 tsp.)
2 Tbs. butter

No need to cook the sauce. Just mix it up and put it on the steamed carrots before serving.  Total cost of sauce and carrots $1.89.  (I had everything on hand already to make the sauce, so the total cost is lower than if I had needed to buy expensive things like honey and dijon mustard.)

The grand finale of the dinner was vanilla ice cream with spicy strawberry syrup.   Large cartons of strawberries were on sale today at HEB for $2.50. I had the rest of the ingredients for the syrup on hand:

1 carton strawberries, hulled & quartered
1 c. sugar (I used half splenda, half real sugar)
1 c. water
5 drops red food coloring
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper

Combine everything in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and stir frequently for 10-15 minutes.  The syrup will thicken as it cooks and even more once it cools.  If you use splenda like I did, or if you like thick syrup, you may have to add a slurry of cornstarch in the last few minutes to help things gel.  Homemade strawberry syrup is so easy and delicious, I will never understand why people buy that Hershey’s imitation crap.  I like the real thing, without high fructose corn syrup!

I’m going to end this post with some fun pictures from Beth and Andy’s wedding.  Thanks for the memories, y’all, and many happy years ahead!

cakes

deck

bananas

That last one was actually taken after the wedding, at a barbecue celebration we had that night.  After dinner Rami made bananas foster for everyone, and you can see his entire BF set-up on the counter.  He lugged a portable burner, 3 bottles of liquor, and countless bananas to Dallas for the sake of winning over my family and Beth’s new in-laws. Needless to say, it worked!