Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oatmeal: Mr. Congeniality

I had a backlog of over-ripe bananas recently. Sometimes, when that happens, I’ll whip up a yummy breakfast drink – or, in a serious time crunch, I’ll peel and freeze them for later use. This time, I mused over a photo of Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from a recent Cooking Light magazine and decided to go full throttle.

For some folks the sight of chocolate chips might be enough to send shivers up their spine and create an instant craving; for me it’s oatmeal. Call me crazy, but I love its texture, nutty flavor, and its congenial ability to partner up with others. If oatmeal has a sun sign, I suspect it would be Taurus: earthy, sexy, and seriously worthy of a frisky romp.

According to Cooking Light, each cookie has 3.6 grams fat and 115 calories; considering the healthy dose of oatmeal, I find this completely within the acceptable range. I might even dig out the chocolate chips and opt for one more cookie. As a footnote, these improve with age, if you can keep them around long for that to happen.

Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
The ripe banana adds sweetness, moisture and flavor and substitutes for some of the usual sugar and butter. Inspired by Cooking Light magazine, July 2009
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or a combo of white and dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

In mixing bowl, combine first 5 ingredients in mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add egg and beat well.

Separately combine dry ingredients and add to banana mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2" apart. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Cool briefly and remove to a rack to cool. Yield: 18-24 cookies ~~

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mulligatawny, A Cold Remedy

A dark cloud loomed over my house this past week. Our warm pre-summer weather suddenly turned cool, overcast, and dreary - and somewhere along the way I picked up a nasty head cold. I was listless, miserable, and eating was a non-issue; instead, I forced myself to graze on odd leftovers and drink volumes of juice and water.

After a few days of lackluster picking, my appetite began to rebound and the idea of real food surfaced as a possibility. I knew I was on the mend when images of soup meekly emerged from the culinary corners of my mind.

Still not up to a full-on grocery store expedition, I elected to rummage through my pantry and refrigerator for some sort of inspiration. I wanted hefty flavors because my taste buds were still shot, and it had to be simple since I was not up to an intense kitchen session. It needed to be an easy, one shot endeavor: a filling and satisfying meal in a bowl.

I’ve heard it suggested that dairy does not help a cold, so I commenced making an old stand by, Mulligatawny Soup, with the option of omitting the cream or milk entirely. Ultimately, I elected to add a small amount of full strength low fat evaporated milk, as this thick, hearty soup seemed unfinished without it. I do not regret my decision - and for the record, the cold is gone.

Mulligatawny Soup
Enjoy this Indian curry soup topped with any number of flavorful accompaniments, including chutney

1/4 cup butter and/or vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup rice
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
2 tsp. good quality curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup tart apple, peeled, diced
1/2 cup cooked or uncooked chicken, cut up
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/2 cup hot cream, evaporated milk or yogurt

Peanuts, raisins, diced apple, yogurt, or trail mix, chutney

In a soup pot over medium heat, melt butter and/or oil and sauté vegetables until soft. Add rice and toss well. Stir in flour and curry and cook about 3 minutes to release the curry.

Slowly stir in stock and bring to a boil. Add the chopped apple, chicken and seasonings and simmer about 30 minutes.

Stir in cream, milk or yogurt and heat well, but do not boil. Garnish with condiments as desired, or pass individually. Serves 4~~

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Garden Greens: New Meaning

Ta dah! May I present this exclusive unveiling, the documented proof of a recent class project: my first-ever Salad Garden. I proudly reveal a tender Butter Crunch lettuce and a fascinating meslcun blend.

As the summer unfolds and various produce develops and matures, I suspect future blogs will likely bear witness and feature other members of my charming garden community.

I am still very new to the garden realm and thoroughly enjoy fussing over my charges - I actually look forward to the weeding and watering routine! I still haven’t gotten over the newness of having a salad conveniently planted right outside my back door – ready and waiting for me to pluck each lovely leaf at its prime. Now, I spend considerable time conjuring up new salads that will take advantage of my latest harvest.

A recent salad proved so successful I have made it several times since. It incorporates prime Oregon staples: hazelnuts and Rogue Creamery’s Oregonzola Cheese. This award winning gorgonzola is aged at least 120 days and is a stellar combination with the raspberries featured in this salad. The Raspberry Vinaigrette includes reduced raspberry vinegar, a process which intensifies the fruit flavor and provides the perfect counterpoint to the gorgonzola, mizuna and mâche lettuces.

I also have taken a great suggestion from Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café fame, and find that slightly warming the cheese makes a huge difference in the final outcome.

Raspberry, Hazelnuts, and Gorgonzola Garden Salad

Raspberry Vinaigrette1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

8 cups mixed baby lettuce greens, washed, drained and chilled
1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted in dry pan til aromatic, about 5 minutes
3 ounces gorgonzola cheese, sliced thickly
fresh organic flowers or herbs such as mint, for garni

For dressing: In small pan, reduce vinegar to about 3 Tbsp., and allow to cool in a small bowl. When cool, whisk in dijon, honey, salt and pepper; slowly add the olive oil to form an emulsion. Adjust flavors and set aside.

For salad: In a 200 degree oven, place the cheese wedges on a parchment lined sheet and heat approximately 5 minutes or until slightly soft and shiny.
Meanwhile, in salad bowl, toss lettuce with enough dressing to lightly coat leaves. Add the nuts and raspberries and toss gently. Place salad on individual plates, add a wedge of cheese, garnish with flowers or herbs. Pass additional dressing as desired. Serves 4 ~~

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pickle Power

Now that we are getting back into barbecue and picnic season again, here’s a handy high flavored mélange that will provide another alternative to the ever-present vegetable quandary. It’s more a salad than a condiment, but the sweet-sour action will likely remind you of old-fashioned bread and butter pickles.

Almost any herb and vegetable combination will work, so it’s helpful if you can consider your menu application in advance. The batch shown here was designed as free-standing crudités that would not require a drippy dip. A week later, I served these treats again with burgers and they were an excellent complement – each veggie was still crisp and refreshing. I suspect they would be outstanding with ribs – or even Asian food.

You’ll find these veggies will last very well, and are great ad hoc snacking right out of the fridge. For longer storage, dried herbs will hold up just as well as fresh herbs. Be sure and plan at least a day ahead, to allow for the pickling process. This is another fine selection from Jerry Traunfeld’s cookbook, The Herbal Kitchen.

Fresh Herb and Vegetable PickleFrom Jerry Traunfeld’s, The Herbal Kitchen
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 quarts cool water
2 quarts prepared vegetables: strips of pepper, fennel bulb or cabbage, cucumber moons, cauliflower
2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
4 whole hot peppers, dried, or 1/4 tsp pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
1 ounce fresh herbs

Stir salt and 2 quarts water together in plastic container or glass bowl to dissolve salt. Add vegetables and let them sit in brine at room temperature 4-6 hours.

Bring vinegar, sugar, 2 cups water, chiles and bay to boil. Drop in herb bunch, turn off heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Drain vegetables, return to container and pour pickling liquid with herbs over them. Press veggies down under liquid, if exposed. Cover and chill. They will be ready the next day.
Yields 2 quarts ~~


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