Saturday, February 28, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

There are more apples than we can keep up with. During these times we often add sliced apples to our salads. Today I decided to make muffins (always looking for reasons to pull out the Kitchen-Aid mixer). I searched for a basic recipe online and made the following. The bad news is it ended up only using two apples!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups finely chopped apples, peeled and cored
  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Mix first four ingredients in a bowl and mix together
  • Chop apples. Keep in a bowl with some lemon juice sprinkled on top to prevent browning
  • With mixer on low, add all remaining ingredients and mix until flour is moistened
  • Spoon batter into a greased muffin pan
  • Bake until golden brown on top - 18 - 24 minutes
  • Let cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the pan
Yields about 8-10 muffins. I used regular white flour today but next time I might experiment with whole wheat flour for some or all of the flour.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Arugula & Cilantro Pesto

There were lots of greens in our latest box (every other week delivery). In addition to the pea shoots, we got a large bunch of arugula and a bunch of cilantro. Not to mention the bag of spinach.

So I decided to make a pesto out of the arugula and cilantro. I looked at a few different recipes and came up with the following. It's not a finalized recipe. Just using what was on-hand at the time.

To make the pesto I made up the following recipe:
  • 2+ cups of arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves, washed and dried
  • 4 cloves of garlic chopped
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • roasted pine nuts
  • shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, to desired consistency
Many recipes have you brown the garlic in its skin in a skillet. Let it cool and then peel. Since I began this project after dinner I didn't have time to do that.

I always keep roasted pine nuts in the freezer. Their high fat content means they freeze well and thaw quickly. Get a large amount of pine nuts, roast them, and keep them in your freezer in an airtight container. That way you can add them to salads or make pesto at any time.

I let this pesto recipe sit for a few nights until tonight when I used it on a homemade pizza with mushrooms, carmelized onions, garlic, sauteed pea shoots, and cheese.
There's plenty more for future dinners.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pea Shoots

Something new arrived in the CSA box last week: a large bunch of pea shoots.

What's fun about the box is the way it forces you to learn about new ingredients.

Pea shoots are often compared to spinach in taste and I agree with that but the leaves are not as thick so they are more delicate. There is also a peppery flavor that adds some complexity.

I got online and did some research. Did you know pea shoots have their own web site? It seems they are quite the rage in the UK.

To prepare, pull the leaves off and toss them into a salad spinner. Rinse and spin and you're ready to use them. Compost the stems. Use the delicate purple flower (if present) as a garnish.

You have lots of options with pea shoots:
  • It is often an ingredient in Asian stir-fry. Add at the last minute and cook until wilted.
  • Stir into pastas and risotto to add some color.
  • Stir into soups and cook until wilted.
  • Use as your green in salads.
Since I was still in exploratory mode, I decided to start with the salad option. I combined seeded slices of the Minneola Tangelos from the box with a handful of washed leaves of pea shoots. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and some dressing created a great salad to finish the meal.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hot Sauce

A friend recently sent me a link to a Cook's Illustrated taste test on hot sauces. I love hot and spicy food so I was intruiged. In my refrigerator sits the ubiquitous bottle of Tabasco so I was surprised to read:

We thought Tabasco would win hands down. Not necessarily.

The winner of the taste test was Frank's Hot Sauce. On a recent trip to my local Safeway they had it on sale for half off so I picked up a bottle. After a few quick side-by-side tastings, I have to agree with the Cook's Illustrated review:

Tasters liked Frank's "bright" and "tangy" notes and potent heat when sprinkled atop a portion of steamed white rice. The full, tomatoey complexity and "luxurious" body of Frank's was also a high point for many tasters. One taster put it succinctly: "Tabasco is an ingredient, while Frank's is a condiment."

For me, Frank's Hot Sauce had a lot more flavor and complexity compared to the acidic and spicy Tabasco. I'm a convert!