Friday, June 26, 2009

Mushroom-Shallot Bruschetta

Kate, I'm sorry for posting right on top of you - I feel like that's how this blog goes. Nothing for a month and then everyone at once!

Anyway, this is a creation of my own and I very much enjoy it, hopefully everyone else will too.

Like pretty much everything I cook, at various times this is used to accompany cocktails, as an appetizer, for a weekend lunch, (cue discussion on the validity of the oxford comma) or as a main course - just change the amount you put in front of whoever you're feeding!

As usual, amounts are VERY rough.

ok, let's go. you'll need:

  • ~1 lb asparagus
  • french baguette
  • 10-15 shallots
  • 15-20 cremini mushroom caps (i just like the caps... sue me)
  • walnut halves (one per slice of bread)
  • chevre (1 oz per 3 slices of bread)
  • herbes de provence (use whatever combination you like - a lot of the time i just toss a sprig of fresh thyme in and call it a day)
  • 3-4 T bacon fat (if you don't save yours, start. seriously.)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
get your oven broiling. make sure it's really hot before you put anything in.

snap asparagus, toss with a bit of olive oil, and put in a baking dish in a single layer. pyrex lasagna pan works great. sprinkle the spears with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

cut the bread diagonally/on the bias and brush each piece lightly with olive oil on one side. set aside.

cut the goat cheese into REALLY thin slices - one of those supermarket 4 oz packs should make about 12 slices. set aside.

cut off the flower and root ends of your shallots, as well as the outer layer. slice into rings, no need to separate them, that'll happen during the cooking. set aside.

clean your mushrooms and slice, medium thin (about pizza thickness works great). set aside.

put the asparagus in the oven, directly underneath the flame / heating element.

put half the bacon fat (fine fine, butter if you insist... but you're missing out) in a large heavy-bottomed reasonably deep saute pan. heat over med high heat. when heated, add shallots and stir to get them coated (if not using bacon fat, add some salt). cook them for 5-10 minutes over medium heat until they're softening and getting caramelized.

at this point the asparagus is probably getting close. take it out of the oven and carefully shake so the cooked sides are no longer facing up (should be getting very caramelized / almost charred in places), make sure they're still in a single layer, and put back in the oven.

add the remaining bacon fat to the shallots, let it melt, then add the mushrooms, a bit more salt (helps get liquid from the mushrooms) and whatever herbs you're using. stir the whole mixture gently. reduce heat a bit and keep an eye on the mushrooms so they don't get rubbery, stirring frequently. taste it, when it's done, it's done. add salt and pepper to taste.


after a minute or three of additional broiling, asparagus should be done. remove from the oven and set aside.

lay your pieces of bread on a cookie sheet, oiled side up, and broil for just a minute until they start to turn golden brown. remove from the oven, put a slice of goat cheese on each piece, and push a walnut half into the goat cheese. return to broiler JUST for a minute to toast the walnut and soften the cheese. Remove from oven.

assembly: put a heaping spoonfull or two of the mushroom mixture on each piece of bread. you have options with asparagus:

for a dinner i like to plate the topped bread and just put some asparagus spears in an "oops this is so accidentally attractive!" pile.

for an appetizer, i lay a whole spear diagonally across each piece, on a serving platter, so it looks all pretty and creates a neat visual effect when all the pieces are in a row. if you wanna be fancy AND wasteful just use the asparagus tips in this way. enjoy while hot!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pasta with Garlic, White beans, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

This is a quick, easy, tasty vegetarian dinner. A great summer dish - we probably have it every other week. This is adapted from a vegetarian cookbook called: "Vegetarian Classics" by Jeanne Lemlin, a book we use a lot. Note: if you do not like garlic (is that possible??) do not try this dish. Sorry, no picture. I promise my next post will have a picture!

1 pound pasta (Barrilla Plus is recommended!! :o) Penne or Rigatoni or something like that
1/3 c. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 med zucchini
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes (petite-diced if possible)
1 (15 oz) can small white beans, like Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed well in a strainer
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. minced fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (or the Kraft stuff is okay if you don't have the other)

Before you start, get the water boiling for the pasta. Sometimes I even start the cooking when the water is boiling, right before I add in the dry pasta. The recipe goes quickly once the chopping is done.

1. Mince garlic. (Yes, use that much garlic! Don't skimp!) Cut the washed, unpeeled zucchinis lengthwise into 4 pieces and then slice crosswise, pretty thinly. You want them to be able to cook quickly.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet til medium hot or so. (We don't use non-stick, it's not needed at all here.)
3. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until it barely starts to get colored.
3.5. Almost forgot - add the crushed red pepper.
4. Then add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini starts to get crisp-tender, usually about 5 minutes.
5. Add the can of diced tomatoes with their juice (I think the smaller, petite diced tomatoes work best in this recipe.)
6. Add the white beans.
7. Add salt.
8. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, until a little thick (and until pasta is done cooking.) I like to mash up several of the white beans as I'm cooking this - I think it makes the sauce a little thicker.
9. Add sauce over the drained penne and mix.
10. Add basil and a small handfull of parm. cheese. (add more on the table)


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

6 - 3's ice cream

I saw our ice cream maker in the basement this morning, which made me think about homemade ice cream. And this recipe is what I always think of when I think of homemade ice cream. I remember making this at the farm when we'd go visit in the summer and sometimes at home for our neighborhood ice cream parties (back when we lived in Ottumwa - where Andy always wanted to go on vacation after we moved away. Anyone else remember that?? We'd have our family meeting to discuss where we might want to go on vacation that year and there'd be suggestions like North Carolina and Colorado. And Andy would always want Devil's Lake. When that got shot down (well, we did go there once), he'd suggest Ottumwa. Am I remembering that right???)

Summer and ice cream just go so well together. Ok, every other season, too. I love ice cream, it's my favorite dessert! Right after I finish typing this I think I'll go get that ice cream maker and freeze the bowl so we can make some of this soon.

Anyone else remember making this ice cream at the farm?

6 -3's Ice Cream

This makes 1 qt., for a small ice cream maker. The original recipe was 6 ingredients and 3 c. of the first ingredients and the juice of 3 lemons, etc. and made a lot (a large, old-fashioned ice cream maker's worth). (It also called for bananas instead of pineapple, but I don't know that I've ever had it with bananas - ever since I can remember our family has used pineapple). This recipe has also been adjusted by Grandma K. to be slightly less rich than the original recipe, but it is wonderful, so don't let that fool you!

1 3/4 c. milk

1/3 c. cream

3/4 c. sugar


1/3 c. orange juice

1 1/2 T. lemon juice (or a bit more)

3/4 c. crushed pineapple

1/4 c. corn syrup (also not in the original, but adds smoothness)

Mix in an ice cream maker. Add the fruit and juices after the milk, cream, and sugar is partially frozen.

Enjoy summer!

(note: picture from from their 6-3's recipe, which is the original, but is not as good as this family version. Really, it's pretty much white ice cream with little bits of pineapple, not much special to look at but awesome tasting. Who needs a picture, anyway?)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Barilla Plus pasta

I decided to write a "Product Review" post in case some of you haven't tried this pasta, though a recipe post will follow sometime soon. (And no, I was not paid to write this or given free product or anything like that.)

It would be fun if people posted some reviews on their favorite brands of certain food items. Possible examples: yogurt, olive oil, favorite 'convenience' food (including how you modify it to make it better, if you do), many other possibilities...


Have you ever tried (or been forced to try by your mothers) whole wheat pasta? Well, if you haven't, DON'T!!!!! It's terrible tasting, and the extra nutrition you end up getting is pretty minimal - something like 1g extra of fiber or something like that.

So I was a little hesitant to try Barilla Plus pasta, after all, it is MUCH healthier than normal pasta, not just 1g-extra-fiber-healthier. It has lots of protein, Omega-3s, and fiber. I actually don't remember how I heard about this pasta, but we've been eating it for a few years now. (so maybe all of you have already tried it too.)

It really tastes good! Actually, if you don't tell other people that you switched types of pasta, they may not even notice. The only differences that we noted were that 1) the texture is a little bit more substantial, just a little more al dente, which we really liked. You could probably overcook it to death if wimpy pasta is your thing (though probably not for those that read this blog. :) and 2) the pasta fills you up better (especially great for when Will was running 50 miles a week and I was eating for two - we couldn't keep food in the house then!)

I really couldn't notice any big difference in taste, at least nothing that I could put into words. I think I'd be able to tell the difference between regular pasta and Barilla plus, but mostly because the Barilla is somehow slightly more substantial and I like it better. Certainly it tastes a million times better than whole wheat pasta, the one time I forced myself to eat that.

Give it a try, it's good and good for you! (yes, I'm a mom now, so I have to care about the good-for-you stuff.)

Also, if you have Hy-Vee in your area, they make a Hy-Vee brand version - just as good and cheaper. It doesn't come in as many shapes, at least at our Hy-Vee, however.

Have you tried this pasta? What do you think? Comment below!