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Archive for the ‘cast iron’ Category

Over the past week, a pile of tomatoes accumulated on our kitchen counter.  They were tasty and ripe, but a lot of them were also ugly.  Some of them had split, while others had fallen victim to tiny predators, which took bites out of each tomato and moved on to the next.  I didn’t have quite enough tomatoes to justify a canning session, but I had to use the tomatoes before they went bad.  I’d just cut off the parts that had already been compromised.  I needed a recipe for a pile of tomatoes, something other than marinara sauce.

Regular readers may recall that I fell in love with the concept behind the cookery school at Ballymaloe, an Irish estate.  Ballymaloe focuses on using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.  Studying at the school is not in my budget, but buying Darina Allen’s cookbook was, as I described in April.  Since I got the book, I’ve used it as much for tips on breaking down whole chickens as I have for the recipes, but a recipe for tomato and pecorino tarte tatin caught my attention as I contemplated my pile of ugly tomatoes.  I ended up using Allen’s idea–baked tomato in a nice crust–rather than the recipe, so what I present here is my adaption, a right-side-up pie rather than an upside-down tarte tatin.  This tart makes a rich side dish with a light dinner but can also be an appetizer on its own or a tasty leftovers breakfast.  And you can make it without heating up your house if you use your toaster oven.

Filling Ingredients for an 8-inch cast iron pan

  • 1/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 5-6 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably a mix of paste and slicing tomatoes; okay to use cherries too, but they’re a lot harder to peel!
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • optional:  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (okay to use the yellow onion, but then your pie won’t be quite as pretty)
  • tiny bit of olive oil
  • 2-3 slicing tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 ounces manchego or other sweet, hard cheese, like a dry, aged cheddar
  • several fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
  • optional but really tasty!:  handful or two of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • flour for rolling

Begin by sauteing the chopped onion in the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot (e.g. aluminum-bottomed stainless steel) while you prep the chopped tomatoes.  When the onions just barely start to caramelize, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, and sugar.  Cook uncovered over low heat, simmering until the tomato and onion mixture is reduced to about 1/3 or even 1/4 of its original volume.  The consistency should be like jam, close to tomato paste.

Meanwhile, roast the thinly sliced red onion with a little oil in your 8-inch cast iron pan for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Set aside the roasted, now caramelized onions.  We’re going to need the pan.

You can make the pie crust while the tomato jam cooks down and the red onions roast.  Put the flour mixed with with salt and leavening and cold, cut butter in a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter or fork.  Once you’ve cut in the butter, creating a mealy mixture, mix in the toasted pine nuts, breaking them with the pastry cutter.  Now stir in the yogurt, just until you’ve formed the dough. Do not overwork pastry dough! Wrap the dough and chill for a few minutes.  When the tomato jam is ready, flour a clean surface and roll out about 2/3 of the dough and use it to line your 8-inch cast iron pan.  (Save the rest of the dough, well wrapped, in the refrigerator.  We’re going to use it for sweet apple turnovers!) Pre-bake the crust at about 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, covering the crust loosely with aluminum foil to keep it from over-browning in the toaster oven.

Now let’s fill!  Using a fine grater or even a microplane, grate a thin layer of cheese over the baked crust.  Spoon on about 1/2 of the tomato jam.  Add a the slices from one tomato and a little more cheese.  Put on a little more tomato jam, add more slices, and then sprinkle on the roasted onions.  Add more tomato slices, the basil, a little more jam, and the rest of the cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, covering loosely with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.  Let cool briefly and then slice and serve.

Would you like to make a 10-inch tart instead?  Simply prepare 50% more of all of the filling ingredients and use all of the pastry dough.

Do you have a favorite savory vegetable pie that you make or had somewhere?  What do you do with your ugly tomatoes?

 

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.

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You can make just about anything in an outdoor Dutch oven that you can make in an oven in the house.  Yesterday I roasted a whole chicken from Falling Sky Farm with rosemary, garlic, and lemons in a 12-quart Dutch oven in the back yard.  The process is so simple that I hesitate to post it, but I know some readers would like to do more Dutch oven cooking, so here goes.

Make a brine of 1 cup salt, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 cup sugar, heated and dissolved in water, with enough additional water and/or ice to completely cover your chicken.  Drop in several crushed juniper berries and twigs of rosemary. Be sure to use a non-reactive pot–no cast iron, aluminum, or plastic for this stage.  Brine the bird at least 24 hours.

Remove the bird from the brine and discard the brine mixture, rosemary, etc.  Stuff the bird with more fresh rosemary, 2-4 cloves of sliced garlic, and about half a lemon.  Season the bird’s skin with a little more salt and pepper.  Now you’re ready to roast!

 

seasoned, uncooked chicken

 

Start charcoal, preferably using a chimney with the bottom loaded with newspaper to avoid having to use lighter fluid. (Ick!)  Get the coals hot.  Put the chicken in a lightly greased outdoor Dutch oven, either by itself or with potatoes as we did.  Add the lid.  Put the Dutch oven on top of about 8-12 coals.  Add more coals to the top.  Rotate the whole oven *and* the lid every 15 minutes or so.  Your chicken will roast in an hour to an hour and a half, depending on size.  You may need to add coals as you go, so do keep an eye on whether you’ll need to fire up some more.

 

Dutch oven with lid lifter inserted

 

Be sure not to let ashes in the Dutch oven when you rotate the lid!

Our 5-pound chicken roasted for an hour and a half, and it was definitely over the minimum safe temperature of 165-170 degrees F. It was also incredible juicy, with super rosemary and garlic flavor, all thanks to roasting in the Dutch oven.  And our house stayed sooooo nice and cool!  I wish I had a food stylist on staff to make it clear how gorgeous this bird was, but I’ll trust that you’ll give the recipe a try and decide for yourself.

Oh–do you see that juice in the bottom?  It’s the incredibly flavorful base for gravy.  Let everything cool a few minutes; then remove the bird and veggies to rest.  Whisk a little potato flour or whole-wheat pastry flour into the juices. Heat to boiling with a little sherry and let thicken.  Serve on the side.  Do be careful–this mixture includes the brine and may already be a little salty for some folks.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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I can’t get enough of summer fruit.  Every day I gorge on melons and berries, knowing that their days in my farmers’ market and garden are limited.  It’s peaches, though, that not only make me know it’s summer but that also take me back to my roots.  There simply is nothing in the world like a ripe, fresh, juicy peach.  I eat a lot of them fresh, but it’s cobbler that makes me think of family.

Some day, I’ll part with my Georgia grandmother’s recipe for peach cobbler, which in fact is a deep-dish pie with a crunchy crust that you dish out with a big spoon.  Some day, I said.  Not today. Today I’ll give you the quicker, easier but still incredibly tasty version that I make for our smaller, slightly more health-conscious family.  We’re going to make it in a cast-iron skillet for ideal caramelization.  The topping, based on part of my grandmother’s cobbler pastry recipe, is amazingly simple (equal parts butter, sugar, and flour), and you will no doubt find its formula useful for sprinkling on muffins and coffee cake as well as cobblers.

For an 8-inch cast iron skillet you’ll need:

  • 4-5 ripe, large peaches
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons (or less) sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch or 2 or 3 of nutmeg

For a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or deep pie pan) you’ll need:

  • 6-8 ripe, large peaches
  • 3 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tablespoons (or less) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch or 2 or 3 of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Begin by peeling the peaches and removing the pits.  I do this by slicing the peaches in quarters first.  Then slice the peaches into 8 pieces each.  Toss with the first sugar and flour listed.  Put them in your cast iron skillet or pie pan after making sure that your baking vessel is well-buttered.

Next cut the chilled butter into the larger quantities of sugar and flour using a pastry cutter or just a fork.  Just be sure to keep the butter cold; we’re not making cookie dough, and the resulting mixture should retain discrete tiny pieces of butter encapsulated by flour and sugar.  Sprinkle in the nutmeg.  Crumble the butter mixture on top of the peaches and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, until the  peaches are bubbly and the top is golden brown and crusty.  Serve with a small scoop of real vanilla ice cream on top. Mmmmmmm.

Peach-Blueberry Cobbler

Peach-blueberry cobbler:  Add fresh or frozen blueberries on top of the peaches.

Peach-bramble cobbler:  Add blackberries on top of the peaches.  I think this is my favorite variation!

Blackberry cobbler:  You got it–go all blackberries.  Try a pinch of allspice in the blackberries or a splash of lime juice and/or zest.

Blueberry cobbler (for Leigh):  You may want a bottom pie crust for this variation.

Fall Variations:

Apple cobbler: Use apples (a bit more thinly sliced than the peaches) with cinnamon mixed in with the apples and cinnamon and a tiny pinch of allspice with the nutmeg in the topping.  You could also add cranberries for a really festive touch, but first chop them and toss them with more sugar, as they are very tart.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  For all other uses, contact me.

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Regular readers know I’m all about using what we grow here, in season.  Fortunately, some foods stay seasonal months after you’d think possible, such as the butternut squash that I picked in early November and kept in a cool room for winter, preserving it for our use last night.  For dinner we ate roasted  butternut squash, beets, onions, leeks, and shittake mushrooms served with Italian sausage and a sprinkling of goat cheese over a bed of whole-wheat fusilli pasta, cooked al dente.  The roasted butternut squash and goat cheese almost melted in the pasta to create a creamy, chunky, buttery sauce.  The beets provided glorious color and a caramelized sweetness.  Fresh herbs and Italian sausage rounded out the dish.   As always, we went organic with everything we could–in this case, everything.

Here’s what we used; you could change quantities to fit what you have on hand.

  • 2-3 large freshly dug beets, rough parts peeled off and quartered
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 leek bottoms, cleaned (sliced lengthwise) and sliced across the grain
  • optional:  1  small, sweet onion, quartered and sliced (if you don’t have leeks)
  • 1 teaspoon or so finely chopped or dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano but probably not basil for this dish)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • optional:  splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup or more of shittake mushroom tops, halved and then sliced  (other mushrooms will work too, but you may want to alter the roasting time)
  • 1/3 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 sweet or hot Italian pepper (ours came from our garden by way of the freezer), sliced
  • optional:  red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 – 1 dry cup whole-wheat fusilli pasta (or other hearty curly pasta that will retain its character in the face of other flavors)

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.  (You could go to 400 degrees F, but only if you are using more, smaller beets, and then you’ll need to reduce total roast time to 20 minutes.)  Lightly coat the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil and butter.  (I used cast iron–big surprise, right?)  Spread on your beets, squash, leeks and onions, toss them with the herbs, a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, and, if desired, the balsamic vinegar.  (You can also save this ingredient for later or leave it out altogether.)  Roast these vegetables for 20 minutes and then add the shittake mushrooms and roast for 10 more minutes.  Meanwhile, brown the Italian sausage and crumble or slice it and then keep it warm with the red pepper slices.  Pump up the heat with red pepper flakes if you want more spice.  As the sausage and peppers cook, prepare the pasta in boiling water.  Everything should be ready at about the same time–approximately 35 minutes after you started prepping the vegetables.  Put the drained fusilli in bowls and then add the sausage with peppers and the roasted vegetables, tossed with balsamic vinegar if you didn’t use it earlier.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top.  As you eat, the goat cheese and butternut squash will start to meld with the pasta.

Vegetarian option:  substitute seasonal beans or seasoned garbanzo beans for the sausage!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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We’ve had more unseasonably cool weather.  Today the temperatures struggled to get out of the 50s F, when ordinarily we’d be at least 80 degrees F for the daytime high.  These cool temperatures make me rethink both kitchen and garden.  Tonight for dinner, for instance, I served up a variation on Thanksgiving, with my treasured frozen turkey stock enriching both dressing and gravy, chicken leg quarters roasted with rosemary and apple cider (see below), green beans with onions and crumb topping, and cranberries cooked with apple cider and maple sugar.  Ordinarily at this time of year, I wouldn’t be heating up the house with this much cooking, but the cool temperatures made it the frugal thing to do.  I worked on cleaning out the freezer at the same time.  And oh my stars, the whole house smells like rosemary and roasted poultry now!

In the garden temperatures like these make me wonder if I could plant another crop of lettuce.  I know it’s risky, so I content myself that if I cut off the heads of some leaf lettuce and they grow back, we’ll have more than enough lettuce until hot temps make that crop untenable.  I checked NOAA.  Are we in a La Nina pattern now?  I can’t tell.  La Nina could change all of my garden plans, bringing extended spring to Arkansas summer.

Weather is why agriculture has always been a gamble and always will be a gamble.  If you want to feed yourself (or a nation), you must always be prepared for the unexpected.

Roasted Rosemary Chicken Quarters

  • 2-3 chicken quarters, skin on
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 sweet onion, cut into slivers
  • 1/2-1 cup apple cider (or 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 cup cider if you want to make gravy–see option below involving potato flour and whole-grain pastry flour)

Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees F.  Salt and pepper the skin side of the chicken quarters.  Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a cast iron pan (with lid!) that’s big enough to hold your leg quarters, tightly.  Brown the skin side of each quarter over medium-high heat, salting and peppering the non-skin side as you brown the other side.  When the quarters are browned, turn off the heat, put the quarters non-skin side down on top of the rosemary sprigs.  Spread the onions on top.  Pour on the apple juice (and cider, if you want), and put on the lid.  Bake for about an hour.  The recipe is so simple, but the flavor and moisture in the chicken could not be much simpler.

Gravy Option

If you want to make gravy with what’s in the pan, toss 1 tablespoon potato flour with about 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour with the onion slivers before you put them on the chicken.  Toss on the flour mixture with the onions.  When you pour on the cider, be sure to pour it over the onions, so that you moisten the flour.  By the time you get done cooking, you’ll have gravy.  Seriously, the gravy really is going to make itself.

By the way, this chicken works really well in a Dutch oven for camping!  I won a Dutch-oven cookoff last fall with a similar recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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Previously I posted a recipe for a traditional pizza with a whole-grain crust.  Today’s recipe is a deep-dish pizza in a cast-iron fry pan, although you could use a standard pie pan if you want.  I was inspired to create this pizza after we got some great local shiitake mushrooms and some wonderful tomatoes for slicing along with really good raw milk cheddar.  The dough produces a consistence much more like bread than the previous recipe that I posted, thanks to more gluten and a little oil.

Begin by making the dough, so it can rise while you prep everything else.

The Dough

  • 1 tablespoon yeast (less, like a teaspoon, if you have all day for the dough to rise–if you want pizza in an hour or two, use the full amount)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons wheat gluten
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of salt and/or Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
  • optional:  dried oregano, thyme, and rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, at about  bath-water temperature.  If it feels like good bath-water to you, the yeast will like the temperature too.  Let the yeast hang out in their bath for a few minutes and then add the remaining ingredients.  You can make this dough in no time if you use a food processor, but your hands will work fine too.  In a food processor, you know you’re done when the dough forms into a ball.  Do not over-process!  Now put the dough in a well-oiled bowl more than twice as big as the dough ball, cover lightly, and set aside until the dough is almost doubled.

Toppings

  • Canadian bacon (we used nitrite-free turkey bacon), cut into quarters
  • thickly sliced shiitake mushrooms, 1-2 cups
  • thinly sliced tomatoes, at least 2 tomatoes–you could also use one can of good tomatoes, drained, whole so you can slice them yourself, otherwise the chunkier the better
  • mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese, about 2-3 ounces, shredded

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Clean and slice the shiitake mushrooms.  In a 10-inch cast iron skillet on the stove top, lightly brown the mushrooms in a little olive oil to release some of the mushrooms’ liquid.  Now remove the mushrooms, add a little more oil, and lay the tomato slices out evenly across the skillet.  Bake the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes to get them to release their liquid.  Turn off the oven if you want.  Now remove the skillet from the oven, set aside the tomatoes (drink any juice they leave!), re-oil the skillet, and let it cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, flatten out the dough ball on a lightly floured surface, until the dough is about ten or eleven inches around.  Let the dough rest and rise a bit more while the cast iron skillet cools so that you can comfortably touch it.  Now gently fold the dough in half and transfer it to the skillet and spread it to within a half inch or so from the edge. Preheat the oven to 450 degree F now while the dough rises in the skillet.  Once the dough is puffy again, put the skillet in the oven and let the dough bake by itself for about 15 minutes on the upper oven rack.

Take out the skillet and add the toppings, starting with the meat, then a tiny bit of cheese, then the mushrooms, then most of the cheese, then the tomatoes, then the rest of the cheese and Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil). Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F and bake the pizza for about 15 minutes on the top rack again, until the top is browned.  Check for overly juicy tomatoes periodically.  Should the tomatoes still be producing juice, you can lift the edge of the pizza to let the tomato juice drain underneath.  It will start to bake off as soon as the juice hits the hot skillet, and it’ll give your crust a nice flavor too. Let the pizza cool for a few minutes to help the cheese set up, and then cut the pizzainto wedges using a bread knife or pizza wheel–or both, as we did, using a wheel for the middle and the bread knife for the edges.  Eat and enjoy!

Of course, you can choose any toppings that you want, but we think heartier toppings work best with such a thick crust.  Some of the Chicago pizzerias where deep dish originated use a whole disk of cooked sausage as the base of toppings.  You can even get seafood in a garlicky white sauce with few or no tomatoes.

Do you make deep-dish pizza at home?  What are your favorite toppings?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please ask for permission to use photographs.

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I guess if I had to explain this recipe inspiration, I’d say it’s the dried figs and bleu cheese sitting in my fridge and the chicken in my freezer.  I’ve been getting a tangy, creamy bleu cheese (blue cheese) from a Minnesota creamery that rivals European bleus.  The figs are organic but, sadly, all the way from California.  The pasture-raised chicken came from Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, Arkansas.  All of the ingredients are available either certified organic or, like the chicken, organically raised without certification.  Together the ingredients meld into an elegant dish that might work for date night.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or less–the figs already make this dish sweet)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • seasoning:  salt, pepper, dried oregano
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed (We thought 4, sliced, was too much.)
  • 6 dried figs, cut into bite-sized pieces and soaked in 1/4 cup brandy or marsala (non-alcohol alternative:  use 2 tablespoons of apple juice and 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar)
  • 2 ounces of crumbled bleu cheese (alternative:  try goat cheese!)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pound the chicken breast between plastic wrap until it is thinned to be about double its non-pounded size.  Lightly sprinkle on salt, pepper, and dried oregano on the inside.  Spread the fig pieces (save the brandy or marsala!), crumbled bleu cheese, crushed garlic and walnuts over about half of the chicken breast.  Roll up the chicken sushi-style, stuffed side first, and position it in the baking pan with the seam on the underside.  I used a 2-quart Dutch oven and was able to push the ends of the roll into the pan sides, helping to hold in the bleu cheese. Lightly sprinkle the outside with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  If any figs fell out during the rolling process, put them in the pan too.

Mix together the mustard, honey, red wine vinegar, and brandy or marsala left over from soaking the figs.  Spread half of the mixture over the top of the rolled-up chicken.  Reserve the rest for basting.

Bake chicken in a 325 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, basting every 5 or 10 minutes while the chicken bakes.  Cut the chicken on an angle into 2 or 3 servings.

I served this chicken with a hearty whole-wheat roll a big salad of mesclun and grated radish and carrots.

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