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Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

Fried Pumpkin Ravioli

Sometimes I think that nature gives us warm, sweet flavors that keep in storage from fall to winter to balance the chilly days until spring.  Winter squash and pumpkin have those comforting flavors, and I can’t resist enjoying them in not only pie but also in soup, bread, and even pasta.  Today let’s try pumpkin raviolis two ways:  regular and fried. For once, we’re going to short-cut the process by using wonton wrappers instead of homemade pasta dough, meaning you can have these little gems ready in a matter of minutes.  Serve them for appetizers, or make a whole bunch for a full meal.  The fried raviolis are great to pass at your Super Bowl gathering, or call them pumpkin pasties and serve them up for your next Harry Potter party.  No matter how you use them, they’ll be a tasty addition to your table.

Ingredients: makes about two dozen raviolis

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or winter squash purée (home made or canned)
  • 1-2 cloves roasted garlic), smashed (For great roasted garlic, bake garlic cloves, covered, at about 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Store in olive oil.  If you’re feeling really lazy, substitute 1/2-1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic).
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan (about 1-inch cube before grating)
  • tablespoon or two of ricotta for extra creaminess
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste (I confess:  I used a seasoning mix called Beaverfork Blend that I get through my Locally Grown network.)
  • pinch of dried sage
  • package of wonton wrappers

Mix together all of the ingredients except the egg roll wrappers.  Place an egg roll wrapper on your prep surface.  Put about a tablespoon of pumpkin mix slightly off center in the wrapper.  Using your finger, wet two adjoining edges of the wrapper.  Fold over the dry side of the wrapper, encasing the pumpkin mixture. Use a fork to gently crimp the dry edges to the wet edges.  Set the wrapper aside and repeat steps with more wrappers until you have as many ravioli as you want.

For traditional boiled ravioli, slide raviolis one at a time into rapidly boiling water. You can cook a few at a time, as long as you’re careful not to crowd the pot.  They’ll cook really quickly (in about a minute and a half).  Use a perforated spatula to lift raviolis from water one at a time, drain well, and serve tossed with butter, garlic, and parmesan, or make a quick creamy garlic cheese sauce from minced garlic lightly cooked in butter then cooked with cream and finished with a little cheese.

For fried ravioli, follow the same procedure as above, but instead of cooking in boiling water, heat several inches of a neutral oil that can take high heat to about 350 degrees to 375 degrees in a deep fryer or heavy Dutch oven.  (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can determine when the oil is ready by pressing the tip of a wooden spoon handle or chop stick directly in the bottom of the pan.  When little bubbles emanate from the tip as it’s pressed in, you’re ready to fry.) Slide each ravioli in the hot oil and let it fry on each side until golden brown.  The time will be quick–no more than two minutes.  Drain each ravioli and set aside to keep warm until you’re ready to serve.  Garnish with fresh chopped herbs like basil or sage or just a dusting of good parmesan.

Would you like magically quick, sweet pumpkin pasties instead?

Ingredients: makes about two dozen pumpkin pasties

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or winter squash purée (home made or canned)
  • tablespoon or two of ricotta for extra creaminess
  • pinch of ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • package of wonton wrappers

Follow directions for raviolis, using the fried version.  Dust finished pasties with powdered sugar.

Copyright, text and illustrations, 2011 by Ozarkhomesteader.


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Nothing smells like home-baked bread on a cold winter afternoon–or any time, now that I think about it!  Thank goodness making bread at home is easy and even quick, if you just leave the dough on its own as it rises (and why wouldn’t you?).  Today we’re going to make a remarkably soft but also hearty, healthy whole-wheat and oatmeal bread that makes great breakfast toast, super sandwiches, and even tasty croutons.  You can add walnuts or seeds for a bread fit for the Woodstock generation, or try using herbs or garlic to turn it into rustic supper rolls, as I did with a little of the dough the last time I made this bread.  You can even make fresh, hot homemade glazed doughnuts for breakfast and still have enough dough left for a good-sized loaf of the bread in the afternoon.

Bread is really easy , as long as you remember three keys for making good yeast bread.  The first key to baking any yeast bread is to remember that yeast is a living organism.  It’s going to be happiest (and help your bread rise best) if you start with fresh (live) yeast and wake it up in a nice warm (not hot) bath.  The second thing you need to know is that yeast likes to eat, but it doesn’t like to binge; keep your yeast feed slow.  The third key is remembering that wheat gluten is your friend when it comes to yeast bread.  Wheat gluten is the substance that helps build structure to work with all the gas produced by your happy yeast.  Put together happy yeast and wheat gluten, and you’ll have great homemade yeast bread.

Ingredients

Remember to use organic when you can!

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (comfortable for your skin)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (not quick cooking) rolled oats (a.k.a. oatmeal before steel-cut Irish oats and Scottish oats invaded the US)
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional:  if you don’t have flax seeds, try using another tablespoon of butter)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain oat flour (or just add another 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour if you don’t have oat; I keep both in my pantry, and the oat flour helps provide softness)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup wheat gluten (Gluten has gotten a really bad rap in recent years, but it’s a must if you want to make whole-grain bread and still get the flexibility that contributes to sustaining the rise.  Gluten, by the way, also raises the protein content of the bread, so if you’re not sensitive to it, use it!)
  • 1/2 cup more warm water (same as before–like a nice hot bath but not so warm that it hurts you or the yeast)

Begin by dissolving the yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (preferably 4-quart, although a 2.5 quart will work in a pinch).  You’re proofing the yeast.  If it’s good, in a few minutes you should have woken up your yeast, and they should have started making a foamy mess in your bowl.  That’s what we want to see!

Meanwhile, pour the 1 1/4 cup boiling water over the oatmeal.  I use a 2-cup heat-safe pyrex measuring cup for the oatmeal, and then I can just add everything else except the flour.

Next scald the milk by bringing it to the edge of a boil, until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pot.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, salt, and honey until they dissolve.  Add them to the oatmeal.

As soon as the oatmeal mixture reaches that good bath-water temperature, add the oatmeal to the yeast mixture in your really big bowl, add the flax seed, and start working in your flour, baking powder, and wheat gluten, alternating so that they all three get thoroughly mixed.  Knead the flour in until you think you can’t add more, then do the easy thing and add the last 1/2 cup warm water–yep, bathwater temperature again.  Knead a few minutes more, until all of the flour is incorporated.  Then cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to start rising.  Thanks to the extra water, it will keep developing the gluten on its own, without too much kneading from you.

For the next twenty-four hours or so, let the dough rise.  When you notice that it’s doubles, form your hand into a fist and slam it into the middle of the dough.  Punch it down.  Give it a few good kneads.  Re-cover it and walk away again.

When you’re ready to bake, you’ll need at least two hours with the dough.  Start by punching down and kneading the dough one last time.  Then put it in a warm (not hot), buttered bread loaf pan, 9×5.  (You can use an 8×4 if you’ve taken a bit out for other purposes–see below.)  Let it rise for an hour in a warm (not hot) place for an hour.  Start pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees F.  The dough is ready for the oven when an indentation you make with your finger still bounces back but just barely.  Put the dough in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  The bread is done when you knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.  Cool in the pan a few minutes and then cool on a rack.

The Bonus:  Rolls or Doughnuts!

Now, I happen to know that this dough makes an ample loaf, so ample in fact that you can pull out a bit of dough for something else and have enough left.  Let’s say that you start this bread Sunday afternoon.  How about if you take out dough about the size of two or three chicken eggs that very night?  Turn that into three dinner rolls, let rise for about an hour in a warm spot, and then bake them for dinner, about 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Or you can do what we did this morning, having started the dough yesterday.  Make doughnuts! Take out a scant 1/2 cup dough.  Add 1/2 a chicken egg (or one bantam egg), beaten with a sprinkle of sugar (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Knead it together until the egg is well incorporated.  You’ll have a very soft dough.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on a bread board and then pull out three or four balls of dough.  First form rounds, and either cut out the middle or use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through a hole and enlarge it.  Use flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Let the doughnuts rise for a half hour.  Heat oil of two or three inches to 350 to 375 degrees F in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot.  Drop doughnuts in one at a time and fry until almost done on one side, and then flip to the other side.  Remove, drain, and drizzle with glaze.  Glaze:  three tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and enough milk, by the drop, to make your glaze.  Take it slow with the milk and stir with every addition; you can easily go from not enough to too much.

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Every fall I am overwhelmed by a desire to surround myself by pumpkins and winter squashes, one of the most enduring symbols of autumn’s bounty.  Every year I make pumpkin soup.  Every year Mr. Homesteader eats the soup politely but, I must admit, not that enthusiastically.  Knowing his love of exotic flavors, I’ve tried lots of variations:  with cinnamon and sweetness, with ginger and curry, with southwestern flavors.  It was my most recent rendition of the perennial pumpkin soup, however, that won his heart and had him polishing off his soup in record time.  And it was the most basic I’ve ever made.  I present it to you here.  I know it’s basic, but he really thought it was good!

Pumpkin sizes vary so much and this recipe is so easy that I offer this recipe casually, with no precise measurements.  Begin by washing well and whacking in half one eating pumpkin or large winter squash.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Save those seeds, cleaned free of the flesh!  Roasted, they’ll make great healthy snacks with lots of good omega-3s. Bake the pumpkin halves in an 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, depending on size.  If you can cover the pumpkin, put just a couple of tablespoons in the cavities where the seeds were located. If baking uncovered, fill each cavity about 2/3 full.  After you’ve baked the pumpkin for 10 minutes, add one  clove of garlic, unpeeled, to the pan and let it roast with the pumpkin for the remaining 20 minutes.

Scoop the roasted flesh from the skin, letting it cool a bit to make sure you can get every last bit.  Cut off the tough end of the roasted garlic and squeeze it into a cooking pot with the pumpkin flesh.  Add a splash of chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock and a splash or two of cream and/or milk.  Blend everything with a stick blender, in a food processor, or in a stand blender, adding more cream or milk to get a smooth consistency.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Add a pinch each or so of finely ground cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and rubbed sage.  Heat gently and serve.

Does your family eat pumpkin soup?  Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe to share that you think Mr. Homesteader would like?  He’s mighty adventurous!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets are fair use, as long as you provide a full URL.


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Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.  Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots.  I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving.  The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father.  He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing.  It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing.  Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting.  (Sorry, Dad!)  That dressing is part of family legend.  So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.

As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question.  If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe.  For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs.  The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly.  We could cut it into neat slices.  (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.)    Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs.  Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent.  Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.

I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes.  I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations.  Will you help me to start that catalog?  You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways.  For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions.  You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings.  (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.)  You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!

1.  What’s the recipe?  This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).

2.  What consistency does the product have?  Can you slice it?  Do you spoon it?  Is it fluffy?  Can you see discrete pieces of bread?

3.  What do you call it?

4.  What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?

5.  What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking?  For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.

6.  Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region?  If so, from where are they?

7.  How long have you used this recipe?

I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do!  Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here.  Remember to include your food origins location!

Update, November 23, 2011:  Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving.  We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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squash blossom by Ozarkhomesteader

Tonight I wanted something light to go with open-faced chicken salad sandwiches.  I had beautiful fresh zucchini from the garden, babied through our first frost with a blanket.  I had cherry tomatoes but opted not to use them; instead I opened a can of organic diced tomatoes.  This soup is so simple but so good.  Add eggplant and you’d have ratatouille, but why not keep it simple for once?

Tomato-Zucchini Soup with fresh basil

serves 2-3

  • olive oil
  • about 1/3 sweet onion, sliced with the slices cut into strips about a half inch to inch long
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • two medium-sized zucchinis, cut into slices (or quartered lengthwise and then sliced if the zucchini is a bit bigger)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, scant two cups
  • optional:  parmesan rind
  • splash of cream
  • finely shredded fresh basil, about 5-6 medium-sized leaves (okay to use dried, but it will change the flavor, and you’ll need to add it with the tomatoes)
  • salt to taste

Sauté the onions in a bit of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot, like a small Dutch oven.  After the onion starts to soften and color, add the garlic and zucchini.  Sauté until you get a little color on the zucchini.  Add the diced tomatoes and about 3/4 cup water and simmer for about 20 minutes, letting the zucchinis soften a little.  If you have a parmesan rind, feel free to toss it in during the simmering.  Now add the splash of cream and the finely shredded basil.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.

Do you have a favorite simple soup, either for the remains of Indian summer or for winter warmth?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photograph.

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I have a confession:  I like pimento cheese. I still consider pimento cheese a treat.  Unfortunately, I know that, even made with natural ingredients, it’s not good for me.  Thank goodness for red pepper pesto, which provides all of the great pimento cheese taste with none of the guilt.

red pepper pesto on whole-grain penne

For those of you who aren’t Southern, let me begin by explaining the concept of pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is an obscenely orange creation made of grated yellow cheddar, canned pimento peppers, and mayonnaise or even Miracle Whip.  When I was growing up, you could find it most often served at ladies’ luncheons where women wore fancy hats and drank sherbet punch, student piano recitals where parents eagerly awaited their child’s labored key plunking, and non-catered wedding receptions, where loving friends of the bride and groom decked out the church fellowship hall or local women’s club with crepe paper bells and garlands and tissue paper roses.  The pimento cheese at these events manifest itself spread on white bread that had been cut into shapes like playing card symbols (hearts, diamonds) and seasonal critters and emblems (turkeys, stars) and then made into sandwiches, sans crusts of course. I actually looked forward to events where I could anticipate pimento cheese.  When I moved north for school, I craved pimento cheese as a taste of comfort food from home.  I finally found it in a small grocery store in a predominantly African-American neighborhood populated with–you guessed it–Southern expatriates.

But that was then, and even though I’m back in pimento cheese territory now, instead I feast on red pepper pesto with gusto but no guilt.

Red Pepper Pesto

Begin by broiling 3 sweet pimento peppers, turning regularly until the skin starts to separate from the peppers all over.  Yes, you can use something other than pimento, but pimentos have a special flavor.  I used sheep-nosed pimentos, fresh from the garden.  Take the peppers out of the broiler and while still piping hot, put them in a lidded glass container and set them aside for a few minutes.  Then slip off the skins, rinsing if you need to get the skins off.  Clean up the seeds and membranes inside too.

Now comes the pesto part.  Chop the peppers to get the process started.  Then using a food processing, mortar and pestle, or hand blender, blend the peppers with a tablespoon or more of good olive oil, until you get a nice paste.  Add less than half an ounce of finely grated real parmesan cheese and combine.  Add salt to taste.  That’s the basic version.

If you’d like a little more kick, add a mashed roasted garlic clove or a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts or herbs.

This pesto is great on toast points, crostini, scrambled eggs, or as a pasta sauce.  It’s tasty warm or cold.

Are you a fan of pimento cheese?  What childhood favorite have you converted to a more sophisticated, adult treat?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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