Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quinoa burgers

Quinoa burgers with tomato jam
Have you noticed how quinoa is freakin' everywhere lately?

It's the new new thing.

And apparently rightly so, given the recent bruhaha over arsenic levels in rice. Not to mention all the research that tells us a diet without a lot of white rice and pasta might help us all to be a little less ... well ... how shall we say ... fluffy?

So bring on the quinoa!

I like quinoa because it's not too grainy or health-food-storish, like bulgur (oy, I tried to like bulgur because Bittman says I should, but I just can't deal with it). I can almost pretend quinoa is pasta.


I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical when I tried this recipe for quinoa "burgers." My experience has been that grain-based veggie patties tend to fall apart when you try to flip them in a frying pan. Which is why, frankly, I didn't even buy burger buns when I made these; I just figured I'd call them "fritters" or "hash" and be done with it.

But --- ha cha cha! -- wouldn't you know it? They stayed in one piece! A real patty!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sweet potato bisque (Secret Recipe Club)

Sweet potato bisque with homemade seasoned croutons -- a perfect (and easy) soup for fall.

Sweet potato bisque with homemade seasoned croutons
Sweet potato bisque

It's time for another recipe from the Secret Recipe Club (SRC)!

Here's how the SRC works: each month I am assigned another member's blog (a different one each month). I then pick any recipe from that blogger's site, make it and write about it here. There's also a link hop at the end of the post so that I (and you) can check out all the other participating blogs.

I think fate intervened in my assignment this month. Imagine my delight when I headed over to Fran's Favs and found that I was to pick a recipe from a self-described "Italian foodie." That makes two of us!

It's always hard to pick just one recipe from an archive as big as Fran's but, with fall coming on, I gravitated toward the soups and one in particular caught my eye: sweet potato bisque.

Unlike Fran, whose folks were both great cooks (her dad even co-owned a restaurant, lucky girl!), I didn't grow up in a "we-love-to-cook" household -- more of a "we-need-to-cook-to-survive" household, with occasional lapses for holidays (that's when the big Italian recipes came out of hiding) or my dad's specialty: homemade pizza.  All of this means that, after only really learning to cook in my late 20s,  I came very, very late to the homemade soup party.

But once I armed myself with an immersion blender, there was no holding me back. Now I'm practically the Soup Nazi himself: mushroom, cream of asparagus, peanut, stracciatella, pumpkin, turnip, cauliflower ... the list goes on.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tomato jam

Tomato jam
Nature is fickle indeed.

Especially in the garden.

Last year, I had greens that just wouldn't quit: kale, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, chard -- I was practically overwhelmed. But tomatoes and cucumbers? They either fizzled out or were attacked by bugs and blight early in the season.

This year? My bok choy succumbed before I got even one leaf, the Giant Fordhook chard never made it past 8 inches and the deer ate my kale (and the chard, but they seemed to prefer the kale this year, the little bastards). But tomatoes and cucumbers? I had to give away bag after bag of cucumbers, because one can only make so many freakin' pickles.

And I've put up or used up tons and tons of tomatoes.

So far, I have made tomato sauce, slow-roasted tomatoes and marinated dehydrated tomatoes, as well as frozen countless bags of tiny, perfect Sun Golds, which will reappear in ragus and bisques throughout the winter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Soft molasses cookies

Soft molasses cookies
I've made the transition to fall -- even though I've still got tomatoes and green beans aplenty in the garden.

I love fall, especially fall in New England, and all the season-changing promise it brings with it: beautiful foliage, crisp apples, cool days, even cooler nights and, of course, cider.

There's something about having just one cool, crisp day -- a day in which a jacket is not optional when you go outside -- that instantly puts summer away for me and makes me focus on fall.

My taste buds seem to change instantly as well. I'm no longer craving tomato salads and lobster rolls; instead, I'm thinking about how many ways I can cram spicy sausage and kale into a casserole or hearty pasta dish.

And that's just on the savory side. When fall arrives, I say move over soft lemon cookies, we need something spicier.

Like soft molasses cookies!

These cookies are quintessentially "cookies" to me. I mean, I think if I had to pick a cookie to define cookies in a visual dictionary or to explain what a cookie is to someone from another planet, I'd pick these. The way they look, the way they taste -- simple and classic.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fauxsotto: an original recipe

It's not that often that I can say I'm sharing a fully original recipe with you.

I'm creative in the kitchen -- just not quite that creative. Yet.

But today, this one is all mine. And I'm really excited to share it with you because it meets my highest recipe criteria: wicked easy and wicked good.

Like many people, I love risotto but rarely ever make it because I can't be bothered with all that standing around and stirring. (I do have one baked risotto recipe up my sleeve that works like a dream -- it's on my to-do list to share with you, if I manage to get some photos of it the next time I make it.)

But I didn't set out to create my own risotto recipe or anything. I just reserve it as an order-in-a-restaurant-where-someone-gets-paid-to-stir treat.

But then I stumbled across a taste combination that got me thinking about making and easy risotto.

(Or fauxsotto, which I'm sure you figured out by now.)

It started innocently enough with a conversation with my sister-in-law, who was telling me about a bed-and-breakfast she stayed in in which the proprietors had created a Japanese inn-style ambience, including a traditional breakfast of raw eggs cracked into hot rice and mixed with some soy sauce. (According to Google, this is called tamago kake gohan in Japanese.) Using the same principle as spaghetti carbonara, the hot rice cooks the egg and gives it a nice creamy consistency.

Since I love a savory breakfast more than a sweet one, this really piqued my interest.

So one morning I gave it a try.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to make all kinds of pickles (or, the Pickling Ninjipedia)

Pickled golden beets
I'm taking a little bit of a different approach to my entry this month for Grow It Cook It Can It's Cook It! 2012 challenge. (If you've been playing along at home, you know that we have already tackled pasta, bread, butter, cheese, lactofermented veg, jam and canned fruit -- wow, that's a lot, isn't it?!)

You see, the challenge for this month is to make pickles.

If you are a regular reader of The Ninj, you know this is like saying, "This month's challenge is to breath."

I'm a pickle junkie and feel I have already given you more than your fair share of pickle musings this year. So I didn't want to subject everyone to simply one more post on how to make pickles.

Therefore, perhaps cheatingly, for the Challenge, I'm giving you a sampling post: that is, I'm summarizing my pickling escapades all in one place. Let's call it the Ninjipedia of pickling.

(Oh man, I supah like that one!)

Pickles, pickles, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lemon zucchini cookies

Lemon zucchini cookies
Today, all my friends are posting pictures of their kids' first day back to school, my dogs have nearly stopped their seemingly constant shedding and I had to wear my Ugg slippers to sit out on the porch this morning.

I guess it's official.

Summer is over.

Although not quite over in the garden, I'm happy to report. Knock on wood, my tomatoes have been spared both bugs and blight this year and are producing almost more than I can eat or freeze, the green beans continue to proliferate, I'm giving away bags of cucumbers on a near-daily basis and the kale is plentiful.

So let's have one last huzzah for summer veg, shall we?

And what typifies summer veg better than the ubiquitous zucchini?

And who better than The Ninj to put it in a cookie?