Wild Ginger

recipes for pleasure and nurishment


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Thai Basil Stir Fry

Even if I have nothing else in the garden, I have 2-4 Japanese (sometimes called Ichiban) Eggplant plants and as much Thai Basil as possible. If I can find them, I buy basil plants, and I also use seeds. In this way, I can increase the number of weeks I can have this amazing basil.

We have some variation of Thai Basil stir fry at least once a week, and this is NOT a hardship.

For a stir fry, I cut items the same size, both for cooking time, looks, and for texture. Then, I add veg in order of cooking time.

For the sauce, I like a good mix of salty, sweet, and sour, and a nice kick from freshly grated ginger or galangal (I keep these in the freezer and grate as needed–no need to peel off skin).

This year, the garden is sparse and I did not find any basil plants. My seeds did sprout, and this first harvest was small but much desired and just enough to taste.

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Sauce Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, also called sushi vinegar

1/4 cup mirin

1/8 cup sugar or other sweetener

1 fresh garlic clove or the equivalent of garlic powder

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger or galangal

optional: 1-2 teaspoons of Huy Fong Sambal Oelek Chili Paste (found in most grocery stores)

It is important to taste the sauce as you mix to get the right balance or sweet and tanginess and not too much saltiness. I rarely measure and often tweak the sauce, as the garlic and ginger are the wildcards in potency.

Veg and Meat (can easily be meatless) Ingredients:

Lightly coat pan with a neutral oil

2-3 Thin slices of thin sliced pork loin chops

2-3 small Japanese eggplants, or other smaller varieties, sliced

1 small white or yellow onion, sliced

1-2 small, sweet red, orange, and/or yellow bell peppers, sliced

1-2 cups fresh Thai Basil leaves (if you must, you can use regular sweet basil, but it will taste very different). I leave in parts of the stem and the flowers for crunch and flavor

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Recipe: 

Cook pork until just barely done and remove.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and add eggplant. This needs to cook more than the other veg. These should be thin slices and should cook about 5-6 minutes on medium to high. Stir as you fry.

Add onions and peppers and stir fry for 2 minutes.

Add pork and sauce. One more minute. Just to heat through and coat everything. It will not be a sauce that thickens.

Turn of heat and stir in fresh Thai Basil leaves.

Serve with Jasmine rice, fresh spring rolls (if you can wing them), and fresh melon and berries.

Enjoy!

melon and berries, with sweet basil.jpg

 


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Tale of Two Spring Clafoutis

Tomorrow is May 1, and the yard is alive and blooming. The tulips are finishing up their color run, lilacs are in suspended animation, about to fully bloom, the peonies are standing tall and have the smallest buds showing, and the rhubarb is lush and spreading.

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Spring yard, with rhubarb patch in the top left corner

Today is gray, with chilly, cloudy weather and the recent loss of my mother. It is a good day to turn on the oven and lose myself in baking. While I never knew my mom to make clafouti, I know she loved rhubarb and sweet cherries, and I have both of those in abundance.

When we moved to our house, we brought rhubarb from Aaron’s family garden, which has been feeding the family for five generations now.

 

My go-to recipes for these two varieties of clafoutis: Emma Christensen’s Roasted Rhubarb Clafouti from the Kitchn and Christine Gallary’s Cherry Clafoutis (Clafouti) on Chowhound. For the most part, I followed the basic bones of the recipes and adjusted for taste. Roasting the rhubarb is an extra step and it is worth it.

Roasted Rhubarb and Mandarine Orange Clafouti

Preheat the oven to 350° F, serves 4-6

Ingredients:

–Rhubarb

2 cups rhubarb, cut into two inch pieces
2 Tbsp Sugar in the Raw
Juice from 1 mandarine orange

Butter to coat pan

–Clafouti batter

1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk (I used half and half, as that is what I had on hand)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon orange zest
pinch of salt

Recipe:

Oven at 350° F for the roasting and the baking.

Mix rhubarb with sugar and orange juice and spread in single layer on a cookie sheet. Or, simply use the pan (8×8″ baking dish or 9″ pie pan) in which you will cook the clafouti. Cook about 20 minutes, until rhubarb is soft, and cool.

Arrange cooled rhubarb in single layer at the bottom of the pan.

 

Whisk eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk in milk. Whisk in flour, orange zest, and salt.

Pour batter over rhubarb and bake 35-40 minutes (350° F), until golden brown, puffed, and edges are pulling away from the side. You can also feel the center to see if it is set.

Like a soufflé or a Dutch Baby, it will fall. It is softer when warm and very creamy. It is a more dense custard as it cools. It is good warm, room temp, or cold from the fridge.

Good for dessert or breakfast or whenever you need a bite.

My other ingredient comes just once a year to Aldi, Dark Morello Cherries, and I bought four jars, which I am now regretting. I should have bought a case. These are actually sour cherries in sweet syrup, and they work really, really well in this recipe.

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Dark Morello Cherries from Aldi

Dark Cherry Clafouti

Preheat the oven to 375° F, serves 6-8

Ingredients:

–Cherries

12 ounces of Dark Morello Cherries (or use fresh sweet cherries. Any other stone fruit would work, like peaches or plums)

Butter to coat pan

–Clafouti batter

3 large eggs at room temp
1 cup whole milk at room temp (I used half and half)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (the original called for 1/2 cup, but the cherries are sweet enough)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 375° F and use butter to grease the pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with the cherries (or other fruit).

Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, and salt until sugar and salt have dissolved. Whisk in flour until most of the lumps are gone (do not worry about small lumps).

Pour over cherries

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown, puffed, and pulling away from the edges. The middle should be mostly set.

Like a soufflé or a Dutch Baby, it will fall. It is softer when warm and very creamy. It is a more dense custard as it cools. It is good warm, room temp, or cold from the fridge.

Good for dessert or breakfast or whenever you need a bite.

If I was not taking the rhubarb clafouti to work, I’d have trouble deciding which one to try. My six year-old had a couple cherries before the baking, but for his sample, he went for the custardy parts.

Enjoy!


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Confettii Basmati

This post is short and sweet, just like the dinner. It is all about leftovers and garden veggies, which is always a priority for us during the summer months. Earlier in the week, we had Indian Stew (a variation of the Moroccan Stew), and I made extra basmati rice. In an attempt to clean out the fridge and use up our garden veggies, I pulled out the rice, a leftover ear of Iowa sweet corn, a quarter of a yellow squash, a quarter of a red onion, and various shades and quantities of bell peppers.

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I diced it up, sautéed the veg in a smidgen of olive oil, and added a bit of garlic sea salt and a pinch of saffron. Lastly, I added the rice and made sure everything got warm. Easy and tasty.20140903_165913


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First Snow Kugel

To celebrate my new (to me) oven and the first snow of the year, I wanted to bake a kugel. I’ve never taken a bite of kugel, but I’ve known for a long time that I was destined to love kugel. And, I was right.

Somewhere in early life, I must have heard of kugels, but it didn’t register. Upon reading Miriam’s Kitchen (one of my favorite food memoirs), I started to dream about the possibilities of making a kugel, as Ehrlich notes, they “can be sweet or savory, crisp or creamy” (241). She explains, “A kugel is baked and substantial, mixed in advance, then left to the heat” and “my grandmother’s kugel had autumn in it: chopped apples and raisins, and sometimes walnuts and other times lemon zest or a dollop of orange marmalade melting into the beaten egg. It was like a toothsome crustless apple pie with silken noodles sauced in apple spice” (241). See what I mean?

I took the basics of my kugel recipe from Ehrlich’s and the one from Smitten Kitchen (I’ve plugged this blog often, and that’s because it is amazing). And, the glory of the kugel is the diversity of the dish. For example, this time I made more of a dessert-y kugel, but I’m already thinking of a savory kugel with butternut squash, walnuts, and hints of feta.

Ingredients

1 lb egg noodles (I used extra wide–made by the Ohio Amish)

8 large eggs (though you might try just six for less eggy-ness, especially if adding something like squash)

2/3 cup sugar (for a savory, I’d leave out sugar)

20 oz cottage cheese (I used lowfat because that’s what was in the fridge)

12 oz ricotta cheese (again, lowfat)

1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted

seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup dried currants

1 cup dried apricots, halved

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350. Be sure your pan is deep enough so that when the butter bubbles, it doesn’t spill over and burn like mine did (thankfully, the kugel was okay).

Cook the noodles until just soft. Don’t let them get mushy. Rinse and drain.

In a big mixing bowl, beat the eggs. While beating the eggs, add sugar, both kinds of cheese, butter, and spices. As you can imagine, having them already measured and ready to dump in is more than helpful. Stir in the dried fruit. You might also add nuts, if you like.

Pour into a large cake pan (no need to grease). Is is good if there are some noodles floating on the top, as they will crisp and become as irresistible as the peaks on a meringue.

Bake for at least an hour (the eggs have to set). You may need more time, and you do want the top to be nice and crisp but not burned. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!


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Harvest Delight Baked Pears with Currants and Walnuts

After making pears for Baby H (cubing and cooking with cinnamon), I had two pears left over. I’m not a fan of eating a pear, especially if it has gone the slightest bit soft, and these had some brown spots. So, I decided that if I baked them, the spots wouldn’t matter. I was right.

A quick search for baked pears led me to this simple (and snarky) recipe from Blue Kitchen. I followed it but for cutting it in half. This was a perfect “afters” for the Butternut Squash and Kale lasagna. Some of us topped it with a bit of whipped cream.

Ingredients:

4 firm, ripe pears (I used Bartlett because that is what I had, but I think the red pears would be beautiful for this dish. I also only had two pears!)
1/4 cup Sugar in the Raw
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup water [or more]

If you would like a bit of richness, slip a sliver of butter into each pear

Recipe:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Core pears. My husband bought an apple corer, and I never appreciated until this task. It was easy to remove the stem that runs the length of the pear. Ah, convenience. Place into a glass dish, and if they won’t stand up, cut the bottom flat.

Mix dry ingredients and use a funnel or piece of paper to fill the pears. Mix the water into the remainder of the dry ingredients, and pour this into the dish. Bake for 30 minutes, and try to spoon the syrupy nuts and currants into and over the pears at least twice. Drizzle the syrup on a pretty dish, place the pear on the dish, and pour a bit more syrup over the top. Enjoy!


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Acorn Squash with Apple and Quinoa Stuffing

Again, we are swimming in squash. From our last farm share, I picked out a cute little acorn squash. Why are diminutive foods so much more enticing? Perhaps I had this picked out as a side dish. For a full meal, you might use a regular size acorn squash.

These were a perfect complement to crockpot rotisserie chicken. I tweaked a recipe from All Recipes. The house smelled very good, like harvest time.

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, halved 
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, cut into quarters and sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced (peel left on)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (if you are not a fan of vinegar, you could skip this or else substitute apple juice or broth)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese

Recipe

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake squash until tender. I used a small squash, so it took very little time. You may leave the seeds in until it is cooked and it is easier to remove all of the thready stuff.

Cook quinoa to the product’s specification. For most quinoa in the U.S., there is no need to rinse to rid it of bitterness. Stir in the butter and salt and pepper. I used red quinoa, which was a lovely color combination with orange squash.

In a heavy pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onion, pepper and celery until the onion turns translucent. Add the diced apple, and cook until everything is almost tender. Be careful not to overcook, as it can be mushy. Next, add the garlic and ginger, the vinegar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I also added fenugreek, since I am nursing and trying to keep up my milk supply. Mix in the cooked quinoa and heat through until the liquid cooks off and the spices get into everything.

Scoop out about an inch of baked acorn squash, chop if necessary, and mix that into the quinoa. Fill the squash halves with quinoa, slightly mounding it. You can top this with the cheese, or you might try nuts or dried cranberries. Pop them under the broiler long enough to melt the cheese and warm up the squash. Enjoy!


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Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna

My husband is in love with squash, and his frequent refrain lately is, “when are you going to make butternut squash soup?” And, I plan on making it, but we need to find some other means of consuming the large store of squash in the pantry. I’ve made baby food, and Baby H loves it, but again, one baby can only eat so much squash. Plus, we have other veggies from our farm share/latest farmer’s market foray.

A big pan of pasta (or anything, really) is a boon in this house. It means one afternoon of cooking and then time off for doing things like playing with the baby or working on my dissertation. Hah. But, my casual response to the perennial question was, “I’m making butternut squash lasagna,” and I went about my day of playing with the baby and working on my dissertation (and doing laundry, etc., etc.).

With regular lasagna, I have become competent enough (the crock pot failure does not count) to throw something together and have a wonderful dish, but this pan is not the usual tomato sauce concoction I know so well. It would be a white sauce, and I’ve never done a white sauce. I didn’t want to do a white sauce.

So, I looked up several (maybe a dozen) recipes, looking, in vain, for a butternut squash recipe that has tomato sauce. No such thing, and upon some more thinking about it, that makes sense. It could be done, and it could even be tasty, but it was not in the cards. Besides, A just brought home three containers of milk.

I mostly followed the Good Housekeeping recipe, honestly, because it was one of the simplest. I tweaked it, according to what I had on hand and my own taste. I swapped out Swiss chard for kale and Parmesan for Romano. I added fenugreek because it’s good for nursing moms, and I like the taste. I opted to halve and bake the squash without peeling and cubing it as a time saver, since the squash needed to be mashed anyway. Sure it took a smidge longer to bake, but I played with a baby instead of standing around chopping and peeling.

Ingredients

  • whole package of whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 large butternut squash, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large bunch of kale (or other green), discard stems
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme (or fresh if you have it)
  • 4 cups milk (I used Lactaid)
  • ¾ cup grated Romano cheese

 
Recipe

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Halve the squash, never mind the seeds just yet. In a large cake pan (probably what you’ll use for the lasagna—why dirty another dish), lay the squash down and add two inches of water. Bake until the skin turns brown and it feels soft (varies with the size of the squash). Cook lasagna noodles as directed. Mind that they don’t stick together. When done, let cool a bit and spoon out the squash into a bowl, mashing it as you go. In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil. Add sliced onions and cook until translucent. Next, tear the kale from the stems and put it into a large pot with the onions. Add ½ cup water and let the kale cook down. Add water as needed. Set aside. In same pot, melt butter (don’t let it burn) and add flour and thyme and nutmeg, whisking all the while. Cook for a minute. Slowly add the milk and mind that it does not scald or boil over. Bring it to a boil and boil for a minute, stirring all the while. Stir in cheese—put aside ¼ cup for topping—and remove from heat.

Assembly. Begin with a goodly amount of sauce on the bottom of your pan. Lay down the first layer of noodles. Next, layer the greens and onion mixture. Cover with sauce and another layer of noodles. Now, spread evenly the squash and cover with the final layer of noodles. Pour on the remaining sauce and sprinkle the Romano on top. I garnished with fresh twigs of thyme from my garden. Bake for 30 minutes, with foil, and ten more without foil. Let stand before serving. Enjoy!