Wild Ginger

recipes for pleasure and nurishment


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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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Salmon en papillote

Though I was recently lamenting that I’ve not read a book in 5 months, I did have time to snag a new cookbook, Steaming Basics, from the public library. This book is AMAZING, especially if you have a fascination with dim sum. I’ve always been a fan of steam cooking. It’s fast, healthy, easy to clean up, and the food keeps its flavor better.

Since I became pregnant with our son, my mother-in-law has had us for Sunday dinners, and she’s really been there for us. For her birthday this month, I wanted to make a Sunday dinner for her, and I wanted it to be special. She’s a big salmon fan, and this dish was fun because it was like opening a present.

I mostly followed the recipe from the book. It is incredibly simple yet fancy and tasty. The sour cream creates a simple “sauce” that compliments the fish. I used wild caught sockeye salmon, with amazing flavor and color.

Ingredients:

Parchment Paper and string

Fresh spinach leaves, enough for 4 small handfuls

4 Tbsp sour cream

Salmon filets, about 4 ounces each and no skin

24 grape tomatoes

Fresh dill sprigs

Recipe:

Cut four pieces of parchment paper, a bit larger than office paper size. You need to be able to gather it and seal it well enough to keep out the steam.  Place paper flat and layer ingredients. Spinach, sour cream, Salmon, dill, and tomatoes on the sides. Gather up the sides (nothing fancy), making sure you don’t have any gaps to let steam in, and tie it at the top. Put in a steamer and steam for 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy!


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Pantry Dinner 4.0

Like many people, we are trying to conserve money. Luckily, the baby’s food is on the house (yours truly) for at least another month. And, since it is easier to eat at home, we’ve saved some money by not going out. Another tactic we’ve implemented is actually using the stuff in the pantry and the fridge.

For dinner tonight, I began with chicken and some spinach that got wilty. From there, I went to the pantry for ideas. I spied a jar of artichoke hearts, whole grain shell pasta, and chickpeas. Next, I looked in the fridge for veggies that might soon get lost and/or go to rot. I had mini bell peppers and onion left over from making curry the other night, and on the counter, I had grape tomatoes that had gone to wrinkles.

Aha! There it is, all within reach…dinner. Usually, I don’t know what time my significant husband will be home. No, wait, my other husband. No, still not correct. That guy who comes home between 5 and 7 to prowl around the stove like a hungry wolf. Yeah, that guy. Anyway, I normally have all of my ingredients ready to toss into a pan when, through the kitchen window, I see him pedaling into the yard.

This evening, I have a big bowl full of prepped veg, legumes, and some fun Aji Amarillo chili powder from Savory, my fav spice shop in Boulder, CO. Pasta is cooked. Chicken is thawed and ready to be dredged in a bit of flour and cooked in garlic-flavored olive oil (not in the mood to peel and mince garlic cloves).

Simple as it was, this was one of the most flavorful and satisfying dishes I’ve made in a long time.

Ingredients (this is between you and your pantry/fridge):

Protein–chicken, sausage, tofu, or beans. I used chicken breast tenders, and I dredged them in whole wheat flour and Penzey’s Smoked Spanish Paprika (This is amazingly tasty. It is NOT the normal paprika you by in the spice section of the grocery store). I also used canned chickpeas.

Fresh Veg–green stuff, red stuff, orange stuff. You could also use canned diced tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes, onions, spinach, beet greens, mini red and orange bell peppers.

Pasta–anything goes. I used a medium whole wheat shell pasta. The shells held onto the sauce really well.

Artichoke hearts–the ones canned in water would be fine. Halve  or quarter them if they are whole. I used the marinated ones and that really gave the dish a zing, though you need to drain them so you don’t have an oily mess.

Spices–again, this is up to you. You could make it very spicy. Keep it plain and taste the veggies and nuttiness of the chickpeas. Whatever.

Recipe:

Dredge chicken in flour and pan fry in 2 Tbsp olive oil both sides until almost cooked. Take out and set aside on paper towel.

Cook pasta al dente. Rinse and drain. Set aside. Or, this is a great way to use left over pasta from the fridge.

To the chicken pan, add onions and any hard veggies, like carrots (I did not use these). Cook for a bit. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and peppers. Stir in chili powder or red pepper flakes (I used a heaping tsp of Aji Amarillo powder). Add 1/4 cup of water and keep adding as it cooks down. Cook until the veggies are tender. Slip in the chicken so it can finish cooking all the way and soak up the flavor. Last, add a bit more water and the spinach until it is wilted. Stir in the pasta or ladle over pasta. If you keep adding water (not too much), you will end up with a great “sauce.”

Enjoy!


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Sauteed Greens With Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

We recently bought into a farm share with some friends, and so we are looking forward to some great local veggies. With farm shares, one can sometimes find surprises–what is this green stuff and what do I do with it? Greens are in and will be even through the first frost, so it is good to have a couple recipes on hand.

I’ve found some good things on Simply Recipes, though I usually use a recipe to get a general idea and doctor it up according to what I have on hand and our personal tastes. They have a great variety of recipes for greens, including this one for Sauteed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins.

We ended up with a great assortment of rainbow Swiss chard and kale: lacinato, green, and Russian (see pic below to identify–this website might also help).

And, I happened to have pine nuts AND golden raisins.I skipped the garlic, wine, and pepper flakes. I did, for kicks, put in a couple pinches of really good cinnamon. I really wanted to taste the greens, not the spices.

Ingredients:

Roughly a pound of greens–kale, swiss chard, turnip greens. Mustard greens are good, too, but they bring a strong mustard/spice to the dish, so be aware. Chop and remove tough stems.

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

1-2 pinches of cinnamon

1/2 cup water

Recipe:

Toast pine nuts in a dry fry pan. Be VERY watchful as they burn easily. Also, note the wonderful smell. Set aside.

Start with a big pan but know that the greens will cook down–a lot. Pour oil in pan and heat. Add greens. Be careful of spatters. Stir to moisten. Add raisins, toasted pine nuts, and water as needed. Continue to stir on medium heat. Cook until the water cooks off and the greens are tender and very dark in color.

Enjoy!


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Thai Green Curry

With summer veggies in abundance, it is always good to have a variety of recipes for using up zucchini, broccoli, onions, peppers, and carrots. I especially like recipes that allow veggies to retain their crunch (and their nutrients).

Though I have made a great curry paste before, I have learned to prioritize and save time and cost when I can. Most Asian groceries carry cans of curry paste, and I keep a stockpile. I’ve enjoyed most varieties of the Maesri brand. They also include ingredients, while not fresh, that are hard to come by–i.e. lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. I also avoid cooking with oil. This cuts back on fat and means the veggies taste like themselves instead of oil. Instead, I cook with water.

Serve this up with some rice, and you have a wonderfully fresh dinner for two. You could add meat if you like. Pork is good in a green curry, as is chicken. We had just veggies, and it was very satisfying.Ingredients:

1-2 carrots, cut into circles or square chunks (try to keep veggies around the same size)

1/2 cup scapes, cut into 2 inch-pieces

1/2 cup green beans, cut into pieces same size as scapes (I didn’t have any this time)

1 cup broccoli, cut into medium-sized florets

1/2-1 cup red bell peppers, cut into chunks

1/2 yellow onion, cut into thick slices.

1 cup zuchinni, sliced into thick circles or square chunks

Several cups of water handy

2 ounces of Maesri Green Curry Paste (freeze other half)

1 can Chaokoh coconut milk.

Recipe:

In a small pot, heat a can of coconut milk (you may use a “light” variety) and the curry paste. I use half of the can and pop the other half in a zipper bag and freeze it. Half is plenty. Cook through and stir.

The trick to keeping the veggies crisp is to cook them in the appropriate order. Heat up a wok or large frying pan. Put in about 1/8 cup of water and let it get hot. Throw in the carrots and scapes and stir around for half a minute. Next, throw in the green beans. Stir for half a minute. You will see their color darken. Add the peppers and onions. Stir for half a minute. Add more water if it cooks off. Add zucchini last as that can get the soggiest the easiest. Cook for half a minute or more if needed. Be sure your veggies are not getting soggy. When they are the consistency you prefer, add the coconut milk mixture and let it heat up again. Stir and take off heat. Serve over cooked rice of your choice.

Enjoy!


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Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

I have been on over a year-long hiatus (well, in blogging), but I also now have a five month-old baby and have my dissertation proposal approved and research (mostly) collected, so it’s not like I’ve been twiddling my thumbs.

My mother-in-law (oh, yes, and I got married, too!) has a large and prolific strawberry patch, and we have an even larger and more prolific rhubarb patch. Put the two of those together and what do you get? Well, with a bit of elbow grease, I got some homemade jam.

With an infant close at hand, I decided not to go all the way with canning, so I made a form of freezer jam, and I did not use pectin (since I didn’t have any and did not feel like lugging the babe to the store).

Ingredients:

Nine cups of rhubarb, cut into one-two inch pieces

Nine cups strawberries

Five cups sugar (you can use more or less, but I like to taste the tartness)

Juice from one lemon

Recipe:

Dump everything into a heavy pot and bring to a rolling boil. Turn down heat to medium-high and stir often. Watch so it does not boil over and be sure to scrap the bottom of the pot. Skim foam. Cook for about an hour and test for consistency (see below). Pour into sterilized containers and store in fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

Test consistency– put a plate in the freezer to chill. After cooking for an hour, put a dab of jam on the chilled plate, wait a minute, and tip the plate. That should show you the consistency of the jam. Remember, this is not canned/preserved jam, so it must stay in the fridge or freezer. This should also help to keep it firm.