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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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!


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Five Spice Oatmeal Cookies

I am hosting a play group/mommy support group for our local chapter of Bradley Method for Natural Childbirth. Our group includes moms, moms to be, the smallest newborns, toddlers, and even young children. As you can imagine, all of the playing and talking makes people hungry, so there are always snacks. This can be tricky with being mindful of nutrition, food allergies, and snacks that could choke babies. But, it should also be fun and part of the overall experience.

Since it is a morning play group, I decided to have a “breakfast” theme, with fresh fruit, juice, and oatmeal–cookies. Because I am normally a flop with baking, I turned to one of my favorite foodie blogs, Smitten Kitchen, for inspiration, and I found it.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, adapted for my personal taste and my finicky oven. Thinking of my other cookie flops, I decided to try the recipe ahead and freeze the dough, to bake the night before. A friend came by to talk baby stuff, and I got her to eat a couple cookies. She said, “What are you talking about!? You can totally make awesome, scrumptious cookies,” or something like that. I’m just paraphrasing.

Ingredients:

1 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder (or Cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit. I want to try diced apricots and almonds next time)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I omitted these to be safe for nut allergies)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Recipe:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, Five Spice Powder, and salt together. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Next, stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts.

Chill the dough in the fridge or freezer to set the butter. You can chill the whole bowl, make the scoops and chill those, or make the cookie balls and put them on the prepared cookie sheet and chill. It depends on whether you are baking the whole batch right away. I was not, so the sheet in the freezer worked well for me. 

The cookies should be two inches apart on a SILPAT parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes. Baking time may varies, depending on the oven and the temperature of the cookies (My oven is off by 100 degrees, most of the time. We need a new one, but we also needed a new clothes washer, and since we use cloth diapers, the washer won out for now). Remove when they start to crisp around the edges but are not yet done in the center. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Makes several dozen.

Enjoy!


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Cucumber–Two Ways

Cucumber season is nearly upon us. Those people who grow them are desperately trying to can them and foist them off, and the rest of us who can’t say no have a growing stock pile in the fridge. Yes, sliced cucumbers are great, but we need some variety. Here are two of my favorites. The neat thing is that both recipes begin with the same steps and ingredients, so you might make them both at the same time.

Sour Creamy, Dilly Cuke Salad

This one my mother-in-law serves, and I always take seconds or thirds. She uses yogurt, but I use sour cream. Same diff. I also add dill.

Ingredients:

3-4 cucumbers–I prefer the long, skinny seedless kind

2/3 cups sour cream–using light or fat free is fine

Several rings of red onion

1 tsp seasoned white rice vinegar or Sushi vinegar. This has a splash of sugar, which is nice.

2 pinches fresh dill (I would not use dried, but that is me)

freshly ground pepper

Recipe:

Peel and slice the cukes and layer them in a bowl. Slice onions, roughly the same width as cucumber slices. Add salt enough to cover them. Let sit for at least an hour so the salt releases the water from the cucumbers. Rinse well and drain. Return to bowl. Add vinegar, pepper, sour cream, and dill. Stir until the sour cream covers everything and there are no clumps.

Betty’s Summer Cuke Salad

This one takes me back to my childhood. Summer afternoons would often include a tub of salted cucumbers and onions sitting on the counter, getting juicy. I would walk by and take a dip. These were my mom’s favorite, a true sign of summer and a reminder of her own childhood. We pulled the tub out with almost every meal until they were gone, and then she’d make another batch. I especially loved to eat them beside freshly sliced tomatoes, so the juices would run together.

Ingredients:

4 cukes–I like to use the long, skinny seedless variety

1/2 onion–red or white. My mom used white, and I like the red. Your choice

Salt

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

Recipe:

Peel and slice the cukes and layer them in a bowl. Slice onions, roughly the same width as cucumber slices. Add salt enough to cover them. Let sit for at least an hour so the salt releases the water from the cucumbers. Rinse well and drain. Return to bowl. Add water and sugar and stir. Let sit for at least an hour. The theory is that they get better the longer they last, but they don’t last long. I like this salad very fresh while the cukes still have a lot of crunch.

Enjoy!