Why do cranberries only get love around Thanksgiving time? I guess dried cranberries have sort of become a thing over the past decade or so (thanks Craisins) but fresh cranberries need to take center stage more often, too. Why? Because they are beautiful and delicious.
I don’t think I was ever subjected to old-school cranberry sauces (of the jelly mould variety) in my youth, and if I was I must have blocked it from memory. As an adult I’ve become quite fond of cooking cranberries down into chutneys to serve with turkey or spread on sandwiches. I thought I had a winner of a recipe in years past until I tried this one this year. This one involves pears, ginger, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, and shallots. It’s a whole lotta beautiful in a bowl.
Once you’ve cooked the cranberries long enough they start to soften and burst and become wonderful. Yes I made this chutney for Thanksgiving but I totally think it would be good any time of year that you are able to find fresh cranberries. When paired with a little Brie cheese it makes an out-of-this-world grilled cheese. Trust me on this one. It would also make an excellent addition to a burger off the grill in the warmer months or an excellent accompaniment to a cheese plate with some crackers, grapes, and candied nuts. Dream big. Just don’t save it for only one day a year.
Cranberry, Pear, and Ginger Chutney (modified slightly from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from about 2-ounce piece)
2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large firm Bosc pears (about 18 ounces total), peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
Combine apple cider vinegar, onion, ginger, lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon stick pieces, crushed red pepper, and ground cloves in heavy large saucepan. Boil mixture until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Add cranberries, brown sugar, and pears; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, berries collapse, and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; discard cinnamon stick pieces. Using potato masher, mash mixture coarsely. Transfer chutney to bowl and cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
It’s that time again. Time to bust my slow cooker out of the high-up shelf where I put things I don’t use super often. (I should use it more often though as it’s a great way to cook in the summer without heating up your kitchen the way turning your oven tends to do.) This time I decided to make one of my all-time favorite fall comfort foods: beef stew.
My grandma used to make a really good beef stew when I was growing up and this recipe reminded me a lot of hers. I’m pretty sure my grandma didn’t drop a garlic/ginger skewer into her stew, but it really did add nice flavor to it, so much so that I am thinking I might start dropping garlic/ginger skewers into all soups and stews going forward!
As with many slow cooker recipes the most time-consuming part is chopping up vegetables and meat but the beauty here is that if you use baby carrots and pearl onions there isn’t a whole lot left for you to chop up. Genius! I froze a couple of single-serve containers full of the stew so that I can heat up comfort-in-food-form deeper into fall/winter when I don’t feel like cooking. I’m a big fan of freezing in single servings as evidenced by my very full freezer… gotta get myself a larger freezer one of these days…
2 ½ lb lean boneless beef stew meat or chuck, cut into 1” chunks and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 package (1 lb) frozen whole pearl onions, thawed
1 bag (1 lb) baby carrots
1 ¾ cups low-sodium beef broth
¾ cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
8 oz white or cremini mushrooms, chopped
Coat 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Place garlic and ginger on skewer or wooden pick. Set aside.
Combine flour, salt, paprika, and pepper in large ziplock bag. Shake well. Toss half of the beef gently in bag to coat. Remove meat, shaking off excess, and then repeat with remaining beef.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown beef on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to cooker and top with onions and carrots. Mix broth, wine, and tomato paste in bowl and pour into cooker. Drop in bay leaf and ginger-garlic skewer.
Cover. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Add mushrooms and cook 1 to 2 more hours, or until meat is tender. Discard skewer and bay leaf before serving.
Do you remember a few weeks ago when I told you you’d thank me for sharing a soup recipe? Well if it wasn’t already, it definitely is soup weather now and I just can’t help myself– I haven’t wanted to make anything but soup lately! This time it involves butternut squash, red lentils, ginger, and curry.
The ginger adds warmth to the soup and the lentils make it hardy so that it can be the main course and not just a starter. Butternut squash is just starting to show up at farmer’s markets in these parts so when I saw it a few weeks back I had to pick some up and do something with it. The soup is already vegetarian but could easily be made vegan with the omission of the butter. I personally think that cooking the onions in olive oil and butter is luxurious but it would certainly still work without it.
1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 quarts water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Heat oil with butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.
Add lentils and water and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25 to 40 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Normally, I’m a list person. I don’t go anywhere without a list, especially not to a place that almost requires a list like a grocery store. That would be like leaving the house without my cellphone. You know what I mean. Leaving your house without your cellphone is the new leaving your house without clothes on. You feel vulnerable and lost without it these days.
So Saturday morning I did something radical: I threw caution to the wind and decided to go to the farmer’s market sans list. It was wild. I wound up picking up a few predictable things: raspberries, green beans, kale, but also came home with a few surprises: namely, okra. I have eaten it in restaurants before but if the farmer’s had not labeled the okra in their stands I would not have recognized it in its whole form. But what the heck, I could find something great to do with it.
I did a little research on my iPhone and the first recipe I came across was the one I decided to go for: curried okra with chickpeas and tomatoes. This was perfect because a) I love curry, and b) I had both chickpeas and a can of tomatoes that needed to be used up in my pantry. One thing that I wish I had known beforehand was that it is better to buy small okra. My greedy eyes thought that bigger would be better so I bought okra that was 5 to 6 inches in length when apparently 2 to 3 inches is better. I definitely could have fit more okra into my pot if they weren’t so big. But nevermind, they still tasted great and I’m totally psyched about cooking with okra again in the future. Sometimes it’s a very good thing to leave your lists at home!
1 ¼ lb small fresh okra, left untrimmed, or 2 (10-oz) packages frozen whole okra (not thawed)
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, tomatoes chopped, reserving juice
1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
2/3 cup water
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
If using fresh okra, trim, leaving tops intact, being careful not to cut into pods.
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion and garlic with ginger and curry powder, stirring, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, chickpeas, and water and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in okra, salt, and pepper and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender, about 10 minutes.
Yesterday it was sunny and in the 70’s. I sat in a backyard and enjoyed the sun whilst food grilled behind me. There was frisbee tossing and cold drinks and small children running around in shorts. What a difference a day made… today it was gray and in the 40’s. I had to turn my heat on for the first time in over two weeks! Boo. But I also made you some weather-worthy pumpkin muffins that almost make the return to typical spring temps worthwhile.
A few months back, before Thanksgiving, I roasted some pumpkins from my parents garden and pureed them up. I then conveniently froze the pumpkin puree in one-cup portions so that I could thaw them out whenever I felt like baking up a taste of fall. (You can certainly use canned pumpkin here, I’m just bragging because my foresight was pretty awesome last November, though it was kind of a pain to puree up the pumpkin to be honest. Do yourself a favor and buy it canned… unless of course you grow pumpkins in your garden and have a few spare hours next fall.)
These muffins are the perfect antidote to gray days like today. A little spicey, sweet, and best served warm with butter.
Pumpkin Muffins (adapted slightly from Apple-Pumpkin Muffins recipe from “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)
1 cup sorghum flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons guar gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs, beaten
One 15-ounce can solid-pack unsweetened pumpkin (or 1 ½ cups pureed pumpkin)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin cups with paper liners. (Makes about 18 to 24 muffins.)
In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the sugars and spices, and stir with a whisk to blend.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until soft. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times. Using an ice-cream scoop, fill the prepared muffin cups three-fourths full with batter and bake for 25 minutes, or until cracked on top and browned on the edges. A wooden skewer inserted into one of the muffins will come out clean.