Relish Your Turnips

Along with classes, I’ve had the vastly entertaining part-time job of assuming the role of Farmers’ Market Manager for our school. It’s difficult to decide exactly which part of the deal makes its way into my favorites category:

Getting to know local farmers and purveyors of artisanal food products (like fine yoghurt and goat cheese)… meeting the well over a thousand market shoppers we have each week in Boulder… decorating the bi-fold chalkboard with ChalkInk markers and my ‘recipe of the week’… or actually creating and testing the recipe attempting to use as many local and seasonal ingredients as I can.

There is a bit of an artsy dork hiding- arguably not well- inside me, and you can’t possibly imagine how fun it is to decorate the chalk board each week! I remember as a teenager wanting to be ‘that guy’ who decorates sidewalk signs for cafés or paints holiday themes on store windows. Fake snow and all. Happy sigh~

But this week playing around in the kitchen with some surprisingly sweet fresh turnips has taken the cake. Or at least some crackers or chips. Or maybe even your favorite sandwich. This refreshingly earthy and sweet, not to mention guilt-free, turnip relish tastes exactly like spring and summer should.

The following recipe incorporates several Colorado products which I’d love for you to explore if you’re even remotely local. But for those incredibly loyal readers from around the globe (I truly do appreciate you!) here are a few descriptions to help you find a similar product hopefully a bit closer to home.

Haystack Queso de Mano Goat Cheese is a raw milk, aged firm cheese with a robust flavor that serves as a fine compliment to the sweet notes of the turnips

 

Noosa Honey Yoghurt is a lightly sweetened cow’s milk yoghurt made with Colorado honey and grass fed, happily roaming Colorado cows~ another happy sigh

 

Japanese sweet white turnips, also known as salad turnips, are literally sweet enough to be eaten like an apple. I did, actually. And of course, keep the greens for a quick sauté or a slow, Southern-style simmer.

Sweet Turnip Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (about 6 large or 9 small) sweet white turnips coarsely chopped, greens removed
  • 1 cup Haystack Queso de Mano goat cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Noosa Honey Yoghurt
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 pinches of salt, or to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients except salt in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Enjoy as a refreshing summer spread for crackers and chips, or as a condiment for burgers and sandwiches.

Yield: 2 cups (vegetarian, gluten free, nut free)

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Simple and Fun: Make Your Own Ricotta Cheese

If someone told me that four ingredients and about thirty minutes in the kitchen would yield my very first homemade cheese, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Until yesterday.

Though our Culinary training at Escoffier is based on French technique, this week is an exploration of all things from Italia, and I’m in absolute heaven. Not just for the Ricotta and Ricotta Salada that I’ll share today, but also for the fresh pasta, potato gnocchi, bruschetta, polenta, biscotti, cannoli… the list is lengthening so quickly I’m literally overwhelmed.

Italians are the masters of slow food, simple food, local food, sustainable food… using restraint in the kitchen in such a way that the ingredient itself shines; growing produce and raising animals in a manner that is ethically sound, actually beneficial to the earth, and planet-sustainable for generation after generation.

And I’m sure every country- Italia included- has its share of ethical food challenges. But we have so much room for improvement here in the states… I’ll devote many posts to this in the future, but I hope this will plant seeds of thought in the meantime. And I want to show you cheese!

This is an incredibly simple way to make your first homemade cheese. For cheese making experts, this is not a strictly traditional Ricotta, but it’s pretty close for a home cook. And if it will bring even one of you into the kitchen to make fresh cheese with me… then it’s a win in my book.

Simple Homemade Ricotta Cheese

yield about one pound; active time less than 30 min

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon milk (about 3.75 L)- try to find milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized
  • 1 quart buttermilk (about 950 mL)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt to taste

Method

1. Heat milk in a large pot just until bubbles begin to form around the edges

2. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice and bring to a simmer, stirring gently and occasionally. You will notice the solid curds separating from the liquid whey.

3. Once you’ve reached a simmer, remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.

4. Gently pour the mixture through a strainer or colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. You will have curds remaining in the cheesecloth, and whey liquid strained out.

Note: save your whey liquid- it’s packed with incredible protein and can be used as a base for smoothies, to substitute for the water in making bread to create a healthier loaf- try this easy Basic French Bread, or chilled for a protein-rich breakfast drink. I love it straight, but you could definitely add a little honey if you prefer.

Tie your cloth of curds into a bundle and hang over a small pan in the refrigerator to continue draining for a few hours. Season to taste with salt and you have a moist, homemade Ricotta cheese. This is incredible as is, and can also be mixed with herbs for sandwich spreads, ravioli filling, added to salads… or sweetened and used is dessert applications.

To turn your fresh Ricotta into Ricotta Salada, simply let it continue to drain refrigerated in the cheesecloth unit it becomes crumbly and dry. Ricotta Salada can be substituted anywhere you’d use a dry, crumbly cheese.

Give it a try, and let me know if your friends and neighbors don’t love you more than they already do. Buon appetito, cheese makers~

Kale, I loved you before you were famous

Kale seems to have had such a speedy rise to stardom for its ‘superfood’ qualities that I have- until today- been somewhat happy to enjoy eating kale without feeling the need to constantly talk about it. And write about it.

But alas, I broke down. In a desperate attempt to fill up on a low-calorie food before heading to class for a day of making pies, puff pastries and ice creams, I turned half a bunch of kale into my lunch. Today’s menu on an empty stomach with my sweet tooth would have been a complete and utter calorie intake disaster. And kale rose to the occasion in brilliant style.

One quick WordPress search for kale chip recipes and after reading this one and this one… I decided my version would look like this:

Quick Kale Chips with Black Truffle Salt

Wash and dry several stems of fresh kale. Pull leaves from the tough stems and tear leaves into roughly bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, toss leaves with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with truffle salt. Spread into a single layer on a lined or oiled sheet pan and bake in a 300F oven for 8-10 minutes just until crisp, avoiding burning.

Enjoy this crunchy, healthy snack- or meal- warm or at room temperature. And I have no idea how well these store… maybe next time I won’t eat them all.

Nod to St. Patrick: Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

It was tempting to reach for green food coloring and my too-large box of cookie cutters to celebrate St. Patty’s Day.

But a sizable bag of unshelled pistachios on my countertop convinced me otherwise this year. Think of these cookies as a sophisticated twist, with just a tease of pistachio green, to summon the luck of the Irish… or at least a big glass of cold milk.

These rich, chocolatey cookies contain both cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate: the finer the cocoa and solid chocolate you use, the richer the flavor in the end.

I used lightly sea-salted pistachios; if you opt for more heavily salted nuts, consider reducing the salt in the recipe itself.

Cookies will spread considerably when baked because of the melted chocolate addition. You can minimize spread by chilling dough thoroughly before baking. Cookies will be thin but still chewy once cooled if they aren’t overcooked.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day… and enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies, yields 4- 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 cup white, granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped dark chocolate

Method

  1. In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and shortening with sugars until light and well-blended.
  2. On lower speed, mix in eggs and vanilla until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
  3. Continue mixing and add the melted chocolate.
  4. In a separate small bowl or on a piece of parchment, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  5. With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  6. Stir in chopped pistachios and dark chocolate chips. Chill dough at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. Dough can also be frozen for later use. Note: if freezing, consider rolling into a cylinder wrapped with plastic and foil- dough can then be sliced with a knife when ready to bake.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F. Portion dough into 1 inch balls and bake 8-10 minutes. Center should look not quite set when removing from oven but will finish cooking as it rests.
  8. Cookies will be thin with crisp edges and a chewy center.

 

Single skillet caramelized apple cobbler

One oven-proof skillet is the only dish you need to make this rustic apple cobbler. And provided you don’t eat it all in one sitting- entirely possible, especially if you have help- you won’t even have to wash the skillet until tomorrow!

I was inspired by this skillet cookie to turn the idea into a breakfast or dessert-worthy cobbler. Despite the sugar, it’s not an overly sweet recipe and pairs well with a spoon of whipped cream or a good ‘ole-fashioned scoop of vanilla ice cream.

**Note: If you are short on time, you can substitute equal parts brown sugar for the white sugar and only cook long enough to soften the apples. It will produce a less caramelized but slightly sweeter flavor, and still altogether delicious.

Single skillet caramelized apple cobbler

 serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter (if using salted butter, omit the additional salt)
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar **see note above
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (no need to toast- they’ll toast as cobbler bakes)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350F. On the stovetop, melt butter in ovenproof skillet over medium heat.

2. Add chopped apples and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar begins to have a slight brown color. This will take several minutes. Don’t let the sugar burn. See note above**

3. Remove from heat, stirring occasionally, until pan cools somewhat but is still slightly warm.

4. Whisk in the egg quickly and add vanilla.

5. Whisk in baking soda and salt. Mixture will become bubbly.

6. Stir in flour, oats and pecans.

7. Smooth top with spatula, spoon or clean hands and place, uncovered, in oven.

8. Cook 10-12 minutes or until top is golden brown. I used a 12-inch skillet; if using a smaller one your cooking time will be longer.

9. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, or eat straight out of the pan, family style! Chill any leftovers- not too shabby rewarmed the following day.

Enjoy!