In praise of marmalade. September 13, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: marmalade, marmalade recipes, uses for marmalade
Silence Dogood here. Marmalade, a less-sweet cousin of jams, preserves and jellies, is in my opinion an underrated kitchen hero. Long gone are the days when you could only get orange marmalade, often stuffed with sugar (or, gasp, high-fructose corn syrup) and sadly lacking in actual orange and orange zest. Now real all-fruit orange marmalade, lemon marmalade, lime marmalade, grapefruit marmalade, blood orange marmalade, even ginger marmalade is available.
So okay, you’ve got your jar of marmalade and you’ve got it home from the store. Now what? Well, it’s great for breakfast on toast, English muffins, croissants, crumpets, or as a glaze on hot scones. (With butter, people, butter.) But that’s just the beginning. Because marmalade isn’t super-sweet but is super-flavorful with its citrus or ginger hit, it’s perfect on other things as well. Think of it as a glaze on cheesecake or chicken, or paired with feta cheese in a phyllo wrap or cream cheese in a wanton wrap or topping baked Brie. And think what some marmalade could do to add complexity to your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce!
Marmalade is also a very versatile substitute for other sauces and dressings. You can use it in place of duck sauce, orange sauce, General Tso’s sauce, and the like if you find yourself out of them and need dipping sauce for spring rolls or egg rolls or sauce for Chinese dishes. It’s delicious as a substitute if you run out of chutney and are serving Indian food. (Ditto for adding to dal, baked beans, lentil stew, and the like.) It’s also great mixed with oil, Dijon mustard, and vinegar in a salad dressing for fruit- or cheese-based salads. Not to mention as a glaze for piecrust, or a topping for cake or vanilla ice cream. (Our favorite is Ben & Jerry’s.)
For the adventurous, I’d suggest an omelet stuffed with cream cheese and/or shredded Swiss cheese and a (very) thin layer of orange marmalade. It’s the adult version of Dr. Seuss’s famous “green eggs” (made by scrambling eggs with Concord grape jelly, which turns them green); your choice whether to add the ham (or Canadian bacon). With adequate salt and some toasted, buttered English muffins, you might become addicted. Try it and see!
‘Til next time,
What is burrata? September 5, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: burrata, burrata cheese
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I had invited our neighbor over for a deckwarming party last night. He’d offered to bring his famous homemade guacamole, and I was supplying hot jalapeno poppers, tortilla chips, fresh salsa, various hot sauces, and hot peppers fresh-picked from our garden. Not to mention margaritas! It was sounding a lot like Mexican night!
But at the last second, we got a message from our neighbor saying that he was missing an ingredient for his guac and would be bringing burrata instead. Fortunately, I had some guac with pico de gallo on hand, so no worries. But what was burrata? Some kind of scaled-back burrito? Something with meat in it that I, as a vegetarian, couldn’t even eat? Yikes.
While the jalapeno poppers were getting nice and toasty, I rushed to my trusty laptop and checked out burrata. Turns out it’s a soft, fresh cheese from the Puglio region of Italy, basically made with a bag-like rind of fresh mozzarella enclosing cream and curds. It’s so rich that its name comes from the Italian for “buttery.” And it’s only considered to be at its prime within 24 hours from its making, and past its prime after 48 hours. Yowie kazowie! Talk about a luxury product.
This was hardly Mexican fare, and there was no guidance about what to put it on. Fortunately, I had a lovely loaf of herbed ciabatta bread, some heirloom tomatoes, and a couple of ripe peaches. I felt certain that our neighbor could choose among them and we could pull this off. But as it turned out, he showed up not just with two burrata balls but with some crispy, airy Scandinavian crackers to serve the burrata on. And yes, they really were delicious. But I still think they’d have been luscious with fresh peaches.
‘Til next time,
Greens: Cooked or raw? August 30, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
Tags: arugula, collard greens, cooked greens, dangers of raw greens, greens, healthy greens, kale, raw greens, salad greens, salad recipes, salads, spinach, watercress
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Silence Dogood here. I’m mostly an equal-opportunity greens fan; I love them raw (in salads and sandwiches), semi-cooked (in hot sandwiches like cheese panini with tomatoes and arugula), and cooked (in pasta, soups, dal, sauteed, or steamed). Pretty much the only greens I won’t eat are the ones that taste like dirt (beet greens, Swiss chard), the ones that are prickly (radish greens, turnip greens), and the ones that come from cans. (Just give me the beets and radishes and Japanese turnips and let me enjoy the colorful chard as an ornamental.) If I knew how to grill, I’d doubtless love the grilled halved Romaine lettuces and halved radicchio that have become popular.
I love to make a big pot of greens, including the “supergreens” kale and collards, along with spinach, arugula, and methi (fenugreek greens), cooking them down with a tiny bit of water clinging to the leaves, and then make saag paneer, the delicious, Indian dish that uses their equivalent of farmer’s cheese/fresh mozzarella, paneer, with a simply luscious mix of sauteed onion, spices, and cream. Served over basmati rice, which soaks up the sauce, it’s pure heaven.
Greens prepared this way are also a great base for soups and a great filling layer for lasagna. (You can tuck them in between the lasagna pasta and the ricotta or Greek yogurt, then top with sauce and shredded cheese.) So are greens that are added to dishes like pastas at the last moment. I love sauteing diced sweet onions and minced garlic in extra-virgin olive oil, perhaps with sliced mushrooms and diced red, orange or yellow bell pepper, a dash of crushed red pepper, Italian herbs (a mix of basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme), salt (we love RealSalt and Trocomare, hot herbed salt), and fresh-cracked black pepper. Then I add arugula when everything else has cooked down, use pasta tongs to immediately add cooked spaghetti to the sauteed veggies, and toss the pasta with the veggies and my choice of shredded cheese before serving it up. Yum!
But I’d still want to serve my pasta with a crunchy green salad. I really love salad, from a Caesar (yes to hard-boiled eggs, no to croutons and anchovies) to the famous iceberg wedge (I like mine with chopped sweet or purple onion, diced tomato, crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese, and an olive oil-lemon dressing, with plenty of salt and fresh-cracked black pepper).
There are so many salad variations that I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t love salad. One of my favorites has a crunchy Romaine base with arugula, radicchio, Boston (Bibb, butter) lettuce, watercress and frisee giving texture, flavor and color, with shredded carrots, diced bell pepper (red, yellow, and/or orange), diced red onion, cherry tomatoes (my favorites are the orange Sungold tomatoes), cucumbers, red cabbage, shredded white sharp Cheddar and/or blue or Gorgonzola cheese, sliced hard-boiled eggs, black olives, scallions (green onions), and pepitas (roasted pumpkinseeds) for nutritional value and crunch. I’ll add avocado and/or jarred artichoke hearts in oil for an especially decadent salad. With so much going on in the salad—especially if I mix in fresh basil, mint, cilantro, or another fresh herb—I like to keep the dressing simple: good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
But not all is well in the raw greens world. I had a very sad revelation a few months ago when I read that eating raw kale was damaging to people with thyroid issues. I love raw kale in salads, but I guess I’ll be eating all my kale cooked from now on. A dear friend reminded me that the oxalic acid in spinach is bad for people with arthritis, and can not just accumulate in the joints but contribute to the formation of kidney stones. And if, like my father, you’re on blood thinners to prevent heart attack or stroke, your doctor will probably tell you to avoid all greens and salads, since leafy greens are rich in vitamin K, a natural blood thinner. Bummer!!! Not to mention that you need to eat some oil with your greens to release their nutrients in the body, preferably a healthy oil like olive oil.
The real divider in our household, though, is spinach. Our friend Ben likes it raw in salads, I like it cooked. I find the texture of raw spinach both limp and dusty—no crunch, and this dreadful musty, felted texture. (I feel the same way about raw mushrooms, and won’t eat them in a salad, either, although I love cooked mushrooms.) I, on the other hand, love cooked spinach (again, cooked down with just a few drops of water) with balsamic vinegar. OFB hates it. His exception is spanakopita, the Greek phyllo pockets filled with spinach and feta. We’ve finally found common ground with spinach sauteed in olive oil with minced garlic or onion. OFB will eat it if I add crushed red pepper, and I can discreetly add a splash of balsamic vinegar to my serving. And yes, I do buy baby spinach for his salads when I remember!
‘Til next time,
How to use chopsticks. August 28, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: chopsticks, eating with chopsticks
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Silence Dogood here. If the only experience you’ve had with chopsticks is watching Pat Morita catch flies with them in “The Karate Kid,” it might be a little intimidating to go to a restaurant and see everybody else using them. And embarrassing to have to say “Could I have a fork, please?”
As a chopstick novice myself, I’ve managed to learn how to eat vegetable tempura rolls and things like stir-fries and General Tso’s tofu with chopsticks, but still can’t manage soft, slippery things like mapo tofu or tiny things like grains of rice. (Hint: In “The Man with the Golden Gun,” a James Bond movie set in Hong Kong, they showed a family basically holding bowls of rice to their mouths and shoveling the rice in with their chopsticks. Made sense to me!) I was once served a soup-like porridge at a Zen monastery which I was expected to eat, along with the rest of the meal, with chopsticks. Yow!!! Fortunately, we were able to serve ourselves and I took a tiny portion of porridge and somehow managed to down it all, as was expected. Never again!
Anyway, one restaurant, a wonderful Sichuan (Szechuan) restaurant in State College, PA, called Sichuan Bistro, has come up with a discreet way to help chopstick-challenged diners: chopsticks that come with directions. The directions, printed on the red paper chopstick cover, are straightforward: Take one chopstick, tuck it under the thumb of your dominant hand, and hold firmly. Add the second chopstick and hold it between your index finger and thumb, as you’d hold a pencil, while still holding the first chopstick wedged down between your thumb and hand. To eat, hold the first chopstick still and move the second one up and down to capture and immobilize food.
I certainly wouldn’t agree with the printed directions that “now you can pick up anything” with chopsticks—I’m still not going for the porridge or rice—but this technique really does work. Try it and see for yourself!
‘Til next time,
Fantastic stir-fry (or pasta) in a flash. August 27, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: easy yummy pasta, fast pre-prepped stir-fry, fast stir-fry, four-ingredient pasta, fresh veggie pasta, recipes with precut veggies, stir-fry, stir-fry vegetables
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Silence Dogood here. I have a guilty little secret, and that’s that I just love the cut-up combos of vegetables that you can find in the produce section of pretty much any grocery store. Why is that, when I actually enjoy chopping vegetables? It’s because those packages of multi-hued veggies are so pretty, so colorful. Their siren song is impossible to resist. Poor our friend Ben tries, in vain, to pull me away from the prepared produce section when we’re out grocery shopping; after all, I’ve already bought several shopping bags full of fresh, whole produce by that time.
Needless to say, that precut, precombined produce isn’t out there just to show its pretty face. It’s there for those nights when you’d really enjoy something fresh and healthy but don’t have time to stand for an hour or so chopping vegetables. If you’re in that boat, here are two suggestions for absolutely luscious main dishes that take almost no time to cook.
Fast, Fantastic Stir-Fry
First, buy as many packages of pre-cut veggies as you think you’ll need, depending on how much you eat and how many of you there are. We like the ones with red onion, red, yellow and orange bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and snow or snap peas. We love onion, so we buy an extra carton of diced red onion, and we also buy an extra red bell pepper to dice into the mix. Next, we get Iron Chef Sesame Garlic Sauce in the International aisle, and pick up a bottle of Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce from the condiments aisle if we’re running low. Finally, we get a package of pressed smoked tofu from the health-food store next door. (You could sub extra-firm tofu from the grocery if your health-food store doesn’t stock pressed smoked tofu. In that case, I recommend pre-cubed to save time.)
Once you’re home, if you got the extra-firm rather than the smoked tofu, put the cubes (or cube it and then put the cubes) into a marinade of the sesame-garlic sauce and the Frank’s hot sweet sauce, adding salt and enough boiling water to just cover. As you prepare the other ingredients, turn the tofu cubes several times to make sure both sides are coated.
In a rice cooker or pot, make enough basmati rice so each person can have a full cup. While the rice cooks, heat up canola, olive or peanut oil in a wok or deep, heavy pan like a Dutch oven (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this, since I can cook over much lower heat than a wok and it retains heat). When the oil is hot, toss in about half the container of diced red onion, then your diced red bell pepper, then a tablespoon of minced garlic or some garlic granules or garlic salt. Then add your veggies, making sure they’re coated with the oil. Finish by adding the tofu and sauce (if it isn’t smoked). If you are using smoked tofu, cube it while the veggies are cooking. Add the sesame-garlic sauce and the Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce to the veggies, then slide in the cubed smoked tofu.
When the rice is done, spoon the hot veggie-tofu mixture over the top and enjoy! It’s actually not just the easiest but the best stir-fry I’ve ever had. (And to make things even easier, you can always just pick up rice from the local Chinese place on your way home from the grocery. Their rice is always perfect!)
Moving on, let’s look at the pasta:
Our groceries offer packs of cut asparagus, sliced baby Bella mushrooms, and red onion. On its own, one of these packs would probably be delicious roasted with olive oil drizzled over the top. But I’m always craving pasta, and I had a carton of whole button mushrooms and a couple of red bell peppers that needed to be cooked. So I heated some olive oil, diced a Vidalia onion, the carton of mushrooms, and the bell peppers, and sauteed them until the mushrooms cooked down and the onion clarified. Meanwhile, I heated up a big pot of water for the pasta.
Once the water was boiling, I added the package of asparagus, mushrooms, and red onion to the other veggies, then added the pasta to the pot of boiling water. When the pasta was ready, I added black pepper and salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) to the veggies, then stirred in shredded sharp white Cheddar and allowed it to melt. (You could sub shredded mozzarella or a Cheddar/mozzarella mix.) Finally, I used tongs to pull out the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring to coat well.
Yum! This pasta was delicious. All we needed was a nice, crunchy salad to have a complete and luscious meal. OFB and I are now officially hooked on both dishes. So easy, so good! Try them and let us know what you think.
‘Til next time,
Storebought tzatziki sauce. August 25, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: best pita for falafel sandwiches, easy falafel sandwiches, falafel patties, falafel sandwiches, Greek yogurt dip, Oikos Cucumber Dill Greek Yogurt Dip, Sabra Tzatziki Sauce, semi-homemade tzatziki sauce, tzatziki dip, tzatziki sauce
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Silence Dogood here. I wrote about making your own “semi-homemade” falafel sandwiches in a previous post, and blithely assured readers that you could find falafels and tzatziki sauce, the Greek yogurt-garlic sauce, ready to heat (falafels) and spread (tzatziki) on your warmed pitas. I had found falafel patties and Sabra tzatziki sauce at a local Giant grocery, even here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. But things change.
For the last several months, I haven’t seen any Sabra tzatziki sauce. There are a couple of other options, but one contains gelatin and another contains fish oil (!!!), both no-nos for vegetarians like me. It’s not tough to make your own tzatziki sauce, but what if what you’re looking for is just a simple throw-together sandwich that’s healthy and tastes fabulous?
I decided to opt for Oikos Cucumber Dill Yogurt Dip, made with thick Greek yogurt (like tzatziki sauce) and readily available in the refrigerated dip section in your grocery’s dairy aisle. But I thought it could probably use some punch. So I bought a container of matchsticked radishes and one of diced red (Spanish) onion in the produce section, plus a container of crumbled feta cheese, and when I got home, I mixed all three into some of the Oikos dip to punch it up. Then I proceeded to put my falafel sandwich together.
I drizzled the falafels with olive oil to crisp them up, then heated them at 250 degrees F. in our convection/toaster oven. Meanwhile, I halved thick pitas (not the thin Lebanese pitas that don’t hold ingredients in pockets without falling apart but are best used for scooping them). When the falafel patties were hot and sizzling, I flipped them and set the halved pitas on top of them to warm up. When everything was nice and hot, I smeared my tzatziki sauce thickly inside each pita half, then added two falafel patties, then mashed in shredded carrot and red cabbage to add texture, body, and nourishment. Yum!!!
If you can find Sabra tzatziki sauce, it will save you some time. But if not, the Oikos dip works well with minimal effort, and also makes a great dip for crudites, with or without the added onion, radish, and feta.
‘Til next time,
Super-yummy salad dressing (and dip). August 21, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: best ranch dressing, best ranch dressing dip, dressed-up ranch dressing, ranch dressing
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Silence Dogood here. Next time you want a better ranch dressing or dip, try this fantastic, fast concoction from a friend of a friend:
Angie’s Amazing Ranch Dressing
2/3 store brand ranch dressing (or your favorite)
1/3 really good olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
cracked black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar, put on the lid, and shake.
That’s all there is to it! You’ll be absolutely amazed at what this does to storebought ranch dressing. It’s SO delicious! Angie had brought a jar to a supper gathering as a salad dressing, but no sooner had people tasted it than they started dipping Romaine leaves, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots into the jar and wolfing them down with relish. Try it, you’ll love it!
‘Til next time,
Love your lima beans. August 19, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: butterbeans, cooking lima beans, lima beans
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Silence Dogood here. When I first moved North from my native Nashville, I discovered that most of my friends and colleagues hated lima beans. I was dumbfounded. How could anyone hate lima beans?! I found out soon enough when I ordered them in a restaurant and was served mushy, slimy “baby” lima beans, also the sort that I’d found in the local groceries’ freezer sections.
These nasty, slippery, tiny things bore no resemblance whatever to the big, plump, meaty butterbeans I’d grown up with, so delicious boiled and served with butter, salt, and pepper, as a side with mashed or new or baked sweet potatoes or baked potatoes or corn on the cob. (The limas were also often boiled, then sauteed in butter for a minute or two with corn just cut from the ears). Fried chicken and meaty slices of beefsteak tomato were popular accompaniments.
To this day, I don’t know if butterbeans got their name because they were invariably cooked with butter or if their taste and texture simply struck someone as buttery. But I did notice something here in scenic PA: The local Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish and Mennonites, weren’t buying those awful baby limas. Nor did they seem to eat lima beans fresh. Instead, they were making baked beans out of big, meaty dried limas. But when they were in season, which is now, they’d sell big, meaty limas in the pod at their farm stands or shell and sell them ready to cook.
If your farmers’ market sells big, plump lima beans in the pod or out, here’s what to keep in mind: Shelling limas is a pain. That’s because the pods are big and thick, and there are typically only two or three limas in each pod, so it takes a lot of work to get enough to eat, and you’re left with a giant mound of empty, somewhat hairy pods. (Hint: You can compost them.) That’s why, if you buy them pre-shelled, they cost so much more. You’ll be saving a lot of work and getting a lot more limas, but there’s a catch here, too: Once they’re shelled, they don’t keep too well, so you need to cook them soon or they’ll get mushy and slimy and you’ll have to compost them. I prefer to shell them just before cooking them, but there are only two of us. If you’re cooking for a family, I’d suggest buying a bag of shelled limas and saving yourself some prep time.
If you’re cooking fresh limas, boiling is definitely the way to go, and they’ll take more time than, say, green and yellow wax beans, summer squash, asparagus, or broccoli, but less time than new potatoes. When I cook fresh limas to go with corn on the cob, I’ll bring a covered pot of water to a boil for the corn. If I were going to cook green and yellow wax beans to go with the corn, I’d prep the beans, put them in a pot, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil once I saw that the corn water was boiling. (Fresh corn on the cob takes just enough time to heat through, so you want everything else to be pretty much ready to serve before you put it in the pot.) For limas, however, I’ll put them in water and heat them the moment I start heating the water for corn. And I won’t add the corn to the boiling water until I’m sure the limas are done, when they’ve turned pale green and are tender and delicious, not hard or slimy (at which point I’ll turn them off, since I know they’ll stay hot in the water until the corn is ready).
What about frozen and canned lima beans? I’ve noticed that some of the more local brands occasionally offer frozen limas rather than the ubiquitous “baby limas.” They may not be quite as big and succulent as butterbeans, but at least they’re not tiny and slippery. If I’m craving fresh limas in the off-season, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them. And yes, you can get big, meaty limas in cans, but they’re white, not green. I use them mixed with other canned beans in my chili; they add body and contrast, and are just great with several colors of kidney beans. I certainly wouldn’t attempt to heat them up straight out of the can on their own, though. Yecchhh!!!
What about those Mennonite baked beans? Well, they all have bacon or ham in them, even the grocery-store versions, just like most baked beans, so given that I’m a vegetarian, I’ve never tried them. (Not to mention that they involve the endless time involved rehydrating and cooking dried beans.) But they sure look good! When we want baked beans, we turn to Bush’s Grillin’ Beans, which have a variety of flavors that are vegetarian, but taste so rich and good, you’d never—and I NEVER say this—miss the meat. Paired with cornbread and coleslaw, or corn-on-the-cob and a classic wedge salad, or creamy pasta and a crunchy tossed salad, they’re heaven. And nobody’s slapping your hand if you want to have them with fried chicken or burgers or barbecue or whatever. And many of the Bush’s Grillin’ beans varieties do have meat.
So choose what you enjoy! But please, don’t ignore fresh lima beans, the big, thick, meaty ones we in the South know as butterbeans. If all you know are tiny, slimy, slippery limas, these will be a revelation.
‘Til next time,
Perfect peach crisp, plus salad. August 17, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
Tags: peach crisp, peach crisp recipe, peach salad, peaches, what to do with ripe peaches
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Silence Dogood here. It’s peach season here in scenic PA. Our friend Rudy just gave us a whole bag of fresh-picked peaches. Thing is, ripe peaches aren’t great keepers. Like heirloom tomatoes, you’d better eat them in a couple of days or else. And there are only two of us. What to do?
Well, there are plenty of ways to eat ripe peaches. Salads are one of my favorites. You can toss peach chunks, blueberries, diced red onion, and slivered almonds on a bed of arugula, add some extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon or lime juice, and some salt and fresh-cracked pepper, and enjoy a luscious salad. Or mix things up by subbing avocado and pistachios for the blueberries and almonds. Fresh mint leaves pair perfectly with peaches on a bed of Bibb lettuce with crumbled blue, gorgonzola, or feta cheese. Or make a cocktail in your salad bowl with Bibb or Boston lettuce, peaches, raspberries, crumbled pecans, and an olive oil and champagne vinegar dressing.
But when gifted with an abundance of ripe peaches, one of the most delicious ways to use them all is to make a peach crisp. Sure, save a few for eating fresh and adding to salads. But crisps are so luscious, flavorful, and easy to make, it would be a shame if you didn’t at least try one. Unlike pies and cobblers, crisps don’t require a pie crust, so you need no technical piecrust-rolling skills, no ability to create a piecrust lattice on top, no horrendously messy counter.
Here’s all it takes to make the best fruit dessert since fresh blueberry tart:
For the filling:
Butter a round 8-inch glass cake pan and add a touch of water to the bottom. Slice enough fresh yellow peaches into chunks or slices to fill at least 2/3 of the pan. If you wish, add blueberries, red raspberries, or pitted sour cherries on top. (We like the rich gold of the peaches with the blue and red of blueberries and red raspberries or sour cherries, but any one of the three makes a lovely add-in, as do, improbably, seedless green grapes.) Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon or cardamom over the fruit.
For the topping:
Combine 2/3 cup unbleached flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 stick butter softened at room temperature. Work the butter in with your fingers to make panko-like crumbs. Next, work in 1/2 to 2/3 cup rolled oats and spread the mixture over the fruit in your glass pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for an hour, covering the top with aluminum foil for the first half-hour, until the fruit is cooked and bubbly and the topping is crisp. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or dished up in bowls with cream poured over the crisp. Yum!!!
‘Til next time,
Welcome, rose petal jam. August 15, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: rose jam, rose petal jam, Turkish feta rolls, tyropita
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Silence Dogood here. Growing up, I developed a strong aversion to flower-flavored food. I think it was because my grandmother loved violet pastilles. You’d come into her apartment, and there was a dish of luscious-looking little purple candies. Grape! Currant! Yum!!! But then you’d put one in your mouth, and it tasted just like perfume. You were eating perfume. Gack!!!
Now mind you, we all learned to make an exception for vitamin-C-rich rose hip jam and rose hip tea, even for vitamin C tablets that contained rose hips. But rose hips (the bright orange-red fruits of the rose bush) didn’t smell or taste like roses. I continued to avoid all edible flowers and foods made from them, with the exception of hibiscus flowers, which give their bright red color to Red Zinger and other herb teas and don’t add a floral taste.
However, I was finally forced to reevaluate my floral-food aversion, thanks to Nashville’s wonderful Turkish restaurant Anatolia. Though our friend Ben and I now live in scenic PA, we grew up in Nashville. And when we return to visit family and friends, a trip to Anatolia is a must. The menu is fantastic (check it out online), the atmosphere is gorgeous, and the people are amazingly kind and helpful, from the owners to the servers.
I love Middle Eastern and Greek food, so a trip to Anatolia is always paradise to me. As is always the case in these restaurants, I never make it to the entrees, good as they sound. Instead, I have an assortment of appetizers and a salad and I’m done. At Anatolia, my favorite appetizer is made of filo (the Turkish spelling) sheets wrapped cigar-style around Turkish feta and fresh parsley. These yummy “cigars” are served hot with luscious rose-petal jam, which is not exactly “jam” in our sense of the word but more of a delicious rose-petal honey, more liquid.
The combination of the sweet, aromatic rose jam and the pungent, salty feta, plus the crispy filo sheets, is simply heaven. And by a perfect twist of fate, Anatolia sells two brands of rose-petal jam. I finally broke down and bought one (Penguen [sic] brand), even though I knew I would probably never make those delicious filo-and-feta “cigars” to dip in it.
However, I had some thoughts about what I could find ready-made to eat with my Penguen jam. I know you’re familiar with the Greek appetizers called spanakopita, phyllo pockets stuffed with cooked spinach, feta, dill, and so on. But do you know tyropita, another Greek appetizer of phyllo-stuffed triangles with feta, mint, and dill? I wouldn’t want to dip something with spinach in it into a rose jam, but the phyllo-feta triangles might be luscious. I haven’t tried these, but dipping veggie spring rolls, or even egg rolls, or samosas into rose jam might be delicious, and you can find all three in your grocery freezer aisle.
Dessert is always an option, too. Summer is fresh fruit and fruit-pie season. Imagine a peach or fresh apricot pie or tart glazed with rose-petal jam, served with real whipped cream or Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream. Yum!!!
If you use rose petal jam, please tell us how. Thank you!
‘Til next time,