Gram’s Cranberry Salad Sauce

Photo of a totally gratuitous California sunset, because well, it’s pretty.
OK, super lucky readers, my auntie, the daughter of my third grandma, is kindly allowing me to share her mother’s salad sauce that normally accompanies her amazing cranberry salad (I think hers does not have cinnamon). So here it is!
GRAM’S CRANBERRY SALAD SAUCE
 
COMBINE in medium bowl:
1 cup canned (evaporated) milk
2 TB sugar
1 TB yellow mustard
 
ADD, very slowly, via tiny drizzles from bottle, 
cider vinegar to bowl of milk, sugar and mustard,
to thicken the mixture.  
 
OPTIONAL: Add small dollop of sour cream or
plain yogurt to mixture.  
 
SERVE OVER CRANBERRY SALAD.  
 
 
–Gram (Jacqueline Barnard) c. 1950′s

Thanksgiving Recipe Linky Love / Visiting Food Banks in the Land of Milk and Honey

Some fun Turkey Day links:

  1. 59 Cheap and Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes;
  2. Mark Bittman’s Mimimalist Thanksgiving (or, at least some of it) turkey and some sides, all under THREE hours;
  3. Food safety experts say the turkey can go from FREEZER to OVEN;
  4. Kaylyn’s Low Carb Thanksgiving/Leftovers Recipes; and
  5. Bryant Terry’s ecological Thanksgiving recipes*.

And of course -holiday-friendly  Dude, Where’s the Stove? recipes:

* I have such a book crush on Bryant Terry. I received a copy of his new hit, The Inspired Vegan – I’ll have to post a review once I’ve done more than just drool over the recipes!

In the spirit of gratitude, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about food banks this year. My town has a hotline people can call to find out what food banks are open each day. And this year, I helped a few friends visit them. By help I mean – making a phone call and driving people around. Not much, but, something, right?  It turns out that one my friends never got any sort of help from family during a rough patch. Not a penny, not a can. Nothing. It meant the world to her that I picked her up in my car, waited in line with her, and visited the food bank a few times. I had no clue it made a difference.

So what are these food banks like? One local non-profit with an ecological bent distributes food to seniors who pay a small flat fee each year, to get a weekly grocery bag full of lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes and other  veggies that are a shade past their prime, as well as a loaf of bread, saving them from the trash heap. A church distributes twenty-pound sacks of onions, cauliflowers, potatoes, carrots, and other veggies as part of a USDA program. Another place shares a mixture of canned / packaged foods and some fresh veggies as part of a food distribution non-profit.

So, anyways, I am giving thanks, to anyone who has ever given food, money, time, anything to any of these food banks.  Thank you for helping people in their time of need. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! And may we all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: my friend who worked like crazy making turkey cake pops!

Roasted Cauliflower – Too Delicious to Ignore

Roasting cauliflower is akin to transforming an unappreciated commoner like Eliza Dolittle into an empress. Perhaps I should mention that I never had anything against cauliflower – I just never sought it out before now.

I happened to somehow end up with three or four cauliflower at once – so…what to do? Yes, why not try roasting? Brings out the sweetness of the vegetable and gives it a great texture. Yummy, yummy. I’ve decided it will be a non-guilty pleasure, what with the all vitamin C and other nutritional goodness it represents as a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables.

cauliflower slathered in olive oil and salt

on the grill/cookie sheet

roasted cauliflower

Ingredients/Tools:

  1. 2 cauliflowers;
  2. approximately 1/4 cup of oil;
  3. salt;
  4. mixing bowl/zippered plastic bag; and
  5. toaster oven.

Directions:

  1. Set your toaster oven to broil. While that’s getting hot, get into the prep.
  2. Break off the cauliflower florets and slice the largest into quarters, cross-wise.
  3. Pour some oil into the zippered bag, then add 2 teaspoons of salt.
  4. Add the florets and shake the bag! Cover all the florets with this oil mixture.
  5. Pop the cauliflower pieces into the toaster oven. (I did this in 2 batches, 30 minutes apiece).

It’s so easy. What about sauces? I was thinking about glazing the cauliflower with some miso butter – haven’t gotten around to doing that, mostly eating it just roasted. Squeezed some home-grown lemons (gift from a friend) onto the roasted cauliflowers with some dashes of soy sauce – worked great!

Strawberries with Melted Chocolate / Salinas Valley Farmland Pix

Quick, what if you don’t know what to make for dessert and you are feeling ultra-lazy? Melt some dark chocolate in a metal bowl floating in simmering water, wash and hull some strawberries and call it a day! That’s the recipe. I served this to some friends – spooning the chocolate over strawberries. Pretty effortless.

Strawberries with Melted Chocolate

And where do strawberries grow? you may be wondering. Why, many grow in the Salinas Valley. Coastal California dominates domestic and international strawberry production with Watsonville/Salinas crops representing nearly half of California’s total strawberry acreage.

Conventional strawberry production is associated with the potential use of methyl iodide. Monterey County, which includes the Salinas Valley, is primarily agricultural and very poor. I was surprised to learn that it is supporting a potential ban on methyl iodide since strawberries enjoy the status of being a billion dollar crop.

This chemical is the subject of enormous controversy  complete with its own government scandal at the moment. The conflict may very well subside: the Strawberry Commission and the state are studying how to grow strawberries more safely without methyl iodide. This could be good news since strawberries have the potential to be cancer-preventing on one hand but would be causing cancer on the other hand if methyl iodide is used to grow them.

Anyways, here are some pix from my recent visit to America’s Salad Bowl. Is it fair that it is so darn fertile as well as stunningly gorgeous?!!? Being there is like stepping into a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.

Organic Strawberry Plant Closeup

Rows of Organic Strawberry Plants

Ye Olde Barn

Salinas Valley Farmland, against Hills with Clouds

Red Wine Pears

steaming pears

steaming pears

red wine pears simmering

red wine pears simmering

 red wine pears

red wine pears

Once upon a time, in early fall, pears were on sale for 29 cents a pound. TWENTY-NINE CENTS, you heard me. What to do? Oh yes, at first, you buy pounds of pears. And it is pear time, all the time. Pears with cheese. Pears by themselves. And then the pears threaten to go bad! How can I save these pears, so that their goodness can be captured? Why, poach them in red wine.

It’s that easy.

Ingredients:

  1. 6 very ripe Bartlett pears;
  2. one bottle of red wine; (I use the infamous Trader Joe’s 2 buck chuck)
  3. splash of vanilla;
  4. 1/4 cup of honey;
  5. 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon;
  6. 2 sprigs of thyme (somewhat optional – I’ve done fine without the thyme);
  7. 2 quart sauce pot.

Steps:

  1. Pour the red wine into pot and begin low simmer.
  2. Peel the pears. Slice in half if you like, or leave whole.
  3. Add ground cinnamon, honey/sugar, thyme and vanilla to the pot.
  4. Melt everything together.
  5. Add pears.
  6. Allow pears to simmer until just tender – this means, start checking on it no later than like 10 minutes after you’ve added the pears. Depending upon ripeness, these pears might be ready quite soon.
  7. Remove!!!
  8. Let sauce continue to simmer until it is reduced to half of its original size. This is not a hard-and-fast rule – the idea is to intensify the flavors.

They are simply wonderful as-is. Even better with ice cream/frozen yogurt / nondairy frozen treat. Served that way, any international spy of superior caliber will start weeping like a child with joy. I saw it with my own eyes!

Chocolate Bark with Almonds (makes you look like a genius)

Bitterweet Chocolate Almond Bark

I made something like last winter to give away for the holidays but thought I’d tweak it into something less sweet, and more ingredient-centric. Some people really really LOVE it. But it’s not going to be your cup of tea if you like stuff really sweet. Because it’s not. Rather, it’s just sweet. (you can use “regular” chocolate if you want it sweeter).  And that is what drives the people crazy. Here goes! (oh and a Warning – many of the recipes on this blog are designed with an eye towards frugality – but this is not one of them).

Ingredients:

1 lb dark chocolate; (I used the 72% from Trader Joe’s, it’s $5.00 for 17 oz);
3/4 lb toasted unsalted almonds; ($3.00 of a $4.00 bag from Trader Joe’s);
1/2 cup of dried sweetened cranberries; (about 1/2 of a $$4.00 bag from Trader Joe’s);
1 cup of chopped dried unsweetened apricots; (about 1/2 bag from Trader Joe’s)*

Tools:

sauce pot;
very clean stainless steel bowl;
fork;
parchment paper;
water.

Fill a broad sauce pot (10″ radius or greater) until the water level is a few inches from the top. Simmer. Do NOT boil. Place the stainless steel bowl in the pot and make sure that the water makes good contact with the bowl. The bowl should float.  Break the chocolate into chunks, then drop them into the stainless steel bowl.

Tear off enough parchment paper to cover a cookie sheet.  Let the chocolate melt. Mix the almonds and dried fruits. Pour everything onto the paper. Allow to cool for a few hours and eventually, cover it with parchment paper. Move chocolate bark from the cookie sheet to a cutting board. Cut. ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ALTERNATE ENDING: for those of you who enjoy white chocolate, use that! Might want to use salted almonds to balance out the sweetness usually associated with white chocolate.

*I have also purchased the Mariani dried apricots from Costco, for about $3.50 for 2 lbs…they are VERY sweet and wonderful for this bark too!

Miso Butter Asparagus Tart Experiment (why does David Chang have to be an evil genius?)

Miso. Butter. Uh…those are the ingredients for…miso butter. This is why David Chang is an evil genius. Way back when he was just a non-famous kid*, learning all about ramen in Japan, he happened upon the Sapporo stylings of miso ramen: finished off with a “knob” of butter and some corn. David notices the flavor combo is  crazy good.  He and his friends abbreviate the flavor insanity to miso + butter. Well,  I have both butter and miso in the fridge, so why not? Doesn’t cost me anything.

What does miso butter taste like? It tastes so good it’s just WRONG!!! The umami in the butter melds with that of the miso to create this uber-umami whirlwind of deliciousness.

He has a fancy recipe for poached eggs with miso butter on asparagus, in his Momofuku book - I decided to try something more basic, elemental: why not just go for the miso butter as the major taste?

Miso Butter Asparagus Tart

Ingredients: (these are very very approximate measurements, due to this being an experiment)

  • 1 yellow onion;
  • two or three handfuls of asparagus pieces**;
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry;
  • 1 tablespoon of dark miso; and
  • 2 tablespoons of butter.

Slice a whole yellow onion and saute until translucent. Allow to cool completely.  Wash and slice the asparagus spears. If they are thicker than 1/3″, you may want to halve them.

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to thaw for the required time. Cut the puff pastry into modest rectangles (like 3″x2″) – I was using Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, which yields about 12 pieces. Transfer the pieces to a cookie sheet.

Melt the butter in the microwave – try it like 15 seconds at a time – and mix in the miso. Mix. Mix. Mix. Baste the miso butter onto the puff pastry with a brush. Put a thin layer of carmelized onion onto the pastry. Then top with the asparagus pieces. Baste the asparagus with yet more miso butter.

Set your oven to 425 Fahrenheit. (I fiddled with the temperature, all the way down to 350 at one point). Bake. Remove once the puff pastry has puffed (about 15 ~ 20 minutes, depending on how heavy the asparagus and onions are).

Remove, and wait for praise and adoration!!!

Notes – I cooked this in an oven with a see-thru door to help keep a vigilant eye over the tarts so that they did not burn too much. The miso burns mercilessly fast.

Taster Feedback:

One taster (who weighs no greater than 110 lbs, I believe) ate portions intended for three adults in one sitting! One taster complained that the tart should be more attractive, perhaps with carrot or something pretty. One taster liked the flakiness of the pastry and the nice taste of the asparagus and how it was all bound together with the miso. All tasters eagerly ate MULTIPLE servings!

* His dad ran golf businesses and David played competitive golf as a kid…I guess he had to get out because he could read the writing on the wall when Tiger Woods‘ face would be on the brochures…for the tournaments he was competing in!

** The asparagus in the picture consists only of the tips because I had used the stems for another dish. I was lucky enough to find it on sale for under $2.00 per pound during a weekly special. You could probably swap in summer squash or even scallions for a more frugal take.

P.S. Here’s a link to the Kitchen Window story from yesterday that has some background info on miso (and hastened my decision to post about my miso butter experiment)!