Thursday, May 29, 2008

Green Green Noodle Soup

When you have literally hundreds of cookbooks, choosing a recipe can be difficult. Your first task is to choose which book to look through for ideas. That, in itself, is daunting. Then, choosing the recipe itself, from what is likely hundreds in any given book. It is no wonder that I have set a goal of making two new recipes every week. Even at that rate, I do not think I could ever make every recipe in my house.

With so many recipes to choose from, and all the new ones I make per month, it's no surprise that, every now and then, I stumble upon one that is less than stellar. Green Green Noodle Soup, from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, falls into that category. It wasn't terrible--we ate it and did not order a pizza. But, it wasn't great. Unfortunately for the recipes that reside in my home, it is truly a case of survival of the fittest. A mediocre dish that might have been made again in another home gets scrapped in mine, with the epitaph of "with so many recipes to choose from, why make anything that is less than incredible?"

It wasn't that the soup was bad. I think it was all about personal preference. The soup consisted of onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil and butter with some herbs, zucchini and spinach added to that, then vegetable broth added so that the whole thing can simmer. The soup was ladled over spinach linguine that had been tossed with pesto. We grated some Parmesan cheese over the whole thing. Everything here sounds great to me. It's the one step that I skipped over when reading, and skipped over just now in typing it that, in my opinion, ruined the soup. Half of the soup, pre-ladling over the noodles, gets pureed. And that, to me, made all the difference. I think the problem was more one of texture than flavor for me. Unfortunately, a problem with texture is near impossible for me to overcome.

And so Green Green Noodle Soup had met the fate of many recipes before it. It got eaten, and then got a "do not make again" stamp. Better luck next time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Morning Glory Muffins

I chose Morning Glory Muffins, from King Arthur Flour Whole Grains Baking to be the first recipe that The Jam Girlz would make for our Bake-a-Long. I chose it because it was made with whole grains, and looked interesting and easy.

On Sunday morning, I decided that it would be a great time to make the muffins. I had a wedding to go to in Connecticut, and figured that they would make a great on-the-go breakfast for the two-hour ride down there.

The first modification I made to the recipe was to make them in a mini loaf pan instead of in a muffin tin. I'll be honest--I didn't like the sound to having to grease the paper muffin liners, and my muffin tin has sort of seen its day (to the point where I don't really want food in direct contact with the baking surface). Also, it seemed fitting to use the mini loaf pan on the way to Chach and JoJo's wedding, considering that Chach and JoJo had given us the muffin pan as a wedding gift just eight months before.

The muffins came together fairly easily. The hardest part was realizing that the bowl to my food processor was in the waiting line to be washed, and therefore wasn't immediately available to me. After that, it was smooth sailing.

The loaves took a little longer to bake than the muffins would have--about ten minutes extra. This wasn't necessarily the best thing, since I was on a tight schedule to get to the wedding in time. As a result, Kurt and I ended up taking still-steaming morning glory bread on the road with us.

They turned out wonderful. The raisins were plump and moist, due to their soak. The carrots, apple, and coconut made for colorful confetti throughout the inside, and the sunflower seeds offered an interesting crunch. I must say, they were also filling, and sustained us through the wedding ceremony--I was surprised to realize that I wasn't even hungry when lunch was served.

As for the wedding itself, it was held in the couple's backyard under perfectly sunny skies. The temperature remained a steady not-too-hot, not-too-cold 73, and everyone had a great time. Chach and JoJo certainly know how to throw a great party. I hope all their days are as fun-filled, action-packed, and fair-weathered as their wedding day was.

Morning Glory Muffins
adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grains Baking

1/2 cup raisins
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled and grated carrots
1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and grated
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
3 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly grease a muffin tin or line with papers and coat the papers with nonstick spray.

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover them with hot water; set aside to soak while you assemble the rest of the recipe.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the carrots, apple, coconut, and sunflower seeds. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture, and stir until evenly moistened. Drain the raisins and stir them in.

Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared pan (the muffin cups will be almost full to the top; that's OK). Bake the muffins until nicely domed and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling.

Makes 12 muffins, or 4 mini loaves.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cauliflower Rye Casserole

Spring in New England doesn't always feel like spring. Every now and then, you'll get a glorious, 70-degree day. But, in New England, spring is more about waiting for those days than actually experiencing them. Today was one of the waiting days. It was barely 60 degrees when I got home from work, and it had just started to rain...hard.

The smell of rye bread toasting when I walked through the door was welcome. I knew right away that Kurt had started our dinner, a recipe from Sundays at Moosewood, Cauliflower Rye Casserole.

This recipe is comfort food at its best. The smell of the rye and caraway fill the whole house. The oven stays on throughout the entire preparation, sending gentle heat throughout the kitchen. The dish itself is cheesy and gooey and warms right to the soul.

With the number of new recipes that I try every month, it is rare for one to stand out so much that it becomes an instant classic in the house. The Cauliflower Rye Casserole did just that. Since making it for the first time in February, we've made it at least another three times. The ingredients sound strange, but, put together, they are the perfect blend. If this recipe hadn't come from the Moosewood Collective, I probably wouldn't have trusted it. However, my experience with Moosewood has been to just go with it, because they know what they are doing.

Cauliflower Rye Casserole

1 cup beer
3 cups rye bread cubes
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pour the beer and stir and let sit until it becomes flat.

Put bread cubes on baking sheet, and toast in a 300-degree oven until they are crisp, but not browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. When cubes come out of oven, turn oven up to 350 degrees.

Saute the cauliflower in the butter with the caraway seeds until just barely tender. Combine the bread cubes and cauliflower with the grated cheese. Spread the mixture into a greased 3-quart casserole dish.

Mix the eggs, mustard, coriander, and black pepper with the beer, and pour the mixture into the casserole dish.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until puffed and golden.