Creating seasonal recipes that are inspired by my passion for local, organic foods

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lavender Chocolate Mousse Pie

Lavender chocolate mousse pieLast month's lavender flowering resulted in some lovely dried culinary lavender. What better way to enjoy it than to couple it with chocolate?

My husband makes this wonderful chocolate mousse pie, so we adapted it to include a lavender infusion with the cream. It turned out aromatically heavenly.

Lavender Chocolate Mousse Pie

21 organic Newman's Own chocolate sandwich cookies (or Oreos)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted organic butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped *
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4 inch high sides. Finely grind cookies in food processor. Add butter and process until mixture is evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan to form thin crust. Bake crust 5 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely.

For Mousse:
Combine chocolate (* we like Callebaut - you can get it at Whole Foods), vanilla and salt in food processor. Bring 1 cup cream and 2 tablespoons dried lavender to boil in heavy small saucepan. Strain cream mixture to remove lavender buds. With processor running, gradually pour hot cream through feed tube and process until chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Cool to room temperature stirring occasionally.

Beat 2 cups cream and sugar in large bowl to still peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set, about 6 hours.

Serves 8. Errr, 5?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Crunchy Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella and Roasted Root VegetablesDo you still have loads of dried plums left over from your (or a neighbor's) tree from last summer? Do you have any leftover bay leaves you dried last winter?

Here is one good way of using up those plums to make way for this year's crop. It is my take on the classic Chicken Marbella from the Silver Palate cookbook ca. 1982. Throw in some fresh garlic, oregano and Italian parsley from the garden to make the flavors really stand out. This is an extremely easy recipe to whip together - the only thing you have to remember is to prepare it the night before so the chicken has ample time to lounge in the marinade.

Since I generally don't cook for hoards of people, I've cut down the amount from the original recipe. Also, since I'm a breast man, I mean woman, I used bone-in chicken breasts instead of thighs. This recipe serves 4 - 5 (depending on how you cut up the chicken).

Crunchy Chicken Marbella
2 bone-in organic chicken breasts (approx. 2 lbs)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 bay leaves
1.5 cups dried, pitted plums, chopped into smallish chunks
1 cup green olives (I leave the pits in)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh (or dried) oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Viognier)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

With a large knife, split the chicken breasts into more manageable sizes - I cut mine up, yielding servings for 5. Rinse and pat dry (mostly to remove little bits of bone). In a large bowl, combine the chicken, garlic, bay leaves, dried plums and green olives. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and oregano. Pour the olive oil mixture over the chicken and combine well, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking dish. Spoon the remaining marinade (make sure you include the plums, olives and bay leaves) over the chicken evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and add the white wine around the chicken.

Bake for about 45 minutes or so, flipping the chicken every 20 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear.

Transfer the chicken, plums and olives to a serving platter and moisten with the pan juices. Sprinkle with parsley.

Make sure each serving gets an ample amount of the plums and olives - they are what makes this meal stand out!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Triumvirate of peach preserves

Confiture de Pêche au Cognac et VanilleThese three takes on a standard, easy peach jam recipe will make you crave them fortnightly! (Okay, anyone who can guess that odd media reference gets bonus points).

Since peaches are in season around these parts, what better way to capture the taste of summer than by making peach jam? I wanted to do something a little more interesting than just plain peach jam, so I played around with the original recipe, making my own modifications.

Last Saturday I spent the day blanching and removing peach skins and chopping up 8 cups of peaches. Then, the magic began (and the molten peach-lava-induced-blister on my hand from stirring at full boil -- who said great flavor didn't come at a cost?).

For the first batch, I started with the standard recipe (this makes a little over 6 8-oz jars):

Peach Preserves
4 cups chopped organic peaches, skins and pits removed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package pectin
5 cups sugar

Sterilize your jars, lids, etc. I'm not going to go into food safety techniques here - if you want more information, study the instructions that come with your pectin package.

Add the lemon to your peaches in a non-corrosive pot and slowly add the package of pectin. I use a wooden spoon, but you can use any non-reactive implement you like. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat and then add the sugar. Bring this mess up to a rolling boil, wherein you can't stir down the boiling action and, most likely, are getting bombarded by spattering molten lava peach bits (see above note). Boil for one full minute.

Now comes the fun part: adding flavors to this original recipe to make it much more tasty.

Cognac Vanilla Peach Preserves
[or Confiture de Pêche au Cognac et Vanille - if you wants to be fancy-like]
Peach preserves - 1 batch (see recipe above)
1/4 cup cognac
2 vanilla beans (each one cut into thirds and split down the middle)

Follow the instructions above to produce one batch of undoctored peach preserves. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Stir cognac into the peach preserves and ladle into hot jars. Add one piece of vanilla bean into each of the six jars, pushing the bean down with a spoon. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Cacao Peach Preserves
[or Confiture de Pêche aux Eclats de Fève de Cacao - ain't this Frenchy stuff fun?]
Peach preserves - 1 batch (see recipe above)
6 tablespoons cacao nibs

Follow the instructions above to produce one batch of undoctored peach preserves. Ladle prepared peach preserves into hot jars, adding about 1 tablespoon of cacao nibs to each jar. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Ginger Peach Preserves
[or Confiture de Pêche au au Gingembre et Citron - phew!]
Peach Preserves - 1 batch (see recipe above)
3 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped into small pieces

Follow the instructions above to produce one batch of undoctored peach preserves. Ladle prepared peach preserves into hot jars, adding about 1/2 tablespoon of chopped candied ginger to each jar. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I know you won't be able to resist the temptation to start eating these right away, but your patience will be rewarded when you finally crack open those preserves months away from now when you can enjoy a taste of summer in the dead of winter. Ooh la la!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Welcome to my Food Blog!

If you're wondering how this blog came into being, it is a spin-off (of sorts) from my environmental blog, Crunchy Chicken. One of the many focuses (foci?) on this other blog is related to eating in a more environmentally friendly way.

It should come as no surprise that eating organically is better for the environment and those of you who read my regular blog have probably already seen my posts regarding eating locally and its affects on oil consumption and other resource usage.

So this blog will be comprised of recipes that focus on seasonally inspired, local and organic foods. The recipes will be categorized by season (sorry southern hemisphere folks, you have to do the "translation") so that if you are looking for a crop in season, you can easily search for a recipe by season in addition to ingredient or recipe type.

I hope you enjoy it and comments are most definitely welcome! Also, if you try out the recipes, feel free to update the posting with any modifications you made that you liked.