Roasted potatoes with rosemary

My recipe today is potatoes with rosemary … yes that is it, just the two main ingredients plus the garlic, oregano and the salt. They should complement many winter meat or vegetarian dishes easily. I like using them in cooking because they both taste great and are good for digestion. I get very excited about rosemary in general as it has such rich and colorful history steeped in the culinary world, legends and folklore.

Rosemary is such a culinary delight, a popular plant in the kitchen especially during the colder months. Chefs use it in a wide variety of dishes from soups, bean dishes to meats particularly for lamb and chicken. It is not just used for enhancing the flavor of a dish but it also helps digestion. Also, it can preserve food, an important consideration in the old days before refrigerators were invented so I can imagine that rosemary was essential in a Medieval kitchen…

The aromatic rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has been around for thousands of years. It is native to the Mediterranean region. Its Latin name is derived from the words ‘ros’ which means dew, and ‘marinus’ that means sea and as its name suggest it can in fact survive on the spray of the sea air. Persian doctors valued it as one of their best remedies. It has also been recognized as a powerful medicine in the Mediterranean countries. Rosemary along with the other digestive remedies of the region like thyme, oregano, fennel have been used in the culinary world for their medicinal values. Earlier, the ancient doctors started using them in dishes so people could get their benefits on a daily basis. So yes we can thank these wise doctors for all these fabulous dishes.

Ancient cultures thought of rosemary as a protective plant that could ward off evil. If we look at all the benefits that rosemary has, this statement would become more clear and less mysterious. Its health benefits come from its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer abilities. It is also a restoring remedy as it can improve heart, liver, gallbladder, brain and kidney functions, circulation, digestion and the nervous system. It brings warmth to a cold, debilitated body. In the 13th century, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary claimed that rosemary wine was the secret to her long life and cured her paralyzed legs.

I’m now sitting here at my desk with a bunch of rosemary and sniffing its aromatic oils…

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of red potatoes
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • leaves of 4 stalks of fresh rosemary or 2 tsp of dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup of oil

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 475 F.
  • Soak the potatoes in cold water so the dirt can come off easily. I like to leave the peel on but if you prefer you can peel the potatoes without soaking. If using fresh, take the rosemary springs and pull the rosemary leaves back on the vine to get the leaves off. Cut the potatoes into cubes (halves and quarters) and put them in a larger bowl with the oil, crushed garlic, oregano, salt and the rosemary. Toss until the potatoes are well coated.
  • Oil a baking sheet and spread the potatoes on it.
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are golden and tender. Flip the potatoes twice during baking to ensure even browning.
  • Serve warm, preferably the same day.
  • enjoy!

Sources

Matthew Wood: Earthwise

Photo, recipe, text by twincities.herbs.com

Marinated pork with prunes

It is December now and I am already missing the plums from this summer. Then I happened upon this recipe (source of the recipe) … a dish with pork baked in prune sauce! I really like to prepare meats with fruits and the prunes work nicely with the pork here. Oh and that savory aroma of the prunes cooking with the shallots!!! … I decided that I will be making this recipe for Christmas Eve. I believe it would be perfect for this busy night. It can be marinated ahead of time and then just has to be cooked on the 24th … and after eating this dish I might have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head…

I really like simple meals that have an interesting flavor and this dish does just that. The pork is first marinated in a mustardy sauce and further baked in a savory plum sauce to perfection. The moist pork works nicely with the sweet prunes along with pungent spices and results in a unique sweet and savory flavor. Of course, it needs to be served with some nice wine or grape drink.

I made a few minor changes to the original recipe. I added a little red hot pepper, of course it is optional but for me, some spiciness was missing. I felt that the sweet pork along with the sweet sauce needed a touch of spiciness to balance the dish out. Not sure if it is authentic but this was more to satisfy my personal taste.

Also, I served this dish with brussel sprouts in addition to the potatoes that the recipe already calls for. I served brussel sprouts but any other bitter green leafy vegetable like kale, lettuce would work well. Also, the recipe calls for 2 cups of chicken stock. You can do half white wine and half chicken stock if you wish.

If you can’t find tenderloin or just don’t want to spend so much money, sirloin is a nice alternative. Sirloin, a different part of the pork is not as tender, will require longer cooking time and more cooking liquid. (I cooked it for 15 minutes longer and added an extra 1/4 cup of chicken stock). Honestly, they both taste nice though. Of course, if you want to impress your guests, or just treat yourself to something special, the tenderloin is more superior in flavor so go for the tenderloin!

A few words about the pork. It is sweet and salty. According to Ancient Chinese Medicine, pork is great for the fall and the winter as it is moistening. In fact, pork is moistening for the lungs, kidneys, and the spleen-pancreas. In Europe, it is a popular meat during the cold months especially during Christmas time.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 pork tenderloin (approx. 1.25 pounds) or sirloin
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves of garlic, minced + 4 whole cloves, peeled and slightly smashed
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dry)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
10 dried plums (prunes), chopped in half
2 smaller shallots or 1 bigger one, peeled and thinly chopped
2 cups chicken or pork broth or 1 cup of chicken/pork stock and 1 cup of white wine
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
fresh parsley

Dierections

Marinade: In a small bowl mix sugar, dijon mustard, 2 tsp olive oil, thyme, sale, pepper and 2 cloves of garlic. Put the mixture on the tenderloin, evenly spreading it all over the pork. You can put the pork in a zip lock bag or a marinating dish with a lid. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190C). Take the pork mixture out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Prune sauce: In a pan with oven proof handles, gently heat 2 tsp of olive oil, add shallots and stir. Cook until it start becoming soft and you can smell its aroma – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, the chopped prunes and stir … Now if I may,
I would like to invite you to stop for a few seconds and smell the aroma of the shallots, the garlic and the prunes, it is amazing … after 1 minute add the chicken stock, vinegar and hot pepper (optional). Cook for 5-10 minutes.

Place the pork in the middle of the pan. Put the pan into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Cook for an additional 20-25 minutes basting 2-3 times or until the meat is 160F.

When meat’s temperature reached 160F, take the pan out of the oven and cover. Let it rest here for 10 minutes before you start slicing them.

Serve sliced with potatoes, brussel sprouts and some wine. Drizzle the sauce on the top.

enjoy!

Sources

Apple pie with cranberries

Apple pie is a special American dessert. I have always wanted to make it ever since I took the first bite of my mother-in-laws home-made pie like 25 years ago but I was somehow afraid of making it. I even gifted a pie form for my husband’s birthday 15 years ago to make sure that I made it. Ok so a few years ago I ventured into making one from a recipe I found online. I thought all apple pie recipes were the same lol … hmmm not true it didn’t turn out good, in fact it was terrible. Then I found Martha Stewart’s pie recipe … and it was a huge success. I felt such a great accomplishment after I made it. Here I have the full proof Martha’s pie recipe so you don’t have to hunt for a good one.

An apple pie is an important part of the Thanksgiving dinner for many people. The delicious savory apple filling is wrapped in a flaky buttery crust and is served with whipped cream. According to marthastewart.com, there are three basic rules for making a fabulous apple pie: Use the best ingredients, keep the dough cold and when you handle the dough less is more. Have fun making the pie, it is so worth it!

As Martha Stewart says you should get the best ingredients for your pie in other words your pie will be only as tasty as the ingredients are. The most important part of the pie at least as far as taste goes is the apples. When I go to the farmers’ market to get my baking apples, they always give me a mixture of apples. In fact the lady at my favorite stand always gives 7-8 different apples. So how do you select the right apples?

Basically you want baking apples that are firm and keep their shapes while baking. The best apple for this is the Granny smith. If you like your pie more tart you can just use this variety. Ok I know some people want more of a sweet apple pie. There are many other apple varieties that would make the pie sweeter like Cortland, Breaburn, Regent, Harlson. And I always like to add a very sweet one like Fuji, Honey crisp. Once you decide on the type, make sure they are also tasty. It is hard to describe but they should have a zesty flavor. When you try it you know what I mean! Sorry to say but supermarket apples often don’t have this. I personally like to get local apples for this purpose.

The other important part of a good pie is the crust. Of course keeping the surface cold is extremely important … but so is the quality of the flour you use. I would stay away from low quality flours that need to be enriched and have other additives in them. I buy only organic flour that fits this criteria. I used Bob’s Red Mill flour in this recipe but King Arthur’s flour is good too.

The third most important ingredient would be the shortening. The shortening is also crucial for a successful pie crust. Often people use butter flavored sysco shortening because it gives nice results. Well it is a good choice but I am not a fan because it is not that good for health. It is better to get a nice high quality butter or better yet lard if you have access to it. My mother-in-law always made her pies with lard and she honestly made the best pies.

Pie is a cold weather dessert. It is made starting September when the weather gets cold in the Northern hemisphere because it needs to be cold when handling the dough. That is right the work area needs to be cold when you are working the dough to get the scrumptious flaky buttery crust. The pros use special tools to work on that keeps the dough cold. If you don’t have these special tools, no worries. I just open the kitchen window and let the kitchen cool off a bit. It seems to be working fine.

Try to become familiar with the recipe. This is more of a challenging recipe as there are are many steps and specific instructions. I think the video (see below) is very helpful to watch for technique although the video is sometimes a little too cautious. For instance, you can handle the dough by hand. The recipe of the video and the one I’m presenting here are not exactly the same. Please follow my recipe to avoid mistakes.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (leveled with a knife)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks of cold unsalted butter in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 5-7 Tbsp of icy cold water

For the filling

  • 7 baking medium sized apples at room temperature (Granny smith, Cortland, Empire ) (about 2-2.5 pounds) (Martha uses 3 pounds of apples)
  • 1 cup of fresh cranberries, optional. Replace with another Granny smith if not used. If frozen do not let thaw.
  • juice of 1 lemon or orange (Martha uses lemon juice)
  • 1 Tbsp of orange peel (optional)
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon +1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg + 1/4 tsp mace or 1 1/2 tsp of Pensey’s apple pie spice
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar + little more for the top. If you use cranberries, use 3/4-1 cup of sugar.
  • 2 Tbsp of corn starch or 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp dried ginger (cut and sifted) or 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For finishing

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp of heavy cream
  • granulated sugar

Prepation

Please watch this video for clarity: https://www.marthastewart.com/341735/apple-pie

Put 1/2 cup of water in the freezer or you can use ice cubes in water. This will be used for the dough in the next step.

Making the dough. Mix flour with the sugar and the salt. Cut the cold butter into the flour with your finger tips, pastry cutter, knives or a food processor. If you are using a food processor, pulse for 10 seconds at a time, paying special attention not to over-process the dough. Stop when coarse crumbs form. The mixture should have pieces ranging from coarse crumbs to the size of small peas. Take water out of the freezer. Add 5 Tbsp of ice water slowly, 1 Tbsp at a time and mix until dough just holds together when pinched. Add more water only if needed. The mixture should retain a crumbly texture at his point; it should not be sticky. Again do not over-pulse the dough. If you are not using a food processor, you do not have to worry about over-processing that much, you’ll be most likely ready to stop. Do pay a close attention though what the dough should be like.

the crumply dough

Shaping and chilling the dough. After making the dough, now it will be divided into two parts. Make sure the dough has all the loose pieces incorporated. Wrap each piece tightly with a plastic wrap and refrigerate at least for 1 hour or overnight. You can make this the day before and keep it in the fridge. This will help the crust to be flaky.

the dough wrapped in plastic

Preparing the filling. Wash, peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2 inch-thick slices. I like to use a mixture of baking apples for a more interesting flavor. I used 4 granny smith, 2 cortland and 1 sweeter honey crisp apple. Add the orange/lemon juice and coat the apples well. Don’t add anything else to the apples until ready to assemble the pie. When ready add 1 cup of cranberries to get a more interesting flavor or add another apple instead. Then add everything else and mix. I happen to have an apple corer gadget, my daughter made me purchase a while ago. I have to say it was helpful for coring the apples but if you don’t have one, you don’t need to rush out to get one.

Assembling the pie. Your working area is supposed to be cold for this part. I just open the kitchen window while I’m doing this step and it should be cold enough.

Take dough out of the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough until 1/8 inch thick. I check the diameter by putting the bowl above the dough. I just eye it to see if the dough is large enough in diameter to cover the bowl. The finished dough should be about 1/2 inch bigger than the baking dish around.

The chilled dough

Roll dough around the rolling pin and unroll it over a 9 inch glass plate, pressing gently to fit into pan. Fill it with the apple mixture from above. Roll the other disk of dough in the same manner.

rolled out dough

Drape over the bottom part. Use kitchen shears to trim overhang of both crusts to 1 inch. Press edges to seal. Fold overhang under and crimp edges: With thumb and index finger of your other hand, gently press dough against index finger of other hand. Continue around pie. Make several 3 inch slits in the top crust. This will allow the liquid to evaporate. I have a special clay bird that does this job. If you use the clay bird, you will not have to do this. If using the bird, cut 3 small slits in the middle of the pie, making an opening for the bird. Gently place the bird in and try to wiggle it around the apples. You can find these birds (see picture) at Williams Sonoma in the US -if anybody is interested.

Refrigerate the pie for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F.

Finishing the crust for baking. Whisk egg yolk and cream in a bowl; brush over the top of crust. Sprinkle the top with sugar.

Baking the pie. Place pie in preheated oven. Put a baking pan underneath to catch any liquid that escapes during the baking. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F. Continue baking until top and bottom crust are golden brown and juices are bubbling in the center for 70 to 85 minutes. Check on the pie after 1 hr and see if it is getting brown too quickly and needs to be covered with aluminum foil.

When ready, take the pie out and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours before serving. If you are not eating it all the same day, leave it on the counter loosely covered. Do not store in the refrigerator, the dough will get soggy.

enjoy!

Sources

text and photos by twincitiesherbs.com

Spiced orange cranberry sauce

According to my mother-in-law, a good cranberry sauce should have whole cranberries and a nice sauce, so as to not be mushy or dry. I created this cranberry sauce keeping this in mind. It is gently infused with oranges and pungent spices and is slowly baked in the oven. In addition, the alcohol will elevate it to another level that gives an unexpected kick to the sauce. It will go nicely with any savory fall or winter dishes. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving, go ahead and you can try it now!

I really like how this cranberry sauce turned out. Here is my little story… As a foreigner I did not grow up eating cranberries so I have been relying on the Joy of Cooking cookbook for the recipe. I was contemplating whether to make some changes to the basic recipe or just let the cranberries be what they are and enjoy their true taste.

I started experiementing. First, I put the oranges to the test. Why add oranges, another bitter fruit?!? Ok orange peels are bitter but are also sweet. I found that the sweet oranges paired nicely with the sour cranberries. Perhaps because their common denominator is the bitterness ?!?

In the culinary world, it is well known that pungent spices offset the sour flavors so I also added cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice. They bring a little warmth to the sauce, too. In addition, the allspice gave a nice citrusy flavor. They balanced out the sauce nicely and resulted in a pleasant sweet and sour dish. Again, I can’t imagine the sauce without them.

Oh and the sugar! Most recipes use sugar for cranberry sauce; after all it is a sour dish and sweet can offset sourness. I have nothing against sugar if used well in a dish, meaning it does not overpower the foods that it is added to. I am excited to say that I was able to reduce the sugar a bit in this recipe just by adding the seasonings. Not bad ehhh …

There is more! I used to cook the sauce in a pot that yielded a rather mushy appearance. It did not bother me, I did not even realize I did not cook the cranberries properly. To make sure the cranberries stayed whole, my mother-in-law used to prick each berry one by one with a needle so they didn’t burst open in the pot. I have recently learnt from a chef that slowly cooking them in the oven would give very nice results and the berries stay whole. I would like to mention that of course cranberries carefully made in a pot can stay whole as well.

I think my recipe made the cranberries more suitable to eat with savory foods, it has a pleasant flavor without overpowering the cranberries. You can keep it in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. The flavors come together while the sauce sits in the fridge. Hope you will enjoy it! Of course, there are many other techniques to cook cranberries that yield beautiful results too.

Cranberry sauce recipe

Serves 2-3 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of fresh cranberries (frozen is fine just make sure they are fully defrosted)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp dried ginger (cut and sifted) or 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 orange (chopped up peel and the juice) Chop up the orange peel into very small pieces it tastes great in the sauce or 2 Tbsp dried orange peel and 1/3 cup of orange juice
  • If you don’t have orange juice you can use 1/3 cup of other juices or even water and maybe even a little orange essence
  • 1/3 cinnamon stick
  • 3 pieces of all spice berries
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp of spirit of your choice: whisky, fruit brandy (optional)
  • touch of freshly ground black pepper and salt, to be added at the end

Directions

  • Wash cranberries, discard any with blemishes. Combine all ingredient in a baking/glass dish and wait until cranberries start releasing their liquid for about a half an hour. Set oven to 250F and slowly bake for about two hours. Cranberries are ready when nicely cooked but not raw or mushy.
  • When done take the dish out of the oven and remove the larger spice pieces (cinnamon, allspice).
  • Add the salt and the pepper.
  • Serve at room temperature.
  • You can triple this recipe for Thanksgiving for 9-10 people.

enjoy!

Text, photo and recipe by twincitiesherbs.com

Stuffed squash with lentils, cranberries and wild rice (a Midwestern twist)

I love this savory dish … it has a lot of the quintessential foods that I enjoy eating in the fall. The tasty squash is filled with rice, lentils and fall vegetables and all mixed in the melted cheese. It is wonderfully aromatic and tasty.

Squash is one of the main foods in the fall. We are so lucky to have all these different varieties available in the US. They are sweet and have a neutral flavor that make them ideal to accompany fall dishes.

Squashes are native to the Mexico region and may have been around for 10,000 years. They tend to be high in natural sugars, carbohydrates and vitamin A. In general, they all are mildly sweet, have a luscious nutty flavor and have a creamy texture but each variety comes with a unique characteristics and with different vitamin and mineral contents.

Ancient Chinese Medicine considers them to be highly nourishing and warming for the digestive system, anti-inflammatory and help move the Qi, the life force in our body. If we talk about squash we have to mention its seeds as they are equally valuable for health. They are rich in heart friendly dietary fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, and in addition, protein, minerals, and vitamins. They contain tryptophan that is responsible for increased motor decision speed and blood sugar regulating effect. The seeds are also used for remedying intestinal worm problems. They can be roasted in the oven on low heat at 250 F.

RECIPE

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized squash (Choose squash that has a firm outer shell with a scoop friendly inside like acorn, delicata, carneval, sweet dumpling).
  • 1 cup of uncooked wild rice (rice will work too). Wild harvested preferred.
  • 3 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/3 cup of shallots, finally chopped
  • vegetable oil (sunflower)
  • handful of earthy mushrooms (crimini, shitake, portabello)
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 slice of bacon (optional)
  • couple of fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup of uncooked lentils
  • 1/4 dried cranberries or raisins
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped pecans
  • 100g or 4 oz of feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of hard cheese like gruyere or parmesan cheese and more for the top
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red hot pepper (I just used a little piece)
  • little freshly ground nutmeg

Preparation

  • Turn oven on to 375 F (190 C). Bake cleaned squash on a baking sheet for 40-60 minutes or until you can easily put the blade of a knife through the flesh of the squash. When done cut in half and scoop out the seeds. The seeds can be saved and roasted.
  • Clean and soak lentils for an hour. Place lentils in a medium pot, add water, thyme spring and bay leaves. Cook for about 45-60 minutes or until they are done, soft but not mushy. When done let it sit in its steam and add more water if needed. Add salt.
  • Heat the oil on medium high heat. Sautee the shallots for 5 minutes. Then add the sliced bacon, sliced celery for 5 more minutes, stir frequently. Add 1 cup of wild rice, 3 cups of stock, sliced mushrooms, thyme and bring to a boil, stir and simmer over low heat with lid partially closed for a 35-55 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and tender.
  • If using regular rice, cook rice seperate, follow the cooking directions for the rice of your choice. Prepare the vegetables as written above. When ready combine.
  • Set oven to 375F (190 C). In a bowl mix the lentils and the rice mixture. Add the feta crumbles and and the hard cheese. Add the salt, pepper, hot red pepper and freshly graded nutmeg to taste. Mix. Also you can sprinkle salt, nutmeg and pepper inside the squash. Put the stuffing in the inside of the squash. Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake them in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  • Serve with other vegetables brussel sprouts, beets, cranberry sauce etc.
  • If you have left over rice, feel free to serve with the meal.

Brussel sprout recipe

  • 1 lb of brussel sprouts
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Heat up some oil in a frying pan. Wash and clean the brussel sprouts, cutting off the ends and yellowish leaves. Cut them into halves. Brown the brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook for about 15 minutes or until they are cooked but not mushy. Actually brussel sprouts need to be more firm so keep an eye on them. Remove and place into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

enjoy!

Sources

Recipe, text and photo by twincitiesherb.com.

Potato leek soup with kale

The combination of the leeks, potatoes and kale is magical. The synergy of all these vegetables creates the soup’s unique flavor. The pungent leeks pair nicely with the neutral potatoes and the bitter kale balances out the soup. It can be served with or without sausages. This simple tasty soup quickly became a family favorite and its recipe stayed in our recipe box.

Leeks (allium porrum) have been used for thousands of years but have been kind of forgotten in the United States. They belong to the family of the allium vegetables like onions and garlic and are considered to be very good for health. They are milder but have a unique flavor. Leeks have cardiovascular protecting properties, are antiviral and bacterial and help combat the dangerous free radicals. Also, they help the body against cancer and chronic diseases. Not to mention, they are a significant source of vitamins A, B and K, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium and thiamin. In natural medicine, they are also used for lung problems. The leeks are available between the early fall and late winter.

The leeks are paired with potatoes (solarium tuberasum). The healthy potatoes are native to the Andes in South America and help the digestion, lubricate the intestines and nourish the kidneys. Furthermore, potatoes neutralize acids in the body thereby helping against so many degenerative diseases. Also, they give cardiovascular protection, improve bone health and protect against cancer. If these were not enough, they also contain potassium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and magnesium.

Out of all these vegetables, kale (Brassica oleracea) gives the most interesting flavor to the soup. It is a unique hardy cold-weather green that grows from the fall until the early spring. It gets sweeter with a touch of frost. It is an immensely valuable vegetable in the fall and the winter especially because there isn’t much else growing. It is more warming with a slight bitter pungent flavor and benefits the stomach and the lungs. It also contains calcium, iron, and vitamin A and has a very high chlorophyll content.

RECIPE

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 8 medium sized Russet or Yukon potatoes (about 1.5-2 pounds)
  • 3 medium sized leeks, peeled and sliced
  • butter or home-made ghee (I prefer ghee because it doesn’t burn easily like butter).
  • 2 large slices of bacon or to taste (optional)
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 Italian sausage (optional)
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1-3 thyme sprins
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • couple of stems of kale to taste (I used 5)
  • 1/2-1 cup of cream
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • crushed hot red pepper flakes to taste
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Wash and slice up leeks. Slice leeks thin with a sharp knife. Use more the white part (cook the greenish part in the stock or discard). Put the sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 hour. This will get all the dirt out of the leeks. Clean well. Strain the liquid using a colander or pat dry.
  • If you decide to keep the peel on the potatoes, clean and soak potatoes in some cold water for 1/2 hour. Scrub off any dirt. If you decide to peel potatoes, you can skip this step. Slice the potatoes thin.
  • Sauté leek slices in some butter or ghee for 5-10 minutes or until you can smell the aroma of the leeks. Add 1 tsp of paprika and fennel seeds to activate for 1 minute and stir. Add 1/4 tsp cold water, stir.
  • Fry up some sliced bacon if you decide to use it.
  • Add potatoes and bacon to the leeks. Pour in the stock enough to barely cover the vegetables. Add the thyme and bay leaves. Start heating the soup carefully until it starts gently boiling but not rapidly boiling. Quickly, turn the heat down and slowly cook for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile cook the sausage for 15 minutes in a little oil. Add to the soup at the end.
  • Clean and take stems off the kale. Cut the leaves up into bite sizes.
  • When soup is done, add the kale. It doesn’t need to cook.
  • Add cream, salt, black pepper, hot red pepper flakes. Don’t cook anymore.
  • Serve with a little Parmesan cheese.

enjoy!

Little secrets

  • Never boil the soup. Turn soup down right when it starts bubbling but before it starts to boil and cook slowly for an hour.
  • Add enough liquid to barely cover the vegetables. A few vegetables can even be ‘peaking’ out. Once the soup is done, you can add more liquids.
  • These are my personal discoveries. I keep getting excellent results every time I cook the soup or don’t get if I don’t follow these suggestions.
  • I can’t decide which potato I like more. The Russet is softer and blends in more, supposedly preferred for soups vs the Yucon that holds its shape better but is equally tasty.

Sources

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/08/leeks-benefits.aspx

https://healthbenefitstimes.com/potaoes

Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Poached pears and pear autumn drink

You get two for one with this recipe! There are the fabulous poached pears and also you get to enjoy its delicious liquid as a tea. They can be served for the holidays to delight your guests or any time when you need a little boost in the fall. As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I like creating individualized teas for people but it is also gratifying to come up with fun seasonal teas as well. This fall drink is no exception.

The sugar is caramelized, the warming spices are gently infused and the sweet pears are added at the end for poaching. The end products are the firm poached pears that can accompany any fall dish and this wonderful light drink that warms your body and soul. You can surprise your guests for Thanksgiving dinner with these delicious treats!

The sweet and juicy pears are also valuable for health. They are cooling and slightly acidic. They help the lungs by moving stagnation and keeping them moist during the dry season. They are high in fiber that is very much needed in the fall. Pears are also good source of antioxidants, minerals like copper, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium and vitamins A, B, and C.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 Qt of water
  • 4 larger firm but ripe pears (Bosc, Bartlett). You can poach more pears in this liquid. Leave the stems on if they have stems.
  • 1/8 -1/4 cup of sugar
  • Mulling spice (please see below)
  • zest of lemon peel
  • 3 orange rings if you have it
  • pinch of salt
  • maple syrup or caramel sauce

Preparation

  • Place 2 Qt water along with the sugar in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil, this will caramelize the sugar.
  • Turn the heat down and simmer the spices for 10 minutes. I chose cinnamon, all spice, orange peel, ginger, cloves, cardamom. It is a good idea to set a timer, time is important here. Please see the recipe below.
  • Meanwhile wash the pears. You can peel them and cut the bottoms of the pears off or just leave them as they are.
  • Turn off heat completly and add the pears into the pot. Keep them in the steam for about 5-10 minutes. The pears will poach in the steam. You want your pears to be soft but not mushy.
  • Serve the poached pears with dinner or own its own as a dessert with maple syrup or caramel sauce. Keep the liquid for a delicious warming drink.

Mulling spice

  • 1 tsp cinnamon chips
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 3 pieces of cloves
  • 1 Tbsp dried orange peel
  • 7  cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of dried ginger root (cut and sifted) or 1 tsp fresh ginger root

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Cranberry pear crisp

This is such an exciting time for cooking in the Midwest. Fall’s abundance in vegetables and fruits is such a blessing for any cook. All the gorgeous fall colors are just dazzling. I had a hard time deciding what to post, there is so much to choose from. I guess they call this time of year the harvest season for a reason. So I decided to make something fun. How does a cranberry pear crisp sound?

I really like how this recipe turned out. The sweet buttery pears work well with the sourness of the bitter cranberries and all this is topped with the crunchy oatmeal topping. You can serve it with a little heavy cream or creme fraiche.

Cranberries are not just for the holidays! Most people associate cranberries with Thanksgiving or maybe Christmas because it is red like Santa’s coat. I have served cranberries after Thanksgiving and I was reminded that it was not Thanksgiving time. However, many creative chefs use cranberries for cooking and baking because they are so unique and healthy. These berries are more sour but are also bitter at the same time. It is usually hard to find fruits with bitter flavor. I personally like to add it to other sweet fruits to make the sweet dishes more exciting.

The refreshing tangy cranberries have been used as food and medicine for a long time. Cranberries are native to North America, the Pequot Indians of Cape Cod called them ibimi, bitter fruit. Native Indians used them for preserving meat. Later, the Natives shared them with the Pilgrims who started making sweet sauces. Cranberries are incredibly valuable for health as they are rich in vitamin C, fiber, flavanoids, phenols and many substances that give protection against tooth decay and infections.

One more interesting fact. Cranberries have an open space inside the middle that allows them to float on top of the water. This interesting adaptation allows them to get away from not being sweet and not having to rely on animals to spread their seeds to survive. In addition, the Native Americans believed the cranberries nourish and protect the kidneys and the bladder.

The sweet and juicy pears are also valuable for health. They are cooling and slightly acidic. They help the lungs by moving stagnation and keeping them moist during the dry season. They are high in fiber that is very much needed in the fall. Pears are also good source of antioxidants, minerals like copper, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium and vitamins A, B, and C.

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS FOR THE TOPPING

  • 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of white flour
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 Tbsp-1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts
  • creme fraiche or heavy cream for serving

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FRUITS

  • 5-6 ripe but firm pears (I used Bartlett)
  • 2 cups of fresh organic cranberries
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of brown sugar (I think 1/4 cup was plenty but if you have a sweet tooth or the pears are not very sweet, use 1/2 cup os sugar).
  • 2 Tbsp flour or 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 lemon’s juice (use the lemon from earlier)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/4 cloves+ little mace or 1 tsp Apple pie spice from penzey’s.com
  • 1 Tbsp graded fresh ginger or 1.5 tsp dried ginger (cut and sifted)
  • 2 Tbsp whisky (optional)

Dierctions

  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Have baking rack in the lower third of the oven.
  • Take a stick of butter out of the refrigerator.
  • Wash cranberries. Discard any unripe ones. In a smaller bowl add the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, orange peel. Let this mixture sit until cranberries give off some juice. You can add whisky if you wish.
  • Make topping. Mix butter at room temperature with sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients oats, flour, spices (1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg), salt, lemon zest together. Mix well. Mix in nuts by hand or add at the end. Let it sit for an hour.
  • Wash, core and cut up pears into small cubes. You can peel them if the skin is tough, otherwise if they are soft no need to peel them.
  • Assemble the fruit base. In a bigger bowl, mix spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), salt, flour or cornstarch, orange peel, pears, ginger, cranberry mixture with its juice together. Put it into a 2 Qt size baking dish.
  • Put topping on the top. Sprinkle top with some sugar (optional). I also graded a little nutmeg on the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with creme fraiche or heavy cream. Add nuts if adding later.

enjoy!

Source

https://www.fooducate.com/community/post/Cranberries-Sour-or-Bitter%3F/58314899-7934-4AC8-4ECE-ACFECC9CD4A1

https://www.nantucketconservation.org/properties/cranberries

https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/pears.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/11/what-to-do-with-cranberries.html

Eating with the fall season (no recipes)

AUTUMN

As the fall season is arriving, I feel like a little squirrel trying to get ready for the colder months: eating the colorful fruits and vegetables, storing up foods, making last minute repairs and just mentally getting ready. By now we are aware that summer is gone and a new season is coming with all its beauty and challenges. It was the Autumnal Equinox a couple of days ago, when the days and nights are equal and from now on the days are going to get shorter and colder as well.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. 

by Robert Frost

Autumn is a very special and unpredictable season. Every year, I marvel the beautiful vibrant colors of Autumn, the leaves on the trees and the vegetables on the table. It is the time when nature puts on its fancy clothes for the last time just to drop everything within a few weeks. It is the ending of a cycle and we know that all those leaves will turn into something new in the spring.

When I walk through the forrest, I feel so peaceful. This is a time of tranquility when we start turning inward, a great time for spirituality. In the absence of creating new things, we can now focus on the importance of our existence, our spirituality. In Chinese Medicine, ” Metal symbolizes the spirit that brings meaning and purpose to existance”. We can support our Metal element and this spiritual process with foods as well.

In Ancient Chinese Medicine, the fall season belongs to the Metal element. Like every element has corresponding western organs, the Metal element’s organs are the lungs, the large intestines and ultimately the skin. If you experience problems during this season like having frequent colds/flus, dryness, skin problems, excessive mucus, try to pay attention to your eating habits as well. If the metal element is strong, the qi, the life force will circulated easier and can help our body stay health.

Let’s look at the nature of the lungs. The lungs like to be moist and warm. Moistening foods can help the lungs stay healthy (foods include spinach, barley, millet, pears, apples, almonds, eggs, home-made soy products and a little salt). Of course, warming foods of the season are great like all the squashes, carrots parsnips etc. In addition, fall is associated with the color white (leeks, white onion).

As I mentioned earlier, this season is also associated with the large intestine. Of course, it is important to include fiber rich foods … and yes … in addition this is the season of letting go … letting go of things that no longer serve us physically and mentally.

The flavor related to the Metal element is pungent. The pungent flavor is both protective, dispersing and cleansing for the lungs and the colon, exactly what they need now. To stay healthy, the stuck energy in the lungs and colon need to be dispersed. Pungent foods include all white vegetables, onions, garlic, hot peppers, chilies, cabbage, turnip, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

To attune to the fall season, we need to make some changes in our eating and cooking habits. Let’s remember this is the Harvest season! “We must be aware of its abundant yet contracting nature” that can be accomplished by eating more heartier and astringent foods. So we have grown all the foods that will be used now but have to be thinking of the weather getting colder too. Also, we need to pay more attention to cooking now as more complex dishes are needed compared to the summer quick foods. It is getting colder so try to eat more heartier soups and warming dishes instead of the salads.

Astringent foods for the fall are cranberries, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary, turnip, potatoes, chestnuts, walnuts, pears, apples, spinach, burdock root, buckwheat, millet, buttermilk, whey, kale, chard, lavender, rose, grapes and many types of beans and lentils including black, mung and aduki beans, tur dal, urad dal etc.

If you are looking for dishes to make during the fall season, please, click on the fall ‘keyword’ on the right and you should get all my fall recipes.

Sources

Written by twincitiesherbs.com.

Butternut squash soup with a Midwestern flare

Warm up to the fall with this delicious squash soup. My recipe is made with a little Midwestern twist. I added wild rice, a Midwestern staple but it can be served with some hearty bread like rye bread instead. I enjoy squashes in all shapes and forms. Many of us think of squash when we hear the word fall cooking so I will start off my fall recipe collection with a squash dish.

As the fall season is arriving, I feel like a little squirrel trying to get ready for the colder months: eating the great variety of fruits and vegetables, storing up foods, making last minute repairs and just mentally getting ready. By now we are aware that summer is gone and a new season is coming with all its beauty and challenges. It was the Autumnal Equinox a couple of days ago, when the days and nights are equal and from now on the days are going to get shorter and colder as well.

The warming sweet butternut squash is simmered with the white onion, garlic, potatoes and is balanced with the bitter celery root and the lovely pungent spices. At the end, it is topped with cream and the sweet almond slivers for a bit of crunchiness.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized butternut squash- about 3 lbs
  • 1 medium sized Russet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 finally chopped large onion, white is the best
  • vegetable oil (sunflower)
  • 2 slices of smoked bacon (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, about 1 inch long
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 smaller celery root, peeled and chopped up into 4 pieces
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 thyme spring
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • red hot pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of almond slivers
  • 1 cup of uncooked wild rice or rye bread to serve

Directions

Preparing the squash. Peel and cut squash lengthwise, take out the seeds. Cut them into cubes. Warm up some oil on medium high heat and brown the cubes for a good 10-15 minutes.

Make the soup base. Have 1/2 cup of cold water ready. Warm up the oil. Sauté the onion, and the bacon(optional). When translucent and you can smell the aroma of the the onions and the bacon, add the chopped ginger for a few minutes, stir. Add the crushed garlic and 1 tsp paprika, stir for 30 seconds to activate. Add the little cold water that you had set aside earlier, stir.

Put the browned squash, potatoes, thyme spring, the freshly ground nutmeg and the celery root in the pot. Add the stock, enough to cover by about 1 inch above everything and cook for 30 minutes.

Cooking the wild rice (optional). Cook 1 cup of wild rice with 3 cups of water, partially covered for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and crunchy.

Roast the almond slivers. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and spread the almond pieces evenly on the sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn it. Serve on top of the soup.

When ready, let the soup cool for about 10-20 minutes. Add the cream and black pepper. Stir.

If you want the soup to be a little chunky, set aside about 20% of the cooked squash pieces. Use a hand held blender and puree the rest of the soup. Make sure you blend the celery chunks. Transfer the whole pieces back to the rest of the pureed soup. (If you prefer a smooth soup, just puree everything).

Check to see if more salt, black pepper, red hot pepper are needed.

Serve with wild rice/bread and the almond slivers.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.