Plum/berry cobbler

Have you ever had to cut corners in the kitchen and later realized that you had actually created something new and amazing? This must have happened to the early settlers of America who came from the Old World. They had their recipes to make the English pie but did not have all the tools to make them … and came up with a brand new dish called cobbler. Cobbler is just as good as pie is IMO and is much easier to make. Seasonal fruits are used in cobblers as well but not sure where the name came from. It might be refering to the wooden spoons they used or the cobbler who mends shoes like the dough is mended on top of the fruits or perhaps it was the village cobbler’s favorite dessert … nobody knows the exact meaning but this is a crowd pleaser for sure.

This is an ‘end of the summer’ cobbler recipe. It is made with plums along some berries and the savory spices that are nice for this time of year. Of course, I used plums because they are available right now. I also added nutmeg, cinnamon, orange peel and ginger to add a little flavor and they suit the plums nicely as well. The juicy fruits are covered with the perfectly crumpling, soft topping that I used for my rhubarb cobbler (recipe) back in the spring … Oh and it is begging for a bit of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

RECIPE

Ingredients

My recipe was inspired by the Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Have all the ingredients at room temperature exept the butter.

For the fruits

  • 1 lb of plums, pitted and cut into up into 1′ or smaller chunks
  • 1 lb of berries – I used blackberries and raspberries
  • ½ cup of sugar or more if your fruits are not sweet enough. Only use more if your berries are not sweet. 1/2 cup is plenty otherwise, trust me!
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I used apple spice seasoning from Penzies)
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger (cut and sifted) or 1 tsp fresh
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp orange peel
  • 2 Tbsp of  flour or 1 Tbsp of corn starch

The dough

  • 1 1/3  cup of all purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp of sugar 
  • 5 Tbsp of cold unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup of cream or 1/2 cup of milk (honestly milk is fine too)
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 lightly beaten egg for the top
  • extra sugar for the top
  • vanilla ice cream for serving

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

Making the fruit filling

  • Have ready an oven proof baking dish that is about 2 quarts large in volume and 2 inches deep (ex 11 x 4 x 2 inch).  
  • Take fruits out of the freezer if they are frozen and let them defrost. Wash plums and cut them into 1/2-1 inch long pieces. Place the plums and the berries in the dish. They need to be at room temperature before you can put the cobbler into the oven. 
  • Add pinch of salt, cornstarch or flour, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar and mix. Set aside and wait for at least 30 minutes.

Making the dough

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, pinch of salt and sugar.
  • Add the cold butter and mix. This is such a satisfying experience for me to do by hand but if you prefer you can use your food processor for this step. 
  • Add the cream or milk stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Gently need the dough in the bowl 5-10 times if needed, turning and pressing any loose pieces into the dough. Dust the top and the bottom of the dough.  Let the dough sit for 1 hour if you have time.

Preparing the cobbler

  • Now we will make a patchwork. Divide the dough into 8-10 parts and flatten each piece between your two hands about 1/4 inch thick. Place each piece on top of the fruit mix. Keep doing this until you have used up all the dough and the fruits are covered.  
  • (The dough should be workable but not sticky. If the dough becomes too sticky and warm, put it into the fridge for about 10 minutes to become the proper consistency. This can happen easily in the summer when it is warm outside).
  • Lightly brush the top of the dough with the eggs and sprinkle with a little sugar. 

Making the cobbler

  • Put the cobbler in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the berries are bubbling. Don’t overbake, make sure the fruits stay ‘liquidy’.
  • Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. 

Serving the cobbler

  • You can serve the cobbler at room teperature with vanilla ice cream if you wish.

enjoy!

Source

Irma S. Rombauer: Joy of Cooking

Potato soup with lovage

Lovage is an old European folk remedy but has been forgotten. I would like to bring some attention to this valuable plant with this recipe. In the old days, it was used like parsley is used today, it grew in the gardens of everyday folks. It has an unusual flavor, more like citrusy celery. I used my Potato leek soup receipe (source) but added lovage instead of kale at the end as lovage wonderfully enhances the flavor of the potatoes. Of course, it is a great plant to use to get the body ready for the colder months.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) can be used for medicine and culinary purposes. It has been around for thoasands years but the Greek physician, Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC) made it popular after adding it into the culinary world after he used it successfully during the epidemics of his time. It gives myraid of health benefits from of course improving digestion to reducing arthritis, water in edema and the skin and many more. It is definatelly a big digestion remedy and it is even aphrodisiac. Lovage is a warming sweet, bitter and aromatic plant. I have it growing in my garden right now, a small little shoot grew very quickly into a large plant.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 8 medium sized Russet or Yukon potatoes (about 1.5-2 pounds)
  • 3 medium sized leeks, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 large slices of bacon or to taste (optional)
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1-3 thyme sprins
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • handfull of chopped up lovage
  • 1/2-1 cup of cream
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • crushed hot red pepper flakes to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to serve

Preparation

  • 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 and just peel and slice the potatoes thin.
  • Sauté leek slices in some butter for about 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 bubbling but not boiling. Quickly, turn the heat down and slowly cook for 1 hour. 
  • Clean and cut up lovage.
  • When soup is done, add the lovage.
  • It doesn’t need to cook. 
  • Add cream, salt, black pepper, hot red pepper flakes. Don’t cook anymore.
  • Serve hot with a little Parmesan cheese.

enjoy!

Source

Matthew Wood. Eartwise Herbal

Text, photos and recipe by twincitiesherbs.com

Plum Flaugnarde (Clafoutis)

It is plum season in our neck of the woods (Midwest) right now. Whenever plums show up at the farmers’ market, I can feel the summer is about to come to an end. This is my last chance to indulge in summer fruits so please join me. Oh no not just with any dish … I’m going to say farewell to summer … with a French dish.

This is a fruity dish that is made with a thick flan like batter baked in a buttered dish. Traditionally, it is made with cherries and is called cherry clafoutis or simply clafoutis in French but when made with any other harder fruits like plums, it is called flaugnarde. So technically, this dish is called flaugnarde. It was made in France first, more exactly in Limousine, in the central region of France.

Clafoutis is a simple rustic dish. It is not meant to be beautiful, delicate looking like what you expect a French dessert to be but it is more of a peasant food. So go ahead and pack your dish with the plums, berries and the batter, don’t need to worry about the appearance that much … Also, it is like a crepe just thicker and you should have all the main ingredients in your kitchen already … milk, flour, butter, eggs, sugar … and I think it is a lot tastier than crepes …

Please also check out my plum gnocchi receipe if interested.

RECIPE

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg for the plums + 1/8 tsp for the batter
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger, cut and sifted or use 1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
  • 9 pieces of smaller plums, less if bigger
  • 1/3 cup sweet berries
  • 3 Tbsp cognac or brandy (optional)
  • 1/2 sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup ceam (I have used kefir before too)
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 1 tbsp almond extract
  • handfull of almond slivers
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar for serving

Preperation

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.

For the batter, mix milk, cream, eggs, almond extract, salt, 2 Tbsp – 1/4 cups of sugar, 1/8 tsp nutmeg and 1 Tbsp melted butter with a mixer on high speed quickly and add the flour and continue mixing for another minute. Make sure there are no clumps left but do not overbeat. You can use a whisk, handheld mixer or blender. (Yeap kind of like a crepe mixture). Set aside for an hour if you have time.

Cut up the plums and take out the pitts. (I leave the pitts in). Put plums in a medium sized bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of sugar and the brandy (optional) on the plums. Give it a toss. Let plums macarate for about 10 minutes. Then add berries, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to the plums. Mix. Set aside.

Use a 10″ inch baking dish (like a quiche dish). You need a dish that has a larger surface area and will hold 6 cups of food. Pour in the melted butter and spread it evenly on the surface of the dish making sure that you coat the sides too.

Evenly spread the plum mixture from earlier on the buttered surface. (I added the marinate liquid, too).

Pour batter (from earlier) over the plum mixture and sprinkle the top with the shaved almonds.

Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until cake is puffy and has a nice light brown color. An inserted tooth pick should come out clean but the middle should be soft. The texture of the baked clafoutis should be like a study custard.

Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.

When ready to serve, sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Serve warm.

It can be stored in the refrigerator covered for 24 hours but best eaten the same day.

enjoy! Bon appetite!

Recipe, photos, text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Eating with the Late summer season (no recipes)

INDIAN SUMMER

It can get a bit challenging to say goodbye to all the fun we had in the summer, canuing down the creek, hopping on our bikes to get to our favorite ice cream shop or just spending endless hours outside in the warm weather. Yes indeed, it can get tricky for some of us to let go. But we have a few weeks to do it! Now we can enjoy the warm weather without the heat and maybe even the mosquitos. It kind of feels like we are rocking on a sailboat on calm waters during a sunset. But at the same time it would be wise to start thinking ahead. Yeap there is that nip in the air in the morning … the cold weather will be coming!

This transition is considered to be a short season and has been recognized by many different cultures. In the United States, it is called Indian summer, in China, the Earth season and in Hungary, old women’s summer (vénasszonyok nyara). Seasonal transitions are important to be aware of as they can be challenging on our bodies. It is worth paying attention to, especially if you are prone to problems now like having excessive mucus, digestive problems, feeling of heaviness/edema, tiredness, metabolic problems, low self esteem or craving sweets.

The ancient Chinese have observed this short time period, the Earth season (Wu Xing, 地球), to be different from all the other four seasons. This is the time of stillness when everything seems to just stop. The heat of the summer is gone, our busy lives are finally slowing down and activity becomes effortless. It is associated with stability, patience, and thoughtfulness. It is the time to stop and observe abundance around us and things we have created. As the days are getting shorter, we are moving from the time of abundance and expansion to focusing inward and cessation of abundance.

In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a natural element so the Indian Summer is paired with the Earth element. Also, each element has corresponding western organs. The western organs of the Earth element are the Spleen, Pancreas, Stomach and the organs they control (Muscles, Mouth). (I capitalized the organs because in Chinese Medicine, it is more like an organ is considered to be the organ itself and in its energetic functions as well).

Let’s look at the nature of the Stomach and the Spleen/Pancreas. The Stomach likes to be be cool. It starts breaking up the food it recives and passes it for further digestion. The Spleen and the Pancreas on the other hand, like to be warm. Their main job is to further work on digestion and nourish the body. The Spleen has other functions including its role in the immune system that is important especially in the fall. The Pancreas releases digestive enzymes and also is involved with regulating the blood sugar.

Just like Mother Earth in nature, our Earth element is responsible for nourishing the body. Digestion is important all year around but especially during this time to ensure that we can ease into the cold months. There is a branch in Chinese medicine that belives the Earth element is the most important for good health. Yep this season is all about eating good, healthy food. Remember this is the Harvest season.

The flavor of the Earth element is sweet. These foods are meats, dairy, and complex carbohydrates including grains, vegetables and legumes. This flavor enters and nourishes the spleen/pancreas. It has a harmonizing effect on the body exactly what we need now. This flavor is great to have any time of the year but especially important right now. However, the sweet flavor also has a tendency to cause dampness and to slow down the body; therefore, pungent flavored foods like onions, ginger are also recommended at this time. (Just on the side, exercise has similar effects).

Chosing your sweet foods wisely is also importamt. I should mention that the sweet flavor should not be overdone especially by individuals who tend to gain weight and retain water easily. This is also true for the pungent spices, they should be consumed in moderation to make sure that heat does not stay trapped in the body. Definatelly practice moderation. Of course, overprocessed foods should be avoided.

All the vegetables that grow right now are great. If you go to the farmers’ market you will see eggplants, beets, cabbage, celery, chard, cucumber, lettuce, potatoes, mushrooms, squash, sweet potatoes, yam, bitter melon. Fruits are apples, tomatoes, pears, grapes, plums. Nuts are walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, chestnuts, sesami seeds.

To harmonize with this season, it is wise to make changes to our cooking style. The emphasis should be on moderation and creating simple, harmonizing dishes with ingredients that attune with the Earth element: round, mildly sweet, yellow or golden in color. Feel free to use herbs that help digestion like dill, oregano, ginger, anise, caraway seeds, cumin, fennel seeds, lavage etc. Also, try to avoid foods that are complicated with too many ingredients or are heavy, greasy and too spicy. In other words, we need to help our digestion so we can move into the new season effortlessly. Also, it is nice to start including more warming foods in our diet like winter squashes.

If you are looking for dishes to make during the Indian Summer time period, please, click on the Indian Summer ‘keyword’ on the right and you should get all my recipes or see a few from last year below.

Plum gnocchi

Turkish stuffed eggplants

Vegetarian moussaka

Spaghetti squash stew

Maroccan eggplant stew with garbanzo beans

SOURCES

  • Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  • Art: Sailing by the shore by Leonid Afremov

Text by twincitiesherbs.com

Hungarian summer bean soup with dill

I love summer. It looks like there are so many vegetables finally ready to eat. I enjoy rhubarb too but there was not much else here in the Midwest for quite a while and now all of the sudden we have so many more to choose from. So ended up picking yellow beans for this week.

I’m presenting a simple Hungarian yellow bean soup recipe that many Hungarians know how to make but I added my litte twist to it. I like reading about foods and experiementing with them. So I was reading that Hungarian cuisine was a little bit different when Hungarians lived in their oiginal place in Asia. Over the years they lost some of the ingredients and picked up new ones. So I had the idea why not add chickpeas and curry to this bean soup. Who knows maybe our ancestors made the soup like this back wherever they came from ?!?

The sweet yellow bean is nutritious and is high in fiber but really is not the most exciting vegetable. The real flavor IMO comes from the seasoning especially from the dill. Dill is a unique sweet plant that gives the zesty, tangy flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It helps digestion and calms the mind. Also, adding the sour cream or yoghurt is a must at the end … and then you get a pleasant sweet and sour soup.

As I have mentioned I added chickpeas to the dish. If you look at a chickpea, you can see it resembles the heart and is considered to be beneficial for the heart. It is a good source of iron and unsaturated fats.

I often make this soup into more of an entree by adding an egg or other protein, it is very filling this way for sure. I just put the soup in a jar and take it with me in the summer. It is an instant lunch on the go for me. Oh yes and I get the stares from Hungarians … what is that dish?!? … lol.

RECIPE

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of yellow beans
  • 1 cup of dried chickpeas or canned (18oz)
  • oil (vegetable, lard)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 chopped large tomato
  • vegetable or meat stock (I used pea shells)
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini, optional
  • 1-3 bay leaves
  • 1 yellow pepper or its left-over’seed house’, optional
  • handfull of dill, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp of white vinigar
  • 1 cup of dried or 1 can of chickpeas
  • salt and black pepper
  • red pepper to taste
  • sour cream or yoghurt to garnish

Directions

  • Clean and soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours. Remove the soaking liquid and cook in fresh cold water for 3 hours. A pressure cooker would greatly reduce the cooking time. (Omit if using canned chickpeas).
  • Making the soup base: Saute the onion in some oil until translucent. Add garlic, paprika and curry powder, mix and after 1 minute add the chopped tomato. Mix and cook for about 5-10 mintes or until tomato has cooked into a sauce.
  • Wash the yellow beans. Cut the ends off on both sides and discard. Cut them up into 1 inch pieces. Clean and cut the carrots. Oh and I almost forgot I like to put in zucchini too. So wash and cut zucchini into about 1 inch pieces.
  • Add the cut up yellow beans, carrot slices, bay leaves, zucchini and the stock. I like to add a yellow pepper for flavoring or at least its ‘left-over’seed house. Cook for about 30-45 minutes or until the beans are soft. Remove the pepper/pepper sedds and bay leaves.
  • Add the cooked or canned chickpeas with its liquid and the white vinigar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Add the red chili pepper if desired.
  • Serve hot with chopped dill and sour cream/yoghurt.

enjoy!

Recipe, text and photos by twincitiesherbs.com

Moroccan eggplant stew with garbanzo beans

Enjoy this delicious and easy vegetarian eggplant dish. The eggplants are browned and cooked briskly with some tomatoes, pungent spices, onions and garbanzo beans and then served with rice/couscous and yoghurt sauce. It is not exactly the perfect fall dish but I still had some eggplants and the weather is still more summery this week. I also added sweet mama squash that complemented the dish nicely and made it more suitable for this ‘going from the summer into the fall’ time period. With the warming spices and the baked squash, it will be a great meal for the entire week. Not only that it suits the weather but it is delicious … honestly my family can’t get enough of it. I might have to go back to the farmers’ market tomorrow to get more eggplants.

RECIPE

Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp graded fresh ginger
  • seasoning: 2 tsp paprika, 1 cumin powder, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick,
  • pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 large tomatoes or 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans or 1 can (14 oz)
  • 1 dried hot pepper or to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • couscous or rice to serve
  • cilantro

Browning the eggplants
Browning the onions.

Directions

  • Garbanzo beans. Soak overnight and cook them for 3 hours. You can use a pressure cooker. They need to be cooked slowly for a long time until they are nice and soft. They can take up liquid after they are cooked so add more water if needed. Add 1 tsp salt when done.
  • Preparing the eggplants. Wash and cut eggplants into cubes. Salt them and put them into a colander for 30 minutes to let the liquid drain. Pat dry.
  • Frying the eggplants. In a wide skillet, on medium low heat, slowly brown the eggplants in some olive oil for about 20- 30 minutes or until soft. They will not cook any more so make sure they are soft and well cooked before you add it to the sauce. Stir frequently. Make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.
  • Caramelize the onions. Brown the sliced onions in a separate dish in oil with care, it takes about 30 minutes. Stir frequently. Set aside.
  • Making the sauce. Crumple the saffron between your thumb and index finger and add hot liquid, stir well (optional). Otherwise you can just put whole saffron strains in the dish. Set aside. On medium high heat warm up 1 Tbsp oil and add the ginger for 5 minutes. Then add the paprika, cumin, garlic and stir for 1 minute to activate the spices. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir well. You can add a little water here too. Cook the tomatoes for about 5 minutes until they have become ‘saucy’. Add the saffron, cinnamon stick, freshly graded nutmeg and hot pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Cook for 10 minutes on low medium heat. Add a little water if needed. Add the browned onions, eggplants and garbanzo beans from eariler. Cook for 5 more minutes covered. Let the dish sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can come together. Take out the cinnamon stick and the hot pepper pieces. Add salt and pepper or anything else that needs to be adjusted.
  • Serve with cilantro, rice or couscous and yoghurt sauce. I also added some baked sweet mama squash slivers and they nicely complemented each other.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text 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.

Vegetarian moussaka with polenta and lentils

I am excited to present my new recipe the Vegetarian moussaka. It is a vegetarian dish but is not only for vegetarians! I have to admit I was a bit nervous before I started experimenting but it was a fun challenge at the same time. I really like how nicely the soft polenta works with all the other ingredients.

We are going to venture into Europe again on our virtual journey. We think of Greece when we hear the word Moussaka but most likely it originated somewhere in the Middle East. It is a popular dish across all the Balkan countries and can be easily made in the Midwest of the United States. Well, I have to admit I have never been to Greece or the Middle East for that matter but have eaten traditional Moussaka before in Croatia… and it is mouth watering.

When we were in Croatia we happened upon this fabulous dish in Pula at the restaurant Konoba Bocaporta. It sounded really interesting so my husband and I both had to try it, while the kids ate something with seafood from the Mediterranean Sea. We don’t have the recipe but I tried to recreate it here at home. I still feel the flavors in my mouth, I hope you will like it as much as I did.

It is a complete vegetarian dish and all the ingredients seem to work well together. Often when meat is taken out of a dish, the substance and the flavors are removed as well, so when I created the recipe, I tried to make sure that the substance and the flavors were both kept. The meat is replaced with the lentils, mushrooms and the cheese. I replaced the potatoes with the polenta because they work well with the other ingredients. Mushrooms are traditionally used with polenta and they complement each other nicely … and everything is pulled together with the fragrant spices of the region.

This recipe can easily be made gluten free. Instead of the Béchamel sauce use the yoghurt sauce. This is a pretty authentic replacement as Croatians use a yoghurt sauce for the top. Béchamel sauce is not Greek but is in fact French. The Béchamel sauce was added to Moussaka by the Greek chef Akis Petretzikis in the 1920’s when he was trying to Europeanize Greek cuisine. I actually use this yogurt sauce quite regularly to make simple lentil dishes but the Béchamel sauce is a nice treat for sure.

FUN FACT: There is one thing for sure that all the countries in the Balkan region agree on is that Moussaka is a fabulous dish.

I developed this recipe so if you would like to post it you will have to contact the author at twincitiesherbs.com.

RECIPE

Author: twincitiesherbs.com

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

  • high quality olive oil
  • 1 medium size eggplant
  • lots of garlic
  • 1 tomato- canned is fine
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 4-8 oz of mushrooms – Portobello mushrooms or any heavier, earthier tasting mushrooms but regular white button or crimini mushrooms would work nicely too
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups of hard cheeses: I used 1 cup gruyere and 1 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of polenta grits
  • 1.5 cup of stock or you can use water with bullion of your choice. ( The chicken stock will give a nice flavor but if you don’t want to use meat, add some bullion).
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/4 cup of butter ( 1 stick)
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 3 fresh springs of thyme
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • yoghurt (important part of the dish)
  • scallions
  • parsley

Quick overview of the ingredients as a group

Lentils: 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils, oil, 1 large tomato, 1 Tbsp of tomato paste, 1.5 cups of chicken stock or water, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika, bay leaves, 2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp all spice, smaller stick of cinnamon (about 1 inch), 1 fresh thyme spring, 1 tsp salt and red pepper flakes (optional).

Polenta: 1/2 cup of polenta (corn grits), 1.5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock or water+bullion, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 thyme spring, 1 cup of hard cheese ( 1/2 cup of greyere, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese), 1 Tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Mushrooms: Portobello mushrooms or equivalent, oil, crushed garlic and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.

Eggplants: 1 medium sized eggplants, 1/4 cup of tomatoes sauce, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp oregano, salt and black pepper.

Béchamel sauce: 1/4 cup of butter, 1 /2 cup of flour, 2 cups of warm milk, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp salt and ground pepper, 1 thyme spring.

Yoghurt sauce in place of Béchamel sauce: 1.5 cups of yoghurt, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 garlic clove, cucumber slices.

Directions

Wash the polenta removing any foreign particles. Soak in water for a few hours.

Wash 1/2 cup of lentils and soak for a few hours hours.

Cooking the lentils. Remove soaking liquid and add 1.5 cups cold water or stock. Cook for 1 hour or until lentils are soft. Take off heat and let lentils stay in covered pot for about 20-30 minutes so they can soak up more liquid. Add more liquid if needed. Drain before adding to the polenta. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce for the lentils. Chop up 1 large tomato. Warm up some oil, when warm sautee the onion for 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp oregano, fresh thyme springs, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp all spice and the crushed garlic. Stir well and quickly add the 1 chopped tomato and 1 Tbsp tomato paste. Cook until tomatoes become ‘saucy’. Add cinamon stick. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat. cook for 10 more mintes.

Drain the water off the lentils and add the cooked lentils to the tomato sauce. Take out all the larger spice pieces. Set aside.

Preparing the eggplant. Slice the eggplants and pan fry them. Please, check my previous recipe Eggplant Parmesan for directions. (You can also bake the eggplants in the oven if you prefer). Set aside.

Preparing the polenta. Pour water off the corn grits and strain. Bring 1.5 cups of liquid to a boil. Add the presoaked polenta slowly while stirring constantly. Add 1 thyme spring and cook for about 20 minutes or until the polenta is creamy. Stir frequently because it can burn easily. When done add 1 Tbsp butter, 1tsp salt, cheese, thyme and stir. Set aside.

Preparing the mushrooms. Slice up mushrooms. Warm up some oil and sauté the mushrooms until soft. At the end, add a little crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Stir and turn off heat. Set aside.

Preparing the béchamel sauce. It is not too hard just follow the steps. I used a whisk. Warm up 1 stick of butter on low heat, when melted increase the heat to medium high and add the flour slowly, stirring continuously. Then start adding the milk very slowly, stirring after each addition and wait for a minute to let the flour mixture soak up the milk. When you start seeing bubbles, it is done. Take off heat. Grade some nutmeg. Add 1/4 cup of Gruyere cheese, thyme, salt and 2 egg yolks. Mix well. Set aside.

Yoghurt sauce in place of the Bechamel sauce. This recipe can easily be made gluten free if you you prefer. Instead of the Béchamel sauce use 3 cups of yogurt, 3 lightly beaten eggs, garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2-1 cup cheese.

Mix the polenta and the lentils. I believe they will taste better together.

See if you need to add salt, red hot pepper and black pepper to any of the dishes.

From here, everything is easy! Preheat oven to 350 F. I used a 2QT size baking dish (8×11.5×2 in). Coat the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Start layering: polenta with the lentils, mushrooms, eggplants, the béchamel sauce or the gluten free yoghurt sauce and parmesan/Gruyere cheese on the top. Put the dish into the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Wait for a half hour to let the flavors melt into each other if you have time.

Serve hot with yogurt sauce, scallions, parsley.

enjoy!

COOKING TIPS

  • Seasonings, seasoning and seasoning!!!! This dish needs a lot of seasoning and salt added. Don’t be alarmed when you see the amounts.
  • The smaller portobello mushrooms are nicer … they are easier to cook and will be tastier in the meal. The crimini mushrooms are very nice too.
  • Also I find the smaller/medium sized eggplants are easier to cut and are tastier in the dish as well.
  • This is not a quick dish, it takes a long time to make like any casserole dish but it is not difficult. It is usually made for occasions because of the complexity of the dish but you can treat yourself/family/friends to it anytime.

This is my version but please feel free to experiment and let me know what you did. If you post it, please reference this blog.

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

eggplant parmesan

Eggplants are still thriving here in the Midwest! So I’d like to take the opportunity to post more recipes of this amazing plant. Before I post my vegetarian moussaka recipe, I would like to have a little preview of what is coming. Eggplant is the main ingredient in moussaka so I can get a head start with this recipe. Also, this makes an easy side dish if you don’t want to make something more elaborate.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 purple Italian eggplant
  • 2 tsp salt
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp of oregano
  • hint of cinnamon
  • Parmesan cheese for the top
  • yogurt
  • scallions

Directions

  • Wash and slice the eggplant. I use a serrated bread knife to make the slices thin but not paper thin. They should be about 1 cm thick.
  • Soak in cold water with 2 tsp salt for 15 minutes. Putting them in salty water takes away the bitterness and I belive I can work with the eggplants easier.
  • Take the slices out of the water. Place them into a colander and wait until the water drips down. You can also dry them with a towel but honestly I never do and they come out fine.
  • Heat up a large frying pan on low medium heat. Add olive oil and a pinch of salt. Be careful, olive oil burns easily as it has a low boiling point. Add the slices. You will most likely have to add more olive oil as eggplant loves to soak it up. Cook for about 10-20 minutes on each side or until they are slightly brown and soft. I keep turning them to make sure they don’t burn. Add the garlic in a little oil on the side, mix for 10 seconds and add the tomato sauces and mix in spices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, oregano and ground cinnamon on the top.
  • Serve warm with yogurt and scallions.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Plum gnocchi (szilvás gomboc)

Plum gnocchis or plum dumplings bring back some very sweet childhood memories … delicious plums wrapped in soft, pillowy dough with a hint of bread crumbs spiced with a little sugary cinnamon. In Hungary, it is often served as a second dish after a heavier soup but can be a dessert as well. Late summer is the time when plums are ready so I’m so excited to have them again.

Plum dumplings can be found in many countries of central/southern part of Europe: in Italy (Gnocchi de susine), Hungary (szilvás gombóc), Croatia (Knedle sa sljivama), Austria (Zwetschkenknödel), Romania (Galuste cu prune), Slovenia (Slivovi cmoki), etc. Supposedly, it originated in the region of Trieste, Italy that has a colorful history being part of different counties. Gnocchi (pronounced nyow kee) is an Italian word that means knuckle or knots. Gnocchi is a mixture of flour and water and possibly many other ingredients including potatoes as well. So what nationality is Plum gnocchi? Today, people in any of those above mentioned countries would argue that it is theirs but please read on … If you know European history and how countries have changed, this recipe might reflect the ever changing times. Also, remember potatoes came from the new World …

It doesn’t matter who invented it, indeed it is a fabulous dish with its main ingredient the plum. Plums are slightly cooling with a sweet and sour flavor, so it will need the pungent cinnamon! Try to get the Italian or the Hungarian purple plums but other sweet, great tasting plums will work too. In addition to its vitamin and mineral content, plums are also a great source of fiber. So take a bite of this intriguing history …

Enjoy Palotás music while you’re eating this dish…

RECIPE

Makes about 9 balls plus the little gnocchi pieces

Ingredients

  • about 1 lb russet potatoes (4-5 potatoes)
  • 3/4 -1 cup flour or more depending on the dough
  • 1 Tbsp semolina flour (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 salt
  • 5-10 sweet plums – depending on the size of your plums
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp clove, 1/8 nutmeg, 1/8 tsp mace (I used 1 tsp Penzey’s apple pie seasoning- cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves)
  • Do add a little nutmeg … if you only add 1 thing to the cinnamon, nutmeg makes such a big difference. I would say 1/8 tsp but try get a feel for it. I don’t know how Bill, the owner at penzeys.com mix his apple pie seasoning but I can assure you he is right. These spices do wonders with the sour fruits.

coating

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts (finally chopped)
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I used Penzey’s apple pie seasoning)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
dough
9 squares
add the plum and the cinnamon sugar

The little Gnocchi pieces (nudli)

Directions

Place the potatoes with the skin on in a large pot. I like to put them onto a metal steamer with ‘feet’ so the vitamins and minerals don’t boil into the water and so they don’t soak up too much water. If the potatoes are too wet, they will need more flour and will be harder. (Please see picture above). Add cold water to the pot with a little salt and bring it to a boil, cook them with lid on for about 45-60 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Peel them while they are still hot but you can handle.

Puree the potatoes while they are still warm, I was able to do it as soon as the peels were taken off. I used a potato ricer. I put the potatoes through the larger holes of the ricer, then the smaller ones. It is worth investing in a potato ricer if you want a nice and soft dough. I also read that smaller holes on a cheese grader could work- if you don’t have a ricer.

Let the dough cool completely. Mix in the flour, salt, egg, 1 Tbsp of butter, potatoes and start kneading the dough to make a ball. Do not over do it. Make sure your potatoes are at room temperature. If they are warm they will take up too much flour. You can use the fridge for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Wash them, cut them in half and take out the pits.

Melt the butter on low heat and add the crumbs stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the crumbs soak up the butter and become golden brown. Use lower heat so the butter doesn’t burn. Add the cinnamon, sugar and chopped walnuts. Mix. This will be used to coat the balls.

Also, mix the 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of salt for the stuffing.

Fill a 5 qt pot with about 3 qt water. Bring to a boil with a little a little salt.

You can even do the dishes while you are waiting for the dough, the one hour will go by really fast.

After 1 hour, place the dough on a flat, floured surface and start stretching it to 1 cm thickness until it is a squarish shape. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Cut out 9 squares. Don’t worry about getting the shape perfect because we will use the left overs for the mini gnocchis, in Hungarian nudlis.

Assemble the dumplings. Place one of the dough squares into your palm. Put a plum piece along with the cinnamon sugar in the dough. Fold corner by corner gently tucking the stuffing inside and then roll it to make a ball. Do this with each square. Coat them in flour.

You can take half of the left over dough and start rolling long strips with them. Cut short little pieces off, coat in flour. Do this with the other half as well. You will cook them with the balls. If you don’t want to make these, use this left over dough to make more balls. You can most likely get 2 or maybe 3 more balls.

When the water starts boiling, you can drop the dumplings in the water one by one with a slotted spoon. Also, add the little gnocchi strips in this water. Try to gently stir them to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the dumplings come to the surface, cook them for about another 5 minutes and remove them with a slotted spoon.

Put the dumplings into the coating mixture that you prepared earlier and roll them around until they are well coated.

Oh and you might want to double up the recipe or triple …

Serve warm with a little vanilla sugar or honey.

enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.