Mushroom, Beet and Swiss Chard Crêpes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This recipe came about with a need to use a few produce items in the fridge that wouldn’t last much longer. Swiss chard and mushrooms became a staple combination in our house last summer using the beautiful chard we grew. Missing those flavors, I picked up some chard and oyster mushrooms at the store with the intention of using them in that night’s dinner.

Fast-forward almost a week and I still hadn’t done that. Pete working overtime and then my being out of town for work got in the way. Last Thursday I remembered those delicious ingredients while at work and planned out that night’s meal in my head. A little fresh parmesan and some beets would go into the mixture, along with my new favorite, whole wheat angel hair pasta. It was a great week night dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day.

With beets being such a tasty addition to that Swiss chard-mushroom mix, I wanted to make it again, but amp it up a bit given the extra time I had for cooking on the weekend. Crêpes came to mind, thinking this would be the perfect filling for thin and savory French pancakes.

Because of the red and green color combination, it also seemed a fitting dish for the Christmas season. A dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkling of lemon zest on top, and you’ve got yourself one visually appealing and scrumptious meal. And it’s special enough for company, which I hope you’ll have lots of during the holidays. Enjoy!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mushroom, Beet and Swiss Chard Crêpes

If you want to give your crêpes an extra pretty touch, reserve a ¼ cup of the shredded beets and a little Swiss chard, chopped extra fine, to add along with the crème fraiche and lemon zest for garnish. The unfilled crêpes can be made ahead of time, wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen, tightly-wrapped, for up to a month.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ a large onion or one whole small onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz. mushrooms (maitake, oyster, crimini), or a mixture of all three, chopped

½ a large bunch, or whole bunch if small, Swiss chard, large rib removed and sliced into ribbons

1 large beet, peeled and shredded

Salt & pepper, to taste

8 oz. fontina cheese, shredded (gruyère or parmesan would work as well)

Crêpes, recipe follows

Crème fraiche

Micro-planed zest of one lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Stir in the beets and mushrooms and cook about 2 more minutes. Mix in the Swiss chard and cook another 2-3 minutes or so, until the chard is tender. Add additional salt, along with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

To serve, place a cooked crêpe in a skillet over medium heat and sprinkle about a quarter cup of the shredded cheese down the center (the first-cooked side of the crêpe is usually prettiest, so make that the outside). Cover pan and let crepe warm and cheese melt, about a minute. Spoon chard-mushroom filling down the center and roll. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkling of lemon zest.

Alternately, you could preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and fill crêpes with cheese and filling, roll, and place in a baking dish. Bake until hot, about 20 minutes. Move crêpes to serving plates and garnish as described above.

Crêpes
Recipe from Myra Goodman’s The Earthbound Cook, one of my favorite cookbooks.

1 cup plus one tablespoon, whole wheat pastry flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ¼ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Additional melted butter for the crêpe pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add eggs and milk and whisk until mixed. Whisk in melted butter and continue whisking until the batter is very smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

Place a cast iron skillet or crêpe pan over medium heat and when hot, brush with some melted butter. Pour or ladle ¼ cup of batter into the center of the pan, lift the pan off the stove, and tilt and swirl the pan so that the batter spreads thinly across the bottom of the pan in a widening circle; don’t worry if the crêpe isn’t a perfect circle (and in my experience, the first crêpe never turns out pretty, but the rest do).

Cook until tiny bubbles begin to appear in the crêpe batter; depending on how hot your pan is, the crêpe will be ready to flip in 30-45 seconds. With a spatula, lift up a corner of the crêpe to check if the cooked surface is lightly golden around the edges, and if so, flip. Cook the second side about 30 seconds. Remove crêpe to a platter, with a sheet of wax paper or parchment between each crêpe. Continue with remaining batter. Makes about 8 crêpes.

Advertisements

Tomato Corn Skillet Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
With the bonanza of tomatoes our garden is producing, I’ve been searching for recipes beyond sauces, jams, and chutneys, looking for a main dish where the tomatoes could be the star of the show.

101 Cookbooks, one of my go-to sources, had my mouth watering with this Tomato Tart Tatin recipe. I imagined it with the addition of fresh sweet corn and easily topped with packaged puff pastry from my freezer. The harissa and lemon zest options intrigued me, as well, and I went to bed Sunday night excited to make this after work on Monday.

Fast forward to Monday, 5:00 PM, apron on and ready to get cooking, and I pull the box of puff pastry out of the freezer. Damn! It’s not puff pastry! It’s phyllo dough. Shoot—that’s just not going to work. I didn’t feel like driving to the store either. My sails were totally deflated!

I thought about making a homemade pie crust, but that’s more butter than I wanted in my dinner (yes, I know the puff pastry probably had just as much, but I wouldn’t have seen it all by itself sitting in front of me). Then I remembered in the notes of Heidi’s recipe, she mentioned this would be good with a biscuit crust. Bingo! How about a cheddar biscuit crust!?! Yes, please!

I haven’t made enough biscuits to be able to pull a batch together without a recipe, but after a quick Google search, I had a plan to adapt the biscuit crust from this Epicurious recipe. Subbing half the all-purpose with whole wheat pastry flour would make it a little healthier, and I decided to reduce the butter a bit too. Skim milk with a little apple cider vinegar would replace the buttermilk I didn’t have, and all was once again right in my culinary world.

Considering all my starts and stops, this came together quickly and we were eating before evening starvation mode set in. Enjoy!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tomato Corn Skillet Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust

Adapted from these 101 Cookbooks and Epicurious recipes

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kernels cut from one ear fresh sweet corn

1 1/2 pounds (24 oz. small tomatoes)—I used larger cherry tomatoes from our garden)

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons harissa (or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar)

1 tablespoon flour

Zest of ½ a lemon

Cheddar Biscuit Crust (recipe follows)

Garnish with chopped fresh herbs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and a couple pinches of salt, stirring regularly, until the onions are deeply golden and caramelized, 10-15 minutes. Stir in corn during the last minute or two of cooking. Remove from heat.

While the onions are cooking, cut any larger cherry tomatoes in half. You can leave the extra small cherry tomatoes whole. Add to the caramelized onions and corn, along with the ½ teaspoon sea salt and harissa. Stir in the flour and sprinkle mixture with lemon zest.

Plop spoonsful of biscuit dough over the tomato mixture, until it’s evenly covered and you’ve used all the dough. Bake until the crust is deeply golden and the tomatoes are bubbling a bit at the sides, 25 – 30 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Cheddar Biscuit Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk (I used skim milk mixed with a tablespoon cider vinegar; let stand 5 minutes after mixing)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add cheeses and toss to coat. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir just until a dough forms.

Creamy Sriracha Potato Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches have been the extent of my culinary adventures lately as I recuperate from total hip replacement surgery. Until my appetite and agility return and I dive back into cooking escapades worth sharing, here’s a potato salad recipe I came up with last month. A little creamy, a little tangy, and subtly spicy. I hope you like it. Enjoy!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Creamy Sriracha Potato Salad

½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes

1 cup sliced radishes

¾ cup sliced scallions

¼ cup sour cream or plain Green yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (depending on how much heat you’d like)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup chopped parsley or dill

Cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Place in a pan and cover with water and throw in some salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, and dump into a large serving bowl. Add radishes and scallions and toss.

While potatoes are cooking, combine sour cream, mayo, lemon juice & zest, pickle juice, sriracha, olive oil, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy.

Pour dressing over potato mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle in parsley or dill and toss again. Cover and chill for a couple hours before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

 

Italian Almond Cookies

Cookies on rack
Most years I don’t do a ton of Christmas baking (mainly due to my lack of restraint when it comes to sweets). Of course, there’s the annual Lukken-making Extravaganza, and I sometimes make a batch of these incredibly yummy Peanut Sitting Pretties, but that’s usually about it. This year, however, I’ve added a delicious and unique cookie to the line-up.

Reading the Star Tribune’s Taste section a couple weeks ago, I came across this recipe, which was the winner of their annual holiday cookie contest. After returning to the states from a year of school abroad, the winner/author worked by trial and error to recreate a cookie his Italian girlfriend’s family made from a recipe they declined to share. The perfected version makes light lemony almondy morsels that are unlike any cookie I’ve ever had. Without the characteristic butter, flour and whole eggs that typify quality cookies, these are made with almond meal/flour, sugar, lots of fragrant lemon zest, almond and vanilla extracts, a kiss of honey, and a beaten-to-soft-peaks egg white. That’s it, that’s all.

A super simple recipe, the cookies come together quickly and the only real difficulty is to not over-bake them. I’ve made several batches, in several different shapes, and found the 15-20 minute baking time in the original recipe to be too long, with 8-9 minutes being just right in my oven on the convection bake setting. Also, the recipe says to roll the dough into a 1” in diameter log and cut into ½” slices, then form into egg-shaped cookies. My egg shapes ended up looking pretty sad, so then I tried rounds, which were better, and finally, in the last batch, I decided to make balls, using a cookie scoop, which resulted in by far the prettiest cookie. All delicious, regardless of shape.

I should also mention I used Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in the first batch and Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour in subsequent batches. The finely ground stuff results in a much better texture and color. If you have the Trader Joe’s brand, try whirring it in your food processor for a bit to get a finer grind and you should be good.

After bringing a plate of these gems to work, I can guarantee they will impress, and for a change, your friends who eat gluten-free will be able to partake. Enjoy!
Italian Almond Cookies

Italian Almond Cookies

Slightly tweaked from William Teresa’s Star-Tribune prize-winning recipe

2 ¼ cup finely ground almond meal/flour

¾ cup organic granulated sugar

Zest of one large lemon (preferably organic)

1 egg white

½ teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Powdered sugar for coating cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, granulated sugar, and lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, beat egg white until soft peaks form.

With a wooden spoon, stir beaten egg white, honey, almond and vanilla extracts into the almond flour mixture. Then use your hands to fully mix all ingredients until dough holds together.

Fill a shallow bowl with about a half cup of powdered sugar. Using a half ounce (#60) cookie scoop, form dough into balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar until evenly coated and place balls 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake until cookies start to develop a cracked exterior, about 8-10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking time. Do not over-bake (they will become very hard and chewy if you do). Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies. Keep several days in an airtight container or freeze for longer storage.