Caramelized Onion Jam

Grilled Pears, Tomato Jam, & Caramelized Onions

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers a bit. Add the onions and stir so they are all coated in oil. Add thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Let cook until starting to turn transparent, reduce heat a bit and keep cooking until they begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes.  Add sugar and let cook another 5 to 10 minutes until they are a deep brown color and the sugar is all melted and caramelizing. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes or so until soft and melty. Add Balsamic Vinegar and stir, continue stirring on simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the bay leaf, let cool, and place in a container (about 1 cup). It will keep a week.

  • 4 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 quart of thinly sliced onions, broken apart
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegarMakes 1 cup of caramelized onions.
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Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

This is a light, fresh dressing for a delicious salad. This makes enough dressing for a large dinner salad or four side salads.

The salad in the picture has romaine, feta, cucumbers, and grapefruit with a few almonds on top. To make the dressing, I used a magic bullet to blend

  • 3 fresh strawberries
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP diced onion
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

The salad is a lovely mix of sweet and sour, the balsamic adds a deep richness that makes any salad a treat.

Lentils with Curried Rutabaga

Lentils with Curried Rutabaga

In a saucepan, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 diced yellow onion and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced, 1 tsp of dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 2 bags of black tea (Remove the string.), and salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add 1 cup of dried lentils and 4 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer and putting the lid on to simmer for about 20 minutes until done. The tea adds a bit of smokiness and umami to the lentils.

Peel and chop one rutabaga into half-inch pieces.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 TBSP of Jamaica jerk seasoning and 1 TBSP of curry powder to the oil and heat until the aroma blooms. Add the chunks of rutabaga and sauté for about ten minutes so the pieces start to soften and brown a bit. Add about 1/2 cup of water and put the lid on for about 10 minutes or until tender.

Add the rutabaga to the finished lentils. Stir, and add 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar or more to your taste. The vinegar’s tang will reduce the heat from the Jamaica jerk and curry powder.

Serve with a bit of fresh chopped cilantro on top.

The cool thing is that while the flavors blend beautifully, the constituent parts retain their individual flavors, so the rutabagas have that heat and the lentils that rich smokey heartiness. This is a thirty minute or so dish and serves eight. I know it’s not a single serving, but rutabagas are HUGE! The thing is, it reheats perfectly and only gets more delicious the next day.

Asparagus Wheatberry Salad

Asparagus Wheatberry Salad

I love wheatberries in a salad. They have a toothsome quality that makes a salad substantial and filling. They take a while to cook, but they are cheap, far cheaper than farro, and add a delicious nuttiness to any salad.

To make wheatberries, put one cup of wheatberries in a sauce pan, add 3 cups of water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and put the lid on the pan. Check back after 30 minutes and then keep checking until they are chewy. It can take up to 50 minutes or so, depending on the specific kind of wheat. Some people like toasting the wheatberries for 10 to 15 minutes in a medium oven (350°) before boiling them to make them more aromatic and nuttier. I am usually too impatient and don’t think it makes a big enough flavor difference.

After the wheatberries are tender, drain in a colander, run cold water over them and let them drain until they are dry and cool. You can store in the fridge if you like.

To make the salad,

Bias cut eight asparagus stalks into 1 inch long pieces. This exposes more of the tender interior so they absorb vinegar dressing.  Add to the wheatberries along with 1/4 cup of dried cranberries. Add 2 TBSP of balsamic vinegar. (You can add more if you like.)Shake, cover, and store in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

This is a tangy salad with plenty of crunch from the asparagus and a tart sweetness from the cranberries. All three ingredients love balsamic vinegar.

I used to attend a board meeting six hours away and to save money, lunch was always potluck. I used to open a bag of frozen asparagus, toss in a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and by the time we got there, it was thawed and marinated. Yum! People always asked how I managed to make such delicious asparagus, hah! Vinegar “cooks” veggies so well.

I made two salads with wheatberries today. I just doubled the wheatberry part and divided the cooled wheatberries when they were ready. I figure if I am going to make something that takes nearly an hour, I will make the most of it.

Wheatberry Salad Duo

Ginger Chicken with Turnips and Pears

Ginger Chicken with Turnips & Pears

This is so delicious that I am going to make it again and again, though it would be nice to add some fresh parsley just to get a bit of green. We humans like a bit more color variety in our food, but the flavor is intensely varied. I was at Harvest Share and a woman from Somali who was in line ahead of me asked what she might make with turnips. I mentioned how much I like them in a salad with pineapple and onions, but we also were given a big bag of pears and I said the pears and turnips would go together in a soup or puree. When I got home, I was inspired by our conversation to come up with something tasty with turnips and pears.

I had a chicken breast thawed out for supper, so I decided to try something with chicken. I thought the piquant flavor of the turnip would go well with ginger, so I decided to focus on ginger and garlic for flavor. Wow, it worked out so well.

I heated a cast iron skillet to medium heat with about 1 TBSP of olive oil. I chopped up ¼ yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, and about ½ inch of ginger root chopped fine and added to the skillet with some salt and pepper. As soon as the onions softened, I added the chicken breast. I might have cooked a whole breast, but I bought this bargain bag of chicken breast pieces, so I cut it up into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken browned, I peeled a turnip and cut into ½ inch size pieces. It was more than I wanted, so reserved half for something tomorrow and added half the turnip pieces to the skillet. I stirred things around and put the cover on for about 8 minutes, to the point where the turnip was close to tender.

Meanwhile, I peeled a mid-size pear and chopped into ½ size pieces. When the turnip was close to done, I added the pears and stirred, sauteeing for about 2 minutes since the pears just need to be warmed. I removed the food to a plate and added about 1 TBSP of water to deglaze the skillet. Stirring the juices in, I added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and added the food back, stirring it into the sauce, making sure it is well-coated. I served it on a plate and sprinkled some sliced almonds on top.

This is so delicious, there is this wonderful umami from the chicken and onions, this fresh tartness from the ginger and turnips, and a delicate sweetness from the pears. It comes together in this rich flavor explosion.

I think I might toast the almonds next time. It might be interesting to try with pistachios, too. A sprinkling of fresh parsley would add some color.

 

Smoky Split Pea Soup

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So, the recipe began with The Minnesota Farmer’s Market Cookbook I am reviewing for my book review blog. I will note the adjustments I made to the recipe.

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 coffee beans
  • 2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3–4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, diced (The cookbook called for red, I don’t have any on hand.)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil (This seemed like a lot, but I decided to trust the recipe. It is the right amount.)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine (The recipe calls for vermouth, but I didn’t want to buy something when I had white wine which worked perfectly well.)
  • 2 cups yellow split peas
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Heat the olive oil, add the thyme, red chili peppers, and coffee beans. Add chopped yellow onion, salt and pepper, two bay leaves, and smashed garlic. Add salt and pepper. Cook on medium low until onions are tender, but not caramelized.

Add white wine and turn heat to medium. Cook ten minutes or so, until alcohol is cooked off.

Toss in the split peas, salt, pepper and water and turn heat up to a low boil for about an hour to 90 minutes until the peas are tender. Check frequently, stirring so it does not burn or stick to the bottom.

Using a slotted spoon remove the bay leaves and coffee beans and let cool. The book does not mention doing this, but it just makes sense. However, I missed one coffee bean (it must have been a small one) so it got blended up in the blender, hence a few tiny brown flakes in the soup. This was not enough to ruin the soup, but I think blending all the beans into the soup would be a disaster.

Blend in batches in a magic bullet, blender or with immersion blender.

So this soup is magical, rich and creamy with no dairy, smoky and rich in flavor without bacon or ham. Those coffee beans were an intriguing idea and they worked a treat. The splash of balsamic vinegar gives it a fresh and light lift that is what you taste first before it deepens to the smoky umami of the peas and ends on the gentle heat of the peppers.

 

Grapefruit & Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Balsamic Vinaigrette

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  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Fennel
  • Yellow Onion
  • Green Olives
  • Grapefruit
  • Asiago Cheese (or Parmesan)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tajín

Make dressing first. Zest a whole grapefruit, Add 3 TBSP balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This makes enough for three salads.

Chop six leaves of romaine lettuce and layer on the bottom of a platter. Thinly slice about 1/4 cup of fennel bulb. Dice up about 2 TBSPs of onion. Supreme half a grapefruit and layer six segments on the salad. Toss about eight olives on top. Shave a few pieces of asiago or parmesan cheese on top. I sprinkled with a bit of tajín on top to add a bit of heat and zest.

This salad is delicious. The olives and asiago add a bit of fatty creaminess to balance the astringency of the grapefruit and vinaigrette. The onions and fennel add sweetness and bite, balancing each other and the lettuce makes a solid foundation to marry all these flavors together harmoniously. It was a nearly perfect salad, I just should have made a little bit more.

 

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

This was a delicious and easy salad for lunch. I started by making my dressing first, a grapefruit zest- infused balsamic vinegar and oil. I made it first because I wanted the zest to soak into the balsamic vinegar and enhance its flavor.

  • 1 grapefruit (and its zest)
  • 1/4 small yellow onion
  • 12 asparagus spears (thin)
  • 12 almonds (toasted)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cupbalsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBSP olive oil

First, zest the grapefruit until you have 2 TBSP of grapefruit zest. Add it in a small container that seals to 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Let rest for 10 minutes or until you are done making your salad. Add 3 TBSP of olive oil, salt, and pepper. It makes enough for 3 salads, so you will want the container to seal so it can be saved.

Put a dozen almonds in  a dry pan on medium high heat so they toast. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn too dark. You don’t want them to turn bitter.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin strips off the asparagus so you have a nice deep bed of asparagus strips for the base of your salad.

Cut the ends, the peel and the pith off the grapefruit and carefully remove the segments from the skin. Cut them in half, and toss on the asparagus.

Cut your onion in half lengthwise. Take half and cut it in half again. Cut off both ends and slice thinly, separating the slices into thin strips.  Toss into the salad.

Chop the almonds and toss them on top. Shake the dressing to mix the file and vinegar and toss on the salad. Mix lightly and serve.

If you want to add cheese, you could add thin strips of parmesan, but it really did not need it.

 

Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam

  • 1.5 pounds of bacon ends and pieces
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of cold-brew coffee (strong coffee)
  • 1/4 cup of molasses
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Weigh out 1.5 pounds of bacon ends and pieces. You can use regular bacon, but it is more expensive. Cut into 1 inch chunks. Cook on low-medium (3 out of 10) heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon crisped. Remove the bacon and strain off the grease. I put it in a colander inside a bowl to rest while everything else cooked. Remove half the bacon grease from the frying pan.

In the remaining bacon grease, add yellow onions and cook until translucent. Then add brown sugar and cook for about 5 minutes until they onions get sticky.

Add the garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and nutmeg and the coffee and cook for a five minutes before adding the molasses. Bring to a boil, stirring while it heats up to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium and add the bacon, stir while cooking for about 35-40 minutes, so the bacon absorbs the flavors from the liquid and the moisture cooks away. Add the vinegar at the end. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I just added some pepper as the bacon provided plenty of saltiness.

Figgy Yogurt with Apple Slices

Fig Yogurt

I had three fresh figs that were at their outer limit. I knew I would have to remove most of the skins to be able to use them, so I decided to try making a fig yogurt. This is too easy for words and so delicious.

I scooped the flesh out of three very ripe fresh figs and put it in a small bowl. I added 1/2 cup of nonfat plain yogurt and stirred them together. Then I added the smallest dash of balsamic vinegar and stirred. It was delicious, but I was hungry and wanted to make a larger snack, so I peeled and sliced up a Pink Lady apple and put the slices in a bowl with the yogurt. It made a great dip/sauce for the apples.

I have always though blueberry yogurt was the ultimate yogurt flavor, but it might just be knocked down a peg by this fig yogurt. It was sweet and tart and that bit of vinegar really just brought out the fig flavor without adding vinegar tang, It was delicious and something I hope to make again and again.

Made one serving.