Pickled Peaches, and The Next Course

This will be my last post here on Pas de Deux. For me, this past year was a bit of an experiment. It was a chance to solidify the creativity inherent in act of cooking, by photographing and writing about it. It was a chance to feel more “legitimate” when reading and commenting on blogs—I wanted to have at least a taste of the experience of blogging and to feel like a contributing member of the community of bloggers I was interacting with more and more frequently. It was a way for Casey and me to be in more frequent contact, and in some ways, to transform our broken relationship with food into a healthy and positive one. In the process, we re-awakened a family-wide recognition of our passion for cooking.

A pile of peaches

A pile of peaches

I will continue to blog, but with a slightly different focus. My new blog, The Next Course will take my exploration a step further. It will include some recipe sharing, interviews with bloggers and food writers, quotes about the “why” of food, and book/article reviews. It will be a blog that explores why we cook and why we blog. It will be a place to examine and reflect upon the role of cooking in our lives, but also a place to consider why we would want to write about food and share those thoughts with others.

Finished jars of pickled peaches

Finished jars of pickled peaches

I hope you will join me on this next step of my blogging adventure. Head on over to The Next Course to read more about my sticky, messy, amazing afternoon of pickling peaches.

-L

Roasted Beets and Polenta, Two Ways

Polenta Cake, Beet Greens, Goat Cheese, Roasted beets, and Walnuts

Polenta Cake, Beet Greens, Goat Cheese, Roasted beets, and Walnuts

You read enough recipes and it becomes second nature. You just know certain things work well together–like beets and goat cheese. So you walk into the kitchen with a vague idea of what you plan to do, but then, as you get going, you let your instincts take over and you just enjoy the ride.

Beets are washed, wrapped in foil, and put in the oven to roast. Chopping garlic scapes, you feel compelled to toss a handful of them into the creamy polenta cooking (too quickly!) on the stove. After stirring in the garlic scapes, you scoop the polenta into a pan and move it to the oven to cook more slowly.

Beautiful beet greens

Beautiful beet greens

Turning your attention to the mess of beet greens, you decide they would be best if cooked down, so you set about washing and chopping them. As the timer alerts you that the beets have finished roasting, you contemplate the options of how best to use the yummy tahini dressing you just made, now that the greens will be cooked down. Drizzled over top perhaps? No, you decide, tossed with the roasted and diced beets! Removing the polenta from the oven, you cut it into six squares, and remove one to be pan seared, creating a nice and crispy cake. You toss the greens into the pan, working quickly to pull it all together after what has been a quite laborious process.

Greens ready, you begin to layer your creation.

Layers of love

Layers of love

Polenta cake, beet greens, a few dollops of goat cheese, tahini-dressed roasted beets…

Something’s missing…

Walnuts!

You grab a few from the bag your purchased just this morning, crumble them in your hand, and scatter them over the top.

Viola!

Dinner is served.

plated 2

Roasted Beets and Polenta Napoleon

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 6 medium-sized beets and their greens
  • 1 cup polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
  • salt
  • 3 cups water
  • Butter, for the pan
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic scapes, chopped (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic scapes
  • 3 Tablespoons water, as needed
  • goat cheese
  • walnuts

Method

Prepare the beets: Thoroughly clean each beet, and wrap, individually, in foil. Roast in a 375 degree oven, about 45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Once cooked, open the foil and allow the beets to cool. Run under cool water and use your fingers to peel the skin from the beets (it should be very easy to do!). Dice the beets and set aside in a bowl.

Wash and coarsely chop the beet greens, discarding most of the stems. Set aside.

Prepare the Polenta: Bring 3 cups of lightly salted water to boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic and transfer the polenta to a small baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Prepare the dressing: Whisk or shake tahini, lemon juice, vinegar, honey garlic, and water until well combined.

Putting it all together: Toss the roasted beets with the tahini dressing (as much as looks good to you). Cut the polenta into squares. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Pan sear each square, flattening it a bit, about 2 minutes per side. Remove polenta from the pan, and add the greens, stirring until they are nicely wilted, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Layer the polenta cake, greens, a few dollops of cheese, a mound of beets, and a sprinkle of almonds.

Beet and Polenta "Quiche"

**Beet and Polenta “Quiche”

Beet and Polenta “Quiche”

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • Roasted beets, as per above
  • Beet greens, wilted
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cooked polenta, as per above
  • Goat cheese

Method

Spread polenta squares in the bottom of an oven-proof skillet. Spread cooked beet greens and roasted beets over top of the polenta. Crumble goat cheese over the vegetables. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl until well beaten. Pour the egg mixture over top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes, until set. Finish under the broiler for 2 – 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

**When I posted this picture on Instagram, Helene asked me for my “recipe.”  The recipe above provides loose instructions for how I used the leftovers from the Napoleon recipe to create a “quiche” of sorts. Perhaps “tortilla” would have been a better description… the egg soaks into the polenta like it would the potatoes in tortilla espanola, but also sits lightly on top, as a quiche  would sit in its crust.

Enjoy!

-L

Zucchini Sweet Potato Fritters

Zucchini/Sweet Potato Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

Zucchini/Sweet Potato Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

As I’ve told you before, on Saturday mornings, I go to the Charlottesville City Market. Since April, these market visits have also been coffee dates with Sarah. We gab about recipes we have created recently and our ever-evolving life plans as we seek out our favorite vendors and discover new ones.

A few weeks ago, when neither of us needed to be buying anything else, we saw the most beautiful potatoes at a little produce stand that I remember purchasing from in years past–they proudly display a plaque that identifies them as one of the oldest vendors at our market. A young man was behind the table, while an older man, with one of the most thick southern accents I have come across in recent memory, stood next to the table, chatting with customers as they stopped to check out his veggies. As Sarah and I discussed the lovely potatoes before us, the old farmer not only convinced us each to buy some, but he threw in extras as a bonus! My bonus was two small, white sweet potatoes.

White Sweet Potatoes

White Sweet Potatoes

I quickly decided exactly what to do with the potatoes– combine them with the zucchini I had at home to make zucchini/potato fritters. And so, as usual, I did a bit of research to see exactly how one creates the fritters I had in mind. I looked for both zucchini recipes and potato recipes, and found inspiration from Smitten Kitchen and Sprouted Kitchen, two blogs I read regularly.

As more and more time passes since I first began to read blogs, I realize that these women are becoming my “friends”–even those with whom I have never spoken. I know little bits about their lives, the precious moments they share with the world, and I learn about them through the recipes they create. As I read their posts, study their recipes, and make them my own, it’s like I am in the kitchen with a good friend. I only wish I could be in the kitchen with these women, sipping tea and learning from them, playing the role of sous chef, or just watching them work.

For now, I’ll have to settle for cooking their recipes–or my variations on them.

Fritters cook best in a Cast Iron skillet

Fritters cook best in a Cast Iron skillet

Zucchini Sweet Potato Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen and Sprouted Kitchen

Makes about 8 fritters

Fritter Ingredients

  • 2 small zucchini
  • 2 small white sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • butter and coconut oil for the skillet

Yogurt Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • garlic scapes, finely chopped

Method

Coarsely shred the vegetables in a food processor. Toss with the salt, and let sit for 10 minutes before straining through cheesecloth (or paper towels) to squeeze out excess water. Combine the vegetables with the egg, flour, and pepper.

Melt a generous amount of coconut oil and butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop about 2 Tablespoons of the mixture for each patty. Press patties flat in the pan and cook about 3 – 4 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Keep warm and crisp in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

For the yogurt sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Dollop generously over top the fritters.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

I took Sara‘s advice and served my fritters with greens on the side and a fried egg on top. It was a perfectly delicious weeknight dinner, and would make a pretty terrific Sunday brunch, too.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

-L

Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

As you may have noticed, our posting has been down (way down) this month. We will both be sharing some big updates soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you, May has been busy!

We moved (still in Charlottesville) from an apartment to a house–a gradual move that has taken a solid month to complete. We took a weekend trip to Savannah. We hosted a small dinner party at the new house. We’ve had family in town, and we’ve been spent time with friends. Through all of this, I’ve barely had time to cook, let alone blog.

But this weekend, as we finished moving the last of the stuff out of the apartment and made dinner plans with friends, I felt the familiar itch, and knew that I had to make something “blog-worthy.” Knew that I had to find time to do more than throw together a salad or some pasta; to take and edit photos; and to sit down to write about what I had made, about this busy month of May.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

Though the City Market opens in April, May is the month when Virginia’s bounty truly begins to roll in. Greens become more abundant; spring carrots and spicy radishes appear. And then, the magic begins–it’s strawberry season!

Beautiful local strawberries!

Beautiful local strawberries!

And, alongside those beautiful, sugar sweet strawberries, there is rhubarb.

Though of course I had heard of it, I’m not sure I’d actually ever had rhubarb until last summer, when I made my first strawberry rhubarb crisp.

In the past two years or so, as I have begun to explore gardening, joined a CSA, and started to frequent the City Market, I have learned more and more about what vegetables actually look like while growing in the earth. Today I find that there is something about being able to identify a plant as “vegetable” that is incredibly satisfying to me. Vegetables often grow in surprisingly delightful ways–from the fact that the little yellow flowers on my tomato plants become beautiful red fruits, to the delicate and pungent garlic scapes that spring up from hard neck garlic plants, to being able to identify kale or chard as such when I see it used in decorative pots, it’s such fun to know what these plants are and to see the miracle of growing food in action.

So, back to rhubarb.

Rhubarb stalks

Rhubarb stalks

This vegetable looks a lot like Swiss Chard, but with a heartier stalk that can range from very green to very red. Locally, the stalks I have found have been very green with only a hint of red, though I have seen vibrantly red-pink stalks on other people’s Instagram feeds. On its own, rhubarb is incredibly tart, and frankly, not too enjoyable. It needs some TLC in the form of sweetener, and pairs perfectly with its seasonal pal, strawberry.

strawberry-rhubarb

Strawberry and rhubarb–a perfect match

I have been aching to make something strawberry rhubarb for weeks, and so, on Sunday, when I knew we would be going to dinner at a friends house, I jumped on the opportunity to make this cake, inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Though the cake is perfectly delicious as is, it took everything in me to not make this cake with buckwheat flour. After all, buckwheat and rhubarb come from the same family, and really, how perfect would that have been?!

But I was sharing this cake with friends, friends who I knew would appreciate my cake more if it was not made with the “weird” ingredients that I love to use.

Cake!

Cake!

This cake was enjoyed at the end of a perfect summer meal – carnitas tacos, eaten on the roof top terrace of our friends apartment, on Sunday night of a 3 day weekend, with friends who have quickly become our “go-to” group. We shared food, wine, beer, and lots and lots of laughter.

A perfect start to the summer.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 large stalks of Rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 + 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (not non-fat)

Crumb

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Yum!

Yum!

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or a nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper, extending the lengths up two sides.

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar and set aside. Beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Whisk together flour, baking powder, table salt and ground ginger together in a small bowl. Add one-third of this mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the sour cream, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined.

Dollop batter into the prepared pan, then use a spatula to spread the cake into an even, thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer.

Stir together the crumb mixture, first whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, and then stirring in the melted butter with a fork. Scatter the crumb mixture evenly over the strawberry rhubarb layer. Bake cake in preheated oven for about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. It will be golden on top. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Use the parchment “sling” to remove the cake from the pan. Cut into 2-inch squares. Store tightly covered in the fridge, no more than 5 days.

Perfect as a dessert or snack

Perfect as a dessert or snack

Make this cake and share it with friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did – I know Sarah did!

-L

Grilled Cabbage with Honey Mustard Dressing [MMAZ]

Let’s talk about cabbage.

The humble cabbage

The humble cabbage (plus honey mustard dressing)

Such a funny, unassuming (and perhaps under-rated) vegetable. Prior to this winter, I’m not sure if I had ever purchased a whole head of cabbage. Pre-shredded bags of coleslaw mix, sure, but a head of cabbage? Probably not…

This winter, however, I discovered the joys of cabbage, both green and purple, after receiving a head cabbage in a Bounty Box from Relay Foods. Unsure of what to do with my cabbage, I turned to the blog world, where I was inspired by Sarah to cut my cabbage into wedges and roast it in the oven. The resulting wedge salad I created was terrific, and I realized that as with most vegetables, roasting a cabbage is the way to go–the natural sugars caramelize, creating a delicious result. A cabbage is, after all, pretty much just a large brussels sprout, and who doesn’t love roasted brussels sprouts?!

Grilling cabbage

Grilling cabbage

When my parents came into town this weekend and our talks turned to dinner cooked on our new grill, I remembered the lovely savoy cabbages that I had seen at the City Market the past few weeks and began dreaming about grilled cabbage, topped with a dressing inspired by Tim‘s idea for a cashew cream veggie dip and Sarah‘s honey mustard dressing. The result was superb–crispy edges, soft interior, and a dressing with a perfect amount of sweetness, tanginess, and body. It’s a perfect spring recipe as the weather warms to grilling temperatures, but the last of the winter veggies are still lingering at the market.

Grilled Cabbage with Honey Mustard Dressing

Grilled Cabbage with Honey Mustard Dressing

Grilled Cabbage with Honey Mustard Dressing

Ingredients

  • One head of (savoy) cabbage
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cashews, soaked for 4 – 8 hours and drained (discard the soaking water)
  • apple cider vinegar
  • whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • soy sauce/tamari
  • water

Method

Remove outer leaves from the cabbage; wash and slice into wedges. Arrange wedges on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Grill cabbage wedges until softened, about 5 – 8 minutes per side. Drizzle dressing over the cooked wedges; pass additional dressing around the table, as needed.

Delicious!

Delicious!

A big thanks to Heather for hosting today’s Meatless Monday from A – Z link-up. Be sure to check out the other recipes created for today’s link party for inspiring and creative ways to cook with cabbage.

BWV-Round2-April-Cabbage_thumb

What is your favorite way to prepare cabbage?

-L