Clam Chowder

I have had my friend Will’s recipe for clam chowder in my recipe box for many years. I’ve tweaked it on occasion and this is my favorite version of it. I generally use bacon but if my husband has smoked some pork belly I use that instead. I prefer the chowder to be thin and creamy without any flour to thicken it. But feel free to adjust it according to your personal preference.

Clam Chowder
1 cup chopped bacon or smoked pork belly
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 large rib celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 (6 oz.) cans chopped clams
1 cup chicken stock
3 large red or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

In a 4-quart pot place bacon or pork belly. Turn heat to medium low and cook pork 5-6 minutes until it starts to turn  brown. Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of fat, then add onions. Cook 3 minutes to soften onions, then add celery and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Add juice from the canned chopped clams and chicken stock. Stir, then add potatoes, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and simmer potatoes for 10 minutes until potatoes are almost cooked. Add clams. Cook about 3 minutes, then add cream, milk, and thyme. Simmer just to heat through. Do not allow to boil. Serves 4-6.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding with Custard Sauce

My college-age daughter spent Spring Term in Great Britain and had a wonderful time thanks to her dedicated professors who organized a great trip. She has a sweet tooth like me, so wherever she ate she ordered dessert. She sampled a lot of clotted cream ice cream but her favorite of all the treats was sticky toffee pudding with custard sauce. When she returned home, she asked if I could teach her to make it. I had acquired an excellent recipe from my cousin Danielle, who is a very talented pastry chef in Seattle and has a lovely food blog called Culinary Vagabond. My husband had a conference in Seattle not too long ago. I was supposed to accompany him and spend time with Danielle, but I was unable to go. He got together with Danielle and her husband Brian and had a great visit. She cooked wonderful food for him and sent him home with a few individual sticky toffee puddings for me to sample. They were small molded cakes dipped in toffee sauce, moist, delicate, and addictively delicious.  I adjusted Danielle’s recipe slightly for our drier climate and altitude and baked the cake in a 9×13 pan. The custard sauce is my addition. This dessert is rich so you do not need a large serving. It is a great autumn dessert, perfect for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. It takes a bit of time to prepare, so it is best to do it in steps over the course of two days. Both the custard and toffee sauces develop more flavor with an overnight chill in the refrigerator, so make both sauces the day before serving. (They thicken as they cool, so gently reheat them for serving).  Prepare the cake the day you plan to serve it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Custard Sauce
10 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 4-quart saucepan combine egg yolks, sugar, cream, and milk. Whisk to mix well, then turn heat to medium low. Slice the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise with a sharp knife, then scrape the beans into the custard. Add the scraped vanilla pod to the custard as well. Cook, stirring often, until the custard thickens and the temperature is 170 degrees. It should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and strain custard into an 8-cup bowl. Whisk in vanilla extract. Pull the used vanilla pod out of the strainer and return it to the custard. It will continue to infuse flavor as the custard cools. Cover the custard directly with plastic wrap and chill at least 6-8 hours, preferably overnight. Makes 5 cups.

Toffee Sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a 3-quart saucepan melt butter on medium low heat, then whisk in the brown sugar and stir until the sugar begins to liquify and dissolves. Add cream, molasses, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Cook until the sauce simmers. Let simmer for a minute or two until the mixture looks like smooth caramel. Remove pot from heat and pour into a heat-proof jar and screw on lid. Let chill overnight. Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups.

2 cups dried pitted dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
generous pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup whole milk

For the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a metal 9×13 pan with cooking spray, then line it with parchment paper. If using a glass pan just grease it and do not use parchment. Place chopped dates in a food processor and pulse until the dates are more finely chopped. Transfer dates to a pie plate and cover them with 1 cup boiling water. Let sit about 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the cake. In a mixing bowl combine butter and brown sugar and beat 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition, stop to scrape down the bowl. Add molasses and vanilla. Mix. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with milk until you have a smooth batter. Don’t overmix. Partially drain the dates, leaving about 2 tablespoons water in the chopped fruit. Place softened dates and liquid in food processor and purée until you have a fairly smooth, applesauce-like consistency. It is fine to leave it just little chunky if you prefer. Gently fold puréed date mixture into the cake batter. Pour batter into the prepared 9×13 pan and spread evenly with spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking. The cake is done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack. Slice cake into squares. Warm toffee sauce and custard sauce separately. Place about 1/4 cup of custard in the bottom of an individual dessert bowl. Place a slice of cake on top of the custard and drizzle with several tablespoons of warmed toffee sauce. Serves 12-15.

Posted in Cakes, Christmas, Custards, Desserts, Fruit, Sauces, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Peach Chutney

This delicious peach chutney recipe is adapted from one my friend Marie shared with me. Try making some before peach season is over. You can substitute nectarines for peaches or do a mix of the two. The chutney freezes well.

Peach Chutney
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup seeded and chopped red bell pepper
2/3 cup white raisins
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger or more to taste
2 teaspoons yellow or black  mustard seeds
1 (2-inch long) cinnamon stick
1-1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups peeled and chopped peaches
1 cup chopped nectarines

In a 4-quart pot combine vinegar and both sugars. Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then lower the heat slightly and let cook about 5 minutes to dissolve the sugars. Add onions, bell pepper, raisins, garlic, ginger, spices, and salt. Cover and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to soften and the mixture to thicken slightly. Add chopped peaches and simmer for 20 minutes. I like to leave the chutney a little loose because it with thicken as it cools. If you want a thick chutney, cook a little longer. Pour into 4 (8 oz.) jars. Keep refrigerated for 10 days or freeze. Makes 4 cups.

Posted in Appetizers, Jams and Jellies, preserving, Sauces | Leave a comment

Eggplant, Okra, and Potato Curry

This is a very good vegetarian curry dish. It is at its best in late summer with garden-fresh eggplant and okra, along with local potatoes. A while back my Indian cooking teacher Farida served us this dish, but I did not watch her make it. She gave me some rough instructions and I’ve been trying to master it ever since. I finally am satisfied with this version so I wanted to share it. I like to use a ground coriander and cumin mixture for curry that I purchase in an Indian grocery store. If you can’t find it, just mix together 1 cup ground coriander with 1/4 cup ground cumin. Store it in a glass jar and use as needed. It flavors curry dishes nicely. This is not a wet curry swimming with sauce, but a drier version that is often eaten with Indian flat bread. I like it with basmati rice.

Eggplant, Okra, and Potato Curry
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped onions
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons fine salt or more to taste
1 tablespoon ground coriander/cumin mix
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
5 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup hot water or more as needed
3 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into large cubes (6-7 cups diced eggplant)
1 cup thickly sliced fresh okra
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

In a 5-quart pot combine oil and onions. Turn heat to medium and let onions cook for 7-8 minutes until golden. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and spices. Lower heat slightly and let the tomato and onion mixture cook for 8-10 minutes until it has darkened a bit. Add potatoes and 3/4 cup water. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add eggplant, okra, and 1/4-1/2 cup water. Stir to mix well. Cover and cook 20 more minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir occasionally. If the curry begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a little extra water. Taste and adjust the salt if needed. Add cilantro and stir. Serve with basmati rice. Serves 4-6.

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Hot Pepper Sauce

Every spring my husband gets a bit obsessive about growing different chili peppers. He usually plants a dozen or so varieties, some very hot and others more mild. Occasionally he gets a hybrid that can be outrageously hot or beautifully colored. The past couple of years he has experimented with making his own hot sauce, a Louisiana-style vinegar-based condiment that works well in many dishes. This year’s variation promises to go well with Buffalo-style wings.

Hot Pepper Sauce
10-15 (about 1/2 lb.) mixed hot chili peppers (Habanero, Hungarian Wax, Serrano, Arbol, etc.), sliced into rings, with seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3-5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup water

Put the chopped chili peppers, garlic, salt, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then cover and lower the heat. Let simmer for 15 minutes to soften the peppers. Transfer the mixture from the saucepan into a food processor bowl or blender.  Purée the peppers then  return the purée to the saucepan. Add ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup water to the peppers and bring to the boil on medium high heat. Let boil for 5 minutes or so to thicken slightly, then strain the mixture. Pour pepper sauce into a clean jar. Cover and refrigerate. It will keep for several months. Makes roughly 12 oz. of hot pepper sauce.

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Baked Peach and Blackberry Pudding

Years ago, when we lived in New York, I belonged to a gourmet luncheon club about which I have written before. One August the theme was summer foods and one club member brought a baked peach pudding. It was so good I asked for the recipe. Unfortunately, I never got it, as we moved shortly thereafter, and I’ve been looking for a recipe like it ever since. It had a cake topping, but the filling was loose and light with a clear, gel-like consistency. Seven years ago I came across a recipe for a baked peach pudding in an online newspaper column that sounded similar to the one I had eaten at the luncheon. I added it to my dessert file without noting where the recipe came from and forgot about it. Recently, I was going through the file and decided to try a variation on the peach pudding theme. I am pleased with the results and, since we are still enjoying fresh local peaches, I wanted to blog it.

Baked Peach and Blackberry Pudding
3 medium peaches, peeled and sliced (about 2-1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup white granulated sugar plus 1 cup sugar for the topping
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place peaches in the bottom of an 8″x8″ glass baking dish. Sprinkle lemon juice over the peaches and mix. Add blackberries. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, spices, and salt. Mix well, then add milk and melted butter. Whisk until batter is smooth, then pour over fruit. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly to the edges of the pan. In a small bowl mix together the remaining 1 cup sugar with cornstarch. Sift sugar mixture over the batter and spread evenly. Pour 1 cup boiling water in a glass measuring cup and add the almond extract. Gently pour the water over the pudding. It will look messy. Place in the oven and bake about 50 minutes until the water has absorbed into the pudding and the cake topping is set. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 4-6.

Posted in Desserts, Fruit | 2 Comments

Nectarine and Raspberry Trifle

This dessert is beautiful and delicious using local fruit. It would be a lovely addition to a Labor Day gathering, so make it while fruit is at its peak. I find it easiest to prepare the custard the day before assembling the trifle. The flavor improves as it chills. The amount of fruit, custard, and cream depends on the size of your bowl. I used a 12-cup punch bowl for the photo below. The amounts of fruit and cream listed below fit the size of that particular bowl.

Nectarine and Raspberry Trifle

Vanilla Custard
10 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 large vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the custard early in the day, or the day before assembling the trifle. In a 4-quart pot combine the egg yolks, sugar, cream, and milk. Whisk until smooth. Scrape the vanilla bean and add beans along with the pod to the cream mixture. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard coats the back of the spoon and is nearly bubbling. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain custard into a bowl, then whisk in vanilla extract. Return the vanilla bean pod to the custard. Cover with plastic wrap that lies directly on top of the custard. Chill until cold.

Remaining Ingredients
7 medium ripe nectarines
1 cup granulated sugar
juice of half a lemon
5 cups fresh raspberries
1 box soft lady fingers – you will use about 20 cookies (I like Trader Joes brand)
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cut nectarines in half to remove pit. Thinly slice nectarines into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup granulated sugar and lemon juice. Stir to mix well and dissolve sugar. Let fruit sit 10 minutes. Some juice should accumulate. You will use both the fruit and the juice to moisten the lady fingers. While the fruit is macerating, whip the cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until fairly stiff. For the assembly: Use a trifle bowl or a 12-cup sloping glass bowl. Line the bottom of the sloping bowl with 8 lady fingers which have been broken in half. Place about 2 cups of nectarines with juice over the cookies. Place 2 cups raspberries over the nectarines. Drizzle 3 cups of cold custard over the fruit and spread with a spatula to cover the fruit. Use 1/3 of the whipped cream and spread over the custard. Spread with a spatula to cover the custard. For the second layer place 12-14 lady fingers, broken in half and over the whipped cream. Spread the remaining nectarines and juice over the lady fingers. Place remaining raspberries over the nectarines. Top the fruit with the remaining custard and spread evenly over the fruit. Spread remaining whipped cream over the custard, distributing it to the edges of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 6 hours. Serves 12.

Posted in Christmas, Custards, Desserts, Easter, Fruit, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Cold Summer Borscht

This cold summer beet soup is light and flavorful. I use the same technique of shredding the vegetables as I did for the previous post on zucchini soup. You can serve it plain or with a little sour cream or yogurt. It may not be authentic, but it is comforting on a hot summer day.

Cold Summer Borscht
1/2 a large onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
1 rib celery with leaves, thinly sliced
4 medium red beets, peeled and quarted
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 medium kohlrabi bulb, peeled and quartered
1/2 fennel bulb, cored and cut in half
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, leave stems on
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or more to taste
sour cream or yogurt as a garnish (optional)

Begin by shredding the onion and garlic in the food processor. Heat canola oil in a 4-quart pot on medium high heat then scrape the shredded onions into the hot oil. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add celery. While the onion and celery are cooking, shred together in the food processor the beets, carrots, kohlrabi and fennel then scrape them into the sauteed onions and celery. Add salt and pepper to taste then lower the heat slightly and let cook about 8-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add stock, fresh parsley and half of the dill. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Let cool a few minutes then add the remaining fresh dill. Purée in a blender in two batches. Serve cold with a dollop or two of sour cream or yogurt if desired. Serves 4.

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Puréed Zucchini Soup

I recently had a refrigerator full of our garden produce that needed to be used. I decided to make several soups at once that can be eaten during the week or frozen for future use. This puréed zucchini soup was easy and delicious so I thought I would share it.  I’ve found one of the fastest ways to make a pureed soup is to start with shredded vegetables. Then everything cooks quickly and makes it a good option for a relatively quick summer dinner. You can eat it warm or cold. It is optional to add Parmesan and cream for a richer soup, but I like the lightness of it without dairy.

Puréed Zucchini Soup
1/2 of a large onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1-1/2 – 2 large zucchini, shredded to equal 2-1/2 to 3 cups
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley with stems or more to taste
3 large basil leaves

Begin by shredding the onion and garlic in the food processor. In a 4-quart pot heat canola oil on medium high heat and scrape the onion mixture into the hot oil. Saute 5 minutes. While the onion is cooking, shred the carrots and add to the onion mixture. Cook for 5 minutes. Shred zucchini in the food processor then scrape into the sauteed onion and carrots. Add some salt and pepper to the vegetables. Cook 6-7 minutes. Once the vegetables have cooked down a bit, lower the heat to medium low and add stock and fresh herbs. Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Cool slightly then pour soup into a blender in two batches and puree. Serves 3-4.

Posted in Appetizers, Dairy-free, Soups, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Corn and Black-eyed Pea Salad

This salad is a nice way to use up leftover corn on the cob. It is a quick and easy side dish. Feel free to change up the beans if you prefer black or pinto beans. You could add bacon or ham to it as well.

Corn and Black-eyed Pea Salad
2 ears cooked corn on the cob
1 (15 oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
3 large basil leaves, torn

Begin by cutting the corn off the cob and placing it in a medium size bowl. Add drained beans, tomatoes, celery, and onion. Mix to evenly distribute. Add oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well. Add parsley and basil. Mix. Serves 4.

Posted in Appetizers, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Leave a comment