Behold the Humble BLT Sandwich

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American readers are well acquainted with this summertime favorite.  It’s good any time of the year, but it’s THE BEST, when the tomatoes are just picked, and still warm off the vine.  In the US you’ll probably eat it at a table outside with some fresh picked green beans and an ear of sweet corn.

The ingredients are simple:  B – is for Bacon  L – is for Lettuce  T – is for Tomato

The recipe is simple also, so I’m not going to write it out in recipe format.

All you need is toasted, whole grain bread.  Sliced tomatoesBacon (American style).  Iceberg lettuce.  Make it really crisp by soaking it in ice water.  Put it in a salad spinner to get out all the excess water.  Mayonnaise, pepper, and salt.

The way you layer the sandwich is going to make a difference.  And honestly, jazzing it up by using a different lettuce is going to taste good – but it won’t be a traditional BLT sandwich.  Tasty, but not the same.

So let’s make the sandwich!

Toast your bread.  On the bottom piece, spread a layer of mayonnaise.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Layer your crispy bacon on top of the mayonnaise.  Put the lettuce on top of the bacon.  Place your tomato slices on top of the lettuce.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with a little bit of salt, and crack some fresh pepper on top.  Place the second piece of bread on top, and secure with toothpicks.  Cut into halves, and serve.

Then serve again in a few days or throughout the tomato season.  Because soon the tomatoes, and the green beans, (and the sweet corn if you have it), will be out of season locally, and it just won’t be the same as sitting outside at a picnic table in the summertime with a BLT.

 

Sweet and Tart Easy Plum and Papaya Puff Pastry

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This recipe also yields a ruby red syrup that you can be drizzled on gelato, pancakes or waffles, and even incorporated into cream cheese for delectable french toast sandwiches.

A friend gave us a bag of really beautiful plums that grew on the tree in his yard.  I already had some papaya at the house, and mixing the two of them together made a fine dessert that also doubles as a breakfast pastry.

This dessert is not very sweet, so if you want more sugar, simply add more.  It won’t hurt the results at all.

If you want the juices to be more of a sauce consistency, like you would put in an American style pie crust, simply up the amount of cornstarch to 1 T.

Otherwise, follow the recipe as it is.  Enjoy it plain, with ice cream, with powdered sugar, with vanilla sauce, or with whipped cream.  It’s really good with coffee, and it also tastes fabulous with honey drizzled on it.

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Sweet and Tart Easy Plum and Papaya Puff Pastry

Preheat oven to package directions for puff pastry

8 fresh plums, sliced about 1/2 inch thick and (obviously) pitted, you don’t have to peel them

2 cups sliced fresh papaya, about 1/2 inch thick

1/4 C + 1 T raw sugar (plus some more for sprinkling on the crust)

1/4 t pink salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1 1/2 t corn starch

1 egg beaten, or some melted butter

Cut the fruit and put in a bowl.  Add the sugar, and the spices, and the salt, and mix.  Let sit for a little bit.  The salt and sugar are breaking down the cell walls, so even a not so juicy fruit will start to release the liquids from the cells.  Once the liquid from the cells is released, and the sugar mixes with it, it will be super tasty.  The longer you let it sit, the tastier it is.

Line a baking sheet with oven paper.

Ponder life if you’re short on time, otherwise, let it sit for a while.  You can actually let it sit overnight with no problems.

Pour the fruit and it’s juices into a pan and cook for over low heat for about 5 – 8 minutes.  If it sat overnight, then 5 minutes is probably ok.

Mix the cornstarch with a bit of water to make a slurry, and whisk into the fruit mixture.  Let it thicken for a couple of minutes.  I like to run my finger along the wooden spoon and see it make a mark.  A thickness like the thickness of maple syrup for pancakes.

Take off heat and let cool for a little bit.

Roll puff pastry onto the paper lined pan.

Strain the liquid out of the fruit mixture (reserve the liquid) and ladle the fruit into the puff pastry.

Fold into an envelope shape, make and make a few slits on the top for heat ventilation.  Brush the beaten egg onto the top and sprinkle with some sugar. Cook according to puff pastry package instructions.

Let cool down before you cut.  Served best at “still warm from the oven”, or room temperature.

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Spring Fresh Fava Beans

It’s possible that this is the first time that I have have eaten fresh fava beans.  They may have been cultivated for thousands of years, but they haven’t made it into the everyday American diet.

It’s kind of sad really – they have a great flavor and are VERY high in nutrition.  Beating out chickpeas in almost all areas including magnesium.  And we people are getting more and more magnesium deficient, which is not a good thing.  They also have something verrrrrry interesting in the skins that cover the bean itself.  Which is why you may not want to peel them once they are shucked out of the pod.  I’ll expand on that just a bit further on down in this post.

If you belong to a CSA or shop at farmers markets you might run into them once spring arrives.  They are an early legume and will be labelled as either “Fava” or “Broad Beans”.

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To shell them, simply cut off the ends and run your fingernail down the seam to open the pod.  Pop the beans out.

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Boil for 30 seconds in salted water, and then shock them in a bowl of ice cold water.  Drain, and they are ready to use!  Now you can eat them cold in a salad, or reheat them right before serving.

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Some people like to peel them, but most italians will think you are kind of crazy for doing so.  It’s time consuming, fiddly, changes the flavor a bit and….is going to remove a lot of the proanthocyanidins.  Proanthocyanidins are a powerful class of antioxidants.  The same kinds of antioxidants found in pine bark and grape seed for example. You might even notice that your cooking water turned pink once you cooked the beans.  Invisible when raw, the cooking released all those colors of the proanthocyanidins into the water.  Pretty interesting.

A full pound of pods yields about (maybe) 2 cups of cooked beans, so plan accordingly. My original plan was to serve a big bowl of fave (fave is the plural of fava) with a simple seasoning of olive oil, salt and pepper, and oregano.  I did not plan accordingly, so it morphed into something different.

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A beautiful, aromatic skillet of fava beans with spring vegetables, herbs, and a 12 month aged Corsican ham called Bianco and Nero Jambon that I purchased on a recent trip.

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To make a similar skillet dish, thinly slice 1 or 2 new red onions and saute in olive oil until translucent.  Add a small amount (maybe 3-4 oz or so) of chopped corsican ham.  An aged prosciutto or ham will work just fine.  The fat from the ham will add a little more oil to the pan, as well as salt, and the onions will start to caramelize quite well.  Move to the edge, and add some thin sliced asparagus and fresh herbs.

Cover, and cook until the asparagus is fork tender.  Toss in your fava beans (fave) to heat through, and serve!

Spring Fresh Fava Bean Preparation

2 lbs fava bean pods

Pot of boiling water, salted

Bowl of ice cold water

Remove the beans from the pod by cutting off the heads and tails of the pods, and running your fingernail down the seam.

Boil the beans for 30 seconds.

Remove with slotted spoon and shock in the ice water.

Drain and serve cold in a salad, or gently reheat later for other dishes.

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Caponata en Croute

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Caponata is a well known and much loved Italian antipasto that originated in Sicily.  A savory mix of vegetables and fried eggplant is perked up with sweetened vinegar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

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Tonight we ate it “en croute”, wrapped in puff pastry, as the main dish.  It was served with a fresh salad and a little bit of fish.

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It’s incredibly versatile, and can be used as a side with Mahi-Mahi or roasted meats, as a main course, or as an appetizer that is served either on it’s own or with toast points.  Some versions even include pine nuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, and a bit of cocoa powder.  Like an Italian version of mole.  Feel free to add those if you are so inclined!

Caponata en Croute

Serves 4

Caponata the night before…

2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch strips (see instructions)

2 small red onions, cut in half, and then cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 celery stick, cut in 1/4 inch slices, and boiled for 4 minutes

1 large sweet red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips

1 T capers (if packed in salt, rinse and soak for at least an hour, changing water at least once to purge the salt.  If packed in vinegar, just rinse)

12 green olives, thinly sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

1.5 T raw sugar mixed with 2 T red wine vinegar

about 2 C olive oil (give or take) for frying eggplant

black pepper and salt

Sprinkle eggplant strips with salt and let sit in a colander for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly, and press between dishtowels to dry.

Saute pepper and onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt.  Use a pan or pot with a cover – this will help the vegetables to retain moisture, and get a great texture.  I start with the peppers, and then add the onions once the peppers are about 1/2 way done.  Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent, add the tomato puree and cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally.  Take pan off heat and set aside.

Add olive oil to fry pan and heat to med/med low.  Whatever fry temperature is for your particular stovetop.  Fry the eggplant in batches, removing from the oil when they are golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Add the eggplant, capers, olives, and basil to the pepper and onion mixture.  Return the pan to the stove top and heat to medium.  Once it’s nice and hot, stir in the sugar vinegar mixture, cook for an additional 10 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down.  Transfer to a container and let sit overnight and up to 3 days.

En Croute the night of…

1 rectangular sheet store bought puff pastry dough (use one made with oil if you prefer a vegan version)

1 beaten egg for brushing top of pastry (use oil if you don’t want to use egg)

dried oregano and Maldon or other flaky salt for sprinkling on top of pastry

Let caponata come to room temperature. Spread in center of pastry dough, and fold over edges.  Brush top with beaten egg or oil, and sprinkle with herbs and salt.  Cook according to package instructions.  The caponata is already cooked and does not need to be hot, so really you’re just cooking the pastry.

Enjoy!

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Straight From the Bottle Buttermilk Syrup

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Buttermilk Syrup

3/4 C cultured buttermilk

1/2 C unsalted butter, cubed

1 C sugar

1/2 t baking soda

Add all ingredients except baking soda to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally.  Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, and whisk in baking soda.

There aren’t many words to describe how good this syrup is, and there aren’t many words to describe what it actually tastes like.

It’s just really really good.

When it’s first made, it’s all froth, like this.

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As it settles, the parts come together in a more homogenized way.

Obviously, this syrup can be used on all manners of breakfast items like pancakes and french toast, but there are other ways to use it as well.

I think it might taste good in a whiskey cocktail for example.

And I know that it tastes good on chicken and waffles, and it also tastes good as a sweetener in coffee.

I also know that it tastes good by the spoonful, and based on the evidence, I’m sure it would taste good if you drank it straight from the bottle.

Personally I’ve never crossed the “drank straight from the bottle” line, but if I did, I would cover the bottle in plain brown paper, and tie it off with a piece of repurposed baling twine taken from some beautiful green hay.

Which is how I finally came up with the name of this blog post:

Straight from the Bottle Buttermilk Syrup.

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

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That nice little bit of caramelization on the cauliflower comes from agave syrup.  You can get the same color by using a natural, unrefined sugar.  The agave was used in this recipe so there would be a bit of “sticky” to the cauliflower.

Agave syrup is not necessarily healthier for you – it’s quite processed and pretty high in calories.  It does however, handle the heat of a sear quite well without turning black and bitter like a sugar sometimes can.  It’s more similar to a corn syrup than a sugar when you add it to a sauce.

What is my favorite way to steam vegetables?  Well…this handy bamboo steamer is my absolute favorite way.  The taste is so clean and fresh.  Each compartment can hold a different vegetable, and even if you’re using them them together in a recipe, they retain their own unique flavor profile.

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 inch piece fresh turmeric, grated

3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground mustard (why mustard?  Because cooking cauliflower and broccoli can unfortunately make some of their strongest nutritional benefits less available to your body.  Adding mustard or radish to the cooked vegetables will then provide the nutrients necessary to ‘unlock’ their potential.  If you eat these vegetables raw, then you get the full benefits)

1 dried hot Chinese or Thai pepper (whole)

1/2 C Braggs Amino Acids or Soy Sauce

2 T Agave Syrup

Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 C peanut butter (I did not use a “peanuts only” brand, because it doesn’t melt as well for this quick and easy version).  

1 t garlic powder

1 t dried minced onion

1/4 t powdered dried ginger

1 C miso broth (I used a very yummy natto miso brand, but you can use other types of miso broth as well. )

*optional* honey to taste

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the steamed cauliflower.  Massage the marinade into the cauliflower and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  To serve, heat a pan to medium and add a bit of oil so the cauliflower doesn’t stick.  Remove cauliflower from marinade and sear both sides.

For the peanut sauce, briefly heat the spices in the bottom of a pot, and then pour your water in.  Follow your miso directions.

Whisk the miso broth bit by bit into the peanut butter until the peanut butter is melted and it’s at the consistency you want.

I like this marinated cauliflower and peanut sauce best when served over mung bean noodles and a bunch of steamed vegetables like carrots and zucchini!

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Falafel Stacks

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These wonderful stacks taste great with a cucumber dressing, a hummus dressing, or even just lightly topped with olive oil and vinegar.  I’ve even eaten them with ketchup, and they taste fine with the ketchup as well!

The dried chickpeas need to be soaked at least overnight, and once the dough is made you’ll want to have it rest for a couple of hours.  This way the falafel patties will stay together once you start cooking them.

It’s not a traditional falafel recipe, but it’s a nice way to get even more vegetables into your diet.

Makes 6 hamburger sized patties

Cauliflower and Chickpea Falafel Stacks

About 1/2 a small head of cauliflower, which will give you about 2 cups ground cauliflower

1 cup fresh chickpeas that have been soaked overnight

About 1 cup green onion, white and green parts

3 cloves roasted garlic

Small bunch fresh parsley

1 t coriander

1 t cumin

1 T baking powder

1 t salt

About 1/2 cup chickpea flour (you may need more, depending on how much moisture the cauliflower has.

1 C Sunflower oil (or other oil of your choosing)

Roasted red pepper slices

Roasted sweet potato slices

Drain the chickpeas and let them sit in the colander while you begin preparing the dough.

Add cauliflower to a food processor, and pulse until the cauliflower is fine.

Add the vegetables, spices,  baking powder and salt.  Pulse until fully combined.

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Add the chickpeas and chickpea flour, pulsing until everything is incorporated, and the chickpeas have a crumb texture.  You don’t want to overmix it, or it will start turning into a hummus.

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Put the dough into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Form into 1/2 inch thick patties. If the patties aren’t holding together well, add some more chickpea flour to the mixture.

Add the sunflower oil to a frying pan and heat to med/lo.  The oil should come up to almost 1/2 the side of the patty.  You’ll want to make sure that the oil is deeper, rather than shallow because it will help the patties to stay together.  Fry about 4 minutes on each side, drain on paper towels, and then top with the potato, pepper, and salad mix.  You can also put it in a pita for a sandwich!

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