Friday, December 11, 2009

A New Kali Orexi!

Kali Orexi has moved ... please visit to see the new site and read my latest recipe, Octopus Pot Pies.

Kali Orexi!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ginger Leek Potato Croquettes with a Fennel Pear Honey Mustard

Kalo mina! That's Greek for "Have a good month," a wish customarily shared amongst Greeks on the first of every month. Speaking of which, today (the first of December) is the deadline for this month's Royal Foodie Joust, a friendly blogger competition hosted by Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and I am running short on time considering I have until noon (it's 10:33 a.m. as I write this) to post this on the RFJ forum.

So, the ingredients for this month's joust were fennel, pear and ginger. Three lovely ingredients indeed and so many dishes they can star in ... but I've got to keep this short. I got some inspiration for this dish from a snippet in the December 2009 issue of Food & Wine highlighting a fennel mustard by Thomas Keller (this master chef's version is just fennel cooked in white vinegar then pureed with mustard powder). I, on the other hand, cooked down some roughly chopped fennel and pear with a pinch of ground ginger in some white vinegar, then pureed it with dry mustard powder and thyme honey. Can you say Mmmmmmmm?

Now, one of my favorite things to eat with mustard is a good potato knish. A knish, if I am not mistaken, is Yiddish for a fried turnover/dumpling filled with potato more often than not although there are a number of varieties that also include ground meat, spinach and other fillings. My favorite is the potato, slathered with lots of whole grain mustard. So after making this homemade mustard of sorts, I had to try it with something potato-y ... hence these Ginger Leek Potato Croquettes that fit beautifully in with the Royal Foodie Joust, paired amazingly well with the Fennel Pear Honey Mustard and, even more importantly, took care of my sudden craving for a knish ... which come to think about it I haven't had in years.

And just so you can understand how delicious these are: my son upon popping two in his mouth jumped up and exclaimed, "Mmmm, Mama! These are yummy in my tummy!" What can I say? The kid's got a distinguished palate ... and he's only three!

Ginger Leek Potato Croquettes with a Fennel Pear Honey Mustard

For 1 1/2 cups of mustard:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, cleaned, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 pears, peeled and diced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
Pinch of ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon thyme honey
Salt, to taste

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the fennel and pear over low heat until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and ground ginger and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more. Once done, place the contents of the skillet into the bowl of a food processor, add the mustard powder and honey and blend until pureed. Spoon the mustard into a bowl, let cool, then season with salt and store tightly covered in the refrigerator. The mustard is best made at least one day ahead, if not more.

For the Ginger Leek Potato Croquettes:

2 large potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and quartered
1 large leek, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
Pinch of grated ginger
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs (one for mixture, one for coating before frying)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil for frying

In a medium saucepan, place leeks and potatoes in enough water to cover and boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the cooking water then place saucepan with the leeks and potatoes briefly back over the heat to evaporate any excess water.

Transfer the potatoes and leeks to the bowl of a food processor along with the ginger, salt and pepper. Pulse until pureed then spoon the potato mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs and one egg, adding more breadcrumbs as necessary to more easily form the mixture into croquettes. If you have the time, place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for better handling. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl and set aside. Heat about an inch of olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Wet your hands slightly and begin forming the potato mixture into croquettes, about one inch in diameter. Coat the croquettes in the egg and fry until golden on each side. Drain briefly on a plate lined with paper towel.

Serve hot or warm alongside the Fennel Pear Honey Mustard.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two Bean Butternut Squash Chili

I'm a sucker for a good chili ... spicy, warm, comforting. And for some very strange reason, I never make the same chili twice. I'm always tweaking: always adding a little extra this or subtracting a little of that. Sausage, ground meat, bell peppers, beans; regardless the ingredients, there is always a soul-satisfying, heartwarming bowl of chili to enjoy.

This time around, chunks of butternut squash replaced meat and provided for the perfect counterpart to cannelini and black beans. Chipotle chilies added a smoky, spicy dimension of flavor every bowl of chili should boast.

Once done, just add a dollop of Greek yogurt and some fresh cilantro over top for the perfect chili everyone will enjoy.

Two Bean Butternut Squash Chili
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 chipotle chilies, seeds removed and chilies finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups black beans, either canned or dried beans boiled until just tender
2 cups cannelini beans, either canned or dried beans boiled until just tender
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water (use more as needed)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and saute onions and garlic about 10 minutes until quite soft. Add the butternut squash and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in tomatoes, paste, broth, chipotle chilies, cumin and oregano. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil. If using dried beans that have been boiled until just tender, add now and simmer chili for about 25 minutes; if using canned, let mixture simmer for about 15 minutes before adding rinsed beans to pot and then simmering for 10 minutes more.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve chili in bowls topped with Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pumpkin Rizogalo

Pumpkin pie is certainly an important part of an American Thanksgiving ... it's the day's quintessential dessert and frankly, Thanksgiving just doesn't feel right without this sweet, spice-laced pie gracing our humble table.

But for those that aren't so enthusiastic about traditional pumpkin pie, there are some great alternatives. Pumpkin and Coconut Milk Panna Cotta anyone? Or how about this Pumpkin Rizogalo (that's Greek for rice pudding)?

For me, rizogalo is one of those food items that brings back a flood of memories and emotions. One of my late Giagia's dessert specialties was her rizogalo and it was quite often that we would return home from school to the smell of rice simmered in milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg wafting up the stairs from her apartment to our own. It was a smell that made me feel warm and simply secure inside. Giagia would use a whole gallon of milk to make enough of her rizogalo to satisfy us all and we all adored it.

She gave me her recipe some time ago once her cooking came to a halt and she could no longer move around her kitchen the way she always had. It's a simple recipe of just rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. To this day, it is my favorite rice pudding recipe and I neither need nor want any other to replace it. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I tried my hand at this festive version last weekend with the hope of honoring the holiday, the season and, more importantly, the memory of my Giagia all in one sweet bite.

So, if you enjoy rice pudding and you are looking to add some more pumpkin to your holiday table, look no further ... here is my recipe for Pumpkin Rizogalo.

Pumpkin Rizogalo (Rice Pudding)
Makes about 10 ramekins

6 to 7 cups milk
1 1/4 cups rice
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, either fresh or canned
pinch of salt
dash of grated nutmeg
dash of ground cinnamon
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan, bring the 6 cups of milk, rice, sugar and salt to a simmer. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of the pumpkin, the nutmeg and cinnamon and cook mixture until the rice is quite soft and cooked through, stirring often.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the vanilla and remaining pumpkin in a medium bowl. Remove the saucepan from the burner and slowly whisk some of the rice mixture into the egg yolk mixture so as to temper it. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat for a few minutes more. (Add additional cup of milk as necessary during cooking.)

Spoon into ramekins or serving dishes and place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding (so as to prevent it from forming a "skin"). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cranberry Apple Chutney

Thanksgiving is just a week away so I thought I'd share some recipes that will be gracing our table this year. There are, of course, a few dishes that remain virtually unchanged year after year: the turkey is roasted simply with fresh vegetables and herbs; the sweet potatoes are baked with brown sugar and marshmallows; and the rice is made in our family's traditional way ... and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

But some dishes I like to tweak and experiment with include appetizers, the essential cranberry sauce and all the fall inspired desserts. So I thought I'd start with this cranberry chutney which I began making last year in place of plain cranberry sauce (which I still adore but sometimes a girl needs a little extra oomph). This is a great make-ahead recipe that's full of flavor and can have some texture depending on how thick you like to dice your apples.

Use apples that can withstand cooking a little better and not turn to mush: I'd say Gala, Rome, Jonagold or Winesap are your best bets. Also, freshly grated orange zest and juice as well as freshly grated ginger are key ... and if you're feeling adventurous, add some ground clove for a truly flavorful chutney that can not only serve as a worthy accompaniment to your turkey, but pair well with roasted pork loin, grilled pork chops and make an amazing addition to any sandwich.

Cranberry Apple Chutney
Makes 6 to 8 accompaniment servings

2 pounds of apples (about 4 large)
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
2 cups fresh cranberries (I purchase fresh cranberries and freeze them for future use, then thaw before using)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve, and core apples (and if you prefer, peel them as well although I leave them unpeeled) then cut into 1-inch cubes. In a bowl combine the apples with the orange zest, orange juice, sugar, ginger, mustard and butter and stir lightly to coat. Place the mixture in a baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes. Stir the apple mixture a few times during baking.

Stir in the cranberries and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer until the cranberries are soft and the chutney thick. You can make the chutney a couple of days in advance; just bring it to room temperature or warm it ever so slightly before serving with your roast turkey. Try it with roasted chicken or pork; better yet add it to a sandwich or wrap using leftover chicken or turkey breast ... trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Short Rib Terrine

Short ribs are easily my favorite cut of beef. I adore them. They need minimal TLC (barely any hands on cooking, just a bit more time in the oven or on a burner) and yet yield so much flavor -- a simple braise with fresh vegetables and herbs is all they need in my book; deglaze the braising liquid with some red wine and you've got sheer perfection.

To change things up a bit, this past weekend I tried my hand at this Short Rib Terrine and I am pleased to say it's now one of my favorite tapas and a really great way to use my beloved short ribs. Served with fresh homemade bread dotted with leeks and garlic the terrine was full of flavor. Just be sure to add some briny capers to your serving tray when offering up this tapa as they pair beautifully with it.

What's even better though, is that the cooking process yields a fragrant beef broth that can be used to enhance the flavor of other dishes. (I stored a couple of cupfuls in separate glass storage containers and placed them in the freezer for future use.)

Do try this Short Rib Terrine, you won't be disappointed.

Short Rib Terrine

(Adapted from a recipe on

6 pounds short ribs
2 onions, quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
1 large leek, cleaned and quartered
4 fresh parsley stems
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
6 to 8 whole black peppercorns
12 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To finish terrine:
8 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season short ribs with some coarse sea salt and spread in a roasting pan along with the onions, celery, leek and carrot. Roast, turning occasionally, for about an hour.

Make a bouquet garni with the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Transfer meat (with bones) and roasted vegetables to a large pot and add 12 cups water, salt and bouquet garni. Add a bit of water to the roasting pan and scrape all the brown bits up then pour the liquid into the pot. Bring to a boil and skim froth as necessary. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered for anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, until meat is extremely tender and broth is reduced.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool completely, uncovered, then cover and chill overnight.

Remove fat from chilled mixture. Reheat mixture over moderate heat until warm. remove from heat and transfer short ribs to a platter; once slightly cooled, discard bones and fat. Finely chop short rib meat and set aside. Pour broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and store as desired.

To complete the terrine: Heat oil in a saucepan and cook garlic over low heat, turning occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and reserve the oil. Mash the garlic to a paste with a fork.

Add paprika, salt and pepper to the oil remaining in the saucepan and cook over low heat until fragrant, a couple of minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the paprika oil, garlic paste and short rib meat. Pack the mixture into a terrine or crock, cover tightly and chill overnight. Bring the terrine to room temperature before serving with slices of fresh bread, crackers or pita triangles and capers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Roast Chicken, Cranberry and Honey Mustard Pita Sandwich

I love roasting a whole chicken and then using leftovers in a variety of ways. My favorite as of late is this pita sandwich with roast chicken, homemade cranberry sauce, sweet and tangy honey mustard and fresh watercress. It's a satisfying little sandwich and it's pretty healthy. I used Greek pita bread that I placed under the broiler for a couple of minutes to get some color but you can obviously use any bread you wish. Layer some roast chicken breast over one half of the pita and top with honey mustard, cranberry sauce and a handful of watercress. Top with the remaining pita half and enjoy!

Now don't be fooled by the roast chicken being listed here first: the star of this sandwich is the fresh cranberry sauce. Sweet and tart with a hint of ginger, the cranberries take this sandwich to a whole new level. And considering shelves are stocked with tons of fresh cranberries, sauces and chutneys such as this will be creeping into our dishes pretty regularly over the next month or so.

Below, I'll just share my recipe for a simple cranberry sauce but in the coming weeks will also write up the recipe for my favorite cranberry chutney ... so stay tuned!

Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
12-oz fresh cranberries (3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
Juice of small orange
Splash of Mavrodaphne (or Port)
Pinch of grated ginger

As I was already using my oven to roast the chicken, I simply combined all the ingredients in a baking dish, covered with foil and baked it until reduced to a thick, chunky sauce. Alternatively, just combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the cranberries are soft and the sauce is thick.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Olive Oil Poached Cod, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Pine Nuts

We eat fish quite a bit: I pan fry whole porgies or cook them in a foil "pouch" with oregano, garlic and olive oil on a weekly basis. But more supple fillets of fish inherently prone to overcooking, usually pose a problem as they demand a bit more attention than I can offer on a weeknight.

It was only just recently I figured out a solution to this problem; it was only just recently I figured out that poaching fish in olive oil is an unbelievably forgiving method of cooking delicate fish that yields such amazingly tender, moist results. I cannot sing this method's praises enough: it's so simple and so easy, more importantly poaching really lets the fish shine and using good olive oil means it's healthy.

In this dish, I used some fresh cod, which is thick and meaty, but I'm certain halibut would work just as well here. I served the olive oil poached cod over mashed sweet potatoes flavored with grated ginger and a touch of cream as well as some sauteed broccoli rabe with pine nuts toasted with a dash of cayenne pepper. The kids gobbled it all up and even asked for seconds. Need I say more?

Olive Oil Poached Cod, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Pine Nuts

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. fresh cod
2 large sweet potatoes
Ground ginger, to taste
Dash of ground nutmeg
Tablespooon of butter or a splash of heavy cream
1 bunch broccoli rabe, bottom 2 inches of stems removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts
Dash of cayenne pepper
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To start with, clean and peel the potatoes and cook them in boiling water until fork tender (alternatively, clean the potatoes but don't peel; wrap them in foil and roast until tender; cool and then peel). Mash them either with a potato masher or in a food processor, then stir in the ground ginger, ground nutmeg, butter or heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and rewarm when ready to serve.

For the broccoli rabe, rinse the stems and remove any thick or damaged leaves. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the broccoli rabe for just a couple of minutes. Remove the broccoli rabe to a colander and drain well. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the pine nuts and a dash of cayenne. Shake the skillet frequently until the pine nuts are toasted and golden. Remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside. Add a couple of tablespoons olive oil to the skillet along with the minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Toss in the broccoli rabe and the pine nuts and combine well with the olive oil until heated through. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

For the cod, heat some olive oil (enough to just cover the cod) in a dutch oven or deep skillet over very low heat. Cut the cod into individual portions, season with salt and pepper and carefully add it to the oil. Let the cod poach in the olive oil (keep the heat at low) until opaque and just cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the fillets.

Place the mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe on the plate and carefully remove cod with a spatula and place over the potatoes to serve.

Try adding some fresh herbs or sliced garlic to the poaching oil so as to infuse the fish with those flavors as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spanako-Quesadillas (Spinach Pie Quesadillas)

There are times when a quick lunch or dinner is a must but that doesn't necessarily mean takeout or fast food needs to creep into our diet. The other night, I was all tapped out and as the kids had enjoyed a heavier lunch I wanted to make a rather light and quick dinner. Knowing that I had some spinach and some flour tortillas on hand, I thought, "Why not make some spinach quesadillas?"

I wasn't originally thinking I'd go with a Greek flavor profile, but the container of Feta was calling out to me much more emphatically than the block of cheddar and so my quesadillas quickly became an easy (you might call it lazy) though extremely tasty version of Spanakopita (traditional Greek spinach pie).

I quickly sauteed some chopped onions, scallions, garlic and spinach then tossed in some chopped parsley and fresh mint that's still growing in the garden. An egg, some crumbled Feta, a skillet, some flour tortillas ... and voila, Spanako-Quesadillas.

Make these as a light lunch or dinner; accompanied by a salad it's really all you'll need. Better yet, serve these as appetizers or quick finger foods when you're getting ready for a casual get-together with friends. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Spanako-Quesadillas (Spinach Pie Quesadillas)
(Makes about 5 or 6 quesadillas)

Olive oil
3 scallions, sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 cups fresh spinach or 1 small box frozen spinach
Small handful of parsley, finely chopped
A few mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 egg
Feta (add as much crumbled Feta as you like)
5 or 6 small to medium flour tortillas

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and saute the onion, scallions and garlic until softened, about five minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted and heated through, about five minutes more. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, parsley and mint. Place mixture in bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in egg and feta and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Meanwhile, wipe out the skillet and heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet and heat slightly. Add a few spoonfuls of the spinach mixture over HALF of the tortilla, then fold the empty half over the mixture and press down lightly. Cover the skillet and let cook for about five minutes; then uncover and turn your quesadilla carefully over. Cook a few minutes more. (Repeat with remaining tortillas and spinach mixture.)

Remove the quesadilla from the skillet, cut it in half or in thirds and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cranberry Mavrodaphne Clafoutis

I've always wanted to make clafoutis but for some very, very odd reason haven't. I'm not sure why ... these little desserts are really quite simple and so versatile. A complement to any and all seasonal fruit, they are the perfect ending to a savory dinner or a sweet and simple addition to a friendly brunch.

Cranberries, fresh or dried, embody (at least for me) the spirit of fall. They're tart flavor and deep red hue just scream autumn. Simmered in wine and scented with cinnamon, they made the perfect base for these buttery clafoutis.

The Greek dessert wine Mavrodaphne is similar to port but sweeter and beautifully balanced the tartness of the cranberries here. Using the dried fruit made these clafoutis even simpler and though I loved every part of the dessert, I am looking forward to making clafoutis using fresh cranberries as well.

Cranberry Mavrodaphne Clafoutis
(Adapted from a recipe on

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup Mavrodaphne
1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp sugar mixed with 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack placed in center of oven. Butter either one 8- to 9-inch baking dish or 6 to 8 ramekins.
In a small saucepan, simmer the cranberries, Mavrodaphne, water and cinnamon sticks uncovered until it's of a syrupy consistency. Pour the simmered fruit into the baking dish or ramekins and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt until smooth and pour into the dish or ramekins. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over top and bake until puffed and set in center, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the clafoutis briefly and serve.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions over Polenta

It's been a while since I participated in the Leftover Queen's Royal Foodie Joust, but I'm back this month with an entry using each of the three chosen ingredients (orange colored squash/pumpkin; black tinted stout; sugar) and lots of Fall flair.

A heartwarming, soul-satisfying dish fit for Autumn is what I was going for here. So I took some flavorful butternut squash, soaked it in dark beer, coated it in brown sugar then browned it in some butter and roasted it with a bit of the beer til tender. Onions caramelized with the remaining beer joined the butternut squash atop a silky polenta.

Serve this as a side dish to grilled or roasted beef, veal or chicken; as a stand alone first course; or even a light main dish. I thought of adding some crispy bacon or pancetta but we'd had enough meat in our diet last week though either would add a great dimension of flavor to this dish though.

Now, if you're a food blogger and not yet a member of the Leftover Queen's Foodie Blogroll, head on over to Jenn's site and sign up now. You'll be part of a great community of bloggers, you'll enjoy some great contests and giveaways and you'll qualify to compete in the monthly Royal Foodie Joust.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions over Polenta

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 bottle dark beer
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the Polenta:
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal for polenta
Dash of nutmeg
Pat of butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the butternut squash in a large bowl; add the beer and cayenne pepper and give it a good stir until all the pieces of squash are coated well. Let the butternut squash soak in the beer mixture for about 15 minutes.

As the polenta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and once the butter is heated well, take the butternut squash cubes straight from the beer, coat each piece well with brown sugar and add to the hot skillet. Brown all the butternut squash pieces evenly on all sides then add half the beer marinade to the skillet and place it in the oven to roast the squash until tender.

Meanwhile, begin the polenta by bringing the water, stock and salt to boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal and cook the polenta over moderately low heat (at barely a boil), stirring quite frequently until thick and smooth, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the nutmeg, parmesan and butter. (Polenta will keep warm, covered, about 20 minutes. Stir well before serving.)

As the polenta cooks, in a skillet or saucepan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the sliced onions and cook 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the remaining beer and continue cooking the onions until golden and caramelized.

Spoon some polenta on the plate--or in a bowl--top with some caramelized onions and place a few pieces of butternut squash on top as well. Drizzle with any sauce from the roasted squash skillet and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ricotta Pancakes with Fig Compote

This weekend we picked the last of the figs off of our fig trees and it's safe to say we're all "figged" out. Since early September we've been blessed with literally hundreds of sweet purple-fleshed figs and I've made everything from a Greek fig spoon sweet; to roasted figs stuffed with Gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto; to a cinnamon-spiced fig jam; to two large batches of vanilla-scented fig compote. Not to mention that we ate dozens of these little fruits as is.

On Sunday morning, I opened my fridge to see a half full (some might say half empty) container of ricotta on one shelf and a jar of fig compote on another. The kiddies asked for a batch of pancakes so it was only natural I whip up some ricotta pancakes and serve them with a spoonful of fig compote, right?

I've seen some ricotta pancake recipes call for separating the eggs, adding yolks to the initial batter, then whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks and folding those in as well. I have to admit, I think those steps are kind of unnecessary. Not that I've done any experiments to officially note any differences between either method, but I've always been left satisfied with the fluffy, light pancakes my simple whisking of all ingredients has yielded.

So here's my recipe for ricotta pancakes. I flavored this batch with a splash of my aunt's homemade vanilla but feel free to add either orange or lemon zest to perk these pancakes up as well.

Ricotta Pancakes with Fig Compote
Makes about 8 pancakes

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 cup ricotta
Butter (for coating griddle)
Fig compote (recipe below)

In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and ricotta and whisk briefly (batter should be lumpy so don't over stir). Note: If the batter seems much too thick add a splash of milk to thin it out.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat and once hot coat with a little butter. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the hot griddle and cook until small holes begin to form on top. Using a spatula, flip the pancake and cook just a couple minutes more until golden. Note: To keep other pancakes warm while making the rest, place on a baking sheet, cover with foil and heat in a 175-degree oven.

Serve pancakes with a spoonful of compote and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Fresh Fig Compote
Clean and dry about three cups of fresh small- to medium-size figs. Peel the figs carefully. Slice the figs in half and add to a saucepan along with 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cups water. Cook until the figs are really tender and reduced to a jam-like consistency. If needed, add a bit more water to continue cooking figs until tender.

Once done, remove pan from heat and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let compote cool then spoon into sterilised jars; cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Serve over pancakes, ice cream, yogurt or mascarpone cheese.