mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Pumpkin cheesecake pie . . .

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and G. and I will have a dinner for two. I’ve simplified the menu (and the cooking!) to having two turkey thighs roasted over chestnut dressing, green beans, parsnips with maple syrup and popovers. Not making gravy or mashed potatoes this year. BUT, I decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake pie for dessert, dressed with freshly whipped cream when served.

Traditionally, I start roasting and shelling chestnuts at the beginning of November, stockpiling them in the freezer to use in the stuffing. This year, for some reason, I didn’t see any chestnuts for sale anywhere! And the line was always too long for me to go to Trader Joe’s where they usually had Italian chestnuts on sale during this time of year.

So, I ordered a large of peeled, roasted chestnuts from Ardeche, France. I’ll stir them in with the shallots, butter and celery for the dressing, adding Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing, chicken broth, Bell’s Seasoning (a new box!) and fresh parsley. Lots of salt and pepper and moist enough to bake in the oven underneath the rack on which the turkey thighs will be roasting. I already rinsed them in cold water, dried them and brined them with salt and pepper on Monday, leaving them uncovered for a day and then with plastic wrap so the skin will be crisp when roasted, the drippings will fall into the chestnut stuffing underneath.

As for the pie, I made it this morning to space out the cooking effort, using a Pepperidge Farm pie crust, rolling it out so it would fit my large pie plate. I sprayed it with PAM first, laid out the crust, crimping the edge and filled it with ceramic pie beads on top of parchment paper after pricking the crust with a fork. I baked it for about 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. While the crust was baking, I used a mixer and beat together 8 oz. of Philadelphia cream cheese with a cup of sugar (1/2 white; 1/2 brown) until the cream cheese was smooth. Beat in 2 extra large eggs, vanilla and a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree, a dollop of molasses, a large teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Added 1/2 cup of heavy cream and blended the pumpkin mixture together. Poured it into the waiting par-baked crust and slid it into the oven for 45 min. Turned out it needed a little longer because the center was still jiggly. Left it in for another 10 minutes, then turned off the oven; opened the door and let the pie sit in the oven for 10 more minutes.

After it cooled completely, I covered the pie with plastic wrap and set it on the lowest shelf of the fridge to set until we eat it tomorrow night.

Happy Thanksgiving to all – and to all the patience to weather this extraordinary time, count our blessings and appreciate those who are near and dear to us.

homemade egg rolls for dinner! . . .

shrimp, cabbage and pork filling in cooked egg roll
a dozen homemade egg rolls for dinner!

Somehow, I woke up today thinking about making egg rolls for dinner. Maybe it was because we had thin sliced pork chops for supper last night and there was some stored in the freezer. I bought a small head of regular cabbage and some green onions.

For the filling, I sliced up the pork into very thin slivers, adding cooking sherry, a little soy and cornstarch to tenderize it before cooking. Defrosted four large shrimp, cleaned, cut them up and added cooking sherry and cornstarch. In a hot skillet lined with vegetable oil, I stir fried the chopped green onions, pork and shrimp. I kept them separated in the pan until they were almost cooked through. Added the sliced shitake mushrooms and stirred them together until cooked – then I emptied the skillet contents into a waiting bowl.

To a fresh skillet, I stir fried half of the cabbage sliced into fine slivers until cooked, adding the drained shrimp, pork mixture back into the pan. Cooked over medium heat and mixed the cabbage in with the rest of the filling. Turned off the heat, stirred it one more time and let it rest and cool until time to make the egg rolls.

The filling needs to be drained as much as possible so the liquid will not spurt while deep frying the egg rolls. It should be cooled completely before filling on an egg roll wrapper. When wrapping, take a square and position it with the point at the top; use your finger to wet the edges of the left and right slanted edges. Take some filling and start rolling it snugly until you can fold the left and right flaps over the middle, then keep rolling until you can seal the whole thing with the pre-moistened edges. The point of the wrapper will be facing you. (see photos)

When ready to deep-fry the egg rolls, heat up some vegetable oil to 2-3 inches in a deep saucepan or skillet. Take a chopstick and a small piece of filling to test whether the fat is hot enough – it should sizzle gently. Make sure that the egg rolls are sealed well before frying so that liquid doesn’t leak out and pop hot fat into the air. Cook 2 or 3 of them at a time, turning them until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain.

In parallel, I cook some Sapporo Ichiban ramen in its soup and add fresh spinach to the bowl when serving. Either miso soup or some kind of soup noodles is ideal as an accompaniment to the fried egg rolls. I usually put out a small dish of hoisin sauce with a little sesame oil and soy as a dip for the egg rolls.

My secret pleasure in making egg rolls is eating cold leftovers while watching TV at night. Who knew? Yum!

cabbage, pork and shrimp filling

spinach mushroom lasagna!

I haven’t made this dish in awhile because it take a lot of steps and thus, a lot of time. But we’re having our tenants for dinner tomorrow – they’re in their mid-20’s – and I thought this might be a crowd pleaser. Hope so, anyway.

In a long dutch oven, I brought water with oil and salt to a rapid bowl and placed a box of lasagna noodles to cook for 10 minutes. (Turns out, I had six leftover which I froze afterwards in parchment paper.)

I sliced about 8 fresh large Shitake mushrooms in lengths and fried them in a dry skillet. Added about the same quantity of Cremini mushrooms sliced lengthwise to the pan and sprinkled with a little salt. The mushrooms made their own liquid and I sauteed them until they were golden brown. I read somewhere that it’s important to cook fresh Shitake mushrooms well or it could result in some strange neurological symptoms. Anyhow.

To a chopped fresh shallot and butter, I added a frozen block of chopped spinach. Gradually, it cooked down. I added a sprinkle of nutmeg and let it cool. I drained it until it was dry and added it to a 16 ounce container of whole milk Dragone ricotta. Grated a half cup of parmesan into the ricotta and stirred it up before adding the drained cooked spinach mixture.

When the lasagna was cooked, I lifted it up with tongs and plunged it into a large mixing bowl of cold water so that it wouldn’t stick together. Then, I drained them individually on paper towels to ready them for layering. These steps are tedious but necessary not to have a soupy mess in the lasagna.

SO, to layer the lasagna, I sprayed the large baking pan with Pam. Opened a large jar of Ragu organic tomato sauce.

  1. spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan
  2. lay three lasagna noodles on the sauce
  3. spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the noodles
  4. scatter half of the dry fried mushrooms as the next layer
  5. plop a few spoonfuls of ricotta spinach mixture and spread evenly using your fingers
  6. lay three lasagna noodles on the ricotta
  7. spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the noodles
  8. scatter remaining mushrooms on top
  9. lay three lasagna noodles on mushrooms
  10. spread with tomato sauce; add chopped fresh basil
  11. finish layering all the spinach ricotta mixture
  12. grate fresh parmesan cheese over the ricotta
  13. lay last three lasagna noodles on parmesan cheese
  14. spread remaining tomato sauce on noodles; add fresh basil
  15. layer with a packet of fresh mozzarella cheese all over the top
  16. sprinkle with fresh basil leaves
  17. grate layer of fresh parmesan cheese on top
  18. cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Let lasagna come to room temperature; bake at 350 covered for half an hour. Take off foil and bake another half hour. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. My lasagna is now in the fridge covered with foil. When it’s baked and bubbly tomorrow night, I’ll add a photo of the finished dish! Bon Appetit!

quick butterscotch cookies. . .

I made these very quick butterscotch cookies because it’s a rainy afternoon, and why not? Recipe calls for 1 stick unsalted butter (melted); 3/4 cup of sugar (I used white, lite brown and turbinado in equal parts); 1 egg: whisked together with a flat hand whisk. Added 1 1/8 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/3 bag of butterscotch bits. Blend together well by hand and bake on a greased cookie sheet for 12 min. at 365 degrees. Makes about 2 dozen.

a lemon ricotta pound cake! . . .

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Wow, does this batter look good! I just followed this online recipe – and it’s baking in the oven now. Here are a few notes on what I used. Instead of lemon extract, I microplaned zest from two small lemons and juiced one of them to add to the batter. I started by beating the wet ingredients together: soft butter with sugar; then added eggs, one at a time, then the lemon zest and juice – which made the batter look slightly curdly, then I added the whole milk ricotta and beat until the batter looked very creamy.

To the mixture, I added the flour, baking powder and salt – kept beating at a medium speed until everything was well blended. Licked the beaters and poured the rest of the batter into a buttered loaf pan.  Into the preheated 350 degree oven, I slid the cake in and set the timer on 50 minutes.

Plan to serve slices of this with some ripe nectarine/blueberry fruit compote that’s already in the fridge for dessert tonight. This recipe looks a keeper already and I haven’t even tasted the baked pound cake as yet! Yum!

Recipe notes: FYI, it turns out my loaf pan wasn’t large enough for the batter and it ran over while it baked into the cookie sheet underneath. It also stayed jiggly for quite awhile and I bkaed it for almost 20 more minutes than called for before a toothpick came out clean.  I’m not sure what actually accounted for this but wanted to include it in the post so that others might take precaution against it. It still looks pretty good though, doesn’t it?

 

a summer tomato, spinach ricotta tart. . .

IMG_1427It’s Sunday and I wanted to use the farm fresh spinach I bought last week which I cleaned and stemmed this morning. Instead of combining with ricotta cheese to stuff in giant pasta shells, I thought I’d make a tart with puff pastry crust, spinach, ricotta and sliced tomatoes on top. I was inspired by this recipe from Food52.

First, I minced two cloves of garlic, chopped up a shallot and scraped them into some melting unsalted butter. To the skillet, I added a few handfuls of fresh spinach and cooked it down, sprinkling a little nutmeg at the end. After it cooled, I chopped it more finely and mixed the drained spinach with fresh ricotta.

In the meantime, I had prepared the puff pastry by spraying a pan with Pam, pressing down the defrosted puff pastry and pricking it with a fork so that it would brown in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

When the tart was cool, I spread it with the spinach ricotta mixture and sliced a large tomato into crescents instead of round slices. I decorated the top of the spinach with the tomatoes, sprinkled the top with coarse pepper.

We had a couple of servings after the tart was baked and cooled a bit. It was tasty and a good first try with this recipe.

P.S.  This tart was SO tasty when eaten cold for lunch the next day! Much better than the night before when the ricotta was too soft from the heat.

 

 

 

 

 

cream of cucumber soup recipe. . .

IMG_1392IMG_1386One our favorite soups, summer and winter, is cream of cucumber soup. I’ve been experimenting with the recipe for the easiest preparation and which tastes the best.

My traditional way to prepare the soup was to buy 4-5 large regular cucumbers, peel them and seed them all before slicing them up to make the soup. This process was a lot of work, especially seeding the cucumbers, yielding less than a desired amount of cucumber pulp.

Last week, I used 9 Persian cucumbers that I had picked up (buy 1 pack get 1 free) and made the soup without peeling them. Cooked with shallots and chicken broth, adding cream at the end, the soup was tasty, but even after I ran it through a food mill, there were still specks of green peel in the soup.

Today, I bought two of the largest ENGLISH cucumbers I could find, peeled them in a jiffy, and sliced them up for the soup. They’re cooking now in a pot with a large chopped shallot, 3 Tb. unsalted butter and a stock made with water to cover the cucumbers and a Knorr chicken gelatin broth packet. They cook for about a half an hour until soft and then cool.

Once cooled, I use an immersion blender (so handy!) to puree the soup. I taste for seasoning and usually don’t add any salt because the chicken broth provides enough in the stock. Right before serving, I pour in some cream – light or heavy, depending on the thickness of the soup base.

Hope this will be the best version for the recipe – not too much prep, no skins in the soup, and a delicious quick soup for any time of the year!

lemon cream cheese refrigerator pie!

IMG_1339IMG_1341If you like the taste of cream cheese, you’ll love this old classic, lemon cream cheese refrigerator pie. Before serving, I plan to place fresh fruit on top of the pieces I’m going to cut: tonight it’s going to be raspberries, and tomorrow, it will be white nectarines!

I baked the store-bought graham cracker crust for about 10 min. at 375 degrees after removing the plastic protector. In the meantime, I let two 8 ounce packages of cream cheese to come to room temp and opened a can of Eagle condensed milk. Also squeezed fresh lemons to yield 1/2 cup of juice.

When I first began beating the filling mixture with a portable mixer, the cream cheese turned into tiny lumps – so I switched over to an immersion blender and with a few swigs of it, the filling became velvety smooth.

When the crust had cooled, I transferred the filling into it and smoothed it out to the edges of the crust. And behold!, I discovered that I could re-use the plastic crust protector into a lid to crimp around the pie and set in the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours before serving it. Looking forward to having this light, refreshing pie to add fresh fruit to – for a few nights this week!

cool as a cucumber soup. . .

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Inspired by Melissa Clark’s recipes,I’ve begun making cold soups in the blender. I’ve made a cream of cucumber soup that required cooking the cucumbers before blending, but this recipe just purees the soup from scratch.

I did peel the cucumbers and seed them before adding to the blender. Also added an avocado, red onion, half a clove of chopped garlic, small container of plain yogurt, a splash of buttermilk and juice of one lime. Four large ice cubes added at the end and whirred around to cool the soup. Luscious and refreshing!

 

15 minute gazpacho soup for lunch today! . . .

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15 minute Gazpacho soup for lunch today – along with tuna sandwiches.

In a blender, I combined 2 cans of diced petite tomatoes, 2 chopped celery stalks, a third of a green pepper, red onion, half a minced garlic, worcestershire sauce, cumin (1/2 tsp) salt, pepper and juice of a fresh lime. Whizzed it together, tasted it for seasoning, then added 6 large ice cubes and ran the blender again. Stored in the fridge until ready to serve with a sprig of fresh cilantro from the herb garden.