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Happy New Year! We (my husband Thomas, 2 year old daughter Anna and I) are back in Germany now after spending Christmas with my family in the States. I was very happy to be home for the month of December and to be able to spend time with my 5 younger siblings, parents and grandfather. We had a nice time visiting with family and friends and relaxing at home where I grew up, in upstate NY. The time flew by with a week long trip to MA to visit family and while there Thomas learned how to ski, I made felted sweater mittens with my mom out of recycled wool sweaters as Christmas gifts, Thomas, my brother Simon and I got lost in the woods at night and only after abandoning our GPS finally found our way back to where we were staying, and of course the unforgettable Ninja missions at night with my brother Simon and Thomas’ son Magnus at our hotel nestled high up in the snowy Berkshire mountains. Then back at home in NY we had homemade veggie pizza at my dad’s house, homemade Rugela and cream cheese cookies at my mom’s, and a full fledged turkey dinner along with a veggie lasagne on Christmas eve at my sister Jess’s new house, glow stick parties and lots of running around after dark with Anna and my niece Ava, a Sushi party with my brother John and his best friend Jared who spent most of last year in Korea and taught us how to hold chopsticks the “proper” way, we talked politics with my brother Richard and my grandfather, I made 2 apple pies for my grandfather for Christmas and gave him some of the currant jelly I had made from this summer, I watched HGTV with my sister Jen who is going to school for construction management and wished I owned my own home, and finally Thomas and I cut down a Christmas tree (for the first time together) from a field up the road from my dad’s house and overall we had a great Christmas holiday at home with our friends and family.

Now without further ado here is the best taste of 2011:

 

1) White Bean with (or without) Kale Soup

White Bean and Kale Soup

Adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009

 

1 pound or about 500 grams dried Cannellini Beans

2 Liters or about 8 1/2 cups of Water or Vegetable Stock (I’ve used both and it comes out just as good either way)

1 large or 2 medium Onions diced

1 Garlic Bulb (about 10 cloves) cut in half, crushed and roughly chopped

3-4 large Carrots cut into rounds

400 gram can or about 14 ounces of diced Tomatoes

1 bunch of Kale chopped *optional (I’ve made this recipe with and without kale and it’s tasty either way)

2 Bay Leaves

3 sprigs of fresh Rosemary

Olive Oil

Salt, Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes to taste

 

The night before sort, rinse and soak the beans in a large bowl with plenty of water, you can optionally add 2-3 tablespoons of salt to the water when soaking. Soak overnight and up to 24 hours. (If you don’t have time to soak the beans the night before, but I highly recommend this procedure, you can quick soak the beans by bringing the beans and water to a boil for 10 minutes and then letting them soak for an hour) Drain and rinse the beans. Saute the onions in a large dutch oven or soup pot coated with olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more, until fragrant. Add the water or stock  and the drained beans. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on medium heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally until the beans are slightly tender. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, rosemary and carrots. Simmer for an additional 1-2 hours or until the carrots are soft. If using kale add to the pot 1/2 an hour before the soup is done. Before serving remove the woody stems of the rosemary and the bay leaves, add salt and peppers to taste and season with additional olive oil if desired.

 

 

 

2) Buttermilk Biscuits with Fresh Thyme

Buttermilk biscuits with thyme

adapted from Summer Harms

2 cups all purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 stick Butter (plus more for brushing on top)
2/3 cup Buttermilk (or you can alternately add 1 scant tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 2/3 cup milk)
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
2-3 tbs Ground Flax Seed *opt
2-3 tbs Fresh Thyme
Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Mix all the dry ingredients except for the thyme. Cut tablespoon size pieces of butter into the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, two knives or a food processor until crumbly and only pea size pieces of butter remain.

Cutting in the butter

 

Pull the thyme leaves off of the stems and mix into the butter-flour mixture. Add the buttermilk and gently stir to combine until a wet dough forms. Flatten the dough out on a floured surface until it’s about 1/2 inch thick.

 

dough

 

Cut rounds with a floured biscuit cutter or a cup and place on a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Reform remaining dough and cut rounds until all the dough is gone. Makes about 10 biscuits.

 

Cutting rounds

Brush melted butter or left over buttermilk over the tops of the biscuits and bake for 10-12 minutes until firm in the center. Eat immediately or store in zip lock bags once cool.

 

3) Cherry/Strawberry Clafoutis

Strawberry Clafoutis

Slightly adapted from La Tartine Gourmande

*The original recipe calls for cherries. I really like the clafoutis made with cherries or with strawberries but I do favor the one with cherries a bit more. I’m featuring the one with strawberries here as I didn’t have time to take pictures of the one I made with cherries before it was entirely eaten at a dinner party this summer.

4 1/2 cups (600 grams) of Fresh Cherries pitted and cut in half OR Fresh Strawberries

2 large Eggs and 1 Egg yolk

1/2 cup (100 grams) of Demerara Sugar, Blond Cane Sugar or Sugar in the Raw

1 oz (30 grams) of Corn Starch

1 oz ( 30 grams) all purpose Flour

7/8 cup (200 ml) of Whole Milk

1 Vanilla Bean

1/2 cup (100 ml) Heavy Cream

Powdered Sugar *optional

 

Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, yolk and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds to the egg mixture and whisk together. In a smaller bowl mix together the milk, cream and cornstarch. Add the milk mixture and the flour to the egg mixture and mix well. Grease a glass pie plate or tart pan with butter. Put the cut berries in the greased pan and pour the mixture over top. Bake for at least an hour or until the center is no longer liquid when moved gently. Allow to cool slightly and serve with powdered sugar sprinkled over top.

 

 

 

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

 

 

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