Yeah, it’s time to talk dirt. I know what you’re thinking–why would I want to eat dirt? It’s not just regular dirt–or the dirt you make with ground up OREO cookie crumbs. This dirt adds undertones of umami to the freshest of salads.
On a recent trip to Kansas City I had dinner with friends at Affare, a Modern German restaurant that offers amazing seasonal salads as part of the menu. Here are a couple descriptions to give you an idea of what they serve:
Red beet salad and buttermilk two ways, artisan leaves, flower petals, goat cheese, spiced pecan nuts
Lamb’s Lettuce, truffled potato confit, smoked elk-brat on cranberry-mustard aioli, crispy sauerkraut
Creative, cool. Of course I had to try some of Affare’s ideas at home. So the night I was there a salad with edible dirt was on the list. I grilled the server on how to prepare the dirt–yeah, she probably doesn’t get that question very often, “So what’s in the dirt?” While I wouldn’t put edible dirt on the salad plate every day it was a fun, easy addition on a night where we wanted to make things a little fancy.
Making edible dirt is easy (surprised? I mean, it’s dirt)
Here’s what to do:
In a food processor pulse together:
1/4 cup dried mushrooms (any variety, I used porcini)
2-3 oz. dark chocolate (baking chocolate you don’t want it sweet)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. paprika (smoked preferred)
Process until the mixture resembles dirt–this will be loud! Adjust the seasoning–the flavor should have an earthy zing. Tip: If you want the dirt darker add a bit of dark cocoa (I used black onyx powder).
Putting the salad together:
- Place a row of artisan lettuce in the middle of the plate
- Top with grated carrots or radish (I used watermelon radish)
- Sprinkle with a strong cheese like feta, bleu, or gorgonzola
- Squeeze fresh lemon over the salad, drizzle with olive oil
- Add a teaspoon or two of edible dirt on the edges of the plate
Pumpkin loves garbanzo beans–the proof is in the hummus. Add pureed pumpkin into your hummus for a subtle, earthy underlying flavor.
The basic recipe is fast and easy to put together:
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans
4 tbsp. tahini
4 tbsp. pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Drain beans (reserving liquid) and place them into a food processor along with the pumpkin.
- With the blade running add in the olive oil and half of the reserved bean liquid.
- Remove the top of the food processor, scrap down the sides and add salt and tahini.
- Adjust the texture and flavor of the hummus using seasoning and more pumpkin, bean liquid, and/or spices.
For pumpkin pie hummus:
Add 1/2-1 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) and more pureed pumpkin
For Lebanese pumpkin hummus:
Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, and the juice from one lemon
I used to skip recipes that included alcohol. See Mr. Squid and I are non-drinkers. But I’ve learned that ingredients I have on hand are often good substitutions (as far as this teetotaler is concerned). Now, I’m not planning on trying to substitute the booze in vodka sauce–but recipes that include 1 cup of white wine or a smattering of red can easily have stand-ins.
As a base I use either chicken, vegetable, or beef broth. At my local grocers you can find Minor’s bases in the refrigerated section. They’re a little on the pricey side but one tub lasts forever. You can also use chicken broth from a carton. I tweak the flavor of the broth depending on what kind of wine the recipe calls for.
Here are a few substitutes I use:
White wine = Chicken broth + a little white grape juice + a splash of white balsamic vinegar
Red wine = Chicken or beef broth + a little red grape juice + a splash of regular balsamic vinegar
Fruit wines = Chicken or vegetable broth + apple or orange juice (maybe a bit of both) + white grape juice + fruit vinegars like raspberry
Your turn: Do you have any clever substitutions when recipes call for wine and you either don’t want to use it or don’t have it on hand?
Going for a gross-out dinner this Halloween! Break out the meatball mix, then.
This recipe didn’t start out as a Halloween meal. See, I had this great idea a few years ago that we’d study a different animal for two weeks at a time. To finish off our studies we’d have a meal where we focused on whatever animal the kids chose and we’d talk about what we learned. Well, the first animal my kids chose was a snake. I can’t remember what the kids learned about snakes–nope, what I remember is that my husband had this great idea to fashion meatball mix into rodents for our big meal. Now, we make these meatball rats to top spaghetti for Halloween each year.
You can too.
Here’s how it works:
- Use your favorite meatball recipe (I like The Pioneer Woman‘s)
- Shape the meatball mix into rodent shapes–rounded back side and a more pointed front
- BAKE the meatballs with pieces of olives for eyes and pieces of ham as the tails
- Serve the rodents over spaghetti topped with pasta sauce
Our temps reached into the 90s this week proving there’s still some summer left before the leaves start turning. Celebrate sunshine with this recipe for Italian lemon ice from Dr. Jessie Voigts, the force behind Wandering Educators.
My husband remembers heading to New York City when he was young, to visit relatives. Every block, he said, he’d see an Italian lemon ice cart and beg his mother for one. And, in his memory, he did NOT receive a delicious lemon ice every block. Now we know that memories can be faulty, but I have a feeling she bought him plenty of lemon ices.
Recently, I found a recipe for Philadelphia Lemon Water Ice on Gourmet. I miss that magazine, and am so grateful that there is still Gourmet goodness pouring through online. I’ve tweaked it a bit, and we make it often – my husband savoring every spoonful, remembering hot afternoons in New York City, and now enjoying an abundance of Lemon Ice. We’ve also tried Lime Ice – delicious! Just switch out half the lemons for limes.
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest from 4 lemons
- fresh lemon juice from 4 lemons
Heat the water, sugar, and lemon zest until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a glass container with the lemon juice (I use a 4 cup measuring cup), and refrigerate for at least 4 hours – 6+ is better (but who thinks of things that early?). Put into your ice cream maker and freeze. The cool thing is that it starts out as liquid, and then forms little balls, and THEN turns into lemon ice. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, then you can make lemon shaved ice – pour it in a loaf pan, and then when it is frozen, shave off what you’d like to eat.
We have brinner a lot around my house. Breakfast for dinner works for my busy crew since it’s quick to put together.
Ingredients for breakfast sliders:
Breakfast sausage patties and/or bacon slices–I’m hooked on Costco’s precooked bacon
Eggs–Whisk them and then cook as you would an omelet, removing them from the pan so that you can slice into squares to place on the patties
Cheese–optional, I like mine sans cheese but the kids prefer a thin slice of American cheese to meld the ingredients together
Put ‘em together:
Cut the buns in half and let your kids layer what they want in their mini-sandwiches.
Heat the sliders in the microwave for a few seconds before serving. Option: We like to grill the sausage patties and then put them on the buns so they have more of a smoky flavor.
Make it a meal by serving the sliders with fruit salad and tater tots or homemade hashbrowns.
Waffle brownies, of course!
Fresh peaches are popping up everywhere–including on my fruit tray. Not every peach gets gobbled up in its prime so I like to get a little creative in how I use them. Enter salsa. The sweet flavor and smooth texture of peaches tempers the sometimes bitter undertones of dried chiles in homemade salsa.
Whether you have peaches that are starting to go mushy, or you just want to show them off in something new, try this amped up version of DIY salsa. Use it as enchilada sauce, salsa (it’s thinner, more in keeping with the traditional, Mexican variety)–I’m even marinating pork cutlets in it right now to go on the grill tomorrow.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Servings: around 3 1/2- 4 cups
3 ripe peaches
6 dried guajillo chiles
9 dried arbol chiles
1/2 onion, cut into large wedges
1 clove garlic
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (I used Red Gold Petite Diced with Green Chiles)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil (optional step)
- Prep the dried chiles. On a medium-high heat skillet, toast the chiles until the skins start to look softer and slightly cooked (around 2 minutes, rotating the chile as it heats). Immediately place the chiles into a large bowl of hot water. Add the peaches to the bowl, too.
- Optional step: Roast the onions by putting them briefly onto the hot skillet after the chiles. Or, you can just place the onions into the water without toasting.
- In a blender, combine the canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, juice from the lime, and cumin.
- Remove the chiles from the water. Carefully cut around the tops of the chiles and remove as much of the seeds as possible. Add the chile skins to the other blended ingredients. Blend again.
- Remove the skins and pit from the peaches and add them to the blender. Mix until smooth. (You may need to add more water to get your desired consistency.)
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Now for another optional step: To fully meld the flavors of the salsa together it helps to cook it before cooling it to serve. Here’s how it works, bring the oil to medium-high heat in a saucepan, add the salsa (careful–it can splatter), then heat through. That’s it.
*Store the extra salsa in the fridge for up to a week.
Thanks Dr. Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators for sharing your family’s favorite recipe for DIY froyo!
We love yogurt–and even make our own. One of the things I love to do with yogurt is to make frozen yogurt! It’s delicious, capable of so many flavor changes, healthy, and purely addictive. I’ve combined and adapted a few recipes from Downton Abbey Cooks and David Lebovitz to create this mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt recipe. I have to say, we make frozen yogurt a few times a week, especially in the summer heat. Enjoy!
Recipe for Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
1.5 cups milk
Huge handful of fresh mint, washed well (spiders aren’t as tasty as chocolate chips)
½ c sugar (or more, to taste)
3 T cornstarch
1 c yogurt (regular or Greek)
¼ to ½ c Chocolate chips – I love the dark chocolate chips (more on chocolate goodness to come)
- Combine milk and mint in a medium saucepan, and heat over low until milk is barely at a simmer. Remove from heat and cover for 1-2 hours. You’re steeping the mint in the milk. Don’t worry – the green color is to be expected. When the milk has cooled and the mint has steeped, squeeze out the mint and throw it away. Pour the milk into a jar and refrigerate until you need it.
- Combine the minty milk, cornstarch, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over low, stirring occasionally, until the mixture all of a sudden becomes very thick, like pudding. Remove from the heat, and then stir in the yogurt. Pour into a container and chill in the refrigerator for several hours (ideally, overnight).
- Get your ice cream maker going, and pour in the minty goodness. Freeze until your ice cream maker can’t freeze it any more. If yours is like mine, it will be sort of soft and runny, but still quite edible (especially if you are impatient). Now, you have chocolate choices. You can sprinkle in the chocolate chips in the last few minutes of the ice cream maker going.
Small chocolate chips are so cute in this! Or, you can take out half the ice cream, put it in a freezer-safe dish, and work some magic. Melt some chocolate chips in the microwave, and decoratively pour half of it on top of the ice cream in the dish. Put the rest of the ice cream on top, and then artistically pour the rest of the chocolate on top of that. Freeze until firm, at least 1 hour (ideally, overnight, but seriously, who can wait that long?). Scoop up and enjoy!
Now, to the variations…
Rich chocolate frozen yogurt
Add in 3 T dark cocoa powder to the milk/sugar/cornstarch mixture. You can also add in an additional ½ c chocolate chips at the end, if you desire.
Peanut butter chocolate frozen yogurt
Add in 3 T cocoa powder and ¼ c peanut butter to the milk/sugar/cornstarch mixture. When the ice cream is almost ready, you can add peanut butter chips, or chocolate chips.
Cardamom frozen yogurt
Add in 1 T cardamom to the milk/sugar/cornstarch mixture.
Vanilla frozen yogurt
When you take the milk mixture off the heat, and stir in the yogurt, also add in 1-2 t vanilla.
What flavors will you come up with?
This week my tween got her braces off (round one at least). To celebrate we made brownies featuring her favorite ingredient that’s been on the no-no list for the past 18 months–caramel.
You can use either individual caramels, or I found these handy caramel “bits” at Target.
Recipe for Coconut Caramel Brownies
1 family size brownie mix or your favorite DIY 9×13″ brownie mix
2 cups individual caramels or caramel chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or almonds–or both!)
3/4 cup coconut (I toast mine before baking)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (opt. hey, we’re celebrating)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix up the brownie according to package directions.
- Line a 9×13″ baking dish with aluminum foil and then coat generously with cooking spray.
- Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan and spread evenly to the corners.
- Bake the brownie bottom for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup or bowl, melt the caramel until smooth. I put the caramel in the microwave at 30 intervals, stirring after each time. Usually, it takes around 90 seconds.
- Remove the brownie bottom from the oven and add caramel in glops followed by nuts, coconut, and chocolate chips.
- Top the caramel with the remaining chocolate. Don’t worry if the top isn’t even.
- Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool completely before cutting.
Warning: Eat with braces at your own risk.