Rosemary Croutons

Today was one of those rainy-dreary days — not that we’re complaining mind you, we get very few rainy-dreary days in the desert, but lots of blasty-hot ones — just perfect for soup, so we thought we’d put some together for lunch. Naturally, we though of you, our reader, too.

So, between today and tomorrow, we are putting together a Tuscan Bean soup with rosemary croutons. No, no, it doesn’t take two days to make it; it’s less than an hour, but thanks to computers and all, we’ll tackle it over the next two days, starting with the rosemary croutons. Since croutons, in general, are so versatile and easy to make, they can stand on their own recipe-wise. And these croutons would go really well on a Caesar salad.

Oh, and the idea for the rosemary croutons comes from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville. We didn’t really use her recipe, just the name, but it’s not as if it’ll be much different. After all, I think someone once said: A crouton’s, a crouton, all the world around.

Rosemary Croutons

Rosemary Croutons

Ingredients

  • Chunks of stale bread
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic (about 1 clove)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut up bread into rough cube-like shapes about 1/2-3/4 of an inch on a side.

In a medium bowl, crush the dried rosemary between your fingers until you have mostly small pieces.

Add the garlic, salt, and olive oil and stir until well mixed.

Stir in bread until coated.

Place on baking sheet, and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring and testing occasionally. When they are crisp, they are done.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2013/01/rosemary-croutons/

Ingredients:

  • Chunks of stale bread
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic (about 1 clove)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Ingredient discussion:

bread chunks
Stale bread, yum, yum. Well, it is when you make it into croutons.

You, of course, have a bag full of stale bread in the freezer, right? We do; it’s perfect for stuffing, bread soup, and, of course, croutons. If you don’t keep your stale pieces of bread, now’s the time to start, although we’d really recommend using good stale bread for croutons. Good-stale? Yes, it sounds like a contradiction, but croutons shouldn’t be made with yucky white bread that comes in a plastic bag, they need a bit of texture, some chew. Nothing makes for a worse crouton than it turning into crouton dust the minute you bite into it. Eww.

If you have fresh rosemary, use that and instead of crushing (below), chop finely.

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

cubes of  bread
Cut the bread into cubes, oh, about the size of a crouton.

Cut up bread. Just cut it into rough cube-like shapes about 1/2-3/4 of an inch on a side. Not too big, because these will go in your mouth, and a 3-inch crouton might not fit.

Crush rosemary. In a medium bowl, crush the dried rosemary between your fingers until you have mostly small pieces. You could use a mortar & pestle, or the back of a spoon, but if you use your fingers, they’ll smell like rosemary, which, to our minds, is a good thing.

rosemary, garlic, salt and olive oil
Mix together the rosemary, garlic, salt and olive oil.

Make crouton gravy. Add the garlic, salt, and olive oil and stir until well mixed. Not blender-mixed, but mixed. We think it’s nice that some croutons have a bit more salt, rosemary, or garlic, than others. Variety is good, too.

bread cubes
Stir around the bread cubes until they are coated.

Stir in bread. Take all those bread cubes you spent valuable time cutting up, dump them into the bowl, and stir around until coated.

croutons
Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until they have a pleasing crunch.

Place on baking sheet. Now dump the bread cubes out unto a rimmed baking sheet, spread them into one layer, and place them in the oven.

Bake. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring and testing occasionally. When they are crisp, they are done.

Simple. We never buy croutons, as we save our stale bread, and it takes so little effort to scratch them up. Plus, they are far, far, better than anything from a box. Five.

Worth the trouble?

Greens Season

csa share
Look at all the lovely produce, fresh and bursting with flavor!

After five or so years of being members of the CSA, we have come to expect certain vegetables at certain times of the year, the most noticeable is the large amount of greens we get in the winter. Not that we are complaining, mind you, it’s just one of the things that you must get used to once you begin eating seasonally. The list of yesterday’s produce gives you some idea of what we mean:

  • Collard greens (1 bunch)
  • Mizuna (1 bunch)
  • Osaka Purple Mustard (1 bunch)
  • Red Russian Kale (1 bunch)
  • Red potatoes (6)
  • Grapefruit (2)
  • Carrots (1 bunch)
  • Ghost pumpkin (1)

Like last week, the collards were the first to go. We had a quick meal of slow-cooked collards, carrots, and cornbread right after bringing our produce home, leaving us with three bunches of greens for the coming week.

Oh, for those that don’t know, Mizuna is a type of Japanese mustard, so we have two types of mustard this week, and the Osaka Purple is a new (to us) variety.

Update 4 February: We haven’t used the Ghost pumpkin yet, but almost everything else is gone. The Osaka Purple Mustard went into a potato-chickpea curry based on Chana Masala, The Red Russian Kale went into another batch of that delicious Tucson Bean soup, and the Mizuna went into a batch of Greens Latkes. Some of the carrots and potatoes went into some new recipes that we are working on — they aren’t quite ready for prime time — we’ll be posting that as soon as it’s ready!

Arugula Pesto

What do you think of when you think of pesto? Basil, garlic, olive oil, right? As it turns out, you can make pesto from almost anything. The word pesto simply means pounded — not pounded basil, nor pounded garlic, just pounded, and is related to the word pestle, the pounding/grinding part of a mortar and pestle. Continue reading Arugula Pesto

Worth the trouble?

Chocolate Crust

While these instructions are buried in the recipe for peanut butter cheesecake, we thought that since it’s such a useful recipe for cheesecakes, chocolate tarts, and other desserts, it deserved a page of its own. Besides, we have a quick tip for getting those professional-looking crusts. Continue reading Chocolate Crust

Worth the trouble?

Famous(ly expensive) Chocolate Wafers

Awhile back, we went looking for those chocolate wafers that are often used to make cheesecake or tart crusts. You know the ones; they’re made by a big company whose name begins with N and ends with O, as in — once we saw the price, we said “NO way are we paying this much for a small box of cookies we could make up in 30 minutes.” So we went home, and, with a quick search on the Internet, found a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen’s website. As expected, it turned out to be really easy to make these cookies and they tasted even better than the store-bought version. Needless to say, we’ll make our chocolate wafers from now on.

Oh, we did change the recipe a bit, cut it back to a more manageable size, and adjusted the ingredients to be a little more standard and easier to deal with (no 1 cup plus 2 Tbs). The cookies are they same, though; just a bit easier to measure out. We dislike recipes that seem as though it’s difficult to measure out the ingredients.

Makes about 60 wafers

Famous(ly expensive) Chocolate Wafers

Famous(ly expensive) Chocolate Wafers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into 16 pieces
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Abbreviated Instructions

Put the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it a couple of times to combine.

Distribute the butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture, and pulse several times until the mixture looks crumbly.

With the processor running, add the vanilla, then slowly add the milk and process until a dough forms and rides on top of the blade.

Dump the dough out, knead it a few times to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed, and then shape it into a log about 10 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter.

Wrap with plastic wrap and chill about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Slice and bake. Slice the cookies about 1/8 of an inch thick, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about an inch apart, and bake for about 10 minutes. Watch while they’re baking, they’ll puff up a bit, then deflate. Two minutes after they deflate, they are done.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2013/01/famous-ly-expensive-chocolate-wafers/

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into 16 pieces
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredient discussion:

You want to use a high-quality cocoa here, as it will make a difference. If you don’t have a high-quality cocoa at your fingertips, make the cookies anyway; they’ll still be good, but they might not be as dark and chocolatey as they could be.

Procedure:

dry ingredients in a food processor
Dump the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse, pulse, pulse.

Combine dry ingredients. Put the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it a couple of times to combine.

adding butter
Cut the butter into about 16 pieces, distribute on top the dry ingredients and pulse, pulse, pulse.

Add butter. Distribute the butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture, and pulse several times until the mixture looks crumbly.

wafer dough
While the processor is running, add the vanilla and milk, and process until a dough forms.

Add milk and vanilla. With the processor running, add the vanilla, then slowly add the milk and process until a dough forms and rides on top of the blade.

Form into a log. Dump the dough out, knead it a few times to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed, and then shape it into a log about 10 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter.

cookie dough
Roll the dough into a log — it’ll be slightly sticky — and refrigerate.

Chill. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill about an hour. You can chill it longer, but we found that the dough is a bit easier to slice if it isn’t fully chilled. Too cold and it crumbles a bit.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

slicing cookie dough
After chilling, slice the dough very thin; after all, you’re making wafers.

Slice and bake. Slice the cookies about 1/8 of an inch thick, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about an inch apart, and bake for about 10 minutes. Watch while they’re baking, they’ll puff up a bit, then deflate. Two minutes after they deflate, they are done. They’ll crisp up more as they cool.

chocolate wafer cookies
They’re wafer thin!

Enjoy. Now you can munch these just as they are, or you can make them into a chocolate tart crust. Your choice.

Once we learned how easy these are to make, and how much tastier they are than those famously expensive Chocolate Wafers, we can’t believe that anyone would actually buy them. Five stars.

Worth the trouble?

Chocolate Almond Brittle

We were looking for a quick and easy recipe to whip up for dessert. Thumbing through Chocolate on the Brain by Kevin Mills and Nancy Mills, we found this recipe. We’ve made candy before, so it wasn’t daunting. The ingredient list was simple, and the directions clear, but, as it turns out, wrong! We modified them here to match what we think they should be. If you want to try it, the final temperature of the candy must reach the hard crack stage, around 295-300°F (not the 222°F listed in the book).

Chocolate Almond Brittle

Chocolate Almond Brittle

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (plus a bit more for greasing)
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 Tbs corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds

Abbreviated Instructions

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly butter the foil.

Combine milk, corn syrup and butter. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat over medium-high heat until the mixture becomes frothy.

Add sugar. Stir until the sugar melts. Then attach a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 295-300°F.

Turn off the heat and add the cocoa and quickly stir it in.

Add almonds and quickly stir in.

Now pour out the candy onto the prepared sheet. Spread to a thickness of1/4 inch. Let cool to room temperature and break into pieces.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2013/01/chocolate-almond-brittle/

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (plus a bit more for greasing)
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 Tbs corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds

Ingredient discussion:

Nothing special here. That’s the great thing about candy — simple ingredients are transformed into something special. We do avoid the corn syrup that has high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list.

Procedure:

Prep cooling pan. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly butter the foil. You don’t absolutely need the foil, but it’ll make for quick and easy clean up, which is always good.

butter corn syrup and milk
Bring butter, corn syrup, and milk to a boil and cook until frothy.

Combine milk, corn syrup and butter. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat over medium-high heat until the mixture becomes frothy.

adding sugar
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Add sugar. Stir until the sugar melts. Then attach a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 295-300°F

adding cocoa
Once the sugar mixture reaches 295°F add the cocoa. Careful! 295°F is hot and this is sticky!

Add cocoa. Turn off the heat and add the cocoa and quickly stir it in.

Adding almond slices
Then quickly stir in the almonds and pour out onto the prepared pan.

Add almonds. Dump in the almonds and quickly stir these in.

chocolate almond crunch
Finished Chocolate Almond Crunch. Looks and tastes pretty chocolatey!

Pour out. Now pour out the candy onto the prepared sheet. Spread to a thickness of1/4 inch. Let cool to room temperature and break into pieces. Enjoy.

When we made this, we knew that the temperature listed in the original recipe was wrong, we just didn’t realize how wrong, so we didn’t cook it long enough (in retrospect, we should have checked our go-to cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, which would have set us straight). We got something like chocolate almond caramel. Which can be fine, but it wasn’t that great of a caramel and we have better recipes for caramel. Therefore, only 2 stars.

Worth the trouble?

Eggs in a Nest

We are always looking for recipes that use greens in the winter. We get a lot from the CSA, and, since they are so good for us, we always try to find a way to include these with a meal. Naturally, we were happy when we were reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, with Stephen Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, and came across this recipe. We modified it a bit here, just to suit our tastes, and you should, too. Think of it as more of an idea than an actual recipe.

Eggs in a Nest

Eggs in a Nest

Ingredients

  • Bunch of greens, chard, kale, etc.
  • 1/4 onion, sliced into quarter moons
  • 1 carrot, whittled with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Jalapeño pepper rings, to taste

Abbreviated Instructions

Wash and chop the greens. Use a vegetable peeler to whittle down a carrot into thin strips. Slice the onion into quarter moons.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.

Toss the onions, and anything else that you like to cook for a few extra minutes, into the oil and saute for a couple of minutes.

Put all the greens, the carrots, the jalapeño rings, if using, and cook until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.

Once the greens are tender, make depressions in the greens, and crack an egg into each depression. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the skillet and poach until the eggs are the way you like them.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2013/01/eggs-in-a-nest/

Ingredients:

  • Bunch of greens, chard, kale, etc.
  • 1/4 onion, sliced into quarter moons
  • 1 carrot, whittled with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Jalapeño pepper rings, to taste

Ingredient discussion:

As for greens, you could use pretty much any kind you like. I’d avoid some of the more bitter greens, though, such as endive. Eggs: get ’em from a rancher who lets his hens run outside; bugs make the hens happy, which results in good eggs.

Procedure:

greens and carrots
Mise en Place. Makes you cook like a professional chef!

Mise en Place. Wash and chop the greens. Here we’re using Red Russian Kale, which might have been hit with a slight frost — it had a nice sweet flavor. Use a vegetable peeler to whittle down a carrot into thin strips; it’s for color more than anything. Slice the onion into quarter moons. Add other things you might like, but think nest, when you prep them.

Heat olive oil. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.

onions
Saute onions. Wow! Onions are used everywhere, aren’t they?

Add onions. Toss the onions, and anything else that you like to cook for a few extra minutes into the oil. Let ’em saute for a couple of minutes.

greens and carrots
Add greens and the other veggies, cook until tender.

Add greens. Put all the greens, the carrots, the jalapeño rings, if using, and any other veggies you prepared, in the skillet, and cook until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.

Crack the eggs into depressions in the greens. Try not to break the yolks.
Crack the eggs into depressions in the greens. Try not to break the yolks.

Add eggs. Once the greens are tender, make depressions in the greens, and crack an egg into each depression. Try not to break the yolk, but if you do, it’s not the end of the world. Season with salt and pepper.

eggs
Done. We cooked these until the whites were done, but the yolks a bit runny. You cook them to your liking.

Cover and poach. Cover the skillet and poach until the eggs are the way you like them.

eggs in a nest.
Eggs in a nest all served up for lunch.

Enjoy. We paired them with a bit of toast for dipping in the slightly runny yolk. The original recipe suggests serving over brown rice. Do what you think is best. Just eat those greens!

This is a really quick and tasty way to have greens. The fat in the yolk will balance out some of the bitterness in the greens, making them seem even tastier. And, you can go through a big bunch of greens in a meal. Four stars.

Worth the trouble?