Maple Syrup: It’s Not Just for Pancakes!

This is the sugarhouse of my friends, Don and Jodi Gale, Twin Maple Farm in Lincoln, Vermont. (Photo © Earle Ray)

My friends, Don and Jodi Gale’s sugarhouse, Twin Maple Sugarworks, in Lincoln, Vermont. These recipes were made with their syrup! (Photo © Earle Ray)

Springtime in Vermont means a few things: March Madness, mud season, and maple sugaring. “Cold nights and warm days” is the mantra for Vermont sugarmakers for the best conditions to get the sap running. We are fortunate to live in a place where we can go and just pick up some of this “liquid gold” nearby, but I am always looking for ways to use it aside from the usual pancakes, French toast, and warm biscuits and syrup (mmmmmm).

On a walk the other day, I pondered this thought and created two recipes in my head. And both were delicious! Rarely do I cook with carrots, other than sticking them in stirfrys and soups, but I was excited about some colorful carrots I had picked up from Trader Joe’s, so I thought about roasted carrots glazed with maple syrup. I already was thawing a pork tenderloin from the freezer and wondered how I was going to cook it. How about a Dijon-maple sauce to accompany it?

Both of these “recipes,” a word I use lightly since there is hardly any effort, were delicious with a hint of maple. I hear the sap might stop running this week after the string of really warm days we’ve had (finally!). So it will be another year before I will see the smoke in the sky with the promise of a new crop of syrup. But in the meantime, I have enough to keep us happy for the next 12 months!

carrotsMaple Glazed Carrots

5 carrots, peeled and sliced into long match sticks
1 small shallot, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

In a baking dish, add the sliced carrots, shallot, and a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and toss to cover. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about an hour or until the carrots look brown. About 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the maple syrup and stir to coat, turn off the oven, and have them sit there until you’re ready to serve.

pork2Tenderloin with Dijon-Maple Sauce
1 pork tenderloin, 1- 1.25 pounds
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Roast the pork tenderloin in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until done. In a small bowl, mix the ingredients. Warm slowly in a saucepan and top the meat, or serve on the side.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Take Time to Smell the Roses (Or, Time For Someone Else to do the Cooking!)

As I do each April, I will be taking a couple of weeks off to enjoy my birthday month with some rest and relaxation with my girlfriends. I’ll be back and raring to go in May with all new springtime recipes! Let’s hope the weather will say SUMMER!

Roasted Salmon with Dill, Capers, and Horseradish

Buying fish is so hard these days; you’re bombarded with talk in the news of mercury, farm raised versus wild, frozen versus fresh, I usually leave the fish counter confused and not buying anything. But sometimes I get a craving for salmon. I love it and it’s good for you, lots of Omega 3s. So I’ll throw out all the talk and get a nice piece of fish for dinner.

If you are looking for something to make for a special springtime meal, this is it. ­And it’s perfect for a dinner party, because you do all the prep the day before—or in my case, the morning before. Dinner was going to be late, so I prepped the salmon while my coffee was brewing thus it had a solid ten-plus hours in the fridge. The homemade crème fraîche was easy to mix up the night before, add the dill in the morning, and refrigerate all day.

I think I’ve seen fresh horseradish in the produce section, but I decided to cheat and use jarred horseradish sauce that was minimally processed. And my piece of salmon was just over a pound and I made it for two, so I have sauce left over for another meal. I served this for Easter dinner with last week’s springtime salad and potato salad. Delicious!

salmon
Roasted Salmon with Dill, Capers, and Horseradish
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

We couldn’t get over how delicious and silky-rich this salmon is, or how foolproof the recipe is. Don’t be thrown off by the total time it requires: Think of it instead as a great make-ahead dish, where all you have to do the night of the gathering is pop the fish in the oven for a short time. What you’re doing in step 1 is making homemade crème fraîche. It’s easy to do; it just takes some time. We love the creamy texture and luscious tang of homemade, but you can substitute purchased crème fraîche or full-fat sour cream. Look for a 3-pound side of salmon with even thickness. Avoid the thin tail end and buy two thicker (1 1/2-pound) pieces if you need to. The dill sauce will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Yield: Serves 8 (serving size: about 4 ounces salmon and about 2 teaspoons sauce)

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup finely grated fresh horseradish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil 1 (3-pound) salmon fillet

1. Combine cream, buttermilk, and vinegar in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 8 hours. Stir in dill, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1 teaspoon pepper, horseradish, and next 4 ingredients (through oil) in a small bowl. Spread horseradish mixture evenly over salmon. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 450°.

4. Place fish, skin side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 13 minutes. Remove from oven.

5. Preheat broiler to high.

6. Broil fish 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Cut fish into 8 equal portions; top fish with dill sauce.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Salmon…

salmon nytCookbook author and New York Times contributor, Melissa Clark, is one of my favorite food writers. Her two cookbooks, Cook This Now and In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite are fantastic if you’re ever in need of a new cookbook. Similar to Mark Bittman, she can make a simple dish seem elegant. I came across this video for Salmon with Anchovy Butter the other day. It looks so good! Another salmon recipe to try!  

Perfect for the Season: Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

My Peter Rabbit is waiting to go back in the green garden!

Peter Rabbit is waiting for spring so he can go back in the green garden!

Rabbit Rabbit everyone! We’re finally in APRIL! Last week I said a big goodbye to winter; this week I’m saying hello to spring! And what better way to do that than with asparagus?

I buy asparagus by the pound this time of year. Last year I believe I actually got the question before dinner, “Asparagus? Again?” I love just roasting it (check out my recipes from last April!), but this recipe just calls for blanching and adding to a salad. A new way to use it!

What’s not to like with this salad? I never use lemon zest in anything, but I just might start. The addition of that brought a certain brightness to the dressing that just said spring. And gorgonzola cheese is one of my favorite cheeses; my favorite salad is romaine salad, olive oil, gorgonzola cheese and salt and pepper. So easy but SO good!

This recipe serves eight, so it would be a perfect side dish for your Passover or Easter dinner if you’re cooking for a crowd, or you can make it as a side salad for a weeknight supper. I just placed everything in individual bowls and topped with the salad dressing. And had some dressing left over for lunch the next day!

spring salad

I don’t usually see white asparagus in the produce section, so I used all green. Just as tasty!

Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

This recipe first appeared in the March 2010 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 pound green and white asparagus, trimmed and cut into (2-inch) pieces
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, divided
1 (5-ounce) package mixed salad greens

1. Cook asparagus and 2 teaspoons salt in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse asparagus under cold water; drain.

2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, shallots, and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.

3. Combine asparagus and greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

easterMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Suggestions for Easter and Passover Dinner

It’s Wednesday, and if you’re like me and you still don’t know what you’re going to make for your Friday or Sunday dinner, here are some suggestions! These publications have lots of delicious recipes for your Easter and Passover dinners!

Cooking Light

New York Times Easter

New York Times Passover

Food Network

Martha Stewart

Rachael Ray

Bidding a Fond Farewell to Winter

Despite the temperature, we've had gorgeous sunrises this month.

Despite the temperature, we’ve had gorgeous sunrises this month. #nofilter

This past weekend, the first weekend of spring, I decided to say goodbye to the winter of 2015, that dark, cold, icy, snowy, did I say COLD, winter. In my kitchen, this means saying goodbye to some of my favorite root veggies: turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, and hello to spring asparagus, radishes, and peas. So I decided to make one last Brussels sprouts recipe before I closed the door on the season.

Now, I’ve purchased one bottle of fish sauce in my life and it’s still sitting in the refrigerator. Used in that rare Asian dish, it lasts forever so it just sits in the door of the fridge waiting for that next recipe. But when I spotted a page of fish sauce recipes in the April issue of Cooking Light, I knew I could kill two birds with one stone, bid adieu to winter and use up a little of the sauce!

It is definitely time to make a season switch; the sprouts I bought, normally bright green and round like a golf ball, were small and oval with just a tinge of green. This is a simple recipe, you measure everything and place into a bowl and just pan roast the sprouts. I added a bit more crushed red pepper, so on a blustery 14-degree day, it was a welcome warm side dish to roasted chicken, but I thought it could be equally tasty on a bed of rice or quinoa. (Vegetarians, you can still make this, just leave out the fish sauce, it will still be delicious!) So, goodbye winter! Hopefully Mother Nature will take a look at the calendar and realize we need to warm up!

brussels
Sweet and Savory Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

Combine water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let stand at least 20 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add Brussels sprouts to pan in a single layer, cut side down. Cook, without stirring, 5 minutes or until cut sides are evenly browned. Turn sprouts, and reduce heat to medium; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Increase heat to medium-high. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, tossing to coat sprouts. Cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Mark Bittman in Berkeley          

berkeley

(Photo by Jim Wilson/New York Times)

One of my favorite food writers hands down is Mark Bittman. He can take three ingredients and make a dish fit for a king; his creativity in the kitchen is simple yet elegant. This lifelong New Yorker recently moved to Berkeley (which I take is a temporary move) and he writes elegantly about the winters farmer’s market in California’s Bay Area. Sigh. It honestly does sound like heaven to those of us in the snowbound states. You can read about his adventures by clicking here.

Brownies

Simple as that.

I try not to repeat recipes too much, but when something I wrote about three years ago is so delicious, I only thought it was fitting to bring it forward so new readers can take advantage! (Plus, I made these twice last week, so they are the forefront of my mind)

Baking is definitely not a specialty of mine; give me a piece of meat or a pile of vegetables and I can create something delicious, but baking is more specific and goes against my devil-may-care attitude I have in the kitchen. Unless it is super easy. Which this recipe is and trust me, you’ll be the bell of the ball if you share these with friends or foes. (Or the bell in your own home. Either way, you’ll be a star!)

Originally printed in the New York Times in 1943, it was noted these treats traveled well in a soldier’s care package. Trust me, those soldiers were lucky! The recipe I grew up making were mediocre; they were nice and soft right out of the oven, but were rock hard the next day. When I found this recipe, they turned into my go-to brownies. Deep, dark, and soft, even the next day, they are delicious enough that I even broke my “no sweets during Lent” vow and had two small ones. And it’s simple, it comes together in about ten minutes! You know how the Betty Crocker box mix gets “glossy” on top when it’s done cooking? This does, too, and it’s homemade, so you know what is going into it!

Note Amanda Hesser’s tip at the end (which I will say, dividing the pan into 16 is hardly a small bite, it’s a normal size brownie in my opinion), and I’ll add to that; make these and take a nice long walk in the March light and don’t worry about the stick of butter and cup of sugar!

brownies

Brownies
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010. Makes 16 brownies.

¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.

Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.

serious eaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A New (to me) Food Website
I can never have too many food websites to wander and dream. Friend and reader, Carol, sent me an email the other day, asking if I knew about the website Serious Eats. I didn’t, and of course immediately visited. Funnily enough, what caught my eye were a lot of articles focusing on Asian dumplings, like I wrote about last week! This website has the potential for losing lots of hours online, looking at recipes, checking out recommendations. You should check it out, too! www.seriouseats.com.

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

dumplings3I love dumplings of all sorts, but I’m particularly fond of pork dumplings that you can order in Thai or Chinese restaurants. Now I have a pitch-perfect recipe to make them at home that is relatively easy, healthy, and most importantly of all, delicious!

I made these for a special Saturday night dinner, and they were so good, we almost ate the entire batch! I’ll admit, dumpling making is tedious and time-consuming, so pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re going to be standing and folding for a while (unless you grab some help), but the end result is so worth it! The filling tastes like what you’d find in a restaurant, and the sauce has just the right amount of heat. I cooked the mushrooms and onions in a spicy sesame oil to add even more spiciness and it was so good!

I buy my dumpling or wonton wrappers frozen (Twin Marquis, a company out of New York) from the Asian market, but because I get there only about twice a year, I keep them in the freezer and defrost a package when I need them. Works perfectly!

I decided to make another batch of these to freeze. Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you're ready to eat!

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you’re ready to eat!

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
4 ounces thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
5 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces lean ground pork
40 gyoza skins or round wonton wrappers
Cornstarch
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/2 cup onions, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove from pan; cool slightly. Combine mushroom mixture, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, hoisin sauce, pepper, and pork in a medium bowl.

2. Arrange 8 gyoza skins on a clean work surface; cover remaining skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons pork mixture in the center of each skin. Moisten edges of skin with water. Fold in half; press edges together with fingertips to seal. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch; cover to prevent drying. Repeat procedure with remaining gyoza skins and pork mixture.

3. Combine 1/4 cup hot water and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add remaining 1/4 cup green onions, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, and sambal, stirring with a whisk until well combined.

4. Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Generously coat pan with cooking spray. Add 10 pot stickers to pan; cook 30 seconds or until browned on one side. Turn pot stickers over; carefully add 1/3 cup water to pan. Cover tightly; steam 4 minutes. Repeat procedure in batches with remaining pot stickers and more water, or follow freezing instructions. After cooking, serve pot stickers immediately with dipping sauce.

TO FREEZE: Freeze dumplings flat on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn­starch 10 minutes or until firm. Place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag with 1 teaspoon cornstarch; toss. Freeze sauce in a small zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 2 months.

TO THAW: Thaw sauce in the microwave at HIGH in 30-second increments. No need to thaw pot stickers.

TO REHEAT: Follow recipe instructions for cooking, placing frozen dumplings in pan and increasing steaming time by 2 minutes.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day With a Feast!
fourleaf cloverI don’t have a speck of Irish blood in me, but I always like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because 1. The month of March is halfway over, one step closer to April and springtime; and 2. Who doesn’t want a big dinner of corned beef and cabbage? Cooking Light has created a special menu of healthy Irish recipes just in time for the holiday! You can check them out here. I think the Ploughman’s Lunch Platter sounds divine!

 

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

A couple of months ago, I went to a Chipotle for the first time. Am I the last person on earth? While I’d heard about the healthy fast food chain, I’d never been to one; Vermont just barely got its first a few years ago. But on a cold January day, I decided to treat myself to lunch. And while it was delicious, I knew I could make a healthier and less expensive version at home. And I have!

This dish is so easy and healthy that it’s become a staple for Wednesday night dinners. When it’s the middle of the week, I don’t feel like cooking or I get home late and don’t have the time, so this is something you can make with kitchen and fridge staples or with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Before you leave the house in the morning, put a cup or so of frozen corn in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge. (If you forget this step, just put it in a bowl when you get home, as it thaws pretty quickly.) When you get home that evening, start boiling water in a saucepan to make a batch of rice, preferably brown. While that is cooking, take out a mixing bowl and add to it a can of black beans, the thawed corn, a few halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of scallions, and if you like heat, chopped jalapeno, and mix. Add a dash of salt, a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, some lime juice to taste, and a little bit of cumin. In a deep dish bowl or plate, add about a half cup of rice, add some of the black bean salad, and top it with avocado, salsa, sour cream, more cilantro and/or scallions, lime juice, or your favorite topping.

You can really make this dish your own. I thought about adding black olives next time or perhaps some shaved cabbage or sliced radishes. Instead of black beans, you can use another kind of bean or shredded chicken, pork, beef, or even fish. If you don’t like rice, you can leave it out or substitute another grain. Instead of cumin, use coriander or another favorite spice.

It was interesting that as I was working on this recipe, this story was printed in the New York Times. So now I know my version has fewer calories and is definitely healthier! (Although I will add, the restaurant can be healthy if you make the right choices!)

mvk burrito bowl

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

1 can of black beans
About a cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
A couple of tablespoons chopped scallions
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
A dash of salt
One jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
A dash or two of cumin powder
Cooked brown rice
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, cilantro

1. In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno pepper (if using), and to taste, salt, cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, and mix. To a plate or bowl, add a half cup of rice, top with the salad and added condiments.


eggsMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
Bravo, albeit a few decades late, to the U.S. government who finally realizes that low-fat food is not good for you! This article from the New York Times last week focuses on a new study, which is linked in the article. The government has said that cutting fat and cholesterol may have worsened Americans’ health, because by clearing our plates of meat, eggs, and cheese they were replaced with more grains, starchy vegetables, and pasta. The real takeaway is to eat real food, not processed or manufactured.