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Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam

I got an email a few weeks ago from Farmers & Artisans, an amazing local shop that features produce, dairy and meat from local farms. They were offering 4 and 8 quart baskets of Concord grapes from Blackman Homestead Farm in Lockport. I decided with how much I am in love with my juicer right now, I need to buy the 8 quart basket, so I could experiment with making juice and trying to make jam for the first time. I never buy jam at the store because I hate all the preservatives, but occasionally I will buy a jar from the farmers market. I was a little concerned about the jam making since I had never done it before and I really didn’t have a great way to remove the seeds as I don’t have a food mill. I made jam twice, trying out two different methods to see which would work best. The first way, I added the grapes whole to the food processor, with the sugar and pulsed them a few times to break them down and mash em up. Then I cooked the jam down, allowing it to thicken. Once it seemed like it had cooked down enough and was quite thick, I ran it through a strainer to remove the seeds. The only problem with this method is that not only did it remove the seeds, but it also removed the thick hunks of gooey goodness (the natural pectin) that makes jam what it is. I ended up with more of a Concord Grape sauce or thinner jelly. I tried adding it back to the saucepan to allow it to thicken more, but it just didn’t do it. The jam needed bits of the skins and more of the natural pectin. All was not lost, I have been spooning the first batch of jam over granola and oatmeal, it would also be great drizzled over ice cream or yogurt or in a smoothie.

So, the second time around I decided to separate the skins from the flesh or pulp (and therefore the seeds) of the grapes, one by one. It sounds kinda tedious, and I guess it kinda was, but I didn’t mind, I knew it would be worth it. Then I pulsed the skins with the sugar in the food processor and cooked that down on its own, cooking the pulp down in a second saucepan by itself, mashing every so often to break it down. Once the skins had cooked down quite a bit and really gotten thick and jam-like, I strained the pulp from the other saucepan through the strainer to get as much of the juice and added it to the beautiful skin mixture. It was surprising how easy the whole process was. From what I have read Concord grapes are a slip-skin variety grape so I suppose that is what made that part of the process so much easier than I had anticipated.

Concord Grape Jam

You could certainly make a larger batch and go through the hassle of canning and preserving if you wish. I am not versed at all in preserving and honestly am quite intimidated by the whole process. Maybe some day when I have a huge kitchen and tons of storage space I will experiment with it.

This jam is preservative free and is full of intense grape flavor. It is perfectly sweet and tart. I am sure you could experiment with using honey as a sweetener instead of sugar, I just wanted to go the traditional route for my first time. If I get around to experimenting with honey, I will report back.

Obviously if you have a food mill you can simply process the grapes whole with the sugar, then use your mill to remove the seeds and cook down the mixture in one pan, no need to strain.

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Rolls

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Rolls

I decided to fully enjoy this jam I needed to make some delicious gluten-free multi-grain rolls. I couldn’t just slop it on any ol’ store-bought bread or roll, it seemed sacrilegious. I used gluten-free girl’s recipe with a few subtle substitutions. I used tapioca starch instead of potato flour and I made my own oat flour since I couldn’t find any that was certified gluten-free. I highly recommend this recipe. These rolls are incredible and I love that the recipe is gum free (no xanthan or guar gum). They are super crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. These rolls are perfect as is with a little jam, toasted with a veggie burger, etc. The same recipe with make two boules instead of the rolls, if you wish. I thought I was in love with gluten-free girl’s previous bread recipe, but this one blows it out of the water. Try it!

Oh and by the way, I have a very small amount of grapes left – not enough to really do anything major with – so I plan to soak them in vodka to make some tasty Concord grape infused vodka!! Come on, how could it not be good?

Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam
makes about 1 cup
Inspired by Healthy Green Kitchen and a handful of other recipes I came across

2 lbs fresh local concord grapes, about 5 1/5 cups or so (if you can find them seedless YAY – I wasn’t that lucky)
2/3 cup organic raw sugar plus 1 tablespoon
juice from 1/2 lemon

Separate the skin from the pulp of each grape, by applying pressure to the grape with your thumb and index finger, shooting the pulp right out. It’s fun and very simple to do.

Process the grape skins with the sugar in your food processor or blender until mostly smooth but still a tad bit chunky. If you want your jam super smooth, process longer. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Watch it carefully and stir often so it doesn’t stick or scorch. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes until it has reduced down and thickened.

Meanwhile in a smaller saucepan cook the grape pulp (insides) and 1 tablespoon of sugar over a medium-high heat, bring to a boil and mash the pulp as it cooks to break the down. Once bowling reduce the heat and allow to simmer as long as your grape skins do. Once the grape skin mixture has thickened, remove the pulp from the heat and strain through a strainer or cheesecloth to remove the seeds. Add the juice that drained out to the grape skin mixture.

Allow the jam to continue cooking another 10 minutes until thick. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if it isn’t sweet enough for you. This was plenty sweet for me. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. Trust me. It also thickens a bit more once in the refrigerator, so down cook it down too much.

Allow the jam to cool before pouring it into a well cleaned and tightly sealing jar. This jam will keep in the refrigerator for approximately 1 month.

NOTE: I have to apologize for the lack of process photos with this post, I had intentions of showing step by step photos of the entire process. However, the morning I was making this jam it was very dark and stormy. The lighting in my kitchen was horrible and with the yucky wind and rain, I wasn’t able to tote things out to the back patio as I usually do. If you have any questions regarding the process, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Mint Pesto

Last summer I made, what I later learned, to be a big mistake – I planted mint in our yard, not in any pot or planter, just in the dirt on the side of the yard near my vegetable and herb gardens. I originally planted it because I absolutely LOVE fresh homemade mojitos in the summer time. There is nothing more refreshing. The reason my planting of said mint turned out to be a mistake, was the fact that it has grown out of control and it is taking over that section of the yard. Because I have never grown it in my own yard, I didn’t realize how quickly it grows and how far it can spread. We travel so much, that getting into the yard and weeding my gardens gets increasingly difficult as the summer goes on. I know I should get out there more, but I don’t, so I always try to plant things that need very little upkeep. Well, mint definitely falls into that category. Early in the summer I took a look out in the yard to see the progress of things and I was floored at how the mint was spreading. It was crazy. So I made a lot of mojitos this summer. I also decided I needed to find other things to do with the mint. I mentioned something on Twitter and Kelly from Design Crush made the wonderful suggestion of mint pesto. I had never thought of that. So, earlier this summer I played around and made mint pesto to serve with gluten-free penne. It was sooo good that we ate it all up and I forgot to write-up my recipe or photograph it. Ooops. That just meant I needed to make it again. Darn.

This time around, I again served this over delicious organic gluten-free penne with some gluten-free crispy zucchini rounds on the side. We both were in heaven with this meal. This pesto, much like the original that we all know, is bright and light but chock full of flavors. I like my pestos garlicky, which gives a bit of a spicy kick, you can certainly take it down to one clove if you don’t like a lot of garlic (shame on you). I also love playing around with different nuts in my pestos. Most original basil pesto recipes call for pine nuts, which I really love, but they can be hard to find sometimes and many times are insanely expensive. I have played with both toasted almonds and walnuts in pesto recipes, both of which are absolutely equally delicious, if not more. I think any one of those nuts would be great in this mint pesto. I went ahead and still included some basil in this mint pesto, since I also grow that in my yard and I thought it would round out the flavor of the mint nicely, so it wouldn’t be too overpowering. Also, it should be noted, it is crucial to use a good quality olive oil in your pestos, since the sauce is left raw and is never cooked, the olive oil flavor remains in the forefront of the flavors, so you want it to be a good one.

In addition to all the usual dishes that pesto is great in; pasta, sandwiches, pizza, in soup, over a baked potato etc, – you could definitely use this mint pesto for other non-traditional uses as well, such as a marinade or served over-top grilled lamb or steak, etc, you could just skip the basil and cheese, maybe add some lemon juice and red pepper flakes and make it more of a Chimichurri style condiment. Have fun with it and make sure if you plant mint of any kind in your yard plant it in a pot, unless you are looking to be able to make enough mojitos and pesto to serve a small country.

Gluten-free Penne with Mint Pesto

Mint Pesto
makes approximately 1 cup

2 cups fresh mint
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (walnuts or pine nuts would also be great)
2 medium-large cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 – 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded (plus more for serving)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place mint, basil, almonds, garlic and salt in a food processor; pulse a few times, and process until everything is finely chopped and combined. With the processor running, gradually pour the olive oil in and process until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides to get all the little bits. Add the parmigiano reggiano and pulse again until blended and smooth. Season with additional salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

If you are serving this immediately, keep the sauce at room temperature and pour it over your cooked pasta (I used my usual gluten-free organic brown rice penne) and quickly stir to combine, top it with fresh parmigiano reggiano and serve immediately. I always recommend reserving approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid from your pasta so you can add it in to the final dish, if need be, to thin the sauce if it is too thick.

If you aren’t serving this immediately, it can be stored in a tightly closed container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes:

To toast sliced almonds, cook them over a medium-low heat in a small dry skillet, stirring and tossing constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, this will take less than 5 minutes.

If you’d like to freeze your pesto, leave out the parmigiano reggiano. When you’re ready use the pesto, defrost it first, then stir in the cheese.

Seri frolicking in our mass amounts of mint

Seri hiding out in the mass amount of mint in our yard, earlier this summer

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Gluten-Free Pea and Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Herbs

I actually made this recipe more than 2 weeks ago but life has been so very hectic and I am super behind on posting recipes. We were in NYC last weekend for the Renegade Craft Fair so I made this the weekend before we left, since I knew life would be crazy and it would make for some very lovely leftovers. For some reason I have been dreaming of making a gluten-free spring tart for some time now. I literally could see how I wanted it to look and taste all the flavors I had envisioned. I really wanted it to incorporate all things spring. I recalled a tart shell recipe in Gluten Free Girl and The Chef’s newest book, so I decided for my first attempt at a tart I couldn’t go wrong with one of Shauna’s recipes, they are always so wonderfully created, with each measurement precise and every ingredient well thought-out. It’s so impressive. I once again weighed my flours instead of measuring, which has always yielded such perfect results for me. One of the things I love the most about this tart recipe is how few ingredients there are, it is so simple.

The flavors from the fresh herbs in the tart were incredible,so refreshing and light, so spring. The fresh peas burst with flavor in each bite and the crust was absolutely to die for. NOT KIDDING. It was flaky, light, crusty and browned, if I hadn’t made it myself I would have sworn some one was fooling me and I was eating a gluten-laced crust. Besides being delicious this tart was quite easy to put together and was great for leftovers. We had it for both dinners and breakfasts. This would actually be quite perfect for a brunch where you really want to impress people, but don’t wish to spend all morning in the kitchen. You could actually prepare the tart dough the night before and pull it out of the refrigerator that morning. Simple!

Now that I experimented with and LOVE this tart recipe, I plan to have all kinds of fun with it. I cannot wait to play with both sweet and savory tart recipes now.

Gluten-Free Pea and Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Herbs

Gluten-Free Pea and Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Herbs
serves 8-10

Tart Shell
via Gluten Free Girl and The Chef – A Love Story

1/2 cup (63.5g) sorghum flour
1/2 cup (60g) tapioca flour
1/2 cup (96g) potato starch
1/2 cup (102g) sweet rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen organic butter
1 large local farm fresh brown egg
1/4 cup of ice cold water

(if making a sweet tart, instead of savory, include 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon)

Sift the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and sweet rice flour into a large bowl. Stir in the salt (sugar and cinnamon if making a sweet tart). Sift into another bowl.

Grate the frozen butter directly into the dry ingredients. The butter will fall into the flours in soft swirls and start to melt in as soon as you stir. Work with your hands to mix everything, until the dough feels like cornmeal or large pieces of sand.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water together with a fork. Make a well in the center of the flours. Stir in the liquid, working from the inside out. Feeling the dough for soft suppleness, instead of stiffness or sogginess. Feel free to use your hands at the end.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour an 11-inch tart shell, I used sweet rice flour as the original recipe suggested. Pull the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, to the approximate shape of the tart pan. (this way you don’t have to flour your countertop and add more flour to the dough).If the dough falls apart or breaks a bit, don’t worry – there is no danger of the crust becoming tough by overworking it, which can happen with gluten dough. Press the dough into the pie pan and repair it that way.

Place the tart shell into the freezer until the crust is frozen, approximately 1 hour.

Butter a piece of aluminum foil approximately the size of the pie crust. Place it butter side down, onto the tart crust and fit snuggly against the sides. Bake pressing down any puffed up spots with a spoon until the shell has a good color, about 15 minutes. The tart should look and feel flaky, rather than sticky. Prepare the filling while the tart is blind baking.

Pea and Goat Cheese Filling

3 cups fresh (or frozen) peas
3 local farm fresh brown eggs
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/2 cup organic half and half
1 1/2 cups organic whole fat milk
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Add the peas to a small saucepan of boiling salted water with a pinch of salt, cook for 3-4 minutes until tender, do not overcook, you don’t want mushy peas. It may take less time for frozen peas, than fresh. Drain, cool slightly, then puree half of the peas in a food processor until smooth. Transfer both the pureed and whole peas to a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, mint, chives, half and half and milk. Beat well with a spoon to combine, then stir in approximately three-quarters of the goat’s cheese. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Once the tart shell has been adequately blind-baked, pour the filling into the shell, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. My tart shell was very full, so be careful transporting, you may also find you want a cookie sheet on the oven rack below if you think it may boil over at all. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the filling is completely set. Allow the tart to cool for at least 30 minutes, top with fresh chives and/or fresh mint, serve while still warm.

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Pumpkin Hummus

 

I had a bit more fresh pumpkin puree leftover from all my pumpkin creations, so I thought this sounded like another delicious and savory way to enjoy fresh pumpkin. I have to say, I am pretty excited about how this came together. The pumpkin flavor is subtle and it doesn’t overpower, but it is there and it is delicious. The nutmeg compliments it perfectly and the hint of spicy heat is perfect. Add as much or as little of the pepper blend as you like, I prefer a spicier hummus myself, but if you don’t like heat, dial it back a little. The toasted hulled pumpkin seeds on top are a must, they bring a nuttiness that just finished it off nicely. I think this would be just as nice with a butternut squash puree as well, I may have to try that next. I’ve been enjoying this on organic corn tortilla chips, but it would be great on veggies or even a sandwich.

Pumpkin Hummus
Makes about 3 cups

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) organic garbanzo beans
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
1 T olive oil
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and black pepper blend (I love Penzeys Black & Red mixture)
1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, raw

Preheat your oven to 375º, place hulled pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 7-10 minutes or until golden brown and toasted, stir occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas, reserve 1/4 cup liquid. Place chickpeas and reserved liquid in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup tahini, well stirred, 2 garlic cloves, pumpkin, nutmeg, cayenne and 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt. Process until smooth. I drizzle in just a bit of olive oil while its processing, it makes it even smoother and gives it a bit of a better taste. Taste the hummus, add more seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle a bit of cayenne and/or nutmeg and toasted pumpkin seeds on top when serving. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week. Serve with pitas, tortilla chips, crackers, raw veggies, on a sandwich and more.

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Chunky Applesauce

My friend Margaux, shared her family’s recipe for applesauce on her blog, Sweet and Savory Kitchens, a couple of weeks back and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about applesauce, since. The smell in your kitchen and that unremarkable old-fashioned taste, just reminds me of being a kid, for some reason. My mom must have made applesauce when we were kids. I would like to have homemade applesauce simmering on the stove everyday during Autumn, just so I could enjoy that lovely smell.

Applesauce is a great way to use up the apples that are maybe a bit too bruised and dinged up or that may have started to get a bit softer. We went apple picking a few weeks back and I was a feeling bit “appled-out”, I think I may have eaten one too many whole apples, so I thought this would be a great way to use up the last of them. This applesauce is great on its own as a side dish, it’s a wonderful and healthy snack or dessert, you can serve it over vanilla ice cream or yogurt, spread it on toast and you can eat it warm or cold. It’s just a great homestyle dish that is incredibly easy to make.

I like the flavor from the spices and how it pairs so nicely with the apples, if you are a purist and just want to enjoy the apple flavor, leave out the spices. I also tend to like my applesauce on the chunky side, so I hardly mash mine up, though some folks love a smooth pureed applesauce, whatever you like, this recipe is super simple and in no time your house will smell so good, you won’t want to leave.

Chunky Applesauce

Chunky Applesauce

3 to 4 lbs of apples, peeled, cored and sliced ( I think I used about 8 apples, a couple different varieties*, left over from apple picking)
Juice of one lemon
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons organic pure cane sugar
3 whole cinnamon sticks (3-inch sticks)
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

As you are slicing and peeling your apples, place them in a large saucepan. Once you have all of your apples in there, place the saucepan over a medium-high heat, add the lemon juice and water. Stir in the sugars and add in the spices and the salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower to a low-medium heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the apples are thoroughly cooked. They will start to mash-up and breakdown on their own. Once your apples are fully cooked, and soft, remove the pan from the heat and remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Mash it up with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon, it won’t take much. Leave your sauce as chunky as you would like. If you like a very smooth applesauce you can blend it in your blender or food processor. Serve warm or cool.

This applesauce will keep a few weeks, covered in the refrigerator or it can easily be stored in your freezer.

* Be sure to choose a good quality sweet cooking apple such as – Cortland, Empire, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, HoneyCrisp, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Rome, Fuji, Ginger Gold or Jonathan. I think I used a combination of golden delicious and McIntosh, not entirely sure since I was apple picking with my high-energy 3-year old nephew, Noah.

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Pickled Hot Peppers

It’s nearing the end of the gardening season and one of my favorite things to do this time of year, is grab the last of the peppers from their plants and make a few quick jars of pickled hot peppers. They are great on salads, in eggs, Mexican dishes, etc. This recipe is for simple refrigerator pickled peppers as opposed to a preserved, canned version that can be stored on the shelf for many months. Honestly, I prefer making them this way, since I never make a large amount of them and I hate all the work involved in canning. Besides, these don’t last long in our house anyway. Pickled peppers like this are good for quite a few weeks, under refrigeration. If you would like them to last longer, follow these canning instructions and guidelines.  Use can use this same brine mixture to pickle other vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, beets, fennel, green beans and so much more.

Pickled Hot Peppers
Adapted from David Lebovitz which was adapted from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook

1 pound fresh hot peppers, washed (I used a combination of banana, hungarian wax and jalapeño peppers)
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
3 tablespoons raw cane sugar
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1. You can leave the peppers whole if you’d like, just stab each pepper a few times, or you can slice them in rings, which I prefer. I just remove the tops and slice them into thin rings. I leave the seeds in, as both Mark and I love spicy. Place them in a large glass preserving jar or two smaller jars.

2. In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the other ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

3. Remove from heat and pour the brine over the peppers. Place the lid on the jar and let cool. Once cool, refrigerate for at least a week before using, if possible. (You can use them sooner, but it is well worth the wait to let them sit)

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Aioli

Aioli

I have always wanted to try my hand at making my own mayonnaise, from what I had heard, it’s easy and once you make it yourself, you will never go back to store-bought. Honestly, I don’t use mayo often, but there are a few dishes and recipes that you can’t go without. Since I got the new Cookbook from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, on Friday, I already have a long list of recipes I can’t wait to try. This may be a simple one to start with, but it worked out perfectly for what I was already making – chicken salad. Though any old store-bought mayo would do, I really wanted this chicken salad to be above and beyond. Once I came across this aioli recipe, I knew this was the key thing to finish it off perfectly. Why aioli and not mayo you ask? Well honestly, they really are the same thing, the only major difference is that aioli typically has garlic (or other flavors) added, where mayo goes without. I can never say no to garlic, so aioli it is! Some aioli recipes go without the eggs and are just an emulsion of olive oil, but I really love this recipe. I may try it with olive oil next time to see which I prefer.

Aioli
makes 2 cups

1 large egg (I used a fresh brown egg from Painted Meadows Farms)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used organic, no salt added, stone ground mustard)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup canola oil
½ teaspoon each, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Place the egg, egg yolk, mustard, garlic and lemon juice in the food processor. (You can make it by hand, but it is much easier and more fail-safe in the food processor.) While it is blending, slowly drizzle in the oil, until it is thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper.

Did you add the oil too fast? If you add the oil too fast, the aioli will separate, so go very slowly. If it does separate, take the mixture out of the food processor, and start over. Put another egg and egg yolk into the food processor and blend them. Slowly, slowly add the separated aioli. That should do the trick.

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