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October 28, 2014

A Taste OF Spain – – cooking at the Edible Schoolyard


PictureSeafood Paella with scallops, shrimp, clams, and mussels. Buen provecho!

Love Greensboro. Our city is home to the first and only North Carolina site for The Edible Schoolyard.  Housed at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, it offers hands-on learning opportunities for children of all ages, and I have been so fortunate to participate in their cooking classes for adults and youth.  Generous corporate sponsors such as Whole Foods Market and The Fresh Market provide the food ingredients for children’s cooking classes and adults’ cooking classes, and community volunteers like me are so happy to help expand the reach of The Edible Schoolyard and Greensboro Children’s Museum.  When you buy a ticket for a cooking class there, all of the proceeds support GCM’s programs for school children.
Tonight we had a group of thirteen try their hands at a menu from across Spain.  We fixed seafood paella, Piquillo peppers, apple and fennel salad, and the classic Spanish dessert – flan.  

Here are the recipes from tonight’s dinner!

Seared Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Roncal Cheese – via Jose Andres, Made in Spain
serves 4

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 scallion, white part only, thinly sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 piquillo peppers
4 ounces Roncal cheese*, cut into 2-inch sticks
fresh thyme sprigs
fresh parsley sprigs

*note – Roncal cheese is not widely available, so feel free to substitute another Spanish cheese – I often use aged Manchego.

Whisk 4 tablespoons of the olive oil together with the vinegar, shallot, and scallion in a mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Cut a small slit into each piquillo pepper and slide a stick of cheese into each.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of  olive oil in a medium sautée pan over high heat. Add the peppers and brown on both sides until the cheese begins to melt, about 30 seconds.  Transfer the peppers to a serving platter, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with leaves from the thyme and parsley sprigs.  Serve immediately.

Apple and Fennel Salad
serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 ounces Manchego cheese
1/2 fennel bulb
1 Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apple
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon honey
4 small fennel fronds for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with one-eighth teaspoon salt, or to taste. Reserve.
Cut the Manchego into batons about 2 inches long by one-fourth-inch thick. Slice the fennel lengthwise very thinly, preferably with a mandolin. Place the Manchego and fennel in a large bowl.
Core and halve the apple. Cut one-half of the apple into a one-fourth-inch dice. Thinly slice the second half lengthwise, preferably with a mandolin. Add the diced and sliced apple to the bowl, along with the walnuts.
Gently toss the salad, adding just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the ingredients. Divide the salad among four plates. Drizzle each plate with honey.  Evenly sprinkle the chives over each serving, and garnish each plate with one fennel frond. Serve immediately.

Seafood Paella on the Grill
serves 10

olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups seafood stock (recipe follows)
1 large pinch saffron
2 pounds clams, scrubbed
2 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed
20 jumbo shrimp, tails on, peeled and deveined
2 two-pound lobsters, par-cooked in salted boiling water for about 12 minutes, drained well and halved lengthwise
20 sea scallops
4 lemons, halved
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups short grain paella rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 jar piquillo peppers, chopped or thinly sliced (about 8 peppers)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Combine the seafood stock and saffron in a medium pot and bring to a simmer on the grill.  Add the clams, cover and cook until the clams open, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove the clams to a bowl.  Add the mussels to the broth, cover and cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.  Reserve the stock for cooking the rice.  Discard any shellfish that do not open.
Using a sharp knife, cut the lobster lengthwise.  Separate the claws from the knuckles and slice the tail into 4 pieces.  Crack the claws with the knife so they will be easy to pull apart.  Cut the knuckles into two pieces.
Brush the shrimp, the cut sides of the lobsters, the scallops, and the lemons with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.   Set each aside as it is grilled: Grill the shrimp for about 1 minute per side.  Grill the lobster, cut-side down, about 5 minutes.  Grill the scallops until almost cooked through, about 1 minute per side.  Grill the lemon, cut-side down, until charred, less than 1 minute.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large paella pan over the hottest part of the grill.  Add the onions and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes.  Add the stock to the rice and stir together well.  Cover the grill and cook the rice for about 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.  Arrange the shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, peas and peppers over the rice.  Squeeze the juice from 4 of the grilled lemon halves over the top.  Tuck the remaining four halves into the rice.
Remove the paella from the grill and cover with foil or a clean kitchen towel. Let the paella rest for 5 minutes before serving.   Sprinkle the parsley over the top.

To make your own seafood stock:
16 ounce can plum tomatoes
1 head of garlic, halved
8 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 two-pound lobsters
shells from two pounds of peeled shrimp
Combine the tomato, garlic, parsley, and bay leaves in a large stockpot.  Add the shrimp shells and the bodies from the two lobsters, each split in half.  Cover with three quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the stock for 1 hour.  Remove the stock from the heat.
(Alternately, you may use this broth to par-cook your whole lobsters, and after you remove the whole lobsters you can separate the bodies and return them to the stock pot, refrigerating the par-cooked claws and tails until you are ready to use them.)
Remove the stock from the heat after it has simmered for 1 hour.  Transfer the lobster bodies and 4 cups of the stock to a blender and crush the shellfish.  Then stir the crushed shellfish mixture back into the pot until well combined.  Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer.  Press down on the solids with the back of a spoon to release all the liquids.  Discard the solids and set the stock aside.

Caramel-Topped Flan from Dorie Greenspan
makes an 8-inch round custard

For the caramel:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the flan:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Line a roasting pan or 9″x13″ baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off heat.

Put a metal 8″x2″ round cake pan– not a nonstick one– in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel, or use a glass or ceramic pie dish, 8′ at its base.

To Make the Caramel:
Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.
Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan:
Bring the milk and heavy cream just to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.
Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don’t worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan–the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Storing: Covered with plastic wrap in its baking pan, the flan will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. However, once unmolded, its best to enjoy it the same day.

Serving: Bring the flan to the table and cut into wedges. Spoon some of the syrup onto each plate.

October 6, 2014



 yields 18 regular muffins or 54 mini-muffins

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare muffin tins with liners or grease the pans.  
Combine the dry ingredients and stir in 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese.  
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, tomato paste, egg, and honey.  
Mix the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, and stir just until combined.  
Divide into muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full, and sprinkle remaining cheese over each muffin top.  Bake for 15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  
Keep at room temperature in an air tight container for up to three days, or freeze and reheat for an on-the-go snack.  

Playing around: 
Try different cheeses or mince and mix in a favorite pizza topping  – consider pepper jack cheese, cheddar, bacon, pepperoni bits, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, or anything you enjoy on a pizza!  

October 3, 2014



There’s a local restaurant here that serves black bean cakes I love year round, and these lentil veggie burgers are another great version of the same idea.  They take more effort than black bean cakes, but if you plan ahead to prep the ingredients, it’s a simple assembly with an hour of inactive time before you finish cooking the patties.

Lentil Veggie Burgers (makes 6 large patties or 12 sliders)
Make ahead:
Cook 1/2 cup of dried French lentils according to package directions (about 20 minutes).  Cook 1/3 cup pearled barley according to directions (about 40 minutes).
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small carrot, small-diced or grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
cooked lentils (see above)
cooked barley (see above)
1/2 cup whole wheat panko or breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, beaten

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Saute the onion and carrot for about 10 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown.
Meanwhile, set aside 1/3 cup of the cooked lentils.  In a medium size bowl, smash the remaining lentils with a fork or potato masher.  Add the whole lentils to the smashed lentils.
When the onions are beginning to brown, add the garlic and sunflower seeds and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook for 1 minute longer.
Add the cooked onion mixture to the lentils, stirring just to combine.  Add the barley, panko, parsley, and eggs and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
Divide the mixture, making patties of the size you prefer – cherry tomato size for toothpick hors’douevres, small handfuls for sliders or cakes, or large handfuls for burgers.  You can refrigerate these overnight in an airtight container, or proceed to cook them in the skillet.  Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet and cook the patties on each side until lightly browned (2-4 minutes, depending on size).

Serve with avocado, tomato, tangy chipotle dressing, or salsa of your choice.  These are also good in a pita or between thin slices of bread.  A friend likes to sandwich lettuce, avocado, and tomato between two thin patties and savor these burger style without the bun!

October 2, 2014

Mexican Meal Muffins


Mexican food is always a winner at my house, and these muffins pack a lot of Mexican flavor with the simple addition of some seasoning to the dry ingredients.  Maybe the best part is that all of the ingredients are probably waiting in your freezer, fridge, and pantry… and if they aren’t, this is a muffin that can take numerous substitutions to use what you have on hand.

Mexican Meal Muffins
makes 12 standard-size muffins
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup freshly grated cheese, such as cheddar or Pepper Jack
1/4 cup corn kernels (frozen work fine)
1/4 cup small-diced red or orange bell pepper
1/2 cup black beans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a muffin tin.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cumin.  Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, tomato paste, chives, garlic, honey, cheese, corn, bell pepper, and beans.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until combined.
Divide the muffin batter into the prepared tin.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Playing Around:
Create your own variations on this recipe by changing the ingredients to suit your preference or what you have on hand.  Try diced pimiento peppers instead of fresh bell pepper, or consider green peas, pinto beans or small-diced meat instead of black beans.