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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Inspired by Africa

My book group most recently read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. When I think of African food, I recall a memorable meal cooked for my family when I was a girl by Kwame, a Ghanaian student at Willamette University. It was a spicy and savory stew with chicken, tomatoes, vegetables, and what seemed to me at the time a most improbable ingredient, peanut butter. My recipe book collection completely failed me, but I found this recipe. I replaced half the sweet potato with cubed butternut squash, used a small can of diced tomatoes (drained), and browned the chicken (boneless, skinless thighs) before the onion, but otherwise stuck pretty close to it. It was delicious.

We had Como bread from Grand Central Bakery, a green salad with dried cherries, toasted slivered almonds, and chèvre with balsamic vinaigrette, and then finished with Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. They were delicious. The one thing I would change would be the cornstarch in the frosting, which I found a little distracting.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Last Gasp of Summer

We had beautiful summer weather last weekend, so I wanted to take advantage of our bounteous local harvest and have one last patio meal. Pulled pork, buttermilk coleslaw, sautéed zucchini and corn, roasted heirloom tomato tart (this time with chèvre!), and plum cake and Honey-Caramel Peach Pie à la mode for dessert. Corn, zucchini, tomatoes and peaches--can't get much more summer than that!

The tomato tart:

Buttermilk Coleslaw
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Jul/Aug 2002

I doubled the recipe, using a whole small head of lavender cabbage that weighed just under 2 lbs.

1 lb cabbage, shredded fine (quarter, core, then shred in food processor)
1 medium carrot, shredded (I used my julienne peeler)
1/2 C buttermilk (I was just shy and used a little plain whole-milk yogurt to make up the difference)
2 T mayonnaise
2 T sour cream
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 T)
2 T minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 t cider vinegar
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t dijon mustard
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

Toss shredded cabbage and 1 t salt, then put in a colander over a bowl. Let stand 1-4 hours until cabbage wilts (it never seemed all that wilty to me, and it didn't express any water). Rinse cabbage under cold running water, then press gently and pat dry with paper towels (don't wring). Put cabbage and carrot in a large bowl.

Stir remaining ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour over cabbage and toss to combine. Refrigerate until chilled, then serve.

Sautéed Zucchini & Corn
adapted from recipes in Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country
makes a side dish for 8-10

a bunch of zucchini (like, 8 small--I used 2 large and 1 medium)
3 T unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
4 ears sweet corn, kernels removed with a serrated knife
2-3 T chopped fresh basil
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper

Grate zucchini (I used the food processor). Toss with 1 t salt, and put in a colander over a bowl. Let sit for 30-45 minutes. It will give off a lot of water. Then squeeze out even more water by wrapping zucchini in a triple layer of paper towels and wringing (in two batches if necessary). Toss with olive oil and corn in a large bowl.

Heat butter over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. When foaming subsides, sauté shallot until just soft. Add zucchini and corn and sauté until tender. Top with basil and salt and pepper and serve.

The pie (my brother said it was the best crust he's had in his whole life!):

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