OvenBits

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White Bean and Tomato Gratin with Herbes de Provence

by Lydia Whitlock — Dec 8th, 2016

This is a hearty and healthy winter dish -- think of it as a Mediterranean version of baked beans, seasoned with Vanns Herbes de Provence, but with a beautifully crispy bread crumb topping. It works well as a vegetarian main, served with something to soak up the sauce, or as a hearty side for a piece of simple roasted chicken or fish. 

The first half of the recipe does take some time on the stove, but you can easily make the bean and tomato mixture ahead of time, and then throw it in the oven with its breadcrumb topping when you’re ready to enjoy it!

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION

  1. The night before you intend to make the gratin, cover the beans by 2 inches of water, stir in a pinch of kosher salt, and soak overnight.
  2. The following day, drain and rinse the beans and place them in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with water by 1 inch and set over medium heat. While the beans heat up, prepare the onion -- cut it in half from root to top, and then cut one of those halves in half again, so that the pieces are still held together by the root end. Stick the straight end of the whole clove into one of the small pieces of onion and add it to the beans, along with the whole peeled garlic clove, a pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. thyme, bay leaf, and the parmesan rind, if using. Dice the rest of the onion and reserve for later use.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top, and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the beans are tender but not mushy, 30-60 minutes depending on the type of bean you’re using. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the beans over a bowl. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid and remove the onion, garlic clove, and bay leaf from the strained beans. Reserve the rest of the cooking liquid in the refrigerator to adjust consistency later if necessary.
  4. Place a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat and add 1 Tbs. olive oil. When oil is hot, add the reserved chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste, Herbes de Provence, remaining 1/2 tsp. thyme, and cayenne and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sugar and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until tomatoes have softened. Add the beans and reserved 1 ½ cups bean cooking liquid and stir to combine.
  5. Bring the tomato-bean mixture to a boil, and then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for around 30 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and fragrant. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired. 
  6. The recipe can be made up to this stage and refrigerated overnight. The mixture may thicken up in the refrigerator -- if that’s the case, use some more reserved bean liquid to return it to your desired consistency.
  7. About an hour before you’re ready to serve the dish, preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil an 8”x8” or similarly sized baking dish and pour the tomato-bean mixture into the dish. Stir the breadcrumbs, cheese, and remaining tablespoon olive oil together in a bowl, and add kosher salt to taste. Spread the breadcrumb mixture in an even layer over the tomato-bean mixture and bake for around 30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and the beans are bubbling. If you’d like to brown the breadcrumbs even further, place the dish under the broiler for around 5 minutes, being careful not to burn it. Serve hot or warm, with pieces of crusty bread or polenta to soak up the sauce.

Serves 6. Adapted from The New York Times.


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Pumpkin and Cranberry Tea Cake

by Lydia Whitlock — Dec 6th, 2016

What could make a well-spiced, perfectly moist, crunchily-topped pumpkin bread even better? Why cranberries, of course. If you happen to have an extra bag of fresh cranberries lying around after Thanksgiving, this recipe is for you. The addition of the cranberries balances the sweetness of the cake with little bursts of tart flavor, and they make the texture even richer and moister than before. A crunchy raw sugar and pumpkin seed topping rounds it all off.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (225 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 5 tsp. Vanns Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Ground Nutmeg or Vanns Whole Nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanns Ground Cloves
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbs. pumpkin puree (9 oz.)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (270 grams)
  • 3/4 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries, frozen if thawed, rinsed and fully dried
  • 2 Tbs. raw cane sugar
  • 2 Tbs. shelled raw pumpkin seeds

PREPARATION

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Butter or oil and 9”x5” loaf pan and set aside. If you’ve had issues getting breads and cakes out of loaf pans in the past, you can also line it with parchment paper for extra help. 
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In a larger bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and vegetable oil until well-combined and silky smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until the mixture is uniform. 
  3. Using a sifter or fine mesh strainer, sift the dry ingredients into the pumpkin puree mixture. The ground or grated nutmeg may not make it through the sifter — just pour the rougher bits into the mixture once everything else has been sifted through. Whisk the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined — over-mixing will make for a tough texture once baked. If you’ve sifted the flour and see what look like lumps in the final mixture, they are likely just air bubbles. Fold the cranberries into the batter.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a silicone spatula. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the raw cane sugar evenly over the top of the entire loaf, then sprinkle 2 Tbs. pumpkin seeds evenly over the top of the entire load. Finish with the last Tbs. of raw cane sugar, again sprinkled evenly over the top of the entire loaf.
  5. Bake for around 65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. To remove, gently run a knife around the perimeter of the pan and then carefully invert the cake onto a cutting board or large plate, being careful not to damage the beautifully crunchy crust on top. Tap the bottom of the pan until the cake comes out. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
  6. The loaf will keep well-wrapped at room temperature for two or three days. It also freezes well — pre-slice the loaf and store in a freezer bag. Reheat slices at 350°F.

Makes 1 loaf. Adapted from Tartine.


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Dilly Dip

by Lydia Whitlock — Nov 30th, 2016

It’s that time of the year again -- holiday cocktail party season! Maybe you’re hosting one yourself; maybe you’ve been invited and would like to bring a snack along. Either way, this is the dip for you -- it’s almost unbelievably easy, but tastes so much better than what you’d find in a package at the store. You can happily announce that it’s homemade while still appealing to everyone’s love of a classic creamy dip paired with something crunchy. 

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION

  1. Stir together all ingredients until evenly combined, making sure no pockets of spices are hiding in the sour cream. Refrigerate at least one hour to allow flavors to meld -- if you can make this dip the day before, it will be even better!
  2. Spoon into a serving dish and garnish with a sprinkle of sweet paprika. Serve with potato chips, crudites, or (trust me on this one) freshly baked tater tots. This dip also makes a great salad dressing -- thin it out with a little bit of apple cider vinegar to the consistency and flavor you prefer, and toss with a nice crunchy lettuce.

Makes 1 cup. Adapted from Power Vegetables.

 

 


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Preserved Lemons

by Lydia Whitlock — Nov 28th, 2016

 There’s nothing better than a homemade holiday gift, especially one that keeps giving and giving throughout the year. Jams, pie fillings, cookie mixes — all of these are fun to make and wonderful gifts, but if you have a group of friends who love to cook more savory items, you should give preserved lemons a try this year! This fermented pickle is simple to make, requires only a few ingredients, and will keep in the fridge for around six months, if you or your gift recipient don’t use them up well before then.

Once you have a jar of preserved lemons in your fridge, you’ll never want to go without again. If you’ve ever had a really good Moroccan tagine and have wondered where that sharp, salty, citrus taste comes from — it’s preserved lemons. A little goes a long way towards adding a bolt of salty sunshine into any savory dish. Just remove the seeds and mince the rind and flesh to add citrusy flavor to grain salads, beans, stews, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION

  1. If you weren’t able to get unwaxed lemons, first remove the wax. Place the lemons in a large colander and run them under hot water, either from a recently boiled kettle or from the hottest tap water you have. Then, holding each lemon under cool running water, use a vegetable brush to scrub away the warmed wax and any dirt that remains. Rinse the scrubbed lemons well. If you have unwaxed fruit, simply give them a rinse and scrub to remove any dirt.
  2. Trim the stem ends of the washed lemons by about ⅛-¼ inch. Cut 4 lemons into quarters, cutting them end to end to form four wedges.
  3. Rinse a glass quart jar for which you have a lid. Sprinkle about one third of the salt into the bottom and pack for of the lemon quarters into the jar, pressing with your hands or with a cocktail muddler to get them as tightly packed as possible. Sprinkle another third of the salt and a pinch of your chosen spices on top of the packed lemons.
  4. Pack another quartered lemon into the jar and sprinkle with remaining salt and another pinch of spices. Continue to pack quartered lemons into the jar until only ½ and inch of space remains between the lemons and the top.
  5. The lemons will have exuded some juice during the packing process, but it might not yet be enough to cover them. If your lemons are not covered by their own juices, juice your remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar until it just covers the lemons, leaving about half an inch of space between the juice and the top.
  6. Screw the lid onto the jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to mix the salt and lemons. Unscrew the lid and top up with more lemon juice to return levels to half an inch below the top if necessary. Screw the top on again.
  7. Using masking tape, label the jar with the day’s date. Store the lemons in a cool, dark space for two weeks. Every day for the first few days, shake the jar vigorously for 30 seconds or so, until the salt has completely dissolved. Shake occasionally in the remaining days, just to make sure that the spices and juices are evenly distributed throughout.
  8. After two weeks, place the jar in the refrigerator. The lemons are now ready to use! Make sure to remove the seeds before using, and to rinse the lemons if you want to reduce their very salty flavor.

Makes 1 pint. Lemons will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.


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PLMA Show

by Meg Whitlock — Nov 13th, 2016

We're exhibiting at the Private Label Manufactures Association Show in Chicago. Visit us at booth F4301 through Tuesday. Every exhibitor here including Vanns is a private label manufacturer.

private label manufacturers association show


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Mulled Cider

by Lydia Whitlock — Nov 10th, 2016

Making mulled cider is even easier than pie. You might not even need a recipe for it, to be honest -- pouring some cider in a pot and chucking some Vanns Mulling Spices in there to simmer for an hour or so will probably work out pretty well! But if you want to make sure you get the maximum flavor out of the spices without overpowering the sweet-tart taste of the cider, here are some instructions on how much mulling spice to use, and how much time you should spend mulling the cider (it's longer than you think!)

This recipe can be made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker -- either way will make your house smell like the coziest, most welcoming place in your neighborhood.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cups apple cider, to serve 4-6 people (scale up recipe as needed)
  • 2 Tbs. Vanns Mulling Spices (1 Tbs. per 4 cups of cider, for scale)
  • Brandy or whiskey (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. If desired, place the mulling spices in a reusable spice bag.
  2. If using a slow cooker, pour the cider and the mulling spices into the slow cooker, cover, and heat on high for 4 hours, or until flavor is well infused. If at any point the cider starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low. 
  3. If using the stovetop, pour the cider and mulling spices into a heavy bottomed pot, cover, and heat over low heat for 4 hours, or until flavor is well infused. If at any point the cider starts to simmer, reduce the heat or move the pot slightly off the burner.
  4. Serve cider plain, with brandy, or with whisky. If you’re planning to keep the cider warm while serving it for another hour or so, remove the spices. If you chose not to use a removable spice bag, it’s a nice touch to offer the cider with a tea strainer next to the ladle, so people can strain out the spices themselves as they pour.

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Pumpkin Maple Muffins

by Lydia Whitlock — Nov 6th, 2016

It’s pumpkin muffin season! But these aren’t your typical giant, overly orange, super sweet cupcakes-masquerading-as-muffins -- these are the real deal.

They’re sweet, but not so sweet that you’d feel bad having them for breakfast. Half of the flour involved is whole wheat, which makes for a moister muffin and adds extra fiber to boot. The balance of spices asserts itself without overpowering all of the other wonderful flavors of the muffin. Maple syrup and brown sugar add complexity to the sweetness, and a crunchy raw sugar and pumpkin seed topping rounds them all off!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup/114 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup/145 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/140 grams whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Ginger
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Turmeric
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups/355 grams pumpkin puree (about 1 15-oz. can)
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup/100 grams light brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup maple syrup
  • Raw cane sugar (optional)
  • Pumpkin seeds (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a muffin tin with nonstick spray or liners.
  2. Make the brown butter: melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. As the butter starts to foam and brown, swirl it gently, so that it cooks evenly. In about 5 minutes, the butter should be a deep, hazelnut brown. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape up any brown bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Set aside and allow to cool slightly, but not to solidify.
  3. Combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisk until evenly combined.
  4. In a bowl large enough to accommodate both wet and dry ingredients, combine the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, and maple syrup and whisk until completely smooth.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour in the brown butter, making sure to get all those delicious brown bits, and whisk until the batter is smooth.
  6. Using an ice cream scoop or medium-large spoon, evenly fill each of the prepared muffin tins, gently smoothing the tops.
  7. If desired, sprinkle the top of each muffin with a pinch of pumpkin seeds and ¼ tsp. raw cane sugar to create a crunchy topping.
  8. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are domed and spring back when pressed gently.

Makes 12 muffins. Adapted from The New York Times.

 

 


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Spiced Cauliflower "Couscous"

by Lydia Whitlock — Nov 2nd, 2016

Cauliflower is a real shape-shifter these days. There’s cauliflower fried rice, cauliflower pizza crust, buffalo cauliflower “wings” -- it’s great to see this versatile vegetable stepping out of its steamer basket comfort zone! One of the magical things about cauliflower is the way that, when blitzed raw in a food processor, it takes on a fluffy, couscous-like consistency. This version of cauliflower “couscous” is spiced up with Vanns Zahtar, Cumin, and Aleppo-Style Chili Flakes for the perfect, surprisingly light side dish to your tagine or kebabs.

This dish makes a great side dish for any meal -- if you're looking for a light, fresh take on a grain salad for your Thanksgiving table, give this "couscous" a shot! This dish also makes a great picnic side -- refrigerate before packing it, and then allow it to come up to room temperature as you make your way to your picnic spot.

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION

  1. If you’re starting with raw cashews, preheat the oven to 400°F. If your cashews are pre-roasted, skip this step. Once the oven is preheated, spread your raw cashews in an even layer on a small baking sheet and toast until just golden, 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 
  2. Roughly chop the roasted cashews.
  3. Place the raisins or currants in a small bowl and pour the red wine vinegar over them. Cover them with warm water and leave to plump for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Roughly chop.
  4. Rinse the whole cauliflower and dry well with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Break into medium florets, keeping as much of the stem as possible, then chop the florets into small pieces. Place 2 handfuls of the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until the pieces are finely chopped, but still have some texture, resembling fluffy couscous. Do not over-process or over-crowd the processor. Place the chopped cauliflower into a large bowl and continue the process with the rest of the florets in batches.
  5. Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat in a large cast iron or other heavy-bottomed saute pan. Add the chopped cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently, until it loses its rawness, about 7 minutes. The goal here is not to brown the cauliflower, just to saute some of its raw crunch away.
  6. Remove the cauliflower from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool slightly, then stir in the raisins, cashews, zahtar, cumin, Aleppo-style chili, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Let the couscous sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Taste again for seasoning before serving at room temperature.

Serves 8. 


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Raz El Hanout Roasted Squash

by Lydia Whitlock — Oct 28th, 2016

Roasted squash is one of the easiest but most satisfying side dishes of autumn. Corners, edges, and outside surfaces brown and crisp in the oven, while the insides become deliciously creamy. Tossing the squash with simple olive oil, salt, and pepper is a great way to season it, but sometimes you have to mix things up a bit and use other spices to bring out the different qualities of the squash's flavors.

Vanns Raz El Hanout is one great roasted squash remix! The warm flavors of the spice blend go beautifully with the squash's sweetness, while a touch of spice  adds some excitement. Rax El Hanout is one of those great spice blends that straddles the line between savory and sweet, much like a butternut squash, and then two work together perfectly. A little extra cumin and a hearty dose of salt and pepper keep this side dish firmly in savory territory. And this is just a starting template for spice roasted squash! For an Indian twist, try it with Vanns Garam Masala; to add it to a burrito bowl, toss it with Vanns Spicy Fajita Rub. The flavor possibilities are endless!

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Peel the squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Here’s a great guide from Serious Eats on how to do this in the easiest and most efficient way possible.
  3. Place the squash cubes in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the Raz El Hanout, cumin, salt, and pepper on top. Toss with your hands to coat evenly.
  4. Spread the butternut squash cubes in an even layer on the baking sheet, making sure that none are on top of each other. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and tender.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.


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Moroccan Carrots

by Lydia Whitlock — Oct 25th, 2016

Moroccan carrots are a fairly ubiquitous dish, and with good reason. The common thread throughout the many variations is the combination of sweet, earthy carrots, tart lemon juice, a luxurious amount of olive oil, and the perfect blend of spices. 

This version adapted from Zahav is a genius take on the recipe, using the liquid in which the carrots cook as a super carrot-y addition to the dressing. Served chilled, these carrots are a great accompaniment to a grilled meat or as an addition to a mezze platter. And, if you're looking for an easy make-ahead side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner that's a little off the beaten path, try this one!

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed, from 1-2 oranges
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems chopped
  • 1 Tbs. mint leave, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Aleppo-Style Chili Flakes
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin

PREPARATION

  1. Lay the whole carrots in a large, deep skillet. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and just barely cover the carrots with cold water. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10-12 minutes, until carrots are just beginning to soften. This may take more or less time depending on the size of your skillet and your carrots, so take care not to overcook them.
  2. When the carrots have just started to soften, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set them aside to cool. Don’t throw away the cooking liquid! That will become your dressing.
  3. As the carrots cool, reduce the carrot cooking liquid by simmering over medium-high heat, until it becomes almost syrupy, about 10 minutes. Again, this will depend on the size of your pan, so use your best judgement -- you don’t want it to be too watery. Once reduced, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, just to take away the raw edge.
  4. Remove the liquid from the heat and whisk in the olive oil, orange juice, Aleppo-style chili flakes, ground cumin, cilantro, mint, and 1 tsp. Kosher salt, or more to taste.
  5. When carrots are cool enough to handle, slice lengthwise, then crosswise into half-inch half moons. Toss the carrots in the dressing and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, to allow the flavors to meld.

Serves 6 as a side dish. Adapted from Zahav


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