Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
1 Acorn (or other winter) Squash
1 ½ cups stock (I used homemade vegetable stock but chicken or turkey would be good too.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
A pinch of herbs de provence
About 2 cups of chopped raw greens (kale, chard, even collards- but I’d up the cooking time for those)
4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
a scant tsp of sugar
1-2 tsp bacon grease (okay I suppose olive oil would work too)
Red pepper flakes to taste
Split and clean squash. Lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast center side down on a baking sheet @ about 375 degrees until the squash is tender to the touch.
When it is cool enough to handle scoop out the squash and combine with stock in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into a sauce pan and heat through adding herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
While the soup heats combine bacon grease, cider vinegar, sugar and pepper flakes over medium heat in a skillet until sugar is dissolved and mixture is just bubbling. Add greens, reduce heat and cook until greens are to your liking, stirring occasionally.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I made this several weeks ago when the days were longer and the nights were warmer. But, at least here in Western Oregon, a few tomatoes still survive on the vine—they aren’t quite as pretty as their August cousins but they still taste good and to beat the frost they need to be picked fast.
One of the many reasons I love savory tarts is that they are light and vibrant looking enough to serve al fresco on warm days but still substantial enough to satisfy when the air turns crisp. I adapted this recipe from one I found on Epicurious (originally from Gourmet, RIP) I made the crust with a bit of whole-wheat flour and cracked pepper to give it some heft and for the cheeses in the filling I used what ever was on hand. One of the comments suggested using a salad spinner to remove some of the juice and seeds from the tomatoes. GREAT idea. I took those tomatoes for a spin three times and was surprised by the amount of juice and seeds I extracted. Without that step the tart would have been soupy and/or soggy.
Here is a list of the ingredients I used to give you an idea how flexible this recipe is.
For the crust
½ cup WW flour
1 ½ cups unbleached AP flour
¾ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
Several turns of fresh cracked black pepper
For the filling
1 Walla Walla onion
½ red onion
Tsp olive oil for sautéing
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
½ cup shredded Romano
½ cup shredded mozzarella
2 ½ cups assorted cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and given several spins in the salad spinner
Fresh chives, minced (for garnish)
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Somehow, somewhere somebody taught me how to make a proper grilled cheese sandwich. For that I thank you. I know it seems simple enough but there are tricks.
- The bread should be well buttered on the outside and slathered with enough mustard (or, in this case, chive pesto) to add a tangy burst of flavor to the sandwich without overwhelming it. Aged cheddar and hearty rye can take more mustard than say mozzarella on ciabatta.
- Finding the ideal cheese-to-bread ratio is also important. I love cheese but I resist the urge to pile it on, too much and the cheese oozes out of the sandwich like Oobleck. No more than one layer of 1/4 inch thick slices of your cheese of choice are necessary.
- A cast iron griddle or skillet is best because a low even heat is key. Too hot and the bread is black but the cheese is still hard in the center, not hot enough and you lose precious cheese out the sides while the bread remains barely browned. Ideally the bread achieves a deep golden brown at precisely the same moment as the cheese has a total meltdown. (The sandwich pictured could have been a bit darker...oh well.) I have seen fights erupt over a grilled cheese cooked too quickly at too hot a heat. I set the burner on medium-low and adjust accordingly when I flip the sandwich over. Aiming for about 5-6 minutes a side, cheese soft but not yet oozing when I flip.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
My goal for the day was to finish a short story that has been languishing in its nascent stages for months now. I’m so fond of the beginning that I’m afraid I’m going to screw up the end. So I did some necessary research and then abandoned the story for the pile of herbs beckoning from the kitchen counter, which were also languishing but will not keep until tomorrow. Some sprigs of arugula, piles of basil, an armload of chives, and some garlic that must also be used to make way for this year’s harvest- what else was there to do but make pesto?
The following recipe is made to my own taste- I love garlic, am allergic to most nuts and dislike the rest, adore cheese, and put fresh ground pepper in almost everything savory (I’ve even tried a grind or two of pepper to a chocolate dish). The arugula leaves I used were from plants that had gone to seed, too tired and haggard for a salad but once whirred up they looked just fine.
Garlicky Arugula and Two Basil Pesto
1 cup packed arugula leaves with stemmy bits removed
2 cups packed sweet basil leaves
1 cup packed spicy globe basil leaves
5 cloves of minced garlic
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup coarsely chopped Pecorino Romano cheese (I’d use parmesan too if I could afford it.)
Salt and pepper to taste (I added just a pinch of salt and three or four grinds of pepper).
Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until all ingredients are finely chopped and well incorporated, pausing once or twice to scrape the sides of the bowl and test for desired consistency (I like my pesto pretty finely chopped but you may prefer a rougher texture). Add a drizzle or two more olive oil if it is too thick for you. This is when I taste to see if any salt is needed.
Garlic Chive Pesto
Same as above substituting 5 cups of coarsely chopped chives for the basil and arugula. You might want to cut down a bit on the garlic as the chives have enough kick on their own.
A note about nuts- as stated above I don’t use them but I’ve heard from people that do that pistachios (1/2 cup or so shelled) are quite tasty in the chive pesto. Pine nuts are, of course, traditional but walnuts or cashews are lower cost alternatives.
This recipe makes a thick pesto ideal for tossing with pasta, putting on pizza, and spreading on bread, crackers, or vine ripe tomatoes. Well covered it stores in the refrigerator for about a week. The basil pesto can also be frozen in sealed plastic baggies with the all the air removed. Frozen it keeps for several months.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Catching the Elusive Ingredient:
An essay and one easy summer recipe
Bread fascinates and charms not just because it is the staff of life, blah de blah, but because it transforms. Flour, yeast, and water (okay a pinch of salt too, and sometimes olive oil) combine to make dough, kneaded from shaggy mess to supple mound. Add heat and the results literally make my mouth water (That actual drool, I get it now just writing about it.) More than flour, more than dough—Boule, baguette, batard… bread! These are not new observations; bread is an ancient and mysterious magic trick.∗
Baking bread, documenting the process and the end result, and then posting it online where anyone with a computer or an internet capable phone can see it—that is a more recent phenomenon. But, as the thousand upon thousand of food blogs attest, even THIS is not a revelation. Why do it then? Why is the eating not enough? When did I start scorning my food because I don’t think it is pretty enough?
In the last two months I have posted two sets of recipes and photographs. I assure you that that is not all I have eaten. And almost everything I’ve eaten has been made at home with as many seasonal and fresh products as possible. Sometimes I even took pictures. But I haven’t shared. More accurately, I haven’t shared this way. Neighbors, friends, and the fellow—I’ve shared with them. I’ve been eating and living, but, to extend the bread metaphor, this month has been somewhere between shaggy mess and supple mound: all the ingredients are there but I’m afraid to knead, afraid to apply heat. So you (oh elusive reader) get no recipe, no photos, and I have nothing to show that I was here.
Maybe I’m supposed to fake it and pretend that food, like life, is easy and that the end result is always pretty. But tarting up my tart to make friends and influence people sucks the joy out of it and, I’m convinced, some of the fruity goodness too. But today I remembered that I took pictures of what I cooked or baked or threw together for years before I started posting them online. My tarts may not make the world love me but a salad, difficult to photograph but cool and fresh and low in calories, will sustain me. What’s that elusive ingredient? I don’t know, I haven’t found it yet. But until then I’ll keep tasting and when the weather cools back down I’ll continue baking. But in the meantime here’s an idea to use up the little nubbins of bread that are too small or too stale to eat as is.
A Variation on Panzanella Salad
The problem with bread is that it doesn’t last. If I wolf it down all at once I’m left wanting more but if I dole out a loaf over several days I run the risk of mold or, worse, disappointment. It saddens me when bread I baked goes stale. How can something so good go so bad? But do I toss it to the curb? Heck no. I make croutons. And if there isn’t quite enough bread left to justify croutons I throw the nubbins in the freezer and wait until there is.
Bread (stale, fresh, rye, wheat, white, sourdough, savory, or sweet—I don’t think it matters) cut into bite size chunks.
Enough olive oil to lightly coat
Salt and Pepper to taste
Seasonings (garlic powder, paprika, a dried herb blend such as Herbs De Provence—again it varies depending on what I have and how spicy I feel)
Toss bread with enough olive oil to coat, add seasonings and toss again. Then either spread seasoned bread out onto a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven until lightly browned and crisp throughout (usually somewhere between 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the croutons and the type of bread). For a small batch I’ll brown the croutons in my cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Sometimes I cook the croutons too long and while not burned they are almost unbearably crunchy. That is a good time to make Panzanella
You can make panzanella with regular bread but I think it gets too soggy. I like to use croutons because it softens them up enough that you can still hear the conversation but you’re not left with mush. The key is garden fresh, juicy, tasty tomatoes – the winter supermarket variety will not do. The rest, I think, is a matter of taste.
Serves 2 hungry people or 4 peckish ones
2 tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
½-1 cucumber, chopped into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup croutons (see above) or stale bread pieces
Minced basil or parsley or a combination of the two
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup feta or fresh mozzarella balls or ¼ cup shaved Parmesan or Romano (the cheese is optional, but I love cheese.)
In a medium bowl whisk together vinegars, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss in cucumber and tomato and let sit for a few minutes. Add parsley and basil and croutons. Toss lightly. Allow the croutons to absorb some of the dressing, about five or ten minutes. If desired top with cheese and serve.
∗ For a more thorough and thoughtful meditation on bread you might want to check out Peter Reinhart’s TED presentation.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
The berries have been arriving fast and furious at the farmers market for several weeks now. A bumper crop of delicious but delicate goodness so the price has been irresistible. When faced with a seemingly endless variety of raspberries, blackberries, and all their hybrid cousins, it seems hard to believe that a supermarket can sell one tiny half pint of anemic raspberries for five dollars come December. Like most of summer’s bounty berries are best on their own. Ah, the taste of summer exploding in your mouth. But why stop there? So this week I bring you two berry desserts, a tart (you know how I love those) and a pie.
Tayberry (I swear the woman who sold me the last pint said tazberry, but apparently no such thing exists, a hybrid rasp/blackberry) Tart.
With thanks to Patricia Wells’ Café du Jura Raspberry Tart recipe from her cookbook “Bistro Cooking”. Normally I like to fiddle with a recipe but when one is as simple as this it seems unnecessary, although I did cut down on the sugar.
3 large egg yolks
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (the original recipe called for 3 Tbsps)
1 Pate Sablee shell, pre-baked
1 pint of fresh tayberries (I ended up with slightly less because I couldn’t resist snacking)
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar.
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F
2. In a large bowl first whisk the egg yolks then add the heavy cream and granulated sugar; mix until well blended. Pour the mixture into the cooled pastry shell.
3. Arrange the berries on top of the cream (the original recipe says carefully arrange but I didn’t have quite enough berries and the tayberries are larger than raspberries and prone to falling over, so carefully seems misleading.)
4. Place in the center of the oven and bake just until the cream filling begins to set, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A few weeks ago when asparagus was everywhere at the farmers market we ate asparagus in or with everything. There’s nothing better than asparagus tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then grilled. But that’s barely a recipe. So…
One of my favorite warm weather meals are Vietnamese style salad rolls, which manage to be refreshing, healthy, and filling all at the same time. And if you happen to have an Asian market near by (we’ve got Anzen just across the river) rice noodles and rice paper will only put you back a couple of dollars. While my rolling technique still leaves something to be desired (finding the happy medium between rolling tightly enough to keep everything together and not tearing the wrapper takes practice), I love that I can stuff just about anything in those wrappers.
Asparagus and Shrimp Vietnamese Style Salad Rolls
12 Vietnamese “Spring Rolls Skin” (they come in various sizes, for the asparagus I used the larger size)
¼ package rice noodles soaked for 3-5 minutes in boiling water until tender, drained, and tossed a few table spoons of Nouc cham (Tangy lime dipping sauce— you can find a recipe here).
24 cleaned shrimp, marinated in lime juice, garlic, ginger, cilantro, olive oil and hot chili flakes and then sautéed until just done, cooled and cut lengthwise. (Pork, chicken, and beef work equally well)
One bundle clean blanched asparagus, cut into 3-4 inch pieces
Mint, basil, and cilantro, minced. (If you’re feeling fancy reserve a few whole leaves of mint to place between the shrimp and the wrapper).
Bean sprouts (like everything else these are optional, I like the crunch)
Juilliened vegetables. ( I used carrots this time for color but cucumbers, sweet red peppers, shredded lettuce and scallions are also great).
With all your ingredients prepped and ready to go and a work surface cleared for assembly moisten two or three rice paper wrappers ( I run them under the faucet but some people dip them in a bowl of warm water and others still use a pastry brush) and set them out on a clean cloth. You can start piling on your ingredients immediately but make sure that the wrappers are soft and pliable before you begin to wrap. I usually start with a few whole sprigs of mint or cilantro and then lay out the shrimp pretty pink side down, piling the remaining ingredients on top. As I mentioned before my wrapping technique leaves something to be desired so if you want more detailed instructions you cant try here or here or just wing it based on the pictures and any burrito assembly experience you might have.
After the rolls are assembled cut in half for easier eating. Serve with one or more dipping sauces such as Nuoc cham, peanut sauce, or Thai sweet chili sauce.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Rhubarb Gastrique and Goat Cheese Galette
One batch sweet pate brisee dough
4 ounces goat cheese
Approximately ¾ cup Rhubarb Gastrique
When I made the dough for my asparagus buttermilk tart I whipped up a sweet dough as well, that way I only had to clean the food processor once. I used the same recipe and just added sugar.
While the oven preheated to 425, I rolled out the dough into a roughly round shape about a ¼ of an inch thick (I probably could have gone a little thinner but the dough was getting warm) and then transferred it to a Silpat baking mat (parchment paper also works but I don’t have any) to make getting the galette in and out of the oven easier. Then I slathered on some of the rhubarb gastrique, leaving about two inches of dough bare along the outside edges. On top of that I sprinkled four ounces of goat cheese and then folded the edges of the dough in, overlapping or folding as necessary, leaving the center exposed. I transferred the Silpat directly onto the pizza stone that’s always in the oven and baked on the middle rack for 35-40 minutes until the dough was golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Simple and delicious, thumbs up from all the neighbors I shared with.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
While I had the food processor out I decided to make two crusts, one sweet and one savory. I used the Flaky Pie or Tart Dough recipe from The Art and Soul of Baking. I’ve had consistently good results from all the recipes I’ve tried from that book and I like that every step is covered so that the first time out I can be precise. I’ll wing it later but not until I know how things should be not just how they turned out.
For the filling I adapted the Leek Tart recipe from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking. FYI- Her pate brisee recipe is also quite good and considerably less time consuming than the Flaky Pie or Tart Dough recipe because it is mixed entirely in the food processor.
I kept the sweet crust in the refrigerator to make a rhubarb gallette (more on that later).
Asparagus Buttermilk Tart
¾ cup diced onion (leeks or shallots would probably be equally good, or even better, but I’ve got a twenty pound bag of onions in the pantry)
1 tsp butter (or olive oil, I suppose)
One Bundle of Asparagus, woody ends removed, cut into bite size pieces (about 2 cups)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup diced ham (optional)
½ to 1 cup grated cheese (I used Pecorino Romano but Gruyere is more traditional French tart-ish)
fresh ground pepper to taste
a wee bit of salt, if needed
Prepare dough ahead of time, giving enough time to thoroughly chill. Roll out the dough to line a 10½ inch tart pan, return to fridge to chill.
Preheat oven to 425.
Sautee onions with butter or olive oil on low to medium heat until tender but not brown. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Cool onions slightly and add to egg mixture along with asparagus, ham, and half of the cheese. Pour mixture into prepared crust sprinkling remaining cheese on top.
Bake on middle rack of preheated oven until golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Like all flaky crusts this one is best within the first few hours but leftover tart is still better than your average ham and eggs the next morning for breakfast.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
I cook, he cleans. Except on Sunday when the fella makes me waffles (he still cleans!). Last week I topped mine with balsamic strawberry preserves/compote and fresh strawberries from the farmers market. Mmmm, now I'm wishing that Saturday was waffle day.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Panna cotta, an eggless custard, is a wonderful warm weather dessert. Creamy, but not too heavy, with a delicate clean finish.
I melded three or four recipes together for this and now that it is time to post I can't find any of my notes. So I'm guessing here, sorry! The Strawberry preserve recipe was pretty much intact as found on epicurious. I probably decreased the amount of sugar.
I use paper cups lightly coated with vegetable oil to set the panna cotta that way once the panna cotta has set you can just tear away the paper cup to the point where the top of the dessert is exposed, invert on a plate and pull away. I've never had any problem with sticking and it makes transportation to a party or picnic much easier than ceramic ramakins.
- 3 Tbsps water
- 1 1/2 tsps unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3/4 cup rhubarb simple syrup
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
Pour 3 tablespoons water into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Coat paper cups with oil ( I use a paper towel dipped in oil).
Serve with balsamic strawberry preserves.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I had elaborate rainy day plans to bake two tarts-- one sweet and one savory. But just as I threw the tart dough in the refrigerator to chill the sun came out and I remembered that I was cooking for one. The energy for elaborate is hard to muster up for just me so I decided to delay the tarts a day. Fortunately, I also remembered the shrimp I bought on sale at the store the day before and the bundle of purple kale from the farmer's market on Saturday.
Of course even though I was cooking for one I made enough for two hungry people so now I have lunch.
4 cloves of garlic, minced (I love garlic and probably could've even had more)
2 Tbsp Olive OIl
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound shrimp (in my case ten 16-20 count, I always ask for an amount not a weight so I can divide appropriately)
1 bundle of kale
1/2 pound cappellini (angel hair pasta)
salt, pepper, and pepper flakes to taste
After bringing a large pot of water to boil for the pasta, I minced the garlic and heated the cast iron skillet with the olive oil. Meanwhile I blanched the kale in the pasta water, squeezed it dry and cut it into bite size pieces. When the skillet was hot I briefly sauteed the garlic and then added the shrimp, cooking for about a minute on each side. After removing the shrimp I added the white wine, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pan and cooked for another minute or so. By this time the water was boiling again so I threw in the pasta which only takes three minutes (one of the reasons I love cappellini), turned the heat off the sauce and then added the shrimp and kale to the white wine sauce. After draining the pasta and reserving a cup or so of pasta water to add, if needed, to the sauce I tossed it all together. Took pictures, which was torture because I was starving, and voila- dinner.
An incredibly easy and delicious weeknight meal.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I layered the quinoa on the bottom, topped it with lettuce, drizzled that with oil and vinegar and then finished it off with the remaining pork chop from the other night, chopped and tossed with the rhubarb gastrique. Crutons for crunch. Goat cheese for creamy. Yum.
I struggled to take a pretty picture of this but rhubarb, I've discovered, photographs best before it's cooked. The goat cheese and the gastrique were fabulous together.Hmmmm?
Monday, May 18, 2009
After I made the rhubarb simple syrup I had some leftover well cooked and sweetened rhubarb (from here on out to be known as schmoo) that I couldn’t bear to throw out. Don’t ask me why, I still have several pounds of uncut rhubarb languishing in the refrigerator, but unable to toss the stuff I decided to make a gastrique—a sauce made with a sugar/vinegar reduction. Tangy and not too sweet.
I used balsamic vinegar but read that red wine vinegar is best and in the end I had to add a tablespoon or so of cider vinegar to get the sauce as tangy as I wanted it.
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar (I used the Trader Joe’s cheap stuff, which is great for any balsamic reduction or sauce)
+ 1 TBSP cider vinegar added at the end
½ cup sugar (I used less than recommended in most of the recipes I perused because the rhubarb schmoo from the simple syrup was already quite sweet)
½ cup water
2 sprigs rosemary
About a cup of rhubarb schmoo plus another 1 ½ cups fresh finely chopped rhubarb
Simmer vinegar, sugar, water, and rosemary until liquid is reduced by half (about 10-15 minutes). Remove rosemary and add fresh rhubarb, cook an additional ten minutes. Add rhubarb schmoo and cook, stirring regularly, until a thick sauce is formed. Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste.
The tangy subtle sweetness of this sauce immediately made me think of barbeque. I marinated some chops in a 5 spice marinade (again from Trader Joe’s, I guess I buy a lot of my condiments there). I was going to grill them but the fellow got home late and I didn’t want to disturb the neighbors with the smoke and inevitable clanging late night grilling can bring so I just broiled the chops.
Served with sautéed red chard and red onions fresh from the farmers market, and some quinoa. The quinoa was the perfect grain for this meal- flavorful enough to stand up to and compliment the gastrique.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
When I was a teenager my favorite drink was a lime rickey, you could get them from some semi-local fast food chain and they were good. Not too sweet, fizzy, and perfect on a hot summer day. Now that I’m all grown up (or at least well past legal drinking age) there is still nothing better than a Rickey on a sunny afternoon. Yesterday we had one of the first hot afternoons of the season and so I took a break from chopping rhubarb to mix up a Rhubarb Gin Rickey
Juice of ½ lime
1 ½ ounces of gin (or more, or less, to taste)
½ ounce rhubarb simple syrup
Soda water or seltzer
Combine first three ingredients in a pint glass, fill glass with ice, top with bubbly water, stir once or twice to combine, garnish with a wedge of lime.
As I mentioned before I was surprised how subtle the flavors are in this. I made one for the fellow and after he reluctantly accepted a ‘girlie colored’ drink he agreed .
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Rhubarb Simple Syrup
With 18 pounds of the stuff I figured now is the perfect opportunity to try out a few different recipes. Today I started with simple syrup to use in drinks and as a base for my panna cotta.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups rhubarb
½ tsp lemon juice (to help maintain the color)
I chopped up the rhubarb and combined it in a medium sauce pan with the other ingredients over a medium low heat, stirring until the sugar was dissolved. At that point I let it simmer undisturbed for 10 to 15 minutes, let it cool slightly and then pushed poured it through a sieve pushing out as much liquid as I could. Once it cooled I poured it in a leftover bottle.
The syrup is a pretty pink hue but the rhubarb flavor isn’t as pronounced as I would like. Still it made a tasty Rhubarb Gin Rickey (recipe and pictures in my next post), dangerous because it doesn’t taste at all like gin—or Rickey.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
And that's more impressive than the tomato plants.
The kitchen should be back tomorrow. I hope that cooking thing is like riding a bicycle because I'm feeling a little wobbly right now.