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Thursday, December 31, 2009

crostini appetizer-- a foolproof formula

i know the holiday party season is coming to a close, but i can't resist posting about an appetizer/party food idea. in my oh-so-humble opinion, crostini with goat cheese is one of the best creations of all time. for one, as our friend scott once astutely observed, "goat cheese, like william shatner, makes everything better." but the true genius of goat cheese crostini is its versatility-- it can be an appetizer, part of a lunch or dinner antipasti spread, it can punctuate grilled veggie salad, and it can easily be topped with just about anything you can find in your fridge, pantry, or garden.

for my recent crostini appetizer plate, i started with a gorgeous, seedy baguette from tall grass bakery at the ballard farmers market. sliced and toasted the bread, smeared goat cheese on top, and searched in the fridge for other toppings. i had one leftover roasted golden beet and a bag of salad greens, both from full circle farm. i sliced the beet, picked the arugula out of the bag of greens, drizzled with some thick balsamic vinegar, and had a plate of appetizers ready to go.

for crostini toasts:

slice baguette.
brush both sides of slices with olive oil, and season with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
toast in oven at 350 for about 5 minutes, or grill until toasted.
slather on plenty of softened goat cheese.

for toppings, anything goes! depending on what's in season, here are some ideas:

slices of roasted beet, apples, pears, peaches, melons, figs, roasted peppers, or artichoke hearts
dried fruits like cranberries, dates, or apricots
berries, cranberries, olives, cherry tomatoes, ground cherries, capers, or nuts
prosciutto, pancetta, or smoked fish
chutney, marmalade, jam, tapenade, relish, or pesto
fresh herbs or greens, such as dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, chives, arugula, fennel, or watercress
edible flowers, like nasturtium, pansy, or allium (oh man, this would be BEAUTIFUL!)

final touch:

good quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, or finishing salt

i think the next one i'd like to try is fig and prosciutto with honey. when summer rolls back around, a halved cherry tomato with a dollop of pesto sounds spectacular. let me know your brilliant combination ideas!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

last day of fall, dec 20

oh fall, you always deliver. thank you for all that you are.

until we meet again,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

pork chops with cranberries-- delicious and easy!

i'm heading across the country to spend the holiday with my family tomorrow, but really wanted to get one more post out because... i found cranberries!! dance and prance of cranberry joy! it's not that i exactly adore cranberries, or even that i've done much cooking with them. it's that one winter night two years ago rob and i found a pork chops with cranberries recipe that we decided would be our perfect saturday night dinner, and then were completely deflated when we couldn't find cranberries anywhere. evidently, after the holidays have passed, grocers don't stock them-- not even frozen ones.

i had no idea cranberries grew around here, so was completely surprised to see the box of bright and happy, organic, marble-sized berries at the foraged and found edibles booth at the farmers market. such an unexpected find! i cooked them up with pork chops from skagit river ranch (seriously-- can these guys do anything wrong? i continue to be blown away by the quality of their meats...) and we finally had our cranberries and chops experience.

the only thing i changed was to serve with kale and mashed celery root instead of the chard. so good! the chops were juicy, buttery and briny (despite having not been brined!), while the berry sauce was rich, earthy, and sour. they were perfect together. the recipe is really easy, too. as evidence, i burned the crap out of my left hand when i grabbed the handle of the skillet that i'd just pulled out of the oven (let's hope i'll be a one-trial learner of that lesson...), but was able to finish the dish one-handed.

another couple of pounds of cranberries are now in my freezer. any suggestions for what to do with them next?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

balsamic-braised cipolline onions

like many of us, there was a time when i HATED onions. my poor parents had to sit across the dinner table and watch me pull every last tiny sliver of onion out of my bowl of chili for at least 10 years. "you can't even taste them!" they would say. but i was convinced they tasted like moths. (i don't know-- there's no explanation for it.)

now, not only does every dish i make begin with an onion saute, i seek, buy, braise, photograph, eat, swoon over, and blog about, whole onions.

these red lovelies are organic cipollines, a mild, sweet variety that has its origins in italy. it took me several weeks to finally decide on a menu where they could shine, and shine they did. a medium rare grass-fed top sirloin from skagit river ranch (one of the best pieces of beef i've had in a long time! such flavor...), brussels sprouts with cream and mustard (recipe from edible seattle), and a simple roasted delicata squash made up the plate.

balsamic cipolline onions
adapted from bon appetit, nov 1999

4 cipolline onions
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup beef stock
2 Tbps butter
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and fresh cracked pepper

blanch onions in boiling water 3 minutes. trim ends and peel.

whisk other ingredients together in skillet over medium heat. add onions and bring to a simmer. cover and cook 30-40 minutes, turning them over occasionally, until cooked through to desired tenderness. taste sauce and season with salt and pepper.

this is a relatively savory sauce as is-- add more sugar and balsamic for a sweeter, tangier sauce. last time i made them i left out the worcestershire, added more sugar and stewed everything with golden raisins-- totally delicious!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

gnocchi with romanesco and bacon. tastes good, looks cool.

i go to the farmers market every week with a list and an open mind. i'm usually planning on a couple of recipes for the week, and the other nights are to be filled with a tbd market surprise. inevitably something new and strange makes it home with us.

one such market discovery is romanesco. this gorgeous vegetable which rob and i call the "fractal fruit," abandoning accuracy in favor of alliteration, is similar to cauliflower in texture and taste. its architecture of spirals built of spirals built of spirals is absolutely hypnotizing.

best of all, it can be carved into a seussian tree. oh, to live in a grove of these!

it's terrific roasted with plenty of olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. it also makes a damn fine gnocchi sauce.

gnocchi with romanesco and bacon
serves 2

1/2 lb prepared gnocchi
1/2 head romanesco, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken (or veg) broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
3 slices of bacon, chopped

blanch romanesco for 5 minutes in boiling salted water. drain and reserve.

cook chopped bacon in skillet over medium heat to desired crispness, remove from pan and reserve. drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon fat from pan and return to heat. deglaze pan with wine, scraping up browned bits, and reduce 5 minutes. add broth and reduce 5-10 minutes. add cream and reduce slightly, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

add blanched romanesco to sauce and cover, cooking 10 minutes. stir in parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

cook gnocchi in boiling salted water until it floats. drain, and pan fry gnocchi lightly in butter. (frying is optional-- my latest gnocchi batch is a little loose and needs this step to firm it up. plus, i like the texture of the fried bits.)

serve gnocchi with sauce, bacon, and grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, December 4, 2009

homemade beef stock

i don't use a ton of beef stock, but it's necessary for french onion soup, which i make a lot of in winter, and it's useful in braising. while there are a couple of brands that i don't mind using off the shelf (pacific foods is one), i've been curious for a long time about homemade. i finally took the plunge last week.

it's easy, but unlike chicken stock, it takes forever. fooooreeeever. one full day of cooking, about 12 hours, and another hour the next day to skim, bag, and freeze. i'm hoping the results will be worth it-- i've tasted it, and it tastes great, but haven't tried cooking with it yet.

these lovely bones are from island grown farmers co-op. they were roasted with veggies and then simmered for about 11 hours. my yield was 6 cups plus 1 ice tray of stock.

homemade beef stock

3 lb meaty beef bones for soup
2 large carrots, chopped in big chunks
1-2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped in big chunks
1 medium onion, quartered, skin on
1 tsp peppercorns
lots of filtered water

preheat oven to 375 degrees. put bones in single layer in large roasting pan and roast uncovered 45 minutes. add carrots, onions, and celery to pan. roast another 45 minutes, uncovered. if bones or veggies begin to burn, remove from oven early.

remove veg and bones to large stock pot, about 12 quarts. cover with several quarts of filtered water-- i used around 6 quarts, i believe. use some of that water to deglaze the roasting pan, scraping up any browned bits, and pour the mixture into the stock pot. add the bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to an active simmer over medium heat. skim accumulated scum from the surface. reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered or partially covered, at a very low simmer (there should only be the occasional bubble coming up from the bottom of the pot) for 6-12 hours. skim fat and scum from the top every 30 minutes to 1 hour. do not stir.

start tasting at 3 hours cooking. it takes a long time to get a rich, beefy flavor, but it doesn't hurt to taste it every hour or so to see how it's going. at this point i started adding salt in small amounts, a teaspoon at a time, every hour. don't stir, but gently work salt in from the surface. (some recipes i've read do not call for salt, but i find it's easier to tell where i am flavor-wise if i add a bit if salt. don't add too much-- most salt will be added in the final recipe.)

if necessary, add water during cooking to keep bones covered.

when it is significantly reduced and tastes like what you want, remove from heat and pour through a cheesecloth-lined colander. let cool, and refrigerate over night.

as it cools the fat will rise to the top and solidify. underneath is a yummy, gelatinous, bronze stock. skim fat from the top and either use stock immediately or freeze.

cooking time varies depending on your desired result. it thickens and the flavor concentrates as it reduces. i learned a little too late that the bones (which i was absolutely pained to throw away-- they still looked so substantial!) can be reused to make a remouillage, a second, weaker stock that can be added to the next batch of beef stock instead of water, or can be used on it's own in soups. sigh. next time.

i'm happy with my first successful attempt. i'll let you know how it goes when i make my next onion soup!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

edible seattle "wants farmers to be as famous as rock stars," and i think that's rad.

this is my favorite magazine. with a focus on sustainability and conservation, it is dedicated to showcasing the food traditions and bounty of the puget sound region. but edible seattle is more than amazing recipes and utterly beautiful photography. each issue is a crisp farm visit, a damp foraging adventure in the woods, a mouthwatering kitchen-table chat with a baker, and a garden tour of what's in season. they profile local chefs, pie makers, turkeys, grappa, CSAs, family farms, wineries, fishers, ribeyes, mixologists, chocolate, cheese makers, doughnuts, cooking oils, food-based self-development programs, urban chickens, bistros, and artisans of all kinds... just when i think there's no locally-produced stone left to turn, a new issue arrives to prove me wrong. they also have book reviews, food-related news highlights, and an events calendar featuring everything from seafood feasts to tree plantings.

i'm telling you, any locavore/foodie in this area should be reading this magazine.

for locavores/foodies not in this area, you're in luck-- edible seattle is one of the edible communities publications, a group of over 50 magazines in the US (and a couple in canada) that "celebrate local foods, season by season." each one is dedicated to a unique culinary region, and each is started and created by people in that region for people in that region. that is to say, while the magazines all share a mission, they are not stamped out of a mold with a couple of key words and photos changed. they really are custom produced with all local information.

the usual suspects are included-- san francisco, boston, austin, portland, chicago, los angeles, nyc (manhattan, queens, and brooklyn)... but there are plenty you wouldn't expect-- there's edible bozeman, blue ridge, south shore (massachusetts), wow (southeastern michigan), hawaiian islands, metro and mountains (atlanta), and the list goes on.

so, if this sounds like your kind of thing, check it out! you can find the publications listed here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

triticale and fall vegetable salad with kale chips and squash seeds

in cold weather months i often have to remind myself to eat light. summer is easy-- i can eat a tomato with a dollop of cottage cheese and consider it a reasonable lunch. not so as the dark and rain settles in over puget sound. sometimes, though, it feels good to eat something clean, something to atone for all those cheesy casseroles and cream-based soups that i do so enjoy during fall and winter.

i discovered some fun whole grains at the farmers market the other day. nash's organic produce was selling 1 lb bags of wheat berries, rye berries, and triticale (trit-a-kay-lee), a hybrid of wheat and rye. i figured those raw grains would be a good way to have some light and clean meals that were robust enough to stand up to the 50-degree drizzle outside. plus, at $2 a pound, they were a total bargain.

i've only tried the triticale, and i'm sold. it's nutty, chewy, and has a slightly springy texture in your mouth. it is also a significant protein source, so vegetarians take note!

i made an easy salad using fall veg and topped it with very flavorful condiments of toasted squash seed and kale chips. season each layer well and you've got a seriously tasty, hearty salad. the triticale has to soak overnight, so get started on this one the night before. so good!

triticale and fall vegetable salad
(serves 2)

1 cup triticale
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1 carrot, chopped into 1" pieces
1 parsnip, chopped into 1" pieces
2 cups acorn squash, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes, seeds reserved
1/2 bunch kale, + 3-4 more leaves, tough stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped
1/2 cup + 1 Tbps balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp honey
spicy roasted acorn squash seeds (recipe follows)

rinse triticale, cover with water and soak overnight. drain and simmer in water or stock and 1/2 tsp salt for 1 hour. (there is no water-to-grain ratio as there is with rice. just cook it until it's done, and drain.)

heat oven to 350. toss the carrot, parsnip, and 3-4 leaves of chopped kale in olive oil, salt and pepper. roast 20 minutes until carrot and parsnip are cooked through and kale is crispy.

toss acorn squash in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until soft.

tent roasted vegetables to keep warm.

saute the remainder of the kale in olive oil until it begins to wilt. add 2 Tbps water or stock and 1 Tbps balsamic vinegar. cover to steam 2 minutes then cook uncovered, stirring, until wilted but still vibrant green. season with salt and pepper.

for the dressing, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the honey and 1/2 cup balsamic. cook over medium heat, stirring, until slightly reduced and syrupy.

to serve, divide kale onto two plates and top with drained triticale. pile the squash, carrot, and parsnip on top. spoon some of the dressing over, then top with the roasted kale chips and toasted squash seeds.

spicy toasted acorn squash seeds

1/2 cup fresh squash seeds
1 tsp melted butter
1//8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
fresh cracked pepper

clean and wash the seeds. (a method i heard about on the radio works well-- put seeds in a wire mesh strainer with some kosher salt and scrub. the salt acts as an abrasive as well as seasoning. rinse.)

dry seeds well on kitchen towel.

mix seeds with melted butter, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and move to a small roasting pan in a single layer.

cover with foil (as they cook, they pop out of the roasting pan!) and toast at 375 for 12 minutes.

don't skip the seeds and kale chips! they bring a great texture and salty punch to this salad.

the substitution possibilities are endless. rice, barley, quinoa, or other grains for the triticale, root vegetables, winter squashes or gourds for the roasted veg, any leafy green for the kale... roasted onions or shallots would also be welcomed additions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

spectacular winter minestrone

one january day in college i got it in my head that i wanted to make minestrone. i didn't, however, have a recipe and wasn't sure what to do about that fact. (this was pre-internet-- for me, anyway.) when i arrived home from class that very afternoon i found the apartment complex monthly newsletter hanging on my doorknob. on page 3 was a recipe, presented by a corpulent, cartoon italian chef, for a warm and cozy escape from the january inclemency-- minestrone. sweet!

i headed out to the store immediately with my grocery list of fresh vegetables. carrots, celery, even a whole head of cabbage, for pete's sake-- i was thrilled to get home and make honest-to-god food out of these colorful raw ingredients.

sadly, the recipe was terrible. i wasn't savvy enough to realize it in advance, and was too new to cooking to know how to improve it. (now i know that 11 cups of water, chopped veg, and no seasoning does not a good soup make...) even worse, it was a bad recipe that made an ENORMOUS amount.

still, i've learned when the minestrone itch strikes, it must not be ignored. it can't be ignored. in fact, the universe wants you to have minestrone. i got a craving last weekend and this time i found a fantastic recipe. one thing that makes minestrone such a special soup is that it can always be made with what's in season, and this one, with winter veggies, is phenomenal.

i was able to get almost everything i needed from the stoney plains farm booth at the farmers market, including the cannellini beans. the bacon (the best in the world, as far as i'm concerned) is from skagit river ranch. the tomatoes and chicken stock came from my freezer.

adapted from gourmet, january 2009

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2 small carrots, chopped
2 small ribs celery, chopped with leaves
1/2 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups (or 14 oz can) diced or whole tomatoes
3-4 cups homemade chicken stock (or water)
1/2 small cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 rind from a parmesan wedge, about 2x2"
1 cup dried cannellini beans (or 1 14 oz can)
2 cups cooked ditalini pasta

if using dried beans:
sort beans and throw out non-bean material (rocks, sticks...). rinse, and soak overnight. drain, rinse, and cook in plenty of water, simmering until cooked, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. start checking them after 20 minutes to make sure they don't overcook. drain and set aside.

cook bacon, onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat in a heavy-bottom soup pot until bacon is cooked through. it won't be crispy. (i added no fat to this recipe at all-- the bacon was plenty.)

cut the stems off of the kale and chop. chop and reserve leaves. add kale stems to pot with garlic, and season with salt and pepper. cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or so. (the original recipe calls for a 45 minute cook time here, but i was afraid to burn the garlic.)

push vegetables to one side of the pot and add tomato paste to the cleared area and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. (original recipe calls for a browning or caramelizing of the tomato paste, but i was unsure what that exactly meant, so i just cooked it for 2 minutes.)

stir in tomatoes with their juice and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

add chicken stock, parmesan rind, chopped kale leaves, and chopped cabbage. cover and simmer until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.

add beans to soup, taste, and season with salt and pepper. simmer about 10 minutes longer.

stir cooked ditalini pasta into each bowl and serve with a loaf of fresh bread.

this soup is a bona fide remedy for a cold and rainy day. it's hearty, incredibly flavorful, and the bacon makes it a true comfort dish.

i made my substitutions and tweaks, but you should definitely read the original recipe. it's the kind that you can make over and over, making your own personal improvements on it, until one day you've got a special family recipe that you'll teach your grandkids. seriously.

Monday, November 23, 2009

acorn squash ravioli with orange-balsamic sauce

christmas '06 was spent with my cousin's family in florida. aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins and kids all descended on her home on florida's gulf coast. it was the first time our family had experienced a destination holiday and for a person of inferior temperamental fortitude the pressure could have caused an ulcer. i mean, hosting christmas is a big deal, right?

just before christmas dinner, my cousin, our hostess, pulled a beautiful bronze turkey out of the oven and moved it to a glass platter which, tragically, had been placed on the stove on a burner that was hot. when she picked up the platter to bring it to the table it shattered, and that gorgeous bird thudded to the floor in a pile of broken glass. she looked at it, stunned, for approximately 3 seconds then called to her daughter, "go get the camera!"

i wish i had her attitude in the kitchen. truly. but most of the time, i do not. where she saw family-christmas history in the making and requested it be documented, i would have walked straight out the door and tossed myself off a bridge.

our friend tristan came to visit recently and wanted to spend one evening making ravioli. he'd brought 4 darling little acorn squash from his garden which we determined would make a sublime ravioli filling. i searched around and decided on
this recipe from, primarily because it featured an orange and balsamic sauce. (i like sauce!)

i started on dinner and began to notice that the process was not going exactly as i'd pictured it. the dough was sticky and squirrelly, there seemed to be entirely too little filling-- it wasn't long before these worries became audible as i started muttering. "the dough isn't right..." "we're going to run out of squash..."

rob, tristan, and our other dinner guest were busily chatting away in the kitchen but would periodically hear my mutterings and interject with a casual and light rebuttal. "mmm, this looks great." "that's plenty of filling-- you know, in restaurants you get 4 giant raviolis with, like, a teaspoon each of filling in them." "nuh-uh, these nuts aren't overtoasted-- they're just right!" i decided the path of least resistance was to take their word for it, and so i soldiered on. tris jumped in to help put the ravs together, then i cooked and served. and you know what? they were right. there was just enough filling, the dough was great, and the nuts were exactly what the dish needed. it was delicious. it was, in fact, so good that i made it again the next week.

so, as a tribute to people everywhere who keep their cool in the kitchen, and to those who help me keep mine, i bring you acorn squash ravioli with orange-balsamic sauce.

acorn squash ravioli with pecans and orange-balsamic sauce
serves 2

for ravioli:

1 batch fresh pasta dough (williams sonoma recipe here)
1/2 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed (or other winter squash)
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch nutmeg
2 to 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (or other nut)

for sauce:

juice from 1 orange
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp butter

rub squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. bake at 375 degrees, cut-side down, until soft, 45-60 minutes.

cool squash and scoop out flesh. heat olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan and cook garlic just until fragrant, 1 minute or so. add squash to pan and cook, stirring, until the squash dries out a bit, about 10 minutes. remove from heat and stir in parmesan, pecans, nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. let cool.

roll dough out into sheets (lowest setting on the pasta machine, if using one) and allow to dry out for about 15 minutes. cut the sheets into lengths twice the size of the finished ravioli. as in, for a 3x3" ravioli, cut dough to about 3x6". add 1-2 teaspoons of filling to one end of the dough strip. moisten edges with your finger dipped in water, and fold the dough over the filling, matching up the edges. press with the tines of a fork to seal and make cute little ruffles. (tristan showed me this trick!)

(the fold-over is my latest fill-em-up method because i find it easy, but you should obviously do whatever you want. cookie cutter, ravioli mold, rim of a glass, full sheets...)

place finished raviolis on a sheet of well-floured parchment paper and don't let them touch each other or they will stick together. (lesson learned.)

to make the sauce, combine the orange juice, brown sugar and balsamic and simmer until slightly reduced. remove from heat and stir in butter.

cook the raviolis in small batches (again, get too many in the pot and they will stick together) in a large pot of boiling salted water. they will float to the surface when ready, about 3 to 4 minutes.

serve with the sauce and garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette

it's funny how much the inventory at the farmers market changes in just a few short fall weeks. heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and zucchini give way to storage potatoes, variegated maize, and butternut squash. one of the fall stand-outs for me lately has been the pears. they are beautiful and plentiful and i can basically eat my way through the market by happily accepting samples from farmers showcasing the many varieties and flavors offered in the pears they've grown. i never know what i'm going to do with them when i make the purchase, but somehow i can't leave the market these last couple of weeks without an armful.

the first use for a pear was to slice it into a salad. pear on salad is wonderful, but i was certain the idea could be jazzed up a bit. my recipe search turned up one from chef albert breuers for a poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette. i love poached pear, but had only had it as a dessert. this recipe was a delicious eye-opener.

(i followed the recipe almost exactly, though made a few minor substitutions and changed amounts to make a salad for 2.)

poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette

for poached pears:

2 pears, any variety, peeled with stem left intact
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 3-inch section lemon peel, yellow part only
1 3-inch section orange peel, orange part only
1 cinnamon stick

add all ingredients to small stockpot and bring to a boil. (may need to add more wine and water if the pears are not covered by the cooking liquid, or, as i did, turn them over a few times during the cooking.) reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, then remove from heat and cool. reserve poaching liquid for vinaigrette.

for vinaigrette:

1 poached pear
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup poaching liquid from the pears
salt and pepper to taste

remove stem and seeds from poached pear and puree in blender or food processor. add to bowl with vinegar and poaching liquid and add oil slowly in a stream while whisking to emulsify. taste and season with salt and pepper. (can be refrigerated up to 1 week.)

for salad:

lettuce of your choosing (i used a salad mix of red and green lettuces, chard, arugula)
pear viniagrette (recipe above)
2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (i prefer oregon rogue river blue)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1 poached pear (recipe above)

mix salad greens with vinaigrette, top with 1/2 poached pear, cheese, and toasted pecans.

this salad is flawless. the pear and vinaigrette are just sweet enough, the nuts and cheese balance them perfectly, and it's a smart way to sneak more fruit into your diet by having pureed pear in the dressing. i even saved the leftover poaching liquid and simmered it on the stove for a little while the next day. it made the house smell like pear-vanilla heaven, and if i'd taken it off the stove in time it would have been a perfect syrup over something yummy-- ice cream?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

cauliflower and onion tart

yesterday, i decided i wanted a tart. a cauliflower tart, to be precise. i'd never made one before but felt that the leftover meatball soup in the fridge at least had dinner covered in the event of tart failure. none of the recipes i found were exactly what i had in mind so i took some ideas from different sources and set out on my own. the result was absolutely delicious! the crust was buttery and crispy and the filling was rich but not heavy. exactly what i wanted.

i served with kale sauted with apple and onion. the hint of curry flavor was really nice, though it is easy to get mushy apples so add them late in the cooking time.

our tart was tiny, so these amounts will need to be adjusted for anything larger than a 6" casserole dish!

cauliflower and onion tiny tart for two

1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter
1 1/2 T ice water (or more)
1/2 T whipping cream

cut butter into 1/2" cubes. add to food processor with flour and salt. using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. add ice water and cream. process just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoons if dough is dry. gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. can be made 2 days ahead. keep chilled. soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out. (i ended up using half of the dough and am saving the rest for a pear or apple tart later in the week.)

for filling:

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 medium to small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp butter
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 cup hard swiss cheese, like gruyere, grated
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/8 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
olive oil

toss cauliflower florets and garlic cloves with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and season with plenty of salt and pepper. roast uncovered at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until they are soft, golden, and beginning to char. (incidentally, this is my favorite way to eat cauliflower-- it's as good as potato chips...)

meanwhile, heat small pan with a couple of tablespoons olive oil over low to medium heat. add onions and cook, stirring often, for 40 minutes or until they are caramelized. if they start to crisp or burn, turn down the heat. they should be almost gooey when ready. add white wine and butter to pan and cook until reduced. remove from heat.

roll out dough to fit your pie pan or casserole dish. lay it in, repairing any tears by smushing the dough back together, and trim tops. the dough shrinks down, so trim it a half-inch or so higher than you think you'll need. pierce dough with a fork and line with foil. add pie weights (can use a cup of dried rice or beans) and cook 20 minutes at 350 degrees. remove foil and weights and cook 5 minutes longer.

to assemble, brush bottom of cooked pastry with mustard, then fill with cauliflower and top with onions and thyme. mix gruyere and whipping cream and season with salt and pepper. spoon over the vegetables. top with grated parmesan cheese.

bake at 350, uncovered, until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 lb kale, tough stems and ribs removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water

Peel, quarter, and core apple, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges.
Heat oil in a 5-quart pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add apple and curry powder and sauté, stirring, until apple is almost tender, about 2 minutes.
Add kale and water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender and most of liquid is evaporated, about minutes.
Season with salt.

this made a great dinner, and i can easily see it as a part of a fall lunch or brunch spread as well. i can also imagine tons of different vegetable and cheese combinations, depending on the whim of the tart maker. so good!

Friday, November 6, 2009

roasted chicken with fall vegetables

there are 3 key reasons why i like roasting a whole chicken. the first is that it reminds me of what henery hawk sees in foghorn leghorn. the second is that it's an easy one-pan endeavor that will feed a couple of people for a couple of days. third, i get 3-4 quarts of stock from the bones.

on my most recent re-examnation of my diet i gave some extra thought to eating meat. i've always been an omnivore, with some restrictions in place, but after learning more and more about the impact that the meat industry has on the environment and on our health, it turned my stomach one too many times.

but, i like meat. i like chicken. i like steak and bacon. i decided on a compromise-- that i would buy meat from local farms, and, since the local stuff is more expensive, buy less of it. as a result we eat more vegetarian meals which, according to current dietary and environmental analysis, is not a bad thing at all.

but anyway-- back to the chicken...

this organic pastured bird came from stokesberry farms in olympia, washington. it cost around $5/lb, which at 3.44 lbs is not cheap. even so, 20 bucks for dinner for two people for at least two nights is not bad. figure in the 20 bucks worth of stock i get from the bones and the math starts to look pretty good.

i've consulted many different recipes over the years and usually combine aspects of each one to cook a bird. the most recent i found incorporated fresh bay leaves under the skin of the breast so i decided to throw that method into the mix this time.

my understanding about tying up the bird is that it holds the wings and thighs in close to the body so that everything cooks evenly. but i don't really know. sometimes i don't ask questions, i just do what i'm told. (to be clear, this only applies in the kitchen.) i couldn't find string at our local grocery, but the butcher there was kind enough to give me about 20 yards of hers.

roasted chicken with fall vegetables

  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, plus extra sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 whole roasting chicken
  • 2 carrots, chopped in 1" thick pieces
  • 2 parsnips, chopped in 1" thick pieces
  • 2 waxy potatoes such as yukon gold, chopped in chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped in chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, left whole or cut in half
  • (other vegetables can be substituted: turnips, celery root, etc.)
  • 8 cloves garlic, left whole

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup (about) chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix first 4 ingredients in bowl. Rinse chicken; pat dry. Separate the skin from the breast meat and insert fresh bay leaves. Place chicken in roasting pan. Rub garlic-thyme oil over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place lemon, 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme in cavity of chicken. Tie legs with string. (from Tyler's Ultimate roasted chicken recipe: Using 2 3-foot pieces of kitchen twine, tie up the chicken: Tuck the wing tips between the wings and the body. Put the midpoint of the twine under the chicken, bring the ends up and around the wings, and pull them tight against the body. Bring the ends of the twine up underneath the legs, wrap the string around them, pull the legs together, and tie them tightly.)
Roast chicken 20 minutes. Remove from oven and add vegetables to pan, except the mushrooms.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Roast chicken until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of inner thigh registers 180°F, about 1 hour 15 minutes, adding mushrooms to the pan about 20-30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Lift chicken and tilt slightly, emptying juices from cavity into saute pan. Tent chicken with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Add wine to pan with juices from chicken and veggies; place over high heat. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Add enough chicken broth to cup to measure 1 1/2 cups. Whisk flour into broth mixture. Boil broth mixture until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season pan-juice mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and vegetables, passing pan-juice mixture separately.

i'd never worked with fresh bay before-- SO fragrant! maybe even too fragrant. it was still great-- chicken pretty much tastes like chicken-- but i suspect the bay treatment is best when there aren't a lot of other flavors competing with it. still, an absolutely excellent several meals. the pan gravy can be skipped, but it is delicious and adds a lot to the dish, and it's especially useful when you're having the leftovers. yum!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

butternut squash and apple soup

i've found a new cache of online recipes. it's from pcc natural markets in seattle, "the largest consumer-owned natural food co-operative in the United States." they are dedicated to offering all natural, organic, sustainably produced, and when possible, local products, and when i can't get to the farmers market they are the next best thing. i was poking around on their website recently and came across the recipes section. it's enormous and not entirely friendly to use-- there's no option to search by an ingredient, for example. however, while i don't love the search function, their butternut squash and apple soup recipe has reserved them a spot on my list of go-to sites for finding fun ways to make use of the ubiquitous and impatient pile of produce on our kitchen table.

click here for the recipe--butternut squash and apple soup

i followed the suggestion to roast the squash first, and was a little shy with the coconut milk as i was worried about the flavor going in the direction of piña colada. this soup was absolutely stunning-- beautiful, fragrant, and savory, with a hint of sweetness from the apples and just a touch of tingly spice from the fresh ginger. and, bonus, it's a soup that successfully uses water instead of stock which is good because i'm almost out. we had it with cider-brined pork chops simmered in an apple-mustard cream sauce, and a smashed potato and bacon hash. perfection.

*UPDATE: they were clearly in the process of making changes, because a couple of weeks after this post the PCC markets recipe section had been completely revamped. nice!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

pickled green tomatoes (or, first foray into canning...)

i'm sure this will come as a complete surprise, but it's raining in seattle. i knew it was coming, of course, and i felt like i was in a race against the weather to get my tomatoes harvested before the rains came and changed everything. my plants had been sluggish all summer, then suddenly in late august bloomed and set a ton of fruit. i knew only a few would have the chance to color up before the cold and wet made them unhappy. i was able to bring in a table full, but at least that many more were small, solid green, and no where near ready to color. i pulled them inside with the expectation that most of the big guys will ripen (i've got 6 bright red brandywines awaiting my attention right now!) or be fried, but was puzzled by the still green sungolds, a cherry variety. what do you do with green cherry tomatoes? i started looking online, wondering if they could be fried like the big ones, but learned that the breading won't stick to whole tomatoes, and that the little buggers might get too hot inside and explode. exploded tomatoes aren't useful. then i found my answer-- they can be pickled! terrific idea! i wasn't sure what one ultimately does with pickled green tomatoes, but also figured i had little to lose in finding out.

there was one problem-- i had never canned anything, and was unwilling to strike out on my own considering one of the possible consequences of getting it wrong is death. so i turned once again to the trusty interweb and searched for canning classes in seattle, fully expecting that the big canning-lesson season was over. however, i actually found a class meeting 3 days later, on a saturday, in my very neighborhood! registration was over, and the write-up said the 16 spots would fill up fast, but i emailed anyway on the off-chance that one was still open. that friday i received my answer-- there had been a cancellation, and i could take that spot.

i'm not historically one to get all sappy about "community" and that sort of thing, but oh my god, we had SO MUCH FUN. it was educational, for sure, and spending time in the kitchen with experienced canners was invaluable. but even aside from everything i learned, just bustling about with 15 other women representing about a 40-year range in ages was absolutely delightful. we were processing 4 different recipes, some for us to take home and the rest for the soup kitchen. there were a dozen huge pots of water boiling at any given time, a dishwasher sterilizing jars, ladels and hot syrupy mixtures and a bunch of women rushing around through the steam to get recipes made and jars processed ("lids! i need LIDS!"). had there not been so many people there who knew what they were doing, it could have been complete pandemonium. it was a great time, with great people, and i left all aglow with a feeling of accomplishment on a number of levels.

first thing i did after was buy some basic canning supplies (jar lifter, wide-mouth funnel, and extra lids) and then start looking up recipes for pickled green cherry tomatoes. one thing i learned in my class is that you can trust anything that ball tells you, but until you are really experienced it's best to avoid other sources. thankfully, ball had a recipe for me.

dilled green tomatoes
yield 6 pints

5 lbs small, firm green tomatoes
1/4 cup canning salt (or kosher-- not iodized)
3 1/2 cups vinegar
3 1/2 cups water
6 or 7 cloves garlic
6 or 7 heads fresh dill
6 or 7 bay leaves

wash tomaotes, drain. core tomatoes and cut into halves or quarters. (i left mine whole as i was using cherries.) combine salt, vinegar, and water in a large saucepot. bring to a boil.

pack tomatoes into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. add 1 clove garlic, 1 head of dill (2 tsp dill seeds) and 1 bayleaf to each jar. (i also added a sliver of jimmy nardello pepper from our garden, for color.)

ladle hot liquid over tomatoes, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. remove air bubbles. adjust 2-piece caps. process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

i adjusted the recipe according to how many tomatoes i had, and packed in 1/2 pint jars. i'm in the mood to can everything i see, but have found that my pot is too shallow to easily maintain 1-2" of water over the tops of the jar lids. i'll have to buy a bigger pot. meanwhile, how very liberating to know that i'm able to can high-acid foods!

here are the recipes we made in the class. i worked on the fennel relish and it tasted amazing! our instructor said it is particularly good on fish. i haven't tasted the others yet, but can't wait to open up some bright early fall flavors one dark winter day.

apple cider jelly

3 cups apple cider
2 sticks cinnamon, broken in half
4 cloves
3 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (or dry pectin made liquid by following the directions on the box-- 3/4 cup water per packet, i think...)

bring apple cider, cloves and cinnamon to a boil, covered. reduce by a third, about 5-10 minutes. remove cinnamon and cloves, reserving cinnamon sticks. add sugar and bring to a boil. stir in pectin and return to a full boil. boil one minute, stirring constantly.

place reserved cinnamon sticks in jars. ladle hot jelly into jars and process 10 minutes.

fennel relish (she said this is really good on fish!)

2 bulbs fennel, bulbs and stems chopped, fronds removed for another use
1 lb sweet onion, chopped
2 Tbsp pickling salt
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
2 c vinegar
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp basil (optional) or 2 Tbsp citrus zest (optional)

combine fennel, onion, and salt in non-reactive bowl. in large pot combine vinegar, sugar, and cracked pepper. bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. add fennel-onion mixture and cook until softened. the mixture should thicken slightly. stir in garlic and optional spices. fill jars leaving 1/2 inch headroom. process 10 minutes. makes 4 cups.

pickled beets

10-15 small beets
2 c vinegar
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
1 c sliced onions
2 tsp pickling salt
1 tsp mustard seeds

wash and trim beets. boil 25-40 minutes, or roast until tender, 45-60 minutes. peel and cut into bite-sized pieces.

combine sugar, vinegar, and water in pan and bring to a boil. dissolve sugar, then reduce to a simmer.

place beets and onions in alternating layers in jars. distribute the mustard seeds between jars and pour vinegar mixture over beets leaving 1/2" headroom. process 30 minutes in pint jars. (look up processing time for beets in quart jars-- it will be longer!)

pickled artichoke hearts

1 lemon
8 cups water
16 small/baby artichokes
3 c vinegar
1 c water
2 tsp pickling salt
2 Tbsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 bay leaf

fill non-reactive bowl with water. slice lemon and squeeze into water. rinse artichokes. starting at the base, bend tough outer leaves back and snap off where they break naturally, leaving tender inner leaves. using small sharp knife, trim outside of base until no dark green areas remain. cut artichoke in half or quarters depending on size. place in lemon water.

combine remaining ingredients in sauce pan. bring to boil.

place artichokes in jars. pour vinegar mixture into jars, making sure to distribute spices evenly. process 15 minutes in pint jars.