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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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

sweet potato gnocchi with apple cider sauce-- super good, and super easy!

late last summer rob and i were having dinner at a fantastic little joint in portland called justa pasta. the leaves were beginning to change, the days were getting shorter, and i was excitedly describing a new recipe i'd found using fall ingredients that were soon to be available. i'd been trolling blogs for recipes and found a sweet potato gnocchi with apple cider sauce that sounded divinely autumnal-- i couldn't wait to try it out. for some reason, however, i never did. so when the leaves started changing this year, i added apple cider and sweet potatoes to my shopping list and brought them home the first day they were both available at the farmers market.

in truth, i don't know if i bought sweet potatoes or yams. the sign said sweet potatoes, but these look kinda yammy to me. but whatevs-- they totally did the job. also, after a year had passed i had no idea where i'd seen the sweet potato gnocchi with apple cider sauce, so i made a gnocchi from and served it with reduced apple cider and apples.

sweet potato gnocchi with apple cider sauce
from sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage, bon appetit

  • 2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork

  • 1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 tart apple, sliced

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet.
Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
(this is where i strayed from the recipe, though in retrospect my changes were completely unnecessary.)

pan fry the cooked gnocchi in small batches in butter until golden.

in a small separate pan, add 2 cups apple cider and one tart apple, sliced. simmer over medium heat until the cider reduces by about half and the apples break down. stir in a small pat of butter.

serve gnocchi hot with a drizzle of the sauce.

rob commented that it tasted like candy, and it really was quite a sweet treat. this could easily be repurposed into some kind of semi-savory dessert with vanilla bean ice cream or something. i had a few leftovers the next day for lunch with just a little melted butter and it was still amazing. next time i will probably save the cider for drinking since it's so spectacularly tasty.

a few tips:

the recipe says to drain the ricotta for 2 hours, but i didn't build two hours into my prep time so i put it in cheesecloth and squeezed as much moisture out as i could.

the sweet potato flesh is very fibrous which i suspected would not contribute to a smooth dough. i processed the sweet potato and ricotta together in the food processor to get an even consistency.

after mixing the sweet potato and ricotta, remove to a bowl to add the flour. don't add the flour to the food processor mixture or the dough will become overworked and hard. i found that i used only about half of the flour the recipe calls for-- just enough to get it to the point that it's no longer sticky.

this is a really forgiving gnocchi dough, i discovered. it was easy to get the consistency i wanted and the dumplings held up perfectly when cooked. i fried them in a non-stick pan because i've become so accustomed to my other potato gnocchi beginning to break down in the boil and then sticking maddeningly to the saute pan, but i don't think these even needed that safeguard.

the recipe made enough that i was able to freeze another meal's worth. freeze in a single layer (not touching) before boiling, and then transfer to a freezer bag or container. when you're ready, they can go straight from the freezer into a pot of boiling water and will be ready in about 5 minutes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

eat the greens!

it was about two years ago that i began to learn that the tops of root vegetables are edible. i grew up eating turnip greens, but as my mother recently pointed out we didn't eat the turnip. so the idea that both the roots and the tops are food came as a bit of a surprise. it started when i got a box of vegetables from a farmer who would bring his goods to our office. there were beets with greens attached in the box, and when i questioned their usefulness two of my colleagues insisted "yes! yes!" and then talked excitedly over each other about how best to enjoy them. i had to experiment for a while before i found my favorite beet greens recipe, which turns out to be roasted beets sliced over the greens which have been wilted in olive oil and a little water, served warm with a lemon vinaigrette and crumbled blue cheese. absolutely delicious.

this past spring i tried radishes for the first time. i'd only really experienced them on salads and was not impressed, but they were one of the first things available in the farmers markets so i decided to give them a go. when i asked the guy working the full circle farm booth what i should be looking for, he mentioned that the greens were edible so i should be checking for healthy looking radishes as well as their tops.

given that my experiences with "the tops are edible" were mounting, i'm not sure why it was such a shock for me to overhear at the market a couple of weeks ago that carrot greens are edible as well. farmers at the market are always asking if they can remove the tops for their carrot-buying customers, and have a huge pile behind them overflowing from a cardboard box. one farmer even asked if i wanted to donate the tops to her chickens. i suppose i assumed, based on those experiences, that the greens are good for chickens or for compost back on the farm, but not for eating. i was wrong! and now, in the interest of my "use the whole beast" sensibilities, i'm looking for ways to use carrot greens in my menus.

i got started by pinching off bits of the greens and tasting them, finding the raw flavor familiar but not quite able to place it. i remembered that i have a rainbow chard plant in the backyard that was never able to produce enough to use before the critters would get to it, but which has steadily had 3-5 small leaves on it since june. i snapped off a leaf of chard and tasted it along with the raw carrot greens-- that was it! they taste like chard, only a little bit milder. if that's the case, they can be used anyplace chard is, or any other green as far as i'm concerned.

my first try was a simple preparation i sometimes use with kale. i wilted them in olive oil with a little salt, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a dash of red pepper flakes. they were okay, but the stems are pretty tough and chewy, and i realized that i need to be more careful with the prep and pull off just the feathery leaves. i also noted that they are hearty and don't cook down and disappear like some greens do.

now that i had the basic texture and flavor down, i wanted to see if i could turn them into a reasonable side dish. i removed more of the stemmy material this time and sauted them with caramelized onions, then added some golden raisins and port. i thought it was delicious, and though rob went for the flavor, he noted that the texture was still chewy. i'll try and remove even more stems on the next go-round.

carrot greens with onions and raisins
(2 servings)

2 cups carrot greens, leaves only, washed and still a little wet
1/2 cup thin sliced onion
2 small garlic cloves
olive oil
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp port
1 Tbsp hot water
salt and pepper

saute onions in olive oil over medium low heat until very soft and beginning to caramelize, without browning, about 15 minutes. add garlic and cook about 1 minute. add carrot greens and a pinch of salt and cook until wilted. add a bit of water if necessary.

meanwhile, put raisins in a bowl and add port and hot water. allow to plump up for 5 minutes or so.

add raisins and soak liquid to the carrot greens and onions and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the liquid is reduced. adjust seasonings and serve warm.

i really liked the carrot greens and raisins dish, but wanted to find more ways to get use out of these carrot tops.

i decided to make a soup i'd been curious about, adding a carrot and substituting carrot greens for spinach. between the tahini, cumin and cream, this soup had some curry-like qualities and a really interesting flavor that we both liked a lot.

garlic, chickpea, and carrot green soup
(serves 4)

modified from linda fraser's garlic, chickpea, and spinach soup from the great encyclopedia of vegetarian cooking

1 cup dried chickpeas
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrot greens, stems removed
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
salt and pepper

sort chickpeas and throw out any foreign matter. rinse, and soak overnight in fridge in large pot of water. cook in soak water at a low boil for 45 minutes to an hour, until cooked but not mushy. pour off cooking water and set chickpeas aside.

in soup pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent. stir in cumin and paprika and cook for a minute longer.

pour in stock, and add chopped potatoes and carrots. bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. add chickpeas and simmer 5-10 minutes more until vegetables and chickpeas are tender.

in separate bowl, blend together cornstarch, cream, and tahini. add salt and pepper to mixture to make sure it is well seasoned. stir mixture into soup, and add carrot greens. bring to a boil, stirring, and simmer a few minutes until soup thickens and carrot greens are wilted. taste and season with salt and pepper, adjusting other seasonings as necessary. serve with crusty bread, or perhaps even try with basmati rice?

i'll continue to experiment, but it seems the take-away for now is that carrot greens are a reasonable substitute for others. this is welcome news now that i can save my carrot tops from the compost bin, and even save a few bucks here and there on chasing down some other kind of leafy green. i think they'll be especially useful in soups where their stemmier parts are able to cook down and soften. let me know if you have any ideas!

note: i read in a few places that some people are allergic to the greens of carrots, so anyone who has bad reactions should obviously steer clear!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


i love the carrot scene at the farmers markets (or "carrost," as we call them, thanks to a canadian animated short called "the big snit"). nothing quite says "fresh from the farm" like dirty carrots all heaped up on tables with their feathery green plumes still attached. before i developed a borderline unhealthy obsession with farmers markets, i saw carrots as largely utilitarian. i used them for soup stocks, in chicken pie and beef stew, that kind of thing. i never thought of them as particularly special or exciting. i had no idea how many varieties were out there, or how beautiful they could be outside of that plastic bag being spritzed with safeway-generated "morning dew" every 4 minutes, or whittled down into cute uniform sizes with a lathe and labeled "baby." they come in incredible colors and patterns-- orange, red, yellow, purple, even speckled and striped. and they are all different shapes and sizes-- fat, skinny, stubby, or twisted where they grew around a rock in the soil. they hooked me. they dragged me in.

so, now that i had the carrots i had to figure out what to do with them. i wanted to give them more of a starring role than they would generally have in my kitchen (plus i didn't want purple soup stock) but wasn't in the mood to roast. hm.

well, they make a totally tasty snack. i'd compare the taste to those in the grocery, but i'd have to try them side by side. my taste buds don't have enough of a raw carrot memory for me to speak to the difference in taste. but i know this-- they look cooler. (aren't they gorgeous?)

they were pretty shredded for a green salad, but i was still lacking real inspiration for a dish. then it occurred to me, admittedly mostly out of curiosity about what color it would be, that the carrots would make a fun soup. and since i had a baseball sized chunk of butternut squash in the fridge, it got thrown in the pot too.

carrot and butternut squash soup
(serves 2)

4 small to medium carrots, chopped into 1/2 coins
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed about the same size as the carrots
1/2 small sweet onion, chopped
3 cups chicken or veggie broth
1/4-1/2 tsp allspice
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cardamom
grating of nutmeg
pinch salt

cook onion in soup pot in olive oil until softened. add carrots and squash and saute 5 minutes. add broth and simmer until veggies are softened, about 30 minutes. remove soup to blender and puree until completely smooth.

return to pot and begin adding spices. i don't remember how much of anything i added-- the 1/4-1/2 tsp is my best guess! i added a small amount of allspice and cardamom and tasted, adding tiny bits more until it seemed right. then grated in a little nutmeg for good measure. i believe i also added a pinch or two of salt.

this was a good soup! rob liked it better than i did-- i prefer savory flavors to the earthiness of allspice and cardamom, but those flavors worked great with the carrots and squash. and it did turn out to be quite a curious color-- purplish brown with an orange tint. who knew such a color even existed?

Friday, October 9, 2009

from one peanut farmer to another...

one of my favorite things about where i grew up is that jimmy and rosalynn carter grew up there too. i believe them to be two of history's genuine heros and i am proud to be a product of the south georgia county that helped make them the great part-of-the-solution they both are. i was 3 when carter was elected and 6 when he left office, so my first awareness of the president and first lady was also of two people from 10 miles down the road. how cool is that?

rob and i went in june to my hometown so he could meet my family and see the somewhat fascinating little place i'd come from. we toured plains, home of jimmy and rosalynn, and also visited carter's boyhood farm in nearby archery. (incidentally, if you live in the area and haven't been to the farm, GO. it's incredibly well done. but don't go in june during a mind-numbing heat wave like we did...) there's a little shop of curiosities in downtown plains which sells buttons from carter's 1976 presidential campaign. they were evidently found in the upstairs of one of the old buildings used as campaign HQ. i bought one and stuck it on my grocery-carrying backpack and started calling the pack "jimmy."

i rarely leave the house without jimmy. we go everywhere together-- farmers markets, grocery stores, the corner cafe a couple of blocks away... one day i was loading jimmy up with about 10 pounds of corn at the farmers market when the guy working the alvarez farms booth commented that he liked my button. i responded as i always do, by standing up tall and saying brightly, "he's from my home county!" smiling, the guy reached into a box by his feet and pulled up a giant bunch of raw peanuts grown on his farm, a reminder that jimmy carter and peanuts are inextricably linked. but seeing those dusty legumes also triggered a salty southern food memory i had been in danger of forgetting-- boiled peanuts!

i love boiled peanuts (pronounced "bawld" if you're into authenticity). they are salty, earthy goodness, and some of the ones with the thicker shells even get kinda sweet. i looked around online to see if i could uncover how boiling peanuts became a southern tradition and found several references to them having been a high-protein ration for confederate soldiers towards the end of the civil war when bread and meat were scarce. now you find them at rural roadside stands with the words "boiLed P-nuTs" spray painted on tattered plywood signs. (that's how you know they're good.)

my family's annual boiled peanuts experience would begin with my dad pulling in the driveway with the bed of the truck filled with nuts still on the plant. he'd wash 'em, boil 'em half the day, and freeze 'em to be eaten throughout football season. my operation was on a much smaller scale-- since i'd never made them before, i started with one pound and an email to dad for instructions.

boiled peanuts

1 lb raw (aka green) peanuts (NOT roasted or otherwise cooked or processed)
1/2 cup salt
lots of water
big ol' pot

wash peanuts thoroughly. throw 'em in a pot with the salt and lots of water. bring to a low rolling boil, cover and cook roughly 4 hours. taste at 3 hours and add more salt if necessary. they should come out of the shell easily, and the texture should be like an undercooked pinto bean. enjoy.

i'm planning to make more and freeze them for when i have moments of missing home. it's fun for me to bring the south into my seattle kitchen, which is good since i don't really have a choice. even working on this post i looked around the desk and realized i was eating boiled peanuts and drinking sweet tea from a mason jar. i'm not kidding. there's no mistaking where this girl comes from.

psst! hey angela! your heritage is showing...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

beef stroganoff, hold the beef

the motivation behind our move from portland to seattle was simple-- rob's job was here, and i no longer had a job anywhere. since i was unemployed and therefore home all day, i got to be the one who essentially unpacked and put the house together.

it was during one day of unpacking that i turned on the food network, which i'd never really watched before, to see if there was anything worth having on in the background while i looked for the right place to display comic book action figures. that's when i discovered tyler florence and his show tyler's ultimate. i got hooked pretty fast, primarily because tyler's recipes are all based on fresh ingredients and taste. he's not offering you a lightened up version of mac and cheese substituting craisins for the mac and chickpea puree for the cheese-- oh no. tyler is afraid of neither fats nor calories, so long as the end experience is, according to his shtick, "the ultimate." (he is from texas, after all.)

one saturday morning i got rob to watch an episode with me. tyler was making beef stroganoff using slow braised short ribs and it looked SO GOOD to us that we bought the ingredients and spent the afternoon making it. while it did taste amazing, there was something about the short ribs that didn't quite fit with the rest of the dish. we had our leftover sauce with the addition of peas the next night and realized our folly-- the dish needs no meat! especially not pricey meat cooked separately and served on top of everything else.

we recreated the (now) mushroom stroganoff a couple of nights ago with great success. i still used tyler's sauce recipe as a base, but made a few modifications including adding some mushroom stock to cut through the cream.

mushroom stroganoff

1 1/2 lb mushrooms (i used cremini and chanterelles)
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 - 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken broth (or veggie broth for a vegetarian dish)
small sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper

wash, trim and slice mushrooms, reserving trimmings.

in small saucepan, add chicken or veggie broth, mushroom trimmings, and small sprig of thyme, and simmer over low heat while working on the rest of the sauce. taste and add salt if necessary.

heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and add mushrooms. saute until they begin to cook down. add shallots and garlic and cook until the liquid lost from the mushrooms is reduced. add brandy and cook until reduced.

add mushroom stock to pan, pouring through strainer to catch the solids.

remove pan from heat and allow to cool slightly, then slowly add cream and stir. return pan to heat, add peas, and cook until sauce begins to thicken and reduce. it should be thick enough to stick well to pasta.

stir in mustard and sour cream and warm though. season to taste with salt and pepper.

serve over pasta of your choice. we had it with fettuccine which worked out quite well.

Monday, October 5, 2009

dueling anniversaries

this day last year was the first anniversary of the day rob and i met. the one-whole-year mark was a big deal, and naturally we wanted to do something nice to celebrate together. however, we, uh, lacked funds. okay fine, we were pockets-turned-out broke. thankfully, i have quite a bit of experience in this area. you don't work for non-profit salaries for a decade without learning a few tricks for gracefully getting through frequent periods of pennilessness.

so, we scrapped our dreams of heading to ashland for the weekend and prepared for a nice dinner at home. we thawed some pork chops i'd squirreled away a few months earlier, picked up a couple of pieces of produce, and had a wonderful dinner of pork chops with plum and ginger sauce, roasted butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and french onion soup. we opened a bottle of wine from steppe cellars we'd purchased on a trip to yakima valley that summer. rob lit a candle and folded the napkins all fancy-like. together we enjoyed our anniversary dinner in his 3rd floor condo overlooking the changing leaves on the edge of portland's pearl district. it was perfect, and i would not have changed a thing.

a few days ago i decided to recreate that meal. not only was it a delicious nod to our upcoming two-whole-years milestone, this meal is also a way to get reacquainted with fall flavors.

i followed a recipe from gourmet magazine (which i just learned today is shutting down after 70 years! nooo!) for the pork chops, and a recipe from bon appetit for the soup. the squash was just cubed and roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper, and since brussels sprouts aren't available just yet, i made some simple sauteed green beans with toasted pecans.

pork chops with gingered plum sauce, gourmet 1997 (note-- the recipe gives a cooking time of 50 minutes which is about twice as long as they need!)

french onion soup, bon appetit may 1991 (great recipe, but i think i'm going to shop around for another. though really, you can't go wrong with french onion soup...)

green beans with toasted pecans
(serves 2)

2 handfuls skinny green beans, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup pecan pieces
unsalted butter
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

saute the beans in olive oil and butter over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until still bright green and crisp but beginning to cook through. add chopped pecans to pan and continue cooking just a few minutes, allowing the nuts to toast. add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook 30 seconds longer. season with salt and pepper, and serve warm or room temperature.

mmmm... pork chops simmered in fruit makes me so happy...

tonight we will celebrate our two years together, and a future of not going out with jerks and losers anymore, by having what promises to be an unreasonably amazing dinner at a celebrated seattle restaurant called canlis. i'm trying not to spend my day just reading their menu in anticipation, but it's hard. i can't wait to see what they do with some of the same ingredients i bring home from the saturday and sunday farmers markets! we're excited. rob's wearing a suit. and, check it out-- i'm gonna wear makeup. it's going to be amazing, but i have to admit that pork chops from the freezer and fancy folded napkins will always have top billing for me in our cast of memories. there's no way to improve upon a celebration stripped of glamor and glitter, down to what's important.