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Monday, December 27, 2010

winter solstice, december 21

apply the fire with kindling now
i'll pull the blankets up to my chin
i'll lock the vagrant winter out
i'll fold my wandering in

-- joni mitchell, "urge for going"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

roasted pear and delicata squash soup

fall is the season for soups made of squash and fruit. last year i posted about a butternut and apple soup-- this time, it's roasted pear and delicata squash, and it's scrumptious. i can always tell how well rob likes something i've cooked by whether or not he reaches over and rubs my leg while he eats-- this soup got two pats! he had the best description of it, too, that it tasted like something starbucks would brew up as a seasonal drink. he then astutely observed, "i feel like i need something to make me not feel like i should be drinking this out of a mug. maybe some croutons floating in it or something?" well, as a matter of fact, rob, the original recipe called for just that!

the soup is rich, delicate, and charmingly, lightly sweet. because the squash and pear flavors are fairly subdued, i can't imagine this soup with overpowering store-bought broth. i'd only use homemade, or substitute water. we had it with a fresh loaf of bread, but making some rustic croutons really would be a great addition.

roasted pear and delicata squash soup
serves 2-4
from pear and delicata soup with parmesan croutons

1 1lb delicata squash
1 pear
olive oil
2 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp sugar
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. cut pear in half lengthwise and core. rub squash and pear flesh with olive oil, and roast, cut side down, about 30 minutes, or until tender. cool.

scrape the flesh out of the squash and pear and process it in food processor until smooth. add some of the stock or water to the processor and puree. move squash mixture to a soup pot and stir in the remaining broth, the cream, sugar, and nutmeg to taste. bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering, 10 minutes. season to taste with salt and pepper. (i added close to a couple of teaspoons of salt because, again, these flavors are pretty mild.)

serve with fresh grated pepper and parmesan cheese, and/or crunchy croutons.

delicata squash from boistfort valley farm
pear from martin family orchards

Monday, December 6, 2010

delicious salad and a fruity side built from what was in the fridge

you know what it's like. you're pumping away on the exercise bike, watching an episode of "the office" on the ipad, and going over the list in your head of produce that will go bad if you don't act fast. this time, the scene lead to two successful side dishes-- the watercress and pear from the ravioli dish i never made were split up and turned into a salad using fennel leftover from the pickled fall veggies, and a zingy side of pear and roasted beets with apple-mustard vinaigrette. 

this salad is out of this world. spicy watercress and cool fennel take on a vinaigrette sweetened by dried cranberries, and are perfectly complimented by nutty, toasted pecans. absolutely delicious, quick, and special enough to serve to guests or for the holidays. 

fennel and watercress salad with cranberry vinaigrette 
adapted from

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch watercress
1 fennel bulb
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted

mix the two vinegars in a bowl and add the cranberries. let the cranberries soak for about a half an hour, then whisk in the salt and olive oil.

shave the fennel bulb into thin slices using a mandoline. combine watercress with fennel, toss with some of the cranberry vinaigrette, and top with toasted pecans.

this pear and roasted beet combo is really nice and is a great way to sneak some fruit into your diet. (somehow, i love to buy fruit, but when i get it home the appeal vanishes. so i kinda *have* to trick myself from time to time.) the oil-free dressing using apple jelly and mustard would be wonderful on just about anything, i've decided. and, bonus, the pears turn PINK!

asian pear with roasted beets and apple jelly-mustard vinaigrette

1 bunch small beets
1 asian pear
2 Tbsp apple jelly (we used a cinnamony apple cider jelly-- sooo good)
4 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard

preheat oven to 400 degrees. remove the beet greens (save these to saute in olive oil or toss in a casserole or soup!), scrub the beets, and wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil. roast them on a cookie sheet or baking dish until they are tender. this takes FOREVER. allow more than an hour, even for small beets. when beets cooked, allow to cool and slip the skins off. slice thin using a mandoline or knife. 

peel the pear and cut into chunks.

to make the dressing, heat the jelly, balsamic, and mustard over low heat in a tiny saucepan until jelly is melted. combine with pear and beets and serve. 

beets from alm hill gardens
georgia pecans from my wildly awesome aunt jane!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

cranberry-infused vodka

quel autumnal treat. cranberries get their tough skins popped with boiling water, then surrender their color and tart cranberry flavor to a bottle of vodka. the result is delicious, and absolutely beautiful.

cranberry-infused vodka

1 pint fresh cranberries
750 ml vodka (we used finlandia-- guy at the liquor store said it's best for infusions)
big ol' jar with tight-fitting lid

wash cranberries and remove any stems and leaves. in a large bowl, cover the berries with boiling water in order to pop the skins. they even make a popping sound!

drain the berries and put them in a jar big enough to hold 750 ml of vodka. pour in the booze. cover with tight-fitting lid, swish around, and let sit in a dark spot for about 3 weeks. taste periodically.  

this is the color after 23 days. so lovely!

line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth and position it over a large bowl, preferably with a pour spout. i used my 4-cup measuring bowl. strain vodka and pour it into a clean bottle for storing. 

i was serious about it being tart! this has a ton of cranberry awesomeness, but it needs a little something sweet added to any cocktail you make with it. i've imagined muddled sweet orange and a sprinkle of cinnamon, maybe a dash of simple syrup, but haven't tried anything yet. i gave half of this batch to rob's sister-- she's an adventurous cocktail mixer, so i'm hoping she'll come up with something great and tell me about it!

cranberries from eatonville farms

Monday, November 22, 2010

quick-pickled fall veggies

due to a series of events taking us out of the house at night lately-- my birthday, huskies games at the bar, pool with friends-- i haven't really cooked anything in a couple of weeks, which feels like years. not only have we been eating out and bringing home leftovers, but after a time of having someone else prepare our meals, it's easy to get a little lazy about being in the kitchen. brent olsen from olsen farms even commented this weekend at the farmers market, "hey, good to see ya. it's been a while!" yes, brent, it's sadly true. because we've been ordering pizza. (and please don't make me admit that there's one in the fridge even now, as i type...)

but, i'm vowing to break the cycle, just as soon as we get through the tower of leftovers we collected this weekend.

anyway, pickles! the culinary world has gone pickle-mad, a fact i've only recently uncovered. seems most of the menus we see these days include some sort of pickled goodie, and it could be absolutely anything. pickled raisins, pickled shallots, pickled stem of chard...

we recently went to poppy, jerry traunfeld's restaurant, for seattle restaurant week. one of the small plates on the thali tray was a dish of pickled eggplant and cucumber, and it was one of the many, many standout tastes we had that night. enter my bible, also known as jerry's cookbook, the herbal kitchen, offering a chance to recreate his pickled glory at home. i made a few substitutions based on what i had on hand, including using about a quarter of the herbs he called for (as much as my little thyme plant could spare), and using half white wine vinegar and half champagne vinegar. his were better, for sure, but these were still amazingly good. they are crunchy, crisp, and full of flavor without being too saturated in overpowering acid. the vegetables maintain their original character, so make sure you start with high-quality produce. the fennel was my favorite, rob's was the cauliflower.

we had them alongside a grossly overcooked and under-seasoned pork chop. go me!

pickled fall vegetables
adapted from jerry traunfeld's herbed fresh vegetable pickle in the herbal kitchen

1/2 cup kosher salt
2 quarts cool water
2 quarts prepared vegetables, such as carrots cut into matchsticks, thin sliced fennel bulb, cauliflower florets, and cucumbers seeded and cut into half moons
a couple of tablespoons of chopped fennel frond
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup champagne vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
3 dry bay leaves
handful of lemon thyme sprigs

stir the salt in the cool water until it dissolves. in large ceramic or glass bowl, submerge the vegetables and chopped fennel frond in the brine and let sit for 4 to 6 hours. the veggies wanted to float, so i put a deep plate on top of the bowl to keep them submerged.

bring the vinegars, sugar, 2 cups water, chili flakes and bay leaves to a boil in a saucepan. add the herbs, stir, and remove pan from heat. let mixture cool to room temparature.

drain the vegetables from the brine and return them to bowl. pour over pickling liquid (again, keep 'em submerged) and refrigerate overnight. that's it!

before dinner i scooped our servings out of the brine and let them mellow for about a half hour. the leftovers stored in the brine for another day, which i then drained for good, fearing that they would get more acidic and more floppy over time. don't know if that was the right thing to do, but then again, we ate them all up in 3 days anyway!

cauliflower-- growing things farm
fennel-- willie greens organic farm
cucumber-- alvarez farm

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

butternut squash lasagna

i generally prefer to use this space and the recipes featured to say either "this was great, go for it," or "that didn't work-- continuing search." what i really don't like to say is, "well, this was good, but it was tricky, because the recipe was poorly written, and i guess i muddled through it well enough to end up with a dish rob and i both liked." nope, i don't relish that kind of post at all, and for the most part i don't write them.  i'm bothering with this post because it really was good, but it's going to be up to the reader/cook to decide how to approach a recipe that is well conceived yet badly written, as i had to do. 

the recipe is a butternut squash lasagna from giada de laurentiis. it's essentially a white lasagna in which pureed butternut squash takes the place of ricotta. great idea, and great flavors. but the recipe has major-league trouble with the math. you can make a 3-layer lasagna using a third of the squash and cheese, or make it 4 layers using a quarter of the fillings each time. but, you can't use a third of the squash and "repeat layering 3 more times" as the recipe instructs. you just can't. (not to mention that 3 1/2 cups of sauce isn't used up after 3 *or* 4 layers asking for 1/2 cup each...) we made a 3-layer version, and that's the recipe (as best i remember) i've typed out below.

back to the good. this lasagna is super yum, and not very cheesy at all. the basil bechamel sauce is rich and wonderful (though i did not use all of it), but the lasagna itself remains rather light, at least compared to the other one i make full of sausage and about 4 1/2 pounds of cheese. be careful on the seasoning-- it can turn out rather bland if the butternut puree doesn't get plenty of salt and pepper. adding parmesean to each layer could accomplish this, too. oh, and i left out the amaretti cookies the recipe calls for-- i just couldn't bring myself to believe that cookies have a place in lasagna. 

butternut squash lasagna
adapted from giada de laurentiis at

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 2lb butternut squash
salt and pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk 
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup lightly packed basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (the ones that go 4 across the length of the pan, not the long ones that go 3 across longways. make sense?)
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup parmesean cheese

peel, seed, and cube the squash. i do this by chopping it into sections of about 4-5 inches, then cut off the tough peel with a sharp knife. remove any seeds, usually in the bottom half of the squash, and cut into 1-inch cubes.

heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and toss in squash cubes and salt and pepper. add water and cook, covered, until tender and gloppy, about 20 minutes. stir occasionally. process squash in food processor until a smooth puree. process with a tiny bit of water if it seems too thick. season to taste with salt and pepper-- IMPORTANT!

melt butter in a heavy bottom saucepan. add flour and whisk one minute. gradually add milk, whisking. bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until thickened, whisking regularly. careful not to burn it. remove from heat, whisk in the nutmeg, and allow to cool slightly. move half of sauce to a blender and blend with the basil leaves until smooth. return basil sauce to sauce pan and stir to combine. season with salt and pepper. 

preheat oven to 375.

butter a 9x13" baking dish. spread 3/4 cup sauce in dish and top with 4 noodles, overlapping slightly. spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles,  then 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and 3/4 cup of the sauce. repeat layering 2 more times, ending with squash, cheese, and as much of the sauce as you want. i did not use all of the sauce, just topped the dish off with enough that when it ran down into the sides of the pan, it basically came to the top of the noodles. this amount worked well enough. 

cover tightly with foil and bake 40 minutes. remove foil, sprinkle with the parmesean cheese and the remaining mozzarella, and bake uncovered until browning and bubbly, about 15 minutes. let sit 15 minutes before serving.

butternut squash from alm hill gardens
the final, somewhat pitiful basil leaves from our herb patch

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

cauliflower soup from the pioneer woman

a couple of weeks ago i threw out my second attempt at cauliflower soup. both times i'd read a few recipes and thought, meh, i'll just wing it. and both times, it was AWFUL. (granted, the second time was because i blended the bay leaf into the soup. again. but still. awful.) so, i did what anyone else would do in such a situation-- i turned to facebook. i asked my friends, "friends, can you send me a good cauliflower soup recipe?" and one came through in a major way. she sent me to the blog the pioneer woman. "try this one," she said. "i have never gone wrong with pioneer woman."

so i did. and now i've never gone wrong with pioneer woman! this soup was so freaking good. creamy, buttery, tangy, full of perfect, wonderful cauliflower... rob was even mentioning it a couple of days later. it was great that night, and heated easily for my lunch for most of the week. we cranked out a loaf of bread in the bread machine and there it was, a perfect fall dinner. (it's also great with crackers!)

so thanks, caitlin and pioneer woman, for my cauliflower soup success!

the pioneer woman's cauliflower soup
serves 4
(she has amazing step-by-step photos for this soup, so for sure go check out her post!)

1/2 stick butter, divided
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/2 - 1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 - 1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 whole head cauliflower, roughly chopped into florets (i tried to keep most of the florets whole and bite-sized, then chopped a few down into small bits in order to give the soup extra texture)
1 Tbps fresh parsley, chopped
1 quart chicken broth, homemade if you have it
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (PW calls for half and half. but it was raining. and i had heavy cream at home.)
sour cream

melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a heavy-bottom soup pot. add the onion and cook for a few minutes. add carrots and celery, cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally. add cauliflower and parsley and stir well.

cover, reduce heat to very low, and cook 15 minutes. (i thought this step seemed weird, since there's no liquid in the pot, but it effectively seemed to steam the cauliflower.) add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.

in small bowl, whisk flour and milk to combine well. melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. slowly add the flour/milk mixture to the butter, whisking all the while. keep whisking! in a few minutes, it will suddenly thicken. when it does, remove from heat and stir in the cream or half and half.

add cream mixture to the soup and stir. simmer another 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. season to taste with salt and pepper.

to serve, ladle into bowl and stir in a spoonful of sour cream. garnish with fresh parsley.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

roasted tomato sauce

last year i froze about 7 quarts of tomato sauce for our winter consumption. i was making a somewhat fussy sauce, using onions, grated carrots, red wine, garlic, herbs, and who knows what else. this year i wanted to simplify. and, frankly, i wanted a better sauce.

the first couple of quarts i made were basically tomato puree from fresh tomatoes simmered forever with olive oil and salt until reduced, dark red, and delicious. then i discovered this roasted sauce and love it so much i've made it a goal to keep making it until there's simply no more room in the freezer. roasting the tomatoes first brings out their natural sweetness and gorgeous tomato-y flavor, and that little bit of roasting time actually reduces the amount of time that the sauce has to cook down. 

play with the herbs and such, depending on your taste. (there's definitely room for more garlic, for you garlic lovers!)

roasted tomato sauce
adapted from the heirloom tomato by amy goldman

5 pounds plum/paste tomatoes, cored and quartered
5 large cloves of garlic, cut in half
handful of basil leaves
3 oregano sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
in casserole dish or roasting pan, combine tomatoes, garlic cloves, herbs, salt and pepper, and toss all with the olive oil.

roast 30 minutes, stirring a time or two. remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. pull out any stemmy thyme and oregano sprigs. 

when cool enough to handle, place a food mill over a heavy-bottomed pot and puree the tomatoes, garlic, and all juices through the mill in batches using the finest disc. skins and seeds will be left behind. 

bring sauce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to the thickness you want. i cooked mine about an hour. taste from time to time and adjust salt. i also added about a teaspoon of sugar, as i like a little sweetness in my tomato sauce.

use immediately, or pack in freezer container, label, and freeze! 5 lbs tomatoes makes 1 quart of sauce.

*note: i have no idea what it would take to be able to can this sauce. tomatoes are tricky because some are more high-acid than others, and so are safe in a hot water canning process. i'd suggest finding a recipe at a trusted source like ball to make sure the sauce you open up in january isn't full of toxic spores!

our garden-- anna russian and polish linguisa tomatoes, herbs 
alvarez farms-- roma tomatoes and garlic

Friday, October 8, 2010

cinnamon basil chicken

jerry traunfeld continues to rock my world. he combines seemingly unlikely flavors with such surprising and delicious results, and it's kind of thrilling to know that when i cook one of his recipes i'll likely encounter flavors i've never experienced before. (peaches and tarragon? of course!) this time, chicken simmers in tomatoes, much like a cacciatore, but is punctuated with cinnamon, basil, and fresh ginger. this dish is, without question, going in the rotation-- i knew it on the first bite.

cinnamon basil chicken
adapted from jerry traunfeld's the herbal kitchen

1 frying chicken, about 4-5 lbs, cut into 8 pieces with backbone removed (save back for making stock!)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced into long thin strips from root end to top
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
28 ounces diced fresh tomatoes with juice (or 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with half of juice drained)
3 3-inch cinnamon sticks (jerry suggests "true" cinnamon if you can find it, but i just used whole sticks from the grocery)
3 star anise pods (i couldn't find any so left them out)
1 1/2 cups torn fresh sweet basil, or cinnamon basil

season chicken parts with salt and pepper. heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet with tight-fitting lid. (i actually used a big heavy-bottom soup pot since it was the biggest thing i had to accommodate the chicken.) add chicken to pot, skin-side down, and cook until skin is golden brown, 6-8 minutes. flip chicken and cook another 2-3 minutes. remove from pan and set aside.

add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan. (this is when it starts to smell so good!) cook, stirring, for a few minutes until they soften and begin to brown. (at this point, i  deglazed with about a tablespoon or two of sherry-- there were so many browned bits left from the chicken that i wanted to make sure i got every little morsel into the sauce!) add the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, star anise (if using), and 1 tsp kosher salt. return chicken to pan. bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. cook about 50 minutes, maintaining a low simmer. check chicken for doneness. if chicken is cooked through and sauce is still watery, you can remove the chicken and cook the sauce uncovered over medium-high heat until it thickens. 

scatter with basil, toss, and serve immediately. 

chicken from stokesberry farm
onion and garlic from alvarez farm
tomatoes and basil from our garden

Saturday, October 2, 2010

homemade worcestershire sauce

it takes a lot of ingredients to make worcestershire sauce. a lot. and this particular sauce takes time-- 3 weeks, to be exact. but it is the sauce is dark, thick, and incredibly rich. it's not a high yield recipe, but the flavor is so concentrated that the 2 cups it makes should theoretically last a while. that said, it's so good that i want to put it on everything, not just the bloody marys i originally made it for, so it's probably time to start on the next batch! 

homemade worcestershire sauce
adapted from

2 cups white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup molasses (i used unsulphered blackstrap)
1/2 cup soy sauce (i used low-sodium tamari)
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate (i used tamarind pods, scraping out the gooey pulp. worked fine, but i'll use the concentrate next time.)
3 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
3 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp curry powder
5 cardamom pods, smashed
4 chili de arbol, chopped (i used dried)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1" stick cinnamon'
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2" piece ginger, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup sugar
(recipe also calls for 1 chopped anchovy, but i left it out.)

combine all ingredients except sugar in a saucepan. bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

meanwhile, cook sugar in a skillet over medium heat until it breaks down and begins to caramelize, turning dark and syrupy, about 5 minutes. add sugar to other mixture and combine well. simmer another 5 minutes. transfer to jar with tight fitting lid.

refrigerate for 3 weeks. 

strain solids. 

sauce will keep, refrigerated, up to 8 months, but i doubt you'll have it around that long!

Friday, September 24, 2010

last day of summer, september 21

i'd like to call back summertime 
have her stay for just another
month or so

but she's got the urge for going
so I guess she'll have to go.

-- joni mitchell, "urge for going" 

Monday, September 13, 2010

cherry tomato salad with baked ricotta and olive tapenade crostini

i think i've posted about crostini, like, a dozen times. it's such a default for us because if you toss beautiful vegetables and herbs together, you've got a great veg salad. put it on toast, however, and you've got a meal. and since the matt's wild and white currant cherry tomatoes have been cranking out ripe fruit by the daily pint, making a meal from them has become a necessary delight. 

this recipe is from my gorgeous book (a gift from my spectacular boyfriend) by amy goldman, the heirloom tomato. it's basically a crostini topped with olive tapenade, baked ricotta, and tomato basil salad. she includes instructions for making the olive tapenade, but i frankly saw that as no more than an opportunity to spend a bunch of money on ingredients i wouldn't otherwise have around. thus, i bought a small amount of kalamata tapenade from the olive bar at the grocery. the baked ricotta looks pretty, but i found it rather dry and an unnecessary step. do with it what you will!

cherry tomato salad with baked ricotta and olive tapenade crostini
adapted from the heirloom tomato by amy goldman

for baked ricotta:
1 1/2 lbs ricotta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh-cracked pepper

for tomato salad:
2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes, halved, or larger tomatoes, cut into pieces
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 Tbps sherry vinegar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp finely diced shallots
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

for crostini:
1 baguette, cut into 1/2 - 1" slices
olive oil
salt and pepper
olive tapenade, store bought or homemade

preheat oven to 450 degrees. combine the ricotta with 2 Tbps of the olive oil and spread in greased ovenproof dish. drizzle with remaining olive oil and top with fresh cracked pepper. bake until heated through and beginning to brown on top. allow to cool before serving.

mix the vinegars with the shallots and soak for 30 minutes. whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. pour over tomatoes, add basil, and mix gently. adjust seasonings. 

reduce heat in oven to 400 degrees. brush the bread slices with olive oil on each side, and season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. toast in oven until golden brown (but not too dried out!), around 5 minutes.  

serve warm toasts with a layer of tapenade, then ricotta, and tomato salad. delicious. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

herbed potato salad with lemon and olive oil dressing

every summer requires a reliable potato salad, and this summer mine was the herbed potato salad with lemon-olive oil dressing from bon appetit. some batches turned out better than others, but having an in-a-pinch recipe to turn to for dinner or last-minute barbecues has simplified several evenings over the course of the season. 

the recipe caught my eye because it calls for fresh herbs that happen to be growing in my herb pots. i've also never been in to mayo-based potato salads and appreciated that this one has a light and tart dressing of olive oil and lemon juice (which i spiced up with a little whole grain mustard and sugar). it comes together super fast, but the salad needs to sit for an hour or so before serving in order for the potatoes to take on the flavor of the dressing-- otherwise, it can seem like a flavorless bowl of steamed potatoes.

use super-waxy potatoes-- in the batch in the photo above i used yukon golds, red lasodas, and viking purples for a colorful mix. they held up beautifully, even though i over-steamed them! (i also forgot the red peppers in the batch pictured, and really missed them. won't make that mistake again.)

herbed potato salad with lemon-olive oil dressing
adapted from bob appetit, june 2000

2 lbs waxy potatoes
1/2 cup rough chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp (or more) whole grain or dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet or red onion
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

scrub potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces, about 1". steam in a basket steamer until tender, about 10 minutes. put potatoes in bowl and add red peppers. in a separate bowl, add lemon juice, mustard, onions, sugar, and salt and pepper. whisk in olive oil, taste, and adjust seasonings. pour dressing over potatoes, add chopped herbs, and mix thoroughly. cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 4 hours for dressing to flavor the potatoes. serve at room temperature. 

potatoes: olsen farms

Monday, September 6, 2010

zucchini fritters with basil pistou

i often make zucchini fritters in summer, and generally don't fuss too much over what recipe i use. this one was in organic cooking, and since i knew right where to find it, when the urge struck to make zucchini fritters i went straight to it. in the middle of getting the batter ready, chatting away with rob about our respective days, i said, "beat the egg white? i wish i'd read this recipe all the way through before i started on it. *sigh.*" at that moment, beating the egg white seemed like way more of a hardship than was likely to be outweighed by the results. but i dutifully grabbed the whisk, whipped the egg white into self-supporting peaks, and stirred it into the glossy batter. it was so worth the 2 extra minutes of prep time when they puffed up fat and light, like savory, creamy, crunchy-on-the-outside pancakes. 

the pistou sauce is essentially a pesto without the pine nuts. i added a little lemon juice (dern near too much, honestly!) to brighten it from the original. fritters and sauce were perfect together, and were just as good for lunch the next day. cook in vegetable oil (we use peanut oil for shallow frying) and they shouldn't soak up much at all. 

zucchini fritters with basil pistou
adapted from organic cooking by ysanne spevack

1 lb zucchini, grated
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, separated
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp water
vegetable oil for frying
salt and pepper

1/2 cup basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or other italian hard cheese)
grated peel of one lemon, yellow part only
juice of one lemon, to taste
2/3 cup (or less) olive oil

begin by tossing the grated zucchini with salt (between a teaspoon and a tablespoon) in a sieve over a bowl and leave to drain for 1 hour. 

meanwhile, for the sauce:
finely chop basil leaves in a food processor. add crushed garlic and process into a paste. (these steps can combine into one using a mortar and pestle.) transfer to bowl and stir in grated cheese and lemon rind. add some of the lemon juice to taste. move back to food processor or blender and blend in oil, a little at a time, until it reaches consistency you want, and is well combined. (watch the oil, as i found that using the full amount was going to seem rather oily to me.) taste and adjust seasonings. 

for fritters: 
sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the center for the egg yolk and 1Tbsp olive oil. add a little of the 5Tbsp water and mix, incorporating a little of the flour and water into the egg mixture, adding more water as you go. stir/whisk until a smooth, glossy batter. season with salt and pepper and set aside for 30 minutes.

rinse grated zucchini well and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. stir into batter. beat the egg white until soft peaks form, and fold gently into the batter until well mixed. 

heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. drop golf-ball sized amounts of batter into hot oil and cook 2-3 minutes each side, until golden brown. drain on paper towels. serve hot with the pistou.

zucchini-- alvarez farms
garlic-- stoney plains farms
egg-- stokesberry farms
basil-- us! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

roasted peaches with hazelnuts and tarragon

looking for a light, sweet ending to your summer meals? try this roasted peach from chef jerry traunfeld's the herbal kitchen. the roasted peach with the crunchy topping is reminiscent of a peach pie, but you're spared the unbutton-the-jeans feeling that often follows dessert. still, if the devil on your shoulder prevails, serve it with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream to make it a full dessert course. 

the tarragon is perfect in this dish, though jerry suggests using anise hyssop or green fennel seeds in its place. you can make it without the herbs, but considering what an herbal genius chef traunfeld is, you may as well give it a try!

be sure to use freestone peaches for this recipe. these are the varieties that don't cling to the pit, unlike clingstone varieties that hold on for dear life. if you try this with a clingstone, you'll end up with handfuls of  peach puree. your local peach growers/vendors should be able to tell you which is which. 

roasted peaches with hazelnuts and tarragon
from jerry traunfeld's roasted peaches filled with almond and tarragon, the herbal kitchen

*note: i tried to halve the recipe, but since it called for one egg in the batter, my batter was a little thin. i'll give you the proportions the recipe calls for rather than what i did!

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbps all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped tarragon
3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (i used hazels because i had them on hand, but the original recipe calls for sliced almonds)
4 large freestone peaches

preheat oven to 400 degrees. beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar in bowl with a mixer until smooth. beat in the egg and then the flour. add nuts and tarragon and stir to combine.

split the peaches and remove the pits. (my method is to run a knife all the way around, to the pit, then hold each half and give a little twist. they should just pop right off the pit.) add peaches cut-side up to a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them so they don't fall over during cooking. fill each peach with filling mixture. (i dug out the peach cavities first, just a bit, in order to have more room for the filling.) bake 30-40 minutes or until filling is browned and crisp. serve warm. 

peaches: lyall's farm
hazelnuts: holmquist hazelnut orchards
tarragon: our garden

Monday, August 23, 2010

goat cheese and basil quesadilla with tomato basil salsa

i tend to make a lot of quesadillas in the summer. one reason is that when the weather finally turns nice in seattle, i want a super-quick preparation so we can have porch time, or take a walk, or hit a happy hour before dinner. another reason is that i can't get enough of summer salsas, relishes, and chutneys-- anything fresh and raw with minimal fuss is my favorite way to experience warm weather produce.

this quesadilla is one i've been making for years from bobby flay's bold american food. (really-- years! i didn't even realize how long this has been in the rotation until i just noticed a quote from rick bayless on the back cover calling the cookbook "perfect for the '90s table." man, i'm feeling behind the times... but, que sera. it's still good!)

goat cheese, basil, and a tomato salsa with basil and balsamic vinegar set this quesadilla apart from its more tex-mexy cousins. baked rather than fried in butter, this is a light, flavorful, and fast summer dinner. 

goat cheese and basil quesadilla
makes 1 full-size quesadilla

2 large flour tortillas (we've been using a package of whole wheat tortillas as the calorie count is notably lower-- we might be doing our waistlines a favor, but i certainly prefer the taste and texture of the full-fat varieties!)
4 oz or so shredded monterey jack cheese
2 oz or so crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped 

preheat oven to 450 degrees. place one tortilla on baking sheet and top with shredded monterey jack, crumbled goat cheese, and basil. top with remaining tortilla and bake 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden and the cheese has melted. serve with tomato basil salsa.

tomato basil salsa
1 medium ripe tomato (or a couple of smaller ones), coarsely chopped 
1 Tbsp chopped red or sweet onion
1 1/2 tsp seeded and minced jalapeno 
2 Tbsp balsamic vonegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

combine all ingredients, and season to taste with salt and pepper. refrigerate at least one hour if you can, and let it come to room temp before serving.

fresh goat cheese from port madison goat farm and dairy
jalapeno and onions from alvarez farm
tomatoes and basil from our garden

Thursday, August 19, 2010

for my next trick, i'll plant the tomatoes too close together.

i planned and prepared, composted and cover-cropped, researched and cross-referenced, and was certain i'd have an award winning harvest this year. then i planted my tomatoes way too close together and over fertilized.

behold the resulting jungle. this photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, back when i had literally not seen one of my plants in the back (a beefsteak variety called "nepal") for a full month because i simply lacked the acrobatic ability necessary to get to it. not only were the poor girls crammed into a bed too small, but one of them is a rambunctious cherry called "matt's wild" who has managed to sprawl into the personal space of all 7 of the other plants. 

i've spent the last couple of weeks hacking away at the foliage, partly so that sunlight can penetrate beyond the first couple of inches, and partly so i could actually see what's going on in there. i've been able to locate the lost plant ("rob! rob! i think i found nepal!"), and i now have an idea of what the yield will likely be. i doubt we'll have enough to put much away, but we'll be set for fresh eating for a while. 

the lovely orange fruits above are called jaune flamme and are tangy and sweet, a flavor much like sungolds. the foliage is droopy and elegant, and the golf ball-sized fruits grow in a cascading pattern. 

the red cherry is the unruly matt's wild. great flavor, and allegedly one of the best tomatoes for salsa, but this plant needs SPACE. 

the pretty yellow ones are called white currant. they are sweet, fruity and wonderful. 

in the back is a variety called black cherry. black tomatoes have a distinct flavor-- it's deeper, earthier, and more perfume-y than the others. unfortunately, the above represents the only harvest we've gotten from this plant. we'll get a handful more before the summer is out, but i want more, MORE! these are my favorites.

the charming heart-shaped tomatoes above are from a plant called anna russian. russian varieties do well in seattle, and this plant is absolutely gorgeous now that i rescued it from a garden center and coaxed it back to life. it won't be a great producer as it got a really late start, but it's totally worth the buck-fifty i spent on it. i haven't tasted this one-- she's a paste tomato, so they are going whole in the freezer until i have enough to make some sauce. 

the sassy striped ones are a variety called tigrella. (seriously, what's with all the drag queen names for tomatoes? tigrella? jaunne flamme? i love my queens.) these are great little tomatoes-- juicy, flavorful, perfect for snacking on right off the vine. this has been one of our better producers, despite the challenges i mistakenly set up for it!

fingers crossed that the brandywines, nepals, romas, mortgage lifters, and polish linguisas deliver pretty soon. i'd sure appreciate a freezer full of garden tomatoes this winter!

Friday, August 13, 2010

pork kabobs with peach salsa

have peaches on the table that are not getting any younger, have pork chops in the freezer, have a garden tomato, finally ripe. i don't know about you, but to me this means pork kabobs with peach salsa!

this is a great combination of summer flavors. the peach and tomato flavors play well together in the salsa, and while the peach comes through, it is anything but sweet. feel free to be heavy-handed with the spice rub on the pork-- it can handle it!

pork kabobs with peach salsa
adapted from grilled pork chops with fresh nectarine salsa
serves 2

2 peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced sweet onion
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 boneless pork chops, 1-1 1/2" thick
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
olive oil

combine peaches, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. season with salt to taste, and drizzle with a little olive oil before giving it a final toss. allow to sit for a half hour or more for flavors to blend.

fire up the grill to medium/medium-high heat. 

cut chops into even chunks and toss with a little olive oil. combine cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle generously on pork to get an even coating. (you may have some spice mixture left over.) thread pork on wooden or metal skewers, leaving space between each piece for even cooking.

place on preheated grill and cook, turning a couple of times, until cooked through but not dry, about 10 minutes. (i didn't do the cooking on the grill, so i can't quite say how long it cooked. until it was done, basically. pull a chunk off and slice it open to test. if juice run clear, they're done. but don't overcook-- dry pork is sadness pork.)

serve with salsa and enjoy!

pork chops from the happy pigs at skagit river ranch
peaches from tiny's organic
cilantro from stoney plains organic farm
tomato from our garden!