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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!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

great summer dish-- zucchini basil gratin

last night, we turned a corner. we finally had our first full-on celebration of the season of light, fresh,  summer food. nothing came from the freezer, nothing could have been from any ol' time of the year-- only fresh, bright flavors of the season of easy livin'.

the star of the plate, for sure, was the first handful of tomatoes from our garden, sprinkled with some fresh basil and a barely-there drizzle of olive oil and aged balsamic. i've been waiting for that for a long, long time. but, the zucchini basil gratin was unexpectedly incredible. 

when i think "gratin," i think of a comfort dish baked to gooey awesomeness with gobs of cheese and topped with something crunchy. give that idea to seattle chef jerry traunfeld, however, and what you get is a delicate, unfussy dish of green, with a fullness of flavor that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. from the first bite to the last, we both said "wow, this is so good!"

the basil and zucchini, rather than balance or complement each other, actually melt into one new flavor, and the bread crumbs and parmesan topping form a perfect crunchy lattice on top. you might be tempted to tweak the recipe since with only 6 ingredients it seems like it's gonna need a boost-- it doesn't! i admit i was a little disappointed at first that this was the only recipe for zucchini in my new cookbook, but after trying it, all is forgiven!

zucchini basil gratin
adapted from jerry traunfeld's the herbal kitchen
serves 4-6

2 pounds zucchini
2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbps olive oil
1/2 cup basil, rough chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbps dry bread crumbs (we used panko, as usual)
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated

shred the zucchini using a box grater or the grater blade on a mandoline. in a large colander, mix it with the salt and leave it to drain for at least 30 minutes. 

preheat oven to 400 degrees. spread 1/2 Tbsp olive oil on bottom of 10-inch casserole or gratin dish. sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the bread crumbs and shake to coat evenly.

gather zucchini by the handful to squeeze out the moisture. there's a lot of moisture! (next time i might wrap all the zucchini in cheese cloth and give it a good squeeze, just to save a few minutes.) in mixing bowl, toss zucchini thoroughly with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and the chopped basil. loosely press the mixture into the casserole dish.

in same mixing bowl, mix the remaining bread crumbs, the cheese, and 1 Tbsp olive oil. sprinkle topping on zucchini and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

zucchini from alvarez farms
basil from our garden