Category Archives: farmer’s market

Beat.

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It hardly seems appropriate to say Happy New Year, but here it is, 2014. Thinking retroactively, here’s what was on my winter to-do list:

• Finish edits on a cookbook
• Take a time-out
• Gather every preschool germ Graham brings home and filter it through my system
• Pitch stories to magazines I’ve never worked with before (some Not! About! Food!)
• Do my taxes
• Finish details of our basement remodel
• Take a writing class
• See a kid through two surgeries
• Apply to private and public kindergartens for said kid

In my mind, two months in, the last thing is the only thing that really happened.

“It’s not the school that’s bad,” soothed my husband one wintry morning. “It’s the system that’s bad.” I sniffed over the phone, and tried to compose myself on the damp bench outside my gym, where an impromptu conversation with the principal of our local elementary school had reduced me to tears and snot and hiccups. My purse sagged open into the dirt of a giant potted plant. But Jim was right. The principal had never met Graham. And he hadn’t, as I’d insinuated, actually told me that my son didn’t belong in his halls. He’d just said he wasn’t sure, and refused to speak with me further, because I hadn’t followed the (totally top secret) prescribed order of operations.

In Seattle, where public schools are arguably better than those in many spots across the country, the process of enrolling a child with special needs in a typical kindergarten classroom requires patience, time, and emotional stamina. In the past week, I have been told to enroll, not to enroll, to fill out the special education form, not to fill out the special education form, that the special education form doesn’t exist, to fill out the school choice form, not to fill out the school choice form, that I need to appear in person to enroll because of the choice form, that I shouldn’t have appeared in person to enroll, that my special ed form will be shredded, that I’m already enrolled, and that RIGHT NOW I’ll be enrolled anyway even though I shouldn’t be standing where I’m standing and don’t need to enroll.

Now, Graham is officially enrolled in our local public elementary school. Will we end up there? Time will tell. At least we have a back up plan. Does that mean the system beat me? Or did I beat the system? This parenting thing is not for the weak.

Out of the blue this morning, when I was getting whiny over all this school nonsense, Graham decided to take the stairs to into his current classroom for the first time. A friend put him up to it and offered to take his walker to the top, and he just agreed. Like it was the most normal thing in the world. Like in his little way, he was saying Mom, I got this thing beat. See?

(Thanks, kid. You sure do.)

Graham on the steps

Grilled Beets with Herbs and Preserved Lemon (PDF)
In my house, beets make excellent decorations, but they’re rarely the main event—mostly because I tend to chop them up and shove them into salads more quickly than they can stand up for themselves. Here, they shine between layers of crème fraîche and fresh herbs, punched up a bit with preserved lemon.

If I haven’t made my own, I buy preserved lemons at Picnic in Seattle, because the owners, Jenny and Anson Klock, do a consistently excellent job. To use them here, cut them into quarters. Push the lemon’s meat out of the fruit and discard it, then use a small knife to trim the thin white layer of pith away from the peel. Once you have just the yellow peel, it’s ready to chop and use.

Serves 4

3 fist-sized red beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch rounds
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh herbs (leaves only)
Peel of 1/4 preserved lemon, pith trimmed, very thinly sliced
Chunky sea salt, for serving

In a large bowl, mix the beet slices together with the olive oil and salt until well blended.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. (You can use a regular heavy-duty pan instead, if you prefer.) When hot, add the beets, and cook, undisturbed, until well marked on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total, turning the beets once during cooking.

Meanwhile, smear the crème fraîche onto a serving plate. Pile the beets on top, then scatter the herbs and preserved lemon on top. Drizzle the beets with additional olive oil, sprinkle with chunky sea salt, and serve.

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Filed under commentary, egg-free, farmer's market, garden, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, salad, Seattle

A Plan for your Turkey

Eiko Vojkovich stacking eggs at the farm (Photo by Lara Ferroni)

If you show up at the Skagit River Ranch’s Ballard Farmers Market booth at 9:45 a.m. on the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, you’ll be late for your turkey. Judging by the line, which snakes almost a block down the street, the eggs you wanted to include in your stuffing are long since claimed. But when you finally reach the front of the remarkably patient line, well after the market actually opens at 10 a.m., there’s Eiko Vojkovich, smiling as big as ever, and handing over the 18-pound turkey she promised you two months ago when Thanksgiving still seemed like a mirage. And she wants to know what you’ll do with it.

You’ll look to one side of her booth, where herbs are already bursting out of someone’s basket, and to the other side, where Rockridge Orchards’ Honeycrisp apple cider beckons, and you’ll know just what to do.

Fresh-Pressed Washington Cider
(Photo by Lara Ferroni)

Cider-Brined Turkey with Rosemary and Thyme (PDF)
Recipe from Dishing Up Washington

While the cider brine cools, or before that, if you’re smart, figure out what container is big and clean enough to hold both the brine and your turkey but also small enough to fit in your refrigerator. In Seattle, it’s typically about 40°F at night around Thanksgiving, which means the entire porch becomes my refrigerator — convenient for me, but not helpful, perhaps, if you’re not a Seattleite.

Look for nifty (but pricey) turkey brining bags, or brine the turkey in garbage bags in a clean, lined garbage can with enough ice at the bottom to keep the bird cold. I’d put it in the garage if I were you, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Special equipment: a clean container, cooler, trash can, or other container suitable for submerging turkey in brine (that can be kept cold); kitchen twine

Makes 14 servings, plus leftovers

For the Cider Brine
1 gallon high-quality apple cider
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 (6-inch sprigs) fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
6 (4-inch sprigs) fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2 gallons cold water

For the Turkey
1 (16–18 pound) fresh turkey, giblets removed, patted dry
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups high-quality apple cider
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1. Make the brine: Combine the cider, salt, brown sugar, garlic cloves, rosemary, and thyme in a large pot; bring to a simmer; and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely. Add the cold water. (If the pot isn’t big enough to hold it all, divide the cider mixture into two pots and add half the water to each.) Let cool to room temperature or set aside overnight in a cold (but not freezing) spot to chill. (Let’s not kid ourselves; it won’t fit in your refrigerator if you’re cooking this for a holiday meal.)

2. Make the turkey: Combine the turkey and the brine in a large, clean vessel, making sure the bird is fully submerged, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

3. Remove the turkey from the brine, discard the brine, and pat the turkey dry. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Place the turkey breast down on a rack in a large roasting pan, and pour the cider and water into the bottom of the pan. Brush the bottom of the turkey with some of the melted butter, sprinkle with about one-third of the rosemary and thyme, and roast for 1 hour.

5. Carefully flip the turkey over using washable oven mitts or a clean kitchen towel. Cover the wing tips with foil if they’re looking too brown. Brush the turkey all over with the remaining butter, sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and thyme, and roast another 1½ to 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. (If the turkey is brown enough but the meat hasn’t finished cooking, slide a large baking sheet onto a rack set at the very top of the oven or cover the turkey with foil.)

6. Carefully transfer the turkey to a platter, and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving with the juices. (If desired, you can use the juices to make apple cider gravy.)

Pair with a crisp, dry hard apple cider, such as Tieton Cider Works’ Harmony Reserve.

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Filed under Dishing Up Washington, farmer's market, gluten-free, recipe

This cherry’s got moves

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I like to think of myself as open-minded, but I’ve always considered myself above Jell-O. I’m above Rainier cherries, also, in part because they’re too damned sweet and too damned pretty, but mostly because once, on Cape Cod, I overheard a woman telling her daughter that “rainy-er” cherries come from the rainier part of Washington. If there’s a way to kill a fruit’s glamour, that’s it, right there. I know I’m a loner for it, but I don’t like Rainiers.

But oh, the Orondo Ruby. When a friend in Wenatchee, WA – a fruit guy and cider maker I met writing Dishing Up Washington, which, for the record, is completely, totally, 100% finished and heading to the printing press – offered to send me some new kind of cherry, I assumed it would be red. Sure, I said. I’ve only met one cherry I didn’t love. I didn’t have time to consider a wooden crate full of jumbo-sized cherries that must be the love child of Rainiers and something much darker and spunkier, like a Benson or a Vans. But by the time I’d bitten through his crisp scarlet skin (yes, with a name like Orondo, he has to be male), the tartness had taken hold, and I couldn’t fault him for the light flesh. This cherry, he’s more striking than any I’ve seen – Orondos aren’t native latinos (they’re from Orondo, WA), but the name fits because deep down, this cherry is a flamenco dancer. This cherry moves. He’s sweet, but he’s also quite sassy. I am in love.

But before all that, when the box landed on my doorstep, I knew the Orondos were too pretty for pie. (Nobody puts Baby in the corner.) So I decided to pile them up in a tart, sliced any which way, to show off the contrast in color between the skins and the flesh. Simple enough right?

Not really. Because in my cooking lexicon, a tart piled with raw fruit has always had a crust made with wheat flour and a filling made with eggs. And I’m not eating wheat flour or eggs these days.

Here’s where the Jell-O thing comes in. The crust was easy enough – a quickly-stirred mixture of quinoa, coconut, and almond flours, along with some chia seeds that work amazingly well as a binder, and I had a beautiful, sweet crust that was much easier to handle (no pie weights!) than many traditional ones.

But the filling. (Damn the egg thing.) I wanted to stay away from dairy, not because I’m avoiding dairy, but because I’m suddenly hyper-aware of food allergies. (You read this, didn’t you?) Well, that, and the coconut flour in the crust had me hankering for something more exotic. So that blushing, sweet center? It’s essentially homemade coconut-cherry Jell-O. As in, made with gelatin. As in, creamy tart filling I can eat. As in, I am suddenly a fan of using gelatin and of cherries with light, sweet flesh.

New things are wonderful, aren’t they?

Coconut Cream Tart with Cherries and Chia Seeds (PDF)
You can use any type of cherries for this slightly quirky tart, but note that dark red ones (rather than the light-fleshed Orondo Ruby or Rainier cherries) will bleed their juices onto the filling a bit. Look for ingredients like coconut, quinoa, and almond flours and chia seeds in the baking section of a health foods store, or in a large yuppie market like Whole Foods.

Note that because nut and seed flours have such different textures, it’s best to measure them by weight, if you can.

Active time: About 1 hour
Makes 1 9-inch tart

For the crust
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup (30g) coconut flour
1/2 cup (60g) almond flour
1/2 cup (60g) quinoa flour
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the cherry-coconut cream
1 pound fresh, firm cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, stirred
1/4 cup cold water
1 packet powdered gelatin (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)

1 pound fresh, firm cherries, pitted and halved or sliced, for topping the tart

First, make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a nonstick 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and set aside.

Blend the flax seeds with the hot water in a small bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk the coconut, almond, and quinoa flours together with the chia seeds and salt. Add the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, olive oil, and flax mixture, and mix and mash the crust with a large fork until no dry spots remain and the mixture looks like cookie dough.

Dump the crust into the tart pan, and use your hands to squish it into a roughly even layer on the bottom and sides, taking care not to make the corners too thick. (It should be about 1/4 inch thick on all sides.)

Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the cherry-coconut cream: Pulse the pitted cherries in a food processor until finely chopped, about 10 one-second pulses. Transfer them to a medium saucepan, add the 1/2 cup sugar, and bring the mixture to a strong simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes more, until thickened slightly.

Transfer 2 cups of the cherry-coconut cream to a medium bowl. (You’ll only need the 2 cups. Eat the rest.) Place the 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin into the water, stirring until the mixture looks like applesauce. Place the bowl in a pan filled with about an inch of boiling water, and stir the gelatin mixture until it turns clear. Add this clear liquid to the warm measured filling, stir well, and pour the filling into the tart crust.

Let the tart cool to room temperature, then transfer the tart to the refrigerator. Chill until the filling is firm, about 4 hours.

Just before serving, pile the halved or sliced cherries on top of the crust (you can be fancy, if you’d like, but plopping them on works just as well), and serve.

Note: Here’s a great primer from David Lebovitz on how to use gelatin.

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Filed under Cakes, dessert, farmer's market, gluten-free, recipe

Saaging

Garden Saag

The question people have asked me over the last three weeks is this: Well, what have you been eating?

It’s this. It’s a bastardization of Indian saag (the kind I used to adore eating with paneer), made by sautéing spinach and kale and whatever other greens crop up in my kitchen with garlic and ginger, then simmering them into submission with a can of coconut milk. Hit haphazardly with an immersion blender, the greens collapse into a green mass just liquid enough to deserve a bowl. (Say the word saag aloud, so it rhymes with “clog,” and you’ll know how the dish gets its name; it’s a real slump of a thing.)

I eat the saag alone, or draped over roasted chicken or millet, or I thin it with a bit of stock (or additional coconut milk) and puree it in a real blender until it’s silky smooth. Then I use it as a grown-up sauce, for grilled salmon or halibut. It’s what I’ll be making ahead to take camping this weekend, which means I’ll eat it Dr. Seuss-style for days and days—on a boat, on a train, in a box, with a fox.

So yes, in week three of this silly thing, my culinary spirit is still, well, saaging. But at least there’s this. And for that, I’m thankful.

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Garden Saag (PDF)
There is an awkward, pubescent moment in every Seattle garden each year; it usually exists between June and August, when the days are just at their peak length, when the kitchen excitement over tiny fresh greens has died but the tidal wave of mature summer tomatoes has yet to begin. In this span of two weeks, the garden grows. It’s exactly what we wanted it to do, isn’t it; yet, when the workhorses of our early summer gardens, the greens, really get down to business, we’re often overwhelmed. When spinach, kale, and arugula threaten to take over every inch of your living space—or any greens, really, as long as they’re coming in massive quantities—make this sauce. Inspired by Indian saag, a spinach dish often draped over paneer (Indian cheese), it’s delicious on its own, mixed into rice, or draped over a delicately grilled slab of fish.

Light coconut milk will work for the recipe, but the flavor will suffer.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3/4 pound fresh spinach (regular or baby), cleaned and chopped
1 medium bunch kale (about 1/2 pound), ribs removed, cleaned and chopped
1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
Small pinch red chili flakes (optional)
Kosher salt

Heat a large, wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the ghee, then the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft, about a minute. Add the spinach and kale and cook until the greens are wilted, stirring frequently. Add the coconut milk (water and solids, if the contents have separated), the chili flakes (if you like spice), and salt to taste. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost gone, another few minutes.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, partially blend the greens until they’re spoonable but still a bit chunky, and serve as a side dish. (To make a sauce, simply puree until completely smooth.)

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Filed under farmer's market, garden, gluten-free, recipe, side dish, vegetarian

Stung

Bucatini with Garlicky Nettle Pesto 2

Stinging nettles taste green and earthy and wild, like cooked spinach would in a teen Goth stage – not surprising, considering they’re usually foraged in the wild and eaten relatively young. But as I’ve told you before, they come by their name honestly. Resist the urge to touch them or play with them as you dump them into a pot of simmering water to tame their poisonous attitude. When they’re raw, they sting.

Cooked, though. Cooked, a tangle of nettles whirls up into a beautiful pesto, more deeply flavorful than its basiled cousin and a better bed buddy for four large cloves of garlic. Last night, I made a fairly traditional pesto, only with the nettles, and smeared it on a marinated, roasted leg of lamb, so each bite had two punches of spring. Today, when I found myself standing at the stove, hands shoved deep into my back pockets while I slurped long bucatini directly out of the cooking pot I’d used to stir them with the leftover pesto, I knew I had a recipe to share.

That was yesterday. I wrote all that – what you see above there – and then I found out that dear Kim Ricketts had passed away. There will be no more writing about nettles.

Kim was the mama of Seattle’s food scene, a literary powerhouse who brought people together for the love of food and books. I can’t say I knew her well, but I knew her well enough to be touched by her energy and her kindness. And now, the morning after the news, yesterday’s recipe seems so appropriate, because what I really feel is stung. I feel scraped raw. And I don’t know how to begin mourning someone whose soul and spunk was so immortal.

So scratch the pasta. I mean, it was good, but scratch it. Make this pesto, and take it to someone you don’t see that often, someone whose light and effervescence makes the world a better place. And thank them for being alive.

Pot of pasta with nettle pesto

Garlicky Nettle Pesto (PDF)
Although most Seattleites find nettles at farmers’ markets this time of year, they’re also often available at Whole Foods Markets. Buy a bunch when you can, and double or triple this recipe, as needed, and freeze some, because my fortune-telling powers tell me you’ll want to twirl the pesto up with long pasta again long after the season has passed. If you have time to be thoughtful and a bit patient, you can add toasted breadcrumbs, for a bit of crunch, or chopped sundried tomatoes.

Time: 25 minutes active time
Makes: 1 generous cup

1/2 pound nettles
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach. You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles.

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Add the cheese, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.

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Filed under farmer's market, grains, Lunch, Modern, Pasta, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

Spendy Threads

Cloaked in a bolt of royal blue cloth that revealed only a nose, a braided grey beard, and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, the man I approached at my farmers’ market looked something like a modern-day executioner. I knew there was no rational reason for me to be nervous. Someone I had trusted had given me the hook-up to Washington-grown saffron. But I’d been expecting a hipster, not a hippie.

Surrounded by tables of baby succulents, the grower was busy discussing the particulars of a plant I’d never seen before with another customer. I lurked, observing how the guy’s hands were permanently creased with dirt, almost as though the hands themselves were half-plant. When he noticed me, I shyly asked if he knew who sold saffron. A bright, welcoming grin burst out from behind his hood and he opened his eagle arms wide. With no small drama, he swooped a hand under the table, brought out a small tackle box, and extracted a tiny cellophane envelope filled with abnormally long, red threads. I had to remind myself that what I was doing was perfectly legal. I took a deep breath. “How much?” I ask.

Continue reading at Leite’s Culinaria…

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Filed under Et cetera, farmer's market, kitchen adventure

The F Word

Hot and Sour Soup and Pike Place Chinese Cuisine

Click here to listen to me talking about hot and sour soup on KUOW.
Recipes are down below.

Hot and sour soup isn’t the prettiest, or even the second-prettiest soup there is. In fact, if I had to curate a list of beautiful soups, it would be miles below pho and chicken noodle, pasta e fagiole and tom yum. Hot and sour soup looks like dirty nothing in a bowl.

At least, that’s what I thought, before I got to know it. I guess it’s a soup like some people, that way – it’s easy to pigeonhole and walk away from, if you don’t know any better.

I grew up “hating” hot and sour soup, which means I’d never tasted it. (I hated a lot of things, including, but not limited to, anything with spice, foreign flavors, or ingredients whose entire preparation I didn’t personally witness from start to finish.) At Chinese restaurants, my family ordered a big bowl to share, and I ordered egg drop soup. The waitress would rattle her cart to our table and hold my lone bowl up accusingly, as if to ask Who ordered the boring soup?

Me. It was always me.

A few weeks ago, I came very close to doing the same thing, because I enjoy the simplicity of egg drop soup, and because it’s what I’ve always ordered. But for whatever reason – perhaps because I wasn’t really paying attention, or maybe because I am now An Adult Who Likes Things – I hopped on the hot and sour bandwagon, along with the rest of the table. And I tasted my new favorite soup for the first time.

I know. That f-word. It’s a bit of a shock to see it on the screen, even. I’m not a big fan of favorites. I go for change, and variety, and different every time. But this soup, people. If I count correctly, I’ve had hot and sour soup nine times in two weeks. Nine times. (Obsess much?)

The thing is, it’s worth obsessing over. Don’t look at it; taste it. Sip a spoonful, and the first thing you’ll notice is the texture – a bit of cornstarch makes it silky, almost satiny. It glosses over the tongue in a way few Western foods can, every drop somehow fatter and smoother. If you’re lucky enough to get a bit of soft, ribbony egg (and were lucky enough, in the first place, to pick a soup whose preparer got the egg to bloom up just right, like in the photo above), it glides across your palate. Then there are the cloud ear mushrooms, which don’t really taste like much, but have a lovely crunch, like some sort of terrestrial seaweed. (They supposedly improve circulation, too.) There are lily buds, with their vegetal, almost artichoke-like flavor. (Bet you didn’t even notice them the first time.) And then . . . then. . . there’s the clean, astringent hot of white pepper, and the brisk, bracing vinegar flavor.

Of course, there are endless variations. I tried rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, and a mixture of various vinegars. (I think I like white vinegar the best, because its flavor is stronger than rice vinegar but not too fruity.) There’s also whatever else the cook feels like adding – little gifts, like chunks of tofu, or pork, or carrot, or chili. I’d been tasting soups everywhere, trying to figure out, since I’d never been down the hot and sour soup road, what I liked. More tofu? More pork? More hot? More sour?

Then, gazing out the windows at the rain on the Sound at Pike Place Chinese Cuisine one day, slurping the bowl above, I had a BFO: I could probably make hot and sour soup myself. At home.

Hot and sour is, after all, a rather homey thing. Traditionally made with the most humble ingredients – dried staples, small bits of meat  - it’s a soup made with leftovers. They just might not be the leftovers you have in your kitchen.

I scurried around Pike Place Market, collecting ingredients. (You can get everything there.) I made a few traditional versions first, relying on recipes from Grace Young, Mark Bittman, and Susanna Foo, until I learned what combination of flavors I liked.

As it turns out, I’m sort of greedy. I like a healthy combination of tofu and pork – more than one usually finds in restaurant versions of hot and sour soup – and more than anything, I like a soup made with good, homemade stock. I like to tinker with the pepper and vinegar, until I get it just right. And I like to eat my hot and sour soup right when it’s fallen just below scorching, screaming hot – which is to say, immediately.

I also like the version I made using what’s available now at farmers’ markets here in Seattle – Northwest leftovers and pantry staples, if you will, like dried porcini mushrooms, and kale, and carrots.

Only problem now is deciding which one’s my favorite. Time for bowl number ten.

Homemade hot and sour soup

Hot and Sour Soup (PDF)

Northwest Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup (PDF)

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Filed under chinese, farmer's market, gluten-free, Lunch, pork, radio, recipe, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

Telephone

Ingredients for holiday dinner
To listen to the version of this story that aired on KUOW, click here.

I recently played the most ridiculous game of telephone. It started when I called my grandmother to cook her dinner.

I know, it sounds all wrong, doesn’t it? You can’t cook for someone over the phone. I didn’t think so either. I’d planned a trip to Portland to do it in person. My grandmother, June, called her sister, and a friend, and molded an entire day around a trip to the grocery store for about ten ingredients. They scrummed around the produce department guy, battering him with questions about fennel and kale. Then they hit the fish counter, where, June told me, she knew not to order the wild salmon because it’s bad for the environment, and knew she could have told the fish guy where to cut, but didn’t have to. I smiled over the phone, not caring what she bought, because she was going to cook. (This woman eats, but she does not, in contemporary lexicon, cook.)

Then my cat got attacked by a raccoon. He was oozy and insulted and very much upset about being left alone indoors, so at the very last minute, I cancelled on my grandmother. She was devastated. She used that word – devastated – and I could hear the truth of it in her voice, weighing her down like an age. (She’s not usually dramatic.)

So we made a phone date. She’d invite her friends back over, and I’d call “on the cellular phone,” and we’d do it all that way, ear to ear. I’d talk, and she’d chop, and it would be like I was right there in the kitchen.

Of course, there was a little catch. The point of cooking for her, that night, was to demonstrate for her a holiday entertaining menu that even she could master – a whole dinner that would take me a heaping ten minutes to put in the oven. There would be roasted salmon with a lemon-cumin raita (she loves yogurt sauces), Dijon potatoes (she’s a mustard fiend), roasted fennel with sherry, and creamed kale – just the right balance of familiarity and foreignness. I figured ten minutes for me meant 20 or so for us together. But on the telephone?

But they’d already purchased the food.

Dinner at Grandma June’s house is a five o’clock affair. I called at 4:15, and June answered on the first ring.

“We’re here,” she sang. “Mary’s had her cigarette, and Verna has the knife.” Taken out of context, I might have been worried, but in this case, I knew that meant they were ready.

“I’m just going to hand the phone to Verna, and you can tell her what to do, okay?” said June.

“Not so fast,” I said. June will do almost anything to not cook. “How about you hold the phone while she chops?” I figured processing the instructions counted for at least half.

And so it began. My dinner plan echoed from Seattle to Portland, from me, to June, then invariably Verna and Mary:

Jess: Okay, let’s start by turning on the oven.
June: Verna, turn on the oven.
Verna: How do you turn on the oven?
June: Push in the dial.
Verna: Okay, how hot do you want it?
June: How hot do we want it?
Jess: 400 degrees.
June: 400 degrees.
Mary: How long is this going to take?

And on we went. I learned, over the next (honestly) 40 minutes, to give extremely specific instructions. We started with potatoes, then fennel, then kale, then salmon. But we started everything slowly:

Jess: Is your white square ceramic pan nearby?
June: Yes, right here.
Jess: Okay, I’m going to tell you how to cut the fennel, then you’re going to put the fennel slices in, drizzle them with olive oil and roll them around a bit. Ready?
June: (To Verna, excited) We’re going to get the fennel ready now. (To Jess) Okay, what do we do?
Jess: Okay. Pretend the fennel is a hand. You see it, with the fingers sticking up?
June: Verna: Pretend the fennel is a hand, with the fingers sticking up.
Verna: I don’t see it. A hand?
June: We don’t see it. What do you mean?
Jess: Can you pretend that the white part is your palm and the green sticky-uppity parts are fingers?
June: Oh, yes.
Verna: What. What? (June explains.)
Jess: (Hems, haws, then decides not to trim the bottom.) Okay. You can eat all of it, but for tonight, we’re going to cut the tops off. Cut the long green stalks off where the rings would be, if the fennel was a hand.
June: Cut the long green stalks off where the rings would be . . . what?
Jess: If the fennel was a hand.
June: If the fennel was a hand. Isn’t it were a hand?
(Chopping sounds.)
Jess: Okay, now cut it into slices through the core.
June: Now cut it into slices through the core.
Verna: I have to talk to her about the center.

Verna washed her hands, and June handed her the phone. I explained how to cut the fennel bulb into wedges right through the center core, so the layers of vegetable stick together, and promised her that it would roast up nice and soft. She handed the phone back to June, and got to work. And on we went, for potatoes, kale, salmon, and the sauce.

Overall, though, it worked quite well. Since it took us (collectively) longer than it took me alone to prepare the ingredients, I had them cut their salmon into smaller filets, instead of roasting it in a big slab, and unless they were lying, it came out perfectly.

From my end, it was sort of a grueling half hour or so. But it also made my heart melt, they same way it does when a kid says something so entirely wrong it’s cute. I’d say, “Squeeze the lemon over the fish,” and June would say, “How do you squeeze a lemon again?” and Verna would say, “June, I know how to squeeze a lemon,” and Mary, more kitchencaster than participant, would say, “What’s the lemon for? Why aren’t we putting it on the fish later?” And since I was there, they’d ask me, to make sure, and we’d spend 25 seconds – watch the clock, it’s a long time – talking lemon-squeezing.

But my goodness, they giggled. There were three of them, but even so, sometimes they were so overwhelmed by the collective energy it took to, say, find the cumin, that they’d abandon me on the counter, and I could hear them twittering, one to the next. It was like listening to a recording of a pack of teenagers in 1939.

And after they’d called back to report that yes, dinner was sensational, I imagined them gathered in front of her giant new television, watching the World Series, picking kale out of their teeth, and wished I wasn’t such a sucker for Whiney McWhiskers. But if anyone understands coddling a cat, it’s June.

Over Thanksgiving, she told me again how much fun she’d had. “But fennel,” she said. “I wouldn’t be too sad if I never saw fennel again. I’m a carrots-onions-potatoes kind of gal.”

Fair enough. I’ll cook the fennel here.

Holiday Dinner 2

The Ten Minute Holiday Meal: Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Cumin Raita, Caramelized Fennel with Sherry Vinegar, Simple Dijon Potatoes, and Creamed Kale (PDF)

The holidays are a time to put the shine on your best silver, if that’s what suits you, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Me? I didn’t always save the pasta-making, reduction-simmering, and bread baking for other times of the year. It used to make sense to stand in the kitchen for hours, talking and stirring. But these days, with an 8-month-old, I’m lucky if I can boil water in one try at 6 p.m. So this year, having guests over will mean simplicity, so there’s a chance – even the slightest, skinniest chance – that I’ll get to talk to the people hanging out with us in our home.

The following simple menu was designed with a 4-person dinner party in mind, to be prepared in a bit over 10 minutes (with dinner about 20 minutes afterward). It doubles easily, but if you do double it, keep in mind that it will take you longer to cut the vegetables, so the salmon might go in later. Luckily, it’s hard to overcook the potatoes, fennel, and kale, so let the salmon determine dinnertime – just add the sherry to the fennel right when you start taking things out of the oven, so it has a minute or two to sizzle.

If you can’t find Olsen Farms’ “Spud Nuts,” which are basically ridiculously small potatoes, quarter golf ball-sized potatoes and use them instead. Potatoes simply halved (per the photos above) don’t quite cook enough in the time allotted.

And, as always, please READ THROUGH the directions before beginning. The directions assume all produce is washed.

*

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

MAKE THE POTATOES: Grease a shallow roasting pan with a teaspoon of olive oil. Toss 1 1/2 pounds Spud Nuts (or quartered small potatoes) with 2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard, transfer them to the pan, and put them in the oven on the bottom rack.

MAKE THE FENNEL: Cut the long green stalks off a 1 1/2 pound fennel bulb and save to slice into a salad. Cut the fennel in half vertically (with the stripes), then cut each half into 6 or 8 wedges, so the core keeps each wedge intact. Pile the wedges in an ovenproof pan big enough to fit them in one layer, drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and mix with your hands until all the fennel is coated. Add to the oven’s bottom rack.

START THE KALE: Cut 2 small bunches (about 3/4 pound) lacinato (also called dinosaur) kale crosswise into thin ribbons. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Add a crushed, chopped garlic clove, stir for a few seconds, then add the kale, and cook, stirring occasionally while you continue.

MAKE THE SAUCE: Stir together the contents of an 8-ounce container full-fat Greek yogurt, the zest and juice of a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and if you want, a chopped clove of garlic. Set aside to let the flavors marry, as they say.

MAKE THE SALMON: Center a 1 1/2 pound (roughly 1 1/2” thick) salmon filet on a parchment- or baking mat-lined baking sheet. Smear with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or so, or roughly 10 minutes per inch of thickness, until the salmon just begins to exude small white beads of fat (but really not much longer, please).

UPKEEP: Add 1 cup heavy cream and a quick grate of nutmeg to the kale, stir, and walk away. Come back in 10 minutes, stir the kale, pour yourself more wine, and sit back down. (The kale is done when the cream’s gone, but it’s very happy to sit on low heat until you’re ready to eat.)

WHEN THE SALMON IS DONE: Add a big splash – about 1 1/2 tablespoons – sherry vinegar to the fennel pan, and return to the oven without breathing in too deeply (watch those vinegar fumes). Take the salmon out, and transfer it to a serving platter, along with the sauce. Transfer the kale to a serving bowl. Snuggle the potatoes in next to the salmon. Shake the fennel pan to release the wedges, and add them to the platter, too.

Serve hot.

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Filed under farmer's market, fish, gluten-free, kitchen adventure, media, radio, recipe, side dish, vegetables

A cake to crush on

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake 2

I saw you at the farmers’ market this weekend. You picked up a kabocha squash – that big, tough-looking green one, with the woody stump – and fairly considered it. You turned it around and around, right side-up and upside-down. It wasn’t without effort, of course – the weight of the thing made your market bag trip over your shoulder blade and careen down your upper arm, at which point you wondered how you’d get the beast home. Then your buddy said, “So, how do you think you get it open?” And I watched you put that poor squash down.

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but you made the wrong decision, sister. A kabocha squash can be a big thug of a thing, but it is not (despite those witchy warts and scars) actually scary or difficult to use.

And I don’t mean to be smug, but I should know. These days, with sore joints, a can opener is my nemesis; I do not cut hard things. The thought of hacking into anything tougher than a bagel (much less quartering a big ol’ squash) brings tears to my eyes. But I love kabocha. So my choices are threefold: 1) stop buying squash and be sad, 2) let my husband finally buy the Samurai sword he’s always wanted, and pray he doesn’t hurt the counters or himself, or 3) skip the farmers’ market and buy pre-cut squash at the grocery store.

tired tanned kabocha squash

But oh, wait. WAIT. There’s a fourth. See, you don’t actually have to cut into a kabocha before you cook it, if you want soft squash. You can just put it in the oven, stem and all, and roast away at 400 degrees. It comes out like I do after a too-long day at the beach—tanned and tired, a bit stinky and maybe a little slumpy. But it’s as easy to cut into as a stick of room-temperature butter. I almost snatched your sleeve to tell you, right there at the market booth, but that would have been so awkward and stalkerish.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake close

See, if I’d grabbed you, I would have had to tell you about my kabocha-maple bundt cake, too. As if you needed someone yakking to you about a cake that went out of style five decades ago. As if you need more kitchen equipment. I mean really, who owns a bundt cake pan anymore? I certainly didn’t. But last week, after testing a donut recipe for my friend Lara’s upcoming book (it’s tentatively called The Doughnut Cookbook, now who could argue with that?), one with an addictive maple glaze, I had maple glaze on my mind. It tangoed around in my brain with all sorts of ingredients, until settling on—well, drizzling down, really—the sides of a bundt cake hued with the rich, sweet flesh of a kabocha squash.

Bundt pan

I broke into my neighbor’s house to borrow a bundt cake pan. (Okay, maybe there was a key involved, but rifling through her cupboards with no one in the house, it felt like a break-in.) I stirred and whipped and mashed, until I had a butternut-orange batter tinged with maple syrup and spunked with sour cream. Up it baked, in a meticulously buttered and floured pan – in 40 minutes, which was less time than I expected – then out it came, gorgeous and spongy and smooth in all the right places and, I daresay, almost sexy. Aside from the oft-abused line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I’ve never given the bundt cake a second thought, but goodness, yes, they’re sexy, with all those curves. Add a quick maple-vanilla glaze and a sprinkling of nuts, and you’ve got a head-turner.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake TOP

But enough about the way she looks. I have to tell you this: She might be my best-tasting cake. Ever.

I’ve told you before that I’m not much of a cake person. I don’t like the way dry edges call out for frosting—in my opinion, a cake shouldn’t need frosting, and frosting shouldn’t need cake. Each should be delicious on its own, but they should complement each other when they’re put together. Like people, I guess. But like people, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. This cake is different. The glaze is diamonds on a woman too beautiful for jewelry: certainly not needed, but once they’re there, how could you take them off?

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake top

I love this cake because it’s equally appropriate for the plate at 8 a.m., 4 p.m., or 8 p.m. (and, I suspect, at 4 a.m., although I didn’t get the opportunity to try). I like it because I let it sit for two days before serving it to a crowd, and it was still perfectly moist. I like it because unlike a regular dessert cake, it’s hard for others to tell how big a piece you’re really cutting for yourself, so you can have ten little slivers, if that suits you, or one giant hunk, without looking like a princess or a pig. I like that it has a rich, dense crumb, all the way to the edges. I love that it’s easy to cut. And most of all, I love that nothing about making it hurts me right now.

The problem with kabocha, in my house, is that we never seem to have enough. Roasting up a soccer ball-sized specimen left me with about a quart of mashed squash, and I’m already panicking about how to use the last of it. Do I make another cake and freeze it for my mom’s visit next week? Or do I whirl it up in the blender with a bit of coconut milk and a dab of curry paste, for a quick lunch soup? Or do I sacrifice an ice cube tray, and freeze the rest into little cubes, for Graham to eat, once he gets past the initial shock of putting something besides milk in his mouth?

Oh, dear me. I might just have to roast another. I’ve actually just purchased my own bundt pan, so you can guess where the kabocha will most likely go. I want to try the cake with cardamom.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake CUT

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Maple-Vanilla Glaze (PDF)

Kabocha squash has a rich, yellowy flesh that mashes up soft and smooth (like canned pumpkin) when it’s cooked. To roast it, slice a kabocha roughly in half and remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Roast cut side-down on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet (no need to oil it) at 400 degrees until the skin is easy to poke with a fork, about an hour. (Timing will depend on the size and age of the squash.) Let the squash cool, peel away the skin and any other tough pieces, and mash the squash like you would potatoes, until smooth.

If you’re afraid of cutting the squash, you can also put the entire thing – stem and all – into the oven, and bake it a bit longer. Just be sure to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff before you mash the flesh.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: About 16 servings

For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (at room temperature), plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (8 ounce container)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 packed cups mashed kabocha squash

For the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons water (plus more, if necessary)
2 tablespoons chopped toasted nuts, such as hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously (and carefully) flour and butter a bundt cake pan, and set aside.

Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing between additions. Stir the sour cream, maple syrup, and vanilla together in a bowl. With the machine on low, alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures – first some of the flour, then some of the cream, then flour, cream again, and finally flour. When just mixed, add the squash, and mix on low until uniform in color.

Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt cake pan, smooth the top, and bake (I find it easier to transfer if it’s on a baking sheet) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, and the top springs back when touched lightly, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake DRIPPING

Let the cake cool 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully invert onto a serving platter. When cool to the touch (after about an hour), make the glaze: Whisk the sugar, syrup, vanilla, and water together until smooth, adding additional water if necessary to make a thick, barely pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze (or pour it right out of the bowl) along the crown of the cake, allowing it to ooze down the inside and outside of the cake. Sprinkle immediately with nuts, if using.

Once the glaze has dried, the cake keeps well, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature, up to 3 days.

MAKE AHEAD: Cake can also be made ahead, wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen up to 1 month. Glaze after defrosting at room temperature.

Dirty bundt pan

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Filed under Breakfast, Cakes, dessert, farmer's market, lupus, recipe, vegetables

Little cracks

Inauguration on CNN.com

I stood up.

Oh, yes I did. With the dog as my witness, I solemnly swear that I put my tea down, wiped tears from my face, and stood right there in front of my computer screen when Barack H. Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the US.

I’ve been crying on and off all day, it seems. (I hear I’m not the only one.)

Actually, it started yesterday. I was driving to Food Lifeline with my sister. (We spent the morning packing 12,000 pounds of apples for distribution to low-income families.) There, on the corner of 80th and Greenwood, a spot I pass almost daily, was a little family: Mom, Dad, Junior. The little guy was two, maybe three years old. They all had gardening gloves on. Dad and Junior were holding a big plastic bag full of trash, and Mom was scurrying across the street during the last few flashes of the “Don’t Walk” sign with an extra fistful of debris. No neighborhood clean-up t-shirts. No organization urging them to take action. Just two people, teaching their child that it’s his job to help keep his neighborhood clean. I breathed in deep to keep the tears from actually falling down.

Thierry Rautureau at Food Lifeline

At Food Lifeline, I held them back, too. We walked into a gigantic food warehouse exclusively devoted to the distribution of food to people who need it. I’m not intent on spending my whole life focusing on world hunger, but jeez, a few hours in that place is a great way to remind myself to say thanks each and every time I unload a bag of groceries.

We’ll be back, my sister and I. To pack apples again, or stuff envelopes, or assemble boxes of pad Thai, or whatever else they need. It’s amazing how much 130 people can do in 2 hours if someone’s there to tell you where to put your collective energy.

We’ll be back. Yes, we will.

At least, that’s what we told the TV guys who interviewed us. (I hear we were on television. But I think that would be much more exciting news if I had one to watch.)

I believe it, though. I believe in change.

Maybe that’s why I watched the inauguration, on my computer, for the first time… ever. Maybe that’s why I cried when Aretha Franklin came on stage, and when Obama spoke, and when Cheney was wheeled to his limo in a chair. (Wait. That might have been a laugh.)

I don’t suppose John Williams composed that inauguration piece just for me, either. But I heard the Appalachian Spring in there. I heard it because it was a song we played during our wedding ceremony—then, as today, full of promise and newness and birth and life, and the messy scatterings of a beginning whose ends we can’t foresee. (You know. Inauguration.)

I’m stuck, though. I’m stuck again with the challenge of figuring out what my contribution should be. What am I beginning? What is my role?

For the first time, I want one.

It’s easy to pinpoint the work cut out for someone else—for Obama, or my friend in the Foreign Service, or someone who works on energy policy for a living. They spend each day looking for change.

In my day-to-day work, change just means whole wheat flour. Watching the new president outline the tasks ahead, it’s hard not to feel like I could be doing more. But it’s unrealistic to expect I’ll spend 4 hours a week at Food Lifeline, or any other place where I can feel like I’m making a difference. Every month? Maybe. Hopefully.

The thing Obama missed—or rather, the thing I have to reiterate to myself, slowly, because I love the idea of jumping on a fast-moving bandwagon with both feet and nothing to hold onto—is that the things we do, for change, don’t have to be that big. We just have to fill the cracks.

So I’m a food writer. I don’t participate in peace negotiations or initiate AIDS fundraising campaigns for a living, I convince people to eat for a living. (As if Americans need convincing.) But it is what it is, and I love doing it.

And even I can find spaces to fill. Fissures, and seams, and holes to plug.

Winter Minestrone 2

In my world, change means buying food grown here, in Washington, or at least in America. Change means not choosing cherries from Chile, because even though they’re fat and ripe and round and singing out loud for me to test their sweetness, their transport burned a microscopic hole in the world’s oil reserves, and I, personally, don’t really need a cherry before June, when an apple will do. Change means a soup, here, for you, that you can make almost entirely with ingredients from the farmers’ market. (Yes, you—are you the one who gave up on the market in October, when the last of the stone fruit sold out? Go back this weekend. I dare you.)

I can’t single-handedly lift up the state’s economy, rev the farmers’ markets back to life, fix the havoc wreaked by Mother Nature, and secure farmers’ incomes for months to come. Oh, no. Not even close. Heck, I’m having trouble tying my own shoes these days. (Don’t get me started on the grocery cart’s bottom shelf.)

But maybe I can convince you to buy carrots that don’t come pre-packaged in plastic, and to try kale, which in many places, actually grows this time of year without artificial fertilizers. Or to buy sausage from a local purveyor, instead of from a giant national brand whose farmers trash the land, torture their animals, and bring us meat that’s not really all that safe for us to eat. (Even if it’s a dollar more.) Or to eat just a little healthier—not perfectly, but better—so that on a large scale, we, as a country, put just a little less stress on our nation’s health care system.

Yes, I can.

These are little things. The very, very little things. But these are some of my changes, the ones I can make by myself. I’ll be looking for more.

Unfortunately, no administration will be prepared to give millions of us each the individual tasks that take advantage of our personal strengths in light of a larger goal. That we must do for ourselves. And for each other.

Where are the little cracks you can fill? What will you do?

Winter Minestrone close

Winter Minestrone with Sausage and Kale (PDF)

When my husband wants soup, he doesn’t usually demand a certain kind. He says something vague, like, “I’m envisioning something bubbling for hours on the back of the stove.” Me? I don’t much care for simmering things on the back burner. (Nobody puts baby in a corner.) No, I like my soups up front, where they’re easy to reach, and their scents have a shorter direct path to the ol’ smeller.

Here’s a soup that capitalizes on winter produce. In Seattle, you can buy almost all the ingredients—including the beans, sausage, and chicken broth—from local farmers’ markets. For a truly local soup, skip the tomatoes and add a splash of vinegar for acid.

Serve the soup with grated Parmesan cheese and good, crusty bread.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 8 servings

1 pound sweet (or hot) Italian sausage, casings removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound carrots (3 large), cut into 1” pieces
1/2 pound parsnips (2 large), cut into 1” half moons
3 celery sticks, cut into 1/2” pieces
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1 cup red wine, such as Sangiovese
8 cups chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dried cranberry or cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or 2 cans), drained
1 (1/2 pound) bunch kale, rinsed and cut into 1” pieces

In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, cook the sausage on medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the pot, then the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnips, and celery, and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme, season again with salt and pepper, and cook for about a minute. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and reserved sausage, bring to a boil, then simmer at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours, partially covered. Add kale, and cook 30 minutes more.

Season to taste, and serve hot.

Winter Minestrone NYT mag

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Filed under farmer's market, gluten-free, Italian, Lunch, soup, vegetables

A good fall project

whole kabocha squash

Some nights, it’s good to cook for a couple hours.

This kabocha squash sat on my mantle for three weeks, waiting. (Those little warts? You just bump them off with the back of your knife. And the whole thing’s edible, skin and all.)

I knew what it was meant for the moment I bought it – for stuffed peppers, the kind coated with a crisp crust, then baked, almost enchilada-style, under a blanket of bubbling cheese.

But in my book, stuffed peppers are a project. Dinner guest material, for sure. So it wasn’t until this week, when we planned to have guests for two consecutive nights, that I finally got the gumption (and made the time) to whack that hunky little squash up into pieces.

cutting kabocha

The second I started chopping, though, I realized I didn’t have to go full-on chiles rellenos style all the way. Didn’t have to roast the peppers from Sarah’s garden at high heat, and peel them until I was ready to scream. Didn’t have to make such a big goshdarn deal of it.

Sure, it took some time. But the squash and the peppers pretty much babysit themselves in the oven, and beans are happy simmering on the back of the stove.

And at dinner, when slicing into the softly spicy peppers rewarded me with an ooze of rich orange, goat cheese-infused squash filling, I was pretty happy I hadn’t made a 30-minute meal.

kabocha-stuffed poblano whole

Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Kabocha, Black Beans, and Goat Cheese (PDF)

Here’s a slightly simplified take on chiles rellenos that makes me want fall to stick around. The peppers are baked to soften, instead of roasted and painstakingly peeled. I use kabocha squash, which doesn’t require peeling either, and pan-fry the stuffed peppers in a simple egg and cornmeal coating, instead of deep-frying them.

If you’re pressed for time, you can substitute a drained can of black beans for the dried ones I used; if you have more time, make your own tomatillo salsa.

I made these in two batches, stuffing all the peppers the first night, and battering, frying, and baking half of them the first night, half the second. It worked well. I imagine the stuffed peppers could be frozen, well wrapped, and simply thawed overnight before finishing – do let us know if you try freezing.

TIME: 2 1/2 hours, start to finish (with plenty of inactive time)
MAKES: 8 servings

1 cup dried black or red beans (such as Rio Zape)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (3-pound) kabocha squash (green- or orange-skinned), scrubbed clean
8 poblano peppers (about 2 pounds total), left whole
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 (12-ounce) jars smooth green salsa (mild to hot, per your preference)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (or a pre-shredded Mexican blend)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the beans in a large pot with 5 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours or more, depending on the beans. (The beans are done when blowing on them causes the skins to curl up away from the flesh.) Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Cut the squash into four quarters with a large knife. Scrape the seeds out with an ice cream scoop. Place the squash on the baking sheet, along with the peppers, and roast: The squash should bake until the skin is completely soft and slightly puffy, and a skewer poked into the flesh goes all the way through without resistance, about 45 minutes. The peppers are done when the skins are wrinkled and the peppers begin to collapse, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle, and when the squash is soft, set aside to cool. Turn oven off.

While the vegetables cool, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more, and remove from heat.

slicing open baked poblano

Working with one pepper at a time, use a small, sharp knife to make a 3” cut in the side of each pepper, starting near the stem. Using your fingers or the tip of the knife, carefully break the seed bunch off the stem (keeping the stem attached to the pepper, if possible), pull out all the seeds, and discard them. (Don’t worry if you don’t get every single seed.) Pour any liquid out of the pepper, and set aside.

Remove the squash’s tough stem and cut into roughly 1” pieces, skin and all – the squash will be mushy. Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl, and add the drained beans, the reserved onion mixture, oregano, cumin, goat cheese, and 1/4 cup of the cream. Stir well to blend, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a small spoon, gently stuff peppers with the squash mixture, folding the peppers back up over the filling so you can’t see any orange.

Preheat oven again to 350 degrees. Whisk the remaining tablespoon cream with the eggs to blend in a small bowl, then pour the egg mixture into a rimmed plate or wide, shallow bowl. Place the flour and cornmeal into two additional rimmed plates, and season all three plates with salt and pepper.

frying styffed poblanos

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Working with one pepper at a time, roll the pepper first lightly in flour, then in the egg mixture, then in cornmeal, then add to the hot oil. Coat 3 more peppers and add to the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until toasty brown all over, adjusting the heat as necessary. Transfer fried peppers to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and repeat with the remaining peppers.

kabocha-stuffed poblano without cheese 1

Spread the salsa in a 9” by 13” baking dish (or divide it between two smaller dishes). Arrange the peppers on top of the salsa, top each pepper with about 1/4 cup cheese, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately, with the salsa scooped on top.

(I didn’t have enough patience for good photography!)

kabocha-stuffed poblano

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Filed under farmer's market, mexican, recipe, vegetables

Stewing over summer

Summer Stew 2

It always happens, this time of year. I get anxious for fall. Fluttery. Nervous. Unsettled. Not sure what to make of summer, because I’m not sure when it will be over.

Maybe it’s school starting, even though I’m not in it. (I had that dream about forgetting to read for my first college French class again last week.)

Maybe it was the sound of my husband listening to my brother’s hard drive woes, then seriously instructing him to drop his laptop from a height of six inches. That would make anyone nervous.

No, really, I think it’s just change. Fall’s my favorite season; I must get nervous that someone will forget it, and skip right to winter. Every year, when the market peaks with peaches and tomatoes and corn, something inside me starts whaling on the panic button, incensed at the remote possibility that we might not give potatoes and pomegranates their due this year. That we’ll mourn the first half of September, and forget to revel in the second half of October. This weekend, I bought a kabocha squash at the market, and put it on my mantle, as a little reminder. Don’t be nervous. Fall will happen, and you’ll love it, again.

You’ll see the apprehension in my kitchen, too. This time of year, when the morning light no longer threatens my alarm clock’s job security, I start in on the soups and stews like summer never happened. As if we won’t get enough of those in the months to come.

Yesterday, I set out making a soup for a friend whose baby is due in a few days. It was bound for her freezer, originally, for the days when just putting the pot on the stove will be too exhausting.

The soup started toward pasta e fagiole. At least, that’s what I meant it to be, a sausage-filled version of that old Italian classic, redolent of onions, carrots, and celery, beans, and pasta (bowties, for her two-year-old). Nothing too creative. I sizzled the meat up in my big Dutch oven – oh, big red pot, I missed you! – and softened the vegetables in the leftover juices. But as I lunged toward the cupboard for a can of peeled tomatoes, I remembered the cherry tomato sauce I made last Wednesday.

making cherry tomato sauce

A few weeks ago, I started simmering sliced cherry tomatoes (red, orange, and yellow) into a thick, bright pizza sauce. When the mother lode came in last week, heavy on the vine, I cooked up a big batch of sauce, and tucked it into the fridge for future pizza nights. I meant to share it with you that way, as a tart slather for your favorite crust.

Standing over the stove, though, with my soup-to-be begging for liquid, I couldn’t see how the canned tomatoes could possibly make a better soup base than the concentrated souls of two pounds’ worth of cherry tomatoes. Couldn’t see how the sauce’s rich tangerine shade could hurt a person, either.

measuring cherry tomatoes

In went the homemade pizza sauce, diluted with a little water. The beans and bowties came back into my field of vision, expecting to march right in, but when I rifled through my produce drawer, I found zucchini and corn from the farmers’ market, and the dry goods got shoved aside. Outside, a few straggling tomatoes begged to be used, and before I knew it, my old-fashioned pasta e fagiole had turned itself into a beanless, pasta-free stew of summery flavors. I let the zucchini and corn heat through while the tomatoes plumped and split in that great orange sauce.

I stole a bowl, before I packaged the soup up for sharing. It tasted as vibrant as it looks, one hundred percent summer.

We have a few days of summer left, still. Enjoy them. That’s what I’m going to do.

Stirring Stew 1

Summer Sausage Stew with Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, and Zucchini (PDF)
Heated to the peak of their flavor (but not a second longer), the tomatoes, corn, and zucchini here burst with the best flavors of summer—literally, in the case of the tomatoes. You could freeze this soup if you want, but I think it will taste best right out of the pot the day it’s made. If you want to make it ahead of time, save the zucchini, corn, and cherry tomatoes until just before serving, and stir them in as you reheat the soup.

If you don’t have time to make the cherry tomato sauce, substitute 1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, crushed, for the sauce and water.

TIME: 35 minutes start to finish
MAKES: 2 to 4 servings

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage (removed from casings)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4” rounds
2 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4” half moons
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups Simple Cherry Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups water
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4” half moons
About 3/4 cup corn kernels, from a cob of sweet corn
1 cup whole cherry tomatoes

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon of the oil, then add the sausage. Cook for 5 minutes or so, using a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into small pieces as it releases from the pan. When fully cooked, transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Simple Cherry Tomato Sauce (PDF)
There’s no reason to wait for big tomatoes to ripen to make tomato sauce – and with virtually no core and thin skins, cherry tomatoes make the whole process so much quicker. Simmer for the full 45 minutes to make a sauce thick enough to spread on pizza, or for less time, if you intend to use the sauce on pasta, or in soups. (You could also blend the sauce right up with a little milk or cream for cherry tomato soup!)

TIME: 45 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: About 3 cups sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 pounds cherry tomatoes, stems removed, very roughly chopped (any color)
Salt

Heat the oil and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce reaches the desired consistency (30 minutes for pasta sauce, 45 minutes for something pizza-friendly). Season to taste with salt, if necessary.

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Filed under farmer's market, garden, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, soup, vegetables

Corn Milk Soup

Rosemary-Scented corn milk soup

The other night, I swooned over an entrée at Spring Hill. It wasn’t so much the salmon, seared crisp on the outside, hot all the way through but still perfectly puddingish at the center. Or that kale, massaged into tenderness, kissed with just enough acidic bite, that someone nested under the fish. No, my heart beat hardest for the corn under all that – ‘creamed’ corn, the menu said.

I wondered, at the time, how much ambiguity there really could be about whether something is creamed or not. I mean, it has cream, or it doesn’t, right? Why the quotes?

In a bite, I understood: The corn had the consistency of great creamed corn, each kernel whole, but still connected to its cousins by a velvety liquid. Only the liquid, instead of cream, was something sweeter, something more pure. Something more corn.

Maybe the chef had juiced corn, separately, and cooked the whole kernels in the juice? The liquid wasn’t exactly clear; it was milky, only there was no real dairy flavor.

It occurred to me that he might have used the corn’s own “milk” – that sweet, creamy layer left on the cob when you cut the kernels off by hand. When you scrape the corn milk off a cob – whether it’s really called “milk,” I can’t say, that’s just what I’ve always called it – it looks like pale yellow Cream of Wheat, dumped onto a cutting board. Try it with a spoon, you’ll see. It tastes like sweet, summery cream, made of corn.

I picked up a few cobs at the farmers’ market, determined to channel that sweetness into a soup. I wanted something that would be as good cold as it was hot, with a pinch of surprise that would make that vegetal sweetness really stand out. I chose rosemary – sweet in its own way, but piney enough to hopefully make me appreciate the corn’s flavor all that much more.

It didn’t take long at all. I just simmered the rosemary in a bit of milk, and squirreled it away in the fridge overnight. (Note to self: Must remember to try that milk again this winter, as a base for hot chocolate.) When I added it to the soup pot, with melting shallots, and all the cobs’ edibles, it sent up a puff of rosemary air. I worried there’d be too much rosemary.

The next day, when I went to serve the soup – cold, because the day got good and warm – the rosemary was much more timid. Gone, actually. But when I let the soup roll around in my mouth, to heat up a bit, the pineyness came back again, shy but present. I added a dab of the pesto I made with my neighbor’s monster basil, though, and the rosemary puff came back. Just a little. Just enough.

My best little taster came over for lunch, in her corn-colored shirt. She played with my corn-colored monster, who demanded a baby bowl of soup.

I should warn you: Monsters don’t like corn soup. You will, though.

Monster ready to try my corn soup

Rosemary-Scented Corn Milk Soup (PDF)

Though I’m not sure what its official name is, I find what I call the corn “milk” – the juicy, creamy roots of the kernels left attached to corn cobs after you cut the actual kernels off – to be sweeter than the kernels themselves. Here, I scrape this “milk” off the cob with the back of a knife, and add it to a smooth corn soup whose creamy texture has nothing to do with actual cream. For a stronger herbal flavor, increase the rosemary to 2 or 2 1/2 tablespoons.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 regular or 4 small servings

2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped shallot
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Basil pesto, for garnish (optional)

The day before you plan to serve the soup, heat the milk and rosemary to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the corn cobs and transfer to a mixing bowl. Using the back of the knife, scrape all the remaining corn bits and corn milk from the cobs, and add this corn “milk” to the bowl.

(Here’s a photo of one cob after being cut, next to a cob after being scraped.)

Corn with milk and without

Strain the rosemary milk into the bowl, too, and set aside. Discard the rosemary.

Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted, add the shallot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the corn mixture, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes. Carefully puree the soup in a blender (or using a stick blender, if you have one), season to taste, and serve warm, or chill and serve cold. Garnish with pesto, if desired.

Abi eating corn milk soup

Spring Hill on Urbanspoon

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Filed under appetizers, farmer's market, gluten-free, recipe, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

My new favorite breakfast

blueberry pancake breakfast

My brain is whirring.

It’s not a soft whir – not the attic fan, or the neighbor’s air conditioner. More of a blender, really. A blender, switching gears from stir to liquefy. Right now, it’s making those painful thumping noise that happen when the blades choke on frozen bananas.

At least, I thought it was my brain, until I realized it’s just my laptop’s fan, twirling around on overdrive to keep up with me. WhirrrIIRRRrrr. Thank goodness I don’t have to put gas in my computer.

Life feels good. I’m busy. It’s summer, and for once, my body’s happy. I’ve been biking more than usual, on my new steed. (She has pink handlebars.) I even went running this week, which I haven’t done in years. Eighteen whole minutes.

But cooking? There just hasn’t been time. Rather, I haven’t made time. It just doesn’t feel right, puttering in a hot kitchen, then sitting down in front of the screen in my spare time, when there’s so much sun to be had.

Luckily, the sun’s never too high when I start thinking about breakfast.

My husband called these pancakes unsung comfort food.

He was right.

It’s something about the way the berries burst, maybe, when I get a good blueful bite, back between my molars. Or the way I carry the blueberries home from the market, balancing them at the top of my market bag, right under my armpit, but not too close – so they don’t get squashed, and so I can eat them without actually opening the bag. Or maybe they’re so good because I made them with the berries I’d smuggled into the freezer for winter muffins – and took out again, the very next morning, because we’d already finished the basket I’d left on the counter.

thawing blueberries

It was Jim’s idea, after all, to add the buttermilk. I’d decided to substitute Greek yogurt for the milk, and he remembered the baby buttermilk box in the back of the fridge. We added both, and like we suspected, the pancakes were good and tart – almost like sourdough pancakes, only you don’t have to feed your yogurt containers to keep them alive.

I know you’ll like them. You probably won’t notice the whole wheat in this version, but I won’t take the heat if someone else does.

Serve them with good maple syrup, or for kicks, layered with more Greek yogurt and the very best homemade jam.

That’s what we did, with the raspberry jam I made with some friends a few weeks ago. They preoccupied me just long enough to stop the whirring.

Shortstack

Tangy Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes (PDF)
Like the Whole-Grain Pancakes from The Gourmet Cookbook that they’re loosely based on, these blueberry stacks say whole wheat without the heavy. But these get their fluff from buttermilk and Greek yogurt, rather than whipped egg whites, which means great sour flavor. (And honestly. Who wants to whip egg whites before breakfast?) I use butter instead of oil, because I like the flavor better, but canola gets the job done, too.

TIME: 30 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 4 hearty servings

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing skillet
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 (6-ounce) container fat-free Greek yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk the first seven ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Combine the next five ingredients in another bowl, and whisk until well blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until blended.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, run a chunk of butter over the skillet to grease it. Drop the batter onto the skillet (by 1/4 cupfuls for larger pancakes, or heaping tablespoons for little pancakes), and dot the surface of each pancake with blueberries. (If the batter seems too thick to spread out on the pan, you can stir in a bit of milk.)

Pancakes on the skillet

Cook for a minute or two, until the undersides of the pancakes are browned. Flip pancakes carefully, cook another minute or two. Repeat with remaining butter and batter and blueberries, serving the pancakes right when they come off the skillet.

they're this good

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Filed under Breakfast, farmer's market, fruit, recipe

A quick kvetch

Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad 2

All that complaining about April being the cruelest month? I was lying. If you’re a food writer, August is the worst.

It’s so wrong, the way these things work. The way corn and zucchini and tomatoes run screaming into the markets, just when those of us that pepper magazines and websites with delicious recipes are gearing up for winter.

This week, I’m putting the finishing touches on a Christmas menu. (Beef tenderloin. Quinoa with nuts and dried berries. Bitter green salad.) I’m editing a recipe for lemon cake. I’m writing an apple-focused fall dinner party ($4.39 for three Washington state apples, please), brainstorming ideas for Superbowl appetizers, and combing grocery stores for cranberries and Kabocha squash.

All delicious things? Yes. Delicious now? No. It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees today, and I’m trying to figure out how to fit a braise and a cake into the oven at the same time.

Honestly. Is this a joke?

In February, writing summer grilling recipes didn’t feel completely right, but it sure did taste like optimism. This week, with my garden positively jungling with peas and tomatoes and beets and (bolting) fennel, it annoys me that those of us who are trying to champion local, seasonal food can’t always cook it. It would be easier, for sure, if all food magazines wrote their stories a full year ahead, but, ahem, we can’t all write for those.

I know, I have no room to kvetch. I spend my days learning and writing about food, and cooking, and by golly, that’s a pretty nice way to live, especially when an old t-shirt feels like high fashion.

So between assignments, I’m cobbling. My lunches have been salads, mostly – big piles of crunchy things, married together in an attempt to put as much summer into my mouth as possible with each bite.

Oh, that it were different. That I could have recipes for corn everything due in, say, August. But I guess I can’t have my corn and eat it, too.

Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad 1

Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad (PDF)
Call it the little black dress of summer salads. Or the one essential tool you need for your shop. Or forget the analogies, and call it a summer salad that distills the most exciting bites of summer into each and every spoonful. It does go anywhere, though—I’ve made it twice this week, and I’ve served it to company, next to grilled bratwurst. I had some for breakfast, flashed in a skillet and dumped over two sunnyside-up eggs. I folded some into a green salad, and tonight, I’ll stir in a finely chopped chipotle pepper, along with some adobo sauce, and stuff it into chicken burritos.

You’ll find cotija – a firm, easy-to-crumble Mexican cow’s milk cheese – near the feta in most large grocery stores. You can easily substitute feta or crumbled goat cheese.

If doing anything to corn besides dumping it in a pot of hot water makes you nervous, never fear – it’s really easy to cut off the cob:

TIME: 15 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 4 servings

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 corn cobs, shucked
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 pound assorted ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1” chunks
2 canned roasted green chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 large lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 pound cotija cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat a grill over medium heat. Brush the zucchini and corn cobs with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, and grill for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly charred and soft. Set aside to cool.

Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, tomatoes, chilies, herbs, lime juice, and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Chop the zucchini into 1/2” half moons, cut the corn kernels off the cobs, and add both to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Corn salad in salad

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Filed under farmer's market, garden, recipe, side dish, vegetables

Christmas, in May(ne)

I felt like a bit of a fugitive, slipping through Boston without telling a soul. I wrote a friend afterward: I hope you understand. I’d committed to the trip months before, and when I started flaring again, I just couldn’t bear the thought of traveling for more than one reason. I didn’t want to cancel the whole thing, but I wanted to be healthy.

It was the right decision. I’d planned to spend the week in Maine, with Kathy, testing and developing recipes for her next cookbook.

cakes cooling

Just as the plane left Seattle, it seems, the new drug regimen blossomed into a bit of energy, and we spent four delicious days pretending to cook for the holidays. (If you don’t feel like you’re appreciating May, try cooking 35 recipes without peas, asparagus, or rhubarb.)

I met Kathy about six years ago. Technically, she’s my husband’s aunt’s first cousin. The aunt introduced us when I was in culinary school (thanks, Kim!), thinking I might learn a thing or two from a seasoned cookbook author. I marched right into Kathy’s kitchen and demanded and internship, and since then, our lives have tumbled together. (Oh, how I’ve learned.) She’s become a mentor, and a dear friend. Since we moved to Seattle, I’ve missed the creative energy that simmers up and out of my brain when we cook together.

welcome to Kathy's

I’ve also missed her coffee. (She makes the best coffee.) This week, it helped us blaze through the better part of a book. (I can’t tell you much, but I can tell you there’s a holiday book I’ll be recommending next year.) We alternated cooking with eating, eating with baking, baking with typing, typing with snacking.

IMG_1021

There were naps involved, great flops onto Kathy’s red couch that recharged our appetites as much as our energy.

We had people over for dinner, there in her big farmhouse, and it really was a little like Christmas, sitting at the table long after we’d finished our last bites.

kathy's dining room

There are few houses in this world where a typical night involves a mom quizzing her daughter on her anatomy homework, while the daughter cracks lobsters open for her for lobster stew.

Chopped lobster

Where lunch means leftover rolled, stuffed leg of lamb and a slice of pork roast:

IMG_1076

Where cooking with another person means standing over a fried egg together in the morning before the caffeine has kicked in, one person salting and one person peppering, arms moving in concert like they belong to the same body.

I had a lovely time. We worked hard, but it almost felt like vacation.

The problem now is that I’m awfully tired of eating.

At least, I thought I was, until I fell in love with a berry display.

At first, it seemed like a good idea to just buy them, despite the price, and go on a fresh fruit binge for a few days, to clear away that post-Thanksgiving blah feeling. (And oh. My. How the steroids bump up the appetite.)

But looking at the strawberries and blueberries en masse like that, all cozied together like they were gearing up for a nap in the oven, my mind cartwheeled toward a bubbling berry crisp.

Then, standing there in the produce section with the little clamshells stacked up in my cart, I did some quick math, and almost fainted. I do not have $28 for a berry crisp, I thought. I heard George Bush, the devil on my shoulder, blathering on about a tax refund. Dan Barber popped up on the other side, and I remembered how I’d stocked up on frozen blueberries and raspberries at a farmers’ market recently (for less than what I’d pay in the freezer section at Whole Foods, mind you). I bought frozen strawberries, and headed home, where my hazelnut cache was waiting.

Three-Berry Crisp

Three Berry Crisp (PDF)
Before summer really comes, it’s hard to find berries plump enough to simmer into a juicy, full-flavored crisp. Using frozen berries (especially if you have the good fortune to buy them locally) is a good alternative if you can’t wait for July, and it can also be more economical. Here, I’ve spent the savings on hazelnuts for a deliciously nutty, gingery topping, but you could substitute chopped walnuts, pecans, or sliced almonds.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

For the fruit:
1 pound frozen blueberries
1 pound frozen strawberries
1 pound frozen raspberries
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the topping:
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir all the fruit ingredients together until the flour coats all pieces. Transfer to a 9” x 13” baking dish (or similar), and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, stir all the topping ingredients except the butter together to blend. Drizzle the melted butter over the top, and stir until all ingredients are moistened.

After 20 minutes, remove the berries, stir to combine, and sprinkle the topping in an even layer over the berries, pushing it all the way to the edges of the pan. Bake another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbling.

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Filed under Breakfast, dessert, farmer's market, food politics, fruit, kitchen adventure, recipe, vegetables

Get behind the mule and plow

On Sunday, I bought pinto beans from Buck, at Alvarez Farms’ Ballard Farmers’ Market stand, thinking I could make real refried beans:

On Monday, Jim came home to find me sprawled out in the sunbeam on the floor of our office, snow angel style, except very still. I stared up at him and asked him not to make me move. The combination of riding our bikes to the market and a three-mile walk had been too much the day before, and even with a two-hour nap, I couldn’t kick the fatigue. I’d thawed out a pound of ground beef, hoping I could work up enough excitement to make tacos with homemade shells for Cinco de Mayo, with the refried beans.

Jim decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to use a knife. “Plus, you’re probably very dirty,” he said. “Have you seen that floor up close?”

I suggested going out, since I hadn’t done anything with the beans yet anyway, and he, Mr. I Love Mexican, refused. (He always refuses to do the expected.)

Then, my husband offered to make me spaghetti and meatballs. (He’s the best that way. I’d be so sick of being my pick-me-up, in his position, but he always finds the right thing to say.) Lying on the floor, feeling the warmth of the pine planks soothe my back, it sounded like the best idea in the world. He told me to stay put.

“That would be wonderful,” I said, and decided to do my very best not to coach. He checked his email and showered, and my sun hid behind the back fence.

One thing, I thought. I’ll just get out all the stuff he could put in the meatballs. That nearly-dead head of parsley. That half an onion. The right pan. I got up.

“What’s this?” he asked, pointing to the pan.

“For searing meatballs.”

“I can’t do them in the oven?”

“You can. But if you do them on the stove, you can just dump the sauce in on top, and let them simmer, and it’s fewer dishes.” Ah ha. Trump card. I had revealed that there was premade sauce somewhere in the house.

I piled a few things onto the counter, then I really did sit down to read.

He sounded like an unpracticed ping-pong player in the kitchen, rattling around without the habitual patterns that come to someone who cooks frequently in the same space. Three drawers would open before he’d find what he was looking for. When he began snapping the tongs open and shut over and over, I could tell he was standing over the meatballs, waiting for them to cook, instead of flitting off to start a different task, like I might have done. I wished I could watch him.

I don’t know how long it took. It was long enough for me to finish a magazine, which I rarely do. Long enough for a neighbor to knock on the door and announce, “Wow! It smells like chicken livers!” (I don’t think Jim liked that part. It smelled nothing like chicken livers.)

It was long enough for me to recognize the way a dinner’s smells rustle themselves up and out of a kitchen, and make the one who’s being cooked for feel darn near queenlike.

When it was done, he called me in.

There, simmering in the high-sided skillet, was a gorgeous sauce. It looked like a Bolognese, only the meat had more body.

“Is this meatball sauce?” I asked carefully.

“Yeah,” he said. “Your meatball theory doesn’t work. They started to burn, so I had to scramble them into a sauce.”

I decided not to argue about my “theory.”

“So we’re having bucatini with scrambled meatball sauce?”

“Yes,” he said. He piled pasta into our bowls a little awkwardly, and smothered it with his creation. He showered everything with Parmesan cheese.

Jim's mashed meatball sauce

Meatballs are always better than the sum of their parts, and this sauce – flecked with egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, and the oatmeal his mother always uses in her meatballs – was better still, because there was no cutting involved. Each bite of pasta had just the right amount of meat. I swooned, and he sat, eating quietly, and I could tell he was proud of himself (and maybe a little surprised). I couldn’t have wished for anything more on May 5th.

“Babe,” I said, mouth full. “This is amazing.”

“Maybe I should cook with you more,” he said tentatively, and I agreed. He promised he’d make the sauce again, so I could write down the recipe.

After dinner, I told Jim about how I’d heard Tom Waits playing at a coffee shop that morning. I’d decided it was a Tom Waits sort of day, all grumbly and growly, when it could have been so nice. “That’s the whole premise of that one album,” he said. “The song that goes ‘Some days, you just have to get behind the mule and plow.’ Even on the bad days, you just have to keep on going.”

He’s right. You have to rest, but you also have to plow.

I put the pinto beans in a bowl of water to soak, and decided we’d have Cinco de Mayo a day late.

It’s been a rough week or two, lupus-wise. New symptoms. New meds. Spoon counting, again. Maybe this is what the rune reader meant by “patience.” Tuesday morning, I woke up exhausted again, and tried to remind myself, every now and then during the day, that it’s okay not to feel good. Even when it gets all annoying and grumbly, illness does not equal failure.

Somewhere during the day, I found my way to the grocery store, and stocked up on poblanos and fresh chili powder. I sautéed onions and spring garlic from the market in my favorite pot, then softened the peppers, and stirred in the soaked beans and spices. I covered the pot, put it in the oven without setting a timer, and took a long nap.

Two hours later, I did feel better. We scooped piles of mild, simple, slow-cooked pinto-poblano chili up with quesadilla triangles, and relaxed together.

I feel much better today. Go figure.

Pinto-Poblano Chili 2

Baked Pinto Poblano Chili (PDF)
Once cooked, dried pinto beans plump up with a soft, almost meaty texture no can could match. Making chili with dried beans may sound like more work, but it’s not, especially when you just tuck it into the oven to cook for a couple hours, completely undisturbed.

If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, place them in a pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then let sit for an hour before draining, rinsing, and continuing as directed.

Also, you can substitute 3 cloves chopped garlic for the spring garlic, if you don’t have access to the leek-like garlic shoots that farmers’ market often sell in the spring.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bunch spring garlic (about 6 stalks, 1” in diameter at thickest point), chopped (white and green parts)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can corn (or 1 1/2 cups fresh kernels, if available)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Cotija or crumbled goat cheese, for garnish

Place the beans in a large bowl and add water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then rinse and drain.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large, heavy pot with a lid (such as a Dutch oven) on the stove over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onions and spring garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook and stir for 10 minutes, until soft. Add the poblanos, spices, and oregano, and cook and stir another minute or two. Add the beans, broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, season again, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot, and bake in the oven for 2 hours, undisturbed.

Stir in the corn and cilantro, and season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve hot, sprinkled with cheese.

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Filed under farmer's market, gluten-free, husband, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

A lot of little pigs (or none)

Oh, it seems like it’s been forever since we talked. I mean, since last week, things have happened.

I watched an entire football game, for goodness’ sake. Me, anchored to the couch by my neighbor’s pulled pork sandwiches and those cursed, blessed salami-cream cheese rolls. (Try it: Roll genoa salami around a baton of cream cheese. That’s it. But buy a limited amount of salami, because you will eat all you make.)

I read a book, a moving, educating, inspiring page-turner of a story, called Three Cups of Tea, which filled my heart with a feeling I haven’t had for a long time: It’s that warming sensation you get when you find out someone’s doing something really, really good for humanity, and that maybe you should pitch in, too. (If Super Tuesday’s got you down, give it a read.)

I was also introduced to pulla, a family of cardamom-scented Finnish pastries filled with quark and fruit, and made no fewer than 48 of them in the quest for the right recipe. We’re talking 48 hand-sized Danishes. Only, pulla are Finnish, so you can’t call them Danishes. For some reason the Danes got the jump on the Finns in the pastry department, which is too bad. I think it would make much more sense to call those dense, doughy gems Finnishes instead of Danishes. Because, really, what do you do? You finish them. But apparently pastry history isn’t rewritten to fit American writers’ preferences the same way political history is sometimes, so I’m out of luck. Finnish Danish it is.

Anyway, when I sat down at this here computer, I was going to tell you how healthy I’ve been, Finnish pastry and salami comas aside. Last week, I had arugula and chickpea salad for lunch all week, and mornings have been filled with oatmeal and smoothies and Grape Nuts, my rediscovered favorite. Yogurt and quinoa and wheat berries and greens have all been strong players in this here household, and I’ve been going to the gym, and all that does a body good.

But then I remembered that I’ve been sick, too, these last few days. Stuffy and sniffly, woozy and cold, just plain sick.

Oh, you say. That’s too bad.

It’s not, though. It’s the first time I’ve been sick in four years. I’ve felt rotten, for sure – sore, or tired, or nauseous, or achy, or all of the above, but since I launched into a regimen of immunosuppressants in late 2003, I’ve been too darn suppressed to show the symptoms of the common cold. No cough for four years, except the occasional snarf. It has felt downright inhuman, not to cough.

But I’ve lowered los drogues enough for my real, unfuckedwith immune system to shine through for the first time in four years, and you know what? It’s still alive. (Sniff.)

It’s emancipating, really. I don’t expect you to understand, but there’s a soft, blanketing comfort I’ve felt, just in the wanting for chicken soup. Just reaching for a Kleenex, like a normal person.

But what was I saying? Oh, yes. Healthy. I wanted to tell you about being healthy. But then there was the pulled pork, and the salami rolls, which means that my perceived health kick is . . .well, hogwash. Especially considering that I’ve also been yearning to tell you about my three little pigs. Three former pigs, actually, but they might as well be alive, for all the squealing they incite around here, stuffy nose and all.

The weekend before last, I was serenaded by the smell of sausage at Wooly Pigs‘ stand at the farmers’ market, and came home with a $16 pound of bacon.

Wooly Pigs' bacon

I’d picked it up, knowing it would be at least double the cost of grocery store bacon, and probably more than my prized Skagit River Ranch bacon, and handed it over before the $16 price tag knocked the air out of me. But by the time I started breathing again, I’d already put the bacon in my bag. Talk about commitment.

Thankfully, it was worth it, every last penny. Bacon this good deserves an altar. And as we savored it, piece by glistening piece, I developed a fantasy about actually saving the earth by eating pork so rich that you only really need a piece or so. Needing less bacon equals needing fewer pigs, equals ranching less land, equals growing more trees, equals . . .but waitjustadarnsecond, that sounds a lot like the path to vegetarianism. Who am I kidding? I really just like bacon. But it was a good fantasy while it lasted.

Little piggie #2 came in the form of jam:

Skillet's bacon jam

Yup, bacon jam: the unholy concentration of a pig’s worth of bacon into a jar that fits in the palm of my hand. It’s made by the guys at Skillet, and it makes one hell of a spread for a golden, cheesy panino piled with leftover sauteed kale. It’s Marmite for America’s palate, and I am an addict.

Piggie #3 came from that trip to Salumi, in the form of four 1/4″ thick pinwheels of pancetta:

Salumi pancetta

Their thick, silky fat ribbons queued up patiently in the fridge, curled tight, waiting their turn to bounce around in the pan.

Just when I realized I’d drowned myself in a lust for all products porcine (wait – did I forget to mention I tasted Landjaeger for the first time recently?), I realized I’d planned two consecutive dinner parties with friends who didn’t eat pork.

Panic?

For a minute, yes. I’d made such a long list of things to do with the pork products in my refrigerator that I’d developed tunnel vision.

But pig wasn’t the only thing I’d picked up at the market – there were turnips, a celery root, carrots, and parsnips, waiting patiently for their turn in the oven, and that fat stash of fingerling potatoes from the fall, and a tangle of thyme in the bottom drawer. I roasted the root vegetables to a golden, crispy brown, stewed them up in a rich, fragrant dried mushroom broth, and made a vegetarian stew.

There, I thought, satisfied. I am capable of living without pork.

By the time our friends arrived, the stew was rich and earthy, just the sort of comfort a storm-rattled Seattleite needs in early February. But as I was topping the stew with puff pastry to turn each bowl into a bottomless root vegetable pot pie, I cracked. Out came the pancetta, and the knife, and a hot pan. I seared up a two thick slices’ worth of diced pancetta, and secreted them into the meat eaters’ bowls.

So pick your own adventure: Make vegetarian pot pies, as below, or spike them with squealer. Either way, you’ll have a darn good dinner.

Root Vegetable Pot Pie

Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie (PDF)

It’s a doozy of a shopping list, but when it all comes together, with a rainbow of roasted root vegetables tucked into a rich mushroom broth, topped with Parmesan-flecked puff pastry, it’s worth it. The stew itself takes some time to put together, but you can make it a day or two ahead and warm it to room temperature on the stove before sliding the bowls into the oven. And if the idea of a vegetarian pot pie doesn’t sit well with you, stir a quarter pound of diced, cooked pancetta into the stew when you add the roasted root vegetables to the pot.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1 ounce dried assorted wild mushrooms
5 cups boiling water
3/4 pound celery root (1 medium), peeled
1/2 pound turnips (2 medium), peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 parsnips, peeled
1/2 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 large leek, finely chopped (or 1 bunch baby leeks)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Tabasco, Cholula, or other pepper sauce, to taste (optional)
1/2 package (1 sheet from a 17-ounce box) puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
1 egg white, whisked with 1 teaspoon water to blend
1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl, add boiling water, and set aside to soak.

rehydrating mushrooms for pot pie

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Chop the next five ingredients into 1” pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and the thyme.

roasting veg for pot pie

Mix to blend, and roast on the prepared baking sheet for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and soft. Set aside, and reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the butter. When the butter has melted, add the shallots and leek, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sliced crimini mushrooms and season again, then cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have given off their liquid.

Meanwhile, scoop rehydrated mushrooms out of the water, saving the mushroom broth. Finely chop the mushrooms, and add to the soup pot. Cook and stir another few minutes, until no liquid remains on the bottom of the pot. Add the flour, and cook and stir until a brown patina forms on the bottom of the pan, another minute or two. Increase heat to high and begin adding the mushroom broth a cup at a time, stirring and allowing the broth to come to a simmer and thicken between additions. When all the broth has been added, whisk the cream and the cornstarch together until smooth, then add to the broth, stirring until the liquid comes back to a simmer. Add the root vegetables, simmer for 3 minutes, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a few drops of the pepper sauce. (The goal here is to boost flavor, not to actually make the pot pie spicy.)

finished stew for veg pot pie

To bake, divide the stew between 4 large or 6 smaller ovenproof bowls arranged on a baking sheet. Cut the puff pastry sheet into 9 squares, trimming off the wrinkled parts where the pastry was folded (you will need the second sheet of pastry if you’re using 6 smaller bowls). Brush each square with some of the blended egg white, and shower with a layer of Parmesan cheese.

Prepping pastry for pot pie with cheese

Place 2 pastry squares on each bowl, allowing the pastry to hang off the edges of the bowl, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the stew is bubbly. Serve warm.

Note: If you let the pastry overlap in the center, as shown below, it won’t puff as well – try not to let the layers overlap.

Root Veg Pot Pie, overlapped

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Filed under farmer's market, pork, products, recipe, Seattle, vegetarian

You’re pretty when you’re drunk

To all those whose brainwaves were never tainted by the lyrics of The Bloodhound Gang, I offer my congratulations. And my apologies, because there’s only one song this chicken wants to hear.

Coq au vin might not be the sexiest dish to look at, but there’s a reason it’s popular: when it’s done well, the meat slips off the bones in satiny sheets. And the vegetables – I like using carrots from the farmers’ market, because even in January, they’re more flavorful than what I find at the supermarket – they always submit entirely by the end of their 2-hour massage, and hit the plate in a sweet (albeit ugly) drunken stupor.

Make this when you have a couple of hours. You’ll need time to brown the meat properly, and time to peel the vegetables. You’ll want time to make good mashed potatoes, the kind light enough to pick up with a secret swiff of a fingertip. And you’ll do best to take your time eating, too, and remember the rich, rosemary-tinged flavor of the broth – ’cause God knows what she’ll look like in the morning.

Steaming braised rosemary chicken

Braised Rosemary Chicken with Red Wine and Root Vegetables (PDF)
Recipe 357 of 365

You think only Frank Purdue likes thighs that size? Think again. Oversize chicken thighs – we’re talking fatty fatty boom ba latty thighs, from hens that were bred to run around outside – can make for tough eating if you just bake them. But if you braise them, giving them time to soak up heat and flavor slowly, you’ll like them, too. This rendition of coq au vin, with sweet, wine-soaked carrots and parsnips, tastes best on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes or fresh, soft polenta.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1/4 pound pancetta (or bacon), diced
4 fryer chicken thighs (large thighs, about 2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1/2 pound carrots (4 large), peeled and cut into 1” chunks
1/2 pound parsnips (4 large), peeled and cut into 1” chunks
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 (375 mL) bottle dry red wine
1 bay leaf
2 (6”) sprigs fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven (or some sort of heavy, ovenproof vessel with a lid) over medium heat. Add the pancetta, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside. (At this point, you should have a thin layer of grease on the bottom of the pot. If your pancetta wasn’t that greasy, add a teaspoon or two of peanut or vegetable oil.)

Meanwhile, place the flour on a plate, season well with salt and pepper, and stir to blend. Roll the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour. When the pancetta comes out, increase heat to medium-high, and add the chicken pieces, smooth side down. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side, until well browned. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the pancetta, and wipe excess chicken fat (and any burnt bits) out of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the olive oil to the pan, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften and pick the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes). Add the carrots, parsnips, garlic, wine, bay leaf, and rosemary, and bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.

When the wine simmers, nestle the chicken into the pot, cover, and braise (cook in the oven) for one hour, turning the chicken halfway through. Stir in the pancetta, and braise another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then season the braising liquid to taste, and serve.

Note: Chicken can be made ahead of time, cooled to room temperature, and refrigerated overnight right in the braising pot. To reheat a day or two later, skim any accumulated fat off the surface of the stew, and reheat in a 325-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

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Filed under chicken, farmer's market, recipe, vegetables

Simple

I’ve seen you at the Skagit River Ranch stand at the farmers’ market. You look at the menu, and your eyes fall on tenderloin. Essh, your eyes say. I’m not sure I can pay more than $20/pound for beef. You pick up the spare ribs, calculating how much time you’ll have to make dinner, and put them back. You open one cooler after the next, wanting to buy something because you like the idea of buying local meat, but each time you pick up a frozen package and turn it around in your hands, your brain also freezes. What do I do with this?

The answer? Not much. Buy an eye of round roast, just a little guy, about a pound and a half. (This cut is cheaper, but makes a gorgeous little roast, perfect for two people with a love for leftovers.) Roast it gently, coated with rosemary, and when you bring the first forkful to your tongue, you’ll know you don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff.

Rosemary Roast Beef

Recipe 312 of 365: Simple Rosemary Roast Beef

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat a 1 1/2 pound eye of round roast dry, and rub it with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Pat 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary into the skin, and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until the temperature reads 130 degrees in the center, for medium rare. Let the roast rest for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.

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Filed under Beef, farmer's market, recipe