When you cook and adapt and create recipes every day it’s easy to get swept up in the many variations and tricks that are certainly fun but not always necessary. And a few of the teaching projects I’m currently working on are forcing me to strip things down to the very simplest preparations, to really practice what I preach– that cooking can be liberating, a way to frankly make life less complicated rather than more; that cooking can be simple, creative and just plain fun, not to mention delicious, economical and convivial.
It still feels like fall has just begun since the weather here in Oregon is warm and glorious, however, the produce at the markets clearly marks the passing of summer and early fall. The peppers are gone and cabbage is here and so is winter squash in its many sizes, shapes, and flavors. And this year’s crop of dry beans is arriving and my quince tree is loaded. This week I was feeling overwhelmed by the fairly labor intensive ways to preserve quince (my dwarf tree produced 50 quince this fall!) so I decided to simply bake the whole unpeeled fruits in a covered pot, as I was already roasting beets. And voila, after an hour the quince had become sauce and I just needed to pick out the cores and stir in some honey.
The beauty of this season’s produce is intoxicating and I’m reminded that even this time of year, the hard, grainy quince and the unwieldy, weighty winter squash can be prepared and enjoyed with ease. And in the case of the latter it can be sliced and baked and enjoyed with nothing more than salt and maybe a little olive oil or maybe some salsa verde.
And then there are beans! The humble, wonderful and under appreciated dry bean I love so much. I just ordered 30 lbs of pinto beans from one farm and will be loading up on other varieties from another soon. Nothing makes me feel more secure than big jars of beans in my pantry. Soaked and then cooked with a bay leaf a clove of garlic and chunk of onion and then left to cool in their broth, . . .then a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of oil and lunch is served.
And put the three together–wedge of squash, bowl of beans and quince sauce for dessert-simple indeed!
And speaking of fall and what the changing temperatures and products mean for the kitchen, I’m co-teaching a class with Ellen Goldsmith who will bring her experience with Chinese culinary philosophy to our evening of conversation over dinner and would love to have you in class! Details below:
Are you wondering how to make your autumn cuisine delightful, delicious, and inspired? Join Ellen Goldsmith and Katherine Deumling for an evening of conversation and eating just for autumn. What does this season’s food tell us about our bodies, our vitality, and our appetites? Katherine will bring her cook-with-what-you-have approach to delicious, produce-driven dishes for this abundant but cooler time of year.
Ellen will offer an overview of the Chinese medicinal and seasonal culinary philosophy as it applies to the autumn season to enliven your cooking.
Infuse your fall season of cooking and eating with a conversation over supper. We will discuss:
• The elements of a vibrant seasonal meal
• To utilize local and seasonal produce in a new way
• The benefits, from a Chinese medicine perspective, of cooking with the season
• How tastes of different foods energize your cooking and you!
You will receive materials, including the evening’s recipes.
When: Tuesday, November 5, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Where: Home of Ellen Goldsmith in Northeast Portland (Address available upon registration)
Ellen Goldsmith, licensed acupuncturist, brings a passion for cooking and food with over 25 years of experience practicing Asian medicine and teaching all about the vitality and potency of food through the lens of Chinese medicinal principles. She practices acupuncture, dietary therapy, Chinese herbs, body-mind health, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Pearl Natural Health in Portland. In addition, she shares her passion for transforming our lives through our health on her weekly podcast Health Currents Radio and as a board member at the National College of Natural Medicine, the oldest naturopathic medical school in the country.
I know it’s fall–it looks, smells and feels that way here in the Pacific Northwest–but the giant tomatoes I’m still hauling in from the garden and that keep showing up in my CSA share are ever so welcome. It is that time of year for me though where there is so much produce, both summer and fall crops, that it’s hard to focus. This salad is a good way to work through a lot of tomatoes and cherish their sweet juicy-ness before they disappear for many months.
This quick salad today is not a panzanella, at least not in the typical Tuscan sense, though it may look like it to many. This is panzanella! Thank goodness for a better writer than me and one with more authority on Italian food than me to write a proper post about this wonderful, soggy, yes soggy, Tuscan dish that I ate day after day in Italy and have recreated for students and friends alike, almost always to raised eyebrows of skepticism before and appreciation and wonder after ingestion! I like many of the more modern, American adaptations with toasted bread, I just resist calling them panzanella for some stubborn nod to tradition that occasionally comes over me.
In this salad, a thick slice or two of toasted bread is cut into cubes and tossed with big chunks of tomato, feta, a bit of arugula and lots of basil and some diced red onion. Red wine vinegar and good olive oil and salt and pepper is all the dressing it needs. Buon Appetito!
The first day, prepared according to Deborah Madison’s simple recipe in Vegetable Literacy, it was delicious. The second day (breakfast) it was even better with a fried egg, and the third day it turned into a most memorable pasta sauce. This most versatile and rewarding dish is Deborah’s sweet pepper and onion tian. My only other reference for a tian had been Julia Child’s zucchini and rice tian which is delicious but bears little resemblance to this late summer pleasure.
Here you gently roast torpedo onions (or plain red onions or any onions you have for that matter) with sprigs of thyme, sweet peppers, garlic and a few tomatoes–for 90 minutes. Then you reduce the liquid that accumulates in the baking dish with a touch of vinegar on the stove top and then toss the perfectly tender vegetables with the reduction. It’s the kind of thing I could, and did, eat three times a day, for days, albeit in various incarnations.
It’s the slow, extended cooking time that brings out the flavors and textures of the vegetables that my often quick, thrown-together, summer dishes lack. It begs to be eaten slowly and relished–something I actually don’t do often enough.
I’m sure I’ll play with this technique with other vegetables but frankly there’s something to be said for making this just as Deborah suggests. You need the liquid from the tomatoes and the peppers and onions keep their shape while the tomatoes melt. The vinegar is the perfect counterpoint and complement to the sweetness of everything else. So, make it! And make plenty!
Sweet Pepper and Onion Tian
–slightly adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
Oh my goodness this is good. All you need is some time. The preparation is dead simple but it takes 90 minutes to bake. It’s just as good or better the next day so you could make it one night while you’re making something else for dinner and then have it the next day.
3-4 small-ish torpedo onions or red onions or any onions you have
3 sweet red peppers
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 thyme branches or several pinches of dried
6 small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine, sherry or balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Quarter the onions, leaving the base intact, and peel them. Halve the peppers both crosswise and lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins, and cut them into pieces roughly 1/2 inch wide. Remove the core from the tomatoes and cut them into sixths.
Brush a bit of olive oil over the bottom of a gratin dish, scatter the thyme over it, and add the vegetables, including the garlic and arrange in the dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the vegetables, being sure to coat the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover the tian and bake for 1 1/2 hours. The vegetables should be very soft, the tomatoes melting into a jam. Remove it from the oven and carefully pour the liquid that has collected into a small saucepan. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce until it is thick and syrupy. Taste for vinegar and salt; then pour this syrup over the vegetables.
Deborah suggests serving this with slices of grilled polenta or piled on top of grilled bread that has been spread first with a layer of garlic mayonnaise. See above post for further ways to use, i.e. with a fried egg or blended into a smooth pasta sauce, etc.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
The winey, warm taste of bubbling blackberries topped with the simplest possible biscuit-like crust has broken the blogging hiatus this summer. My six-year-old has been asking for weeks now when I would make this summer’s blackberry slump. He mostly likes saying the word slump, as do I, and today was the day.
My arms and ankles still show the tell-tale signs of picking blackberries on an empty lot where you fight your way too far into the thicket for the biggest and best looking berries. Eight pints of barely sweet jam flavored with lime zest and just a little cinnamon are safely in the basement and the rest made this dessert the epitome of summer desserts.
I’m sure juicy peaches and/or plums would work well as would other berries.
–inspired by Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm
This is not a very sweet dessert. If you prefer things on the sweeter side feel free to increase the sugar a bit.
Preheat oven to 375
3 pints (or slightly more) blackberries
Zest of one lemon, divided (half for the berries half for the batter)
Juice of half a lemon or more if your berries are very sweet
1/3 cup sugar
Mix the above (only have the zest though) gently in a large, deep (10-11 inch) pie dish (as pictured) or a 8 x 13 or other similarly sized baking dish.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 1/2 cup sugar (about half way between 1/3 and 1/2)
Remaining lemon zest (see above)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons Turbinado, Demerara or other crunchy, coarse sugar (optional but very fun)
In a mixing bowl whisk dry ingredients thoroughly. Add milk and melted butter all at once and whisk quickly and until just combined. Pour/spread over berries. You don’t need to cover them perfectly or evenly.
Sprinkle on the coarse sugar and bake for 35 – 45 minutes until the berries are bubbling around the edges and the crust is golden brown.
Let rest for a bit. Serve warm with barely sweetened whipped cream. Eat the rest for breakfast or share with your neighbors. It’s awfully good on a warm summer’s night.
Upon hearing the word salad my son’s face reveals disgust or despair or just plain irritation. He actually eats bean, grain or pasta or potato salads and in a pinch even a grated vegetable salad but any kind of green salad has been rejected outright for years. He eats cooked greens in every form but NOT as a salad.
However, he devours fennel fronds and mint walking around the neighborhood and he couldn’t get enough raw pea shoots at a friend’s house for dinner recently. So last week he and I picked fennel fronds from a nearby parking strip, mint coming through a brick wall at the neighbors and pea shoots from our back yard. We washed and dried our loot and Ellis arranged it on our dinner plates. He munched away happily and had seconds, maybe thirds. I brought some olive oil, salt and lemon juice to the table for mine but found that the plain greens were actually a lovely change to our usual dressed ones.
A wonderful piece in today’s Oregonian about Xico Owner and Chef Kelly Myers reminded me of the joy and importance of cooking (or in this case gathering) with children and letting them have some agency in what and how we prepare and eat. I have my idea of what a salad should be but so does Ellis! And another recent article about urban foraging and all the edibles in our back yards and parking strips is an inspiration to do more family foraging and expand our notion of dinner.
The farmers markets are overflowing with greenery, and new springy greenery like pea shoots, fava tops, spinach, . . . . I love kale and collards and rarely tire of them but these new tender leaves and shoots just taste like spring. We packed home many bunches of these beauties this weekend.
I always make risotto with spinach. It’s a standby but this time I thought I’d invert the ratio of rice to greens. I used 1 pound of spinach (which is a lot of spinach) and one large bunch of pea shoots in addition to three large green garlic stalks and 1 scant cup of rice. Much like this recipe which calls for copious amounts of mustard greens to a small amount of bulgur, the technique melted all those greens into a perfect bowl of creamy goodness. And my son happily ate a big serving after at first having turned his nose up at the un-risotto-like looking risotto!
I can imagine adapting this idea to different greens–fava tops, chard, whole bunches of parsley or cilantro, etc. I’d love to hear reports if you try this or any other versions.
And because I couldn’t help myself and because I didn’t have time to make anything else I topped our bowls of risotto with a fried egg to make a complete meal. As you know, most things are suited to being topped in such a way in my mind.
And as per usual, I used my homemade veggie bouillon instead of chicken or vegetable stock, adding another layer of green. Speaking of veggie bouillon I have finally started making it to sell, so if you find yourself wishing you always had it on hand but never get around to making it (and you live in Portland) please get in touch.
Very Green Risotto
I love the ratio of greens to rice in this dish. It is light, fresh and lovely and you can substitute with other greens (see above). It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.
If you’re using pea shoots, taste the stems and tendrils raw. They should be tender and delicious raw as well. If you find tough fibrous parts, trim those off. And chop the spinach and pea shoots quite finely, like into 1-2-inch pieces. The greens blend with the rice more easily when the pieces aren’t too big.
1 large bunch spinach (thoroughly washed), chopped
1 bunch pea shoots, well washed and chopped
6-7 cups vegetable or chicken stock or homemade bouillon (see above)
3 or more stalks green garlic, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 ounces bacon, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil but green garlic particularly likes to be sautéed in butter)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan bring 7 cups water with about 10 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon to a boil and keep at a bare simmer. Be sure to taste the broth to make sure it’s well-seasoned but not too salty. (or use a chicken or vegetable stock of your choice).
In a large sauté pan cook onion, green garlic and bacon in 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil (or just olive oil) over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, stirring until each grain is coated with oil and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine (if using) and cook, over moderately high heat, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Add about 3/4 cup simmering broth and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed.
Since we’re using so many greens it’s helpful to add the greens in increments. I think the spinach is good cooked a bit longer but the pea shoots are best added at the end so start with handfuls of spinach about half way through the cooking process (you can judge this by seeing how much broth you have left over). Continue adding broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, cooking, stirring and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until about half of broth has been added. Continue adding broth in the same manner until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes. A few minutes before the rice is tender stir in the pea shoots and a cup of broth. Cook for a minute until shoots are just wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and parmesan, nutmeg and a little more broth is it looks a bit dry, mix well and remove pan from heat. Let rest for 7-10 minutes, covered, before serving.
Spinach risotto is light, fresh and lovely. It’s one of my favorite risottos. It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.
This is a season-straddling soup. A soup into which I stirred a generous heap of fresh parsley and finely minced green garlic just before serving. And it felt springy and bright despite being a robust soup at heart. I love this time of year when the garden starts producing green sprouts of various kinds that quickly invigorate the more wintry items in my pantry. Green garlic is in all the farmers markets here this time of year and is one of the great delights of early spring. You can use almost the whole plant and it is tender and much sweeter and mellower than the mature clove. I put it in most anything this time of year, especially with eggs or stirred into Greek yogurt for a topping or on a sandwich.
I’ve heard mention of barley a lot recently and was inspired to cook up this combination by the wonderful Camas Country Mill folks who package their own lentils and barley with a spice mix and supply their local food bank with these super nourishing one-dish meal packets.
I did not have Camas Country’s lentils and barley but had French green lentils and hulless barley from the bulk aisle at a local grocery store. I was afraid the barley, even though a hulless variety, would take longer to cook than the lentils. So I cooked a big pot of it in a plenty of salty water for about 20 minutes. It was actually almost tender by then and I forgot about it off the heat for a few hours. It softened further but still withstood the 20 minutes in the pot with the lentils later on and turned out perfectly tender. Now I have plenty on hand for a “risotto” or other soup or salad but suggest you just start the barley 10 minutes before the lentils if you don’t have it on hand pre-cooked or pearled.
Lentil Barley Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley
If you have precooked barley (see above) you can add it at the same time you add the lentils. If you have pearled barley you can add it at the same time as well. If you have hulless barley, add it and the broth after you’ve cooked the aromatics for a while and then bring that to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes and then add the lentils.
1 cup French green lentils or other small lentils that keep their shape
2 cups cooked barley (see above) or 3/4 – 1 cup draw/raw (hulless or pearled)
2-3 carrots, well scrubbed and diced
1 onion, diced
2 slices bacon, diced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon thyme
5-6 cups water or veggie broth or stock (if you’re using precooked barley you’ll need just under 5 cups)
good olive oil for drizzling
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cups of finely chopped parsley
3 thin green garlic stalks, trimmed of just the root end and any ratty greens, finely minced
Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and bacon and sauté, stirring frequently for about 7-8 minutes or until everything has softened and is just beginning to brown. Add the lentils, broth or water and barley (see headnote) and a 3/4 teaspoon of salt if your broth is not salty. Bring to a bowl and then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. At this point the lentils should be tender but not yet falling apart. Stir in the parsley and green garlic, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and cook for just another minute or two. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil.
Happy cooking, happy spring, happy Easter!
Mid last week I had one section of that beautiful, giant squash leftover. I had unearthed a bag of cooked, frozen rice–rice that I had almost dumped on the compost because I inadvertently left the burner on when I went to pick up my son and found very, very soft though not burned, short-grain brown rice upon my eventual return. In the back of my mind lurked a comment my mother had made about rice patties held together with mashed squash.
Finally, I probably shouldn’t have been cooking at all, let alone cutting lumpy, hard, winter squash into wedges, as I had cut my finger rather badly two days earlier cutting onions. So I was clumsily operating one-handed, however, the resulting fritters with their cool, tangy sauce (that allowed the sad cilantro in the crisper to go out with a bang), were good, really good. I even invited neighbors over last-minute to share the fritter bounty.
Some minced green onion, ground cumin, a bit of grated sharp cheddar and an egg were all I added and then I pan-fried them in just a little olive oil until deeply golden brown on both sides. I took my time–the cut has slowed me down just a bit–and let them cook about 7 minutes on either side which I think was the key to them sticking together and developing such a good crust.
The variations on this basic idea are once again manifold. I can image most any fresh herb, in great quantity or other spices, other grains or even other mashed vegetables as long as they’re not too watery. I’m sure sweet potatoes would be good or carrots, etc.
Squash Rice Fritters
I loved the combination of these fritters and my all-purpose cilantro yogurt sauce. I adapted it a bit to keep it thicker, more like a topping than a sauce. I omitted the olive oil and just used Greek yogurt (whole milk if you can), half a bunch of cilantro (stems and all), clove of garlic, lemon juice, and salt to taste.
I actually think my overcooked rice (see above) served me very well texture-wise, though I’m sure it will work with properly cooked rice too! And quantities, as per usual, are just suggestions.
Serves 4 (more or less)
2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked, mashed winter squash
1 large egg
2 scallions, finely chopped (greens and all) or a shallot or chunk of onion
1/2 cup (or more) grated sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste (at least 1 teaspoon of salt)
Olive oil for pan-frying
Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Shape them into patties with your hands. I wouldn’t make them too small since they won’t stick together as well. You can see my size in the photo above.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Place as many patties in the skillet as you can without crowding. Fry for at least 5 minutes per side to develop a good crisp crust but be careful not to burn. You’ll likely need to turn your burner down to medium. Repeat on the other side. Serve with a generous dollop of cilantro yogurt sauce.
P.S. I’ve posted two new classes: Strong Food: Fun, Simple, Veggie-centric Dishes for the Whole Family and Using Your Prepared Pantry: What do with Frozen Rice, Beans and other Goodies in your Freezer the latter in part inspired by the above impromptu recipe. Would love to have you join me.
I’m not at all tired of the months of sun and warmth captured in a deep orange winter squash enjoyed in the last throes of winter. A friend gave me a gorgeous Marina di Chioggia squash last fall and we’ve been enjoying it all week in a variety of forms. It started with gingery squash muffins baked with a big dollop of apricot jam on top and it has continued with this warming but bright Indian-flavored dish.
This dish is only slightly adapted from the inimitable Nigel Slater who in the headnote describes ground turmeric as having a “dusty, old as time itself” taste which is such an apt description for this spice. The lemon grass and ginger balance the turmeric in a dish that is both light and fresh and creamy and deeply satisfying. I had it for breakfast this morning, without rice and with lots of lime juice. I have tended towards savory breakfasts for the past year and this may have been the best one yet!
P.S. There are sill spots available in the Winter/Spring Cooking Class at Luscher Farm on March 16th. We’d love to have you!
Chickpeas with Winter Squash, Lemongrass & Coconut Milk
–slightly adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater
If you don’t have whole cardamom pods you can use 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom and add it when you add the ground coriander and turmeric. Whole green cardamom pods are a good thing to have in your spice drawer since they stay fresher much longer than the pre-ground spices.
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas soaked for six or more hours, drained
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut, coconut or olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
3 large stalks of lemongrass, root end trimmed and several tough outer layers removed, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
6 green cardamom pods, crushed (or ground cardamom–see headnote)
2 Serrano chilies, finely chopped and seeds removed (or keep seeds if you want it spicier)
1 lb peeled and seeded winter squash (about 4 1/2 cups of bite-sized pieces)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or chickpea cooking liquid seasoned with 2 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon base
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (full fat if at all possible)
1 tablespoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro
Cooked basmati rice
Drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in deep, unsalted water. Let them simmer for 40 to 50 minutes till tender.
Pour the oil into a deep pot and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. Meanwhile make a rough paste of the garlic ginger and lemongrass in a food processor. The lemongrass won’t break down all the way and will still seem very fibrous but process for quite a while. The fibers will soften in the stew and practically disappear. Stir the paste into the softened onion and continue to cook. Add the ground coriander and turmeric, then add the crushed cardamom pods.
Add them, together with the fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped. Keep the heat fairly low and don’t allow to brown (though nothing dreadful will happen if you do).
Add the squash to the pan, along with cooked chickpeas and the stock or chickpea cooking liquid. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle simmer till the squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife – you don’t want it to collapse.
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Put a splash of oil into a pan and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop add them to the pot, together with the chopped cilantro. Serve with the rice and the limes wedges.