There’s Nothing Like Spring!

spring backyard

The seasonality of emotions!? I’m not sure what to call it but on days like today (in Oregon) after a wet winter, I simply cannot contain my joy and energy brought on by the sun and balmy temperatures. The arugula and mustard green seedlings are growing right before my eyes and with it my excitement for the season that’s upon us. And the promise of all that bare soil. . .

These are also the days when I have less patience to be in the kitchen. Luckily these days coincide with the emergence of leafy greens and other tender veggies that require very little cooking/prep time. This Spring Soup with green garlic, chives, parsley and frikeh (that I posted on this very day last year) fits into this category. Use tiny pasta or rice or any other grain instead of the frikeh.

Happy Spring!

Spoiled Rotten

winter veg SLP
Photo credit Shawn Linehan Photography

me that is, not the vegetables. I am spoiled by my CSA. Spoiled by deliciousness, convenience (yes!) and by something bigger, harder to define. Everywhere we look we’re told to slow down, unplug, spend time with our family, be mindful, and of course eat more fresh vegetables and cook from scratch.

 

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for me inspires all of the above. It may take a while to get into the groove of getting a big bag of fresh produce every week. There’s the putting it away, learning how to prepare a new vegetable, maybe having a loose plan so that it doesn’t spoil (rotten:), and figuring out how to use up the last bits before the next one arrives. But once you have that down you might realize how much less time you spend at the grocery store or wondering what you should make for dinner.

 

If you get overwhelmed by the veggies, share them with your neighbor or make a giant something–curry, soup, gratin, 3 batches of pesto. . .and freeze half or give some away. You will make fast friends! And speaking of friends, the community piece is just plain cool. You get to know other members, the farmer(s), how they grow the food, how hard they work to provide a nice variety of things for you to eat any week of the year. That is HARD to do! And you get to know what grows in your region and how delicious lettuces and peas and peppers and corn can actually be.

 

There’s also the joy of (delicious) frugality for me. I’ve never eaten better for less. If the fridge is full of veggies I’ll eat them and won’t go buy a bunch of other items. If you stock your pantry well and shop for perishables once a week you will be set. You will eat differently. You might discover that you can turn anything into a latke-like fritter, top it with hot sauce and/or Greek yogurt and feel like you never need another recipe again.

 

If any of this sounds tempting, give it a shot! And if you’re in the Portland (OR) area this weekend come to the CSA Shair Fair on Saturday (10-2) where 40 CSA Farms will be set up to choose from! And there will be Chef’s demos (hosted by me) and kids activities, and amazing food.

 

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating and Happy Spring!

Spaghetti Nettle Pie

spaghetti nettle pie

Spaghetti pies are everywhere, it seems. . . as are nettles here in the soggy Pacific Northwest at the moment. It’s a spectacular combination.

Two of my favorite bloggers waxed poetic about this dish recently; Smitten Kitchen and David Lebovitz. I added lots of nettles, used less cheese, not because I don’t like cheese, but because I didn’t have quite enough and it seemed like plenty, and it turned out fabulously! I happened to have aged pecorino on hand and it does give the dish a splendid lift out of the ordinary but play around with the cheese and use what you have. I doubt you’ll have trouble consuming the pie and it keeps well, reheats well and is good cold, for breakfast . . .

spaghetti nettle pie prep

Spaghetti Nettle Pie
–slightly adapted from Smittenkitchen.com

1 1/4 lbs nettles (no need to de-stem at this stage) or other leafy greens
1 lb spaghetti
3 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups whole milk
12 ounces cheese, I used 8 ounces pecorino romano and 4 ounces sharp cheddar–see headnote), grated

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Butter a 9-inch spring form or a 10-inch cast iron pan. If using a spring form wrap the base of it tightly in aluminum foil as the milky egg mixture tends to leak a bit.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the nettles (use gloves or a dish towel or something between your hands and the nettles!) and cook for about 90 seconds. Remove nettles with tongs or slotted spoon and drain well. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes shy of the stated cooking time.

When the nettles are cool enough to handle, and no need for gloves now (once blanched their sting is gone) squeeze out all the liquid you can. Feel free to reserve the liquid and drink it. Tasty and very nutritious! Now remove the coarse stems and discard those. Chop the leaves finely.

Beet the eggs and milk in a large bowl with the salt and pepper. Add the nettles and 3/4 of the cheeses and thoroughly combine. Add the drained spaghetti and mix well and put the mixture in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 35-40minutes until there is no more liquidy egg mixture and the top is nicely browned. Unmold and serve!

Radicchio & Mizuna Risotto

SLP CW Treviso CW

A handful of rice per person, a smaller pot than you might think, and yes, more stirring than I typically do. . . these are a few of the tips I learned when cooking with long-time friend and Chef Cathy Whims (Nostrana, Oven & Shaker, Hamlet) this week.

SLP CW chopping radicchio mizuna

I thought it would be fun to cook with a pro whom I admire. I wanted to see what we might create together or what my pantry’s contents would inspire in someone else. This risotto, among other things, was the result of a delightfully relaxed afternoon in my kitchen. Thank you Cathy for sharing your time and love of vegetables with all of us!

And thank you Shawn Linehan for documenting it all! All photos by Shawn Linehan Photography.

This and the other dishes we cooked will be posted on the Seasonal Recipe Collection. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

SLP CW KD picking thyme

Radicchio &  Mizuna Risotto

Cathy uses one handful of rice per person, plus a handful if you want leftovers. My 9-year-old devoured the leftovers when he got home from school.

We used a chicory called Arch Cape from Ayers Creek Farm. It is a variety they have been cultivating and adapting to their growing conditions here in the Willamette Valley so they renamed it this year and let go of the original name Radicchio Treviso. Any chicory would work in this preparation.

Serves 4, plus leftovers

1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
1 good-sized head Arch Cape or Radicchio Treviso, trimmed and washed (or other chicory, see headnote) and finely chopped, divided
1/2 bunch mizuna, trimmed washed and finely chopped, divided
5 handfuls risotto rice, arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-7 cups water or vegetable broth or veggie bouillon broth
1-2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grated Asiago Stella (an aged Asiago) or Parmesan, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water or vegetable broth to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Heat the butter and oil in a 3 – 4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add 2/3 of the radicchio and mizuna and cook for a few more minutes. Then add the rice and cook, stirring frequently for another 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and stir well and cook until evaporated. Now add the hot water/broth, ladle by ladle once the rice has more or less absorbed the liquid, stirring almost constantly. If you’re using water (not broth) add several big pinches of salt at this stage. Continue cooking the rice in this manner until the kernels are tender on the outside with just a bit of firmness on the inside. You may not need all the broth/water. Stir in the remainder of the radicchio and mizuna and cook for an additional minute or two. Stir in most of the cheese and the butter. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed. Let risotto rest for a few minutes before serving, topped with the remaining cheese.

SLP CW meal wine