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Feeding Others

bruschetta w peaches prep

We are surrounded by the loving instinct to nourish those in a time of need. Friends and family are eager to start a meal train for us and meantime they deliver lovely treats at random.

Enter the patient who develops recipes for a living and who is following a therapeutic fasting regime for three and half days around each chemo session.  Thus, picture me walking up and down my street, plates of just tested and photographed food in hand in search of eaters!

On the days leading up to chemo, that is food that has actually not been tasted by me! Oh the irony and the learning . . .when my boys are home I’ve begun to rely on their palates to tweak the dishes but mostly I just trust myself and years of cooking to know how a dish should be. Luckily, the cook-with-what-you-have philosophy of taste as you go, adjust seasoning to suit your taste, substitute what you have on hand, means you can create delicious food without exact measurements and overly detailed instructions.

I tested the above peach bruschetta prior to my first round of chemo as I needed a better photograph of it for a newsletter. I didn’t have goat cheese (as called for in the recipe) on hand but knew that the feta I did have on hand would pass as goat cheese in the photo. My neighbor who graciously answered my random knock on her door at 10am ate them with glee, so please add feta to the options of possible toppings!

Happy cooking with what you have!

Bruschetta with Peaches and Basil

Peaches and basil are a great combination and this dish is simple, gorgeous and delicious.

Serves 5 as a side/starter

5 good crusty slices of bread, toasted or grilled
3-4 ounces fresh goat’s cheese (or fresh ricotta or some other mild, spreadable cheese)
Handful or two of whole basil leaves
1-2 large peaches, washed but not peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil
A little balsamic sherry or any vinegar you have or lime juice

Set your oven to broil or turn on/light your grill. Slice the unpeeled peaches into 1/4-inch thick slices, working your way around the peach vertically. Spread the peach slices on a cookie sheet and broil for about 5minutes until browning in a few spots. You don’t want them to fall apart or burn so watch closely. Alternatively grill on foil on a grill.

Cut your slices of toasted bread in halves or thirds. Spread generously with goat cheese (or feta:) and cover cheese with slices of grilled peaches. Salt and pepper the bruschetta at this point and drizzle with a little good olive oil. Then top with the basil leaves and a very light drizzle of balsamic vinegar and enjoy right away!

Food & Healing

tehina sauce date balls vinaigrette
Tahini sauce with garlic, lemon and cumin; classic vinaigrette; ginger, date, nut, tahini balls.

This does not look like my typical mid-summer blog post photo. It is not a typical mid-summer.

I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer and have been learning about foods to nourish me during this journey–chemo therapy and eventually surgery. I am eating tons of fresh vegetables but I am also eating more plant based fats and no more sugar or much in the way of animal products. There is a lot of interesting research on diet vis a vis breast cancer, though I have to say my diet to-date has been pretty darn near ideal to have lowered my risk for this situation so the learning curve has luckily not been as steep as it might have been.

I hope to share my culinary explorations throughout this caper here as I intend to make this as delicious and nourishing a time as possible.

I’ve been making batches of the goodies above: a rich tahini sauce (the latter half of the linked recipe) inspired by the Zahav cookbook using the tahini they use which is better than any I’ve ever tasted. I top vegetables with this creamy sauce/spread, I thin it out to dress salads, I spread it on bread, and eat it by the spoonful, mix it with roasted eggplant for baba ganoush etc.

Having a ready made vinaigrette on hand means that I can dress up any vegetable, cooked or raw, at a moments notice.  It is the difference between wanting to eat veggies rather than moping that I’m not eating any cookies these days!

And the Gingery Date & Nut Balls come in where the cookies used to be. I look forward to developing a local (Oregon) version of these with dried prunes and hazelnuts instead of the dates and pecans I’ve been using.

Finally, here’s a shot of the (beginning of the) vegetable broth that will be key to my therapeutic fasting before, during and after chemo each time. I’ll devote a whole post to this part of the regimen soon.

Fasting veg broth

Gingery Nut & Date Balls

These are fragrant thanks to the ginger, cardamom and cinnamon and rich from the nuts, fruit, tahini and cocoa.

2 cups nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds. . .or any combination of those or others)
6 large pitted, medjool dates
3-4 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
½  teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
Pinch sea salt

Process nuts in food processor until finely ground. Add dates, spices, tahini, salt and process again until it starts to form a ball. Roll the mixture into balls and then roll in shredded coconut. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Happy Summer and Happy Cooking!

 

Kimchi & Dals & the Comfort of Daily Habits

kimchi in jar top

Many Koreans eat kimchi, the fermented cabbage and/or root dish everyday, with-or in most meals. Dals, the split lentils, peas or beans cooked into a savory stew with spices, grace tables over all over Southeast Asia, particularly Indian, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and are often simply enjoyed with rice–a protein rich, inexpensive meal.

I am interested in these cultural/culinary traditions, in part because of their daily consumption (with plenty of variation). There are certainly things I eat regularly and I am more and more interested in simplifying and finding variety in nuance and combinations rather than completely new sets of ingredients each day. Having a CSA or shopping at famers’ markets is a good guide as the vegetables change week to week or month to month but the surrounding staples, like shelf-stable fermented foods and long-lasting dry/staple goods like lentils and beans provide constant comfort, if you will.

Both kimchi and dals have infinite variations, from family to family and region to region. I have been making both for a decade or so and have barely scratched the surface of these iconic dishes, learning slowly from folks who grew up with these foods, central to their culture and identity. Sauerkraut is my cultural equivalent (to the kimchi) and though I like it I am much more drawn to the spice and complexity of its Korean cousin.  Tis the season here in the Pacific Northwest for Napa Cabbage, the most central of kimchi ingredients and I will be starting a batch today.

And I particularly love red lentils; the cook quickly, my son loves them, and they’re just plain delicious and easily imbued with all sorts of spices and herbs.

Simple Red Lentil Dal

red lentil dal simple

This takes 20 minutes (at the most) to make and is richly flavored. It’s delicious just with rice or with Sautéed Chard with Ginger, Jalapeño and Sausages or with stewed meats or other vegetables or grains. It is superb the next day and freezes well so by all means double the recipe. You can also stir leafy greens such as spinach, turnip, beet or mustard greens into the lentils a few minutes before they’re done

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups red lentils
1/2 an onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeño, thinly sliced (omit seeds if you’re nervous bout the heat level) or a whole one if you like spice
Salt
3 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons brown/black mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric

Put the lentils in a large sauce pan with the garlic, onion, Jalepeño and water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cover partially. Cook gently for about 12-15 minutes until the lentils are tender and beginning to fall apart.

In a small skillet heat the oil or ghee. When it’s shimmering add the mustard and cumin seeds and stir well. They will begin to pop and spit after 20 seconds or so. Add the turmeric, stir well and cook for another few seconds. Take off the heat and pour all of the spices and oil (scrape out well with a spatula) into the lentils along with 1 teaspoon salt and stir in well and cover. Garnish with chopped cilantro and season to taste with more salt if needed.

CSA Love (!) and Creamy, Indian-spiced Spring Vegetables

Indian spiced creamy peas turnips cabbage

Want to enjoy the freshest produce? Get a CSA.

 

Want to become a better cook? Get a CSA.

 

Want to keep your $$ in your community? Get a CSA.

 

Want to expand your/your children’s/family’s palate? Get a CSA.

 

Want to save money? Get a CSA. (Because when you already have all that produce you will likely not go out to eat because you want/need to eat the food you’ve already paid for and because if you stock your pantry well and get those weekly veggies you will spend less because you’ll run to the store less. Buy a case or two of lovely white or rose and spend summer evenings on your porch with your veggies and your wine! . . . want to find me? That’s where I’ll be!)

 

Want to feel connected to your community? Get a CSA.

 

Want to really be in tune with the seasons? Get a CSA.

 

Worried you’ll miss the farmers’ market? You can still go and buy fruit and whatever else you’re craving! But get a CSA too!

 

CSA is not for everyone. If you travel lots during the summer it’s not your best bet. If you hate to cook, don’t get one either:)!

 

I love my CSA for the above reasons. If you’ve been thinking of giving it a try, now’s the perfect time. I work with many CSA farms including these below. If I haven’t covered your region look here or here.

 

 

And in someone else’s words:

 

“I just wanted to let you know that I cooked up a batch of your Sweet Hot and Sour Eggplant the other day and it is absolutely fantastic.  I didn’t have any fresh peppers, so I just chopped up a bunch of Ayers Creek dried cayennes and cooked them down with it.  It’s an easy recipe to throw together, requiring no trips to the store (always nice) and very delicious.  I served it alongside some sesame and scallion udon noodles I got the idea for from whatsername on the NYTimes.  Melissa Clark. Anyway, they played well together.  Thanks for yet another recipe that makes me seem like a better cook than I actually am!” Giana, Portland, OR

 

Creamy, Spiced Peas, Turnips and Cabbage
–Inspired by Quick & Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

 

The complex flavors in this dish belie the speed with which it comes together. It is a good template as many different vegetables can be used and you can add meats or seafood as you like. I use whatever combination of vegetables I have on hand. You could use asparagus, snap peas and spinach or potatoes and green beans  or winter squash and cauliflower. . . You can also just use a single vegetable.

 

I sometimes serve it with barely hard cooked eggs to turn this into a meal, with rice.

 

Serves 4

 

For the sauce:

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste or 2-3 roasted (frozen) tomatoes, finely chopped
Scant 1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon  lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons oil
Generous 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Generous 1/2 teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 small bunch Salad Turnips or 1 large regular turnip, diced (no need to peel if you’re using salad turnips). By all means use the tender stems and leaves of salad turnips, chopped, if you have them, as well
1/4 small cabbage, cored and chopped fairly finely
2 cups fresh, shelled peas or 1 10-oz bag frozen peas or trimmed and chopped snap peas
Rice for serving

 

I sometimes serve it with barely hard cooked eggs to turn this into a meal, with rice.

 

In a small bowl stir together the cumin, garam masala, salt, red pepper flakes, tomato (paste) and 2 tablespoons water. Whisk in the cream, lemon juice and cilantro and set aside.

 

Heat the oil in  large saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and wait until they start popping, 10-20 seconds typically. Add the turnips and cabbage and couple pinches of salt. Stir well and cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are almost tender. Add the peas and cook for a few more minutes until tender and heated through. Stir the sauce into the vegetables and simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened a little. Taste and adjust seasoning with more lemon and/or salt and hot pepper to taste.

 

Serve hot over rice. I like to serve it with just barely hard-cooked eggs–eggs covered in cold water, brought to a boil, then removed from heat and left sitting, covered in their hot cooking water for 7 minutes, then drained and peeled.

 

 

Sorrel (Sandwiches) & a Cooking Class

sorrel egg sandwich

Constraints really are the mother of creativity. In this case the constraints were: 1) what’s available, any given morning, in my pantry and puny garden in early spring, and 2) what my 9-year-old might/will eat in his school lunch. He loves mortadella sandwiches and I had indulged by buying this classic Italian lunch meat a few times but a few weeks ago I was out of it.

He’s always been one to prefer herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil) as the green in his sandwich but I didn’t have any of those either. I did have sorrel! It’s a perennial and does well with no care or attention and starts leafing out this time of year. It’s tender, nice and tart and really a perfect sandwich green. With no mortadella, a hard cooked egg stood in, all dressed with plenty of salt, pepper and olive oil. Add a thin layer of sharp cheddar and the new favorite sandwich was born. I always have eggs, they don’t go bad (as mortadella can do rather quickly). Cooking with what I had turned into a winner and I’ve taken to eating these sandwiches too though I add quickly pickled onions to mine (just thinly sliced and marinated in red wine vinegar for at least 10 minutes 0r up to many weeks–I keep a jar of them on hand).

Sorrel in garden
The slugs love the sorrel as do leaf miners but it grows so quickly we all seem to get enough!

And speaking of cooking-with-what-you-have, I’ve just posted a cooking class on said subject: How to Set Yourself up for Success: Tricks, Favorite Dishes & Pantry Stocking for Everyday Cooking. Register here if this sounds useful/fun.

 

Carrot, Oat, & Nutmeg Muffin

oat carrot nutmeg muffins processThese muffins are not particularly springy, but they are particularly good! Lots of nutmeg, freshly grated if possible, make these chewy-but-airy little treats sing. And grate those carrots on the small holes of the box grater and you’ll end up with an elegant texture for this otherwise rustic muffin. My son endorsed them heartily for breakfast, school snack, after school snack and bedtime snack!

oat carrot nutmeg muffins

Yields 12 muffins

1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I’ve used Emmer flour, barley flour as well as regular whole wheat pastry flour in these, all with great results)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed cup finely grated carrots (about 2 medium)
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly butter or oil a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl combine the flours, oats, spices, soda and salt. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, carrots, sugar, melted butter and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, combining them quickly and well. Do not over mix. Portion the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 18-25 minutes, checking after 18 so as not to dry them out. Remove from the tin and let cool on a rack.

They are best on the first couple of daya but hold up beautifully if frozen right away and thawed as needed.

 

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

 

 

Oh Yes!

spaghetti aglio olio

I recently discovered Communal Table. The first post I received has been resonating with me on many levels–it was a welcome note to 2016 and talked about mindfulness and playfulness and food, of course, and included this inimitable line: “I don’t need someone else’s piousness moving in and making way too many kale & quinoa protein shakes, thank you very much. I am fully capable of eating a chocolate marshmallow-filled doughnut in January and still having good moral values.”

Author (and creator of Communal Table) Adrian Hale not only curates this beautiful site/community but bakes dark, whole grain breads that take me back to my childhood in Germany and loves vegetables as much as I do. I don’t even like marshmallows but the sentiment rings true. I crave vegetables and fresh food as much as the next after the holiday overload (always in fact) but let’s not take the ease and fun out of food and especially, let’s let the judgement go.

And with that, let’s have a big bowl of pasta for dinner where the only vegetable in site is the parsley, albeit quite a bit of it. Of course I did want (and had) a salad to go with it.

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino

I’ve made this for years but was reminded of it by this recent post from Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovies, finely chopped (optional but even anchovy skeptics tend to like this dish and they melt completely so are unidentifiable at the table but add such depth.)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or if you have them, 1/2 tsp or more crumbled Calabrian dried peperoncino peppers or minced, dried Joe’s Long Cayenne or Ring of Fire peppers
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add more salt (like 2+ tablespoons) than you think necessary. Cook the pasta until al dente.

While the spaghetti is cooking heat the olive oil in a large skillet, that will later accommodate all the pasta, over medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovies and stir constantly for about 3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Mash the anchovies and garlic up a bit while you stir.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the garlic and anchovies, stir to coat and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the parsley, freshly ground pepper and a bit more of your best olive oil. Serve at once.

 

 

Deviled Eggs with Sidewalk Greens

deviled eggs w weeds

A recent last minute request for deviled eggs, which I usually make with lots of herbs, presented yet another opportunity to NOT go to the store. I stepped out my back door and found lots of pop weed, aka Hairy Bittercress, a few puny parsley sprigs, a little marjoram and thyme.  I wrote about Hairy Bittercress in my very first blog post and it remains noteworthy.

Loathed by farmers and many gardeners it is a quickly spreading pest that is best removed before it goes to seed and its seeds “pop” and explode everywhere. However, in January when you need something fresh, green and spicy to add to salads, soups, or deviled eggs, it is a welcome weed.

Hairy BittercressStep outside and look around the sidewalk crevices or little muddy patches along a garden path and you will likely find it, if you live in a climate that is temperate and damp in the winter.

Most any other spicy/peppery green or herb will work beautifully in rich deviled eggs. Finely chop arugula, mint, watercress. . . .and stir into the yolk mixture.

deviled egg w weeds prep II

Deviled Eggs with Bittercress and  Herbs

6 eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped Hairy Bittercress (or other spicy green, see above)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, marjoram, cilantro, etc.
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cover eggs generously with cold water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water is boiling turn off the heat. For eggs where you want the yolk firm but not dry, as for deviled eggs,leave in hot water for 10-11 minutes depending on the size of the eggs. Drain and fill pot with cold water to stop cooking. (For eggs that have solid yolks but have a slightly creamier interior to use in salads, Salad Nicoise, etc. take out of hot water after 8-9 minutes.)

Peel eggs and slice eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolks and put into a bowl. Mash with a fork and add the remainder of the ingredients until well mixed. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Fill mixture back into egg halves with a teaspoon. Decorate with a bit of the chopped herbs if you like.

Less Shopping, More Chopping!

radish fennel carrot cilantro garnish

2 radishes, 1/2 a fennel bulb, 2 small carrots, some cilantro, plus plenty of lime juice, salt, a little oil. This finely chopped garnish enabled us to have leftover black beans and rice (from the freezer–I always make more than I need in the moment) for dinner. Simple, fresh, filling and wholly sufficient.

I want to make two points: One, texture matters and finely chopping vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds, whatever, can create a bright, rich garnish/salad/condiment that provides enough flavor to enliven plain things/staples–beens, rice, soup, roasted veg, eggs, etc.

Two, having vegetables on hand means you don’t have to run to the store last minute and instead can scrounge leftover bits, like the ones above, to create abundant flavor. Having a CSA or getting produce at a farmers’ market or store on a regular basis means you can spend the time you might have gone shopping, making fun food.

The thrill of seemingly making something out of nothing never wears off for me. I literally chuckle to myself with glee, cheap thrills, I know.

Happy New Year and Happy Chopping!

 

Hazelnut Honey Tart

Hazelnut Honey Tart

Filbert and Honey Tart
–inspired by a recipe of Piper Davis’ (owner of Grand Central Bakery) in The Chef’s Collaborative Cookbook by Ellen Jackson

This is a simple, rich tart. It’s sort of the Oregon version of a pecan pie but much less sweet and with a higher nut to custard ratio. You’ll need a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Serves 10 +

½ recipe of this pie dough made with 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 all purpose flour (or your favorite pie/tart dough)
2 cups toasted filberts*
Scant ¾ cup honey
½ cup butter (1 stick/8 tablespoons)
Generous 1/3 cup heavy cream
Scant ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whiskey or bourbon (optional)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast filberts in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes until very fragrant and a couple shades darker. Cool and then rub off as many skins as you can.

Roll out the dough into an 11-inch or slightly larger round. Press the dough into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough carefully into the base and up the sides and fold any overhang back over onto itself and integrate back into sides and set in the freezer for 5 minutes. Prick the base of the dough half-a-dozen times with fork.

Place a piece of parchment paper or a buttered piece of foil onto the chilled dough. Fill the tart with pie weights or dry beans. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is just beginning to color. Remove tart from oven and remove paper or foil and pie weights. Leave tart on the baking sheet.

While the tart crust is blind baking make the filling.

Heat the honey and butter in a heavy saucepan until boiling. Boil it hard for a minute and then whisk in the cream. It will bubble up significantly. Pour the caramel into a bowl. Whisk occasionally to speed cooling. When no longer hot, whisk in the salt, vanilla and whiskey, if using. Then whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Turn the oven down to 325.

Cover the bottom of the pre-baked tart with the filberts. Carefully pour the custard over the nuts and put the tart, still on the baking sheet, in the oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until custard is just set. Cool completely on a rack.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

 

Scraps, Leftovers, Odd Bits. . . and How to Use What We Have

caesar salad

People tend to give me food. One friend always passes on his green onion tops after he uses the white parts for curry pastes. Last weekend I left a party with a jar of leftover Caesar salad dressing and a bag of extra croutons. A neighbor gave me a head of lettuce on its last legs the other day. I love these bits. They are the fodder for my cook-with-what-you-have kitchen and my deep-seeded joy in making something out of nothing.  People seem to know that I’ll both use and appreciate them, which I in turn, appreciate!

These gifts bestowed on me have me thinking both about how much many of us have and how simple it can be to eat well if you have access to the basics. There’s been a lot of writing and discussion about wasted food (or more commonly referred to as food waste though I think the semantics are important) this year. It is a huge and critical topic and I am beginning to think about how this blog and all my Cook With What You Have work, can more explicitly be a resource for decreasing waste and sharing our bounty with others.

So, whether you have an appreciative friend or neighbor or want to get more creative yourself, I am eager to talk more about how we can use all we buy to the fullest and how we can share our bounty with those in need.

Wishing you a very happy, resourceful and fulfilling holiday season!

P.S. If someone on your gift list this season likes to cook or might be looking for inspiration in the kitchen, with vegetables, or likes to cook with their family, a gift subscription to the Cook With What You Have Seasonal Recipe Collection might just be the ticket! It won’t clutter anyone’s closet and it is the gift that keeps on giving. . . in the best of ways!

Caesar Salad

Whether you use the classic Romaine or use the Escarole or any of the other hardy chicories that are this season’s salad greens here in the Pacific Northwest, this is a lovely dish to brighten up any holiday meal.

I can eat just this for dinner. It’s tangy and fresh and rich from the egg in the dressing. The little bit of anchovy rounds things out without being overpowering. Good, fresh eggs from happy chickens will make it even better.

Serves 4-6 depending on appetites and what else is being served

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4-5 flat anchovy filets (or more to taste)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
Freshly grated black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, washed, leaves cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1 1/2 inch ribbons or Sugarloaf, Escarole or any other hearty lettuce
1 1/2 cups croutons or toast a slice or two of good crusty bread and tear it into bite-sized pieces

You can either use a food processor or a mortar and pestle. If using the latter, put the garlic, anchovy, pepper and salt in it and pound it into a smooth-ish paste. Scoop the paste out of the mortar and put it into a bowl. Then whisk in the lemon juice and egg yolk and then slowly add the oil and finally 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. If using a food processor start with the garlic, anchovy, lemon juice and salt and then add the ingredients in the same order. Stir the parmesan at the end after you’ve removed the dressing from the processor.

Toss dressing with lettuce, top with croutons and some more freshly grated Parmesan.

Mustard Greens & Broccoli & a Survey

broccoli and white beansThese are the green bits of inspiration I’ve had all week thanks to my neighborhood farmers’ market. I document all these experiments as I continue to improve my Seasonal Recipe Collection to provide a deep, beautiful resource to anyone who likes to cook, wants to cook more, eat more vegetables, get out of a rut, save money, etc. And here’s a super short survey I’d love to have you fill out if you do subscribe to the Recipe Collection (and you’ll be entered to win a treat from me)! And if you don’t, maybe you’d like to subscribe or give a subscription to a friend as a gift that does not add clutter but makes for happy eaters!

Now back to the green inspiration . . . A pot of white beans, mostly destined for a soup to take to a friend who recently had a baby, turned into a quick lunch with nothing more than broccoli, salt and a little olive oil.

Israeli couscous with broccoli and sharp cheddar that I’d made for my son’s school lunch made enough that I could have it for lunch one day enlivened with thinly sliced, fresh mustard greens and more good olive oil.

israeli couscous with mustard greens

Said white beans were re-heated and also complemented by fresh mustard greens, hot pepper and olive oil.

Testing a new savory tart crust recipe the filling became sautéed mustard greens, garlic, eggs, nutmeg and a little milk.

Broccoli and cauliflower sautéed with cumin seeds and a bit of hot pepper and cooked until nicely browned and fragrant made a lovely side.

And finally today I made up a curry of daikon and mustard greens to populate the new “daikon” page on my Seasonal Recipe Collection.  Daikon is fairly new to me and I’m finding all sorts of delicious ways to use this radish in the brassica family that is loaded with Vitamin C, calcium and also sorts of good things, not to mention plenty of crunch!

daikon mustard green curry

These things all took minutes to make and were good, simple dishes. The vegetables were flavorful and bright and I’m reminded, as I am every winter, just what vibrant, green vegetables we have in addition to the fabulously flexible and nourishing winter squashes and roots.

Happy cooking!

Apple Pie

apple pie ingredients IIPumpkin takes center stage, as does pecan typically but good old apple pie holds its own on any festive table. Mix and match whatever apples you might have on hand, toss in a pear or a quince, or stir in 1/2 cup of apricot jam and watch as people gasp and exclaim over how perfect and mysteriously fabulous your pie is! The cook-with-what-you-have philosophy lends itself beautifully to pie! I will be adding a good dollop of Italian prune compote to my sour cherry pie this week too.

PIE CLASS? I love really good pie (crust) and am contemplating teaching a pie class in the next few weeks. Let me know if you’d be interested. Fruit pies, nuts pies/tarts, custard pies. . . all with excellent crust. It would be in Portland, OR on a weeknight evening or weekend afternoon, 2+ hours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple Pie

apple pie front porch

This is a pretty classic apple pie. You don’t want to slice the apples too thinly or they’ll get mushy in the pie but too big and you’ll end up with rubbery chunks. It also depends on the kind of apple. If in doubt, slice fairly thinly. This is my all-time favorite pie dough; it’s simply butter, salt, flour and water but the technique is revolutionary. Once you do it a time or two it becomes second nature so don’t be put off by the extra step. Or use your favorite pie dough recipe.

7-ish medium-large apples (you want 7-8 cups sliced), peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup sugar or 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 – 1/2 cup apricot or peach jam–see headnote
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Just a little grated lemon zest (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (if apples are a bit bland)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 recipe pie dough which is enough for a 1 double-crusted 9-inch pie (I use 1/3 whole wheat pastry flour and 2/3 all purpose for a more interesting texture and flavor–the technique here keeps the crust flaky and perfect even with a higher ratio of whole wheat–spelt or rye flours would be great alternatives to the whole wheat pastry)

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Put the apples in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg (if using) and lemon zest and jam (if using) together in small bowl. Sprinkle it over the apples and mix well. Drizzle on lemon juice (if using).

Place one disk of dough on a lightly floured surface (right on the counter is easiest unless you have a tile counter). Lightly flour each side of the disk and a rolling pin. Roll from the center out and roll the dough until you have about a 14-inch circle. You want to make sure the dough does not stick to your work surface and slide a spatula under it to loosen up if it does and sprinkle more flour on the counter. The edges of the circle may crack a part but just pinch back together and don’t worry too much about the very edge since it’s going to get crimped anyway. Roll the circle of dough up onto the rolling pin and transfer it to your pie dish, unrolling gently. Lightly press the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and make sure the dough goes all the way out to the edges or the base of the pie pan. Roll out the second disk of dough.

Fill the pie shell with the apple mixture. Dot filling evenly with butter. Carefully lay the top crust over the apples. Trim the overhanging dough with a sharp knife all around leaving at least a 1-inch overhang. Flour your fingers and crimp the two layers of pie dough together by pushing your right pointer finger into a “v” shape created with the thumb and pointer of your left hand, holding the edges of dough. Repeat around the whole pie, re-flouring your fingers as needed. Prick the top of the pie a few times with the tines of a fork to create holes for the steam to escape.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 and bake another 35-45 minutes until the apples are tender and the crust is flaky and just slightly golden. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving is upon us. I have done little thinking about the food for the meal. As I’m sure many of you are, I’ve been thinking about the tragedies and injustices near and far. My heart aches for the millions who have nowhere safe to be, whether fleeing their home country or homeless on the streets of my hometown.

I will get to celebrate and enjoy a meal in a warm cozy house surrounded by family and loved ones. I count my blessings daily.  And I think I’ll keep my culinary contributions simple and will support a couple of organizations (here in Portland, OR) who help provide comfort, stability and warmth to those who have the least, such as Streets Roots and Sisters of the Road!

Happy Thanksgiving!

roasted squash w: salsa verde

Winter Squash with Parsley Sauce

Warm, sweet, roasted squash with a cool, lemony parsley sauce is an easy and beautiful dish.

Roast winter squash in a hot oven, 425 – 450 degrees. Roast however much peeled, seeded squash you’d like. I like bite-sized chunks or wedges.

Make salsa verde (just a mixture of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt) and top the squash with plenty of salsa.

 

Good Soup on the Fly

bean winter squash soup parsley pistouYou never know when that cup of cooked beans or chunk of roasted butternut squash will come in handy. Little time to think about what to make for dinner and little time to actually make it?

How does one turn random bits of already cooked ingredients into something delicious? Yesterday’s example . . . friend comes over for dinner but no real plan or time to be fancy. I had about 1 cup of cooked white beans and about as much bean cooking liquid, a rich, silky base for a soup. Also present, about 2 cups of already roasted butternut squash, some of it very soft and some of it still keeping its shape. I had a small chunk of celery root and I always have onions, potatoes and garlic on hand as well as veggie bouillon base (water would have been just fine since the bean broth was flavorful) in the freezer. The garden offered up a handful of parsley and a few leaves of sage.

Soup is a handy format for on-the-fly, no-plan cooking but to make it good–in the absence of time for lengthy simmering–it needs more than vegetables, grain, broths, etc. In this case a handful of chopped parsley and garlic clove and some salt, chopped/mashed into a paste and thinned with some good olive oil made it good. Sometimes soy sauce and/or fish sauce to finish does the trick, other times a slice of bacon, diced and added to the saute-ing onions does it.

parlsey garlic pistou

But to start, think of those beans and roasted vegetables as building blocks, really tasty and efficient ones, to make soup. Happy Cooking!

Simple Vegetable Soup with Parsley “Pistou

This is merely a template for a nice warming bowl of soup. Adapt and substitute to suit your tastes and needs.

Serves 4-ish

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon sage, fresh or dried, chopped (or thyme, oregano, marjoram. . .)
2 medium potatoes, diced fairly small (for quick cooking)
1 cup celery root, diced
1 cup cooked beans (white, pinto, cranberry, chickpeas. . .)
1 cup bean cooking broth
2 cups roasted winter squash, diced (or use raw if that’s what you have and add it when you add the potatoes)
2 – 2 1/2 cups veggie bouillon broth or water or chicken stock  (use more or less depending on how thick/thin you want your soup, you can always thin it out at the end)
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the celery root, potatoes and sage and mix well and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the beans, bean broth, squash and stock and bring everything to a simmer. Cover partially and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and beginning to fall apart.

Meanwhile use the side of a chef’s knife to mash the sea salt into the minced garlic and then mix it around on the cutting board with the finely chopped parsley and make a rough paste. It doesn’t need to be uniform. Put it in a bowl and add a couple tablespoons good olive oil; it doesn’t need to totally emulsify, as you can see.

Taste the soup and adjust seasoning with salt and or a splash of vinegar if it’s bland. Serve hot or warm and top with the parsley garlic garnish.

Seven Years of Learning and Cooking with You All!

Seven years ago this week I taught two classes in my home kitchen to a handful of you. Then I taught a series of classes at Zenger Farm to a dozen of you. And I bought the url cookwithwhatyouhave.com and the rest is history, I suppose.

I set out to spread the joy and deliciousness of simple, everyday cooking with in-season vegetables and whatever your pantry had to offer. I still believe that cooking can simplify and improve our lives. And I believe that knowing farmers/farmworkers, far from a cliche, is one of the best and most important things we can do.

tomatoes roasting in cast iron pan
Roasting tomatoes to freeze for gloomier months. . . one the treasures in my “prepared pantry” that adds so much flavor with no effort in the moment.

 

Some things happened along this cook-with-what-you-have journey:

I credit Carol and Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm for my love of beans which has fundamentally changed the way I eat and teach.

47th Ave Farm and Sun Gold Farm  and Sauvie Island Organics started me down the path of writing customized recipes for CSA farms and eventually launching the Seasonal Recipe Collection.

Leslie Cole, then at the Oregonian (now at Grand Central Bakery) wrote this piece about one of my students and my Eat Better class series which solidified Cook With What You Have’s place in this wonderful community of food/farm-related businesses.

Photographer Andrea Lonas brought Cook With What You Have to life visually with beautiful photography on and offline.

Culinate asked me to write a monthly column which became an avenue to celebrate seed breedersCSAs, Slow Food, parsley and homemade veggie bouillon!

The Portland Farmers Market tirelessly promoted my cooking classes and its many neighborhood markets are the source of most of of the fresh produce for classes, testing, etc., as is the fabulous Hillsdale Farmers’ Market.

Clackamas County and Columbia Sportswear’s wellness departments hired me to teach Cooking & Eating Classes with employees. We do just that and it’s wonderful!

Betty Izumi, PSU Public Health professor and genius behind Harvest For Healthy Kids (a program created within Head Start) brought me on to work with them to bring cooking to Head Start families. Never have I learned more!

FoodCorps lets me cook for and participate in their extraordinary retreats.

And hundreds of you stuck with me, reading and commenting on this blog, attending classes, eating your way through my experiments, sending messages that you “cooked-with-what-you-had,” giving me new ideas, hiring me to teach all over the place, sharing excess produce and much more!

This list is far from complete but thank you to all of you, you know who you are, who have grown Cook With What You Have with me for all these years. I look forward to many more years with you all!

And I made this dish from my very first cooking class menu for lunch today:

Kale Bruschetta

Sauté chopped kale in olive oil with a clove or two of chopped garlic and a pinch of salt. Add water to keep things moist. When tender pile it on toasted bread that you’ve rubbed with a garlic clove and top with plenty of good olive oil and salt.

braised kale bruschetta