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What It Takes

SIO Lettuces
Lettuces at Sauvie Island Organics

For as much time as I spend working for and with farms I spend a very small amount of time actually on farms. I recently spent several hours at Sauvie Island Organics and in that time learned more about soil ecology, biology and chemistry and related strategies employed to bring a palatable variety of produce to my table, than I can convey here.  I don’t fully understand how cover crops create conditions in the soil to enable minerals and nutrients of all kinds to be available to both the plant and eventually us, the eaters. I can’t imagine the complexity of having a handful of different soil types on one small farm and the different methods and crops rotations it takes for each one to produce delicious and nutritious food year after year.

 

All this to say, I was reminded of Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini’s point that farmers are some of the most skilled workers on earth and that we should hold them in the same esteem we hold folks with PhD’s (and paid accordingly and that’s up to us eaters in great part). And I was humbled to really stop and think about what it takes to grow the produce I eat every day.  So, as CSA and farmers’ market season come into full swing I want to thank all the farmers and producers–the ones who fight with row cover on windy days; who plant gorgeous (and useful) swaths of flowers to attract the bugs that then eat the harmful bugs in the neighboring plots; who manually weed the onions so they grow big and juicy; who harvest and wash and pack a dozen varieties of greens each week–for ALL they do so that we can eat and thrive. Let’s make them thrive! Sign up for a CSA, shop your local farmers’ market and get a glimpse of what these farmers are doing for our soil, water, flora and fauna, not to mention our communities and our table. The future of food is the future!

 

SIO kale
Kale at Sauvie Island Organics

Salad, Soup, Patties: One Ingredient, So Many Options

aspargus bulgur mustard greens lemony vinMaria Speck (author of cookbooks Simply Ancient Grains and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals) is inspiring, knowledgable and endlessly creative when it comes to this vast category of flavor, texture, culture, . . . Hearing her talk about her youth in Greece and Germany and her mother’s simple, deeply flavorful, fresh food and her own many decades of cooking all over the world made my mouth water. Her philosophy echoed mine: fresh produce and simple staples, cooked at the beginning of the week, can be the foundation of many a meal. She reminded me of bulgur. I have neglected my jar of it for many months and I had a busy week so I figured I’d cook a pot of it and see how I could use it throughout the week.

Monday: Salad of roasted asparagus, mustard greens, arugula, radishes, bulgur, toasted sunflower seeds and a lemony vinaigrette (recipe below).

Tuesday: Added bulgur to chicken soup for my son’s school lunch.

Wednesday: Black beans in their broth topped with bulgur (that I had toasted in a small skillet in some olive oil which gave it an extra dimension), cilantro and harissa.

Thursday: Broccoli and bulgur patties with cilantro, eggs, a bit of sharp cheddar and more harissa (recipe on the Seasonal Recipe Collection).

Greens, Asparagus and Bulgur Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6 depending on what else is being served

3/4 cup cooked, cooled bulgur (see below)
7 or so fat spears of asparagus (I prefer the fat ones for this but any will do)
Salt
Olive Oil
3-4 radishes (optional but beautiful and delicious), washed and cut into small dice or thinly sliced
5-6 cups tender, spicy greens like mustard greens, arugula, mizuna or any chicory, washed, dried and cut into ribbons or bites-sized pieces (I used mustard greens and arugula in this version)
1/2 cup cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/3 – 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds (toss raw seeds with a little olive oil and salt and spread on sheet pan and roast for about 10 minutes at 350 until golden)

Vinaigrette
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed up a bit with the side of a chef’s knife or put through press
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or cider or red wine vinegar)
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Set your oven to broil. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Put the washed spears on a sheet pan and drizzle with just a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil, turning once, for about 10 minutes until browning and tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice into 1/2-inch slices on the bias.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake them up in a tightly sealed jam jar. I make this type of dressing in a jar and top if off as needed all week. You may have more dressing than you need for this salad so the jar method is a good one here.

Put all the salad ingredients in a large blow. Add about 3/4 of the dressing and toss well. Taste and adjust with salt, lemon, etc. and/or add more dressing. Serve immediately.

To cook the bulgur: Bring 1 3/4 cups water or broth (I used homemade veggie bouillon broth) and several pinches of salt (if you’re using water) to boil in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of bulgur and stir well. Simmer the bulgur, covered for 10 minutes. Turn off the burner and keep the pan covered and let the bulgur steam for 10 more minutes. Fluff with a fork and use as needed. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

moro beans bulgur harissa
Soupy black beans topped with bulgur (warmed up by toasting in a skillet with some olive oil), cilantro and harissa.

 

Don’t Do What I Do . . .

. . . or at least not to the letter! What I have in my pantry, fridge, freezer, garden is likely not exactly or not at all like what you have. Often, when I write recipes for the Seasonal Recipe Collection or this blog or just post a photo on Instagram I say things like “use what you have” or “substitute x for y” or “if you don’t have this use that!” This may get annoying but my hope is of course, that this approach is freeing and gives you control and creative license. It’s also economical, quicker.

I was talking about slaw the other day and a friend mentioned that her slaw includes x, y, z, etc. and I imagine many of you have THE slaw that you make but I realized that I’m not sure I’ve ever made the same slaw twice. I’m sure those slaws are delicious but do they get made when there’s only a browning wedge of cabbage left in the fridge, maybe a few carrots and a chunk of red onion, a wilty half-bunch of cilantro and just a few sprigs of mint in the garden? That list may not sound appealing but I guarantee you the sum of those parts will be great and fresh and bright. And if you’re like me, you’ll feel smug and satisfied that you cooked with next to nothing. My grandmother (and mother!) would be/are proud. And of course fresh, newly purchased vegetables make wonderful slaws too so no need to wait until the wilt sets in but don’t forget that slaw idea if time takes its toll!

Less waste, more creativity, fewer rules. . . . are a few of the principles that get my going. However, I also know that the fun of this kind of cooking, i.e. using recipes as a template or loose guide, often comes with experience and years of experimentation and comes more easily to some than others. Temperament seems to play a big role here. But whatever your experience level or temperament I hope that there might be some new or continued fun to be had in cooking-with-what-you-have and to your taste!

Cabbage and Tatsoi Slaw w/ Miso Dressing

I never tire of slaws and this is a quick, delicious one. As usual, substitute other kinds of cabbage or greens or herbs. Mint would be wonderful here instead or in addition to the cilantro. Any kind of miso will do but I tend to keep red miso on hand so it’s what I typically  use.

savoy tatsoi slaw miso dressing

Serves 4

1/2 small head savoy or regular green cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
1 small bunch tatsoi, washed, dried and thinly sliced
Handful cilantro, roughly chopped, including stems (or other herbs, see headnote)
Handful radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced (optional)

Dressing:
2-3 teaspoons red miso (see headnote)
1 tablespoon mirin (rice cooking wine or a bit  more rice wine vinegar and a pinch or two of sugar)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil or other oil
Juice of half a lemon or lime
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 stalk green garlic, minced)
Back pepper and a possibly a little salt–probably not needed as the miso is salty

Put the vegetables and herbs in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together well. Toss the salad with the dressing, taste and adjust seasoning.

Chard Stems are Forgiving

chard stems leeks potatoes hot dogsSome dishes welcome the chard leaves but not the stems, some do both, but I tend to have bags of chard stems in the fridge. . . .for quite some time often. I just unearthed a bag of rainbow chard stems and found them perfectly fine. The ends had browned a little but nothing a little trim couldn’t fix. Their color alone whets the appetite but made into a hash with leeks (also forgiving and also yellowing a bit), potatoes and leftover hot dogs (from yesterday’s bbq) they make a perfectly satisfying dinner. Since it was just my 8-year-old and me for dinner tonight we didn’t even need an egg on top. One dish; the fridge is a bit tidier; and we’re both full.

chard stem leek potato hot dog hashchard stem leek potato hot dog hash w green sauce

Hash with Whatever You’ve Got . . .

in this case:

Olive oil
2 big leeks, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced into half rounds
4-5 medium, firm fleshed potatoes, scrubbed and cut into small dice or chunks
about 15 chard stems, washed and thinly sliced
4 leftover hot dogs (please don’t feel the need to create leftover hot dogs to make this:)! or use whatever leftover meat you might have or no meat at all
Salt
Green sauce (optional–see below)
Fried or poached egg (optional but lovely especially if you don’t have leftover meat)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the largest skillet you have over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and chard stems and a few pinches of salt. Saute over fairly high heat for a few minutes until softening. Add the potatoes and a bit more salt and mix well. Continue cooking until the potatoes are browning and tender. Add the leftover meat, if using, and warm through. Top with the green sauce (below) or with any kind of salsa or simply fresh parsley or cilantro or any other herb.

Green Sauce  . . . with what I happened to have

Small bunch parsley, washed and finely chopped
1/2 small bunch cilantro, washed and finely chopped
Handful mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
1 big stalk green garlic, trimmed and minced (green part too since it was nice and tender)
Small piece of shallot, minced (use any kind of onion or green onion or skip)
About 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (vinegar would be fine too)
About 1/3 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

Mix everything together well and taste and adjust seasoning with salt and or lemon juice or vinegar. This sauce is good on most anything . . .

 

 

Leek, Potato & Herb Pancakes

leek potato fritters w:horseradish yogurtI turn most anything into a fritter, patty, lattke-like thing. It really never fails to:

  • Taste good
  • Use up whatever random bits of vegetables, herbs, cooked grains, etc. I have
  • Turn vegetable skeptics into vegetable eaters, if not lovers
  • Serve as a one dish meal if time is short

And I never deep fry them, mostly because I’m frugal and don’t want to use that much oil and because it makes a mess and because I think they taste just as good just pan-fried in a bit of oil.

I made these last night with my son and we all loved them, as we do most things in this format! So I decided to create a new section on my Seasonal Recipe Collection devoted to this adaptable, delicious format/technique! There are now 12 recipes for savory pancakes, patties, fritters and lattkes all grouped together on the What’s for Dinner? page. How about Japanese Cabbage Pancakes or Winter Squash & Rice Fritters w/ Cilantro Yogurt Sauce or Savory Chard Pancakes or Carrot & Rutabaga Lattkes?

If you’re already a subscriber, great, if not, now may be the time! Go make fritters for Passover or any day of the year!

Leek, Potato and Herb Fritters
–loosely inspired by Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

Serves 3-4 (about 18 3-4-inch patties)

leek potato fritter prep

2 lbs leeks (about 5 medium), trimmed and well washed and thinly sliced
3 medium yukon gold potatoes (or other firm fleshed potato), scrubbed and quartered
2 stalks green garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions or a 1/4 of an onion, minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro or parsley or other tender herbs
3 eggs
1/4 cup flour, fine bread crumbs or matzo meal
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar or Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Oil for pan-frying
*Optional topping of Greek yogurt mixed with some grated, fresh horseradish and salt.

Wash the leeks well. I make deep cuts down the side, lengthwise, almost to the root, to be able to rinse between the layers. I use most of the green part and just trim off the toughest parts. Thinly slice the leeks. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt and par boil the leeks for 5 minutes. Drain well.

Boil the potatoes until tender. Mash the potatoes in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and whisk in the flour or bread crumbs and add mixture to the potatoes and leeks along with the herbs, scallions or onion, garlic, cheese and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet. Fry fritters on both sides until golden brown. Top with horseradish yogurt if you’d like.

Simple Spring Soup

 

frikeh herb soup IIEvery (early) spring I am reminded of why I have a vegetable/herb garden. Between the green garlic, sorrel, parsley, chives, and puny escarole I can flavor most anything and I haven’t actually “gardened” in many months. This is the joy of watching things come up and start afresh with no effort at all. It doesn’t look like much when you scan the muddy patches that I call my garden this time of year. However, we were away for a few days last week and I have yet to do much grocery shopping so we’ve been eating out of the pantry/freezer and the garden and we’ve been eating well.

Today’s lunch was a soup of frikeh (scorched green wheat) that I had cooked months ago and frozen, a bit of leftover chicken stock, water, green garlic, a chunk of onion and plenty of parsley and chives and a little squeeze of lemon juice.

frikeh herb soup prepIt took about 10 minutes to make and is just a template for a simple, brothy bowl of soup. Any grain would work and barley or farro would be particularly good. You could skip the grains and just use vegetables or leftover meat but plenty of herbs are key. Use any kind of broth or stock you have or just water. The little bit of lemon juice at the end and the herbs are what stand out here.

Spring Soup

Serves 2-3

2 stalks green garlic, trimmed and minced (greens and all)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
3 cups broth/stock/water
A little toasted cracked coriander (optional)
1 1/2 cups cooked grains (see headnote), frikeh in this case
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chives, chervil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt
Olive oil

Saute the onion and green garlic in a bit of oil oil in a medium pot. When softened add the broth and the cooked grains. Bring to a boil. Add the coriander (if using) and stir in the fresh herbs. Salt to taste. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a good drizzle of olive oil.

Happy Spring!

P.S. I’ve created a new section on my subscription-based Seasonal Recipe Collection called What’s for Dinner? It organizes the site by theme such as Creative Salads, Meals that Make Great Leftovers, Prepared Pantry, Kid-friendly Meals and the like. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you might consider it!

Jams & Fruit Compotes in Desserts (Rhubarb Crisp w/ Blackberry & Prune Jams)

fruit compote rhubarb crisp prepMy rhubarb is pushing up through the earth in my garden which means it’s high time to use up last year’s frozen rhubarb. It’s also time to work through the remaining jams and compotes I put up each year. My jams are really more like compotes–not very sweet and a bit looser than regular jams. I have long used these fruit preserves to sweeten, thicken and flavor desserts, from crisps and crumbles to pies, cobblers and tarts and coffee cakes. This weekend I added 1/4 pint each blackberry lime jam and Italian prune compote to frozen rhubarb for a simple crisp. I reduce the sugar I would have added to the fruit a little and I get more flavor, color and lovely syrupy fruit.

You could use most any kind of fruit, frozen or fresh and any kind of fruit preserve. I still have frozen peaches and may make a cobbler with those and some raspberry jam. Use what you have. I don’t think you can go wrong!

fruit compote rhubarb crisp

Rhubarb Crisp with Blackberry and Italian Prune Preserves

For the fruit:

1 tablespoon cornstarch (if you’re using really juicy fruit like rhubarb, berries or peaches–apples, pears, and the like certainly don’t need cornstarch)

1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional but lovely with these fruits)

About 5-6 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (fresh or frozen–thawed if frozen)

1/2 cup fruit preserves/compote (I used blackberry and prune)

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose or a combination)

1/2 – 3/4 cup walnuts or almonds, lightly toasted and chopped or ground (optional)

Generous 1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 -2/3 cup sugar (more if you like your desserts on the sweeter side–this will be quite tart if using rhubarb). And the amount of sugar will also depend on how sweet your jams are–if quite sweet reduce the sugar a bit.

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients well and then stir in the melted butter and press everything together with your fingers to get varied size crumbs and then set aside.

In another bowl mix the cornstarch and sugar and cardamom, if using, and preserves (s) together and add to the fruit. Toss well to evenly mix.

Put the fruit mixture in a 9 x 13 pan and top evenly with crumble mixture.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit juices are bubbling and syrupy. Cool for about 20 – 30 minutes before serving.

White Beans, Roasted Tomatoes, Spicy Sausage

white bean sausage tomato soup parsley garlic oil

There are so many nights when I’m grateful for the work I put in at times when I don’t need to put dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Things like already cooked beans and a jar of veggie bouillon base and frozen, roasted tomatoes all add so much flavor. It’s not the time of year to be roasting tomatoes but the other two you can make anytime you have a bit of spare time.

In order to provide more tools for this kind of cooking I’m developing a new portion of my subscription-based Seasonal Recipe Collection that will feature posts on how to set yourself up for this kind of cooking–inexpensive, flavorful, quick as a result of some planning and forethought.

Last week, I had a few nights with very little time to get dinner ready. Luckily I had set out white beans to thaw, had a handful of roasted, frozen tomatoes lurking in my freezer as well as a spicy pork sausage. As usual I had some slightly has-been celery in the fridge. I always have onions and garlic and I had half a bunch of parsley.

These ingredients turned into a simple soup/stew topped with a garlicky parsley sauce. The beans, tomatoes and rosemary were so flavorful and rich I didn’t need the sausage at all (but my boys, big and small, love a little meat now and then). You can make it more brothy by adding more stock and/or bean cooking liquid, you can certainly add carrots or any kind of greens or other vegetables. You could toss in a handful of two of small pasta if that entices your eaters to enjoy it more. . .

White Bean and Tomato Stew with (or without) Sausage

Serves 4

Olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 spicy (or mild) pork sausage, cut into rounds
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
5 or so roasted, frozen tomatoes, chopped up,  or 1 cup canned, roasted tomatoes (or just plain canned ones)
3 cups cooked white beans with their cooking liquid. I used Ayers Creek farm’s Zolfino beans (in case you’re local and have some on  hand) or canned beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups bean cooking liquid and/or water or vegetable broth/veggie bouillon
about 1/2 bunch of parsley, tough stems removed, the rest finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced and mashed with a little salt on your cutting board
3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a soup pot cook the onion, celery, sausage and rosemary in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the beans, cooking liquid and/or water or broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 more minutes. If you’re using canned tomatoes and water instead of broth let the soup cook for at least 15 minutes to concentrate the flavors.

Meanwhile mix the garlic with the parsley and olive oil.

Serve the soup with a generous dollop of the parsley garnish.

 

Quinoa & Tangerine Salad

Quinoa Tangerine salad

“Interesting combination” said the eight-year-old, . . . “fantastic” said the husband, helping himself to thirds. “It’s worth repeating”, said the cook. . . who enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast this morning.

Quinoa and Tangerine Salad 

11/2 cups quinoa
Scant 2 cups water
Several generous pinches salt
3 tangerines or clementines, 1-2 oranges (or whatever similar citrus fruit you have), broken into sections and cut in half, crosswise. If you want to be fancy and are using oranges you can peel the whole orange with a  sharp knife, including all the pith, and then slice out all the individual sections carefully along the skin on both sides of the section, leaving only the skin and core on the cutting board. But this really isn’t a fancy salad so I’d say skip it!
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped and stems finely chopped
2 scallions, greens and all, thinly sliced or a chunk of red onion, sliced as thinly as you possibly can
Zest of  1 lime (microplane works well for this job)
Juice of 1 lime (or more)
3 or more tablespoons good olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the quinoa in a pot with the water and some salt. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook, covered, on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Let sit, covered, with the heat off to steam for at least 5 minutes if you can. Then put the quinoa in a salad bowl and toss in the tangerines, Let cool for a few minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients. Toss and taste and adjust seasoning with lime juice, oil, etc.

If I’d had toasted filberts (or walnuts or pine nuts) on hand I would have added some and am quite certain that this would be a lovely addition.  Please report if you add nuts!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

hazulnut choc cookies

I scraped the smudge of cookie dough that had adhered to the counter after rolling the dough into logs, off the counter with an off-set spatula so I could enjoy ever last gram of it. Though said smudge didn’t include chunks of toasted nuts and bittersweet chocolate that otherwise riddle this dough, it was well worth the special tool. The finished cookies are maybe even better.

 

–adapted from Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome/Rome Sustainable Food Project

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

 

I used  more or less 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 all purpose flour. I used all brown sugar instead of both brown and granulated and reduced the sugar just a tad. If you can get your hands on bulk filberts/hazelnuts, cracking them doesn’t really take that long and toasting them in the oven takes another 15 minutes. Do a lot at once and you’ll have the best snack imaginable on hand as well. This also makes these nuts affordable.

 

8 ounces hazelnuts, toasted at 350 for about 15 minutes, cooled, skins rubbed off as best you can and coarsely chopped
9 tablespoons butter (1 stick + 1 tbs)
3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown since that’s what I had but use light if that’s what you have)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or a little less if you have finer salt)
1 egg
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (see headnote)
3/4 cup all purpose flour minus 2 tbs (see headnote)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, egg and salt and mix well. In a small bowl mix the flours with the baking soda. Add the flour mixture and nuts and chocolate to the butter mixture and stir and then use your hands to bring it together and finish incorporating the flour and nuts/chocolate. Don’t over mix. Let the the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic. Then turn the dough onto the counter and break the dough in half and shape into two logs, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour or several months.

When ready to bake remove logs from freezer and cut into 1/4- 1/3-inch rounds with a sharp knife. You need a sharp, heavy knife to cut through the nuts. Arrange on a baking sheet and let come to room temperature (about 10 minutes). Bake for about 10 minutes until the nuts start looking golden and the edges are browning a bit. Cool on the sheet pan for a few minutes and then move to rack. When cool the cookies will be crisp.

 

Red Curry w/ Lots of Vegetables & a Little Chicken

red curry chicken
It takes an extra trip to the store (which I usually shun) but it’s occasionally worth it to make homemade curry paste. The paste recipe below makes enough for about 4 meals (for 6 each) for my family’s spice-level. If you like things mild-medium you might get more meals out of it. It keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

You can change the mix of vegetables to suit your taste/what you have on hand.

red curry paste

For curry paste:

3-4 tablespoons thinly sliced, then chopped fresh galangal (looks a bit like ginger with a translucent skin)
2 stalks lemongrass, fibrous outer layer or two removed, root end and stalk end trimmed a bit and the remainder sliced thinly
Zest from two kaffir limes (I peel it off with a sharp knife-it’s too bumpy for a microplane and you want all that zest, just not the pith)
generous 1/2 cup of garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium shallot, chopped
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper corns
8-10 dried hot peppers (I used Joe’s long cayenne–quite a bit less spicy than typical cayennes, Chiltepec and Costeno Peppers–all from Ayers Creek farm–I think they’re less spicy, all of them, than dry Thai red peppers but I’m not sure. My paste was still plenty spicy. Reduce the number of peppers if you’re unsure)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water

dried red chilies for curry paste

Soak the dried peppers in boiling water for 20-30 minutes. Drain, removes stems and seeds and roughly chop the peppers.

Toast the seeds and peppercorns in a dry skillet for about 3 minutes until very fragrant and toasty smelling. Be careful not to burn. Put them in a mortar and pestle and when cool, grind them up.

Put all the paste ingredients in a food processor and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Process until fairly smooth. Don’t be surprised if you eyes water–it’s strong stuff!
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

For the curry itself:

3-4 tablespoons curry paste (above recipe), or less if you think your paste is very spicy. It will mellow out as it cooks and you can always add a bit more part way through if it’s not spicy enough.
1 can full fat coconut milk (it really doesn’t work with “lite” coconut milk)
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth or water
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2-3 carrots, scrubbed and trimmed and cut into rounds
1 large head broccoli, stem peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces and head broken into smallish florets
1 large potato, sweet potato or some winter squash, cut into large dice (peel if using sweet potatoes or winter squash)
1 cup leftover, cooked chicken (optional)
1/2 cup basil (optional) or cilantro, which is totally inauthentic but still good
Rice fore serving

In a large wok or heavy pan cook the curry paste, sugar, fish sauce and 1 cup coconut milk (the thickest part that’s usually at the top of the can)–you’ll use the rest later–over medium high heat for about 15-20 minutes. Stir often as it reduces and thickens. Towards the end you should see little bubbles of oil (from the coconut milk) on the surface. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

While the curry paste is frying bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and carrots (or any vegetables that will take a bit longer to cook) and cook for 10 minutes or until just tender. Remove the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon. Add the broccoli (and/or another vegetables that just take 3-4 minutes to cook, like green beans or peas) and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain those and add to the potatoes and carrots and set aside.

Now add the remainder of the coconut milk and chicken stock (or water or broth) and mix well to integrate the curry paste into the liquid. Bring it to a simmer. Add the chicken and reserved vegetables and heat it through. Add the whole basil leaves, if using. Serve hot over rice.

Last Minute Sandwich (w/ Mizuna and Spicy Mayo)

sandwich w: mizuna Sriracha mayo pickled onions prep

I typically make lunches for my 2nd grader and my husband on week days (and weekends but that’s a different game). I don’t really plan ahead for lunches but often make dinner with an eye towards having leftovers for one or both of those lunches. I know that something will surface in the mornings and this morning this sandwich materialized, for my husband’s lunch. And I even took a photo of it, though it was still dark out so the quality suffered.

The sandwich consists of good bread (the Peasant Levain from Grand Central Bakery in this case). Mayo mixed with minced garlic and some Sriracha
A bunch of chopped Mizuna (a spicy, tender green similar to mustard greens)
Sharp Cheddar
Quick-pickled onions (nothing more than thinly sliced onions in red wine vinegar–that I always keep around for occasions like this and most any other occasion!)

The sandwich got closed up and cut in half and packed up. I hear it was good!

Happy cooking with what you have!

It looks like I inadvertently almost spelled "JOY" with the pickled onions!
It looks like I inadvertently almost spelled “JOY” with the pickled onions!

 

Cabbage with Leftover Dipping Sauce

cabbage w: dipping sauce cilantro

Colleagues have always given my husband their leftovers when returning to the office after a lunch out. Friends tend to give me odd vegetables or half bunches of herbs or in this case, scallion greens. A friend recently had a bag with two bunches of scallion greens and a few whole scallions waiting when I came to pick up my son at his house. I made scallion pancakes (recipe is on the Seasonal Recipe Collection) and a simple dipping sauce of equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar, with a bit of garlic and hot pepper. We only used about half of the sauce with the pancakes.

Several nights later I found a quarter of a cabbage in the fridge and a bit of cilantro. There was rice in the freezer. I sautéed the cabbage, browning it just a bit. A few spoonfuls of sauce and chopped cilantro and my new favorite cabbage dish was born. The rice fortified everything nicely. A fried egg would have been good too.

When thrift and creativity combine for this much flavor I must celebrate with a blog post. Happy cooking!

Dipping Sauce:

1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 clove garlic, minced

Mix everything in a small bowl. Use with sautéed cabbage or any vegetables or grains or meats. This makes plenty of sauce for two meals for a couple of folks.

Broccoli, Potato, Celery, Cilantro, Scallion Salad w/ Leftover Aioli

I was feeling a wee bit sorry for myself. My husband had gotten the Boeuf Bourguignon (something I make very rarely) leftovers to take to work and here I was back at my desk after a nice long winter break with no lunch, yet! I rummaged around the fridge and found: 1 boiled potato I had (wisely) saved from the Boeuf Bourguignon dinner, celery, scallions, broccoli, very wilty cilantro and a little container of leftover aioli.

broccoli potato celery aoili salad ingredients

7 minutes later I had this! He can have all the Boeuf he wants.

broccoli potato celery aioli salad

Happy cooking (with what you have:)!

Serves 1, generously or 2 as a side

1 cold, boiled potato, diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced (greens too)
3/4 up or so broccoli, cooked for about 4 minutes in lightly salted boiling water
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (stems are fine too)
1 tablespoon (or more) aioli (garlicky mayonnaise–just doctor store-bought mayo with minced garlic, lemon juice and salt if you don’t have homemade)
More lemon juice
Salt
Plenty of black pepper

Mix everything together. The warm/hot broccoli brings everything together nicely. Eat!

Jam Muffins

jam muffin ingredients

One more day until school starts up again!  Hence I just made a batch of Ellis’ favorite  muffins.  He takes one to school for his snack just about every day. They’re nutrient dense with ground almonds, olive oil, eggs and flavorful thanks to both lemon and lime zest (or just one or the other if that’s all I have) and a good dollop of jam on top. I make jam every summer in great part for these muffins. I freeze them, individually wrapped, and am pleased with myself when I pop them into his lunch bag every morning. And I will be especially so on Monday morning, having gotten quite used to reading to Ellis in bed until way past school starts these last few weeks. I’ll need all the extra time I can get to get us up and out!

You could vary the flour(s), nuts, oil, zests, different jams or marmalades or add spices. They’re not very sweet at all so if you want a sweeter treat add a little more sugar or swirl more jam into each muffin.

Happy New Year!

jam muffins ready to bake

Jam Muffins

–inspired by Smittenkitchen.com

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I often use 1 cup whole wheat pastry and 3/4 cup apf but by all means play around with these and a whole grain gluten free mix works well too)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Scant ½ cup sugar
4 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime (or just lemon or lime–see headnote)
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup ground almonds (or other filberts or walnuts). I grind nuts in a Zyliss cheese grater with the finest blade–pictured above, which makes a very fine, fluffy nut meal.
1/3 – 1/2 cup jam (raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and blueberry are our favorites

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Blend together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer or whisk the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the milk and oil. Add the flour and nut mixture and stir just until blended. Fill the muffin cups about ¾ full. Top each one with 2 teaspoons of jam. Bake until golden, about 15 – 20 minutes. It’s a little harder to tell with these when they’re done since the jam will stay gooey. Just poke around a pit in the cake part to make sure the batter is cooked. Transfer to a wire rack and remove the muffins and let cool completely.

Wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze for easy (school) snacks.

jam muffins

Fried Rice

fried rice

I imagine we all need quick meals and quick meals that are welcomed by the seven-year-old are all the better. But come to think of it, he loves most of our quick meals and was delighted with scrambled eggs and pan-fried cauliflower the other night as with another quick stand-by Pasta Carbonara.

In any case, I made fried rice for a weekly gathering last week and was reminded just how adaptable, good, and easy and quick it is. The only thing you need to have thought of in advance is the rice. I always make more rice than I need at any given time and then freeze the rest for the fried rice nights. Or make it in the morning and leave it sitting out all day and then you’ll have nicely dried out rice for the fried rice that evening.

And, if you want regular inspiration for cooking tasty and creative dishes on a regular basis you might subscribe to my Seasonal Recipe Collection or give a subscription as a gift this season–a gift that does not create more clutter but instead good smells and happy tummies for a year! Signing up just takes a minute and then you have access to 550 recipes and tips and pages about each vegetable and so much more.

Fried Rice

You can use most any vegetable you have on hand–though watery ones like zucchini and tomatoes are less well suited.

Serve 4-5, generously

3-4 tablespoons oil
3-4 cups previously cooked and cooled (preferably made the day before or earlier and then frozen–see above) rice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 serrano pepper, minced (optional)
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced or diced
4 green onions, white and greens thinly sliced and divided
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. When hot add the ginger, white part of green onions, garlic, carrots and chili (if using) and stir to coat with oil. Cook on high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring often so prevent the garlic from burning. Add the rice and make sure to break it up well before you put it in the pan if it’s in big clumps. Stir well to coat the rice with the oil and vegetables and cook, stirring often for a few minute to heat the rice through and get it a bit crisp.

Move the rice to one side of the pan and add a little more oil and then add the beaten eggs. Scramble them and then mix them into the rice. Add the soy and fish sauce, if using, the green part of the onions and the cilantro. Cook for another minute or two and then taste for seasoning and serve.

What to do with 1/3 Can of Coconut Milk?

 

kale, potatoes mustard seed coc milkI tested an adaption of a lovely red lentil soup from the new Plenty More by the inimitable Yotam Ottolenghi (recipe will go up on the Seasonal Recipe Collection soon) but that undertaking left me with about 1/2 cup of leftover coconut milk. I’ve had leftover coconut milk go bad on me before. To avoid that I made this simple braise with cumin and mustard seeds, a bit of turmeric and ground cumin, potatoes, kale, said coconut milk and a handful of chopped roasted tomatoes. Paired with warm cornbread and a radicchio, beet, parsley and walnut salad it was a typically random dinner in this household. I may well make this combination again and might even devote more than 1/3 of can of coconut milk to it to make it saucier and serve it with naan or rice or some such.

Potatoes and Kale with Mustard Seeds, Tomato and Coconut Milk

You can play with the spices here. . . add ginger and/or garlic if you want. Add coriander or hot peppers of some kind. .. use other root vegetables or other greens. . . you get the point!

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil (or coconut, sunflower, etc.)
1/2 onion, finely diced
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (you can use 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin if that’s what you have)
1 teaspoon black/brown mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Salt
2 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into smallish dice (or 3 smaller ones)
1/2 cup roasted, canned or fresh tomatoes
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped, stems chopped very finely
1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat preferably), or more
1/2 cup water (or more or tomato juice if you’re using canned tomatoes)

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the spices and salt and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly.  Add the potatoes and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the kale, coconut milk and water. Bring everything to a simmer, turn down and cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, adding a bit of water, more coconut milk or juice from canned tomatoes if things dry out too much) or until the potatoes and kale are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt.

Imperfection

parsnip carrot celeriac garlic roasted
Roasted parsnips, carrots, celery root (celeriac) and garlic cloves–delicious as is or turned into soup.

 

The always inspiring Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com wrote a post last week about writing a blog for a dozen years and the importance of having a voice and a point of view. She muses about how she could do more video work or more this or that that others suggest she might do but that what she really wants to do is write recipes and take beautiful photos.

For years I posted a recipe once a week and then as my business shifted and I got busier I posted less and less often in part because, unlike most other blogs I love and follow who post recipes, I rarely had the perfect, tested-multiple-times, beautifully-photographed-step-by-step recipe to post, so I didn’t post at all. Well my business (and life’s mission) is not called Cook With What You Have for nothing. And cooking-with-what-you-have everyday to make simple, nourishing food for those you love is often messy and rarely terribly prescriptive. So, I’ve decided to post much more often again and if it’s four different salads in a row that all turned out deliciously but just used what I happened to need to use up then so be it. I won’t be posting them to suggest that you exactly emulate what I did or that it was the best thing I’ve made in months, but maybe it will inspire us all to look around our kitchens and gardens and use our imagination and have a meal of this and that and feel satisfied.

Roasted Root Vegetables and Garlic

Case in point. . . I needed to clean out my refrigerator before the next CSA share arrived and found a bunch of small parsnips and carrots and half a celery root. I scrubbed and trimmed everything and tossed them on a baking sheet with some oil and salt and a head’s worth of garlic cloves and roasted all until browning and fragrant.

I ate some of this goodness for lunch, standing at the counter before heading out the door for a meeting. The rest was reheated in plenty of  vegetable broth (inspired by a post of Heidi Swanson’s many years ago!) with a bit fresh sage and thyme and then pureed and eaten for dinner with a bit of olive oil and plenty of black pepper. It was too dark by that time to take a photo of the soup and it was tastier than it was pretty so use your imagination.

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

On Winter Vegetables & those Who Grow Them & a Beet Salad

 

arugula wildMy cover crop of crimson clover has just sprouted, I’ve planted my garlic and  have two fairly robust pots of lettuce and arugula growing steadily. The rest of the garden is slug ravaged and pretty drab. Our small garden that can produce quite a bit in the warmer months is not sustaining us now, by any means. I stay cozy inside and don’t venture into the garden much other than to dump the compost and make a quick dash to pick herbs–which actually are still very robust and much appreciated. Meanwhile some farmers I know are just wrapping up their summer shares and starting their winter ones. More and more of them, in order to sustain themselves (and us!) are growing and/or storing produce all year round.

I recently had the privilege of writing the forward for the forthcoming book Planting the Future: Profiles of Oregon’s New Farm Movement which profiles a fascinating mix of farmers, ranchers, seed breeders and advocates. It is abundantly clear from these profiles of these resilient, hardworking people who care about bio-diversity, people, land and their communities that WE, the eaters/consumers, have a critical role in their survival.

So I want to give a big, loud, thankful shout-out to the farmers who I have the privilege of working with directly who would very much like to keep you healthy and happy this winter with their beautiful produce. CSAs embody the epitome of cooking-with-what-have. The farmer chooses what’s best and that’s what you get. In the words of my ever-philosophical seven-year old, “you get what you get and you make the best of it!” and that’s not difficult with this produce because you are getting the best of it already. And if you don’t live in the northern Willamette Valley in Oregon you probably have CSAs or winter farmers’ markets in your area where you’ll find similarly wonderful produce.

If you do per chance sign up for any of these CSAs you will automatically get access to my subscription-only Seasonal Recipe Collection. And if you sign up for Sun Gold Farm’s one-time Thanksgiving share you’ll get a custom set of recipes.

Happy cooking to all and thank you dear farmers for going out in the rain and muck and wind and sleet when I’m cozy inside writing recipes!

WINTER CSAs in the Portland/Salem area

47th Ave Farm’s Winter Share starts the first week of November. The share features field grown crops like Tuscan kale, leeks, Purple Sprouting broccoli and sweet winter carrots. It also includes storage crops like Delicata & Sweet Meat winter squash, Amish Butter popcorn, a variety of potatoes, onions, dry beans and more.

Sauvie Island Organics is offering a Winter Storage Share for the first time that will include yellow French carrots, German Butterball potatoes, Dutch red shallots, nutty Japanese Kabocha winter squash, juicy Kohlrabi, crispy Daikon radishes, and more.

Minto Island Growers continues to provide a Winter Share for both Salem and Portland area customers with a wide variety of storage crops like carrots, potatoes, celeriac and just harvested greens and brassicas.

For additional Winter CSA options visit Portland Area CSA Coalition. There are also several wonderful year-round farmers’ markets including Hillsdale Farmers Market, Portland Farmers Market, and People’s Co-op Farmers’ Market.

Beet, Celery, Cilantro and Walnut Salad with Garlicky Dressing

I toss together a lot of beet salads, some of which make it into the recipe collection. This one, as they always do, resulted from what I happened to have on hand. Adapt as you see fit but the crunch of the celery, the sweet, robust beets and the sharp zing from the garlic is a particularly fun combination especially in the cooler months.

Serves 2-3

beet celery walnut salad

4 roasted (or boiled), cooled and peeled beets, cut into large dice or wedges
2 good-sized stalk celery (use some leaves if attached), washed and thinly sliced (halve the stalks lengthwise if they’re quite large first)
2 cloves garlic, minced and then mashed into a paste with some coarse salt on the cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife (or put through a press)
1/3 cup (or more) cilantro, stems and all, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1-2 ounces feta, crumbled
1 scallion, thinly sliced (optional–use a little onion or shallot if that’s what you have)
1 tablespoon (or more) sherry or red wine or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons (or more) good olive oil
Salt

Whisk the mashed garlic with the olive oil and vinegar. Toss this dressing with everything else, except the beets. Gently toss in the beets. Taste and adjust seasoning.