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!

Gardening With What You Have & Green Garlic and Leek Soup

You’re supposed to make a garden plan–mapping out what’s going to go where so that the season unfolds productively with plants following the right plants and planted in the right combination and with the right exposure. You’re supposed to amend the soil with this and that and double dig. . . . Well, my garden would never materialize if I did all that. I know folks who do these things who have better yields and prettier gardens and someday I will be more organized. But in the mean time I garden much like I cook–without a whole lot of planning, when I have a little time. I’ll pick up a few seed packets here and there and eventually some starts and then go for it.

Green (immature garlic), leeks, radicchio and endive. . . .my harvest to make room for new crops.

We finally had a few dry, sunny days this last weekend and I wanted to plant peas and sow arugula and dinosaur kale. When I examined my little vegetable patch I realized I didn’t have room for anything. So I harvested a bunch of small-ish leeks, some green garlic and various salad greens and transplanted a few lettuces, tucking them in between the strawberry plants, to make room for my  new little project. My rows won’t be straight and my germination rate might be puny but I loved my morning in the garden with the sun on my back.

You can use lots of green garlic as it’s much milder and sweeter than mature garlic.

And then I made a lovely soup with my harvest. It’s a loose interpretation of potato leek soup. I didn’t measure anything and kept things simple. Leeks, green garlic–green garlic is one of my favorite parts of spring. I plant garlic in the fall to use exclusively in the spring in its green, immature form. Like scallions you can use the whole thing and finely sliced and stewed in a little butter or olive oil it improves everything it touches. Or use it raw in salad dressings and quick herby sauces. I added a few potatoes to the soup, some thyme and water and that’s about it. Oh a touch of cream at the end rounded things out nicely but you could skip that too.

Spring leek and green garlic soup with fresh goat cheese toast.

Spring Leek and Green Garlic Soup

Serves 4

4-5 leeks (or whatever you have–I used about 6 small ones), sliced
1 bunch green garlic (6-8 whole plants), roots trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
3 medium potatoes (more or less), diced
a few sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
5 cups (more or less) water
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
Good olive oil to drizzle

Stew the garlic, leeks and thyme in the oil and butter, slowly, over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft. Add the potatoes, water and some salt and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, add pepper and then puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) until more or less smooth. Finish with a little cream and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil and if you’d like a piece of toasted bread with fresh goat cheese.

Bread (and a Cookbook Giveaway)

I grew up in Germany eating good bread. My mother (the American parent) quickly learned my father’s old world tastes and became an expert bread baker. She made a dense, chewy rye bread with cracked coriander in it and one of my fondest childhood memories was eating that bread, sliced thinly, toasted, then cooled and then smeared generously with butter and topped with apricot or raspberry jam. Heaven! And just as good, topped with Gruyère or Swiss Cheese our Gouda, again on lots of butter. My mother also  made yeast rolls and whole wheat sandwich bread and I loved all of it and remember rounding up my friends on weekend mornings in the tiny village we lived in to come have warm bread right out of the oven.

My mother still bakes bread but she lives more than an hour away and now she’s most famous for her biscuits, but that’s another blog post. And now I live two blocks from Grand Central Bakery which is quite fortuitous since my first job out of college was at Grand Central. I arranged the bread and pastry displays, learned how to make good coffee and made sandwiches–mostly I remember the daily marathon of making sandwiches during the lunch rush. I’ve always loved their breads with their fabulous crusts and chewy interiors.

Grand Central Bakery's new Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

Now, however, they have a new kind of bread which in some ways is nothing like the breads I grew up on and tend to gravitate towards. However, it is packed with seeds and whole grains (very German!) but is made in a more classic American sandwich bread style, i.e. softer and more tender. What I like about it though is that it still seems like a real loaf of bread, not something that is overly processed or engineered, which is what most sandwich bread seems like to me. Note the lovely mouse hole, as we called those irregular holes as children, which to me signals real bread. I recently picked up a loaf and used it every which way.

With Sharp Cheddar and my mother's Bread & Butter Pickles, about to be grilled. . .

The grilled version of the sharp cheddar and bread & butter pickle sandwich was not very photogenic but boy was it good. A friend inspired me to make the below version with fresh goat cheese, minced, fresh thyme and cheddar and then I made another version with a bunch of parsley in addition to the thyme. All are worth repeating and were devoured by neighborhood adults and kids alike.

With fresh goat cheese and herbs and more cheddar. . .

The crunchy, gooey, savory sandwiches before they disappeared.

And finally, the bread served as a good vehicle for my leftover slice of asparagus and snap pea frittata that I enjoyed in the back yard on one of the sunny (!!!!) days we’ve had recently.

Frittata sandwich with arugula and some sharp cheddar, again.

This bread is available in the Portland and Seattle areas at all the Grand Central Bakery storefronts but also in Portland at Pastaworks, Zupans, Whole Foods, New Seasons and Beaumont Market. And for those of you who do not live in the area, I hope you have a good alternative.

Lastly, to further honor my erstwhile employer, I’m going to give away a copy of the Grand Central Baking Book co-authored by the lovely Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. This book is a collection of many of the bakery’s beloved treats for any time of day, sweet or savory.  So leave a comment about bread and/or sandwiches and I’ll randomly choose a winner to receive this gorgeous book.

Lastly, there are still spots available in my June 23rd Lunch Time Class and the June 25th improv class in which we’ll truly cook with what we have and collectively come up with a menu.

Happy Cooking and Eating!