Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bread Starter

Teaching is the best way to learn, and this term I have the great pleasure of teaching a class on the science of bread, which I hope will make me more knowledgeable not only about the theory but also the practice of bread making. This breakfast spread of fresh breads at a recent conference in Germany offered further inspiration for bread baking.

And so, along with my students, I have been tackling the challenge of cultivating and nurturing a bread starter, following the detailed instructions from Chad Robertson’s new book on whole grain baking, Tartine Book 3.

The process involves a certain degree of precision (flour and water doled out in grams) and a great deal of chance, as one hopes for wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria to alight in one’s bowl and set up shop fermenting the complex polysaccharides of the grains. 

Magically my flour paste started to produce bubbles after a day (can one fault the proponents of spontaneous generation?)

Rather than leave it all to chance, I took my starter out for a bit of wild yeast hunting at Noisette Pastry KitchenI can't be sure whether this inoculation helped along the starter, but over a matter of days, I had an actively bubbling culture with a somewhat pleasant yogurt smell. 

How is it it that time and again, when people offer up a flour paste to the air, they are able to produce a leavening for bread? What we consider as the generous efforts of yeast and lactic acid bacteria to aerate our bread and fill it with delicious flavors, is, from a microbial perspective, quite antisocial behavior. The yeast strains that humans have selected over our history for their utility in bread, wine, and beer making, are unusual among microbes in their metabolic choices. When confronted with an abundance of simple sugars and plenty of oxygen with which to burn this fuel through aerobic respiration, Saccharomyces cerevisiae instead chooses to gobble these up in the sloppy and wasteful process of fermentation. Their voracious devouring of resources, spewing fermentation products in the process, inhibits the growth of other microbes who are outcompeted and repulsed by the yeasts' greedy and sloppy eating habits. Only the like-minded lactic acid producing bacteria will set up shop with the yeast, using a similar wasteful fermentation strategy once oxygen is depleted from the environment. And thus bread starters, although possessing individual nuanced flavors, are remarkably similar in their composition of microbial boors, who can produce the most refined breads.

Stay tuned for experiments with baking with this starter. And you can read more about my co-teachers' adventures with starters here and here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Barley Flake Porridge

At a recent visit to Camas Country Mill, I picked up a bag of their streaker barley flakes. This barley variety, developed through a barley breeding project at OSU, gets its name because it is naked, or hull-less. From its local seed selection, to its production on the Huntons' farm, and processing at Grain Millers, this is a local product.

I tried these barley flakes in lieu of Scottish oats in my favorite weekday porridge with teff grain and flax seeds. These flakes need a little less liquid and they keep their shape more than oat flakes, resulting in a deliciously hefty and satisfying breakfast. 

Barley Flake Porridge
(1 serving)
1 tsp butter or coconut oil
1 scan Tbsp teff grain (or chia seeds)
1 scan Tbsp flax seeds
1/4 cup barley flakes
generous pinch of salt
2/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cow or almond milk

The evening before, boil a kettle with 2/3 cup water and set a small saucepan over medium heat. In a 1/3 cup measuring cup, sprinkle in the teff grain and flax seed (you can eyeball these) and fill to the top with barley flakes. Melt the butter or coconut oil in the pan, add the grains and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until they give off a nice toasted aroma and the seeds begin to pop. Turn off the heat. Carefully add the hot water (it will splatter), stir, and cover. The next morning, add about 1/4 cup milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until the porridge has reached the desired thickness (about 5 minutes). Serve with nuts, dried or fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of brown sugar or maple syrup.

For a more leisurely morning meal, this can of course be prepared all at once. The grains will need about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kinpira Gobo (Stir Fried Burdock)

The burdock root in our Good Food Easy CSA share was the first example of this vegetable that I had encountered. Luckily Elin England's treasure trove of seasonal recipes, Eating Close to Home: A Guide to Local Seasonal Sustenance in the Pacific Northwest, provided a suggestion: the Japanese dish of kinpira gobo. Although the hey day for burdock root in European cuisine was the Middle Ages, it is still widely consumed in Japan, where "gobo" is often prepared in a style called "kinpira" which refers to stir frying followed by simmering. Carrots can be included or substituted. The main work of the dish is the chopping, after which the julienned vegetables cook up quickly, with the simmered liquids producing a delicious glaze. Burdock has a distinctive flavor that contrasts pleasantly with the sweet and salty glaze and was a big hit at our dinner table. Now I'll be scouring our farmers markets for burdock roots to make this again.

Kinpira Gobo
3 medium burdock roots
1 large carrot
2 Tbsp canola oil
Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sesame seeds

1. Scrub the burdock root with a brush and trim the ends. You can also use the edge of a knife to scrape off a bit of the skin, but don't remove too much, because this part of the root contains many of the nutrients. Cut the burdock into 2 inch julienned matchsticks, submerging the pieces into a bowl of cold water as you work, to prevent discoloration. Scrub, trim, and cut the carrot into similar julienned matchsticks.

2. Mix together the sake, soy sauce, and sugar. Heat a pan or wok over medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the drained burdock. Stir fry for about a minute. Add the carrots and continue to stir fry for another couple of minutes, until the vegetables start to soften. Add the sake mixture and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced. Remove from heat, drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes if you like. Serve at room temperature. Keeps about a week when refrigerated in a sealed container.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Marcella Hazan's Bolognese Meat Sauce

The arrival of spring break, after the neighborhood's buffeting with last month's ice storms and recent scary events, offers a welcome chance to decompress. For myself this took the form of slowly simmering a pot of Marcella Hazan's incomparable ragu alla bolognese.

Ragu recipes can elicit strong feelings and even commentary for beyond the grave, but for me this is unquestionably the quintessential version. Over the years, I've tweaked Hazan's recipe to accommodate a pound of ground beef and scaled up slightly the proportion of tomatoes (a convenient two large cans) and vegetables. This produces a plentiful pot of sauce with ample supplies to freeze for later, well worth doing after all of the hours of simmering down first the beef's milky bath and then its winey digestif. For this batch I used ground beef from Fair Valley Farm and a couple of quarts of frozen Sweetwater Farm tomatoes. With ingredients this good, the resulting ragu was particularly delicious, and the process of preparing it imbued the house with comforting smells and a sense of balance.

Marcella Hazan's Bolagnese Meat Sauce
(adapted slightly; makes about 5 pints of sauce, which can be frozen)

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 lb ground beef chuck
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine (I use 1/2 cup dry vermouth)
2 28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juices (or 2-3 quarts frozen peeled tomatoes)

1. Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in a large heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, and turn the heat on medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

2. Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

3. Add the milk, and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. At this point Hazan adds a tiny grating of nutmeg, but I omit this step because of my nutmeg aversion.

4.  Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. Add 1/2 cup water at a time if it begins to dry out (I've never had this problem). At the end, however, no water at all must be left and rye fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

5. Toss with cooked drained pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I baked a loaf of this Irish soda bread. It is not a sweet treat, but rather a slightly buttery, savory quick bread with the tart flavor of buttermilk and nutty notes of whole wheat flour, toasted wheat germ, and oats.

This bread would be delicious with a hardy Irish stew, but we enjoyed it with lighter fare befitting our beautiful springtime day: as the backdrop for an egg and cheese sandwich for lunch, and slathered with butter and peach raspberry preserves for high tea. Happy spring.

Irish Soda Bread

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and baking
1 cup whole wheat flour, such as Lonesome Whistle Farm red fife
1/2 cup Scottish oats or old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 to 1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour. In a dry skillet, toast the wheat germ for a couple of minutes until  fragrant.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and toss to coat in the flour. Use your fingers or two forks to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can also do this in the food processor if you'd like.) Gradually add the buttermilk and stir or pulse just until the dough comes together (you may not need all the buttermilk). (Note: I made the dough in a food processor and used just a cup of buttermilk).

3.  On a floured surface, knead the dough gently for about a minute until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the baking sheet. Pat gently into a 7-inch round and sprinkle the top evenly with about a tablespoon of flour; with your fingertips, gently spread the flour evenly over the top of the round. Using a very sharp knife, cut a shallow "X" in the top of the loaf. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Chipotle Tofu Tacos

With day lights savings depriving us of our morning sunlight, and the drizzly days lingering, this is the time of year when you need some easy weeknight dinners in your back pocket. These tofu tacos fit the bill, especially if you cook up some grains and a pot of beans (like Rio zapes in mole sauce) ahead of time. The sauce for these tacos comes from a shrimp recipe from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday and is dead easy: blend together a 15 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes with a couple of chipotle chiles in adobe sauce. A tip for storing a can's worth of these chiles: dot them on a piece of saran wrap draped across a cookie sheet, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag for future meals. If you've taken to stashing tofu in your freezer for banh mi, the same strategy would work here for creating extra firm tofu chunks. For toppings, fresh avocado is nice, but shredded cabbage and root vegetables or even refrigerator pickles will do the trick. And while you eat these, imagine yourself on a sunny tropical beach. 

Chipotle Tofu Tacos
tofu filling
1 14 ounce package of tofu (if possible, slice and freeze, then thaw, for extra firm pieces)
3 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 15 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
2 to 3 chipotle chiles in adobe sauce
salt to taste

taco fixings
cooked grain, such as farro, or rice
cubed avocado
spinach leaves or chopped lettuce or cabbage
shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream
lime wedges

1. Cut the tofu into 1 inch slabs. If you can prepare this ahead of time, freeze the tofu slabs and then thaw them to release extra liquid. 

2. In a blender, combine the fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle chiles.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and, when hot, add 2 Tbsp oil. Now add the tofu slabs in a single layer. Allow them to sear undisturbed for about 3 minutes, then gently flip and sear on the second side. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, mince the garlic. When the tofu is nicely golden on both sides, remove to a plate.

4. Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pan and when warm, add the garlic. Stir for a minute until fragrant but not brown, and then pour in the tomato chipotle sauce from the blender jar and a generous pinch of salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes or so, taste and add more salt if needed. Meanwhile, cut the tofu slabs into 1 inch cubes. Add the tofu cubes to the sauce, stir to coat, and continue to simmer while you prepare the tacos toppings and warm the tortillas.

5. Allow everyone to assemble their tacos to their personal taste following the general formula of starting with a warm tortilla, adding a scoop of grains, a generous helping of tofu, topping with avocado, greens, cilantro, and cheese or sour cream, a squeeze of lime, and serving with beans on the side. Enjoy.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Roasted Rice Cakes with Scallion Oil


Last November my husband and I visited Shanghai, the fastest growing city in the worldIn the midst of this mind bogglingly immensity, we nibbled a bowl of noodle that had an arresting, deep flavor that I thought must have come from with some exotic mushrooms, but was merely caramelized green onions.  

Back home, the taste of those noodles lingered with me. I consulted Fuchsia Dunlap's Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, and found her Shanghai Noodles with Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion Oil, which she describes as "a southern Chinese equivalent of the Italian spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino." As I read more, I realized that caramelized onions of all types are an integral condiment in many Asian cuisines, adding a deep umami layer of flavor. Thus started my obsession with crispy fried alliums. 

These spring onions and their fragrant oil make a wonderful topping for a bowl of noodles, but they can also transform Korean rice cakes, which I recently found fresh, rather than frozen, at the Sunrise Asian Market in Eugene. 

I'd read about fried, rather than braised rice cake in David Chang's 
recipe from Momofuku, and indeed this method of cooking them makes the cakes puff up into delectable treats with a toasty exterior and soft, chewy inside. These are delicious as a snack (perfect for an Oscars party) topped with sriracha sauce and the fried scallions.

These roasted rice cakes also make a wonderful base for a riff on kimichi fried rice, tossed with kimchi (my latest batch was made with red cabbage) and topped with a fried egg. And of course, sprinkled with the fried scallions.

Roasted Rice Cakes with Scallion Oil
1 bunch scallions
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lb fresh rice cakes

serving suggestions
sriracha sauce
fried egg

1. Trim the scallions. With the flat side of a chef's knife, smash the white parts of the onions and then cut them into 2 inch sections. 

2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the scallions, lower the heat slightly, and cook, stirring off and on, until they turn a deep golden brown, but be careful not to burn them. When they are done, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and reserve in a bowl.

3. Return the wok with the oil to a medium high heat and add the rice cakes. Cook, stirring off and on, until they become browned and puff up in size. You can eat them like this, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of sriracha sauce, and the crispy scallions. Or, stir in a couple of spoonfuls of kimchi into the wok and cook until heated through. Serve with a fried egg on top, along with the fried scallions.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Leftover Oatmeal Apple Sauce Muffins

I was traveling for just a few days this past week, but seemed to miss out on all sorts of important events at home: a valiant loss in an OBOB battle, a dramatic playground fall that required a trip to the nurse's office, and an ambitious, last minute project fair presentation. Even after a short trip, it takes a couple of days to get caught up on the latest jokes, bedtime book story lines, and the status of food supplies.

So after a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast of teff and flaxseed oatmeal, it felt satisfying to roast up a couple of aging apples and use the apple sauce, along with the leftover oatmeal, in a batch of mini muffins to pack as snacks for the week.

I adapted a recipe for banana cereal muffins from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, described by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette as "a garbage disposal-style recipe" in the best sort of way. In went our leftover oatmeal, the roasted apple sauce, and even the end of a tub of sour cream. Out came some very tasty muffins, pictured here with my daughter's spelling list from last week, including the words "anxious", "whether", "succeed", "business", and "companion", which seemed to form an accidental poem about the mixed emotions of traveling away from home.

Leftover Oatmeal Apple Sauce Muffins
adapted from Kim Boyce Good to the Grain, described here
makes about 28 mini muffins
roasted apples sauce
2 apples, cored and peeled 
1 tsp butter
pinch of salt

muffin batter
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup soft white flour
1/2 cup red fife flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon

1. To prepare a small scale, accelerated version of this apple sauce, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel and core two apples and cut each into about 24 pieces. Arrange in a small baking dish, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and dot with about a tsp of butter. Roast for about 25 minutes until the apples are soft and just a bit charred. Mash with a potato masher, leaving it a little chunky. This should make about a cup of sauce. You could also substitute a cup of store bought apples sauce or two to three very ripe bananas, mashed.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffins tins (enough for 28 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins).

3. In a large bowl or a standing mixer, cream together the butter and the brown sugar until very creamy. Mix in the sour cream (or use 2 more Tbsp of butter, as in the original recipe). Mix in the egg, then the cooked oatmeal, the apple sauce, and the vanilla extract.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for about 24-28 minutes for mini muffins, or 35-40 minutes for regular muffins, rotating the pans halfway through, until they are nicely browned on top and a fork comes out clean. Best eaten warm or reheated for a few minutes in a toaster oven.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Rye-Cocoa Gougeres

The snow and ice storm that swept through Eugene last weekend may have forced us to hold dinner by candlelight, but in general it put a chill on Valentine's Day planning. Still, a little celebration is in order, and as a twist on the endless chocolate sweets, I can recommend these savory rye flour and cocoa gougeres from Chad Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3. I made these with Lonesome Whistle Farm rye, skipped the fancy piping (beyond my skill set) or egg wash (too lazy), and we had these alongside a comforting pot of leek and potato soup. The rye and unsweetened cocoa give these a deep, slightly bitter flavor that is a nice complement to the richness of the dough. A delicious treat to make for your sweetie this Valentine's Day.

Rye-Cocoa Gougeres
from Chad Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3
yield: four dozen gougeres
Rye-Cocoa Pate a Choux Dough
310 ml/ 1 1/4 cup nonfat milk
140 g/ 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp fine sea salt
166 g / 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp whole-grain dark rye flour
15 g/ 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
250 g/ 5 large eggs, at room temperature 

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and salt and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to just under a boil. Add the flour and cocoa all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and some of the moisture has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a heatproof mixing bowl.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix at medium high speed or vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon, incorporating each egg before adding the next. When all the eggs have been added, the mixture will be very thick, smooth, and shiny. Use immediately.

115 g/ 3/4 cup grated Comte or Gruyere cheese
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh marjoram
1 1/2 tsp minced thyme leaves
1 recipe Rye-Cocoa Pate a Choux Dough

Egg wash
50 g/ 1 large egg
pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add 75 g/ 1/2 cup of the cheese, the pepper, the marjoram, and the thyme to the pate a choux dough and stir well with a rubber spatula to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip. Pipe 1 inch rounds onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart, or use a spoon to drop the dough into 1 inch mounds.

To make the egg wash: in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and salt. Lightly brush the top of each dough mound with the egg wash , then top with the remaining 40 g/ 1/4 cup cheese, dividing evenly.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed, golden brown, and light for their size, rotating the baking sheet after 20 minutes to ensure even browning. Serve warm. You can also cool completely and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days. To serve, recrisp for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

Note: you can form the gougers on a baking sheet, place in the freezer unto, frozen, and then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. Bake them straight from the freezer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush the tops lightly with egg wash, sprinkle with cheese before baking, and increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mushroom Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomato Glaze

The polar vortex has reached Eugene. Snow days, icy roads, and chilly temperatures call for staying put and cooking up comfort food. This meatloaf fits the bill, flavored with pungent mushrooms and fresh herbs, 

and topped with a homemade ketchup from sun dried tomatoes.

With cold winds howling outside, nothing could feel cozier than this classic American supper of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy

But polar vortex or not, the day after baking meatloaf I am always reminded that its best justification is in sandwiches, piled high with spicy greens, or layered like pâté into decadent tofu banh mi.

Mushroom Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomato Glaze

for the meatloaf
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
3/4 cup boiling water
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small carrot, grated
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg
several springs of fresh oregano, thyme, and sage
1 cup bread crumbs
plenty of salt and black pepper

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder or to taste
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
pinch of salt

1. Place the dried mushrooms in the boiling water to soften for at least 15 minutes. Heat a small skillet over medium low heat. Melt the butter and add the shallots. Cook until glassy, then add the grated carrot, and cook for another few minutes until the aromatics are soft. Reserve. Once the mushrooms are softened, chop them very finely and reserve the mushroom-flavored water. 

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a loaf pan by greasing its bottom and sides with olive oil. Put the ground meat in a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use your hands to mix. Combine in the egg. Then mix in the shallots and mushrooms. Pluck the fresh herb leaves from their stems and tear them into the mixture. Add the breadcrumbs and gently mix to combine. Now pour in the reserved mushroom-flavored water and gently incorporate into the mixture. Dump the meat mixture into the prepared loaf pan and gently pat down to even the top.

3. To prepare the glaze, combine the sun dried tomatoes and water in a small saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and chili powder, vinegar, and salt and simmer another minute until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool and the tomatoes to continue to soften for another 10 minutes or so. In a mini mixer, food processor, or blender, process the ingredients into a paste. Reserve.

3. Bake the meatloaf for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, rotating halfway through. Remove the meatloaf and spread over the glaze. Check the internal temperature, which should be about 100 degrees at this point. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the internal temperature is 140.  Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Grain Salad in a Jar

Here's a convenient lunch idea, composed of leftovers from the previous post on pickled chard stems. Into a pint jar I packed farro, chopped carrots, pickled chard stems and almonds, and drizzled over some olive oil (the pickles brought along some vinegar to meld into a vinaigrette during the day). On top I gently layered some greens so that when I inverted the contents into a bowl at lunch, I had a lovely composed salad.

Grain Salad in a Jar
1 pint jar per person
2/3 cup cooked grain (farro, barley, quinoa)
1/3 cup chopped crunchy vegetables (carrots, peppers, cucumbers)
1/4 cup chopped pickled vegetables (chard stems, fennel bulb, etc.)
1/4 cup protein such as nuts, diced cheese, canned tuna in olive oil, hard boiled egg
1 Tbsp oil oil (or oil from tinned fish)
1/2 cup greens

In a pint mason jar layer grains, vegetables, pickles, and protein, and drizzle over olive oil. Layer on greens and close the jar. To serve, invert the jar into a bowl.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pickled Chard Stems

A thick, grey flog has enveloped Eugene for days, sapping the color from our daily lives. Under these gloomy conditions, the bright red stems of this Swiss chard from Sweetwater Farm seemed worth preserving.

I blanched them quickly and soaked them in a brine similar to these refrigerator pickles. The sharp flavor of these chard stems, with a hint of anise, brightened up our foggy day feast of a beef and rio zape bean chili, farro from Lonesome Whistle Farmroasted delicate squash, and sautéed chard.

Pickled Chard Stems
makes 1 pint
1 bunch chard
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Set a pot of salt water to boil. Rinse the chard leaves, trim off the very tips of the stems, and then cut the stems from the leaves, which you should reserve for another use. Cut into 2 inch lengths. When the water is boiling, blanch the chard stems for 1 minute, then drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a clean pint jar.

2. Prepare the brine by combining the remaining ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour the brine into the jar to cover the chard stems. Let marinate for an hour. Serve or refrigerate. Use in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kale Salad with Crispy Fried Shallots and Poached Egg

Food trends can sweep nations, but they can also catch hold on a very local scale, in your own household, like the red lentil soup I couldn't stop making the winter I was pregnant with my son. When my parents visited recently, I exposed them to various uses for the vegetable du jour, kale, which has even been making inroads into Parisian cuisine and has certainly been trending in our household. Reminiscing with my parents reminded my of another household food trend from my youth, following a summer trip to Paris, when my father could not get enough frisee salad with lardons and poached eggs.

Now my parents are mostly vegetarian, and bacon is passé, so I decided to recreate a kale version of Salad Lyonnaise with crispy fried shallots in lieu of lardon. It was quite delicious, and I'm convinced that these shallots, a common condiment in Vietnamese cuisine, will be the next big food trend. At least they will be in our household.

Kale Salad with Crispy Fried Shallots and Poached Egg
serves four for a side or two for a main dish

1 bunch lacinato kale
2 shallots
1/2 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 eggs

1. Rinse the kale leaves, cut out the center stems, and chop into 1 inch ribbons. Dry thoroughly.

2. Prepare the crispy fried shallots. Peel and chop the shallots. Heat a wok or skillet and warm the oil. Add a piece of shallot and if it sizzles, add the rest of the shallots and a generous pinch of salt. Cook the shallot pieces over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until they develop a deep brown color, but without burning. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and reserve. To the shallot-scented oil add the vinegar and heat, stirring, for a minute. Now drizzle the hot vinaigrette over the kale and toss to coat. Sample a leaf and add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat water in a wide pan for poaching the eggs. When the water is ready, poach four eggs following these instructions (or you can cheat and use these), such that the yokes are still runny (they will serve to further dress the kale leaves in the salad). You can also poach the eggs ahead of time and reheat them gently in a bath of hot water.

4. Assemble the salads by plating the dressed kale, top with a poached egg or two, and sprinkle over the crispy fried shallots. Eat right away.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

We wished 2013 farewell and greeted 2014 along the Oregon coast. Amid all the natural beauty, I had the opportunity to peruse my Christmas present of Chad Robertson's latest cookbook, Tartine 3, and resolved that this year I will learn about the intricacies of whole grain bread baking with wild microbes.

But returning to Eugene, I realized I had a more immediate problem of a glut of winter squashes from CSA shares and exuberant farm visits. So I resolved to roast more squash and make another batch of yeasted pumkin monkey bread from The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings, which I had read about here.

The recipe is actually frustratingly poorly edited. The amount of flour called for produces something closer to a batter than a dough, the instructions to line the loaf pan with parchment paper come after one is told to arrange the dough in the pan; and the baking time was much too short. But with some ad hoc adjustments (included in the recipe below) I produced a dough that could be manageably rolled out, 



and baked into a tasty treat. Nibble with satisfaction, knowing that it is part of the solution to winter squash overpopulation problems.

Pumpkin Monkey Bread
adapted from this Kinfolk recipe
for the bread dough
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree, or puree from any roasted winter squash
1 tsp sea salt
2 cup unbleached white flour (or more as needed)
1 cup whole wheat flour

for the sugar crumble
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook 2 Tbsp the butter, without stirring, until brown bits form, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the milk and get the mixture to 110' (too hot and it'll kill the yeast). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in the yeast and 1/4 cup sugar. Let it stand for 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the pumpkin puree, salt and 1 cup of the bread/all purpose flour. When combined, add the rest of the flour in several additions, kneading between additions. You may need more flour, depending on the moisture content of your pumpkin puree. Knead the dough until it is elastic and slightly sticky, 6-8 minutes.

3. Brush a large bowl with a little olive oil, place the dough ball inside and turn it over several times until it is well greased. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the sugar crumble filling by melting 2 Tbsp butter and combining with the sugar and cinnamon. After the dough has doubled in size, knead it for two minutes. Roll it out into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top, gently pressing it into the dough. Slice the dough lengthwise into six strips, and stack them on top of the other. Cut the strips into squares. If you wish, line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper for easier clean up. Arrange the stacks of dough squares into the loaf pan and sprinkle any stray sugar crumbles on top. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until it doubles in size again.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees C. Bake the loaf on the middle rack for 45 to 55 minutes until edges are golden and a skewer comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool.