Saturday, June 24, 2017

Green Pizza with Roasted Zucchini

Don't let the heat keep you away from the Fairmount Farmers Market this Sunday. From Camas Swale Farm, you'll find plenty of inspiration for salads and other cold meals. 

And once the heat breaks, you can try this springtime pizza. The green sauce takes inspiration from this recipe from Joe Beddia's Pizza Camp, and the zucchini are inspired by this roasted zucchini salad from Jacques Pepin.

The resulting pizza was a tasty celebration of spring produce and a nice change from our regular pizza Margherita.

Green Pizza with Roasted Zucchini
makes four individual pizzas

1 recipe of Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough (enough for four individual pizzas, started the evening before)
4 medium or 6 small zucchini
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano

green sauce
1 bunch spinach, stems removed and rinsed well
1 handful chives
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt to taste

1. Prepare the pizza dough the evening before, according to Lahey's instructions. Combine 500 g flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1 1/2 cups (350 g) water, and mix briefly in an electric mixer or by hand until combined into a ball. Cover and let stand for about 18 hours.

2. When you are ready to start the pizzas, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and insert a pizza stone if you are using one. Also put a rimmed baking sheet in for the zucchini.

3. Slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch discs. Toss in a bowl with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil to coat. Slide onto the hot baking sheet in the preheating oven and spread into a single layer. Bake for about 5 minutes until starting to brown, the flip with a spatula and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, return to the bowl, toss with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, and reserve.

4. Prepare the green sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a food processor. Taste and add more salt, pepper flakes, or lemon juice as needed.

5. Divide the dough into four balls, flour them lightly, and shape them according to Lahey's instructions (or use a rolling pin to roll them out on a silicone mat). Sprinkle polenta on a baking sheet or pizza peel and place one pizza dough on top. If you like, you can prebake the crust for 5 minutes in the preheated oven to ensure an extra crispy pizza. Spread over a quarter of the green sauce in a thin layer. Top with a quarter of the roasted zucchini rounds, fresh mozzarella, and pecorino romano. Bake for at least ten minutes, until the crust is crisp and the cheese has started to brown. Prepare and bake the remaining pizzas. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Chard and Chorizo Tacos

Tomorrow promises to be a sunny Fathers Day, so be sure to include a trip to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market as part of your celebrations. You'll find fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm and lovely flowers for a deserving dad from Tiger Lily Art

Last Sunday Camas Swale had an eye catching selection of rainbow chard, which was the inspiration for these chard and chorizo tacos. The filling started with caramelized onions and chard stems, then diced chorizo for spice and flavor (you could also use chipotle peppers for a vegetarian version), then the chard greens just until soft, and then a spoonful of creme fraiche or sour cream for richness. Layer these on corn tortillas with rice and beans and top with roasted peppers, avocado, lettuce, or anything else that catches your fancy and adds crunch and color.

Chard and Chorizo Tacos
(serves four)
chard filling
1 bunch chard
1 large onion
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 chorizo pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
salt to taste

for the tacos
corn tortillas
cooked white beans
rice (optional)
avocado slices, roasted pepper slices, lettuce

1. Peel and chop the onion. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and when it starts to shimmer, add the onions. Cook the onions with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until they are soft and have started to brown.

2. While the onions are browning, rinse the chard leaves, trim off the tips of the stems, and then cut the remaining stems from the leaves. Slice the stems into 1/4 inch slices and reserve. Slice the leaves into 1/4 inch slices and reserve. When the onions have started to brown, add the chard stems and a pinch of salt and continue cooking. Cut the chorizo lengthwise into quarters and then slice widthwise into 1/4 inch pieces. After about 5 minutes, when the chard stems are soft, add the chorizo pieces and cook for another couple minutes. Then add the chard leaves and cook for a few minutes until the chard leaves have just started to soften. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche or sour cream. 

3. Serve the warmed tortillas topped with beans, (and rice if you like) and the chard mixture, and your choice of toppings. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Smoked Trout Spring Salad

Dark storm clouds may threaten, but don't let that deter you from visiting the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market tomorrow from 10 am - 2 pm. With last week's haul, we had a delicious spring salad with tender lettuce from Camas Swale Farm, bright orange eggs from Fair Valley Farm, and smoked trout. I was skeptical whether this would be a hit for dinner, but since one of child likes eggs and the other decided he likes smoked trout, everyone was happy and they both suggested that we have this a lot during the summer.

Smoked Trout Spring Salad 
serves 4
1 head lettuce
16 small potatoes
2 handfuls green beans
4 hard boiled eggs
2 tins of smoked trout in olive oil

1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil

Wash and dry the lettuce and arrange on a large platter. Prepare the dressing by mixing together all the ingredients, tasting and adjusting to taste. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Quarter and toss the warm potatoes with a tablespoon of dressing. Trim the beans and cook them in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and toss with a tablespoon of dressing. Hard boil the eggs, immerse in cold water, peel, and quarter. Arrange the potatoes and green beans on the bed of lettuce. Drizzle over more dressing. Top with quartered hard boiled eggs and pieces of smoked trout, dust with freshly ground pepper, and drizzle over some of the olive oil from the trout tins. Serve with fresh bread.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Taiwanese Meat Ragu and Spring Vegetables

This Sunday is the first day of the eighth season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market. Be sure to be on the corner of 19th and Agate between 10 and 2 to pick up organic vegetables from Camas Swale Farm, pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and fresh flowers from Tiger Lily Art company.

For your market purchases, here is a recipe for a Taiwanese meat ragu served on rice with roasted and fresh spring vegetables. This is a take on the Taiwanese dish lu rou fan, inspired by recipes from here and here and here. My sister and I both have an irrational love for this dish, which we'll order at a hole in the wall Taiwanese restaurant when I visit her in Chicago. I wanted to make a version that had the same flavors, but would be as easy as a slow roasted Bolognese sauce. I decided to skip the blanched pork belly, but use a base of caramelized shallots for a deep, rich flavor. 

And while I had the oven on low for the ragu, I also roasted some spring radishes and some collard greens (this recipe without the chorizo), which made a delicious accompaniment to the dish, along with some crunchy fresh carrots and cucumbers, a handful of cilantro, and a jammy egg. If you get to the market at 10 on Sunday, you can be eating this for dinner Sunday evening.

Taiwanese Meat Ragu
(serves eight and freezes well)
6 Asian shallots, sliced
2 Tbsp canola oil
8 large dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 2 cups boiling water
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp of five spice powder
1/4 cup regular soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce 
1/4 cup sweet rice wine

1. Start rehydrating the shiitake mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water. Heat a large Dutch oven or other oven-safe pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil and then the shallots and cook until they are deeply caramelized. Don't be afraid to let them sit and sear between stirring. 

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Chop the softened shiitake mushrooms and strain the rehydration water to remove any grit. 

3. Once the shallots are well caramelized, add the ground meat and cook through. Then add the garlic, brown sugar, and five spice powder and stir to dissolve. Then add the soy sauce, rice wine, and the reserved mushroom broth and bring to a simmer.

4. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for two to three hours, allowing the liquid to reduce, the meat to become extremely silky, and a rich, roasted flavor to develop. Check on it occasionally and add a little water if it dries out too quickly. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. 

5. While the oven is on, roast some radishes, collard greens, or other vegetables to serve with the dish. Prepare a jammy egg for each diner by submerging into a small pot of boiling water and simmering for exactly 6 minutes before running under cold water. Cook a pot of rice.

6. Serve the ragu over rice with roasted and fresh vegetables, a jammy egg, and hot sauce on the side. Enjoy. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Parsley Tahini and Crispy Chickpea Crostini

The Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market will start up in just over two weeks. Now that summer weather has finally arrived, everyone in our household is craving farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the dog has been grazing on grass during her walks and the cat has resumed his afternoon naps in the garden among the herbs.

Although these crostini were just made with grocery store ingredients, the tangy and bright green tahini spread topped with crunchy chickpeas fit the bill for a summery snack. They should help tide us over until the start of the market on June 4.

Parsley Tahini and Crispy Chickpea Crostini
parsley tahini spread 
1 large bunch Italian parsley
juice from one lemon
2 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

crispy chickpeas
2 cup cooked chickpeas (or one 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed)
2 cloves garlic
peel from one lemon
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

1 baguette

1. Pluck and wash the parsley leaves and place them in the bowl of a food processor or blender, or you can use a wide mouthed pint sized mason jar with an immersion blender. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from a small lemon and reserve. Juice the lemon into the food processor. Add the tahini and olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Process until smooth. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice, tahini, or olive oil to suit your taste.

2. Rinse and dry the chickpeas. Peel the garlic cloves and cut them into thin slices. Slice the reserved lemon peel strips into matchsticks. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add all of the remaining ingredients. Spread the chickpeas in a single layer and allow to fry over high heat, resisting the urge to stir very frequently so that they can crisp up. Cook until most of the chickpeas and garlic slices have acquired some deep color. Taste and add more salt to taste.

3. Slice the baguette into ovals and toast lightly. Spread with the parsley tahini sauce and top with the crispy chickpeas. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rosemary Shortbread for Spring

I'm happy to announce that the eighth season on the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market will start on Sunday June 4th from 10 AM to 2 PM on the corner of Agate St. and 19th Ave. Please mark your calendars and spread the word. 

Today's respite from the rain inspired some springtime baking in our household. When I asked my son what he wanted to bake, he said "something with flowers" and then, reflecting that the rosemary was flowering, suggested something with rosemary. I consulted the New York Times Cooking site, and came up with these rosemary shortbread cookies from Melissa Clark. 

I was a little skeptical that the final product might taste too medicinal, so I halved the recipe, using just one stick of butter and a loaf pan rather than a brownie pan. In fact these shortbread cookies were perfectly delicious with a subtle but distinctive taste of spring. 

Rosemary Shortbread
2 cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 to 2 teaspoons rosemary, chestnut or other dark, full-flavored honey (optional)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter, and honey if desired, and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don't overprocess. Dough should not be smooth.

2. Press dough into an ungreased 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan or 9-inch pie pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Apple Marzipan Cake and Gingerbread Creatures

2016 has not stacked up to be the most beloved year, but I didn't want to let it slip away without documenting a few personal holiday baking triumphs. Above, from Luisa Weiss' Classic German Baking (a much appreciated Christmas cookbook present), is a towering apple marzipan cake. Infused with almond paste, and with apples both cubed within and splayed artfully on top with a glaze of apricot jam, it evoked powerful childhood taste memories of afternoon outings to elegant German cafes for the ritual of Kaffee und Kucken. The recipe can be found here.

In anticipation of Santa's visit, we had fun making gingerbread creatures, following the recipe from the Joy of Cooking (the classic version). When we ran out of patience for rolling and cookie cutting, we used up the final dough with free form snails, pretzels, and a friendly mole skink, sporting fetching icing spots.

Best wishes for peace and happiness in the new year.

Gingerbread Men 
from Joy of Cooking (makes 2 sheets of cookies)
gingerbread dough
1/4 cup butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/3 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

1/4 cup confectioner sugar
a few drops of water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Blend until creamy the butter and brown sugar and then beat in the dark molasses. Sift the flour and then resift with the remaining dry ingredients. Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture in about 3 parts, alternating with 1/4 cup water. You may have to work in the last of the flour mixture by hand. 

3. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness, cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place them on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. You can combine the scraps and chill in the freezer for a few minutes before rolling out again. When you run out of patience, turn the last scraps into hand-formed shapes like snails. If you like, decorate them with dried fruit such as currents and cranberries. 

4. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, according to their thickness. You can test them for doneness by pressing the dough with your finger. If it springs back after pressing, the gingerbread cookies are ready to be cooled on a rack. 

5. To decorate them with icing, stir the confectioner sugar and a few drops of water together in a small bowl to make a paste. Apply the icing with a toothpick or pipe through a sandwich bag with a tiny opening snipped in the corner. Allow to dry. The cookies will keep for a week or so if stored in an airtight container.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Happy Thanksgiving. This year we're roasting a turkey from Fair Valley Farm and trying it this way, with the legs splayed and braised. It smells delicious. 

For dessert I roasted our last kabocha squash from Camas Swale Farm, and I baked my favorite pumpkin pecan praline pie.

When we sit down to our feast, we will express our many thanks to the local growers who are providers of delicious food and stewards of our environment.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sheet Pan Spaghetti Carbonara

Plan to pick up your favorite fall vegetables at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market this Sunday. Last week, Camas Swale Farm had these magnificent brussels sprout stalks teaming with delectable sprouts and useful for reenacting Star Wars scenes on the walk home.

We've had a busy few weeks and I've been looking for inspiration for quick dinners. In my childhood, a common such meal in rotation was spaghetti carbonara. The sauce for this is just eggs beaten in a bowl with parmesan cheese and plenty of black pepper, and then cooked by being tossed with hot spaghetti as soon as it is drained, and then topped with bacon pieces. This was the one of the first dishes my mother learned to make from her French roommate when she was a starving student in Paris, and then she passed on the recipe to her subsequent roommate and my future aunt. A generation later, it was one of the first recipes my sister, my cousins, and I all mastered as teenagers. The recipe morphed in our household to include onions, peppers, and carrots, sauteed along with the bacon. 

Now a generation later, spaghetti carbonara seems to have receded from restaurant menus and cooking magazines. Perhaps it has been vilified by fears of Salmonella or lost favor with changing cultural paletes. When I've made it a few times for my children, who've been raised on roasted kale chips, they found the vegetables sautéed in bacon fat too greasy for their taste. Last week I reengineered the dish by roasting the ingredients on sheet pans in the oven rather than sautéing on the stove. And I incorporated brussels sprouts into the dish, which are a natural partner of bacon. It all came together in the time it took to boil water and cook spaghetti and the kids deemed it a good alternative to breakfast for dinner.

Sheet Pan Spaghetti Carbonara
serves 4
2 dozen brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered if big
2 carrots, sliced on an angle into ovals
1 small onion, chopped into 1/2 sized pieces
olive oil for drizzling on vegetable
salt to taste
6 slices of bacon
2 eggs
1/2 cup graded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
plenty of black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

1. Start preheating the oven to 425 degrees. It works well to use one large sheet pans and two smaller sheet pans or baking dishes that can fit side by side. If you are using sheet pans, place them in the preheating oven. Set a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Chop the vegetables. Remove 2 eggs from the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature.

2. On one small sheet pan or baking dish, spread out the bacon slices and place in the oven. Toss the chopped onions in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread these on another small sheet pan and place in the oven next to the bacon. In the same bowl, toss the halved brussels sprouts in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread them on the large preheated sheet pan and place on a second rack in the oven. In the same bowl, toss the sliced carrots in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Keep an eye on the items in the oven. In about 10 minutes, you should flip over the bacon and vegetables. In another 10 minutes, the bacon should be crispy and the onions should be soft and slightly charred. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain and scrape the onions into a bowl. Put the carrots on the onion sheet pan and return to the oven. The brussels sprouts should be done shortly after, and the carrots should cook in about 10 minutes, with one flip halfway through. Add the cooked vegetables to the bowl. Taste and add a little more salt if needed.

3. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions. In a large serving bowl, crack the eggs and beat. Add in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and black pepper. Position the bowl close to the sink with good pair of tongs handy. When the spaghetti is ready, drain it and immediately dump it in the egg bowl and toss to coat the spaghetti strands with cooked cheesy egg. Add the roasted vegetables to the serving bowl and crumble over the bacon and toss again (or keep the vegetables and bacon separate and allow everyone to serve themselves). Serve immediately with graded parmesan cheese.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Leek and Potato Soup

We have a respite from the rain, so be sure to come to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market tomorrow and pick up some fall produce from Camas Swale Farm.

We are well into soup season now, and I wanted to share the recipe for my children's favorite soup, leek and potato, which I suspect they like because it's the closet one can come to eating mashed potatoes in liquid form. 

Leek and potato soup was also a favorite in my household growing up, and the soup my mother usually served on Christmas Eve along with smoked fish, a tradition my sister and I have continued. Along the way, we've tinkered with the recipe, and settled on two key steps to bring out the most flavor in this soup. The first (my sister's insight) is to create a soup base of leeks stewed for an extended period of time in butter and olive oil until they are a soft puddle of mush. This will take a good half hour and feel interminable, but it imparts a rich, sweet, leek flavor on the soup. The second (my addition) is to make a leek stock with the leek and potato trimmings (and if you had the foresight, a chicken backbone that you've stashed in your freezer), thus eking out every last bit of leek flavor from your ingredients. And of course, it doesn't hurt to finish the soup off with a generous glug of heavy cream.

Leek and Potato Soup
serves 4-6
6 large potatoes
2 large or 3 small leeks
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
chives for garnish (optional)

1. Start the stock. Start heating about 8 cups of water in a stockpot with 1 Tbsp kosher salt. Cut off the green parts of the leeks. Rinse well, and chop coarsely, and add to the stockpot.  Rinse the potatoes, peel them, and submerge them in bowl with water to prevent them from discoloring. Add the peels to the stockpot. If you happen to have some other stock fixings (root vegetables, chicken backbone, an onion) add them to the stockpot as well. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least half an hour but longer is better. When to are ready to use the stock, pour to stockpot contents through a strainer into a large bowl or second pot and discard the solids. Taste for salt and add more as needed.

2. Prepare the soup base. Halve the white leek stocks lengthwise, rinse well and shake dry, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Heat a large soup pot over medium low heat. Add the butter and olive oil, and once the butter is melted, add the leek slices and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to medium low and cook the leek pieces, stirring often and avoiding letting them brown, until they are cooked through to a softened mound. This will take about 30 minutes, but is the secret to making the final soup very flavorful. 

3. Meanwhile, cut the peeled potatoes into 6 to 8 pieces. When the leeks are cooked through, add 6 cups of stock and the potato pieces. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until the potato pieces are very soft. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Add the cream. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste. If the soup seems too thick, thin it with a little more stock. Return to the heat to warm to just below a simmer. Serve hot with chopped chives for garnish.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower, Lamb Koftas, and Parsnip Fries

With the deluges descending, the Fairmount Neighborhood Market will not be open this Sunday October 16, but expect them back on October 23. This weather reminds us to turn our attention the colorful diversity of winter vegetables available from Camas Swale Farm.

Last week I picked up these pillowy heads of cauliflower, leeks, parsnips, and chard, along with some lamb chorizo meat from Fair Valley Farm. They all came together in a feast of lamb kofta, roasted cauliflower and leeks, parsnip fries, sautéed chard, and Israeli couscous. 

Roasted Cauliflower
1 large or two small heads of cauliflower
1 leek
drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkle of salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the cauliflower head in quarters and remove the green leaves. Slice the quartered cauliflower head into bite sized florets and transfer to a rimmed sheet pan.  Remove the outer leaves of the leek, cut off the root and green tips, slice lengthwise and rinse out any dirt by fanning the leaves under running water. Slice the leek halves into 1 inch lengths and add to the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and spices, toss well, and put in the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower are soft and well charred.

Parsnip Fries
4 parsnips
drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkle of salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place in a rimmed sheet pan. Peel the parsnips and cut them into thin matchsticks about 1 1/2 inches long. In a bowl, toss the matchsticks with olive oil and salt to coat. Remove the heated sheet pan from the oven and quickly spread out the parsnips in a single layer (if you are making a lot, do this in a couple of batches rather than crowd them). Roast for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are nicely browned and crisp.

Lamb Kofta
1 lb lamb chorizo meat
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place in a oven safe skillet such as cast iron. Combine the meat, bread crumbs, and egg and shape into 2 inch long ovals. Remove the heated skillet from the oven and drizzle a little olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the kofta into the pan and return it to the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, rotate the kofta once, until almost cooked through. Turn on the broiler and place the pan under for a minute to sear the kofta. Serve warm.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fennel, White Bean, and Tuna Gratin

Sunday should be sunny and a perfect day for a stroll to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market to pick up some colorful produce from Camas Swale Farm and recapture the fleeting flavors of summer.

Last week I picked up a fennel bulb, which I love to cook in a fennel and sardine pasta with lemony breadcrumbs. But then this recipe for a white bean and tuna gratin caught my fancy, because it reminded me both of a favorite white bean and tuna salad and Julia Child's salmon gratin from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, which my mother used to cook as a regular weeknight meal. Certain of my childhood dishes don't translate well to my children's taste, who prefer bright, fresh flavors to cream sauces. I've already reengineered Julia's dish of a creamy gratin, laced with white vermouth and sprinkling of gruyere cheese, as salmon and barely cakes, but truth be told, frying patties is more work than sticking a casserole in the oven. I liked the idea of including legumes in a gratin and lightening it up with fennel and lemon. 

This is the resulting dish, packed with fragrant fennel and topped with a crunchy lemony bread crumb and gruyere crust. It was delicious eaten with kamut and roasted broccoli and red peppers, fresh from the farm.

Fennel, White Bean, and Tuna Gratin
served four
1 fennel bulb
1 small onion or 2 shallots
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 tin tuna in olive oil
1 cup milk, heated to just below scalding
1/4 cup white vermouth
juice from 1 small lemon
3 cups cooked white beans (from 1 cup dried, or 2 15 ounce cans)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1 handful fennel fronds
zest from 1 small lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dice the fennel bulb and the onion and reserve a few fennel fronds for the bread crumb topping. Zest and juice 1 small lemon. Combine the bread crumbs, lemon zest, chopped fennel fronds, and gruyere and reserve.

2. Heat a large skillet and melt the butter. Add the diced fennel and sauté until glassy. Add the diced onion and sauté until both are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add the olive oil from the tuna tin, then add the flour and whisk into the fat. Continue whisking as you slowly add the hot milk to make a light roux. Add the white vermouth and lemon juice. Generously salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the white beans and tuna. 

3. Pour the white bean and tuna mixture into a 9 inch square oven proof dish. Top with the bread crumb mixture.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the bread crumb topping is nicely browned. Serve with whole grains such as wheat berries, barley, or kamut.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Squash

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, Fair Valley Farm will be selling their pastured meats along with Camas Swale Farm's gorgeous fall produce. Camas Swale Farm plans to continue the market through October and possibly into November, so you can look forward to more winter squash, like these beautiful kabochas,

and storage vegetables like parsnips and colorful carrots.

I was curious to try a sweet and sour roasted squash recipe from Melissa Clark (and our new resident cat was curious to inspect the opened squash).

Clark's recipe combines roasted squash with broiled tofu, which sounds delicious, but I was already preparing caramelized tofu for banh mi, so I just roasted the squash. Coated in cooking oil whisked with soy sauce, sriracha sauce, and honey, they blister up in a hot oven into delectably crispy squash slabs.

With the colorful carrots I made a quick pickled garnish for the banh mi, a family favorite meal that every member assembles differently with varying ratios of tofu, paté, mayonnaise, butter, and hot chiles. The squash slices added extra color and crunch to the meal.

Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Squash
adapted from Melissa Clark
1 small kabocha squash
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce or to taste
Kosher salt, and black pepper
¼ cup peanut or canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Halve the squash and remove the seeds and pulp. Cut squash into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons. Cut each slice in half again.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sriracha and a pinch of salt. Whisk in peanut or canola oil and honey. Spread squash out on a large baking sheet and pour honey-soy mixture over it. Sprinkle squash lightly with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast until bottoms are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Flip and roast until uniformly golden and soft, about 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Millet Skillet Bread

The passing of the fall equinox and shortening days are reflected in the Fairmount Farmers Market's selection of winter vegetables, like these pretty delicata squash from Camas Swale Farm. But the fun of summer is not completely gone, and this Sunday the corner of Agate and 19th will anchor the Sunday Streets event from noon to 4 PM, with all manner of foot and cycle traffic and activities between Washbourne and Amazon Parks.

Roasted delicata squash is a favorite in our household, and turning on the oven inspired me to make a skillet bread, which inspired me to make a pot of chili. I had some leftover cooked millet, and the alliteration made it an obvious addition to my regular skillet corn bread. Searching the internet for inspiration uncovered this quinoa skillet bread from Heidi Swanson. As in this spider cake, her recipe includes cream poured into the center for a custardy core. I used half as much as she called for, and liked the effect, but you could use the full amount or leave it out entirely for a more traditional corn bread. Enjoy with some wintery roasted vegetables and soup or stew.

Millet Skillet Bread
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 cup (115 g) flour
3/4 cup (115 g) yellow cornmeal (coarse)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups cooked millet*
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups regular milk plus 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar)
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream (optional, but will give the bread a rich, creamy center)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F C degrees and place a rack in the top third. Place in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet such as a cast-iron pan.

2. In a large bowl stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.

3. In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the cooked millet. Then beat in the eggs, salt and sugar. Finally, mix in the buttermilk.

4. Remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add the final tablespoon of butter to the pan and swirl to melt the butter and coat the pan.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until the batter comes together. Pour the batter into the heated skillet. If using, pour the heavy cream into the center of the batter and do not stir. 

6. Carefully place in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until the top becomes lightly browned and the center just set. Serve warm.

*To cook a pot of millet, combine 1 part millet to 2 parts water in a rice cooker and cook or in a pot and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Pizza

The fall harvest is in full swing at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, including these beautiful speckled eggplants from Camas Swale Farm.

With the temperatures dropping, turning on the oven for pizza was appealing, and once I had it preheating, I thought I'd roast some toppings ahead.

Roasting the eggplant cubes gave them a wonderful caramelized exterior, while making them meltingly soft and creamy inside. They paired perfectly with melting chunks of feta and crunchy slices of pimento pepper. I can recommend this combination as a delicious harvest pizza pie.

Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Pizza

1 recipe of Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough (enough for four individual pizzas)
tomato sauce (preferably made with fresh rooms)
1 small eggplant per pizza
1 sweet red pepper per pizza
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese per pizza
fresh basil leaves for garnish

1. Prepare the pizza dough the evening before, according to Lahey's instructions. Combine 500 g flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1 1/2 cups (350 g) water, and mix briefly in an electric mixer or by hand until combined into a ball. Cover and let stand for about 18 hours.

2. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Toss the eggplant cubes with a sprinkle of kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon per eggplant) and leave in a colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Seed and slice the pepper. Cut the feta into 1/2 inch cubes.

3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and insert a pizza stone if you are using one. 

4. Squeeze the eggplant cubes in a clean dishcloth to remove released moisture and toss the pieces with a generous drizzle of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Insert into the preheating oven and bake for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through with a spatula, until the eggplant pieces are browned and soft. 

5. Meanwhile, divide the dough into four balls, flour them lightly, and shape them according to Lahey's instructions (or use a rolling pin to roll them out on a silicone mat). Sprinkle polenta on a baking sheet or pizza peel and place the pizza dough on top. If you like, you can prebake the crust for 5 minutes in the preheated oven to ensure an extra crispy pizza.

6. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the dough, distribute over the roasted eggplant pieces, the sliced red pepper, and then cubed feta.  Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the crust in browned and the cheese is bubbling. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy.