Saturday, February 14, 2015

Strawberry Pancakes

Orders were placed last night for heart shaped pancakes for Valentine's Day breakfast. I added a handful of frozen strawberries from this week's Good Food Easy CSA share, which gave the resulting cakes a faint pink hue and a pleasant berry flavor.

Freeform hearts didn't work so well (I am not a pancake art master), but an aluminum foil mold managed to produce a few passable hearts. While I wrestled with the pancakes, my husband prepared fruit toppings: sautéed cinnamon apples shaped in an onigiri mold and banana hearts. Breakfast served with love.

Strawberry Pancakes
makes about 20 small pancakes
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 handful strawberries, thawed if frozen, and mashed
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's soft white wheat)
1 tsp baking powered
1/4 tsp baking soda
butter for greasing the pan

1. Make the batter. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just to combine.

2. Heat a large griddle on medium low until the temperature is stable. Grease with a pad of butter. Spoon on the batter with a soup spoon to make silver dollar sized pancakes. To make heart shaped pancakes, you can form a mold out of aluminum foil folded several times into a strip and formed into a heart. Cook the pancakes until stable bubbles form in the batter and the edges take on a more yellowish hue. Flip and cook briefly on the second side. If using the aluminum mold, peal it away from the pancake after flipping. When both sides are nicely browned, transfer to a warm plate. Grease the pan again and cook the next round of pancakes. Serve with fruit and maple syrup.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Satisfying Loaf of Bread

The winter break is now a distance memory, but I didn't want to let it slip away entirely without reporting on a triumphant reunion of the Bread 101 team. This past spring, we co-taught a course on the science and culture of bread. We’d learned alongside our students how to corral wild yeast into leaven and we’d experimented with different flours (establishing beyond any doubt that dough made with 100% barley flour is best used for construction). The following summer we’d had the privilege of visiting the Bread Lab, described by the New York Times as "a Wonka-esque wonderland for crusty, airy-crumbed experimentation",
where we’d had an immersive course in whole wheat bread baking from the master baker, Jonathan Bethony. Since then, we’d each been rousing our bread starters on occasion and attempting to recreate Jonathan’s loaves. With practice, I felt that I’d mastered his method for folding high hydration dough to build up its gluten network while trapping its flavorful fermentation fumes. But then once I’d achieved the pillowy mound of dough from the first ferment, I would be flummoxed as to how to proceed. The correct method for shaping the dough eluded me, and even after rereading the lengthy master recipe in Chad Robinson’s Tartine 3 many times, I was uncertain. Then, inevitably after I had left my somewhat mangled packet of dough in a cloth-lined bowl for its second ferment, the final transfer to a searing hot Dutch oven would be a fiasco, with a deflating flop into the pot and sad tendrils left clinging to the cloth. The bread was still delicious, but only a pale mirage of Jonathan’s masterpieces.

When the bread coven gathered in my kitchen in early January, somehow our collective wisdom freed me from puzzling over cryptic instructions and allowed my hands to recall the feeling of shaping the dough. After the first ferment, the dough simply needed to be shaped by a circular rocking movement, lifting the back of the ball, rocking forward, and allowing gravity to pull the forward edge under the ball, then rotating and repeating to create a round dome with a taut top surface. Once our loaves had been shaped, the next steps seemed natural. There was no doubt that this domed surface would become the top of the final loaf, so clearly we needed to flip the dough to letter-fold it into a bundle. As for the cloths, my friend Judith confidently dumped on such copious amounts of rice flour and rubbed it in with such vigor that the transfer to the hot pots went without a hitch.

Because none of us can resist carrying out experiments, we tried various receptacles for baking our breads, including Dutch ovens and ceramic cloches. All worked well and produced loaves that were the closest any of us had come to the the Bread Lab's exemplars. Below is the recipe we followed. We each left, loaf in hand, emboldened to keep tinkering with this recipe.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
recipe for 2 loaves (we made 4, I often make just 1 loaf)

1. First thing in the morning, mix together:
200 g leaven (fed the night before, mine is made with white flour)
800 g water (the leaven should float if actively fermenting)
700 g whole wheat flour
300 g while flour

2. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to hydrate flour. Then add:
20 g salt
50 g water

3. Mix the dough well with your hands until it feels smooth and elastic. Cover to start the first ferment. Every approximately 30 minutes for the next 3-4 hours, fold the dough onto itself four times, once from each side, and then flip, following these instructions. For the last hour, we gave the dough a boost by transferring it to a slightly warm oven.

4. Once the dough has risen to about twice its starting volume, it is ready to shape for its second ferment. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Divide the dough into two with a dough scraper. Place one piece of dough on the floured surface and shape into a boule by gently but firmly lifting the back end up, rocking the ball forward, and letting the force of gravity tuck the front edge under as you rock the ball back, rotate it, and repeat again. Once you've rotated the boule 360 degrees, it should have a taut top surface. Leave it resting on the work surface (seam side down), to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare your proofing baskets. Generously dust two muslim clothes or dish towels with rice flour and rub into the fabric. Drape the cloths over two round bowls or colanders. The cloths need not be washed between baking sessions and will become better with age.

6. Once the boules have rested, you can shape your loaves. Dusk a bit more flour on your surface. Flip the boules, seam side up. Fold each by first taking the edge farthest from you, pulling it up and over 2/3 of the rest of the dough. Repeat this with the bottom and then the left and right edges. Gently transfer each loaf, seam side up, into the prepared floured baskets. Cover with a floured cloth and let rise 3-4 hours. An hour into this second ferment, you can transfer one or both loaves to the refrigerator to bake the following day.

7. 30 minutes before you will bake your loaves, start preheating the oven to 500 degrees and place in two Dutch ovens.

8. Take one hot pot out of the oven, sprinkle the bottom with polenta, then gently flip the loaf from the proofing basket, seam side down, into the pot. Use a sharp razor or knife to slash several cuts across the top of the loaf. Cover and transfer to the oven. Repeat with the second loaf.

9. Bake for 20 minutes at 500 degrees. Turn down the temperature 450, bake another 15 minutes. Remove the top, then bake another approximately 15 minutes until the loaf is a very dark brown.

10. Transfer the baked loaf to a rack and allow to cool for as long as you can stand. Jonathan recommends 24 hours, but you will probably want to enjoy it with dinner.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Toad-in-the-Hole and Minty Peas

Getting back into our regimented school routine has been a bit rough after a couple of weeks of winter holidays with lazy mornings spent curl up together reading. Over the break, I read my kids one of my favorite childhood books, Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World (above is an illustration by Jill Bennett from the original edition). We were all especially captivated by Danny's father's description of his favorite childhood meal: "My mum could make toad-in-the-hole like nobody else in the world. She did it in an enormous pan with the Yorkshire pudding very brown and crisp on top and raised up in huge bubbly mountains. In between the mountains you could see the sausages half buried in the batter. Fantastic it was." We tried recreating the dish, based on this recipe from Five and Spice and it was a big hit. For a thoroughly British accompaniment, I made these minty peas from Nigel Slater. Although the dinner didn't involve any pheasant poaching, my son and I did venture down the dark and drizzly alleyway with a feeble flashlight to filch some unsuspecting mint.

adapted from Five and Spice
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 lb breakfast sausages

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, flour, and salt and blend until smooth. You could also whisk these together in a bowl. Allow the batter to rest while you heat the oven and cook the sausages (ideally 30 minutes).

3. In a ovenproof pot, such as a cast iron Dutch oven, cook the sausages until they are browned on all sides. If there is a lot of fat release, pour some off, but you want about 2-4 Tbsp coating the pan. While the pot is still very hot, pour the batter over the sausages and immediately transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes (meanwhile, make some minty peas). The toad-in-the-hole is done when it is puffy and golden and crisp around the edges. Do not open the oven before 20 minutes or the popover might deflate. Serve right away with mustard on the side and minty peas.

Minty Peas
adapted from Nigel Slater
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 package frozen peas
2 or 3 sprigs fresh mint
salt to taste
1 Tbsp water

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When warm, add the olive oil, then the shallots and stir for 30 seconds, then the peas, mint, salt, and water. Cover and cook for four minutes. Remove the top and simmer another 2 or 3 minutes, allowing the liquid to evaporate. Serve warm.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Coconut Kale Chips

A New Year's resolution of mine is to be more adventurous about cooking new foods. Case in point: on a whim, my husband purchased my son a fresh coconut at the market. "How will we open it?" my son asked later that evening, holding it high above his head in the kitchen. "We'll have to look it up on Youtube" my husband answered from the living room. But just then we heard a crash and "oops" and "it's leaking!" Problem solved.

The next question: what to do with all the fresh coconut meat? Much experimentation ensued, with our favorite outcome being these coconut kale chips. We love plain Jane kale chips in our household, but this version makes them even more addictive. I tossed the kale pieces and grated coconut in coconut oil and added a splash of soy sauce for saltiness. They were a fun vehicle for fresh coconut, but I'm sure they would work with unsweetened, dried coconut on a day when one wasn't able to commit to a whole fresh coconut adventure.

Coconut Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup shredded coconut (fresh or unsweetened dried)
2 tsp soy sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and place two rimmed cooking sheets in the warming oven.

2. Rinse the kale leaves, shake dry, remove the stems (I've found that the fastest way to do this is by running my fingers down the stem), and tear into bite sized pieces. Remove all moisture from the kale leaves with some more shaking, or in a salad spinner.

3. Remove the hot pans from the oven and place a Tbsp of coconut oil on each pan, sliding it around to allow it to melt. Then put half the kale and half the coconut on each pan. Drizzle each with a tsp of soy sauce and then toss the leaves on each sheet well to mix and coat with the coconut oil.

4. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the kale leaves have crisped and started to brown and the coconut has toasted. Remove and serve at once or store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

New England Spider Cake

Christmas brought a few unexpected delights this year, including discovering this decorated tree during a stroll through Hendrick's Park. Another treat was this New England Spider Cake that we had for a late Christmas breakfast (after fortifying ourselves earlier with stollen). I adapted this recipeusing corn flour, polenta, and soft white flour from our newest CSA installment from Lonesome Whistle Farm, and we ate it topped with poached quince. This cake is just the thing to slip in the oven, along with a tray of bacon, to bake while opening presents. The final dish is a kind of cornmeal spoon bread, and apparently gets is name from the spidery cracks emanating from the center of cream, which is itself an unexpected custardy treat.

New England Spider Cake
1/2 cup corn flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's corn flour)
1/2 cup coarse corn meal (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's polenta)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's soft white wheat)
1/2 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to warm.  Combine corn flour, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk eggs into the buttermilk. Stir into dry ingredients and set batter aside.

2. Remove the skillet from the oven and melt the butter in the hot skillet. Pour in the batter. Pour the cream into the center, slide the skillet into the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve warm.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marbled Birthday Cupcakes

This year, my Winter Solstice seven-year-old son was eager to help bake his birthday cupcakes. We decided on chocolate and vanilla marbled ones (no need to give a bunch of bouncing seven year olds too many choices). We adapted this marble cake recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, and my son laboriously transcribed the ingredient list, increased by 50% to ensure sufficient cupcakes for his party.

He distributed the first layer of vanilla batter,

helped mix in melted chocolate for the top layer,

and marbled the two with a skewer. 

The resulting cupcakes were just big enough to hold seven candles for the afternoon festivities, and just plentiful enough for a second afterdinner wish.

Marbled Cupcakes
adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, makes 18-24 cupcakes

150 grams (7 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
6 eggs
330 grams (2 cup plus 4 tablespoons) sugar
3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
330 grams (3 1/3 cups) flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
180 grams (a little less than 13 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 330°F.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave, and set aside to cool. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, and set aside. 

3. Combine the flour with the baking powder and pinch of salt and set aside.

4. By hand or in a mixer, beat together the eggs and the sugar until frothy. Add in buttermilk and whisk to combine. Combine in the flour mixture and then incorporate the melted butter and the vanilla, without over mixing. 

5. Line 18 to 24 muffin tins with paper muffin cups. Scoop a soup spoon of batter into each cup, using half of the batter. Mix the melted chocolate into the remaining batter. Scoop a soup spoon of the chocolate batter into each cup. The cups should be about 3/4 full. Using a skewer, pierce each mound of dough and give it a quick swirl to create the marbling.

6. Bake for 25-28 minutes until a clean skewer comes out clean.

Note: we made 18 cupcakes (our household's muffin tin capacity) and had batter leftover for a mini cake, so I think one could stretch this recipe to 24 cupcakes. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Scents and Poached Quince

Our house smells like Christmas. It's making me giddy with anticipation for the holidays, and thorough distracted from all the end of term grading I should be doing. Last weekend my daughter and I visited Sweetwater Farm (home of the rusty dragon above), and learned how to make wreaths from a bounty of evergreen boughs twisted onto frames of poplar branches. When we brought home our masterpieces, the fresh pine smells of these wreaths enveloped the house and suddenly all I wanted to do was bake stollen and Christmas cookies.

The major baking projects will have to wait until I get my grading done, but today I poached a couple of lovely quince from our Good Food Easy CSA.

The fragrance that filled the house was heavenly, and I can't wait to savor these rosy gems on top of waffles tomorrow morning.

Poached quince
2 quince
1 1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp honey (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Combine the water, honey, and vanilla in a sauce pan and bring up to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile peel, core and slice the quince into eighths. They are much harder than apples, so be careful. I found it easiest to use a vegetable peeled on cored quarters. Slide them into the simmering poaching liquid as you slice them.

3. Cover the pan, turn to low, and cook at a very gentle simmer for an hour, until the quince are very soft and rosy. The quince can be stored in their poaching liquid in the refrigerator for a week or so. They make delicious toppings for waffles, pancakes, yogurt, or rice pudding. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Turkey Mole Poblano

At this point Thanksgiving should be a distant memory. But if you still have some lingering turkey leftovers in your freezer, I can recommend a turkey mole poblano. The meditative process of roasting all the chiles, seeds, and nuts that go into this elaborate sauce can be an escape from the frenzy of the holiday season.

I always crave something spicy after the mild flavors of Thanksgiving fare, and we often make Mexican dishes with our turkey remains. This recipe for turkey mole poblano is from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. I also consulted Rick Bayless' recipe but wasn't quite up to all the straining involved. Instead I happily embraced the slight grittiness of the various purees (above from left to right: chocolate and corn tortillas, chiles and tomatoes, and nuts and seeds). The recipe made enough to freeze away a batch of sauce and still have plenty to drench our turkey leftovers. We dined on turkey mole tacos with a side salad of kale, roasted delicata squash, black beans, and avocado, as we started to discuss our Christmas wish lists. 

Turkey Mole Poblano
adapted from The Border Cookbook

Mole sauce (makes enough for two batches)
12 ounces whole dried red chiles (a combination of anchos and pasilla)
6 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
3 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola
4 cups stock (turkey, chicken, or vegetable)
6 garlic cloves
14 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 stale corn tortillas, torn into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Mexican)
1 tsp ground canela or other cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

shredded cooked turkey (3 cups for half of the sauce recipe)

1. Break the stems off the chiles and remove the seeds. Toast the chiles until fragrant in a large, heavy skillet, turning frequently, and transfer to a bowl. Cover with two cups of boiling water and allow to rehydrate.

2. In turn, toast the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, pepitas, and almonds until fragrant and transfer them to a blender. Then toast the garlic cloves until soft. When cool enough to handle, peel them and add to the blender. Add one cup of stock to the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

3. Next add the rehydrated chiles to the blender, along with the fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 cup of the rehydration liquid from the chiles, strained through a strainer. Blend these until smooth and add them to the bowl with the nut and seed puree.

4. Add the quartered onion to the skillet and cook until slightly charred on all sides. Place these in the blender along with the corn tortilla, the chocolate, the cinnamon, and 1 cup broth. Blend until smooth and add to the bowl with the other purees.

5. Heat a deep Dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil. Spoon in the sauce and fry while stirring continuously (it will splatter) for about ten minutes. Add the remaining broth and continue to cook for about 30 minutes. Depending on how much turkey you have, at this point you could reserve a portion of the sauce to freeze for a rainy day.  Add the shredded turkey and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

6. Serve the turkey mole with warm tortillas, over rice, or bake into enchiladas. Enjoy. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes

This weekend I roasted two heirloom pumpkins from Sweetwater Farm, and one of their acorn squashes for good measure. Of course this yielded more than enough pumpkin puree for pumpkin pecan praline pie, so at the suggestion of my son, I made some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.

I paired the naturally sweet squash with the sweet flavor of corn flour (from Lonesome Whistle Farm). No fan of the cloying flavor of pumpkin pie spices, I restricted myself to a dash of ground cardamom in the batter. But for toppings, we made some cinnamon-spiked sautéed apples, that added just the right hint of Thanksgiving dessert. This could make a nice post-Thanksgiving breakfast, if your guests aren't too stuffed.   

Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes with Cinnamon Apples
makes about 24 small pancakes
pancake batter
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine ground cornmeal or corn flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt
butter for cooking pancakes

cinnamon apples
1 large or 2 small apples, cored and diced
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turbinado sugar

1. Prepare the pancake batter. Mix together the wet ingredients (pumpkin, yogurt, eggs, vanilla extract) until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients. Then gently combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. If the batter seems too thick, add a little milk to thin it.

2. Prepare the apple topping. Warm a small skillet over medium low heat. Melt the butter, and stir in the chopped apples and cinnamon. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and fragrant. Stir in the sugar and cook for a minute longer. Reserve.

3. Heat a griddle and when it is warm, grease with a little butter. Use a soup spoon to spoon the batter into pancakes. When permanent bubbles form around the edge and the color of the batter lightens on top, flip the pancakes and cooked them for a couple of minutes on the second side until both sides are golden brown. 

4. Serve the pancakes hot off the griddle with the apple topping and a dribble of maple syrup.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fill Your Pantry...with Pumpkin

If you'd like to stock up on locally grown storage fruits and vegetables, beans and grains, don't miss the Fill Your Pantry event hosted by the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition this Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 PM at the Lane Events Center at 796 W 13th Ave.

For inspiration, above is an heirloom pumpkin I picked up at Sweetwater Farm

destined for my favorite Thanksgiving dessert of pumpkin pecan praline pie, crust made with Lonesome Whistle Farm's Steven's soft white wheat flour. Happy stockpiling.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Roasted Beet and Radish Salad with Oranges

On a quick trip to Boston last weekend, I got to enjoy an unexpectedly sunny stroll with my father down to the Charles River, where the trees were still clinging stubbornly to the last of their famous fall foliage. We stopped at the farmers market, where my father lamented the passing of the sungold tomatoes that had garnished my parents'  salads all summer long. In response, I piled up our shopping bag with delicate squash, kohlrabi, beets, and baby turnips to demonstrate just how well these winter vegetables can top a salad. 

Back home in Eugene, I used the same philosophy to compose an impromptu salad with our remaining Sweetwater Farm beets and daikon radish.

Each vegetable got tossed with olive oil and roasted until sweet and soft. For good measure, I roasted some green onions and then tossed everything with some clementine sections, letting the oniony olive oil and citrus juice serve as the dressing. Piled onto fresh lettuce leaves, this mixture was just as sweet and satisfying as any summer tomato. 

Roasted Beet and Radish Salad with Oranges
serves four
4 small beets
1 medium daikon radish (or 8 baby turnips)
4 green onions
2 clementines
olive oil
~8 lettuce leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tops and tails of the beets and rinse well (for larger beets, remove their skin with a vegetable peeler). Cut into eighths. On a baking sheet, toss with ~1 Tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Trim and peel the daikon radish, cut into similar sized pieces, and on a separate baking sheet, toss with ~1 Tbsp olive oil and salt. 

2. Roast the beets and radish for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until a fork can pierce through the largest pieces easily and the radish have browned a bit. 

3. While the vegetables are roasting, trim the green onions and cut them into 1/2 inch rounds. In a small baking dish or oven safe skillet, toss them with ~1 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and stick them in the oven for about the last 10 minutes of roasting, removing them when they are soft and just starting to char. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and tear into bite sized pieces. Peel the clementines, slice perpendicular to the sections, and separate the slices along the sections into triangles.

4. When the vegetables and green onions are done, toss them together in a bowl along with any oil from the pans. Toss in the clementine sections. Arrange the lettuce on a platter or individual plates and mound on the roasted vegetables. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rice Hot Pot

We've been eating a lot of rice hot pots lately, which are perfect for a drizzly midweek meal. Dolsot bibimbap is one of my favorite dishes to order in Korean restaurants, and I always feel so grateful to the chefs who prepare the selection of delectable toppings that are arranged so beautifully in the sizzling bowl of rice. Then I started playing around with heating up rice on the stovetop in stone bowls we'd bought for soup, and I realized that a rice hot pot can be infinitely flexible and an ingenious way to make the most of midweek leftovers and the bounty of our weekly Good Food Easy CSA share. 

The strategy is to cook up a big pot of brown rice or other grain over the weekend, or if you are really planning ahead, freeze meal-sized portions. Then search your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and assemble a selection of topping ingredients loosely around the five elements below (realizing of course, that every formula was meant to be broken, and many ingredients fit into more than one category). The bowl above, for example, contained Sweetwater Farm kale, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, and leftover Fair Valley Farm ham, with a side of kimchi. This is a short order chef type of meal with multiple burners going, but it can come together quickly. First rub a little sesame oil in individual stone bowls or a cast iron skillet, pack down a cup of rice for each serving, and start warming the bowls or skillet over low heat. Then prepare your toppings and pile them into the bowls or skillet as you go, ending with an egg on top.  

Some greens: quickly blanched, steamed, or sautéed, then tossed with a splash of sesame oil, and perhaps some sesame seeds.

Some proteinleftover ham, steak, chicken, quickly sautéed and finished with a splash of soy sauce and rice wine; baked or caramelized tofu; edamame beans; fried or poached egg.

Something umami: mushrooms, such as rehydrated shiitakes, quickly sautéed with a splash of soy.

Fresh and crunchy vegetables: shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, sliced radish.

Pickled vegetableshomemade kimchi, pickled chard stems, fermented green beans, refrigerator pickles

Rice Hot Pots
serves four
4 cups cooked brown rice
sesame oil
1 bunch kale (or chard or spinach)
1 cup cubed ham (or other meat or tofu or edamame beans)
canola oil
8 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1-2 carrots shredded (or 1 cucumber cut lengthwise into quarters and thinly sliced)
4 eggs
for garnish: kimchi, pickled vegetables, dried seaweed, sesame seeds, gochujang or sriracha sauce 

1. For 4 cups of cooked rice, use 2 cup dried rice. Rinse in a small mesh sieve, then place in a pot with 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cook, covered for about 30 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. You can cook this ahead of time.

2. Boil 1/2 cup water and pour over the dried shiitake mushrooms to rehydrate them.

3. I prepare a meal for four in two individual stone bowls (for the adults) and a cast iron skillet of toasted rice for the kids, who prefer their toppings separate, which leaves one burner for preparing the toppings. Rub about 1 tsp of sesame oil into each stone bowl or 2 tsp into the cast iron skillet. Start to warm the bowls and skillet over medium low flames. Pack one cup of rice per person into each bowl (two in the skillet). Keep them warming over low heat for about 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the toppings, and a delicious toasted rice coating will form on the bottom. You should hear the rice sizzling and should smell it toasting. If you are nervous that it is burning, use a spatula to pry underneath and take a peak, and you can always turn it off, but not before you have a good layer of toasted rice.

4. Rinse and chop your greens. You could blanch them quickly in boiling water, steam them in the microwave with a splash of water, or quickly sauté them in another skillet. When they are tender, but not wilted, toss them with a splash of sesame oil and a pinch of salt and layer them into one quadrant of the rice bowls or two opposite quadrants of the skillet. 

5. Cube the meat or tofu. In your working skillet, sauté the cubes over medium high heat in a little canola oil , and when they are hot, add 1 tsp each of soy sauce and rice wine. Cook until these evaporate and then transfer to another quadrant of the rice bowls/skillet.

6. Slice the rehydrated mushroom. In your working skillet, sauté the mushroom slices over medium high heat, allowing the moisture to cook off, add 1 tsp soy sauce, cook down, and then transfer to another quadrant of the rice bowls/skillet.

7. Turn the heat under your working skillet to low and crack in four eggs. While these are frying, prepare the crunchy fresh vegetable toppings and gather your pickled toppings. When the egg are cooked to the desired stage, transfer them to the top of each hot pot or skillet half and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

8. Carefully transfer the hot pots or skillet onto coasters on the table. Have people add desired crunchy fresh and pickled toppings and hot sauce. Enjoy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Roasted Delicata Squash and Apple Rings

This past weekend, when the sun was still shining (a distant memory a day later), we had the pleasure of visiting Sweetwater Farm, the major vendor of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market and source of our Good Food Easy CSA. 

Farmers Erica and Tom had on display an explosion of colorful winter squash, along with rosy gala apples. We got to see their impressive operation of greenhouses that keep them harvesting year round, and their open field with a few remaining summer crops including this ghoulish kohlrabi, that could be easily mistaken for a mandrake

All this fall bounty inspired me to roast rings of delicata squash and apples, as a side for a Fair Valley Farm ham. The recipe below gives specific temperatures, but both the squash and apples could be roasted at a range of temperatures, to accommodate whatever else is in the oven, as long as you keep an eye on them.

We had this delicious fall meal along with and my latest attempt at sourdough bread. And as an extra treat, dainty roasted delicata squash seeds, which are a real delicacy as compared to your regular jumbo jack-o'-lantern seeds.

Roasted Delicata Squash and Apple Rings
1 delicata squash
3 apples
a drizzle of olive oil
a pinch of salt

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice the ends off the delicata squash and discard. Slice the squash into 1/2 inch rounds. Hold each round flat and use a spoon to run along the interior edges of each disc to dislodge the inner goop and seeds. Save this to roast the seeds. Drizzle some olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide the squash discs in the olive oil to coat lightly, and then flip them over to coat the second side. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, use a melon baller or paring knife to remove the stem and blossom ends of the apples. Slice each apple into 1/4 inch rounds crosswise across the core. Use the knife tip to flick away any seeds. Place the apple rounds on a second baking sheet.

3. Use a spatula to flip over the delicate squash discs. They should be golden brown and crisp on the bottom. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and put in the baking sheet with the apple rounds. Check everything after another 10 minutes. Both the apples and squash should be soft and the squash should be golden on both sides. Cook for a little longer if needed. When both are done, move them to a platter and layer the apple slices on the delicata squash rings. Serve warm.

Roasted Delicata Squash Seeds
Use your fingers to pry the seeds away from the squash goop, but a little clinging goop is fine. Mix the seeds with a Tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast in a small pan at 350 degrees, stirring after 5 minutes, and checking again every couple of minutes until they are golden brown. Be careful not to forget them because they will burn quickly. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cornmeal Plum Scones

We'll have to get used to a different Sunday morning routine now that the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market is done for the season. As my sister-in-law taught me this summer, making scones is a manageable morning task for a late breakfast, so my son and I whipped up these tasty scones from Melissa Clark, with plums from Sweetwater Farm and corn flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm.

For this recipe, you make a quick plum jam with caramelized honey and a bay leaf, and then layer this right into your scone dough triangles, resulting in some nice caramelized plum pieces on the top of your scones when they come out of the oven. 

To be enjoyed with extra plum jam, a second cup of tea, and another section of the Sunday newspaper as the morning fog burns off.

Cornmeal Plum Scones
3 tablespoons/45 milliliters honey
1 bay leaf
¾ pound plums/1/3 kilogram (~20 small), halved, pitted and then cut into 1-inch cubes
¾ cup/175 milliliters heavy cream, more as needed
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 ⅔ cups/275 grams all-purpose flour
⅓ cup/60 grams fine cornmeal
3 tablespoons/35 grams sugar
2 teaspoons/7 grams baking powder
½ teaspoon/2 grams kosher salt
6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed, plus more for serving if you like

1. Put honey and bay leaf in a medium skillet over medium heat. Simmer until honey is bubbling and turns a shade darker, about 2 minutes.

2. Place plums in honey. Cook, without moving, until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir plums and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer, until tender but not falling completely apart. If the caramel starts to get too brown, stir in a teaspoon or two of water and lower the heat. Scrape plums and syrup into a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour. (Plum compote can be made up to a week ahead.)

3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the cream and egg.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt (or you can do this in a food processor). Using a fork, pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut butter into flour until the mixture forms coarse crumbs (or pulse in a food processor). Drizzle in as much of the cream mixture as you need to make a smooth, moist but not wet dough. Save remaining cream-egg mixture for brushing.

6. Turn dough out onto prepared baking sheet. Pat into a 1 1/4-inch thick round. Using a paring knife, cut 8 wedge-shaped scones (as though you were cutting slices of pie) and push them apart on the baking sheet to separate them 1/2 inch apart. Brush dough with remaining cream-egg mixture, or use more cream if you’ve run out of the mixture.

7. Using your fingertips, make a deep indentation about 1 inch in diameter in the center of each scone. Tuck some plum into the hole. Transfer pan to oven and bake until uniformly golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve scones with extra plum compote and butter on the side if you like.