Friday, June 24, 2016

Stir-Fried Garlic Scapes with Bacon

At this Sunday's Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, be sure to snatch up some of the spring's fleeting treats, including Tiger Lily Art Company's springtime blossoms and Camas Swale Farm's garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes or whistles are the garlic plant stalks that are harvested to direct the plants' growth into the bulbs. They have a very mild garlic flavor and are delicious roasted on a sheet pan with zucchini or grilled and incorporated into salsa. For inspiration for last week's bunch, I turned to 
Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice, which had a recipe for stir-fried garlic stems with bacon (she also has a vegetarian version with mushrooms). I had fewer garlic stems than needed, so I added edamame beans, and I adjusted the recipe for fattier American-style bacon. The pairing of smoky bacon with sweet garlic scapes was a delicious addition to a post-market feast. 

Stir-Fried Garlic Scapes with Bacon
adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice
250 g garlic scapes (about 3 bunches), or substitute in some edamame beans
3 thin slices of bacon
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

1. Trim off the blossom tips and any fibers bases of the garlic scapes and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths. Cut the bacon crosswise into thin strips. If using frozen edamame beans, cook them in salted boiling water for about 4 minutes and drain.

2. Heat a skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add the bacon slices and cook until they are crisped and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon to a bowl and pour off all but 2 Tbsp of the rendered bacon fat. 

3. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the garlic scapes. Stir-fry until they are just tender and started to wrinkle. Add the edamame beans if using, soy sauce, and reserved bacon and stir to mix. Taste and add salt if desired. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Baby Turnip Pennies

Last week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, my son picked out the cutest bunch of baby turnips from Camas Swale Farm. When trying to think of a pleasing turnip preparation for the eight and under crowd, I turned to Mollie Kaizen's children's cookbook classic Pretend Soup, source of our family's favorite popover recipe 

I remembered that Katzen had a recipe for carrot pennies, which I thought might work for baby turnips. On closer inspection, I realized this was a version of the Japanese cooking style of kinpira or sauté and simmer, as in this kinpira gobo, which  produces an addictive sweet and salty syrup coating for the vegetables. This preparation proved to be just the thing to make turnips fun to eat for all ages.

Baby Turnip Pennies
adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Pretend Soup

1 bunch baby turnips
2 Tbsp butter
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp brown sugar
generous pinch of salt
1/4 cup water

Trim the tops and tails from rinsed baby turnips and slice them into thin rounds. Place a skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the turnips and a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Add the lemon juice, sesame seeds, and brown sugar and saute until the turnips start to soften and brown. Add the water and allow to cook down to a syrup. Serve warm.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fava Bean and Summer Squash Chickpea Flour Crepes

At last week's Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, Camas Swale Farm brought a bounty of spring vegetables, including delicate summer squash and fat fave beans.

Fava beans are best when shelled from their pods

and then released from their slightly bitter and tough skins. Peeling fave beans  is a true labor of love, and after all that investment of work they should be treated with reverence.

I decided to pair them with lightly sautéed summer squash and fresh herbs as topping for chickpea flour crepes as a stovetop version of farinata

The batter is simply chickpea flour and water with a bit of salt and olive oil. I found that I needed to keep my crepe pan quite hot and use plenty of olive oil to prevent the crepes from sticking, but once I mastered this, the crepes proved to be the perfect canvas for the fava beans, and a delicious post-market treat.

Chickpea Flour Crepes with Fava Beans and Summer Squash
makes about 4 crepes
Crepe batter
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil for batter and more for cooking

Crepe toppings
handful of fave beans
1 or 3 small summer squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
chopped fresh herbs such as chives and thyme

1. Whisk together the batter ingredients into smooth. Let rest for at least half an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Prepare the fave beans. Boil a small pot of salted water. Remove the fave beans from the pods. Blanche the beans in the boiling water for 1 minute and then strain and run under cold water. For each blanched bean, use a paring knife to make a small incision in the outer skin and pop out the bean from the casing with your fingers.

3. Cut the summer squash into 1/4 inch thick half moons or other pieces. Heat a crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium hight heat. Add one Tbsp olive oil, the summer squash, salt and aleppo or red pepper flakes to taste. Sauté until the summer squash has a bit of brown blistering on its surface but is not yet mushy. Transfer the squash to a bowl.

4. Return the crepe pan to medium high heat. Add a generous amount of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, pour in about 1/2 cup crepe batter and tip the pan in a circular motion to spend out the batter. Allow the batter to cook until it darkens in color slightly. Then use a spatula to flit the crepe  and cook briefly on the second side. Cook the remaining crepes. 

5. Top the crepes with the sauteed summer squash and fave beans sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Beet and Spinach Hash

Come one, come all to the opening of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market Sunday June 5th from 10 AM - 2 PM on the corner of Agate St. and 19th Ave. While you are there, you can treat yourself to a pastry at Sweet Life Petite, or an iced tea latte at Oolong Bar, or brunch at Studio One Cafe or Agate Alley.

Alternatively, you could take your market treasures home and cook yourself a delicious spring hash with some root vegetables, onions, and greens from Camas Swale Farm and some fresh eggs from Fair Valley Farm. Hope to see you at the market tomorrow!

Beet and Spinach Hash
serves four
a dozen baby beets and 4 large beets
4 baby onions or 1 large onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large handfuls spinach
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
Sriracha for serving

1. Rinse the beet and trim off their stems and tails (for baby ones, there is no need to peel them). Cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel the onions and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat, add the olive oil and the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes until they are glassy. Add the beets, salt and pepper, and stir to coat in the oil. Turn the temperature to low, cover the pan, and allow to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beets are soft and the onions have caramelized. 

3.When the beets are close to done cooking, cook 4 fried eggs to order (runny, hard, over easy etc.).

4. Once the vegetables are nicely cooked, add the spinach and a pinch more salt and toss so that the spinach just starts to wilt. Remove from heat and distribute across four plates. Top with fried eggs and serve with a hot sauce like Sriracha.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Asparagus, Lemon, and White Bean Pasta

Just two more weeks until the start of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market June 5th. With the recent drizzly weather, it might feel hard to believe that summer is almost here, but it provides the perfect excuse to cook up a pot of beans. And if you do, be sure to save the bean broth. This flavor-packed liquid has recently been elevated to cult status, redubbed aquafabaas a vegan substitute for egg whites. I've been independently obsessing about bean broth as the perfect medium in which to cook pasta, such as the iconic Italian dish of pasta con ceci, described here and here. This method of one pot cooking of pasta in a small volume of flavorful broth, like risotto, is apparently standard in Italy, and what we should all be doing now that water is becomes a scarcer resource.

For a spring version with delicate white beans, I riffed off Melissa Clark's delicious pasta with fried lemons, adding in asparagus. Bean broth plus the flavored water used to blanch the lemon wedges and asparagus served as the pasta cooking medium. The possibilities are endless, and well worth making room for tubs of bean broth in your freezer for quick, one pot, weeknight dinners. 

Asparagus, Lemon, and White Bean Pasta
serves four
2-3 lemons
1 bunch asparagus
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
pinch of sugar
1/4 tbsp red pepper flakes or to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans

2 cups bean broth, salted to taste
2 cups salted water in which lemons and asparagus were blanched
8 ounces small pasta such as ditalini or elbow noodles
freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving 

1. Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Trim the tops and bottoms off the lemons and cut lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Thinly slice the quarters crosswise into triangles. Blanch the lemon pieces in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a dish towel. Blot dry.

2. Trim the asparagus and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths. In the same water that you used for the lemons, blanch the asparagus for 4 minutes. Strain the asparagus and reserve the flavored blanching water.

3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add the dried lemon pieces and season with a pinch each of salt and sugar. Cook until the lemons are caramelized and browned at the edges, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. 

4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the asparagus for 2 minutes over medium high heat to char slightly. Transfer to the plate with the lemon wedges.

5. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil to the hot skillet and the chili flakes, and then the beans and toss briefly. Now add about two cups of bean broth, the pasta, and about two cups of the lemony blanching water, such that the pasta is submerged. Cook simmering, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking, and adding more broth to keep the pasta submerged, until the pasta is just undercooked, about 12 minutes. Stir in the asparagus, lemon wedges, and a tablespoon of butter and cook one more minute. Avoid overcooking the pasta and make sure that the final dish has enough liquid to form a thick sauce. Serve with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Market Poster and Cumin Lamb from Lucky Peach

The start of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market's seventh season is just three weeks away. Please spread the word by downloading the market poster here and distributing it widely. 

In return for this favor, I'd like to share an addictively delicious recipe for cumin lamb from the recent Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes cookbook. The recipe calls for thinly sliced lamb, but we've been making it with ground lamb from market vender Fair Valley Farm and it's become a family favorite. Here I served it as a filling for lettuce wraps with these Sichuan green beans. For the lamb, you can dial back the amount of Sichuan peppercorns and chili flakes if serving spice-averse kids, but I recommend using all two tablespoons of cumin seeds, which may seem like a lot, but is perfect with the lamb and seared onion. Once you've tasted this, you'll want to keep a stash of Fair Valley Farm ground lamb in the freezer for when the craving strikes.

makes 2 to 4 servings

2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorns (we use 1 tsp for kids)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2-1 tsp chili flakes (we use 1/4 tsp for kids)
1 lb boneless lamb leg, thinly sliced, or ground
2 Tbsp neutral oil
2 cups thinly sliced white or yellow onions
1 cup sliced scallions, whites and greens
1 Tbsp sliced garlic
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Shoaling wine or dry sherry
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro

1. Toast the cumin seeds and peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pulse in a spice grinder or grind with a mortal and pestle, not too finely. Mix with the salt and chili flakes.

2. Toss the spice mixture with the meat to coat.

3. Heat a very large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the oil, and when it emits wisps of smoke, add the onions and cook, tossing, until translucent and slightly charred. Transfer the onions to a bowl.

4. Add the lamb and any residual spices to the pan. Cook, tossing, until the meat begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the scallions, garlic, soy sauce, and wine, and bring to a brisk simmer. After about 2 to 3 minutes, when the lamb is just cooked through and coated in sauce, return the onions to the pan and toss everything together. Remove from the heat and top with the cilantro. Serve hot.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Northwest Spring Salad with Creamy Cashew and Herb Dressing

Happy May Day. The corner of Agate and 19th Ave., home of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, is teaming with triumphant runners and jubilant spectators today. The newly opened Sweet Life Petite is busy dispensing their pastries and beverages, as well as loaves of Hideaway Bakery bread, and the happy neighborhood bustle is a harbinjer of the upcoming seventh season of the Farmers Market, to start June 5, 10 AM - 2 PM. Mark your calendars. 

Just as we’ve had some changes on the corner, with the arrival of Sweet Life Petite and the soon to be opened J Tea, so too we have some changes in the market. After anchoring the Fairmount Market for five seasons, Farmer Erica of Sweetwater Farm has decided to turn her attention to her local Creswell Farmers Market. Sweetwater Farm will be missed, but we are excited to welcome new members Farmers Jonah and Amber of Camas Swale Farm from Coburg. Camas Swale Farm will be joined by returning members Fair Valley Farm, selling pastured meats, and Tiger Lily Art Company, selling beautiful local flowers.

Camas Swale Farm is a diversified organic produce farm that is known for offering a great CSA program (voted top 3 best CSA by Eugene Weekly in 2013). They've been growing a wide variety of organic vegetables, herbs, flowers and some fruit since 2009. Farmer Jonah grew up in SE Eugene and is happy to return with great produce for his old neighborhood and join the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

By way of introduction, Amber provided a delicious recipe for a Northwest Spring Salad with Creamy Cashew and Herb Dressing, which I riffed on for dinner last night. 

The creamy green dressing is made from soaked cashews, herbs, and greens. Amber suggests a couple handfuls of spinach, but since I had a big bunch of parsley I used that, along with fresh oregano and mint and some lemon for brightness. For extra creaminess you can blend in tofu or sour cream, or I took it more in the direction of a pesto and used olive oil. I employed my favorite trick of blending all the ingredients in a mason jar (the blade and base of a standard blender will screw onto a mason jar). You can top the salad with baked chicken or tempeh. We were grilling last night, so I topped ours with grilled asparagus and green onions and added quinoa and back beans for heft. The dressing is delicious and worth having around. I'm planning on using the rest tomorrow on a green spring pizza. Thanks to Amber for a great recipe and I'm looking forward to welcoming Camas Swale Farm to the market June 5.

Northwest Spring Salad with Creamy Cashew and Herb Dressing
adapted from Amber of Camas Swale Farm

Creamy Cashew and Herb Dressing (makes about 2 cups) 
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
1/4 cup olive oil (or 1 cup tofu or sour cream)
zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups fresh herbs and greens such as parsley, spinach, oregano, and mint
1 Tbsp green trips of green onions or 1 tsp minced onion
~/2 tsp salt (less if cashews are salted)
~1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

If blending in a mason jar, use a canning funnel to add the soaked cashews, olive oil or tofu, lemon zest and juice, herbs and greens, salt and pepper to the jar, along with 1/2 cup water. Screw on the blender blade and base and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon to taste and more water for desired consistency.  You could also make the dressing in a food processor or regular blender. 

For the salad (use some or all of the ingredients below)
salad greens
chopped crunchy radishes and carrots
baked or grilled chicken or tempeh
grilled asparagus
grilled green onions
cooked grain such as quinoa
black beans

Top the greens with your choice of ingredients and drizzle with ample dressing. Enjoy. 
And see you at the market opening June 5th.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Leftovers Bibimbap

This year, my solution for using up Easter eggs was bibimbap. This dish also served the purpose of using up leftover Easter ham, leftover roasted asparagus, and leftover collard greens, and made a dent in my latest batch of kimchi.

I took inspiration from the bibimbap sauce here and the miso lentils here. Once we got over the pain of peeling favorite eggs, this meal was a hit with enough different toppings to please everyone, including sesame carrots for bunnies.

Bibimbap from Easter leftovers

bibimbap sauce
1/2 cup gochujang
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp sugar or honey
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Mix together all of the ingredients and thin with 1-2 tsp water if it seems too thick.

hard boiled if you have ones to use up, or cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water.

1 cup diced ham, sautéd in a hot skillet in 1 Tbsp canola oil and 1/2 tsp soy sauce until brown on edges. Add 1 tsp miring, cook down, and remove from heat.

cooked greens
1 bunch greens blanched and quickly sautéed in a little sesame oil, or use pot roasted collards, sauté with a chopped onion in olive oil and then roasted in a closed Dutch oven for one hour at 325 degrees.

roasted broccoli or asparagus
1 small broccoli head cut into spears, tossed with oil and salt, and roasted on a preheated baking sheet at 475 degrees for about 12 minutes. Alternatively roast trimmed asparagus similarly but for about 7 minutes.

sesame carrots
1 carrot julienned and sautéed in a hot skillet in 1 Tbsp canola oil with 1/2 tsp sugar until soften. Add 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp mirin, cook down, remove from heat and toss with 1 tsp sesame seeds.

miso lentils
3/4 cup puy lentils cooked in boiling water until soft (~18 minutes) and drained. Transfer to a bowl and mix in 2 tsp miso paste, 1 tsp sesame oil, a small pinch of sugar and black pepper.

toasted sesame rice
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with 1 Tbsp sesame oil and heat over medium low. Add 4 cups of cooked rice (I like to use a mixture of brown and white rice) and pack down. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until the bottom has developed a toasted crust (peek with a spatula).   

kimchi and sesame seeds to garnish

To serve, scoop out a serving of toasted rice, layer on all desired toppings, and drizzle with bibimbap sauce.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pear Multigrain Muffins

I've been on a muffin baking kick lately. Initially I was motivated by the trivial reason that I wanted to use up a bag of Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal I'd been gifted, but then having a supply of not-too-cloyingly-sweet, freshly baked indulgences became a reason in itself. I experimented with the recipe on the Bob's Red Mill bag, a multigrain muffin recipe from Blue Sky Bakery via smitten kitchen, and a leftover oatmeal recipe from OrangetteJulia Moskins also had plenty to say about not too sweet muffins in this week's New York Times. Along the way, I've learned to hydrate coarsely cut grains with the wet ingredients or to use cooked grains like hot cereal or millet. I found that diced pears make a lovely complement to hearty grains. And I discovered that my new favorite fermented dairy product, kefir, makes a delicious muffin.

Baking all these muffins reminded me of the first day of the Bread 101 class I co-taught. We asked the students to share an early, formative bread memory. To our surprise, many of them responded with memories of baking muffins. We realized that our first order of business in this course was to define the concept of bread as a food of sustenance, distinct from baked indulgences. Some of the confusion we uncovered among our students that day came from their limited experience with bread, but also I would argue from our culture's imprecise language around baking. For one, the word muffin, a uniquely American concept, is an obfuscation and a euphemism for the word cake. Also the production of these distinct baked goods is conflated in the single English word of bakery. In contrast, in France breads and cakes are separated by the shops at which they are procure, the first at a boulangerie and the second at a patisserie. These terms would be useful for describing changes in the neighborhood. Last May we lost the much beloved Eugene City Bakery and the building has stood abandoned for months, a depressing eye sore. Construction has finally picked up on the replacement establishment, Sweet Life. While they will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, they are certainly not a replacement for a source of daily bread. I've been feeding my bread starter, to get back into the routine of baking my own bread. In the meantime, below is the recipe for the muffins I've been making, to be eaten as a treat.

Pear Multigrain Muffins
Adapted from these blue sky bran muffins from smitten kitchen
Yield: 12 standard muffins

1 cup (245 ml) buttermilk, kefir, or yogurt thinned with a little milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup (70 ml) oil (such as coconut, vegetable, safflower, canola, or mild olive oil)
1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, a little citrus zest (optional flavorings to add)
1 cup cooked millet (135 grams) or 1 cup 10-grain cereal mix (90 grams)
1/2 cup (60 grams) cornmeal, buckwheat, or whole wheat flour
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons raw turbinado sugar, divided
3/4 to 1 cup chopped pears or other fruit such as apple or frozen berries

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray or oil or use liners.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk or kefir or yogurt, eggs, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, and cooked millet or grain cereal mix and cornmeal if using. In a large bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined.

3. Spoon two 2 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Add about 2 teaspoons fruit to each (dividing it evenly) and sprinkling the fruit with one of the teaspoons of raw sugar. Spoon remaining batter (about 1 tablespoon each) over fruit and sprinkle tops of muffins with remaining teaspoon of raw sugar.

4. Bake muffins for a total of 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan once midway through baking time for even browning, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.

Do ahead: Muffins keep for 3 days at room temperature, longer in the freezer.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Spinach Yogurt with Spiced Chickpeas

In line with my last post, my Christmas present cookbook this year, Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule, is full of inspiration for cooking with fermented daily products. With some baby spinach from our Sweetwater Farm CSA and some cooked chickpeas in the refrigerator, I ended up making a mashup of two of Rule's yogurt spread recipes (a Turkish spinach dip and an Indian raita with a spiced tarka). For the base I mixed plain whole milk Nancy's Yogurt with chopped spinach and a pinch of salt, and then layered on these chickpeas fried with garlic, lemon rind, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika.

Rules tops many of her savory yogurt dishes with a drizzled of oil, so for this one I made a tarka of cumin and mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves (now available on a regular basis at Sunrise Asian Food Market). This dish worked well as a party appetizer with pita chips, with the cooling yogurt as a nice contrast to the spicy chickpeas, and it was substantial enough to serve as dinner after the guests were gone and we were too tired to cook.

Spinach Yogurt with Spiced Chickpeas
for the chickpeas
2 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola
3 strips lemon rind, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 cups cooked chickpeas (could use one 15 ounce can)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of salt

for the yogurt
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
pinch of salt

for the tarka
1 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
4-5 fresh curry leaves (optional)

1. For the chickpeas, heat a skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and then the slivers of lemon rind. Cook one minute and then add the garlic. Cook another 30 seconds and then add the chickpeas and spices. Stir well and allow to coat the chickpeas. Allow to cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas have crisped.

2. Prepare the tarka. Heat a small pan over medium high heat. Add the oil. When it is hot, add the cumin seeds and about 30 seconds later add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Cook about a minute until the oil is very fragrant but before anything burns, and then transfer the tarka to a small bowl.

3. Rinse the spinach, drain, and chop finely. When you are close to serving the dish, combine the spinach with the yogurt and a pinch of salt.

4. To serve, spread the yogurt mixture on a shallow serving dish. Layer over the chickpeas. Drizzle the platter with the spiced oil, including the toasted seeds. Serve with warmed flat bread or pita chips.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cooking with Kefir and a Chocolate Mousse Tart

My latest fermentation project, following in the footsteps of sauerkraut and bread starter, has been to culture kefir. To maintain this culture, you simply transfer a tablespoon of kefir to a fresh cup of milk and let it sit on your kitchen counter for about 24 hours. The result is a tart, thickened milk that I've started deploying in all sorts of guises. 

Using regular pint Mason jars for the culturing lends itself to preparing smoothies with my favorite trick of screwing the blender blade directly onto the jar. If you like, you can make yourself a daily smoothie after passaging a tablespoon of kefir for the next batch.

I've been preparing smoothies with about a cup of kefir, a half banana, and a teaspoon each of honey and chia seeds, which make a perfect midmorning snack.

I also found that adding a spoonful of kefir resulted in an extremely exuberant bread starter crumpet batter (reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn's waffle batter from Woman of the Year) and deliciously spongey crumpets.

For ~1 cup of old bread starter (~250 grams), add 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon kefir. Mix well and then add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and pour into well-oiled crumpet rings on a hot, well-oiled skillet to cook.

A final, recent use for my kefir was to add a bit of tartness to a chocolate mousse tart. Truth be told, this tart, for my son's birthday, was entirely motivated by my desire to use up a rye flour pie crust I had prepared for Thanksgiving and then accidentally left behind in the freezer when we dashed to the coast. Rye and chocolate is a classic combination, and filling a pie crust with chocolate mousse seemed like an easy way to please a newly minted eight year old.

I started with this recipe, and then, inspired by the success of using creme fraiche in chocolate fondue, I whipped in some kefir with the heavy cream (I've also used my kefir to culture heavy cream into creme fraiche, which works very well, but in this instance, I didn't have time). The resulting tart was a big success with the beaming birthday boy. 

Chocolate Mousse Tart with a Rye Crust
pie crust (based on Heidi Swanson's recipe)
1/3 cup (38 g) rye flour (I used rye flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm)
3/4 cup (88 g) unbleached all purpose white flour
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
~1/6 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and mix. Pulse in the butter cubes until they are lima bean sized. Then add enough water for the dough to just come together when you press it between your fingers. Mold into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out into a 12 inch disc, drape into a buttered tart pan, flute the edges and patch where you need to, and now chill again for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover the crust with aluminum foil and use rice or beans as pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cook completely before you fill the crust.

chocolate mousse
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 kefir (or creme fraiche)
1/4 cup sugar

1. Pulse the chocolate, vanilla and salt in a food processor until the chocolate is in small pieces. Bring 1 cup cream to a boil in a heavy small saucepan. With the processor running, gradually pour the hot cream through the feed tube and process until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Beat remaining 1 3/4 cups of of cream, 1/4 cup kefir, and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl to stiff peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set, about 6 hours. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fresh Bread and French Onion Soup

It's been a busy fall, but with the term winding down, I finally turned my attention to my neglected bread starter and started coaxing it back to life with daily feedings. In a few days, it was bubbling  away happily and over the weekend it raised a fine loaf of rye and red fife flour. 

With the baking bread aromas filling the kitchen, and a steady drizzle outside, I decided to make some French onion soup for dinner. I caramelized a big pot of onions (saving some for a future mujaddara), and thawed a quart of chicken stock. The recipe I followed from the kitchn, based on Julia Child, called for an hour of cooking the broth with the onions, and another 20 minutes in the oven, but I admit to skimping on both, because we were all too hungry to wait. The resulting soup was deliciously decadent for a rainy day.

French Onion Soup
Makes 4 one-cup servings

3 large yellow onions (~1 pound)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine or white vermouth
4 bread slices, toasted
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1. Peel and cut each onion into half moons: Slice each half of the onion into thin, evenly-sized half moons and cut the half moon slices in half. You will have at least 3 cups of chopped onions. But don't worry too much about quantities with this recipe; if you have an extra onion to use up, throw it in!

2. In a large pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. After the butter foams up and then settles down, add the onions and stir to coat with the butter. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes on low heat. 

3. Remove the lid. The onions should have wilted down somewhat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, a generous amount of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar (this helps the onions caramelize). Turn the heat up to medium and cook, uncovered and stirring every few minutes, until the onions are deeply browned. This will take 40 minutes to 1 hour. Turn down the heat if the onions scorch or stick to the pan; the browning doesn't come through burning, but through slow, even caramelization.

4. Heat the broth: As the onions approach a deep walnut color, heat the broth in a separate pot. Add the wine and allow to cook down. Then add the hot broth to the caramelized onions and bring to a boil. Cook gently over low heat for about 1 hour (I only did this for 20 minutes). Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. 

5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Divide the soup between small but deep oven-safe bowls. Top each with a slice (or two) of toasted bread and sprinkle grated cheese in a thick layer over the bread and up to the edge of the bowl. Place the bowls on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is thoroughly melted (I did this for 5 minutes).

6. Broil until the cheese is browned: Turn the oven from bake to broil and broil the soup for 1 to 3 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove carefully from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving on heatproof dishes or trivets.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Skillet Baked Oatmeal with Cinnamon Apples

The Fairmount Farmers Market may seem like a distant memory on this drizzly November weekend, but you can still stock up on local food at the annual Fill Your Pantry event hosted by Willamette Farm and Food Coalition Sunday November 15th from 1 - 5 pm at Lane Events Center. You can pre-order online now through this Sunday at midnight.

Be sure to stock up on rolled oats or barley flakes for winter breakfasts, such as this skillet baked oatmeal, inspired by this recipe from Heidi Swanson, but with seasonal apples and a skillet cornbread approach to baking. This will add a little cheer to your drizzly mornings.

Skillet Baked Oatmeal with Cinnamon Apples
Serves 6
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain salt
1 large apple
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. To the dry skillet, add 1 cup of rolled oats and toast, stirring, for a couple of minutes until they start to become fragrant and brown. Transfer the oats to a medium mixing bowl, and repeat with the second cup of oats. Next toast the cup of chopped walnuts until they start to become fragrant. Transfer the walnuts to a separate small bowl. To the oats, add the baking bowser and salt and mix.

3. Core the apple and cut into 1/4 inch dice. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat, add the apple pieces and cinnamon, and cook, stirring often, until the apples are soft. 

4. While the apples are cooking, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.

5. When the apples are soft, turn off the heat under the skillet. Use a spatula to incorporate the oat mixture into the buttermilk mixture and then immediately pour it into the hot skillet on top of the cinnamon apples. Scatter over the toasted walnuts and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake for about 35 minutes until the oatmeal has set and the top is golden. Serve immediately.