Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bundles of Beets

I am a huge fan of beets. More so than the other members of my family, but they put up with my beet enthusiasm. I especially like the combination of sweet beets with spicy ginger. And I can't resist a very fresh bunch of beets with beautiful green tops, which are delicious in their own right. Lonesome Whistle Farm had some lovely beets for sale this week.

We were planning to grill that evening, so I decided to roast sliced beets and ginger with cauliflower in foil packets on the grill. My daughter enjoyed putting together these bundles.

I reserved the beet greens, 

which I sauteed up with plenty of garlic. These made delicious accompaniments to an Indian summer meal of grilled flank steak and corn.

Grilled Beet Bundles

1 bunch beets
1 small head cauliflower
2 inches ginger root
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Peel and slice beets. Chop cauliflower into florets. Peel and mince ginger. Stir well with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and divide between 6 sheets of foil. Seal foil into packets and cook on the grill until the beets are soft and the cauliflower has started to brown.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Green and Yellow Pickles

My two year old has developed a passion for pickles. If unattended for a few moments, he is likely to be found in the kitchen, having yanked open the refrigerator door with a burst of superhuman, obstreperous strength, and dangling a jar of pickles precariously in his hand. With the lovely cucumber offerings from Lonesome Whistle Farm and SLO Farm, I decided to indulge him with some homemade pickles. I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light for Easy Refrigerator Pickles.

I chopped up a couple cucumbers, one green and one yellow, and layered them with sliced onion. I usually make slices, but this time I made spears, because they showed off the different colored skins better, and I thought they were a good shape for a toddler to grab.

Then I prepared the brine: cider vinegar with sliced garlic, sugar, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, tumeric, and salt, heated together until the sugar dissolves, and poured over the cucumbers. After a day of stewing in the refrigerator, with an occasional stir, they tasted delicious, and they will keep getting more intensely flavored with time.

Refrigerator Pickles

2 large cucumbers, sliced or cut into spears
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt

1. Layer cucumber and onion in a non-reactive container that you can easily seal and store in the refrigerator.

2. Heat vinegar, garlic, sugar, and spices in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves. Pour over cucumbers and stir. Refrigerate. Stir occasionally over the next day. Enjoy for the next four weeks, or as long as they last.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Calypso Bean Soup

Lonesome Whistle Farm sells these extraordinary black and white beans called calypso beans, ying yang beans, or orca beans. Kasey from Lonesome Whistle Farm described them as creamy and almost potato-like in their favor. With the weather turning nippy, I'd been thinking of a standby winter dish in our household, leek and potato soup, and it occurred to me that I could make a variant with these calypso beans. In fact Jamie Oliver has a recipe for a chickpea and leek soup, which I modified here.

I soaked the beans for a few hours to plump them up. I chopped the light part of two leeks and sauteed them in butter and olive oil until they were very soft.

Then I added the beans and some broth and simmered these for a good hour until they were soft and creamy. I could taste what Kasey meant about the potato flavor and texture. I served the soup with a generous grating of parmesan cheese and garnish of chopped chives, along side grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato salad. A delicious meal for a drizzly Oregon evening.

Calypso Bean and Leek Soup

1 lb calypso beans, soaked for several hours until plump
2 large leeks, white and light green parts chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbp olive oil
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
salt and pepper
grated parmesan and chopped chives for garnish

1. Sautee the leeks and garlic in butter and olive oil until very soft.

2. Add broth, 2 cups water, and drained beans and simmer for about an hour until beans are desired softness.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan and chopped fresh chives.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poached Salmon in a Pinch

At the end of the week, I desperately needed to replenish my larder at the Fairmount Neghborhood Farmers Market, and the prospects for a satisfying dinner were slim. But I did have a lovely salmon fillet from the Salmon People stored in my freezer. Scrounging in the vegetable bin, I came up with a lemon and a bunch of parsley. I thought I could make these into a sauce to go with the fish. And then it occurred to me that they could also double as flavoring for poaching liquid for the salmon. Poaching salmon keeps it moist and firm, and the end result is incredibly versatile, delicious both warm or chilled.

I reserved the lemon zest and parsley leaves for a delicate pesto, and then heated lemon slices and the parsley stalks in a bath of water. When it was simmering, I slid in the thawed salmon fillet, and poached it for about 10 minutes, until it was just cooked in the center.

For the sauce, I blended together the parsley leaves, lemon zest, and some toasted almonds with olive oil. I served the salmon with Israeli couscous (or "noodle balls" as my kids call them) to soak up the pesto, and some sliced lemon cucumber. A delicious meal, after all.

Poached Salmon with Parsley and Lemon Pesto

1 salmon fillet
1 bunch parsley
1 lemon
1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Zest lemon with a vegetable peeler and reserve, along with parsley leaves. Slice lemon and simmer with parsley stalks in a pan with enough water to cover the salmon fillet.  When the water is bubbling, lower heat and slide in salmon.  Poach for about 10 minutes, until it is just cooked in the center. Remove from cooking liquid.

2. Combine lemon zest, parsley leaves, almond slivers, olive oil, and a generous sprinkle of salt in a food processor or blender and puree.  Serve with poached fish.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Glorious Green Gazpacho

One of my favorite summer dishes is gazpacho, but it should only be attempted with the most flavorful of tomatoes at the peak of their season. Earlier this summer, when visiting my sister in Chicago, I had a quite tasty and very elaborate gazpacho at a neighborhood restaurant. It involved all sorts of components, including a tomato foam, that I could never imagine recreating, but I was inspired by the soup's contrasted textures. The rainbow of heirloom tomatoes at the Lonesome Whistle Farm stand last Sunday was also inspirational, and I decided to create a gazpacho that contrasted the different colors and flavors of the season's best tomatoes.

For the soup itself, I combined a bright and flavorful chartreuse heirloom called Tasty Evergreen, along with a handful of sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, and several basil leaves, and blended these into a smooth green liquid. For a textured accompaniment to the soup, I paired the deep, rich flavor and color of some heirloom Brandywines and a few purple cherry tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and diced cucumbers for some crunch.  

To serve the soup, I placed a few spoonfuls of the diced Brandywines and cucumbers in the center of a soup bowl and then carefully poured the Tasty Evergreen puree around it. The contrasting colors were lovely and the contrasting flavors of heirloom tomatoes were a delight to savor.

Green Tomato Gazpacho with Red Tomato Garnish

For the soup
2 large Tasty Evergreen heirloom tomatoes
8 yellow cherry tomatoes
8 basil leaves

Blend together until smooth.

For the garnish
1 large Brandywine tomato, finely diced
4 purple cherry tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ingredients for the garnish. 

To served, place about two large spoonfuls of the garnish in the center of a flat soup dish. Then carefully pour the blended tomatoes around the garnish. Enjoy at once. Serves four as an appetizer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fresh Fruit Crepes

SLO Farm had a glorious selection of berries at the market last week. With berries as delicate as these, it seemed a shame to cook them, so I decided to incorporate them in some fresh fruit crepes. I used Julia Child's crepe batter recipe (from The Way to Cook) and an iron crepe pan (a much appreciated gift from my sister-in-law).

For one batch, I layered in lightly sweetened sour cream, sliced nectarines, and blackberries.

These made for a delicious brunch.

Late that evening, my husband use the remaining batter to make some dessert crepes, which he sprinkled with semi-sweet chocolate chips and raspberries.

There's nothing more decadent than warm melted chocolate and fresh berries.

Fresh Fruit Crepes
makes 10-12 crepes

For the crepes
1 cup flour 
1 1/3 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter

1. Blend batter in a blender or with an immersion blender until very smooth.

2. Melt a pad of butter in a nonstick pan, and when the butter foams, pour in a small ladle-full of batter, swirling the pan so that it just coats the pan.  Cook until the white batter has all turned a more golden color.  Flip with a spatula.

3. Layer in fillings on one half of the crepe as the second side cooks. Fold in half and slide onto plate.

Filling ideas
1. Sweetened sour cream (~4 Tbsp sour cream with 1 tsp sugar), sliced nectarines, and blackberries.

2. Semi-sweet chocolate chips and raspberries.

3. Nutella and pear slices.

4. Raspberry jam and sliced peaches.

5. Apple slices sauteed in butter with a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pizza Play

SLO Farm has been offering a special variety of roma tomatoes called San Marzano, which are supposed to be especially good for making sauce. I decided to try these in a simple tomato sauce for pizza.

I cooked garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, and then added diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt. The tomatoes cooked down into a fragrant sauce in just 15 minutes.  

I added in a handful of fresh basil and oregano leaves (both grown from starts purchased from Dr. Bert Boyden's garden stand, Bert's Dirt, an occasional vender at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market). Then I blended these together with an immersion blender to make a smooth tomato sauce. It was absolutely delicious and hard to resist nibbling while we prepared the pizza dough.

Pizza making is a favorite pastime in our household, because the dough makes such a good substitute for play dough. I use a dough recipe from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, with a little course corn meal added for texture. Together with my kids, we mixed up the dough,

and took turns kneading it and shaping it into a butterfly,

a sea snail,

and an octopus.

When everyone had had their fill of sculpting, we kneaded together the dough and let it rise for a couple of hours.  One trick is to do all the kneading and playing on a big silicone baking mat, which I then use to loosely wrap the dough for rising.  This makes handling the dough easy and clean up a snap, with no dough to scrub off the table top.

We all have different approaches to pizza toppings. My seven year old daughter likes her pizza with a thin film of sauce and a sparse scattering of mozzarella cheese,

which she then folds up into a "pizza pocket" or small calzone.

My two year old son likes as many toppings as possible. He's especially partial to sauteed mushrooms and prosciutto.

I'm a fan of sliced red peppers, artichoke hearts, and a few anchovies.

No matter what the toppings, all pizza tastes delicious right out of the oven, and with the fresh San Marzano tomato sauce, these ones were out of this world.

Homemade pizza

For the sauce
A dozen roma tomatoes, diced
1 large clove garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp olive oil
generous pinch of salt
6 basil leaves 
one spring of fresh oregano

1. Cook the garlic and red pepper flakes briefly in olive oil. Add diced tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes until they cook down into a sauce. 

2. Add fresh herbs. Puree with an immersion blender.
Makes enough for about 4 pizzas.

For the dough
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup course corn meal
3 cups white flour
1 cup warm water

1. In a large bowl, combine yeast with 1/4 cup warm water.  After a few minutes, mix in salt, olive oil, corn meal, and one cup of flour. Alternate mixing in warm water and flour until the dough comes together. Add a little more flour or water as needed.

2. Turn dough onto silicone mat or tabletop and knead and sculpt until it has a nice, elastic consistency. Return to bowl, loosely wrapped in silicone mat, or covered with a dish towel, and let rise for a couple of hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, and put in a pizza stone if you are using one. Divide the dough (can make two medium sized pizzas) and roll it out. Transfer it to a pizza peel or baking sheet covered with a sprinkle of course corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking.  Cover the dough with a layer of tomato sauce, desired toppings, and sliced fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Be careful not to burn your mouth when you take your first bite.

Topping suggestions
1. Margherita (a great way to savor this delicious tomato sauce): tomato sauce, a few leaves of basil, fresh mozzarella.

2. Tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms and prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella.

3. Tomato sauce, sliced red peppers, frozen artichoke hearts (thawed in a splash of white vermouth) and a few anchovies, and fresh mozzarella.

4. Pesto sauce, with sliced pears and walnuts and goat cheese.

5. Sauteed swiss chard, caramelized onions, and crumbled gorgonzola.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Heirloom Bean Gratin

Lonesome Whistle Farm at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market features heirloom dry beans such as these creamy white Arikara. If you are a real bean enthusiastic, you can sign up for the farm's Heirloom Dry Bean CSA and receive all of their 8 featured varieties through the winter. Read more here about efforts to increase production of beans and grains in the Willamette Valley.

These Arikaras, along with farm's delicious looking tomatoes and onions, were the basis for a cassoulet-inspired bean gratin. 

It's a good idea to soak the beans overnight to plump them up. I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil until they began to caramelize. Then I added hot vegetable broth in which I'd soaked some sun-dried tomatoes, and the soaked beans. The softened dried tomatoes I diced and added to the pot. I let these simmer uncovered in a low temperature over for a good hour, until the beans were tender and the broth absorbed. 

Meanwhile I mixed together a topping of panko (dried bread crumbs), diced cherry tomatoes, basil, chives, and grated pecorino romano cheese.

I sprinkled this over the beans and cooked the pot under the broiler until the bread crumbs were browned and fragrant. The fresh tomato and basil bread crust was a nice contrast to the creamy, sun-dried tomato flavored beans.  These made a hearty dinner, accompanied by a big green salad and nice loaf of bread.

Arikara bean and tomato gratin

For the beans
1 lb Arikara dried beans or some other variety of white beans
3 small red onions, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 halves sun-dried tomatoes (dried, not packed in oil)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
generous amount of salt

For the topping
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
6 cherry tomatoes, chopped
6 basil leaves, chopped
6 chives, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat vegetable broth and add sun-dried tomatoes to soak. When tomatoes are soft (after about 20 minutes), dice them.

3. In a deep, oven proof pan, saute onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions are very soft and have started to caramelize. 

4. Add broth and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot. Drain the beans and add these to the pot. When they come up to a simmer, transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven.  Cook for about an hour, checking occasionally to test the beans for tenderness and to make sure that there is still enough liquid in the pot.

5. When the beans are desired tenderness, check for seasoning and add salt and more pepper to taste. Mix together the bread crumb topping and sprinkle over the beans. Place the pot under the broiler and cook for about 5 minutes longer until the topping is golden brown.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Celebratory Salmon Dinner

This Sunday, Linda Castleman from the Salmon People was grilling fresh salmon at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market. A fresh salmon filet was just what I was looking for to prepare a belated anniversary dinner. Due to poor planning, my husband and I spent our wedding anniversary this year on a seven hour cross-country plane trip with two cranky kids. We were due for something a little more celebratory and romantic. And easy. I didn't feel like lighting up a whole grill, so I thought I'd try a salmon preparation I read about where you sear the salmon on both sides in a hot skillet and then finish it in a low temperature oven. I love fish with fennel, so I decided to use both fennel seeds for the searing and some fennel fronds for the oven cooking.

I sprinkled the filet generously with fennel seeds, cracked black pepper, and salt.

Just one minute per side in a hot cast iron skillet was enough to give the fish a nice crust.

In a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, it soaked up some fennel and lemon flavor, until it was just pink in the center (~110 degrees with an instant read thermometer).

This salmon is so fresh that it tastes delicious anyway you prepare it, but the searing followed by low heat in the oven gave it an especially nice crust with a moist interior. We enjoyed it with SLO Farm fingerling potatoes and a refreshing salad of Lonesome Whistle Farm golden Poona Khera cucumber in yogurt. 

Seared Salmon with Fennel

1 salmon filet
1 tsp fennel seeds
generous sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
A few fennel fronds

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Heat an oven-safe skillet on the stovetop until it is very hot.

3. Sprinkle salmon filet with fennel seeds, pepper, and salt. 

4. Heat olive oil in skillet. Sear salmon, skin side up for one minute. Flip and sear for one more minute. Cover filet with fennel fronds and lemon slices and transfer to oven.

5. Cook for about 20 minutes until the middle is still pink (about 110 degrees on an instant read thermometer).
Serves two.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Carrot Salad with a Kick

SLO Farm had some delicious carrots on sale, and I had been wanting to try a carrot salad recipe from the blog Smitten Kitchen that has been receiving rave reviews. There were only two impediments to my plan. First, the carrots were so tasty that my 2 year old consumed almost half the bunch on the walk home from the market. Second, the recipe called for harissa, a North African chili paste, which proved to be impossible to find in Eugene (if anyone knows of a source, please pass it on).  Homemade harissa looked pretty involved, but I thought I could approximate the flavors with a mixture of different spices.  Unfortunately I didn't have any caraway seeds, which seemed to be a key ingredient, but I used a combination of cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle chili, and cayenne.

These were cooked briefly with garlic and sugar in olive oil, mixed with lemon juice, and poured over grated carrots. Then I added chopped mint and parsley and feta cheese.  The salad was quite spicy and had a wonderfully exotic taste.  I'd love to try it with harissa when I can get my hands on some, but in the meantime, this would be well worth making again, perhaps with some ground caraway seeds and a bit of tomato paste.

The salad was a delicious accompaniment to lamb burgers and pita bread, with lettuce, tomatoes, and a yogurt and cucumber relish (tomatoes and cucumbers from the Fairmount Market, of course).

Spicy Carrot Salad with Mint and Feta
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 bunch of carrots
handful of parsley
handful of mint
1 lemon
100 gram feta
1 garlic clove
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne chili powder
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste

1. Peel and grate carrots.

2. Mince garlic clove and heat with olive oil.  Add the spices and stir for a few minutes until fragrant.  Add juice of one lemon and salt to taste, and pour over the carrots.

3.  Mix in chopped mint and parsley.  Mix in chopped feta cheese (I used about half of a package).