Friday, October 28, 2011

Glazed Pear and Kale Pesto Pizza

Sunday October 30th will be the last official market of the season for the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, but if the weather is nice in November, the farmers may hold some additional impromptu markets. You can check back at this site for further updates. This Sunday you can expect the following produce from SLO FarmSweetwater Farm, and Songbird Farm: 
  • apples, pears, Asian pears, and quince
  • the last of the season's tomatoes and peppers
  • cucumbers, summer squash, and eggplants
  • pie pumpkins and winter squash
  • root vegetables including carrots, beets, and potatoes
  • greens including kale and romaine lettuce
  • garlic and onions
  • eggs
This attractive combination of SLO Farm's pears, Sweetwater Farm's onions, and Songbird Farm's kale inspired me to create an autumn pizza in honor of the end of the harvest season.

For the base of the pizza I made a raw kale pesto with walnuts, which I tempered with creamy ricotta.

For the topping, I seared onions and pear slices and finished them with a splash of balsamic vinegar. 

And then I assembled everything on a cornmeal-fortified pizza dough with a sprinkle of gorgonzola. All these components melded together into delicious celebration of the flavors of autumn, and, it occurred to me, served as a taste metaphor for the teamwork that contributed to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market's second successful season. Many thanks to the dedicated vendors who brought us their delicious food all summer long, the support of neighborhood's businesses Sun Automotive and Eugene City Bakery, and the patronage of the market's loyal customers. 

Glazed Pear and Kale Pesto Pizza
makes 1 large or 2 small pizzas

for the pizza dough
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup medium ground corn meal
1/4 cup coarse ground corn meal (polenta)
3/4 cups flour such as Camas Country Mill Hard red spring wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

for the toppings
3-4 kale leaves
1/4 cup walnut pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1/2 cup ricotta
1 large or 2 small ripe but firm pear
1 medium or 2 small red onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese

1.  At least two and a half hours ahead, prepare the pizza dough. In a large mixing bowl, mix the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water and allow to sit for a few minutes until it foams up. Mix in the remaining ingredients, alternating between the flour and water. You may need a little more or less of the water or flour, depending on ambient moisture. When combined, turn the dough onto a work surface (I like to use a large silicone mat for easy clean up) and knead for several minutes until the dough is satisfyingly elastic. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, or if using, loosely wrap the dough in the silicone mat and transfer it right back into the dough mixing bowl. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in bulk for a coupe of hours. You can also make this dough in the morning and let it rise in the refrigerator during the day and it will be ready at dinnertime.

2. Prepare the kale pesto. In a toaster oven or on the stovetop in a dry skillet, toast the walnut pieces until fragrant. Remove the kale leaves from the stems and put them in the bowl of a food processor with the walnuts. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the ricotta, and a generous pinch of salt. Process until you have a fairly smooth, bright green paste. Reserve.

3. Prepare the glazed onions and pears. Peal the onion and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Half and core the pear and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and pear slices in a single layer and allow to cook a few minutes until they start to brown on one side. Flip the pieces and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over them, as well as a pinch of salt and grind of black pepper. Cook briefly to let the vinegar cook down into a syrup, and then remove the slices to a plate, pouring over any remaining vinegar.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and insert a pizza stone if you wish. Roll out the pizza dough into a thin sheet, approximately 15 inches in diameter (or you could make two smaller pizzas). Sprinkle a pizza peel or baking sheet with polenta and place the dough on top. Spread the kale pesto in a thin layer over the dough. Layer the glazed pears and onions over the kale pesto. Crumble the gorgonzola and sprinkle on top. If using a pizza stone, carefully slide the pizza from the peel onto the stone. Bake the pizza for about 16 minutes until the crust sounds hard when tapped and the ricotta in the kale pesto has cooked through and lightened in color. Serve at once.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin and Rio Zape Bean Soup

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can expect the following produce from SLO FarmSweetwater Farm, and Songbird Farm:
  • apples: Liberty, Gala, Jonagold, and apples for processing available in bulk
  • pears and Asian pears
  • pie pumpkins and ornamental pumpkins
  • tomatoes: heirlooms and cherries
  • cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, string beans
  • peppers including bell peppers, poblano, and hot peppers 
  • root vegetables including beets, turnips, and kohlrabi
  • multiple varieties of potatoes
  • kale, chard, lettuce, Italian parsley, cilantro 
  • onions, leeks, garlic
  • eggs, honey

As soon as we saw these lovely little pie pumpkins from SLO Farm at the market last Sunday, my kids started lobbying for pumpkin pie. All in due time, I thought (here's an excellent pecan praline version I like to make for Thanksgiving), but what I really wanted for a chilly October day was some soup. And what I really wanted in a pumpkin soup was something that had no resemblance to a pumpkin pie.

Also I still had some dried heirloom beans from last year's CSA from Lonesome Whistle Farm to use up before our next season starts. Inspired by a black bean and pumpkin soup from Smitten KitchenI combined these pretty purple rio zapes with a riot of autumn colors: our orange pumpkin, and red peppers and purple onions from Sweetwater Farm.

I started the soup with sauteed onion, peppers, and garlic, to which I added a rich spice palette of cumin, chipotle chili powder, and smoked paprika, and a chopped tomato.

While this base cooked down, my son and I attacked the pumpkin, me with a chef's knife and he with an ice cream scoop.

If you're deconstructing a pumpkin, you may as well use the goopy insides to make a quick stock, which can simmer while you carve off the skin and toast the seeds.

Then I quickly pureed the soup base into a paste in the bottom of my slow cooker, added in cubed pumpkin and beans, and left it to simmer on low for 6 hours. Once both pumpkin and beans were nice and soft, I fished out a few of the beans for texture, and pureed the rest. The final soup was rich and hearty with the natural sweetness of the pumpkin tempered by the toasted spices and beans, and it was enjoyed by even the most ardent pie proponents.

Pumpkin and Rio Zape Bean Soup

1 small pie pumpkin
2 cups (1 lb) rio zape beans (or substitute black turtle beans), sorted and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato diced (or substitute 2 Tbsp tomato paste)
2 Tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
8 cups water
salt to taste
splash of dry sherry
sour cream for serving

1. With a large chef's knife, slice the pumpkin in half and use an ice cream scoop to remove the insides. Reserve the seeds for roasting and use the remaining pumpkin pulp to make a quick pumpkin stock. Combine the pulp with about a quarter of the chopped onion, 8 cups water, the red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of salt. Simmer for about half an hour. Then pass through a strainer to collect all of the solids. You should have about 7 cups of stock. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. While the stock simmers, cut of the skin of the pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1 1/2 inch cubes. If you like, toss the pumpkin seeds in olive oil, some coarse sea salt, and (if there are no objections from the peanut gallery) some smoked paprika, and roast in a 350 oven or a toaster oven for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (watch that they don't burn).

3. Heat a skillet or the base of a slow cooker if yours can go on the stove top. Add the oil and saute the remaining chopped onions until glassy. Add the diced pepper and saute for another couple of minutes. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Then add the spices and allow to toast in the oil for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a fragrant, thick sauce. 

4. At this point, your stock should be ready. Add a cup of stock to the spice base and transfer this mixture to the base of a slow cooker. If you want to ensure a smooth soup later on, you can use an immersion blender at this point to puree the mixture into a smooth paste. Now add the pumpkin cubes, the dried beans, and the remaining stock. Cook on low for about 6 hours until the pumpkin and beans are both soft. Alternatively you could cook this from the start in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over very low heat, which will require less time but more supervision and a little more liquid.

5. Once the beans and pumpkin are soft, you can finish the soup. If you would like to preserve some whole beans, fish out about 1/2 cup of them with a slotted spoon. Then puree the pumpkin and beans with an immersion blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add back the reserved beans and add a little water if the soup seems too thick. To brighten the flavor, add a splash of dry sherry as you rewarm the soup after pureeing it. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream, and, if they haven't already been nibbled away, a garnish of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Other recipes for heirloom beans

Saturday, October 15, 2011


This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can expect the following produce from SLO FarmSweetwater Farm, and Songbird Farm:
  • multiple varieties of apples and plums
  • pie pumpkins
  • tomatoes: heirlooms, cherries, and San Marzano romas
  • cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, string beans
  • peppers including bell peppers, poblano, and hot peppers 
  • root vegetables including beets, turnips, potatoes, and kohlrabi
  • kale, chard, lettuce 
  • onions, leeks, garlic
  • eggs, honey
SLO Farm offers a variety of purple prune plums that my kids devour by the basketful. 

As soon as I saw these jewel-like fruits, I had a flood of memories of sunny afternoons on the patio of my grandmother's home in a small town in Southern Germany, feasting on Zwetschgenkuchen, a yeasty cake covered with slightly tart plum halves and embellished with streusels. I  recall the glee with which my sister and I realized that Germans have an official midafternoon meal devoted to the consumption of cake (Kaffee und Kuchen). It was a daily pleasure to be called away from daisy chain fabrication for the sole purpose of sampling yet another baked delicacy, accompanied by sweet, milky coffee. 

To make my own zwetschgenkuchen, I combined a yeast cake dough from here and a streusel recipe from there, and recruited my daughter to arrange the plum halves (which she did with such conviction that I had to rescue a few drowning ones from the dough).

The baking cake filled the kitchen with yeasty, sweet aromas from my childhood that made me wistful for a Kaffeeklatsch with my mother and sister. But I was happy to watch my own childrens consume the cake with gusto and roll the exotic name around on their tongues.


for the cake dough
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups flour, such as Camas Country Mill's soft white flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 inch cubes

8-12 prune plums, halved

for the streusel
1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter

1. Combine the yeast and water and allow to stand for about 5 minutes, until frothing.

2. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in the yogurt, egg, and vanilla extract. Then pulse in the butter in batches until it is all incorporated. The dough will be quite runny, and I found it easiest to leave it in the food processor bowl to rise. Allow it to rise for 1 1/2 or 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10 inch round cake pan. Pour in the yeasty cake dough and cover with a layer of plum halves, pressed into the dough with their skin sides down.

4. Rinse out the food processor to make the streusel. Pulse together the dry ingredients. Then add the vanilla and butter and pulse until it is a coarse crumb. Sprinkle the streusel over the cake.

5. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 55 minutes, until the streusels are browned and a fork poked into the dough comes out clean. Allow to cool partially before serving.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Carrot and Cucumber Sushi Rolls

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can expect the following produce from SLO Farm, Sweetwater Farm, and Songbird Farm:

  • apples, Asian pears, and prune plums
  • pie pumpkins
  • tomatoes: heirlooms, cherries, and San Marzano romas
  • cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, string beans
  • peppers including bell peppers, poblano, and mariachi (mild red peppers) 
  • root vegetables including beets, turnips, potatoes, and kohlrabi
  • curly kale, chard, basil 
  • onions, leeks, garlic
  • eggs, honey

Songbird Farm sells these sweet, plump carrots, which became the core of a rainy day sushi rolling activity. The kids' renditions had none of the elegant symmetry of professional sushi, but they tasted delicious with our tsukemono (from Ume Grill's recipe), along with some teriyaki beef and sesame spinach and edamame beans. And the kids has so much fun rolling these that they made plenty of extras, solving the problem of what to pack for lunch the following day.  

Simple Vegetarian Sushi

1-2 carrots, peeled, julienned, and lightly steamed (about 2 minutes)
1 cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 cup short grain sushi rice, rinsed
2 cups water
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
6 sheets nori

1. Combine the sushi rice, the water, and a pinch of salt and cook over low heat, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in the rice wine vinegar.

2. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. 

3. Spread several spoonfuls of rice over each sheet of nori, arrange a stripe down the center of about 4 carrot and 4 cucumber matchsticks, roll up and use a little water to adhere the edge of the nori sheet back onto itself. Carefully cut into pieces with a serrated knife. Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ume Grill's Tsukemono (Japanese Pickles)

The Sun Automotive lot on the corner of 19th and Fairmount has become a real neighborhood food hub. Not only does it house the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market each Sunday (running through October), but every evening, the Ume Grill cart sets up shop to offer delicious terriyake beef skewers and accompanying sides of wasabi spiked cole slaw, crunchy pickles and rice. 

A complete meal includes a dessert of handmade mochi, and even a tea bag for a pot of hot or iced tea.

Ume Grill owners, Helen Nahoopii and Rayton Takata, are committed to using the freshest, high quality ingredients in their food. I asked Helen to contribute a recipe for produce from the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, and she shared this method for preparing cucumber or zucchini pickles with seaweed.

Helen writes: "In Japan, tsukemono or pickles are used as hashi-yasume, literally “chopstick resters”, side dishes that have a totally different texture and flavor. So for instance if you had some grilled meat with a sweet-savory sauce as the main course, you might have some simple, crunchy pickled cucumber slices to go with it. Here is a simple, yet nice side-dish to accompany your next grilled dish!"

Helen was so thoughtful that she even provided me with the seaweed for this recipe, which she purchased at King's Asian Market on West 11th. I tried the recipe with some slender cucumbers from Sweetwater Farm and delicate zucchini from SLO Farm. Both were delicious with a sweetly spicy, mildly briny crunch. 

Tsukemono (Japanese Day Pickle) 
4 servings

2 small thin English cucumbers or small Japanese cucumbers when available, or 4 baby zucchini
1/2 inch kombu (seaweed) cut into thin shreds with kitchen shears
7 T water
3 T rice vinegar
1 T cane or granulated sugar
1/2 tsp crushed chili peppers (adjust according to taste)

Rinse and then peel cucumbers, or simply rinse the zucchini, and cut into quarter lengthwise and then dice into 1/4 inch pieces. Place in bowl and in a measuring cup mix together other ingredients. Pour over diced cucumbers or zucchini. Cover and let sit in refrigerator for up to three hours before serving.

Provided by Ume Grill Owners
Helen Nahoopii and Rayton Takata