Friday, April 29, 2011

Fill Your Pantry Event

You don't have to wait for the start of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market to fill your pantry with locally grown grains and beans. Come this Saturday, April 30, to a farm direct community bulk buying event. Read more about more about efforts to grow local beans and grains here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Birthday Dumplings with a Figgy Surprise

All of a sudden it seems that everyone is abuzz about aebleskiver. My first reaction was "What?". But when I was treated to some of these Danish pancake spheres prepared with expert aplomb by a friend in Salt Lake City, I understood the appeal. I'm a big fan of pancakes all all shapes and sizes, and these balls of buttery, eggy fluffiness are mouthwatering when served hot from the pan. So I asked for an aebleskiver pan for my birthday (or rather I snatched one up in the hardware store when we were out buying gardening supplies and shoved it into my husband's hand before dashing off to prevent my three year old from toppling over a large display of assorted nails).

Back home, I seasoned the pan, and then watched some Youtube videos on making aebleskiver. My first reaction was "You've got to be kidding!" The implement used is a skewer! Somehow you are supposed to take a pool of liquid batter, poke at it with a thin stick, and magically produce a spherical popover. 

I prepared the batter, which is fluffy from whipped egg whites and tangy from buttermilk. For the first batch I tried, I put in dollops of jam. 

After a few moments of cooking, you are supposed to coax the nascent aebleskivers sideways,

and then poke and prod them around until they become spherical. It turns out that there are many ways to produce non-spherical aebleskiver, such as flat discs or basket-shaped structures with cavernous gaping holes. Luckily, they all taste good. 

Emboldened by this first attempt, and with remaining batter, I was inspired to create a dessert aebleskiver of a stuffed dumpling stuffed with a stuffed fig. A dumpling turdunken. To soften the figs, I simmered them in a little red wine.

Meanwhile, I toasted some hazelnuts in a dry skillet, and chilled some chocolate chips. Then I pulsed these in a food processor to make a coarse meal.

To stuff the figs, I made a slit down the side, pressed down the flesh and spooned in the chocolate and hazelnut mixture. Then I prepared some aebleskiver. It turned out that having a solid base in the middle made the turning process much easier and produced aebleskiver whose volume more closely approximated the cube of their radius times pi. They were also delicious.

As a last minute inspiration, I mixed up the reduced fig-flavored wine with a little creme fraiche, which made a lovely accompaniment for the fig filled aebelskiver. As a pleasant post birthday surprise, this recipe was picked as an editors' choice on the food52 website.

Aebleskiver filled with chocolate and hazelnut stuffed figs

  • 14 dried figs, such as black mission
  • 1/2 cup fruity red wine, such as a Zinfandel
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • egg yoke
  • egg white
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter for the batter, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/8 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • powdered sugar
  1. 1. Snip the stems from the figs and, in a small sauce pan, simmer them in the red red wine, turning occasionally, for about ten minutes, until much of the wine reduces and is absorbed by the figs. Remove from the heat and leave the softened figs in the wine until ready to use.
  2. 2. Prepare the fig stuffing. Chill the chocolate chips in the freezer so that they won't melt when chopped. Lightly toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, then allow to cool. Chop the chocolate chips and hazel nuts in a small electric chopper or food processor until they form a coarse meal.
  3. 3. Stuff the softened figs by cutting a slit down the length, then using your fingers to press in the fig flesh to make a cavity, and filling this with a small spoonful of the minced hazelnut and chocolate mixture. Set aside. Reserve the remaining fig-flavored red wine for creme fraiche topping.
  4. Prepare the batter by combining the dry ingredients in one bowl and whisking together the buttermilk, egg yoke and melted butter in another bowl. Beat the egg white until stiff. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet. The batter should be runny like a thickish pancake batter. Add a little more buttermilk if necessary to achieve the right consistency. Then fold in the egg white.
  5. Heat an aebleskiver pan and butter well. Fill each of the cavities to about 1/2 the height with batter. Then place a stuffed fig into each well and top with a little more batter to cover the fig and fill the well. Cook for about a minute. With a skewer tip the dumpling to one side so that the cooked half dome is perpendicular to the pan and cook for another minute. Now catch each dumpling on the corner between the first half dome and the second half dome and rotate this to the top, so that the least cooked face of the dumpling points downwards. Keep rotating the dumplings for a few more minutes until they are golden brown on all sides and cooked through.
  6. Prepare a topping to serve with the dumplings by mixing in a few tablespoons of the reduced figgy red wine with creme fraiche to taste. Serve the dumplings warm with a dollop of the flavored creme fraiche, and if you like, a sprinkle of powdered sugar. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Mashed Potatoes

The best vacations are those spent with friends with similar culinary proclivities. We spent spring break with my husband's brother and his family in Utah and together we cooked up a storm, including provisions for a three day trip to Capitol Reef National Park. The scenery was breath taking, and we were magnificently well fed.

My son particularly enjoyed a sprinkling of snow we had to go with the s'mores we roasted one evening.

One dish we whipped up together was a side of mash potatoes augmented with roasted cauliflower and parsnips. It proved to be the perfect accompaniment to a team effort coq au vin. 

Back home in Eugene, I made a version of this mash to go with a filet of salmon saved from the Salmon People (who will be back at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market starting at the end of June), prepared by a tried and true method of searing in a hot skillet and finishing in the oven.  

While the oven was on, I also roasted some asparagus drizzled with a little olive oil.

To accompany the salmon, I decided to add a couple tablespoon of prepared horseradish to the roasted cauliflower, parsnip and potatoes, which gave it a nice bite. I entered this recipe in a food52 contest for dishes with horseradish and it was awarded an editors' pick. A tribute to creative culinary collaborations.

Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Mashed Potatoes

  • head cauliflower
  • medium sized parsnips
  • olive oil
  • medium sized yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream style horseradish from a jar, or to taste

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and chop the cauliflower into approximately 1 inch pieces. Toss on a baking sheet with olive oil to coat and salt and pepper. Peel the parsnips and chop into evenly sized, approximately 1 inch pieces. On a separate baking sheet, toss these with olive oil to coat and salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, turning frequently, until they are cooked through and nicely browned in parts, about 30 minutes. Puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
    2. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and chop into sixths. Cover in salted water and cook until they are soft, about 30 minutes. In a microwave or saucepan on the stove, heat the butter and cream until the butter has just melted and then stir in the horseradish. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and transfer them to a bowl. Pour over the horseradish cream and mash with a potato masher. Mix in the roasted vegetable puree, being careful not to over mix. Taste and add more salt or horseradish if you like, and serve warm.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easy flageolet bean and tuna salad lunch

I sometimes marvel at the fact that I seem to spend so many of my waking hours packing lunches, and then I end up with nothing to eat when noon comes around at work. 

This is due in part to the sheer exhaustion induced by the daily chore of packing lunches for two kids with multiple externally imposed restriction (no peanuts or tree nuts at elementary school, no ovoid or hard choking hazards at child care) and personal preferences (one carbohydrate-loving vegetarian, one protein-loving omnivore). I must say that I am a fan of these Lunchsense lunch boxes, created by a neighborhood mother, that facilitate the lunch creation process (above: sunflower butter sandwich, sliced fruit, edamame and carrots, yogurt with a side of cereal to sprinkle on top). Still, after all the effort of filling eight separate compartments with nutritious and appealing food, I have no energy to pack lunch for myself. 

This week, however, I came up with an easy and delicious grownup lunch, thanks to having cooked up a double batch of heirloom green flageolet beans from Lonesome Whistle Farm.

This is a take on the Tuscan classic of a white bean and tuna salad. I mixed up a quick mustard vinaigrette and added in a can of tuna in olive oil (a great pantry staple for many dishes including salade Nicoise. During graduate school in the Bay Area I waged a private campaign to get Trader Joe's to carry tuna in olive oil by incessantly filling out customer suggestion forms; I feel a slight sense of triumph that it is now widely available). To this mixture, I add the beans and some chopped parsley (we can only dream of vine-ripe tomatoes that would be a delicious addition in the summer). Voila, an instant gourmet lunch, along with some crusty baguette from Eugene City Bakery. And best of all, one batch will last for several days, improving in flavor and alleviating the need to pack another lunch.

Green Flageolet Bean and Tuna Salad

1 cup green flageolet beans, picked over and rinsed
1 can tuna in olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
a pinch of lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the beans in approximately 4 cups of lightly salted water over low heat until they are tender, about 1 or 1 1/2 hours. If you like, add in the rind of a lemon or a bay leaf to the bean pot as they simmer. Make sure the beans stay submerged in liquid while they cook, but once they have softened, you can cook down the remaining liquid, or drain the beans and reserve the broth for a soup.

2. In the container you will use to transport your bean salad, mix together the mustard and vinegar. Open the can of tuna and mix the olive oil from the can into your vinaigrette. If you are using tuna in water, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to your bowl, and drain off the water from the tuna. Now add the tuna to the bowl, flake with a fork, and mix into the vinaigrette, leaving some chunks. Then mix in the beans (about 2 1/2 cups when cooked), the chopped parsley, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy with some fresh bread.

Other recipes for heirloom beans:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Creamy Green Flageolet Beans

I spoke too soon in my last post, forecasting the start of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market in April. With the rainy spring weather, our anchor vender, SLO Farm, has had to delay their early planting, and now anticipate their first crops in June. However, they report that their plum and pear trees and berry plants are blooming beautiful, so we can look forward to delicious late summer and fall fruits. I'll keep the information sidebar updated with the most current information of the Market start date.

While waiting for fresh spring produce, I can still turn to my treasure trove of heirloom dried beans from Lonesome Whistle Farm. Last weekend I prepared a springtime dish of delicate green flageolet beans seasoned with a classic trio of aromatic diced shallots, celery and carrots and sprigs of fresh oregano and thyme, based on a recipe from Deborah Madison's Greens Cookbook

I was thinking about the Madison recipe, which had been a favorite of mine in graduate school, because of an article about beans by Melissa Clark in the New York Times Dining section entitled "Secrets of the Bean Pot." Clark pointed out what a mistake it is to drain the delicious cooking liquid from a pot of beans, echoing the thoughtful instructions in the Greens Cookbook to save this liquid as flavorful broth for a soup. In my own bean recipes I try to modulate the amount of liquid so that one doesn't need to strain off a lot of the flavor in the end. For example with these flageolets, I simmered them in just enough liquid to cover the beans, along with a bay leaf, until they were soft, and then cooked off a little more of the liquid. Another strategy is to cook a double pot of beans, use some drained (such as for a pureed bean spread) and some for a soup.

While we're on the topic of dispelling bean cooking myths, I'd like to point out a few rules of thumb I've come to ignore during my experimentations with cooking dried bean. And I'll just interject that I have some new bean cooking credentials, since two of my bean recipes were recently selected as editor's picks on the food52 website (both Rio Zapes with Toasted Chile Sauce and Boston Baked Beans). First is the whole pre-soaking business, which I think is entirely unnecessary unless you are anxious to hurry along your beans, and even then it only shaves off an extra half hour or so of cooking time (the real determinant of cooking time is the dryness of the beans, so you just have to plan to be flexible and open-minded with each new batch). I'm a proponent of cooking beans in a slow cooker, which lets them plump up gently without the danger of drying out, because very little liquid evaporates if you keep the lid closed, and it gives you the freedom to wander off and plant some peas in the garden or catch the Family Music Time at the library. You should plan to give the pot a good swirl every so often to ensure that the beans cook evenly. The second myth I've come to reject is the danger of cooking dried beans with salt. I've included plenty of salty ingredients in my bean pots, such as ham or bacon, with no perceptible increase in toughness, and I think a sprinkle of salt can add flavor to the beans as they cook. Finally there is the myth about acidity causing toughness, which again I've come to reject. I've cooked beans with acidic tomatillos or a vinegary sauce, and both came out deliciously tender and flavorful. The bottom line is that I see no reason to treat dried beans like shrinking violets.

On the other hand, there's no reason not to pamper them with a rich cream sauce, which is what Deborah Madison's recipe does. One tends to think of bean dishes as lean, even meager affairs, but this is a truly decadent delight.

We served them with a spring salad with asparagus in a mustardy vinaigrette with shaved parmesan cheese and (in violation of the vegetarian ethos of Greens) a ribeye steak broiled with a topping of horseradish and gorgonzola. The meal was delicious, but the steak was almost superfluous with the decadent beans and tasty salad.

Creamy Green Flageolet Beans

1 cup green flageolet beans, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
~4 cups water
2 shallots
2 carrots
1 stalk celery
leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
leaves from 1 sprig fresh oregano
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Simmer the flageolet beans with the bay leaf and a generous pinch of salt on low heat until tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaf. Drain the beans and reserve the bean liquid for another use, such as a soup (or cook 2 cups of beans and save one half in the broth for another dish).

2. Finely dice the shallots, carrots, and celery. Heat the butter in a pan over medium low heat and saute the dice vegetables until they are softened and glassy, about 10 minutes. Add the cream, thyme, and oregano leaves and warm for a couple of minutes. Add the drained beans and cook for w few minutes until the beans are warmed through and the flavors have melded. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste. Turn off the heat and stir in fresh chopped parsley. Enjoy with some spring sunshine.

Other recipes for heirloom beans:
Dutch bullet bean soup with Indian spices
Arikara beans with tomatillo pork
Ireland Creek Annie Baked Beans
Flageolet bean salad with fennel, orange, and tapenade
Arikara beans with roasted fennel and peppers
Jacob's Cattle bean and ham stew
Calypso beans with ginger and black mustard seeds
Ireland Creek Annie bean bruschetta
Lemon and herb Dutch bullet beans
Minty green flageolet beans
Dutch bullet beans and roasted squash soup
Rio Zape beans with toasted chile sauce
Arikara bean gratin
Calypso bean and leek soup