Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hazelnut Cloud Cookies

With all the anticipation and preparations for the holidays, it's hard not to feel a little bit disappointed with the actual event, as my daughter did when the promised Christmas snowfall in Boston yielded only enough for this miniature snowman peeking quizzically around the porch pillar of my childhood home. We all have our hopes for the holidays and each celebration will only be an approximation of those expectations. My son had covered his bases with his list for Santa Claus: "a magic wand and some money", but got neither, while I suspect that my daughter's fervent wish was simply to be able to believe in Santa Claus for one more year, a tall order when Santa had to navigate between Eugene and Boston and between antithetical German and American Christmas traditions.  

Ensconced here in the artifacts of my childhood, I couldn't help pine for the incomparable flavors of the homemade German Christmas cookies we used to receive each year from my grandmother's home in Franconia, half of them crushed into an etherial mixture of sweet, nutty, buttery crumbs that I used to scoop and gobble by the handful. In a post-holiday attempt to perk up my daughter and recreate some of those flavors, I tried this recipe for powdery nut cookies, similar to her favorite pecan cloud cookies from the Eugene City Bakery.

The cookies are made from a simple butter dough sweetened with powdered sugar and packed with ground nuts (back in Eugene, I would use our supply of hazelnuts from Thistledown Farm). This batch served as an accompaniment to a tea party with toy china my son unearthed from my old bedroom. As we nibbled our dainty nut clouds, real snow clouds gathered in the afternoon sky and by bedtime enough snow had accumulated to ensure that real-sized snowmen will be built tomorrow. 

Hazelnut Cloud Cookies
adapted from Epicurious via Smitten Kitchen
makes about 4 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
1/2 cup powdered sugar for the dough and about 1 1/2 cups for coating
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts (or use pecans or walnuts or a combination of nuts)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1. In a dry skillet or a toaster oven, lightly toast the nuts until fragrant. If using hazelnuts, roll them in a dishtowel to remove most of their skin. Combine the nuts and the flour in a food processor and blend into a fine powder (including the flour will prevent the nuts from turning into nut butter). Remove the nut flour to a bowl.

2. Put the butter in the food processor and process until well-creamed. Add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract and process to incorporate. Now add the nut flour and process into a stiff dough. Transfer the dough back into the nut flour bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

3. Prior to baking the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover two baking pans with parchment paper or silicone mats. Scoop out large teaspoons of dough, roll them into 1 inch balls in your palms, and place them on the baking sheets in about three rows and four columns. Place in the oven. Chill the remaining half of the dough while the first batch of cookies bake. After 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets 180 degrees and from top to bottom oven rack. Remove the cookies after about 18 minutes, when their bottoms are golden brown and their tops are pale golden.

4. Let the cookies cool on the rack for about five minutes. Fill a shallow bowl with 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and mix in cinnamon, if using. Roll each cookie in the powdered sugar and transfer to a serving plate. If you like, sift the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies to give them a final dusting. Bake the second batch of cookies as above (or you can store the dough to bake later). These cookies store well at room temperature in an airtight container for several days.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yogurt Cake: Child's Play

My son's birthday is on winter solstice, and it's hard for me to believe that he is already five. Among the many remarkable implications of this statistic is that his sister is nine and a half and quite capable of baking him a birthday cake. Although her preference would be for chocolate, her brother requested a white cake. I suggested that she try a gateau au yaourt, which is apparently a recipe that all French children master at an early age. In fact, you can measure out all the ingredients in individual yogurt containers. Since we buy big tubs of Nancy's yogurt, my daughter used regular measuring cups, and not being too strict about European traditions, Swedish horse cake pans.

During baking, the batter spilled out a little from the pans, but just enough for the baker to sample her work before the official celebration.

When the time arrived, we dressed up the little cake as an elaborate zebra with a whipped cream coat and raspberry stripes. My son was delighted to have a cake baked by his big sister and devoured the whole thing. My daughter was proud of her baking accomplishment and vowed to stop calling her brother "baby" (unless he does something especially annoying).

Gâteau au Yaourt
from Chocolate and Zucchini
1 cup whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt (or use two 4 oz yogurts, and use the containers to measure out the rest of the ingredients)

2 eggs

1 cup sugar (2 yogurt containers)

1/3 cup vegetable oil (bit less than 1 yogurt container)

2 cups all-purpose flour (4 yogurt containers)

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

a good pinch of salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F, grease a round 10-inch cake pan or equivalent. 

2. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla. 

3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together without overworking the batter. 

4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean (the little horse cake was done after 20 minutes). Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Easy Soft Polenta with Olive Oil Simmered Leeks

Some recipes are intuitive and transparent, like throwing together a fresh salad with seasonal produce, and they serve as a helpful reminder or inspiration. Other recipes pique our interest because they seem mysterious, improbable, and opaque. There's a special pleasure that comes from suspending one's best judgement, trying such a recipe, and having it succeed. Here are two such recipes from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, a manifesto on the pleasures of slow cooked foods. The first recipe if for oven-baked polenta, which I was inspired to try with our ample supply of polenta from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA. Stirring your polenta continuously over a hot stove can be rewarding (and bicep building). But if you have time, and especially if you already have your oven on for a roast or stew, Wolfert's method is remarkably effortless and produces deliciously creamy polenta from an unpromising-looking sedentary sludge of water and cornmeal.

With my polenta and a Fair Valley Farm ham baking in the oven, and no stirring to occupy me, I got to flipping through Wolfert's cookbook and came across a recipe for slow cooked leeks and root vegetables simmered in olive oil that seemed perfect for my latest haul from Open Oak Farm's CSA. This recipe, which Wolfert described as "Mediterranean alchemy", offered the intrigue of a secret ingredient (a tablespoon of soaked rice) and an unusual cooking techniques (a parchment paper sealed pot). The final dish was a revelation: a meltingly sweet concoction of leeks and shallots that tempered the sharpness of a purple winter radish without cooking it to mush. And unexpectedly, the vegetables made a wonderful topping for the creamy polenta. The dinner was especially tasty resulting from the leisurely suspension of disbelief.

Oven-Baked Polenta
from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
serves 6-8
2 cups polenta 
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
2 tsp salt
8 cups cool water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large ovenproof pan, melt the butter or add the oil and swill to coat the bottom and sides. Combine the remaining ingredients and stir with a fork. Bake, uncovered for 1 hour and 20 minutes. 

2. Stir the polenta with a fork, season with additional salt to taste, and bake for about 10 more minutes, or to the desired consistency. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve warm. 

Note: Leftovers can be reheated in a microwave, mixing between heating, and the polenta will become creamy again.

Leeks Simmered in Olive Oil
from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
2 pounds leeks
1/3 cup chopped onion or shallot
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, or substitute other root vegetables such as turnips or winter radishes
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp rice
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Clean the leeks thoroughly (I like to trim the roots and green tops and then cut them lengthwise and wash them, splayed open, under running water, then drain well.) Cut them into two inch lengths. 

2. Combine the onions, olive oil, and root vegetables in a heavy Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the leeks and sugar, cover with a sheet of parchment paper or foil and a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes (Leeks and root vegetables should cook in their own moisture. If necessary, add 1 Tbsp of water).

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, soak the rice in hot water for ten minutes. Drain.

4. Add the rice to the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, tightly covered, for 20 minutes longer.

5. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Wolfert recommend serving the leeks and vegetables at room temperature or chilled, but they are also delicious warm on top of polenta with grated parmesan cheese.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cardamom Lamb Koftas with Almond Yogurt Sauce

If you've never tried it before, you should grind some whole cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle. Inside those green shells are little black kernels that release a potent fragrance when pounded. I used some freshly ground cardamom to flavor lamb kofta made with our frozen stash of ground lamb from Fair Valley Farm. (Fair Valley Farm will be at 19th and Agate this Sunday Dec. 9th from 2-3 PM; if you'd like to stock up on their pasture-raised meat contact them ahead to place your order.) 

I packed these cardamom patties with minced shallot and cilantro and rolled them in garbanzo bean flour, which I had on hand and had seen used in a beef kofta recipe from Madhur Jaffrey. To simmer the kofta, my husband made a simplified version of a nut yogurt sauce from Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes with garam masala. The final dish was deliciously rich  and flavorful, complemented by our stash of homemade Indian pickled beans and carrots and Asian pear chutney. I'm looking forward to making these kofta again, after we restock our freezer on Sunday, to help brighten Oregon's drizzly winter with warm spices.

Cardamom Lamb Kofta with Almond Yogurt Sauce
serves four
for the kofta
1 lb ground lamb
2 tsp whole green cardamom pods
1 shallot or 1/2 small onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
plenty of black pepper
~1/4 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour for dusting
1 Tbsp ghee or butter

for the sauce
1/2 cup whole almonds
2 tsp garam masala
1 shallot or 1/2 small onion
2 garlic cloves
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup water
1 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

1. To prepare the kofta, grind the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Strain out the green shells and put the ground kernels in a mixing bowl. Mince the shallot and cilantro leaves and add to the bowl, along with the ground lamb. Add a generous grinding of black pepper and salt. Mix the meat to combine all the ingredients. Then form into 2 inch-long, finger-shaped patties (recipe will make about eight) and roll them to coat lightly in garbanzo bean flour. To help them hold together during cooking, chill the patties while you prepare the yogurt sauce.

2. To prepare the sauce, toast the almonds in a dry skillet for a few minutes until fragrant. In a food processor or electric spice mill, grind the almonds with the garam masala into a fine meal. Finely chop the shallot and garlic. In a food processor, or by hand, whisk together the yogurt and water until smooth. Heat a large pan and add 1 Tbsp ghee or oil. Add the shallot pieces and cook over medium high heat until they are very brown and crispy. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then add the almond spice mix and saute for another minute until fragrant. Now turn up the heat and slowly add the yogurt mixture to pan, stirring vigorously to prevent it from curdling. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes while you brown the kofta. 

3. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 Tbsp ghee or butter. Place the kofta into the hot pan and let them cook, undisturbed, until they are nicely browned. Rotate and cook on the other sides until they are browned all over (about 10 minutes). Now transfer them to the simmering yogurt sauce and allow them to cook through, about another 10 minutes. Taste and season the sauce with salt as needed. Serve the kofta and sauce over rice.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Parsnip and Riesling Beef Stew

The past week's chilly weather was a good motivation to turn on the oven for a slow-simmered stew filled with the latest offerings from our Open Oak Farm's Winter Vegetable CSA. For inspiration I started with Jool's Favorite Beef Stew from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners, which uses chunks of winter squash that bake into a rich, sweet broth.

Instead of carrots and onions, I used our supply of parsnips and leeks from Open Oak Farm. With this combination of pale tubers and alliums I decided to experiment with a lighter sauce than Oliver's red wine and tomato paste one, substituting instead a dry Riesling.  

Three hours in the oven produced a fragrant, flavorful stew, delicious with Open Oak Farm's fresh fingerling potatoes, that helped take the chill out of the air.

Parsnip and Riesling Beef Stew
3 leeks, cleaned, sliced lengthwise, and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 parsnips, peeled and chopped roughly into 1 inch chunks
1 small delicata squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 anchovies
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 sages leaves, finely chopped
1 lb cubed beef stew meat
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup broth
1/2 bottle dry Riesling
salt and pepper
lemon zest
chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Prep all the vegetables. Toss the meat in the flour and plenty of salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large oven-save Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and anchovies and simmer for a minute, mashing up the anchovies. Add the garlic and sage leaves and stir another minute. Add the leaks and saute for about five minutes, until softened. Add the meat and saute for a minute (Oliver says you don't need to brown the meat for this stew), then add the remaining vegetables, the broth and the white wine. Bring the pot to a simmer. Then cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and falls apart when you poke it with a fork. You can keep the stew warm in a 150 degree oven for another hour or so.

3. Serve warm, garnished with fresh chopped parsley leaves and lemon zest, accompanied by fresh potatoes, egg noodles, orzo, or soft polenta.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Baked Polenta with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola

In the last post I told you about using Lonesome Whistle Farm's polenta in skillet cornbread. The other dish I made right away with this rainbow of coarse cornmeal is one inspired by a baked polenta and gorgonzola recipe from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison. To contrast the sharp notes of the cheese, I used some earthy mushrooms, both fresh creminis and an assortment of dried ones. And to make the most of the flavors, I used the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms as the broth for the polenta.

Admittedly, this dish is a bit involved. First you prepare a tomato sauce, saute your mushrooms, and stir your polenta into a thick mush. Then you need to let the polenta solidify before sliced it, layering it with the mushrooms, sauce, and cheese, and baking it into a pan of bubbling, pungent gooeyness. But each of the steps itself is easy and relaxing; nothing like the time sensitive last stages of getting warm turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy on the table for a hungry horde. So make this dish on a leisurely weekend day when you're ready for a break from turkey leftovers.

Baked Polenta with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola
serves 4 to 6
1 cup polenta
3 1/2 cups boiling water
2 ounces dried mushrooms such as porcini
6 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil for sauteing the mushrooms and more for oiling the pans
~2 cups simple tomato sauce  
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese
fresh parsley leaves

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in 3 1/2 cups of boiling water. After ten minutes, strain the mushroom broth through a fine mesh strainer into a medium pot (you will have about 3 cups), and reserve the rehydrated mushrooms. Heat the mushroom broth with a generous pinch of salt until it is boiling. Slowly pour the polenta grain into the pot in a narrow stream as you whisk. Adjust the heat to medium and stir the polenta with a wooden spoon for about 15 minutes, until it forms a thick, creamy mush that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Brush the inside of a loaf pan with olive oil and pour in the polenta. Let the polenta cool and harden (you can do this a day ahead). 

2. Prepare a simple tomato sauce with a 32 ounce can of tomatoes or a quart of fresh peeled romas.

3. Brush the cremini mushrooms clean and cut them into slices. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and saute the mushrooms with a generous pinch of salt and grinding of black pepper until their juices are released and then evaporated. Chop the rehydrated mushrooms.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch baking dish with about one cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle over the chopped rehydrated mushrooms. Unmold the hardened polenta and cut it into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange strips of polenta along the bottom of the baking dish. Drizzle the remaining tomato sauce over the polenta (you can leave some parts uncovered). Then sprinkle the cooked cremini mushrooms over and finally crumble the gorgonzola cheese on top. 

5. Bake the polenta for about 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the gorgonzola has melted. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve warm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Skillet Polenta Cornbread

In the bounty of a Thanksgiving feast, cornbread is always a welcome addition. Here I adapted my favorite skillet cornbread, from Cook's Illustrated, to a combination of Lonesome Whistle Farm's gorgeous multicolored polenta and freshly ground corn flour. The polenta gives it texture and crunch, while the corn flour keeps it light, and both provide an intense corn flavor.

As your cast iron skillet warms in the oven, mix up a polenta mush and whisk it into a buttermilk slurry. Then melt the butter (or bacon lard) in the skillet, quickly incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter, stir in the melted fat, and pour the batter back into the hot skillet. The batter will sizzle as it hits the cast iron, releasing the fragrant smell of toasted corn. 

This recipe calls for an 8 inch cast iron skillet, which I don't own. I found that doubling the recipe works well for my 10 inch pan (with an extra 5 minutes for baking). About half the recipe will fill my cast iron corn mold, and the other half makes a cute 6 inch skillet  bread. In any shape or size, this cornbread is delicious with a slab of cheddar cheese or slathered with homemade jam, like my husband's quince, hardy kiwi, and raspberry concoction here. A bite of this bread will make you thankful for the bounty of our fertile valley.

Skillet Polenta Cornbread
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Southern Style Cornbread (publish May, 1998)
Makes one 8 inch skillet bread (double recipe for a 10 inch skillet)

2/3 cup corn flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup polenta
1/3 cup boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp butter (or 4 Tbsp bacon lard)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place an 8 inch cast iron skillet (or two cast iron corn muffin molds on baking sheets) in the oven.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients of corn flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

3. In a large glass or ceramic bowl, our the boiling water over the polenta and whisk to make a stiff mush. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk, making sure there are no lumps, and then whisk in the egg.

4. When the oven is hot, take the skillet out of the oven and place it over medium low heat on the stove. Melt the butter or bacon lard. If using muffin molds, take them from the oven and brush them generously with melted fat. Working quickly, stir the dry ingredients into the polenta mixture just until they are incorporated. Then pour the melted butter into the batter, stir quickly, pour the batter into the skillet or molds, and put them back in the oven.

5. Bake until the corn bread is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean, about 20 minutes for a skillet bread and 15 minute for muffins. Turn the bread or muffins onto a wire rack, cool for five minutes, and serve warm.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thai Sweet Meat Winter Squash Curry

In our last share from our Open Oak Farm summer CSA, we received an Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat winter squash that was about the size of my son when he was born. It felt like a big responsibility to process it. I roasted and froze some for my favorite Thanksgiving pumpkin praline pie, a second aliquot went into a spicy bean and pumpkin soup with stock made from the pulp, and the final third I used in a rendition of my favorite Thai dish: pumpkin curry. I was lucky enough to have some especially fresh and fragrant ginger and lemon grass that I picked up at last week's Saturday Market, which I blended into an approximation of a red curry paste.

A heaping tablespoon of this wonderfully fragrant, if not terribly red paste, combined with coconut milk and the cubed squash, cooked up a delicious pot of rich, thick curry. Because I had fuyu persimmon salad on my mind, we had an extra orange meal with sliced persimmons on salad greens with lime juice dressing and peanuts. And now I have a good half cup of curry paste remaining. When I'm all cooked out after Thanksgiving, and we've had our fill of cranberry turkey sandwiches, I plan to whip up another pot of Thai winter squash curry as a perfect vehicle for leftover turkey.

Thai Sweet Meat Winter Squash Curry
~6 cups sweet meat winter squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1 to 2 Tbsp red curry paste (recipe below)
1 red or yellow sweet pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 scant tsp sugar
thai basil leaves or cilantro leaves

1. Heat a large Dutch oven or cooking pot over medium heat. Open the coconut milk can and scoop out the thick coconut cream. Melt this in the pot until it sizzles and then add the curry paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, until it is very fragrant. 

2. Add the chicken pieces and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to coat in the curry paste. If using cooked turkey pieces, omit this step and add the turkey once the squash is cooked.

3. Mix together the remaining coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Add this to the pot, along with the cubed squash, peppers, and onions. Bring the stew to a simmer, turn the heat to medium low, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, about 30 or 40 minutes. Uncover, taste and adjust seasonings, (add cooked turkey at this point, if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the sauce is desired consistency. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil or cilantro leaves. Serve with steamed rice.

Red Curry Paste
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
6 small dried chile peppers (such as de arbol)
1 tsp black pepper corns
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 shallot
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbsp cilantro stems
1 lemon grass, coarse outer leaves removed
2 inches ginger root

1. Toast the coriander seeds for a minute in a dry skillet until fragrant. Then toast the chile peppers until the puff up, but do not burn. Remove the seeds from the peppers. Using a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder, grind the coriander seeds, chile peppers, pepper corns, and coarse salt into a powder.

2. If you want a good work out, you can process the rest of the ingredients in a large mortar and pestle, or combine them all in food processor and process together into a smooth paste. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator or freeze single portions in an ice cube tray. This makes enough for multiple pots of curry.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Red Lentil Pilaf with Cumin Seeds

With the end of daylight savings time, the early darkness creates a new sense of urgency about getting dinner on the table in the evening. This lentil dish from Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes cooks up in a matter of minutes after you enter the house, as long as you remembered to rinse and soak a cup of red lentils in the morning. I used Camas Country Mill's red chief lentils, and was delighted to find that the soaking nicely brought these orange beauties out of their brown outer skins. You can stock up on local lentils at the Fill Your Pantry event November 18 from noon to 4 PM at Sprout (pre-order here). This recipe uses an unusual cooking technique in which the liquid from the softened soaked lentils is evaporated quickly over high heat with a minimum of stirring, creating a fluffy pilaf rather than a creamy soup. Here's the game plan: first thing when you get home, start a pot of rice cooking. Then mince some ginger and start toasting the spices for the lentils. Once you get the lentils cooking down in their water, warm some flatbread, cut up some crunchy carrots and peppers, put out some condiments like chutney, yogurt, and Indian pickles, and then sit down to enjoy a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Dry-Cooked Red Lentils with Cumin Seeds (Sookhi Dhullt Masoor Dal)
adapted slightly from Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes

1 cup red lentils, rinsed well (such as Camas Country Mill's red chief lentils)
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cooked and minced beets (optional, used to give the lentils a red hue)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 to 5 dried red chile peppers, such as chile de arbol
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp peeled minced ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
4 scallions, finely sliced

1. Combine the lentils, water, and beets (if using) in a bowl and allow to soak 2 hours or longer.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.Cook the chile pepper until they puff up, about 1 minute. Add the cumins and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Add the ginger and stir for about a minute. Add the coriander, ground cumin, and garam masala and cook for a few seconds until fragrant.

3. Add the lentils with their soaking water and the salt and cook over high heat until the water has evaporated and the lentils are tender, about five minutes (taste and add a little more water if you need to). Stir a few times with a fork just to fluff, but take care not to break the lentils.

4. With a fork, gently mix in the citrus juice and chopped cilantro, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the chopped scallions, and serve.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Strawberry Pinwheels

If you are tired of the cloyingly sweet Halloween candy kicking around your house, a good antidote is some fresh baked treats, such as these strawberry pinwheels from Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation. The dough is flavored with ground cardamom and just a hint of sugar and is the perfect vessel for homemade strawberry preserves or some of Sweetwater Farm's strawberry spread, if you are lucky enough to have any left from the summer.

The assembly of these pinwheels may look a bit fussy, but it's actually quite simple and forgiving and a fun activity for kids who need some distractions now that the excitement of Halloween preparations is over. I let some rye flour slip into the dough (because it had proved so tasty in these cookies) and rather than chopped nuts as a topping I used this streusel, which meant these cookies could be packed for a snack at my daughter's nut-free school. These treats will fill your house with the delicious smell of baked yeast dough, and when everyone is sated, you can surreptitiously tossed out the rest of the Halloween candy.

Cardamom Pinwheel Danishes
adapted from Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation

for about 24 pinwheels
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp instant yeast
1 cup rye flour
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp pure kosher salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus about 2 Tbsp softened butter for the filling
About 1/3 cup strawberry jam

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

1. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, yeast, and 3/4 cup warm water until smooth. 

2. In a large bowl, sift the flours. Stir in the salt, sugar, and cardamom. Then cut in the butter until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas. Now make a well in the center and pour in the egg mixture. Gradually incorporate the dry into the wet ingredients. You could also form this dough in a food processor.

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and soft but not sticky. Clean the bowl, return the dough, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. To make the streusel, combine the 
dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix. Then add the vanilla and butter and pulse until it is a coarse crumb. Reserve.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

6. Divide the dough into quarters. Roll one out into and approximately 9 inch long and 6 inch wide rectangle and cut it into half lengthwise and thirds widthwise to produce six 3 x 3 inch squares. Take one square and cut a slit from each corner diagonal toward the center, stopping about 1/2 inch before the center. Spread a bit of softened butter in the center of each square and spoon 1 scant tsp jam on top of the butter. Bring every other point (four total) to the center of the pastry and pinch them together tightly over the jam. Transfer to a parchment paper-covered baking sheet and sprinkle with streusel. Repeat with the remaining dough. 

7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Let cool on wire racks. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chia Seed and Buckwheat Pancakes

Lately I've come across a number of recipes using chia seeds (the very same seeds that produce the green afros on chia pets), and I was curious to taste them. I found that they have a nutty, slightly smokey flavor that reminded me of buckwheat, which inspired me to pair the two together in these pancakes that have become a new family favorite.

If you get the impression from this blog that my family eats a lot of pancakes, you are correct. We like them hardy with oatmeal and pears, rich with cottage cheese, and pillowy with teff and ricotta. These chia seed and buckwheat ones are deliciously light and flavorful. The soaked chia seeds soften up and absorb liquid, like tapioca, binding together this buttermilk batter such that it needs just a minimum amount of flour, making for tender cakes. I've used half buckwheat and half white wheat flour, but I imagine one could use another flour, like sorghum or teff, instead of wheat for a gluten-free version. This morning we
 topped them with blackberry sauce and hardy kiwis from our garden. And, caught up in the spirit of Halloween, we had a few jack-o-lantern kiwis and pancake people with huckleberry smiles. 

Chia Seed and Buckwheat Pancakes
(makes about 32 pancakes)
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
3 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
butter for cooking pancakes

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chia seeds with the buttermilk. If you'd like the seeds to be very soft, you can soak them in the buttermilk overnight, but they will soften up quite nicely in about ten minutes (about the time it takes from starting the batter to making your first pancakes). Mix in the eggs and canola oil.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients. Then gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they are just combined.

3. Heat a griddle or large skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium heat. Melt a small pad of butter to grease the surface. Spoon out dollops of batter with a soup spoon and allow to cook until the batter loses some of its raw pale color and bubbles stay fixed. Flip with a spatula and cook for a minute on the other side. Both sides should be nicely browned. Transfer to a warm plate, and cook the rest of the batter. Enjoy with fruit toppings and maple syrup. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Calypso Bean Dip with Romesco Sauce

Good bell peppers are still plentiful this time of year. I used some of these rosy beauties from Open Oak Farm in a roasted pepper romesco sauce layered on top of a creamy dip made from Lonesome Whistle Farm's calypso beans, following this recipe for Ireland Creek Annie Bean Bruschetta, but minus the toasting. The romesco sauce gives a pretty autumnal blush to the bean spread, and together they make a tasty appetizer served with thinly sliced baguette from Eugene City Bakery.

Bean dip
2 cups cooked calypso beans, or your favorite bean variety
5-6 garlic cloves
~1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste.

Romesco Sauce
1 red pepper
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt to taste

1. To make the bean dip, roast the garlic cloves in a dry skillet or in the oven until the skin is blackened in spots and the garlic is soft. Combine all of the ingredient in a food processor (save a few beans for garnish) and blend until very smooth. Add salt to taste.

2. To make the romesco sauce, char the red pepper over an open flame or in the oven until the skin is blackened. Place in a bowl covered with a plate to steam off the skin. Toast the almond slivers and place in a food processor. Scrape off the charred skin from the pepper, remove stem and seeds and add to food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process into a course paste.

3. Spread the bean dip into a shallow bowl and layer over the romesco sauce. Enjoy with thin slices of baguette, warm pita wedges, crackers, or crudites. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kimchi and Bo Ssam

It's official: the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market is over for the season. You can catch some culinary action on the corner of Agate and 19th this evening at the Dia de los Muertos Festival from 4 to 9 PM. If you are suffering from a sense of loss over the end of your summer Sunday routine and the passing of the sunny days, here is my prescription: be sure to preserve some of the last of fall's harvest for the rainy days ahead.

With a final collection of Sweetwater Farm's produce -- arrowhead cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, celery, green onions, and garlic -- I made a delicious version of this kimchi

We turned on the oven for the slow roasting of a sweet and salty slathered pork shoulder, following this Bo Ssam recipe from David Chang's Momofuku

And we enjoyed these delicious lettuce leaf packets of tender pork and rice topped with a little bit of preserved harvest.

Kimchi and Bo Ssam
follow this recipe from Momofuku, using the following vegetables:
1/2 small cabbage, cored and chopped into small strips
1 kohlrabi, peeled generously and cut into matchsticks
2 big or 4 small carrots, scrubbed and cut into matchsticks
2 big or 4 small celery stalks, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

Bo Ssam
follow this recipe from Momofuku. We used a smaller pork shoulder, but cooked it for almost as long to achieve the "souffle effect" when the meat is falling apart and the fat starts to bubble.

Serve on tender lettuce leaves with a scoop of white rice, a couple forkfuls of pork, and a generous dollop of kimchi.