Friday, April 27, 2012

Beet Green Gomae

Recently my husband and I indulged in a rare adults only evening out. We enjoyed the neighborhood tavern feel of Izakaya Meiji, where we sampled an addictively delicious spinach gomae, a dish of steamed spinach with a salty and sweet sesame sauce. I wanted to try making this at home and attempted to puree toasted white sesame seeds in a mini food processor, but was thwarted when they stealthily slipped beneath the blade and remained defiantly intact. The resulting dish was light and refreshing, speckled with toasted sesame seeds, but it didn't capture the rich nuttiness I was trying to recreate.

For my next attempt, I procured some roasted black sesame seeds from Sunrise Asian Food Market. This time I took the seed grinding into my own hands and smashed them in a molcajete, which produced a satisfying paste. The only problem was that in my excitement about the black sesame seeds (an 8 ounce jar for under five dollars!), I had forgot to pick up any spinach.

Luckily, this gardening assistant was helping pull up overwintered beets, which provided an abundance of fresh beet greens for me. I blanched them, like spinach leaves, in boiling water and then quickly transferred them to an ice water bath to halt the cooking process. 

After squeezing out the water and chopping them, I tossed them in the inky, grainy paste that resembled the black dirt from which they had so recently been plucked. As if by magic, the flavors were just what I had been dreaming about. I may even prefer the beet greens to spinach with their extra bitterness as a foil for the sweet nuttiness of the sauce.

Beet Green Gomae
makes two appetizer-sized servings

I bunch beet greens or spinach leaves
2 Tbsp roasted black sesame seeds (or toast some sesame seeds yourself)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

1. Smash the sesame seeds into a paste using a coarse mortar and pestle (a Mexican molcajete works well for this) or a spice grinder. Mix in the sugar, rice wine, and soy sauce.

2. Boil a pot of salted water and prepare a bath of ice water. Rinse the greens. If using spinach bunches, you can keep them intact during the blanching process and trim off the stems and roots afterwards. When the water is boiling, submerge the greens into the water for just under a minute and then quickly drain and toss into the ice water bath. 

3. Wait a minute and then drain the cooled greens, wringing out excess water. Lay the greens on a cutting board. Trim off the roots of the spinach if necessary and chop the greens into 1 inch strips. Toss with the sesame sauce and serve.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Teff Grain, Flax Seed and Oatmeal Breakfast

After I started experimenting with cooking Scottish oats for weekday breakfasts and combining them with flax seeds in granola, it was a natural extension to explore mixing other ingredients into my oatmeal. Here is an especially tasty combination with fine teff grain to add body to the porridge and flax seeds to add a little texture. Dried apricots, hazelnuts, and maple syrup finish it off with sweetness and crunch. Will including the nutritional powerhouse of teff grain and superfood of flax seeds in your daily breakfast bring you health and superhuman powers? Maybe not. But taking the extra few minutes in the evening to start a warm bowl of oatmeal for the following morning, and infusing your house with the fragrance of buttery, toasted grains in the process, will make you feel cared for, which apparently accounts for a great deal of the healing power of placebos. A good breakfast when you'd like a little extra insurance for getting through a demanding day.

Teff Grain, Flax Seed and Oatmeal Breakfast
1 serving
1/4 cup Scottish oats (or use rolled oats, or a mixture of rolled and steel cut oats)
1 scant Tbsp teff grain (or substitute chia seeds)
1 scant Tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp butter
small pinch salt
1 cup boiling water (divided)

dried apricots
hazel nuts
maple syrup
splash of milk

1. The evening before, heat a small saucepan and set a kettle with 2/3 cups water. When the pan is warm, melt the butter. Then add the grains, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes, until they are toasted and very fragrant. Turn off the heat. Carefully add 2/3 cups boiling water (it will splatter), stir, and cover.

2. The next morning, add 1/3 cup water to the pan and reheat (for a richer porridge, use 1/3 cup milk). Let the oatmeal and teff mixture simmer for about five to eight minutes until it is the desired tenderness and thickness. Serve warm, sprinkled with the toppings and a splash of cold milk.

For a family of two adults and two kids, I triple the recipe:
3/4 cups oats
1/8 cup teff grain
1/8 cup flax seeds
1 Tbsp butter
pinch salt
3 cups boiling water

You can of course cook this all at once if you have more time in the morning. Simply add all of the boiling water to the toasted grains and cook for about 15 minutes.

Other whole grain breakfast recipes
Buttery Five Minute Oatmeal Breakfast
Homemade Granola
Rye Waffles with Clementine Syrup
Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes
Gluten-free Waffles
Buckwheat Blini
Buckwheat Crepe

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lentils with Butter and Parsley

Not unlike the trajectory of an obstinate, dawdling toddler who needs to be coaxed out of every puddle on the endless walk home, springtime's arrival seems to be stalled by intermittent stormy tantrums. Still there are signs of progress, such as the longer evenings and the increasing diversity of fresh green offerings through Eugene Local Foods. These signs inspired me to turn to the Spring section of Elin England's treasure trove of seasonal recipes in Eating Close to Home: A Guide to Local Seasonal Sustenance in the Pacific Northwest. Here I discovered her lentils with butter and parsley, which make an especially bright and refreshing springtime dish.

The recipe has you simmer lentils with garlic cloves, a bay leaf, and parsley stems, reserving the leaves for a parsley butter to mix in at the end, along with a dash of lemon juice. As opposed to deliciously enveloping lentils in rendered bacon fat, this gentle tossing with uncooked butter lets the legumes' distinctive flavor shine. I first made this dish with red chief lentils from Camas Country Mill, which made a soft and tangy accompaniment to seared salmon.

The next time I used Camas Country Mill's small brown lentils, similar to French or puy lentils. They gave a nice texture and heft to an after-Easter salad with hard boiled eggs and strips of ham on top and a bed of garlicy sauteed mixed greens from Sweetwater Farm below. These little legumes provide the heart of a satisfying meal and the satisfaction of supporting a local solution to feeding our community through partnerships between local growers and Food for Lane County

Lentils with Butter and Parsley
slightly adapted from Eating Close to Home by Elin England

1 cup (~1/2 lb) lentils rinsed and drained
1 large bay leaf
1 small bunch of parsley stems, tied together
3 large garlic cloves, pealed and cut in half
2 Tbsp butter, softened
juice and zest from 1 small or 1/2 large lemon 
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the lentils in a pan with with 4 cups water, the bay leaf, parsley stems, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium low heat until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf, parsley stem bunch, and garlic, and drain the lentils or transfer them to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the parsley butter. You could use a small food processor to mix together the parsley leaves, lemon zest and juice, and butter, or do this by hand in a bowl, first snipping the parsley finely with kitchen shears.

3. When the lentils are done, mix in the parsley butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Egg Aebleskiver

When planning an Easter breakfast to be devoured while eagerly anticipating the egg hunt to follow, I thought of aebleskiver, these delicious pancake balls that rather resemble little eggs.  

Inspired by this analogy, I prepared some apricot yokes (softened in a little vanilla syrup), coated with cream cheese whites,

which we cooked into pancake batter shells and finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. The eggs, with their tangy, runny whites surrounding sweet and chewy yokes, were as delicious as any of the treats left by the Easter bunny. 

Easter Egg Aebleskiver
makes about 21 aebleskiver
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, separated
1 tablespoon melted butter for the batter, plus more for the pan
1 cup flour (I used a combination of pastry flour and hard white wheat spring flour, both from Camas Country Mill)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

21 dried apricot halves
¼ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp sugar (divide use)
½ cup cream cheese
powdered sugar for garnish

1. In a small sauce pan, combine ¼ cup water, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Warm over medium heat for a minute to dissolve the sugar, then add the apricot halves and simmer for about five minutes until the apricots are tender and have absorbed the vanilla syrup. Allow the apricots to cool.

2. Prepare the batter. Whisk together the buttermilk, egg yoke, and melted butter. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whip the egg white. Now gentle stir in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they are just combined and fold in the whipped egg white.

3. Combine the cream cheese with the remaining 2 tsp of sugar. Use your fingers to coat each apricot with cream cheese and reserve on a plate.

4. Heat an aebleskiver pan and butter well. Fill each of the cavities to about 1/2 the height with batter. Then place a cream cheese coated apricot into the middle of each dollop of batter and top with a little more batter to cover 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.

5. Transfer to a warmed plate, dust with powdered sugar and enjoy at once while you start the next batch cooking.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chanterelle and Arugula Pasta

With the end of our winter CSA from Open Oak Farm and the start of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market still on the horizon, I was happy to rediscover Eugene Local Foods. This convenient online shopping site lets you choose from a wide selection of local food offerings. You can place your order from the comfort of your sofa, as the rain drizzles outside, and then you pick up your goods on Tuesday evenings behind Hideaway Bakery. 

From this week's haul we prepared a local feast of fresh pasta with chanterelle and arugula. I experimented with making the pasta with hard white wheat spring flour from Camas Country Mill. The dough was tougher than with all purpose white flour, and required a little more patience rolling out, but the final pasta had a pleasantly hearty flavor that paired well with the mushrooms and bitter greens, and a generous dollop of creme fraiche. This was a perfect meal to celebrate the coming of spring.

Chanterelle and Arugula Pasta

for the pasta
3 cups flour (I used hard white wheat spring flour from Camas Country Mill)
4 eggs

for the toppings
1/2 lb chanterelle
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch arugula leaves, washed and thick stems removed
1/4 cup creme fraiche
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving

1. Set a large pot of salted pasta water boiling.

2. In a food processor, combine the flour and eggs until the dough just starts to come together in a ball. You may need to drizzle in a little water or add a touch more flour to get the right consistency. Form the dough into a log and cut into slices. Roll the slices out with a pasta machine according to the directions and cut into fettucini.

3. Meanwhile brush the chanterelle to clean them and slice them coarsely. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil, and saute the mushrooms until cooked through and fragrant.

4. When the pasta water comes to a boil,add the pasta. When the water returns to a boil, taste a strand. It may be done or may need another minute, but be prepared to work quickly. Reserve a cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta into a colander.

5. Dump the cooked pasta into a large serving bowl and toss with the creme fraiche, the sauteed mushrooms, and the washed arugula leaves. If the pasta seems a little dry, you can add a splash of the reserved pasta water. Grind over a generous amount of pepper and sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.