Friday, June 29, 2012

Buckwheat Butter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs

Once you've tasted it, the combination of buckwheat and chocolate is kind of addictive. With some remaining buckwheat flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm, these buckwheat butter cookies with cocoa nibs caught my eye here and here. Cocoa nibs, I discovered, can be procured from the bulk spice section of the Market of Choice.

I don't have much patience for cookie cutters (unless baking for Santa), so I liked the option of rolling a log of buttery cookie dough and slicing it up. It felt like working with play dough, but the final product was downright sophisticated. The subtle nutty flavor of the buckwheat and the charming restraint of the cocoa nibs paired perfectly with a cup of tea and freshly picked strawberries. Enjoy these refined treats while fantasizing about the London Olympics, but by the end of the weekend our neighborhood will be back to normal and ready to host the world famous Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, starting July 8.

Buckwheat Butter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup buckwheat flour
½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours.

2. With a handheld or stand mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt until smooth and creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the nibs and vanilla, and beat to incorporate. Add the flours all at once, and beat on low speed until just incorporated. The mixture will seem very dry and pebbly at first, but keep beating, and it will slowly moisten and darken (as the buckwheat flour is absorbed) and come together. The dough will be very thick. You can also make the dough in a food processor, but incorporate the nibs at the end by hand. 

3. Form the dough into a long (12” or 13”) log about 2 inches in diameter. Because the dough is so thick, I find it easiest to do this by pinching off hunks of dough from the bowl and lining them up on a large sheet of plastic wrap to form a log, then massaging and pressing them together to seal. Wrap well and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.

4. If you have refrigerated the dough overnight, remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you want to bake the cookies. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

5. When the dough feels slightly softened - it should have just a hint of give when you press it with a fingertip - unwrap it and place it on a cutting board. Using a thin, sharp knife, carefully cut the dough into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place slices on the prepared baking sheets, spacing each cookie about 1 ½ inches apart.

6. Bake until cookies just begin to color around the edges, about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheet pans from top to bottom and front to back midway through. Transfer to wire racks, and cool the cookies on the baking sheets (or slide the parchment onto the rack to free up the pans). Cool completely before eating or storing. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store the cookies in an airtight container.

Yield: about 50-55 small cookies

Update: I experimenting with making a gluten-free version of these cookies using only buckwheat flour and I'm happy to report that they were extremely tasty.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Farinata with Friends

Mark your calendars: the third season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market will start July 8! With the Olympic Trials in town, we have to be patient this year, but we'll be rewarded with abundant fresh fruit and produce from our favorite farmers. The beginning of the third season has me reflecting back on the market's inception with a chat I had with DeeAnn Hall, owner of Eugene City Bakery, about how nice it would be to have a neighborhood Sunday Farmers Market. As we explored this possibility, we received valuable advice from Lynne Fessenden of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition and Dan Armstrong from the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project. DeeAnn talked with the owner of Sun Automotive across the street about using their space, and Ned Forman from ECB talked with lots of farmers, and found a few brave pioneers in Rachel and Tom from SLO Farm, Kasey and Jeff from Lonesome Whistle Farm, and Linda from The Salmon People

The idea for this blog came from a conversation I had with Lotte Streisinger, who founded the Eugene Saturday Market in 1970 as a venue for local artists. Lotte told me that for many years she had a radio show in which she offered recipe ideas for produce on sale at the Saturday Market, and it occurred to me that today's equivalent would be a recipe blog. My first post was early in the Fairmount Market's first season. When the market's first season ended, I continued to crave locally grown, fresh food and to feel inspired to write about it. I joined Lonesome Whistle Farm's heirloom bean CSA, and experimented with all manner of bean dishes. For the market's second season, Rachel and Tom took the reins and were joined by John from Sweetwater Farm, Stephanie from Songbird Farm, Linda from The Salmon Peopleand Dan from the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project. The Sunday market continued to be an integral part of my family's routine, inspiring our weekly menus and broadened our tastes to new greens and grains. The following winter, we again joined local CSAs: Lonesome Whistle Farm for beans and grains and Open Oak Farm for produce. Over these seasons, this blog has been a place for me to document my family's growing knowledge and appreciation of our valley's remarkable bounty. Equally satisfying, it has introduced me to some of our region's remarkable people who are committed to the conscientious production of food that is healthy to eat and gentle on the earth.

And so through this blog I recently found myself breaking bread with old friends and new. The recipe for this delicious chickpea flour skillet bread, called farinata, is from Elin England, author of Eating Close to Home. Elin is working on a new book with recipes for beans, grains, seeds, and nuts, entitled "The Fourth Cornerstone."  I encourage you to make this flatbread a new cornerstone of your repertoire to accompany the summer's bounty of vegetables. Happy summer solstice.  

adapted from a recipe from Elin England

1 cup garbanzo bean flour (available from Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup lukewarm water
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil for the batter, and more for the pan
½ large onion, sliced thinly (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 

2. Whisk together the garbanzo bean flour, water, salt and 2 Tbsp olive oil.  The batter should be about the consistency of a thin pancake batter; add more water if necessary. If possible, let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes, or longer. 

3. If using the onion, sauté the slices with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt in a heavy frying pan over medium heat until soft and caramelized. Set aside.

4. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a 10-12 inch cast iron pan and swirl to coat.  Place it in the oven and heat for 5-10 minutes until very hot.  Carefully remove from the oven and add a scant cup of batter.  Scatter a bit of the onion and the rosemary or sage over the top if  you are using them, and return to the oven.  Bake 12-15 minutes until the farinata begins to set.  Now turn the broiler on and broil for an additional 5 minutes or so until the top is golden brown and the sides look like they are getting crispy.

5. Remove to a cutting board, and make a second farinata in the same manner.
Let the farinata rest for a few minutes before cutting into wedges or squares. 

For a thinner, crispier farinata, use a bigger pan with less batter (1/4 inch deep).  You can cook it longer too.  For a creamier farinata, more like polenta, pour in enough batter so that it is ½ inch deep and/or use a slightly smaller diameter skillet. 

You can top your farinata with cooked pancetta, chopped olives, thinly sliced and sauted vegetables, crumbled cheese or whatever suits your fancy. 
Leftover farinata is good cut into chunks and tossed with salad.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chicken Salad with Roasted Jalapeno Sauce

At the end of a long week, we had a smattering of leftovers and no clear dinner plan. There was a leftover grilled chicken breast, the end of a pot of Lonesome Whistle Farm Rio Zape beans, a stray avocado that had been too hard to eat earlier in the week, and some fresh radishes from our garden.  

Looking for inspiration, I flipped through Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday and came across a creamy green sauce made with roasted poblano peppers and spinach. I had neither poblanos nor spinach, but I did have a jalapeno and a bunch of cilantro, so I made this variant of the sauce. It was rich, smoky, and tangy, and proved to be just the thing to pull together these disparate items into a refreshing salad that gave the illusion of great foresight and planning. The remaining sauce was also delicious used, as Bayless' recipe recommend, as the topping for broiled salmon. This recipe would work well with other peppers and green, and given its versatility, it's a good one to have up your sleeve as a quick way to embellish a meal. 

Chicken Salad with Roasted Jalapeno Sauce

Jalapeno sauce (makes 1 cup of sauce)
1 jalapeno
8 ounces sour cream
1 bunch cilantro
1 lime
pinch of salt

cooked beans such as Rio Zape or black beans
grilled chicken breast
sliced radishes

1. To prepare the sauce, roast the jalapeno over an open flame or under the broiler until it is charred all over. Put it in a bowl with a plate on top to allow it to steam off the blistered skin for a few minutes. Handle the pepper carefully, or wrap your hand in plastic wrap, and use a paring knife to scrape off the blackened skin. Cut the pepper lengthwise, remove the stem and seeds. Taste a little sliver to gauge the heat (this will vary a lot between peppers). If it's very spice, use half of the pepper for the sauce to start and add more to taste. In a food processor, combine the sour cream, washed cilantro leaves, juice from one lime, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, then taste and add more jalapeno and salt to taste.

2. To prepare the salad, plate washed, torn lettuce leaves, top with beans, chicken pieces, radish and avocado slices, and garnish with a generous dollop of the jalapeno sauce. Enjoy. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moroccan Beef and Chickpea Stew

The silver lining to this week's cold and gloomy weather was the chance to try out a stew recipe from the Moroccan cookbook my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday. The one I chose is a Sephardic sabbath stew called Dafina, made with beef and chickpeas and flavored with dried fruit and saffron. 

The meat requires no browning, so you merely toss together all the ingredients in a big pot and slide it in the oven. Magically the flavors infuse, the meat and chickpeas become tender, the barley melts into the background as it thickens the stew, and the yam pieces dissolved into the broth, adding depth to the fruity sauce.

I wanted something fresh, tangy, and salty to complement the stew's mellow sweetness. Lacking preserved lemons, I improvised a lemon, caper, and parsley pesto dressing for a salad of chopped kale and almonds that did the trick. 

This stew is traditionally served with eggs that have been cooked in their shells in the meat pot, giving them a brown, mottled appearance. For the under ten crowd in the household, I hard boiled the eggs separately and the over ten crowd enjoyed them layered on the stew with a dollop of harissa. 

Sephardic Sabbath Stew
adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse
serves 6-8

1 cup dried chickpeas (if they are older, soak them in water overnight)
1/2 cup golden hulless barley (from Lonesome Whistle Farm)
2 lb beef chuck, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 onions, finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 large or 2 small yams, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
6 prunes, pitted and chopped
8 dried apricots, chopped
pinch saffron threads
3 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
hard boiled eggs (optional)
harissa (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toss the cubed beef in the cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Soak the saffron threads to 1/4 cup of boiled water. Prepare all of the vegetables.

2. In a large Dutch oven combine all of the ingredients except the eggs. Cook in the oven, covered, for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, and adding more liquid if necessary, until the beef is very tender and the chickpeas are soft but still firm. Raise the temperature to 400 degrees, uncover the pot and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes to allow the stew to caramelize.

3. Serve with harissa and quartered hard boiled eggs, if desired.

Kale Salad with Lemon, Capers, and Almonds
serves 4 as a side salad

4-6 lacinato kale leaves
2 Tbsp capers
1 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 large or 2 small lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup whole almonds

1. Cut the kale leaves from the stem, cut wide leaves lengthwise, and then cut the leaves crosswise into 1/4 inch strips.

2. Prepare the dressing. In a food processor or blender, combine the capers, the parsley leaves, the zest and juice from the lemon, and the olive oil. Blend into a pesto with some texture. Toss the kale leaves in the dressing to coat well.

3. In a dry skillet or a toaster oven, toast the almonds until fragrant. Chop them coarsely and toss them into the salad. Serve along side the stew.