Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Elin's Farmor's Limpa

Our baking traditions this season include German Christmas stollen and cookies for Santa such as Swedish rye cookieshazelnut cloud cookies, award-winning buckwheat cocoa nib cookies, and rugelach (because why shouldn't Santa enjoy a Jewish treat). This year, as an addition to our Swedish Smörgasbord, I made limpa, a Swedish rye bread from Elin England's new book Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home: Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seed. 

This is a dense bread full of fragrant spices and orange rind, with just a hint of sweetness. I used our new crop of rye and wheat flours from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA. Today the aromas of freshly baked yeast bread, anise, fennel, and cardamom mingled throughout the house with the excitement of anticipation for Christmas.

Elin's Farmor's Limpa

2 packages (4 1/2 tsp) yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp each: fennel seed, anise seed, and cardamom seed, pulverized together in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle
Grated rind of 2 oranges
2 Tbsp soft butter
2 1/2 cups rye flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the warm water, and stir until it is dissolved. Set in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes to proof the yeast.

When the surface is nice and bubbly, add the molasses, sugar, salt, spices, orange rind, and butter. Stir in the rye flour, then when thoroughly blended, mix in the whole wheat flour, a cup at a time.

When the dough is too stiff to work in the bowl, turn it out onto a counter or breadboard dusted with flour and knead until the dough is satiny, about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, set in a warm place, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down and let rise again, until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down yet again and divide the dough in two. Shape each half into a round loaf, then place both loaves on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 35 minutes. When the loaves come out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and let cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy warm out of the oven or toasted and slathered with butter.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Gift Ideas and Homemade Kettle Corn

If you are looking for inspiration for holiday gifts, you don't need to look far from home. This weekend, head over to the Lane County Farmers Market next to the Eugene Holiday Market for some great finds. For beginning and experienced cooks alike, I recommend Elin England's new book Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home, which is a treasure trove of recipes including such gems as her famous Elkdream bars. You can pick up copies at the Lonesome Whistle Farm booth (or find it at local sellers, such as Tsunami Books).

While at the Lonesome Whistle Farm stall, check out Kasey White's line of Cultivation jewelry, which celebrates the natural kaleidoscope of colors in their heirloom beans and corn.

And pick up a bag of Lonesome Whistle Farm's Dakota black popcorn. It make delicious kettle corn, which I recently discovered is easy to cook at home (recipe below). Keep browsing and you'll find the perfect item for everyone on your list: homemade jams, pickles, fudge, or a rosy apple for the bottom of a stocking. Let's support our farmers this holiday season.

Kettle Corn
Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup neutral oil (like vegetable)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot. Add 3 popcorn kernels and cover. When these pop, dump in the rest of the kernels and the sugar, and stir to coat. Cover the pot, and shake it frequently until the popping becomes much less frequent. The minute you hear that, take it off the heat so as not to burn. Turn the kettle corn out onto a parchment-lined tray for the sugar to dry -- and before it does, sprinkle generously with salt.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

White Pesto Pasta with Kale Chips

As a stubborn blanket of snow continues to keep Eugene at a standstill, creative cooking with pantry items is a necessity. This white pesto sauce from Mark Bitmann fits the bill, being prepared from an end piece of stale bread, a dribble of milk, and some nuts. From these humble staples you produce a rich sauce that tastes like an alfredo, without requiring the treacherous trip to the store for a pint of heavy cream. 

If you are lucky enough to have some greens in your crisper, by all means add these to your meal for extra color and to ward off scurvyYou could serve the pasta on a bed of raw greens, or toss the greens into the pasta water for a quick blanch at the last minute. 

I used our last bunch of kale to make a batch of the child-friendly chlorophyll vehicle of kale chips, which added a nice crunchy contrast to the creamy pasta. Now that we've polished off the last of our fresh vegetables, I'll be resorting to the bag of peas in the freezer normally reserved for soothing bumps and bruises. Let's hope the ice thaws.

White Pesto Pasta with Kale Chips
adapted from Mark Bitmann's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
1 thick slice Italian bread, or equivalent amount of any white loaf
1/2 cup milk
1 cup walnut halves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves (optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound pasta

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place the bread in a small bowl, cover it with milk, and let it soak.

2. If you like, roast the garlic cloves in a hot skillet until softened, then peel. Combine the nuts, garlic, cheese, and marjoram (if using) in a food processor and, with the machine running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream, adding just enough oil so that the mixture forms a very thick paste. Now add the bread-and-milk mixture and enough water to make a sort of saucy mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cook the pasta until tender. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the sauce and, if the mixture appears too thick, thin it with a little of the pasta cooking water or more olive oil. Pass more Parmesan on the side. And if you like, serve with kale chips, recipe below.

kale chips
1 bunch kale
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the kale leaves and dry well. Cut or tear the leaves from the stem and tear into bite sized pieces. In a big bowl, toss the leaves with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and mix well with you hands, massaging in the oil. Lay out on cookie sheets in a single layer and bake for about 10 or 15 minutes until they are crispy but before they start to get very brown (at which point they become more bitter). Serve at once. You can store them in an airtight container if you have any left, but we never do.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Turkey Stock Tortilla Soup

With Eugene blanketed in snow, it seemed like a good day to make soup. I unearthed the carcass of our successfully spatchcocked Fair Valley Farm turkey, which I'd tossed in the freezer after we'd polished off all the leftovers and turkey sandwiches we could eat, and simmered it for a couple of hours with some celery and parsnips I found in the crisper.

The resulting flavorful turkey stock formed the basis for a delicious tortilla soup, based on a Rick Bayless recipe. This soup starts with a puree of rehydrated pasilla chiles, roasted garlic, onion, and tomato, that is then fried in oil to deepen the flavors. This is then diluted with stock into a deep red, fragrant soup. The best part is in the serving, when you pile on crispy strips of fried tortilla, creamy avocado, sharp radish, and plenty of grated cheese that melts into this bone-warming soup.

Turkey Stock Tortilla Soup
adapted from Rick Bayless, serves four

4 to 5 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded (also called chilles negros)
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 or 4 roma tomatoes or one small can of tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted 
1 medium white onion, peeled, halved, and sliced 1/8 thick
3 Tbsp of vegetable oil for the soup and more for frying the tortilla strips
6 cups turkey broth (see below), or substitute chicken broth
salt to taste

4 to 6 corn tortillas, cut into strips, fried in vegetable oil until crispy, and salted
shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack
1 bunch radishes, julienned
1 or 2 avocados, diced
1 large lime, cut into wedges

1. Seed and stem the chiles. Toast them in a hot, dry skillet for a few moments, until fragrant, and then soak in boiling water until softened, at least 15 minutes. In the same hot skillet, toast the garlic cloves until soft and slightly charred. Peel and place in a blender jar. 

2. Heat a large soup pot. Add 2 Tbsp oil and saute the sliced onion until it becomes nicely browned. Squeeze the onion against the side of the pot to leave as much oil behind as possible and transfer to the blender jar. Add the tomatoes and the drained rehydrated chiles. Blend until smooth. If you like, you can pass the puree through a strained to ensure that the soup is free of any seeds or chile bits.

3. Reheat the soup pan and add the remaining Tbsp oil. Add the chile puree and stir continuously as the mixture thickens and darkens. Add the turkey stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt as needed.

4. Serve the soup warm with all of the garnishes for everyone to add as they wish. Enjoy.

turkey stock 
1 turkey carcass
a few stocks celery and a carrot, parsnip, and onion or two

In a large stock pot, cover the turkey carcass with cold water (about four quarts), salt generously, and start heating. Coarsely chop the vegetables and add to the pot. Bring the pot to a simmer, lower the heat, and simmer for about two hours. Allow the stock to cool a bit. Strain and reserve. My batch yielded about 3 quarts of stock.