Friday, May 31, 2013

Traveling Companion Bread

Last weekend we retreated to the coast to celebrate a couple of family birthdays and marvel at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. While packing, our luggage, as always, became densely populated with co-traveling stuffed animals, because you never know when makka pakka or totoro will be needed (and in fact they came in handy as a Bludger and Snitch, respectively, in an impromptu game of Quidditch).

This trip, I sneaked in my own traveling companion of a batch of no knead bread dough, made with Lonesome Whistle Farm red fife and rye flour. The slowly fermenting culture rode along happily in a large tupperware container, basking in the faint warmth of sun breaks as we played in the marbled sand. 

When we arrived at Yachats in the late afternoon, I plopped my friend into a loaf pan to rest as we explored the cottage and discovered a newt in a backyard stream. By dinnertime, the fragrance of yeasty bread enveloped our cottage, and even though the loaf was a bit mangled by the sticky pan and dull bread knife, it tasted delicious. Replete with the virtues of patience, adaptability, and ultimately good taste, this dough makes the perfect traveling companion.

Traveling Companion Bread
1 cup rye flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (such as Lonesome Whistle Farm red fife flour)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups water
coarse corn meal for coating the dough

1. The evening before your trip, or early that morning, combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended (a dough whisk is handy for this). Dust a large tupperware container with corn meal, put the dough in, and seal loosely. Let the dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, and preferably at about 70 degrees, but don't worry too much about temperature fluctuations during your trip.

2. Hopefully when you arrive at your destination, your dough will have doubled in size and become speckled with bubbles. Check whether there is a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) available for baking your bread according to Jim Lahey's method. Otherwise, locate a loaf pan or baking sheet.

Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Place it in an oiled loaf pan, shape it into a loaf on a baking sheet, or form it into a ball on a floured cotton towel. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise again, ideally for about 2 hours, but it will still be delicious if given less time.

3. About an hour before dinner, start heating your oven to 450 degrees. If using, put your heavy pot in the oven to preheat. When the oven is hot, put your bread in to bake. If using a preheated pot, carefully slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into pot; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with a lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. When you tap it with your fingernail it should sound hollow. Cool on a rack or devour immediately.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Buckwheat Noodles with Fava Beans and Arugula

Major news alert: the fourth season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market is scheduled to start on Sunday June 9th. The market will be held each Sunday during the summer from 10 AM to 2 PM at the Sun Automotive lot on the corner of Agate St. and 19th Ave. You can make the corner you one stop shopping for the week with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as jams, sauces, and preserves from Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and baked goods from Eugene City Bakery

Despite the sometimes blustery weather we've been having, spring is really here, as evident by the increasing diversity of local produce available. Some of the earliest treats are gem-like fava beans that always seem so special to me that I feel compelled to pair them with homemade pasta. This year, I strayed from Italy toward Asia, inspired by a recipe for buckwheat pasta from The Greens Cookbook, which seemed like a perfect use for the last of my Lonesome Whistle Farm buckwheat flour. These homemade soba noodles were delicious tossed with plenty of peppery arugula and foraged fresh herbs (mint, fennel fronds, and chives) and served with baked salmon. Remember to mark your calendars for the June 9th and please spread the word by printing this poster and putting it up around the neighborhood.

Buckwheat Pasta with Fava Beans and Arugula
serves four

1 cup buckwheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
~1/4 cup water

1 lb fava bean pods (or as many as you can shell and peel)
2 large handfuls arugula 
plenty of fresh herbs, such as mint, fennel fronds, and chives
olive oil
zest and juice from one lemon
salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1. First prepare your pasta toppings. Remove the fava beans from the pods. If you are willing to do the extra work, blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water and then remove the inner green parts of the beans from the paler casing. Zest and then juice the lemon. Rinse and roughly chop the arugula and fresh herbs.

2. Set a large pot of salted water boiling on the stove for the pasta.

3. To make the pasta dough, combine the ingredients in a food processor and mix. The buckwheat flour absorbs liquid, so you will probably need to add a little water for the dough to just starts to come together in a ball. 

4. Pat the dough together into a log, cut into about 12 pieces, and pat flat. 

5. Use a hand crank pasta machine to roll out the dough, starting with the widest setting and narrowing it by increments of 2, ending on the second to last thinnest setting. Then cut the dough into fettucini.

6. Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water until the noodles are just cooked but still have some bite, about 2 minutes. 

7. Drain the pasta and dump it into a large serving bowl. Pour over olive oil, lemon zest and juice, arugula and fresh herbs, and fava beans and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kohlrabi Poriyal

Kohlrabi are not a common sighting at our markers or dinner tables, especially ones with full leafy plumage like these fine specimens from Sweet Water Farm, available for a couple of weeks through Eugene Local Foods. However, during childhood visits to my grandmother's home in Germany as a child, we often ate tender cubes of a root vegetable in cream sauce, a dish simply called "gemüse" (vegetable), that only years later I realized was kohlrabi. Today its distinctive taste still has a Proustian effect on me. 

Recently, a friend shared his favorite childhood recipe for kohlrabi, prepared in the style of a South Indian dry curry, or poriyal. Recreating it required a trip to Vishnu Indian Imports for urad dal (small lentils that are fried in hot oil with mustard seeds at the beginning) and vangibath powder (a spice mix with ground lentils and chilies that coats the cubed vegetables at the end). The final dish was delicious. And for a nose to tail approach to these unshorn kohlrabi, I cooked the leaves like cabbage in this Madhur Jaffrey recipe with fennel seeds, along with masooar dal and kale with paneer. Even in its South Indian guise, the kohlrabi tasted a little bit like childhood summers. 

Kohlrabi Poriyal

3-4 smallish kohlrabi (or use turnips, parsnips, potatoes or other hard vegetables)
2 Tbsp neutral oil (such as canola)
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp black mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vangibath (vangi bhath) powder, MTR brand recommended 
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

1. Peel the kohlrabi generously with a paring knife to remove any woody bits, leaving just the smooth white interior. Cut into 3/8 inch cubes.

2. Heat a large, shallow frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the urad dal. Cook the dal, stirring, until it is a toasted brown. Add the black mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida, if using, and cook for a few seconds until the seeds start to pop. Add the kohlrabi pieces and season with salt.

3. Saute the kohlrabi, stirring occasionally, until it is almost tender. When the kohlrabi is close to done, stir in the vangibath powder and turmeric. Cook for a couple more minutes until the kohlrabi is tender. Enjoy. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rhubarb Cornmeal Scones

The lovely rhubarb in the markets these days had got me thinking about rhubarb scones, and Mother's Day seemed like a good occasion to make some. We still have plenty of corn flour from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA, so I decided to experiment with a rhubarb cornmeal scone, inspired from here and here.

The rhubarb got a dousing of sugar while I made a buttery dough in the food processor, and then mixed in the fruit at the end.

The dough was soft and a bit sticky on our unusually warm May day, but it didn't need much handling: just a gentle pat into two disks that I sliced into sixths and popped into the oven. The resulting corn-flavored scones, studded with tart rhubarb, were such a hit that I was barely able to save some for Sunday morning.  

Rhubarb Cornmeal Scones
makes 12
4 small rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch slices (1 cup)
1/2 cup sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup corn flour or fine corn meal (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm corn flour)
1 cup whole wheat white flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm Stephen's White)
1 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (unless you plan to freeze the scones and bake later). 

2. Rinse, trim, and cut the rhubarb into 1/4 inch slices (yielding 1 cup). Sprinkle over 1/4 cup sugar and the vanilla extract and stir.

3. In a food processor, combine the corn flour, wheat flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse into pea-sized pieces. Transfer to a mixing bowl (you can also incorporate the butter into the flour by hand or using a pastry knife). Pour in the buttermilk and incorporate it into the dough. Add the sugared rhubarb and stir gently to incorporate.

4. Cover a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface, such as a silicone mat, and divide into two. Gently form into two disks, about 1 1/2 inches tall, dusting with flour as necessary. If the dough seems too sticky to handle, chill it at this point for 15 minutes in the freezer or longer in the refrigerator. Cut each disk into 6 pie slice wedges. Transfer the wedges to the baking sheet. 
Note: You can freeze the scone wedges at this point and bake them later (add an extra 5 minutes to the baking time).

5. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, rotating the pans 180 degrees half way through the baking. The scones are done when they are a golden all over the top. Cool before eating.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bok Choy and Pork Dumplings

After we had children, we had to scale back on certain culinary undertakings, such as staging elaborate dinner parties. But as our children have grown (our youngest just attended his kindergarden orientation on Friday), it's become clear that certain ambitious cooking tasks are easier with children. In our household, making fresh pasta is entirely accomplished through child labor, and even birthday cake baking has been delegated. Recently my sister-in-law pointed out that dumpling making is another such child-friendly task, if you invest in a dumpling press.

Dumpling making is not a task I would take on single handed, but armed with our new gadget, I cooked up a recipe of pork and cabbage filling from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, using tender baby bok choy from the Farmers Market, and let my sous chefs go to town.

The end results may not have been quite as pretty as expertly hand-pinched pot stickers, but they tasted delicious and our little assembly line was so productive that we had enough dumplings to freeze for a rainy day.  

Bok Choy and Pork Dumplings
adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty
makes 25-30 dumplings
1/4 pound tender leaves of baby bok choy or cabbage
3 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola
1/2 lb ground pork
2 tsp rice wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp darl soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
6-8 turns of a black pepper mill

1 package of frozen thin dumpling wrappers
more neutral oil for frying

1. Start thawing the dumpling wrappers about 30 minutes before, or microwave them briefly on low power.

2. Blanch the vegetable leaves briefly in boiling water, and then refresh immediately in cold water. Chop finely and squeeze to get rid of any excess water.

3. Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a wok or skillet. Add the pork and stir-fry for a minute or two, adding the wine, soy sauce, and salt as you go, until cooked through. Tip the pork into a bowl, add the chopped leaves, sesame oil, and pepper, and mix well.

4. To assembly the dumplings, gather a large platter or baking sheet, a small bowl of water, your filling, and the dumpling wrappers covered with a moist towel. Spoon a teaspoon of filling into the center of a dumpling wrapper, use your finger to wet around the circumference, and seal the dumpling with a dumpling press or by pressing closed with your fingers. Place the completed dumplings on the platter.

5. Heat a larger skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom generously. When the oil is hot, arrange the dumplings in the pan and cook until crisp and golden on one side (a minute or two). Then add 2 Tbsp water for every 10 dumplings in the pan, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and allow the water to evaporate away. Remove the dumplings to a serving platter and serve at once with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, black Chinese vinegar, and hot oil combined to your taste.

Note: freeze extra dumplings on a baking sheet and then transfer them to a zip lock bag. To cook, add the frozen dumplings to the pan as above, but increase the frying and steaming times by a couple of minutes.