Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Grain Salad in a Jar

Here's a convenient lunch idea, composed of leftovers from the previous post on pickled chard stems. Into a pint jar I packed farro, chopped carrots, pickled chard stems and almonds, and drizzled over some olive oil (the pickles brought along some vinegar to meld into a vinaigrette during the day). On top I gently layered some greens so that when I inverted the contents into a bowl at lunch, I had a lovely composed salad.

Grain Salad in a Jar
1 pint jar per person
2/3 cup cooked grain (farro, barley, quinoa)
1/3 cup chopped crunchy vegetables (carrots, peppers, cucumbers)
1/4 cup chopped pickled vegetables (chard stems, fennel bulb, etc.)
1/4 cup protein such as nuts, diced cheese, canned tuna in olive oil, hard boiled egg
1 Tbsp oil oil (or oil from tinned fish)
1/2 cup greens

In a pint mason jar layer grains, vegetables, pickles, and protein, and drizzle over olive oil. Layer on greens and close the jar. To serve, invert the jar into a bowl.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pickled Chard Stems

A thick, grey flog has enveloped Eugene for days, sapping the color from our daily lives. Under these gloomy conditions, the bright red stems of this Swiss chard from Sweetwater Farm seemed worth preserving.

I blanched them quickly and soaked them in a brine similar to these refrigerator pickles. The sharp flavor of these chard stems, with a hint of anise, brightened up our foggy day feast of a beef and rio zape bean chili, farro from Lonesome Whistle Farmroasted delicate squash, and sautéed chard.

Pickled Chard Stems
makes 1 pint
1 bunch chard
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Set a pot of salt water to boil. Rinse the chard leaves, trim off the very tips of the stems, and then cut the stems from the leaves, which you should reserve for another use. Cut into 2 inch lengths. When the water is boiling, blanch the chard stems for 1 minute, then drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a clean pint jar.

2. Prepare the brine by combining the remaining ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour the brine into the jar to cover the chard stems. Let marinate for an hour. Serve or refrigerate. Use in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kale Salad with Crispy Fried Shallots and Poached Egg

Food trends can sweep nations, but they can also catch hold on a very local scale, in your own household, like the red lentil soup I couldn't stop making the winter I was pregnant with my son. When my parents visited recently, I exposed them to various uses for the vegetable du jour, kale, which has even been making inroads into Parisian cuisine and has certainly been trending in our household. Reminiscing with my parents reminded my of another household food trend from my youth, following a summer trip to Paris, when my father could not get enough frisee salad with lardons and poached eggs.

Now my parents are mostly vegetarian, and bacon is passé, so I decided to recreate a kale version of Salad Lyonnaise with crispy fried shallots in lieu of lardon. It was quite delicious, and I'm convinced that these shallots, a common condiment in Vietnamese cuisine, will be the next big food trend. At least they will be in our household.

Kale Salad with Crispy Fried Shallots and Poached Egg
serves four for a side or two for a main dish

1 bunch lacinato kale
2 shallots
1/2 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 eggs

1. Rinse the kale leaves, cut out the center stems, and chop into 1 inch ribbons. Dry thoroughly.

2. Prepare the crispy fried shallots. Peel and chop the shallots. Heat a wok or skillet and warm the oil. Add a piece of shallot and if it sizzles, add the rest of the shallots and a generous pinch of salt. Cook the shallot pieces over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until they develop a deep brown color, but without burning. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and reserve. To the shallot-scented oil add the vinegar and heat, stirring, for a minute. Now drizzle the hot vinaigrette over the kale and toss to coat. Sample a leaf and add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat water in a wide pan for poaching the eggs. When the water is ready, poach four eggs following these instructions (or you can cheat and use these), such that the yokes are still runny (they will serve to further dress the kale leaves in the salad). You can also poach the eggs ahead of time and reheat them gently in a bath of hot water.

4. Assemble the salads by plating the dressed kale, top with a poached egg or two, and sprinkle over the crispy fried shallots. Eat right away.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

We wished 2013 farewell and greeted 2014 along the Oregon coast. Amid all the natural beauty, I had the opportunity to peruse my Christmas present of Chad Robertson's latest cookbook, Tartine 3, and resolved that this year I will learn about the intricacies of whole grain bread baking with wild microbes.

But returning to Eugene, I realized I had a more immediate problem of a glut of winter squashes from CSA shares and exuberant farm visits. So I resolved to roast more squash and make another batch of yeasted pumkin monkey bread from The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings, which I had read about here.

The recipe is actually frustratingly poorly edited. The amount of flour called for produces something closer to a batter than a dough, the instructions to line the loaf pan with parchment paper come after one is told to arrange the dough in the pan; and the baking time was much too short. But with some ad hoc adjustments (included in the recipe below) I produced a dough that could be manageably rolled out, 



and baked into a tasty treat. Nibble with satisfaction, knowing that it is part of the solution to winter squash overpopulation problems.

Pumpkin Monkey Bread
adapted from this Kinfolk recipe
for the bread dough
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree, or puree from any roasted winter squash
1 tsp sea salt
2 cup unbleached white flour (or more as needed)
1 cup whole wheat flour

for the sugar crumble
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook 2 Tbsp the butter, without stirring, until brown bits form, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the milk and get the mixture to 110' (too hot and it'll kill the yeast). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in the yeast and 1/4 cup sugar. Let it stand for 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the pumpkin puree, salt and 1 cup of the bread/all purpose flour. When combined, add the rest of the flour in several additions, kneading between additions. You may need more flour, depending on the moisture content of your pumpkin puree. Knead the dough until it is elastic and slightly sticky, 6-8 minutes.

3. Brush a large bowl with a little olive oil, place the dough ball inside and turn it over several times until it is well greased. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the sugar crumble filling by melting 2 Tbsp butter and combining with the sugar and cinnamon. After the dough has doubled in size, knead it for two minutes. Roll it out into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top, gently pressing it into the dough. Slice the dough lengthwise into six strips, and stack them on top of the other. Cut the strips into squares. If you wish, line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper for easier clean up. Arrange the stacks of dough squares into the loaf pan and sprinkle any stray sugar crumbles on top. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until it doubles in size again.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees C. Bake the loaf on the middle rack for 45 to 55 minutes until edges are golden and a skewer comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool.