Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cooking with Kefir and a Chocolate Mousse Tart

My latest fermentation project, following in the footsteps of sauerkraut and bread starter, has been to culture kefir. To maintain this culture, you simply transfer a tablespoon of kefir to a fresh cup of milk and let it sit on your kitchen counter for about 24 hours. The result is a tart, thickened milk that I've started deploying in all sorts of guises. 

Using regular pint Mason jars for the culturing lends itself to preparing smoothies with my favorite trick of screwing the blender blade directly onto the jar. If you like, you can make yourself a daily smoothie after passaging a tablespoon of kefir for the next batch.

I've been preparing smoothies with about a cup of kefir, a half banana, and a teaspoon each of honey and chia seeds, which make a perfect midmorning snack.

I also found that adding a spoonful of kefir resulted in an extremely exuberant bread starter crumpet batter (reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn's waffle batter from Woman of the Year) and deliciously spongey crumpets.

For ~1 cup of old bread starter (~250 grams), add 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon kefir. Mix well and then add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and pour into well-oiled crumpet rings on a hot, well-oiled skillet to cook.

A final, recent use for my kefir was to add a bit of tartness to a chocolate mousse tart. Truth be told, this tart, for my son's birthday, was entirely motivated by my desire to use up a rye flour pie crust I had prepared for Thanksgiving and then accidentally left behind in the freezer when we dashed to the coast. Rye and chocolate is a classic combination, and filling a pie crust with chocolate mousse seemed like an easy way to please a newly minted eight year old.

I started with this recipe, and then, inspired by the success of using creme fraiche in chocolate fondue, I whipped in some kefir with the heavy cream (I've also used my kefir to culture heavy cream into creme fraiche, which works very well, but in this instance, I didn't have time). The resulting tart was a big success with the beaming birthday boy. 

Chocolate Mousse Tart with a Rye Crust
pie crust (based on Heidi Swanson's recipe)
1/3 cup (38 g) rye flour (I used rye flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm)
3/4 cup (88 g) unbleached all purpose white flour
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
~1/6 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and mix. Pulse in the butter cubes until they are lima bean sized. Then add enough water for the dough to just come together when you press it between your fingers. Mold into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out into a 12 inch disc, drape into a buttered tart pan, flute the edges and patch where you need to, and now chill again for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover the crust with aluminum foil and use rice or beans as pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cook completely before you fill the crust.

chocolate mousse
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 kefir (or creme fraiche)
1/4 cup sugar

1. Pulse the chocolate, vanilla and salt in a food processor until the chocolate is in small pieces. Bring 1 cup cream to a boil in a heavy small saucepan. With the processor running, gradually pour the hot cream through the feed tube and process until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Beat remaining 1 3/4 cups of of cream, 1/4 cup kefir, and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl to stiff peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set, about 6 hours. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fresh Bread and French Onion Soup

It's been a busy fall, but with the term winding down, I finally turned my attention to my neglected bread starter and started coaxing it back to life with daily feedings. In a few days, it was bubbling  away happily and over the weekend it raised a fine loaf of rye and red fife flour. 

With the baking bread aromas filling the kitchen, and a steady drizzle outside, I decided to make some French onion soup for dinner. I caramelized a big pot of onions (saving some for a future mujaddara), and thawed a quart of chicken stock. The recipe I followed from the kitchn, based on Julia Child, called for an hour of cooking the broth with the onions, and another 20 minutes in the oven, but I admit to skimping on both, because we were all too hungry to wait. The resulting soup was deliciously decadent for a rainy day.

French Onion Soup
Makes 4 one-cup servings

3 large yellow onions (~1 pound)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine or white vermouth
4 bread slices, toasted
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1. Peel and cut each onion into half moons: Slice each half of the onion into thin, evenly-sized half moons and cut the half moon slices in half. You will have at least 3 cups of chopped onions. But don't worry too much about quantities with this recipe; if you have an extra onion to use up, throw it in!

2. In a large pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. After the butter foams up and then settles down, add the onions and stir to coat with the butter. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes on low heat. 

3. Remove the lid. The onions should have wilted down somewhat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, a generous amount of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar (this helps the onions caramelize). Turn the heat up to medium and cook, uncovered and stirring every few minutes, until the onions are deeply browned. This will take 40 minutes to 1 hour. Turn down the heat if the onions scorch or stick to the pan; the browning doesn't come through burning, but through slow, even caramelization.

4. Heat the broth: As the onions approach a deep walnut color, heat the broth in a separate pot. Add the wine and allow to cook down. Then add the hot broth to the caramelized onions and bring to a boil. Cook gently over low heat for about 1 hour (I only did this for 20 minutes). Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. 

5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Divide the soup between small but deep oven-safe bowls. Top each with a slice (or two) of toasted bread and sprinkle grated cheese in a thick layer over the bread and up to the edge of the bowl. Place the bowls on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is thoroughly melted (I did this for 5 minutes).

6. Broil until the cheese is browned: Turn the oven from bake to broil and broil the soup for 1 to 3 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove carefully from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving on heatproof dishes or trivets.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Skillet Baked Oatmeal with Cinnamon Apples

The Fairmount Farmers Market may seem like a distant memory on this drizzly November weekend, but you can still stock up on local food at the annual Fill Your Pantry event hosted by Willamette Farm and Food Coalition Sunday November 15th from 1 - 5 pm at Lane Events Center. You can pre-order online now through this Sunday at midnight.

Be sure to stock up on rolled oats or barley flakes for winter breakfasts, such as this skillet baked oatmeal, inspired by this recipe from Heidi Swanson, but with seasonal apples and a skillet cornbread approach to baking. This will add a little cheer to your drizzly mornings.

Skillet Baked Oatmeal with Cinnamon Apples
Serves 6
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain salt
1 large apple
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. To the dry skillet, add 1 cup of rolled oats and toast, stirring, for a couple of minutes until they start to become fragrant and brown. Transfer the oats to a medium mixing bowl, and repeat with the second cup of oats. Next toast the cup of chopped walnuts until they start to become fragrant. Transfer the walnuts to a separate small bowl. To the oats, add the baking bowser and salt and mix.

3. Core the apple and cut into 1/4 inch dice. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat, add the apple pieces and cinnamon, and cook, stirring often, until the apples are soft. 

4. While the apples are cooking, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.

5. When the apples are soft, turn off the heat under the skillet. Use a spatula to incorporate the oat mixture into the buttermilk mixture and then immediately pour it into the hot skillet on top of the cinnamon apples. Scatter over the toasted walnuts and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake for about 35 minutes until the oatmeal has set and the top is golden. Serve immediately. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last Market of the Season and Smothered Chicken

Tomorrow will be the last day of the sixth season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market. Come to stock up on produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm and pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm. And linger a moment to thank the farmers for bringing their delicious foods to our neighborhood each Sunday this summer.

Be sure to pick up some multicolored eggplants and peppers for an end of the season ratatouille,  as well as some winter squash for your winter cellar. And you will want to purchase a Fair Valley Farm chicken to try this classic Craig Claiborne recipe for smothered chicken.

This recipe gives you the excuse to exert some muscle in the kitchen by flattening a spatchcocked chicken under a plate, weighed down by whatever method you can rig.

The result is a beautifully crispy chicken and a panful of rich gravy, perfect for smothering a pile of mashed potatoes in a dinner that will help you through the winter months. Thanks so much another great season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

Craig Claiborne's Smothered Chicken

1 chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds, spatchcocked (split down the backbone, breast left intact and unsplit)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups chicken broth, ideally homemade

1. Craig Claiborne believed a cast-iron skillet to be essential for the authentic preparation of this dish. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Select a skillet large enough to hold the chicken comfortably when it is opened up, as for broiling. Fold wings under to secure them.

2. Melt the butter in the pan and add the chicken, skin side down. Cover chicken with a plate that will fit comfortably inside the skillet. Place a heavy can, stone or brick on top of the plate to weigh it down. Cook over low heat, checking the chicken skin, until it is nicely browned, about 25 minutes.

3. Remove weight and plate. Turn chicken so skin side is up. Replace plate and weight and continue cooking for about 15 minutes more.

4. Remove chicken and pour off fat from the skillet, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the flour to the fat, stirring with a wire whisk over medium heat. Gradually add the chicken broth and, when thickened, return chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with the plate and weight and continue cooking over low heat about 20 to 30 minutes longer or until the meat is exceptionally tender. Spoon the sauce over it.

5. Cut chicken into serving pieces, and serve with the sauce and mashed potatoes.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

End of the Summer Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

Don't let the last sunny days of the summer slip away without enjoying an insalata caprese. Simply slice tomatoes and mozzarella and layer them with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar to taste, and enjoy in the sunshine. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sichuan Green Beans

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

Sweetwater Farm has a lovely selection of beans including these yardlong beans, which always get a giggle out of my kids when served full length. I like to blanch them, save some in their full splendor, and chop the rest to stir fry in Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichan green beans from Every Grain of Rice. This recipe involves a secret ingredient of Tianjin preserved vegetables, available at Sunrise Market, which add a salty pungency. And with so many pretty spicy peppers at the market, I substituted fresh for dried. Blanching the beans first, as Dunlop does in this version of her recipe, means that they require less oil so that the dish tastes fresh and not too greasy. A great side dish to have in your repertoire, and a great reason to stock up on fall beans.

Sichuanese Dry-Fried Green Beans

3/4 pound green beans or yard long beans
4-6 dried chiles
2 scallions, whites only, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
An equivalent amount of ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons Sichuanese ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetable (optional but recommended; see note above)
1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan pepper
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

1. Trim beans; snap them in half. Then snip the chiles in half and shake out and discard the seeds. If you're using the Tianjin preserved vegetable, rinse off the excess salt and squeeze it dry. 

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and blanch until just tender, then drain. 

3. Put your wok over high heat. Add the canola or peanut oil, then the chiles and the Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry just until the chiles begin to darken, then add the scallion, ginger, and garlic and cook for a few moments more. Add the preserved vegetable and stir a few more times. Then add the beans and stir-fry for a minute or two longer, until coated in the oil and the seasonings. Add salt to taste. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Zucchini Butter

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

I've been on a zucchini kick this summer. It's funny because I remember distinctly how unenthusiastic I was about this vegetable when I was young, a sentiment shared by my children, who view a zucchini as a failed, soggy attempt at a cucumber. But these days I can't seem to get enough of these summer squash roastedstir fried, or on pizza, so I couldn't resist Erica's bargain bag of zucchini at the market last weekend. 

Faced with this hefty zucchini haul, I decided to try out a recipe I'd been eying for zucchini butter from the food52 genius recipe series. It called for shallots, but I used a lovely slender leek from the market. You simply shred your zucchini (easiest to do in a food processor for a big batch), and cook it down with a generous portion of olive oil or butter (I used both) until the squash melts into a rich spread, which is delicious on crackers or as the base for a sandwich with sliced tomatoes. The best part, for those facing a zucchini glut, is the sense of satisfaction when you see your huge stack of squash reduced to a manageable pot of spread.

Zucchini Butter
adapted slightly from Jennie Cook's genius recipe
makes about 2 cups
2 pounds zucchini or assorted summer squash (feel free to use less or add extra -- cooking times will vary)
2 Tbsp olive oil 
2 Tbsp butter
1 small leek or 2 shallots
Salt and pepper

1. Grate the zucchini in a food processor or on a box grater. Toss with a generous pinch of salt and let it drain in a colander for 3 to 4 minutes or until you are ready to begin cooking. Mince the white part of the leek or the peeled shallots. Squeeze the water out of the zucchini (you can do this with your hands or by wringing it in a clean cloth towel). 

2. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil and butter. Sauté the leeks or shallots briefly. Add the zucchini and toss. Cook and stir over medium to medium-high heat until the zucchini reaches a spreadable consistency, about 15 minutes. If you scorch the bottom, turn the flame down! (And scrape those delicious bits into the butter for added flavor -- you can splash in a little water to help deglaze the pan.) The zucchini will hold its bright green color and slowly caramelize into a nice vegetable jam. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3, Enjoy on crackers or toast, or as a side dish all summer long!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Roasted Collards with Chorizo and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats and eggs from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

The season's bounty is reaching its height of outrageous beauty, like these blush tomatoes and purple tomatillos. With produce this pretty, it seemed a shame to roast the tomatillos for my usual salsa, so I blended them up fresh with cilantro and a hot pepper.

Even as the produce is reaching its peak, the days are getting cooler, and it's not hard to justify turning on the oven. For less glamorous looking collard greens, I made a version of these pot-roasted collard greens with chorizo. Cooked for an hour in a low oven, the collards' flavors soften and deepen, the onions melt into a sweet jam, and the chorizo infuse the dish with a decadent richness.

Layered on top of tender Lonesome Whistle Farm beans, these rich collards made a delicious bed for a fried Fair Valley Farm egg, topped with the bright notes of the fresh tomatillo salsa and slices of blush tomatoes to make the plate outrageously pretty.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
1 pint tomatillos
1 small jalapeño or other spicy pepper
1 handful cilantro leaves
1 pinch salt

Hull and rinse the tomatillos. Halve them and toss them in a food processor. Halve and seed the jalapeño and add it to the food processor along with the cilantro and salt. Pulse to chop into a salsa of the desired coarseness. Reserve.

Roasted Collards with Chorizo
1 large bunch collard greens
1 medium onion
2 chorizo sausages (about 5 ounces)
2 Tbsp canola oil
salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the collard leaves, cut out the stems, and slice crosswise into 1/2 inch strips. Peel and dice the onion. Cut the sausages into quarters lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2 inch chunks.

2. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Add the oil, the onions, and a pinch of salt, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the sausage pieces and continue cooking until the onions are very soft. Add the collard green strips and stir to coat in the oils. Place the lid on the pot and transfer to the oven. 

3. Cook for about an hour until the contents are deeply roasted and caramelized. Stir, taste, and add more salt if needed. Cover until ready to serve.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sweet and Sour Zucchini

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats and eggs from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

While summer squash are at their peek, I recommend you try Fuchsia Dunlop's sweet and sour zucchini from Every Grain of Rice. As Dunlop points out, zucchini are not a common vegetable in Chinese cuisine, but I was happy to find a different approach for preparing these abundant summer vegetables. The squash are pre-salted to drain away some of their water content and then stir-fried over high heat. The recipe couldn't be simpler: slivered garlic, a pinch of salt and sugar, and a kick of Chinkiang vinegar, making a delicious accompaniment for Ma Po Doufo.

Sweet and Sour Zucchini

from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice
2 zucchini
2 Tbsp cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut each half into about three sections. Thinly slice each section lengthwise and place in a bowl. Add 1/2 tsp salt, mix well and set aside for 30 minutes or so. When you are ready to cook, drain the slices and squeeze them to get rid of excess water.

Heat a wok over a high flame. Add the oil, then the garlic, and stir-fry for a few seconds until you smell its fragrance. Add the zucchini and stir-fry until they are hot and just cooked, but still a little crisp. Add the sugar and vinegar, with salt to taste, stir a couple of times, then tip on to a dish and serve.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Millet with Roasted Corn and Summer Squash

Tomorrow at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to plenty of summer corn, summer squash, peppers, and tomatoes from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats and eggs from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

To use up the leftovers from our latest batch of grilled corn on the cob, I cooked up a pot of yellow millet and combined it with roasted summer squash wedges, yellow peppers, and onion, topped with a shower of torn basil. This cheerful yellow grain and vegetable side made a perfect accompaniment to several meals during a sunny summer vacation week.

Millet with Roasted Corn and Summer Squash
1 cup millet
2 cups water (or make a quick stock with the corn cobs)
4 corn cobs
2 summer squash
1 yellow pepper
1 onion
olive oil
1 handful of basil leaves

1. In a medium pot, combine 1 cup of millet, 2 cups of water, and a pinch of salt. Alternatively, if you've grilled the corn ahead, cut the kernels from the cobs and boil the cobs in 3 cups of lightly salted water for 15 minutes to make a quick stock. Use 2 cups of this stock for cooking the millet. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the millet tastes cooked. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 10 more minutes.

2. Remove most of the husks from the corn cobs, leaving a single layer of leaves, and grill on a hot grill, rotating, until the cobs have become quite charred. Remove from the heat, allow to cool enough to handle, and remove the remaining husks and silk. Use a large knife to cut the kernels from the cobs and reserve. 

3. Cut the summer squash into half or quarter moon slices. Core and chop the peppers into small wedges. Peel the onion and cut into small wedges. Toss the squash, peppers, and onions with a glug of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Grill on a vegetable rack over the grill or roast on a baking sheet in a 450 oven, flipping occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and have started to char.

4. Combine the millet, corn kernels, and other vegetables in a big serving bowl. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Beans and Baby Potatoes with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to a bounty of summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats and eggs from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

Sweetwater Farm has started harvesting their tomatillos, which, when juxtaposed last Sunday with spicy peppers and baby potatoes, seemed to dictate dinner.

I pan roasted halved tomatillos, along with some garlic cloves and peppers, for my favorite roasted tomatillo salsa from Rick Bayless. Then I drizzled the salsa over baby potatoes and tender yellow beans for a delicious vegetable side with broiled salmon. Summer simplicity packed with flavor.

Beans and Baby Potatoes with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Salsa (adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday)
1 pint of tomatillos
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 spicy peppers such as jalapeños

To roast the tomatillos, you will want to use a cast iron or nonstick skillet, or to avoid a messy cleanup, you can line a regular skillet with foil. Heat the skillet over medium high heat, and place in the unpeeled garlic cloves and whole jalapeños. Meanwhile, remove the husks from the tomatillos, rinse them, and cut them in half. Turn the jalapeños and garlic and cook until they are charred on both sides. Remove from the pan to cool. Place the tomatillo halves into the hot pan, cut side down, and allow to cook until they start to soften and collapse, turn more yellow, and char on the bottom. Flip them over and cook them for a few minutes on the other side. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. While the tomatillos are cooking, peel the garlic and place in a blender jar. Remove the stems from the jalapeño and all or some of the seeds, according to your preference for spiciness, and add these to the blender jar. Once the tomatillos have cooled a bit, add them to the blender jar, including all the charred bits from the bottom of the pan. Add a generous pinch of salt and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed. Reserve. 

I pint baby potatoes
2 handfuls yellow or green beans

Set a medium pot of salted water with the baby potatoes over medium high heat and cooked until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, slice in half, and arrange on a platter.

Set another medium pot of salted water to boil. Trim the beans. When the water is boiling, add the beans and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Arrange the beans over the potatoes. Drizzle with the salsa and serve water or at room temperature.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Zucchini Flatbreads with Gazpacho

Summer's bounty is reaching its peak right now, so come to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market tomorrow for ripe summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm, pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company.

At the height of our last heat wave, I made a delicious summer meal of zucchini flatbreads with chilled gazpacho. For the soup, I used Sweetwater Farm tomatoes, cucumbers  and lipstick peppers, following this New York Times recipe, which uses plenty of olive oil added slowly to the blender so that it emulsifies into a smooth juice (I was lazy and didn't strain the soup at the end, and it was still delicious).  

The zucchini flatbreads were inspired by a recipe for Turkish Kablaki Lahmacun that my sister shared from Rebecca Seal's Istanbul: Recipes from the Heart of Turkey. Zucchinis are sliced thin with a vegetable peeler and tossed with olive oil, green onions, and aleppo pepper, and then piled on flatbread dough with crumbled feta cheese. Again, I was lazy and rather than making the flatbread dough, I used some flour tortillas. And to avoid turning on the oven, I cooked the onions and zucchini on the stovetop and then finished the tortillas under the broiler of our toaster oven. It was a delicious meal that will become a summer standard.

Zucchini Flatbreads
makes four tortillas
2 small zucchini
4 green onions or 1 small onion or shallot
2 tsp aleppo pepper (or use a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne)
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 cup crumbled feta or cotija cheese
4 flour tortillas

1. Trim the tips off the zucchini and then use a vegetable peeler to cut them into long slices lengthwise. Mix the zucchini in a bowl with 1 Tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt, and the aleppo pepper. Trim the green onions and slice (or peel and dice the onion or shallot). 

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and the onions and cook until they become glassy. Add the zucchini and continue cooking until the zucchini is just cooked through. Remove from the heat.

3. Pile a quarter of the zucchini mixture on each of the tortillas and top with a quarter of the cheese. Cook the tortillas under the broiler of a toaster oven or regular oven until the cheese is melted and the tortillas toasted, being careful not to burn them (in the toaster oven they were each done after about four minutes). Serve at once.

Best Gazpacho
Adapted from the New York Times
About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
1 Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper, such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks (optional)
1 clove garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling

1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.

3. Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. (The straining is optional). Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.

4. Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Limite Market Hours August 2

The Fairmount Farmers Market will have limited hours tomorrow, from 11 Am - 1 PM, with pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, but Sweetwater Farm will not be in attendance because Eric and Tom will be celebrating their daughter's wedding. We wish them all the best.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Swiss Chard Fritters and Grilled Swiss Chard Stems

This promises to be a beautiful summer weekend, so plan in a trip to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market to pick up your week's groceries from a wide selection of summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farmpastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company. Be sure to grab a bunch of greens to work into your week's meals.

Last Sunday I picked up this lovely rainbow chard, along with onions, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes and some ground lamb. Sunday evening we had grilled lamb burgers and I caramelized onions for a pot of mujaddaraTo accompany the lamb burgers, I made a tomato and cucumber salad and we grilled the chard stems for a simplified version of these recipe with anchovy vinaigrette. The stems are first quickly blanched, then marinated, charred on the grill, and tossed back into the marinate bowl. They were tender and pungent and made one regret ever having relegated a chard stem to the compost heap.

After blanching the stems, I also blanched the chard leaves for the following evening's dinner, and, while the grill was going, roasted extra zucchini, peppers and a whole eggplant wrapped in aluminum foil and nestled directly into the coals. 

Monday night's dinner was these Swiss chard fritters from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's "Jerusalem: A Cookbook." They are delicate pancakes, held together with tangy feta cheese, and bursting with green flavors (I used chard, parsley  cilantro, and mint). They made a perfect meatless Monday meal, along with more mujaddara, grilled vegetables, and a roasted eggplant salad. Two delicious meals from a couple bunches of chard.

Grilled Swiss Chard Stems

Stems from 2 bunches Swiss chard (save greens for another use)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Splash sherry vinegar

1. Wash the chard stems, cut off any dark edges, and cut into 5 to 6-inch lengths.

2. Blanch stems in salted boiling water in batches till just tender, about 2 minutes per batch, then transfer to an ice bath. It is very important to follow all the rules of blanching and not overcrowd the pot. Any shortcuts here results in the color turning black.

3. Dry the blanched stems. In a pretty bowl large enough to hold the stems, combine the olive oil, garlic, and anchovy fillets and use the back of a fork to mash them into a paste. Toss the stems in the paste to coat.

4. Place the stems on the grill in a single layer. Grill long and slow until they become quite dark and charred but not burned. When they are done, transfer them back to the bowl with the anchovy paste, add a splash of sherry vinegar, some freshly ground pepper, and salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Swiss Chard Fritters

14 ounces (2 bunches) Swiss chard leaves, stems removed
½ cup Italian parsley leaves
¼ cup cilantro leaves
¼ cup mint leaves
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large eggs
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (1/2 cup)
 Olive oil
 Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add chard and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from pot and drain well, patting leaves dry with a paper or kitchen towel.

2. Place chard in food processor with herbs, sugar, flour, garlic and eggs. Pulse until well blended. Fold in feta by hand.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, spoon in 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture for each fritter (you should be able to fit three fritters per batch). Press down gently on fritter to flatten. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Add another tablespoon oil to pan and repeat. Serve warm, with lemon wedges (optional).