Saturday, December 31, 2016

Apple Marzipan Cake and Gingerbread Creatures

2016 has not stacked up to be the most beloved year, but I didn't want to let it slip away without documenting a few personal holiday baking triumphs. Above, from Luisa Weiss' Classic German Baking (a much appreciated Christmas cookbook present), is a towering apple marzipan cake. Infused with almond paste, and with apples both cubed within and splayed artfully on top with a glaze of apricot jam, it evoked powerful childhood taste memories of afternoon outings to elegant German cafes for the ritual of Kaffee und Kucken. The recipe can be found here.

In anticipation of Santa's visit, we had fun making gingerbread creatures, following the recipe from the Joy of Cooking (the classic version). When we ran out of patience for rolling and cookie cutting, we used up the final dough with free form snails, pretzels, and a friendly mole skink, sporting fetching icing spots.

Best wishes for peace and happiness in the new year.

Gingerbread Men 
from Joy of Cooking (makes 2 sheets of cookies)
gingerbread dough
1/4 cup butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/3 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

1/4 cup confectioner sugar
a few drops of water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Blend until creamy the butter and brown sugar and then beat in the dark molasses. Sift the flour and then resift with the remaining dry ingredients. Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture in about 3 parts, alternating with 1/4 cup water. You may have to work in the last of the flour mixture by hand. 

3. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness, cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place them on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. You can combine the scraps and chill in the freezer for a few minutes before rolling out again. When you run out of patience, turn the last scraps into hand-formed shapes like snails. If you like, decorate them with dried fruit such as currents and cranberries. 

4. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, according to their thickness. You can test them for doneness by pressing the dough with your finger. If it springs back after pressing, the gingerbread cookies are ready to be cooled on a rack. 

5. To decorate them with icing, stir the confectioner sugar and a few drops of water together in a small bowl to make a paste. Apply the icing with a toothpick or pipe through a sandwich bag with a tiny opening snipped in the corner. Allow to dry. The cookies will keep for a week or so if stored in an airtight container.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Happy Thanksgiving. This year we're roasting a turkey from Fair Valley Farm and trying it this way, with the legs splayed and braised. It smells delicious. 

For dessert I roasted our last kabocha squash from Camas Swale Farm, and I baked my favorite pumpkin pecan praline pie.

When we sit down to our feast, we will express our many thanks to the local growers who are providers of delicious food and stewards of our environment.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sheet Pan Spaghetti Carbonara

Plan to pick up your favorite fall vegetables at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market this Sunday. Last week, Camas Swale Farm had these magnificent brussels sprout stalks teaming with delectable sprouts and useful for reenacting Star Wars scenes on the walk home.

We've had a busy few weeks and I've been looking for inspiration for quick dinners. In my childhood, a common such meal in rotation was spaghetti carbonara. The sauce for this is just eggs beaten in a bowl with parmesan cheese and plenty of black pepper, and then cooked by being tossed with hot spaghetti as soon as it is drained, and then topped with bacon pieces. This was the one of the first dishes my mother learned to make from her French roommate when she was a starving student in Paris, and then she passed on the recipe to her subsequent roommate and my future aunt. A generation later, it was one of the first recipes my sister, my cousins, and I all mastered as teenagers. The recipe morphed in our household to include onions, peppers, and carrots, sauteed along with the bacon. 

Now a generation later, spaghetti carbonara seems to have receded from restaurant menus and cooking magazines. Perhaps it has been vilified by fears of Salmonella or lost favor with changing cultural paletes. When I've made it a few times for my children, who've been raised on roasted kale chips, they found the vegetables sautéed in bacon fat too greasy for their taste. Last week I reengineered the dish by roasting the ingredients on sheet pans in the oven rather than sautéing on the stove. And I incorporated brussels sprouts into the dish, which are a natural partner of bacon. It all came together in the time it took to boil water and cook spaghetti and the kids deemed it a good alternative to breakfast for dinner.

Sheet Pan Spaghetti Carbonara
serves 4
2 dozen brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered if big
2 carrots, sliced on an angle into ovals
1 small onion, chopped into 1/2 sized pieces
olive oil for drizzling on vegetable
salt to taste
6 slices of bacon
2 eggs
1/2 cup graded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
plenty of black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

1. Start preheating the oven to 425 degrees. It works well to use one large sheet pans and two smaller sheet pans or baking dishes that can fit side by side. If you are using sheet pans, place them in the preheating oven. Set a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Chop the vegetables. Remove 2 eggs from the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature.

2. On one small sheet pan or baking dish, spread out the bacon slices and place in the oven. Toss the chopped onions in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread these on another small sheet pan and place in the oven next to the bacon. In the same bowl, toss the halved brussels sprouts in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread them on the large preheated sheet pan and place on a second rack in the oven. In the same bowl, toss the sliced carrots in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Keep an eye on the items in the oven. In about 10 minutes, you should flip over the bacon and vegetables. In another 10 minutes, the bacon should be crispy and the onions should be soft and slightly charred. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain and scrape the onions into a bowl. Put the carrots on the onion sheet pan and return to the oven. The brussels sprouts should be done shortly after, and the carrots should cook in about 10 minutes, with one flip halfway through. Add the cooked vegetables to the bowl. Taste and add a little more salt if needed.

3. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions. In a large serving bowl, crack the eggs and beat. Add in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and black pepper. Position the bowl close to the sink with good pair of tongs handy. When the spaghetti is ready, drain it and immediately dump it in the egg bowl and toss to coat the spaghetti strands with cooked cheesy egg. Add the roasted vegetables to the serving bowl and crumble over the bacon and toss again (or keep the vegetables and bacon separate and allow everyone to serve themselves). Serve immediately with graded parmesan cheese.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Leek and Potato Soup

We have a respite from the rain, so be sure to come to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market tomorrow and pick up some fall produce from Camas Swale Farm.

We are well into soup season now, and I wanted to share the recipe for my children's favorite soup, leek and potato, which I suspect they like because it's the closet one can come to eating mashed potatoes in liquid form. 

Leek and potato soup was also a favorite in my household growing up, and the soup my mother usually served on Christmas Eve along with smoked fish, a tradition my sister and I have continued. Along the way, we've tinkered with the recipe, and settled on two key steps to bring out the most flavor in this soup. The first (my sister's insight) is to create a soup base of leeks stewed for an extended period of time in butter and olive oil until they are a soft puddle of mush. This will take a good half hour and feel interminable, but it imparts a rich, sweet, leek flavor on the soup. The second (my addition) is to make a leek stock with the leek and potato trimmings (and if you had the foresight, a chicken backbone that you've stashed in your freezer), thus eking out every last bit of leek flavor from your ingredients. And of course, it doesn't hurt to finish the soup off with a generous glug of heavy cream.

Leek and Potato Soup
serves 4-6
6 large potatoes
2 large or 3 small leeks
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
chives for garnish (optional)

1. Start the stock. Start heating about 8 cups of water in a stockpot with 1 Tbsp kosher salt. Cut off the green parts of the leeks. Rinse well, and chop coarsely, and add to the stockpot.  Rinse the potatoes, peel them, and submerge them in bowl with water to prevent them from discoloring. Add the peels to the stockpot. If you happen to have some other stock fixings (root vegetables, chicken backbone, an onion) add them to the stockpot as well. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least half an hour but longer is better. When to are ready to use the stock, pour to stockpot contents through a strainer into a large bowl or second pot and discard the solids. Taste for salt and add more as needed.

2. Prepare the soup base. Halve the white leek stocks lengthwise, rinse well and shake dry, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Heat a large soup pot over medium low heat. Add the butter and olive oil, and once the butter is melted, add the leek slices and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to medium low and cook the leek pieces, stirring often and avoiding letting them brown, until they are cooked through to a softened mound. This will take about 30 minutes, but is the secret to making the final soup very flavorful. 

3. Meanwhile, cut the peeled potatoes into 6 to 8 pieces. When the leeks are cooked through, add 6 cups of stock and the potato pieces. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until the potato pieces are very soft. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Add the cream. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste. If the soup seems too thick, thin it with a little more stock. Return to the heat to warm to just below a simmer. Serve hot with chopped chives for garnish.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower, Lamb Koftas, and Parsnip Fries

With the deluges descending, the Fairmount Neighborhood Market will not be open this Sunday October 16, but expect them back on October 23. This weather reminds us to turn our attention the colorful diversity of winter vegetables available from Camas Swale Farm.

Last week I picked up these pillowy heads of cauliflower, leeks, parsnips, and chard, along with some lamb chorizo meat from Fair Valley Farm. They all came together in a feast of lamb kofta, roasted cauliflower and leeks, parsnip fries, sautéed chard, and Israeli couscous. 

Roasted Cauliflower
1 large or two small heads of cauliflower
1 leek
drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkle of salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the cauliflower head in quarters and remove the green leaves. Slice the quartered cauliflower head into bite sized florets and transfer to a rimmed sheet pan.  Remove the outer leaves of the leek, cut off the root and green tips, slice lengthwise and rinse out any dirt by fanning the leaves under running water. Slice the leek halves into 1 inch lengths and add to the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and spices, toss well, and put in the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower are soft and well charred.

Parsnip Fries
4 parsnips
drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkle of salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place in a rimmed sheet pan. Peel the parsnips and cut them into thin matchsticks about 1 1/2 inches long. In a bowl, toss the matchsticks with olive oil and salt to coat. Remove the heated sheet pan from the oven and quickly spread out the parsnips in a single layer (if you are making a lot, do this in a couple of batches rather than crowd them). Roast for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are nicely browned and crisp.

Lamb Kofta
1 lb lamb chorizo meat
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place in a oven safe skillet such as cast iron. Combine the meat, bread crumbs, and egg and shape into 2 inch long ovals. Remove the heated skillet from the oven and drizzle a little olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the kofta into the pan and return it to the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, rotate the kofta once, until almost cooked through. Turn on the broiler and place the pan under for a minute to sear the kofta. Serve warm.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fennel, White Bean, and Tuna Gratin

Sunday should be sunny and a perfect day for a stroll to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market to pick up some colorful produce from Camas Swale Farm and recapture the fleeting flavors of summer.

Last week I picked up a fennel bulb, which I love to cook in a fennel and sardine pasta with lemony breadcrumbs. But then this recipe for a white bean and tuna gratin caught my fancy, because it reminded me both of a favorite white bean and tuna salad and Julia Child's salmon gratin from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, which my mother used to cook as a regular weeknight meal. Certain of my childhood dishes don't translate well to my children's taste, who prefer bright, fresh flavors to cream sauces. I've already reengineered Julia's dish of a creamy gratin, laced with white vermouth and sprinkling of gruyere cheese, as salmon and barely cakes, but truth be told, frying patties is more work than sticking a casserole in the oven. I liked the idea of including legumes in a gratin and lightening it up with fennel and lemon. 

This is the resulting dish, packed with fragrant fennel and topped with a crunchy lemony bread crumb and gruyere crust. It was delicious eaten with kamut and roasted broccoli and red peppers, fresh from the farm.

Fennel, White Bean, and Tuna Gratin
served four
1 fennel bulb
1 small onion or 2 shallots
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 tin tuna in olive oil
1 cup milk, heated to just below scalding
1/4 cup white vermouth
juice from 1 small lemon
3 cups cooked white beans (from 1 cup dried, or 2 15 ounce cans)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1 handful fennel fronds
zest from 1 small lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dice the fennel bulb and the onion and reserve a few fennel fronds for the bread crumb topping. Zest and juice 1 small lemon. Combine the bread crumbs, lemon zest, chopped fennel fronds, and gruyere and reserve.

2. Heat a large skillet and melt the butter. Add the diced fennel and sauté until glassy. Add the diced onion and sauté until both are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add the olive oil from the tuna tin, then add the flour and whisk into the fat. Continue whisking as you slowly add the hot milk to make a light roux. Add the white vermouth and lemon juice. Generously salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the white beans and tuna. 

3. Pour the white bean and tuna mixture into a 9 inch square oven proof dish. Top with the bread crumb mixture.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the bread crumb topping is nicely browned. Serve with whole grains such as wheat berries, barley, or kamut.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Squash

This week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, Fair Valley Farm will be selling their pastured meats along with Camas Swale Farm's gorgeous fall produce. Camas Swale Farm plans to continue the market through October and possibly into November, so you can look forward to more winter squash, like these beautiful kabochas,

and storage vegetables like parsnips and colorful carrots.

I was curious to try a sweet and sour roasted squash recipe from Melissa Clark (and our new resident cat was curious to inspect the opened squash).

Clark's recipe combines roasted squash with broiled tofu, which sounds delicious, but I was already preparing caramelized tofu for banh mi, so I just roasted the squash. Coated in cooking oil whisked with soy sauce, sriracha sauce, and honey, they blister up in a hot oven into delectably crispy squash slabs.

With the colorful carrots I made a quick pickled garnish for the banh mi, a family favorite meal that every member assembles differently with varying ratios of tofu, paté, mayonnaise, butter, and hot chiles. The squash slices added extra color and crunch to the meal.

Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Squash
adapted from Melissa Clark
1 small kabocha squash
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce or to taste
Kosher salt, and black pepper
¼ cup peanut or canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Halve the squash and remove the seeds and pulp. Cut squash into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons. Cut each slice in half again.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sriracha and a pinch of salt. Whisk in peanut or canola oil and honey. Spread squash out on a large baking sheet and pour honey-soy mixture over it. Sprinkle squash lightly with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast until bottoms are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Flip and roast until uniformly golden and soft, about 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Millet Skillet Bread

The passing of the fall equinox and shortening days are reflected in the Fairmount Farmers Market's selection of winter vegetables, like these pretty delicata squash from Camas Swale Farm. But the fun of summer is not completely gone, and this Sunday the corner of Agate and 19th will anchor the Sunday Streets event from noon to 4 PM, with all manner of foot and cycle traffic and activities between Washbourne and Amazon Parks.

Roasted delicata squash is a favorite in our household, and turning on the oven inspired me to make a skillet bread, which inspired me to make a pot of chili. I had some leftover cooked millet, and the alliteration made it an obvious addition to my regular skillet corn bread. Searching the internet for inspiration uncovered this quinoa skillet bread from Heidi Swanson. As in this spider cake, her recipe includes cream poured into the center for a custardy core. I used half as much as she called for, and liked the effect, but you could use the full amount or leave it out entirely for a more traditional corn bread. Enjoy with some wintery roasted vegetables and soup or stew.

Millet Skillet Bread
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 cup (115 g) flour
3/4 cup (115 g) yellow cornmeal (coarse)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups cooked millet*
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups regular milk plus 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar)
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream (optional, but will give the bread a rich, creamy center)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F C degrees and place a rack in the top third. Place in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet such as a cast-iron pan.

2. In a large bowl stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.

3. In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the cooked millet. Then beat in the eggs, salt and sugar. Finally, mix in the buttermilk.

4. Remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add the final tablespoon of butter to the pan and swirl to melt the butter and coat the pan.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until the batter comes together. Pour the batter into the heated skillet. If using, pour the heavy cream into the center of the batter and do not stir. 

6. Carefully place in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until the top becomes lightly browned and the center just set. Serve warm.

*To cook a pot of millet, combine 1 part millet to 2 parts water in a rice cooker and cook or in a pot and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Pizza

The fall harvest is in full swing at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, including these beautiful speckled eggplants from Camas Swale Farm.

With the temperatures dropping, turning on the oven for pizza was appealing, and once I had it preheating, I thought I'd roast some toppings ahead.

Roasting the eggplant cubes gave them a wonderful caramelized exterior, while making them meltingly soft and creamy inside. They paired perfectly with melting chunks of feta and crunchy slices of pimento pepper. I can recommend this combination as a delicious harvest pizza pie.

Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Pizza

1 recipe of Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough (enough for four individual pizzas)
tomato sauce (preferably made with fresh rooms)
1 small eggplant per pizza
1 sweet red pepper per pizza
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese per pizza
fresh basil leaves for garnish

1. Prepare the pizza dough the evening before, according to Lahey's instructions. Combine 500 g flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1 1/2 cups (350 g) water, and mix briefly in an electric mixer or by hand until combined into a ball. Cover and let stand for about 18 hours.

2. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Toss the eggplant cubes with a sprinkle of kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon per eggplant) and leave in a colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Seed and slice the pepper. Cut the feta into 1/2 inch cubes.

3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and insert a pizza stone if you are using one. 

4. Squeeze the eggplant cubes in a clean dishcloth to remove released moisture and toss the pieces with a generous drizzle of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Insert into the preheating oven and bake for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through with a spatula, until the eggplant pieces are browned and soft. 

5. Meanwhile, divide the dough into four balls, flour them lightly, and shape them according to Lahey's instructions (or use a rolling pin to roll them out on a silicone mat). Sprinkle polenta on a baking sheet or pizza peel and place the pizza dough on top. If you like, you can prebake the crust for 5 minutes in the preheated oven to ensure an extra crispy pizza.

6. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the dough, distribute over the roasted eggplant pieces, the sliced red pepper, and then cubed feta.  Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the crust in browned and the cheese is bubbling. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Honey Stewed Asian Pear Preserves

There is a nip in the air these days that is a reminder to put away some of the summer's produce for colder days. Camas Swale Farm has had some beautiful Asian pears, which inspired me to share this canning project from last fall. We've been enjoying these honey stewed Asian Pears all year long, drizzled over waffles and pancakes, and we're just about ready for a new batch.

For a recipe for preserving Asian pears I turned to Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves recommended by a trusted authority.

The recipe included quite a bit of lemon juice, because Asian pears are not very acidic, but the honey tempers the lemons'  sourness. The instructions worked beautifully, except that I ended up with 3 extra pints of quartered pears which required an additional half recipe of stewing liquid.

Diedrich suggests adding anise seeds, coriander seeds, or fresh ginger slices to the jars. I tried the fresh ginger. I liked it, but I thought it overpowered the pears a little and I think I will leave it out the next time.

Once all the pear peeling is complete, the actual preserving just involves a quick 5 minute stewing in the honey syrup without any of the anxiety about jams jelling, making this a great recipe for a beginning canner. And once you've processed your cans of stewed pears, you can enjoy your handiwork all winter long.

Linda Diedrich's Asian pears stewed in honey
makes about 6 pints

8.5 lb Asian pears (for me, this was 16 pears, which filled 9 pint jars when cut into quarters, requiring another half recipe of the stewing liquid)

1 1/4 cups (420 g) honey
3 1/4 cup water
grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup (118 g) lemon juice (I used about 6 small lemons)
3/4 teaspoon anise seeds or coriander seeds or 6 slices of ginger (optional)

1. Peel and core the Asian pears, slice them in quarters. 

2. In a preserving pan, combine the honey, water, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring a bit to dissolve the honey.

3. Immediately drop the pear quarters into the hot syrup. Simmer the fruit for 5 minutes, skimming off any foam.

4. While the fruit simmers, divide the spices, if using them, among sterilized quart or pint mason jars.

5. After the fruit has simmer for 5 minutes, remove it from the syrup with a slotted spoon and add it to the jars. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit, leaving 1/2 inc headspace in each jar. Add lids and rings, and process the jars in a boiling-water bath— pints for 20 minutes, quarts for 25 minutes.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Padron Peppers and Paella

These days Camas Swale Farm has an impressive array of summer peppers, including these spicy padron peppers. A Spanish tapas specialty, also known as shishito peppers in Asian cuisine, they are famous for having variable levels of heat, making eating them a bit of  gamble. We had ours seared whole in olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt, and they were all very spicy but with some reaching a scorching level of spiciness.

Seared Padron Pepper
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Coat the bottom with olive oil and then add the whole patron peppers. Sear the peppers, rotating them with tongs, until they are charred and blistered. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with a word of caution.

Seared patrons work well as an accompaniment to a fragrant pan of Spanish paella. Paella is a big, celebratory dish, but it can be quite simple if you plan ahead and make it the day after a grilled meal. Then you can grill extra tomatoes, peppers, and onions for a saucy base for the rice and extra sausage to nestle in among the shellfish. We made a big pan at the coast recently. I remembered to pack a box of Arborio rice, saffron, and a frozen pint of crab stock. We didn't have sausages or peas, but incorporated some bacon and grilled zucchini for a similar effect. If you don't have specific expectations, it can be a very forgiving dish to feed a crowd.

serves 6 to 8 
use this as a guide and tailor to your tastes and available ingredients

3 cups (500 g) Arborio or other short grain rice 

olive oil
1 large onion seared and chopped
4 large or 8 roma tomatoes, seared and chopped to make about 2 cups
4 peppers, sweet and mildly spicy, seared, seeded, and chopped
4 cups stock, preferably homemade from crab or shrimp shells, but could use chicken
4 sausages such as spicy chorizo, grilled and cut into  half-moon slices
2 pounds shellfish such as clams or mussels
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 large pinch saffron
red pepper to taste
salt to taste
fresh parsley for garnish

1. If you plan ahead, you could grill the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and sausages a day ahead. Or you could broil them before starting the rice, making sure they are nicely charred. Also ahead of time, desand the clams and debeard the mussels if necessary.

2. Choose a large, wide pan such as a paella pan that will hold all of the ingredients. Heat over medium heat and when the pan is hot, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the chopped onions and sauté to soften for a few minutes. Add the rice and sauté to coat with oil and toast a bit. When the rice kernels become more whitish, add the chopped tomatoes, peppers, stock, and saffron. Stir and then distribute the sausage slices over the rice. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to medium low, sample some of the rice broth and add salt and red pepper to taste. Allow the rice to simmer for about 20 minutes. Refrain from stirring if want to create a bottom crust or socarrat. Keep an eye on the liquid level and add drizzles of boiling water if it looks like it is getting too dry.

3. After 20 minutes of simmering, the rice should be partially cooked but still hard in the center, and the liquid level in the pan should be a little more soupy than you want the final dish. Now add the shellfish, nestling them into the rice with their hinge sides down. Cover the pan and let steam 5 minutes. Uncover and check on the shellfish, which should be mostly opened. Sprinkle over the peas, add a little more water if needed, recover, and steam for another 3 minutes. Uncover and taste the rice. It should taste firm and just a little undercooked (it will keep cooking off the heat). Add salt and pepper and cook a few more minutes if needed. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Plum Torte

At last week's farmers market, Camas Swale Farm had these gorgeous purple plums, a welcome sight because I've been baking a lot of plum tortes from this New York Times classic recipe by Marian Burros.

The recipe starts with a standard cake batter of creamed butter and sugar. Then you pile on plum halves, sprinkle with a bit of sugar and an hour later you have the most perfectly moist cake infused with fragrant plum juices. You can serve it as a dessert or an afternoon teacake and with just a little bit of rationalization, as breakfast fare because of all the fruit. Be prepared to start baking your second one as soon as you cut into the first.

Marian Burros’s Plum Torte
¾ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
 Pinch of salt (optional)
2 eggs
24 halves pitted purple plums
Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon for topping

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well. (I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract at this point.)

3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon. (I just used a teaspoon of raw sugar and no lemon juice or cinnamon).

4. Bake one hour, approximately, until the top is brown and a fork come out of the cake clean. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.

5. To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Creamy Kohlrabi Slaw

Don't let the heat deter you from shopping at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, because the best antidote to hot weather is deliciously flavorful produce that requires no cooking. A case in point is this lovely kohlrabi from Camas Swale Farm. I love kohlrabi grilled or cooked in a curry, but it is also deliciously refreshing raw in a slaw. I salted it first to release some of the moisture, and then tucked it in a creamy dressing full of tarragon and chives. This was a great addition to a cold dinner of salads and smoked fish, a meal we'll be repeating until the temperatures drop low enough to imagine turning back on the stove.

Creamy Kohlrabi Slaw
4 kohlrabi
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives and tarragon (or experiment with other fresh herbs)

Trim the kohlrabi generously to remove any woody exterior, slice thinly and cut the slices into julienne. Toss the kohlrabi in the salt and leave in a strainer over a bowl for about 15 minutes to drain out the moisture. Meanwhile, mix together all the remaining ingredients in your serving bowl (if you like, save a few chives for garnish). Once a few tablespoons of moisture have been released from the kohlrabi, squeeze it to release additional moisture and then fold it into the creamy dressing. Garnish with reserved chives. Serve immediately or chill to serve later. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Roasted Pepper and Onion Toasts

Sweet peppers and onions don't get much prettier than these varieties from Camas Swale Farm at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

These long, red specimens seemed made for each other. My son has recently discovered that roasted red peppers are basically parent sanctioned candy, so they've been making a regular appearance at our dinner table.

A handy tool for deseeding and deveining these narrow peppers is one that might just be lurking in your cutlery drawer, threatening sleepy cereal eaters: the grapefruit spoon.

I roasted them together in the toaster oven (too hot to turn on the real oven these days) with a lot of olive oil and a few sprigs of marjoram.

We ate the resulting caramelized goodness simply piled on slices of toasted baguette. On a hot day, these toasts plus some cold gazpacho makes a perfect dinner.

Roasted Pepper and Onion Toasts
4-8 sweet peppers
1-2 onions
olive oil
several springs of marjoram or thyme
sliced bread

Seed and slice the peppers into 1 inch strips. Peel and slice the onions into eighths. Preheat a toaster oven to 450 degrees. Toss the vegetables in several slugs of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast in a toasting oven pan with the sprigs of herbs, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, until caramelized and slightly charred. Transfer the caramelized vegetables to a bowl. Rub the bread slices in the remaining oil in the pan, flip and drizzle on a little more olive oil if desired. Toast until lightly brown on the edges. Pile the caramelized peppers and onions onto the toast and serve.