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.