Saturday, October 27, 2018

Pumpkin Pancakes

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, stock up on pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including plenty of greens and root vegetables, and winter squash.

As soon as you get home, roast some winter squash and you will be that much closer to making this praline pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving (delicious made with traditional pie pumpkin or kabocha squash). You will also have plenty of squash puree left over for pumpkin pancakes for a special fall weekend breakfast. We devoured a batch this morning, served with dollops yogurt, sprinkles of flax seeds and maple syrup.

Pumpkin Pancakes
adapted from NYT Cooking, makes 16-20 small pancakes
1 ½ cups/192 grams all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ cups buttermilk
¾ cup pumpkin purée
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing the skillet
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together until well combined.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin purée, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract until well combined.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. (A few small lumps are O.K.)

4. Heat a lightly greased griddle or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Drop the pancakes into the pan using a heaping soup spoon, making sure to leave plenty of room in between for the batter to expand.

5. Cook for a minute or two, until the batter bubbles at the edges and browns on the bottom, then carefully flip. Cook another minute or two, until the batter is completely cooked through and the pancakes are puffy and deep golden brown. Repeat until all of the batter is used. Serve the pancakes as you make them or keep the pancakes warm as you cook them by setting them on a baking sheet in a 250-degree oven.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Sweet Potato and Carrot Salad with Cumin and Herbs

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, stock up on pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including plenty of greens and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes.

My standard dish with sweet potatoes is fries, but with the sunny weather we've been having, I felt like something lighter, so I went hunting for inspiration in my cookbook collection and came across a tamarind sweet potato salad in Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes. I didn't have tamarind or several of the other ingredients, but it inspired me to toss steamed sweet potato with toasted cumin seeds, a lime juice dressing, and plenty of mint and cilantro. With the addition of some purple carrots for color and crunch, this turned into a bright and refreshing salad that might just reappear on our Thanksgiving dinner table as a contrast to the beloved but soft and bland standbys.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Salad with Cumin and Herbs
1 large sweet potato
2 carrots
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 1 lime
1/2 tsp honey
salt to taste
1 handful mint leaves, chopped
1 handful cilantro leaves. chopped

1. Steam the sweet potato to cook through. I pressure cooked it in an Instant Pot for 18 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Peel the carrots and cut into similar sized cubes.

2. In a dry skillet, toast the cumin seeds briefly so that they become fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and bruise them with a pestle. Whisk together the cumin seeds with 1 Tbsp olive oil, juice from one lime, 1/2 tsp honey and a pinch of salt. Use the dressing to coat the sweet potato and carrots. Toss with the fresh herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Roast Lemon Herb Chicken with Root Vegetables

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, stock up on pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including plenty of root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, and celeriac.

Root vegetables are delicious roasted, and if you have the oven on, you should also roast a Fog Hollow Farm chicken. I like the method of spatchcocking the bird (removing it's backbone, which you can use to make a quick stock) and cooking it "under a brick" in a searing hot cast iron skillet to get the skin crispy and golden. Then you can flip it, tucking under some lemon slices and herbs to flavor the pan juices, and cook it at a lower temperature along with a sheet pan of cubed root vegetables.

I served our chicken with mash potatoes (always a favorite in our household), braised leeks, and a quick lemony gravy made with the pan juices. It felt like a low key dry run for Thanksgiving, which reminds me to remind you to reserve your Fair Valley Farm Thanksgiving turkey. 

Roast Lemon Herb Chicken with Root Vegetables
One 3 to 4 lb whole chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
drizzle of olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
6 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
1 Tbsp flour
1 to 2 cups chicken broth

selection of root vegetables (parsnips, celeriac, beet, sweet potato), cleaned, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch cubes to make about 3 cups.

optional quick chicken stock
chicken backbone
1 chopped onion
1 chopped celery stalk
4 sprigs thyme
1 tsp salt
4 cups water

1. At least two hours and up to one day before you start to roast the chicken, spatchcock it. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut along each side of the backbone from the neck to the tail, and remove the backbone (reserve for stock). Spread the chicken out and push down on the breast bone until you feel it break, so that the bird lies flat.Salt and pepper all over and rub the breast with olive oil. Refrigerate again if roasting in over two hours.

2. To make a quick chicken broth for the gravy, combine the chicken back bone with 4 cups water, 1 tsp salt, 4 sprigs thyme, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped celery stock, or other vegetables you have around, and let simmer over low heat for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and add more salt if needed. Strain and reserve the stock.

3. About one hour before baking, place a large cast iron skillet in the oven and start preheating at 500 degrees.

4. Prepare all of the root vegetables, cleaning and peeling as needed, and cut into 1 inch cubes. Toss on a rimmed sheet pan with salt and a drizzled of olive oil.

5. When the cast iron skillet is very hot, remove it from the oven and carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side down, with the legs splayed flat. Place an oven-safe plate on top of the chicken and weigh it down with a second skillet or some bricks. Roast for 15 minutes, then take the chicken out of the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Remove the weights from the chicken and transfer it to a plate. Distribute the lemon slices over the bottom of the chicken-cooking skillet, then the herbs, and then return the chicken to the skillet on top of the lemon and herbs, breast side up, and return the skillet to the oven. 

6. Place the sheet pan with root vegetables in the oven when you return the chicken.  Roast the chicken for about another 20 minutes until it is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 to 165 degrees. Give the root vegetables an occasional turn and keep an eye on them. They will be done when they are soft through and have some char around the edges. They will likely need another 10 minutes after you take out the chicken.

7. When the chicken is done, remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a carving platter and let it rest. Transfer the lemon slices and herbs to a serving platter. Heat the skillet with the pan juices over medium low heat. Using a whisk, stir 1 Tbsp flour into the pan juices. Once the mixture thickens, gradually add 1 to 2 cups of stock while whisking until the gravy is the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, some fresh lemon juice, or a splash of sherry.

8. At this point the root vegetables should be done and you can remove them from the oven. Carve the chicken and transfer to the serving platter on top of the cooked lemon slices. Serve with the roasted vegetables and gravy. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Tofu Puffs and Bok Choy Pickles

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, stock up on pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including plenty of root vegetables, squash, and bok choy.

We had a period last spring when we ate a lot of bok choy while my son was concocting a recipe for a 4J elementary school cooking competition with the theme of "healthy, kid-friendly Asian fusion" and extra points for using brown rice, tofu, bok choy, ginger, and garlic. He decided to hedge his bets and use all of the above. For the tofu, he made a ginger and garlic version of baked tofu cubes from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Everyday, coated with a soy sauce and cornstarch mixture that gives them a crispy surface, and they were an immediate hit. The first iteration of the bok choy was another matter. He had steamed these until quite soft and served them limply over plain brown rice. His older sister pushed hers around her plate with teenage contempt. My son initially wrote this off to her being a picky eater, but ultimately had to concede that she represented his target audience, who might be equally as picky. So he went back to the drawing board and came up with the idea of making quick pickles with the crunchy bok choy stems. This proved to be much more popular and had the added benefit of providing some sweet and salty pickle brine to drizzle on the brown rice. His recipe was chosen as one of the two representing his grade school in the citywide competition. The big day came when they all prepared their recipes in a cavernous cafeteria. Working with awkward knife guard gloves, abiding by food handling regulations, and producing 50 tasting samples were all challenging, but he stayed cheerful through it all and even came up with an eye catching Dr. Seuss-esque food plating design using denuded bok choy stalks.

Perhaps most rewardingly, his recipes have made their way into our regular family meal rotation, as in this rice bowl with tofu puffs.

Tofu Puffs and Bok Choy Pickles
for the tofu puffs
1 block extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp diced garlic
2 cloves garlic, diced

for the bok choy pickles
1 head bok choy (or two baby bok choy)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup rice vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Set a pot of brown rice to cook.

3. Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices, and press between two cutting boards to drain off excess liquid. Cut the slices into 1/2 inch cubes.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, soy sauce, corn starch, garlic, and ginger. Gently fold in the tofu cubes to coat with the soy sauce mixture. Spread them onto the parchment paper coated baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 or 35 minutes, turning once, until puffy and golden.

5. While the tofu bakes, prepare the quick pickles. Mix the sugar and salt into the hot water to dissolve and then stir in the vinegar. Allow to cool a few minutes.

6. Separate the leaves from the bok choy head and rinse well. Cut the white stems from the green leaves and reserve the greens for another use (stir fry or salad). Cut the white stems into 1/2 inch pieces, stir into the pickle brine, and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

7. Serve the tofu puffs with brown rice topped with the pickles and drizzled with some of the pickle brine.