Monday, December 14, 2009

Success with Squash

As you probably noticed, we are well into the winter season where fresh, local produce is harder to come by. Many of the Farmers Markets are closed for the season, and certainly most CSAs have ended. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a wonderful time of year to cook, and so I will try my best to keep sharing my experiences here, maybe in just more creative ways. :)

Squash is in season in the fall and early winter, and can be found in abundance in the market right now. There are many different kinds, and I certainly don’t call myself an expert, but my favorites are
Acorn and Butternut. I have a few recently successfully prepared recipes to share with you (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa and Cooking Light)!

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Source: 2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, All Rights Reserved
Yield: 4 servings

• 1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
• Good olive oil
• 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
• 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons minced shallots
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Serve immediately.

Notes: The olive oil and maple syrup do wonders to the squash, making it nice and caramelized. I recommend cooking it for a little longer even until they start to brown and get the nice roasted flavor. The recipe also called for 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted, but I have nut allergies in my family so I left those out. Also, I found the amount of parmesan cheese a little excessive, so I recommend putting a little in at a time and tossing till it is the amount you like.

Risotto with Acorn Squash, Pancetta, and Jack Cheese
Source: Karen MacNeil, Cooking Light, October 2004
Yield: 4 servings

• 1 1/2 pounds Acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
• Olive oil, salt and pepper
• 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
• 1 1/3 cups water
• 2 tablespoons Madeira wine or sweet Marsala
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
• 6 – 8 ounces chopped pancetta
• 1 cup finely chopped onion
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 3/4 cup uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
• 2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese or other spicy cheese
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• Fresh tarragon sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 475°.

Toss squash in about 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place squash on a nonstick jelly-roll pan and bake at 475° for 20 minutes or until tender, turning after 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Combine broth, water, wine, and tarragon in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Keep warm over low heat.

Cook pancetta in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan; drain on a paper towel. Discard pan drippings. Add onion and oil to pan; sauté 10 minutes or until onion is tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add rice to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth mixture; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, and simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes. (Do not stir; rice will have a liquid consistency similar to stew.)

Place pan in oven; bake at 325° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Stir in the squash, pancetta, cheese, salt, and pepper. Cover with a clean cloth; let stand 10 minutes (rice will continue to cook). Garnish with tarragon sprigs, if desired.

Notes: You can use Acorn or Butternut for this recipe. Next time I cook this, I will toss the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper (not called for in the original recipe) in an effort to roast and caramelize the squash much like in the salad recipe above. Without it, I felt that the squash was a little bland. I also increased the amount of pancetta from the original recipe, why not! Again, I left out 1 tsp (pine) nuts, but in this case mostly because I am not a big fan. :)

Baked Acorn Squash w/ Butter and Brown Sugar
Source: Packer Family!
Serves: 3 – 4

One acorn squash
2 – 4 tablespoons of butter
2 – 4 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cut acorn squash into half, lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place into baking pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, 45 minutes.

Split butter and brown sugar into each cavity of the squash, and bake uncovered, for 10 - 20 minutes, or until butter is melted and bubbly and squash is fully cooked.

Shortcut! Baking for the full time in the oven frankly takes too long for me. So I get the process started in the microwave:

Use a fork to stab holes into the whole acorn squash, about 7 times. Cook in microwave on high for 10 – 15 minutes until soft to the touch.

Cut acorn squash into half, lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place into baking pan, and put desired amount of butter and brown sugar into each cavity of the squash. Bake uncovered, for 10 - 20 minutes, or until butter is melted and bubbly and squash is fully cooked.

Hope you all incorporate squash into your winter menus! I would love to hear your ideas on other interesting squashes to add to mine. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Basil Preservation

I held out as long as I could, but the last few days of cold weather has taken its toll on our basil. Fall is officially here and I need to face the music!

Typically I just make pesto in the food processor and freeze it. Super easy. However after getting the basil cleaned and dried I realized I didn't have enough pine nuts. I decided to forge ahead anyway using salt, garlic olive oil and of course basil. (Marcella Hazan recommends adding the cheese and butter in right before using.) I spooned the mixture into a clean ice tray and popped it in the freezer. The ice tray trick is from my sister in law, Penny. It makes serving sizes which will come in handy this winter when I want to add a little summer brightness to sauces and soups.

I plan on using a bit of pesto as the filling for tonight's dinner of crespelle.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Easy Oven-dried Tomatoes

I am in serious denial that summer is over! This year I planted my first real garden and have really enjoyed having so much yumminess in my backyard. My favorite thing so far has definitely has been fresh tomatoes. Cannot be beat! I planted 5 varietals: chocolate cherry, sungold, beefsteak, plum, and one other I can't remember. Delicious so many ways.

Some day I would like to learn how can, but for this year I've been preserving tomatoes by making sauce or peeling whole tomatoes and storing in the freezer. And let's just say our freezer is getting mighty full! So I was excited to come across a more space friendly method...oven drying.

We use sun dried tomatoes a lot but they can be expensive. I had no idea how easy they are to make especially if you have a convection oven. Here are the steps (I used plum tomatoes):
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  2. Quarter washed tomatoes
  3. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
  4. Place in one layer on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  5. Cook for 12 hours (or until tomatoes have dried to desired consistency)

You can either freeze or store in a jar with some olive oil. So easy and so yummy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

30 minute, yummy veggie meal

This month's Cooking Light has some great recipes, and the one I picked tonight was a real winner: eggplant and goat cheese sandwiches. It is a great opportunity to use those lingering veggies from your gardens or CSA, as well as some of that pesto you've got stocked up in the freezer. :) The recipe is not yet online, so I will share it here:

Serves 2:
  • One medium eggplant, cut into 6 slices (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into quarters, seeds and membranes removed
  • Pesto
  • Goat cheese
  • 4 slices crusty white bread, like ciabatta
  • Handful of baby arugula or mix of greens
  • Olive oil

1. Preheat broiler

2. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheeting. Brush both sides with olive oil. Arrange bell pepper quarters, skin sides up on baking sheet as well, flatten with hand. Broil about 4 minutes until eggplant is browned, and then turn eggplant over. Broil additional 4 minutes or so and then remove eggplant from oven. Leave peppers in until blackened, then place in a ziplock bag, seal and let stand for 15 min. Peel and discard skin.

3. Broil bread slices until lightly browned on one side. Spread pesto on one side and goat cheese on the other. Layer eggplant, peppers and arugula between the slices.

4. Serve with pre-made creamy tomato soup.

Delish and so quick!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Casseroles - yum!

I'm a sucker for casseroles, especially those that use a variety of fresh and seasonal veggies. Check out these 10 fall casseroles on MSN's delish for some great new ideas. I’m especially interested in the Pumpkin and Cauliflower casserole, and with pumpkins taking over the grocery stores in preparation for Halloween, what a great way to take advantage of the affordable gourd.

Monday, September 21, 2009

To CSA or not to CSA - My Take

Like Heather, this was my first experience with a CSA and while we’ve definitely had some struggles (lots of kale/chard, too many turnips and those funny looking white carrots), we’ve loved the experience overall and enjoyed experimenting with new (to us) produce. While I’d heard of and enjoyed bok choy at restaurants, I’d never purchased or cooked it and beets were something that came out of a can. With my CSA, I’ve learned to appreciate the adventures that come with fresh, seasonal and local ingredients and have found an appreciation for that bulbous root vegetable – the kohlrabi.

It’s been fun to see how our produce changes with the weeks, evolving from mostly greens and root vegetables to more of the fruits and veggies associated with long summer days: tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and the like. And I’ve enjoyed learning new methods and techniques for preparing my weekly CSA bounty while subbing in seasonal options instead of my usual go-to ingredients.

In an ideal world, I’d travel out to the farm each week to pick up my share, choose my options on the selection table, and take home any extra you-pick items on the board that week. But it’s just not feasible for my husband or me to trek out to Carnation once a week so we opted for the delivery option, which brings our share a mere few blocks from our house. Unfortunately, our delivery location isn’t a farmers market, but a front porch, from where I pick up my box and try to leave as quietly as possible but it’s quick, easy and convenient.

The biggest challenge I've faced with my CSA, has come the last couple of weeks while my husband’s been traveling. Our weekly share is a challenge for the two of us to complete and virtually impossible for me to conquer alone. So I’ve become a bit more creative, shucking and freezing corn, creating casseroles for later consumption (I’ve heard Heather’s mom’s squash casserole keeps well and have one in my freezer right now) and filling my freezer to the brim with different pestos and sauces. While these concoctions will be much appreciated during the cold winter months, it has caused quite a bit more work than I’m used to taking on when home alone.

So will I renew my CSA membership next year? I think Will and I are CSA-ers for life…or at least for as long as we live in the great Pacific Northwest. I’ve never tasted such wonderful fresh produce while really forcing myself to push my kitchen comfort level. Yes, it’s a challenge to use every random item each week – and I must confess I’ve ignored kale and chard several times, leaving me no choice but throw it out – but it’s such a fun surprise to open my CSA box each week.

Monday, September 14, 2009

To CSA or not to CSA?

Recently we received very disappointing news that Dog Mountain Farm will not be continuing their CSA Subscriptions next year.* As such, we are on the search for a new local produce provider and I thought I would share my process with you all.

If you are just starting out, LocalHarvest is a valuable resource. I would also encourage you to spend some time at your local Farmers Market, talking to the vendors and asking questions. You’ll get a feel pretty quickly about which ones would be a good match. After two years perusing and sampling the bounties of other vendors at the Capitol Hill Farmers Market, I have gotten to know a little bit about several of them. Without having specifically experienced each CSA, I won’t comment on my opinions here, but I would be happy to chat one-on-one with any of you. :)

The most critical aspect about a CSA for us is that it is all local. Do a little bit of reading, and you’ll find out that some farms will buy produce from out of state/country to supplement what they grow themselves. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if eating bananas, pineapples and mangos are really important to you, but for us, it is about taking advantage of what Washington has to offer.

Secondly, we love the small farmer. Getting to know Cindy and David at Dog Mountain and watching them learn, succeed, fail – only to try again – and love their farm, has been such a rewarding and educating experience. It is hard to imagine that we would get this personal touch with a farm that supports several hundred subscriptions (see # of Shares on LocalHarvest listing or inquire directly).

Delivery versus pickup: every farm handles their CSA differently, with some doing direct delivery, some offering farm pickup and some organizing a pickup at a Farmers Market or other location. We highly recommend the pickup from the Farmers Market. And here’s why: exposure to the farmers, other shoppers, vendors, etc. Just being around the Farmers Market community will help motivate and educate you on the value of eating seasonally and locally. Plus, you can supplement your CSA with things like fruit, flowers, dairy and meat. Read
Price Challenge: Hollywood Farmers Market vs. New Seasons to see how you can save money!

There are lots of other differentiators that you should explore when chosing a CSA; flexibility in size and occurrence of packages, ability to pick and choose items, and of course price.

The funny thing is, we have pretty much decided that we are not going to sign up for a CSA next summer and instead challenge ourselves to put together our own produce package each week at the Farmers Market. The upside being we get to choose our own veggies (a few less weeks of Kale perhaps?) :) and shop at multiple vendors. The down side being we won’t have pre-paid so there is no forcing function getting us to the market every Sunday! Please let me know if you have thoughts on this!

Either way, now is a good time to start your planning for next summer’s CSA. The markets will be open for a few more weeks, so get out and start researching! Otherwise, make sure you remember to sign up in later winter/early spring as many farms do fill up!

* A full farm is a lot of work! David and Cindy have decided to narrow their focus a bit and spend more time on their poultry business. They will still be at the Farmers Markets and host their Farm Dinners so good news for us!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cooking for Fido

Saw a great recipe on Dogland Adventures using such farmers market and CSA staples as carrots, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower to make a great meal for your furry friend. Why not share your fresh goodies with Fido and prepare a healthy, all nautural meal to make that pooch feel like a prince or princess for the night?

No cooking required

I’ve been remiss about posting here, partly due to end of summer doldrums and partly due to my feeling of intimidation towards my other KD partners – seemingly culinary geniuses! So in honor of the end of summer – and to highlight some of my creative non-cooking skills – this entry is all about the greatness of fresh produce…in the raw.

I love fresh salsa and have been delighted by all the beautiful tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro shipped my way each week. Few things are better to me than a nice chunky salsa, with chopped tomatoes, diced onion (I like a LOT of onion, both for crunch and flavor), a couple jalapeños (I generally use 1 spicy pepper for each two tomatoes used), a big handful of cilantro, some finely diced garlic and lime juice. Throw in some salt and whichever other seasonings you like and voila. Mix this concoction with some mashed avocados and some extra lime juice and you’ve got a great guacamole. Don’t like chunky salsa? Peel the tomatoes and throw everything in the food processor. If you have cabbage on hand, throw some in for added crunch. I won’t include any exact measurements here because in my opinion, salsa is all about your preference and tastes you prefer.

Salads are always a great way to use a ton of fresh veggies (check out Melissa’s post on a recent Bittman article for some great ideas) and it’s fun to get creative and use what you have on hand. As my husband and I learned recently when we were chopping up goodies for salads before realizing we didn’t have any greens on hand, purple cabbage provides a nice and beautiful bed for whatever salad veggies you’re using.

And in my opinion, few things are better than a tomato and onion sandwich on fresh white bread with a bit of mayo. Nothing tastes quite as much like summer as a fresh, sweet tomato.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mock Apple Pie

My friend Amy who's an amazing baker made a pie for girl's night last week. She didn't tell us what the filling was, but we all assumed it was apple. Surprise! It was made with zucchini. Yep, that's right you read zucchini! And it was GOOD. Truth be told it wasn't as good as an apple pie--tasted a bit too healthy--but that's nothing a bit more butter couldn't take care of.

So for those of you struggling to find new ways to use those zucchini, I highly recommend trying your hand at mock apple pie. I don't have the exact recipe Amy used but here's one I found on the web. If you do make it, don't tell your dinner guests that it's zucchini and see what they think.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

By Request, Packer Family Recipes: Mom's Marinated Coleslaw & Great Zucchini Casserole

If your garden or fridge is overflowing with fresh vegetables, then these two recipes are for you! Straight from the Packer family cookbook, I grew up on these summer staples and think they are such an easy way to cook up a delicious meal for your family or guests.

Mom's Marinated Coleslaw
Serves: Many! And I am not kidding, this is an enormous recipe, but it is very easy to adjust. Just throw together what you think is a reasonable amount of vegetables and cut the marinade recipe by half or thirds.

Your Cuisinart is your best friend for this recipe, adjust the blades accordingly for:
1 medium to large cabbage, shredded – I like to use a mix of green and purple cabbage
2 large carrots, shredded
2 scored cucumbers, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, diced or sliced thin – any color will do!
1 medium red or yellow onion, in ¼ sliced rings
**Optional: 1 kohlrabi, peeled and shredded!**

¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
¾ cup white vinegar – I like to use white wine vinegar
1/8 cup salt
¾ cup salad oil – I like to use Saffola oil

Mix and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight, turning occasionally

Great Zucchini Casserole
Serves: 8 – 10
4 medium zucchini, sliced or cubed 1/3 inch thick
6 T butter (can be part olive oil)
½ cup chopped onion
¾ - 1 cup shredded carrots
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup sour cream (can be part yoghurt)
3 cups herbed, cubed bread stuffing

Melt 4 T butter and sauté onions. Add carrots and zucchini and cook a few minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 ½ cup stuffing, soup and sour cream
Turn into a 1 ½ quart casserole dish
Melt remaining butter and add remaining stuffing. Sprinkle over casserole
Bake at 350 ⁰F for 30 – 45 minutes, until browned and bubbling

I paired these two dishes with some Kansas City style pork spare ribs and an Oregon 2003 De Ferrari reserve Pinot Noir for my Labor Day weekend dinner. Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Vietnamese Adventure!

My BF and I absolutely love these Vietnamese sandwiches called Bánh mì (pickled veggies, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, pate, mayo and meat or tofu), so when I happened to find myself with an excess of pate, I decided to challenge myself to make them! They were delicious, and while not hard to make, it was quite an adventure along the way. So I will share my story (and recipe) here. :)

  • Crusty French sandwich rolls
  • Pate
  • Homemade mayo
  • Pickled vegetables (carrots, cucumber, onion, daikon)
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • chả lụa (Vietnamese Ham)
The first step is to pickle your vegetables. Fresh from the farmers market, you'll want to get some carrots, an English cucumber, onion and a daikon (see My date with daikons). Peel and slice them very thin, like matchsticks. I make quite a bit as they are everyone's favorite and they will keep (see squid salad recipe below). While you are chopping, boil one cup unseasoned rice vinegar and 5 tablespoons sugar until dissolved. Let cool and then combine with your vegetables and refrigerate, preferably overnight, but at least until pickled!

Once I had that taken care of, I embarked on the adventure to find the chả lụa, or the Vietnamese Ham. I thought for sure Uwajimaya would carry it, but no luck for me. So, I used one of my lifelines and called my aunt who is a fabulous Vietnamese cook and she directed me over the phone to not only the Vietnamese market, but exactly where in the non-English speaking grocery where to find this meat and what brand to buy (Phu-huong)! I chose two kinds; classic pork and pork with pork rinds. I also bought something that looks more like a cured, bologna ham. Simply unwrapping these things was entertainment in itself (they are boiled in banana leaves!). Slice them thin, 1/4 inch thick or less.

Homemade mayonnaise is a must. Separate 4 - 6 egg yolks, and mix with a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, teaspoon good vinegar (I used white wine) and salt and pepper. Use a hand mixer or a KitchenAid and slowly poor in a good oil (like Saffola or sunflower) while mixing. Add enough oil until it is the consistency you prefer. For the Bánh mì, I recommend a little more on the saucy side rather than super firm.

Slice up the jalapeño, very thin, and remove the seeds. You can peel it first if you are concerned about the heat. De-stem a few sprigs of cilantro.

I served it buffet style for our guests so everyone got to build their own! My recommendation, pile on the ingredients, you won't be sorry!

  • Slice the bread, Subway style
  • Spread a layer of pate on one side
  • Spread a layer of mayo on the other side
  • Layer the meat, pickled veggies, jalapeños and cilantro
Sooo good! Enjoy! If you want to try out Bánh mì without making them yourself, you can find them at most markets in the International District, even Uwajimaya, and they are dirt cheap ($1.50-$2).

My aunt also sent me her recipe for Squid salad, and while I haven't made it yet, I can tell you it is amazing. Plus, it is the same recipe for the pickled veggies, so you have two meals covered! She was happy to let me share it with you all:

  • 1 butter lettuce, torn into bite pieces
  • 1 small green mango, shredded into julienne strips
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of daikon & carrot pickles (Boil 1 c of Japanese rice vinegar + 5 Tbsp of sugar. Let it cool then add daikon + carrot julienne strips. Can be kept in fridge up to 1 month.)
  • 1 lbs of squid, blanched in boiling water
  • Some peanuts, crushed
  • Some cilantro + mint, minced
  • 2 Tbsp of sugar
  • 3 Tbsp of rice vinegar (use the one from pickled juice of daikon + carrot)
  • 1/2 tsp of chili garlic sauce, or more if prefer spicier, or minced fresh chili
  • 2 Tbsp of fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp of water
  • 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, preferably "Phu Quoc" from Flying Lion brand, or "3 crabs"
All the ingredients can be layered as the above order or you can mix them all. Pour in the dressing before serving.

If anyone else tries this out, let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Price Challenge: Hollywood Farmers Market vs. New Seasons

I was at a bbq last night when a friend asked me what I was doing the rest of the weekend. I explained that our Saturday morning routine consists of waking up, taking Cass to the dog park and then off to the Farmers Market for our weekly bundle of organic goodness to which my friend commented, "Isn't the Farmers Market so much more expensive?" I paused for a second...while we are a bit cost conscious, price isn't really a main motivator for going to the market. Hmm...I decided to keep track of what I spent at the market this morning and compare it to local grocery store chain who carries mostly organic and local produce of comparable quality--New Seasons. I could have compared it to Safeway but in my mind that's like comparing a pair of Steve Maddens to Manolos.

Here's what I purchased this morning with the prices for FM/NS:

3 lb. Honeydew melon: $2/$5.50
3 Red bell peppers: $2/$4.50
3 sweet onions: $1/$3
2 bell peppers: $1 $2.50
1 head broccoli: $2/$4
1 bunch scallions: $1.50/$1
1 Italian artichoke: $1/$4
1 lb. black cod: $11/$13
2 lbs. clams: $9/$12

Total for Farmers Market: $31.50
Total for New Seasons: $49.50

Wow! I can't believe I saved $18 shopping at the Farmers Market! I'm sure there's a margin of error here but I would be surprised if it came to $20...Major score for the local guys!

So why do we believe in shopping at Farmers Markets? Lynne Rossetto Kasper sums it up best in the "Shopping Manifesto" from her must have ode to good eating, How to Eat Supper; "Supporting local, organic and sustainable growers and producers isn't solely about us and our own well-being. It's about the large view--the environment, the community, the ethical treatment of people and animals, the value of the small and unique. And it's about feeding the people you care about as best you can." Living in a place like Oregon that has been hit hard by the recession, shopping locally takes on an even greater importance. I read recently that for every dollar spent at a local market, three are pumped in the local economy. I also like having a chance to meet the farmers and knowing that we are supporting responsible farming practices that includes respect and love. Hands down organic and fresh groceries just tastes better. The fish spent last night in the ocean, the veggies didn't spend three days on a flatbed truck nor were they raised in soil pumped full of chemicals. While I didn't buy any today, our market also sells poultry and meat products all antibiotics free and free range. There is simply no comparison between the flavor of a grass feed cut of beef versus corn fed (not to even mention the quality of life for the cows). Organically raised meat is a lot more expensive, but totally worth it for many, many reasons--anybody read My Year of Meat?? Also by buying local and growing our own we are cutting down on our carbon footprint. And let's not forget about FUN. It doesn't feel like summer without our weekly trips to the market.

I'm glad that we can now add lower cost to our running list of reasons for shopping at the market!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gettin Figgy with It

This post is about a month overdue. I've gotten wrapped up in the craziness and laziness of summer...

I don't know if it's because the window of availability is so short, but there is something so alluring about fresh figs.

I use dried figs a lot in winter stews with braised meats--I love the sweetness and depth it adds to chicken and duck--but I am not well versed at using fresh ones. I decided the fresh, delicate flavor would be best used in a desert. A search on the Internet came up mostly dry. I did find a recipe for Millefeuille (don't ask me to pronounce this...) of fresh figs and ricotta but I'm honestly not a huge fan of ricotta's texture on it's own. I mostly followed the recipe but opted to add a dollop of marscapone and cream cheese and I'm glad I did. The balsamic added a really nice finish to cut through the creaminess while also coaxing out the subtle fig flavors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quick and Easy – Blackberry Cobbler

I’m a big fan of cooking things that are quick, easy and tasty – especially when I can incorporate fresh, local ingredients. And as a southern gal, I love few things more than a tasty cobbler made with seasonal fruit. Blackberry cobbler – using wild berries picked from my backyard – combines my southern sweet tooth with my Pacific Northwest bounty.

My friend Katrina shared this recipe with me and I have to say, it’s a winner. Definitely a rare treat with a stick of butter and a cup of sugar, but you can burn some calories before digging into this baby by hiking to find the perfect blackberries. And we all deserve treats every once in awhile!

Blackberry Cobbler

2-3 cups of fresh blackberries (I add about 1/3 cup of sugar to them a couple hours ahead of time to help extract some of the juices and counter the tartness)

Mix together:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup water
Put 1 stick of margarine or butter in baking dish, put dish in oven and pre-heat to 375 degrees.

Remove pan from oven and pour batter over melted butter. Pour berries (with juice) over the batter and bake (uncovered) until top is lightly brown...about 35-45 minutes.

Now if only I could find some Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream to top on this tasty treat...

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Favorite Meal... on the Farm!

The BF and I are members of the Dog Mountain Farm CSA, and one of our favorite things to do in the summer is attend one of David and Cindy Krepky’s fabulous Farm Dinners. These multi-course meals are created by a local chef and offer up a tantalizing experience of fresh vegetables, herbs, poultry and seafood.

The evening starts out with a glass of sparkling wine and an appetizer before heading out on a tour of the working farm. The tour includes the WSDA poultry barn, produce and berry patches, and a visit with two very sweet Percheron draft horses. The meals are then served on elegant picnic tables in the orchards with a stunning view of the Cascade Mountain range.

This summer I have been to two dinners prepared by Chef Eric Wright (from Sorrento Hotel Hunt Club and Cactus restaurants) and I have been blown away by the way he has creatively put together the meals. Eric is especially talented at preparing seafood, including Salmon and Halibut. As someone who has been eating fresh fish for my whole life (see Riches of the Pacific Coast), I have been really impressed with his creative preparations.

Here are examples of some of my favorite dishes that Eric has served us from the bounty of Dog Mountain Farm:

  • Spanish tortilla with farm-fresh eggs, new potatoes, roasted sweet peppers, asparagus, and fresh goat cheese
  • Chilled cucumber soup with lemon crème fraiche
  • Grilled apricots with charred Italian chicory, Cabrales Blue cheese, Jerez sherry vinaigrette and toasted almonds
  • Grilled wild sockeye salmon with grilled corn cakes, herb salad, cucumber salsa, and red and green Chile sauces
  • Roasted fresh halibut with tomato-basil salad on sautéed garlicky pea vines with caramelized fennel, grilled purple potatoes, and lemon-thyme aioli
  • Fresh berry pudding with scratch-made pound cake and sweet vanilla cream

Of course, the meals are paired with plenty of wine from a local winery. We’ve enjoyed both Guardian Cellars and Red Sky Winery.

All in all, these dinners are the quintessential example of a slow food meal, linking together the pleasure of food, community, and the environment. We always have such a great time and truly believe these are some of the best meals we have had in Seattle!

To learn more about the Dog Mountain Farm Dinners, and to sign up for one of three remaining events, visit We’ll be there on September 26th, and would love for anyone to join us!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Salad Inspiration

Wanted to point out another great post by Bitten for those of you looking for new salad combinations. Especially handy as we continue thru these dog days of summer. I highly recommend paying attention to the readers comments. Great ideas!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Christmas in July (and August, September...)

I absolutely love my CSA and eagerly await each new box, often calling my husband several times a day on Wednesdays to see if he’s picked up our goodies and to learn what’s in the week’s shipment. And when I arrive home on Wednesdays, I try to see how many veggies I can cram into meals that night and for the next few days. While that anticipation hasn’t waned, I’ve experienced a couple of culinary setbacks forcing me to get a bit more creative with my cooking methods: 1) the hottest temperature ever recorded in Seattle and 2) a hand injury making chopping, dicing, peeling (and even typing, for that matter) virtually impossible.

When the mercury tops 100 degrees in Seattle and you find yourself without air conditioning, cooking indoors becomes a no-no. While salads of deliciously crisp and earthy farm-fresh greens and vine ripened tomatoes are always a summer treat, protein is essential as well. Certain vegetables scream to accompany salmon on the grill (few things are better to me than asparagus or squash topped with a bit of EVOO, salt, pepper and crisped a bit on the grill), but others may not seem as obvious. One of my biggest surprises this season was how wonderful turnips tasted when tossed with garlic, onion and EVOO, mixed with fresh and dried herbs, and wrapped in foil for roasting on the grill. Charred greens can be a nice accompaniment to meals when mixed with some oil and vinegar, and peppers, onions and even tomatoes can be wonderfully grilled, either with direct heat, wrapped in foil or cooked in a grill-friendly pan.

My other conundrum – and one that will impact my summer CSA experience more than the heat – is my injured finger making cutting and preparing vegetables difficult and dangerous (it's pretty hard to cut through anything firmer than butter when you can't use your left middle finger; I've tried). Luckily it’s a short-term setback with the stitches coming out next week, but in the meantime, I’ll be relying on my husband to serve as my sous chef and whip up tasty meals on his own – Will, the kitchen’s all yours! – or I’ll have to get creative with cooking entire heads of broccoli and cauliflower and eat my fresh tomatoes and zukes whole and raw. Feel free to share your favorite fun and easy recipes for summer veggies here as I bet all of our partners would like to take care of their favorite KD lady once in awhile; fully functioning hands or not!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tour de Coop or Tour de Force?

Honestly there are few things I love more than eggs. I think my death row meal would be a souffle or one of those perfectly fried eggs you only seem to get in France. I love 'em! I grew up in a very small town in Southern Oregon and we had 6 acres of land on which we raised a small farm including chickens. Being raised on fresh eggs and dairy really ruined me for the stuff you get in the grocery store. I am so, so grateful to my parents for raising us kids with a respect for the land, animals, and the bounty both provide. We knew where food came from; it was always raised with love and respect, and didn't come wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray.

I never thought we'd be able to raise farm animals in the city, especially with a big dog, but after hearing about the urban farming movement taking Portland by storm, I got to thinking....I was tickled pink when SM agreed he'd be interested in building a coop and raising us some chicks! He's an engineer at heart and needs to do a ton of research before embarking on a project whereas I like to dive right in, learn as I go by asking friendly experts for advice. The Tour de Coop provided the perfect compromise for both our learning styles and I'm so glad we did it. We saw coops ranging built from fruit crates to those equipped with cooling fans and solar panels. I particularly enjoyed hearing the owners stories and about the chickens themselves. As with anything you can make raising chickens either a complicated or simple affair. And overall chicks don't seem too fussy. Some key things I learned about raising successful, happy chicks:

  • Build a coop that includes the following elements: hen house with nesting box (with privacy), give them roost of varying heights and a run so they can enjoy fresh air.
  • Protect you hens from predators by securing the hen house with locks and ensure that food and water is off the ground.
  • Keep the coop clean. We will likely use the deep litter method and some type of tray made out of linoleum. Chicken manure makes the BEST fertilizers and will supplement your compost nicely.
  • Give them treats. Chicken loves table scraps (veggies only)
  • Enjoy them as pets! Except if you plan on making Coq Au Vin. :-)

One of the coops we visited was also home the 2 dairy goats and a kid. The kid was SOOO sweet and playful. She repeatedly jumped into the arms of her human seeking attention.

We are both really excited to become urban farmers but must wait patiently for spring. Patience is a virtue I really don't have! I want baby chicks now! SM already has a coop design planned out and I'm concentrating on the important things like what breeds have the prettiest plumage and what to name our girls.

We tried to take photos but there was something wrong with our camera. :-(

The Kale Conundrum

From our CSA, I think we have gotten more Kale and Chard than anything else this season. These lovely vitamin rich leafy vegetables are a great alternative to spinach. When it comes to preparing your Kale or Chard, the standard method is braising and serving as a side, which involves a quick sauté in some chicken or vegetable stock and adding your seasoning of choice. However, I like options (especially in this heat!), so I wanted to share a couple of our favorite ways to prepare it:

Braised with Polenta cakes: sauté ½ cup onions and one chopped garlic clove in 2 T olive oil, then add any mix of about 4 cups of Kale or Chard (remembering to remove the tougher stems), along with about ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock (red chili flakes optional). Cook until just wilted and tender. Season with pepper as desired. Remove from heat and let slightly cool. Remove excess liquid as needed. Mix in about ¼ – ½ cup crumbled soft cheese (we like both feta and goat). The cooler the mixture, the less the cheese melts, so it is your preference. Meanwhile, heat a fry pan with some olive oil, and then add slices of polenta cut about ½ – ¾ inch think. Cook until tops turn slightly crispy (flip to cook both sides). Serve the kale and cheese mixture on top of the fried polenta. (Source: a combination of recipes from
The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without)

Kale, tomato and prosciutto quiche: preheat oven to 350 ⁰F. Prepare one single-pie pastry crust of your choice (optional to precook it). Shred about 6oz of a cheese of your choice (we like either a goat cheese or a stronger white cheese like Gruyere or Fontina). Chop about 2 cups Kale into large bite size pieces (remove the stems) and slightly braise, set to the side to cool. Cut or tear about 6 pieces of prosciutto into quarters and slice about 3 Roma tomatoes. Wisk together 4 eggs, ¾ heavy whipping cream and ¾ cup milk, or half-and-half. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Layer all the prepped ingredients, except the egg mixture, in the pie crust. I like to end with the tomato slices since they are the prettiest. Pour egg mixture over the top. Put in oven and cook 40 – 45 minutes until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Note: this can be done with a variety of ingredients, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Kale Chips: just tried this one out this week, and it was a hit (even BF was impressed)! Preheat oven (or BBQ when too hot inside) to 350 ⁰F. Remove the stems and chop any amount of Kale into large pieces (about half the size of your palm). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the Kale flat on top. Sprinkle with olive oil (I used a pastry brush) and season with salt (garlic salt is good too, but careful not to overdo it). Bake about 6 minutes (depending on amount) until mostly crisp but watch very closely as they will burn quickly. Serve as an appetizer, snack or side! (Source: LucyDelRey from

Crepes: when our fridge gets too full, we often whip up a batch of crepes. You can really experiment with anything you’ve got, but our favorites, are of course, braised Kale or Chard, as well as left over steak or chicken, smoked Salmon, pepper jack cheese, goat cheese, cream cheese, etc. For the crepes, combine 3 eggs, ½ cup milk, ½ cup water, 3 T melted butter, ¾ cup all-purpose flour and ½ t salt in a blender. Blend 1 minute. Scrape down sides of blender and blend until smooth, about 30 additional seconds. Heat a small (8”) fry pan on medium heat and coat lightly with PAM. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the pan and spread to edges. Flip as soon as the bottom is cooked (careful not to overcook or burn). Recoat the pan about every 5th crepe. Fill each crepe on one half with fillings of choice, fold over and return to pan to reheat and warm ingredients. By the way, these are fun to do with guests as everyone can build their own!

Please feel free to share your ideas as well!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You Always Remember Your First

Man, it's HOT, HOT, HOT in the 97212. The only upside to all this is my tomatoes are finally ripening. I just plucked my first little bowlful of heirloom purple Cherokees. With some basil, balsamic and evoo I may forget about the 100+ degree temperature.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Missing my CSA

My husband and I trekked along the Oregon Coast last week for our summer vacation/annual road trip, camping and exploring. While it was a great trip, we missed our CSA and fresh veggies immensely. A campfire provides a great source for grilling vegetables, but we aren’t exactly gourmet campers and tend to stick to the basics, meaning fresh produce became a treat. To compensate for our lack of local produce, Will and I decided to try other local offerings – a key to any successful trip – and explored several of Oregon’s renowned breweries and wineries.

According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, there are currently 63 brewing companies operating 88 brewing facilities in Oregon; 30 within Portland city limits, which is more than any other city in the world. If you’re a fan of craft beer, as my husband and I are, then exploring Oregon’s breweries is a must for any trip to the state. And when campfire cooking got old or we found ourselves anywhere near a brewery, it was more than likely that we could be found belly up to a bar, sampling ales and stouts while trying to determine which brewery’s food lived up to its beer pairings. Unfortunately for us, breweries were few and far between along the coast, though we did visit the mother ship of our local brewpub, Rogue, in Newport. For Will and I, seeing master brewer John Maier at work was much like a celebrity sighting – we spend so much time and money at Rogue’s Issaquah Brewhouse and the beers bring us such joy that our trip to Rogue was definitely a trip highlight.

Exploring Oregon’s wineries was also a unique experience and we stopped several times throughout our trip to sample different varietals. Though we visited just a handful of the state’s nearly 400 wineries, we did sample several Pinot Noirs, the grape that put Oregon wines on the map. I’m a big fan of Erath wines and a trip to their tasting room in Dundee was a must for me. We made it out of the tasting room with a scant four bottles - and only 10 total for the trip; I was impressed by my own discipline as I could have easily purchased several cases along the way.

During our trip, we discovered that we’ve become almost addicted to our weekly bounty from Jubilee Farm, and to make up for our lack of veggies, we made exploring other local offerings a big part of our trip . I might eventually run out of fresh ideas for squash (and will look to my fellow KD ladies for help), tire of tomatoes (if such a thing is possible!) and no longer clamor for cabbage (though there's so much you can do with cabbage), but until then, I’ll eagerly await my next share and look forward to getting creative with the freshest, local ingredients. And when the fresh bounty runs out, there’s always Washington breweries and wineries to explore!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Riches of the Pacific Coast

I grew up in a fishing family, not the commercial kind, but the sports fishing kind. As such, I have been lucky enough to have access to fresh Pacific Coast seafood for my entire life, including Halibut, Lingcod, Salmon, Dungeness crab, Oysters, etc. A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I joined my father for several days of Coho Salmon fishing out of Newport, OR. Also known as a Silver, the Coho Salmon is a smaller species than the King Salmon, but is one of the more popular for sports fishing as it is a very active fish once hooked, leaping, spinning and running. Due to degraded and polluted environments and over fishing, the natural or wild Salmon populations have been nearly depleted and therefore, have been supplemented by hatchery fish. As such, when fishing for Silvers, you can only keep hatchery fish. Genetically and environmentally, hatchery fish are the same as native in that they cohabitate and follow the same behaviors. So how does one tell the difference between the two as the fish is thrashing wildly on your line? As a Salmon fry, a tiny dorsal fin is laser cut off without any impact to the life of the fish so when they reach maturity, they are identifiable to a Sports fisherman. A slow eye and a split second too late, and that beautiful and tasty fish can slip right off your hook and away it goes. :)

Luckily, we had a wonderful weekend, with plenty of fishing, and a good amount of catching. ;) Our ratio of native to hatchery was about 2:1 one, which while somewhat disappointing on the catching side, is hopefully a good sign of the reviving native Salmon population.

Nothing beats fresh Salmon. We prefer to do very little with it during the cooking process as the flavors are so rich. Our favorite way is wrapped in tin foil, seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and a little butter and then thrown on the BBQ. The key thing is to not overcook it. It should be slightly translucent pink in the middle, but warm. Remember, it will keep cooking once you take it off the grill and put it on your plate. Because we haven’t over dressed the salmon itself, I love to provide some fun sides. Sour cream mixed with chopped fresh dill is a big favorite. In addition, raid your herb garden for a medley of fresh herbs, like thyme, oregano, chives, rosemary, and finely chop and mix with softened butter. Then use the butter wrapper to shape it back into a role or cube and stick back in the fridge to harden. Just before serving, slice into quarter inch patties and serve along side of the Salmon. Advise your guests to put the herb butter directly on the fish so it melts, and enjoy!

Summer is the ideal time to enjoy the riches of the Pacific Coast. Most people don’t have access to a fishing boat, or aren’t interested in taking a charter to do the catching themselves, so the best way to get fresh and seasonal seafood is to make your way down to the fishing docks where you will find many small commercial fishermen and women selling directly to the consumer. Besides Coho Salmon, you can also find Tuna, Halibut, many kinds of Rockfish, and shellfish. A bit later in the season you can get Chinook or King Salmon, a larger species with slightly more robust flavor. Of course, you can also find fresh seafood in your local super market, just be sure to ask what is in season and has been line caught (instead of net). If you are interested in learning more about the efforts to protect the Salmon, I would encourage you to check out these resources: the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, SAFE for Salmon and The Salmon For All Organization.

We shared our bounty with several friends this week. And as a special treat for my guests,
I saved some Dungeness crab meat and served a crab and Gruyere crème brullee. It is a huge hit, and very delicious! Here is the recipe (serves 6):

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • Meat from one full cooked Dungeness crab (legs and body)
  • ¼ cup fresh chives
  • 2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream and ¾ cup half and half
  • ¾ cup (3 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese

  • Cooking Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 275 ⁰F
  • Sautee the crab meat in the butter for about 5 minutes and then mix in the chives, remove from heat.
  • Whisk eggs until pale yellow in color, whisk in heavy whipping cream, half and half, shredded Gruyere, and salt and pepper. Combine with crab mixture.
  • Place 6 standard size crème brullee ramekins in a shallow baking dish. Divide custard mixture among the dishes. Fill the baking dish with warm water, about half way up the dishes.
  • Put into the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until the centers jiggle just slightly. Remove from oven and baking dish and place on a cookie sheet or fire safe surface.
  • Sprinkle with 1 – 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese and use a crème brullee torch to melt the cheese and just slightly brown the top. If you don’t have a crème brulle torch, you can also put back in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes (be very careful not to burn!).
  • Serve warm.

  • To top off the savory dinner, I picked some local pie cherries to make a tart and tasty cherry pie! What a feast!

    It's COMING

    The inevitable onslaught of zukes and summer squash. Earlier this week, NYT's Bitten blog shared some great recipes on what to do with the heap.

    I only planted one zucchini and it's already huge and bearing lots of fruit and I'm already looking through recipes lining up ideas of interesting ways to sneak it into our meals. In addition to the bisque and bread idea suggested by Bitten, my favorite ways to use zuke are sauteing slices with garlic, lemon in olive oil topping with some basil and parm and tossing with some pasta or making zucchini boats. To make the boats, cut the ends off and halve horizontally. Scoop out the middle and chop that up. Add whatever flavors you like. I usually go Mediterranean and add tomatoes, feta, pine nuts and herbs. Slip those suckers in a pan with about a half inch of water and bake @ 425 until the zukes walls are fork tender.

    I'm sure the KD chicks will be posting more ideas about what do to with summer squash in the coming weeks. Speaking of chicks, I'm checking out the Tour de Coops this weekend and will share my experience and thoughts on urban farming next week.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    My date with daikons

    My husband brought home our latest box full of CSA goodies and along with some of the usual suspects – chard, mixed salad greens, broccoli, cabbage – we also received a bunch of what we determined were a new fangled variety of white carrots; something organic, natural and different, we thought. We decided to try these “white carrots” and while Will (smartly) took a danty little sample, I bit in whole heartedly, eagerly anticipating the sweet, crispness of a nice, fresh carrot. To our surprise, these “carrots” had a bitter pepper taste, more common with a radish and after some quick research online, I determined that my “white carrots,” were in fact daikons. One mystery solved, one left…what the heck do you do with a bunch of daikons??

    After some additional Web searches I learned that daikons are common in Japanese cooking, particularly as an accompaniment to sushi. Apparently they’re also quite good pickled, and while both options sounded delicious (along with the suggestions I received on Facebook ranging from roasting them with pancetta or simmering in a Miso broth), I was hoping to avoid a run to the store and whip up something quickly with what I had on hand. I decided to get a bit creative with another recipe online for roasting radishes and turnips – and with my fresh bunch of turnips as well, with this recipe, I could kill two birds with one stone.

    I peeled and cubed the turnips and radishes and added in some garlic and onion (though in my kitchen, garlic and onion are requirements for virtually all dishes so this should come as no surprise), tossed them in a roasting pan and topped with a mixture of olive oil, soy sauce, honey, mustard, white wine and oodles of fresh and dried herbs. And what a nice surprise this dish yielded! Not only did my house smell heavenly as everything roasted and simmered together, but the final results were a nice mixture of sweet and savory. After roasting for 45 minutes in the oven, the roots were both tender and well seasoned, flavored by the unique mixture.

    While I was happy with my results with daikon for the first time, I’m anticipating receiving many more of these “white carrots.” What are some of your favorite methods for preparing daikons?

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    No Veggie Left Behind

    SM and I went to the Hollywood Farmer's Market per our usual Saturday routine. Love, love, love this time of year! It's right when the markets are brimming with vegetables, but so much more to come and everyone is out and about enjoying the lovely Portland summer. However, the downside is I always buy way too much and I'm really trying to stick to my no vegetable left behind rule. So when I got home I found there were still vegetables I bought last week eagerly waiting to be cooked. What's a girl to do?

    From last week, I had beets, fennel and some carrots waiting in the wings and this week I bought some cabbage, leeks and salmon (among other things, including more beets...I'm Polish, what can I say?). Hmm...what does this all add up to? Well, a delicious accident.

    SM, who is Italian and my perennial dinner guest and life guest, is also in the beet fan club. So I quickly knew we had to beet it for dinner. I cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets, added a clove of garlic, so salt and a drizzle of olive oil and wrapped them in tin foil and popped them in our toaster oven @ 425 until tender (about 40). IMHO, there's really no better way to cook a beet. Shout out to Marcella Hazan for this revelation.

    Made myself a gin martini to inspire the creative process <--This is a crucial step not to be missed.

    I then grabbed the cabbage (used 1/4 head), 3 leeks, 2 carrots and 1 trimmed fennel and decided after a little braising they'd make a comfy and yummy bed for the salmon. Another crucial step besides the martini is to thoroughly clean the leeks. After cutting off the snaggles, and dark green leaves, cut the root horizontally and soaked in some cold water. Soil, be damned! I sliced up everything (leaving the carrots a bit thicker for texture), plopped them in a saute pan with some melted butter and 1 sprig of thyme and tarragon for about 4 minutes. I added 1 cup stock and let it simmer until the stock was absorbed. Set aside. Reheat and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

    While I working on the braised veggies, I had another revelation (thank you, martini!). Horseradish cream sauce would complement all the elements quite nicely. I am addicted to Fage Greek style yogurt (1 cup), so pulled that, some heavy cream (1/3 cup) and prepared horseradish (1 TB or to taste) and some chopped chives (1/2 TB), courtesy of the herb garden. I mixed this all together and put in the fridge. Honestly it was a bit tart and recommend a little butter (1 TB).

    After letting the salmon come to room temp, I seasoned it and pan fried it in butter with a bit of lemon, shallots and chives.

    Served this over Israeli couscous, but any grain/small pasta would do.

    I am really trying to amp up my cooking "UI." I come from a long line of cooks who focus too much on taste and not on presentation. I hope to break that habit. Posting a photo with each entry keeps me honest.

    I layered the dish this way:
    --braised veggies
    -beets, quartered and reassembled on the side

    We enjoyed this with a bottle of Elk Cove Vineyard La Sirene. Nice light red that complemented, but didn't intimidate the dish.

    Both SM and I enjoyed this dinner immensely and I am grateful that this blog is forcing me to record my happy accidents. :-)

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    The Renaissance Vegetable

    This week I had another new experience; cardoons! From what my CSA told me and what I read online, I was expecting this stalk vegetable to taste like artichokes. I found an intriguing recipe for breaded and fried (can’t go wrong with fried, right?!). The prep included peeling the stringy outside (think celery) and soaking it in vinegar water. Then I boiled the heck out of it (30 minutes) waiting for it to get “very tender,” which it never really did. It was a simple egg, breadcrumb and parmesan cheese breading that was then fried for about five minutes. The result was rather perplexing; the flesh was still rather tough and quite bitter, and I didn’t pick up any hint of artichoke. So I wonder a couple of things, these were rather thin/young stalks, so did I not peel enough off? Secondly, did I not boil them long enough?

    Of course, I am willing to give them another try as what I read about them made them seem like a real culinary specialty. My second attempt will probably be down the gratin path. Anyone else have any ideas?

    The Veggie that Inspired it All

    Kohlrabi looks like a pod incubating an alien from Mars.

    It's green, hard and has wavy bumps all over it. Doesn't necessarily screams, "Eat me! I am delish!" But it can be, trust us. Here's four ways to serve it.

    My version:
    Make a gratin! Everything is better covered in cheese, right? I am not very exact--I'll work on this. :-) Peel, slice and boil the kohlrabi. Make a basic roux and add some Dijon, parsley from the garden and 2 handfuls of cheddar cheese. Stir sauce and veggie together. Voila! If you are feeling fancy, spread it in a casserole dish, sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs on top and pop it under the broiler for a few.

    The world according to Erin:
    Peel and slice kohlrabi
    Top with salt
    Insert in mouth
    Chomp and enjoy.

    Another idea is to add raw prepared kohlrabi to salad greens and bacon. Top with blue cheese dressing.

    Heather's sneaky way:
    Her main squeeze says he doesn't like it so she adds it to other root vegetables like turnips, carrots and potato and roasts in a pan.

    What do YOU do with kohlrabi?

    What exactly is The Kohlrabi Diaries?

    Farms, gardens and markets are full of some of the freshest – and sometimes, the most unusual – produce right now and all summer long. But just what can you do with all that kale and chard? How can you best use mixed greens so as to not eat salads every single day? Tomatoes are great, but how can you use cartons full of them on a weekly basis? Are squash blossoms really edible and/or usable? And what the heck is kohlrabi and what can you do with it?

    In The Kohlrabi Diaries, we aim to put our own experiences with fresh, local ingredients on display, showcasing both our successes and missteps for others interested in finding ways to make it through a week’s worth of CSA goodies, produce from your farmers market or homegrown gifts from your own garden. We’re all learning together and look forward to hearing your experiences as well. So stay tuned as figure out the best way to use kohlrabi, as well as all the other bounties of the season!