Yes, I know, things have been a little quiet around here. I hope to get back to it soon. In the mean time, check out the guest blog I wrote for Full Circle Farm: Top Ten Vegetables for Grilling
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
Yes, I know, things have been a little quiet around here. I hope to get back to it soon. In the mean time, check out the guest blog I wrote for Full Circle Farm: Top Ten Vegetables for Grilling
Sunday, February 12th, 2012
What do you do if you don’t have enough zucchini for zucchini bread and you don’t have enough bananas for banana bread? You create a completely new bread that contains both, zucchinana bread.
I started with the basic quick bread recipe found in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and adapted from there. The result is a moist, yummy bread that is wonderful slathered with butter, or even better, peanut butter. Here’s the ingredients.
In one bowl mash the banana. I think the easiest way to do this is just to use your fingers (put a glove on first if you don’t like messy hands).
Then add the rest of the wet ingredients. In a second bowl combine all of the dry ingredients.
Stir each of the bowls contents well.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Then stir in the toasted nuts. Divide the batter between two loaf pans, a muffin pan, or a combination of the two.
Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the bread (or muffin) comes out clean. This will take about 40 minutes for muffins and 50 minutes for a loaf.
Let cool before slicing. Enjoy plain or topped with butter. Or, be like Elvis and combine the flavors of banana and peanut butter for a delicious breakfast treat.
Saturday, December 10th, 2011
The other day I was walking through Costco (no story starts that way and doesn’t end without spending $100) and I saw this on the end cap.
“Make Chex Party Mix. What a good idea” (I am so easily influenced, sigh).
I haven’t made Chex Mix in years (and years and years) and, I was hosting a party where I knew snack mix would be a welcome addition. I like the traditional Chex Mix recipe well enough, but I’m not a huge fan of pretzels and I wanted something a little spicier. So, I decided to switch it up a little (or a lot as it turns out). The idea of using Sriracha as the heat in my mix popped into my head, which then led me to add some other Asian flavors. Although the mix takes a little while in the oven it comes together very quickly.
Here’s the ingredients:
First, melt the butter in the microwave (or on the stovetop) and then stir the seasoning ingredients into the melted butter. Give the butter a little taste at this point and add more sriracha if you like.
Put the cereals and the toasted almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the seasoned butter over top …
… then use a spatula to stir and distribute the seasonings throughout the cereals.
Place the sheet in a 250 degree oven and bake for one hour, stirring the mix every 15 minutes. Let cool completely and then enjoy!
Salty and spicy (and mildly addictive), all my guests raved about my mix. Try it as an addition to your next party. You’ll be glad you did.
Friday, April 8th, 2011
Although it is completely out of the way, I adore a trip to Melrose Market on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I’ll stop by Rain Shadow Meats for naturally raised, local meat (essential for my Charcutepalooza endeavors) and eggs. Then I’ll visit The Calf and Kid for yummy, hard to find cheeses from very knowledgeable staff. Then I’ll check the vegetable selection at Marigold and Mint (and sometimes buy myself some flowers).
Lastly I’ll stop by Sitka and Spruce for lunch. They have a communal bar table right off of the open kitchen (one of the quietest kitchens I’ve ever seen). Every meal that I’ve eaten there has been just outstanding. The last, a couple of weeks ago, has stuck with me so that I wanted to try a hand at something like it at home.
The dish consisted of three parts, garbanzo beans blended into a thick, textured mash, beets that had been roasted, then dressed with a vinaigrette, all topped off with a generous dollop of harissa.
For the Harissa, I used this recipe from Saveur (minus the mint).
The recipe is pretty straightforward, so I won’t really go into it here, but I can add, make sure to wear gloves while you seed the peppers or you will really regret it later when you rub your eyes.
The harissa can be made way in advance. and then stored in the refrigerator until meal time.
Here’s the ingredients for the Beets.
I roasted the beets whole a couple of days prior to dinner. I wanted to keep the flavors simple so I made a really basic vinaigrette, tossed the beets in it and then set it aside. This could easily be stashed in the fridge for a couple of days.
And for the garbanzos.
I put a little olive oil in a pan and sauteed the onion until it was soft and translucent.
Then I tossed in the garlic and smoked paprika and cooked it for another 30 seconds.
Then I added two can of garbanzos with just enough of the liquid from one of the cans to not quite cover the beans. I let this mixture simmer for ten minutes or so.
Then I took the stick blender to the mix and pureed it a bit. I wanted quite a bit of texture, so I didn’t go to crazy with the blender. This too, could be cooled and then stashed in the fridge.
Finally all of the elements of my meal were ready. I spooned some of the mashed garbanzos into a shallow bowl then layered on some of the beets and a dollop of harissa.
While I’m not sure this was an exact replica of the meal at Sitka and Spruce it was mighty similar and extremely delicious. It takes a bit of time to assemble all the parts of this meal, but the work can be spread out and then the meal can be assembled quickly when it is time to eat. Sitka and Spruce served their version at room temperature. I served mine hot (though the beets were at room temperature) and then enjoyed the leftovers cold, right out of the refrigerator. All three temperatures were good.
MASHED GARBANZOS, ROASTED BEETS, HARISSA
serves two generously, with leftovers
I highly recommend a hunk of crusty bread to serve alongside the meal. Everything on the plate is a natural for dipping and scooping. The Harissa recipe from Saveur is great, but commercial Harissa is also available if you are interested in a shortcut.
for the garbanzos:
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained, juice reserved
In a saucepan, heat a little olive oil and saute the onion until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the beans and enough of the reserved juice to almost cover the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes then use an immersion blender to puree the beans slightly. Set aside.
for the beets:
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper
6-8 beets, roasted, peeled and diced
Whisk together all of the ingredients to create a vinaigrette. Toss the beets in the vinaigrette. Set aside.
Assemble your plate by spooning some of the mashed garbanzos onto a plate or shallow bowl. Spoon on some of the roasted beets and add a dollop of Harrisa.
Thursday, October 7th, 2010
A while ago (longer than I would like to admit) one of my best friends pressed a jar of Trader Joe’s Cuban Mojito Simmer Sauce into my hands and said “I love this sauce but Trader Joe’s has discontinued it, can you figure out how to make it for me.” “Well of course” I replied and then I put the jar on a shelf and forgot about it.
While doing a little spring cleaning I came across the jar. I put it on my desk as a reminder and it sat there, mocking me, all summer.
This weekend I decided, finally, that it was time to get it done. I took a look at the ingredients, onion, orange juice, water, olive oil, cilantro, cider vinegar, lime juice, garlic, sea salt, cumin, arrowroot, black pepper, oregano and xanthan gum. Well, except for the arrowroot (a thickener) and the xanthan gum (a stabilizer) the ingredients seemed pretty straight forward.
The most important thing (other than getting the flavor spot on) was that the sauce had to be easily cooked by my friend (a very busy working mother of two). I also hoped to make sure the recipe could be doubled, tripled, maybe quadrupled and then stashed in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal.
It took two tries, but I think I got it right. Here’s the line-up (I also added just a touch of sugar to balance the flavors but it’s not in the picture).
I started by chopping the onion and smashing the garlic.
I cooked the onion and garlic in the oil in a medium-size saucepan.
When the onion was soft and translucent I stirred in the cumin, oregano and flour and cooked it for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly, to make a roux.
I added in all the liquids, stirring to make sure I didn’t get any lumps.
Then added the cilantro.
I gave the whole thing a whiz with the stick blender.
I tasted my sauce, then Trader Joe’s, then mine, then Trader Joe’s. It just wasn’t right. I added a bit of sugar to help balance the acidity and a bit more salt. Tasted again, but it was still just not right. The Trader Joe’s sauce just seemed more developed, more complex. The best way I know of to develop the flavor of a sauce is to let it simmer for a while so that’s just what I did. After 20 minutes of simmering, the flavor was spot on.
The next challenge? Freezing. I cooled the sauce then popped it in the freezer overnight. Then I thawed it in the refrigerator and it came out perfect. Time for dinner.
I browned a couple of chicken breasts then added some of the sauce to the pan. I turned down the heat and simmered the dish until the chicken was cooked through, About 10 minutes. I served the chicken with white rice and a few sauteed green beans.
This sauce may not be much to look at, but I totally get why my friend wanted it back in her life. A little bit tangy and completely tasty. Kerry, I hope this recipe serves you well.
CUBAN MOJITO SIMMER SAUCE
makes 12 ounces
If you don’t have a stick blender the sauce can also be pureed in batches in a food processor or blender. Sauce can be frozen for up to three months, just thaw it in the refrigerator before using.
1 Tablespoon oil
4 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon flour
1 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup orange juice
1 lime, juiced (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Peel and chop the onion then smash the garlic with the edge of a knife. Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onion until it is soft and translucent. Stir in the cumin, oregano and flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, to make a roux. Add all the liquids, stirring rapidly to make sure no lumps form. Cook for two minutes, then add the cilantro. Using a stick blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Reduce heat, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and sugar. Taste for seasoning add adjust if necessary with additional salt, pepper or sugar.
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
As I think back on this summer, I realize that for me, it was all about getting better. I mean that literally of course as I refer to my recovery from ankle surgery. But I also invested quite a bit of time to make myself, my blog and even my cooking better.
Most recently I attended the International Food Blogger Conference which was held right here in Seattle. Two full days (and two evenings) chock full of panels, new (and old) friends and lots of tasty food. My favorite session was an inspirational slide show and talk from photographer Penny De Los Santos. She just made me (and I think everyone else there) want to be better. Because of her, you’ll probably be seeing a few more photo essays on the blog (much like this one from last Saturday) as I self-assign new photography projects for myself.
My other big summer project was a 5-week class series at Cornish College for the Arts called the Art of Food. Here’s the description:
A series of evenings in which different aspects of food + art get explored: food AND art, food AS art, artists and their food practices, food blogging, food as a medium for leading a creative life, food photography, the creative practice of gardening, art + food + sustainability. Participants include author and master forager Langdon Cook, Chef Becky Selengut, “Top Cheftestant” and artist Robin Leventhal, photographer Clare Barboza, food writers Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahern, and Delancey owner and composer/dancer Brandon Pettit.
My favorite weeks were the two that were focused on photography with Clare Barboza and food writing with Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahern. I’ve really been trying to improve my food photography over the last year and it was great to have input from a professional. Here’s a couple of the photos I took at class:
You can see the rest at my Flickr site here.
I also really enjoyed the week focused on food writing. I am always a little nervous about my writing and I am really trying to improve this as well. During the class we read examples of several popular food writers, Frances Lam, Jonathon Gold, MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin and others. The piece from Laurie Colwin was titled “Tomato Pie” from the book More Home Cooking. It was a beautiful description of a recipe for Tomato Pie.
“I have never yet encountered tomatoes in any form unloved by me. Often at night I find myself ruminating about two previously mysterious tomato dishes, which I was brazen enough to get the recipes for. One is Tomato Pie and is a staple of a tea shop call Chaiwalla, owned by Mary O’Brien, in Salisbury, Connecticut. According to Mary, the original recipe was found in a cookbook put out by the nearby Hotchkiss School, but she has changed it sufficiently to claim it as her own. The pie has a double biscuit-dough crust, made by blending 2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and approximately 3/4 cup milk, either by hand or in a food processor. You roll out half the dough on a floured surface and line a 9-inch pie plate with it. Then you add the tomatoes. Mary makes this pie year round and uses first-quality canned tomatoes, but at this time of year 2 pounds peeled fresh tomatoes are fine, too. Drain well and slice thin two 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, then lay the slices over the crust and scatter them with chopped basil, chives, or scallions, depending on their availability and your mood. Grate 1-1/2 cups sharp Cheddar and sprinkle 1 cup of it on top of the tomatoes. Then over this drizzle 1/3 cup mayonnaise that has been thinned with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and top everything with the rest of the grated Cheddar. Roll out the remaining dough, fit it over the filling, and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several steam vents in the top crust and bake the pie at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. The secret of this pie, according to Mary, is to reheat it before serving, which among other things ensures that the cheese is soft and gooey. She usually bakes it early in the morning , then reheats it in the evening in a 350 degree oven until it is hot.
It is hard to describe how delicious this is, especially on a hot day with a glass of magnificent iced tea in a beautiful setting, but it would doubtless be just as scrumptious on a cold day in your warm kitchen with a cup of coffee.”
Her description was so lovely that I knew I just had to cook this dish. I made it for brunch for a group of friends (several of whom are, or used to be, fellow personal chefs) and it received rave reviews. Basically the pie was tomatoes, cheddar cheese in a biscuit crust (and really, how could that combo not be good). It was obvious that this recipe was ripe for adaptation.
After the last class (the food photography session), many of the props (read leftover food) were divided among the students that had stayed to help clean up. I ended up with 2 mini cupcakes, one tomatillo, a lime and a bunch of bell peppers and hot peppers. So, after I ate the cupcakes, I decided to get to work on turning the peppers into something delicious. Of course, I would roast the peppers and make a version of that delicious pie.
Here’s the ingredients for the filling:
And for the crust:
I started by roasting the peppers. I roasted mine right over the flame on my gas stove, but they can easily be done on a grill or under the broiler. Just cook the peppers until they are blackened then through them in a covered bowl and let them sit for at least five minutes.
Once they are cool enough to handle the skins will peel right off. Try to keep the seeds out of the peeled pepper pile and no matter how much easier it would make things, do not run the peppers under water or all the roasty-toasty goodness will go right done the drain. Oh yeah, and notice the gloves, gloves are a must when you are seeding really hot peppers (because if you don’t wear gloves you will invariably touch your eye and then pain will ensue).
I cut the bell peppers into strips and then diced the smaller peppers (I wasn’t sure just how hot they were and I didn’t want to end up with a huge bite of “burn your mouth” hot pepper in the finished dish). Then I set this aside to work on the crust.
The crust comes together very easily in a food processor. Just whir together the butter, flour and baking powder until it looks a bit like fine sand. It doesn’t take long, maybe 10 seconds.
I added the milk and then gave it another whir. It will come together as a dough fairly quickly.
At this point I moved the dough to a very well floured work surface. This dough is very sticky so flour is your best friend. Flour your hands, flour the rolling pin, flour the work surface, trust me.
I divided the dough into two halves and rolled one of them out until it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. In addition to being sticky, this dough is also very forgiving. Holes can be easily smushed back together.
Once the bottom crust was in the pan I laid in the peppers, the tomatillo (which didn’t add much to the mix so I’ve left it out of the recipe below) half the cheese and the chopped scallions.
I stirred together the juice of a lime and 1/3 cup of mayonnaise and drizzled this over the pie.
Then I added the rest of the cheese and topped the pie with the second half of the biscuit dough, trimmed off the excess dough, pinched together the edges and then cut a few vent holes in the top.
Into the oven (I used my toaster oven) for 25 minutes until the crust was golden brown and delicious and the pie was warm and toasty inside.
While I adored the tomato version of the pie that Laurie Colwin write so beautifully about this version was another lovely take. Sharp from the cheddar and tangy from the lime with a beautifully crisp and tender crust.
My friends who were over for yet another potluck (and belly dancing, but we’re not going to talk about that) all agreed it was delightful as well.
Next up I think a sweet version of this pie is in order. I think berries with goat cheese might be nice but it’s a little past berry season. Maybe plums…
ROASTED PEPPER AND CHEDDAR PIE
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup milk
4 bell peppers
5-6 jalapenos, serranos or other hot peppers
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
6 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice from one lime
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roast and peel the peppers and hot peppers. Cut the peppers into strips and dice the hot peppers. Stir together then set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup stir together the mayonnaise and lime juice.
In the bowl of a food processor pulse together the flour, baking powder and butter (it should resemble dry sand). Add the milk and continue to pulse until the dough come together. Divide the dough into two pieces. On a well-floured surface roll out half the dough and line a 9-inch pie plate with it.
Cover the bottom of the pan with the pepper mixture. Sprinkle on half of the cheese and all of the scallions. Drizzle the mayonnaise mixture evenly over the scallions then sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
Roll out the second half of the dough, lay it on top of the filling, trim off the excess dough and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent.
Bake the pie for about 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is warmed through.
Friday, August 27th, 2010
Every once in a while a person may end up with too much lettuce. Maybe you planted a couple too many rows in the garden, or your CSA packed too much into your box for the week. Or maybe you asked your husband to run to the store to pick up a head to use for garnish for your catering gig and he came back with three.
Maybe you’ve tried to use it up by making salads (perhaps a delicious chefs salad to use up the leftover crudite and cold cuts from your catering gig) but now it’s just too wilty for more salads. What are you to do?
You may think the only option is the compost bin (that might have been my answer too) but after chucking one too many heads of wilty lettuce I decided to give soup a try.
Here’s the line up:
To start, melt the butter in a stock pot. I used a 3-quart pan but I really should have gone a little bigger (you’ll see why later).
Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat the onion (saute over medium heat so that it does not brown) until it is cooked through and translucent.
Add the lettuce and the broth.
Simmer until the lettuce is soft, about 10 minutes. You’ll need to stir it a few times because the broth will not cover the lettuce at first (and this is why I needed a bigger pan).
Toss in the tarragon and cook for another minute or so.
Remove the pan from the heat and blend it in batches. Seriously, do it in batches. If you fill the blender to full, hot, bright green soup will erupt from the blender all over you and your kitchen.
Leave some of the broth in the pan, if you add it all at first the soup may be too thin at the end.
Pour the soup through a mesh strainer to get rid of the larger solids.
You’ll need to use a spoon to force it through a little.
If the soup is very thick, add some of the reserved broth. Then let the soup cool to room temperature.
Add some cream to taste (I used about 1/4 cup) and pop it in the fridge to cool completely. Once it’s chilled, taste the soup for seasoning (if you season while the soup is warm it will probably be off once the soup is chilled). Ladle the soup into serving dishes and top with a few croutons.
I’ll admit, when this soup was warm, I did not care for it. However, once it cooled it really started to grow on me. Light and sunny, like summer in a bowl. And the color, well it was just the most vivid beautiful green. A great start to a meal or a lovely little side dish. Next time you’ve got wilty greens on your hands, this is a wonderful way to use them up.
L E T T U C E S O U P
While this is a great way to use up green leafy or romaine lettuces, overly bitter greens will probably not be as tasty here.
2 Tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 head lettuce, chopped
2 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 – 1/2 cup cream
Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat the onion until it is cooked through and translucent. Add the lettuce and the broth and simmer until the lettuce is soft, about 10 minutes, stirring 3-4 times. Add the tarragon and cook for another minute.Remove the pan from the heat and blend the lettuce in batches, leaving some of the stock in the pan. Force the soup through a mesh strainer to get rid of the larger solids. Add reserved broth to thin the soup if necessary. Let the soup cool to room temperature Add cream to taste and refriderate to cool completely. Once chilled taste for seasoning. Ladle the soup into serving dishes and top with a few croutons.
Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
As a personal chef I am often alone in the kitchen. Many times I will meet a new client, spend 45 minutes talking to them about their food needs, get a key to their house and then never see them again. I had a client for a while that even though I had been in their house every two weeks for over three years, I had only seen them twice.
However, on occasion, my clients are home when I am in their kitchen. They might work at home or be a stay-at-home parent but usually they are elderly.
I cooked for Betty almost every week for five years. When I was there I could always count on two things. One, the kitchen would be a little messy when I arrived and two, the TV would be on and tuned to either the news or a judge show.
Over the years we talked a lot. At first it was mostly about food, where we had eaten over the weekend, what she might like for me to make the next week. In time we started talking about more, politics, vacations, Project Runway, the big news story of the day. Her favorite topics, however, were gardening, her pets and especially her family.
In the summer, we would go out together into her garden so that I could harvest fresh vegetables to use for her meals. She was always concerned about my safety as I stepped over fences (designed to keep the rottweilers out of the garden) to pluck tiny carrots from the ground.
When we met, Betty was in fine health. I watched over the years as her legs started to fail her, going from needing a cane, to a walker until she eventually needed a scooter to get around. I never once heard a complaint. I could always tell when she was anxious about something because she would “pace” in her scooter, rolling from the back door to the living room over and over again. I always wondered how long she could keep that up before she would have to plug it back in.
One of Betty’s favorite things was throwing a party. Any excuse to have her family over (especially in the summer so they could be in the garden) was welcome. Often, rather than making meals for the week I would make hors d’oeuvres for an upcoming party. One of her favorites to include was tea sandwiches, specifically cucumber-mint tea sandwiches. Over the years my recipe changed a bit, honed for her tastes. The recipe started with all butter, went for a time to all cream cheese before finally settling on a combination of the two.
Betty passed away last week at the age of 91. As I sat, thinking about our time together, I was reminded of a time when she told me that the day after her last party she had enjoyed leftover cucumber tea sandwiches and a martini for lunch. I loved seeing the absolute glee in her eye as she described this slightly naughty thing she had done.
So today, as I reflect on, and write about Betty, I am munching on her favorite, Cucumber-Mint Tea Sandwiches. And of course, toasting her memory with the perfect vodka martini. Cheers to you Betty, you will be missed by all who knew you.
C U C U M B E R – M I N T T E A S A N D W I C H E S
Makes 4 sandwiches (16 triangles)
Tea sandwiches are not tea sandwiches if you don’t cut the crusts off of them. While this may seem wasteful, I can admit to making more than one lunch out of tea sandwich crusts. If you make these in advance be sure to cover them well as they will dry out if they sit for too long.
4 Tablespoon butter, softened
4 Tablespoon cream cheese, softened
4-5 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
8 slices potato bread
1 cucumber, sliced thin
Stir together butter, cream cheese and fresh mint. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt (or two) if necessary. Spread the mixture on all eight slices of bread. Distribute cucumber slices evenly over four of the pieces of bread and then top with a second slice of bread to make the sandwich. Carefully cut the crusts off of each sandwich then cut each sandwich diagonally into quarters.