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
Monday, January 16th, 2012
Last week I was able to take part in Slow Food Seattle’s Tuna Canning Workshop. I had so wanted to go to the first one last year (especially after hearing all the raves about the tuna) but work got in the way. Pacific Northwest Tuna is exquisite (I especially love it raw) and I certainly love being able to support a local fisherman so I bought my ticket and reserved my flat of tuna as soon as it was possible.
We spent the day cutting and trimming the tuna, then stuffing it into jars. Each jar then gets a little salt, a little olive oil and a piece of carrot (Jeremy the fisherman’s secret ingredient). Finally the jars are sealed and then placed in a pressure canner for 90 minutes. The tuna comes out bubbling and hot so it has to cool for a few minutes before it get packed up to take home.
I wanted to cook something delicious with my first jar of tuna, but I’ve been a bit of a hermit lately so a trip to the store just didn’t sound like much fun. I decided to turn to a classic Italian dish, Pasta Puttanesca which requires no fresh ingredients.
Puttanesca has a bit of a tawdry history as it is said that it was invented by prostitutes. Some say that it’s aroma was used to lure new patrons while others say that they made it because it was quick and could be cooked entirely from the pantry (since many of them had no refrigeration available). Of course there are others that say it was simply invented by busy Italian women who wanted something quick to serve their family. Whichever version of history you believe, know that this is one of the most delicious pasta dishes around.
You might be tempted to leave the anchovy paste out of this dish but trust me, don’t. It adds a certain salty “what is that” flavor that is essential. I served mine over fresh pasta (just because I’ve been practicing my fresh pasta technique) but dry fettuccine or spaghetti will be just as delicious. Here’s the ingredients.
Start by covering the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. Once it’s warm add the garlic and anchovy and let it fry for about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes, black olives, capers and red pepper flakes and let it simmer while the pasta cooks.
When the pasta is almost done, add the tuna to the pan just to warm through.
Finally, drain the pasta then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for another 30 seconds or so then serve.
We had a friend over to enjoy this dinner with us. She took one bite and her eyes got big. “Yum” was all she could say. Salty, spicy and tangy this is the perfect pasta for a cold winter’s night.
Monday, December 5th, 2011
Here it is. My last Charcutepalooza post. The challenge for this, the final month in our year of challenges? Show off a little. Basically, have a party, invite a bunch of friends and feed them until they are ready to burst.
Of course there were a few more guidelines than “just feed people”. A list of items (using at least four) that our meal needed to include: something smoked, cured or brined, something made with pork belly, a pate or terrine, rillettes or confit and sausage of some kind.
I pulled out all of my trusty charcuterie books. For days I pored over them, considering my menu. A few items easily made the list (my buffalo chicken rillettes and pork belly confit) but some needed more consideration.
Finally, after days of adding something to my list only to replace it with something else two hours later, I settled on the following menu:
• Scotch Eggs
• Baguettes topped with Bacon Jam and Tomato Confit
• Buffalo Chicken Rillettes
• Baguettes topped with Goat Cheese and Lonzino
• Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay (based loosely on the version found in Charcuterie, recipe follows)
• Brined Pork Loin with Cured Lemons (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)
• Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Maple Syrup and Pecans
• Jim Drohman’s Pork Belly Confit with tender and bitter greens, mustard vinaigrette and sous vide eggs (pork belly recipe from Charcuterie)
• Polenta with Parmesan
And of course there was dessert (I served a nut tart I picked up at Will Bake for Food) and many plentiful cocktails (including a take on a lemon drop that included lavender and rosemary)
Ninety percent of my friends (and my husband) work at a the corporate office of a major corporation that does not allow anyone to take the day after Thanksgiving off work. So, that is the day I settled on for my gathering. Guests started arriving as they got off work and I started feeding them right away. And then I kept feeding them for the next four hours.
It was a glorious night of gluttony. Think about it, how often do you get to eat pork that has been prepared six different ways. The pork belly confit, which was cooked with cinnamon, cloves and allspice than deep fried was my favorite dish of the night, though the still-pink and meltingly tender pork loin was a close second. But then again, those brussels sprouts were pretty good too. Oh, and the veggie terrine…
I’m sad that my year of Charcutepalooza challenges has come to a close though I’m grateful for the new skills I’ve gained and the community of meat-enthusiasts that I have found. I plan to continue my learning and experimentation. Making my own bacon, grinding and stuffing my own sausage, whipping up a rillettes, just because. And now that I’ve got my curing chamber up and running, cured muscles and sausages are again within my grasp.
Sunday, October 17th, 2010
Lately I’ve been in the mood for soup. Maybe it’s because of the change of seasons (fall is, after all, the season of soup) but I think it’s more likely because I’ve been a little under the weather for a coupe of weeks. A bowl of soup can be a big bowl of comfort, warming you up and making you feel better from the inside out.
This soup could really not have been much easier. Throw some stuff in a pot. Cook for a couple hours. Throw some more stuff in the same pot. Cook for another hour or so. Eat.
I used purple and white carrots but that’s just because that is what I had in my crisper, orange carrots will work just fine. Same goes for the leeks, I could have used plain-ole onions but I was completely out of those, so leeks instead. Here’s the lineup.
To start, I threw the beans and a ham hock in a stock pot with a bunch of water. It’s a myth that beans need to be soaked overnight (they just take a little longer to cook if you don’t soak them).
I added a generous dose of salt to the pot after about an hour and let it continue to simmer for another hour or so (I kind of lost track of time after being sucked in to a movie). Once the beans were soft I dumped in everything else and let this simmer for another hour.
Once the collard greens were tender I took the ham hock out of the pot, let it cool for a while (until It was cool enough to handle) and then set to picking all the tasty goodness from the bones. I pulled all the meat from the hock, shredded it and then discarded the fat, gristle, bones and what not.
That shredded meat went back in the pot just to heat through and then It was time to eat. I decided to top the soup with a bit of pesto from the freezer (I had mixed herb pesto, but any pesto would work) and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. The pesto adds a nice bit of brightness to the flavor of the soup so I highly recommend this addition.
Served with a nice bit of crusty bread, this was a wonderful fall dinner. Warm, delicious and exactly what my beat-down body was craving.
BEANS AND GREENS SOUP
serves 6-8 as a main dish
This makes a ton of soup but it freezes well. Ham hocks and dried beans are very inexpensive ingredients so this soup is easy on the pocketbook.
1 pound dried white beans
1 smocked ham hock (may be sold as a ham shank)
10 cups water
4 leeks or 2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
pesto (optional, but highly recommended)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
In a large pot combine the beans, ham hock and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for two hours, or until the beans are tender adding a generous amount (a tablespoon or so) of salt about one hour into the cooking time.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and continue to simmer for another hour.
Remove the ham hock from the pot and let cool. Once it is cool enough to handle separate the meat from the bones and any large pieces of fat, then shred the meat. Return the shredded meat to the pot and heat through.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with Parmesan and pesto (if using).
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
While in Kansas, it seemed like every time we turned around someone was trying to feed us. No light food either, there was nary a salad in sight. In one day we had a cheesy potato breakfast casserole with bacon, ribs with potato salad and beans for lunch, and supreme pizza for dinner (then beer, lots of beer). Now I’m not saying it wasn’t good (the ribs were some of the best I’ve had) there was just so darn much of it.
Since I’ve been home I’ve been craving really light food (and spicy Asian-style food, but that’s another story). Today I decided to make myself a light, but indulgent lunch. And, I decided my tomato was finally ready.
Here’s the ingredients (for one person):
A couple handfuls of campanelle pasta (I decided on this shape because I thought it would hold the diced tomatoes nicely)
1 Roma tomato
several leaves of basil (these are from my garden, too)
1 clove of garlic, mashed to a paste
olive oil (the good stuff)
a bit of really good Parmigiano-Regianno cheese
I started by cooking the pasta in well-salted water. While this cooked, I diced the tomato (into 1/4″ dice), julienned the basil and mashed the garlic. If you’ve never done this, here’s how.
Start by chopping the garlic.
Sprinkle it with kosher salt.
With the knife almost parallel to the cutting board, mash the salt and garlic together.
Keep going until you get a paste.
Once the pasta was cooked through, I drained it, returned it to the pan and added the garlic paste right away (just to take the edge off of it). I added a generous drizzle of olive oil, the diced tomatoes and the basil. The heat of the pasta warmed the tomato and made a nice light sauce. I topped the dish with a bit of cheese and a sprinkle of sea salt.
So good, and exactly what I had been craving. Light and summery and so flavorful. It was so exciting to take my first harvest from my garden and turn it into something so delicious.
Saturday, June 20th, 2009
Last night the husband and I hosted our (almost) monthly poker game. Before we get to the game, we always enjoy drinks and dinner. Most everybody brings some food to share and I always try to make something (although I have been accused of being a lazy chef at times)
Last night we had an international smorgasbord with pizza, Thai food and I made some salsa (and a tasty dessert, but more on that later).
I had to buy some jalapenos and a lime but I got the rest of the ingredients in my box this week.
Here’s what I used:
2 tomatoes, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 limes, juiced (I added a second after I took the picture)
1/2 red onion, diced and 1/2 vidalia onion, diced (also not pictured)
2 avocados, diced
A few hours before the gathering I combined the tomatoes and jalapenos (I took the seeds out, but left the membranes in so that I would get a little heat but nothing too crazy) along with the lime juice. I stirred it together, tasted it and thought “hmm, something is missing here”. That’s when I realized that I had forgotten the onion, so I tossed that in too, tasted it again and added a healthy pinch of salt and the juice of another lime.
Just before my guests were due to arrive, I diced and gently stirred in the avocado (I didn’t want to add it to early in the day in case the avocado turned brown). I tasted it again, added and pinch more salt and then it was good to go.
This is my favorite chip and dip bowl. I got it for a steal it at a garage sale a few years ago.
The salsa was pretty tasty. It could have used some cilantro but the husband has an aversion to it and I would have liked a little more heat, but some of my guests do not like the spicy stuff.
Now to that dessert I mentioned earlier. The last two CSA boxes that I have received both contained peaches. Now I love peaches, but a couple of years ago I spent a week at Quillisascut farm school. One morning instead of making breakfast, we went to a nearby orchard and picked our breakfast directly from the plum, nectarine and peach trees. Ever since than I have been a little ruined for peaches. If I get a peach that does not have great flavor or texture, I’m out, I don’t want to eat it at all.
Well on Thursday, I tried one of the four peaches that we received in the box this week. The flavor was okay but the texture was no good. I knew then that the remaining peaches were destined to be cooked rather than eaten out of hand.
Somehow, I settled on ice cream. It seemed like an application where the sub-par texture of the peaches wouldn’t be a problem. Plus I had an ingredient on hand that I knew would be a hit with the peaches, lavender.
I have three ginormous lavender bushes in my front yard (this is just one of them) and I have been eagerly waiting for them to be ready to use.
They are so close to blooming and this is the very best time to use the buds.
I adapted a recipe for peach ice cream from Williams-Sonoma Ice Creams and Sorbets.
Here’s the ingredients.
3 medium peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lavender buds
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream (divided use)
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a spice grinder I combined the sugar with the lavender buds whizzing them together until the lavender was pulverized into the sugar (the smell of this is so nice). I combined half of the lavender sugar, the corn syrup and peaches in a large pan and heated it until the sugar was dissolved. Then I transferred this to a bowl.
To the now empty pot I added the half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the cream and brought it to a simmer. Meanwhile, in another bowl, I whisked together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar. When the cream was warm I removed it from the heat and then slowly whisked it into the egg yolk mixture, adding just a bit of the hot cream at a time so as to not cook the eggs. I poured this back into my saucepan and cooked it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard was thick, about 5 minutes.
I poured the custard through a sieve into a bowl and then stirred in the peach mixture, the last 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla. Then I covered the mixture and put it in the fridge overnight.
The next day I poured this mixture into my ice cream maker and when it was done working it’s magic I transferred it to a plastic container and stashed it in the freezer to freeze through.
Now this was good. The lavender and peach combined beautifully. I could (and probably will) make this over and over again this summer (and next summer and the summer after that…).
Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Last week my local QFC had two pounds or grape tomatoes for only $3.99. What a deal. And as I like to say, when life gives you tomatoes make tomato confit.
So, yesterday I did just that. I use the method from the Tom Douglas cookbook Tom’s Big Dinners, but I switched the herbs around a bit to use what I had on hand.
I put all the tomatoes I had left (I had to eat a few) on a baking sheet (I used a small one so that I could roast in my toaster oven) added a few cloves of garlic and a bunch of fresh oregano. I topped this off with olive oil (not the really good stuff, just the kinda good stuff) plus a generous helping of salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Now, tomato confit is one of my favorite things on the planet. It smells so good while it is cooking and can be used for so many things, as a condiment for meat or poultry (maybe even fish but I haven’t tried it) as a bruschetta topping, or, as I am going to use it, as part of a pasta dish.
I took a look in my very full crisper drawer and found a lot of vegetables that I would usually like to roast. The problem with that is, it’s almost 80 degrees out, so grilling seems like a much better idea. Luckily I remembered one of my favorite cooking tools, my grill saute basket. With it I’m able to take produce that is too small to grill (broccoli, for example) put it in the basket and get the high heat cooking of roasting with the ease of sauteing.
Here’s the ingredients for the veggies:
You’ll notice that I didn’t really put any amounts, that is because I used what I had, and other veggies would work here too (cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.).
I chopped the broccoli, carrots and asparagus into bite-sized pieces, julienned the onion and chopped the garlic. In a large bowl, I combined these with the snap peas, olive oil and salt and pepper.
For the pasta:
I added the pasta to boiling water and coked it until it was al dente. I drained it, reserving some of the pasta water.
To the now empty pasta pan I added the olive oil and anchovy paste, then stirred in the ricotta cheese and the pasta, adding enough reserved pasta water to loosen it up (make it saucy).
I doused the tomatoes with the vinegar and then heated it for one minute in the microwave. Then I stirred in the parsley.
In my bowl I placed my finished pasta, then layered on my grilled veggies, and topped it with the tomato confit and a dusting of Parmesan.
How was it? Well, the tomato confit smelled insanely good while it was cooking, then the grilled veggies smelled insanely good while they were cooking, so I had very high hopes, and I was not disappointed. Each part of this dish was sooo good on it’s own, but together, wow. I loved this so much, light, but filling and just good.
The husband, though, well, I have to discount his opinion a bit since he doesn’t really like broccoli, asparagus or tomatoes. So while he ate it, he certainly didn’t enjoy it as much as me. But it doesn’t look like he cares.
As an aside, while I was making my tomato confit, I was also making strawberry sauce and strawberry-rhubarb jam. I have more of this than I know what to do with, so if you would like either one, the first five people that let me know their preference shall receive it.
Sunday, April 26th, 2009
I have been out and about a lot this week. I actually left my house (and ate out) twice this week (I am generally quite the homebody).
Well, today I was home and ready to cook. This week in I CSA box I got a ton of items that just screamed salsa, so I decided to go Mexican.
I started with the salsa. Here’s the ingredients:
Early in the afternoon I combined all the salsa ingredients except for the avocado so that the flavors could marry a bit (I didn’t want to add the avocado at this point because I was afraid the avocado would get brown). So, right before serving, I stirred in the avocado.
I decided to use a spice rub on the steak. Here’s the ingredients:
I mixed together all of the rub ingredients, rubbed them over the steak, them let it sit in the fridge until I was ready to grill.
I would have liked to have use the charcoal grill for this but, alas, I am out of charcoal (I really need to put this on my shopping list) so I used the gas. I cooked it over high heat to rare, then let it rest for five minutes, then sliced it thin and squeezed a little lime on top.
While the steak was resting I put some corn tortillas on the grill to warm through.
Alongside I made a salad of cucumber, radishes and raw sunchokes (I just found out I LOVE sunchokes) dressed with a minced clove of garlic, some Spanish-infused vinegar that I made (the infusion has cider vinegar, garlic, chili peppers, chives, basil and oregano) and salt and pepper.
How was it? Really, really good. Pleasantly spicy but sweet (from the mango) at the same time. I am so glad that I have extra salsa, it will be a delicious snack tomorrow. The only thing that would have added is some cilantro with the salsa, but the husband has that genetic disposition towards cilantro that make it taste like soap. So, while I would have enjoyed it, the husband would have been miserable.
This was one of those meals that made me really happy that I cook at home.