Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bye-Bye CSA bag....

Well, my CSA (community supported agriculture) bag has petered out for the year.  The end of the season for Washington state grown veggies has passed.  Sigh.  And the nearby Farmer's Markets closed in October.  It is interesting how produce shopping habits have changed.

I still shopped for onions and garlic at the grocery store along with the occasional celery - but mostly just took what came.

I am still staring at a mole-hill of under ripe pears willing them to not turn into a mountain.  What to do, what to do...  Well the Christmas food season is coming - spiced-pear pate-de-fruit to go into a sugar cookie sandwich with a little Nutella?  Only time - and taste will tell.

I recently heard the thought that while a good savory-chef is always experimenting in the kitchen, they can usually taste as they go.  A pastry-chef on the other hand has to do more on faith, and just wait and see how it comes out on the other end, so they roll more in the 'Mad Scientist' mode.

I wonder which where on the spectrum I'll come up this time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Pepper Poppers

The challenge: In my house, except for me, squash is OK, only as long as it tends towards the savory and not the sweet.  And crunchy is always preferred.

Hard, because butternut squash for me always reads creamy and sweet - butternut squash risotto with mushrooms and maybe a little bacon/spek/prosciutto/pancetta (you get the idea) is one of MY absolute faves.

So after making some soups - what to do that is squashy, but unexpected....

Fridge search reveals Trader Joe's "Peri Peri Peppadrops,"
 and pecorino cheese. (sweet, spicy, salty... on to something...)

Pine nuts of the new world
as far as I'm concerned.

And the pantry turns up bread crumbs and.... drum roll please... pumpkin seeds - the "pepita" kind.

Sage is invulnerable, and is out there doing just fine.  Leaves please...
but not too many or the whole thing will taste like SOAP!

The recipe:
This should make a nice platter at your next fall party!

1 jar of the Peri-Peri Peppadrops
about 1lb of butternut squash cubes/wedges (pre cooked... see below)
1/2 C of bread crumbs - unseasoned
1/4+ C pepitas
2 oz Pecorino Romano grated fine (this comes out to over a cup on a microplane type)
3 - 6 sage leaves (depends on size) sliced into tiny ribbons and then chopped again (mined fine)
salt to taste
(oil - olive or other mild/neutral tasting)

If your squash is not cooked, preheat the oven to 350.
Toss the squash it with a drizzle of oil & a sprinkle of salt, and bake it in the oven in peeled wedges or cubes no bigger than an inch thick for 20 - 40+ minutes depending on the squash.  Shake and turn it after 15 min to get an idea of how it is doing.  It is done when fork tender (a fork goes in easily.) AND it has some brown on the edges... you want the squash to get a little bit drier than normal for this one.

Use a melon baller to scoop leftover seeds out of the peppers.  Set them up on a tray.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, chop it/smash it into small bits.  Food mill, knife, potato masher or food processor all work (FWIW I used my food mill).
In a large bowl combine the bread crumbs, grated cheese and half the minced sage.
Add in the squash, taste for salt & sage.  If it needs more, add it now.  The flavors should be strong rather than subtle, but not overpowering.

Stuff them into the peppers, and at the last minute push about 3 pepitas into the center of the squash stuffing.

SERVE!  (With a nice bitter beer was one taster's suggestion...  I bet a tart chianti would be a good bet too.  I have to make them again and try...)

P.S. you can add the pepitas into the stuffing mix but they will lose their crunch fairly quickly.

DamnIt! Where can a girl get a quality ham?

So... one of those seasonal things.  I have just reduced POUNDS, even kilos of fruit to chutney.  The English, pub kind you eat with cheese and cold meat.  And a great cold meat to eat a spicy sweet chutney with is ham!

Seattle, while being bacon CRAZY, (among other things the home of "Bacon Jam"), but not a great place to get ham.  While not the tip-top, this town couldn't even support a "Honey Baked Ham" store, and I remember as a kid, they weren't bad... just a little flabby for the purist.

Searching for ham in Seattle is now a mission.
It may require a bus ride to Pike Place and/or the CID.

I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime...

The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (by Pam Corbin) is where I got the chutney recipe to deal with about 5 pounds of fruit (apples, pears & plums) that was hanging over my head.  Sweet, sour, sticky and gingery with a little kick.  I've got to bottle it so it can properly mature.

I'm going to bet it goes great with leftover pot roast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cider Tour!

 A little while ago I went on a tour of North Western Washington Cider.

We only really had 1 day to do it.  We could spend Saturday night out, but had to be back on Sunday afternoon.  Amazingly - we did it, and did it in fine style.

These cider spots are all pretty new.  If you are looking for consistency... look elsewhere.  If you are looking to be in on the birth of a vibrant Washington State cider industry, strap on the shoes, choose a designated driver, and take the car for a spin!

The MAP:  Check out the cider tour on Google Maps,-122.601929&spn=1.005604,1.947327&z=9

The places:

1. Red Barn Cider ( - An impressive selection of tastes.  And it will be different next pressing.  In Mt. Vernon, about 1.5 hrs north of Seattle.  It seems a little far, but it is the gateway to the rest.  Show up there at 11 (or call and arrange to show up at 10:30, so lunch is more relaxing on Whidbey Is.)

***take the Keystone/Coupville - Port Townsend Ferry (GET A RESERVATION!!! ) *** don't meant to yell, but this is essential.  We were on the 1:30 ferry.  Just had to get there at 1ish.

2.  Wildfire Cider ( - Pretty close to Port Townsend.  The 1st place we went.  Be sure to call and see if they are open.  They weren't the weekend we went (fooey!).  2 food festivals that weekend, I s'pose I can forgive them.  I need to taste their stuff.  It can be found at Central Market... and other places.  Lesson, call ahead.

3.  Eaglemount Cider (  The largest selection... and nice and dry.  May I also recommend the Ginger Cider.  They are also a respectable winery.  But we were just tasting cider.

4.Finn River Farm ( Apple cider champagne?  Well, if done right, with cider rather than dessert (eating out of hand apples) YES!  it can be done.... and done well.  Surprisingly well.  This was a great last stop.  Their Perry (pear dessert cider) was my favorite.  And it was practically back to back with the place we spent the night.

Nap Time and where we spent the night...

5.  Solstice Farm (  A comfortable, homey clean place with a wonderful atrium, and a crazy good breakfast.  Engage in conversation knowing it will be an extended engagement if you want it.

6.  Dinner in Port Hadlock/Irondale area.  We went to Halibut and the Scampi's, but if you want to really Do-it-up-Right, check out the Ajax Cafe.

Pick a designated driver (the one who has to spit), and go for it!

7. Take the Kingston - to - Edmonds ferry back.  If you get on before Noon.  Then you are home free.  And you will wonder why you don't go to the Olympic Peninsula more often.  It is SO close!

Have fun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's All Worth It!

Had another of those moments.  You know the ones, where up until it happens, all the years where I've been slaving away with no recognition, and a dwindling hope of ever seeing any returns to the hours and hours I've spent on a project seem wasted.  And then suddenly, the light breaks through.  Your son spontaneously asks if he can help with dinner.  And the help he gives actually makes dinner prep shorter, instead of longer.

If I'd known it was coming I would have arranged a party.  Instead we got to sit down to dinner at least 15 minutes sooner than I had thought, and got to enjoy a nice leisurely dinner.

Sure, now, it doesn't sound like much.  But I have spent the last 7 years or so cooking around and with my son.  Up until now, involving him has always made things take longer.  He has either needed my help all the way through a process, or needed help completing each step, and guidance on to the next.

The colander was in the sink before I needed it, the Parmesan cheese made it on to the table with out me having to do it, he poured his own milk, and the lettuce was washed and torn into the salad for me.

I have high but realistic hopes.  This won't be a regular feature.  That would make it a job, not an adventure.  But when I need him, he can pitch in, and make the impossible more likely.  And when it is his turn to venture out into the big bad world, he'll already have some practice in the care and feeding of himself.

Good One Kiddo.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cooking for People with Allergies

Once again... faced with the start of school, and kids (and parents) who can't eat A, B or C.  My solution - switch cultures.  No meat makes no sense when eating middle American Cuisine.  Vegetarians and Texa BBQ just aren't friends.  But cooking non-meat substances over smoke and infusing it with a tangy sauce... Sure just check things out a few time zones over - the Japanese have their own version.  Or Viet Nam, or Thailand.... and then when you get to India the choices are so vast as to be overwhelming!

One of the most surprising best things I ever had was an onion bhaji where the onion had been smoked 1st.  The tamarind based dipping sauce with lots of cumin was the perfect compliment.
(Onion Bhaji is for lack of a better description Indian Tempura.  This is often made with a besan (chick pea) flour batter, along with a few spices in the batter, so works for all sorts of "can't haves.")

Anyway - I always see it as a personal challenge - and start working my way around the globe.  Whatever you can't eat... there is a cuisine that never had it in the first place.  Just strap on you shoes and start walking.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quinoa, Arugula and Veggie Salad... The Recipe

The basics for this off the cuff keeper:


2 C cooked quinoa
2 handfuls arugula or other bitter/spicy green - rinsed & torn
1 large handful cherry type tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1/4 C chopped onion (any kind)
2 cloves garlic
Tasty vinegar (sherry, rice, champagne etc... just not white and not too harsh)
salt, pepper
a few slices bread (tortillas work too)
1/4 broth or water
Oil for cooking (I suggest bacon drippings - or use a little sesame oil with regular cooking oil)
Parmesan or other hard grating cheese


Cutting Board
Sauce pan w/lid
Garlic press (optional)
Cheese Grater
Medium bowl + utensils for tossing/serving the salad


Brown the onion in the oil over high heat, then add the greens to wilt.
Turn down the heat to medium, crush the garlic into the greens and stir to combine.

Add in the quinoa.  If it is too dry, add about 1/4C broth or water, and cover over low/very low heat.
Slice the tomatoes in half (this is where they got scooped out with the melon baller).
Slice the cucumbers into bite sized pieces (more or less) sprinkle them with 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of vinegar.  Taste and adjust.  Set aside.

Check the quinoa, and if the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat, and stir in the tomatoes.
Taste and check for flavor.  Add pepper and vinegar to taste.  Grate in some parmesan and taste again before adding any salt.  That may do the trick.  (It did for us between the salt in the bacon and the broth).

Fry the bread/tortillas in a little more oil (or just toast them).

Serve the salad with the cumbers on the side or mixed in.
Grate on some more parmesan, and use the bread to help you eat it all.

Sliced nectarines & plums make a fabulous finish!  We actually had some honey yogurt with these - but got so excited, we forgot to take pictures of that...

The CSA bag Arrived!

...and no zuchinni, and YES tomatoes!

Sure yellow tomatoes, and peaches and plums and lettuce and....

Anyway, when it was time to make dinner, this was inspiring, but not dinner.

A quick peek in the fridge revealed a hodgepodge:

Pre-cooked quinoa I had vacu-bagged and frozen (and thawed),
left over onion,
bacon drippings
and some left over hot-dog buns (bakery kind),

along with the arugula, cucumbers and tomatoes from the bag

- and throw in some garlic.

So far so good - except my son doesn't like the "smoosh"
of the seedy part of the tomato.  This melon baller to the rescue.

(Before I had a kid... suck it up kiddo.  Now that I'm doing the mom thing, if it'll get you to eat something I really like, I'll meet you half way.)

So instead of just throwing in the little yellow tomatoes whole, I sliced 'em in half, and scooped out the "smoosh."  It helped that the boy helped.

 (Trivia alert:  At one point chef's were trying to pass off this stuff as "tomato caviar"  And yet the French have a specific process for removing this as an undesirable part - along with the skin - concasse. Huh)

Back to dinner:

Saute the onion in a bit of the bacon drippings. Brown edges on the onions says I'm ready for...
About half of that arugula torn up and thrown in the pan, wilt it.

Shrapnel from the smashed bag of frozen broth.
The boy likes to bang them on the counter.

Turn down the heat and pour in the quinoa.
It was pretty dry, so I broke up a ziploc bag of frozen broth and tossed in a few pieces of broth-ice-shrapnel.
Cover with a lid, and let the liquid soak into the grains.

Now all it needs is a fork!
While that is warming away, chop  chop up the cumber into wedges, sprinkle with a little salt and sherry vinegar.

Toss the tomatoes into the warm quinoa & friends, move it to another bowl, because I ended up having to fry the bread in a little more of the bacon drippings.

The salad needed a little vinegar too, along with some pepper.  It needed a little salt, but we went with some parmesan instead because that was more fun.

A useable recipe follows in the next post...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fire Makes Zucchini Good

And then there are the days when there is just too much zucchini to deal with...

Wouldn't it be nice if you could prep some, cover it up and throw it in the fridge and deal with it later?  Especially if doing so meant it would be really tasty?

Yup found one of those:

Grilled Sesame-Soy Zucchini


1 medium zucchini - regular or ball
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil


sharp knife
cutting board
metal spoon (optional)
tightly closing container you can leave in the fridge for several days
grill, grill pan or rack you can place over a drip pan in the oven (eventually)
tongs/chop sticks


When faced with that last zucchini that you know you have to do something with, but are all out of ideas... rinse it off and trim off the ends.  If it is a ball, cut it in quarters and scoop out the bitter seedy flesh inside.  If a regular long zucchini, cut it in half, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.

Either way, you want to be left with the dense flesh beneath the seeds.  Cut your zucchini (both sorts) into crescent moon shapes no wider than your pinky.  Place them in a tupperware or zip-top bag or other water-tight container.

Pour in the soy sauce and sesame oil in with the zucchini, and shake it to combine.  Place it in the refrigerator, turning it when you remember over the next 2 - 5 days.

When you are in need of a vegetable for a meal, take out this zucchini.  Remove it from the marinade.  It will have left a fair bit of liquid behind, and be a little wilted looking.  This is all to the good.

Cook it by either grilling it, cooking it over a stove top on a grill pan or suate'ing it.  In any case you want nice brown cooking marks to show up on it.
Alternately you can put it on a rack over a pan at 425˚F for about 15 minutes until the edges get a little brown and crispy.
What ever you do, I hope you, like I was, are pleasantly surprised at the unexpected deliciousness of zucchini relegated to the back of the fridge for several days.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beet Salad - with the goods!

If you liked the last beet salad, and your were not run out of the town on a rail by those that were served the raw beet salad, you are ready for the next round of....

"See, Beets Aren't So Scary After All."

Roasted chioggia beets are an approachable pink,
not a scary red.
The cornbread is just a bonus

This one has beets, beet greens, pistachio nuts, goat cheese, and plenty of vinegar.

But the wonderful thing about this beet salad is it can take several substitutions.


4 small to medium beets (nothing larger than your fist)
4 1/2 inch slices of goat cheese
small handful of roasted nuts - pine nuts, pistachios and pecans are all good choices
1 overflowing handful of a dark green - nothing too tough (beet greens, chard, tender kale, arugula etc.)
1/2 tsp oil + 1 tsp oil/bacon drippings
salt & pepper (if you have truffle salt, break it out here!)
cider or wine vinegar - to taste


pan for roasting beets & foil to cover... or just wrap beets in foil
cutting board
sharp knife
medium bowl
utensils for mixing and eating the salad
Saute/fry pan & spatula


Cut off the beet tops, and the roots, and give them a good rinse.  Rub the beets with the 1/2 tsp of oil to speed up cooking.
Roast the beets in the oven at 425˚F for about 1 hour (this can even be done a few days ahead) until they are fork tender (a fork easily pierces them).
Let the beets cool all the way down.
Use your fingers or a towel to rub off the tough outer skin.

Cut the beets into thumb size pieces, place in your bowl.
grind on some pepper, and add a pinch of salt.  Toss with at least a Tbs of vinegar, and set aside while you get on with the rest of the prep.

Rinse your greens, chop or tear roughly if they are large leaves.  Heat a saute pan with the 1 tsp of bacon  drippings or oil over medium high heat.  Saute your greens until they are tender, and have wilted down to a tiny huddled mass.
Toss in the nuts and heat them through as well.
Keep an eye on things.  Toasty nuts are good. Burnt nuts are yucky.

Slice the goat cheese, and crumble into pieces.

Toss together the beets, nuts and greens.
Taste.  Add salt, pepper and vinegar as needed.
Taste with a piece of the goat cheese to see if there is enough tanginess.

Serve the salad over the crumbled goat cheese.

Baby Beet Salad...(super easy, no cooking required).

Beets can be scary.

And rightly so, the Celts used to carve them, place a candle inside and put them out for Samhain ("sow-when" or prehistoric Halloween).  And if you are wondering how they got a candle into those fist sized things, you haven't seen how big a beet can get.  If left all summer and fall in the ground, they can get, literally, as big as your head.

And a big purple-red head sized thing, carved and glowing with a candle inside.  THAT would be terrifying.

But beets can also be tasty.

One of the strangest things about beets is their strange vegetable sweetness combined with their soft cooked-carrot texture, and their ability to turn the whole world pink.
I won't lie, I even shy away from the vibrant red beets much of the time (though they do make a good crayon), and lean toward the golden beet, or the candy-striped chioggia.

This salad is about moving away from the scary, unfamiliar bits of beets, and making them worth a second look.


2 -3 "baby" beets (very small)
a large handful of baby lettuce leaves (to stay with a theme) - or anything tender
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs mild vinegar (rice, champagne, something that doesn't curl your nose hairs right off when you smell it)
1 tsp mustard
1 clove garlic smashed to smithereens
salt & pepper


carrot peeler
cutting board
sharp knife
(mandolin or V-slicer - helpful but not essential)
medium bowl
whisk or tightly closing small container
utensils for serving and eating the salad


Make the dressing - in your salad bowl combine the vinegar, mustard and a little salt & pepper.  Whisk in the garlic, and then slowly pour in the oil as you whisk... or place all of the above in a little container, clap on the lid and shake like crazy.

Give the beets a rinse and a bit of a scrub.
Chop off the leaves and the roots (the scraggley hairy bit at the bottom).
Use your carrot peeler to peel off the skin.
Then use a mandolin, V-slicer, or your carrot peeler to make "wafer-thin" slices of your beet.

Put these in the salad bowl with your dressing.

Wash the lettuce greens, tear up if they are big, or leave whole if they really are baby.

Toss it all together.

TA-DA!  Salad!

The chioggia beets are especially striking looking - all stripey and cool!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Applesauce!... or The Perils of Procrastination.

Even the modern girl can Can.

So, I've been trying to find time to make applesauce again.  If you've never had good, homemade applesauce, you most likely won't find this exciting, but good applesauce is like fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee vs. Sanka (that weird freeze dried, de-caf coffee-ish stuff).  A whole different animal, and totally worth the trouble.

When we moved into our current house, the dwarf apple tree produces a BUMPER crop of apples, and about 1/2 way into the apples growth, my son and his friend (both about 3 1/2 and the time) pick about half of the apples.  They were still somewhat green but tasty, and I hated to see them all go to waste.  So I made applesauce for the first time.  Pretty easy, except for the straining.

Did that through a sieve.
What a pain.
Everything old is New Again... Why did we give this up?
 This is better than a bendy straw! 

This year, I have a food mill for the first time.

And so, when I finally went to the fruit stand to get a box of apples, I was relieved to see that Gravensteins were still there.  I was worried I had missed them.
I almost had.
Ugly Apples get a Bath
And since the end of the season was approaching, the "scratch and dent" boxes were out - for $5, I could get about 15lbs of ugly apples.

Looks don't matter for apples sauce (or chutney for that matter).  So I got three (3) boxes. (see also; 3x15 = 45 = ARE YOU NUTS!)
I made a small kiddy-pool's worth of apple sauce.  It is good.  Very, very good.  Especially the cinnamon spiced.  I made so much I had to break out the canning equipment.

If I had just gotten apples when they were first coming off the tree, I would have gotten 1 box, and that would have been the end of it.

 And I wouldn't have gotten into this fix.

 Ah well, we have apple sauce for a big chunk of the school year, and I don't have to think to hard about how to round out my son's lunch.
And it is so good, it deserves to be eaten with ice cream.

How does one do this?

I'll give you the starter size recipe.  Once you taste the results and get the hang of it, you can decide if you want to make the plunge (in my case literally) into large batch applesauce.  Because I love my new toy so much, I will give the food mill instructions.  NOTE: If you only have a sieve and a spatula, you MUST peel and core your apples.  And where I say, pour it into the food mill and turn the crank, you just need to use a spatula to press it though the sieve.


8 new summer apples (what ever size you have) (you can us.e ANY apple... but the best sauce comes from new crop apples, sweet, flavorful, fruity.)

about 1 C water
1/2 tsp salt

(for spiced applesauce - 2 Tbs cinnamon, 4 cloves, 4 allspice berries, & maybe more cinnamon)


1 BIG pot (about 8 quarts - a spaghetti pot)
chopping knife
cutting board
non-conductive spoon (wood or plastic, not metal)
food mill (or sieve... see note above)
zip-top bags or tupperware you are willing to freeze


Cut the apples into quarters (if you have  a food mill, throw in everything.  The extra pectin from the skins etc., will make for a richer sauce.  Just try it.  Trust me this once.) and throw everything into the big pot.
(For spiced applesauce, also add the whole cloves and allspice berries)
Pour in the 1 C water, and place over high heat for 10 minutes.

Turn down the heat to med low,  and stir the apple occasionally for about 20 more minutes or until the apple flesh turns mushy (feel free to squash the apple pieces with the back of the spoon).

Pour the apple mush into a food mill placed over a large bowl, and turn the crank to separate the yummy from the yucky.

Discard the yucky bits, and stir in the 2 Tbs of cinnamon.  Taste.  Adjust.
Add more cinnamon if you want (red hots are always a fun way of doing this, they give the sauce a fun pinky-red color).

If the sauce seems too thin, return it to the original pot (rinsed out) and cook at a high simmer/low boil to steam off excess water and thicken up the sauce.

As soon as it is delectable, ladle into zip-top bags or tupperware, and cool & freeze for future consumption.

Since this is high in sugar & acid, it will keep well frozen for at least a year.

If you a a canner, this is prime canning material.  Unlike jelly, this is not rocket science.  Just get it hot, and process it.

P.S. I highly recommend Snoqualmie Honey Cinnamon Ice Cream as a pairing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Squash, Summer Cabbage & Sweet Onion Salad

Get out the grill kids... this one actually makes squash good!
And I mean children asking for seconds.

(we had this with grilled chicken - the optional chicken recipe will follow)

Start with:
1 small summer cabbage,
1 medium summer squash,
1 small sweet onion.

[This means 1 small cabbage (baseball sized or 1/2 of a big one), 1 medium sized summer squash, (or several small ones to make up the space of 2 cupped hands), and 1 small sweet onion (or half of a big one].

First make a hearty dressing:

1 Tbs grainy mustard
Optional: (1 small handful of tender herbs - parsley, basil, oregano, chives...)
1 garlic cloves smashed/minces
a large pinch of salt & a small one of pepper (to taste)
4 Tbs pale, but not white vinegar (apple cider, rice, white wine, champagne, any of the above)

Shake or stir these together.

Add about 1/4 C ... or a little more olive oil (either add it slowly and whisk it in, or put it all in a jar/tightly closing tupperware and just shake it hard!)

Pour about half of this in a medium sized bowl/tupperware
Slice the sweet onion thin slices, and toss them in the dressing... set this container to the side.

Slice a summer squash into about 1/4 inch slices (thinner than your pinky).  Long way, short way, diagonal.... which ever way you like to slice your squash.
Toss the slice with 1/2 tsp of oil and 1/2 tsp of salt, and set aside while you fire up the grill... or a grill pan if it is chilly tonight.

While the grill is heating, see to the cabbage.  We got purple in the CSA bag... and it makes the summer squash (yellow &/or green) look good.
Peel off the thick outside leaves.
Chop it in half, and make a "V" shaped cut in each half to cut out the core of each
Place each half on the cutting board, flat side down, and make thin slices.
Toss with the rest of the dressing.

Now that the grill is hot, start to grill the oiled squash - get grill marks before flipping.  When both sides of the squash have grill marks, toss it into the bowl/container with the first half of the dressing & the sweet onion.

Now you have all the pieces.  Throw all together, toss well, and eat with garlic toast!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green Curry Summer Squash (including ZUCCHINI!)

After the last post... ramble-y  and unhelpful, it did contain worthwhile info for zucchini consumption.

So to make plain to those of you with a life and a job, and less love for poking around the kitchen, grocery store, asian food centers, farmers market & garden... Here are the high points:

Get your hands on:
*green curry paste (1-2 Tbs)
*some broth (chix or veg - your choice) (about 1 C)
*cocoanut milk (12 - 14 oz can - cans vary, an ounce or 2 won't sink the ship)
*ginger (something about the size of 2 of your thumbs) grated or minced small [can add in chunks, just fish it out]
*something salty (soy sauce, salt, or fish sauce) - to taste
*onion (shallots or classic onions, sweet onions don't fly here) 1 large shallot or half a small onion
* zucchini or other summer squash (yellow, patty pan, bi-color, ball, ANY sort) Use about the volume your forearm takes up.  If you have more, make more curry soup.
*Slice the zucchini/summer squash either into half-moons about 1/2 the width of a pinky finger, or if you are feeling ambitious - or have a mandolin/V-slicer into "noodles."  If the zucchini is very large, scoop out the foamy pith. [I learned the hard way, this just makes things bitter and odd textured].
*something sour  - lemons, limes, tamarind, or in a pinch vinegar. 2 lemons or limes.  If you know tamarind, just go by taste.
* a little vegetable oil
*Rice - ready to spoon curry over - you choose what and how (for those in a hurry - instant microwave rice is not to be sneezed at) or noodles.

Heat about 1 tsp oil + any of the very thick cocoanut milk at the top of the can in a med - large sauce pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add sliced onion or scallion.  Stir to sizzle and soften, but before you get more than a few brown edges.

Add 1 - 2 Tbs curry paste.

Stir that in into soften and cook down a bit.

Add the rest of the cocoanut milk.

Stir in ginger and the salt.

Taste for, well, tastiness.  If it seems too creamy, start to add the broth.  It may need more than the 1 Cup.
If too flat, add the salt (salty stuff) carefully.
If it is not sour enough add a little vinegar (rice vinegar if you have it).  This should make it almost sour enough but not quite (a hard thing to pin down, but a goal worthy of seeking).

Add the the sliced zucchini/summer squash.  Simmer for a moment to warm though, and cook to tender, but still a bit crunchy.  A taste worth finding for yourself.  stand over the stove a fuss with it for 10 minutes or so.  You'll get the hang of it.

When the zucchini is suddenly really tasty, take the curry off the stove, and add lemon or lime or  tamarind or vinegar to make it "just right sour."

Serve over rice.  Garnish with cilantro or basil or parsley or cucumber.... Farm Bags are that way!


PS I bet this is good with corn!

Wish I Could Remember How I did That!

Ah, Yes!

The wages of cooking by the seat of your pants... when you hit a winner, you do wonder just what you did.

This time it was fish curry.

A trip the other day for Alec to pick up sushi supplies got it all started, as I passed by the Galanga (Thai ginger or "lesser ginger"). Galanga is one of those mysterious ingredients like bitter melon, palm sugar, palm oil, lemon grass, tamarind... something that is so present in the very authentic cook books, and yet in my youth, was nearly impossible to find in even this most Asian-infiltrated west coast city. Many of them fell under the heading of, "if you cannot find, just replace with..." And so I did. But I always wondered. And if anyone else is wondering, of the ones I have tracked down;

Tamarind Is Worth The Trouble. (It keeps as a pantry staple... this is good)

The rest... ehhh. I discovered with the Galanga, it does add a decidedly subtle flavor, and I appreciated it enough that I will buy it again (unlike palm oil... unless I decide to make soap again... OK cut the tangent!), but won't make a special trip for it. Ginger will do. Palm sugar and brown sugar are interchangeable. And until I start growing lemon grass I official quit caring, since lemon or lime zest plus lemon verbena (which I AM growing) fill in very well.

So there was the Galanga... and at the Farmer's Market, It Is Pepper Time!

So I bought up a big handful of peppers: A mix of 5 serranos, 3 padrons and 3 fresnos. The green curry recipe called for 20 green bird's eye chilis. A masochists, nor a computer geek of a certain stripe, I AM NOT. So I came down the Scoville Scale a few notches, and went for a little more fruit, and a lot less, "AAAaaaaaahhhhhh!" Oh, yeah, and I cut off the tops, and sliced out about 1/2 of the main pith in the top, though left plenty of this heat containing portion down the sides of the pepper.

*Then added some oniony stuff - a shallot & some left over Japanese Scallions.
*The Galanga went in peeled and chunked, about 3 good thumb sizes.
*and about 4 garlic cloves.
*about 2 tsp each of coriander, cumin and 1 tsp of tumeric.
*For that uniquely funky Thai factor, 1 large tsp of shrimp paste went in as well. (another thing to NEVER taste on its own, only when well combined with other things.)
*And either the tender root end of a piece of lemongrass OR the rind of 2 lemons/limes (it can be pared off, or use a carrot peeler, no need to daintily grate it off with a microplane or such) and a nice handful of lemon verbena.
*I also scored cilantro with the roots on at the Market, and cilantro root was called for. Another ingredient I won't go after special. I tasted it... it is mildly "cilantro-" But I feel the stems pack a bigger punch for simmering/grinding. (added some stems to the paste too)

And I turned it all into mush in my food processor. I was made VERY glad I did not seek out the hotter peppers. Even grinding these only moderately hot beauties made me turn on my kitchen blower.

So far I had used a green curry recipe for guidance... Here I went totally off the rails.

I still used the thick portion of my can of coconut milk to soften the 2 Tbs of my new curry paste, cook it down a little.
I sliced a shallot thin and used a little more oil to soften it, and the chunked up cutest, tiniest little baby egg plants I had ever seen. (Squeaky eggplant skin in a curry is not a turn on. Unless they have very thin skin, cook 'em down.)

Then added the rest of the coconut milk, and started tasting. It needed salt like nobody's business. About 2 Tbs fish sauce got things going in the right direction. But it still needed more acid. So rice vinegar to the rescue. I added 2 capfuls, I think the cap is about a tsp?

Some chicken broth went in since it always does, and this was richer than butter & cream mushroom at this point. Adjusted for salt with soy sauce, it tasted almost acid-y enough, was waiting to the very end to add lime juice (so as not to cook away the sour. I could have used Tamarind water, but had none).

I let this cook until the flavors blended, and the eggplant was lovely. I then added thin strips of a summer squash that was staring at me from the fridge - a CSA bag leftover, I had yet to give a good home to. In the thin strips went.

And this time I WOULD NOT overcook the fish.

I had a nice Ling Cod fillet, from Sunday's Market as well. I boned it, chunked it, and as soon as the squash was cooked but still a little crunchy, I put in the fish chunks. As soon as they were mostly cooked through, I turned off the heat and made sure the table was set, and started setting up the bowls with rice and cilantro.

By the time I added the juice of 2 limes and spooned it over the rice and cilantro it was some of the best curry I had ever made. And the above is as close as I can remember.

I suppose I shall have to stumble around in a similar way to do that again.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Necatarines, Sweet Onions, Corn and CRAB!

Local Produce wise, it is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Seriously - take your pick! The salmon and crab are in full flower, the stone fruit is rolling in, berries are burying us, and corn, peppers and onions and herbs are coming up like weeds.

The New England Clam Bake makes so much sense, but out here, crab and salmon and mussels take center stage.

Anyway - a wonderful meal made: Crab Salad with a Fresh summer Relish... and of course Corn on the Cob!

*Nectarine and Sweet Onion Relish*
(please remember - all these amounts are "-ish" and to your taste!)

A firm Nectarine (a good place to use the one that is not quite ripe) cut into small chunks.
A small sweet onion, or 1/2 of a larger one, again, cut into small chunks
a 1/2 cup of sweetish white wine (sparkling if you have it)
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
about the same of basil, Thai Basil is really nice here... but any will do (as would none...)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Let this sit for a few hours, overnight if you are thinking ahead.

*Catch some Crab and Cook it Your Favorite Way*

I steam mine live and whole for about 10 minutes and let them cool.

*Cook the Corn*

While the crab is cooling, boil a big pot of water, place the corn in the water, and boil for about 3 minutes. Pull the corn out and cool. Serve with butter, salt & pepper.

.... when the crab has cooled, quickly
pop the shell off, and clean them. With dungeness crabs, cut off the shell around the legs and body meat. All you need is a strong set of kitchen shears to cut and crack, and the crab toes make great picks.

Or if catching/cooking is not an option, get a bunch of the freshest crab meat you can.

Chop up some sort of crunchy leafy veg... Purple cabbage, butter lettuce, what ever comes to hand.
Dress it with a nice light vinaigrette (oil, vinegar, a little garlic, salt, pepper, mustard as emulsifier).

Dressed chopped salad on the bottom
Crab meat goes on top.
A big spoon of the nectarine relish goes on top.
A cob of corn
The rest of the wine you were cooking with!


Monday, August 2, 2010

CSA Basket Adventures - Fruit Pickles

What's a girl to do with 15 peaches all getting ripe at the same time?

Eat many, slice and freeze some for future smoothies and such, and of course - experimentation.
Fruit Pickles.
They add that something special to the morning yogurt and granola, and give you a little breathing room before the next wave of fruit comes at you.

Alton Brown showed it to me on his excellent show, "Good Eats", but I suspect this has a long and unsung history - well, maybe not that long, since these are refrigerator pickles.
The recipe he posts uses pears and plums.
I have had success with plums, peaches and apples. And instead of mint, lemon verbena and thyme have made their way in.
I used candied ginger, and cut down on the sugar a little - but here's the recipe I started with.
(I cannot claim this one - the basic recipe comes from The Food Network &


1 Bartlett pear, thinly sliced

1 red plum, seeded and quartered

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, slivered

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cup rice wine vinegar

1 sprig fresh mint


Place the pear, plum, lemon, and fresh ginger in a bowl. In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and rice wine vinegar.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until sugar dissolves.

Place the fruit mixture into a spring-top glass jar and add the sprig of mint to the fruit. Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid over the fruit,

filling the jar to the top.

Cool the pickles, then refrigerate for 2 days up to 1 week before serving.

But start here - and innovate, innovate and experiment.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Amazing Olive Oil + Amazing Crab?

It turns out the the sweetness of crab meat and the sweetness of a good olive oil clash. And the bitterness of the the olive oil.... even with the best, the bitterness somehow swims to the top.

Sort of like the Uni + Beer problem. If you have had uni and beer, you will say you don't like uni. They bring out the worst in each other. The sushi bar drink of choice with uni is nothing or Sake... but NEVER EVER beer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Zucchini Escabeche

Zucchini is BACK!

And I get a ball zucchini. This have tasty, sweet flesh on the outside, BUT, are filled with the foamy, seedy, bitter pith. So the little rounds of zucchini baked or sauteed and married with parmesan are out. What to do?

A new cooking method comes to the fore. Escabeche. This is a relative of the too-popular ceviche that took over the cooking shows last year. But instead of using acid to "cook" the food, escabeche preserves cooked food with the acid.

So, (after a few tries)....

Zucchini Escabeche

zucchini (1 big-ish, or 2 smallish)
1 purple onion - frenched (that is, sliced into thin wedges - about the width of a pinky)
1 sweet onion - also frenched
what ever tender herbs are at hand (I have parsley, basil, oregano, and used a little tarragon)
salt & pepper to taste
rice vinegar
white wine or white balsamic vinegar
lime juice (optional)
white wine (optional)
Open your zucchini and scoop out the spongy, seedy center.
Trim off the stem, blossom end, and any rough spots on the skin.
Thinly slice the zucchini, sprinkle and toss with 1/2 tsp of salt.
Leave to drain for about 30 minutes.

Rinse off the salt thoroughly, and layer in a colander. Mercilessly press out excess moisture with a few layers of paper towel topped by a tea/kitchen towel.

Set aside.

Heat a about 1/8th - 1/4th inch of olive oil in a wide saute pan (amount depends on the size of pan) over med high heat.

Fry the zucchini in the oil in batches. And REALLY fry it. Get it brown around the edges. It removes moisture and gives the zucchini a lovely sweet flavor, and a tender, fluffy texture with crispy edges.

*You can just salt and eat the zucchini this way, there will ALWAYS be more zucchini*

As they fry, drain them on paper towels on a rack.
When you are done with the zucchini, saute only the purple onions until they are softened, and some have brown edges.
Place all the cooked vegetables, and the raw sweet onions, and a small - medium handful of chopped herbs to a non-reactive container (glass or plastic, or in a pinch, stainless steel). Begin by adding about 1/2 C of vinegar - about half rice vinegar and half white wine/white balsamic.
Add a good splash of lime juice and/or white wine if you are using them.
Stir in a few grinds of pepper.

Time to finish by your own palate. The only way you will eat this is if it is Tasty.
So start to add salt, pepper and acids to taste.
This means TASTE!
If it is TOO acid, fear not. Pour out about 1/2 the liquid and replace with some white wine. And then begin to adjust again.

This is awesome over rice & such.
It is great with thick white fish (halibut, cod etc.)
And was born to be eaten with chicken or veal or...
White beans stewed in chicken broth.

And the leftovers went so very well with a tortilla with jack cheese and the ends of the chicken!

The Radish and the French Laundry

As an aspiring cook book writer... I am STILL in search of the best thing to do with radishes that does not make them a garnish (maybe they always will be...) But at the French Laundry - that mecca of food rooted in Napa Valley - I went there in Mid-June thinking THAT would be a fabulous time to experience the produce of that epically fertile area. I had wonderfully lush food, and all beautifully prepared - but so much of it was Not Local. It was lush but well, almost cliche lush. Oysters, caviar, scallops, tuna, duck.... I'm in Napa Valley and California in mid June... I want Late Spring Bounty. I get local butter, carrots and radishes. EVERYTHING else is from somewhere else.
BUt while enjoying myself, I am not to be daunted. What?, I think to myself will the French Laundry do with a radish?

As someone who strives to make the produce of the local farmers market, nearby farm and the small garden accessible to the average busy person with kids, the *Radish* is a bit of a challenge. Even the most kale eating, sunflower seed gulping tomato biting littler person is wary of a radish after the first bite. It is fiery for little tongues, and even big ones too. But if they could find a way to make it magical at the French Laundry, I would soldier on.

It came out lightly poached (or cooked sous vide in broth) and sliced paper thin.

The solution at the French Laundry to the radish was to use it (sparingly) as a garnish. I confess, this disappointment colored the rest of the meal (as did the large pieces of duck and tuna - while prepared simply and beautifully, they SERIOUSLY lacked in imagination. I can do simple and beautiful at home. If I pay that much, I deserve whimsy and complexity I choose NOT to engage in in my own kitchen.)

So the radish remains in limbo, and I must continue to experiment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dog Mountain Farm and the School of the Lost Arts

I am a curriculum writer - I mean for other people!
I am just finishing up the plans for 3 weeks of day camp (that will be run twice).

We are running a Nature Adventures week, an Artists on the Farm week and, my favorite, a Young Chefs week.

I'm just about ready to send kids running about the farm finding stuff, listening to stuff, and tasting stuff.

And if I get my way the Young Chefs kids will go home knowing how to make flat bread!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Am Glue

Remember that old taunt?
"I am rubber, you are glue, what bounces off me sticks to you."

Turns out, I am glue. The bad news - still not the coolest.
The good news, while some of the stuff is junk, SO much of the stuff stuck to me is turning out useful. It has just taken awhile to organize.

Who know an affection for slides of onion bulb cells in the 8th grade, an actual understanding of what a carbohydrate is, and how fiber is a subset, would all come together in a real job?

Beyond Yucky and Yummy, here I come.

By the way - to keep up the continuity - fake apple flavor is an extract that can be mixed with water sweetened cheaply and largely rot free with HFCS (high-fructose-corn-syrup) and flavor anything. It is so shelf stable because it contains pretty much nothing nutritious.

Real apple flavor is less predictable, and thus less marketable - and goes bad. We are programming our kids to appreciate predictability.
("Why is it so cold today?"
"Well honey, it is winter..."
"I want strawberrries!"
"But... ummm..." <--- see this is where the make or break comes in as a parent. Fill in your favorite ending. Is it the one you really do?)

Patience, Lighting and Timing anyone?

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's cold and I want quick warm food...

Bacon and Swiss Cheese Omelet... with chives!

The only thing that is safe outside is my chives. Frozen bits of water keep falling out of the sky. It is not snow... that is water frozen in the clouds and falling gently upon the earth.
It is not hail, that is developed in thunderheads and thus falls in thunder storms.
It is not freezing rain as that is rain which falls out of the sky as a liquid and only freezes in contact with cold surfaces, and creates a glaze.
I can only guess that this must be sleet. I suppose that is what it is called when liquid water falls out of the sky, and freezes on the way down.

Anyway - I was chilly at lunch time. Bacon, Eggs, swiss cheese and chives. NO desire to make a quiche. (Crust, baking... more dishes.) So omelet time.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

What Do You Call Your Camellia sinensis?

My apologies for transliteration - i.e. the use of the Roman alphabet to render words normal spelled out in languages that use different characters.

Add ImageIt started when I learned Russian. The word for tea is "chai." Which is the same as a popular word for Indian tea, "chai." Other languages on the Indian subcontinent express it as "char." Throughout Asia it is some cha* word.

Get to Europe and the new world... Tea, te, the, tee, thee etc.

I'm interested to test the idea that what you call it is based on how it got to you. The first major importers of tea (and just about everything else) to Europe were the Dutch. They call it "thee" (pronounce tee). But they started moving it from Indonesia, mainly Java. What is(are) the most common word(s) for tea in the approximately 1,200 languages spoken in the Indonesian archipelago? Or more importantly what was it called in the Dutch East Indies?

I wonder if the interweb can make my life easier? What data can you people out there give me? What do you call tea?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beyond Yucky & Yummy

An experiment - does the food you are eating taste the same if you plug your nose or unplug it? Most likely, when you plug you nose, it loses... something.

Salty - Sweet - Sour - Bitter - Umami. That's it. All we can taste with our tongues. And yet the world of food is full of more flavors than that. That is because we smell as much - or even more - than we taste. But many of those smells that we work into taste are ephemeral, fleeting. And capturing and keeping them is at best a tricky, and at worst an expensive business. As a result, food that can sit around and not go bad is heavy on taste, and light on smells. Well, maybe a few of the cheaper, stronger, stable smells. But those complicated smells-of-our-dreams are missing.

Case in point; Coffee and all attendant manias. Few people would quibble with the statement - there are few things so pleasant as the aroma of fresh ground freshly roasted coffee. In fact many non-coffee drinkers still enjoy the smell, and even bemoan the difference between the scent of coffee and it's flavor - such a disappointment. Thence, the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee, distilling that ephemeral scent into liquid form, unadulterated by that bitter alkaloid barb that dwells in each bean. This is expensive. And thus, the brief flash of the $10 cup of brewed coffee (the ill timed Clover ), and the incredulity that went with it. As wasteful as such a price may seem, a part of me must admire the artistry and obsession of the engineers. I also hope that such coffee is enjoyed unadulterated, with the ceremony it deserves. I suspect it doesn't. I bet some people even Splenda(tm) in it.

Which brings me back around to my point. We have lost touch with our senses. We slather on the sensory input (e.g. music, TV, computer, conversation *and* driving) and then show off to each other how much we can block out. But if we spend all of our time blocking things out, what are we really taking in?

Back to food. Are we fueling up, or our we dining? Most of the time, I suspect the former. What happens when we are just eating for the calories (or the nutrition), and stop dining for enjoyment? We loose sight (or in this case taste and smell) of what we are after. All these fabulous instruments of food enjoyment must have been of use to us at some time, and yet now we barely use them - even ignore and over power them.

What this is all about is paying attention to what we taste (and smell). Learning to describe it, give it meaning in our head - so we can move beyond the judgement of "yucky or yummy."

There are many layers to those two terms far beyond the 5 tastes. Find a food you like and follow along.

Sight: What does it even look like? We are a "pretty food" people. It starts young. How many kids take one look at something and decide, "this is not food for me."

Smell: Even before we begin to mingle taste with it, smell gets into the game. Kids often use this as a cue as to what they determine is "food" and "not food." All too often food marketed to kids smells sweet. What does your favorite food smell like? I bet your least favorite food has a smell too. Please don't put a banana peel in a trash can of a room I am in. That is psychological torture for me.

Texture: how does it feel in your mouth? Crunchy, crispy, soft, chewy, sticky, spiky, slimy and so on. Amazingly, for many THIS is the determination of yucky. Because we feel food even before we really taste it. My own issues with peas and lima beans lie here.

Finally - and very last - Taste: But remember there are only 5 tastes. To truly and only taste food, you would need to hold your nose while you ate it. A tricky prospect; you would be hard pressed to tell an apple from a onion. For they have similar, crunchy texture - and under all that sulfurous hand waving - an onion is sweet. And that is all we can taste.

Take the time to think about what you are experiencing when you eat food you like, and don't like so much. This will teach you more than you know.

Next time... tricking us. Apple flavor vs. Apple

Monday, February 1, 2010

1st Bonus of my Future Garden

As I was getting the rest of the dirt for my new garden (how CITY is that? I s'pose if I had lots of land a compost pile or 2 then I could make my own - GO Cindy and 2 Percherons!)... anyway. I'm going to grow Nasturtiums since they are so fast and hardy I grew them successfully at 8500 ft in Colorado (only to have them eaten like jelly-beans by deer).

I mentioned this to a gardener at Sky Nursery and she passed this on to me... so I share. And this way, I can come look it up when I have the flowers.

Nasturtium Butter
(or how to look AMAZING at a buffet with just a Baguette, Salami & Butter)

1 stick unsalted butter - room temp or softened
5-8 Nasturtium flowers chiffonade
both chiffonade and chopped tiny
salt and lemon juice to taste

stir and whip all above together until well mixed

Roll into a cylinder in parchment paper or similar - refrigerate

Slice into thin rounds, spread on small slices of baguette, or simply place, and let them wilt in the heat.

The butter will look lovely, and yet be so tasty, it must be eaten. A thin slice of salami is a wonderful pair.

Start a Garden NOW!

At least, that is what I need to do if I am going to make the jump out of herbs in pots to some real food of my very own.

Step 1. Choose a Spot. In this case it is a nice chunk of land with ideal SW exposure. Since this was part of the housing packag
e we didn't appreciate before. I though I might as well claim it now that it matters.

Step 2. Stake it out and live with it for awhile. Check for walk around space. I had to move my stakes out from the wall a few times, and away from the deck. Changing my mind now was easy.

Step 3. Too late to turn back now. This is when changing my mind got hard. I have a hole in my yard.

Step 4. Now, like I mean it. Did you know that I have good soil only about 1.5 inches down?! I do now. A trunk full of reclaimed cinder blocks, and another of imported soil and organic material is part of changing that. First I dug down, added compost to the sand I found there (the good news is I won't have anything growing under my garden that I have to block out). Now that I have down taken care of, I am working on up.

Step 5. The bare bones. This took me 2 weekends, and only really a few hours on 3 days. I was surprised. It makes the hours of weed pulling seem especially frustrating. Look what I could have built with that time. To that end, weed cloth will soon be joining this dirt, so I can mostly grow what I want, and reduce the interlopers. Stay tuned for the adventures of seeds. My son picked out rainbow carrots.