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 & FoodNetwork.com)


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.