recipes

Cold World, Warm Foods

February sometimes brings an unseasonally warm blip of weather, to interrupt our march from November to June, but not so this year.

It’s a marshmallow world in the winter

It’s a marshmallow world in the winter

I hope, unlike a friend of mine in Woodinville whose furnace is out, you’ve been keeping cozy, when you’re not out slipping around on the underlying ice. Today’s projected high of 37F means everyone should hit the store, especially if it’s going to snow again (argh!) this weekend.

And what do you want to stock up on? I’m thinking that ultimate in comfort food: potatoes. What can impassable ice outside do, that potatoes au gratin or hashed browns with eggs not fix? Forget your no-carb, low-carb kick — it’s 20F outside, people!

According to Washivore, potatoes are Washington’s third biggest crop, although 9 out of every 10 potatoes are eaten outside the state. Ah, but that tenth potato! I’m sure you’ve noticed the colorful varieties we’ve found at our Bellevue Farmers Market (I sure miss purple potatoes in the off-season). I love to roast a multi-colored selection when available, but when we get to February we’re pretty much reduced to organic russets and yellow potatoes at the store. Nevertheless.

As Washivore further points out:

…An average (~5.3 oz) potato with the skin contains:

  • 45% of the daily value for vitamin C

  • 620 mg potassium, comparable to bananas, spinach and broccoli

  • trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc

  • all for only 110 calories and no fat. 
    And potatoes with the skin on are an excellent source of fiber.

In fact, with 2 grams of fiber per serving, a potato equals or exceeds that of many “whole” grain products – like whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta and many cereals.

Even removing the skins doesn’t detract as much as we fear from the potato’s nutritional power. Did I mention potatoes also have B vitamins and highly-digestible protein. That’s one perfect package!

Given that russets might be what you have in the pantry, try this recipe from (who else?) Deborah Madison:

Latkes: Potato Pancakes with Eggs and Onions

2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled

3 eggs, beaten

1 onion, grated

1/4 c flour or cracker crumbs (bet you could use panko, too)

salt and pepper

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

Peel the potatoes and coarsely grate them by hand or in a food processor. Put them in a bowl of water as you work. When ready to cook, drain the potatoes and wrap them in a towel to squeeze out the excess water. Return the potatoes to the bowl and add the eggs, onion, flour, 2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200F. Heat a skillet with some of the oil over medium-high. When hot, drop in the batter by spoonfuls and cook over medium heat until browned, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook the second side. Keep finished latkes warm in the oven. Serve with sour cream and applesauce or sour cream and minced scallions or chives.

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Yummmm. If you can’t wait until dinner, it’s still cold out at lunchtime, and no one says you have to wait…

Let's Kale the Whole Thing Off

It’s never too late to learn new things about those you love. A recent misplaced bunch of spinach I’d bought resulted in a kale substitution in a favorite recipe, with no ill effects. This is a bigger deal than you might imagine, since spinach is so mild in flavor and kale so assertive. That got me wanting to try a new kale salad, to see if my family would also eat it, when it wasn’t slathered in a heavy peanut dressing. Short answer: they would.

Beet, Kale and Pine-Nut Salad

Beet, Kale and Pine-Nut Salad

I’m going to have to remember this salad for the holidays because it’s so beautiful, and I imagine using two colors of beets would only improve matters. I started with this recipe and made some modifications based on what I actually had on hand.

Roasted Beet, Kale and Pine-Nut Salad

1-2 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and sliced in eighths (you can also do them in the crock-pot)

1 big bunch of kale, de-stemmed and cut in ribbons (“chiffonaded”)

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 - 1/2 c dried cranberries (I bet pomegranate seeds would also work)

1/4 - 1/2 c pine nuts, toasted

Dressing:

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp citrus juice (I used cara cara orange because I didn’t have a lime)

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper

You can mix up the dressing and toss it with the salad ingredients (minus the pine nuts) up to an hour earlier, and that helps soften the kale. Then toss the pine nuts on and you’re good to go!

This recipe would almost qualify for my sister’s Forks over Knives diet month, except for the olive oil. She did say Forks over Knives likes to substitute tahini for olive oil, and you could probably get away with that here, except it might not be as pretty. Oh, and they also prefer maple syrup to honey because it doesn’t involve animals. That is, bees. I guess bees have to be called “animals” because they’re certainly not plants or rocks.

Speaking of classifications, if you wondered, as I did, “Is kale better for you than spinach?” I found this handy graphic from Prevention, although the commentary skews retirement-age…

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Basically, you can’t go wrong with leafy green vegetables, so expand your range and try kale again on your family!

Bloom Where You're Planted in 2019

Since approximately 38% of Americans will get cancer in their lifetime, odds are someone close to you is in the 38%, if you yourself aren’t a member of the growing club. There’s also the heart disease club (15 million strong), the high blood pressure club (1 in 3 Americans), and the diabetes club (100 million members, including those who don’t yet know they’re headed that way).

In 2018 three bad cancer diagnoses struck those in my immediate circles. My father-in-law had multiple strokes, including the fatal one. My mom and sister have been on blood pressure medication for a while now. Well, we’re all going to die of something, but the something we’re going to die of varies, depending on where we live in the world and our diet. For Americans, statistically speaking, I’ve already named your eventual killer. The interesting thing about those killers is that their incidence is directly correlated with diet. Generally speaking, the more western the diet, the more your killer will take the form of cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Escaping the West’s most feared diseases is a colorful experience [Photo by  Allie Smith  on  Unsplash   ]

Escaping the West’s most feared diseases is a colorful experience [Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash ]

So I was surprised and excited to hear that my sister and her husband had seen a documentary on Netflix called Forks Over Knives and were going to try “going vegan” for a month or more. After watching the documentary myself last night, I realize “going vegan” is not an exact description of the food revamp, but it’s pretty close. Basically, the doctors and biochemists and nutritionists profiled in the show have become convinced of the overwhelming benefits of a “plant-based, whole-food diet.” Meaning, basically, a “vegan” diet because it’s free of animal products, but more specifically, it’s also free of oils(!) and processed foods.

Unless you’re a lobbyist for Big Food, I doubt anyone would find problems with their food recommendations. Of course fruits and vegetables and whole grains are better for you—the question is, can you stand to eat that way for the rest of your life, even if it makes that life shorter and unhealthier? I love whole-fat dairy myself: whole milk, sour cream, butter, and eggs. But the documentary has some pretty interesting and—unfortunately—compelling data on the benefits of purging your diet of animal products. The most intriguing was the data on Norwegians during WWII. When the Nazis arrived in Norway and commandeered all the Norwegian livestock, leaving the citizens to make-do on a plant-based diet, cardiovascular-disease incidents plummeted. After the war and the return of a “normal” diet, the disease rates also quickly returned to their corresponding “normal.”

There was even an interesting segment on high-performance athletes who stick to the same plant-based diet. Since I have a competitive swimmer in the house, I’ve always thought I have to keep up the meat-based protein levels. However, since the boy also likes black beans and sweet potatoes, I’m thinking we could safely veg out a little more. The Forks Over Knives website has some good-looking recipes I’d like to try, including this one for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas.

Will yours look this good? Only time will tell. [pic from their website]

Will yours look this good? Only time will tell. [pic from their website]

After watching the show, my husband turned to me and said he would be willing to try going plant-based/whole-food, but, moderate that I am, I think that, if you aren’t diagnosed with something awful yet, will a daily egg, cup of milk, 1/2 Tbsp of butter, and Tbsp of olive oil be that bad? Probably not. Would pastured meat 2-3 times per week finish you off? Maybe, but it’d take a long while.

Whatever your health state of affairs, veering plant-based/whole-food can only help matters. And if doing it for your health doesn’t excite you sufficiently, maybe being ahead of the trend curve will? I’m betting you’ve heard about the global diet recommended by the international EAT-Lancet Commission. The commission espoused a diet worldwide of eating a certain (low) amount of meat, so that the planet can support and sustain us all. How low an amount? Well, for Americans, “84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils .” The global diet allows for dairy, but its overall moderate consumption of animal products makes it look like one I could get on board with.

If your cholesterol and blood pressure have been creeping up with the years, consider shifting toward plants in 2019 and blooming where you’re planted.

The Day the Beef Ran Out

I was reading an article this morning on Food Dive, about how, in order to feed every last of the projected ten billion mouths on the planet by 2050, the whole world food system must be rethought.

What’s for dinner?   [Photo by  chuttersnap  on  Unsplash  ]

What’s for dinner? [Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash ]

Of course, the historical answer to food shortage questions has always been, the rich and powerful will eat (e.g., most Americans and citizens of the West, along with the power elite of the developing world), while the rest of the folk scramble or starve. And I’m sure plenty of this will happen in 2050. But suppose we wanted to think globally, for novelty’s sake? The World Resources Institute, the World Bank Group, United Nations Environment, the United Nations Development Program and two French agricultural groups got together to study and make suggestions, taking into account the increasing pressures of climate change.

After six years of research and modeling, the report shows there is no one solution, Searchinger said. Some of the report's directives include producing more crops, meat and milk on the same land, reducing both food waste and demand for beef and lamb, and using technology to reduce emissions. 

I’m on board with those directives, but I don’t know about reducing demand for beef. (Lamb, no problem. You are welcome to our share of the world’s lamb.) I think of my own household, where we probably eat beef twice a week. The only way we could reduce that number would be to get rid of my teenage son (which we plan on doing when he goes to college next year). He swims competitively and vacuums up the meat, especially beef. Of course, sending him to college only transfers the beef-consumption problem to the dining hall, and I’m betting they can’t afford to buy the earth-friendly, omega-3-rich, grass-fed beef we have at home, but I sure as heck don’t want to buy it for ALL those teenage boys with my tuition fees. (Back to the rich only wanting to feed themselves.) Maybe the world will do a version of what we do in my house: funnel most of the beef toward the one who needs it most. Growing boys, women low on iron, competitive athletes.

Last night, since I was making broccoli-beef stir fry, I knew my youngest daughter wouldn’t eat the beef, so I added a veggie curry. Everyone was happy. And, since the vegetable curry just sat in the crock-pot, it wasn’t a problem.

If you don’t have an ardent beef-eater in your house, give this recipe a try:

Vegetable and Chickpea Curry

(adapted from Cooking Light magazine)

1 Tbsp olive oil

one chopped medium onion

2 carrots, sliced

1/2 Tbsp curry powder

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

1-1/2 cups cubed potato

1 c diced bell pepper

1 c green beans, cut in 1” segments

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

dash cayenne pepper

half-can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 cup chicken broth

1-2 c fresh spinach leaves

1/2 cup coconut milk

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and carrots till tender, about five minutes. Add curry powder through jalapeno and cook one minute, stirring.

Dump mixture in slow-cooker. Stir in garbanzo beans through broth. Cover and cook on HIGH 6 hours. Add spinach and coconut milk and stir until the spinach wilts. Serve with rice.

***

The recipe is pretty versatile and makes a nice sauce. I could see adding chunks of sweet potatoes next time. If your family likes/tolerates tofu, you could add tofu in the last hour. Maybe some broccoli.

Even my beef-eater picked out the carrots and the potatoes from the veggie curry, so everyone got something and no one went away hungry. Which is our worldwide goal, I imagine.

Les Cochons dans une Couverture

I’m guessing there’s no exact French translation for “pigs in a blanket,” but when I served these Prosciutto Palmiers at Thanksgiving, one guest said, “They’re like fancy pigs in a blanket!” Which I took to be a total compliment because who doesn’t love pigs in a blanket?

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Not only were the cochons delicious, they were also super easy, and I plan on making them again in December for my book club’s hors d’oeuvres party and cookie exchange.

Prosciutto Palmiers

  • one box of puff pastry (make sure it’s made with butter)

  • 1/4 c honey mustard (or make your own mix of Dijon, honey, and a glop of mayo)

  • one package thinly-sliced prosciutto (about 5.something ozs)

  • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 egg

  • 2 tsp water

Allow the puff pastry to thaw in the fridge. Taking one sheet at a time, roll it out a little, into a slightly larger rectangle. Spread lightly with honey mustard, nearly to edges. Place prosciutto slices to cover rectangle, one layer thick. Sprinkle with cheese. Roll carefully and as snugly as you can from the outer, long edge to the center line on one side. Then do the same for the other side. Cut the rolled pastry in 1/2” slices with a serrated knife and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Mix egg and water. Brush palmiers with egg wash and bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve at room temperature.

Our youngest guest’s post-Celebrity overload

Our youngest guest’s post-Celebrity overload

Hope everyone’s holiday was a wild success. We did end up playing Celebrity, which I posted about last week, and the fun of it more than made up for the crock-pot of Mable Hoffman’s corn stuffing balls which I totally forgot to plug in. (I told everyone to pace themselves and popped them in the oven. When seconds came around, the stuffing balls were ready. And tasty!)

Pace yourself, this holiday season, and feed your family good food.

The Thanksgiving Countdown

Thanksgiving always seems to come at the exact right time—meaning, when everything looks pretty grim. This year is no exception, with its wildfires, its everyone-hates-everyone-else politics, its what-else-can-go-wrong-with-the-Mariners-now developments. It sounds like we could use a holiday about gratitude and gathering with people we love (or are supposed to love) to share a meal.

Nice pic, Priscilla.  [Photo by  Priscilla Du Preez  on  Unsplash  ]

Nice pic, Priscilla. [Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash ]

What’s on your menu? And what can you get started on now, to relieve the actual Day? So far I’ve got rolls and green bean casserole in the freezer. Cranberry sauce made. Pie crust dough standing by.

We’re a one-oven house, so I’m thinking of trying two sides in the slow cookers: mashed potatoes and stuffing, and I’ve farmed out the spinach salad to guests.

Join me in giving this Mable Hoffman recipe a try?

Mable Hoffman — if you have a crock-pot, you’ve got one of her cookbooks somewhere

Mable Hoffman — if you have a crock-pot, you’ve got one of her cookbooks somewhere

Mable Hoffman’s Corn Stuffing Balls

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 c chopped celery, with leaves

1 17-oz can creamed corn

1/4 c water

1/8 tsp pepper

1 tsp poultry seasoning

2 c (or 8 ozs) herb-seasoned stuffing mix

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 c butter, melted

In a bowl, combine everything but the melted butter. Form into 8 balls. Place in bottom of a slow cooker. Spoon the melted butter over the stuffing balls. Cover and cook on LOW 3.5 - 4 hours.

***

I was originally going to make a corn casserole recipe I saw, but then I considered the oven real-estate shortage and changed my mind.

Happy week-before, folks. Oh—and one other last-minute tidbit: at QFC last week, I saw turkey-shaped butter! That is, butter which had been shaped in plastic turkey-shaped molds. And it was real butter, just cream and salt. I’m not crazy about adding more plastic packaging to the world, and the kids will surely fight over who gets to whack off the turkey’s neck, but maybe the butter-turkey can absorb some of the political aggression around the table…?

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When Life Hands You Leftovers

Monday found me with a fridge full of:

3/4 c refried beans

1.5 c cooked chicken

1/2 c chili mac

1.5 c butternut squash gratin

That is, not enough of anything to make a complete second meal. Most people in these circumstances would either (1) toss everything in the yard waste or (2) make rock soup. However, (1) I hate to waste food, and (2) my teenage son has complained so bitterly lately if I make soup (it’s not filling enough for a swimming boy) that I didn’t dare.

Enter, enchiladas.

These are not what mine looked like, but I forgot to take a pic. These are Alexandra’s.  [Photo by  Alexandra Golovac  on  Unsplash  ]

These are not what mine looked like, but I forgot to take a pic. These are Alexandra’s. [Photo by Alexandra Golovac on Unsplash ]

Enchiladas, after all, use ingredients commonly on hand (at least in our house). Like tortillas from the freezer. Cheese to shred. Salsa. I had no enchilada sauce, of course, and didn’t want to go to the store for it, so I whipped out this recipe I’ve used before and found perfectly interchangeable:

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

2 Tbsp oil

2 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne powder

2 c water

6 ozs can tomato paste

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil, flour, and chili powder in a large saucepan and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

***

I find this recipe makes enough for two batches of enchiladas. Anyhow, for Leftover Enchiladas, you just combine your random assortment of refrigerator offerings, add a little salsa and shredded cheese, and then spoon 1/2 cup down the center of each large tortilla and roll up. Pour enchilada sauce over. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, covered, and then remove the cover for another 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Often I’ll even broil it at the end, to make the cheese nice and toasty.

The good news? My teenage son, who wouldn’t touch the butternut squash gratin, obliviously consumed it when it was mixed with other ingredients he liked. I might never purposely make enchiladas again. I’ll just wait and see what my fridge accumulates and whip up another batch.

Have a great week, and don’t let any food go to waste!

Halloween Party Treats

Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween, and I hope you still have some candy left to hand out, if anyone comes by. We ate through our first batch (a bag of Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins and one of Twix), which I foolishly bought a week ago. Either they don’t put as many in the bag as they used to, or we all ate more than we realized. Probably some of both.

[Photo by  Maddy Baker  on  Unsplash   ]

[Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash ]

If you know your neighbors well enough, you might invite them in for some candy alternatives that are almost equally unhealthy but at least have the merit of being homemade!

Toffee Dip with Apples

Dip:

3/4 c brown sugar

1/2 c powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

8 ozs cream cheese, softened

Combine the dip ingredients and beat with a mixer on medium until smooth. Add 3/4 c toffee bits and stir well. Cover and chill.

When ready to serve, slice up to twelve apples, thickly, and combine them with 1 c pineapple juice. Toss well. Drain and serve.

Actually, once you serve your slices with toffee dip, no one will notice a lackluster presentation. [Photo by  90 jiang  on  Unsplash   ]

Actually, once you serve your slices with toffee dip, no one will notice a lackluster presentation. [Photo by 90 jiang on Unsplash ]

The recipe above has the added bonus that it doesn’t glue your teeth together. Therefore, you may also want to serve this one:

Maple Popcorn

1 c maple syrup

3 Tbsp butter

1 tsp vanilla

8 cups popped popcorn

Lightly butter a 9x13” pan and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine maple syrup and butter. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 275F (syrup separates into hard, but not brittle, threads, when dropped into very cold water). Remove from heat, add vanilla. Pour over popcorn. Pack the mixture lightly into the prepared pan; let cool completely. Cut into small squares. Makes about 16 pieces.

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Of course, if you become known as the house that offers homemade treats, you may have to up your scare game to get people to leave!

Have a good evening, and my no one blow out or kick over your pumpkin.

Okay, I Guess It's Fall

Summer departed abruptly, probably from having burnt itself out with those hot, smoky days, one after another. The house sits at 67F, but we refuse to turn on the heat until October 1 because — well, because you just have to stick to your principles. No heater till October 1, no flannel sheets, no fires in the fireplace. No matter if the lows are already dipping into the high 40s.

Although we might shiver in the house, I have waved the white flag in the kitchen. No more barbecue — it’s time for the the slow cooker and fall fruit. This upside-down pear-apple-almond cake, to begin with:

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Martin Family Orchard had some lovely, ripe Bartlett pears and Gala apples, and the two of them made a tasty combination in Deborah Madison’s recipe. The recipe only calls for two pears, but since I only had 1.5 pears left, I substituted a half an apple. Perfect. Also a perfect excuse for everyone to try “a sliver” of each flavor.

I’m not the only one thinking fall…Check out these Halloween-themed cupcakes at La Panaderia:

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How cute are they? Eyeballs, ghosts, tombstones,…something pink? Talk about being done with summer—they’re even through with September and most of October. Since we only have a few Market days left, you may need to skip ahead as well! And if you haven’t had their tamales yet, don’t let another week go by. I got two beef tamales last week, to supplement the light dinner I’d prepared, and you should have seen the mournful eyes when everyone finished their half a tamale and wanted to know why on earth I hadn’t bought more!

Aspens [pic by my friend Alice]

Aspens [pic by my friend Alice]

Despite all the fall-ness and making the best of it, I still have my fingers crossed for a few last gasps of summer. The Louisiana Sweet watermelon I got at Alvarez last week was one of the best of the season, ranked right up there with the darker, more spherical Sugar Baby I bought midsummer.

There’s still time for a last half-flat of berries to freeze and a few pounds of peaches and nectarines. It may be fall-ish here on Thursday, but it’s still summer somewhere in Washington!

A Tale of Two Recipes

I know, I know. Real cooks don't need recipes. But I think people who are able just to whip something up with ingredients on hand have never been a dime a dozen, and I'm betting the skill has become rarer than ever now, given how few people actually cook.

The only things I wing nowadays are smoothies and salads, and while the smoothies are mostly fine (n.b.: adding avocado means your smoothie will turn an unappealing gray if it sits for any length of time), the salads are never as good as ones I've made with a recipe.

Banana, spinach, avocado, fig, berry, watermelon, yogurt, flax seed, milk

Banana, spinach, avocado, fig, berry, watermelon, yogurt, flax seed, milk

Anyhow, we had two delicious things this week that you probably wouldn't just whip up on your own, even if you had that talent, and since 'tis the season for the ingredients, I didn't want you to miss out.

Corn-Tomato Salsa (from the New York Times)

1/2 small red or white onion, diced
kernels from one cooked ear of corn (please don't use canned or frozen)
1 lb ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice

The original recipe called for it to be served with cooked chicken in soft tacos, which is how we ate it, but it made so much salsa that I had it the next day on scrambled eggs, and my husband just packed the rest for lunch and ate it as is. It's that delicious! 

And then last night we had a modified version of one of Deborah Madison's pizza recipes:

Kind-of Deborah Madison's Provencal Potato Pizza

1/4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil and reconstituted in boiling water
2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb small potatoes, thinly sliced (I used a Yukon Gold from Alvarez)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Favorite pizza dough recipe for one crust
1-1/2 c thinly sliced red or white onion
1-1/2 c shredded mozzarella or half of a fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
1/4 c grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 ripe tomato, sliced

Toss the potato slices in the oil and garlic and salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake 350F for 10 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Roll out your pizza dough (I also use her recipe, but pick your favorite) and spread with the remaining oil/garlic mixture. Arrange onion slices over dough and sun-dried tomatoes. Top with potato slices and cheeses. On the very top, put your sliced fresh tomato. I baked this on a pizza stone in the oven at 425F for about 15 minutes until the top was golden brown. SO good!

If you wanted, you could even skip the sun-dried tomatoes and go with fresh. She also recommends a sprinkling of fresh sage, but I didn't have any.

The time is now, people. The food is now. Get out there and eat like fall is coming!

 

Thursday = The Smoke Leaving, at Last

This Thursday brings a double helping of rejoicing, if the meteorologists are correct and if you've been one of the millions of people trying to decide if it's better to die in your house of heat stroke or to open a window and die of smoke inhalation. (We broke down and went for smoke inhalation. But we tried to buy ourselves more time by doing the build-your-own-air-filter, buying the last four smoke-filtering air 16x20x1 air filters at Home Depot.)

[Photo by  Jaroslav Devia  on  Unsplash ]

[Photo by Jaroslav Devia on Unsplash]

At least we were able to provide some Schadenfreude for the rest of the country, to the tune of, we may have to deal with humidity/crazy temperatures/hurricanes/thunderstorms, but at least we can breathe our air. Not to mention how Beijing must feel: See? You try to put on an Olympics with air like that!

No. Thursday our blue skies will begin to put in an appearance, and I doubt a single complaint about the temperature dropping to 70F will be heard anywhere in the region. And where better to rejoice than at the Market?

All that smoke in our lungs makes us yearn for something crisp and healthy.

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Or how about...

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Bring it.

Have you noticed it's tomato time? And temps in the 70s mean you could even have a warm tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich and salad for a perfect meal. And don't forget your homemade pico de gallo with Niño Blanco tortilla chips!

See everyone tomorrow, mask-free and breathing more easily.

 

 

Of Corn and Blueberries

You would think, living in western Washington, that the growing of corn was only for fall corn mazes. The kids'-amusement version of growing corn for ethanol. We tried growing some one year in the front yard, and it was pretty much a total failure.

NOT what the front yard looked like. [Photo by  Glenn Carstens-Peters  on  Unsplash

NOT what the front yard looked like. [Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Thankfully come of our farmers get a little more solid sunshine and actually manage to grow very tasty sweet corn, which hopefully we will find this week at the Market. We are ready. Ready for plain boiled corn, grilled corn, corn salad, and corn cakes.

Real Simple's Corn Cakes (August 2004)

Combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, melt 2 Tbsp butter and whisk in 1 egg and 1 cup buttermilk. Combine wet and dry mixture and stir just until combined. Then stir in 1 cup cooked corn, 1/2 cup diced onion, and 1 cup shredded cheese. (I used half cheddar, half pepper-jack.) Heat a little oil over medium heat in a skillet. Drop the batter in, 2 Tbsp at a time, and fry a couple minutes on each side until browned. Keep warm in a 200F oven. Serve with sour cream.

We've had these corn cakes a couple times, only seasonally, with fresh corn, and they are devoured! We had kebabs alongside, but everyone's favorite was the corn cakes. And my oldest daughter didn't even pick out the onions.

The other big item on this week's shopping list would be blueberries. It's that blueberry-pie making and blueberry-freezing time of year, folks.

[Photo by  veeterzy  on  Unsplash

[Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

And if you don't use them all up in pies and freezing and eating out of hand, give this quick dessert a try, now that the heat has let up a bit and we can turn the oven on:

Blueberry Pudding (from an ancient Bon Appetit)

4 cups blueberries
scant 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 cup flour
1 stick butter, diced
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie dish. Toss berries with 1/4 cup brown sugar and the 1 Tbsp flour and spoon into dish.

In a medium bowl, rub remaining 1 cup flour with diced butter until it forms coarse meal. Mix in remaining brown sugar, milk, egg, lemon peel, and vanilla. Blend and pour batter over blueberries.

Bake pudding about 55 minutes, until top is golden and the center isn't jiggly. Let cool 10 minutes and then serve with ice cream.

Enjoy.

Strawberries Make a Scene

[Photo by  Erwan Hesry  on  Unsplash

[Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

It goes like this in our family:

Scene: Winter. A mom and her teenage daughter are pushing a cart through the grocery store.

Teenager: Yum! Can we get some strawberries?

Mom: [repressing a shudder as she eyes the clamshell containers of giant strawberries from California] Those things? They don't even taste good. They breed them for size and color, not for flavor.

Teenager: But they're good anyhow! I've had them.

Mom: You're the same person who likes cake mix cakes that don't even use real vanilla.

Teenager: Fake vanilla tastes good! I love fake vanilla. It's because you never let us have any. (Teenager seethes and thinks rebellious thoughts.)

Scene shifts to summer at the Bellevue Farmers Market.

Teenager: Strawberries! Can we get some?

Mom: Of course.

Teenager: And not just two pints this time. That doesn't even last one day.

Mom: Okay. A half-flat.

Teenager: Of really big strawberries.

Mom: I like the little ones better. They have more flavor. They're like sugar bombs.

Teenager: But I like the big ones!

Mom tyrannically buys a half-flat of small strawberries, and teenager seethes and thinks rebellious thoughts.

(It occurs to me now, as I write this transcription inspired by real events, that this week the obvious solution is to buy several different pints, each a different variety of strawberry, and to do a family taste test. A flight of strawberries.)

Maybe you've chosen your favorite variety already, from the many offered by our farmers. We not only ate our tiny ones raw, but we also turned them into strawberry shortcake. Kind of a poignant thing because my husband took a bite and talked about how his mom (now in memory care for dementia) loved strawberry shortcake and used to make it often. Waaah! Clearly we are going to have to bring her some. She may not remember what we remember about her love for strawberries, but she can discover them anew.

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Strawberry Shortcake

8 biscuits, baked from your favorite recipe, with a tad of sugar added

TOPPING:

3 12-ozs baskets of strawberries, hulled

3 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Slice two baskets of the strawberries and transfer to a large bowl. Puree the remaining basket in a food processor until smooth. Add to sliced strawberries. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Garnish with mint, if you like (I don't like). 

Halve biscuits and spoon topping generously over. Makes 8 servings.

What's in Your Basket?

If you're a regular at the Market, you know you run into the same faces a lot. Since my youngest and I have been coming like clockwork for years, we've passed through the adolescent stage where she said, "Oh, no! There's that person from school!" to where she can actually smile and say hello without the asphalt cracking open and swallowing her, mortification and all.

So, if you're not a mortified adolescent, you've begun to enjoy running into friends and acquaintances and asking them, "What's in your basket?"

Our greatest discovery of last week: 

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Yes, I'd had Niño Blanco's excellent fresh salsas (their pico de gallo is the best I've had, outside of our homemade, Deborah-Madison-recipe version, which we can't make till my husband's tomatoes come in, in August), but I'd never even noticed the chips until a friend said they were the best, and they bought them every week. We took their recommendation and bought our first bag.

There is no going back.

For one thing, they're organic, and, for the same price or less ($4 for 14 ozs), they taste so much better than any organic tortilla chips at the store. They're crisp, flavorful, perfectly salted. The only problem is, they taste so much better that we ate the whole bag in less than a quarter of the usual time. Especially because we paired it with fresh pico. Yowza. That still won't stop me from getting another bag this week.

Those same friends also hit up the gluten-free baker, but, as we are blessedly gluten-tolerant in our house, I passed on trying it this time and will have to report back later. Nevertheless, a pic for you:

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Then there were the friends who raved about the "yellow beans" at Alvarez Organic Farms. Frustratingly, I totally forgot to take a picture or even get the beans' real name, but the testimony is, "The beans are so flavorful and hold their shape well and puff up nicely in soup." They also cook up as quickly (for beans) as black beans--maybe an hour or two on the stove. 

I did make a new acquaintance last week, a mushroom-lover hovering by new farmers Skagit Mushroom Company.

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These fellows from Mount Vernon farm various mushroom varieties, including Shiitake and these ruffly kind, which my new acquaintance sautés in butter. I don't happen to have mushroom-lovers in the house, so we opted for the darling quail eggs.

Check out these miniature fried eggs!

Check out these miniature fried eggs!

I've discovered quail eggs make excellent fried egg "sliders" and leave you with this decadent little recipe:

Quail-Egg Huevo Ranchero "Sliders"

2 quail eggs
2  Niño Blanco tortilla chips
2 spoonfuls Niño Blanco pico de gallo
Fry the baby eggs in butter. Put one fried egg on one tortilla chip and top with one spoonful of pico. (Makes 2.)

Defeating Kale's Superpower

At a recent dinner, someone relayed a joke to me about the Seattle area's many seasons (was it eleven?). This week definitely qualifies as Summer #1. Four days in length and, fingers crossed, to be followed by another few summers after the return on Friday of Winter #7.

Summer #1 [Photo by  Luke Dean-Weymark  on  Unsplash

Summer #1 [Photo by Luke Dean-Weymark on Unsplash

But for these brief days of Summer #1, I have a kale salad for you that you'll actually take seconds of. I did.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes that, "Yeah, kale is a superfood. And its super power is tasting bad." But the unrelenting health drumbeat that dark, leafy greens are good for us good for us GOOD for us made me put some in my shopping cart again this week.

Salad, of course, is all about the dressing. And, when you have a green as assertive as kale, you need a generous amount of dressing to make it palatable to eaters who aren't automatic kale fans. I went hunting for recipes online and found this one at Once Upon a Chef. It was beautiful to look at and had both peanut butter and sesame oil, but I was missing some of the other ingredients, and the recipe on the whole contained way too much sugar for me. Nevertheless, I came up with this delicious adaptation of it. See if you don't like it too!

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Summer #1 Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, rinsed, de-stemmed, and cut in chiffonade slivers
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
grated carrot
Dressing:
3 Tbsp peanut butter
3 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp lime or lemon juice (I only had a lemon)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp oil (I used 2 Tbsp olive and 1 Tbsp grapeseed)
2 scant Tbsp honey
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic, peeled
1" knob of ginger, peeled
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour over salad ingredients and toss.

This salad was a great accompaniment to our dinner of broccoli beef and rice, but it would go just as well with Mexican food. Happy summer!

Skip the Additives and Roll Your Own Rolls

While I don't usually read books in the horror genre, it seems like all books nowadays on Big Food and Big Ag fall into that bucket. This time I'm 23% in to FORMERLY KNOWN AS FOOD: HOW THE INDUSTRIAL FOOD SYSTEM IS CHANGING OUR MINDS, BODIES, AND CULTURE. I'll have more to say on that next week, but in the meantime let me encourage us to skip one pre-bought item on the Easter menu for homemade, make-ahead goodness.

Rolls, anyone? If you need convincing that occasionally skipping the store's bread aisle isn't a bad idea, consider this Livestrong article on bread additives to avoid. It's a roll call of the usual suspects: dough "conditioners," emulsifiers, soy, sugar, trans fat, caramel coloring. All things you don't need to worry about if you make your own.

For our table this year I decided to make homemade crescent rolls, adapting a Good Housekeeping Cookbook recipe.

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And when I say "adapting" baked good recipes, it usually means adding in some whole-wheat flour and subtracting some sugar. We haven't eaten them yet because I threw them in the freezer, but they smelled and looked wonderful. It says you need to start these 3.5 hours ahead of serving, but a lot of that time isn't hands-on because you're letting the dough rise or rest.

Crescent Dinner Rolls (makes one dozen)

2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2.5 tsp yeast (or one packet)
about 2.5 cups total of all-purpose and whole-wheat flour (I used 1/2 c whole wheat)
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, using only 3/4 cup of the flour. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter until warm. (The butter doesn't need to melt all the way.)

With a mixer at low speed, gradually beat the liquids into the dry just until blended. Then increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl. Beat in egg and 1/4 cup more flour to make a thick batter. Beat another 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Then add in another cup of the flour and mix with a wooden spoon.

Use the remaining flour to dust your surface repeatedly while kneading, so the dough doesn't stick. Dump out the dough and knead it about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Shape it into a ball and let rise in a greased bowl, covered by a dish towel, one hour.

Punch down dough and turn back onto dusted surface. Cover with dish towel again and let rest 15 minutes.

Roll dough into a 9-12" circle (you don't want it to be so thick you can't roll the wedges up). Use a pizza cutter to cut the circle into 16 evenly-sized wedges. Moisten the point of each wedge with melted butter. Then roll from the wide end to the point. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet, curving the ends of the crescent toward each other a little. Repeat. 

Let crescents rise 30 minutes while the oven preheats. Brush with egg glaze (one egg mixed with 1 Tbsp milk) or melted butter and bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes. They should be golden and spring back when lightly touched.

If you aren't eating them that day, let them cool completely and freeze them. To serve, let thaw on the counter and then eat at room temperature or warmed a little in the oven.

Happy Easter to all.

Haven't dyed eggs in years, but if I did, I'd want them to look thus. [Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash ]

Haven't dyed eggs in years, but if I did, I'd want them to look thus. [Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash]

Coming in from the Cold

I see the whining about the length of these Pyeongchang Winter Olympics has begun, but I think what we're really seeing here is an impatience with our lingering medal drought. For all the "spirit of the Games"-business and "bringing the world together," I imagine it's much easier to feel warm and fuzzy when you're Norway, wondering how you're going to get all that hardware through the metal detectors on the flight home. The length of the Games has also helped me decide which shows I never want to see (Good Girls) and which vehicles I never want to buy (that one that the guys says looks "better than 99% of the SUVs out there") because I'm so sick of the ads for them. (And I don't even know what that one other guy is selling, who talks about the power of the technology in our hands, because I change the channel the second I see his face.) But--I'm whining.

Photo by  Mira Kemppainen  on  Unsplash

If we can't go for the gold, we can at least come in from the cold. And nothing warms us like some good food and drink. When I asked her this morning, our not-very-bright Alexa told me this morning that it was "27 degrees Fahrenheit." I appreciated the "Fahrenheit," which she didn't use to specify, because, if she'd only said "27 degrees" like she used to, I might have thought she meant 27 degrees Celsius (= 80.6F) and I should put a bikini on, or 27 degrees Kelvin (= -411.7F), and I was already frozen to death. 

But no, 27F we can deal with and even enjoy, if we can put something warm in our bellies. This weather has my husband craving hot chocolate from Ladurée in Paris, something I never ordered because it was too rich for my blood.

Gateway to goodness

Gateway to goodness

And by "hot chocolate," I mean "hot pudding" -- it's that thick.

[Thanks for the pic, bigoven.com]

[Thanks for the pic, bigoven.com]

Imagine his delight when, for Christmas, our youngest gave him the ingredients and recipe to make his own Ladurée-style chocolat chaud! He's made it at least four times already and swears it tastes just like the real deal. Concoct some of this for yourself, and you'll float through another week of fifth-place finishes without the least urge to complain.

Ladurée-Style Chocolat Chaud

(Makes 2 servings)

1 cup whole milk (don't use nonfat or 2% --what's the point)

2.5 ozs high-quality "bittersweet" or dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 Tbsp light brown sugar

Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan. Once it's warm, whisk in the chocolate, stirring until melted and steaming hot. Cook at the lowest possible boil about three minutes to thicken, whisking constantly. Taste, and add brown sugar if desired.

Be My Korean Valentine

Am I the only one who likes to watch Olympic medal ceremonies for the first time because these gals are so cute?

Where can I buy one of these robes?

Where can I buy one of these robes?

I'm beginning to think South Korea should always host the Winter Olympics. Why? Because, windy weather on the slopes aside, they do everything so nicely. I love the little groups of Korean girls in purple who applaud the events (even curling, for Pete's sake), sponge down the ice while the Zamboni cruises around, and pick up any bouquets and teddy bears that were hurled. I love the medal-ceremony ladies, as I mentioned. I even love the segments on Korean food because Korean food is awesome. I love how everyone has been bundled up because, unlike in Sochi, it's actually been freezing.

And then, of course, there's Chloe Kim, whom both Americans and South Koreans happily claim.

(Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images)

(Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images)

So, in honor of both South Korea and America, here are two recipes we've cooked in our house.

Bulgogi (Korean Stirfry from Skagit River Ranch)

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
salt to taste
3 Tbsp sugar or honey
1 bunch scallions, cut in 1" pieces
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp Mirin or sherry
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or more, to taste
1 lbs thinly sliced beef for stir-fry
1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil.

Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, scallions, garlic, wine, and red pepper flakes in medium bowl or Ziploc bag. Add beef and marinate at least one hour or up to overnight.

Bring to room temperature. Stir fry over medium-high in the peanut oil until the meat is browned but not overcooked! This might be as little as a minute. Don't overcrowd the pan--do it in batches, if necessary. Serve with rice and lots of seasonal vegetables.

And then, on a completely different note, we had chicken soft tacos last night, with roasted chicken from Korean-American Chungah Rhee's new cookbook (and blog) Damn Delicious. (I had to get over the fact that I thought the titles of both should be "Damned Delicious," in order to be grammatical, but whatever. The food is good.)

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All-Purpose Chicken

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2" strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet and toss with all other ingredients. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. Serve immediately or refrigerate or freeze.

Enjoy, and let's hope our Speed Skating team gets out of its doldrums!

Rainy-Day Chicken Pot Pie

You know you've become a Seattleite when...

  • You find yourself apologizing to out-of-town visitors about the weather;
  • You find yourself pointing in various cloudy directions and saying, "If it weren't raining/overcast, you would see the Olympics/Mount Rainier/the Cascades/downtown Seattle over there";
  • You become expert at spotting even the smallest, narrowest break in the clouds and tinge of blue sky;
  • A sunny day makes you feel guilty, if you don't spend part of it outside;
  • You scoff at people using umbrellas for anything less than a total deluge.
This past week... [Photo by  Brandon Wong  on  Unsplash

This past week... [Photo by Brandon Wong on Unsplash

They keep forecasting some decent weather, but until it materializes we must keep on keeping on. I'm headed over the Pass the next couple days to help my in-laws pack up for the move to assisted living, and it promises to be an emotionally and physically trying time, but, on the plus side, Thursday is supposed to be partly cloudy there and 60F! At least the weather won't mirror the mood.

In the meantime, our droopy surroundings call for something homey and heartening, like chicken pot pie.

That's what I'm talking about

That's what I'm talking about

Penny's Chicken Pot Pie

1/4 cup butter
6 Tbsp flour
1 c milk
2 c chicken broth
3 c cooked chicken, torn up into bite-sized pieces
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp summer savory
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 c carrots, sliced thin or cut in little chunks
1 c peas
1/2 c cooked, chopped onions (I mix with a little olive oil and microwave a couple minutes)
1/2 c corn
1 - 9" pie crust (I used pie crust dough made from the Bellevue Farmers Market Cookbook p.71 that I'd frozen last August)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 425F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Blend in the flour. Add milk and broth and heat, stirring, until thickened. Add chicken and all the seasonings, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in vegetables, spoon into large, ungreased casserole dish, and let mixture cool to room temperature.

Roll your pie crust out until it's larger than the casserole dish. Cuts slits in the crust to vent. Lay the crust over your filling and crimp to seal. Brush with egg glaze.

The pie in its unbaked glory

The pie in its unbaked glory

Bake your pot pie 30-40 minutes, or until brown and bubbly. Serve with a salad and maybe crusty bread. I'd say it yields about eight servings, which means it fed our family of four people, with one serving of lunch leftovers!

Penny's Pot Pie was so tasty it just might make you wish for the rain to continue another four months! Oh, wait--the rain actually probably will continue another four months. Well, enjoy your pie anyhow.

Tomato Heaven

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Ripe blackberries everywhere you look and kids going back to school can only mean one thing in the Pacific Northwest: tomato season.

For you visual thinkers, that's:

Photo by  Nick Sarro  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nick Sarro on Unsplash

+

Photo by  JJ Thompson  on  Unsplash

Photo by JJ Thompson on Unsplash

=

Photo by  Thomas Martinsen  on  Unsplash

We've been among the overgrown hedges, scratching ourselves up and gathering berries, and we've also been enjoying tomato season. This year we have some deer sharing our tomato crop with us (blast them to smithereens!), but there's still enough to go around.

If you didn't grow any tomatoes yourself, the Market is enjoying the bounty, and it's always fun to mix up a tomato salad plate with different colored fruit. The Market also has the basil and baguette you need to make bruschetta. Or the jalapenos and onions and cilantro for pico de gallo. Or the goat cheese to top your Tomato, Goat Cheese and Basil Pizza.

 

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But for us, this week we went for fresh, Summer Tomato Soup, courtesy of Deborah Madison's recipe.

Summer Tomato Soup

5 lbs fresh tomatoes, destemmed and cut in chunks (no need to peel if you have a food mill)
1 cup diced shallots
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
Over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the shallots a few minutes. Then add the tomato chunks, water, and salt. Simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours. Pass the mixture through a food mill to remove the peel and seeds. Serve!

The soup tastes like pure summer in a bowl. We opted not to accompany it with the traditional grilled cheese sandwiches this time, but rather with Black Bean Tacos. Delicious.

Celebrate back-to-school with a Tomato Hurrah this week. We'll see you at the Market.