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Thursday, October 01, 2009

black bean tostadas with seared zucchini & roasted garlic

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Local Food at the Bear Tooth Grill!

In the middle of the summer, Dan and I had a real, honest-to-goodness night out—sponsored by our dear friend Alice, who had given us a gift certificate for dinner at the Bear Tooth Grill, and a night of babysitting!! What a treat for us!

I hadn’t been to the Bear Tooth Grill in several years, but remembered big, juicy, yummy burritos and even bigger margaritas. I was glad to be hungry after the movie and was anticipating a nice meal. But right away I noticed something different about the menu and the specials board… local vegetables were being highlighted! This was new and very promising! As soon as we got a table (even on a Monday night the restaurant was hopping!) I ordered a margarita and the Build-Your-Own-Taco with Zucchini, Cheese and Toasted Corn.  Here’s the description from the menu:

Pan-seared zucchini, toasted corn, salsa fresca, poblano chiles, and jack and cheddar cheeses sautéed to order.  Garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and served with tomatillo-cilantro rice and refried black beans.

 
I have to tell you, it was fantastic. I slurped up every last bit of that zucchini with my refried beans and (house-made) taco shells. Something had definitely changed at the Grill since the last time I’d been there, and I was thrilled that they were using Alaskan zucchini and other Alaskan produce!

So then I started thinking about how to copy this dish at home, since I happened to have four large zucchinis on my counter from my CSA boxes. And I love to make tostadas.  My first version didn’t have onions, just garlic at the beginning and then a little grated sharp cheddar at the end. By the time I made my second version I thought of using roasted garlic (I always have some in the ‘fridge left over from the batches I make for our Alaskan cheese & roasted garlic sourdough bread) instead of the cheese. You could use either one.

So I’d been making these tostadas every other week (every time my zucchinis started to build up) when I got a call from Clayton Jones, the executive chef from the Bear Tooth Grill! Tomorrow they start a special event, their Alaska Local Food and Film Festival. I had heard about the event, and had planned to attend a movie or two, but I hadn’t expected a call from Chef Clayon! Sure enough, he’s the reason for the local vegetables and the new exciting stuff on the Grill’s menu! He was calling to find out more about our Rise & Shine Bakery’s sourdough breads made with local Alaskan ingredients…  he’s looking for locally-made products, and maybe he’ll use our Alaskan potato bread or our spent grain sourdough bread in lunch specials. That would be pretty cool!

But whether that happens or not, the exciting thing is that Clayton and his team are really working hard to create exciting dishes that feature Alaskan produce! Isn’t that great? I’m excited to attend the film festival, too; I’m going to see Food, Inc. tomorrow, and Fresh on Monday…  and I just found out from Clayton that we can even order food from the Grill side to eat during the movies! Ooh, I can’t wait for those zucchini tacos again. Even though I’ve just eaten my home-made version for the last two nights. Hmm. Maybe I should branch out and see what else is looking Alaskan and vegetable-y on the menu!!  Like maybe the calabacita chimichanga special…  that’s bound to be full of zucchini! Or I could always go for the blackened halibut tacos. Ahh.  Decisions, decisions…

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black bean tostadas with seared zucchini & roasted garlic

Although you can add diced avocado, cheese, and other things, I like to keep these pretty simple because I like to taste the zucchini. You probably already guess that I make big batches of the refried beans and freeze them for when I want a quick meal!

corn tortillas
refried beans (recipe follows)
seared zucchini & roasted garlic (recipe follows)
plain yogurt or sour cream
salsa (if desired)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Set the corn tortillas on baking sheets in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 15 minutes, until crisp, fragrant, and just starting to get golden brown. Toast 2 or 3 tortillas per person.
2. Let each person top their tortilla with beans, then zucchini, then yogurt/sour cream and salsa. Eat with plenty of napkins at the ready!

seared zucchini & roasted garlic

2 large zucchini (or 3 medium ones)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Sea salt or kosher salt
1 bulb roasted garlic (see recipe, below) or ¼ cup grated very sharp cheddar cheese
chipotle chile powder, or other chile powder (optional, but very nice)
¼ cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted in a skillet over medium high heat until puffed and golden-brown

1. Cut the ends off the zucchini, slice in half lengthwise, and then cut the zucchini into ¼-inch-thick half-moons.
2. Heat the olive oil in the largest (preferably non-stick) skillet you have, add the onion and about a ¼ teaspoon of salt, then sauté the onions over high heat until they are golden-brown.
3. Add the zucchini, another ½ teaspoon of salt, and sauté over high heat. Let them fry without stirring for a while to let some of the pieces get brown, then stir and repeat until the whole mess is just tender, brown and yummy.
4. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and mash them up into a paste; alternately, grate some cheddar cheese.
5. Turn the heat off under the zucchinis, and stir in the roasted garlic or cheese. Add a sprinkling of chile powder (I use about ¼ teaspoon). Combine thoroughly and add more salt and chile to your taste.
6. Top with toasted pepitas, then pile onto your tostada!

refried beans
This recipe will give you plenty of beans for a couple of days’ leftovers (always a good thing, in my book). They freeze really well, too, so make as many as you like and freeze them (well-labeled) in plastic containers for future tostada meals.

3 cups dried beans: black turtle beans, pinto, or anasazi beans
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions (1 for quartering, 2 for dicing)
10 garlic cloves, peeled (4 to be left whole, 6 to be minced)
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted in a skillet and freshly ground
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or regular chili powder
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Soak the beans in water for 4 hours or overnight.
2. Quarter 1 of the onions, leaving the root end on so the quarters stay intact. Cover the beans in water by a couple of inches, and add the quartered onion, 4 whole garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are completely tender. When the beans are tender enough to easily squish between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, turn off the heat. This could take from 30 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on how old the beans are. Just make sure the beans are nice and soft. Turn off the heat and let the beans cool for a bit. If you have time, let them sit, covered, until they are completely cool. Remove the quartered onion, bay leaves, and whole garlic cloves and discard.
3. Chop the remaining 2 onions into small dice, and mince the remaining 6 garlic cloves. Saute the onions with 1 teaspoon salt in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until they start to brown—5 or 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and 1 more teaspoon salt, and sauté for 5 minutes more.
4. Add the beans and 1 cup of their cooking liquid. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so, partially mashing some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon, a potato masher, or an immersion blender.
5. Season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste. The beans can take a lot of salt, so just keep tasting until they are perfectly seasoned. You may need to add more salt when you reheat them—just taste and see.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

spicy peanut noodles with bean sprouts &  stir-fried baby bok choy

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back to school

This week Meredith started preschool again, and we’re ALL thrilled! It’s her third year, so it’s familiar but still exciting, and she’s so happy to see her teachers and friends again. Of course, she’s missing the older cohort that left for kindergarten, so that’s a little sad, but she’s learning to fill in for them and play the “big kid” role, helping the new little ones. We were so grateful for the nurturing and sweet care of her friend Karli last year; I hope Meredith can be as kind a friend to some of the younger ones this year.

To celebrate, Dan and I went for a tandem bike ride today after dropping Meredith off! What a treat to have the weather and the time to escape for a little mid-day adventure. Don’t get me wrong—I love family outings, too—but riding the bike without hauling our 40-pound five-year-old in the bike trailer is pretty wonderful. And this way, we all get our fresh air and exercise, and then can spend quiet time together when she gets home.

I love having the time during the day to do my work, and to prepare for the evening so that I can feel focused and calm about spending special time with Meredith. It doesn’t always happen, but this week, she definitely needs the extra tender loving care—she is worn to a thread when she gets home!

Since I had a little extra time yesterday, I could try a new recipe. See what you think!

spicy peanut noodles with bean sprouts & sautéed baby bok choy

Because I had a little more time today, I had a chance to explore an old cookbook (Noodle, by Terry Durack) for a recipe to accompany the baby bok choy we’d traded Mr. Stockwell for our kalamata olive bread at the Saturday Farmers Market. I ended up deciding on a spicy peanut noodle recipe. Of course, I made a complete mockery of his recipe, adding way more veggies than was called for, and substituting pantry ingredients for unknown Asian ones.

Even though you probably already have your favorite peanut noodle recipe, consider trying this one. It’s different because I’ve used at least equal parts (if not more) mung mean sprouts to cooked noodles. But you can’t really tell because the sprouts are noodle-shaped, and coated with the yummy sauce! Lightly blanched, they add a great crunch to the softer bite of the noodles, and they make the dish lighter and healthier! This dish is fantastic at room temperature, too—so you can make this for a potluck or eat it cold for leftovers.

When I made this, I made a double batch of the sauce to make sure I had enough for all those bean sprouts. I think you’ll be fine with a single batch, but since it makes such great leftovers, why not make a double batch anyway?

1 teaspoon peanut oil (I like to use Loriva toasted peanut oil)
2 to 3 tablespoons grated or finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 6 cups mung bean sprouts
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
½ teaspoon chili oil (or substitute a pinch of cayenne, to your taste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons peanut butter (I love Maranatha organic—it’s SO creamy and yummy, even the crunchy variety, which is my preference)
2 tablespoons water
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I like to use Nama Shoyu, which you can get at Natural Pantry)
1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
½ pound spaghetti (I like to use whole wheat, but use what you prefer)
4 scallions, finely sliced

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a couple of tablespoons of salt.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the peanut oil with grated ginger and sugar.
3. Blanch bean sprouts in the boiling water, and scoop them out after a minute, letting them drain and cool.
4. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan just until they start to brown. Crush them lightly in a mortar and pestle.
5. Add the chili oil (or cayenne), sesame oil, peanut butter, water and toasted sesame seeds to the ginger and oil mixture and whisk to combine. Add the soy sauce, vinegar and pepper, whisking again. Taste and add more soy sauce if you like.
6. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until they are done to your liking. Drain them, put them in a big bowl, add the bean sprouts, and toss them immediately with enough sauce to coat everything nicely. Add more sauce to your taste.
7. Plate each serving alongside a vegetable (like the baby bok choy) and top with a generous sprinkling of scallions.

sauteed baby bok choy

4 to 6 baby bok choy
4 to 6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Trim the bottom ends off each boy choy, take them apart and slice the leaves lengthwise into halves.
2. Heat the oil over very high heat and sauté the garlic until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the baby bok choy leaves and ½ teaspoon of salt and sauté until the leaves are wilted, stirring to get the garlic up off the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t burn.
4. If the leaves are all wilted and the pan is dry, but the stems are still very crunchy, add ¼ cup water, cover the pan, and let the leaves steam until the stems are tender. Add more salt to taste, and serve.


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Sunday, September 13, 2009

red cabbage salad with green peas

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fall colors

Maybe you’ve already read that we just got back from the most amazing fall color display on our trip to Denali. (See a couple of Denali photos at the end of this post by our friend Peter Polson!) Still, the colors right here in Anchorage are pretty spectacular, too! I was running on the Hillside trails the other day, and loving the contrast of the red bearberry and dogwood, the golden birches, and the bright green mosses. Are we lucky to have this kind of beauty all around us, or what?

But my thoughts generally wander from such high-minded topics, and as usual when I’m running by myself, I started to think about food. In this case: the menu plan for the week, what needs cooking out of my refrigerator, and specifically, what I could make with bright color contrasts and fall vegetables.

I admit that bearberry leaves aren’t purple, and this salad lacks a birch gold, but I wasn’t trying for an exact match on the color scheme. This cabbage salad gets serious points in my book for fantastic color contrast (not to mention its delicious taste and speedy preparation)!

You can still pick up bags of sweet, fresh peas at the farmers market, and of course Alaskan red cabbage is ubiquitous this time of year. Selling bread yesterday at the farmers market, it was cool and rainy… it’s definitely turning into fall, after this wonderful warm weather we’ve been enjoying!

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red cabbage salad with green peas

This is a recipe that I adapted from one that my friend Colleen gave me. Hers used radicchio and cider vinegar, but I didn’t have any radicchio—so this salad was born!

If you don’t have red cabbage, you can use green cabbage instead. It’s pretty, still, with the different colors of green. Since this is a wilted salad, but the cabbage still retains some of its crunch, it’s great as a leftover salad the next day. I love eating this salad as a side to an avocado toast with balsamic vinaigrette and pickled red onions.

vinaigrette

¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons honey

salad

half a head of red cabbage, sliced very thin
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen green peas
½ bunch of scallions, sliced thin (or substitute ¼ cup of minced red or yellow onion)

1. Put the cabbage and scallions into a large salad bowl.
2. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer to dissolve the honey and salt. Add the peas to the vinaigrette and cook for 1-2 minutes (maybe a bit longer if the peas are still frozen), just long enough to warm and cook the peas a little bit. Don’t cook them so long that they start to turn grayish-green; this is just to infuse them with the vinaigrette and soften the skins a little.
3. Pour the hot dressing and peas over the top of the cabbage and toss to mix well. The dressing will wilt the cabbage a little. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and honey as needed to make a vibrant salad.

 


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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tuscan white bean soup with greens

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the last camping trip of the summer

We’ve just returned from an incredible trip to Denali…  and I hardly know where to start. We have a camping journal that we use to record our adventures, and in nine days I wrote 18 pages. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the abbreviated version! When we left Anchorage ten days ago, it was cloudy and cool, and just kept getting cooler as we drove north to Denali State Park. Despite the overcast skies, we were astonished and delighted by the fantastic reds, yellows, and lime-greens of the foliage as we drove north. We had clearly struck peak color! We spent three mostly rainy days at the State Park, enjoying hiking and running on the Little Coal Creek and Byers Lake trails, road biking along the highway, and canoeing on Byers Lake and watching the spawning red salmon.

Then we headed north to Denali National Park, and headed in to the Teklanika River campground for three days. We were thrilled when the weather seemed to be brightening… and then it just kept getting better! All three days in the park were completely cloudless, and on the first day, our ride into Eilson Visitor Center on the Park bus showed us The Mountain from tip to toe in all its astounding glory. We were also lucky enough to see a wolf, two bears, some faraway sheep, and a couple of caribou. Subsequent days were even more magical, with fantastic bike rides in the park pulling Meredith in her bike trailer (Thank goodness we have a tandem bike, so we can pull the trailer together!), beautiful hikes and runs, and slow, lazy days in the sunshine, admiring the bright leaves against the backdrop of the blue, blue sky.

The last three days we spent with our friends Shannon & Peter at their cabin just outside the Park. Our unbelievable luck continued, and the weather held, clear and sunny, freezing at night as the full moon beamed down on us. More hiking, biking, and running; more lazy, slow days; plus the pleasure of great conversations and meals with our friends. The reason I’ve included this particular soup recipe is that it’s one of the meals I brought along with us on our trip. To feed us on our ten-day journey, I froze a lot of soups and stews, packed a very large cooler full of them (plus bread, of course), and then slowly thawed them out over the course of the trip. By the time we hit Shannon & Peter’s cabin, this soup was perfectly ready to eat! We shared many meals, but this was one for which they requested the recipe.  Thanks, Shannon & Peter, for a fantastic three days, and for inspiring us to come north for our last camping trip of the summer!!

 

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Tuscan white bean soup with greens

I think you’d have to be crazy to make a single batch of this recipe, since it freezes so well, and because it’s SO DELICIOUS and it tastes even better the next day… In fact, if you make it the day before, and saute up a pile of fresh chard with garlic to put in it right before you eat it, I’m betting you’ll swoon with joy. I think this might be the best soup I’ve ever made. But anyway, about the double batch… it does take a pretty large pot, so do what you think is best. And then go out and buy a REALLY BIG POT (with a heavy, stout bottom) for next time!

This recipe is loosely based on one from a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The interesting twist that they’ve found to get really tender, perfect white beans is to soak the beans in salt water! I was really excited to try this, because often times my white beans don’t come out perfectly. Some will be disintegrating and others in the pot will be hard and crunchy still, or have hard, tough skins. This brining the beans really works! I’m completely sold!

The other key to perfectly beautiful beans is to keep them from boiling hard, which tends to explode the beans. So you cook the beans over very low heat. The Cook’s Illustrated people do it in a 250 degree oven, but I think it works just fine in a big, covered pot in the stovetop, turned way down so the soup is just barely bubbling.

kosher salt or sea salt
1 pound dried large white beans (about 2 cups), like Great Northern or cannellini
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 large onions, chopped medium
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 bay leaves
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1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 large or 2 small sprigs rosemary
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1-2 medium bunches kale or collard greens, or chard
ground black pepper

1. Rinse the beans in a colander. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak, at room temperature, for at least 8 and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Place mushrooms in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Cover the bowl with a plate so it stays hot, and let sit for at least 10 minutes, while you chop the vegetables.
3. Pour the mushrooms through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth (saving the liquid!), then lift mushrooms out of the strainer and mince them. Set mushrooms and liquid aside.
4. Heat oil in large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 8 cups of water, bay leaves, soaked beans, and reserved mushrooms and their cooking liquid. Increase heat to high and bring stew to simmer. Turn the heat down, cover the pot, and keep the pot at a bare simmer (you’ll have to take the lid off and check occasionally) until beans are tender, 40 minutes to 1 hour, or longer, depending on the age and type of bean.
5. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice.
6. Strip the rosemary leaves off their stems and chop them very, very finely. The easiest way to do this is to pulverize them in a coffee grinder. It really works! Stir the rosemary in, too.
7. Taste the stew for salt, and add as much as needed to perfectly flavor it. Add pepper, too, to taste. After the soup sits, you may need to add more salt.
8. If you’re making the soup ahead (my recommendation—it always tastes even more divine then), just let it cool and refrigerate until the next day.
9. When you’re ready to eat the soup, prepare the greens. Trim the stems from the leaves and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Sauté them in a pan in a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt (add minced garlic, if you like) over medium-high heat. If you’re using mature kale or collards, after you’ve wilted the leaves, you’ll need to add ½ cup of water or so and cover the pan, letting the leaves steam and simmer until they are completely tender. The chard will cook much more quickly, and probably won’t need water added. Add salt to taste as you cook them.
10.  Reheat the soup if it’s not already hot, and decide if you like the consistency of the soup. Do you want to add more liquid? Just add a bit more water. I like it soupy, while others may like it more like a stew. Do what seems best to you!
11. When the greens are tender, stir them into the stew, taste once again for salt and pepper, and serve. This soup is fantastic served with hearty sourdough whole-grain bread or toast, dipped in some really nice extra-virgin olive oil.


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

cornmeal pancakes with blueberries

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the biggest egg

This story begins almost four years ago, when Dan and I and Meredith were driving over to the Hillside trails one day. Two-year-old Meredith was bundled up in the back, in preparation for a ride in the ski pulk. Suddenly, we drove by a row of three large peacocks perched on the berm at the side of busy Birch Road!  What the….? Peacocks? In the wintertime in Anchorage? I pulled over to investigate. Obviously we should inform the owners that their peacocks were on the run. We backed up to the nearest driveway, and pulled partway in, where we came to a gate with a charming sign warning us that miniature horses were at large on the property. We weren’t sure what to do… open the gate and go in? Or just trust that someone with miniature horses at large were probably comfortable with their peacocks on the loose? We figured that the peacocks were probably fine, and drove off for our ski. Ever after that, whenever we drove by, we would look for the peacocks, but we never saw them again. We thought that when Meredith got a little older, maybe we could stop by and ask to see the flock.

The following summer, we were helping a friend publicize a big community park party. She asked me to hand out invitation flyers to houses in the neighborhood. I agreed, but requested the half-mile of road where we’d seen the peacocks. This was my chance! Meredith in the jogging stroller, we sped through our assignment, and finally reached the last house…  the peacock house! We let ourselves in through the gate, making sure not to let any miniature horses escape. Lucky for us, we got to meet wonderful, warm, friendly Mary Bolin! Not only did we get to see her peacocks, but the peahens, miniature horses, regular horses (with a brand-new foal!) and chickens, too.

Now that we know Mary, we run into her all the time. We see her at the farmers market, shopping for her week’s vegetables, and she is a huge supporter of our produce box CSA program (she even buys boxes for her friends at Christmastime). One Saturday, she gave Meredith a HUGE egg—a PEAFOWL egg!! We were so excited about this egg. For several days Meredith just wanted to save it and make nests for it. (Mostly it stayed in the ‘fridge, but it would come out for little adventures in various bowls lined with napkins and washcloths.) A week later when we saw Mary again, we confessed we were having trouble imagining actually cracking the egg to cook it.  She suggested that we blow the egg out of a hole so we could keep the shell! What a great idea! That made us all happy. Dan rummaged out this great German egg-blower that his mom had sent us at Easter a few years back, and we finally got to try it out! It worked like a charm!

We didn’t want to scramble just one egg, and fried or poached were definitely out, so we just ended up making delicious pancakes with it. Dan and Meredith will very often make pancakes together on Sunday morning, to relax after the busy bake and Saturday farmers market…  and the peafowl egg made it even more special!!

It’s been several weeks since the pancake-making episode, and to my astonishment, Meredith has not yet broken the egg shell! And to add to the excitement, Mary mentioned the other day that one of her peahens is broody and is sitting on a clutch of eggs! Wouldn’t it be amazing to get to see a tiny pea-chick in a few weeks? I hope they hatch!

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cornmeal pancakes with blueberries

This recipe is only slightly adapted from a great one in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. Dan and Meredith make this recipe just about every weekend, so he has the recipe memorized. Usually.

½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup milk
1 egg
½ cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour, if you have it)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Place the cornmeal in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water over it, stir the mixture thoroughly and let stand for 15 minutes. This step allows the cornmeal to absorb the water and it will be like polenta at the end of 15 minutes. Stir in the melted butter, then beat the egg into the milk and add to the cornmeal mixture.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the try ingredients to the cornmeal mixture and combine with a few swift strokes. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes.
3. Heat a nonstick griddle if you have one, or a heavy skillet. When the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sputters across it, grease the surface lightly with vegetable oil on a paper towel, the spoon the batter onto the hot surface, ¼-cup at a time. Sprinkle blueberries over the surface of the pancake. Let the pancakes cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form around the edges, about 3 minutes. These pancakes take a little longer to set than most. You may need to adjust your heat up or down to get the pancakes to cook through without scorching the surface or being too pale. When the cakes are set through the center, fluip them and let them finish cooking on the second side, until they’re golden brosn, 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve immediately with syrup and butter. (We love to use the Alaskan Birch Syrup from Kahiltna Birchworks.)


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Saturday, August 15, 2009

broccoli with golden raisins and carrot dip with sunflower seeds and cumin

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Julia’s Lunch

Last week I got a call from Julia O’Malley. Yes, THE Julia O’Malley who writes that great column in the Anchorage Daily News. She said she wanted to talk to me about local food and farmers markets, and asked if I would cook something local and seasonal with her. Of COURSE I would! Did she want to come over for dinner? “How about lunch?” she asked. Perfect. We settled on Wednesday, when we could also visit the farmers market at the Dimond Center.

It wasn’t that I was exactly nervous about this meal—but I really wanted it to be great. I waffled about the menu for several days, turning over many different ideas and then rejecting them. I knew I wanted to make a broccoli dish—the farmers markets are swimming in broccoli now, and it’s so sweet and delicious. But what should I serve alongside? Avocado toasts? No, not local enough—only the onions are Alaskan. Lightly sauteed tomatoes on toast? Nope. Last Saturday, I was so busy selling bread that by the time I had a chance to shop at the farmers’ market, they were gone. Carrot salad with currants & mint? Nah…  I didn’t have any mint and I didn’t want to go to the grocery store.

So I finally settled on making a menu that I would have made for any friend that came over. “Don’t knock yourself out,” I told myself. “She wants to meet you, not Martha Stewart.” (Well, maybe she does want to meet Martha Stewart, but that would have to be another time.) I would serve something new, broccoli with golden raisins, fresh from the farmers market and hot out of the skillet. And then I would pull something out of the freezer for an accompaniment: carrot dip with sunflower seeds and cumin. I’d made it late last fall when I had way too many carrots on hand, and it would be the perfect thing to serve on toast with the broccoli.

Even though I’d settled on a menu, I was still a little bit nervous on Wednesday morning. I wanted everything to go smoothly and I hoped I wouldn’t stick my foot in my mouth…  But my remaining anxiousness evaporated as a smiling Julia hopped out of her car, joking about the long drive to the wilds of Lower Hillside. I asked if she’d gotten her passport stamped; I understand many urban Anchorage-ites rarely travel south of Tudor Road.

We got to work right away on lunch. As I peeled the broccoli stems and chopped the stalks, sauteed garlic and added the raisins and red pepper flakes, Julia and I talked about farmers markets, local food, and cooking the river of fresh ingredients that can turn into a flood this time of year. (She was videoing the whole cooking process with her flip camera.) We enjoyed our lunch outside on the deck, and got a little heady discussing the benefits of local food; beyond just fresh and delicious, buying local benefits our community in so many ways! Suddenly it was 2:30 and we needed to hit the farmers market before it closed at 4pm! Luckily the vendors still had plenty of produce when we arrived at the market, and she got a chance to talk with them, too.

I had a wonderful day with Julia! Not only is she a gifted writer, she’s engaging and smart and funny. I went into our day with the expectation of an interview, and came out with a new friend! Thanks, Julia!!

Oh—and here’s the link to her story


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broccoli with golden raisins

I love this broccoli recipe—I love it hot as a side dish, at room temperature as a salad, or even cold out of the ‘fridge as a snack. It’s loosely based on a recipe in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, one of my favorite cookbooks for vegetables. I posted this recipe in my blog once before, but in honor of Julia’s lunch, I’m re-posting it.

1 ½ pounds broccoli, tops cut into bite-sized florets, and stems sliced into ¼” slices (peel the stems first if the skin is tough)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ cup golden raisins
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt or kosher salt
optional toast:
4 slices thick whole-wheat bread
extra olive oil for the toast

1. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a pot that you can put a steamer basket in. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, put the golden raisins in the steamer basket and steam for 5 minutes. Remove the raisins, but keep the water in the steamer.
2. Put the broccoli stems into the steamer basket, and steam for 4-6 minutes until barely tender. Check them every minute after 4 minutes, poking with a sharp paring knife. Remove the stems, drain them, and immediately spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet spread with a dishtowel. (This cools the broccoli quickly and allows it to dry out.)
3. Put the florets in the steamer, and steam for 3-5 minutes until barely tender, keeping a close eye on them. Remove the florets and spread them out on a dishtowel as with the stems. When they are cool enough to handle, chop the florets and stems a bit finer with a large chef’s knife.
4. In a large skillet over high heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccoli, stems, raisins, and red pepper flakes and sauté until the broccoli is quite tender, and the flavors are nicely combined—about 5 minutes. Season with plenty of salt—it will need quite a bit.
5. If you want to serve the broccoli on toast, toast the slices of bread until golden, and drizzle with olive oil. Pile the broccoli on top.

carrot dip with sunflower seeds & cumin

You pretty much need a food processor for this recipe, and with it, this dip is SO FAST to make.  It’s much quicker and easier than hummus, for example, since the carrots cook so much more quickly than chickpeas. But it’s rich and delicious and flavorful—and such a beautiful color! Not to mention nutritious!

This recipe is based on one in Veganomicon.  The original recipe called for oil, but I think the dip is rich enough just with the ground sunflower seeds. If you prefer a richer spread, by all means add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil!

It’s fantastic spread on our toasted seed bread, or crackers, or our regular 100% whole wheat levain. But it’s also great scooped up with celery sticks!

1 pound carrots, peeled if the skins are bitter
¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds (if you have salted roasted seeds, just use less salt and adjust to taste)
2 small cloves garlic (or 3 cloves, if you like things garlicky)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 -2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1. If you have raw sunflower seeds, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Toast the sunflower seeds on a cookie sheet in the oven (the oven works well if you’re making extra seeds) for about 10 -12 minutes, until golden-brown and fragrant. Check on them and give them a stir if they are getting too brown in spots. Or, you can toast the seeds on a skillet over medium heat until golden-brown and toasted.
2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a little salt.
3. Slice the carrots.  I do this in the food processor—just cut the stem ends off the carrots and shoot them through the feed tube, pushing with the little pusher cup, small end first.
4. Boil the carrots until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander when done.
5. Meanwhile, when the sunflower seeds are toasted, peel the garlic and toss it in the cuisinart to mince. Then add the sunflower seeds and process into fine crumbs. Then add the cumin, salt, lemon juice, and carrots, and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor as you go.
6. Taste for salt and adjust the lemon. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).


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Thursday, August 13, 2009

toast with nut butter and raspberries

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the berry bug

Our neighbors called just as we were finishing dinner and invited us over to pick golden raspberries. It was almost Meredith’s bedtime, and not long before my own… but we couldn’t resist! Meredith has been at Blueberry Camp with her preschool class all week, so she was especially jazzed.  “I’m a better berry picker than you, Mom, since I’ve been practicing on blueberries all week!”

Just between you and me, she would be hard pressed to be a better berry picker than I. I inherited a berry-picking compulsion (or is it a learned behavior?) from both of my parents, so I have a hard time dragging myself away from a bush (or a hillside or forest, for that matter) if there is still a berry left. Three summers ago, when Meredith was but a small and tiny mite, there was a banner blueberry year in Kachemak Bay. In a couple of weeks, I picked 40 gallons of blueberries (high-bush), mostly during Meredith’s morning and afternoon nap-times, all around our cabin where I could hear her cry when she woke up. Not that I’m obsessed or anything. Ha.

Even so, I didn’t dissuade Meredith from her delusion that she might be a better picker than I am. I humored her, because I want to encourage this sort of behavior, not crush her with my berry-picking ego. Berry picking is soothing and contemplative, and I love it. I do hope Meredith catches the berry bug, too. It’ll serve her well in the future: filling the freezer and emptying her mind, all at the same time.

THANK YOU, Kari & Wade, for letting us pick your raspberries! As you can see, we enjoyed the berries for breakfast on toast with nut butter. Meredith got especially creative with her design!

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toast with nut butter and raspberries

Not exactly a recipe…  just a wonderful breakfast this time of year, when the raspberries are ripe in backyards. It also makes a fabulous afternoon snack! We always use our own Rise & Shine bakery whole grain sourdough pan loaves for the toast, but any sturdy whole-grain bread will work just fine.

And here’s how I like my almond butter. I love roasted almond butter (not the raw kind), and I like it a little bit salty, like peanut butter. Most almond butters don’t come salted—but it’s easy to mix in salt when you’re stirring in the separated oil when you first open the jar. If you don’t prefer almond butter, use peanut butter, instead! That’s what Meredith had this morning.

slices of whole wheat sourdough bread
almond butter (I prefer roasted and salted) or peanut butter
raspberries

Toast the bread, and spread it with nut butter. Get in touch with your inner pastry chef and decorate the nut buttered toast with raspberries. Eat with more raspberries on the side, if you like. Sip tea or coffee between bites. Enjoy pure bliss.


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Friday, August 07, 2009

broccoli salad with roasted peppers, capers & olives

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putting broccoli up for the winter

Mr. Vanderweele is giving away free broccoli again at the South Anchorage Farmers Market on Saturday! Last year he brought an entire tote of broccoli for our event, and you should have seen the hordes of people! Check out the photo, below, of the people lining up for their sweet, flavorful, and ever-so-nutritious Alaskan broccoli. (Have you tried it?)

As much as I love this event, and as much as I appreciate Mr. Vanderweele’s generosity, it does make my heart sink just a bit. This is high broccoli season, which means it’s time to buy my usual two cases of broccoli and put them up to freeze for the winter. Processing seventy pounds of broccoli does tend to take a bite out of one’s weekend.

This is the time of the summer when we suddenly realize that it’s almost over—all the rain we’ve had lately is a sure sign of waning summer. School is starting soon (already!), but can’t we just squeeze in one more camping trip? And speaking of squeezing, how will I make room for the salmon, blueberries, AND broccoli in my freezer?  Not to mention moose meat, if your husband is a successful hunter this year. Rats, I still have a few garden projects I was meaning to finish… (OK, start, and then finish). The firewood needs to be stacked, and the list goes on…  our summer is so short!

However, there are SO MANY REASONS to freeze Alaskan broccoli… My broccoli from the freezer is so much sweeter and tastier than anything I can buy in the wintertime in the grocery store—even the “fresh” stuff. And when I freeze the vegetables now, they will still be locally-grown when I thaw them out in February!! And best of all, it saves me so much time in the winter, when all I have to do is grab a bag out of the freezer! It really is the ultimate fast food.

So I’m going to share not only one of my favorite broccoli recipes, but also the method I use to line my chest freezer with quarts and quarts of broccoli to thaw out and eat during the winter. I made a handy YouTube Video so you can see the process for yourself! But the directions are written out, below, as well.


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processing broccoli to freeze

a case of broccoli

1. Cut about a ¼” off the stem end of each head of broccoli, and peel most of the skin from the bottoms of the stalks of broccoli, using a paring knife and starting from the bottom of the stem. The thick skin will peel away easily from the outside of the stalk.
2. Slice the stalks into coins about ¼” thick and put them all into a bowl. Cut the florets into bite-sized pieces and put them in a separate bowl from the stems.
3. Fill the biggest pot you have with water, bring it to a boil, and salt it well. Spread some large towels out on your countertop.
4. Dump a batch of broccoli into the boiling water (either stalks or florets, but not both at once). Cook for 3-4 minutes, or maybe 5 for the stalks, until just tender-crisp. Test with a sharp paring knife.
5. Scoop the broccoli out, shake the extra water off, and spread it out on the towels in a single layer. If you can, have a couple of windows open to help the broccoli cool and dry. Spreading the broccoli on towels like this stops it cooking immediately, and dries it nicely by evaporation.
6. When completely cool, put the broccoli in freezer ziploc bags, in whatever portions you like to cook at once. Keep the florets and stalks in separate bags. I like to freeze the sliced stalks separately, since they work so well for roasting, later.
7. Repeat with the rest of the florets and stalks until you’ve worked your way through the whole case. Then freeze the bags!
8. When you want to eat broccoli, just thaw out a bag and proceed with whatever recipe you want. I have several great broccoli recipes in the Farmers’ Market Cookbook—any of them will work wonderfully with broccoli from the freezer.

broccoli salad with roasted peppers, capers, and olives

This salad is a variation on one in Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cook Book. Using our sweet, flavorful Alaskan broccoli (whether fresh or out of the freezer in the winter) makes this salad just amazing! Make a double batch of this salad if you want, for great leftovers, but don’t add the vinegar to the portion of the salad you’ll be saving for the following day—it fades the green of the broccoli.

I often make this salad when I don’t have all the ingredients. Just so you know, it’s great without the red peppers, parsley, and scallions (just mince up some red or yellow onion), so just leap in and make it.

2 pounds broccoli (If using your frozen broccoli, thaw it and start at Step 4.)
2 roasted red peppers (see recipe, below)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or less, if you like)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
12 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
3 scallions, finely sliced (including the greens)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons or more balsamic vinegar, to taste
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper

1. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a pot that you can put a steamer basket in. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, put the broccoli stems in the steamer basket and steam for 4-6 minutes until barely tender. Check them every minute after 4 minutes, poking with a sharp paring knife.
2. Remove the stems, shake excess water off, and immediately spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet spread with a dishtowel. (This cools the broccoli quickly and allows it to dry out.)
3. Put the florets in the steamer, and steam for 3-5 minutes until barely tender, keeping a close eye on them. Remove the florets and spread them out on a dishtowel as with the stems.
4. Slice the roasted peppers into strips ½-inch wide and mix them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, juice from the peppers, capers, olives, scallions, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and, if you’ll serve the entire salad right away, the balsamic vinegar. Only add the vinegar to the portion of salad you’ll be serving immediately, since it fades the color of the broccoli. Season the mixture with salt.
5. Combine the broccoli and stems with the rest of the ingredients and toss them together. If you’re making enough for leftovers, take tomorrow’s portion out now and put it in the ‘fridge. Then, with your remaining salad, taste for salt, and add the balsamic vinegar and more oil and more vinegar as needed. Add a grinding of pepper, to taste.

roasted red peppers
I like to do roast of peppers at once (I get the big bags from Costco), and then use them as sandwich fillings, or in other salads. If you won’t finish them in a week, just pop some of them in the freezer to thaw out later.

red peppers

1. Preheat your grill or broiler. Roast the red peppers, turning them as each side gets blackened.
2. When they are blackened all the way around, place them in a big bowl and cover it with a lid or a plate until the peppers are fairly cool (this steams and cooks the peppers the rest of the way).
3. Peel the skins from the peppers and remove the seeds, but don’t rinse the peppers—just rinse your fingers as you peel the skins off. Slice the peppers into pieces as desired.


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