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Thursday, May 28, 2009

green salad with smoked salmon, avocados, & garlicky red wine mustard vinaigrette

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Camping on Memorial Day

Many weeks ago we made a plan with Margo and her husband Andy to go camping together on Memorial Day weekend. They planned to go to Eklutna, and we were excited to join them, especially since our four-year-old daughters are great friends. The two girls together are as self-entertaining as you could hope, and Margo and I regularly exploit this phenomenon.

Anyway, Eklutna is a beautiful spot, not very far from Anchorage, with huge Lake Eklutna ringed with steep, snow-capped mountains, and lots of trails for hiking and biking. The weather lately has been glorious, and we hoped for nice weather for the weekend. We brought bikes for the kids and for the grownups, the canoe, and hiking and running gear. We figured that if we left on Friday morning, we’d have plenty of time to get a campsite.

We figured wrong, though. Every campsite was occupied, and we were crushed! We’d been looking forward to this little adventure for so long, and didn’t just want to go home! We guessed that if we tried another campground farther north, like Nancy Lakes, it would also be completely full.

We didn’t know what to do! Even as I was feeling terribly disappointed, I was thinking about the fact that I was in this predicament not just as a potential camper, but also as a parent. I had to keep it together and try and stay positive—at least on the outside. When Meredith was asking me “what are we going to do, Mom?” I didn’t know what we were going to do, but I desperately wanted to think of SOMETHING to do! I had blown it not just for myself, but for her, as well! She and I had made homemade graham crackers for s’mores, and an apple pie. We’d cooked and prepared and packed all our stuff for the whole long weekend…

But we had to stay at Eklutna for the day at least, until Andy could finish his work day and drive up to meet us in the afternoon. So Dan went for a bike ride, I went for a run, and Margo graciously stayed with the girls while they sped around the campground on their bikes.

I needn’t have worried…  when Andy arrived, he had a great idea! We could drive north toward Talkeetna and stay on Margo’s sister’s cabin property! We couldn’t get into the cabin, but we didn’t need to! We had a great time camping in the woods alongside their driveway, sunning ourselves on the dock on the little lake next to their cabin, roasting marshmallows in a firepit that the menfolk constructed, and biking on the beautiful new paved trail along the road to Talkeetna, admiring the views of Denali.

One of the meals we ate was this succulent and hearty salad. OK, so it’s not exactly typical camping food—but it was a car-camping trip, after all!

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green salad with smoked salmon, avocados, and garlicky red wine mustard vinaigrette

This dressing is one that I make a lot of at once, and then keep in the refrigerator to use all the time. It keeps really well, is yummy and creamy without any eggs or cream in it (mustard is the emulsifying agent), and is great with a variety of different salads.

dressing

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons honey
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½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Slowly pour in oil to make a creamy emulsion. Taste and season with more salt or honey if it needs it.

salad

1 large head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces, or a large bowl of baby salad greens or stemmed baby spinach
½ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), toasted in a skillet until puffed and golden
1 avocado, peeled and cut into cubes
1-2 cups kippered salmon, flaked (I love to use buttery-rich Alaskan king salmon)

1. Toss the salad greens with dressing to your taste, then add the avocado and salmon. Toss again.
2. Sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds over the salad and serve.

 


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Monday, May 25, 2009

caesar salad with garlicky croutons

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our big wild ride

Several days ago Dan and I had the opportunity to take our tandem bicycle for a ride without pulling Meredith in the bike trailer. As you might guess, these occasions are relatively infrequent, and although we love the opportunity to get out as a family, Meredith at almost-five-years-old is getting not only weighty, but also not as excited about spending time in the bike trailer. I can’t blame her—she has her own bike now, and would rather bike than ride!

So, with several hours to spend on our own, we popped the tandem on the truck rack and headed for Indian, ten or so miles south of Anchorage, where the bike trail along Turnagain Arm begins. (Yes, we could bike to the trailhead, but then we wouldn’t have as much energy or time to enjoy the trail!) It was a beautiful sunny day, cool and crisp at 10 in the morning, and we were having a wonderful ride. In case you don’t live here in Alaska, you’re biking along a steep-sided arm of Cook Inlet, with glorious steep mountains on each side, snow-capped and streaming with waterfalls.

We’ve been tandem biking together since 1996, and we love it—you never have to hurry, you never have to wait, and you can chat as you bike. And after the first few weeks of learning to bike together back before we were married, we don’t fight on the bike anymore. There is a saying about tandem biking: “wherever your relationship is going, it’ll get there faster on a tandem.”  I think the same applies for canoeing together.

As we were coasting down a steep hill not far from the end of the trail in Girdwood, Dan (captaining, in the front position) suddenly slammed on the brakes. I was stoking (pedaling in the rear position), so couldn’t see what was ahead on the trail—I just hung on and tried not to drive my chin into his back. But then we slowed down and I could peer over Dan’s shoulder—and there was a very large lynx, trotting down the side of the bike trail! She (he?) heard us then, turned around to look at us, and then bounded up onto the side of the trail and into the trees. Gorgeous!

We rode into Girdwood, turned around, and on the way back, we were of course admiring the views up the mountain and across the Arm… and there was a woman on a mountain bike stopped, looking straight up the side of the mountain. We of course looked up—and there were four bears, far above us on the hillside, rolling and sliding and playing in a snowfield! They were so far away there was no worry, but we were close enough to watch them play.

WHAT A DAY!! We are so lucky to live in Alaska!

When we got home, we ate this wonderful salad for lunch on the deck. YUM!

 

caesar salad with garlicky croutons

This is a fun salad—and it makes a head of romaine into a complete meal. You can make a double batch of this dressing and refrigerate the leftovers in a jar for a meal later in the week, so you’re cooking once for two dinners.

It’s a great dish for company, and it’s very easy to bring it along to a potluck dinner—just bring all the components separately, and don’t dress the salad until you’re ready to sit down and eat. (Otherwise, the lettuce will wilt before you eat it.) It’s based on a recipe from Peggy Knockerbocker’s book Olive Oil: From Tree to Table.

I generally just serve this as an entire meal, because who wants to eat anything else? However, if you feel you need a little extra protein, it’s very nice topped with slices of grilled chicken breast or halibut (season with salt and pepper before grilling).

dressing:

half of a 2-ounce tin of oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and blotted dry on paper towels
3 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
fresh-ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, combine the anchovies and garlic and process to mix. Add the egg, most of the lemon juice, and the mustard and process to combine. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Season with pepper and process again. Taste, and add as much of the remaining lemon juice as needed to get a good balance of flavors. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

salad & croutons:

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 large heads romaine lettuce, or 3 hearts of romaine
5 slices hearty whole-grain bread (preferably whole-wheat sourdough)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mash the garlic with the salt in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the olive oil. Cut the slices of bread into ½” cubes and toss them in the garlicky oil until the oil is thoroughly absorbed and distributed. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake for 15-25 minutes, until the croutons are crispy and golden-brown.
2. While the croutons are baking, wash the lettuce, dry the leaves and tear into pieces, and place in a large salad bowl.
3. When you’re ready to sit down and eat, drizzle some of the dressing over the leaves and toss, adding more dressing as needed until all the leaves are coated. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, toss again to mix, and then toss in the croutons. Sprinkle with pepper and serve right away, before the lettuce wilts.


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Friday, May 15, 2009

vegetarian posole

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Chef Dan

One of the things that I’ve been letting go of lately is my self-imposed obligation to make a really fabulous dinner every night. I mean, I always want to make something yummy and healthy, but lately I’ve been doing less browsing in my cookbooks, and resorting more often to old favorites—usually SIMPLE old favorites. As this has happened, Dan has suddenly become more interested in cooking again. Since Meredith was born, and our time got tighter, he’s been more likely to focus on things other than cooking in his less frequent moments of free time. Now, maybe because I’m not menu-planning for every day of the week, there is more space for him to cook? Or maybe it’s because Meredith is almost five years old, and there is more time in his day? At any rate, it’s wonderful.

He’s got this great new theme going on, too. In the past, he would generally choose relatively exotic recipes that would involve a trip to the grocery store (or several grocery stores) to get the ingredients. His latest thing is to find something in the pantry or freezer that has been hanging around for a while, and find something to do with it. Oh joy of joys!

A couple of weeks ago he made a dish of white beans (from the freezer) on garlic-scrubbed toast, topped with sardines (from the pantry) and a drizzle scallions sautéed in olive oil (the scallions had been languishing in the ‘fridge). This week he got the idea to use up a big can of hominy, and ended up making this great vegetarian posole! He used up a tub of cooked kidney beans from the freezer, as well as a bunch of carrots and celery.

I’m not sure what he’ll decide to cook next. Will it be the buckwheat groats I bought several years ago for a reason I don’t remember? Or maybe that box of whole wheat couscous from the Pleistocene Era? (It can’t go bad, can it?) What about that celery root in the vegetable drawer that has held up remarkably well for the last several weeks? Go, Sweetie, GO! Am I well-married, or what? 

vegetarian posole

This recipe is based on one in Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. He tells you to cook the hominy from scratch, but I think the canned stuff works just fine. You can usually find it in the Hispanic section in the grocery store. Same goes for the little cans of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Freeze the leftover chiles in a ziplock bag for later use.

1 28-ounce can cooked hominy
2 cups cooked beans: red, pinto, or anasazi (see directions below, for cooking beans, if you haven’t already cooked them)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small onions, diced
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped finely
sea salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried sage (you can use 4 leaves of fresh sage if you have it, minced)
3-4 cups mushrooms, preferably baby portabellas, or white mushrooms
freshly-ground black pepper

1. In a heavy soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the onion. Saute for 5 minutes, until beginning to get transparent. Stir in the carrot, celery, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, chiles, cumin and sage. Add ½ teaspoon salt, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
2. Chop the mushrooms into quarters or sixths. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon of salt until the mushrooms have released their liquid, the liquid is cooked off, and they are starting to brown. Set aside.
3. Drain the liquid from the canned hominy and add it to the vegetables. Add the cooked beans and 2 or 3 cups of bean cooking liquid to the vegetables, as well. If you’re using canned beans, don’t use the canning liquid—drain the beans and use water for the liquid, instead.
4. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender and the stew has thickened, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Add the mushrooms to the stew, and salt and pepper to taste.

cooking your beans

This will make twice as many beans as you need for this recipe, unless you make a double batch of posole—but cooked beans are handy! Just freeze the extra beans to use in another recipe later.

2 cups beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Drain the soaked beans, then put them in a pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add the quartered onion, garlic, and bay leaves and make sure the water covers the onions. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender. This could take 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the beans and how old they are. When the beans are tender enough to easily squish between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, turn the heat off. If you have time, let the beans sit in their liquid with the aromatics until cool. Remove the quartered onions and whole garlic and discard. Add salt to the beans to taste.

 


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Monday, May 11, 2009

toasted cheese sandwiches with red onions, sundried tomatoes, and crunchy romaine lettuce

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Bliss Yoga with Margo

So I’ve been writing to you lately about how I’ve been trying to take care of myself… by saying “no thank you,” and letting go of some obligations. We closed the bakery for a holiday in February, and after unsuccessfully trying to start a practice of sitting still and meditating to try and calm myself, I decided that committing to a daily practice of some relaxing yoga might be a better alternative. My goodness, it’s hard to sit still!

I’d been doing a little yoga now and then for the past couple of years with my friend Margo. She is an amazing teacher, and her lessons focus more on relaxation and body alignment than other classes I’ve taken. Rather than getting a workout from her lessons, I’d get an amazing sense of calm. My body would feel more aligned and healthy afterwards, like I’d just given myself a massage. But I wasn’t good about keeping up a regular practice—my life felt too busy and frantic, and I just couldn’t add one more thing.

But by February, with all the things I’d been juggling, this wasn’t an option. I needed something to help me relax and find some balance in my life! So I called Margo and asked her if I could take weekly lessons, and committed to doing my own daily practice during the week.  Luckily, she was willing! Our lessons are different than any yoga I’ve ever done. Most of them begin with shavasana, relaxation pose, lying down with my knees draped over a tall stack of blankets so my back slowly melts into the floor. After I’ve completely melted away the tension of the day, we begin doing stretches and poses that are designed to release tightness that I’ve inevitably created by running, biking, or cross-country skiing. Margo’s yoga is not about getting exercise, but rather, to relax from the exercise that I do at other times. And it’s about the mental relaxation, too.

Each week Margo prepares a little handout of our lesson to put in my yoga notebook, with the week’s sequence illustrated by little stick figures so I can remember the poses when I get home. That way I can use any of my lessons in my daily practice, depending on what I feel like doing. And Margo always says, if I don’t have time to do anything else, just do a 15 minute shavasana. (That’s her yoga recipe for busy moms.)

I have to say that doing a weekly private yoga lesson with Margo, and then a little bit from the yoga notebook we’ve created each day (even if it is just the relaxation part) has made a huge difference to my body AND my mind. I’m not walking around all stiff and sore and stove-up from running and biking—instead, my back is relaxed and feels strong and healthy! And the relaxation every day has made a big difference to my mental space, too. I’m more prepared to meet the challenges of the day, whether I’m baking hundreds of loaves of bread, dealing with a missing CSA vegetable box, or comforting a hungry and tired Meredith at the end of a long, busy day…  I have more resilience and calm with which to handle it. Thank you, Margo!

If this kind of yoga sounds like your cup of tea, Margo is teaching some small ten-week classes this summer in her little yoga studio in her house. Each class is limited to six participants, so you get a really wonderful and intimate experience. If you live in the Anchorage area, you can still sign up—she has a few spaces left for the classes starting at the end of May.

Bliss Yoga with Margo Sorum

Cost: $130 for 10 classes (classes are limited to 6 participants)
Tuesdays, 4:00-5:15pm from May 26 to August 4 (No class June 23)
Thursdays, 4:00-5:15pm from May 26 to August 4 (No class June 25)

Please email or call Margo for more information, or to register for her class: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 907-947-2030.

Since this blog is all about wonderful things I’ve learned from Margo, I figured I’d include a great recipe she’s shared with me! It’s a new way to make toasted cheese sandwiches! And are they ever blissfull!

toasted cheese sandwiches with sundried tomatoes, red onions, and crisp romaine lettuce with balsamic dip

You might think it’s silly to have a recipe for a toasted cheese sandwich, but this recipe is something else altogether. Since Margo made one of these sandwiches for me, I’ve not made a regular toasted cheese sandwich. Instead of the usual plain cheese filling, you grill the sandwich with sundried tomatoes and red onions in it (OK, so far not that different), but here’s the kicker: after the sandwich is completely toasted and the cheese melted, you open it up and pop in a wad of fresh romaine leaves. Then you close up the sandwich and eat it, crunching the lettuce leaves and enjoying the melty cheese, dunking each bite in a little dish of balsamic vinegar. It’s so easy, and SO yummy! It’s great for lunch, or you can serve it with any seasonal vegetable dish or green salad for a wonderful dinner.

slices of 100% whole wheat sourdough bread
softened butter
sharp cheddar cheese, or whatever cheese you prefer, sliced
oil-packed sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced (don’t put too many in)
thinly sliced red onions
lots of leaves of washed, dried romaine lettuce
good-quality balsamic vinegar (Costco brand is fine)

1.    Spread each slice of bread with a thin layer of butter. On one slice, on the unbuttered side, line up a few slices of tomatoes, then layer slices of cheese, then top with red onions. Top with the other slice of bread (buttered side out).
2.    Place sandwiches in a skillet over medium heat and grill slowly until the buttered bread is nicely browned on both sides and the cheese is well melted.
3.    Take the sandwich out of the skillet and set it on a cutting board. Open it up (try not to burn yourself on the hot cheese) and pack it with several leaves of romaine. Close it back again and carefully cut the sandwich in half.
4.    Put a small dish of balsamic vinegar on the table and dip your sandwich in as you eat it. We love trying the different vinegars at Summit Spice and Tea Co. (1120 E Huffman Road).


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Saturday, May 09, 2009

fruited almond bread, by Carol Lambert

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Mother’s Day Part II

I wrote already about my mom and her clam spaghetti recipe, and now I’m going to write about my mother-in-law, Karen! She lives in Maryland, but is very accommodating about making the long journey to visit us (and Meredith) frequently.

Last winter I got an email from Carol Lambert that she wanted to make a painting of our Rise & Shine Bakery fruited almond bread. I was thrilled, since I already loved her beautiful paintings of Farmers Market produce from the summertime. I couldn’t wait to see what the painting would look like! Turned out that I didn’t even have to wait until it was completed to see it, since Carol was working on it as a demonstration at Charlie’s Club 25 Cafe Gallery last winter! (I already described that outing in my pomegranate post.)

So, a couple of weeks after the fruited almond bread painting was supposed to have been finished, I emailed Carol and asked if the painting was for sale. She wrote back “Sorry, it’s already been sold!” and I was surprised that it has sold so quickly, a bit disappointed, but also happy for her that it had been sold. “Oh, that’s great,” I said, “I’m just glad it went to a good home!” I did wonder, though…  was it one of our bread customers? And if so, funny that they didn’t mention it to us.

So a few months went by, and Dan’s and my wedding anniversary was approaching (it’s on the Spring Equinox—March 21st). Karen had arranged for Meredith (who is four years old) to take us out for dinner to Sack’s Café for our anniversary—perhaps not the most romantic anniversary celebration, but certainly a fun one, since Meredith loves to eat, and we all love the food at Sack’s. Meredith was even in charge of calling to make the reservations (Karen had forewarned the staff at Sack’s, so it all went very smoothly). The only thing Meredith was concerned about was that she couldn’t drive us to the restaurant. Her grandmother assured us that her daddy could drive, but that Meredith could take care of everything else.

We arrived right on time, festively dressed and ready for a great meal. The hostess tried to get Meredith to come with her (I thought for crayons and the kids’ placemat) but Meredith was a bit too shy, so we all sat down and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Right before dinner, the waitress showed up with a HUGE flat package, wrapped in colorful jungle-themed paper. It looked like a puzzle, but it was way too heavy. And it didn’t rattle. What on earth?

We opened it up… and would you believe, it was the painting of our fruited almond bread! Karen had bought the painting all those months ago, and had conspired with Carol, the artist, about wrapping it, writing a card, and dropping it off at Sack’s. Not to mention prepping the folks at Sack’s to deliver it to us! We were so thrilled, surprised, and grateful! What an amazing and wonderful, thoughtful and beautiful gift!

Even though there’s a four-hour time difference, we called Karen as soon as we got home—not caring if we woke up her up to tell her how surprised we were, how we loved the painting, and how much fun we had at dinner. Luckily she was still awake!

Thank you, Karen! Every time I look up at the painting on the living room wall I smile and think of you! Happy Mother’s Day to you, Karen—and to all you other mothers out there!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

spaghetti with garlicky white wine clam sauce

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Mother’s Day

This time of year I always think a lot about my mom, not just because it’s Mother’s Day, but because it’s springtime, and time to be planting seeds and getting the garden ready. My mom was an amazing vegetable gardener, and this time of year you could usually find her in the greenhouse. I remember the smell of the greenhouse—the rich smell of the dark earth in the big raised beds on each side. In the spring there was usually a faint scent of fish fertilizer, and later in the season, my nose would be filled with the rich aroma of tomato plants. My mom would spend hours each day after teaching school, planting seeds and transplanting little seedlings into bigger pots. She would talk to her little babies, encouraging them to thrive. Later, when school was out, she would spend much of her free time in the garden: weeding, watering, and harvesting, and chatting with the chickens in the yard next to the garden.

On Mother’s Day, though, the focus was on flowers, not on vegetables. Every year we’d get up and make breakfast for her (although she never liked to eat it in bed). After presenting her with our gifts, we’d hop in the car for a tour of the plant nurseries in town. Mid-May in Anchorage is still fairly cool, and it was so pleasant to browse through the huge, humid and fragrantly warm greenhouses, admiring the beautiful varieties of annual flowers and hanging baskets. My brother and I were always allowed to pick out a couple of six-packs of annuals to plant in our own little flower gardens. Even though our little flower patches would get rather weedy toward the end of the summer (we were sick of working in the vegetable garden by that time, too), each spring brought new excitement for our little gardens. Ben usually picked impatiens of some kind—the neon pink or orange varieties, and would then plant lots of nasturtiums from seed. My mom loved when I picked allysum, those mounds of tiny white flowers that smell much more beautiful than they look. We thought it was neat that their name was like mine, and I would usually get some pansies to plant along with them. Of course my mom would always plant lots of flowers from seed, too—cosmos and snapdragons, lobelia and marigolds to fill hanging baskets and planter boxes. And when she would inevitably have many more seedlings to transplant than she could possibly use, she could never throw them away, but distributed them to her friends and neighbors.

While I don’t plant many annuals (and Dan is in charge of our small vegetable garden), I do love my perennial garden. Some of the flowers are already beginning to show some buds!  I’ll write more about that later, though. For now, I’m wishing you and your mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day!

spaghetti with garlicky white wine clam sauce

This is one of my favorite recipes of my mom’s. It’s garlicky and complex from the wine, but it’s not overly rich, since there isn’t any cream in the sauce.  My mom used to make it with her home-made canned clams, even though she didn’t particularly care for clams! Is that true love, or what? I’ve never made it with commercially canned clams, but it’s wonderful with fresh or frozen clams, as well as with home-canned.

Even though I’m not a fan of clam chowder or fried clams, I love this recipe. I’ve served this dish to several clam skeptics with great success! I think you’ll really enjoy it! To complete the meal, just add a simple green salad. 

I have a meat grinder attachment on my KitchenAid mixer that I sometimes use to grind the clams if I’m doing a lot of them at once after a successful clam-digging expedition. I don’t have the patience or the huge pressure-cooker to can the clams like my mom did, but it works just fine to freeze them instead if you have more than you’ll eat all at once. If we don’t come home with many clams, sometimes I just freeze the clams shucked and whole. In that case, I chop them by hand just before I make this dish, when they are still partially frozen, and then when I add the white wine to the clams in the saucepan, I blender them up finely with an immersion blender. You could also do this step in a regular blender.

½ pound spaghetti (I like to use whole-wheat, but white is fine, too)
1 pint of ground clams, cleaned—either fresh or home-canned.  (We grind butter clams or razor clams and either can them or freeze them in pint amounts for this recipe.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1-2 cups dry white wine
fresh-ground pepper
1 or 2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. 
2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Saute the garlic over medium heat until golden brown.
3. Add the clams and their liquid (if the clams are raw, there won’t be any liquid), the oregano (pulverize it between your palms as you add it), and the white wine.  If you haven’t ground the clams finely yet, do this now with an immersion blender or regular blender. Cook over medium-high heat until the wine is thickened and reduced and the clams are nicely saucy, but not too runny. 
4. When the water boils, add salt and put the pasta in to boil.
5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it into a large bowl.  Pour the clam sauce over the top of the pasta, more or less covering the center part of the platter.  Sprinkle the parsley all around the edges of the pasta to make a thick moat, and cover the clams in the middle with Parmesan cheese.  Grind pepper over the top of the clams.
6. Serve immediately, tossing the pasta at the table, making sure each person gets lots of parsley and clams.  Pass additional Parmesan cheese at the table. 


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Monday, May 04, 2009

rhubarb crisp

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My rhubarb is up!

Rhubarb, that harbinger of spring…  or for those of us living in Alaska, of summer! We’re thrilled to see it poking up out of the ground! I know, these little crinkled leaves don’t look like much, but once they get going, the stalks really shoot up! Since not very many types of fruit grow in Alaska (and strawberries and raspberries are still a long way off), we’re happy for any fruit-like substance that can eke out an existence in our backyards.

We’re even more excited than usual, because of the unusually warm and sunny weather we’ve had these last several days. Everyone I know has gone stark-raving mad, capering about in the sunshine and soaking up the rays as much as ever they can. I think we’ve gotten more sun this past week than most of us got in all of last year’s cold and rainy summer. Oh, does it feel good!

But rhubarb popping up in the garden does come with a certain sobering responsibility. Suddenly, I remember that I have several bags of sliced rhubarb in the freezer from last summer. And if I don’t use it up now, before the next crop comes in, I’ll be even more overwhelmed with rhubarb than usual. My rhubarb plants are divisions of my mom’s, planted over thirty years ago. I have no idea where they came from, but they are wonderful, with fat, tender, cherry-red stalks that produce all summer long (if I make sure to break off the flower stalks as they come up). If I’m not diligent about cooking and eating rhubarb and processing it to freeze, the plants are likely to overwhelm the entire front of my house.

So! We’ve been eating rhubarb crisp, apple-rhubarb crisp, rhubarb coffee cake, and rhubarb-apple pie. Here’s my recipe for rhubarb crisp, in case you still have some in your freezer from last year…  and a variation with apples that I like even better. But if your house is in danger from being overtaken by a rhubarb plant, I recommend the former recipe. It uses more rhubarb.

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rhubarb crisp

When the rhubarb is coming on strong, it’s time to take decisive action. This recipe is based on one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

half or all of the recipe of the crisp topping, below (to your taste)
10 heaping cups rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a small pinch of ground cloves (don’t go overboard here)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping and set it aside.
2. Combine the rhubarb with the sugar, flour, and spices. Coat a large gratin dish with oil or non-stick spray. Pour the fruit into the dish.
3. Bake, uncovered (without the topping), for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. (You can do this step earlier in the day if you’d like.)
4. An hour or two before you’re ready to eat the crisp, sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 more minutes, or until the juices from the fruit are bubbling and the topping is brown. Serve hot or warm.

rhubarb-apple crisp

half or all of the recipe of the crisp topping, below (to your taste)
1 ½ pounds apples, peeled and cored
2 pounds rhubarb, diced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a small pinch of ground cloves (don’t go overboard)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping and set it aside. Dice the apples, then put them in a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Pour the fruit into a 2-quart gratin dish.
2. Bake, uncovered (without the topping), for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven.
3. An hour before you’re ready to eat the crisp, sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 more minutes, or until the juices from the fruit are bubbling and the topping is brown. Serve hot or warm.

crisp topping

This recipe makes enough for 1 heavily-topped crisp, or 2 lightly-topped crisps. Make this recipe, and if you like a light topping, use half and freeze the rest until you want to make another crisp. Or use the whole amount of topping on one crisp.

Another note: the Loriva walnut oil is really fantastic; it’s roasty and toasty-tasting and very rich. Don’t bother using refined walnut oil, because it doesn’t have much flavor and the recipe won’t be nearly as tasty. Use butter, instead. If you don’t want to use walnuts, replace the nuts with an additional ½ cup of rolled oats.

6 tablespoons Loriva toasted walnut oil or melted butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup flour (whole wheat or white flour—whichever you prefer)
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients so you have a crumbly, moist mixture.


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