alison on twitter

about alison





monthly archives


contact alison


Saturday, October 04, 2008

beets and their greens with a lemony dill vinaigrette


Today was my last day of the year selling bread at the South Anchorage Farmers’ Market. When I woke up this morning, it was 33 degrees, but I was pleased that it wasn’t actually snowing. (It was doing that last night.) It’s getting a bit too chilly to be standing outside for five hours, so I’ll admit, I’m looking forward to my indoor, wintertime venues. Even though 33 degrees might not seem all that frigid, I don’t move around enough at my bakery stand to generate much body heat. So this morning I rummaged out my down pants and wool felt boots. Usually I don’t deploy these weapons until mid-January, when the mercury doesn’t rise above 10 degrees and I’m sledding with my 4-year old!

Many of my customers were shivering when they came to my stand, and I was appreciative of their patience while I slowly counted their change with fingers stiffened from the cold. But while my fingers were chilled, the rest of me remained warm, thanks to my arsenal of Arctic apparel. When people asked me, “Aren’t you freezing?” I would step out from behind my table to show them my lower half. Blanketed in my trusty down and wool, I was equally prepared to sell you a loaf of sourdough bread, or mush your dog to Nome. 

I swapped a sourdough loaf for a couple of bunches of beautiful beets with their greens, and invented a new recipe for our dinner tonight, using the entire beet!


beets and their greens with a lemony dill vinaigrette

I made this recipe up tonight, and I was so excited about the glorious colors that I had to post it immediately!!  The bright magenta of the beets contrasted with the beautiful light green of the dressing, and the dark green leaves of the beet greens…  SO beautiful!  And so delicious, too! Not to mention thrifty, since it uses the entire beet—even the stems!

The tart dressing cuts the sweetness of the beets, and the dill and sunflower seeds are a classic Eastern European beet accompaniment , but this dish is definitely a new twist! The vinaigrette is loosely based on one for a kasha & beet salad in rebar modern food.


3 garlic cloves
zest of a lemon
juice of a lemon
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried dill (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
½ cup olive oil


2 bunches beets with their greens and stems
¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted

1. First, roast the beets. (You can do this a day or two ahead of time if you’re baking something else in the oven and have room for a pot of beets alongside.) Preheat your oven to 400 (or if you’re baking something else, just do it at that temperature). Cut the beets from their stems, wash them, and put the whole, unpeeled beets in a baking dish or Dutch oven. Put about ½-inch of water in the dish. Cover tightly with foil or the lid of the Dutch oven and bake them until tender when stabbed with a paring knife. Usually they take 40 minutes or longer, but young beets might be quicker, depending on their size.
2. While the beets are roasting, make the vinaigrette. Toss the garlic cloves in a blender jar, and buzz them briefly to chop them a bit. Add the lemon zest, juice, vinegar, mustard, dill, salt, honey, and pepper. Puree until smooth, scraping down the blender jar as necessary. While the motor is running, pour in the olive oil and puree until everything is nicely emulsified. The color will be a beautiful light green! Taste the dressing—it will be quite tart, to cut the sweetness of the beets, but add more salt, honey, and olive oil as necessary to get a nice balance.
3. When the beets are tender, remove them from the oven. If you have a variety of sizes, you’ll have to pull the smaller ones out first and let the larger ones cook a little longer. Let the beets cool just a bit, or if you’re in a hurry, run them under cold water. Don’t let them dry out, though, because the skins will be a lot harder to peel off. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip their skins off. Cut the beets into ½-inch pieces and toss with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Set them aside to marinate.
4. While the beets are roasting, toast the sunflower seeds on a baking sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant.
5. Pull the green leaves from their stems—but reserve the stems, too! Wash the leaves in a pan of water, and set them aside. Wash the stems, too, and then cut them into ½-inch slices. Set aside in a bowl.
6. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a steamer. Steam the beet greens for 5-7 minutes, until nicely tender. Set aside to cool in their bowl. Steam the beets stems for 10 minutes or so, until they are nice and tender, as well. Set aside. Chop the beet greens coarsely.
7. To assemble the salad, toss the beet greens with some of the vinaigrette, and then toss the stems with some vinaigrette (keep them in separate bowls). Make a little tower: first the greens, then the stems, and finally the cubes of beets. Drizzle with a little of the green vinaigrette (what a color combination!) and then sprinkle with sunflower seeds.  Enjoy! 


print this recipe

Thursday, October 02, 2008

roasted brussels sprouts


Here in Anchorage, we’ve been scraping ice off our windshields the last couple of mornings. Although the days this past week have been gorgeous (brilliant yellow leaves against an intensely blue sky), it’s a bittersweet beauty. Winter is coming soon, and each week we’re losing noticeable amounts of daylight.

But all that aside—it’s time to rejoice, because THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS ARE IN! At least for those of us who have learned to roast fresh, sweet Alaskan Brussels sprouts in a blazing hot oven, it’s grounds for celebration!

Yes, yes, I know—I can already hear you telling me that you hate Brussels sprouts. And if they are old, dried-out specimens, overcooked to a sulfuric and sloppy mess, I hate them too. But they don’t have to be that way!  A fresh stalk of Brussels sprouts, each sprout halved (the largest quartered), then the whole bowlful tossed with olive oil and salt and then roasted at 450 degrees on a hot baking sheet…  this makes one of the most divine dishes known to humankind. Maybe hard to believe, but I’m telling you, it will make a meal in itself…  You’ll be eating sprouts like popcorn—like potato chips—like CRAZY!!  You’ll be fighting your kids for them. (I had to go a few rounds with Meredith at dinner tonight to get my fair share.)

If you can get Brussels sprouts, especially if they are still on the stalk, plump and firm and round, you’re halfway there. Then just make sure to be ready to eat them when they come out of the oven, because they are absolutely divine JUST out of the oven. Crispy and sweet and savory all at once. Please try this easiest of recipes if you can find good Brussels sprouts. And then let me know how you liked them!


roasted brussels sprouts

I know that brussels sprouts are not usually the most popular vegetable, but our fresh Alaskan sprouts are so sweet and delicious that you just have to give them a try! Anyway, how can you resist them when the farmers bring the gorgeous green stalks to the market bursting with plump round sprouts? Serve these as an appetizer or as a side to just about anything!

1 or 2 large stalks of Brussels sprouts
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Coat 1 or 2 large baking sheets (you’ll probably need 2) with non-stick spray or oil (that makes clean-up a lot easier).
2. If the sprouts break off easily, break them off with your fingers. If not, use a small paring knife to cut each sprout off the stalk. Cut the largest ones in half (and if they are really big, quarter them), but leave the smallest ones whole. Put them all in a large bowl.
3. Drizzle 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the sprouts, and sprinkle with salt (about ½ teaspoon per pound—to your taste). Mix them all up until they are coated with olive oil, and then pour them onto your baking sheets. Make sure that they are only in a single layer, and not too crowded, so they roast instead of steam. Make sure a cut surface of each sprout is touching the baking sheet (this makes them brown really nicely).
4. Roast them until the cores inside the sprouts are tender when poked with a paring knife and they are brown on the bottom where they touch the baking sheet. This might take 15 to 20 minutes or so, depending on their size, but maybe longer. Just keep checking them!

print this recipe

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

fresh tomato sauce


Arthur’s lunch

Every week I bring lunch to Arthur at the Wednesday South Anchorage Farmers’ Market. Arthur is the farmers’ market manager, and I’m his market reporter. He’s also a farmer, and brings all kinds of fantastic produce to sell on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Dan and I only bake our Rise & Shine Bakery bread for the Saturday market, so on Wednesdays I can visit the farmers’ market in a leisurely fashion, usually accompanied by Meredith (my four-year-old). We have time to browse the selections at each stand, shoot some photographs, banter with the farmers, and browbeat my fellow customers into buying vegetables they haven’t tried before. (Today I crusaded for Savoy cabbage.)

Arthur loves my cooking, and I’m always telling him about some delicious dish I’ve made with his great produce. I used to bring Arthur little samples of dishes I’d made, but one day he suggested that I bring him lunch on Wednesdays and he’d trade me for vegetables! Such a deal for both of us! He’s so thrilled with a home-cooked lunch on a long busy day that he’s happy to pile my tote bags high with broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, and other bounty.

And sometimes, I get REALLY lucky. Like a couple of weeks ago. I went to the market with all the makings for a big, beautiful Caesar salad for Arthur and Mary Jane (she helps Arthur sell the produce). And Arthur said “Hey! Do you like to make tomato sauce?” He had a bunch of tomatoes that didn’t sell at the last market, so they were just a little too ripe to sell. “What, are you crazy?” I leaped at the question. “Of course I’d make tomato sauce!” Every Alaska-grown tomato is a tomato raised in a greenhouse, so having enough extra to make sauce is a rare event. In fact, I’ve never done it. I usually just eat them raw. Big tomatoes in salads, the little ones straight out of the bag on the way home from the market. Mmmm.

So, this afternoon, Dan helped me make tomato sauce to freeze! And boy is it yummy. Just in case you happen to get a windfall of tomatoes, here’s a fun sauce to make.


fresh tomato sauce

I admit, if I didn’t have a friend with a really big greenhouse, I’d never make tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes. If you are lucky enough to have lots of tomatoes, you can increase the amount of sauce accordingly, to freeze. It’s a variation on one of Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s tomato sauce recipes in The Italian Country Table. Most tomato sauce recipes (including hers) tell you to use a food mill to get rid of the skins at the end of the process, but 1) I don’t have a food mill, and 2) I like my sauce chunky. So I just peeled the tomatoes at the beginning to avoid the little tough bits of skin in the sauce, and blendered it up a little at the end.


2 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced fine
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced fine (the easiest way I’ve found is to use a coffee grinder)
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon sugar

pasta & toppings

½ pound pasta, such as spaghetti. (I prefer whole-wheat.)
kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
chopped parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. You can use this water to prepare the tomatoes, and then to boil the pasta, so wash your tomatoes first. Mark an “X” in the bottom of each tomato with a serrated knife. Put 3 or 4 tomatoes in the water at a time for 30 seconds to a minute, until the skin starts to peel away from the “X.” Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon, and cool in a bowl as you dip the other tomatoes. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and remove the core with a paring knife. Cut the peeled tomatoes into wedges.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté the onions to golden-brown, stirring often with a wooden spatula.
3. Stir in the rosemary, garlic, tomatoes, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often and scraping down the sides of the pot. Cook about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have thickened and the tomato flesh is softened.
4. At this point, you’ll probably still have lots of chunks of tomato flesh in the pot. If you like it chunky, leave it this way. I wanted it a little smoother, though, so I used an immersion blender to puree some of the tomato pieces into the sauce. It still left the sauce quite chunky. If you don’t have an immersion blender, put some of the sauce into a blender and puree.
5. Now, stir it all around and taste it. Add more salt until you have the right balance of flavors. If you want the sauce to be thicker, boil it down some more.
6. Salt the tomato-dipping water and bring it back to a boil. Cook your pasta in that fiercely boiling water until done to your liking.
7. Serve the pasta with generous amounts of sauce, and top with a sprinkling of olives and parsley. 

print this recipe

Sunday, September 28, 2008

kale (or collards) and cabbage with white beans on garlic toast


feeding my farmers

Yesterday afternoon, after we finished selling our whole grain sourdough bread at the Saturday South Anchorage Farmers’ Market, we brought my friend (and farmer, and market manager) Arthur home with us. Farms where he lives in Palmer (53 miles north of Anchorage) have experienced their first frosts, and the snow is creeping farther down the mountains every time it rains here in town. Our market was shrouded in a bone-chilling blanket of fog all morning before the sun burned it off and turned it into a beautiful, crisp clear day. I love the golden leaves against that brilliant blue backdrop!

Beautiful it may be, but still, we get cold standing out in it all day! It sure was nice to get home. After a warm bowl of soup and hot showers, we thawed out and felt tired but happy. Welcome to



Then Arthur’s wife, Michelle (also a farmer), and their three sweet kids arrived from Palmer to join us for the afternoon and dinner. Meredith, our only child, was delighted—it’s not often she gets to have three kids over to play! And I was almost as excited as Meredith, because while the kids played with Meredith’s blocks and trains and beads, I got to do something special: cook for my two favorite farmers, who grow so much of the wonderful, fresh produce that nourishes us all year!

It feels so good to give something back for all the wonderful, fresh meals I’ve made with their beautiful broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots and more… I chose this meal, because it feels somehow like alchemy: combining these very basic ingredients creates a meal that is truly extraordinary: warming, savory, and nourishing. It was the perfect dinner for tired and hungry bodies at the end of the week.


kale (or collards) and cabbage with white beans on garlic toast

This is one of my favorite recipes, believe it or not. The ingredients are so unassuming and humble, but when you cook them all together, they become wonderfully good. The onions are sweet, the garlic and greens are savory, the parsley is fresh and vibrant, and the cabbage is tender. You don’t have to put this on toast, but I love it that way. If you add lots more bean broth, this is a good soup, as well. It’s a meal on its own.

It makes a big batch, but I’m betting you won’t have any trouble finishing it off as leftovers. It tastes even better the second day, after the flavors have had time to meld. This recipe is a variation of one in Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets.


2 cups white 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


2 large onions, finely diced
2 bunches dino or Tuscan kale or collard greens, leaves stripped from the stems and sliced into ½” slices
1 small cabbage, either Savoy or green cabbage, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly
4 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper


thick slices of hearty whole-wheat bread (1 or 2 per person)
extra-virgin olive oil

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.
2. While the beans are cooking, chop all the vegetables and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the kale or collards and boil them until tender. The boiling time could be as short as 3 minutes in the summer, or as long as 10 or 12 minutes in the fall, depending on how big and old the greens are—just keep tasting them. Drain the greens.
3. Warm the olive oil in a heavy, wide skillet or pot (non-stick works especially well). Add the onion and cook over medium heat with 1 teaspoon salt until the onion is soft and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Add the kale or collards, cabbage, garlic, parsley, and 2 more teaspoons salt. Cook over low heat with the pan covered until the vegetables are soft and the volume greatly reduced, about 15-20 minutes.
4. When the beans are done, add them, along with a cup or two or their cooking liquid, to the pot. Simmer until the greens are completely tender. Taste for salt and season with pepper. (You may have to add quite a bit of salt—kale and collards need a lot of salt, as do beans.) Save the rest of the bean broth for vegetable stock in soups and stews—just freeze it until you need it.
5. Toast the bread slices. Rub the toasts with a peeled clove of garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Spoon the beans and greens over the toast and serve, drizzled with a little olive oil, if desired.

print this recipe

Friday, September 26, 2008

French fries


a foray into deep-frying

You probably know already that I love garlic-roasted potatoes. They are delicious, and more to the point, really easy. But when I was at the farmers’ market on Wednesday, one of my favorite farmers, Mr. Stockwell, sidled up to me and said, “I know you’re into health food and all, but do you ever make French fries?” I told him that I hadn’t, but that I wouldn’t rule it out completely. He allowed as how I’d better try making them with his French Red potatoes—a slender, bright red beauty. He said they fried up crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The method? Just deep-fry them at 375 degrees—even light olive oil would work. I couldn’t resist, especially when he let me pick out all the biggest French Reds in the bin.

One of my favorite pastimes is reading cookbooks. So, for someone who has until now avoided deep-frying, I’ve read more than my fair share of recipes, treatises, and dissertations about “how to make the perfect French fry.” Three examples I can think of, right off the top of my head, are Jeffrey Steingarten’s French fry essay in The Man Who Ate Everything, a chapter in a book about food and cooking called How to Read a French Fry, and a detailed recipe and chemistry lesson in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I’ve learned from these sources that French-frying potatoes can be quite challenging. You need to have a certain kind of potato (the floury kind, not the waxy kind). You’re supposed to fry them twice, at different temperatures. You have to have just the right kind of oil, and it must be seasoned properly. You have to keep from overloading the pan so the oil stays hot and doesn’t make the potatoes greasy and soggy. 

I have to admit, this process has never appealed to me.  All that boiling hot oil, getting the temperature just right…  But in the past, Dan (my husband) has expressed interest in trying it. Maybe it’s a guy thing.

So I picked up Meredith from preschool, and we had our usual book-reading and snuggling time. Then we headed for the kitchen and the big heavy cast-iron pot. Dan manned the flame, and we all hovered expectantly over the furiously bubbling fries as they went into the pot. Wow! They fried up beautifully and caramelly-brown, and although they didn’t stay super-crispy, they were super-delicious! I think the olive oil was a big bonus in the flavor department.

Here’s Meredith’s reaction, as we munched on our appetizer of Alaskan French fries, made with Mr. Stockwell’s newly-dug potatoes.

Meredith: Hey Mommy! Let’s play our “I love you” game!
Me: OK! Let’s see…  I love you more than the moon!
Meredith: I love you more than…  pancakes!
Me: I love you more than French fries!
Meredith: I love French fries more than you! But I love you a LOT!”

Maybe next time we make French fries I’ll make homemade ketchup. Will she love the ketchup more than me? Maybe. But that’s OK, because the ketchup’s going to be REALLY good.




Vern Stockwell’s Easy French Fries

Vern’s suggestion was basically to take everything I’d learned from my reading on the topic and throw it out the window. Use French Reds instead of floury Idaho potatoes, and don’t worry about frying them twice. And use light olive oil, which gives the fries a really great flavor!! It was really fun, and a lot less stressful than trying to get “the perfect French fry” written about in all my books. Not something I’d want to do every day, but a fun little adventure!


large, heavy soup pot
candy thermometer (measures to 400 degrees) that clips onto the side of your pot
slotted spoon
paper towels or brown paper bags


potatoes (French Reds or other variety—what the heck, try whatever you have!)
large jug of light olive oil (NOT extra-virgin! The smoke point is too low.)
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Cut the potatoes into approximately 3/8-inch batons. Don’t bother peeling them.
2. Fill your pot halfway with oil. Don’t fill it much fuller than that, because the oil bubbles SO fiercely when you first put the potatoes in (cooking off the water) that it would overflow if you got it much fuller than that.
3. Attach your thermometer to the pot and heat the oil over high heat, watching the oil temperature carefully, until it comes up to 375 degrees. Carefully slide a smallish handful of potato batons into the oil. Don’t drop them in, because the oil will splash out and could burn you! The fries will bubble up like crazy for a while until most of the outside moisture has cooked off. They might initially stick to the bottom of the pan, but just leave them alone—they will unstick in a minute when they cook a little bit.
4. Watch the oil temperature carefully. It will drop a bit when you put the potatoes in, and then will slowly come back up to temperature, at which point you need to turn the heat way down (or off) until it stabilizes. Cook the potatoes until they are beautiful and golden-brown, and cooked all the way through. This will take a few minutes. Take one out when you think it might be done, drain it on paper towels or bags, sprinkle with salt, and give it a taste.
5. Fry the rest of your potatoes this way, in batches, not too many at a time (because the oil will cool off too much if you overload the pan). Just hang out in the kitchen with your family and enjoy them, hot out of the oil, dunked in your choice of ketchup, or just enjoy them naked! 


print this recipe

Thursday, September 25, 2008

basic vegetable stock

I always make a big batch of this very easy stock, and then freeze the extra. You can make a half batch if you like, but why would you want to? Don’t be tempted to boil it longer than 30 minutes—it can turn bitter, and it doesn’t need any longer than that, anyway.

2 large onions
6 large carrots
6 celery ribs
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
16 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
16 parsley branches
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 12 sprigs of fresh thyme)
4 bay leaves
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Scrub the vegetables and chop them roughly into 1-inch chunks. Heat the oil in a large soup pot and add the vegetables and herbs and 1 teaspoon salt and cook over high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. The more color they get, the richer the flavor of the stock.
2. Add 2 more teaspoons salt and 4 quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain.

print this recipe

braised celery with tomatoes, capers, and olives


I had a celery crisis on my hands. Celery was taking over my precious refrigerator space! The entire bottom shelf was stacked with plastic bags of big beautiful bunches of Alaskan celery. In the last two weeks, I’d received two huge and leafy bunches in the Community-Supported Agriculture produce boxes that my friend Arthur and I have just begun distributing. And before that, I had been collecting the stuff since it started showing up at the farmers’ market several weeks ago.

It’s so flavorful and delicious compared to the celery you can get at the grocery store—it seemed like a good idea to stock up. In fact, I was buying some of it to do just that: make vegetable stock to freeze and use in soups, later. But I hadn’t gotten around to making the stock yet—the more perishable vegetables always had a higher priority. So there the celery sat.

What the heck does one do with celery, other than using the odd stalk or six to make a great vegetable or lentil soup? I certainly couldn’t eat enough “ants on a log” to break up this particular logjam. I had way too much celery for that. It was time for the heavy artillery. I pulled out all my books that specialize in vegetable cookery, looking for celery recipes that didn’t involve stock (which I still haven’t made) or ingredients that required a trip to the store, like vermouth, celery seeds, or celeriac. I came across a recipe for braised celery in Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day, and this is my variation. I made a huge batch of it with two of my biggest bunches of celery.

Turns out, I really like this recipe! Salty and savory, with a subtle crunch from the celery… it’s a great way to use up a bonanza of celery. Also, the ingredients are mostly pantry staples…  (and can’t you really classify celery as a staple? It lasts SO long in your fridge.)  So whip up a batch of this yummy dish next time you’re overrun with celery, or just desperate for a vegetable side dish.

braised celery with tomatoes, capers, and olives

This recipe is based on one in Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day. The salty capers and briny olives are great with the naturally salty celery—and I’m betting you might just have all of these ingredients in your pantry, ready to whip up into a very easy side dish.

1 large bunch celery, with leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen—they are really sweet!)
1 to 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
10 to 15 large Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
sea salt or kosher salt (maybe)
freshly ground pepper

1. Tear the celery leaves away from the stalks and set them aside. and cut off the small branchy stems on top of the main celery stalks. Trim and discard any tough portions from the bottom and top of each celery stalk. Peel the outside of the stalks to remove the stringy fibers, using a paring knife to grab the top outer edge of the stalk, and then peeling it down the outside of the stem to get the strings. Cut the stalks into 2-inch lengths. (You’ll have about 6 cups.)
2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the celery, turn down the heat and cover the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, turning the celery occasionally.
3. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cover the pan again. Simmer the mixture until the celery is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. You may need to add a bit more water if the pan goes dry before the celery is tender (I did). My celery never got completely soft—there was a little resistance to it even after 25 minutes of cooking, but I liked it that way.
4. Meanwhile, chop up the celery leaves. When the celery is tender, stir in the capers, olives and celery leaves. Taste for salt (I didn’t use any salt because capers, olives, and tomatoes were already salty enough), and add freshly-ground pepper. Serve right away.


print this recipe

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

strawberry & mint salad with honey-balsamic dressing (with pear and peach variations)


late-season laissez-faire gardening

By the end of the summer, the Alaskan produce is finally coming on like gangbusters! Were eating lots of greens from my husband Dan’s small but nevertheless chickweed-choked vegetable patch. The garden is surprisingly productive, considering that we never seem to be able to keep ahead of the weeds during the late summer. I guess it’s a combination of the extra rain helping the weeds, and our reduced gardening motivation. We’re always on top of it in the early summer, providing a healthy environment for the little seedlings to grow—weeding, thinning, watering obsessively. Then, as the months go by, and the plants are growing nicely, a more laissez-faire attitude sets in—I imagine it’s like parents with grown children. Watering is rarely, if ever needed, and we’re just harvesting at this point—not doing much tending. “Come on, you great, lazy heads of lettuce! You’re big boys now! You can compete with that hedge of chickweed!”

In honor of those giant heads of lettuce, that somehow do overcome the encroaching weeds, I’m sharing a recipe for our favorite salad that we love to eat all summer. You can use different fruits throughout the summer, but the funny thing about strawberries here in Alaska is that we can get great ones even into September if the weather has been cool like this summer! You can substitute ripe peaches for the strawberries, or ripe pears in the fall; in that case, top with toasted almonds and omit the mint. It’s wonderful, too!

strawberry & mint salad with honey-balsamic dressing (with pear and peach variations)

This recipe is a variation on a recipe in Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz’s Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook. If you’re skeptical about putting fruit in a dinner salad, this recipe will change your mind. If you can get really sweet, fragrant strawberries, there is no reason to eat anything other than this salad until the strawberries run out.

When the strawberries run out, use peaches and pears, as the season changes. Just omit the mint and add a generous garnish of toasted almonds. (Toast them for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.)

If you want to serve this salad with something else, try it with any kind of a sandwich or toast with a topping. I tend to like eating so much of this salad for dinner that a nice fat slice of whole grain sourdough toast drizzled with olive oil is all I really need.


1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ large white or red onion, minced very fine
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, except the oil. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking. Season with more salt and/or honey to taste. I usually make a double batch of this and keep it in the refrigerator—it lasts quite well. If the dressing separates, just bring it to room temperature and whisk it back up to combine.

strawberry salad

3-4 cups ripe, fragrant strawberries
2-3 stalks fresh mint
10-12 cups of leaf lettuce or baby greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces

1. Cut strawberries into slices.
2. Pick the leaves off the mint, wash them, and just before serving, chop them finely.
3. Fill a big salad bowl with the greens. Toss with dressing to your taste, add the mint and strawberries, toss once more, and serve immediately.

pear or peach salad variation
I eat this salad with pears throughout the fall, so I toast trays-full of almonds at once, and make double batches of the dressing to store in the refrigerator.

3 ripe, fragrant pears or peaches
1/2 cup whole almonds
10-12 cups of leaf lettuce or baby greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the almonds for for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant and perfectly golden-brown inside. (Bite one in half to check!) Chop the nuts coarsely.
2. Core fruit and cut into slices.
3. Fill a big salad bowl with the greens. Toss with dressing to your taste, add the pear or peach slices. Toss once more, top with almonds, and serve immediately.


print this recipe

Page 9 of 11 pages ‹ First  < 7 8 9 10 11 > 

free hit counter

View My Stats

grab a button!

alison's lunch
©2014, All rights reserved