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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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