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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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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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Saturday, July 25, 2009

lemony sauteed zucchini

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Before I quit my office job three years ago, Dan and I discussed, brainstormed, argued, and daydreamed about what we wanted to do next. In the end, of course, we decided to build our whole-grain sourdough bread bakery, but we didn’t know that at first. It was all up in the air. One possibility was a restaurant. Should we open a little café? Our idea for a restaurant was almost as quirky as our bakery is now, with limited days and hours, limited seating, and an daily-changing, seasonal menu that only offered a couple of choices every day. Neither of us had worked in restaurants before, so we didn’t have direct experience, but we were both pretty certain that the hours would be grueling, that serving the kind of food we wanted to share with the world would involve vast amounts of vegetable prep, and that opening a restaurant would require the integration of a myriad of different components above and beyond mere food (beverages, for instance, and the glassware to contain it… reservations, parking, and perhaps even employees—ack!)

But these issues didn’t make our decision. After all, we were naïve, idealistic, and had no idea what staring our own business would really be like. The real reason for not opening a café was that I wanted to preserve the joy of cooking for myself and my family and friends. I was afraid that if I spent so much time cooking for guests, stretching my creativity to feed and nurture others, I might lose my love of everyday home cooking. 

I know now that it was absolutely the right choice to open a bakery instead, since we still love baking together, and the bread we bake to sell and share feeds us the whole week through. In addition, I don’t find that baking bread dampens my desire to bake the occasional cake, pie, or cookie.

However, even though I haven’t been cooking for hordes of people, I’ve spent a LOT of time over the last three years providing recipes and healthy cooking ideas for other people through writing my farmers market newsletters, my cookbook, my Glacier Grist newsletters for the CSA, and in my wintertime bakery newsletters. The irony of it is that I’ve been so busy with all these recipe projects that I can hardly remember the last time I read a cookbook for a new idea, or for fun. And especially this last year it seems that I’ve just been hanging in there, cooking very simply, focusing on eating food I’d previously cooked and frozen, and using tried and true recipes. I’ve not been getting very creative or adventuresome because I’ve just been too worn out and overwhelmed.

But things are beginning to change, now that I have help with the newsletters (thank you, Nancy and Sherrill!). While I’m still not diving into cookbooks with my previous reckless abandon, at least I’m a little more interested in cooking! Things are really starting to look up! This recipe is a tasty one that I developed last year, due to an overabundance of zucchini from Arthur’s farm. It makes quick work of a lot of zukes, and it makes perfectly good leftovers, too. I whipped it up last night with two big zucchinis from my CSA box, and even though I didn’t have any parsley or fresh thyme, it was great anyway. We ate it with big chunks of our toasted walnut bread. YUM! Easy, but healthy and delicious.

lemony sautéed zucchini

This recipe is a really quick way to use up a lot of zucchini! It’s a combination of 1) the flavors from the zucchini skillet cakes in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers book, and 2) a method of quick-cooking zucchini that I found in a long-ago issue of Cooks’ Illustrated. Zucchini is so full of water that it’s hard to deal with all the liquid that comes out of it—the zucchini usually gets soggy and it’s hard to make sure all the pieces are cooked evenly. So using this method, you grate the zucchini and then roll it in a dishtowel and wring out the extra water! It’s a fast and easy recipe—easier than the skillet cakes.

You can choose your topping on this recipe—use either the toasted pine nuts, toasted almonds, or the slightly more involved garlicky bread crumbs. Whatever suits your time frame and fancy!

4 medium-large zucchinis (about 3 pounds), grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
3 teaspoons chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 tablespoons scallion greens
grated zest of a lemon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

choice of toppings

¼ cup pine nuts
OR
¼ cup almonds
OR
bread crumbs:
2 slices whole wheat bread (you can use stale bread, but not dried hard)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

1. Placing a quarter or a third of the grated zucchini in a dish towel, roll the towel up around the zucchini, and, using two hands, twist the towel as tightly as you can (over the sink) and watch the water pour out! Shake the zucchini out into a large bowl, and repeat with the rest of the zucchini.
2. If you’ve chosen bread crumbs for the topping, tear the bread slices into smallish pieces and put them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse and grind them until they are finely ground into bread crumbs. Use 1 cup of them or more for this recipe.  Brown the bread crumbs in olive oil (with optional garlic) in a small skillet over medium heat. Remove from the heat when browned, toss in a little salt to taste, and set aside.
3. If you’ve chosen pine nuts for the topping, toast them gently in a dry skillet until golden.
4. If you’ve chosen almonds for the topping, toast them in a 350-degree oven on a baking sheet for 15 minutes.
5. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large skillet and sauté the garlic slices until fragrant—a minute or so. Add the grated, dried zucchini and sauté until tender, about 8 or 10 minutes. You can cover the pan in between stirring to hurry this process.
6. Add the parsley, thyme, chives or scallions, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon salt, and capers. Cook for a minute or so longer until the flavors are melded and the parsley is slightly wilted. Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.
7. Serve in a large dish or on individual plates, adding the topping of your choice. Serve immediately.

 


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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

watermelon gin fizzes

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biting off more than I can chew

Do you grind your teeth at night? I’ve done it since I was very small—I ground my baby teeth completely flat. My mom could hear me creaking and gnashing as I slept, unaware. Even though I’ve worn my night-guard faithfully every night since I was fourteen (I can’t go to sleep without it), the grinding has caused serious damage over the years. Apparently, one’s enamel can only hold up so long to such abuse.

A few weeks ago I went in for my annual dental exam, and learned that in addition to the two crowns (complete with root canals) I already possess, I’m looking at getting four more in the next few years. My teeth are splintering from decades of grinding. Now I know why my dental floss keeps breaking—the sharp edges of cracked enamel are slicing right through it.

I came home and thought about this. A lot. This seemed like an important message.

Looking back, after I quit my office job three years ago, I devoted myself to a series of projects dear to my heart: the bakery, the farmers market, the CSA, and the Alaska farmers market non-profit. But I realize I bit off more than I could chew. Maybe because I can’t seem to digest these monstrous mouthfuls during my waking hours, my sleeping body chomps and gnashes away all night, trying to masticate them into manageable morsels.

Instead, I’m just reducing my molars to rubble.

So I’m working on more effective ways to chew and swallow my outsized mouthfuls, and I’m learning how to take smaller bites in future. I’m finding the joy in letting go of projects that will be fun for others to undertake, and I’m learning to say “no thank you” to extra obligations.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to STOP grinding my teeth; after all, I’m asleep when I do it. But I’m hopeful that by slowing down and simplifying my life as much as I can, I will reduce the pressure on myself, and in turn, on my molars.

I’ve been ruminating on this post for a while now (please forgive the dental puns—I promise this is the last), and was stumped for an accompanying recipe. But then I thought of the perfect solution: refreshing and delicious Watermelon Gin Fizzes! First, they require no chewing. And second, these drinks send a clear message: “RELAX! TAKE A BREAK! STOP WORRYING!” If you aren’t into alcohol, just skip the gin—these yummy drinks are wonderful either way. Just make sure you sit down and relax when you drink yours. Sip slowly and imagine melting into your chair.

watermelon gin fizz

The idea for this drink came from an Eating Well magazine a few summers ago.

important notes:
1) You can get all the ingredients for this drink from Costco in the summertime.
2) I like to put my gin in the freezer, and everything else in the refrigerator (ginger ale, watermelon if it’ll fit, and limes). If you think of it ahead of time, you can even stick your pint glasses in the freezer.
3) You can add 1 or 2 ounces of gin, to your taste.

ingredients for 4 drinks:

half of a large (preferably seedless) watermelon
several limes
1 can ginger ale
gin
ice

1. Cut the watermelon in half and cut the rind off the outside with a sharp knife. (Be careful not to cut yourself—this is sort of an unwieldy process.) Cut the melon into approximately 1-inch slices, then cut the slices across so you have tall columns, about 1 inch square. (Take out the black seeds, if there are any.).  Reserve a few pieces of watermelon for garnish, if you want.
2. Put the lid on your blender, but remove the little insert in the middle of the lid (or just keep the lid off—but it will be messy).  Turn your blender on, and while it’s going, slide the strips of watermelon through the lid and pretend you have a juicer. At first, you’ll want to cover the top up with your hand so the juice doesn’t spray out, but after you’ve got several pieces in, it doesn’t make such a mess. When you’ve got a blender-full of juice, puree for about a minute, to really pulverize the pulp.  Pour the juice into a pitcher and keep going until you’ve got as much juice as you want. (You can freeze the juice for later if you want to blender the whole watermelon now and make more drinks next week.) 
3. If you kept some pieces of watermelon for garnish, cut them into cubes. 
4. Squeeze several limes to get at least ½ cup of juice.
5. You can make everything ahead up to this point.  Just make sure and put everything back in the ‘fridge until you’re ready to serve the drinks.

To make the drinks:
Put a handful of ice cubes in the bottom of a (preferably chilled) pint-sized glass. 
Add to the glass:

1/3 cup ginger ale,
2 tablespoons lime juice, and
1 to 2 oz. of gin (to your taste) in the glass. 
Fill to the top with watermelon juice.

Garnish with watermelon cubes and sip in the sunshine! 


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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, April 27, 2009

broccoli marinated in sesame-walnut-ginger sauce

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saying “No, thank you”

Something else I’ve been working on lately is saying “No, thank you.” Seems like every week someone is asking me to volunteer for a worthy cause. Sometimes it’s money they’re asking for, but more often it’s my time. It’s hard because very often I think “That’s a GREAT idea for a program [or event or board or organization or presentation or meeting or conference]!”

Here’s my usual pattern:  I agree to participate (because it really IS a very good cause). But after initially accepting the obligation with enthusiasm, as the time approaches for the actual event, I get increasingly resentful of the time that it takes to prepare for it, and then begin to dread my actual participation. At this point, I finally acknowledge the time that it is taking away from my family, or my friends, or time for myself, and I get CRANKY about it. But since I agreed to do it, I suck it up and fulfill the obligation.

This whole pattern seemed silly, because there was no one to blame but myself. No one was holding a gun to my head and forcing me to do these things. Why didn’t I say no at the beginning, instead of repeatedly going through this drama? I would tell myself not to let myself get caught up again, but it kept happening (because sure enough, there are so MANY different worthy causes out there!).

Dan (my husband) and I had the good fortune to meet Alice Hanscam, and last Fall we took a course of parent coaching lessons with her. During that process, she asked each of us to come up with a mission statement. Here’s mine. You could probably guess even without me telling you that it’s at a time when I was feeling completely over-committed and overwhelmed with work (bakery, CSA, farmers’ market) and related volunteer obligations, and unhappy with my interactions with four-year-old Meredith.

1. I feel liberated from obligations.
2. I have space on my calendar for spontaneous activities.
3. I have energy for time with family, friends, exercise and pursuing hobbies.

On the one hand, I am almost always inclined to agree to a request for help, but luckily, I’m also a compulsive planner. So, to try to achieve my mission, I constructed the following elaborate filter for myself to use whenever I was presented with an opportunity, invitation or request—be it social, work-related, or public service/volunteer work. It really helped me in the initial stages of saying “no, thank you.”

When someone wants something from me, I ask myself several questions:
1. What’s in it for me?  Is it good for me? My family? My health? My business? if so, HOW good?
2. What is the entire time/energy obligation?  (Cooking a potluck dish required? Writing a presentation? Practicing a talk?)
3. Do I already have something scheduled for that day?
4. Is the week already too busy?
5. Is it planning too far in advance?

At first it was really hard to say “no, thank you” to people who wanted me to participate in their worthy cause or fun event…  but gradually it got a little easier, and pretty soon I was agonizing less over the decisions, and more or less stopped second-guessing myself. I don’t have to formally go through the filter each time now, and most of the time I make decisions that I don’t feel resentful about later. Finally I’m at a place where I’m feeling good about the things I’m saying “no, thank you” to, because I’m feeling even better about the time that it’s opening up to take care of and enjoy myself, my family, and my friends.

I guess part of the reason I’m sharing this with you is that one of the things I’m not feeling obligated to do is write blog posts all the time. I’m only writing them if I really WANT to write them! Which feels fantastic. So now you know that every time I post, I am excited and happy to write to you!

So, what about a recipe to go with this story? As part of my feeling free from obligations these days, I’m keeping my meal prep simpler than usual. So I’m including this broccoli recipe because it’s easy, and REALLY GOOD, and you don’t have to feel obligated to make something fancier or more elaborate to treat yourself to a really really delicious meal (and it’s healthy, to boot). 

 

broccoli marinated in sesame-walnut-ginger sauce

This fantastic recipe is based on one in Mollie Katzen’s The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without. And once you try this recipe, you’ll see why. It’s amazing. I use way less sauce than she calls for, but adjust it to your taste, adding more or less broccoli as you wish. Use more broccoli if you want a leaner dish, less broccoli for a richer dish.

You marinate the broccoli for an hour or two in the sesame and walnut oils, garlic and ginger, then add the rice wine vinegar at the end, so the green of the broccoli doesn’t fade. You can even let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator, and then add the vinegar the next day, after warming the broccoli up to room temperature.

Somehow, this dish is so hearty and full-flavored—you just have to try it to believe how good it is! You can just eat a big pile of it for a meal. It’s got plenty of protein with the nuts!

¼ cup roasted walnut oil (such as Loriva—don’t use refined walnut oil, it won’t have much taste)
1 tablespoon dark roasted sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (I like Nama Shoyu)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
Pinch of cayenne
2-4 pounds broccoli heads, cut into bite-sized florets
2-4 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar (I like brown rice vinegar best)
½ to 1 cup walnuts, toasted for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and chopped coarsely

1. Reserve the broccoli stems for another use (like roasting them at 450 degrees with olive oil, salt, and garlic).
2. Steam the broccoli florets for about 4 minutes, in batches, as necessary, just until tender. Dump them out on a dishtowel on the counter and spread them into a single layer. Let them cool and steam off their excess moisture.
3. Combine the oils, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and cayenne in a large bowl. Add the broccoli to this marinade and toss well until completely coated. Let stand at room temperature for an hour or two (or covered, in the refrigerator, if you’re going to let it marinate longer).
4. Sprinkle in the vinegar just before serving. Taste and see if you need more vinegar, soy sauce, or salt.
5. Sprinkle the walnuts on each serving at the table, and have a dish of nuts on the table for everyone to add more, as desired.

 


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Sunday, February 22, 2009

avocado toast

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I think this recipe might be my favorite thing to eat. I love it just about any time:  as an appetizer when we have guests, as a sandwich for lunch, or as part of supper, served with a soup or salad.  I know, avocados are not exactly indigenous to Alaska. BUT we can get Alaskan red onions, and you can of course buy your hearty, whole grain bread from a local baker—wherever you live!

I’ll list six great things about this recipe.  (I started with three, and then had to keep adding more.)

1.  The main nice thing about this recipe is that it tastes really good.  I’m confident that you are going to love it.  The creamy, rich avocado with the tangy bite and crunchy texture of the onions is really a great combination.

2. Another nice thing is that it looks lovely.  Isn’t it a knockout?  The dark brown balsamic vinaigrette on a slice of sourdough toast, covered by the beautiful light green, creamy avocado, topped with a pile of bright pink pickled red onions, and then sprinkled with a dusting of freshly ground black pepper—this is ART.

3. A third nice thing about this recipe is that it’s great any time of year that you can find good ripe avocados—and that’s pretty much all year ‘round, at Costco.  Here’s a tip for dealing with the bags of avocados you buy at Costco.  Buy a big bag of them when they are hard and green, and set them on your counter.  Every day or so, squeeze them very gently to see how soft they are getting.  When they have just begun to get soft (don’t wait until they are squishy), put them all in the refrigerator RIGHT AWAY—this will more or less arrest their further ripening, and you will have a treasure trove of perfectly ripe avocados for a week or so.  Just don’t forget to check them every day when they are out on your counter—you want to catch them JUST at the time they are starting to get soft, and then refrigerate them.

4. Another great thing is that you can make a big batch of all the components ahead of time, and have them in the refrigerator, just waiting for hunger to strike, or guests to arrive.  Then you can whip this up in the time it takes to toast your sourdough bread (chopping the pickled red onions and peeling the avocado), and sit and relax with a glass of wine with your guests instead of dashing around in the kitchen trying to throw something together. 

5. If you’re cooking for people who don’t eat meat or dairy, you can make this and you will be their hero forever, because it’s yummy and wonderful and doesn’t even have bacon or cheese in it. 

6. Trust me: if people eat enough avocado toasts, they won’t really care what else is for dinner.

avocado toasts

This recipe is loosely based on one I found in Deborah Madison’s Savory Way.

1 large, ripe avocado (see #3 above)
balsamic sauce (recipe below)
pickled red onion rings, chopped coarsely (recipe below)
4 thick slices sturdy whole-grain bread (sourdough if possible!)
freshly ground pepper

1. At least an hour before you want to make this, make the pickled red onions.  They will keep for a couple of weeks in your ‘fridge, so make them ahead!
2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients. This will keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks, too.
3. Halve the avocado and peel it. Slice the flesh about ¼” thick. 
4. Toast the bread.
5. Spoon some of the sauce ingredients over the toast, then cover the toast with slices of avocado. Sprinkle the pickled onions over the top of the avocado (or put a mound of them on top—whatever you prefer) and finish with plenty of freshly ground pepper. 

balsamic sauce

¼ cup minced yellow onion
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together everything but the oil.  Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking. Season to taste with salt. 

pickled red onions

1 pound red onions
1 quart boiling water, approximately
1 cup white wine vinegar
water as needed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns, lightly crushed
2 pinches dried thyme
a pinch of chile flakes (optional)

1. Halve, peel, and thinly slice the onions into rounds.  Separate the half-moons and put them in a bowl.  Pour the boiling water over them, to soften, for one minute, then drain in a colander.
2. In a large jar, put the sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, and chile flakes. Put a little hot tap water into the bottom of the jar and swirl it around to dissolve the salt and sugar.
3. Scoop the onions into the jar and pour in the vinegar. Add water to cover the onions (no more than a cup—add more vinegar if more than that is necessary). 
4. Put the lid on the jar, shake to combine, and keep it refrigerated.  The pink color will begin to infuse in about an hour.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

sicilian cauliflower salad

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What’s not to like?

A couple of weeks ago we packed cauliflower in our CSA produce boxes, and that same week we were taking dinner over to my friend Margo’s house. I know she loves vegetables, and I also know she loves interesting flavors. I was thinking of using up some of last summer’s cauliflower that is still lining my freezer, so I mentioned that I thought I’d bring an Indian cauliflower dish and a red lentil dal—but I wanted to check with her first in case she thought her husband might not be up for Indian food. Poor Margo had to admit that while Andy likes Indian food just fine, she is actually not the biggest fan of cauliflower, AND she had just gotten one in her CSA box that week…  but she was prepared to try anything! She said she was going to make my recipe from the Glacier Grist, the Sicilian cauliflower salad, and that she would be up for trying my Indian cauliflower dish!

Well, for someone who may just be learning the potential merits of a vegetable, I didn’t want to push my luck. I made the cabbage & potato Indian dish instead for dinner. But Margo told me later that she DID try this Sicilian cauliflower salad, and she said she loved it! It’s so interesting, what turns some people’s taste buds on and off…  Cauliflower is so mild, it’s hard to know what’s not to like? But maybe that’s just it; it’s not interesting enough. This recipe definitely perks up the meek cauliflower (some might even call it bland or insipid—but not me!) and gives it some zing!

sicilian cauliflower salad

This is a variation on the “cauliflower with capers & lemon” theme…  I love those flavors—I bet you will, too. It’s based on a recipe in James Peterson’s Vegetables. If you can get green cauliflower, it makes the salad even prettier than usual! I can sit down and just eat a big bowl of this for lunch.

If you don’t prefer the anchovies, just leave them out—the kalamata olives are nice and briny even without them.

½ cup kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy filets (optional), rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch flat-leaved parsley, leaves chopped
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
2. While the water heats, make the sauce. Chop the olives and combine them in a big bowl with the capers, garlic, anchovies and parsley. Add the olive oil and lemon juice.
3. When the water boils, add a couple of tablespoons of salt to the pot. Cook the cauliflower florets in the pot for about 4 or 5 minutes, just until tender (taste often!). Drain (don’t rinse), and toss the cauliflower into the bowl with the sauce.
4. Taste the salad and add salt, lemon, oil, and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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