Sunday, December 26, 2010

Asparagus with Dijon Butter

Do you have holiday traditions? I find comfort in my holiday rituals. These days my life is shifting so quickly I am needing extra time to center myself, sit in stillness and remain open to the gifts of life. I am finding that the gifts of life may not have the wrapping paper I imagined or am used to, but I am trusting what is inside life's gifts will be exactly what I need.

I am starting a new tradition this year of eating Dungeness crab for our holiday dinner. I know, so Californian of me, right? It is fresh and easy to get where I live though, and a festive addition to a holiday dinner. A few nights ago at my daughter's request, we each said what we are thankful for at dinner. I said I was thankful to live in California. And, as I am planning a move to the bay area this summer, I am especially thankful that I can move to such an amazing place. No more off-grid solar living. No more driving 45 minutes to town. No more driving 3 miles down a dirt road to get home. It is very idyllic living off-grid until you are alone trying to trouble shoot an inverter problem or a broken generator! I will be a 5 minute drive to almost anything I want. A very long way from the outhouse I had at Shobo-an when I first moved here. The things I will miss (and it is a long, long list) are part of the chapter in my life I am closing. I am very lucky that the friendships I have made these past ten years I will take along with me after I move. I hope to lure all my friends to Marin for any amount of time they are willing to visit.

This year I tried a new dish vegetable dish for the holiday. Asparagus is starting to come into season here on the west coast, and I thought to include it in our crab dinner. I told my dear friends last night at Christmas dinner it was a potential blog recipe and to be honest. Thumbs up or thumbs down. I got all thumbs up. I made it twice this week. The first time I shaved the asparagus with a vegetable peeler into thin strands I sauteed. The second time I just chopped the asparagus into 3 inch pieces. I liked it chopped into three inch pieces (less work!). The picture above I took when I shaved the asparagus. I toasted sesame seeds from my grain CSA to top the dish with. Don't forget the sesame seeds. They really add a wonderful nuttiness that contrasts the dijon.
Happy Holidays!

Aspargus with Dijon Butter
serves 4

1 bunch asparagus (bottoms trimmed off) cut into 3 inch pieces
1 tbls butter
1 tbls dijon mustard
pinch salt
2 tbls toasted sesame seeds

Sautee asparagus in butter for 8 minutes. Add dijon and salt. Mix well and cook covered over low heat until tender  (about 2 minutes more) Top with toasted sesame seeds.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Going Off-Grid

Path at Bald Mountain....

When I talk to people about how cooking can add to their lives, I think about a list of tools that make things easier, greener and more exciting for this journey. I get some blank stares when I suggest to folks that cooking most meals at home while still maintaining a busy life is possible. I think back to my grandmother, Mormor. She cooked everything from scratch while being a farmer's wife, mother and running a busy rural house on a dairy farm in Connecticut. How did she do it? How did all of our grandmothers do it? Sometimes I think technology is taking up too much of our space, but I think too that the energy of life is different now and there is room for everything in our busy lives including room to think about and create food that is "off the grid" so to speak. The grid is the dream we plug into or the story we are told by society that we should be following to keep up with the pace of the busy world. I am part of the food revolution that is creating a new dream for how we feed ourselves.
When I first moved to California from Chicago ten years ago, I did not shop at farmers markets and did not subscribe to CSA's. I did not know any farmers. I had never been to a working farm that I ate food from. I did not think about how far food traveled to get to my plate.  I was clinical in my approach to nutrition and helping my clients. I relied on lab work, supplement companies and reading food labels. I walked through grocery stores in a matter of fact manner with my clients showing them "how to shop". It is not that I think I was missing the point back then, it is just that my view has grown to encompass all the parts of a person when I think of how they might change their lives in a way they are wanting for themselves. Older, wiser and more heart centered now, I am off-grid in my view of nourishment and I see people's connection to nourishment as just one part of our experience of all things. I say off-grid, but actually what I think is happening is when you pull away from the dream and you plug into what is happening now, in this moment in your body and heart, things change to become more tailored to you and how your journey is unfolding.

So, here is a list of my kitchen essentials. The tools in my toolbox.

1. Pressure Cooker
2. Sharp knives
3. Cast Iron Skillet
4. Micro-Plane Zester
5. Cuisinart (food processor)
6. Blender
7. Olive Oil
8. Sea Salt
9. Hand Grater
10. Love

A pressure cooker is number one. I try to think about how I lived without one, and it boggles my mind. A pressure cooker has made it possible for me to keep the pace of cooking up so that I can remove canned food from my house. It has allowed me to cook things quicker. The thought of having vegetable soup or a pot of beans for dinner without spending 3 hours cooking has radically shifted my cooking perspective. I will go far as to say that I think pressure cookers are the green kitchen tool of the food revolution we are experiencing. A pressure cooker is essential to have if you are eating on a budget. If you are conscious of having to spend "too much time" in the kitchen. If you are trying simplify your life. If you are shifting to eating less meat. If you are increasing your fiber intake. I could go on....
There is a wonderful website: Miss Vickie that is dedicated to pressure cooking. Recipes, cooking times, pressure cooker reviews. I highly recommend browsing the site. Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beet Dip

I have been thinking about how nourishment moves through us.  And by that I mean how do you shift the idea of nourishment of yourself, family and the people around you to something deeper. It has to be more than just eating the good food. It has to be more than curing childhood obesity. It has to be more than harvesting the corn. Could it be about our hearts? The center of all these things could be an acceptance of ourselves in the place we are in this moment and the loving that happens in this spot.  Believing my heart can love it all.  The starvation, the disease, the chemicals, the global warming, the jealousy, the anger, the heartbreak, the forgiveness, the destruction, the wonder, the beauty, the solutions. That in my loving there is transformation. The act of my love for all things now is the nourishment. I thought about that yesterday while making my beet spread ....which today I am eating on toast. Watching the fog in the meadow creep up the hill.

You all know I am very lucky to live in California where things are moving at lightening speed in the realm of food, and food consciousness. . There is a great radio program (that you can podcast) on weekly that covers things both in California and beyond called An Organic Conversation. It is hosted by Helge Hellberg and Mark Mulcahy. You can join their facebook as well.  A show dedicated to all the things I am sure you will love if you like this blog. Olive oil, canning, flowers, local farmers, food in schools, the environment. You get the point. The recipe I am posting today was inspired from their blog.  I  made a version of this dip last week and have changed a bit. An unexpected, colorful, vegan dip that is beautiful to look at and eat. It has a wonderful herbal quality that balances the earthy beets. The cashews mellow the whole thing out. I might add that it looks like Christmas in a bowl....I roasted a big plate of beets and used three medium/small beets for this recipe. Beets are in season right now, so it is a perfect time to find them locally. I used my food processor to blend the dip, and it took less than 5 minutes to make after the beets were roasted. Incredibly easy, and very festive. If you bring this to your next holiday party it will most likely be a topic of conversation. It might break some food barriers too. Beets are like that. They cut through the normal with their intensity. But whatever you do, don't let a six year old eat the beet dip on your white couch near your furry white pillows. Try not to let that happen...

Beet Dip
makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups roasted beets
1/3 heaping cup raw cashews
2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
pinch salt
1 heaping tsp. fresh chopped rosemary
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. ground cumin

Wash the beets and put in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and cover. Bake in oven for one hour at 375 degrees. Test for doneness by piercing beets with a sharp knife. If the knife goes through the beet easily, they are done. Let beets cool and remove beet skins with you fingers. It should slip off. Rought cut into cubes and measure out around 1 1/2 cups. Add to food processor with the other ingredients. Blend until smooth (mine took a couple of minutes)Yum!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hierloom Lima Beans with Beet Chips and Leeks

I have been a bit absent from my blog lately. I have been folded up in the deep layers of my heart. I have been surrendering to waves of change. I have been silently sitting, trusting my life. I am cleaning out the closets of dreams, relationships and home. I am digging in the dirt with the divine to create a new picture for myself. I am leaving a place that I thought was love and moving inside myself. Being broke open is an amazing process to experience. I see a space to take big leaps in my life that I would have not had otherwise. Big stuff. A most humble place to be. Everything is being rearranged in my life. The only constant is change itself and the beating of my heart.

So, in the middle of pondering moves to the bay area and appreciating friends and family surrounding me constantly, I have been thinking about cooking.  Not actually cooking very much, but thinking about it. I have walked passed the newly filled mason jar of heirloom lima beans from my grain csa for a full seven days and felt no pull to transform them. Today though,  I am conquering the lima bean. These beautiful heirloom lima beans are deep purple, yellow and burgundy. I soaked them overnight and then cooked them in organic chicken stock for extra flavor. I sauteed leeks in olive oil until they had nice crispy brown edges and started to soften and give way to the sugars inside. The beet chips I tossed in olive oil and salt and cooked for a quick time in the oven. I think this has similar components as my spring stew deconstructed, but is more simple to put together.  I did not use my pressure cooker to cook the beans due to their fragile nature. I wanted to make sure the beans stayed intact and did not fall apart under the high pressure. It is a rainy, cold winter day here in northern california. A perfect day for beans and a fire. A perfect day to be alone with my own loving heart.

Heirloom Lima Beans with Beet Chips and Leeks
makes 2 large dinner servings or 4 small side servings

Heirloom Lima Beans
1 cup heirloom lima beans (any varietal is fine)
3 cups organic chicken stock
water for soaking
Soak beans 6-8 hours. Cook in chicken stock covered until tender on simmer until tender (about 50 minutes)

2 large leeks cut lengthwise, trimmed and washed
1 tbls olive oil
pinch salt
Wash  and trim leeks. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Sautee with olive oil  and salt until brown and tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Beet Chips
(this recipes makes more than the recipe, so use as a snack for lunch tomorrow!)
2 large beets
1 tbls olive oil
pinch salt

Wash beets and trim off tops and bottom. Slice the beets as thinly as you can. I tried for 1/8 of an inch. You could use a mandoline and make it easy on yourself.
Toss in olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes or until they start getting brown. Cooking times will vary depending on how thin you cut your beets.

To assemble, put a large spoonful of the lima beans in a shallow bowl. (Plate each serving separately)
Add a large spoon of leeks and teaspoon of olive oil. Put a few beet chips on top. Lovely!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sorghum Buttermilk Crepes

My grain CSA is rockin. This month in my bag of goodies was a one pound bag of sorghum flour. I have never cooked with sorghum flour before and wondered what to do with it. Turns out it is a very widely used cereal grain in the world. It has a mineral composition similar to corn, but more protein. It is also gluten free. It looks a bit like cornmeal to me and has a nice nutty aroma.
Today I am on carpool pickup. That means I am with two six year olds this afternoon who are almost always very hungry after school. Even after 4 bowls of rice and beans according to my daughter. So I made a stack of sorghum buttermilk crepes to bring a surprise after school snack. I love the tangy, buttery, earthy taste of these. They taste lighter than buckwheat, but have a nice depth to them that crepes made with white or whole wheat flour don't have. The are slightly more fragile than wheat crepes, but the one I filled with chevre for breakfast this morning held up perfectly well when I rolled it up. One thing I love about crepes is how versatile they are. You can fill them like a small burrito or make them into a sweet snack with almond butter, bananas and honey for example. I like mine best plain or with a bit of melted cheese. They travel well and store well too.
I let my batter sit for an hour before I started cooking. You can make the batter and let it sit in the fridge overnight too. I used my trusty cast iron griddle to make crepes. I coat the griddle with a thin layer of butter every couple of crepes to keep everything from sticking. I also use a wide spatula to flip them. A non-stick pan would be wonderful for a cooking project like this if you don't have a well seasoned griddle pan. I let each crepe cook throughly on the first side after I noticed that if I tried to flip them too soon they seemed more fragile. Bob's Red Mill carries Sorghum Flour and sell it online if you can find sorghum flour locally where you live.

Sorghum Buttermilk Crepes
makes about 10 crepes

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil

Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Let sit for at least an hour or overnight in fridge before using.
Pour about 1/4 cup or a bit less onto a hot skillet, crepe pan or non-stick pan. If you have never make crepes before, it is easy once you get the hang of it. Pick up pan and roll it around to get the batter to coat the bottom of the pan in the thinnest layer possible. When the batter starts to bubble and get air holes, use a spatula to loosen the crepe along the edges. Then using a wide spatula carefully life the crepe and turn it over. It takes about 90 seconds for each side of a crepe to cook. I stack them together and cover with a lid or tin foil. If you are still feeling apprehensive about making crepes, there are lots of YouTube videos you can watch that show you exactly how to cook crepes!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beet Greens and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Now that fall is in full swing, ovens can turn on, vegetables can roast and we can all feel the warm comfort of starchy root vegetables. Beets are my daughter's favorite. And while I am fine cooking the beet green tops, I get tired of the same old thing. Today while staring at the beet greens I hoped for inspiration. I could not bring myself to compost them, but did not have any desire to eat sauteed greens either. So pesto it was. And since so many of us are carving pumpkins lately, you may have some freshly roasted pumpkin seeds to add to this vegan pesto. I did not add garlic because I find raw garlic a bit overwhelming. I did not add any cheese because I had none in the fridge! I put it on a cracker and handed it over to M to taste who was deeply involved in creating a polly pocket world on the dining room floor. It is a bit weird that my number one taste tester is a six year old, but hey, it works.
She thinks the pesto was "yummy" and the second time she said she likes it because it has a lot of "flavor".
So along with our roasted vegetables for dinner (cauliflower, onions, carrots and beets coated in powdered coriander, lemon juice and salt) we are having been green and pumpkin seed pesto on sourdough for dinner. Feels like fall......and I am specially dedicating this post to all my friends who have been a more than amazing presence in my life these days. I absolutely love you all. Thank you. xo

Beet Greens and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
makes about 1 cup

1 cup blanched beet greens
1/4 heaping cup pumpkin seeds
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup olive oil

Blanch beet greens in boiling water for 5 seconds. Remove and run under cold water. Squeeze out water with your hand and add to food processor. I did not remove the stems, just add all of it.
Add other ingredients and blend until combined (about 10 seconds)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Carrot Fries

If you like french fries, raise your hand. My daughter might raise both hands.  I almost never make french fries at home. Too much effort!  I have on occasion made baked sweet potato fries. I find that sometimes sweet potato fries can be too rich, sweet and heavy. Yesterday I thought of making carrot fries. I wondered how they would be tender enough to be a "fry" yet tasty enough to be embraced by a six year old. Seriously, I thought it would be a failed experiment like my momofuku compost cookie redux a couple days back. These carrot fries rocked. Well, if you like nutritional yeast they rock. We are nutritional yeast lovers. Yes, it is a great source of B vitamins, but truly I like it for the taste. I imagined that yeast and baked carrots would combine perfectly, and they did.
The carrot fries were tender, with the perfect amount of salt.  A lighter, milder version of  sweet potato fries. M asked for seconds last night at dinner.  Here is the disclaimer though; they need to be eaten right away. They go soggy as leftovers. You could add fresh herbs to the yeast mixture and have flavored carrot fries. I though chopped rosemary... I have made these twice now. The first time I made them, I put a bit of olive oil on the cookie sheet then heated the pan in the oven before adding the fries. The second time I left the olive oil off of the baking sheet. I thought they both turned out well. I felt like the extra olive oil made the carrots just a little too heavy perhaps. Well, either way you make them, it was a snap to put together!

Carrot Fries

6 medium sized carrots
2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
pinch salt

Cut carrots longways, then slice each half into long pieces about 1 inch thick
Put carrots into salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry with towel. In a large bowl, toss carrots with 2 tbls. of olive oil. Then sprinkle yeast on top and use your fingers to gently toss the carrots in the yeast. Try to get them all evenly coated.
Heat cookie sheet in oven (add a thin coating of olive oil to pan if you would like)  and spread the carrots evenly on the hot cookie sheet so that they are not touching each other. Bake for 10 min. at 425 degrees. Take out of oven and turn them over and cook another 10 minutes. Serve right away!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pumpkin Seed Zucchini Fritters with Roasted Tomato Sauce

I know zucchini season is starting to die down. Tomato season is still in full swing though, and I am about to order 50 pounds of roma tomatoes to oven roast and then freeze for the winter. I have sauteed the heck out of all my squash this summer and today I tried something new. Fritters. Who doesn't like a good fritter? I roasted some slicer tomatoes last night with olive oil and garlic and knew a zucchini fritter on top would be a lovely lunch. But it had to be light and easy. I used low fat greek yogurt to bind everything together. I decided to add saffron to the yogurt which I thought would match well with the roasted tomatoes. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then added it to grated zucchini and chopped pumpkin seeds. Eggs and milk seem to be the binders I see over and over again in fritter recipes. Why not buck the system? And pumpkin seeds? Well, that was a risky move which turned out great! It gave it a fun crunch and mellow flavor.  I sauteed the fritters in olive oil for about 4 minutes on each side.
You can use any kind of tomato sauce you have on hand, or make your own. I will be making these again on friday night when we have guests coming over. Kids will love these too!

makes around 10 fritters

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1/4 cup chopped roasted pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup low-fat greek yogurt
1 small pinch saffron
1/2 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tbls. finely chopped onions
2 tbls olive oil 
a big pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

Put yogurt in a bowl and add saffron. Let sit for 30-40 min. and come to room temperature. Mix well.

Squeeze any juice out of grated zucchini with you hands and add to a bowl. Add pumpkin seeds, olive oil, onion and cornmeal.  Add yogurt mixture, salt and pepper and mix well.

In a cast iron skillet, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When pan and oil are very hot (but not smoking because that is too hot) add a heaping tablespoon of fritter mix. Cook about 4 min. on each side. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate to cool.

Making Roasted Tomato Sauce
makes around 3 cups of sauce

slice three pounds of roma tomatoes in half. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and lightly pour olive oil over tomatoes to coat (about 1/2 cup olive oil for three pounds). Crush 4-5 cloves of garlic and lay on top of tomatoes. Roast in oven for about 90 minutes at 350 degrees. After cooking use a food mill to remove skins. Let cool before freezing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sprouted Rice Flour Peach Scones

I joined a grain CSA this year. My first pickup was two weeks ago. Everything came in recycled old shirts fashioned into groovy grain sacks. Pickup is once a month until next spring! There were lots of goodies in my share like jam, whole grain bread, pumpkin seeds, dried beans and their famous breakfast cereal. Everything is grown at their their biodynamic farm just a short distance from my town. I have been a bit obsessed about the breakfast cereal though. Amaranth, corn, millet, barley all mixed together that cooks into an outstanding bowl of whole grains to start the day. I have been putting a bit of cardamom ghee and maple syrup on mine. Today I fashioned scones around fresh peaches, sprouted rice flour and this wonderful cereal. I think the lack of gluten in the rice flour kept the scones soft and fluffy. The cereal gave crunch and texture and I added powdered ginger for spice.

To substitute the breakfast cereal, you can mix equal parts oats, millet and cornmeal. If you have amaranth or poppy seeds add a small bit to your mix too. You will need a total of 1/2 cup of your homemade mixture, so I bet if you go hunting in your pantry right now you will come up with something that works! I am planning on using these for breakfast for next couple of days. My little girl is now six, and she is working her way through trying on 4-5 outfits every morning before school. I tried to have her pick out her outfit the night before, but that is not helping. So, by the time it we should be leaving for school, we are rushing out the door, eggs and toast cold. I am looking forward to not cooking a hot breakfast tomorrow while we feast on peach scones!

Sprouted Rice Flour Peach Scones
makes 8 scones

1 1/2 cups sprouted rice flour
1/2 cup whole grain mixture of your choosing (see above)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple sauce
2 Tbls. raw almond butter
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbls. cold butter chopped into pieces
1 cup fresh chopped peaches
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. ginger powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder

In a bowl mix salt, grains, flour, baking soda and ginger powder. Add butter and work in with your fingers until the mixture looks a bit like wet sand. Add baking powder, lemon zest, apple sauce, almond butter, maple syrup and stir together carefully by hand. Lastly add peaches and mix lightly. Scoop batter with a spoon onto silpat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 min. or until edges are brown.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peach & Fig Tart with Fennel Honey

This tart was brilliantly simple. I really wanted to make a rustic tart with minimal effort and no refined sugar. I also wanted a crust that was nutty and easy. I have been using local whole wheat flour on the rare occasions I have baked lately. A friend of our family has started his own grain CSA and the local coop sells his flour! The difference in taste between fresh flour and traditional store bought flour is almost startling. Freshly milled wheat has a toasty, almost nutty flavor; a pleasant surprise. I decided to mix wheat flour with almond flour and add some almonds to give it texture. I added butter to my crust, but thought about using coconut oil at first. I am sure that would work as a stand-in quite well.

The fennel honey I had been thinking about this past week. Fennel seems provoke a love/hate relationship for a lot of folks. I really like fennel in all its forms. I wondered if fennel infused in honey would pair well with figs. My infused honey was quite mild and it added a wonderful herbal note that brought out the muskiness of the figs and the perfume of the peaches. And, it was easy to make. I used a mortar and pestle to grind my fennel seeds. A coffee grinder would work well also. I can imagine that this honey would be great for little belly aches or to add to warm tea on cold winter days.
After mixing the ground fennel into the honey, I let it sit for about 3 hours to infuse. Then I heated it up on the stove so it would be easier to strain out the fennel. I used a metal tea strainer from a japanese tea pot,  and poured the warm honey into a bowl. It worked really well and the tea strainer removed all the little bits of fennel better than a coarser metal kitchen strainer.
I did not bake the crust first, and I did not let the crust rest or chill before baking. I simply cut the fruit, arranged it in the tart pan and drizzled it with honey. Told you it was easy and rustic! I had two six year olds making manzanita berry tea and mud pies while I was trying to create this, so I took shortcuts to save time and it turned out working well.
One note: The crust recipe makes a bit more filling than my 9 inch tart pan could hold. I used that to make little free form tarts for the kids to snack on. They were very happy about that!
Last week I make some homemade peach ice cream that I wanted to serve with this tart.  My ice cream maker broke last year, so I tried making it by hand in the freezer. David Lebovitz has a great article about how to do this...It went very well with the tart!

Peach & Fig Tart with Fennel Honey

6 fresh figs cut into 8 pieces each
4 med. peaches cut into 1 inch long slices (about 8-10 slices per peach)
1/2 lemon zest
1/3 + 1/8 cup  honey (you will have some left over)
1 heaping tbls. fennel seeds roughly ground

Fennel Honey
Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle roughly grind the fennel seeds and add to honey. Mix every 30 min. or so and let sit on counter for 2-3 hours. Pour into a saucepan and heat gently until the honey is warm. Pour through a tea steeper/strainer into a bowl and use a spoon to work any remaining honey out of the strainer and into the bowl. Set aside until you are ready to use.

1/2 cup skinned almonds (I used slivered and blanched)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbls maple syrup
7 tbls. cold butter
1/2 tsp. sea salt

To make crust, add all the ingredients in a food processor with pastry attachment and blend until it resembles wet sand. Add a little more maple syrup if it seems too dry. Press into tart pan about 1 inch thick. Arrange figs and peaches and zest the lemon over the tart. Drizzle about 1/3 cup of honey with a spoon over the tart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 min.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tomato Bruschetta

Hot, dry wind is blowing around my house right now. A red flag fire danger day today. My house is closed up tight to keep the cool air inside.  I am having tomato bruschetta for lunch along with cleaning, laundry and talking to you. You know how when you had the stomach flu when you were a kid and the food you threw up  created a lifelong aversion? (mine is soggy iceberg lettuce, my twin sister's is Mexican corn) I actually have thoughts that if I were to ever have to cross tomatoes off my food list due to some unfortunate turn of stomach events, I would revolt. It would be unacceptable. But this summer has been a sick free one, and a cooler than usual one. Lucky us!

I thought not to share this recipe at first. A part of me thinks "oh geesh, tomato bruschetta is so over done, so 1995"....Seems like everyone has their own special way of preparing this dish, but I am giving you mine in case you want to try a new way. I promise it is good. It is a highly requested dish my friends ask me to make. This dish relies heavily on very good quality olive oil and very vine ripe tomatoes. I also use sourdough baguette (are you gasping?). I just like the tang of sourdough over french baguette. I also think a skinny baguette poses a big risk of being too look for a soft, fatter baguette. Also very important to my recipe is using garlic on the bread and not putting it in the tomato mixture. Lets the taste of garlic shine through, but not overpower the dish.
This week I topped my bruschetta with fresh burrata cheese which was just food craziness. If you eat cheese and have a place to buy burrata,  it will make this dish simply divine. And creamy. And gooey. And wonderful.
So go for it. It only took 10 min. to make this.

Tomato Bruschetta
(makes 4 servings)

1 soft sourdough baguette cut into 1 inch slices
3 cloves garlic sliced into three pieces each
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil (ok, you might not need this much!)
sea salt (I use Himalayan Pink Sea Salt)
3 medium ripe tomatoes

Lightly toast baguette slices.  Take a piece of garlic and wipe each piece of baguette with a garlic slice.

Slice tomatoes in half. Gently squeeze the seeds and juice out. Discard. (or save and use for sauces) Slice tomatoes and then dice. Add to a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil for each tomato in the bowl. Add one or two pinches of salt. Taste for salt.

Put a spoonful of tomato mixture onto each baguette slice and arrange on a plate. Spoon a drizzle of olive oil on each baguette and then serve immediately.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dining in the Field....

Whew. Life has been busy. School started last week. Little M is starting her second year of Waldorf kindergarten. I have been working my way through summer eating heirloom tomatoes on sourdough toast drizzled with olive oil. For breakfast I have topped it with a fried pasture egg. What is your favorite way to eat heirloom tomatoes? My friends mother makes a sweet tomato conserve with her summer tomatoes. Tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and salt stewed until it is a compote and then canned. Her son Cedar and his wife Ruby have been serving this delicious jam at their glorious Off Grid Dining meets Farm to Table Movement dining event all the weekends in August at their farm. A spectacular feat they are pulling off. Ruby is a master gardener, CSA owner and local seed cooperative organizer. The food is showcasing her beautiful farm bounty and local butchers and cheese makers. Cedar is a traditional Japanese carpenter craftsman and musician. He and Ruby built their house. Themselves. Yep. The kind of thing you just want to be a part of. Of course word has spread like wildfire and their dining event has sold out every weekend. Another reason to absolutely love where I live; things like this happen. And better yet, I get to be a part of it.
Locally raised chickens, beef, chevre and honey have all been served. Tamales (Ruby's hand ground cornmeal of course!) topped with chevre made from goats that live just down the hill. Ruby's "hippie" bread made with barley, local soft white wheat and corn. (I could have eaten a whole loaf of that bread by the way...) House cured olives, pickled green beans, handmade white peach sorbet. That is just a sampling what is coming out of their kitchen.
I became involved because they know I love all things food and asked me. I debated over cooking or serving for them. I decided to be one of their servers to make sure every person dining in my presence would have an experience they would not soon forget.  I have had years in my early 20's waitressing in various fine dining establishments and that my friends is a skill I still use every day. Well, mostly on a six year old, but I think it has helped her love food even more. I had a great time talking about the grapefruit driven sauvignon blanc going well with the garden zucchini fritters. It was a bit like being on vacation watching 20 or so people a night throughly enjoy themselves at Ruby and Cedar's farm. What a wonderful community event. Friends coming together to eat food they have grown. Passion for all things local. Loving where I live. A special place.

Ruby and Cedar...

My Brother-in-law Ralph the chef helping out!
Entrance to the garden
Ruby making white peach chutney
Local Celebrities...
Dear, dear friends came up all the way from town!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Figs with Vanilla & Balsamic Pickled Onions

Can vanilla be a pickling spice? Today I found out. Yes! Heck yes it can! Mixed with balsamic vinegar as a picking agent, it was delightful! I have mentioned before, that I buy ground vanilla beans. I have noticed in the past months they vanished from my local store shelves. But, it is back now (more expensive unfortunately). If you like vanilla and use it in any capacity, I highly recommend keeping a bag on hand. I can't imagine how I got along with just vanilla extract. And, this dish is a perfect example of how well it can work as a spice in savory foods.
And, like so many of the recipes I create, it is quite easy.
Don' forget the mint really added a wonderful dimension and brightness.

Figs with Vanilla & Balsamic Pickled Onions

1 small red onion (to equal a bit over 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. heaping crushed vanilla beans
1 tsp mustard seeds
6 juniper berries
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
4 large figs
2 sprigs fresh mint

Thinly slice red onion and place in a mason jar.  Add the balsamic, vinegar, mustard seeds, juniper berries, water and cover with lid. Let stand for no less than 2 hours. Shake gently or swirl every once in a while to blend the spices. The longer the better! Will keep in fridge for a week covered.

Slice figs into 1/2 inch slices and spread on plate (1 fig per serving) top each fig with a forkful of pickled onions and top with 4 or 5 small mint leaves.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kale stuffed with Grilled Eggplant and Avocado Tahini Sauce

Barbie hair cut leftovers..and a fresh found doll who needed a trim

A photo of the fake press-on nails!!

Yesterdays vegetable box had the first of the season's tomatoes. A basket of sungold cherry tomatoes. Little bursts of sweet tomato goodness. I had to seriously examine my decision to roast them on the grill instead of eating the whole basket while checking my email. In the end I thought it not fair to keep them all for myself and decided to include them in the family dinner.
I started this recipe out wanting to make kale wraps stuffed with eggplant and tomato. I did eat mine like a wrap, but the avacado sauce starting oozing out and I ended up cutting it with a knife. I also wanted this dinner to be super easy. So I decided all the vegetables would be roasted on the grill with my most favorite, most seasoned, most attached to cookie sheet. It was a good decision. I turned on the grill and set my oiled baking sheet loaded with peppers, eggplant and cherry tomatoes and let it be. I did make sure to close the lid of the grill to assist in uniform grilling. Almost 15 minutes later everything was perfectly cooked and ready to fill the lightly grilled kale leaves. Along with the avacado tahini sauce, I was in fresh vegetable heaven.
And here is a funny bit about dinner. M was pretty much not into dinner. She will eat tomatoes in sauce, but will not eat them raw. I promised her these little pockets of sweetness were different. She did try one and said it "was better than she thought it would be". Then I asked her to try the avocado tahini sauce. Let me say first that M's first baby vomit was the night I gave her avocado. She avoids avocado under all circumstances. I did not tell her there was avocado in this sauce however just to see if she could detect it. She could not detect it, and really liked it. Really, this sauce could be smothered on almost anything and it would taste good. Sometimes I have noticed that tahini can be a tad bit bitter. The avacado smoothed out any bitterness and it turned out super creamy.
Other things we have (or rather the six year old) is systematically cutting all her doll's hair. I am posting the photo of her lasted hair cut....and wouldn't you know it was right after I had meticulously cleaned the whole bathroom! Last friday we did the big drive down the hill to the mall. M was given 7 dollars to spend on whatever she wanted. She bought press-on nails. Lord help me. We have been dealing with the press on nails for 4 days now. I am finding them in all the weird places you would expect a little girl to store nails. The bathtub drain, kitchen counter, shag carpet in the living room, the play kitchen sink. She cannot get enough of her nails. I had to take a photo to show you. I am very happy they are pretty short. She is way, way, way into them. Oh, and they turn bright pink in bright light. Lovely huh?

Avocado Tahini Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

1 medium avacado
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
5-6 tbls. water
2 tbls lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup tahini (I used raw tahini)
Scoop out avacado filling, discarding pit. Add everything in a blender and mix until smooth (about 60 seconds). You may need to add more water depending on how thick it is. I would add the water one tablespoon at a time.


On a greased cookie sheet add 2 medium pepper cut into fourths and 2 small eggplants cut into 4 pieces each. Remove stems from cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt. Grill on a medium high heat grill for about 15 min. with lid closed. Check on your cookie sheet every couple of minutes to make sure it is not burning and your pan is doing ok with the grill heat.

For kale, rub each leave with a bit of olive oil front and back. Grill on a low heat for about 30 seconds each side or until the edges start to brown and the color starts to become brilliant green.

Spoon about a tablespoon of the avocado tahini sauce with 2 pieces of eggplant and peppers. Top with grilled cherry tomatoes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Peaches with Ricotta, Rosemary and Honey

I am sure you all have tasted dry, bland peaches before. I always feel a tiny bit nervous when I am picking peaches out at the grocery store. It always seems a bit like a toss up whether I will bring home a bag of treasure or duds. Of course there is Frog Hollow Farms, which as far as I can tell seems to be completely immune to the fate of dry, lifeless peaches. But I can only find those little gems when I am visiting San Francisco, and they are a bit pricey. My favorite regionally local producers of peaches here in northern california are Chaffin Family Orchards, Sunsmile Farms and Bierwagens. Organic peaches grown by local farmers! Yesterday I picked up some of these peaches and they were bursting with flavor and sweet juice. And, of the many ways to eat peaches (canned, frozen, blended, straight, pies, cobblers, jams, compotes, chutneys, salsas!) I have added one more. Hope you like it as much as we did at dinner last night! Not a new dish, but I simplified it by keeping the peach raw and soaking the rosemary in olive oil to soften it.

Peaches with Ricotta, Rosemary and Honey

3 med. peaches
1 cup fresh whole milk ricotta room temperature
1 tbls honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbls rosemary chopped
lemon zest

Place rosemary in olive oil and let sit for 30 minutes.
Slice 6 pieces of zest off of lemon and cut into 1 inch pieces.
Slice peaches into 1inch slices.
Spread ricotta onto a serving platter. Try to spread ricotta about 1/2 inch thick and 6 inches round. Place peaches on ricotta, and drizzle honey on top.
Spoon rosemary out of olive oil and scatter on top of peaches. Top with pinch of sea salt and lemon zest. This dish is best at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Creamy Corn Soup with Grilled Radicchio

This past weekend we were in San Francisco. Two wonderful food events happened. I went to Delfina and back to Bistro Aix which had been closed for months for a remodel. I ate cream of corn soup at Bistro Aix that was outstanding. I really enjoyed the contract of flavors from the sweet, yang of the corn and the bitter, yin of radicchio. When we got home, I picked up my vegetable share and there was a big head of radicchio  included. Local corn was at the coop, so it was a done deal. I was going to create my own version of the wonderful dish at Bistro Aix. Radicchio is a bit of an unknown to some people. I am the only person I know who buys it somewhat regularly in fact. Mostly I grill it with olive oil and salt and chop it up for pasta or farro salad.  I think I am drawn to it because it is a bit of a vegetable outsider. That means there is a lot of room for creativity. I have sauteed it with pine nuts and orange zest too, which I enjoyed. The bottom line with bitter vegetables in my humble opinion, is to pair it with a bit of something rich. My recipe has a bit of heavy whipping cream, stock and corn. Corn this time of the year is very sweet and tender. I sliced off the kernels, sauteed them in butter, shallots and onion. Threw in a splash of dry vermouth and cream and voila! creamy corn soup. I normally do not used heavy cream for recipes, but I made an exception this week. M loves fresh strawberries with whipped cream so I used a bit of that. I highly recommend Straus heavy whipping cream. It has a wonderful flavor and it is worth the extra money it costs.
Thank you Bistro Aix for the wonderful inspiration, and thank you to my lovely CSA farm for providing the most wonderful head of radicchio I have ever eaten!

Creamy Corn Soup
4 servings

1 tlbs diced shallot
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tbls. butter
4 cups stock (I used chicken stock)
2 ears of corn kernals sliced off
1 tbls dry vermouth
4 tbls heavy cream
fresh pepper and salt
1 cup grilled and chopped radicchio
1 cup olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves

In a heavy bottomed pot, sautee shallots and onion in butter for 10 minutes on med. low heat. Add corn and vermouth and cook for 10 minutes more. Add stock and cream, then simmer for 10 minutes more covered.
With an immersion blender, blend the soup until chunky but starting to smooth out. I blended for about 3 minutes. Test for salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Toss freshly washed radicchio in a bit of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Grill on both sides until starting to wilt and brown (about 4 min. each side). A bit of charring is fine. Remove from grill and roughly chop. You want pieces small enough to take bites fo soup with, but not larger. Set aside.

In a blender add basil and olive oil. Blend for 5 seconds. Pour oil through strainer to remove basil.

Ladle soup into bowl and top with a spoonful of grilled radicchio. Drizzle a teaspoon of the basil oil on the soup.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

East Coast Visitor!

Cousin Grace is visiting us for three weeks. Fresh from the east coast a couple days back. As you can see from the top photo, she has some serious fans. My daughter is crazy in love with her, and for good reason. She is awesome.
Today we took her to our local river spot. We who live here find it magical. I think after today, she might too......

Friday, July 16, 2010

Japanese Tea Garden Adventure

We came to SanFran to get out of the heat. When it reaches 95 degrees and above at my house, I melt. With no air conditioning in my house, I just get crabby. M and I decided to try the Academy of Sciences  in Golden Gate Park yesterday, and I am glad we did. It was only mildly crowded and it is right next to the Japanese Tea Garden which may be one of M's favorite places on the planet. As we walked in I heard a little girl say as she passed by us "this is the most boring place ever!" M looked at her in shock and horror and somewhat offended I am sure. This is her special place. Before we called it a day at the tea gardens, we had climbed the bridge 5 times, played follow the leader, looked for secret paths, crossed a creek 6 times,  hid under a secret bridge, ate mochi, drank jasmine tea and miso soup.

I think I have mentioned before that M was born in a japanese tea house that we used to live in.  I wonder if the tatami mats and shoji screens in Shoboan (the name of our dear home) imprinted in her early memories that started a love of Japanese culture. I have wondered  how mothers in Japan deal with delicate rice paper shoji doors like ours, that were continually wrecked by M's little toddler hands. I eventually gave up, and left them tattered and torn until we moved out and then spent days repairing them with a cornstarch mixture as glue and rice paper from the craft store. Getting back to Japan is something I look forward to. This time my husband and I will have our perfect travel companion to share the excitement with!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mochi Stacks

Japanese Turnips came in my vegetable share today. Do you find turnips intimidating? I think that I could say that they are not a very popular vegetable. In comparison to carrots, broccoli or asparagus, turnips may not get a fair shake. I know there are turnip lovers out there though. My friends kids fight over them when they show up in their vegetable box. They eat them raw!
So, today I wondered how I could make turnips superstars. Something I would serve at a party. A dish that might make me crave them over and over. They turned out that way, but in the process they turned into a great kid dish as well. I was inspired by a recipe in a Japanese cookbook that combined baked mochi with nori and a slice of cheese. I wanted to see if I could cook mochi on the stove instead of in the oven. It is just too hot to turn on the oven these hot summer days.  Turns out you can "bake" mochi on the stove if you use a pot with a lid. Mochi is a sweet, short-grained, very glutinous rice that comes in thick sheets you can bake or sautee. It is also used in sweet confections. I don't use it very often because it is so glutenous and rich. This recipe was a great compromise because although it is rich,  a couple of "stacks" go a long way. The recipe is simple. A light sautee of the turnips in a bit of butter (or substitute olive oil) and soy sauce. Slice the mochi and heat in a seasoned pan while covered, and top the whole thing with very, very thinly sliced lemon. I think it would be brilliant to add some chopped rosemary with the turnips too. Easy dinner. Tell me your secret recipes for turnips! I am always up for a new idea!

Mochi Stacks
(makes 4 servings)

1 package of mochi (I used mochi that had hemp and flax seeds too)
4 small turnips or med. sized japanese turnips
1 tbls olive oil or butter
2 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
1 lemon

Measure out soy sauce onto a plate and set aside. In a non-stick or seasoned pan, heat olive oil or butter on med. heat. Slice turnips into 1/2 inch slices and dunk each into soy sauce and then put in sautee pan for 4 minutes each side. Remove from heat.

Slice mochi into 2 inch squares. Cut each square in half longways so it is only half as thick, but still 2 inches square. Place mochi in a nonstick or seasoned pan on med-high heat and cover. Peek under the lid in 5 min. to make sure it is not burning, or the flame is too low. You will see the pieces slowly start to puff. Keeping the lid on the pan is essential to them puffing. It takes 10 min. (give or take a couple of minutes) for the mochi to puff. Remove from heat and stack a piece of mochi, then a turnip slice and then a thinly (as thin as you can manage to cut the lemon) sliced piece of lemon on top. Repeat if you would like.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Porcini Crusted Tofu with Nectarine Salsa...and the first baby tooth

Three days ago M. pulled out her first baby tooth. It was a happy and sad moment for me. The sands of time slipping away. I will never look at her mouth filled with all baby teeth again! The tooth was definitely not loose enough to come out on its own. She had decided the tooth was coming out that day no matter what. I thought I could help by attempting to pull her tooth out for her, but that lasted about 10 seconds and I practically starting gagging at the thought of pulling it out prematurely. She took matters into her own hands, and twisted it out with a tissue.  She screamed with delight despite the small amount of blood that started filling her mouth. Really, it must have been a good thing because her permanent tooth was already breaking the skin behind the baby tooth.

Tonight I made a great tofu dish. I created the recipe around some local baby bok choy I picked up, and braising greens from our farm share. I have used dried porcini mushrooms before to crust steak and it is fabulous. I thought it would be fun to try it with tofu and pair it with the sweet and tart nectarine salsa. Braising greens of any kind always poses a slight issue for me. Greens always release their juices when braised. This can make them watery. I like my greens to have a lot of flavor, not watery. Two ways of preventing this from happening is to lightly braise them, and then squeeze out excess juice with tongs before plating. Then you can drizzle a sauce you have made and reduced in a separate pan. The other way is to braise the greens and push them to the side of the pan and then reduce the juices in the other half of the pan. In this recipe I did a bit of both of those techniques. The nectarine salsa was juicy with its own flavor so the greens did get a good coating of sauce. I buy porcini mushrooms dried. I use a coffee grinder to make it into a powder. You could add lots of interesting ingredients to the mix...dried mustard or chipoltes perhaps? Porcini mushrooms have a earthy smokiness that I really enjoy. A very distinct flavor. I also use sprouted tofu these days. I cannot taste any difference from regular tofu, and the texture is the same. I pondered grilling the tofu slices, but did not want to risk the fragile slices sticking. I opted for my trusty cast iron skillet instead.

Nectarine Salsa

1 med/large nectarine cut into small cubes
1/2 lime zest
1 tbls. fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. heaping chopped red onion
1 tbls. olive oil
1 tbls. tamari or soy sauce
1 tbls. rice vinegar
1 tsp. honey
2 radishes slice thin
1 tsp. salt
1 tbls freshly grated ginger

Slice radishes and soak in a bowl with 1/2 cup water and the 1 tsp. of salt. Let sit for 10-15 min. I do this to take the burn out of the radishes.
In a bowl, combine the nectarines, cilantro, onion, honey, tamari, lime juice and zest, vinegar, ginger, olive oil and drained radishes. Let meld for 10 min. before using.

Porcini Coated Tofu

1 package of tofu cut into slices just shy of 1 inch thick. I cut mine longways so the tofu slices looked like a deck of cards
1/3 cup dried porcini powder (use a coffee grinder to grind into a powder)
pinches of salt
2 tsp. olive oil

I used clean dish towels to dry the tofu slices as much as possible. I wrap the tofu and leave it on a plate while I make the sauce. You want the tofu slices as dry as possible before dredging in porcini powder.
On a plate mix salt and porcini powder with your fingers or a spoon. Dip each side of the tofu into the porcini powder, shake of the excess and set on a plate to be seared.
In a seasoned or non-stick pan, heat olive oil and sear tofu for about 5 minutes on each side on med. high heat.

Braised Greens

5 cups Greens (I used 2 cups baby bok choy and 3 cups mixed greens)
You could use chard, kale, mustard greens, arugula or any greens you like
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp soy sauce

In a deep skillet heat olive oil and add greens and soy sauce. Greens will begin to wild immediately. After about 3 minutes push greens to the side of the pan to reduce the liquid in the pan. You can also remove the greens and reduce the remaining liquid and then pour it on the greens after reduced.

To plate:
Put one forkful of cooked greens on plate. Top with 1-2 pieces of tofu and a big spoonful of salsa.


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