Thursday, October 28, 2010

But can you hug a Korean eGrandmother?

A few weeks ago I noticed a little ad in the local paper for a "Korean Food Festival."  Well, hey!  It was held at a Korean church on Gage Boulevard in Richland.  They had marinated meats and vegetables ready to grill, fried Korean pancakes, and various other Korean foods for sale, including big jars of homemade kimchi, which I love.

I bought a jar of kimchi, and asked the Korean lady selling it if she could give me a good traditional recipe for kimchi.  I was thinking, maybe her great-grandmother's traditional secret recipe .. you know.  But it was not to be.

"Oh, just Google it," she said.  "There are lots of recipes for it online." 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cabbage Soup with Sausage and White Wine

Two things captivated me when I spotted this recipe years ago.  It called for two cups of white wine, which I felt sure would elevate a simple cabbage soup well beyond being brothily boring, and the cooking instructions said to cook "until the cabbage is redolent and tender."  I cannot resist words like "redolent."

A truly easy yet extraordinarily savory and memorable fall and winter soup.
Adapted from The Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Sylvia Thompson

The original recipe was a stew, and used only one cup of chicken broth.  My other additions are the red bell pepper, crushed red pepper, and smoked paprika. The recipe also states that "a Czech or Pole would also season the stew with a good pinch of caraway seeds." Though not of either of those persuasions, I do grind some caraway seed a tad with mortar and pestle and sprinkle atop the soup when serving.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large or 8 small carrots, diced
1 large red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced, or 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I usually add quite a bit more thyme)
6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound sausages, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or larger if you prefer
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups good chicken broth
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
Freshly ground black pepper

Boiled potatoes and sour cream or yogurt for serving

Heat olive oil in large soup pot.  Add carrots and onions and saute for several minutes.  Add tomatoes, thyme and garlic, and heat through.

Pile the cabbage on top of the vegetables, and scatter the sausage atop the cabbage.  Pour wine and broth over, and sprinkle with the paprika.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring the mixture all together at 20 minutes.  When the cabbage is "redolent and tender," add pepper, taste for salt (I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon), and serve over boiled potatoes.  Top with sour cream or yogurt if you wish.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Roasted Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese

When looking at a heap of fresh tomatoes ripening rapidly on one's kitchen counter, one tends to think of sweeping, efficient yet delicious ways to capture their fresh taste and make the heap smaller without too much effort.  Soups and sauces are the usual options, and for good reason.  They're scrumptious.

Once I got going with the whole quartering-the-tomatoes process for this recipe, I looked over and saw the pluots and plums lying there, and decided to roast a plum with the toms instead of adding the tablespoon of honey called for. 

And I don't mess around trying to pour hot soup into a blender ... I use an immersion blender that I discovered my husband had, after we married.  "I'll never use that," I thought.  Ha!  I use it all the time.

From Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia

Make sure you have enough liquid (about 3 inches or so, or enough to fully cover the head of the blender) before you start the immersion blender.  If the liquid is too shallow, the blender will fling it around your kitchen.

12 ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey (or roast a pitted plum or pluot with the toms)
2 springs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus more for garnish
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Core and quarter tomatoes, and remove and reserve the seeds for the stock.  In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the garlic, onion, honey (if using) or pitted, halved plum, rosemary, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and a dash of salt.  Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the rosemary .

Combine the tomato seeds, bay leaf, and 1 cup water in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Strain the stock into a bowl.  Rinse the pot and return the stock to it, and add the roasted tomatoes.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Turn heat off and let soup cool a tiny bit.  Add goat cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and blend 'til smooth with an immersion blender.  Or pour the soup carefully into a blender or food processor and blend 'til smooth.  Season to taste with salt, and reheat a bit if necessary.

Garnish each bowl with a few drops of balsamic vinegar, a few grinds of black pepper, and perhaps a little rosemary if you wish.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Butternut Squash, White Bean and Kale Ragout

The farmers' markets are bursting with squashes and greens right now.  Who am I to resist them?  It's fall, after all, even if our warm temperatures belie the fact.

For sheer fall robustness and mellow flavor, this ragout fills the bill beautifully.  Both dinner guests immediately responded postively when I offered to send some of  it home with them.  And later I added chicken broth to my leftover portion to make soup with a marvelously maple-y and squash-y depth of flavor.  A delicious and versatile dish.
From the New York Times, 11/14/07

1 3-pound sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2-1/2 teaspoons cider vinear
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 cups cooked white beans)
2 cups vegetable broth

3/4 pound kale, ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Coarse sea salt

In small saucepan, stir together 2 over medium heat 2 tablespoons butter, maple syrup, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and pinch cayenne. Pour into large bowl.

Peel butternut squash, remove seeds, and cut flesh into 1-inch cubes. Toss cubes in maple syrup mixture 'til coated.  Spread squash cubes on a large, rimmed baking sheet.  Roast, turning occasionally, until squash is tender when poked and a bit caramelized at the edges, about 30 minutes.

In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, and add leeks, garlic rosemary and a large pinch of salt.  Cook, sitrring occasionally, until leeks are very soft but not browned, about 15 minutes.  Add beans and broth and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir kale and cheese (if using) into leek mixture, and simmer until kale is cooked down and very tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the roasted squash cubes and cranberries.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Garnish with additional cranberries if desired.

Serves 6 to 8

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Butternut Squash Advice, and My Dad

Nobody raised deeply flavored butternut squashes like my Dad.  We lost Dad last winter, and we miss him every day.  Naturally we are discovering with each season more of the quiet legacies he left that we grew to expect ... tulips and daffodils in spring, scrumptious tomatoes, peppers and raspberries in summer, and those glorious butternuts each fall.  He raised Concord grapes for Welch Foods for 40 years, and this year when that sweet, grape-y fragrance began to float about on hot fall days, it was especially poignant to realize that he wouldn't be here for the harvest.

While Dad didn't want much to do with computers or the internet, I think he would have approved of my giving you all advice on how to get the most out of your butternut squashes. 

Nothing tastes quite like an excellent butternut squash.  Mellow and smooth, it reminds us of summer's warmth and warns us of autumn's chill.

But how to get AT the dang things!  Butternut squashes can be exasperatingly inaccessible, what with their hard shells and the fact that most of us don't keep axes in our kitchens, much less a handy wood-splitting stump out back.

No matter. I have found that microwaving butternut squashes for 10 minutes or so softens the skin and allows you to peel it off, leaving an accessible squash that can now be cut into slices or cubes for your favorite recipes.

Just cut the ends off the squash (I'm not sure why I do this) and, with a knife, poke some holes into the seed cavity.  I think that helps avoid explosions?  Not sure.  But why not do it anyway! 

Now, position the squash on its side in a microwave, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.  Total time will depend on your squash and your microwave.  Check after 5 minutes.  The skin should start to turn a bit gray, and begin to pucker a little.  The skin should remove easily when the right amount of cooking time has been reached.  

You will need to let the squash cool a bit before continuing with the peel job.  I've found that standing the squash upright and peeling downwards works best.  DO NOT cut upward toward the hand that is steadying the squash.  I hope I don't need to tell you why.

Be sure to remove the peeling down to the bright-orange squash flesh, and to trim off all the little green lines running vertically.

After peeling the squash, cut it in half lengthwise.  A serrated ice-cream scoop works wonderfully to get all the seeds and strings out.

You can now cut the squash into chunks, dice, slices --- whatever your recipe calls for.  The squash pieces can be used immediately or frozen.

Just don't waste any, y'hear?  It isn't easy to grow a good butternut!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wedding Applesauce with Granny Smiths and Metaphor

This week my stepdaughter was married.  Naturally, the newlyweds have been on our minds a lot.  Today as I was making applesauce of delicious, local, organic Granny Smith apples, I was reminded that Grannies are my stepdaughter's favorite apples.  I noticed that the knob of ginger I peeled looked like a little bluebird of happiness.

As I peeled and sliced, simmered and spiced, I knew this applesauce was taking on a special meaning, like every good marriage does. And that a little metaphor might be in order, considering this new marriage in our family.

Granny Smiths can soak up a lot of water, so you have to keep checking in to see if you should add some. 

Tangy by nature, Grannies need a little sweetening, but not too much.  The sauce is better with a little texture, rather than blended boringly smooth.  I added fresh grated ginger for warmth, and cinnamon for a little spice. Applesauce can be soothing to come home to after a rough day, especially if it's made with love.

 This post's for you, kids.  May your trip through life together be warm and sweet.

About 9 good-sized Granny Smith apples
A knob of ginger
A tablespoon or so of cinnamon
Honey or agave nectar, to taste

Peel, core and slice the apples into a large pot.  Peel the ginger and grate it over the apples.  Add about half an inch of water to the pot.  Simmer, stirring frequently, as apples begin to cook.  Add more water if necessary.  Cook until desired texture is achieved.  Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and sweetening, if desired.  Share with someone you love.

Makes about 8 cups