Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Secret Ingredients 101: Local Grapeseed Oil

While dining at a wondrous little cafe/wine bar in Prosser, Wine o'Clock, I noticed that their salads tasted lush and deep, despite having the mildest of dressings.  The other dishes we ordered also had this strange and wonderful presence, a sort of essence of themselves, unencumbered by strong flavors.  

I decided the secret must be grapeseed oil.  It had to be something that I obviously wasn't using at home!  Then I remembered that there were two bottles of Apres Vin oil tucked into my fridge door--Roasted Garlic Chardonnay and Cabernet--that I had purchased at last year's Richland Farmers' Market and had forgotten about.  Since my discovery, I've been using my Apres Vin grapeseed oils for salad dressing and roasting.  It works beautifully. 

For salads, tossing simple greens with plain Cabernet grapeseed oil imparts a subtle wine flavor and actually brings out the flavor of the greens.  You don't need vinegar.  You don't need garlic.  You don't even need salt.  Yes, it has taken me this long to realize that good salad greens actually have flavor to bring out!  This oil is very light ... you only need a little.

The Roasted Garlic Chardonnay oil has the subtlest hint of wine and garlic flavor, excellent for most anything you'd use olive oil for, even dipping bread.

Apres Vin makes several flavors of grapeseed oil.  Take a look at these flavors and combinations Apres Vin offers.  Their site also describes the nutritional value of grapeseed oil. It's not cheap, but you can use it sparingly.  A great addition to any kitchen where fresh, local foods are prepared!  And Apres Vin itself is local ... they're located in Prosser.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To the Women of Thanksgiving, with Love

We cut and crumble, chop and knead,
Make endless lists, and cookbooks read,
Shop and haul, cash and carry,
Roll the dough, sort cranberries.
Scrub and toss and smooth and shake
All your holiday to make.

We traverse rural hill and dale
To the blood-spattered farmer, who on his scale
Does our free-range turkeys weigh.
We stand shivering there on butchering day,
And wonder why we truss and bake
All your holiday to make.

Yes, we will eat.  And we will pray.
And thankfully partake on the great day.
When all are served and sated, each one,
And we've cleaned it up, the dishes done,
A well-earned rest we'd like to take.
But no.  There's the next meal to make.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shepherd's Pie with Yams and Curry

A cultural crossover here ... not your typical English version of the Shepherd's Pie, but an exotic cousin.  Warm, spicy, savory and sweet.  A brilliant one-dish meal that is hearty and happily filling. 
Adapted from The Organic Foodie

I had a few mushrooms that needed to be used up and added them to the meat mixture.  They really rounded the dish out nicely.  I considered using ground lamb, but am glad I didn't.  The beef's milder flavor really lets the spicy ginger and curry flavors dominate.

2 large yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened fine-shred coconut

2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 pound lean ground beef (I used Thundering Hooves)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup raisins (optional; I didn't use them)
1 packed cup of chopped spinach (didn't have this so used 1/3 cup cilantro - very good!)
1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped
two pinches ground cardamom
one pinch salt

Cook yams in a pot of boiling water until soft.  Mash until smooth.  Stir in until well blended the coconut oil, cinnamon, salt and coconut.

Mix almonds with cardamom and pinch of salt.  Small food processor works great for this.

In medium skillet, heat coconut oil.  Add onion and cook until onions begin to soften.  Sprinkle curry powder over onions and cook, stirring, for a minute.   Add ground beef and continue cooking until beef is thoroughly cooked.  Add ginger, garlic, spinach or cilantro, and (if using) raisins.

Place meat mixture in 10-inch Pyrex pie dish or other similar dish.  Spread yam mixture over top, and sprinkle with almond mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until heated through and almonds are a bit toasted.    Let sit for a few minutes after removing from oven.

Makes 4 hearty servings or 6 smaller ones.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roasted Delicata Squash with Leeks, Apple, and Fresh Herbs

"Delicata" may sound sissy, and in fact I believe its name derives from the fact that it doesn't keep as well as other squashes.  But it's a hearty squash, unafraid to step up to the plate and challenge the big boys, like butternut, in both flavor and texture.  The maple syrup really provides the perfect link for all these flavors to meld succulently.

1 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch C shapes
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in 1/4-inch slices
1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chopped sage
Fresh thyme

In large bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper, sage and thyme.  Toss the squash, leeks and apple in this mixture, and spread them onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Roast at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until squash and apples are tender and leeks are soft.  Stir mixture once or twice during cooking.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leek and Portobello Frittata with Thyme and Oregonzola

Leeks have become a real favorite of mine, and were frequently available at the farmer's markets this summer.  The other night, I realized that my garden thyme was still producing, there was a hunk of Oregonzola cheese in the fridge, and I had two local leeks and a portobello mushroom.  The planets aligned, and this dish was born.  A classic combination of great savory flavors.

2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
1 big 'ol portobello mushroom, stem removed and cut in 1/4-inch slices

1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

6 to 8 local, free-range eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon crumbled Oregonzola cheese

In frittata pan or medium-sized ovenproof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Saute the leeks just until they become somewhat soft.  Add the mushroom slices, and carefully saute for a few minutes or until the mushrooms have become somewhat soft.  Push the leeks around to cover the bottom of the skillet, and bring the mushroom slices to the top.  You can arrange them in a starburst design if you wish.  Scatter a little salt and pepper over all, then carefully pour on the eggs to fill the pan.  Lift up the mushrooms if any become covered with eggs.  Scatter garlic and thyme leaves over all.  Continue cooking on stovetop for a couple of minutes or until eggs begin to set.

Place pan in oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until eggs are just set.  Watch carefully; you don't want the frittata to be too dry.

Remove from oven, wrap potholders around handles so no one gets burned, and scatter the cheese across the top.  Cut with spatula into wedges.  Serve hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Year of Blogging Local

Today my humble blog celebrates its first birthday.

You, dear reader, have really made my blogging year a true pleasure.  You have shared recipes, given advice, actually made some of my recipes (this one was the most popular), and some even showed up at my house for a class.  You have commented.  You have endured my bad photographs.   You have happily accepted containers of leftover blogged dishes, and in some cases sat down at the initial taste testings.   You have been unflinchingly honest.  You have come into my kitchen and cooked with me

One cannot cook with local foods without ... local foods.  I am constantly thankful for our many local farmers' markets, growers and producers, and especially for the indispensable gift of our local Winter CSA, happening again this winter.

This recipe was in the works last winter when we lost my Dad.  The comfort of robust, home-cooked food at a time like that cannot be overstated.  I am thankful for my family and friends, and give special accolades to my mom, whose influence on my life with food has for years nourished not only my love of the fresh and local bounty around us, but my creativity and spirit of fun in cooking and trying new things.

Thank you, every one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Save the Pickled Beets!

Sometimes, but not so much lately, I worry about foods disappearing.  I know, some foods should disappear, like fried liver and doorstop fruitcakes.  But you know what I mean:  You're savoring a lovely slice of spicy pickled beet and suddenly, without warning, you think, "What if people stopped eating beets?  And farmers stopped growing beets?  And there would be no more pickled beets!"

I'm not saying everyone has episodes of food paranoia like me, but in case the whole worrying-about-food-disappearing thing is due to the cosmic resonance of some underlying potential universal truth, now and again I like to make, and enjoy, pickled beets. And if you do it, too, maybe we'll keep pickled beets alive!

This recipe is easily increased for more beets, and all the ingredients can be played around with according to your taste.  Makes about a quart.  If you put striped or golden beets in with red ones, the whole mixture will be more or less red!

About 6 medium-sized beets, or 12 smaller ones, either red, gold, striped, or a mix
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1 or 2 tablespoons agave nectar or organic sugar (I sometimes use apple juice concentrate)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
A few grinds of black pepper

Wash the beets and either trim the stalks off or leave an inch or so on.  Lay beets on an aluminum foil-covered pan and roast at 350 degrees for an hour or so.  If beets are varying sizes, some may need to be removed before others are done.  Beets should be tender when pierced with a knife.

Alternatively, wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast for the same amount of time.

Alternatively again, boil the beets in a big kettle of water until they are tender when pierced with a knife.  This is the method I use most often, because the beets peel more easily than they do when roasted.

Cool the beets, and trim off the stems and root ends and any weird spots.  Rub the peelings off (a paper towel works nicely for this) and cut the beets into your preferred shapes ... slices, dices, you call it.  Toss them into a quart jar.  You can have the vinegar and spice mixture already in the jar, or you can toss it in on top of the beets and shake gently.  Store in fridge, turning and tossing jar gently now and then to keep the beets coated in the pickly mixture.  They'll be pickled in about a week. Enjoy without fear.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beet and Saffron Rice Timbale with Spinach and Leeks

Ms. Eating the Scenery is smitten.  She stumbled across this chef who, apparently, has been cooking in England for some time without Ms. Eating the Scenery's knowledge.  What a funny name he has!  And how creative are his culinary combinations!  Quinoa and fennel salad with mint, coriander and dill!  Lentils, radiccho and walnuts with manuka honey! 

Ms. Eating the Scenery is the devoted slave of anyone who can find new and tasty, nay, soaringly scrumptious dishes using vegetables, herbs, grains, nuts, legumes in simple yet magical ways! 

Even Ottolenghi's recipes, however, are but a starting point.  Inspiring, but endlessly revisable.  Which of course all truly great recipes are.  Ms. Eating the Scenery's addition of leeks to the sauteed spinach, she thinks, elevated this dish to truly splendid.  Her sidestepping of several of the more fussy steps resulted in a different looking dish than Ottolenghi's, but it satisfied on every level of taste.

Next time, Ms. Eating the Scenery will consider assembling this dish in a glass casserole in reverse order, so that it looks neat and contained, showing off its colorful layers.  
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

3/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup boiling water

3 medium beets (but roast a few more while you're at it, for pickled beets)
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
8 to 10 ounces spinach, washed and spun (thick stems removed)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper

Pour the boiling water over the saffron in a small cup or bowl.  Leave to infuse.

Wash the beets and either trim the stalks off or leave an inch or so on.  Lay beets in a Pyrex baking dish, add a quarter inch or so of water, cover the dish with foil, and roast the beets at 350 degrees for an hour or so.  If beets are varying sizes, some may need to be removed before others are done.  Beets should be tender when pierced with a knife.

Alternatively, wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast for the same amount of time.

Cool the beets, rub the peelings off (a paper towel works nicely for this) and dice them in 1/2-inch-or-so sized chunks.  In a bowl, toss the diced beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Rinse the basmati rice 'til the water runs clear.  Cook according to package directions, adding the 1 teaspoon salt, until rice is fluffy and liquid is gone.  Stir in the lemon peel and pepper.

In medium or large-ish skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Saute the leeks until they begin to soften.  Add the spinach, and continue to cook until spinach is comfortably wilted.  Sprinkle chopped garlic over, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir. Cook just a few minutes more, then remove from heat.

For timbale, butter a 3-quart round or oval dish well.  Lay the beets in the bottom.  Cover with half the rice, pressing down firmly.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of saffon water over rice.  Layer the spinch on next, followed by the remaining rice.  Press it down firmly.  Sprinkle remaining saffron water over rice.

Quickly and carefully unmold the timbale onto a serving platter.  Alternatively, layer everything in reverse order, ending up with beets on top, and serve like a casserole.

Makes 6 servings