Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sheffield Harvest Crush Apple and Grape Cider

My stepson contributed this tasty local cider to our Christmas dinner.  Sheffield Cider in Mesa (just north of Pasco) makes this blend from apples and several varieties of wine grapes.  It's amazingly fresh tasting, almost like fresh-squeezed juice.  First you taste the apple, then a delightfully crisp grape essence.

Add Alan Pangborn's Blanc de Blanc from Moonlight Cellar in Kennewick, and you have two wonderful, local ways to toast the New Year.  Resolve to make 2011 your year for eating locally!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Smoked Salmon Chowder

This delicious chowder has become our traditional Christmas Eve dinner dish.  Savory, hearty, with a subtle hint of tarragon ... it's a real keeper.  I've tweaked it a bit and see that I've written "perfect" on its page in the cookbook.
Adapted from Soups and Stews by Maryana Vollstedt

Do make this a day ahead of time and chill so the flavors can blend.  Stir in the half-and-half when heating to serve.  You can leave out the half-and-half and still have a delectable, creamy chowder.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups bottled clam broth
2 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut in half-inch dice
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon paprika

10 ounces smoked salmon, from Northwest Seafood Market, skin removed and flaked
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 drops Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half (or mixed Pure Eire milk and cream), optional

In large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter with oil.  Add onion and celery and saute until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir.  Add stock and stir until slightly thickened.  Add potatoes, tarragon, thyme, dill and paprkia.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Add salmon, garlic, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and wine.  Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.  Add half-and-half and simmer over low heat until heated through, about 5 minutes.

The Lunar Eclipse/Solstice Box

Total lunar eclipse, Winter Solstice, and Winter CSA Box Three--all on the same day.  What is the deeper, or higher, meaning of this?  Um ... nothing!  I don't mean to squash anyone's enthusiasm for the supernatural, but I don't carrot all for big stretches to link unrelated items. Unless I'm trying to put a bunch of things into a recipe ...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Western Dried Fruits Cake

A gem of a cake made entirely of nuts and dried fruits, with just enough vanilla-scented batter to hold it all together.  Beautiful, jewel-like slices go wonderfully with coffee and tea, or on a plate of cookies and candies for dessert after a holiday meal.

This recipe came out in the 80's and I've seen many versions since then, varying the fruits and nuts, adding candied ginger and such.  But for a pure, heavenly taste that unquestionably deserves all the superlatives you can give it, this original version is the ticket.

I've been making this cake in little foil pans for around 25 years now, and giving them as gifts.  Merry Christmas!
From Sunset Magazine

A couple of hints:  Snip the apricots into quarters using kitchen shears.  It's easier than using a knife.  To butter the pans, use a brush dipped in melted butter; brush the butter onto the waxed paper lining also.

1 cup chopped pitted dates
2 cups quartered dried apricots
1 cup golden raisins
1-1/2 cups whole blanched almonds
1-1/2 cups walnut pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter a 5- x 9-inch loaf pan; line with baking parchment or waxed paper, then butter the paper.

In small bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder to blend.  

In large bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, almonds and walnuts.  Add flour mixture to fruits and mix evenly.

Beat eggs with vanilla to blend.  Stir thoroughly into fruit mixture.  Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly; press batter into corners of pan, and press batter down as you fill the pan so there are no gaps.  Shape the batter so it's a bit rounded on the top of the loaf.

Bake in a 300-degree oven until golden brown, about 2 hours.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan.  Peel off paper and let cake cool on rack.

Wrap in plastic wrap or foil.  Chill at least two days or up to two months.  Or eat it immediately!  The flavor is excellent fresh, too.  If desired, sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon rum or brandy once a week.

Makes 1 loaf

Gift loaves option:  Double the recipe.  Use six small foil loaf pans, about 3 x 6 inches.  Butter and line pans as instructed above.  Be sure to push batter into corners of pans and press down so the loaf is compact.  Bake at 250 degrees (a cooler temperature than the big, single loaf) for 2 hours.  Watch the cakes during the last hour to prevent burning.  For these small loaves, I found that 300 degrees was too hot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: The Dirty Life

This book was absorbing and compelling all the way through.  It goes way beyond "city girl marries farmer."  Ms. Kimball describes how, although she was completely unfamiliar with farming, she almost instantly was captivated by its gritty fundamentalness.  She felt safe, seeing literally for the first time in her life where food actually came from.  A New Yorker, she had rarely cooked.

The farmer who became the author's husband, and with whom she started and currently operates a whole-diet CSA farm, is a fascinating man who lives his beliefs about how food should be grown, and he cooks fantastically simple yet complexly-flavored meals with the farm produce. 

There are no recipes, but that's kind of the point.  The author writes that when we move to seasonal, local eating, "The central question in the kitchen would have to change from What do I want? to What is available?"  The Kimballs provide "naked, unprocessed food, two steps from the dirt."

Their Essex Farm is the first whole-diet CSA in the country, providing members with beef, pork, chicken, eggs, milk, herbs and vegetables, berries, grains and flours, legumes, and maple syrup. 

This is a book to savor, but that will have to happen on my second trip through.  The first time I was completely caught up in the suspense inevitably generated when livelihood is linked so directly to something as capricious as Nature.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula, Goat Cheese, and Horseradish Vinaigrette

My Mom recently returned from a trip to Hood River, Oregon, and described this dish she encountered at the restaurant at Hood River Inn.  It sounded simple and delicious.  Spectacular, multicolored beets arrived in the first two CSA boxes, so I roasted them, used some for this salad, and pickled the rest. 

For two salads, simply cut peeled, roasted beets into chunks and toss them in a mixture of 2 tablespoons olive oil or Apres Vin grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons horseradish, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Let the tossed beets sit in the mixture for a while, then lift out and arrange them atop arugula on two salad plates.  Drizzle remaining dressing from the bowl over the salads, and scatter crumbled goat cheese atop.  I think any vinaigrette, especially perhaps cranberry or raspberry, would be just as delicious.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

That Casa Mia Mango Dessert

Casa Mia makes a delicious dessert of zabaglione topped with mango puree.  My Costco mangoes were ripening alarmingly fast, so I decided to sort of replicate the Casa Mia dessert using my Pure Eire milk and cream.  Now, I use very little dairy, but can't seem to resist picking up some Pure Eire whenever I'm in one of our local health food stores.  My philosophy is that if you're going to have some dairy, why not have fresh, local dairy, from Jersey cows?

So.  I sliced two mangoes into the blender, and added enough milk and cream (okay, more cream than milk) so that the whole thing could blend into two servings worth of delicious, creamy, mango-y dessert.  Satisfying, and no processed sugar involved. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slow Food Christmas Cookie Exchange

Thirteen brave folks added the Slow Food Cookie exchange to their busy holiday calendars.  This despite the invitation to put vegetables in cookies, and categories for judging including "healthiest ingredient" and "most unusual ingredient."  Slow Food folk are incredibly intrepid!  They even shared favorite baking memories with the receptive group.   From left, Kurt, Nick, Sarah, Aisling, Peggy, Rachel, Laurie and Russ.

Ask Angela about anything to do with baking, and you will get an enthusiastic and thorough response, as Whitney finds out!

We sampled Carrot-Beet Cookies, Herb Shortbread, Spinach-Blueberry-Oat Bars, Squash-Cranberry-Walnut Biscotti, Pumpkin Cookies, Brandy Balls, Ginger Cookies, and Green Tea-Pecan Cookies. A good-natured but somewhat controlled free-for-all voting session awarded bakers prizes for healthiest ingredient, most local, most unusual ingredient, and first place in taste.  Congratulations to winners Sarah (2!), Angela and Peggy.

Not just cookies, but cider, local cheeses, fresh-baked bread (with local flour) by Angela, local hot spiced wine, and fruits were on offer.

Softly falling snow added to the holiday ambiance.

My Mom chats with Russ and Laurie, who supply many local folks with free-range chickens, eggs, turkeys, and even ducks. Thanks to all the farmers and bakers who made this relaxing and fun Slow Food event possible!  And special thanks to Angela for co-hosting!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cranberry Pluot Sauce

Rummaging in the freezer, I found cranberries from last year.  And beside them, a container of pluot sauce frozen this summer.  Combine them?  Why not! 

I usually make cranberry sauce with orange juice concentrate, but these fruity things seemed drawn to each other by some invisible force of culinary serendipity.  It happens!  It's fun, momentarily at least, to free oneself from the same old combinations of things and take a risk. 

In this case the payoff was an amazingly great cranberry sauce with summery pluot undertones.  I used a little honey to bring a not-too-sweet balance to the sauce and harmonize the flavors.

8 cups frozen cranberries
3 cups pluot sauce (plum sauce would work, too)
1/3 cup honey

Put cranberries and pluot sauce in a large pot.  Add a little water to get things started.  Heat over medium heat until pluot sauce is fully incorporated and berries start to pop.  Cook, stirring, about 10 to 15 minutes more until sauce thickens and most of the berries have burst.  Stir in honey.

Makes about 8 servings.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Box the Second

Two winter squashes, two Chinese cabbages, two bunches of carrots!  Chili peppers and oregano, spinach and braising greens, a bunch of beets and turnips.  And a really happy CSA customer in a pear tree!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lemon and Cumin Slaw

This is a light, lemony, crunchy slaw that goes together quickly and compliments any meat (pulled pork comes to mind!) or sturdier casseroles, such as enchiladas and mac and cheese.  It's also great alongside robust, winter soups such as chilis and chowders.

I'm always drawn to recipes with a minimum of ingredients, especially when they combine so beautifully like this, where the flavor of each ingredient is equally showcased.
From the British Country Living magazine

This slaw keeps very, very well, and develops a deeper flavor over time.  But it's amazing freshly made, too.  I once tried adding some olive oil, but it only detracted from the fine, tangy crispness of the slaw.  

1/2 a medium-sized green cabbage, thinly sliced into shreds
1 organic lemon
1 tablespoon cumin seed (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grate the lemon's peel into a large bowl using a Microplane or other fine grater.  Juice the lemon, adding the juice to the bowl with the peel.  Add the salt.

In a small skillet, toast the cumin seed 'til it begins to brown and becomes fragrant.  Transfer to a mortar and pestle, and grind roughly, then transfer to the bowl with the lemon juice and peel.

Whisk dressing, then toss in the cabbage and mix all together well.

Makes about 6 servings.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Party Mix, Remixed

Who doesn't remember the moment they learned how to pronounce "Worcestershire?" Every year around Christmas or New Year's when I was a kid, we'd make a batch of Chex party mix, baking it in the bottoms of our oven broiler trays, and faithfully stirring it every 15 minutes for an hour.  The salty-sour-crunchy effect was unique back in the day, and you had to make it.  Today, you can buy preservative- and color-laden bags of the stuff.  No thanks!  Herewith, my redux version.

"Redux" actually means "brought back" or "restored."  In this case, I'm bringing back the memorable taste but none of the preservatives that, alas, Chex brand cereals contain.  To complete the feel-good theme I used organic butter and a bunch of other cool things.

I don't keep onion powder (!) or that item the Chex people call "seasoned salt" on hand, and my garlic powder is rather ancient, so a little creativity was called for.  You can use your creativity, too.  But this recipe will get you started.
Adapted from the Chex Original Recipe

Yes, you should double this.  It makes a lot, but you can give it away or even freeze it and surprise yourself later!  Plus, it has a tendency to vanish.  If you're a pretzel fan, substitute those in for some of the dry ingredients.

9 cups total of square, chex-ish cereals  (I used Health Valley Crunch-Ems and Cascadian Farms Multigrain squares from our local health food store)
1/2 cup dry roasted almonds
1/2 cup dry roasted cashews
1/2 cup Alexia onion strips, broken up a bit
1/2 cup Annie's cheddar bunnies

4 tablespoons organic butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large roasting pan, combine the cereals, nuts, onion strips and cheddar bunnies.  

In small saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and spices.  Mix well.  Drizzle over the dry ingredients, tossing well until combined. 

Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool thoroughly before storing.

RELATED REDUX POST:  Tater Tot Casserole, Remixed

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon Roasted Potatoes

The subtlest hint of fresh Cabernet Sauvignon grape flavor from the oil lifts these local spuds into the realm of nearly ethereal.  

Snowy roads have kept me closer to home than usual lately, but I discovered some local organic Russets, purchased from my CSA farmer's stand at the Richland Farmers' Market, lolling around in my produce drawer. (Yes, Jeanne, that would be the "Humi-drawer," for those of us who remember the glory days of the Frigidaires!)

A light massage with grapeseed oil, a dusting of salt, pepper and thyme (rescued just before the single-digit temperatures blackened the herb garden), and these taters are ready to go.

Glorious amounts of creativity can be applied to this recipe ... different flavored oils, different herbs, even different kinds of potatoes.  

4 local organic Russet spuds, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon Apres Vin Cabernet Sauvignon (or other flavor) grapeseed oil

Rub olive oil all over quartered potatoes.  Arrange on Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.  Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Winter CSA Box!

The boxes are here!  Woo hoo!  Imagine having a box of fresh, locally-grown vegetables, all winter, every two weeks 'til April.  No, you're not dreaming!  It can happen!  

This first box contained winter squash, Chinese cabbage, chard, cranberries (from Western Washington), turnips, beets, carrots and sage.  The cranberries made a luscious sauce for Thanksgiving, and the carrots are wonderfully sweet.  The cabbage went into Thanksgiving dinner slaw.  I cooked the beet and turnip greens for dinner on dropoff day. And somehow missed getting the chard and cranberries in the photo.  I seem to recall flinging produce here and there in my delight.

This is my second winter CSA year, and my blog was created to document my first year's experience. We're off and running again!