Friday, November 25, 2011

2011: First Winter CSA Box

As a kid, I used to watch Monte Hall on "Let's Make a Deal."  He would stand there bemusedly, patiently holding his microphone, while contestants literally would jump up and down, going seriously delirious just to have the opportunity  to choose "one of the three doors where Carol is now standing!"

At the time, I was somewhat puzzled that people could behave so in public.  But last Tuesday I definitely had the urge to do a little dance on the sidewalk when I picked up my first Winter CSA box.  It's nice to know the simple things in life can still thrill:   turnips, cabbage, beets, squashes, cranberries, tomatoes, braising greens, salad greens, and radishes.  All insanely fresh.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spanish Garlic Soup with Saffron and Cumin

It's gray and blustery outside.  It's the day after Thanksgiving.  Maybe it's a Sunday night.  Whatever.  You just don't feel like cooking!  But you feel better if you have a real meal instead of a snack, however healthy the snack might be. 

Dragging yourself to the fridge, you open it.  Maybe there's some leftover turkey or other meat in there.  You keep local eggs on hand, right?   If you're a foodie, you'll have saffron and smoked paprika on hand, too, and broth in your pantry or freezer.  If not, go stock up ... you know  you're going to have one of these moments this winter!

Traditionally, this soup is topped with a hefty number of white-bread croutons.  Trust me, diced avocado is way  more satisfying.

Sopa española del ajo con azafrán y comino

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 small onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced (reserve for egg frying)

1 teaspoon ground cumin seed

2 cups diced cooked meat, optional (turkey, chicken, pork, beef)
1 quart homemade chicken or turkey broth
1 teaspoon saffron threads*
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter or ghee
2-4 eggs (depending on number of servings you are making)
1 avocado, diced

In medium-sized pot, heat butter or ghee over medium heat.  Add onion and chopped garlic.  Cook, stirring now and then, for about 5 minutes or until onion begins to soften.

Sprinkle cumin over onion mixture and cook briefly, stirring to slightly toast it.  Mmmmm!

Add meat, broth, saffron, paprika and crushed red pepper.  Cover and simmer 15 minutes or so. 

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon ghee or butter in small skillet.  Add the minced garlic, then immediately fry the two eggs in the butter/garlic mixture, turning eggs once.

Taste soup; add salt and pepper to taste. 

Ladle soup into bowls.  Top each bowl with a fried egg and some diced avocado.

Makes enough soup for four small or two large servings.

*Reasonably priced saffron is available at the European Market on Huntington Street (across from GESA) on Huntington Street in Kennewick.  They keep it behind the counter, so you have to ask for it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Simple Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Yams

For some reason, I 'm always astonished when I discover a simple, easy way to cook something.  We do tend to over-complexify sometimes, don't we? 

Organic yams and sweet potatoes, looking very fresh and wholesome,  have been appearing regularly at my local Yokes Fresh Market.   I recommend preparing more than you'll need for one meal ... they reheat beautifully and can be sliced or diced and fried to make a lovely hash with leftover duck, turkey or pork.

When peeling yams,  be sure to peel through the light-colored layer just underneath the skin, to the darker orange layer underneath. 

I recently learned that yams and sweet potatoes are "cured," which means allowed to dry a bit after harvesting. Because of that, yams and sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place, and not in the refrigerator. I've tested this new bit of knowledge, and it seems to be true!

You'll need:

Yams and sweet potatoes
Coconut oil (you could probably use butter or olive oil; I haven't tried it yet)
Salt and pepper

1)   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2)   Peel your yams and sweet potatoes and cut into roughly same-sized chunks.  They'll cook more evenly that way.

3)   Melt some coconut oil (I used 1/4 cup for 2 yams and 2 sweet potatoes) and pour it into a mixing bowl. 

4)   Add the yam and sweet potato chunks and toss to evenly coat.

5)   Tip yams and sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet (I used the bottom of a broiler tray).

6)    Sprinkle with salt and pepper, or herbs, spices and seasonings to taste.

7)   Roast for 40 to 50 minutes, testing near the end of the roasting time to see if the thickest pieces are tender through.

Serve, or place in casserole and cover to keep warm until serving time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grassfed Chuck Roast, with Leeks and Fennel, in the Slow Cooker

Remember Crockpots?  Who doesn't have a Crockpot story to tell:  "It tipped over in the car on the way to a potluck!  The beans hadn't even begun to get soft after 12 hours of cooking!"  My personal stories are more along the lines of special dinners being ruined because the slow-cooked entree was ... ah ... not so much cooked as poached in a sea of simmered sludge.

But no more.  Crockpots (generically known as slow cookers) are back with a vengeance.  After all, we're all busy.  We still want, as we did in days of Crockpot yore, to return home on a blustery fall evening to the savory smells of a dinner that is ready to eat.

Creative cooks have worked hard to achieve this renaissance in slow cooking.  Having been intrigued by a number of their cookbooks, I decided to jump into the fray with Liana Krissoff's Secrets of Slow Cooking, and Costco's offering of a sleek, modern, 7-quart Crockpot. 

The ancient 4-quart Crockpot I received as a wedding present in 1978 still works fine, but I was interested in the larger capacity, and ... the new digital controls!  Essentially the same as older models (high and low settings), but now the hours count down so you know just how much time has elapsed, and when the hours you set are reached, the unit switches to "keep warm" mode.

For this, my first slow cooking foray in a couple of decades,  I decided to stick with a simple beef dish.  I thawed a Thundering Hooves grassfed chuck roast (Blue Valley Meats bought the inventory when Thundering Hooves went out of business) and checked out a slew of recipes in books and online.

I drafted up a unique recipe of my own, but when I started to prepare it, I found that my carrots had frozen in the vegetable bin, and I had no onions but did have a fennel bulb.  Hence, the recipe I intended became this recipe instead.  And when, five hours into the cooking process, I discovered two large leeks lurking in the fridge, I sliced those up and tossed them in.  The result was so amazing that I'll definitely re-create this re-created recipe next time. 


A splendid, satisfying winter dish.  I served it with a deep green kale salad with dried cranberries and walnuts, and spaghetti squash.  Winter dinners don't get much better than this.

One 4-1/2 pound grassfed chuck roast (or smaller roasts to total about 4 pounds)

3 tomatoes, diced, or a can of diced tomatoes
1 7-ounce jar or can tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine
1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (about 10 cloves)
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 large leeks, sliced (or put them in at cooking midpoint*)
1/4 cup oregano
1/4 cup thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 bay leaves

Cut roast into even pieces (I cut mine into three chunks) and place them in the slow cooker.

Mix all remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour the red wine into the empty tomato paste jar, cap and shake to rinse all the last bits of tomato paste out.  Pour the sauce mixture over the roast, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

My roast (4-1/2 pounds) was tenderly, meltingly perfect, at 8 hours.  I removed the meat to a casserole, then poured the sauce into a deep saucepan, where I used my immersion blender to turn it into the most amazingly delicious (and starch-free) gravy. 

This recipe easily would serve 8 people.

*It's a myth that removing the slow cooker's cover during cooking releases epic amounts of heat.  You could even leave the lid off and get great results.  So, poke, prod and add to your heart's content!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tom Yum Goong

This incomparable Thai soup requires a trip to your local Asian market, but after that initial effort, it's quick to prepare.

Tom Yum Goong is a magical soup.  It soothes.  It warms.  It invigorates.  I have theories as to why this is so, but it's more satisfying just to enjoy the soup than to talk about it.

Thanks to Michele, the lemon grass is local!  She gave me a lemongrass start which I am nurturing indoors this winter and will set out in Spring.  Lime leaves, lemon grass and tamarind freeze quite well, so keep some on hand to make this soup when you need it most! 


There is room for you to alter this recipe to suit your tastes, but do be careful of the broth-to-seasonings ratio.  I combined many recipes and adjusted until I found perfection. 

1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons red Thai curry paste

6 cups Oriental or chicken stock
4 cloves crushed or chopped garlic
8 kaffir lime leaves
15 inches of lemon grass, cut into 3-inch lengths
8 slices galangal or ginger
1/4 cup tamarind paste (if it has seeds, soak paste in water and strain into soup)
2 cups regular coconut milk (not "lite")

2 cups mushrooms, quartered
2 cups cabbage, cut in 1-inch chunks
2 cups broccoli, separated into florets

12 ounces tail-on shrimp, thawed or fresh
2 medium tomatoes, cut in wedges

Green onion and cilantro to garnish

Combine lime juice, fish sauce and curry paste in small bowl.

Bring stock to boil.  Add garlic, lime leaves, lemon grass, galangal or ginger, tamarind paste and coconut milk.  Boil for 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms, cabbage and broccoli.  Boil for another 3 to 5 minutes until vegetables begin to be tender.

Add shrimp and tomatoes.  Cook just until shrimp turn pink.

Stir in fish sauce mixture.  Serve in bowls.  Top each bowl with green onion and cilantro.  If you like, you can swirl in more curry paste before garnishing, to raise the spice-heat level in individual bowls.

Makes 6 large or 8 smaller servings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Visit to the Northwest Regional Food Hub

For a while now, you've been seeing that little notice in the upper right side of my blog recommending the Northwest Regional Food Hub's "Shop the Northwest" website for placing your order for local products, to be delivered to their store for you to pick up.

Today I actually visited the Northwest Regional Food Hub. 

I get positively giddy when I think about how fortunate we are to have such a varied and vast lineup of truly exceptional food producers in our area.  As a farmers' market junkie, I droop in spirit a tad when the markets end, then perk up when my bi-weekly Winter CSA deliveries start. Now I can get my local food fix in between deliveries.
A refrigerator case of Pure Eire ... pure dairy bliss!  

The Northwest Regional Food Hub is located at 603 Goethals in Richland, and is part of a larger movement to provide improved customer access for small and mid-size producers of fresh food and other products.   At last ... something in our crazy world that makes sense!

As you might guess, people like those who run the Food Hub have a definitive interest in health and clean eating. I had a great discussion with one of them today. She's been grain free for more than three years, and it seems there are actually (!) people interested in learning how to cook for the grain-free lifestyle.   In a moment of crazy enthusiasm, I shared my blog link and said I'd help with that.

Local onions and pumpkins.

The Hub has tastings, classes, farm tours, celebrations, and other events. The best way to keep up with the goings-on at this bustling mecca of local goods is to drop them a note here and request their e-newsletter.  You must do this to stay up to date; things are changing rapidly at the Hub.

For hours and events, check their facebook page (link at top right on my blog) and their website. 

Moxie Organix skin care products:  "Courageous skincare with a heart."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Brussels Sprout Salad from Mixt

A couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves in Bend, Oregon.  At Ginger's Kitchen Shop, I was immediately drawn to their small but amazing selection of cookbooks, many of which I'd never seen before.  Lots of new cookbooks are coming out that use just simple, fresh, unprocessed foods ... and few to no bloating grains, legumes or pastas, which we have been eschewing for some time.  (For some weird reason, I love the word "eschew" when it comes to things not eaten!)

So it was a marvelous treat to page through Mixt, a salad cookbook by Andrew Swallow.  My Schreiber and Sons Brussels sprouts were, I knew, waiting at home ... and I couldn't wait to get there and make this salad!

Adapted from Mixt, by Andrew Swallow

Pomegranates hadn't quite hit the grocery stores when I made this, so I substituted fresh raspberries.  But pomegranates are here now!  Be sure to save your healthy bacon fat for use in other dishes.

1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts (yield 9 ounces leaves when separated)
8 strips uncured bacon, preferably from pastured pork, cut into 1-inch pieces; use 1/2 inch chunks if bacon is thick
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons salted butter or ghee
1 organic Fuji apple, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 white turnip, julienned

Cut off the bottom of each sprout and peel off the leaves.  I ended up with gorgeous little sproutlet hearts; use those, too!

Heat a pot of salted water to boil, and prepare a large bowl of ice water.

Blanch the sproutlet hearts for 1 minute; add to them the sprout leaves and blanch for 2 more minutes.  Drain quickly and throw sprouts/hearts into the ice water.   Set aside.

In medium skillet, fry bacon until perfectly crisp but not crumbly.  Transfer bacon to a small bowl and set aside.  Drain the bacon fat and reserve for other uses.  Add butter or ghee to skillet and melt, then add sage and saute for a minute to flavor the butter.  Turn off heat.  Add mustard and vinegar, then whisk well.

Assemble salads:  In serving plates, place sprout leaves/hearts.  Add apple slices and toss.  Drizzle vinaigrette over.  Season with salt and pepper, and add bacon, pomegranate seeds (or raspberries) and turnips.

Serves three as a main course, four as a side.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baron Farms Pot-Roasted Pork Loin in White Wine with Garlic, Fennel and Rosemary

Roast pork perfection ... thanks to Baron Farms.
Years ago I found a used cookbook by Jamie Oliver, the British chef known for his casual approach to cooking.  Like mine!  Jamie uses great, fresh ingredients and doesn't do fussy.  Like me!

This is one of my favorite recipes ever.  Still, you can play with it .... like I did with Jamie's recipe.  Just be sure to start with local, pastured pork, such as this beautiful loin from Baron Farms in Wapato.  Easily, theirs is the tenderest, most flavorful and succulent roast pork I've ever tasted.

Adapted from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

This is a rustic dish, and goes beautifully with a green salad, grilled vegetables, and chunky applesauce.  My roast was about five pounds, and was bone-in.  It roasted in about 2 hours.   If your roast is boned, it will take less than the indicated time to cook. 

1 3- to 5-pound local pastured pork loin roast, rolled and tied if flat
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Butter and/or olive oil, about two tablespoons

8 or more cloves garlic, peeled or not
A handful (or a couple of branches) of fresh rosemary
4 bay leaves
2 or 3 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced
Half a bottle of white wine (I used Badger Mountain Organic Chardonnay); more if you like

Fennel bulbs sometimes have discoloration on the bulbs.  Just use a peeler to remove it, rather than wasting the fennel!  The bulb on top has been lightly peeled.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season roast with salt and pepper, then sprinkle on the fennel seeds.  In Dutch oven or other heavy pot with lid, brown meat on all sides in butter and/or olive oil over medium-low heat, until roast is nice and golden brown.

Throw in the garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, fennel slices, and wine.  I wanted more juices, so I added a 12-ounce bottle of organic apple juice. 
Here's your roast, ready to go into the oven.
Cover pot and place in oven for about 1-1/4 hours, or until internal temperature (if bone-in roast, test temperature near bone) reads at least 160 degrees.

Remove roast to cutting board and slice.  Remove rosemary, garlic skins (if left on) and bay leaves from juices.  Arrange pork slices in shallow casserole and pour juice mixture over meat.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on size of your roast.