Monday, August 29, 2011

Baked Chile Rellenos with Corn and Crema

The weak-sauce summer in Seattle this year has made it particularly hard to grow a decent crop of any heat-loving crop. Tomatoes are still green and all of the eggplants and peppers I have seen are tiny, sad versions of what they could one day become if it were not for the looming frost in the near future. However, across the lake in Kirkland, a friend with a south facing wall was able to grow some amazing peppers, he has way more than he knows what to do with, and there are more and more available to harvest everyday. A portion of the exceptional bumper crop of poblano peppers made their way to my hands and I immediately started looking up chile relleno recipes. The smell of roasting peppers is priceless, I usually only get to enjoy it in the summer, when local farmers pull out huge roasters at the farmers market. But it is super simple to roast peppers in small batches over a gas stove at home and they fill the kitchen with the best aroma. I almost ate them plain, but I am glad I resisted because they were even better stuffed with corn, onions, spicy sausage, cotija cheese, crema and cheddar cheese. It is the best of summer produce paired with creamy, salty and crispy dairy products.
Baked Chile Rellenos with Corn and Crema adapted from Serious Eats

9 poblano chiles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen and thawed)
6 oz diced, pre-cooked spicy sausage (about to large sausages)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/2 cup crema, or sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Roast your peppers. If you have a gas stove, turn heat to high on one of the burners, and set as many of the poblanos as will fit on the grate. Cook, flipping and moving the chiles frequently with a pair of tongs, until blackened on all sides. If you don't have a gas stove, turn on your broiler to high. Place the chiles on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil, and place underneath the broiler. Cook, flipping occasionally with a pair of tongs, until blackened on all sides.
3. When the chiles are blackened, transfer to a large plastic ziploc bag and seal. Let then steam for at least five minutes. Peel off the blackened skins. Cut a slit down the side of each, starting under the stem and continuing down to the tip. Carefully remove the seeds being careful not to tear the chile. Place the chiles on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until heated through, and the sausage starts to get some caramelized color, about 3 minutes. Add the corn until it is heated through about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Add the cotija and cilantro to the onion, sausage, corn mixture. Stir to combine.
6. Equally distribute the filling into the peppers carefully with a spoon.
7. Spread a spoonful of crema onto the top of the filling inside of each pepper and liberally sprinkle with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
8. Bake peppers in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Turn on the broiler to high and cook until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pickling for the First Time

Pickling project: completed. The results won't be available for at least a week, but I couldn't wait to share some pictures because I think that these pickles are ridiculously beautiful. All of these pickles were based off of a New York Times Cookbook quick dill pickle recipe, so they will be ready to eat in about a week and will last for about a month with out being vacuum sealed.
All of the produce came from the Wallingford Farmers Market. Green and yellow wax beans, heirloom tomatoes, orange and purple carrots, pickling cucumbers and a mix of green and purple cabbage are melding with fresh dill, garlic, a variety of dried herbs and a few Serrano peppers. 10 quarts jars are chilling in the fridge, waiting to be opened and devoured. Results to come soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Honey Harvest at the UW Farm

I witnessed my first honey harvest this week, and it was a spectacular experience to see how honey is stored by honey bees and how we extract this natural sweetener. The UW Farm hosted this public event along side a delicious baking day, utilizing the cob oven on the farm to cook up pizzas and other treats while the honey was being collected. Hosting bees is an easy way to supply pollinators to the plants in the area, these hives create more habitats for healthy bee colonies. Although they do need tender love and care, bees are relatively easy to maintain and have a sweet payoff.
The farm has had a beehive for years, but this summer we were lucky to host a beekeeping class and there are now several hives hosted on the farm. The farm has been abuzz with bees taking in their fill of summer's bounty. The class also built a bee wall. Somebody please inform me of the proper term for this structure, because I am at a loss. But I am so glad we have one. It is secured in a shed and there is a tube structure that allows the bees to fly in and out of the frame to deposit their nectar. The queen bee is denoted by a dot on her abdomen, and if you look close enough you can find her among the busy worker bees who are filling the honeycomb with sweet, sweet honey.
The beekeeping class had already removed the honey 'super's from the hives, to prepare them for harvest. The honey is collected mostly in the top frame, called the honey-super, while the bees live in the brood-box below. Once inside, and free of bees, we were able to start the honey removal process. We used a very medieval looking, but electric, uncapping knife to remove the beeswax from each individual frame so that the honey was exposed. The frames were then placed in a honey extractor, or centrifuge, that spins the frames around in a large metal cylinder so that the honey flies out of the comb structure and drains out into a prepared bucket. The frames can then be placed back in the super and the bees can begin to refill the honeycomb. The honey then needs to be strained to remove any leftover beeswax, or other residue. But then it can be directly poured into airtight containers to bring home and enjoy! And if anyone gets ambitious they can turn all of the fresh beeswax into lovely candles to get themselves through the winter.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Almond Blueberry Cookies

I generally find my baking mistakes horribly embarrassing. I have messed up this recipe just about every time I have made it. The first time I made them I didn't have eggs this latest go around used the wrong measuring cup and accidentally halved the flour. Every time I am mortified that in that moment I was unable to properly follow a recipe. But many cases, and especially in this one, the mistakes have produced something truly amazing. These cookies are thin butter crips, studded with thin almonds and plum blueberries. They have an incredible amount of flavor from the lemon zest and almond extract. If you want a more cake like cookie, double the flour in the recipe.
Almond Blueberry Cookies adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest, about 1 lemon
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and drained

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
2. In another medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer or by hand with a rubber spatula. Add milk, almond extract and lemon zest.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold in the almonds, then the blueberries. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
5. Using a tablespoon, dollop mix onto lined or greased cookie sheets. Bake until golden brown around the edges 10-13 minutes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Melon Salsa

I realized a few days ago that I had not purchased a melon all summer. A true summer produce travesty. Luckily the latest Sunset magazine featured melons in their latest edition and came away with some cantaloupe inspiration. I am a huge fan of salsas made with fruit, I love the sweetness from the fruit and the bright flavor it adds. The cucumber, lime and cilantro are extremely refreshing. I threw some carnitas on toasted corn tortillas, and topped the tacos with a few generous spoonfuls of melon salsa. It was so good that the worst part of my week was forgetting the leftovers I had packed for lunch in the fridge at home. No lunch last minute lunch is satisfying when you were looking forward to eating something this delicious.
Melon Salsa adapted from Sunset Magazine

2 cups diced cantaloupe, or any other orange-fleshed melon (1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes)
1 cup diced cucumber (1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 serrano chile, stemmed, halved and diced
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt

1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Can be made ahead: Up to one day, covered and chilled. Great with chicken and pork.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Uneeda Burger

The best part about summer is being able to eat outside. To gather with family and friends in from out of town around a picnic table with tall cold glasses of lemonade and ice tea after a long exploratory stroll around Seattle in the summer sun. Uneeda, provided us with the perfect place to enjoy our time together. Great outdoor patio and amazing burgers that impressed even the most burger-ambivalent of our party.
I have recently decided that caramelized onions are my favorite vegetable with an adjective attached to it. So I was sold on the very first signature burger, caramelized onions, watercress and blue cheese. My dad had the Sonora with roasted chili relish, jack cheese and cilantro. Mom stuck with the classic. Other burgers had additional tantalizing toppings such as black truffle salt, tempura lemons, and dijon-mayo. Cheese vary from gruyere to manchego to jack. These burgers are hefty, 1/3lb plus and made to satisfy. We had a late lunch, I never got hungry for dinner.
I love when a burger joint can do sides well, it is important to have a great little something to go along with a juicy, flavorful, dripping burger. Uneeda's fries are a fat "skinny" cut, generously sprinkles with course salt. The are perfectly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and salty, salty. Their salads are beautiful, the way all vegetables should be presented. Our chop salad was a beautiful array of shaved manchego, fennel, cucumbers, olives and salami. Next time, I will save some room for a frothy milkshake made with my favorite local Snoqualime ice cream.
Uneeda Burger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Plum and Berry Crisp

My mom went through a summer of making fruit crisps. She used a basic so many cups of fruit to topping ratio, and will probably give me crap for following this recipe so closely. We would just toss a bunch of whatever we had in some sugar and bake up some fabulous concoctions but they are unrepeatable. I lean towards recipes because I like to have the documentation about what was used, how much was used and how it turned out, but my favorite part about recipes is that they are share-able. You can always adjust a recipe to your own preferences, but if you don't have the recipe to start from, you won't even be close. This particular crisp is full of my favorite summer berry, the blueberry and sweet red plums and rich blackberries. I would never have thought to toss these fruits together but I am so glad I did. I have been eating plum and berry crisp for dessert and for breakfast, and I am thoroughly disappointed that there is only one serving left. Crisp are a great way to enjoy summer fruit, the fruit is barely altered, it is able to shine through with its peak-season perfection but it is all warmed up together and topped with a crunchy sweet oat topping.
Plum and Berry Crisp adapted from Gourmet

Filling
1 1/2 pounds red (or purple) plums, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 cup blueberries (5 ounces)
1 cup blackberries (5 ounces)
1/3 to 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Topping
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into bits and softened
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Toss all filling ingredients in a 9-inch x 13-inch backing dish and bake for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, blend together all topping ingredients in a bowl with your fingers until evenly distributed and mixture is crumbly.
4. Stir fruit filling, then sprinkle oat mixture over it and bake until topping is golden and crisp and the fruit is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

Ahh rustic simplicity. Summer, at least summer food is in full swing. I enjoyed with simple gratin last night with a few friends, we ate simply the delicious roasted and seasoned vegetables with some crusty french bread and tall glasses of ice water. It was simple, I worried too simple but it was perfect. The summer tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini are so perfect with basil, thyme some oil oil and salt. They are light and flavorful, and so great alone or on a nice slice of bread. Sometimes there is no need to be overly fancy or showy, especially in the summer when it is best to just let the food speak for itself.
Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Gratin barely adapted from Food and Wine

I eliminated a few ingredients and time consuming steps from the original recipe, if you have the time I would definitely check out the original.

1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
2 small or 1 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a 9-by-13inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
2. Layer the eggplant slices into the baking dish, cut some if necessary. Try to have them evenly cover the entire dish. Brush the eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, 1/4 cup basil and the thyme.
3. Layer the tomato and zucchini slices over the eggplant. Drizzle remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake for 40 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, sprinkle with the rest of the basil and enjoy.