Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Photo Dump

My seeds have been thriving in their newspaper pots. These tiny kales and nasturtiums have been growing furiously and are just about ready to be transplanted outside.
I learned all about sauerkraut and proper fermentation from Firefly Kitchens at an inspiring class, spiked with tangy snacks, hosted by The Pantry at Delancey.
A trip to Vancouver B.C. just isn't the same without watching your noodles cut, pulled or pushed right before they are served to you. I am so glad Sha Lin Noodle House recovered from a little fire incident and is back in action.

We stumbled upon Le Marche St. George while strolling around Vancouver and it was magnificent. A little corner coffee shop/market/cozy hangout locale. Delicious French pastries, farm fresh eggs, fancy chorizo, quinoa and a particularly beautiful orange marmalade filled the spectacular shelves.
The Polish Festival served up some tasty, tasty national delicacies.
Pierogies, keilbasa, stuffed cabbage rolls and dill pickle soup were served up by young people in traditional garb. We chased ours with a Polish beer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vancouver, B.C. Winter Farmers Market

I spent this most beautiful, sunny, warm early spring weekend eating my way through Vancouver B.C. which of course meant perusing the farmers market until my travel compatriots had to pull me away.
Apples were everywhere. Apple juice, apple cider, dried apple slices and of course whole fresh apples were scattered among the market.
The Canadian specialty, maple syrup provided one of the most unique market snacks I have even eaten. Fresh hot maple syrup chilled into a loose lollipop on "snow". I felt like I was Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Baby salad greens, pea starts and stinging nettles were beautiful hints of spring nestled up against the winter farmers market staples; carrots, beets, leeks, onions and parsnips.
The Environmental Youth Alliance was selling saved seeds (awesome!!!) from their Urban Seeds program where they teach youth how to save seeds and to teach and support all of the benefits of saving your own seeds. I wanted to buy them all in support of this amazing organization, but I wasn't sure if it was legal to bring seeds across international borders.
Four vendors were specifically focused on gluten-free baked goods. High Crow had some scrumptious looking cookies, along with baking mixing and bread.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

I have been in a breakfast oatmeal rut. Although I love it, the typical handful of oats microwaved with brown sugar, cinnamon and occasionally banana is far from exciting. This recipe, while similar to oatmeal in a breakfast porridge sense is much more enticing. Made with quinoa instead of oats, there is more protein from a similarly quick cooking grain. I used coconut milk and water to cook the quinoa to add a rich coconut flavor to the base that is spiked with cinnamon and honey. When topped with freshly toasted coconut, hazelnuts, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon it is quite a decadent oatmeal replacement.
Warm and Nutty Cinnamon and Coconut Quinoa adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Makes four breakfast bowls

1 cup lowfat coconut milk (or low fat milk, or soymilk)
1 cup water
1 cup quinoa (rinsed)
1 tablespoon honey, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped

1. Combine the coconut milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, lightly toast the coconut and then the hazelnuts in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stay close, they can both burn very quickly.
3. When the quinoa is done, stir in the honey and cinnamon.
4. Spoon the quinoa into bowl and top with coconut, hazelnuts, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of milk.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beets and Caramelized Onions with Feta

This week I ate a great big mason jar full of beets. I do believe this salad is meant to be eaten on its own but I like mixing it into other things. These beets are great tossed with a handful of baby salad greens or used as a great condiment. I had a few on a quick pita sandwich with falafel and cucumbers. These beets are no where near close to pickled beets, in degree of vinegar intensity, but a few tablespoons adds a nice tang and sweetness of the onions is a nice compliment to the earthy beets. Play with the ratios to up your sweet, salty, tangy or earthy as much as you like then start adding beets to all sorts of lunches and late afternoon snacks.

Beets and Caramelized Onions with Feta adapted from Gourmet

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced into slivers
about 16-oz pre-cooked small beets, quartered (or a diced extra large beet)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
salt and pepper

1. Whisk together vinegar, mustard and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook the onion with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.
3. Add the onions to the dressing, then add beets, stirring gently to combine.
4. Serve sprinkled with feta cheese.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Growing a Farmer

Growing A Farmer is an amazing account of a guy figuring it out, figuring how to live off the land, make a survivable income, raise and care for livestock, make as much of his own food as possible and it is amazing. He tells his story in a frank, truthful and earnest way that is inspiring, moving and educational. If you have ever thought about growing vegetables, having fruit trees, owning land, raising goats, sheep, cows, chickens, pigs or bees, making vinegar, cider or cheese you need to pick up a copy of this book. If you ever wondered how to control the reproduction of animals that weigh a couple hundred pounds, wondered why there is so much veal on the market (tip: it is a dairy production bi-product), thought about cherishing onions, hosting community dinners or selling vegetables at a farmers market this is the book to read. It is especially enjoyable to read this book if you live in the Seattle area because Kurt Timmermeister lives on Vashon Island and not only shares our climate but is very in touch with local regulations, how to get supplies and how the ferries run. I learned more than I ever thought I would from this book and I hope everyone will read it so I can stop babbling at people about it and have some real conversations with other readers.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Carrot and Cilantro Fritters

I am infatuated with Nigel Slater's book Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch. It is one of those book that I keep next to my bed that I can find recipes for the freshest vegetables in my fridge and so that I can daydream about what to make with the veggies that have just sprouted in my window. The chapters are set up by vegetable and prefaced by how Nigel likes to grow them, his favorite seed varieties and tips about harvesting, flavor complements and more. I first flipped through this book last October on an adventure in California and I gushed about it then and unwrapped my own copy for Christmas. The recipes are particularly fun because they have a really loose style. Use a large handful or so of this, a pinch of that, a bushy stalk of rosemary. No need to measure all that closely as long as it smells and tastes delicious, just go with it. These fitters start like your basic vegetable fritter or latke, but with cheese, lots of herbs and of course carrots instead of potatoes they are particularly divine. Beware if you make them home alone, you might be tempted to eat them all, like I did.
Carrot and Cilantro Fritters adapted from Nigel Slater's Tender

Makes: 8 to 12, enough for 2 to 3 people

About 6 large carrots (or 11 ounces)
Half of an onion, peeled
A glove of garlic, crushed
An egg, beaten
3 heaping tablespoon of cheese, a good sharp cheddar or Parmesan
Cilantro leaves, a handful, coarsely chopped
A few green onions, thinly sliced
A heaping tablespoon of all purpose flour
Coarse black pepper and sea salt
Olive oil for shallow frying

1. Grate the carrots by hand into a large bowl. Or push them through a food processor fitted with a grater attachment and then transfer then to a large bowl.
2. Finely slice or grate in and stir into the carrots with the garlic, beaten egg, grated cheese, cilantro, green onions, flour and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
3. Warm a shallow layer of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan. Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, a coupe at a time, and fry until lightly cooked on the bottom. Turn with a spatula and let the other side color. They should take three or four minutes per side.
4. The fritters are ready as soon as they are dark gold. Remove to a warm plate covered with a paper towel to remove any oil. Eat immediately.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moussaka

I don't even know how to being describing how amazing moussaka is. I have had this Saveur recipe bookmarked for months, and somehow my boyfriend got to it first. He made this superb Greek dish for his family, I got the leftovers and it blew me away. We devoured that tupperware filled with spicy, fragrant ground meat, eggplant, potatoes and a creamy sauce topped with crisped cheese. We are both the kind of people that never repeat a recipe, we always like to try something new. But I have been pushing to repeat this one for a good long while now. So a dinner party was formed and we tripled this already huge recipe to feed a large room full of our friends. Next time, to be fair, I have to chop the six onions required to make this dish so delicious. Tears are so worth it people. Layers upon layers of delicious. The thin potato and eggplant slices hide in the most delicious meat sauce ever. Great quantities of onion, garlic and red peppers combined with tomatoes, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and ginger make some serious magic happen. Top the whole thing with a béchamel sauce enhanced with Greek yogurt and topped with cheese. Yup topped off with cheese. It is ridiculously tasty. We even topped the leftovers with a fried egg and ate it for breakfast.
Moussaka adapted from Saveur

Serves: 12!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground lamb (or ground beef)
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
1 28-oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4"-thick slices
1 large russet potato (about 1 pound) cut into 1/4"-thick slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 cups milk
Nutmeg, to taste
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 egg yolks
1 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt and pepper and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer lamb to a large strainer set over a bowl and strain. Discard any liquid left in the pot.
2. Return the pot to the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil along with the garlic, onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, 10-15 minutes.
4. Add the canned tomatoes, and lamb, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set meat sauce aside.
5. Heat the canola oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add teh potatoe slices and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
6. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry, until tender about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to paper towels.
7. Make a béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a medium-large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until pale and smooth, 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add the milk in a steady steam until incorporated. Whisk often, until sauce is thick and reduced to about 2 cups. About 12 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Let sauce cool for 5 minutes.
8. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg yolks and whisk into sauce until smooth.
9. Heat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
10. Assemble. Place the fried potato slices at the bottom of an oval 3-qt baking dish (or a 9x13 baking dish) and season with salt and pepper. Put eggplant slices on top, season with salt and pepper and then cover with the meat sauce. Pour the béchamel over the top of the meat sauce and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over the top and bake until browned and bubbly, 30-35 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spiced Orange and Honey Sorbet

Blessed be those who have inherited ice cream makers. I happen to be one of these lucky people and I love it. I grew up with a freezer full of ice cream, always cookies and cream (my dad's favorite), my mom's rotating favorites (lemon, pistachio), and whatever my brother and I picked out. The variety was excellent. I still love having delicious frozen desserts around, and having my own ice cream maker means the variety factor has increased infinitely. This sorbet is deliciously spiced with ginger and cinnamon, sweetened with honey and enhanced with orange zest. Similar to orange spice tea, this is one cold dessert that starts out hot and fragrant. Your house will smell amazing as the syrup bubbles away. Once the whole mess is frozen it is a smooth, sweet, spiced sorbet. Bright and mysteriously complex. Make sure you juice the oranges after you zest them, use the juice to supplement your most likely store bought orange juice. The more fresh orange, the better.
Spiced Orange and Honey Sorbet adapted from Bon Appetit

Yield: about 4 cups, serving size may vary
Heads up: make to start a day before you want to enjoy, a lot of time is needed for chilling

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons finely grated orange peel (from about 1.5 large oranges)
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cup chilled fresh orange juice
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)

1. Combine the sugar, honey, orange peel, ginger and cinnamon sticks in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Boil until syrup is thick and mixture is reduced to 2 cups, about 12-15 minutes.
3. Strain syrup into medium bowl. Add orange juice and lemon juice.
4. Chill the mixture in the fridge until cold, at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
5. Transfer to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours and up to 3 days.