Monday, April 30, 2012

April Photo Dump

FYI: The Paseo Press sandwich holds together much better than famed Caribbean Roast. 

B. Fuller's Mortar & Pestle is going to open a store in Fremont! They are currently at the Fremont Farmers Market every week and are more than happy to teach you about tea, herbal tisanes and botanical teas. I walked about with a very aromatic blend of cocoa nibs, orange peel, milky oat seed and vanilla bean. 

Barbecue is hot in Ballard. Bitterroot is slinging an impressive selection of bourbon along with pulled pork on these delicious pretzel rolls, brisket, sausages and all the traditional barbecue sides. Everything is served on parchment lined quarter sheet pans. I also had a sour raspberry beer that was surprisingly delicious with this tasty sandwich. 

These peppers have been growing from seed in my bedroom under a light and they have occupied a great portion of my attention every morning for the past few months. I love watching them as they grow from being a tiny shoot to this beautiful plant that will soon move outside and eventually be laden with jalapenos. I am going to pick up the remainder of my garden starts at the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale this weekend. 

Breakfast has been sunny lately. Homemade butter and spiced orange slices made this french toast and potato-ham hash breakfast extra special. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

San Francisco Spring 2012

After a flight, a BART ride and a long exploration walk through Chinatown, we needed nourishment. We posted up in the House of Nanking, which is rumored to have long lines all the time, but at 3:30pm almost nobody has lines. We had the famous super crunchy sesame chicken with sweet potatoes and pickled Chinese squash. 
On this Friday night in the Mission we utilized my favorite long line strategy: put your name on the list, go have a drink somewhere else and then come back to eat. We ate crispy pizza and a stinging nettle calzone at Pizzeria Delfina with Anchor Steam beers.
There was no way to resist the plethora of produce at the farmers market so we bought fresh garlic, lemon grass, cilantro and heavy cream for fresh butter, and steamed clams. We sopped up the broth with Acme bread and had barely steamed asparagus and snap peas with a goat cheese dressing on the side. 
The Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery dished up an amazing brunch. Red eye gravy over fried chicken, crab cakes benedict and a beautifully poached egg with barbecue pork belly over creamy grits. Yes, we couldn't resist trying their unique beers even though it was quite early in the day. 
I had to visit the famed Tartine. Yes, I did insist on waiting in line. We savored a beautiful lemon cream tart with a dollop of whipped cream topped with an edible flower petal, mountain like cocoa nib meringues and a flaky croissant that had an excellent crust. We were not there are the golden hour of bread buying time, I guess we really will just have to use the book (that is living on my bookshelf) and make our own. 
A delicious home cooked meal what the perfect way to end the trip. Homemade bread and chilled white wine started the conversation and we ate a great meal of barbecue salmon with a spread of Bloomgrade produce. Cilantro and garlic topped our salmon, overwintered butternut squashes were pureed and a spring greens were tossed with peas and radishes. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Spring

It was the perfect weekend to visit San Francisco. It was gorgeous, uncharacteristically warm and sunny, sunny, sunny. Our plans to eat our way through the city, had to include the farmers market. We went to the largest (and most crowded) to visit a friend and be continually amazed at how flying a few hours south can make a world of difference in the availability of local produce. 
This week at the market there was a goat festival! These cute kids were up for petting and there were samples of delectable local goat cheeses, goat milk caramels, yogurt and kefir made from goat milk as well as goat milk ice cream. There were also cooking demonstrations with local chefs on how to use goat products. 
Happy Girl Kitchen Co. is one of my favorite San Francisco local vendors. They not only sell at local farmers markets but they have a permanent store front in the Ferry Building, a café in Pacific Grove and offer classes and workshops about food preservation. I walked away with spicy pickles carrots and an ice cold jar of lavender lemonade after trying candied orange peels and admiring the blood orange marmalade, quince jelly and pickled peppers. 
Rancho Gordo may not grow all of their beans in Northern California but their special projects in Southern California and Mexico are preserving rare varieties that are as beautiful as they are delicious. All of their beans fresh enough to be planted so plant a few before you enjoy the whole bag, you can replenish your pantry and save your own seeds for next year. 
If you frequent any farmers market in Seattle I hope you will join in my amazement and jealously of the array of available produce in the bay area. Citrus! Varieties of kumquats, tangerines, oranges, lemons, limes that can’t even be found in grocery stores here are available grown organically, and locally. There are avocados! And dates! Even olive oil pressed from California olives. San Francisco has it good. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Sorbet

Sometime store bought products are ridiculously addictive, not because are artificial additives and ridiculous amounts of fake cheese, but because they are simply amazing. Chocolate Coconut Sorbet is amazing, you can now buy it at the store, but it is infinitely more fun to make your own. David Lebovitz has a version, as does Melissa Clark, who I adapted this recipe from. Lots of people compare the flavor to a Mounds bar, but I prefer to reference the Theo dark chocolate toasted coconut bar, which is way, way better. This rich, smooth, fluffy sorbet is extremely addictive. I speak for those who I have watched eat an entire pint in one sitting. You can of course eat it right out of the container, but it is also delicious spruced up with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of shredded coconut.
Chocolate Coconut Sorbet adapted from Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

Makes 1 1/2 pints

2 (15-ounce) cans unsweetened (regular or light) coconut milk (3 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces chopped dark chocolate
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir the coconut milk and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and add the chocolate, cocoa powder, dark rum and salt, whisking until smooth.
2. Transfer to an airtight container, chill in the refrigerator until very cold. At least 1 hour (and up to 2 days)
3. Freeze the mixture in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer.

Serve with chocolate sauce and shredded coconut.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake

I wanted to make a rhubarb dessert for Easter, I so badly yearned for a rhubarb pie, or tart, or galette. Anything that would highlight this tangy, tart, delicious sign of spring. But the farmers market didn't have any rhubarb, and the only rhubarb I could find at the grocery store was tiny, sad and rotting at the ends. I couldn't bring myself to buy it. But this week I was graced with an amazing surprise present. A copy of Nigel Slater's newly released book Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard was nonchalantly handed to me over a cup of tea. Apparently junk email sometimes tells your boyfriend when beautiful counterpart cookbooks are being released and sometimes he buys them for you on a whim. Sometimes life is grand. Needless to say I spent that evening poring through my new, beautiful book detailing how to grow, cook and enjoy pears, currants, peaches, rhubarb, quinces, strawberries, hazelnuts and much, much more. And then we had to cook something. Luckily BalMar had beautiful stalks of rhubarb and we enjoying this scone like cake filled with tangy roasted rhubarb that same night.
Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake adapted from Nigel Slater's Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard

Feeds 8 people

For the filling:
1 pound rhubarb
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water

For the crust:
3/4 cup coarse polenta
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
a teaspoon of baking powder
a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest of a small orange
10 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, chilled
a large egg
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
a tablespoon demerara sugar

1. Lightly oil or butter an 8-inch springform cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Trim the rhubarb, cut each stem into short pieces and put them in a baking dish. Toss with the sugar and the water. Bake for thirty to forty minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape.
3. Remove the pieces of fruit from the dish and put them in a colander to drain. Reserve the extra liquid to serve with the cake.
4. Mix the polenta, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar in a food processor. Add the grated orange zest and the butter, cut into smallish pieces, then blitz for a few seconds until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, mix in a large bowl and by hand break up the butter into tiny pieces. I agree with Nigel, "it is an extraordinarily peaceful thing to do if one has the time.")
5. Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons of milk, then blend into the crumble mix either in the food processor or by hand. Stop as soon as the dry ingredients ad liquid have come together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. It it isn't a little sticky, then add a touch more milk.
6. Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the cake pan, pushing it 3/4 inch up the sides. Makes sure there are no large cracks or wholes. Place the rhubarb on top, leaving a small rim around the edge. Crumble lumps of the remaining polenta mixture over the fruit with your fingertips. Scatter over the demerara sugar.
7. Bake for forty-five to fifty minutes, then cool a little before attempting to remove from the pan. Serve in slices with the reserved rhubarb juice.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ballard Farmers Market: Early Spring Finds

Looking for something to do this weekend? My favorite Sunday thing-to-do is taking a stroll around the Ballard Farmers Market. Spring vegetables are just starting to emerge and there is a plethora of overwintered veggies and greens. One thing that always blows my mind is the sale of edible weeds like chickweed and dandelion greens. I applaud the vendors entrepreneurial initiative but, why not harvest your own?
Unbeknownst to me, Sea Breeze Farms has been selling wine! I have been in love with Sea Breeze since I read this article. They have delicious bratwursts, along with a large selection of other sausages, pates and standard pork cuts. Once they had a whole pigs head for sale, therefore they are awesome.
Nash's Organic Produce has upgraded the packaging on most of their grain products. While gallon sized ziplock bags are practical, I love the look of the brown paper packaging. Stop by for all of you wheat berry, rye flour, buckwheat flour and soft white wheat flour needs.
It looks like a great week to start your garden. Cascadian Edible Landscapes is a market staple. (Check out the tiny frond like dill starts!) The Seattle Urban Farm Company will also be there this Sunday with plant starts, organic fertilizer and whatever else they have been working on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spiced Orange Slices

I have been poring over The Joy of Pickling as I plant my early spring vegetables and keep at watchful eye on tiny jalapeno sprouts living in my bedroom. While I can't wait to make pickled peppers, green beans and cucumbers I have been flipping through the fruit pickles with increasing interest. Apparently all around the world not only have vegetables been pickled but fruits have been as well. It makes complete sense, it is a great for of preservation, we just don't typically associate the tang of pickles with fruit. To calm you fears these oranges have much, much less vinegar than a standard pickle recipe and they result in sweet, glazed preserved oranges that are fragrant with cinnamon. You do eat the entire rind, which has been softened during the cooking process, which also eliminates the bitterness of the peel. The majority of these oranges were devoured with Easter ham. The extra juice was slathered over the ham as it roasted and the orange slices were a delightful accompaniment. They are also delicous as a snack or chopped up and added to yogurt or salad dressing, much like an orange marmalade.
Spiced Orange Slices adapted from The Joy of Pickling

Makes 3 pints

8 large or 10 medium-size seedless oranges
4 cups sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks, about 3-inches each

1. Cut a thin slice from either end of the orange, so that you can see the flesh and membranes. Rest the orange on one of the flat sides. Using a sharp knife slice the orange in half and then into 1-inch wide slices. Repeat with all the oranges.
2. Put the orange sections into a large nonreactive pot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the oranges for 45 minutes to 1 hour, covered until they are tender. Drain well.
3. In another large nonreactive pot, combine the sugar, the vinegar, the 1/2 cup water and the cinnamon sticks. Add the orange slices and bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the oranges for about 1 hour, until they are well glazed.
4. Pack the oranges into sterilized half-pint or 12-ounce jars. Cover the oranges with hot syrup and close the jars with two-piece caps. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.
5. Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Note: I halved the recipe and kept them in a quart sized mason jar in my fridge. I didn't bother with the boiling-water bath because I planned on eating them within a few weeks.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Matzo Brei

I read about matzo brei, and read about it and still couldn't wrap my head around why people were so in love with it. Water logged crackers, tossed in eggs and fried? Wacky. But when Ruth Riechl swears by it, it must be good. So I tried it and these simple ingredients do turn out a quite tasty base for just about anything. Matzo brei can be made sweet or savory depending on what you serve them with or what you add to the batter. This batch of matzo brei was decadently savory, topped with a rich chicken gravy and served with deep purple mustard greens. But I could have followed them up with a batch smeared with raspberry jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Ruth's recipe calls for a whole stick of butter, I was afraid. I had to go for a recipe that called for less, but if you are less of a wimp follow Ruth's advice and add more butter.
Matzo Brei adapted from Bon Appetit

Feeds two

2 sheets of matzo
2 eggs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Break matzo into 1/2'' pieces and place in a colander. Run under very hot tap water for 30 seconds.
2. Beat eggs in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.
3. Add drained matzo; mix until combined and a wet better forms.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
5. Spoon 1/4 cupfuls of batter into the skillet, making 4 pancakes. Fry, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 1 minute per side.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pear Oatmeal Muffins

I find pears to be fickle, it is so hard to use them because when you want them they are rock hard and then you forget about them and they turn to mush just waiting to sneak through a weak spot in their skin as they sit in the fruit basket. I impatiently tried to make a pork tenderloin with rock like pears earlier this week, only to (as could be predicted) end up with a flavorless sauce and pears that took forever to get soft even in a 475 degree oven. But as the week progressed the leftover pears ripened and before they became worm food I turned them into these perfect breakfast muffins. They are kept moist with yogurt, egg whites, honey and pear puree, no butter or oil needed here. Just delicious pear goodness spiced up with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. I had half a mind to sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of the muffins and I just might have to next time to add a tempting crunch, or I might use whole wheat flour to send them in a more nutritious direction. We will just have to see what happens the next time I manage to have perfect pears and the time to cook them at the same time.
Pear Oatmeal Muffins adapted from Tea and Cookies

Makes 12 to 15 muffins

1 1/4 cup all purpose (or whole wheat) flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pear puree (mash up some soft pears, or use applesauce)
4 egg whites
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup honey
1 large firm pear pilled, cored and diced
extra pear slices for decoration
paper muffin cups

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Prepare muffin tins with muffin cups or grease well.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to blend and make a well in the middle.
3. Lightly beat the egg whites until they are foamy and hold a bit of their shape.
4. Add the yogurt, pear puree and honey to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the egg whites and gently fold into the batter. Add the diced pear, mix briefly to incorporate.
5. Fill each muffin tin 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The tops of the muffins should brown slightly.