Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fish Chowder with 5 onions and a scallop

We initiated the holiday by sharing some fish chowder and home made bread with a good friend. The warm flickering of candles and flame from the fire made the food taste better! Who needs holiday decorations when you have candles, food, friends! In tribute to Martha - I did pull out the bag of cranberries that I never used for Thanksgiving and floated them in a glass vase of water and thought about adding the remains of my fruit bowl, persimmons, kumdwats and limes. But I was out of time so I didn't.

Potato and 5 onion fish chowder with scallop 
The special treat of this basic everyday chowder was the seared giant sea scallop served with the chowder around it and sprinkled with truffle salt and herb garnishes.
Cod - nearly a couple pounds added after the potato onion chowder base was hot and thick and ready.
Potatoes - I used a couple pounds of yellow finn. I boiled 6 medium-large potatoes, but I used a couple for the bread. They thicken the chowder nicely so that no thickening agent is necessary.
Bacon - I start my bacon in the microwave to get some of the greese out and prevent over greecification of my kitchen. Then I chopped it and browned it in the large soup pot, but rinsed the pot of any blackening before cooking the onions. I used the bacon flavored fat rendered in the microwave for cooking to avoid a harsh flavor.
Onions - Leeks, Yellow onions, shallots, scallions, chives, all sauteed in a drizzle of bacon greese and a dab of butter and S&P.
Herbs and spices: Tarragon, thyme, cayenne, salt &pepper, truffle salt, 7 leaves of fresh tarragon and a couple pinches of fresh mild thyme from my garden. Salt and pepper. Cayenne and truffle salt at the end.
Broth: clam broth and fish broth (one can of clam broth and 2 cups of water from poaching a fish I had in the freezer. I didn't use the fish in the chowder as the texture wasn't great. I may add it to the left overs, otherwise - cat food)
Milk - At least a quart, maybe two? I had 1% milk, so I added a can of condensed milk, then later a 1/4 cup of cream.
Giant Scallops - one per person, seared and browned at the end in a pan of hot butter, placed in the chowder and sprinkled with truffle salt. Adding the cayenne dash and extra tarragon leaves (chives too) just before serving.

The Bread - Inspired by Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe for potato buttermilk bread in her "Bread Bible", but I didn't follow her recipe but improvised according to the time slots I had available.It was a potato theme. Using some of the potato water to make a sponge, I left it out for nearly a day, made it sour. The potato water excellerates the souring. I mixed the powdered buttermilk I had with potato water and added it to the sponge, with yeast and white whole wheat flour and sugar, and buttermilk, as well as some nearly mashed potatoes. The dough was silky soft like any good potato/buttermilk dough should be, though more sour than sweet. I punched the dough down a few times before I had time to form the loaves, raise one final time, and bake. I added chopped red onion just before forming the loaves. We liked it spread with butter for the first taste, but then ate it unbuttered and dipped in the chowder.

The Green Salad - a leafy green salad from baby live growing lettuce of red  and green leaf, butter lettuce and and some dashes of sherry vinegar, olive oil, s&p, topped with delicate enoki mushrooms and mandarin orange slices. 

Vegetarian potato onion chowder variation - the onion potato milk combination was really good before adding the fish, but I goofed by using bacon at this point which didn't meet my vegetarian daughter's needs. She ate the bread with slices of aged cheddar cheese and apricot jam. She also had mashed potatoes with vegetarian gravy I made her, and boiled edemame beans and salad.

No good vegan options.

Monday, December 14, 2009

who woulda thunk

Shelf purchased cream of tomato soup by Pacific resulted in a bland soup. Many options to spice it up. I wanted more acidity and more sweetness so I put a few drops of balsamic vinegar and it was just right! One time I added  pasta shells with gorgonazola from the previous nights dinner and that was good. Do you have a favorite addition to tomato soup? Please do tell!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jerusalem Artichoke Scallop Christmas Soup

Do you have a favorite Christmas seafood tradition? We are not wired to putting down roots. Traditions escape us. We forget. Move on. We live in the vein of inventing the next tradition. Then we forget again. Like when we tried to institute a Sunday Advent celebration with our kids, inspired by our German and Norweign au pairs. Cookies and candles appearing according to the number of the Sundays. It lasted 2 years. Stepping back I can say that more likely than not, we will have some kind of fish soup. For a couple of years, it was oyster chowder. Easy - fresh picked Puget Sound oysters and whole milk with a few chives, basically. Otherwise, crab bisque, or just cracked crab with creamy tomato-red pepper soup. Mussels are so flavorful, I recall a couple years ago in December in Paris, tasting a mussel soup that had unbelievable flavor. The dusting of snow on Paris streets and the steamy windows inside the warm cafe was their secret ingredient. The ultimate of seafood soups, a Mediterranean seafood stew, fish stock flavored with orange, saffron, garlic, etc. and a variety of fish, is the most colorful and satisfying of seafood soups. I am deciding whether or not to create this for a holiday celebration this year.
One year I made this delicious scallop artichoke creamy soup. Very unusual and beautiful looking. I made enough for gifts to family members which meant lots of artichoke peeling! I was pleased to get a supply from a friend who grew them. It helps to have large tubers, or it takes forever to peel the little nobs.

Fish stock, saffron, lemon zest, milk and cream make the base.
Jerusalem artichokes, onion, scallops, sauteed in butter
chopped chives, sliced almonds, chervil or parsley to garnish
I loosely followed the recipe By Anne Sheasby in "The New Soup Bible"
Mine was chunkier. In the puree, I put no scallops and only used half of the jerusalem artichokes. With a good fish broth, I didn't think the scallops needed to be in the puree. The remaining artichokes were diced into the soup. If using large scallops, one could sear them and add to the soup with the garnish.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

About Brazilian Food (and not eating snake) in China

Do you know Brazilian cuisine? Amy Duncan, facebook friend and musician livng in Rio de Janiero, talked with me about cod fish balls in Brazil. I related to her my only knowledge of Brazilian food from a trip to China. I was in central China, Changsha, the town where Mao Zedong came of age. We saw no Westerners in our hotel and rarely around town, and ate no western food. The Chinese food was delicious. Heavily reliant on meat, but hugely flavorful. Our Chinese hosts took us to a different Chinese restaurant featuring some regional cuisine once a day,although this day it was Brazilian. I t was bizare to discover this hang-out of Western folks with the range of hair colors, blonde, brunette, etc. That's where all the visitors or x-pats came to eat. This restaurant style was new to us, yet our Chinese host thought they had brought us home. (yah, overcooked spaghetti and wonder bread? Give me Chinese noodles please). It was an experience. Waiters wandered around the restaurant with big skewers of grilled meat and we served ourselves at a buffet with things like spaghetti and sliced white bread next to tropical fruit salads and other unknown dishes. The restaurants are called Churrascarias. You order your meats from the table, then visit the buffet for the side dishes. Perhaps we shall have to travel to Brazil to try the authentic thing.
There was one specialty Chinese restaurnat on our hosts list that we missed. Our family ended our stay in Changsha one day early in order to experience the train to Shanghai, (and train food). We missed the most unusual specialty. The Chinese hosts took our colleague who stayed behind, to the local snake restaurant. He said that the variety of dishes tasted good if you can get over the idea that you are eating snake. Hard to do when the pots are filled with snake shaped pieces of meat. We had seen snake at the local market. The snake sellers had fun teasing us with the snakes in their hand.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Round of thanks: "thank you for this perfect day"

My friend Linda Kohler posted this gratitude song on her facebook page today, which reminded me of a story. I recall being seasick on my first ocean voyage as a cook one December just before Christmas on the Pacific Ocean. We left the flat and calm Columbia River through the bar to the stormy open ocean. We were delivering a cruise ship for our winter cruises in Baja Mexico. The ship was flat bottomed and light as it was empty of passengers. This meant that our ship crashed with loud BAM, shiver, and shake with the sound of of tied down gear clinking and clanging to the steel hull after every swell.The winds raged up to 80 mph in gusts and the ocean swell was significant. I recall spending a lot of time in my bunk and crawling to the kitchen to prepare meals. I was literally holding on to everything I could to stabilize myself during a trip to the galley while in this nauseous dream state. I was amazed that anyone was eating anything other than saltines and seltzer! but I did my duty, minimum duty of opening cans of clam chowder, then proceeded to burn it. I was stirring in a large pot on the stove and couldn't even tell it was burned as I wasn't tasting anything. When you scorch the bottom of a soup, you taste it throughout. The crew that had stormy motion tolerance made themselves sandwiches! I had the window open for fresh air and the sea spray from the huge waves would blow in. I sang that song while the thrashing of the huge waves rocked me. I loved the recording I had of little children singing it in a round. It comforted me. Returning to flat land, it took a couple days to get my land legs back and I dreamed in motion. Repeated trips eventually resulted in better sea legs and better cooking too! Here is the song!

"Thank you for this perfect day; Truth and Love point out the way" Calm and exalted each morning I pray; Thank you for this perfect day." (Morning Round - Madora Kibbe)

Posting clam chowder, fish chowder, corn chowder, smoked salmon chowder, would be in order. Does anyone want to post their favorite? I made an exquisite scallop/Jerusalem artichoke soup one holiday {that I didn't invent} and it was terrific.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Twist on Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Just in from Rio de Janiero! Amy Duncan has  a delicious recipe for Carrot-Garlic Mashed potatoes, just in time for the holidays! Sounds simple and sweet.

Here is what she says, "cook some carrots and potatoes until soft, brown some garlic in olive oil, mix all together with a little milk, butter, salt and pepper and MASH to the consistency of mashed good!" 

Watch for comments from Amy.

Snap a Nappa Salad

The Asian salad that I snapped together for my daughter's cross country team's potluck last night is posted here, with a few additions. There were 3 requests for the recipe, so thought I'd try to scribble down my notes and post them here. (Skip to the recipe below if you want to miss the slightly graphic description of the local meat section of the Asian market in my neighborhood which may deter you from taking an interest in the recipe.) I live in a neighborhood of immigrant populations, many of them Asian. The Asian supermarkets abound! When I decided to make the salad for tonight, I headed to a shop down the street that is less adapted to the Western tastes. After filling my basket with greens, I wandered down the isles. I passed the refridgerated meat section showing many cuts of pork, and packages of things like spleens and intestines. I saw something that looked like Fois Gras, but it wasn't. Simply raw pigs ears! Not smoked and chewy like my dog Lily loves, but pale pale pink. The most difficult was something watery and red called "pork blood solution". I thought I was brave to look, yet my stomach was churning. Endeavoring to prevent gagging or loosing it right in the store, reminded me of trying to avoid sea sickness while my solid ground was bobbing all over.  The fish section was my relief, a little more friendly. I looked over and dried shrimp and many varieties of fish sauce, jars of pickled cabbage as well as interesting bamboo baskets and urn style pots for the stove. The instant coffee packets with fiber and ginseng made me really curious though. What kind of place did I land in? Am I a foreigner in my own neighborhood? Wonderful!

One medium Napa cabbage. Slice finely and then cut the opposite way once so the strands arn't too long.
2 or 3 trimmed green onions sliced, omitting any tough green ends
1 handful of washed and chopped cilantro. The biggest stems removed and loosely chopped.
4 handfuls of baby spinach, washed and dried
3 handfuls of arugula, washed and dried
Some carrots, peeled and sliced
Generous spoonfulls of sesame seeds (1/2 a handfull or more?)
A large amount of sliced and toasted almonds (one handfull?)
Tofu cubes (note: I like plain but my daughter prefers flavored., so I dipped them in a sauce, (4 parts soysauce and one part maple syrup) concoction and sauteed to brown them and flavor them)
Chives (I added dried chives)
Crisp cucumbers sliced
Garlic powder and ginger powder, salt and pepper, and lemon squeeze and toss the salad.
Toss in a handfull of crunchy wasabi peas and set aside the garnish of cilantro, japanese seaweed crackers and slices of kumquat..
Later at the potluck I tossed the salad with an Asian soy garlic dressing that was purchased. When I make my own, I add peanut oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, squeeze of lemon, toasted sesame oil, water, fresh grated ginger, pressed garlic, salt and pepper, and a little mayo (or a little miso or both).

Favorite additions that I did not use this time: mushrooms, fresh or frozen peas, snap peas, edemame beans (shelled), red cabbage, Kumquat slices, mandarin orange segments, watercress, peanuts instead of almonds, fresh bean sprouts, lime juice instead of lemon, crispy fried rice vermicelli or bean thread noodles, and more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vegetarian challenge: Reubenesque Sandwiches

The best kind of improvisational cooking is when you make sense of some left-overs in a fantastic way and this happened tonight. The cabbage-saurkraut-onion-leek-apple concoction for the Veggie approximation of Chaucroute Garni (see recipe posted in November), was great with the cheese croutons embedded. It occured to me that the reverse would also be good, the cabbage mixture inside the sandwhich griled with cheese.
I used some artisan whole wheat bread slices, but French or rye would be great as well. Spread both sides with a layer of stone ground mustard on the inside and butter on the outside. Then sandwich the cabbage-kraut mixture with some generous slices of Swiss or French mountian cheese (I used Raclette). The sandwich was grilled in a frying pan until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted light brown. Some of you may want to try mayo, horseradish, or dressing on top like they do Reuben sandwiches. The cabbage mixture is moist and I already put butter on the bread which seems sufficient ot me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Creating the Veggie Mushroom Barley Burger

Our July project was creating a delicious and nutritious recipe for grain burgers. We used barley, walnuts, mushrooms, lentils among other ingredients. We obviously wern't too worried about forming them into perfect circles, so our patty looks a little clunky. It browned nicely in a frying pan and held up well between buns with favorite condiments. We added avocado, tomato and greens.  See recipe in the archive under July.

Converting Beef Stroganoff to an oniony-mushroomy Vegetarian Stroganoff (and satisfy even the carnivore?)

My approach: An oniony mushroomy broth and lots of mushrooms and some root vegetables in a creamy a brown sauce topped with chopped chives and parsley and paprika, on your favorite egg noodles or pasta preference. By roasting the vegetables and boiling the onion skin for color, and adding a slight bit of soy sauce, gave the sauce plenty of depth to replace the meat. I added a little orange zest and Spanish paprika and clove because I tend toward Southern France or Spain when I cook beef stew type dishes so it is associated with beef in my mind, thus making me miss the beef less.

2 yellow onions, 3 cloves of garlic
Carrot, parsnip, potato, one large Portobello mushroom (or equivalent smaller)
Quartered Crimini or white mushrooms and sliced shitake mushrooms
White cheddar cheese
Milk, and one of these: Cream, sour cream, canned condensed non-fat milk, or whole milk yogurt/yogurt cheese (made by straining the yogurt overnight).
Olive oil and butter
Bay leaves, Thyme, Cloves, Chives, Parsley, Cayenne pepper, Spanish or Hungarian paprika
Salt, Pepper and Soy Sauce (or marmite)
Truffle oil or truffle salt (optional)

Oniony vegetable base
Cut prepared carrots and parsnips in into coin shaped slices that are then quartered or cubed to make bite sized pieces. Slice onion into ½ wedges. Drizzle a little oil on bowl of vegetables, add Salt and Pepper and mix together. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with olive, sunflower, or other oil. Toss the vegetables, bay leaves, and thyme, the onion skins, into the roasting pan and roast in the oven for 1 hour at a low temp like 325degrees. Stir about every 15 minutes. Add a little water if they begin to dry out too much. Put one potato in the oven by itself while roasting the vegetables. Take the potato out when it is nice and squishy after about 1 hour.

Turn the oven up to 375 and add two large Portobello mushrooms sliced and diced, stirring well. Add a little water if necessary to coat the vegetables better when you stir. Roast at this temperature 15 minutes or until portobello is cooked. The veggies should be just sticking to the bottom of the pan, but not burned or too dried out.

Pasta: in the meantime, you can cook your pasta to a chewy consistency so it doesn’t turn to mush later. Your favorite stroganoff noodle will do just fine. I also like a corkscrew noodle or some imported (woops, not local) fancy chewier egg noodles that have extra eggy flavor. Drain the pasta and place it in an oven proof casserole with salt, pepper and enough butter to keep the noodles form getting sticky.

Mushrooms: Also in the meantime, slice and sauté in butter a couple dozen crimini mushrooms and maybe 8 thinly sliced Shitake mushrooms, with tough part of the stem removed. (You can also add these to the vegetable roast a little bit after the Portobello pieces. But I wanted to protect these from roasting so I cooked them separately). Place them in the casserole dish.

Roux: Combine flour and butter and milk to make a roux. Maybe 3 Tablespoons of butter to ¼ cup of flour and add milk to thin. (Sorry, I didn’t measure precisely).

Broth: When the roasted vegetables are done, take out the vegetables and put them in the casserole dish. (You may wish to discard the carrot and parsnip at this point if you don't want to bite in to a non-traditonal flavor in the stroganoff). Toss the onion skin back in the roasting pan. Add 1or more cups of water and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce or marmite (yeast extract), a clove or two and boil, stirring to release the stuck on flavors of the roasted vegetables. Strain the liquid.

Casserole: So you have your casserole dish with the pasta, the veggies, the mushrooms and now you need to finish your sauce.

Sauce finale: Combine roasted vegetable broth, 1 peeled mashed potato and flour roux, adding broth or milk as necessary to create a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and one dash or cayenne pepper. Add the orange zest about 1 teaspoon full. Add 1 T of tomato paste or 1/3 cup Red or Marsala wine. (I used tomato sauce form a tube) Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream . You could add yogurt or cream at this point instead of sour cream and try reduced condensed milk or cream instead of the flour roux, but the roux will help the sauce not get sopped up by the pasta so easily.

Topping: little bit of finely grated white cheddar cheese or else toasted buttered bread crumbs
Drizzle of truffle oil or sprinkle of truffle salt on top
Dash of Spanish smoked paprika or Hungarian paprika across the top
Fresh chopped parsley
Fresh chopped chives

You can place this in the fridge for a later reheating, but the pasta will absorb liquid so make sure you have enough sauce if you do this and be prepared to revive the sauce with some broth and a little cream or evaporated milk.

Place in a hot oven about 375 degrees, 20 minutes or more before serving to heat.

For upped protein content, add garbanzo beans to the veggie roast, add firm tofu or tempeh slices that have been browned with a little soy sauce and oil , or add cubes of aged gouda cheese to the casserole dish., Also good would be egg plant chunks. To make the flavor less earthy, take out the rutabaga. My daughter is not fond of the flavor, but I find it adds a satisfying complexity.

To simplify this recipe: Omit things or substitute with what you have on hand, use only one kind of mushroom and use purchased vegetable broth and onion soup to mix with the roux. Sautee onions and mushrooms.

Vegans could try this by choosing a pasta without eggs and omitting the dairy and using cashew cream, cashew butter whipped with water until sauce consistency.

Now I need my recipe tester/tweakers (you) to get the proportions right. Let me know!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Proper Pilaf in 35 minutes

You don't think I could post the 5 minute recipe without posting a proper one do you? While your brown Jasmine rice is cooking, you can prepare the rest. First, boil some lentils. I like using channa dal, they look like little baby split chick peas, and have a flavor and texture that I like. Red lentils are also fast cooking and good to use, or use both. I would spice the rice with butter, ginger, onion, cilantro, coriander, cardamom, salt and pepper, chile pepper, mustard seed. Heat the mustard seed in a skillet with a little oil until they pop. You can add a little tumeric if you want to up the golden color. Or else you can add saffron but not both. You can add a bay leaf but leave out the cilantro. You can add cinnamon stick pieces. I like to put dried apricot bits, golden and brown raisins, cashews or almonds. This can be done in 35 minutes or less.

Serving this with Yogurt and Mango pickle is a must!

5 minute Improv - Vegetarian Pilaf

So the brown Jasmine rice took 30 minutes to cook. Other than that, it was a delicious and easy one pot meal. The leftovers from the previous night's stir-fry intended for a second meal, were eaten at lunch. Veteran's day, the teenager was home for lunch. I was going to ask her to make herself a quesadilla or something while I zipped out to a meeting, but the improv bug hit me. (Or I'm a softy momma realizing my youngest child is about to launch and I will miss taking care of her). I put some rice on to cook and managed some other work for 30 minutes. Then I opened a can of Amy's vegetarian lentil soup with vegetables and heated it. While wondering where I was going with this meal, I just decided to pilaf it. I threw in a couple handfuls of raisins and sliced toasted almonds. I seasoned this with a chutney I had on hand made locally, it could be recreated by blending cilantro, garlic, lemon, water. Then I added the lentil soup and stirred. Since it was in pilaf format, the mushy texture of canned lentil soup didn't bother me and the flavors were delicious with the lemon cilantro addition. I think the teaspoon of butter I folded into the rice made it yummy too. Keeping it simpler, I avoided the dried apricots and pistachio nuts. "Next time, I'll add those and everything from scratch, including fresh spices". My daughter looked up at me with a smile of proud recognition as she served herself a bowl, "This looks like a kind of pilaf!" Knowing that she doesn't always know what to call my creations, I affirmed that yes it was, as if I had intended to create a pilaf  from the start. It's unlikely that she bothered to make the salad that I suggested from bagged wild greens and dressing on hand (sigh), but I had to run to a meeting.
This would be delicious served with the Indian condiments like Patak's hot and sour lime, mango or carrot pickles mixed with or next to plain yogurt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vegetarian conversion of Chaucroute Garni

Due to the lack of submissions for the November recipe challenge I posted, I decided to challenge myself to convert one of my favorite meat dishes to something vegetarian. I chose the famous Alsatian slow food peasant dish, Chaucroute Garni, sans meat! Hold on now, we aren’t just going meatless, we are going full flavor vegetarian! Crazy for sure.

The full charcuterie dish with the variety of slow cooked smoked meats and sausages are a favorite flavorful tender way of eating meat. I use to make this once per year for the family. Now the family prefers vegetarian, so I puzzled over how I could experience the wonderful sweet and sour of apples and sauerkraut with other flavors that would satisfy in a way that it was not just a vegetarian dish with the meat missing. Here is what worked best in my opinion.

The base flavor: onions, leeks, sauerkraut, apples and apple juice, cabbage, bay leaf, juniper berries, celery leaves or flat leafed Italian parsley, with some butter added to blend the flavors and mellow the acidity.

The meat: croutons of toasted crusty French baguette slices with stone ground mustard and a flavorful. Swiss/French mountain cheese. I used Raclette and know that Grueyere would also be wonderful. One could stop here for simplicity, and I would, but I didn't this time. I then added smoked potatoes and tea smoked eggs to parallel the smoky variety in the meat dish. Use pheasant eggs if you have access to them, otherwise, chicken eggs. The next round, I'd like to try the addition of cloves of roasted elephant garlic as one of the "meats". I avoided the imitation meats because I don’t really like the texture or taste, but one could try varieties of tofu sausages and slices of field roast or smoked tempeh bacon if they like that sort of thing. You might need to add additional sauerkraut, cabbage and apples to cover the additions.

Prep: slice the onions like apple slices, core and slice the apples like apple slices, thinly slice the cabbage the circle way, (the opposite way than apple slices). Wash the leek well behind the ears, looking for mud in the folds. Slice the white and lighter green parts of the leeks to look like coins. Peel and boil small round potatoes until just cooked, still firm and holding their shape. Use any variety. Organic potatoes tend to be more flavorful. Purple or blue ones would be good for this dish. I used yellow potatoes.

1. Stove top: sauté one large onion and one large leek, in butter and salt and pepper. Add about 2 cups of cabbage and 2 cups of sauerkraut rinsed, 3 or 4 apples sliced (I used a mixed variety), apple juice depending upon how juicy the apples are, I'd say about 1/2 cup, a few of the celery leaf tops, 1 bay leaf, a few juniper berries, a few shakes of course pepper and sea salt. Add a couple tablespoons of butter, then sauté until everything is wilted and somewhat tender. Check the balance of flavors. If it's not sour enough, add a little apple cider vinegar or more kraut. If it's not sweet enough, add more apple juice.  Some recipies add wine – a Riesling, I did not think it was necessary without the meat. If you use this, ajust the balance of sweet and sour flavors accordingly. Celery salt or caraway seed would work well in this dish.

2. Drain the boiled potatoes and sauté for a few minutes in a hot pan with a drizzle of smoked oil (I happen to have a smoked grape seed oil from a vineyard in Washington) add several shakes of smoked paprika just before finishing. One could smoke the potatoes in a smoker but roll in a little oil and smoked spanish paprika first.

3. Brew black tea in a small sauce pan. Add a drizzle, maybe a tablespoonx or two of maple syrup and several shakes of the bottle of some smoked oil. (Next time I am going to buy some Lapsang Souchong smoky tea and do it the Chinese way and you don't need smoked oil, although it the tea flavor could be too earthy and assertive for this dish). Boil the eggs whole. Cool and crack the eggshells a little all over, but don't peel. Return the eggs to the liquid and I added a small amount of soy sauce to make the color darker.
4. Toast slices of chewy French baguette. Cover each side with whole grain mustard, and place sliced cheese between the layers to make a sandwich.

Assembly: If you have individual casseroles, put one egg, one mustard-cheese crouton sandwich, one or two potatoes and cover with the saurkraut vegetable mixture. Cook at medium oven temp of 350 for a minimum of 15 minutes, at least until the cheese is melted. Otherwise, follow the steps to placing ingredients into a larger casserole dish. I want to say this serves 4, but I need to make it again to confirm proportions.

To be extra fancy, serve with a garnish of cornichons or baby dill pickle slices, a dab of whole grain mustard, and a few toasted walnut halves.

Friday, October 30, 2009

November Challenge

November recipe conversion challenge: Post your interests in converting favorite dishes to local foods, vegetarian or vegan versions. We will brainstorm a recipe and throw it back at you. Just for fun. First 4 inquiries.

My Julia Child Story

My Julia Child story: Fresh out of college I was looking for adventure and landed a job as a cook for a company that operated wildlife tours on small cruise ships in Alaska and Baja Mexico. Having a degree in creativity and risk taking (equals fine art) and an adventurous spirit, cooking on a tour boat was just the thing. Most of the passengers were well educated, but not uppity, neither was the food. Our chief cook was from Minneapolis and created menus from her knowledge base with dishes such as hot kidney bean salad with cheddar cheese chunks and tons of mayonnaise, and hot German potato salad with apple cider vinegar and bacon. These were big hits! Okay, so it was the early 80's. The good news is that we managed to update the menu to a more contemporary Northwest seafood gourmet style of cooking utilizing our liberal arts degrees, recipe research and a little chutzpa, ( adlib by the creative types). One time, we tripped upon a dessert by accident that we were told, "if Julia Child tasted this, she would have died and gone to heaven". Here is the story. One time our freezers went out. Remember, this is a small cruise ship and we are away from port so no grocery store stops in emergencies such as this. While the engineers worked on fixing the problem, our dessert, the chocolate ice cream, became limp and gooey soft. We didn't discover our problem until it was time to serve desert. Being good problem solvers, we improvised a bit. We devised a new dessert made up of short and wide clear plastic cups filled with the melty ice cream, then we opened a gazillion Sanka packets and sprinkled a little instant decafe on top of each one and speared it with a straw and a spoon to show intenTionality. If we had known about global warming, we would have called it Ice-melt mocha moose frappe (we are in Alaska, thus the "moose", and the glaciers were receding around us like the melting contents of our freezer).

The next day, a lady introduced herself as Julia Child's neighbor in Massachusetts. She said that she loved the food on this trip and especially the mocha-chocolate-mousse like dessert and was eager to tell Julia all about it! She also told us about dinners with Julia at her house. We asked her how anyone could pull off a meal without experiencing major intimidation, for such a superstar of haute cuisine. She answered that Julia is great to cook for because she is appreciative of everything. She always expressed enthusiasm because she just loved food.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Green & Gold Veg Lasagne for the kiddo

I made up another recipe today. This one is dedicated to my vegetarian teen
Here are the layers
a little bechamel sauce
layer of lasagne noodles
sauteed spinach with 2 cloves of garlic and olive oil sprinkled across the base of the lasange
layer of arugula uncooked, it will wilt
layer of sweet Walla Walla onion poached like any vegetable (leeks would also be amazing in this)
sprinkling of cottage cheese
sprinkling of parmesan cheese
layer of Pasta
steamed zucchini slices
cottage cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Layer of pasta
cover with sauteed Chantrelle mushrooms in a little wine and butter
Mix the sauce with remaining bechamel sauce and use half to cover chantrelles
sprinkle a little parmesan cheese over this layer
top with a layer of pasta, cover with the remaining sauce, grated mozarella cheese and small cubes of fresh smoked mozzarella cheese

Poached-Broiled Kasu Style Black Cod

Black Cod is an exquisitly delicious fish, with buttery flesh that is so tender, it dissolves in your mouth. Poaching the fish help reduce the amount of oil, while infusing the fish with flavor. Covering it with a miso paste and broiling it, gives you a flavorful sweet and salty crust. The traditional recipe marinates the fish in the paste. Since I poach it instead, the reduced oil content ends up just right for my tastes while still velvety and rich. Sometime I will try this with the namesake ingredient for this recipe Kasu, which consists of left-over sediments after making sake, but this recipe is divine just as it is.
2 Black Cod steaks (fillets work and salmon can be substituted)
For Poaching:
generous amount of fresh ginger, maybe a one inch piece chopped
variety of onions, scallions, leeks or chives, and yellow onions
Sprigs of Cilantro
(Other asian greens are optional like baby bok choy or baby spinach greens)
lemon juice or rice wine
Salt and Pepper
4 cups of water
Poach until fish is close to cooked. It will fall apart when it is cooked. Make sure it is still firm at the core. With a slotted spoon, transfer fish and onions to broiler safe dish. Add a few spoonfuls of the broth, but don't let it get too deep.
Cover fish with the following topping and broil until the top of the fish crisps.
topping for broiler: 1/2 cup of red miso, 1 T. soy sauce or sea salt, 2 T. brown sugar, 1 t. lemon juice (or rice wine)
Serve fish with the onion mixture and serve with a few spoonfuls of broth from the broiler dish.
Remaining broth can be used as a base for an asian soup on another day.
If anyone wants me to be serious about proportions, let me know and I'll make it again and measure!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Veggie Burger

What we call Veggie burgers are known as cutlets in Indian cuisine, just served with buns and condiments. True to the Improv Chef style, this could be adapted to ingredients on hand, as well as prepared vegan without cheese and egg white.

1 c. Barley cooked in vegetable broth
3/4 c. Yellow lentils, cooked
1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chopped mushrooms cut down about the size of a pea (shitake, crimini, or both)
3/4 c. grated or finely chopped white cheddar cheese
1/4 c. finely chopped sweet yellow onion
2 T. chopped green onion
4 T. Almond flour
2 egg white
garlic salt
salt & pepper

I cooked the barley the day before. Cook it at least one hour to the stage where it is starting to mush up. You want enough liquid so that it will blend together and help bind the ingredients. Mixed all ingredients together. Reserve 1 cup of mixture and add the rest to the cuisinart and blend on the pulse mechanism on/off 6times (about 20 seconds). Return to bowl and add the reserved chunkier variety. This should be sticky enough to make balls. Flatten the balls into "cutlets" or "burgers".
I used a drizzle of "fume grapeseed oil" but any cooking oil will do, in a non-stick pan. I cooked the cutlets on medium high heat until crispy and brown on both sides. Serve with your favorite condiments, or sauce, loaded with avocado, tomato, sprouts, what ever you can fit on a bun! Enjoy!

Recipe with notes on alternatives:
1 c. Barley cooked in vegetable broth (or short grain brown rice cooked in veg broth)
1/2 c. Yellow lentils, cooked (cooked or canned and drained pinto beans, white beans or black beans)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (subtitute or combine with cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds)
1/2 c. chopped mushrooms (shitake, crimini, or both)
1/4 c. chopped cheese (cheddar or other mild cheese works well, blue cheese or feta is a delicious alternative, vegans can use soy or almond cheese, or leave this out. It helps bind when it melts)
1/4 c. chopped yellow onion (red onion is a georgous alternative, or just use green and add a littel extra)
(You could add more veggies like cooked grated carrot, edemame beans, cooked peas, finely chopped bell peppers - any colors)
2 T. chopped green onion (If you have chives growing in your garden, this is a good alternative)
1 T. parsley (cilantro is a delicious option, or basil, or fennel tops, but those 3 have strong assertive flavors and don't combine easily)
2 T. Almond flour (Potato or rice flour works)
garlic powder (other seasoning ideas, paprika, chipolte powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, mexican seasonings, saffron, a T. of barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, or spagghetti sauce)
1 egg white (alternative is to add some nut butter by grinding some walnuts, etc. to the butter stage. Add a couple tablespoons of nutbutter or peanut butter plus one tablespoon of water)
salt & pepper

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Local Farms!
You can't get much more local than your own backyard! In my case, it was the "front porch farm". The sunny side of our house is a big giant craftsman style porch with river rock columns. I decided to convert it to a farm with some failures and some successes. One success? The hanging sweet orange and red cherry tomatoes. I planted two plants upside down in these tubes hanging from our eves. The plants were funny because they kept fighting gravity and bending their arms right-side-up, growing toward the sun. I ached for their branches which looked so contorted. It didn't make a difference in fruit production. The small container required diligent watering and feeding. The fruit production lasted 3 months at least. Very sweet, sun kissed and delicious. What failed? My pots of squash. I had many varieties of zucchini and yellow squash in pots that grew for the first month to teenage size, then stopped. The fruit formed but shriveled before growing more than an inch or two. At least the cucumbers were a success. We enjoyed many sweet asian and lemon cucumbers all summer long, but my asian yard long beans did not produce. Even the hot south side wasn't enough for them to mature. On the up side, the green broad beans, flat and fat, grew 12 feet and produced for a long long time. Delicious. I had them growing in a giant pot with horse manure from my friends pasture. These were indeed super beans and I thought I could climb them to the sky almost.
My favorite was the nasturtiums. I tried strawberies and sugar snap peas in the hanging tubes and they produced minimally, but one of the tubes had the most prolific apricot striped nasturtiums (2 varieties). They acted as a sail and twirled in the breeze. I have the seeds and perhaps it's not too late to grow them this season.