Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sugar Pea Soup - some like it Cold, some like it Hot

Thanks to a cool May and June, our pea vines at the Bradner P-Patch are prolific.  In anticipation of a healthy yield, I explored making soup with snap peas from the Columbia City farmers market before mine were ready to harvest. This soup is nice hot or chilled. With 80 degree temperatures on the way, maybe we can peel off our sweaters if they haven't stuck, and slurp chilled pea soup with flavored ice cubes. Favorite garden snack tip:  sweet vine tips are great to nibble on while weeding. 

Fresh Sugar Pea Soup - Vegetarian
1 plus pounds or 6 cups of Snap peas
Juice of 1 small lemon - a nice choice would be to use Meyer's lemons, but increase the juice
Snip a healthy handful of long tender Chives
1 small potato
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup of cream (if you are willing)
creme fraiche - or mild yogurt
pinch of saffron
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
  • Soak the saffron in a 1/8 cup of warm water for 30 minutes while preparing the puree.
  • Cut and peel the potato and cook until tender in ample water. Set aside.
  • Trim the stems off of the snap peas.  Add the snap peas to boiling water, for about 2 minutes. Poach until just soft, but still have their bright color. Strain the peas.
  • Add peas, potato, 2 cups of potato water and chives (maybe 10 super long strands), juice of one small lemon, and the olive oil, into a food processor and blend.
  • Add 1/2 c cream, Make this to the thickness you like by adding more/less cream or potato water. If you prefer, add chicken or vegetable broth, or pea water, to thin the puree.
  • Salt, pepper, a little sugar if your peas don't happen to be a sweet variety and a dash of cayenne pepper
  • When ingredients have blended well, pour through a sieve or strainer, smashing the mixture through the screen to get as much pea puree as possible. (If the pods are sweet and tender, and any strings and stems removed, one could use an immersion blender instead and skip the step of using the sieve or colander to strain the tough stuff)
  • Stir and taste, correcting seasonings (more salt? more cream? more potato water? more lemon?)
  • Mix 1/2 cup of creme fraiche with teaspoon of lemon, saffron strands and saffron water for topping.
  • Put a few whole mature peas if you have them in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle soup into the bowl and garnish with creme fraiche and saffron strands.
Greek yogurt, or soft goat cheese with some extra liquid stirred into it to replace the creme fraiche. For chilled soup, an alternative spice to saffron is to create ice cubes with mint and lemon zest, or ginger and cumin, or other herbs. Adding a couple of ice cubes to the soup on a hot day, would be a treat. A winter variety using frozen snap peas would be to add crispy garlicky croutons and some grated or crumbled cheese.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garden Harvested Micro-Greens with Mushrooms on Fresh Linguine

Delicious and nutritious microgreens are the thing. A delectable reward for the garder after a thinning session in the vegetable garden.  A time that passes quickly so don't blink, as green growth is vigorous in the Northwest's spring climate. Now I am in the kitchen with tastey green bits to prepare. This haul includes greens of beet, baby bok choy, chinese mustard, swiss chard, chinese broccoli, as well as strands of red and orange beet roots rubbed clean between my fingers.

Begin by cooking  chopped shallots in butter or olive oil, adding sliced shitake and crimini mushrooms, and when cooked, add about 2 tbsps of cream. Pour the mushrooms and sauce covers the cooked freshly made linguine. While the pasta an sauce are really hot, place the microgreens are placed on top to wilt and covered with shaved parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Fresh Picked Garden Greens and Pancetta

The upside of the miserably cool rainy June we have had here in the Northwest is that our greens and peas are thriving, (while the beans and tomatoes are shivering).  Last night, I harvested a handful of Dwarf Syberian Kale, Orange Swiss Chard, and Chinese Mustard greens.
They all are young enough to braise lightly.  First, I cubed thick slices of pancetta (Italian type of bacon, the best choice but ham or bacon will do) and fried them, taking the bits out when crispy and brown. Saving about 1 T. of bacon grease, I added the washed and loosely chopped greens, stiring to coat with the flavored oil. (Cool down the pan somewhat before adding water or you will get a spitting oil explosion) I added 1/2 cup of water and braised them for about 3 minutes (longer if your greens are tougher). I threw the greens on a platter with the pancetta, squeeze of lemon juice, and black pepper. It was refreshing to have such a simple dish. Usually I add garlic, onions, balsamic vinegar to the greens while braising, but I didn't want to overpower the tender and fresh flavor of the hand picked greens. The Chinese Mustard had a sharp peppery flavor while the Kale and Chard were sweet and mild. For a vegetarian version, substitute olive oil and sea salt with a dash of smoked spanish paprika for the salty pancetta.

I served this with creamy Polenta, faithfully stired over the stove for 30 minutes with a wooden spoon. I added maybe 2 cups of dried polenta to hot broth consisting of a tall carton of vegetarian broth and 1 can of evaporated milk, salt and pepper. I added garden fresh herbs of chopped rosemary and tarragon to the mixture, later adding chopped chives. Just before serving I melted gorgonzola into the mixture and topped with lavendar petals.

RE: Polenta, Poached Egg on Crumpet with Orange Marmalade Cream

Garnished with lavendar and calendula petals.
This brunch piece was created with servings of greens with pancetta and polenta prepared the night before. See recipies above. In addition, it was served on a toasted crumpet with creme fraiche that had orange marmalade stired into it. Served with grapefruit mint iced green tea, a delightful combination of bitter and sweet and yummy.

Grapefruit-Mint iced tea - chill

This is a variation on my summer drink standby. Brew some of your favorite green tea. Add honey and stir. Pour hot tea over a bunch of crumpled mint leaves. Add 40% more fresh grapefruit juice. Add sprigs of mint to look pretty. 3 varieties of mint used here. Chill or serve on ice. Ajdust proportions to taste preferences.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Banana Bread Up-"date"

In my kitchen, there are ongoing attempts to make a super moist, dark, delicious date nut bread. It's a pressing need, as it's been on the agenda to try again, like forever. Yet, there are 2 overripe bananas staring at me. Banana bread or date nut bread? Indecision looms. So I solve the dilemma, avoid the choice and combine recipes. I make date nut bread with mashed bananas added. Experience tells me I am sure to ruin 2 good things and end up with a mutation worth nothing. "We wouldn't give any away, just eat it ourselves," I argue. That nagging voice of "experience" was wrong! Improvisation succeeded. Description: Moist, rich, dark, with a satisfying banana flavor and orange flavor in the background. Full of good for you stuff too. Yummers. We liked this. Do you? Try this and let me know. I used a special ingredient, date sugar. This upped the overall date flavor and made the sweet seem more wholesome than a white sugar rush. No date sugar on hand? You can switch it out for brown sugar, but use a little less.

1 1/8 cups of flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat flour)
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. date sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/8 c. dark molasses
1/2 c. oil (I used safflower oil)
1/2 cup of buttermilk (from powder, or you could use yogurt and milk combo)
1 t. vanilla
1 egg plus 1 yolk
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped loosely
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
15 -20 large soft dates such as Medjool dates chopped loosely (you can use the extremely dry dates, but you might need more water)
1 cup hot water to pour over dates
2 T. grated orange rind

Pour hot water over dates that have been chopped and let sit 3 hours or longer. Stir, poke, mash it occasionally.
Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
Mix wet ingredients in mixer, sugars, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, egg,  and mix together on low.
Add dry ingredients to wet, gradually.
Add orange zest
Mix on medium for 1 minute.
Add date mixture, mashed banana and walnuts and stir on low, or with a spoon.
Scoop into oiled and floured bread pans. (One large or two small)
Bake 350 for 50 minutes in large pan, or until the toothpick comes out relatively clean.

Inspiration from Saveur's recent spread (Mom's Banana Bread p 101 May '10 issue) and Kendra Nordin  May 10th entry.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spinach Anchovy Raisin Bruschetta

Anchovy spread spinach raisin pine nuts

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Anchovy Risk Factor

We were young and frisky and temporarily in charge of the kitchen for 2 weeks on our summer cruise ship in Southeastern Alaska. Two cooks, myself and my co-conspirator who was filling in due to the absence of our chief cook. We were both artists and could not pass up the opportunity to liven up the place with some bold ideas.
It was the 80's and we were at the edge of the gourmet revolution and our 20 something mentalities felt the pulse. The existing menu basics were predominately Midwestern German recipes like Hot German potato salad, sitting side by side with Northwest dishes and Alaska seafood with lots of mayonnaise. Due to a failed delivery of an essential item for the dinner that night, we had to step up and let our inventive juices out of the cage.  We had fettuccine. We had spinach. We had anchovies. We added raisins. Could we really use anchovies? The chief cook and menu planner was far away and we were on a ship where no one was watching over our shoulder. We did it.  The salty - sweet - bitter combination was fabulous. We were super scolded by the head chef when she learned of our menu adventure. I agree now, anchovies might be a risky ingredient in a no-choice menu for 80 paying-through the teeth passengers. But hooray for our culinary risk taking, we got raves!!! Perhaps that was the start of the improv chef attitude I've imbibed for so long.

I have had anchovy lovers ask for the recipe, so I've written out my best approximation! Serves 4-6.

8 dark salty anchovies (if you can find them, try upgrading to lovely white spanish anchovies - they are less intense. Adjust amounts according to size and saltiness.)
1 1/4 lb of fresh baby spinach (or chopped chard), washed and spun dry
2 garlic cloves
3 tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
1/3 c. dark raisins, plumped by soaking in water
1 tsp. lemon juice
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
cayenne pepper
grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts (a recent addition)

1. Pour boiling water over the raisins and soak for 10 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.
2. Prepare fettuccine noodles for 4-6.
3. Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a frying pan.
4. Sautee chopped garlic and onion, remove from the pan and set aside, reserving the oil in the pan.
5. Add the additional 1 tbsp. of olive oil and heat. Add spinach or chard to hot oil and cook until wilted. Add a couple tablespoons of water to collect juices. If using chard, add a little water and simmer a few minutes extra. Take out wilted spinach and set aside.
6. Chop the anchovies into pea sized bits. Stir fry them in the pan juices, adding a little water if needed, add to spinach.
7. Combine onions, garlic, spinach, oil and juices from pan. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. (You probably don't need salt!) Variation... add a couple tablespoons of cream, or tomato paste and water to create a more saucy dish.
8. Toast the pine nuts briefly to add a tinge of golden brown and bring out their piney flavor.
9. Assemble the pasta by stirring in the wilted spinach and anchovy mixture in to the cooked and drained pasta. Add a dash of cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the pasta and stir. Arrange pasta on a serving platter, add grated parmesan cheese and pine nuts to the top of the pasta and take a moment to enjoy life.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Island Gatherer picks up dinner in the wild

Returning home from a cold winter day working on one of the outer islands near Canada, Sara Gerlitz took advantage of the bounty of local goodness and harvested some dinner ingredients of wild onions and mussels.

Sara was braving the cold in an open boat with mosquitos and snow flurries in her face, collecting some topographical data of some wetlands.

 Sara describes her dish: "the final dish was actually sprouted red quinoa with the onion, mussels and dollops of a tahini, honey and red pepper flake mixture. The onion carpets the ground and is more chive like in taste than oniony"

photo credit: Sara Gerlitz

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Curling" up to dinner and the Winter Games

I'm curling up with a bowl of seafood soup and the Olympics in the sports bar at a bayside restaurant.  Lopez in the San Juan Islands, is just a stones throw away from Vancouver Canada.  I try things the baked oysters, and the Greek fisherman's stew.  I'm glad the food is adequate as I am having a hard time digesting the Olympic event. My Olympic viewing hopes anticipated the "zowie" action of downhill slalom, "ooo and yes!" of snowboarding half-pipe or the "wheee" of the ice skating, but for my dinner hour it would be the "huh?" of curling.

I try to be open. I just need to understand the sport. Maybe I can compare curling with another sport I know. Let's see, sports with brooms, sports with brooms... Quidditch? Nope, nothing similar. What engaged me is that for once, an Olympic sport seems close to my level of athleticism. Yes! The players appear in prime shape, unlike me, but isn't that overkill for the event requirements? I mean, I am actually primed for floor sweeping. My daily workout routine of sweeping the kitchen floor prepares me. Oh, and if I step that up a notch, adding daily sweeping of the bathrooms, dinning and living room, yard, then maybe I would be fit enough to be a curler. (Is that the correct description? Like the round objects woman wear in their hair at night to make it bouncey in the morning?)

You know they say that competition at that level is really a mind game. Curling is no exception. It appears similar to the Ouija board we had when we were kids. A game utilizing mental forces puportedly. One rests their fingers on the flat game piece and then it moves mysteriously across the board. Ours seemed to work but I think my brother faked us out. I don't really know as I only got to play it a couple times before the anti-occult police took the game away. At first I wondered if curling was the same deal. The hovering puck (called a stone) seems to mysteriously move across the ice following the path made clear by the brooms. Didn't the Zamboni already clean the ice?  OOOEEUUU. Are they moving it with their minds? Very mysterious. Hard to take my eyes off of it now. Could this be an interesting sport after all? Maybe, except for the mean element. While aiming for bulls-eye, the stones seem to bump into opponents stones with the intension of knocking them out of the circle. Being the victim of such cruel actions happened enough to me as a kid in croquette, when my ball would get sent across the grass into the bushes. Sigh... I guess it isn't the perfect sport for someone who likes big brothers to be nice.

Perhaps next time I'm at this sports bar for dinner, I'll order the curly fries, and curl up with a book.

Canadian Winter Olympics Smoked Salmon Fettucine (thanks to Kendra Nordin)

Kendra Nordin's Fettucine Alfredo (alla Vancouver Winter Games) with "Gold" peppers had me salivating. I glanced at her ingredients to see if she skimped on the cream as the picture looks so worthy of everyday fare with the mushrooms, peppers and a garnish of baby spinach encircling the dish. Maybe she created a lean version of the sauce using chicken broth or some other trendy alternative to fat. I grinned when I saw heavy cream and butter in equal portions and ample parmesan cheese. Thumbs up1
Because I live in the Northwest, 2 hours from the Canadian border, my version has to have Northwestern smoked salmon in it. That is my Vancouver Canada Olympic tribute. Using Kendra's yummy recipe as a base, but adding orange as well as yellow peppers, smoked salmon instead of prosciutto, chopped fennel tips, dash of cayenne, and lemon zest added to the rich cream sauce. I'm thinking of surrounding it with tender spring asparagus or arugula, but spinach is good too. Truthfully, fettucine alfredo doesn't need all the fancy dancy additions to be lip-smackingly yummy. If you use good tasting cream, butter and parmesan cheese, it's one of those "died and gone to heaven" dishes.When rich cream is not the right thing, I thin the sauce with chicken or veggie broth, but believe me, it is not even half as good.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blended Hearts Pizza

Congratulations Isobel!  Your recipe was this month’s winner in the Mioposto Mt. Baker Pizzaoli Constest. As a reward for your culinary contributions a $25 gift certificate is available for you to pick up at the restaurant. Thank you so much for your submission. Happy New Year!

Manager, Mioposto

Thin crusted pizza with roasted artichoke pesto as the base, goat cheese, dotted with delicious large black olives and lots of flavorfully toasted pine nuts. The last step is to put fresh parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, olive oil, on top.

I tasted the pizza today at Mioposto, and wished there was more artichoke pesto coverage on the crust. Next time I'll ask for thicker artichoke. It was delicious though.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who else likes the combination of cherries and chocolate chips? I first made these cookies with oatmeal and they were very good. This time I used walnuts instead . The cookies were loved and devoured at a New Years Davy dinner party. Here is the recipe...

1 c. butter softened
½ c. white sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1½  c. all-purpose white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1  teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c. Belgium milk chocolate chopped into chunks
1 c. dried cherries
1½ c. chopped walnuts

Cream butter. Add both sugars and cream until light and fluffy. Add egg.
Sift flour with soda and salt and cocoa and add to mixture.
Stir in vanilla, chocolate chips, cherries and nuts.
Don’t over mix.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet .
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.