Posts filed under ‘eating locally’
Everything good is in season right now, and I have a barbecue to attend this afternoon. So: Farmers’ market for produce, and a big batch of Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Sweet Corn, a fabulously flavorful – and easy! – summer recipe from Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s always-excellent Splendid Table/Weeknight Kitchen. Think “pasta salad” – only with thinly shaved raw zucchini filling in for the pasta, dressed with lemon, basil and garlicky oil. I got this via email subscription a couple of summers ago, and it never fails to make me – and anyone to whom I feed it – happy.
As Kasper suggests, I added More Stuff: cucumber, Kalamata olives, a little diced red onion. My tomatoes were great big heirlooms, chopped in chunks, and I pan-roasted the sweetcorn till it was browned before adding the garlic, basil and olive oil. For the dressing, I went with a 50-50 Greek yogurt-mayo blend, and another half-lemon’s worth of juice to thin it, with crumbled, herbed feta.
I can hardly wait for the barbecue.
(Am I back to blogging? Maybe … this is the peak time of year for the market, and for my garden … and thus my peak time of year for cooking. And my wonky sense of smell continues to improve, to the point where I can just about cook by taste again. Stay tuned …)
If you’ve stopped by because you read my crab cake recipe in Willamette Living – welcome! I’d actually forgotten that my friend Kate Rivera – who I first met through this blog, and have since had the pleasure of spending a bit of face-time with – had asked to reprint that particular post, so when she promoted it on Facebook today, I figured I’d better dust off the blog and at least explain why it’s been idle for so long.
Four years ago, after a severe sinus infection, I lost most of my sense of smell, and with it, much of my sense of taste. That hasn’t kept me from continuing to cook and eat good, fresh, local food in season, but it’s taken a good deal of the pleasure out of the experience. I’ve found myself eating things I know I like(d), even when I couldn’t really taste them … or they tasted downright strange.
I won’t bore you with all the ways anosmia (or, more properly, hyposmia) has affected me, but one was the loss of a lot of my confidence as an inventive cook. While I still devise interesting-to-me ways of combining and preparing the bounty of the Willamette Valley farms and our local ocean, I can’t be sure that what tastes good to me will taste good to anyone else. So the blog has languished.
The good news is that, like a number of people with hyposmia, I’m getting my sense of smell back. It’s slow, and it’s quirky – Indian food came back suddenly; lemons come and go, and I still can’t really taste single-malt scotch (*sob*). But I’m hopeful, and if progress continues, I might just fire up the blog again.
Meanwhile, it’s summer, the farmers markets are booming, and I just harvested the first handful of sugar-pod peas and radishes from my little garden. Enjoy the recipes here, and feel free to comment. Happy eating!
I haven’t quite reached the point where I have so many ripe tomatoes that I need to start cooking them, or to where I’m bored with the basics (BLTs!), but I’m getting 3-4 ripe ones a day out of my modest garden, and I know some of you have a lot more.
So here’s a quick rundown on some great things to do with “excess” tomatoes while they’re ripe and ready to eat. I’m going to link to other people’s recipes, because (a) I’m feeling lazy and (b) it’s almost time for dinner, which will include a helping of …
Tuscan Bread Salad. This is a late-summer staple at my house, and it’s not bad in the winter made with good-quality canned tomatoes, well-drained. There are lots of variations on the recipe, many of which call for soaking the bread till it gets mooshy. I prefer it this way, sometimes substituting balsamic vinegar for red-wine vinegar and I like to use rustic whole-grain bread. Add some chopped cucumber if you like, or even canned tuna to make the dish a meal. Fast, easy and absolutely delicious.
Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille – Classic ratatouille is a vegetable stew; I prefer this version, which roasts the vegetables and then combines them in a rich, smoky-sweet dish. The tomatoes and eggplant are central; everything else is optional, and you can experiment with adding mushrooms, pearl onions and other seasonal veggies.
Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Mozarella Sandwiches with Green Tomato Gazpacho – I stumbled onto this a while back and it’s a great new harvest-season take on good old grilled cheese and tomato soup. Make one, the other or both, depending on how many tomatoes you’re blessed with.
And then there’s the Easiest Pasta Dish in the World: Chop up some room-temperature tomatoes. Add fresh basil, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the pasta of your choice and top with tomatoes. Cheese is optional.
Harvest season is in full swing, and the only thing better than having my own garden right now is knowing other gardeners who planted things I didn’t get around to planting this year. Because it seems like all of us overestimated something, and food-swapping is happening all over the place. Last week I offloaded a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a half-dozen lemon cucumbers on some friends at work, and picked up a nice zucchini someone had left in the break room.
I love green beans, but my garden isn’t laid out well for growing them. The border along the backyard fence which once made a nice spot for pole beans is now fully occupied by raspberries (poor me). So it was great to hear that my friends Debra and Gary had too many green beans. I swung by their place on the way to run errands this morning, and they weren’t home to thank, but they’d left a nice big bag of them on the porch for me.
And I have tomatoes, finally. Quite a few tomatoes, in fact, having got through an early scare with blossom-end rot by side-dressing the plants with lime and keeping to a regular watering schedule.
In my kitchen, the coincidence of fresh green beans and ripe tomatoes means one thing: Fasolakia.
This Greek dish is so easy – and so flavorful – that I can’t let a harvest season go by without making big pots of it. I always mean it as a side dish; I always eat the first big bowl all by itself.
Here’s my recipe, such as it is. It’s endlessly adaptable and forgiving, and you can adjust it to your tastes – or your harvest. Diced potatoes are traditional, some people like to add summer squash, and I change up the herbs depending on what’s thriving in my garden at the time. Heck, you can make it in the middle of winter with frozen green beans and canned tomatoes if you like. But try it with fresh, while the season is high. Trust me on this.
- Olive oil
- One medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound of fresh green beans (or more, or less), stringed if they need it, cut into bite-sized lengths
- Minced garlic (you know how much you like. I use at least 3-4 big cloves)
- 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks. If you want it to look prettier, I suppose you could peel them (dip the fruit briefly in boiling water and the skins will come right off), but the skins add a lot of flavor and good nutrients.
- A big handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- A generous amount of oregano and thyme. Dried is OK. Fresh – at least a tablespoon of each, minced – is better. If you prefer other herbs – basil, for instance – go for it.
- Generous grinding of black pepper
Pour some olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet – enough to coat the bottom; more if you like (the traditional Greek recipe often calls for up to a cup of oil!). Heat to medium and toss in the onions, cooking until they begin to soften.
Add the green beans and garlic; stir to coat with oil and cook for 10 minutes to give them a head start.
Add remaining ingredients, bring it all to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer away, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes total cooking time, check beans for tenderness; continue cooking until they’re quite soft but not mushy. (Note that the traditional Greek dish, which uses much more olive oil and often substitutes canned tomatoes or tomato puree for fresh, turns out quite soupy; this doesn’t, but the flavors are startlingly good).
Serve hot or lukewarm – or even chilled (that’s how I usually eat the leftovers). Great with grilled lamb, pork or sausages or all by itself. Got vegans to feed? Feed them this!
How many does it serve? That depends on whether you’re serving it as a side dish or main course, but this amount could satisfy 3-4 people – or 2 really hungry ones – eaten all by itself.
The Willamette Valley is not a huge peach-growing region – the season is brief, the potential problems from weather and pests are many, the delicacy of the ripe fruit can make transporting it to and from the markets a challenge. But a few hardy growers make the effort, and when the time comes, I seek them out.
Jeannine and Tom Thieme at Firstfruits Farm grow 22 varieties of peaches, and I’d be hard-pressed to say which are my favorites, other than “the ones they have at the farmers’ market now.” This week it was rosy Early Lorings and fragrant, white-fleshed Raritan Roses, and I bought a half-dozen of each.
The minute I got home I ate the first one, standing on the back porch, juice dripping down my chin and splattering my toes (really!). Then I turned half of the rest into a quick, easy peach salsa to take to a friend’s barbecue, where even a guy who professes not to like peaches gobbled it up with enthusiasm.
(My salsa was just diced peaches, a couple of diced lemon cucumbers, diced red onion, a few serrano peppers seeded and minced, dressed with lime juice and a drizzle of honey. But really, you could substitute peaches for tomatoes in your favorite salsa recipe and not go wrong – although I’d use lime juice for any vinegar the recipe might call for).
Today, realizing that the ripe fruit would rapidly turn into overripe fruit if I didn’t do something with it, I made peach cobbler.
Google “peach cobbler” and you’ll find a gazillion recipes. Eliminate the ones based on canned peaches or pie filling (yuck), and you still have a lot to choose from. Some are more like what I’d call a crisp, a crumble or even a pandowdy.
I am a daughter of the South, though; the cobbler I learned at my mother’s knee was sweetened fruit encased in a rich Bisquick batter, tender at the core with a sugary crackle on top. And that’s the the sort of cobbler I still prefer.
Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. For instance: I’m fond of the affinity peaches have for ginger. So today’s cobbler incorporates lots of ginger, in three forms. It’s terrific – sweet and peachy, with bursts of ginger zing. And I’ve greatly reduced the sugar from the 1-2 cups most cobbler recipes call for to just 1/2 cup, because really ripe peaches are plenty sweet on their own and I want them, not the sweetness of the dough, to star. If you have no local source for ripe peaches and must make do with what’s in the supermarket, you may need to ratchet the sugar back up a bit.
Triple Ginger Peach Cobbler
- 4 cups fresh peaches, peeled* and sliced, set in a colander to drain off excess juice (reserve the juice)
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, diced
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups Bisquick
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups when combined with the juice from the peaches
- A handful of ginger snaps, crushed to coarse crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps because I had them on hand).
Preheat oven to 350F
Place a large baking dish on a cookie sheet (in case of spills). Place the butter in the bottom and stick it in the oven while you prepare the cobbler.
Combine drained fruit and candied ginger.
In another bowl, combine Bisquick, dried ginger, sugar, peach juice and milk. Stir well to get rid of any lumps.
When the butter is melted, remove baking dish from oven. Pour in the batter. Spoon the fruit-and-ginger on top (the batter will rise up through the fruit as it bakes).
Bake for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the crushed ginger snaps on top and bake for another 15 minutes. Test with a knife to make sure the batter is baked through (the knife won’t come out clean because of the peaches, but you should be able to tell if there’s any raw batter left in the middle. If so, give it another 10 minutes or so.)
Serve warm, with or without ice cream. Leftovers, should you have any, make an excellent breakfast.
* You know how to peel peaches, right? Fill a good-sized saucepan with water, bring to a boil and immerse the peaches for no more than 60 seconds. Remove from water with tongs or a slotted spoon, run under cold water and use your fingers to slip the skin right off.
Still cooking. Still eating. Loving the advancing growing season, and the increasing variety of local foodstuffs available from the farmers’ market, various farmstands and the wonderful Corvallis Local Foods online ordering site. My garden, rebuilt from scratch to move food production to the only south-facing, full-sun bed I have, is going gangbusters – and my sense of smell is even starting to come back, gradually, nearly a year after it abruptly vanished.
What I’ve not been doing is blogging. Too lazy, too busy, take your pick.
But a good friend just started her own very special food blog, and put me in her blogroll, and that’s motivation enough to sit down on a hot summer night while waiting for dinner to come out of the oven and do a little writing and recipe-sharing.
While I subsist more and more on vegetables (and berries!) at this time of year – because how can I resist when the markets are full of fresh, beautiful produce – I’ve also been eating a lot of fish lately, thanks to a small fisherman-owned business out of the Coast Range town of Toledo, Island Wild Foods. They’ve started selling sustainably harvested, flash-frozen-at-sea fish caught in the tropical Pacific off Hawaii through Corvallis Local Foods, and while it may not quite qualify as “locally grown,” it’s still a relatively local business, and the fish is sublime. (I also bring fish back often when I visit the coast, either bought off the boat or from the fabulous Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport, which really deserves its own post one of these days).
There are lots of great ways to prepare good fish; one of my favorites is to bake it the way my mother used to, with a flavorful topping that adds a little flavor while keeping the fish moist and tender. Those of you who are mayonnaise-phobes may cringe, but this is a terrific way to prepare almost any variety of fish, as long as it’s not too delicate.
That’s how I’m doing it tonight, with a lovely piece of pomfret, aka monchong, a fish whose meaty texture reminds me of good wild tuna, but with a lighter flavor. (The photo above was taken a couple of weeks ago, while my sugar-pod peas were still producing like crazy, and served with a simple mango-avocado salsa dressed with lime and chili and some Israeli couscous with wild morels. The peas are done now, and I’m having the fish tonight with a cabbage and raw-beet coleslaw.)
Mom’s Baked Fish
- One or more portions of firm-fleshed fish, such as ahi tuna, salmon, pomfret or halibut (I’m using steaks about 3/4 inch thick)
- Olive oil
- For each serving of fish, mix together:
- 1 tsp real mayonnaise
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tsp parmesan (grate it fresh if you can) plus a little extra to sprinkle on top
- Lemon, sliced paper thin
- Sweet onions, ditto
- Panko bread crumbs
- Freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350F. Drizzle (or wipe) a little olive oil into a heat-proof baking dish and arrange the fish pieces so they don’t touch.
Mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and parmesan.
Lay thin slices of lemon and onion on top of the fish. As if frosting a cupcake, spread the mayonnaise mixture on top to completely cover.
Sprinkle on some panko crumbs and a little more parmesan, and a touch of black pepper.
Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the fish is cooked through ( test it with a fork) and the topping is lightly browned.
Serve hot, with something cool and crunchy on the side and perhaps a nice pinot gris or sauvignon blanc.
Scott Penter was back at the Albany Farmers’ Market yesterday with his traveling chiller and a load of fresh-caught Dungeness crab. After getting his feet wet, so to speak, at last summer’s market, he opened a small business called – aptly enough – Seafood Outlet, off Highway 34 east of Corvallis. It’s evidently been successful enough to make this young fisherman-entrepreneur commit to continuing to try to sell his products inland, because he’s branched out to the Corvallis Farmers’ Market this season, too.
After stopping by to chat with him, I couldn’t leave without buying a crab; he fished me out a nice, vigorous 3-pounder, to the slightly squeamish delight oif a couple of kids who were watching (they were fascinated by the crab once it was bagged up, but ran squealing when Scott tried to show them another up close).
The first best thing to do with Dungeness crab, in my opinion, is just kill it, cook it and eat it, with a little lemon butter for dipping, some good bread to mop up the buttery juices and maybe a nice crisp white wine. That’s just what I did last night, but I could only manage half the crab.
The rest went in the fridge, and tonight I pulled it out, picked all the meat from the shell, and made a batch of tender, crispy cakes, using a recipe that guarantees you’ll taste more crab than “cake.”
Crispy crab cakes
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Blend in the parsley, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, lemon juice and lemon zest until well combined. Gently fold in the crabmeat and mix well, then add 1/2 cup of Panko crumbs and fold just until mixed. The mixture will be pretty wet.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Dump the rest of the Panko into a shallow bowl. Using a couple of large spoons, scoop up the crab mixture and form it into patties; dredge in the Panko. If it falls apart, just press it back together. Slide into the hot oil with a slotted spoon, pressing down to flatten the cakes slightly. You’ll wind up with 6-8 cakes, depending on how large you make them.
Cook until crisp and brown, turn, repeat to cook the tops.
Drain on paper towels, and serve with a dollop of wasabi mayo, aioli or just a squeeze of lemon.
Makes two servings. If, like me, you’re eating alone, save the rest for tomorrow’s lunch!
I had to have a salad with my crab cakes, because my garden is suddenly producing so much leaf lettuce that I must eat salad daily (poor me!). Since I knew I’d be taking pictures, I framed the crab cakes with the salad, which is so tender and fresh it doesn’t need a dressing at all. Pretty, and delicious.
Except for the grape tomatoes, the Panko crumbs, the oil and the condiments, everything on my table tonight came from within about 60 miles of home. I like that.