Posts filed under ‘seasons’

Lemon-Zucchini Salad

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.

Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Corn

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 …)

August 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Welcome, Willamette Living readers

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!

June 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

Sweet corn, the next day

Corn fritters and beefsteak tomatoesWe’ve hit what I think of as the trifecta of harvest-season perfection: Tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches. Lots of other stuff, too, but I could (and at this time of year, often do) live on tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches.

I bought a half-dozen ears of pretty, yellow-and-white sweet corn at the market yesterday for two bucks, and ate two ears, buttered and salted, for dinner, with a sliced beefsteak tomato and a ripe peach for dessert. I went ahead and cooked the extra corn so I’d have leftover corn for one of my favorite savory side dishes, courtesy of good old Joy of Cooking, circa 1964 (the cookbook my mother sent away with me to college). If you love corn, you should try these; they’re quick, easy and really delicious.

Corn Fritters

Ingredients

  • Enough sweet corn to make 1 cup of kernels (2-4 ears, depending on size)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you’ve got it)
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Method:

Cut the kernels off an ear of fresh or cooked sweet corn into a bowl , and scrape the cob with the back edge of the knife to get all of the germ and the sweet, milky corn juice. (If sweet corn isn’t in season, frozen corn works. “Joy” suggests canned, cream-style corn, but bleah.)  Mash the corn a bit with a wooden spoon or potato masher.

Beat eggs until light and add to corn, along with everything else but the butter.

Melt butter in a medium-hot skillet. Drop big tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan  and cook like pancakes, browning one side and then the other.

Eat hot. (“Joy” suggests topping with maple syrup, but I like these as savory side dishes, or by themselves – even reheated in the toaster-oven – for lunch). Yummy as is, or experiment with additives – I’ve made them with minced garlic and hot peppers, for a spicy version, and with  a little grated cheddar, parmesan  or gruyere mixed in.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

Note for the gluten-intolerant, such as my sister: I think this would work great with the same proportion of whatever gluten-free flour you prefer, or even with gf pancake mix (omit the baking powder).

August 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

Making things up: Menus as inspiration

Seared tuna and watermelon saladOur little farmers’ market is getting more sophisticated by the month. One of the latest, and most welcomed additions: Brandywine Fisheries, a family fishing operation out of Charleston, trucking caught-the-day-before fish inland to satisfy my seafood cravings when I can’t make it to the coast.

Yesterday, they had whole albacore tuna loins for $7 a pound, which is an astonishingly good price. Could I resist? No, I could not.

Ever since my trip to New Orleans last fall, I’ve been day-dreaming about the fabulous meal I had at The Green Goddess – and all the  enticing things on their menu that I didn’t have a chance to try.  One, in particular, keeps coming back to haunt me: a dish of seared tuna and diced watermelon, of all things, called Tumblin’ Dice.  Now, I don’t have access to the more esoteric ingredients – fennel pollen, for instance. But the basic concept, pairing warm, barely cooked tuna with cool watermelon, sounded like a fantastic high-summer meal.

Having acquired the tuna, I hit the supermarket and picked up a small, sweet seedless watermelon. After pondering flavor combinations, I came up with this. Call it a Pacific Rim tribute to a great New Orleans restaurant.

Seared Tuna and Watermelon Salad

(Inspired by The Green Goddess)

Ingredients

  • Fresh (or shipboard-frozen and thawed) tuna loin
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • dried hot chili peppers, crushed (I used two fiery little Thai chiles)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  • Seedless watermelon,  rind removed, cut into cubes*
  • Sea salt
  • Tender greens of your choice (I used baby lettuce and chives from my garden)
  • Pickled sushi ginger
  • Wasabi mayonnaise (mix prepared wasabi into store-bought mayonnaise at a strength that suits your tastes).

Preparation

In a large resealable bag, combine lime juice, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, chiles and black pepper. Add the tuna loin, seal bag and turn several times to coat the fish with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more.

When dinner time rolls around, prepare watermelon by cutting it in inch-thick slices, removing rind and cutting the slices into cubes. Place melon cubes in the fridge (or freezer!) while you prepare the fish.

Remove tuna from refrigerator and drain off marinade. Sprinkle sesame seeds in a plate, and roll the tuna loin in the to coat well.

Heat a large, heavy skillet on high until a drop of water sprinkled onto the surface sizzles and dances.

Using tongs, place the tuna in the skillet (you may want to cut it in half to make it fit) and sear each side for about a minute, if you like your fish, as I do, cooked on the outside but pink and rare-to-raw inside. Feel free to cook it longer if you prefer, although it won’t be as luscious.

When fish is cooked to your taste, transfer to a cutting board. Remove melon cubes from freezer and pile on plates. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cut inch-thick slices off the tuna, and  arrange atop the melon, garnish with greens. Serve *now*, with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger.

Depending on the size of the fish, a whole tuna loin can easily serve 4-6 people. If you wind up with leftovers, as I do, the best bet is to wrap it in foil, pop it in a 350F oven and let it cook through (it should only take 15-20 minutes), then refrigerate. Me, I’m going to be taking fabulous tuna sandwiches and fresh watermelon cubes to work for lunch this week. (-:

Quick links:

July 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Pan-roasted mushrooms, revisited

Pan-roasted chanterellesFinding a delicious recipe is wonderful. Finding a way to simplify its preparation but still retain every bit of the deliciousness is even better.

I first posted the recipe for pan-roasted mushrooms nearly two years ago; I’d got it from a LiveJournal friend, and found it among the most tasty mushroom side dishes I’d ever encountered.

But, as written, the recipe called for cooking the mushrooms in small batches until they’re dried and caramelized, then giving them a gloss of butter, garlic and parsley … then wiping the pan clean and starting all over again with the next batch. Which, let’s face it, is kind of a pain in the butt if you’re cooking a lot of mushrooms

This afternoon, looking at a bag of lovely chanterelles I’d bought from The Mushroomery via Corvallis Local Foods, it occurred to me that it should be possible to streamline the prep without losing any of the flavor, by simply roasting all the mushrooms, moving them to a bowl, and then giving them all the garlic-butter treatment at once.

So I did. And I’m hear to tell you that – served with leftover roast chicken reheated with a bunch of late cherry tomatoes from my garden and good bread to mop up the juices – the mushrooms were exactly as delicious as I remembered, and a whole lot easier to prepare.

If you love mushrooms, you need to try this, whether you do it with wild mushrooms or tame. If the ‘shrooms are a touch dried out, as mine were, all the better. The result is chewy, dare I say meaty, savory, and rich with the gloss of butter and garlic. You won’t be sorry.

Pan-roasted Wild Mushrooms, Revisited

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Wild (or domesticated) mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Unsalted butter, about 1 tbsp per cup of cooked mushrooms
  • Garlic – at least 1 fat clove per above
  • Fresh Italian parsley, minced – a generous handful, ditto

Method

In a large skillet, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Heat the pan on high until the oil shimmers but does not smoke, and glides easily across the pan when tipped.

Add a layer of mushrooms, one at a time, so they don’t touch. Season with fresh-ground pepper and a pinch of kosher salt.

After about 1 minute, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking – without stirring the mushrooms – for 3-4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the mushrooms and cook for 3 more minutes, until they’re browned and fairly dry. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Repeat for each batch of mushrooms, adding olive oil if necessary.

After all the mushrooms are cooked, wipe out the pan with a paper towel and return to medium. For each cup of mushrooms, add a tablespoon of butter, (at least) a clove’s worth of minced garlic and a handful of parsley. Stir until the butter is all melted and the garlic is turning golden (but not burning!), then return the mushrooms to the pan. Toss with the buttery mixture until heated. Remove from heat and serve, hot, as a side dish with just about anything.

Leftovers keep just fine in the fridge.

October 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm 2 comments

A surfeit of beets

Borscht!Some people get flowers on opening night of a play. I got beets.

No kidding: My friend (and the stage manager of the show I’ve been directing) came into an excess of beets and, after asking if I liked them (oh, yes!), brought in a bag of beets bigger than my fist, probably 2-3 pounds worth.

Young beets are great for raw preparations: julienned atop a salad, thinly sliced and sprinkled with a little salt. Older beets need cooking to transform their woody texture to something tender and delectable. And other than just roasting and eating them, my favorite thing to make with big o’l beets is a big ol’ pot of borscht.

Or borsht. Or borsh, or even barszcz, depending on which Eastern European language is describing this hearty vegetable soup. The “authentic” recipes are as varied as the cultures they come from, and you can find internet flame wars on various cooking sites involving people who swear that their grandmother’s recipe is the One True Borscht/Borsch/etc., and all others heretical nonsense. There are recipes that call for beef, recipes that call for pork, recipes that call for no meat at all. Some say cabbage is required, some say potatoes, and some even say you don’t need beets to make a borscht.

If you’ve read me long, you know I’m not a purist. I’ve made borscht with and without cabbage, carrots, potatoes, meat; I’ve even made it with duck leg confit because I had some on hand. I always use beets – without beets, I’d call it vegetable soup and be done with it. But otherwise, like many good dishes, my borscht is a matter of what’s fresh, what’s local and what’s in the larder.

Roasting the bonesThis time I went the whole nine yards and started by spending Saturday making a big pot of home-made beef stock, beginning by oven-roasting a couple of pounds of “soup bones” –  meaty beef shanks that the butcher had sawn in short lengths, the better to expose the tasty marrow – from Heritage Farms NW.  There’s nothing like rich, flavorful homemade stock to add depth and character to a humble soup, and this may be the best batch I’ve ever made. I wound up with four quarts of stock; half of it went back into the pot this morning to make the borscht, and the other half is in the fridge, awaiting further reduction tomorrow evening to produce demi-glace, the syrupy, concentrated essence of beef that’s one of the serious cook’s best friends.

Stock isn’t hard to make. It does require attention – you don’t want any part of it to scorch or burn, because that adds an unpleasant bitterness to the stock. And you do want to simmer it long enough to reduce the liquid by a good deal and concentrate all the rich flavors – otherwise you might as well make your soup with water. Here’s a great little step-by-step tutorial for the uninitiated. Don’t be put off by what seem to be many, many steps; none of it is hard or even particularly labor-intensive, and the results are fabulous.

However: You could also make a perfectly good borscht with stock-inna-box, or even a good beef concentrate (Better than Boullon is a staple of my own kitchen). Vegetarians, look for mushroom stock if you can find it; good vegetable stock if you can’t. Just please, please, don’t use bouillon cubes – they taste of nothing much other than salt, and your soup will wind up much too salty.

The borscht itself is easy as can be, and (once you’ve got stock) pretty quick to make; it’s also infinitely adaptable to suit your own tastes and those of your diners. Except, perhaps, the ones who are averse to beets – and if they’re willing to try it, they may be surprised.

Beefy Borscht

Ingredients

Borscht ingredients

  • 2 pounds of fresh beets, trimmed and scrubbed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter (or more olive oil)
  • 1 cup carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onions (or shallots, or leeks)
  • 4-6 cups thinly sliced cabbage. I like to use purple, because it intensifies the hue of the final dish, but green is fine.
  • 2-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Some potatoes, peeled or not, and coarsely diced (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried. Additional fresh or dried herbs as you prefer
  • 4-6 cups beef (or vegetable) stock
  • Cooked beef from the stock-making, shredded – or sliced sausage, diced pork chops, or other meat that won’t require long cooking. (Optional, but it turns the soup into a hearty meal).
  • Leftover rind from a hunk of good parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Juice of two limes, or a few tablespoons of red-wine vinegar.
  • Salt (if needed)
  • For garnish: sour cream, sprigs of fresh dill

Toss beets in olive oil, put them on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F oven for 20-30 minutes, until they’re tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then rub off the skins and trim off any tough bits near the stem. You can roast the beets the day before; if so, refrigerate overnight. When it’s time to make borscht, cut them in bite-sized pieces.

In the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven, melt butter or olive oil until it sizzles. Add onion and carrots; sautee, stirring frequently, until onion is softening. Stir in the cabbage, garlic, potato (if you’re using it; I don’t), herbs and meat, and add stock to the pot to generously cover all the ingredients. If you happen to have a rind of parmesan on hand, toss that in – it will melt into the soup, adding an extra touch of tang and umami to the soup.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until carrots are tender. Stir in the lime juice or vinegar (I prefer lime, but vinegar seems to be traditional). Taste to see if salt is needed. If your stock is home-made, it probably won’t be (the natural saltiness of beef gets concentrated in the stock-making).

Ladle into bowls, garnish with a swirl of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill. Serve hot, with crusty bread to mop up the bowl. Serves a bunch, and like so many soups, it’s even better the next day.

This soup freezes beautifully, especially if you leave out the potatoes (I’m never happy with how potatoes fare when frozen). Half the batch I made this morning will go into freezer containers for cold-weather meals!

October 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm Leave a comment

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

Ripening tomatoesI 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.

September 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm Leave a comment

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