Friday, July 30, 2010

30 July 2010 Buckwheat Groat Day

Today was an ode to buckwheat--and to Auggie's first harissa.

I think of it as winter-hearty food. Nick asked a while back if I'd make something with buckwheat. This week he brought in some roasted groats. I cooked the groats for 15 minutes with about 1 3/4 cup water per cup groats. I mixed them with sautéed onion, garlic and thinly sliced collards stems plus fresh dill and stuffed it all into blanched collards. The Greek egg-lemon sauce poured over lightened the dish to summer satisfaction.

So the menu today was:

Buckwheat stuffed collards with Greek egg-lemon sauce (just egg yolks whisked with fresh lemon juice and cooked slowly until thickened slightly in chicken stock)
Chickpea salad
Harissa (It's the reddish paste in the square white plastic container)
Braised zucchini with onion, garlic and mint

Harissa is a mouth-searing combo of soaked dry red chilies (like Arbol) with seeds and stems removed. They are ground with garlic, ground cumin and ground coriander until fine. Then a bit of salt and olive oil until pasty and creamy-chunky. Keeps a long time. A dab of harissa with something bland like zucchini really wakes you up. As Baby August found out:

There was some betting going on around the harissa. Jon wagered a case of beer if someone would eat a tablespoon of it without washing it down with anything for 10 minutes. Nick and Berkeley considered it, but there were no takers until Berkeley and Jen's baby August decided to show them all up. He swallowed a big glop of it. His eyes popped out in utter shock. But what a guy! He totally kept it together...not a peep escaped those harissa-seared lips. Probably scarred the poor dude for life. When he's 23 he's going to tell the story and complain that Jon did not keep his promise for the case of beer....

At last I've found a use for large zucchini!

Braised zucchini with onion, garlic and mint
6 to 8 servings

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 smaller onions, sliced or slivered
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 pounds large zucchini or any type summer squash, cut into 1/2 inch thick chunks
(I usually slice the squash in half lengthwise and then into chunks)
1/4 cup mint leaves
Lemon wedges

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan. Stir in onions and garlic, salt them, and cook over medium heat until onions are tender.

Stir in the zucchini/squash and cover pan. Braise vegetables until zucchini is very tender, about 20 minutes. It should be falling apart. Remove pan from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Toss squash with mint leaves and serve with lemon to squeeze over top.

There is a recipe for bean salad from last year. This time I used chickpeas, onions and red carrots cooked in olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, Jenny's amazingly sweet celery, lots of parsley and more oil.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday 23 July 2010

Today was Spanish again. It arose from leftover ingredients I had from a cooking class called The Spanish Table, that I taught last night at the local college. Today's menu was a complete mystery until I was driving home from the class. I thought that we could easily prepare a paella and a romesco sauce. We do leave a certain amount of the meal to chance. Cucumbers. Potatoes. Dill. Tarragon. Eggs.

I have two paella pans. The 14-inch gets a workout, but the newer 18-inch is for a large crowd and it hadn't been inaugurated yet. Today was the day.

Vegetable Paella with the elite Calasparra rice from Valencia on Spain's southeast coast.
Romesco Sauce
Sliced Cucumber Salad with Dill
Spanish Potato, Egg and Tarragon Tortilla

Here's a recipe for the Romesco and the Paella.

Arroz de Verduras de Isabel (Vegetable Paella)
This paella is adapted from Penelope Casas’ recipe from a Valencian cook and restaurateur who attributes her success to garden-fresh vegetables--which Meadowlark has in abundance today. Porcini and chickpea cooking liquid give this paella a deep, rich flavor. If you can find Calasparra rice from Valencia, do try it. I brought my small stash accidentally. Normally I'd use risotto type Arborio rice. Same short grain strain of rice, just handled way differently than the Italians do with risotto.
The Arab-Moors brought rice to Spain and ruled it from the 5th or 6th century until the 15th century.
4 to 6 servings

2 cups vegetable or chickpea cooking broth, or chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon crumbled thread saffron
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup boiling water, water reserved
1/4 cup olive oil, more as necessary
3 ounces carrots, evenly diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound green beans, preferably broad flat beans, ends trimmed
1 medium zucchini, about 6 ounces, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small onion (4 to 6 ounces), finely diced
2 medium red bell peppers, about 1/2 pound, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped whole canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika
1 small sprig rosemary
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 1/4 cups Valencian short grain rice, or Arborio

Combine broth and saffron in a pot. Cover and keep warm over low heat. Bring 1 cup water to boil, remove from heat and stir in mushrooms. Soak till soft, 15 minutes, drain and strain mushroom liquid into broth and saffron.

Chop mushrooms lightly. Preheat oven to 400°F .

Heat half the oil in a 13- or 14-inch paella or oven-proof sauté pan over high heat. Add carrots, mushrooms, green beans and zucchini, and stir-fry till seared and tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to bowl and set aside.

Heat pan with remaining oil and add onion and peppers. Cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more, then stir in tomato and cook until it looks thick and jammy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in paprika. Return carrot/mushroom/green bean mixture to pan and cook over high heat 1 minute.

Taste and season with salt (mixture should be well salted) and pour in broth. Bring to a boil.

Stir in rosemary, chickpeas and rice, and boil over medium heat until rice is no longer soupy but enough liquid remains to continue cooking rice, 5 minutes.

Transfer paella to oven or to preheated heated Weber grill, and cook, uncovered (but with Weber lid on), until rice is almost al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with water if rice looks dry midway through cooking time. It should bubble merrily.

Remove pan from oven to a warm spot, cover with foil, and let rice sit 20 minutes. (If you have too much uncooked rice on top, you can flip the rice with a spatula before resting, but don't stir it! Flipping and stirring are not proper paella procedure.)

To make socarrat bottom crust, return paella to stove over medium-high heat. Cook without stirring, 2 minutes, until a crust forms on the bottom of pan (don’t let it burn). Then rest paella covered 20 minutes.

Spanish Romesco Sauce

3/4 cup, 3 ounces, blanched whole almonds or 1/4 cup each almonds, pine nuts and hazelnuts
1 1/2 ounces country bread, toasted and torn
1 medium tomato, sliced in half
2 to 3 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon pimentón, smoked paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper or half of a small dried red chili, seeded
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more as necessary
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Spread almonds on a sheet pan and bread on another. Toast until golden, 6 to 10 minutes. Toast hazelnuts and pine nuts on separate pans, 10 minutes. Rub skin off hazelnuts as much as possible. Rub tomato with olive oil and roast cut side down in baking dish until wrinkled and tender, 15 to 20 minutes, and peel.

3. Cool ingredients.

4. Crush nuts, bread, garlic, cayenne and salt together in mortar, or purée in food processor. Add tomato, smoked paprika and vinegar. Purée to smooth paste.

5. Whisk, or drizzle olive oil in with machine running.

6. Taste sauce and season with more salt or vinegar. If mixture is too thick, thin with warm water. Rest Romesco 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature and taste again before serving.
(You may prepare sauce a day ahead; it will keep for over a week refrigerated.)

Romesco is great on raw or steamed vegetables, rice, stirred into soup or on grilled food. In the spring, Spanish folks congregate when the thick green onions (calçots) arrive. They grill the calçots and meat and dip the onions into romesco sauce. It's called a calçotada. And it's a Partee.

Someone at the farm said they love it tossed on pasta. What's not good about that?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pesto and Arugula Day

Friday 16 July 2010

We had almost 20 people for lunch today. Luckily Ella helped Maureen and me. We made a white bean soup with tarragon. I cooked the white beans with lots of garlic--for 2 cups dry, soaked white beans I used four heads of garlic. Peel, don't smash the cloves. They make a mild, flavorful vegetarian broth. Then I sautéed a base of onions, fennel bulbs and baby carrots. The cooked beans, garlic and cooking water went into them with fresh tarragon, turnips and cauliflower. The garnish made the soup come alive: Italian parsley leaves, anchovies, lemon zest (organic please), one dried red chili and olive oil buzzed in the food processor to a textured paste. That went into the hot soup. Yum. Don't be afraid of anchovies! They carry huge flavor. Rinse them if you must. Or try the fresh, glorious tasting white ones.

Then Ella made pesto from the purple basil. It was surprisingly good. I made one from Italian basil. Classic recipe. We tossed it on potatoes and on pasta. It's not uncommon to see the two tossed together with pesto in Genoa.

Someone asked me if I use basil in other ways...I don't use it nearly as much as other herbs, but it's great with peaches, in sweet tea, torn in salad, rolled into Vietnamese summer rolls, in vinaigrettes or tucked into stuffed kale or cabbage rolls. Basil does seem to be best fresh though.

Technique: Classic Basil Pesto (Batuto alla Genovese)
Pesto alla Genovese (of Genoa) is a green sauce that was born in the northwestern Italian region of Liguria, where the Mediterranean/Ligurian Sea warms the land enough to grow olives. (Further inland Piemonte cannot grow olives.) Originally pestos were pounded in a mortar with a pestle, a method that produces a greener—and some say finer—pesto than the more modern food processor. If you wish to mimic the mortar and pestle, place herbs into a heavy plastic baggie and pound them with a meat pounder before processing in food processor. Guliano Bugalli says that basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts or walnuts and pecorino or Parmigiano cheese are the true, traditional ingredients.
Makes about 1 cup. Toss on freshly cooked pasta, potatoes or vegetables.

2 ounces (2 cups packed) fresh basil leaves, no stems
1/2 ounce (1/2 cup packed) Italian parsley leaves
1 to 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped, 1/2 ounce
1 ounce (1/4 cup) toasted or raw pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 ounces (1/4 to 1/2 cup) mixed shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano
Optional: 1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Prepare ingredients: Pull leaves from herbs stems, discard stems then rinse leaves and spin or blot dry. To soften garlic flavor, use less or blanch whole, unpeeled cloves in boiling water 30 seconds to 1 minute and peel. Toast nuts if desired and cool before using—it will bring out their best flavor.

2. Purée herbs, garlic, and nuts together in a food processor until smooth; scrape down sides several times.

4. Add oil: With processor running, pour oil into herb-nut purée a thin stream and purée until very smooth. Scrape pesto out into bowl, taste, and season with a little salt (cheese will add saltiness) and freshly ground pepper. Pesto may be frozen at this point—a thin film of oil over the top keeps it from oxidizing into black.

5. To serve: Grate cheese, if using, and toss it with pesto. Adding cheese just before serving assures that the cheese will taste its best. Thin pesto with cream or pasta cooking water before tossing on pasta.

The squash blossoms were out in full force so Ella and Liz picked more than 70 of them and we stuffed them with a mixture of ground turkey chorizo (it was a little too spicy I think), grated yellow squash which I salted for 20 minutes and then squeezed the liquid out of--and some ciabatta bread crumbs. I ground the crumbs and meat separately in the food processor and mixed them with the squash and some fresh thyme. We stuffed the blossoms and laid them into an oiled roasting pan with a little soup broth. Covered them with foil and baked them for 30 minutes at 350F. I uncovered them and let them roast another 5 to 10 minutes. Last year I did them with rice and pork. I think a milder filling is best.

There was a lot of arugula so I had Ella toss it with olive oil and salt then drizzled fresh lemon juice over it. That is hands-down the best way to eat arugula fresh from the garden.

It's paradise at the farm this year. We crave this sunny warm weather interspersed with rain. Though thunderstorms wreak havoc with our electric supply. One freezer tripped off and we didn't discover it for two days. Now everyone will have to eat some of the salvaged--no meat or protein was lost, thank the gods.

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 9 2010 Spanish Empanada Day

We decided that since Spain is in the finals for soccer, we'd do something Spanish today. I don't follow soccer but Robert, the farm manager does. I made a flaky olive oil crust and filled the empanadas (two big ones--Spanish cooks like to make large ones, Latin cooks make the individual calzone type ones)--with olive oil sautéed scallions, dill, chickpeas, smoked paprika, green olives and chopped, steamed kale and glazed collards. No recipe, just by taste.

We made salsa verde, a green sauce that Italians like to serve with raw or steamed vegetables--we steamed diced fennel and Jenny's super sweet creamer potatoes. I couldn't cook the carrots, they looked so sweet and innocent. So we just cleaned and sliced them.

Here's a recipe for the crust that I have been working on for some time now. You may use more oil for an even more tender, flaky crust.

There's a great recipe for a traditional Spanish filling with bell peppers and tuna in olive oil in The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen

This is Maureen Sueltzer who is my VERY essential sous chef! Without her I would crash and burn, isn't that right Maureen?

Technique: Empanada
One 12- to 14-inch empanada; 8 servings
Dough made with 1 pound/ 3 1/2 cups unbleached or all-purpose flour needs 8 to 10 cups filling

1. Prepare dough and set it aside to rest and raise.

2. Prepare filling and cool to warm.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut dough in half, with one piece slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece to a thin round.

4. Fit it into an oiled 14-inch diameter paella pan or pizza pan.

5. Spread filling over top, leaving 1 to 1 1/2 inch border free around edge.

6. Roll out second piece of dough to a slightly smaller diameter. Set on top of filling and wet the outermost edges of the bottom dough. Flip edge up all the way round, and seal dough by rolling and pressing it into a consistent, attractive shape. Make 3 slashes (vents) in top of empanada and if desired, paint with egg wash.

7. Place empanada into oven and bake until oozy and crust is golden brown.

*Make Dough Ahead: rub dough balls with olive oil and place in plastic baggies. Refrigerate overnight; return to room temperature before using.
*Saffron Dough: crush a large pinch saffron and steep in 3 tablespoons hot water then mix with oil, egg and salt.

Flaky Empanada Dough
Substitute diced butter or lard for half the oil for more flavor and flakiness.
12 to 14-inch empanada

1 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for bowl and pan
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound/3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

Pour yeast, sugar and water in large bowl, stir and rest until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in oil, egg and salt. Stir in flour, in 3 batches, stirring well. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter, or keep in bowl, and knead until smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes. Dough should be pliable and oily. Remove dough from bowl and oil lightly.

Divide dough into two slightly unequal parts, shape into balls and place back in bowl, rolling to coat balls with oil. Rest in warm spot 30 minutes to 1 hour—dough will not raise much.

Roll larger dough half out to 1/8” thick and 15-inch diameter. Set onto 14-inch round rimmed pizza pan or paella pan. Roll out other half of dough similarly. Fill and place top on. Follow instructions above.

Italian Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)
This sauce has a flexible list of ingredients, but is essentially a thick, fresh herb sauce. It’s traditional to chop ingredients finely by hand. Serve salsa verde with grilled lamb, chicken or pork, steamed green beans, boiled potatoes, or with Italian bollito misto (mixed boil). Parsley, capers, anchovies, vinegar and olive oil are the constants of this sauce. The rest is gilding the lily.
6 servings

2 1/2 ounces Italian parsley, 2 1/2 cups packed leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/2 cup mint or arugula leaves, 1/2 ounce
2 to 3 scallions, 1 1/2 ounces trimmed, 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil or oregano leaves
4 tablespoons drained capers
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed (I left this out of the Meadowlark sauce because we have vegetarians.)
3 tablespoon red wine vinegar, to taste
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or walnuts OR 1/2 cup diced crust-less country bread, toasted
1 large clove peeled garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable-cooking broth, more to thin sauce, as is necessary

1. Purée ingredients (up to and including garlic) in bowl of food processor until almost smooth.

2. Slowly pour in oil with machine running. Add broth or water as necessary to get a thick saucy consistency.

3. Season with freshly ground pepper. Set sauce aside 1 hour to develop flavor—it gets better as it sits. Before serving, taste sauce, and season with salt or more vinegar.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2 2010 Pad Thai Friday

Today started out cool, but fast became warm. Halleujah. I was getting worried about the tomatoes not getting enough heat and sun and that dread black gooey fungus killing them all again. It hit 80something today. Yay.

Lots of traffic; double whammy with Cherry festival and Fourth of July. Lovely lovely weekend.

Maureen and I made Farm Pad Thai--that means with whatever vegetables available plus a pound of shrimp and a pound of squid. Finely sliced baby carrots and baseball-bat zucchini in place of cabbage, and sliced zucchini blossoms in place of mung sprouts. Lots of cilantro.

Unfortunately I was running around so much that I only got one picture today--of a pixie garden sprite (Alison Heins) and a gigantic head of bok choy. Grace Slick said don't eat anything bigger than your head, but we did today. That enormous bok choy served a tableful. I'm exhausted. Luckily Alison and Carol came to help clean up. Another Hallelujah.

So we prepped and prepped and prepped--I even made Thai green curry paste with my That stone mortar and pestle--if you want the recipe email me at I sure missed Eli and his attention to detail--he would have pounded that curry paste to a mush. Mine still had texture. Eli got his scuba certification today!! Next week I hope to have a photo of him in headgear.

We fired up two woks and cooked the rice noodles and seasonings in batches. Then finished with the greens. Here's a recipe for Vietnamese stir-fried greens.

Technique: Southeast Asian Stir-Fried Greens
Stir-frying is an ideal way to lock in color, flavor and nutrients of any Asian green vegetable. This is a classic recipe, but do invent your own flavor combinations—keep them simple so they enhance, not overwhelm the green. To subdue the flavor of strong greens, to shorten stir-fry time or to prep them ahead, blanch greens whole (you lose less nutrients), in vigorously boiling salted water. Blanch firm or tough-stalked greens like kale, collards and Chinese broccoli 2 minutes and tender greens like spinach or bok choy 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cool under cold running water and drain. Alternatively, you can chop greens and steam for a similar length of time for a less watery end result. Then they are ready for a quick flavor-inducing stir-fry.
4 to 6 servings

Vietnamese Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Shallots and Shitakes

1 pound baby bok choy
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, about 3 tablespoons finely minced
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, washed, stems finely finely sliced, caps cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1 lime, wedged

1. Wash greens in cold water. Make sure to scrub at base where dirt lodges. Discard discolored leaves. Bok choy hides lots of dirt and bugs, so pull off leaves and wash it extra carefully.

2. Prep greens and remaining ingredients. Remove stems on large bok choy and slice; set aside separately. Slice large leaves in half, stack leaves and slice 1/2 to 1-inch wide strips. Slice 4 to 5-inch long bok choy in halves or quarters lengthwise. Leave smaller (2 to 3-inch) bok choy whole. Set up ingredients on tray ready to cook.

3. Heat wok or skillet over high heat and swirl in oil. (For stir-fry info see later posts.) When oil shimmers:

Stir-fry garlic and shallots until colored, 10 seconds and add shiitake. Stir-fry till soft, 1 minute and add bok choy. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes and stir in fish sauce and water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat to medium and steam/braise bok choy until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Uncover, test for doneness and cook bok choy further if necessary until moist and tender, but still bright green.

4. Taste greens, and adjust seasoning with salt or fish sauce.

5. Turn greens out onto a platter, piled high, and serve hot or at room temperature. Serve Vietnamese bok choy with lime wedges.

The Short Story
Clean Greens, Prep and assemble Ingredients, Hot Wok, Hot Oil, Stir-Fry Seasonings/Greens, Add Liquid, Steam, Taste and Serve.