Monday, March 2, 2015

Grits and Greens

I woke up one morning craving grits and greens.

I didn't grow up in the South and I didn't eat grits or greens until I was older, so I never had the kind served with milk, cream, ham hocks or bacon.  But somehow it seemed right to add tempeh "bacon" strips which have a smoky flavor some might find reminiscent of bacon.

I might use Italian kale for dishes like this, also called Tuscon, black or dino kale.  Whatever you want to call it, it's generally my go-to green, but for this dish, consider collards. They are more tender and with a milder flavor, they allow the lemon and smoked tempeh to take center stage.  Add a bit of lemon juice and it's a perfect frame for the polenta or "grits."

Tuscon kale

I'm not sure what the exact difference is between polenta and grits, but I'm treating them the same for this recipe. I had Amish butter coarse cornmeal from Ayers Creek Farm in my freezer. This local coarse cornmeal has the best flavor.  And the directions for cooking these grits came from Ayer's Creek Farm.

If you don't have shallots, use red onions.

I'm not the only one who loves seasonal greens around here.  My Cooking Assistant has stolen them on occasion.

Swiss chard would also work in this recipe, if that's what you happen to have.  It takes less time to cook than kale, so it's a good option for a quick meal.

I might also add toasted pecans or pine nuts to top this dish, just to vary the textures.

Grits and Greens
(Serves 4)

2 cups water or vegetarian stock
1 cup coarse cornmeal "grits"
2 cups almond, rice or soy milk
1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt 
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
6 tempeh bacon strips
1 or 2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 bunch kale or collard greens, stem removed and sliced thinly, then chopped
2 or 3 tablespoons apple juice 
Fresh Meyer lemon juice 

Heat water or stock in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  When water boils, add coarse cornmeal or "grits"in a thin stream, follow with salt.  Once the grits have been added, stir in the milk and sea salt.  Stir for 2 minutes. Adjust heat so mixture simmers but does not boil.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Uncover and stir for 1 minute.  Repeat this process two more times.  The mixture will be very thick.  Spread in a baking pan (9 by 11- or 13-inch).

While grits cook, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, add oil and tempeh strips.  Cook on both sides until browned and crisp.  Remove from pan and add shallots.  Stir and cook until shallots begin to brown, then add greens.  Stir and add apple juice.  Cover and braise the greens until they soften, adding more liquid as needed.  Cut and serve grits topped with greens, tempeh and shallots.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Squeeze lemon juice over to taste.

Enjoy your local flavors.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Savory Shepherd's Pie with Shiitake Mushrooms

Who doesn't love comfort food?  Shepherd's Pie is one of my long time favorites.  It's the best for a rainy day.  When I'm looking for better flavors and texture, Olsen's Farms has the best selection at the farmers' market.  I like the Yukon Gold or Yukon for mashing.  I've tried to mash potatoes from baked russet potatoes but they don't seem to get as creamy tasting.  If you want more nutrition and less carbs, add a bit of cauliflower to the steamed potatoes.  The potatoes above were enhanced with sweet potatoes.  If you mash a vegetable with more water with the potatoes, you don't need to add much milk, vegan margarine or butter.

Many of the ingredients can be found at the farmers market.  Look for dried mushrooms, but if you can't find them, you can dehydrate shiitake or any other mushrooms and use those.  The longer you leave the mushrooms out, the more they dry. You could also put them in a dehydrator on low.  One friend left them in her refrigerator and instead of getting old, the mushrooms dried and made a rich mushroom stock.

I must admit, I'm a bit late with this post because I read this book and I've gone a little crazy with this method of tidying-up.  The book has significantly lightened my load.  I love her ideas of peeling stuff in categories and the idea of keeping only the things that bring you joy.

I have donated box after box to Bella's Voice a nonprofit thrift store that supports the Feral Cat Project.  The store offers amazing finds because stores like Goodwill often comb through donations to put them in online auctions, but Bella's Voice puts everything on the floor.  I hope more thrift stores open up as nonprofits supporting animal rescue organizations.

Here's the recipe:

Savory Shepherd's Pie with Shiitake Mushrooms
(Serves 4)
The mashed potatoes transform this Shepherd's Pie into a timeless tradition. First, choose an oven tolerant skillet such as cast iron. Prepare the mushrooms and potatoes ahead of time.  Mash the potatoes with cauliflower or sweet potatoes and you'll feel less guilt over the luxurious carbs. Also feel free to embellish any way you like, add herbs or change vegetables.

2 cups mashed potatoes (or mash a blend of sweet potatoes, cauliflower and potatoes)
1/4 cup salsa
1/8 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed, caps sliced
1 tablespoon oil (canola or extra-virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup diced onion
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 carrot, small dice
1/2 red pepper, small diced or white beans
1 cup  seitan or white beans
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1 tablespoon Liquid Braggs Aminos
1 cup cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 cup green beans, frozen
1 cup corn, frozen or canned
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Combine the mashed potatoes and salsa.  Set aside.

Pour boiling water over dried mushrooms.  Let allow mushrooms to rehydrate for at least one hour.  The longer the mushrooms are in the water, the more flavorful it becomes. Strain, reserve liquid and finely chop the mushrooms.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Cast iron is best.  Add mushrooms and dry fry, stirring them until they become limp. Add the oil, onion, celery and carrot.  Stir and cook until vegetables soften.  Stir in the pepper and seitan and continue to stir and cook for 5 minutes. Blend in the chopped, soaked mushrooms, green beans and corn.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Stir arrowroot into mushroom liquid until well blended. Pour over vegetables, stir and spread the mashed potatoes on top.  Sprinkle paprika over the top.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling.

Everybody gets to sample this Shepherd's Pie

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Superbowl Brownies

My mom loved chocolate and that included brownies, one of her favorite desserts.  Lucky for me, I inherited Mom's cookbooks and I've tweaked her favorite brownies with a local flavors.

The flour is from Nash's; the walnuts from Grouse Mountain Farm, and I might have used eggs from River Farm, but Liz had her baby and they weren't at the market last week, so I used flax seed egg replacer.

So disappointed brownies aren't for dogs.  I vote for carob next time.

This recipe actually came from and old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but brownies are timeless. It's hard to improve on the old school recipes, unless you add more nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.

Superbowl Brownies
(Makes 12 brownies)

1/2 cup vegan shortening or local butter
2 one-ounce squaares of baking chocolate
3/4 cup Northwest flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Flax seed egg replacer for 2 eggs (2 tbs. ground flax seeds blended with 6 tablespoons water)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Northwest lightly toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8-inch baking pan. Melt shortening and chocolate together in a double boiler over hot water.  Cool.

Sift flour and baking powder together.   In another bowl mix egg-replacer and sugar.  Blend with shortening and chocolate, then stir into flour mixture with walnuts and chocolate chips.  Stir just until blended.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  When a toothpick comes out clean, remove from oven and cool on cooling rack.  Serve with coconut sorbet.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meyer Lemon Biscotti

Some people think black eyed peas will bring good luck in the new year.  I've always been a dessert first kind of person, so I thought why not start the year off with biscotti?  It could start a new trend.

This time it's my mother's recipe altered with Meyer lemon standing in for the orange and anise and local flour and walnuts replacing the store bought varieties.  It's not the first biscotti recipe I've posted and it definitely won't be the last.

When I was perusing photos for this post, I found this one taken when my book first came out.  This was at the Edmonds Bookshop, where owner Mary Kaye made carrot hummus and set up this table for my book.

The thing about biscotti is they are easy to make, they freeze well and also make great gifts, if they last that long.

Local whole wheat pastry flour is the way to go with these, but you can use unbleached white flour and they'll turn out just fine.

Walnuts are best and local walnuts even better, but it's a splurge and local walnuts could be scarce this time of year.  I've done hazelnut biscotti in the past, and you could substitute pecans if you want.

No one can resist these twice baked wonders.  In case you're interested here's a bit of biscotti history.  Seems these dry cookies were made for traveling. 

Here's to everything sweet in 2015!

Meyer Lemon Biscotti
(Makes 36 to 45 cookies)

4 cups flour (add enough for a stiff dough)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs, beaten, or flax seed egg replacer for 3 eggs, whipped
1 cup Florida Crystals, or sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest and juice from 1 Meyer lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Sift flour with baking powder and soda.  In another bowl mix eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract and lemon zest and juice. Combine the flour and liquid ingredients, adding enough flour for a very stiff dough.  

Form 2 or 3 long rolls about 14-inches long.  If you make 3 rolls, the cookies will be much smaller and you'll get more cookies.   

Place rolls on baking sheet.  Flatten with the tops slightly with your hand. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Slice cookies carefully on the slant, about 1/2-inch thick.

I was promised biscotti.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ranger Cookies

One of my resolutions this year was to cut back on sweets and only eat treats if I make them at home.That means setting aside time, getting ingredients and since I like to eat as locally as possible I already had Nash's flour, Grouse Mountain walnuts and dried cherries from Ayers Creek Farm.  I probably could have found oats, too but three ingredients seemed enough and cookies seem the perfect way to start the new year.

Local flour is gaining popularity and the variety that grows best west of the Cascades is soft wheat, which is perfect for quick breads and cookies.  Nash's flour seems to have even less gluten than the store brought variety.  I usually add a bit more flour to the baked goods.

This was my walnut supply last fall.

The supply is dwindling.

This is my begging Cooking Assistant.  He's a pro, and a good counter surfer, so he's not usually allowed in the kitchen when we're cooking.

I found the perfect cookie recipe in an old Betty Crocker cookbook that my dad once owned. I was surprised to see a cookbook on a shelf at house after he passed away.  Dad was a great cook but he rarely used recipes. The was a mystery until  I spotted the sticker on the front that said the book was a complimentary copy from Glendale Federal Savings.  

Another thing dad liked was deals and freebies.  He actually had two cookbooks from banks, making me wonder if banks today offer free cookbooks as incentives to investors. 

Perhaps it's an idea that needs reviving.

Here's the recipe:

Ranger Cookies
(Makes about 3 dozen cookies )

1/2 cup Earth Balance (butter sticks) or butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax seed egg replacer (1 tbs ground flax seeds plus 3 tablespoons water, whipped together until frothy) or use 1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut or toasted walnuts
1/2 cup dried fruit (optional)

Heat oven to 375F. Mix thoroughly Earth Balance and sugar.  Blend in egg replacer and vanilla.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonson an ungreased baking sheet.  Each cookie should 2 inches apart to allow for expansion.