Thursday, July 16, 2015

Green Beans, Red Peppers, Mushrooms and Shell Pasta


It's been so hot in the Northwest that many crops are appearing early and these past few weeks, green beans are here, so get them before they're gone!  This was my favorite vegetable as a child.  Not the most nutritious vegetable, but it's fun to eat raw or cooked. Buy them at your favorite farmers market because green beans toughen when picked. 

This picture was taken last year near Portland, Oregon.  I'd say the price of beans has gone up to $3.50 a pound for regular beans and $6.00 a pound for the haricot vert beans.  These are a slender, tender, sweet variety, and perhaps they have less yield, which could explain the price difference.



Long time vendors at the U-District farmers market, Liz and Michael grow crispy sweet beans, picked at just the right moment.  

I love everything Grouse Mountain Farm grows!



For color and taste I love red peppers.  I like to sauté, grill or roast until the peppers blacken and become even sweeter.


You could use any type of mushrooms but shiitake supports your immune system.  I like to maximize the healthy potential of any dish with shiitake mushrooms.  Like other mushrooms, if you dry-fry them, they add a meaty texture.


This is a simple, no-fuss recipe. You could add some jalapeno for spice if you want. You could also cut up a few tomatoes and blend those in before serving.  I had a great pesto sauce that a friend gave me and I got some garlic sauce from the Edmonds farmers market. 



Green Beans, Red Peppers, Mushrooms and Shell Pasta
(Serves 4)

3 cups shell pasta
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil
1 red pepper. seeded and sliced
4 cups fresh green beans, tips removed
2 tablespoons apple cider, white wine or water
1/4 cup pesto or garlic sauce (optional)
Chopped fresh chives, basil, parsley, etc

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While you wait, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms.  Cook and stir until mushrooms soften.  Remove from heat and set aside.  

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add oil and red pepper.  Stir and cook until pepper softens.   Add green beans and stir until they are coated with oil.  Add apple cider, cover and steam until beans soften to desired tenderness, however, do not overcook them.

Combine cooked vegetables with pasta, then toss in pesto or garlic sauce, if desired, and top with fresh herbs.






Thursday, July 2, 2015

Red, White, and Blueberries



I has been exceptionally hot in the Northwest and since most people in Seattle don't have air conditioning, when the temperature climbs to 90F (32C), it's best to chill out, and I can't think of a better way than to eat cooling sorbet. 

You can always try Baskin Robbins, but I'm a big fan of making my own sorbet and I love the excuse  to use berries. But I do hope the hot weather doesn't last. Berries don't like the heat. They prefer cool days better. Me too. The hot berries get soft, the greens become thirsty and the plants want more water. And we could use a little more rain.

So be thankful when the farmers at the markets have berries because berries aren't easy to grow, especially when they're grown organically.

I found this great idea for a sorbet in the Cuisinart Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker handbook. Years  time ago, my Aunt Virginia told me product booklets are the best places to find good recipes and after all these years I know she was right. The recipe said, Easy Frozen Lemonade. I thought of raspberry lemonade. Then I saw the blueberries at a local market and got this idea for a great 4th of July dessert.

My first attempt did not come out like soft ice cream. That's what the texture should be, but it had too much liquid because I'd overfilled the ice cream maker. Don't overfill it!  I let that mixture thaw. Well, actually we ate some of it, but I froze the ice cream maker bowl overnight.  Then with the remaining defrosted mixture, I tried again, twenty-four hours later.


I poured the mixture back into the ice cream maker and in just 20 minutes got amazing results.  Just don't leave this slushy in the freezer for days or it will be come rock hard because it has no fat in it.  But then you could probably let it defrost just enough to churn it again.

Raspberry Lemonade Slushy with Coconut Sorbet and Blueberries
(Makes 4 servings)

3 cups lemonade
1 1/2 cups raspberries (chilled)
Coconut sorbet
1 to 2 cups blueberries

Pour lemonade and raspberries into freezer bowl of your ice cream maker.  Turn machine on and let it churn for 30 minutes or until mixture is fairly stiff.  Scoop into bowls and serve with coconut sorbet.  Top with blueberries.


It is so good, I even shared a bit with my Cooking Assistant.





Monday, June 22, 2015

Cherry-Raspberry Cobbler


I'm calling this cobbler recipe rustic because it involves a cherished pie crust recipe from one of my mom's old cookbooks. And as you can see, I am not even close to an expert pie maker, but combine this pie crust with cherries, raspberries and rhubarb and what you've got is one mouth-watering dessert, you'll want to make again and again.

If you use high quality pie cherries, like North Star from Grouse Mountain Farm, use less sugar. When you're ready to enjoy some, give yourself the time to linger over the delicious flavors of the season.  Each seasonal fruit goes by fast, so slow down and enjoy each one.








We've got our own crop of raspberries again this year, a bumper crop really, but I'm not sure about allowing my Cooking Assistant free reign around the raspberries. We could end up with a lot less for summer desserts.


Taking bets on how long he'd last if left alone with these berries.


Sometimes I wonder is there any food this dog doesn't like?  He's a big fan of raspberries, that's for sure.





Pitting them is mess, no way around it, you have to wear an apron or get cherry stained.


Another pie cherry fan.  I've loved them ever since I can remember and in those days I'd only sampled canned cherries.  The fresh are out of this world.





Rhubarb, not surprisingly, pairs well with most summer fruits.  It wouldn't be suitable to share with your pooch though because the rhubarb is on the canine don't eat list.

That doesn't stop my Cooking Assistant.  He has a relentless passion for anything edible.





Cherry-Rhubarb-Raspberry Cobbler
(Serves 4)
This cobbler is made with a pie crust topping and you can always opt for a frozen version, but sometimes it’s fun to make your own.  I always go back to one of Mom’s  favorite cookbooks--Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (1951).  Pies, it seems, never go out of style. While my grandmotehr used lard, this recipe uses shortening and I used a vegan shortening.For this recipe, it’s best to start the crust first because the dough needs to be chilled before rolling it out. I came up with these three fruits that go together nicely.  If you don’t have one, make your own substitutions.

Crust
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
4 to 5 tablespoons very cold water
Filling
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped lemon zest
2 cups pitted pie cherries
2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
2 cups raspberries

1. Prepare crust by sifting flour and salt together.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until pieces are the size of small peas.  Add the cold water by teaspoons, tossing with a fork until all the flour-coated bits of fat are covers. Stop!

2. Gather the dough into a compact ball then turn onto a waxed piece of paper and flatten with your hand.  Chill the disc for an hour for easier handling.

3. Preheat oven to 350F.

4. Combine cornstarch, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl and mix well.  Place cherries, rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan on medium-low heat.  Blend in the cornstarch-lemon mixture and stir. Cook and stir until a sauce forms.  It will be opaque at first and when it turns closer to clear but not quite clear, remove from heat.  Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Stir in the raspberries.

5. Roll chilled pastry dough 1/8-inch thick, rolling lightly from the center to outer edges.  Gently lift and place over the fruit.  Crimp the edges and make a few slashes in the top of the dough with a knife.  You can lightly butter the top and add a few dashes of cinnamon sugar if you want before baking.

6. Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned on top and bubbling inside.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving with coconut sorbet.






Monday, May 25, 2015

Blueberry Coffee Cake with vegan options


I wanted a coffee cake recipe that was easy to convert to vegan options. Hint: Rule #1 Pick a recipe with one or two eggs.  I also wanted the recipe to include berries, but I wasn't picky about the type.  I  perused my cookbooks first, and I found exactly what I was looking for in The Creative Breakfast by Ellen Klavan.

The recipe is in a chapter called Sweet Treats. Klavan says, "There are times--like when your Aunt Matilda is spending the night or your child is headed off to summer camp, or someone in the family needs cheering up or congratulating when a bowl of skim milk and muesli just don't strike the right note." Maybe because the book was published in 1998, but today we don't need excuses like Aunt Mildred to eat cake, do we? And we don't need to feel guilty for thinking we do.

Enjoy, I say. Maybe I'm a sucker for the hedonistic advice from my Cooking Assistant.  He never feels guilty about indulging in anything. 

With this recipe, you can souce ingredients locally. I used Nash's local flour for this recipe.  I keep Nash's flour in my freezer and use it up within a few months. 

The picture of pastry flour below is from Dunbar Farms in Southern Oregon. Check your own farmers' market for local flour.


Choose your own berries to accompany this cake.  

Below are strawberries, black raspberries and raspberries.  I like the idea of serving red, white and blue on patriotic holidays.


We don't have blueberries yet in the Northwest, and though it's preferable to have fresh berries, you can also use frozen berries. The only problem with frozen blueberries is, as the berries defrost, the cell walls break allowing the blue color to seep into the batter.  Sometimes you can toss berries in frozen and the bleeding won't happen. I wasn't very lucky with that technique. 

The batter was blue before I put it in the pan. But don't let that discourage you; it still tastes fabulous.


My Cooking Assistant loves the berries.  He can be very naughty in the garden, picking all the berries for himself.  We thought it was cute when we taught him how to pick berries. 

It could be dangerous teaching your dog to pick berries.



This cake is not very sweet so eat it for breakfast if you like.  Or serve it with berries and coconut sorbet after dinner.  This recipe isn't altered much from the original recipe. To switch it to a vegan recipe is easy with only one egg, butter and milk to replace.

Blueberry Coffeecake
(Makes one 7-by 9-inch cake)

Topping 
1/4 cup butter or Earth Balance buttery sticks, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg or flaxseed egg replacer for one egg
1/2 cup milk (almond, coconut, hemp, or soy)
2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Butter or grease a 7-by 9-inch baking dish.  With a fork, combine the butter, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon, mashing until mixture is creamy. Stir in nuts and set aside.

2. Sift the pastry flour and baking powder together.  In another bowl combine the butter and sugar, blending until smooth.  Stir in egg or egg-replacer.  Add the flour alternating with the milk and stir just until smooth. Mixture will be quite thick. Gently mix in the blueberries. 

3. Spread in the prepared baking pan and bake for 1 hour.  Test with a toothpick before removing from the pan.  Cool before cutting.  Serve with strawberries and coconut sorbet.









Monday, May 11, 2015

Minted Sugar Snap Peas, Peppers and Leeks


I can't get enough of fresh peas this season. My vegetable love is partly due to an article about peas I'm finishing up for Vegetarian Journal. I love this magazine and if you love vegetables like I do, check out the roasted vegetables in this issue of Vegetarian Journal.

I've enjoyed every pea recipe, even the failures. But I'm not talking about those.  In the process, I became an even bigger fan of garden peas. The Green Pea Guacamole I made last week was to die for. It isn't hard to make--peas, lime, avocado, and salsa. Green pea hummus would be good too--Martha Stewart proves once again that there's nothing new under the sun in cooking. If you can think it up, someone, somewhere, has already cooked or created. 

But seriously, who knew mint was such a great partner for peas? It's as if they were made for each other.  Kind of like cauliflower and cashew butter.

Fresh peas restore my love of spring, but I didn't always like English peas.

When I was young, I turned my nose up at canned peas. They were an annoyance on my lunch tray. I was revolted by the color, and I recall moving the army green specimens around on my plate at lunch time in the school cafeteria, to avoid being forced to eat even one bite the nasty canned things. We were required to take three bites of everything on our hot lunch trays; I wasn't the only kid moving the canned beets and peas around instead of taking required bites. But those canned peas are nothing like fresh English, sugar snap and snow peas, which rarely appeared on lunch or dinner plates.

Today, we've got peas planted in our garden and it looks like we'll have plenty by the end of this month.

I marvel at the bounty at the farmers markets.  These sugar snap peas are from Willie Green's Organic Farm.



English peas are slightly larger, but don't get them too big or they will be starchy not sweet. My Cooking Assistant is waiting for someone to shuck these perfect English peas.  I'm guessing that would be me.


Minted Sugar Snap Peas with Peppers and Leeks
(Serves 4)
16-ounces fresh sugar snap peas, washed and strings removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, washed and sliced
1/2 red pepper, cut into thin strips
2 Tablespoons apple cider or water
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add sugar snap peas.  Blanch for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, drain, rinse and stop the cooking process with cold water.
a heavy skillet over medium heat.  
2. Add leeks and red pepper.  Stir and cook until leeks begin to caramelize and peppers soften.  Add sugar snap peas and stir until the peas warm up.  Stir in fresh mint and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.