Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Side Dishes--The True Stars of the Thanksgiving Feast

At Thanksgiving when I was young I eagerly perused the side dishes and quickly filled my plate with carrot salad, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and stuffing leaving little room for the turkey. Dark, light meat? It never mattered to me, I wanted second helpings of all the vegetables in this ensemble cast.

This year I want to give props to the many vegetables that make up the side dishes of Thanksgiving. They are the unsung heros and often the underrated characters of this fine meal. Here are ten side dish ideas to make your meal special this year.
1. Roasted winter squash is one of my favorite foods this time of year. But when making a special meal, I want something more than a simple vegetable. One CSA newsletter from The Fry Family Farm in Talent, Oregon, had this fabulous, easy roasted kohlorabi and squash recipe. But if you're looking for something a little more quirky, try this Thai Squash recipe with ginger and coconut milk from Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon.
My assistant says just roast and eat, but Thanksgiving calls for a little more thought.

2. Carrot sticks were always on the scene when I was young, but recently I found this fabulous recipe in The New York Times. Parsley and thyme on roasted carrots--I was already dreaming about this one when I found a similar recipe by Molly Wizenberg only her recipe involves sauteing the carrots in a skillet and adding wine vinegar to perk up the earthy sweet flavor.

3. Green Bean casserole with canned beans, canned soup and canned onions may have been part of the picture when I was young, but when I came across this Green Bean-Potato Salad on Culinate, I had to add it to my list of must-make recipes. And why not potato salad for Thanksgiving? Surely this is a recipe whose time has come.

4. Beets--unpretentious slices of them marinated in apple cider vinegar was common when I was young, and I could eat them every day but when I found this recipe for beets marinated in champagne vinegar with horseradish, I fell in lust. If you just don't care for horseradish or mustard, try this recipe that features roasted beets, balsamic vinegar and walnuts.
5. Cauliflower and Romanesco--are a couple of my favorites, raw or cooked but when I found this great recipe a few months ago in the New York Times, I've been making it nearly every week. It's an Indian-spiced recipe with tomatoes and if that's too much variation for your meal, try this recipe with green olives, parsley and lemon from Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon.

6. Potatoes--where would Thanksgiving be without them? My grandmother even had a special bowl reserved for mashed potatoes, but why serve the same old boring dish year after year? I found this post for roasted garlic mashed potatoes and if that's too much of the same old for you, check out this one for mashed potatoes and cabbage. I think both recipes give a new dimension to this old standby that has fallen out of favor with the low-carb trend.

7. Sweet Potatoes--just mention them and many people cringe remembering the super sweet casseroles topped with marshmallows. Even I skipped this as a kid and I love sweet potatoes. I've been crazy about sweet potato fries for a long time and when my friend Kathy Gehrt added lavender to them, I thought I was in heaven. You simply have to try them. I also found this great crockpot sweet potato dish from Kalyn's Kitchen that I can't wait to try.

8. Kale--so ubiquitous in the Northwest, we could all use a few more recipes. I'm fond of kale chips, a recipe given to me by my friend Patty and one I added at the last minute to my cookbook. Another way to serve this hearty winter vegetable is to puree it into a dip--just cook until it's soft, then puree with hazelnut or almond butter, lemon juice, green salsa, garlic and sea salt to taste. And it that doesn't work for you, how about a fresh kale salad with avocado, lemon and apples or pears? It was a big hit at the King County Green for the Holidays event in Shoreline last Saturday. Also check out the Veggie Queen's raw kale salad with a touch of tahini.

9. Brussels Sprouts are at their peak when a cold snap hits them because they turn sweeter. I never tire of reading new recipes for them and I almost always find a winner recipe at 101 Cookbooks. I loved this one and who wouldn't? Describe anything as Golden Crusted and I'm there. She also had a very cool Sprout Salad if you want to go the salad route.

10. Apples--no self-respecting Northwest table will be without them this year. My assistant likes them raw and quickly disposed of all unused cores but for a fancy dinner try this easy spinach and apple salad from The New York Times. Or if you're like me, you have fond memories of Waldorf Salads of the past. I found one recipe I kind of liked, but must admit, I'd wing it with this one and just get out my old Joy of Cooking cookbook and go from there. Here is another apple recipe that intrigued me with cooked red cabbage and apples, and of course they always go well with cranberries.

Whatever you do, choose your sides carefully--they're just as important as the main event.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Port Townsend Library; The Commander's Beach House; and Nash Huber's Farm Store

For anyone who missed this great dessert auction at the Port Townsend Library, mark your calendars for next year. This annual auction is a great fund raiser for the library and you can check their Web site for more details about future events and fundraisers.

Tables were laden with cookies, cakes and even more amazing pies than my grandmother made. One of the best things about this event was every dessert could be frozen then thawed for Thanksgiving. Low bids started at $25.00, every dessert looked perfect, and every one sold, even this old-fashioned cherry pie that caught my eye. I envy the person who won that delicious bid.
Though it was the usual grey Northwest day with rain on and off, the library event was so festive, I didn't even think about the soggy weather outside. And as soon as I set up my table, I couldn't help perusing the old and new Nancy Drew titles just a few feet away. Just seeing these books made me recall all the different libraries from the many towns I lived in as a child.

After the event I stayed the night at the Commander's Beach House. I have to admit that since we usually travel with dogs, this was my first stay at a B & B and I totally loved it. I won't tell my Cooking Assistant but I didn't miss the dog hair one bit.

When I returned from the dessert auction, I flopped down on a sofa in front of the fireplace and a couple from Fairbanks immediately introduced themselves. I filled my glass with wine and after talking for awhile, Jan mentioned that they were lucky to get a weekly CSA from Full Circle Farm in Carnation. "The fresh food in Alaska really isn't very good," she'd said. "We look forward to our weekly vegetable boxes from the farm." Full Circle Farm is the only farm in Washington that offers this unique CSA for Alaska residents.
I got the lighthouse suite and when Jim showed me my room he said, "Sleep with the window open and listen to the ocean." So that's exactly what I did and the gentle ocean sounds and cool breeze made the night seem magical.

In the morning I gave Jim and Gail a copy of my book, so if you stay there, you can read about local farms and get inspired by our Northwest produce.
The coffee was hot and strong, just the way I like it, and Gail made a gourmet breakfast composed of pear slices with walnuts (not pictured), a tiny souffle, a winter squash round topped with cheese and an old-fashioned oat muffin. As soon as I bit into the muffin, I started talking about Nash's flour--one of my favorite baking ingredients these days and I feel compelled to share this secret with everyone.

I discovered a few bags of dog biscuits for sale on a table before I left--just the thing for my Cooking Assistant stuck at home. As soon as I walked out the door I was dreaming about when I could return to this little piece of paradise. I'm marking my calendar for this event next year for sure.

I made a detour to Nash's Farm Store on the way home and was so excited when I discovered the "bargain" section. Peppers were only 20 cents each, lettuce was $1.25 and celery was $1.50. Sure the celery wasn't quite as crisp as #1 stalks, but I'm not always so picky about texture, especially if it's going into soup, plus I got an entire bag of produce for only $12.00. Who said local isn't affordable?

Even my Cooking Assistant was impressed with my local food finds from Nash's Organic Produce. He keeping his eye on Nash's sweet carrots--in fact he chose the carrot over the beef-flavored dog biscuit I bought when I gave him a choice.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Port Townsend Library Dessert Auction: Cranberry-Raspberry Slump

I was so surprised and happy when the Port Townsend Library chose The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook for their featured book at their annual dessert auction next Wednesday, November 17th at 7pm. I have loved libraries forever. Well, ever since Nancy Drew became my hero when I was young. I checked-out every mystery the library had back then, and it's the still one of my first choices for books, magazines and information today. And beautiful vintage libraries like The Port Townsend Library are so cool they should be tourist destinations..

At the risk of sounding like a hick, I've never heard of a dessert auction. Also I was curious when Cris Wilson said they didn't have a stove or kitchen for the event. Where would I'd be doing the demo? I like to picture things before an event, but most of the time for cooking demos or classes, there's no way around it, I have to show up early and get a picture in my head for a presentation. No stove. It certainly reduced the possibilities, so I picked Cranberry-Raspberry Slump.

A slump is just about as old-fashioned as you can get. Fruit (usually berries), simmer with sweet dumplings steaming on top. A slump also doesn't need a burner if you have an electric skillet which is exactly what I need if the event doesn't provide a stove. Just mix the batter and drop dumplings onto simmering fruit and cover. The secret is in the ingredients. That's the general story with local food.

A Cranberry-Raspberry Slump was also my first choice because cranberries are simply meant to be paired with raspberries. The first time I combined these two characters, I immediately knew that all they needed was orange juice, a little Grand Marnier, and orange zest.

As for the word "slump," I'd like to give the person who named this dessert a word or two about recipe names. It's too late now, but to me, slump sounds like peasant food. At least it's better than a grunt, which is the same thing from another region. But forget the name for a minute and consider this: a slump is Nigella Lawson easy to make. And if more people suddenly showed up for dinner, double the amount of fruit and sweetener, and it still works. As for the dough-- if you have access to freshly ground local flour, please use it because it really makes a huge difference in flavor.

The best part about this recipe is that I must test and retest this recipe before the event--just to make sure it works, of course. You never know. So for the first version, I wanted those berries simmering and daylight was fading, so I gathered the ingredients quickly. Natural light poses such photo dilemmas in fall and winter.
I found whole-wheat pastry flour from Dunbar Farms in Southern Oregon where I visited last summer and learned about grains, beans and wine in that region. It's food with a story, I know, but I love that I know exactly where the ingredients come from, and it's even better when I know the farmer who produced it. I also had a partially filled bag of Nash's Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour. I've mentioned in previous blog entires that Nash's flour is so sweet and tasty.

I didn't totally thaw the raspberries from Rent's Due Ranch, and it doesn't really matter because the berries thaw as the sauce bubbles and cooks.

Here's the recipe:

Cranberry-Raspberry Slump
(Serves 4)
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups frozen raspberries
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/3 cup milk (diary or soy, plain or vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 to 4 tablespoons butter

1.Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Combine cranberries, raspberries, orange juice, sugar, arrowroot powder and Grand Marnier in the skillet. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. While the fruit cooks, prepare the dumplings.

2.Combine the milk and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium-size mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and orange zest. Mix well, making sure there are no small lumps of baking soda. Cut in the butter until the mixture has a mealy consistency. Add the milk and lemon juice and stir until a fairly thick but still sticky batter forms.

3. Drop the batter from a heaping teaspoon onto the simmering fruit, going around the outside of the pan until you reach the middle, covering almost all of the fruit.

4. Cover and simmer until the dumplings are done, about 40 minutes. Serve in individual dishes with the simmering fruit ladled over the dumplings.
This dessert is best eaten hot with a generous scoop of ice cream, coconut sorbet, or whipped cream. This recipe is rated 4 PAWS UP.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creamy Cauliflower Soup from Ayers Creek Farm

Last time I visited Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon, Carol Boutard invited me to lunch. The creamy cauliflower soup was to-die-for delicious and I wanted the recipe.

This past Friday, I got a card from Carol with two recipes, one for curried stock and one for a cauliflower soup. When I was at the market on Saturday, I got the cauliflower and celery from Willie Greens Organic farm and carrots and potatoes from Let Us Grow (who, by-the-way, needs farm help desperately or they may not return to the market next spring.)
Anyway, back to soup and stocks. I have to admit, I often cheat and add the vegetables, herbs, and spices to the water for soup instead of layering with stock. But I wanted this recipe to turn out, so I made the stock first. And when I was finished, I remembered that stock doesn't really take much time at all, even for a lazy cook like me.
Here's the recipe:

Curried Soup Stock

(6 cups stock)

2 carrots with tops, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks with leaves, roughly chopped

1 small onion, skin removed, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small potato, chopped

Handful of parsley, chopped

5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 or 3inch stick of cinnamon

6 cloves

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon salt

8 cups cold water

Place carrots, celery, and onion in a heavy frying pan on medium heat. Add olive oil, stir and cook until onion is wilted and celery and carrots begin to soften—about 10 minutes.

Place remaining ingredients in a soup pot. Add the cooked vegetables, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Strain stock to use in curried soups and stews. This is also a great stock for cooking grains.

What I recall most vividly about lunch with Anthony and Carol Boutard was the warmth of the early autumn sun, the Indian spices simmering on the stove top, the grated marinated carrots and beets and the peppers drying in the sun streaming in the windows.

Carol's cauliflower soup was creamy without being overloaded with fat, and the flavor had a subtle curry tone. With each bite I wanted another, and I was sad to see this meal come to an end. After I got home, I emailed Anthony and Carol saying that I'd love to have the recipe, and when I got it, it was a gift that filled my day with sunshine and delicious memories.

Autumn is the perfect season for dipping into a steaming bowl of homemade soup, and the second day, this soup reheated is even better. I made a few changes, but have listed them as optional. (I haven't met a recipe yet that I don't try to tweak in one way or another.)

Here's the recipe:

Spiced Creamy Cauliflower Soup

(Serves 6)

1 large potato, peeled and chopped into cubes

1 small cauliflower, roughly chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped (or 1 cup chopped shallots)

1 red pepper, chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons water

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 to 3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 to 2 teaspoons tumeric

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

2 to 3 teaspoons chopped Mama Lil’s peppers or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

4 cups curried vegetable stock

2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)

1 cup plain yogurt

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Croutons (optional)

1/4 cup or more chopped fresh parsley

Place potato, cauliflower, onion, and red pepper into a large pot over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and stir to coat. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover pot until bubbling, then reduce heat and cook for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, ginger, spices, sugar and Mama Lil’s, if desired. Cook for about 2 minutes, then pour in stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Puree in blender a few cups at a time. (Start with 1 cup, then add more soup to make 2.) Stir in lemon juice, yogurt and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with croutons and parsley.

Next time I make this soup, I'll try adding a sweet potato to the mix--peeled and chopped, added in the beginning. And instead of yogurt, I'd add more lemon juice and maybe 1/4 cup almond or cashew butter to give that creamy mouth-feel texture--just a thought for moving in a vegan direction. One of the fun things about soup is tweaking it in new directions. My Cooking Assistant can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apple Pie Oatmeal

I often get on a breakfast kick and stay on it for an entire season. Oh, I'll eat a few different things here and there, but mostly I like consistency when it comes to breakfast. It's like a ritual for starting the day. In the summer, I was into smoothies made with fresh fruit, almond butter and ice. This fall, it's Apple Pie Oatmeal.

When I was a child, I didn't have a clue about oatmeal. Mom ate it when she was a child and never liked it, so she never served it. I usually ate cold cereal or fruit. When I got older and tried oatmeal, it was a lame instant version that my sister and I brought camping. I hated the paste-like taste, yet it wasn't the oatmeal because I liked oatmeal cookies, the oatmeal topping on crisps and granola.

Still I felt like something was missing and I wanted to join the ranks of those who enjoy a bowl of hot steaming oatmeal, but if I was going to join the crowd, I had to tweak the flavor significantly.

I started adding things, and aside from dried friut, one of the first things I added was walnuts.
I've loved walnuts since I was a child. Now I buy them from Grouse Mountain Farm. The sweetest walnuts I've ever tasted, you can just roll them under your palm and they crack open. Then you gently pick the whole halves of the nut from the shell. I bought an entire box of them this past weekend at the market, that's how much I like walnuts.

The next thing I added was an apple. I usually pick something other than a golden delicious because I love those the best. But I only love them from Cliffside Orchards. I got some organic goldens from a natural foods recently and the flavor was disappointing. Thin and watery with a slight hint of soap, I could see why many people detested these apples.

When I told Jeanette Herman of Cliffside Orchards about the soapy flavor, she looked puzzled. Then she said it sounded like there was an aphid problem and maybe too much "Safer" (an allowed organic treatment for aphids) was sprayed. A very old-fashioned variety, goldens have thin skins, which makes them more fragile than other apples. Jeanette also said goldens are a hard sell because so many people recall the dismal golden delicious apples of their youth. Jeanette's husband Jeff harvests these apples and he said he tastes them on a regular basis before harvest to determine if the apples are ripe. I can't imagine big farms harvesting this way. but the secret of great apples is to pick at the peak of sweetness.The next thing I added was Rockridge Orchards apple cider in place of water. I've tasted plenty of cider and the thing I love about Rockridge Orchards is Wade Bennett makes a variety to choose from and the flavor is, well, it's just the best. My Cooking Assistant gives my new Apple Pie Oatmeal recipe four paws up.

Apple Pie Oatmeal

Serves 1

This recipe is adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. I’m sure if I’d tried apple cider, blueberries and walnuts then, this would have been the version in the book.

1 apple (any variety), cored and diced

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1 cups apple cider

1 cup old-fashioned oats

Water to thin

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1. Bring the apples, dried blueberries and water to a boil in a small to medium saucepan over high heat.

2. Add the oats, reduce the heat, and simmer until the oatmeal has absorbed the water and is thick, about 5 minutes. Thin with water, if necessary.

3. Serve topped with chopped walnuts.


Monday, November 1, 2010


When I was researching the recipes of Argentina, for an article I was writing for Vegetarian Journal, I spotted chimchurri (Argentine Parsley Sauce). I was immediately intrigued. People in Argentina put it on meat, but what sauce doesn't go over the ubiquitious asado in Argentina? The sauce is thick and green, and I was thinking of something light like quinoa and corn, so you can taste the garlic and parsley the essence of chimichurri.

I'm a sucker for parsley, but not the Italian flat leaf kind that so many people seem to gush over. Like a lettuce nerd who adores the iceberg variety, it's all about the crisp texture and mild flavor of curly parsley. JoanE from Rent's Due Ranch agrees with me. It's the Ozzie and Harriet parsley of my youth.

I remember parsly as a garnish on restaurant plates when I was a child. "It's just a decoration; it's not to eat," Mom said when I reached for it. I couldn't help eating it when I thought she wasn't looking, I loved the way it crunched between my teeth.

The season for parsley is nearly over. I didn't see any at the market this past weekend, but we had lots of it growing right outside our front door. In fact, I was all set to make parsley-rice when I spotted the chimichurri recipe.
I adapted this recipe from The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac. The sauce isn't too spicy but it's got sufficient garlic for a kick, which puts it right up there in my book.


(Serves 6)

1/4 cup boiling water

1 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 to 5 cloves garlic, pressed

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Generous pinch of cayenne

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Pour the boiling water over the parsley. Stir, then add, cider vinegar, salt, garlic, basil, oregano, cayenne, and oil. Whisk until well blended. Refrigerate for one hour. Whisk again before serving.

While the chimichurri was refrigerated, I cooked some tepary beans I got from Rancho Gordo in San Francisco. I chopped, then sauted some peppers I'd gotten from Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm. Then I steamed some quinoa and corn.
My Cooking Assistant likes the looks of the quinoa and beans but parsley--it's one food he won't touch.