Monday, September 24, 2012

The Best Vegetarian Soup Stock

 Finn the Cooking Assistant will return in a few weeks.  

From the Book:  Just the Basics

This past week I read An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama.  I was on waiting lists for both of these books from the library and they both came in last week.  Both of these books bring me back to the basics--Adler with her basic-cooking writing pieces and Obama with putting in her first kitchen garden.

An Everlasting Meal is a great book for a beginning cook or home cooks who use recipes for everything they make. These writing pieces aren't exactly essays and they aren't stories or memoir, either.  Sometimes I felt bogged down with mundane kitchen observations.  How do you even classify a book like this?   Food?   Anyway, the gem in this book is the cool fixes in the back (why save the best for last?)  Even seasoned cooks want secrets for over cooked beans, over salted rice, over salted pasta, mushy vegetables, etc.  I could buy the book for these hints alone.  Otherwise, I liked the piece about how to boil water the best for its humor and sparkle.

American Grown by Michelle Obama was a long wait and well worth it. This is a beautiful book with photos and recipes in the back.  Corn Soup with Summer Vegetables,  Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Chiles, and White Chocolate-Cherry-Carrot cookies are just a few.  I loved reading about the history of gardens at the White House, and the profiles of farmers and community gardens across the country.  The sweetest surprise was the profile of Picardo P-Patch in Seattle.  Community garden spaces really do bring the community together.  I liked this book enough to buy my own copy.  My Cooking Assistant will appreciate the recipes I make from this book!

Fall and soup stock

Lots of people say winter squash or apples are the turning point for fall, but Saturday when I found celery from Nash's farm, I knew fall had arrived. It's soup time.  Oh sure, you might think with all the soups I made last year, I'm over soup, but as soon as the cool weather hits, I get weak and want soup all over again. 

True confession: even though it's easy to make, I don't always make a soup stock.  Sometimes I'm in a hurry and I cheat and add the usual stock veggies to the soup base, but I never buy that prepackaged stuff.  It's a lot of money for flavored water.  

 Now I'm back to relying on stock for my soups. 

Kombu, celery garlic, carrots and water are the building blocks for stock.   Kombu brings out the flavors and adds nutrients and it also adds iodine, but shockingly some sources say you shouldn't eat kombu or kelp every day because you get crazy high levels of iodine with kombu and apparently though a little iodine is good, it's not good to overdue iodine levels for  thyroid health. 

My favorite soup stock recipe comes from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. Seriously, I've really looked at other recipes and I always come back to my own recipe.  Lately, I've been adding less kombu and more water to the mix.   When I'm in a big hurry, I use a bit of miso, this kind is amazing.  If you want to save stock, one thing you don't want to do is freeze it in glass because the glass may break when the stock freezes.  I just use it as I make it.

Here's the recipe, but feel free to add bits of vegetables like zucchini, green beans, corn, or sweet potato peels if you want:

Vegetarian Soup Stock 
(Makes 8 cups)

12 cups cold water
1 4-inch piece of kombu
3 to 4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion (optional)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Handful of dried shiitake mushrooms or 4 fresh shiitake sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
1/4 cup lentils
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, strain and refrigerate or use for soup immediately.

While it cooks get out the vegetables for the soup.  Peruse recipes--everybody has favorites and one of mine is tortilla soup, and if I'm not making that, I'll simply add avocado as a garnish.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pear Clafouti with Blueberries

A guest post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the Dog Picker)

A life in the culinary arts revolves around fresh food

Many dogs on my block have asked me how to break into a culinary career, something homespun like Francis, the poodle on Cooking with Dog.  As watchdog over the kitchen, food model extraordinaire and food taster, I'm not embarased to admit I've licked more than a few plates. I'd even lick shoes if they had food on them.  Best canine advice for the culinary arts?  Get yourself into a home where fresh food is a priority.  And a garden doesn't hurt either.  

Once your paw is inside the door, make your preferences known. No need to soil a rug to get attention, but don't be afraid to whine a little.  You don't have to be pathetic, but the squeaky wheel gets greased fastest and more often in my experience, and I apprenticed under a black belt beggar.  It makes me weep to recall how good he was at getting food scraps.

My own culinary journey has been a smooth slide into a life with a full refrigerator and plenty of sawdust biscuits.  Keep your priorities in order, and don't forget to take daily walks. 

Food from the market 

The Lady came home from the market with pears from Grouse Mountain Farm.   I grabbed a pear from the bag, but was forced to share my treasure with sister Chloe.  It seems the pears were for a claflouti.  

In the treasure box, I spied a Red Clapp pear, by scent.   I couldn't take my eyes off it.

I thought I heard "Okay," my signal to eat, and yes, it was just as good as it looked.
Then, I was overwhelmed and the red pear was gone in a flash.

I digress, back to desserts . . . 

Fruit desserts change with the seasons here.  This summer it's been clafouti--first with cherries, then berries, and finally pears.  I'm fond of the clafouti, but it will be nice to get some balance with a slump, crisp or cobbler

A for this recipe, if you have unexpected company, this is the one to pull out for it's ease or preparation and minimal ingredients.  It works best with pears or apples because they add less moisture to the mix, than say cherries or blackberries. 

Serve clafouti  for brunch if you want, after all it's got eggs and fruit, oh and sugar, but I think you could cut back on the amount if you wanted.

It's supposed to be rustic looking.   I prefer the little pears, like Moonglows, but seckel pears also work here.  The important part is to cut all pears the same thickness.

Fill in the gaps with blueberries.   I'm not barking about the gaps in your brain, that's another story altogether.


Here's the recipe, hope you enjoy it.

Pear Clafouti with Blueberries
I love this dessert with coconut sorbet blended with fresh lavender buds. 
(Serves 4)

About 7 tiny pears, or 3 large pears, rinsed and cut in half
1 1/2 to 2 cups blueberries
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup milk (dairy, soy, rice or nut)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  and oil a 9- or 10-inch round pan.

2. Lay pears, cut side down in the pan. Sprinkle blueberries in between.

3. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat until foamy and thick.  Add the flour and continue to mix until a smooth batter forms.  Add the milk, vanilla extract, and brandy if desired. 

4. Pour the mixture over the pears and blueberries.  Bake until browned, about 30 minutes.

5. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar or coconut sorbet, if desired.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and I believe he arrived early this year!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Melon with Sweetened Lime Juice

Comfort Foods of Summer

I'm offering a cooking class at 21 Acres this Friday, so if you want to learn how to make a really cool rustic flatbread and have some time, sign up.  21 Acres in Woodinville, is an amazing place and I can't wait for the class.  Also on the menu are grilled peppers, garlicky greens, a raw kale and apple salad and a pear-berry clafouti.  

Vegetables and fruits are comfort foods for me.  And cantaloupe is my late summer comfort food pick.  I like to think that I like healthy foods, so I searched to find nutrient levels for cantaloupe. It was a little disappointing because it's kind of obvious:
  • beta carotine
  • potassium
  • vitamin C

Three Fat Chicks  on a Diet said cantaloupe is also great for reducing stress.  Not that we have a lot of stress around this house (what can you expect for a two slow-mo hound household?) but still it's a good thing to know--just in case an earthquake hits.  

Melon season is fleeting; get these organic gems while you can from River Farm.   

Saturday was the last weekend for my favorite cantaloupe. They only had two Fastbreak melons left. Lucky me, because lots of people prefer the French Charantais melon or the green-fleshed Gaila melons.  

I got a Gaila melon too, but I'm not a convert.  Cantaloupe is still my favorite.

This is Liz from River Farm at the U-District Market.  

This time of year, it's best to get there early and pick the lines you want to get in first.


This doesn't really have anything to do with melons, but I feel compelled to make a plug for River Farm fire-roased peppers.  I like supporting local farmers, but last week I noticed the Whole Foods near my house also roasts peppers on the weekends.  The peppers are cheaper, but they aren't organic, and they come from Hatch, New Mexico.  Who knows how they were grown?  Plus, you can only get one kind of pepper at Whole Foods, while at River Farm, you can get just about any kind of pepper the farm grows. 

Sure River Farm peppers cost more than Whole Foods peppers, but they are so much better, and when you think about prices, consider this: at the market every year, River Farm pays a  fire permit fee (currently at $450) just to roast the peppers at the market.   So if you wonder why farmers' market food seems to cost a bit more, consider all the various fees farmers must pay for the privilege of selling food at the farmers' markets.

When you buy cheap, you get anonymous food.  And it's so nice to sit down to dinner and say this came from a local farmer down the road.  

You may have noticed my Cooking Assistant is taking another week off.  He'd rather prewash dishes and sniff melons.  Who wouldn't?  I envy his pampered life.   He knows where to find the treasures and how to work the game. I feel used, but it's a good thing.  I brought him his favorite carrots from the market.

In celebration of National Organic Harvest Month  this past weekend, I brought home two melons.  He's found the carrots and quickly moves in to claim them.

I got some blueberries and put them with melon pieces, but Tom and I ate these long before I made sweetened lime juice for the melon.  

On Sunday at the Lake Forest Park farmers' market, I found strawberries from 5 Acre Farm.  Imagine that, strawberries right before the apples come on full-force.  This recipe is adapted from my book. I like mint sprigs best.

Melon and Berries with Sweetened Lime Juice
(Serves 4 to 6)

3 to 4 cups melon cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup berries
1/4 cup lime juice
2 to 3 teaspoons honey (Rockridge Orchards)
Lavender buds, chopped basil leaves, or mint sprigs (optional)

Place fruit in a medium-size mixing bowl.

Blend lime juice and honey in a small bowl.  Drizzle over fresh fruit.  Gently toss and garnish with herbs, if desired.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rustic Flatbread with Grilled Peppers and Summer Squash

Finn the Cooking Assistant returns next week.  The hungry boy has a full week scheduled--napping, yard sniffing, and garden foraging.  I love that we share the same passion--not yard sniffing, but local food. This week I'm back to one of our favorites--Rustic Flatbread.

I've been making this recipe all summer.  Before I discovered this recipe idea for flatbread, I couldn't get pizza to turn out no matter what I did.  Even the packaged dough from Trader Joes mocked my pizza skills and refused to morph into something edible.  This recipe with cooked grain added is easy and forgiving.  My kind of recipe since our goal is to eat dinner at home.

First--take note of what's in season.  Market or garden produce is the best choice. Check out the deals--it's zucchini deal season, in case you haven't noticed.

This weekend you can get a hefty dose of fresh produce and entertainment at the 25th Annual Tilth Harvest Fair at the Good Shepherd's center in Wallingford from 10 to 4pm.  From 11 to 1pm is a bring-your-own-homemade-goods for Backyard Barter's bartering.  Who isn't intrigued by a barter party?

Tilth Harvest Fair is has a long-standing tradition in Seattle, I remember when I attended this Fair the first time in 1987 with my mom and daughter.  In addition to the music and mouthwatering cooked food, I love the farmers' booths gloriously filled with the season's produce.

After the Harvest Fair, why not check out my farmers' market cooking event on September 14th at 21 Acres--a nonprofit organization and farm that came from the King County Farm Preservation Act. That's next week!  I'll share farmer stories as we make some of my favorite recipes in this class--Garlicky Greens, Rustic Flatbread (with inspired seasonal toppings)  a to-die-for rawTuscon kale, carrot and apple salad and an apple berry clafouti (from a recipe I got from farmer Jeanette Herman of Cliffside Orchard.)  Oh yeah, you probably know their apples and pears too! The clafouti seems to work best with less juicy fruits of fall.

I can't get enough of the fire roasted peppers from River Farm this year.  I've made the flatbread with many vegetables and fire roasted peppers and grilled eggplant are my favs. (Right now, anyway.)

I'm not the only cook who wishes she had one of these at home.  

My Assistant takes pizza making a little too seriously.  Cut the talk and get with the action.

Use anything from the garden that appeals to your pizza tastes.  Oh no, this patty pan squash got away from us. We got them as tiny plants from River Farm and we've gotten lots of squash from just one plant.  I figured this one might be tough and seedy, but I was wrong.  

This recipe came from my book but this year I've been using cooked cornmeal instead of amaranth.  It's a bit sweeter and adds this amazing texture and subtle flavor.

The sea salt off to the side came from my friend from France.  Once when she went home for a visit, she brought back this grey sea salt.  "It's from my mother's cupboard," she'd told me.  I don't use if very often, but whenever I add it to recipes, it feels like I'm adding a pinch of friendship.

The flour came from Bluebird Grain Farms and from Nash's Organic Produce. Nash has been growing and selling organic produce for 30 years now.  Check out the Anniversary Events coming September  18-23!  It's a great excuse to get over to the Olympic peninsula before the rainy weather starts up again. I don't think you'll see Edward Cullen there, but you could like him on Facebook. With all the Twilight fans in Forks, you can always daydream.

You can grill peppers yourself, if you want.  Does anybody have luck freezing these?  Or does the texture change.  Every year I say I'll try it and see, but the peppers go so fast, I've never actually done it.

I've been using a quick-rise yeast.  Does it go faster?  Wow--this stuff can make the pizza dough rise in about half an hour.  But you do have to watch the dough because it can over-rise quickly.  You know when you hit that point when a finger poke sinks the dough.  It collapses onto itself. At this point, it could turn into a brick, but this dough is so forgiving, I kneaded it again and set it back in the bowl to rise.  It rises even faster than the first first time and you can work with it in 15 to 20 minutes.  A great bread teacher I had long ago said, "Always eat your mistakes while they're hot."  It's good advice to remember with bread.

Making personal pizzas is fun for the whole family.  You can choose your toppings and pull it into interesting shapes.  I like the boomarang shape.  Tom topped his with cheese and I like mine with all vegetables.

Finn and Chloe are happy to take whatever is leftover.

He takes the "prewash" job seriously.

We'll miss these summer treats when they wave goodbye for the season.  Enjoy them while you can!