Monday, September 30, 2013

White Bean Soup with Kale and Caramelized Garlic

Soup Season

I love soup so much I once blogged about it for a year.  Now the season has me almost giddy for what is also the original tightwad foodie meal.

Waste Not

Look for bargains at the farmers' market for your soup.  Also use all scraps of leftovers for the pot.  For stock, use a recipe like this one, or make up your own from various vegetables in your bag for the week.  Making stock is one way of not wasting vegetable scraps.

I originally thought I'd make a white bean and kale soup.  But the more I thought about it, I began to dream up soup toppings.  My favorite kale and caramelized garlic recipe seemed like a perfect addition to this soup.  I didn't want the caramelized garlic, which is amazing, to get lost in the soup flavors, so why not have a soup topping?  Avocado and tomatoes would complete the look I wanted for this dish. 

I could almost see and taste it.Why don't we have soup toppings like we do pizza, ice cream, pancakes, salads and casseroles?  It's always the same old croutons, tortilla chips or crackers--saltines.  Blah!  I've seen friends put a hint of Parmesan on top or chopped kalamata olive, but why not go all out?  How about an actual salad on top of soup?

Or maybe we should just banish croutons and crackers, and garnish soup with fresh vegetables.

Though I  love buying  beans at the farmers' market, these days, we're back to $100 a week.  Though I gave it up at one time, it's now here to stay.  I did use the remainder of my soldier beans from Ayer's Creek Farm, but use whatever white beans you have because the flavor of this soup does not depend on gourmet beans.

One thing I don't skimp on at the market is shiitaki mushrooms.  Shiitakis are known for boosting your immune system and I try to buy two pints every week at the farmers' market from Sno Valley.  Two pints for us lasts for 5 meals, and these fresh shiitake are so much better than anything you can get, even from natural food stores, around Seattle.  Some things are just too good to give up.  

Save the stems for stock. Let them completely dry on a flat surface.  Then put them in a little baggie or a jar until you need them.

Sweet potatoes, yams and potatoes are perfect soup ingredients, too.  If you peel them or cut the ends off, save those skins for stock.  Then take the spent soup stock veggies out to the compost.

Celery is always good in soup but it wasn't in my budget this week.  It's got to be part of the weekly menu board to make the cut.  So if you don't have a certain vegetable for soup, substitute another or skip it.

I used a shallot, and though typically shallots cost more than onions, use whatever you have. Soup is meant to be an adaptable budget meal. I got my shallots from a friend who had replanted with shallot bulbs I gave her last year. This was an unexpected amazing gift, and it's good to use a gift in your soup pot.  

Gifts in soup pots bring good luck. (I made that up, but you never know, the soup pot could change your life.)

One thing is certain about a strict food budget--we clearly don't waste food like we used to.  

This month King County is launching Food: Too Good to Waste  in mid-October.  Though our family wasn't poor when I grew up, we ate plenty of planned leftovers.  If mom had meatloaf one evening, the next dinner was spaghetti.    

If leftover cooking is new for you, check out the recipes, tips and videos, on the link above, on how to use the things in your refrigerator.

In my opinion, most people don't really respect food in America because an astounding amount of food is tossed out every day. Though restaurants and ready made deli foods have pull dates and end up in landfills,  people overbuy, change eating plans, don't keep track of what's in the refrigerator--for any number of reasons.  Most Americans simply don't take food and wasted food seriously. Maybe it's because supermarket shelves are piled so high and many people have adopted the idea you can always buy another one of--you name it.  

For years, I also threw out vegetables that were old or fruit that had gone bad.  I'd get too much in my CSA or buy something impulsively, and while I'm good at using leftovers,  I've found one of the best ways to use more of the food in your refrigerator is to put yourself on a strict food budget.  And stick to it.  

It's the upside of a living on what people spend when they have food stamps.  When food is scarce--you quickly learn to value what you have.  It's sink or swim for your weekly food.

Here I have dried mushroom stems and leftovers from the vegetable bin, both destined for soup stock.  I also focus on vegetables with a longer lifespan.

I'm going back to basics and getting tips from the old Tightwad Gazette.
My favorite mushrooms are also medicinal.  I cut the stems off the larger mushrooms and save them  for stock.

Root vegetables are coming into season and the price comes down for seasonal vegetables like winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage and kale.  Prices are going up for red peppers, eggplant and cucumbers.

When you remove the center stem, you can discard the tough end and thinly slice the skinny part for a stir fry. 
From apple cores (minus the seeds) to carrots, our hound dogs get first dibs on anything that may go to the compost.

Like a salad and soup in one bowl.  What's stopping restaurants from doing this?  Serve with warmed bagels or corn bread.

White Bean and Quinoa Soup with Kale and Caramelized Garlic
(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup diced zucchini 
1 cup shiitake mushrooms mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 red potato, diced
1 garnet yam, diced 
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup Riesling 
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
5 cups stock
1/2 cup white, beans, soaked overnight
2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
Hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add shallot and red pepper.   Stir and cook until shallot begins to brown.  Add mushrooms and zucchini.  Stir and cook for a few minutes before blending in garlic, red potato, and yam.  Stir to coat all vegetables with oil.   

Blend in tomato paste, Riesling and thyme before adding sundried tomatoes, stock, white beans and corn.   Bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until beans are tender.

Add green beans, quinoa and a dash of hot sauce.   Simmer until quinoa is done, about 15 minutes.  Serve soup with a lemon wedge.   Top with Kale and Garlic (below), fresh tomatoes and avocados.

Kale and Garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and sliced
1 bunch Tuscan kale, middle stem removed, leaves thinly sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons water, apple juice or Riesling 
1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until browned.  

Add kale and stir until coated with oil.  Then blend in water or apple juice.   Stir, then cover and sweat the kale until it wilts.   When done, squeeze the lemon over it, toss, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Use tongs to spread kale over soup before adding tomatoes and avocado.

1/2 large avocado, diced
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

We're still working on our abundant tomato harvest.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust

In case you hadn't noticed, apple season has arrived!  

I'm stoked. I couldn't wait for my favorite golden delicious apples from Cliffside Orchards.  But when I got to the market, I was shocked to learn many apple farmers had experienced severe hail and some got an early frost which damaged many apples. Extensive fruit damage means that Cliffside Orchards (one of my favorite farms) won't be at the market this year. I'll miss seeing Jeanette and Jeff Herman and their cute pug. And the apples--I don't care what anyone says about golden delicious apples--Cliffside Orchards grows the best golden delicious apples.  This is the first year in a long time they haven't been to the U-District market.

Some farmers lost their entire apple crop and others don't have enough fruit to make it through the winter selling at the markets.

Other Market News

The U-District Market has three pieces of news to share:

Mollie Katzen will be doing a cooking demo at the University District Market on September 28th.  This demo is to support her newest book The Heart of the Plate.  I haven't looked at her new book yet, but I still have my treasured copy of  Moosewood Cookbook that I got decades ago.  

Who doesn't need some seasonal inspiration?   As the seasons shift, fall produce overlaps with late summer and the Northwest bounty can be amazing.  Honestly, I can't wait to see what Molly will cook next weekend.  I'm hoping to catch some veggie cooking inspiration.  Get there early for a good seat.

Initiative 522--Label GE Food--the signs are everywhere. No matter what the ads on TV say, most Washington farmers I've talked with support labeling genetically-engineered foods.  It's as simple as the TV commercial says--put it on the label and let consumers decide what they want to eat.  It is not confusing.

Twenty years ago, people argued about whether nutritional labels were necessary. And now money is pouring in from Monsanto and associates to plant ideas that the new proposed law is confusing and complicated. Say those words and people back off--we'll see after voting day whether everyone bought the company line about unnecessary, complicated and confusing. As for me, I've wanted genetically engineered food labeled from the beginning. 

Why can't we have the same rights about choosing our food as people in Europe?

The market is moving.  On October 19, expect to see the U-District Market in the street in front of the lot where it currently operates. After talking to Chris Curtis, the market manager, I learned just how hard it was to get the city and metro to agree to a market on the street. But Seattle Metro agreed to run buses on alternative streets. This means for shoppers who drive, parking spaces will be scarce.  One suggestion is to car pool. Another is to come early, but sometimes the meter police are out and many streets have timed one or two hour parking.  I'd say ride a bike, but that isn't an option for many older or disabled shoppers. Also the rainy winters here can make weekly bike trips to the market a cold wet experience. Hardcore market shoppers will figure it out.

Meanwhile at the parking lot where the market is now,  Parks and Recreation is supposedly building a park which will improve the neighborhood.  I went to meetings for this in the early phases where they actually had the farmers' market incorporated into the plan.  But plans changed.  Be prepared to search for your favorite farms for the first few weeks.

Apple Season

Each year Washington State havests over half of the U.S. domestic supply of apples.  Go on vacation  to Arizona in the winter, and you'll see Washington apples. It's a huge crop and I've come to love certain favorites.  

That's why I was so shocked by news of hail and frost damage.   But when you think about it, apples can be more vulnerable than other fruit.  They stay on the trees longer and are subject to  attack by birds and insects.  Coddling moth and apple maggot are just a few persistent pests that plague apples.

A bird pecked apple at Whispering Winds Farm in Skagit Valley.  Look close and see the wasp on top. 
Marble sized hail pummed the apples at Booth Canyon Orchards, a long time market vendor at the U-District Market

At Grouse Mountain Farm deer came through and ate the lower apple blossoms so their harvest is also smaller this year.  I got a number of apples.  Too bad, I didn't bother to look at the name.  

If they can survive the pests and diseases, the weather is another wild card.  We're lucky to have any apples.

I was thinking I about making a pie, cobbler or crisp.  Funny how the first of the first of the season brings out my decadent dessert side.  Probably not as good as Gravensteins or even my favorite golden delicious apples, I mused.  Some apples have more complex subtle flavors that make them better pie candidates. 

My Cooking Assistant is impressed. 

The red side of the apples is the side exposed to the sun. Red tones in apples have more antioxidants than the green tones which come from the shady side.

I decided to look through some old Vegetarian Journals--these are just the ones I have articles in.  

My Cooking Assistant is not impressed with my magazine hoarding tendencies. But I found some recipes I'd long forgotten about. 

I was going to follow a recipe this time, but I had the frozen pie crust and my mind kept drifting to a Dutch apple pie--the kind with the crumbly topping.  I could practically taste it. I wanted it crispier.  Maple syrup can take care of that.  I didn't realize it taste better than I imagined.  Try it yourself and see.  

Here's the recipe:

Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust
(Serves 6)

1 frozen pie crust, thawed
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
7 or 8 sweet tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced to 1/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot 

1. Bake pie crust in a 350F oven for about 12 minutes.  Remove and cool.

2. Combine butter and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl.  Blend in oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt.  Stir until thoroughly blended.  Mixture will be quite thick, but not as thick as cookie dough. Set aside.

3. Set oven to 375F.  Combine apple slices, cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon juice and arrowroot.  Mix well.  Pour the apples into the pie shell.  Top with oatmeal mixture, spreading it so mixture is even over the top of the pie.   Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F and continue to bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is browned on top.

4. Serve with coconut sorbet or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Joplin's Animal Sanctuary and Zucchini Chips

I made these kale chips in July, and I've been drooling over other vegetable chip recipes all summer. When I got a boat load of zucchini this past weekend, I immediately thought about zucchini chip possibilities.  So I started planning it right away--a little oil, some smoked sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Healthy, no carbs--exactly the kind of chip I've been dreaming about.

I checked my pinterest snack section to see the vegetable chip recipes I'd squirreled away for the perfect time.  There was this one for zucchini chips made in a dehydrator, and this one for oven-baked chips.   The recipes seemed incredibly easy, so I tried both ways.

I'll tell you the recipe, but first let me tell you how I ended up with so much zucchini.

A few of my friends from the gym got together and went to see Joplin's Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Snohomish County.  It's a new sanctuary founded and run by my friend Byron.

Ever since he first learned about Pasado's story in 1985,  Byron has worked in animal rescue.  Big disasters, and he's there.  He also became a vegan with a dream to open an animal sanctuary, where rescued cows, sheep, chickens, horses and eventually dogs and cats will have homes.

Byron looked around for suitable property and finally found it in Snohomish.  He filled out all the paperwork for a 501c nonprofit status and the sanctuary is currently recognized Washington State Charity and Nonprofit.  Along with the extensive paperwork involved, Byron also built enclosures and housing for rescued animals.

Pastures at the sanctuary

Joplin's Sanctuary and Animal Rescue

A lot of work still needs to be done, and as Byron gave us the tour, a man on a tractor was preparing a pasture. Soil needed to be brought in for this pasture, and Byron is putting in all the infrastructure so all donations people make go for food and medical costs for rescued animals.  Donations through credit card or Paypal are accepted on the website.

The name of the sanctuary comes from this cat -- rescued after the Joplin Tornado (an EF5) in 2011.   Joplin was a baby, only a few days old, and pulled from the rubble, he was fed with a dropper, then a tiny bottle.  

Check out the rescue photos, the story behind the sanctuary, and the the pictures of the animals living at the sanctuary now.

Sally and Errol--read their stories on the website.

Byron helped design the chicken coops and barns.  The ramp in front of the chicken coop is for wheelchair access so handicapped children and adults can see where the chickens lay eggs, though they don't lay many.  Most rescued chicken today come from large scale egg producers and also backyard urban "farmers" who have given up the "hobby." Chickens typically produce eggs for two, maybe three years, and raising chickens is like raising any animal.  The rewards may initially seem tempting but like any live animal, caring for chickens comes with its share of problems.  Roosters, for example, are typically discarded at birth.  The same can't be said for male dogs.

People, please give some thought into what will become of your urban farm "hobby" before you buy the baby chicks or goats for your so-called urban farm.

Thelma and Louise came to the sanctuary from a house that was overrun with chickens. Blanche and Rose later joined them, rescued from the same place.  The chickens at Joplin's don't have to live in fear of an axe when they no longer lay eggs.  

Byron has added a rain garden and also has his own personal garden with carrots, lettuce, corn, tomatoes and summer squash.  Wild rabbits have nibbled all the carrot tops, but are not interested in the lettuce.  As we walked by the zucchini plants we marveled at the size of so many of them.  Squash snobs turn up their noses at bigger summer squash and claim the babies are the best, but mature (not giant) zucchini actually has more flavor.  One recipe for chips even specified only baby zucchini because it had more flavor, but this is a widespread myth.

Byron said since he has such a big crop that he washes, cuts and freezes it.  Big or small I love all summer squash, and I'm always sad to see the local season end.  The bigger the zucchini never get much love, so it's a bonus for those of us who appreciate all kinds of sizes.

I bargained for some of the biggest specimens. 

My Cooking Assistant was impressed. But actually it doesn't take much to impress Finn.    
I dried some in the oven, and I filled my dehydrator.  

Here's the recipe:

Zucchini Chips
(Makes 4 cups or as many as you want)

4 pounds zucchini
Extra-virgin olive oil
Smoked sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Turn on dehydrator and preheat at 145F.  Or preheat oven to 200F.  

2. Slice zucchini with a mandolin.

3. Toss thin slices with a little olive oil.  Do not saturate. Lay flat on dehydrator racks or on parchment paper on a baking sheet.   

4. Reduce heat in the dehydrator to 125F and dehydrate for 24 hours or until crisp.   In the oven, bake for 3 to 4 hours or until crisp.  Do not turn the oven higher because these chips can quickly go from crisp to burned.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Easy Homemade Tomato Paste

We anticipate our garden-grown tomatoes all summer.  Though I must say sometimes in mid-July,  it feels like the tomatoes will remain green forever.  But somewhere during the dog days of summer, just like magic, tomatoes begin to change colors. One by one they ripen, and then so many tomatoes mature that we often can't keep up.   

I've also been buying tomatoes that have a black tint at the farmers' market.  After reading Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, I learned tomatoes with darker colors contain more phytonutrients. Lycopene, in particular, is higher in darker colored tomatoes, and this nutrient may be helpful for cancer, particularly prostate cancer. More black tomatoes have been appearing at the markets these past few years and this past weekend.  Many farmers' with heirloom tomatos have a tomato called Black Prince, which is more dark red than black. Last Saturday I bought these black cherry tomatoes from Grouse Mountain Farm.

The dark tomatoes are the black cherry tomatoes.

Saving your tomatoes

Northwest weather can be unpredictable near the end of summer, and sometimes fall starts overnight.  Once it rains, the rain and grey days could continue.  After a week of soggy weather, you begin to wonder: is summer over?  And sometimes it is, but it looks like this week we get a reprieve.

A friend of mine got worried last week after the thunderstorms and downpours.  She pulled all her tomato plants.  Sometimes if tomato leaves get too damp in August, the plants get blight.  This can spread quickly and you might lose all your green tomatoes if you wait too long.  The blight spores can infect the soil, so it could infect plants there next year.  I keep all the leaves of the plant off the ground and check the plants daily when we get early fall rains.  We grow our tomatoes in big container pots because a few years ago we had a severe blight.

Keep all the flowers pinched off as fall nears, and if you have to pull the tomatoes early, take them out by the long plant stems, cutting each stem close to the roots.  Or you can pull the entire plant up and hang it in the garage. Tie the stems in a bundle of 3 to 5 stems and hang them upside down in a cool dark room, like a garage.   I tried it last year.  I just used twine and wasn't sure it would even work but we had tomatoes ripen for about a month after the stems were hung.  They weren't as sweet as sun ripened, but they were at least as good as store bought and much cheaper than buying them.

If you end up with an abundance, roast them and make tomato paste.  It's so easy I hardly consider it a recipe, but it's a cool tip for preserving the harvest.

Right now you can get the best prices for tomatoes at the market.  And check out all the varieties farmers grow now.  I think black is the new red for tomatoes!

Preserving tomatoes, the easy way

Many people are into canning but we live in a small space and canning takes some big pots and requires jars and room for sterilizing them. Then you need room to store all the jars.  I have a freezer and a dehydrator for putting food away for the winter. One season, I blanched all the tomatoes, removed the skins and froze them whole. I liked pulling the tomatoes out in mid winter but the whole tomatoes took up precious space in my freezer.

Another season, I used the dehydrator.  

I wanted a more concentrated paste, and I didn't look for a recipe, but if I had, I might have found something like this, which is complicated, and who wants that?  Why take so much trouble to lose the skins if you've using your own tomatoes and you don't have to worry about pesticides?   And if the skins are dark in color don't they contain most of the nutrients?   And all that jar sterilizing . . . I want easy.  And here it is: 

Easy Home Made Tomato Paste
(Makes about 2 cups)
This is a no-fuss tomato paste.  It's quick to make and easy to use.  I always leave the skins on for more phytonutrients.  If you have larger tomatoes, you can still roast them, but it will take longer.

8 cups of cut cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Hot sauce or freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)

1. Cut tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 200F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until tomatoes are quite soft.

2. Place the tomatoes, salt and hot sauce or pepper  in a blender or food processor and blend until thick and smooth.

3. Spoon sauce into ice cube trays and freeze.  When frozen, remove cubes and place them in a plastic bag.  Label and use them as desired.  These little cubes add lots of great phytonutrients to your meals. 

Shepherd's Pie with vegetables and Field Roast, before the potato topping.  I used two tomato cubes, 1 teaspoon arrowroot and 3/4 cup of water for the sauce. 

Tomato abundance--one more reason to love the last days of summer.  May your days be filled with ripe tomatoes!