Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving favorites

Anne Bramley's Lemon Tea Bread in Eat Feed Autumn Winter

If it were up to me, I'd reserve the entire day on Thanksgiving just for vegetable sides and maybe an apple crisp or a cranberry slump for dessert.  I never look forward to sitting down at the same table with an unfortunate bird, but give me good vegetable sides, salads and a simple dessert (no pumpkin pie please!) and I'm there.

Here are just a few ideas for sides:

If you're a Brussels sprout fan, check out this post. (Northwest grown are simply the best, by the way.)

And forget the standard green bean casserole. Check out these green beans from 101 Cookbooks.

If you like carrots, here's a great idea for carrots from Vegetarian Times.

For easy and dairy-free check, out 10 vegan side dishes from Treehugger.

If you're looking for Northwest grown, check out these ideas from Whatcom Locavore -- German Sweet Potato Salad,  Garlic Rosemary Smashed Potatoes, or  Caramelized Onion Topping, a recipe simply made for mashed potatoes!

And wait, here's a few more ideas from  Food Connections:

Romanesco with Northwest Berry Vinegar

Quick and Easy Coleslaw

Sweet Potato and Parsley Salad

Just desserts

Looking for something besides pumpkin pie for dessert?  Try any one of these ideas:

My all-time favorite is this recipe--the best berry crisp ever.  Apple crisp comes in a close second with this same recipe.

For true apple dessert fans, my choice is an Apple Pie with the Oatmeal Cookie Crust.

Apple pie with coconut sorbet

Another option is to take advantage of cranberries, pair them with frozen raspberries and make this old-fashioned Cranberry-Raspberry Slump.  This is a simmered dessert with sweet biscuits simmered on top.

While you're planning all the goodies for the annual feast, don't forget your canine friends.  An easy treat to make is sweet potato chews.   Slice sweet potatoes or yams lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on a pizza screen or baking sheet and bake at 200F for 8 hours or until crisp.

Coco posing for treats.

Dog biscuits are easy to make and fun to give as gifts.  These Buckwheat-Pumpkin biscuits are always a big hit.  The measurements don't have to be exact, it just has to be a dough you can handle, roll out and cut.  I like to get interesting shapes, you can find cookie cutters in any cooking store.

Whatever you make this holiday and wherever you go, have a great time, drive carefully and come back with delicious memories.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Romanesco and Northwest Berry Vinegar

This is just a short post today since I've got lots of writing and now holiday plans are creeping up. When things get busy, I blanch vegetables on the weekend and I pack them for snacks and make easy side and main dishes with them all week.  Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and of course Romanesco make excellent candidates for blanching. 

Romanesco is a beautiful cruciferous chartreuse vegetable with a spiral of turrets that look like spiky light green cauliflower. When cooked, it has the texture of cauliflower with a similar taste, but white cauliflower is more bland tasting than Romanesco. Romanesco is also called Romanesco broccoli or Romanesca cauliflower. 

It can be a little pricy--$4.00 a pound this past weekend at Willie Green's, but even reformed foodie need to splurge once in awhile. It would also definitely be a great additon to a holiday meal.

Romanesco starts out like cauliflower with big leaves growing around it.

I took this picture at the U-District Market a few years ago.  Look close and check the price.  It's interesting how the price jumps from year to year.  Eventually I get priced out of the market but if you can find Romanesco for less than $4 a pound, that's a good deal these days.

This recipe, Romanesco and Northwest Berry Vinegar, came from my book, but as usual I changed it up, added some orange marmalade and carrots. 

My Cooking Assistant insists that carrots are always in our kitchen, so I add carrots to just about everything. They have lots of vitamin A and they add color and a bit of sweet tones to any dish.

Vinegar can remove color, and though this dish is good hot or cold, add the dressing close to when you serve it, so the colors are vibrant.

I hope you enjoy the recipe this week!

Romanesco and Carrots with Northwest Berry Vinegar
(Serves 4)

1 head Romanesco, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 cup sliced carrots
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade 
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's (optional)
Smoked sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch Romanesco and carrots for a 3 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender. Rinse with cold water.

Combine raspberry vinegar, marmalade, olive oil and garlic together.  Blend in Mama Lil's peppers and add a pinch of smoked sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

This last shot is an "out take."  My lovely Cooking Assistant got carried away and at some of the big chunks before I whiked the plate away.  So good even a basset hound will steal it.  It's a good thing I only had one helping on this plate!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Scrambled Tofu with Leeks and Spinach

Tofu anytime

Just yesterday I proclaimed: "The best thing about tofu is you can eat it any time of day." And why not?  It's an easy meal.  And when you add turmeric to tofu for color, you've added amazing health benefits.   

But "turmeric has a bitter aftertaste," say some chefs.  They warn that adding too much turmeric may turn your recipe bitter.  I say don't be afraid to add more turmeric, after all Indians use turmeric liberally and the first time I added a teaspoon (instead of 1/4 teaspoon) to a recipe, I loved the flavor.  Health experts say turmeric could be brain protective and one reason there is an incredibly low incidence of Alzheimer's in India.  Turmeric has also been shown to reduce inflammation and Dr. Weil says it is helpful for cancer and arthritis, too.

And check out this post I read at 101 Cookbooks last September on Turmeric Tea.  Heidi Swanson mentioned problems with her shoulder and how making this tea reduced inflammation and pain.

One of the vegetables I chose for this recipe was leeks because I found a good buy this past weekend. Leek's delicate flavor goes well in quiches and any ingredients used with eggs are also good with tofu.     

I also added carrots to this mix because we always seem to have lots of carrots on hand.  Let's just say my Cooking Assistant expects them these days.

Sometimes the biggest carrots are the sweetest.  Andorganic carrots are always more budget friendly than peppers, which are going out of season now anyway.

Another market staple that went into the mix is shiitake mushrooms, even Dr. Weil likes shiitake mushrooms for boosting their anti-carcinogenic properties.  A word of caution about buying the dried variety--most of the dried shiitake mushrooms sold come from China, where who knows how they were treated. 

When I go to the market, I buy two pints of shiitake mushrooms a week from Sno Valley mushrooms.  These are by far the best shiitakes around.  Look you can even grow your own.

Though I choose spinach for the greens, you could just as easily use arugula, kale, collards or chard.  You just need to adjust the cooking time when cooking thicker leaves like kale or collards.

The spinach from Whistling Train Farm is the best.  They grow a hearty spinach for fall and winter that is incredibly sweet. And don't toss away the ends, because they are sweet when cooked. Add the ends before the leaves.  This spinach is such a lovely dark shade of green, it's got to be loaded with antioxidants.  My Assistant loves the sweet flavor.

Enjoy this recipe for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Scrambled Tofu with Leeks and Spinach
(Serves 2)
This recipe looks a lot like scrambled eggs because arrowroot creates an egg-like texture and turmeric adds the color. 

1 leek, sliced thin, root and green parts removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon tumeric
4 ounces firm tofu, drained
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon arrowroot
1/4 cup salsa (medium or hot)
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
3 to 4 cups chopped spinach
Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  When pan is hot, add leek and oil.  Stir and cook until leek wilts.  Then add carrots, and mushrooms.  Continue to stir and cook until vegetables soften.

2. Sprinkle tumeric and crumble tofu over vegetables.  Sprinkle arrowroot over tofu, then stir until turmeric turns the tofu yellow and the texture becomes like scrambled eggs.

3. Add salsa, kalamata olives and chopped spinach. Stir, cover pan and wilt the spinach.   When the spinach wilts, add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Potato and Leek Soup (no GMOs in my soup)

I'd been thinking about potato-leek soup ever since a friend of mine made some last week. All he had wanted to get at the market were leeks and potatoes, which for one thing surprised me because how does anyone go to the farmers market with only two vegetables in mind?  It also made me wonder how his soup had turned out. 

"How did you cook it?" I asked, when I saw him at the market.  "What recipe did you use?"

"I always used Julia Child's recipe.  I can watch them on the PBS series," he said.   Years ago, Julia Child had a PBS series, and my friend said he'd bought the series when they were in VHS format.   Remember that?

"You still have a VHS machine?  Oh, I'm sorry," I said as I burst out laughing.  Maybe the tapes still playing is a testament to how long some things from the 70s last.  Also it's a good thing my friend has a sense of humor.  Luddite humor--what can I say? 

The recipe my friend described was incredibly simple. Water, leeks, potatoes, he'd said.  After all the muffins I've been making lately, I'm ready for simplicity in the kitchen. 

Finding leeks and potatoes for soup was my goal at the market this week. 

The Market

Rain and wind were fierce and some vendors hung onto their tents as the winds picked up.   It was just about the worst weather ever for the the market, which actually closed early due to the high winds.  But we had fun while we were there. 

I snapped a picture of this sign. Every farmer I know is voting yes for GMO labeling. I don't know where the opposition found those people posing as farmers on the TV ads, but the yes ads actually have real farmers who truthful food labels.  

I'd like to know if the tomatoes I'm reaching for have fish genes inserted. Tomorrow is the day. Go cast a yes vote for food labels and say no to big business running our food system.  New labels won't raise your food prices.

These potato carvings from Olsen's Farms were too cool not to post.   Apparently long ago, kids in Ireland used  to carve potatoes and turnips before they carved faces into pumpkins. 

Buying market potatoes is a treat because I don't get them every week.  Olsen's has a wide variety, and I couldn't recall which type of potato the soup recipes called for but my friend had gotten some nice russets, so that's what I got--about 5 medium-size potatoes.

Leeks are a treat too because as far as onions go, leeks are pricey. I found organic leeks at Alm Hill for $2 each, so I got two, hoping to make those work for the soup, which should be a budget meal.

Leeks are in the onion family and so they are toxic to dogs.  My Cooking Assistant isn't impressed anyway.

The Recipe

I don't have the Julia Child's PBS series, plus I wondered how much butter Julia used, so when I got home, I thumbed through cookbooks.  I'm amazed at the number of cookbooks that don't list potato-leek soup as a recipe.  Did everyone think it was too common and decided to exclude it?  It seems common enough.  

I found this one in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.   A side bar says her recipe is a farmhouse version of these two humble vegetables simmered in water. I love the simplicity of it.  She had a number of variations on the side, but I decided to add sauteed mushrooms and a sprinkling of parsley, both proved excellent additions.

Here's the recipe:

Potato and Leek Soup
(Serves 6)

2 cups sliced organic leeks (about 2 medium leeks)
2 tablespoons organic canola oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 stalks organic celery diced
2 cups peeled, diced organic potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (optional)
5 cups water
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat a soup pot over medium heat.  Add leeks and oil.  Stir and cook for a few minutes, or until leeks begin to soften.   Add celery, potatoes and Mama Lil's peppers. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

2. Add water and garlic.  Stir, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, or until potatoes begin falling apart.  Use an immersion blender to create a creamy texture. 

3. Dry from the shiitake mushrooms for a few minutes, then add a little oil, stir and cook, until mushrooms soften.   Add mushrooms to the soup.  

4. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste, then ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley.  

My Cooking Assistant isn't making any pretence about what he prefers.