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Posts from the ‘Fall’ Category

Quinoa and Beets

In this recipe raw, grated beets are added to cumin scented quinoa.

I have a bit of a funny relationship with beets. I like them and often am attracted to beet-related salads on restaurant menus. They are not, however, the first thing I grab at the farmers’ market. And if I do, they often sit in my crisper longer than most other items. Luckily beets last a long time  in the fridge.

I have my few go-to recipes for them like this one. And today’s recipe was recommended to me by a trusted friend and I had actually mentally made note of it when I saw it on Culinate.com a few months earlier. It is a recipe from Maria Speck’s book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. I taught it in a recent class (Grains and Beans in Winter Salads) and it was a big hit.

Be careful when you grate them as the juice flies everywhere and easily stains.

I don’t think I had ever used raw, grated beets before  making this dish and they are surprisingly sweet this way. In my experience red beets work much better than the golden beets both in flavor and appearance in this dish. (Maria suggests using golden ones as an alternative. ) The dish is quick to make, the color is unbeatable and the balance of the sweet beets, the nutty quinoa, the whole cumin seeds and plenty of lemon juice (and a bit of cayenne) is really, really lovely. And of course the garlicky Greek yogurt topping is the perfect complement.

It’s best eaten warm or at room temperature not long after it’s made. I just had some for breakfast this morning right out of the fridge and it was not quite as soft and fragrant so be sure to bring leftovers to room temperature before eating.

This would make a lovely addition to any holiday meal.

Quinoa with Beets, Cumin and Garlicky Yogurt
–adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

This quick, room temperature dish uses raw, grated beets. The original recipe also calls for sumac, the powder from a red berry found and used all over the Middle East. It has a tart flavor so I substitute a bit of lemon juice (which she also suggests) which works well.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sumac (optional, see note above)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. sumac, for sprinkling, or 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1¼ cups shredded raw beets (about 1 medium-sized beet, rinsed and peeled)
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 pinches cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds (they will sizzle) and cook, stirring, until the seeds darken and become fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until hot to the touch, about 1 minute. Add the water, salt, and sumac, and bring to a boil. Decrease the temperature to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the yogurt and the garlic in a small bowl until smooth. Sprinkle with the sumac (if using) and set aside.

To finish, remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the shredded beets, cover, and steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and the cayenne. Taste, adjusting for salt and lemon juice, and serve with the yogurt topping.


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Apple and Quince Tart

The last three quince from the little tree in my back yard.

Before we get into the tart I want to talk about veggies. And before we talk about veggies, you might have noticed that things look a little different around here. I’ve upgraded the blog a bit and combined it with my website. Now you can find everything Cook With What You Have in one place!  The recipes are newly categorized and more searchable and I’ve shared some of your feedback to my classes. A big thank you to Andrea Lorimor Photography and Brenna Switzer of Square Lines for making this transformation possible!

I can get carried away with salads and other dishes and keep adding things: nuts, cheese, dried or fresh fruit, lots of herbs, and so on and so forth. And I love all those things and I love them all together in salads but as I get ready for Thanksgiving I’ve decided to simplify, at least for this meal. I’m going to make a salad with just really good salad greens, maybe some whole parsley leaves and a simple dressing. And I’m going to braise some green cabbage as a side dish in a little butter with some onion and a dash of sherry vinegar at the end–nothing else.  There will be so much going on on the table that I think the simplicity will be nice. Maybe it’s because I cook and experiment so much that I’m craving these pared down versions. However, if this week is your chance to really cook and get creative, by all means do. It will be wonderful. But if you don’t want to buy a bunch of ingredients and do lots of chopping and planning, don’t be afraid of making something with a couple of ingredients and serving it proudly (with plenty of good salt and olive oil!).

Russet apples and quince

Now to the tart that kind of follows the above, simplified veggie theme. And it was a total cook-with-what-you-have process. I had combined the leftover pie dough from three pies from this weekend’s class into one ball and put it in the fridge. One of the doughs had ben for a savory tart and had been made with an egg and the other two were classic all-butter pie doughs. The chunk seemed about right for one single-crust tart or pie. I had three quince (I’ve been add ind a few quince to apple and pear sauce all fall and they are divine in this form too!) on the counter that needed using and a handful of russet apples. So I sliced the fruit, mixed in some lemon zest and a little sugar, a few tablespoons of reduced apple cider and some vanilla.

Sliced apples and quince with lemon zest

I baked the whole thing until it was bubbly and the fruit was tender, though that was a bit of a problem. I had tried to slice the quince thinner than the apples knowing they take longer to bake but if I were to do this again, I’d keep the quince and apples separate and put the quince in a layer right on the crust and then spread the apples over them. That way the quince would cook in the cider reduction that coats the bottom and be steamed a bit by the apples above and would probably cook in the same amount of time. I ended up just leaving it in the oven longer than would have been needed for the apples and all turned out fine. You could of course poach the quince for a few minutes first too.

The finished product.

This is the kind of tart that you can eat several slices of and still not feel overly indulgent. It’s the opposite of the rich, gooey pecan pies or custardy pumpkin ones. And even with a dollop of whipped cream it’s on the lighter end of desserts so it might make a nice complement to the typical, richer fare this Thursday.

I hope you have a wonderful time cooking and eating this week. I’m so grateful for all the bounty we have and wish you all a warm, cozy place to be with a good plate of food and friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple Quince Tart

You could make this with pears and apples or just pears for a nice variation. You can use a favorite pie or tart dough recipe or the one below which includes an egg and is very easy to work with. You do not need to let this dough rest in the fridge, though you certainly can.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
(or ¾ cup apf and ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour)
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Make the dough by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands, or a pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture. Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg mixture, stirring the mixture until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add the additional tablespoon of ice water. Gather the dough into a ball and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, adding additional flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the counter. Roll it out a bit larger than your tart pan and fit the dough into in snugly. Fold any rough edges over on itself even with the rim of the pan and press into the side of the pan.

Preheat your oven to 425.

Filling:

about 5 cups sliced apples and quince (or apples and pears, see headnote), keeping apples and quince separate
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on tartness of fruit)
zest of half a lemon
3 tablespoons reduced apple cider*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Depending on your ratio of quince to apples mix each with the respective amount, more or less, of sugar and lemon zest. Mix the reduced cider and vanilla in a small bowl. Spread the quince on the bottom of the unbaked tart shell. Spread the apples over the quince and then drizzle the cider vanilla mixture evenly over the fruit and dot it with little pieces of butter. Bake for about 45 minutes until all the fruit is tender and is starting to brown around the edges.

*I keep reduced apple cider on hand to add to salad dressings and many other dishes this time of year. You just reduce 1/2 gallon of cider down to about 1 1/2 cups for a nice, slightly syrupy consistency.

Cabbage and Potato Gratin

I didn’t actually think this dish was going to be that good or even remotely blog-worthy. I didn’t take photos as I was making it (wish I had but I did capture the finished product) but then when I  ate three servings for dinner and enjoyed it just as much the next day and the next, I figured it should be noted publicly. It obviously made a large quantity, seeing that I was still eating it three days later and that that was a good thing. . . .It’s made with the most ordinary of ingredients and could be varied in umpteen ways.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato (and Pasta) Gratin

This dish came about because I had a huge wedge of green cabbage in the fridge that needed using. I had a handful of potatoes and I had some milk. So I cooked the potatoes in a big pot of boiling water. Then I tossed in a handful of little tubetti pasta to make it appealing to my four-year-old who will eat anything that has pasta in it. But the thrust of this dish is purely cabbage and potatoes and unless you have a similarly  habituated child (or adult in your household) I’d skip the pasta. Then, I tried to estimate when I should add the cabbage so that I could drain the whole pot of potatoes, pasta and cabbage at once and all at the appropriate stage of doneness. That was really the only trick of this dish. Some of my potatoes were beginning to fall apart when the cabbage and pasta were tender and when I drained the whole, pale contents of the pot I began to doubt the wisdom of this process.

The humble ingredients of this, now favorite, comfort food.

However, knowing that I was going to mix said contents with a quick Bechamel sauce I figured I still stood a chance. And I was going to add some grated cheese and top it with a few bread crumbs and then get it all bubbly and crisp in the oven. . .

A side-note about bechamel, or simple cream sauce:  It was one of the first things I mastered as a young cook when I was about  8 I think. All you do is melt some butter, whisk in an equal amount of flour and then after a few minutes add hot milk and a few seasonings and simmer that for a few minutes (or much longer if you’re feeling fancy). It seems like a bit of a throwback and I certainly don’t see recipes with it on any food blogs these days but I think it’s a lifesaver sometimes.

So, give it a try and let me know if it was worth it. And I do really hope you  make this whole dish, or some version of it.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. For those of you in the Portland (OR) region and for those of you interested in or already devoted CSA fans, I am working with 47th Ave. Farm on their Winter Share and will be providing comprehensive recipe packets with each share all season. So if you’ve thought about joining a CSA but were afraid you wouldn’t know what do with all the veggies, fear no more.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Gratin

You could add lots of chopped parsley or oregano or basil or chives to the dish as you’re assembling it, before baking. You could use other vegetables. I imagine diced winter squash instead of the potatoes would be fabulous and very pretty. Sausage, bacon or any kind of leftover meat would be good. You can vary the cheeses, omit entirely, and so on and so forth!

For Bechamel:

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

generous 2 cups of whole milk (2% can work in a pinch)

salt

pepper

bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

pinch of ground nutmeg or cloves

fresh minced thyme, parsley, chives, etc. (optional)

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over med/low heat. When melted, whisk in flour. Continue cooking the roux for 2 -3 min, whisking frequently. Meanwhile heat milk until it’s scalding. Whisk hot milk into roux and add several pinches of salt, grind in some pepper, add chili flakes (or omit if you’d like), add mustard and a bay leaf and a grating or two of nutmeg. Stir well and cook over med/low heat for about 10 minutes until thickened and bubbling.  Add some grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, etc. ) and fresh, chopped herbs if you’d like at this point.

For the gratin:

3-5 potatoes (depending on size) and cut into thumb-sized chunks

1/2 medium to large green cabbage (or a whole small one), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

Handful or two of small pasta (optional)

Salt

Bread crumbs (optional)

Grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, . . .)

Put potatoes in a large pot with lots of water and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. If you are using some kind of pasta you’ll want to add it to the potatoes just a few minutes after the water comes to a boil so the pasta can cook for 8 or so minutes (depending on the type you choose this will vary. The pasta can be quite all dente when you drain everything though since it will keep cooking in the oven.) When the potatoes (and pasta, if using) are almost tender add the cabbage to the pot. Cover and cook for another few minutes until the cabbage is tender. Drain.

Spread the vegetables in a large baking dish. Pour the béchamel over the top and mix in a bit. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and extra cheese (if you’d like) and bake  at 400 until bubbly and crisp on top (I broil it at the end for a few minutes).


Simple Italian Lentil and Rice Stew

Arborio rice and small French green lentils (or if you can find them you can use small brown Italian lentils from Umbria)

Rice and lentils are a classic combination. All over the Middle East you find versions of Mujaddara, a dish of rice and lentils garnished with caramelized onions often flavored with cumin. Sometimes there’s a little tomato sauce in the mix or a spicy harissa. There are Indian versions as well.

This simple Italian combination of arborio rice and small either French green or Italian brown lentils is the perfect lunch or dinner with a salad on the side. You cook the lentils and rice in the same pot with just some garlic, parsley and a little tomato and some good broth of your choosing or veggie bouillon.  Dress it up with some more parsley, some parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil and dig in.

Rice and lentil stew with parmesan and parsley.

There’s nothing fancy about this and that’s why it’s such a winner for when all you have is your pantry–which hopefully always contain rice and lentils. Either short or long-grain brown rice would work too though you would increase the cooking time for the rice a bit. Parsley grows almost year-round here in Western Oregon so this is truly a pantry meal in our household. You could probably substitute dried oregano and/or thyme and add a bay leaf to the broth when you’re cooking it if there’s no parsley on hand. And come to think of it, a dollop of harissa would probably be delicious with this.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Italian Lentil and Rice Stew

1/2 cup of small French green lentils or Italian brown lentils

1 cup Arborio rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons (more or less), Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1-2 medium tomatoes, diced (I used 4 halves of roasted tomatoes that I roast and freeze for just such things) or 2 canned tomatoes, without their juice, diced

4 cups stock, broth, veggie bouillon broth, etc.

parmesan

good olive oil for drizzling

a bit more parsley for garnish

Saute the parsley and garlic for just about a minute in a saucepan in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the lentils and the broth (if the broth is not salty add 1 teaspoon of salt at this point) and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rice (if using brown rice you want to add the rice at the same time as the lentils) and cook for another 15 minutes or so until both lentils and rice are tender but not mushy. There will still be a little liquid in the pan which is how it should be. Adjust seasoning.

Sever with parmesan, parsley and a drizzle of good oil

Baked Apples

Here are the key ingredients for this dish though any number of substitutions for the nuts and dried fruit would be great . . .raisins, dried cranberries, cherries or apricots; almonds, pecans. . . .

I’m testing all kinds of healthy desserts for part of a series of classes I’m teaching at Columbia Sportswear this fall. I know ‘healthy’ is a terribly subjective term but I’m focusing on dishes that traditionally don’t use lots of refined sugars and flours (like these Baked Apples) or adapting ones that do, to use less of those things.

Baked Apples filled with walnuts, dates, a little butter and coconut sugar.

It’s a lot of  fun and I loved these apples I made last night for our dessert and loved them even more for breakfast this morning with Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Many European countries have a variation of this dish (which is also delicious with pears) and I grew up with some German renditions of this. The below recipe was loosely inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s in Around my French Table, however, I simplified it significantly. Enjoy!

I’m also having fun testing soups these days in preparation for Fall Soup Class which still has a few spots. So far I think there will be a pureed chickpea soup with cumin and lemon; a leek soup; a potato chowder and a soup with different kinds of beans and greens!

Breakfast of baked apples topped with Greek yogurt and maple syrup.

Baked Apples 

4 apples, cut in half, peeled and cored (or pears or quince)

4 tablespoons chopped walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans

1/2 cup of chopped dried fruit (dates, raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, prunes or apricots)

2-3 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar (or 1 -2 tablespoons honey)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup apple cider or water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the apples cut side up in the 9 x 13 baking pan. They should be fairly snug so they stay upright and hold their filling. Put a small piece of butter into each hollow (where the core used to be)

In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, sugar (or honey), salt and nuts and dried fruit. Divide this mixture evenly among the hollows of the 8 halves. Dot each half with another piece of butter. Pour the cider or water into the pan and sprinkle the remaining butter onto the liquid in the pan.

Bake until the apples are nice and tender (but not falling apart) which can be anywhere from 45 – 70 minutes depending on the size and kind of your apple. Baste with the buttery juice every 15 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes before eating or eat at room temperature as is or with Greek yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Hanging on to Summer Veggies

The farmers markets here in the Portland area are probably at their most abundant right now. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, and eggplants are still bountiful and colorful. But trying to crowd them out are the piles of winter squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts and the rest of the fall contingent. The weather is leaning towards fall but I’m a die-hard summer veggie eater as long as I possibly can be. I know those hefty squash that have absorbed a season’s worth of warmth and turned it into an edible hunk of sunshine will be there for me in a few weeks and will stick around until early spring, not much worse for wear.

Eggplants and a sweet, red pepper needed for the Hot, Sweet, Sour Eggplant dish below.

But the summer veggies are more fleeting so I’m cooking with eggplant and peppers almost every day and madly preserving tomatoes along the way.  I tend to make Italian dishes with these but lately I’ve been having fun with a Chinese-inspired dish–Sweet, Hot, Sour Eggplant–named so by me and undoubtedly inauthentic. It’s quick, full flavored and richer tasting than it is. The Thai basil that’s still thriving in a pot in my backyard makes it extra good but more common Genovese basil, cilantro or even parsley would all be good.

I neglected to take a picture on the evening I made this so this photo is of the leftovers I heated up together with the rice for lunch the next day.

Sweet, Sour and Hot Eggplant

My favorite way to serve this quick Chinese-inspired dish is over short grain brown rice but any rice is excellent. It’s a rich-tasting dish though actually fairly light in preparation.

2 medium eggplant (or several smaller ones—any kind of eggplant will work in this dish—the long slender Japanese ones, more common Italian, globe ones, . . .), skin on, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or fresh, minced Serrano, jalapeno or other hot pepper

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower or other oil

3-4 tablespoons Thai basil, basil, cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped

Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowel.

In a large skillet or wok heat the oil and sauté onions and pepper (if using) over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add red pepper flakes (or minced hot pepper) and eggplant and cook until it softens and browns a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. A few minutes before the eggplant is done add the minced garlic and stir well. Then add the sauce and stir well to mix and coat veggies. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until sauce thickens and veggies are tender. Stir in the herbs, saving out a few for garnish if you’d like. Serve hot over rice with reserved herbs.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Tomato Post # Three

Tomato Paella--a quick, inexpensive, vegetarian version of the classic rice and seafood dish.

I’ve written a lot about tomatoes recently and this will likely be the last post for this year’s crop. Having fresh tomatoes on the counter is a marker of late summer. And there’s nothing like a few tomatoes to inspire a quick meal. They’ve been doing it over and over and I still haven’t gotten through all my favorite tomato recipes. Last night we had BLTs for dinner. The night before we had the above Paella. And tonight we’ll have panzanella or my favorite raw (blended) tomato sauce with lots of basil and olive oil served with pasta (at room temperature) with big chunks of fresh mozzarella. And then maybe I’ll be done. . . . or not quite.

This tomato paella would be the perfect dish for this coming Saturday’s Day of Action–Slow Food USA’s campaign to reclaim the “Value Meal”. Read more about it here with some tips on inexpensive, delicious cooking from yours truly.

Mark Bittman published this recipe in the New York Times five years ago and I’ve been making it ever since, with a few variations. It’s best with really flavorful, ripe tomatoes–and not sauce tomatoes like Romas or San Marzanos but heirloom, slicing tomatoes. Unlike Bittman I cook the whole thing on the stove top instead of finishing it in the oven but with either method it’s a quick one-dish meal with a simple green salad on the side.

The flavorful base of onion, garlic, saffron and pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) is the foundation of this dish.

You arrange the tomato wedges on the rice once you've added the stock. Once the stock is absorbed you can see the pin wheel of tomatoes on top of the rice.

Tomato Paella

–Adapted from Mark Bittman

This is a delicious, quick, and inexpensive (and vegetarian) twist on a classic paella. It’s perfect this time of year with beautiful, juicy tomatoes. It’s very important to season the ingredients properly as you go. It’s really a shame to under salt this dish. Taste your stock or bouillon to make sure it’s well seasoned.

3 1/2 cups stock, water or veggie bouillon (made with 4 1/2 teaspoons bouillon paste and 3 1/2 cups water)

1 1/2 pounds ripe, slicer/heirloom tomatoes (not sauce tomatoes), cored and cut into thick wedges (about 4 medium to large tomatoes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Large pinch saffron threads

2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika), or other paprika

2 cups Spanish or Arborio or other short-grain rice (I use Arborio)

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (if the stock isn’t very salty or you’re using water)

Warm stock or water in a saucepan. If using water, add a teaspoon of salt to the water. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in saffron if you are using it and pimentón and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another two to three minutes. Add hot stock or water and stir until just combined.

Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Cook over medium heat undisturbed, for 15 -20 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, keep cooking for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving. If you have time you should definitely do this last part. The crust is fabulous.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Artichokes

What was left of five artichokes the three of us had for dinner last night.

There were two things I remember eating in great quantity as a child (actually I’m sure there were many more than two) artichokes and corn on the cob. I think my artichoke record was four in one sitting and eight ears of corn. The corn was always homegrown and the ears weren’t usually quite as large as store-bought ones but still, I loved these two things. I have a feeling my four-year-old is going to give me a run for my money on the artichoke front soon. I certainly can’t put away four in one sitting anymore. And he ate one and a half artichokes last night and they were big.

For inexplicable reasons we haven’t eaten many artichokes for a few years but somehow this year the bug is back and I’m buying them at every turn. The ones pictured above are from a local farm (DeNoble Farm in Tillamook, OR) and are available at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Growing up my mother boiled them and we dipped the leaves and much-anticipated heart in regular store-bought mayo and I loved them that way. Then I spent a lot of time in Italy and learned of the dozens of other ways of preparing them, all of which I loved as well. Most of those preparations–stuffed, grilled, roasted, in a ragout, in a frittata, etc.–are a bit more time-consuming so this spring I’ve mostly been doing it the good old American way.  I made them for my in-laws in Colorado 10 days ago and it turned out to be the first artichoke my father-in-law had ever had and he loved it.

For last night’s I used a bit of leftover aioli (with chives and thyme) and stretched that with the store-bought stuff and it was perfect.

I was much too excited to start eating to remember to take any photos of the original, beautiful bowl of five whole artichokes so all you get is the dregs that I promised I'd save for Ellis for dinner tonight.

So, if you want a low fuss summer meal, pick up a bunch of artichokes; get out big bowls for the leaves and thistle parts and a bowl of mayo, homemade or not and go to town.

P.S. I know it’s more common to steam artichokes but I’ve always just boiled them, water coming about half way up the artichokes (stem end down) for about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on size they might take longer). You want the stem and heart to be very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or fork. When tender I hold them upside down by their stems to drain them well and then they are ready to eat. I’ve always assumed boiling was faster than steaming and I always seem to be in a hurry but by all means steam them if you prefer.

Bake With What You Have – Part I

Apple Oat Muffins . . . not the most photogenic muffins in the world but satisfying nevertheless.

I have a private client at the moment who has three sons; 11, 14 and 16. I grew up with three brothers so I know how much they can eat, but for years now I’ve lived in a household of two and more recently three and I’m just not accustomed to those quantities anymore. This client wants ideas and recipes for hearty, healthy snacks for the boys. So I’ve been testing and making a variety of things including lots of muffins. Muffins are in many ways ideal: they are baked in individual portions; they freeze well; they are portable; and they are adaptable to many different tastes/styles/ingredients. I have a feeling my client’s boys could eat a whole batch of these in one sitting but for those with smaller families, freezing part of the batch is a great idea.

I have always loved to bake and made more than my fair share of layer cakes out of the Joy of Cooking as a teenager. My tastes have changed over the years and I like things a bit less sweet now but until a few years ago, I carefully followed dessert recipes. Not anymore. The cook-with-what-you-have mindset has wormed its way into my baking (and other desserts) as well and I substitute and tinker to my heart’s content. There are still some recipes I strictly follow and certain chefs whose recipes I know better than to change because they are always perfect (David Lebovitz among others). . . .However, muffins are the perfect foil for tinkering and I want to convey that freedom to adapt baked goods like this to my client(s) so that good, home-made snacks like the below muffins become part of people’s regular routines.

I’ve been playing with these Apple Oat Muffins this week and they are a perfect example of a quick-to-make snack (dessert, breakfast, picnic treat) using items you might already have in your pantry or you can substitute with ingredients you do have on hand. They are just barely sweet but the combination of the fruit, the texture of the oats and the spices works well.

These muffins call for as much oats (by volume) as flour.

Muffin (and waffle, pancake, biscuit. etc.) recipes often call for buttermilk. I hardly ever have buttermilk on hand so I substitute either whole milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice per cup of milk or yogurt or a combination. Both work really well. I use whole milk in all my baking/cooking and think it gives the best results but 2% is workable too.

These muffins would also be delicious with the addition of raisins, chopped walnuts or almonds, shredded coconut, other dried fruit or fresh blueberries or raspberries. You could substitute mashed bananas for the apple sauce though you might reduce the sweetener a bit since bananas are sweeter than apples. And speaking of sweeteners, you could substitute maple syrup for the honey or use brown sugar or granulated sugar though honey is a bit sweeter than sugar so reduce the sugar amount by 1/4 or so.

You could also play with different kinds of flour or combinations of flour. You might use half spelt flour and half all-purpose, etc. Kim Boyce’s wonderful book Good to the Grain is a wonderful resource on whole grain flours of all kinds.

Apple Oat Muffins

When tinkering with baked goods you do want to keep the proportion of dry and wet ingredients the same. There are a few other rules (which I will explore in Bake With What You Have – Part II) but muffins are pretty forgiving so go ahead and play around and see what you like.

These muffins are not very sweet. If you like things a bit sweeter by all means add a few more tablespoons of honey.

12- 15 muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or other flours-see note above)

1 1/4 cups oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt (if using milk, add 1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar)

1/3 cup honey (or other sweeteners-see note above)

2 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil (or other vegetable or nut oil)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 large apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

grated zest of half a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil or butter a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl combine applesauce, milk (or yogurt), honey, oil, egg and lemon zest, if using. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir quickly until just combined. Add the chopped apple and fill muffin cups.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Ellis loves muffin-testing days.

Salads and Beans

My Lunch Salad

The lettuces and other greens that overwintered in my garden don’t seem to mind the cold wet spring. The longer days and occasional rays of sun are enough for them to grow a few inches a day it seems. And as noted in last week’s post, my neighbor’s greens are even more prolific.

Not only are the cultivated greens thriving these days but so are the wild ones. I have never known much about what edibles one can forage but last week I had the pleasure of hosting a local TV news station and Edible Portland in my kitchen. They filmed a segment on wild edibles that had been picked earlier that morning in an urban neighborhood here in Portland by John Kallas, one of the authorities on wild foods. John wrote a comprehensive book on wild edibles including lots of recipes and photos to identify these delicious and nutritious foods. So if you don’t have any lettuces in your garden you  might want to check out the book and then take a walk in your neighborhood and see what you find. The salads and frittatas we sampled during the filming were delicious.

Cooked Pinto Beans, previously frozen

And beans! I love beans and to my great delight I caught a bit of Splendid Table (the NPR weekly food show) on Sunday about some of the healthiest people on earth who live in Turkey and eat lots of beans, olive oil and red wine.

But back to yesterday’s lunch salad–the salad I make in some fashion several times a week for lunch and for dinner has two main components: greens and beans. I always have home-cooked beans in the freezer and usually a quart in the fridge (canned beans work fine for this kind of thing too). And in the winter I almost always have kale around (which works beautifully in this hearty salad in its raw state) and the above mentioned greens. You really can use most any kind of green leafy item from spinach to kale to watercress and arugula to endive to romaine. Same with the beans. . .. red, black, pinto, white, garbanzo are all delicious.

Nice additions to this salad foundation are some of kind of cheese, hard-boiled egg,  some herbs or nuts, thinly sliced onion or minced garlic. . .. You can also play with the ratio of beans to greens. If you want a bean-heavy salad, just chop the greens and herbs a little finer and have the focal point be the beans, eggs, nuts, etc. And finally you need a zippy dressing. My standard is good olive oil (I like Unio by Siurana available locally at Pastaworks), lemon juice or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and my secret ingredient: reduced apple cider. I take a half-gallon of organic apple cider and bring it to a boil in a big pot and reduce it at a rolling boil until it gets a little syrupy and viscous. I usually get about 1 1/2 cups from half a gallon. I store the syrup in a jar in the fridge and add a couple of teaspoons to my salad dressing.

Lunch Salad with Pinto beans, lettuces, hard-boiled egg, sharp cheddar and onion

With or without a slice of good bread (or maybe a batch of cornbread at dinner time) this is a light but satisfying meal.

And finally, since I promised you two recipes this week, here is a link to a recipe from my current favorite cookbook: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi from the eponymous restaurant in London. I  made these leek fritters last night and reluctantly sent my husband off to work with the leftovers.

P.S. There are a few spots left in my May classes, including next week’s Spring Market Class.

Greens & Bean Salad

See notes above about how to adapt this kind of salad to your liking and to what you have on hand, and hence the vague quantities below. This is really more of an idea than a formal recipe.

2-4 cups of packed greens of your choice

1-3 cups cooked (or canned) beans of your choice (pinto, black, white, garbanzo. . .)

2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

1/2 shallot or small chunk of red or yellow onion, slivered or diced

1-2 ounces of cheese of your choice (feta, sharp cheddar, fresh goat’s cheese. . . )

handful or two of raw or toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts. . .)

1/4 cup roughly chopped herbs (parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon, cilantro. . .)

Dressing

1/4 cup of good olive oil

2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons reduced apple cider (see note above) (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 clove of garlic, minced

Place all salad ingredients in a large boil. Mix dressing and drizzle over salad and toss well.