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Posts from the ‘Odds & Ends’ Category

Bread (and a Cookbook Giveaway)

I grew up in Germany eating good bread. My mother (the American parent) quickly learned my father’s old world tastes and became an expert bread baker. She made a dense, chewy rye bread with cracked coriander in it and one of my fondest childhood memories was eating that bread, sliced thinly, toasted, then cooled and then smeared generously with butter and topped with apricot or raspberry jam. Heaven! And just as good, topped with Gruyère or Swiss Cheese our Gouda, again on lots of butter. My mother also  made yeast rolls and whole wheat sandwich bread and I loved all of it and remember rounding up my friends on weekend mornings in the tiny village we lived in to come have warm bread right out of the oven.

My mother still bakes bread but she lives more than an hour away and now she’s most famous for her biscuits, but that’s another blog post. And now I live two blocks from Grand Central Bakery which is quite fortuitous since my first job out of college was at Grand Central. I arranged the bread and pastry displays, learned how to make good coffee and made sandwiches–mostly I remember the daily marathon of making sandwiches during the lunch rush. I’ve always loved their breads with their fabulous crusts and chewy interiors.

Grand Central Bakery's new Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

Now, however, they have a new kind of bread which in some ways is nothing like the breads I grew up on and tend to gravitate towards. However, it is packed with seeds and whole grains (very German!) but is made in a more classic American sandwich bread style, i.e. softer and more tender. What I like about it though is that it still seems like a real loaf of bread, not something that is overly processed or engineered, which is what most sandwich bread seems like to me. Note the lovely mouse hole, as we called those irregular holes as children, which to me signals real bread. I recently picked up a loaf and used it every which way.

With Sharp Cheddar and my mother's Bread & Butter Pickles, about to be grilled. . .

The grilled version of the sharp cheddar and bread & butter pickle sandwich was not very photogenic but boy was it good. A friend inspired me to make the below version with fresh goat cheese, minced, fresh thyme and cheddar and then I made another version with a bunch of parsley in addition to the thyme. All are worth repeating and were devoured by neighborhood adults and kids alike.

With fresh goat cheese and herbs and more cheddar. . .

The crunchy, gooey, savory sandwiches before they disappeared.

And finally, the bread served as a good vehicle for my leftover slice of asparagus and snap pea frittata that I enjoyed in the back yard on one of the sunny (!!!!) days we’ve had recently.

Frittata sandwich with arugula and some sharp cheddar, again.

This bread is available in the Portland and Seattle areas at all the Grand Central Bakery storefronts but also in Portland at Pastaworks, Zupans, Whole Foods, New Seasons and Beaumont Market. And for those of you who do not live in the area, I hope you have a good alternative.

Lastly, to further honor my erstwhile employer, I’m going to give away a copy of the Grand Central Baking Book co-authored by the lovely Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. This book is a collection of many of the bakery’s beloved treats for any time of day, sweet or savory.  So leave a comment about bread and/or sandwiches and I’ll randomly choose a winner to receive this gorgeous book.

Lastly, there are still spots available in my June 23rd Lunch Time Class and the June 25th improv class in which we’ll truly cook with what we have and collectively come up with a menu.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

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Simple Pleasures?

I shop at my neighborhood farmers market (and a few others too). The neighborhood one is small with only a few produce vendors right now. There will be more later in the season. There isn’t a wide variety of produce right now and I like it that way. It simplifies my life. I have fewer choices but all the choices are fresh, delicious and beautiful (and come in more shades of green than you can imagine). I have an easy time deciding what to teach in my classes and feed my family.

Now on to the trickier subject of how simple shopping like this is for the average Joe/Jane. Farmers markets have been popping up all over the country and the recent attention to food deserts (neighborhoods with little or no access to fresh produce and other food supplies) is helping. But many neighborhoods lack farmers markets (or even grocery stores with good produce) and the limited market hours don’t work for everyone. My neighborhood market does accept SNAP cards (formerly known as food stamps) and even gives shoppers using their SNAP card an extra $5 to use at the market.

But we have a long way to go to make the way I shop more prevalent. I’m headed to New York City later this week for a board meeting of Slow Food USA. And we’re going to be talking about just how we continue to build a movement in this country to make access to these simple, but pretty critical pleasures, a reality for many more people.

Spicy Spinach with Toasted Coconut.

One of my green-hued market purchases last week was a lovely bunch of spinach. And thanks to Heidi Swanson, it turned into a perfect lunch. There’s been a lot of love in the food blogosphere for Heidi and her new book Super Natural Everyday lately and I’ll happily add my accolades to the mix. This recipe is not from  her new book but from a recent post of hers. Enjoy!

What to do with that half-bunch of Cilantro?

What do you do with that leftover cilantro in the fridge? That is one of the most commonly asked question in my classes. Sunday night I used a somewhat ratty-looking half-bunch of cilantro and whizzed it in the food processor with two to three tablespoons of Greek Yogurt , the same amount of good olive oil (the kind you might use for drizzling on soups or in salad dressings), a clove of garlic, some salt and a splash of lemon juice, to create this luscious sauce. You could also just finely chop the cilantro and stir everything together by hand so don’t  fret if you don’t have a fancy machine or don’t feel like cleaning it afterwards.

 

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

 

I served it over cauliflower and some kale raab (kale going to seed in my garden) and quinoa. It was yet another cook-with-what-you-have dish that came together in no time, was very flavorful and used up that cilantro.

 

Quinoa with Cauliflower, Kale Raab, and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

I cook with lots of herbs. I grow many but have never had much luck with cilantro. It bolts too quickly! Cilantro is one of my winter-time workhorses in the kitchen and I incorporate it in soups like this; or add lots of it to homemade mayonnaise that I make with lime juice instead of lemon and serve with roasted sweet potato wedges.

Herbs add flavor, color and nutrients to any dish and are an inexpensive way to round out a dish. I can imagine this sauce topping a chickpea or lentil dal, or some grilled fish (or in fish tacos), or with other roasted vegetables. It is the kind of thing that makes cooking with what you have on hand feel like a coup. I love it.

Greek Yogurt

Garlicky Greek Yogurt with Lemon Juice

I’ve been topping dishes with Greek yogurt for a few years now which I was reminded of again today when I opened my freezer in the basement. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, preserved tomatoes, fruit compotes, tomato sauce, etc. are all housed in that same yogurt container.

Greek or Greek-style yogurt is regular yogurt that’s been strained which removes some of the liquid whey making it thicker, richer, and creamier. It’s delicious on savory pancakes and fritters, soups and stews, roasted vegetables. . .. you name it! I first started using it instead of sour cream. I used to buy sour cream for some specific recipe and then the rest of it would be forgotten and wind up moldy a few weeks later. I don’t have this problem with Greek yogurt and find plenty of uses for it–sweat (with fruit and honey or jam, . . .) and savory. I use it when sour cream is called for and when nothing of the sort is called for. I’ve started topping Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful French Swiss Chard pancakes called Farçous (which I will blog about soon) with it, mixed with some lemon juice and zest. I dollop it on lentil soup and Indian dhals.

Beets and Beet Greens

Many cuisines around the world use yogurt or some similar fermented dairy product as sauces and toppings for all kinds of dishes. It provides richness and a smooth, cooling counterpoint to vibrant and spicy food. And since it’s fermented with live cultures it is easier to digest, adds good bacteria and aids in digesting other foods. I got hooked on yogurt because it tasted so good but have become even more devoted to it and other cultured/fermented foods as part of my meals since I’ve learned more about it. Cynthia Lair, author of Feeding the Whole Family includes an excellent summary of the benefits of these foods in our diet in this book.

This week I made a dish with beets and beet greens a friend of mine taught me which takes advantage of all the characteristics of Greek yogurt (or plain, regular whole-milk yogurt).

Beets, Beet Greens and Garlicky Greek Yogurt

Beets and Beet Greens with Garlicky Yogurt

1 bunch of beets, with greens (4-5 medium beets) or whatever you have on hand

3 small cloves of garlic, divided and minced

1 medium shallot or chunk of onion, finely chopped

½ cup of Greek yogurt or plain, full fat yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon juice plus an extra squeeze or two

olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the greens off the beets, wash well and cut into wide ribbons. You can use most of the stems. I usually just toss the 2-3 inches closest to the beat root. Scrub the beets well and cut into wedges. Put the beets in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes until beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain well and toss with a little lemon juice and salt. Meanwhile saute the onions or shallots in a little olive oil over medium high heat until soft. Add beet greens and a little olive oil if necessary and one clove of garlic, minced, and a few pinches of salt. It will only take about 3 -5 minutes for the greens/stems to be tender. In a small bowl mix the yogurt with the remaining garlic, a pinch or two of salt and the teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix the beet wedges with the greens and heat thoroughly and then serve with a generous dollop of the yogurt.

Greens and Beets ready for the Yogurt!

A quick note on brands of Greek yogurt available in the Portland area. Oikos, Chobani, and Greek Gods are the ones I’ve seen in the stores I frequent. The problem with Chobani and Oikos for me is that they don’t have full-fat versions. I’m not such a fan of reduced fat milk or dairy products since their nutritional composition has been changed and I love the flavor of the full fat versions and I don’t eat it in large quantities. The Greek Gods one is not organic but it’s Rbgh (bovine growth hormone) free so I tend to buy that. Ideally I’d make  Greek yogurt myself by making my own yogurt and then straining it or straining Nancy’s whole milk plain yogurt but until I get in the habit of doing so I’m gong to continue enjoying it from the store. I’d love to hear what kinds you use or if you make it yourself.

Corn Meal Pancakes & New Lunch Time Classes

My husband referred to our four-year-old as the breakfast tyrant this morning. And it’s true. I’m not sure how and when it started but the first thing he says when he wakes up now is: “Can we have crepes for breakfast?” and without waiting for my reply he usually adds: “We have enough milk, don’t we? And eggs?!”  If I say no (to the crepes) he turns to pancakes or waffles or biscuits. . . I love to cook. I cook several times a day every day and making crepes in a blender is practically as fast as cutting up some fruit for him and adding it to his muesli and granola which is the everyday breakfast around here. But on weekday mornings, the answer is often no. But not on weekends.

Another good thing about these pancakes is that they cook in a flash.

On Saturday we had crepes but on Sunday we had my favorite–corn meal pancakes. He loves them too and so it didn’t take much convincing. I’ve been making these–an adaptation from an old Joy of Cooking recipe–for many, many years. And each time I make them I wonder why I would ever make any other kind. They are light and lacy around the edges if don’t skimp on the oil in the pan. They have a little crunch and wonderful fragrance thanks to the lemon zest. I often add blueberries straight from the freezer to the batter. They are wonderful served with jam, with syrup, with a fruit compote or with greek yogurt and chives and I’m sure with most things you might think of.

Blueberries and lemon zest are a wonderful combination. I neglected the blueberries in this weekend's version but I'll have another opportunity soon thanks to the breakfast tyrant.

They are a bit thinner than regular pancakes and they are best with a medium to coarse grind of corn meal and even better if the corn meal is fairly fresh. We happen to be fortunate enough to have a local farm (several now actually) who sell freshly milled grains. Bob’s Red Mill medium grind corn meal or polenta work well too as do most commercially available kinds. The corn meal is mixed with boiling water and gets to sit for 10 minutes which softens the crunch.

One of the corn meals I buy is called Roy's Calais and has beautiful reddish flecks in it.

Corn Meal Pancakes

–adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 cup medium or coarse white or yellow corn meal

1 teaspoon salt

1 – 2 tablespoons honey, syrup or sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 egg

1/2 cup milk (preferably whole milk)

2 tablespoons melted butter

the zest of one lemon, finely grated

1/2 cup whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

oil for frying

Whisk the salt and sugar into the cornmeal in a medium bowl. Carefully whisk in the boiling water and syrup or honey (if using that instead of sugar) since the hot water will prevent it from clumping. Cover bowl with a plate or lid and let stand for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile whisk the egg with the milk and melted better. Mix the flour and baking powder in a third bowl. Add the egg and milk mixture to the cornmeal; add the lemon zest and flour mixture. Combine quickly. Add blueberries here if you’re using them.

Fry the pancakes in a hot, oiled pan. They only take about 90 seconds per side. Flip when the edges appear golden and the bubbles begin popping on the surface.

Makes about 12 4-inch pancakes.

P.S. you can also make fancy pancakes for the young or young-at-heart at your table–see below!

Cowboy boot pancake--hard to flip but very fun.

P.P.S. I’m launching my new Lunch Time classes next week. So depending on your locale (I’m in Portland, OR) and lunch routine, the classes I’ve scheduled over the next couple of months might be appealing. You won’t have to pack a lunch or buy one (elsewhere!) and you’ll get to learn a couple of new one-dish meals that make for excellent leftover lunches and enjoy a delicious meal! And knowing my love of desserts, I’ll spare you that mid-afternoon cookie run by sending you off with a sweet treat of some kind.

So check out the lunch-time classes here and sign up! I’m in inner SE Portland, very close to downtown, in case that’s where you find yourself during the day. . . .Classes are from noon – 1:30pm, February 24, Mar 17, and April 14.

Peanut Sauce

Rice with leftover peanut sauce and lots of cilantro.

I have at least five different blog posts started in my head. These last few spring-like days  here in Portland have been so energizing and glorious maybe that’s translated into increased brain activity. So I’d love to muse about all the birds I hear singing all of sudden every morning or the green garlic stalks that seem to have sped up their growth a bit or the late afternoon light or that wonderful springy, damp earth sort of smell. I’d also like to write about the talk I’m putting together to give at Slow Food Portland’s Annual Potluck this Sunday (there are still seats available and it is likely the best potluck in Portland and some of the most relevant content) I’d also like to write about several totally last-minute cook-with-what-you-have meals I’ve tossed together lately. So I think I’ll do the latter and focus on just one.

The other day I was in need of a quick hearty meal for our family. I had leftover black bean soup in the fridge so I cooked a pot of white rice (I was in a hurry and I love white rice but tend to cook brown rice more frequently these days) to make the soup stretch. As I was heating up the soup I realized that this was going to be just one-too-many bean meals in a row for my husband. I’ve been doing a lot of recipe testing with beans lately and as much as my dear husband likes most of them I know he doesn’t love them quite as a much as I do.

I rummaged through the fridge in search of some other quick inspiration for him and there was a little dish of leftover peanut sauce I had forgotten about. Then I remembered a blog post I had recently read by one of my favorite bloggers (David Lebovitz). Although primarily a baker he sometimes writes about savory foods and had posted a recipe for peanut sauce (that I have not tried) and talked about how he used to just dollop it on white rice for a quick meal on the go when he was still working in restaurants. So there it was: I had my hot rice, my little dish of peanut sauce and plenty of cilantro. So that’s what Brian got for lunch and he was very happy. I ate the bean soup AND a bowl of rice like his and had to agree that the latter was more fun! The hot rice loosened up the peanut sauce and brought out the flavors of lime and chili and the cilantro was cooling and lively. It hit the spot.

So, if you make the below recipe for peanut sauce you should plan to use three-quarters of it to toss with some spaghetti or rice noodles and some finely sliced raw veggies and save the remainder for the above dish!

I have come to love this particular peanut sauce that I came across on another food blog I follow–Skillet Chronicles–by Aleta Watson.

Thanks all you fellow bloggers for the constant inspiration!

Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce

–only slightly adapted from Skillet Chronicles

generous ½ cup smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon grated ginger

4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced to a paste

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½-1 teaspoon chili flakes or hot chili sauce (to taste)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon  brown sugar

2 tablespoons hot water

Blend all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth and set aside. Toss with cold noodles and veggies or serve with rice or use as a dip for steamed veggies or roasted meat. This sauce keeps very well in the fridge for a week, tightly covered (or your fridge will smell like garlic and peanut butter and sesame oil!)

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Cooking Beans

Cook with what you have sounds nice but what should/would you like to have on hand? This is a fun and complex question. I’m going to tackle a small fragment of this question today. I’m going to talk about beans, white beans, and cooking them at home. A quick side note about dry beans. Here in the Portland area we are lucky to have a couple of very local sources of dried beans. Ayers Creek Farm sells their beans at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. The quality, flavor, varieties are unbeatable and worth seeking out. Sungold Farm sells pinto beans that are wonderfully sweat and creamy and are available at both the Portland Farmers Market and the Hillsdale Farmers Market. I have also had very good results with dry beans purchased from grocery stores, both bulk and packaged, so don’t let the possible lack of local beans deter you.

 

Navy Beans with bay leaves, garlic cloves and chunks of onion ready to cook.

 

I love to cook beans. The taste is unbeatable; it’s simple to do once you’re in the habit; and if you cook large quantities at once and freeze them it’s as convenient as having canned beans on hand but with better flavor, less waste, less expense, etc. My routine, since I work from home, is to put several pounds of beans in a big bowl covered with water before I go to bed. The next morning I drain them, put them in a big pot with a couple of bay leaves, a chunk of onion and few peeled, whole garlic cloves and simmer them for 35-60 minutes depending on the bean. Small white ones like the navy beans in this picture tend to cook in about 35 minutes if they haven’t been sitting on a shelf for several years.

For those of you who leave the house every day, you could put them to soak in the morning and then cook them while you’re making dinner. Once cooked, I strain them (reserving the liquid) and put them into pint and quart containers, pour the cooking liquid up to cover them (helps preserve them and it’s great liquid to keep if you’re going to make soup later on) and then freeze them. I do this with white, black and pinto beans and chickpeas regularly. Oh and on the perpetual question of when to salt the beans you’re cooking, I have long gone with the recommendation of John Willoughby from a piece in Gourmet years ago where he debunked the theory of not salting until they’re cooked. So, I salt at the beginning with great results but if you have a different method with which you are happy, by all means stick with that.

So what to do with all those “bean popsicles,” as a student of mine once called them? The frozen beans thaw quickly in a pan over high heat with a bit of water. I just thawed a pint for my lunch in about 5 minutes this way.

 

Navy Beans with tomato, garlic and oregano

 

Of course if you have the presence of mind to take them out of the freezer a few hours or a day ahead of time, great. They keep well in the fridge for the better part of a week. So, for the above lunch I mashed some garlic with salt, sautéed for a minute, added a can of tomatoes, broke those up a bit, added oregano and cooked over high heat for a about five minutes. I then added the thawed beans and heated those through. Some black pepper and a little olive oil to finish and voila!  This makes a delicious light lunch or side dish mixed with pasta and maybe some sausage a hearty and quick dinner.

 

Navy Beans with tomatoes, garlic and oregano

 

You could also toss the beans with some tuna, parsley, capers, finely chopped onion and a vinaigrette with plenty of red-wine vinegar and/or lemon juice. (For another local pitch, I love Oregon Albacore available at local grocery stores and farmers markets.) Or you could mash the beans with some lemon zest, juice, garlic, olive oil and a little rosemary or thyme and have a hearty spread. Or you could make a soup with kale, other veggies, sausage and white beans. The options really are vast.

 

White Bean and Tuna Salad

 

 

I’d love to hear from you on this subject. Do you cook beans? What do you do with them? Have you found it easy? Too much effort? Not satisfactory? Beans too mushy or crunchy?

Happy bean cooking and thanks for reading!

P.S. I’m going to be teaching a 3-part series in January on pantry stocking and cooking quick meals similar to the ones described above in case you’re interested.

Celebrating Mothers and Daughters & Homemade Mayo

I was born on Mother’s Day. I joke with my mother that I don’t need to give her a gift as long as I’m still around. And my mother always says, “All I want is a hug and maybe a piece of chocolate cake.” I added the latter – she doesn’t actually say that but I think that’s what she would love to have, in addition to that hug.

As you might recall from previous posts, my mother is also my biggest culinary influence. She is the original “cook with what you have” cook. And she does it with style and for a dozen people on the fly practically weekly. She also lives 13 miles from the nearest grocery store. And she has the most bottomless and varied of all chest freezers (all home-grown too)– far better than most stores!

I don’t know about you, but it’s not always easy cooking with other people and in other people’s kitchens. And my mother, who is a very fast and efficient cook, does not always love sharing her kitchen with others. But whenever I’m at her house I inevitably cook and we have such a seamless rhythm together in the kitchen and she never fails to note how much she loves to have me in the kitchen. I’m sure it’s that we’ve worked side-by-side in kitchens for 30 +  years but it still seems noteworthy that it’s such fun.

We do have our culinary disagreements, particularly about what constitutes properly cooked meat and fish. She’s more of well-done type! And she doesn’t quite see the point of stocking two different kinds of olive oil: one for finishing dishes, salad dressings, etc. and one for sauteeing and such. But beyond that, we’re pretty similar. We just cooked Easter dinner together and I have to admit, even though the leg of lamb was more done that I would have chosen, it was very good.

So I think we should celebrate mothers and daughters for the whole month of May this year and I’ve scheduled a class on Sunday, May 16th for you mothers and daughters who would like to spend a few hours in my kitchen with each other and cook together. And if you’d like a private class with another mother/daughter pair or two either in my kitchen or yours we’ll schedule something!

And speaking of spring and Easter and Mother’s Day. … home-made mayonnaise season has started in my house! It is actually never really not in season, it’s just that now that my chives, oregano and parsley are prolific in the garden I love it even more. We had fried razor clams the night before Easter and dipped them in herbed mayo; last week we ate it with sweet potato fries (made with lime juice and cilantro), and this week it will go in the egg salad (using up all those easter eggs).

Homemade Mayonnaise with Fresh Herbs

2 egg yolks (organic or from a local farm if possible)

1 -2 tsps lemon juice (plus possibly a bit more to taste at the end) or white wine vinegar in a pinch

Couple of pinches of kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 – 1 cup or more of safflower oil or canola or some neutral vegetable oil

Herbs you have on hand (good with chives, parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon, etc.)

Whisk egg yolks with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Then very, very gradually start pouring in the oil in a very thin stream, whisking as you go. After you’ve incorporated about 1/4 cup of oil you can start speeding things up a bit. Continue until you have a consistency you like. It will get thicker and stiffer the more oil you add. Add chopped herbs at the end and add more salt and/or lemon juice if it needs more tang.

Aioli

To make the classic French garlicky mayonnaise (aioli), mash as many cloves of garlic as you want (you can start with as few as two and go up to about 10 for a very spicy, strong aioli) with some coarse salt with the side of a chef’s knife (or in a mortar) until you have a fairly smooth paste. Add the garlic paste to the egg yolks, lemon juice and salt and proceed as with the mayo above. Typically aioli does not have fresh herbs in it but sometimes I add some chives or parsley or basil. And traditionally you would use olive oil for this but I find that it often gets too bitter and strong if you use 100% olive oil so I suggest you use half very good-tasting extra virgin olive oil and half sunflower or some other more neutral oil.

Homemade Veggie Bouillon & New Classes

I’ve posted April classes – quick dinners and hearty salads! We’ll use all the wonderful spring produce to make quick dishes using eggs and we’ll make creative salads with beans, grains and savory dressings for delicious one-dish dinners. Thanks to many of you for sending me feedback about what you’d most like to learn about. I hope to see you here in my kitchen the last weekend of April for one (or both!) of the classes.

I have a cheap, old digital camera and I have no photography training. And the subject of today’s post–veggie bouillon–is not photogenic. So, forgive the ugly shots and make the bouillon anyway. It’s worth it!

Homemade veggie bouillon paste. Add 1 - 2 teaspoons of the paste to 1 cup of water for fresh, instant broth to use in soups or cook grains, etc.

One of my favorite blogs is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. She blogged about this basic and brilliant idea of making your own bouillon paste in a matter of minutes. (And she’s an excellent photographer so look at her photos.) I taught it in a recent cooking class and sent everyone home with a jar to keep in the freezer for that last-minute risotto, soup, braise, etc. If you have a food processor, all you do is clean the appropriate veggies (carrots, onions, leeks, tomatoes, parsley . . . .) and process them until they are very finely chopped, add lots of salt, process again and spoon into a jar. Done! Nothing is cooked, sautéed, anything. I do love veggie stock but this method of processing things raw gives a wonderful fresh, bright flavor and is quick to make and easy to store and use. When you need the broth, just spoon out 2 teaspoons of bouillon per cup of water (or more or less to your taste) and use in your respective dish. I used it in a spinach and bacon risotto this weekend and it was wonderful. I’ve also been using it instead of water in soups and stews.

I adapted Heidi’s recipe which she adapted from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

Homemade Bouillon

This recipe requires a food processor. As Heidi notes you can also just make this with what you have. Onions, celery, carrots and parsley are enough. Use the proportions that make sense to you. Use 1/3 cup salt for each 2 cups of finely blended veggies/herbs.

5 ounces / 150 g leeks, sliced and well-washed 
(about 1 medium)

7 ounces / 200g carrot, well scrubbed and chopped
 (about 3-4 medium)

3.5 ounces / 100 g celery
 (about 2 big stalks)

3.5 ounces / 100g celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped (about a 3” x 3″ chunk)

1 ounce / 30g sun-dried tomatoes
 (about 6 dried tomatoes)

3.5 ounces / 100g onion or shallots, peeled

1 medium garlic clove

6 ounces / 180g kosher salt (scant 1 cup)

1.5 ounces / 40 g flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped
 (about 1/3 of a bunch)

2 ounces / 60g cilantro (coriander), loosely chopped (about ½ bunch)

Place the first four ingredients in your food processor and pulse about twenty times. Add the next three ingredients, and pulse again. Add the salt, pulse some more. Then add the parsley and cilantro. You may need to scoop some of the chopped vegetables on top of the herbs, so they get chopped. Mine tended to want to stay on top of everything else, initially escaping the blades.

You should end up with a moist, loose paste of sorts. Keep 1/4th of it in a jar in the refrigerator for easy access in the coming days, and freeze the remaining 3/4 for use in the next month. Because of all the salt it barely solidifies making it easy to spoon directly from the freezer into the pot before boiling.

Start by using 2 teaspoons of bouillon per 1 cup (250 ml), and adjust from there based on your personal preference.

Inspired by The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin. The U.S. edition of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook will be available this summer.

Why I Cook. Part I.

I now have a professional excuse to read food blogs (more on that later). A post by Michael Ruhlman last week about why people cook, or do not cook has kept me ruminating this week. And then Culinate.com featured a piece about eating-in and solicited comments from readers about memorable experiences of staying home and cooking instead of opting for take-out or going out to eat.

I can think of dozens of reasons why I cook but I think the fundamental one is that I love preparing food for the people in my life. I started cooking at a very young age, in part because my mother suffered from severe migraines. When she was laid up, I often cooked for my siblings and father. And even though I remember those days without my mother bustling about and taking care of us, as quiet, sad, and just wrong, I also remember the joy and pride with which I served dinner. From then on, preparing food became the go-to-gift for all occasions.

And then there’s just the everyday cooking, the nightly dinners that are so part of my routine that if I don’t cook for two or three nights I start feeling a little antsy. It’s not that I don’t love to go out to eat. Eating out is in fact one of the things I miss most about my pre-child life. However, since we don’t  go out much any more, I have daily opportunities to enjoy the process. And I have a most appreciative eater in my husband, and more often that not, in my son as well. My son recently turned three, which was a great reason to bake cinnamon rolls, muffins, a chocolate birthday cake, and lots of savory snacks too.

Today, my kitchen looked like a production kitchen. I had a few hours to myself and the result was a double batch of muffins and a triple batch of granola. Now we’re stocked for after-school-snacks and breakfasts for two weeks.

The second batch of muffins was baking and the kitchen smelled of cinnamon and I was wrist-deep in granola, oily hands covered with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and oats, and loving it. I love the process. I love the smells and the toasty clumps I nibble as soon as the granola is out of the oven. I love the creativity. (I have become a bit of a pathological substituter–sometimes because I don’t have  all the ingredients, but sometimes also because I like to tinker with the original.) And I do like to eat, so the consumption part is a joy too.

Speaking of results and creativity, the granola I made today was inspired by a recipe from Lottie + Doof , one of my favorite food blogs.  I’ve been making this variation for several months now and it illustrates another reason I love to cook. I could never afford to buy this kind of granola at the store. With a few tweaks to the original recipe (I omit the pecans and use applesauce for part of the olive oil called for) I can make six pounds of granola for about $15 by buying products in bulk from Azure Standard and making it myself (active time 10 minutes!)

These are just a few of the reasons why I cook. I’d love to hear why you do or don’t!

Granola (inspired by Lottie + Doof who adapted it from Early Bird Granola)

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 1 cup coconut chips
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • generous 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Mix honey, maple syrup, olive oil and applesauce in another bowl and then stir into dry ingredients. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is toasted, about an hour. It should be nice and golden brown. Remove granola from oven and let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.