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Posts from the ‘Quick’ Category

Last Gasp of Summer

big garden tomatoes

I know it’s fall–it looks, smells and feels that way here in the Pacific Northwest–but the giant tomatoes I’m still hauling in from the garden and that keep showing up in my CSA share are ever so welcome. It is that time of year for me though where there is so much produce, both summer and fall crops, that it’s hard to focus. This salad is a good way to work through a lot of tomatoes and cherish their sweet juicy-ness before they disappear for many months.

This quick salad today is not a panzanella, at least not in the typical Tuscan sense, though it may look like it to many. This is panzanella! Thank goodness for a better writer than me and one with more authority on Italian food than me to write a proper post about this wonderful, soggy, yes soggy, Tuscan dish that I ate day after day in Italy and have recreated for students and friends alike, almost always to raised eyebrows of skepticism before and appreciation and wonder after ingestion! I like many of the more modern, American adaptations with toasted bread, I just resist calling them panzanella for some stubborn nod to tradition that occasionally comes over me.

In this salad, a thick slice or two of toasted bread is cut into cubes and tossed with big chunks of tomato, feta, a bit of arugula and lots of basil and some diced red onion. Red wine vinegar and good olive oil and salt and pepper is all the dressing it needs. Buon Appetito!

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The Idea of a Salad

A "salad" picked and arranged by my son

A salad picked and arranged by my son

Upon hearing the word salad my son’s face reveals disgust or despair or just plain irritation. He actually eats bean, grain or pasta or potato salads and in a pinch even a grated vegetable salad but any kind of green salad has been rejected outright for years. He eats cooked greens in every form but NOT as a salad.

However, he devours fennel fronds and mint walking around the neighborhood and he couldn’t get enough raw pea shoots at a friend’s house for dinner recently. So last week he and I picked fennel fronds from a nearby parking strip, mint coming through a brick wall at the neighbors and pea shoots from our back yard. We washed and dried our loot and Ellis arranged it on our dinner plates. He munched away happily and had seconds, maybe thirds. I brought some olive oil, salt and lemon juice to the table for mine but found that the plain greens were actually a lovely change to our usual dressed ones.

A wonderful piece in today’s Oregonian about Xico Owner and Chef Kelly Myers reminded me of the joy and importance of cooking (or in this case gathering) with children and letting them have some agency in what and how we prepare and eat. I have my idea of what a salad should be but so does Ellis! And another recent article about urban foraging and all the edibles in  our back yards and parking strips is an inspiration to do more family foraging and expand our notion of dinner.

Squash Rice Fritters + Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Previously frozen brown rice thawed and mixed with roasted squash and seasonings  make for a delicious fritter.

Previously frozen brown rice thawed and mixed with roasted squash and seasonings makes for a delicious fritter.

Mid last week I had one section of that beautiful, giant squash leftover. I had unearthed a bag of cooked, frozen rice–rice that I had almost dumped on the compost because I inadvertently left the burner on when I went to pick up my son and found very, very soft though not burned, short-grain brown rice upon my eventual return. In the back of my mind lurked a comment my mother had made about rice patties held together with mashed squash.

Finally, I probably shouldn’t have been cooking at all, let alone cutting lumpy, hard, winter squash into wedges, as I had cut my finger rather badly two days earlier cutting onions.  So I was clumsily operating one-handed, however, the resulting fritters with their cool, tangy sauce (that allowed the sad cilantro in the crisper to go out with a bang), were good, really good. I even invited neighbors over last-minute to share the fritter bounty.

Some minced green onion, ground cumin, a bit of grated sharp cheddar and an egg were all I added and then I pan-fried them in just a little olive oil until deeply golden brown on both sides. I took my time–the cut has slowed me down just a bit–and let them cook about 7 minutes on either side which I think was the key to them sticking together and developing such a good crust.

The variations on this basic idea are once again manifold. I can image most any fresh herb, in great quantity or other spices, other grains or even other mashed vegetables as long as they’re not too watery. I’m sure sweet potatoes would be good or carrots, etc.

Patties in the making

Patties in the making

Cilantro yogurt sauce--simple toss a half bunch or so of cilantro in a food processor with some Greek yogurt, a clove or garlic, a little lemon juice and some salt and you have the perfect topping/sauce for most anything.

Cilantro yogurt sauce–simply toss a half bunch or so of cilantro (stems and all) in a food processor with some Greek yogurt, a clove or garlic, a little lemon juice and some salt and you have the perfect topping/sauce for most anything.

Squash Rice Fritters

I loved the combination of these fritters and my all-purpose cilantro yogurt sauce. I adapted it a bit to keep it thicker, more like a topping than a sauce. I omitted the olive oil and just used Greek yogurt (whole milk if you can), half a bunch of cilantro (stems and all), clove of garlic, lemon juice, and salt to taste.

I actually think my overcooked rice (see above) served me very well texture-wise, though I’m sure it will work with properly cooked rice too! And quantities, as per usual, are just suggestions.

Serves 4 (more or less)

2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked, mashed winter squash
1 large egg
2 scallions, finely chopped (greens and all) or a shallot or chunk of onion
1/2 cup (or more) grated sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste (at least 1 teaspoon of salt)
Olive oil for pan-frying

Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Shape them into patties with your hands. I wouldn’t make them too small since they won’t stick together as well. You can see my size in the photo above.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Place as many patties in the skillet as you can without crowding. Fry for at least 5 minutes per side to develop a good crisp crust but be careful not to burn. You’ll likely  need to turn your burner down to medium. Repeat on the other side. Serve with a generous dollop of cilantro yogurt sauce.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. I’ve posted two new classes: Strong Food: Fun, Simple, Veggie-centric Dishes for the Whole Family and Using Your Prepared Pantry: What do with Frozen Rice, Beans and other Goodies in your Freezer the latter in part inspired by the above impromptu recipe. Would love to have you join me.

Why Not? Add a Spoonful . . .

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

of Harissa to my plain bowl of brothy beans for lunch? Why not do the same a few days later with chickpeas and top them with garlicky sautéed mustard greens and feta? This was such a success that I taught it in a recent class and I’ve noted the recipe below. I use this wonderful smoky, spicy paste in this greens and bulgur dish and have been reaching for it this winter to enliven eggs, bowls of rice and now beans. There are lots of recipes online to make your own Harissa and my favorite store-bought brand is Mustapha’s.

Why not? has become my new teaching refrain as well.  It of course goes hand in hand with the cook-with-what-you-have approach of substituting and adapting on the fly and is a catchy enough reminder to not be bound word for word to recipes and thus make cooking more fun, less stressful and more satisfying.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, cumin, garlic and oil.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, garlic, lemon and oil.

I’ve had a couple of successes with the why not? approach lately. I added lots of sliced, raw leeks instead of a little onion to a gratin of root vegetables. Not sure why I’d never done that but it gave the gratin a lush, silky sweetness. I filled burritos with pinto beans and sautéed chard and roasted tomatoes. I made the Cauliflower Pasta Risotto that I wrote about here with Brussels Sprouts and bacon. And last night I thinned down heavy whipping cream with milk since the cream was so thick I thought it might not whip into a nice light topping for my son’s birthday chocolate pie. It worked beautifully! Sometimes the why not? approach is less successful as in the time I added some homemade vanilla extract (vodka plus vanilla beans) from a very fresh batch of extract to heavy cream that I whipped for some dessert and the cream tasted sour from the vodka that had not yet really been infused by the vanilla beans.

Have you had moments like these? Successful or less so? I’d love to hear about them.

Chickpea Soup with Sautéed Mustard Greens and Harissa

This is something I’ve been eating this winter for lunch with a variety of toppings or additions. It came about one day when all I had ready to eat was cooked chickpeas in their broth, a jar of Harissa in the fridge (and a few other things but they were not suitable for lunch). I heated up the chickpeas, added a little Harissa and a good drizzle of olive oil and lunch was had, with a piece of bread, I think. It was warm and nourishing and lovely. I like the addition of quickly sautéed mustard greens (or any leafy greens) and a little feta. This is just a basic template and another quick, cheap, delicious way to use those glorious chickpeas or any kind of bean you have around already cooked.

Serves 2

3 cups cooked chickpeas (or other beans of your choice)
2 – 2 ½ cups chickpea cooking liquid
½ – 1 teaspoon Harissa (depending on what spice level you like and your brand of Harissa)
About 4 cups washed mustard greens, cut into ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Olive oil
Crumbled feta for serving
Salt and Pepper

Heat the chickpeas and their liquid in a saucepan. Sauté the mustard greens with the garlic in a bit of olive oil until just wilted and lightly salt. This should only take about 3-5 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir the Harissa into the chickpeas and portion the soup into bowls. Top with the mustard greens and a bit of feta. Drizzle on a little more good olive oil and grind of pepper and enjoy!

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta (photo courtesy of Mark Timby)

Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto”

The cauliflower at the Portland Farmers Market this winter has been so sweet and beautiful.

The cauliflower at the Portland Farmers Market and Hillsdale Farmers Market this winter have been so sweet and beautiful.

My father always told me not to over promise or over sell or just not be so darn hyperbolic, but I just can’t help myself. My son and husband and I all ate two plates of this last night with such glee that I must write about it today and post poorly lit photos because that’s all I have and I don’t have time to remake the dish in day-light. And there are NO leftovers.

The technique/recipe is inspired by a dish called Dressy Pasta Risotto from Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book Around My French Table. My addition of a head of cauliflower and liberal grating of fresh nutmeg and the omission of much of the butter and all of the mascarpone has got me thinking about all sorts of other versions. I’m going to try Brussels sprouts and bacon maybe or kale and garlic or winter squash and sage. . .  The possibilities are vast and exciting.

I used tubetti pasta, a favorite shape I use in this chickpea dish and generally have on hand to add to soup–a surefire way to get my son to eat anything even if they’re just a few of them on the plate.

Serve this dish with a salad of arugula and/or chicories or other winter salad green to add some color and contrasting flavors to the plate. My idea of a perfect winter meal.

The ingredients for this dish are shockingly pale compared to my usual rainbow of colors but don't let that put you off.

The ingredients for this dish are shockingly pale compared to my usual rainbow of colors but don’t let that put you off.

Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto”
–adapted from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Serves 3-4

As Dorie notes, “this is risotto” the way that finely sliced apples are carpaccio, which means not at all. . .” but the technique is just enough reminiscent of risotto that I appreciate the reference and continue to use it.

1 small head cauliflower, washed, trimmed and cut into very small pieces (see photo)
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil or 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil
1 1/3 cup tubetti (or ditalini or other small pasta)
4 cups flavorful vegetable broth (homemade veggie bouillon) or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or other hard, grating cheese (Asiago Stella is a good, cheaper alternative)
Salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Generous grating (about 1/4 teaspoon) fresh nutmeg

The fastest way to prepare the cauliflower is to slice the head into 1/2- 3/4-inch slabs, top to bottom, and then proceed to cube those. Some pieces will crumble off but that’s just fine. Use as much of the heart/stem as you can if it doesn’t seem to0 tough.

Heat the olive oil, or oil and butter, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt and cook for  7 to 8 minutes until soft and turning golden, stirring often. You  may need to reduce the heat a bit. Now add the broth or stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, stirring well and then simmer for about 10 minutes uncovered. Now add the cauliflower, stir well to incorporate and then cover and cook for another 7 or 8 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. At this point add the cream and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes until it thickens slightly.

Stir in the parmesan and the nutmeg and adjust salt and pepper to taste. The cauliflower should be soft but not falling apart. It should not be al dente for this dish. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Pasta "Risotto"

Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto”

Summer Lentils and Beans

French green lentils with summer squash, bacon and parsley and plenty of vinegar and good olive oil.

It’s hot in Portland and getting hotter. We’re not so used to this here. I have been feeling a deep pang of empathy for the millions of people who have been living through the heat wave/drought this summer in much of the United States.

And it’s definitely that time of year when those seeds and plants we’ve been nourishing for months repay one’s devotion. There’s produce everywhere and the odd tension for me of the joy of the abundance and the pressure to manage it all is in full swing right now. If you, like me are a bit overwhelmed, there are many ways in which to share our bounty. Locally in Portland this is a great resource. Or read this piece from Culinate which landed in my inbox just at the right time yesterday.

So, how to cook/prepare food in a very hot house when there is so much beautiful fresh produce? It’s really the prefect time for the cook-with-what-you-have approach. Who has time for recipes or many steps or much stove time at all? And if you by chance have home-cooked beans in the freezer, now is the time to gloat! I have done this, the gloating (to myself alone albeit) the last few days. I added a bunch of chickpeas to a coleslaw with lots of fresh jalapenos, cilantro and mint. The chickpeas added heft and texture and it was a lovely way to spend NO time at the stove. And if you don’t have cooked beans, canned beans are a good shortcut here.

Previously cooked and then frozen navy beans with tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, sweet onions, feta, and a dressing of red wine vinegar, s & p and good olive oil.

Just now for lunch I employed some just-thawed white beans in my attempt to eat as much produce as possible in one meal. With the company of yet more jalapeno, cilantro, Walla Walla Sweets, and tomatoes (and some feta) it made the perfect hot day lunch. Oh and I added some basil too. Yesterday I added copious amounts of both dill and cilantro to a similar salad–both herbs needed using and the two got along just fine. You may never recreate some of this tossed-together summer dishes but the joy of uninhibited combinations is not to be missed!

The lentil salad with zucchini and bacon pictured above is my new favorite hearty summer salad. It was inspired by the ever creative Nigel Slater and my adaptation of this dish has found its way into most of my CSA recipe packets in the last week or two. It does require you to cook the lentils (they cook so quickly 15 – 20 min) that I don’t cook these ahead of time and freeze. And the bacon, onion and zucchini see some stove time but it’s minimal so consider doing these things while you’re making breakfast, while it’s still cool and then have dinner ready for you in the evening.

Stay cool and happy eating!

P.S. There are two spots left in my Herbs in the Kitchen Class next Thursday and there are some seats left at the Slow Food Portland dinner in celebration (and support!) of our Terra Madre delegates on Saturday, August 25th. Would love to see you there.

Summer Squash with Lentils, Parsley and Bacon
–inspired by Tender by Nigel Slater

Lentils get overlooked a bit in the summer but I especially love salads with small green lentils in the summer. You can make them ahead of time and then have a robust, room temperature dish for whenever you need it. You want to cook the zucchini until it’s nice and browned but still holding it’s shape so use high heat.

1 1/4 cups small French green lentils or other small lentils that keep their shape when cooked
Splash of olive oil
1 Walla Walla Sweet, diced
4 cups summer squash, cut into small chunks –for zucchini I quarter them lengthwise and then cut them into 1/3-inch chunks
4 slices bacon, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or more red wine vinegar if you don’t have sherry vinegar)
2 small-ish garlic cloves, crushed and then minced
3 (or more) tablespoons good olive oil
Sea salt and pepper (to taste)
¼ cup (or more) chopped parsley

Cook the lentils until tender, about 15-20 minutes (this will vary depending on the kind of lentil you have). You want them to be tender but keep their shape so check frequently.

Drain them and immediately toss them with the vinegars, garlic and olive oil. Set aside.

In the largest skillet you have, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and add the bacon and onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the onion softened and bacon rendered but not crisp. Remove the onions and bacon from skillet and add to lentils.

Add another splash of olive oil and the summer squash and a few generous pinches of salt. Cook the squash over high heat for about 7-8 minutes until browned and beginning to soften.

Add the warm squash to the lentils along with the chopped parsley and the additional olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and/or vinegar.

Summer Simplicity and Frenzy

Faux deviled eggs (plain boiled eggs topped with aioli), boiled new potatoes and beet and avocado salad.

Herbs, hardboiled eggs, salads, fresh fruit, bread, cheese. . . .zucchini and green beans starting to come out of my ears. . . .It’s a good time of year for cooking (or assembling) with what you have. And as much as I love to cook I don’t really want to be at the stove much (other than making jam and baking pies and tarts) these days. We’ve been having a lot of  dinners of late that I loosely refer to as Abendbrot–the German word for a light evening meal, meaning literally evening bread.

I use the term to refer to any meal that is cobbled together with a variety of cold or room temperature items. Last night it was cooked green beans with aioli, the last jar of tomato jam from last fall, some bread, a few hard-boiled eggs and a bunch of blueberries. It might be steamed artichokes, a green salad and bread, or roasted beets, some canned tuna (delicious Oregon Albacore) and a white bean salad.

We’ve been digging our first couple of hills of potatoes and they need nothing more than salt or a bit of aioli or some fresh parsley to be perfect. And speaking of  parsley I made a pesto with parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds last week that may well find itself into my Herbs in the Kitchen class in August. If you grow a few of your own herbs, they are really the cheapest and tastiest way to shape a meal.

Toasted bread topped with parsley and pumpkin seed pesto and a fried egg.

When I’m really pressed for time dessert has been fresh fruit, as is, and thus my five-year-old has become an expert cherry eater and cherry pit spitter. But I have also been staying up late or baking in the afternoon and then working late at night to make this fantastic cherry slab pie from Smittenkitchen, David Lebovitz’s blackberry sorbet , the Tutti Frutti Crumble from Super Natural Everyday and jam after jam after jam.

Cherry slab pie from smittenkitchen.com–you get a bit more crust per cherry, it feeds an army and is most of all perfectly delicious.

This time of year is a conundrum for me. I get greedy. I want to pack that freezer with berries, make all my favorite jams and keep up with the green beans and parsley and squash in my garden. I have this slightly frenzied feeling in my body that is hard to control that makes me pit cherries and apricots faster and carry more canning jars up from the basement at once than is wise. I’m racing with myself and some deep-seeded need to preserve and not waste and take advantage of our ridiculous bounty right now. I feel so blessed to have all this amazing produce and fruit at my finger tips. So it’s one part greed and one part responsibility to use it and make the most of it and be frugal, frankly, so that for several months out of the year I wont buy much fruit at all. It’s a privileged position to be in–to have a flexible enough schedule to do this kind of thing–and a choice I’ve made deliberately. And I’m very grateful for that. And at the same time I want to let myself relax a bit and enjoy these fleeting weeks of warmth, neighbors on the porch sharing in that cherry pie, the sticky jam jars and even the fruit flies.

Happy eating, cooking and preserving!

 

 

When Time is Short – Chickpea Avocado Salad Sandwich

Cooked chickpeas are mashed together with avocado, cilantro, green onion and lots of lemon juice. Eat by the spoonful, on/between toasted bread, in a tortilla, as a dip. . . .you get the point. It’s delicious and versatile.

Time has been short for my lately, hence my long absence here. I’ve been consumed with all sorts of projects and I have missed this place. So, hello again!

These busy weeks have had a few silver linings, one of which was that I was probably living more like many of my students (and possibly readers) who have far less time than me to spend in the kitchen and less time thinking about what to make for ourselves and our families on a daily basis. And thus I have gained a bit of perspective and have some new ideas about how to eat well and with minimal stress (and minimal processed food) in times of heavy workloads.

Yesterday I taught a class as part of the Wellness Program for county employees. Many of them work 10-hour days and getting a healthy, delicious meal on the table is really a stretch. I taught three things (a frittata with snap peas, herbs and feta; an arugula, white bean and tuna salad, and this chickpea avocado dish). They were all devoured but this one was met with the most initial skepticism and then maybe loved the most–for its adaptability, speed, and flavor. I also love this dish because it uses herbs in great, heaping quantities. I’m teaching an herb class in July because I’m almost as much of an herb evangelist as I am a bean evangelist.

If you have pre-cooked chickpeas on hand (or you can use canned ones after rinsing well) this comes together in minutes.

I got the idea for this salad/spread/dip here and have since made it with mint instead of cilantro, green garlic instead of green onions, cumin and smoked paprika, and Serrano chilies and lime juice instead of lemon. You can mash it really well for an almost hummus like consistency or leave it chunky. You can thin it down with more bean cooking liquid, water or more juice and olive oil. You can make a big batch and have it for lunch several times in a row. . . .In other words, it’s a perfect cook-with-what-you-have/like candidate.

You can just gently mix all ingredients or mash them together well for completely different consistencies.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad/Sandwich
–inspired by twopeasandapod.com

This is delicious as a dip, on toasted bread, as a sandwich filling or just as is. You can adapt this in many ways too—add your favorite hot chilies or hot sauce, different spices or herbs, etc. See more ideas for variations above. I particularly like using mint or basil or a combination. Tarragon and chives are good and so is parsley.

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 greens onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1 small or ½ a large, ripe avocado
1/3 cup (or more) chopped cilantro (stems and all)
Juice of half a lemon or lime (or more to taste)
Splash of good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the chickpeas in a bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mash some more and mix well. If you want to serve it more like a salad or side, just lightly mash the chickpeas and dice the avocado and mix everything together more gently. You don’t need to achieve such a uniform texture in that case.

Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice

Leftover short-grained brown rice, peas, eggs, bacon, ginger, onion, carrots and green garlic. . . .made for a very tasty fried rice.

A student of mine turned me onto a classic (as I learned) way of cooking brown rice a few years ago. This method works particularly well with short-grain brown rice and has converted many a brown rice skeptic in my circles. You bake the rice in the oven after adding boiling water, a bit of butter and salt. Tightly covered it cooks away for an hour. And then watch out! I eat too much of it every time. It’s fluffy and buttery and tender and sweet and really just perfect.

In any case, I make a big panful of this brown rice whenever I make it since it also makes a noteworthy fried rice the next day (or week or month since it freezes beautifully). Having some cooked, frozen rice on hand is a gift on a busy day. Rice thaws fairly quickly and when re-purposed into friend rice or added to soup or gratin or even a cold salad with a zippy dressing, is hardly any worse for wear. In fact for fried rice to be good you want to use rice that was previously cooked and cooled so the grains are sure to separate nicely.

In my  kitchen fried rice is another perfect cook-with-what-you-have kind of dish. Whatever bits of vegetables and sometimes meat I have on hand all fry up nicely when cut into small pieces and given plenty of room and heat. Scoot the rice and veggies to the side and scramble a few eggs in the same pan before mixing them in gives it extra heartiness. And any number of fresh herbs tossed in at the end are a bonus. In this case it was basil and mint. Sometimes I add chopped, roasted peanuts and a good splash of coconut milk (unorthodox I’m sure but very good nevertheless).

You can scramble a few eggs in one side of the pan and then mix them into the rice.

So cook some rice, lots of rice, and then make fried rice or rice custard or tell me what your favorite thing to do with leftover rice is . . . Happy Cooking!

Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice

This is the quintessential quick dinner, utilizing whatever bits and pieces you have on hand. Asparagus, corn, turnips, radishes, leeks, chard stems, green beans all work well in this dish. Quantities are all approximations and you can vary them as you like. You just want to be sure you cut the vegetables finely and fairly uniformly and you don’t want to crowd your skillet or wok. To avoid a soggy dish you need to be brave with the heat level and steer away from vegetables that give off a lot of liquid like tomatoes or zucchini, though finely diced zucchini would work well with enough heat!

Serves 4 (more or less)

4 cups cooked, cooled rice (I recommend making short-grain brown rice as described above, if you can)
2 tablespoons coconut, sunflower or olive oil
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (or one or two stalks of green garlic, minced–using the whole things except for the ratty tops)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1-2 ounces of bacon, cut into small dice
1 1/2 cups of peas (fresh or frozen) or snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small carrots, cut into small dice
1 Serrano chili, seeded (if you don’t want it very spicy) and finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or to taste)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil, mint or cilantro (or a combination)
Salt

Heat the oil in a wok or wide skillet over high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, Serrano chili, and bacon and cook stirring very frequently for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the peas and the rice and mix everything very well. Cook for about three more minutes to heat the rice and peas through. Then push the contents of the pan to one side and add the eggs to the empty spot and scramble them until almost set. A few stray peas or rice kernels will make their way in which is just fine. You just don’t want to mix the raw egg into the rice right away since you’ll loose track of it as it just coats the kernels instead of scrambling. When the eggs are almost set, mix them gently into the rice, add the soy and fish sauce, stir well and then mix in the herbs. Adjust seasoning–it may need salt or more soy or fish sauce or a squeeze of lime juice–and serve immediately.

Green Garlic, Butter, and Parmesan

. . . with eggs, or  fresh pasta, or fish or beef or beans, or toast. . .! I can think of few things that would not be enhanced by the combination of these three things. I know I wrote about green garlic here a few weeks go and in fact I do every spring. There’s something about those sweet, fresh, flexible, immature garlic stalks that makes cooking so fun this time of year. It’s the third wet, cold spring in a row for us Oregonians and my robust green garlic crop is one of the few highlights in an otherwise unbearably soggy garden.

In other news, my recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky (beautiful city with excellent food) for the Slow Food National Congress was decidedly not soggy and very inspiring. But I was also relieved to be home again and reminded of how comforting and freeing it is to be able to cook with whatever odds and ends you might find in your kitchen/garden after being away for a week. You can read about that here. And it reminded me why I love to teach cooking classes and in particular my Eat Better Series, which lays the foundation for delicious, healthy eating every day, no matter where you are or what your dietary restrictions may be. So if you sometimes find yourself at a loss for what to make for dinner and no time to run to the store or need, simple, quick recipes to avoid eating processed foods, then this might be your class.

If you live in Portland, Oregon you can buy this fresh spinach pasta at Pastaworks/City Market. It's delicious, beautiful and incredibly inexpensive.

Pasta with Green Garlic, Butter & Parmesan

You use the whole garlic stalk, much like you would a green onion (scallion). The whole plant is tender and delicious so just barely trim it. And if you don’t have pasta you can gently cook fish fillets or shrimp in the garlic mixture, or toss the garlic into scrambled eggs or a frittata or stir it into a bowl of warm pinto beans. You really can add it to most anything.

1 lb fresh pasta (or 2/3 lb dried spaghetti, linguine or other long, skinny pasta)
5-6 stalks green garlic, roots and scraggly tops trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt, pepper and touch of olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Have a cup on hand to scoop out some of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped green garlic and stir well to coat. Add a few pinches of salt. Cook the garlic, covered, stirring occasionally until it’s soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn it.

If you’re using fresh pasta you’ll just need to cook it for two minutes or so. Check frequently so that you don’t overcook it. When the pasta is al dente, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the garlic (off the heat), then add the grated cheese and some of the cooking water. Stir vigorously to mix. It will take a minute or two for the pasta cooking water to work its magic and combine with the cheese and the garlic to create a sauce that will just coat the pasta. Add more water if it seems dry. Adjust for seasoning and drizzle a bit of good olive oil over the whole thing and add a few grinds of pepper. Enjoy!

I had eaten my whole serving save this bite when I remembered I wanted to take a photo. I'm warning you, this goes down very easily!