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Posts from the ‘Spring’ Category

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish

Split yellow peas and basmati rice cooked with cumin seeds, turmeric, Garam Masala and cilantro and topped with a spicy, lemony onion relish.

One of the best things about living in this era is that we can experience so much of the world through food and the people who share it wherever they end up. What began with the Spice Trade as much as 2500 years ago and continues in varied forms today is a global exchange of flavors, cultures, and tastes that enrich my life and all of our communities, I would argue, every day. I use turmeric and cardamom, cumin and mustard seeds as well as fish sauce and coconut milk, capers, chocolate, and cinnamon . . .pretty regularly. And they all work beautifully with our local produce and products.

I am also a devout farmers’ market shopper and supporter of CSAs and generally try to purchase what we need (food and otherwise) as close to home as possible but with the above exceptions and a few more! Thanks to my current project with the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council my global and local interests are converging nicely.  I am working on some videos for their new, soon-to-launch consumer-facing website on how to prepare dry peas and lentils. I am testing recipes with yellow split peas, red lentils, whole dry green peas, garbanzo bean flour and much more, which is making me particularly grateful for culinary traditions world-wide. Indian and Italian preparations are serving me particularly well, but so are  Mexican and French ones. So the fact that we grow such a huge variety of peas and beans in the U.S. that I can then prepare based on hundreds of years of cooking wisdom from far-flung places, climates and cultures is a joy.

While I did not intend to post two recipes back to back with the same colors and almost the same spice-scheme, I hope you’ll consider them both.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish (Golden Kichuri)
–adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

2/3 cup yellow split peas (matar ki daal)
1 2/3 cup basmati rice
3 tablespoons ghee, coconut or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
3-4 cups  veggie bouillon broth or water
Salt

Onion Relish

1/2 a small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste — 1/2 teaspoon  makes this VERY spicy)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of Greek yogurt or plain whole milk yogurt (optional)

Soak the peas in ample warm water for 2-3 hours. Soak the rice in ample warm water for 1 hour. Drain both.

Heat the ghee or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add the cumin seeds. Cook just for a scant minute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Add the rice and peas and stir to coat well with the fat. Add the Garam Masala, turmeric, cilantro and broth or water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (unless your broth is quite salty–if you’re using water add a generous teaspoon of salt). Stir well, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered for about 20 minutes. You may need to add more water or broth, in 1/2-cup increments if it seems too dry. When the peas and rice are tender and the liquid is absorbed let it sit off the heat, covered, for 10 more minutes to steam.

While the peas and rice are cooking, stir together the relish ingredients. Serve the rice and peas with the relish and some yogurt, if you’d like.

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Cauliflower and Chickpeas Any Time of Day

sautéed cauliflower and chickpeas with ground turmeric and cumin and topped with lots of cilantro and Greek yogurt.

The fog in my head is finally clearing after a two-week-long bug. I’ve gotten behind on work and thus things are extra busy this week. I’ve been feeling what many of you–who don’t have much, if any, time to think about food and what you’re going to cook for dinner–and how I often used to feel when I didn’t get home until 6:30pm. . . .What are we going to eat?! Yesterday I got lucky and brought (very good) leftovers home from a conference (Farmer Chef Connection 2012) and I quickly sautéed some cauliflower to round out dinner. The night before we had grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles and a handful of peanuts and carrot sticks. I managed to remember to take a quart of cooked chickpeas out of the freezer yesterday so that will turn into something tonight.

Home-cooked and previously frozen chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I always freeze them in their cooking liquid in case I want to make a soup or hummus or some dish that needs liquid. That way you already have flavorful, nutritious "stock" on hand.

And some of those chickpeas and the leftover cauliflower were my saving grace this morning. I have been dabbling in some unconventional (at least for this part of the world) breakfasts occasionally–leftover soup; sautéed greens and a fried egg, etc. Considering that I’m still rather congested, my typical bowl of muesli with yogurt or milk hasn’t been sounding so good. So this morning I added 1/2 cup or so of chickpeas to the pan with the remainder of last night’s cauliflower, a splash of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of ground turmeric and cumin and warmed all of that up. In addition to being delicious and bright, turmeric has anti-inflammatory qualities which I could certainly use right now. . . So I topped my yellow-hued cauliflower and chickpeas with lots of chopped cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt (I couldn’t quite forego my beloved yogurt) and had myself a most satisfying breakfast. And the assembly/cooking of this breakfast bowl took about 5 minutes since the two main ingredients were already cooked.

This quick saute would make a more conventional lunch or dinner dish so if cauliflower isn’t your thing first thing in the morning, don’t worry!

Wishing you all good health and happy (almost) spring!

P.S. I’m going to be running a special for folks who have never taken a class at Cook With What You Have for $15 off any class this spring so stay tuned our get in touch right away.

Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Cilantro and Yogurt

If you have leftover cooked or roasted cauliflower then this comes together in a matter of minutes.

serves 4 as a side or 2 an entrée with a fried egg on top!

1 small-medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1 1/2 cups (or more) cooked or canned (and drained) chickpeas
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt
1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 of a cup Greek or plain, whole-milk yogurt
Olive, coconut or sunflower oil

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and stir and then cook without stirring for a few minutes to let it brown just a bit. Add a splash of water and cover the pan and continue cooking for another few minutes until the cauliflower is just tender when pierced with a fork.

Add a little more oil if the pan is dry and then stir in the spices and let cook for a few seconds. Then add the chickpeas and stir well and cook until just heated through. Make sure not to burn the spices so turn the heat down a bit if need be. Season generously with salt and serve topped with cilantro and yogurt.

Kissin’ Wears Out, Cookin’ Don’t!

I heard this one for the first time yesterday at a talk I gave at the Alameda Tuesday Club, a local Portland philanthropic and social group with a fascinating 100-year history. Judy, the woman who shared this said that it is an Amish saying and I knew I’d find use for it right away.

And I hope there’s some truth to it because I think I’m on the verge of wearing you all out with root veggies. Next week you’re going to get a break from them for sure but this week I am eager to answer some of the questions that surfaced from last week’s post. I received inquiries about what to do with parsnips and cabbage so here we go.

On the cabbage front this gratin and this soup should serve you well. I was also asked about how to make cabbage a little more kid-friendly and in my experience the below recipe for Japanese Cabbage Pancakes (Okonomiyaki) is a great way. Please report on how they go over.

Sliced parsnips, celery root and rutabaga.

Now to Parsnips, which are inherently very sweet and if fresh, very tender. Their core can get a bit woody and fibrous if they have been in storage for a long time but before you cut out the core (which is kind of a pain to do), taste a thin slice raw and you’ll be able to gauge whether or not you can keep it. Chances are you can especially if you’ve gotten them from a farmers market or CSA box.

Parsnips are wonderful additions to this veggie hash or these latkes. However, for a dish where they truly shine, try this light “cake” in which they are paired with celery root. Often gratins are heavy on the cheese and/or milk.  However, in this version, some simple broth or stock  (or veggie bouillon) provides the moisture and thyme, salt and pepper are the only seasonings and the result is light yet sweet and rich from the veggies themselves.

Parsnip and Celery Root “Cake”

It would be awfully hard to wear me out on root veggies and winter produce in general so I definitely stand by the Amish saying (at least the latter half!).

Lastly, I have a couple more spots in this Saturday’s Greens Class (a short and inexpensive class) and  have posted  a handful of new ones!

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Parsnip and Celery Root Cake
–adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

You can make this as written with parsnips and celery root or substitute rutabagas or turnips for the celery root. I’m sure potatoes and sweet potatoes would be comfortable in the mix too so feel free to use it as your use-up-random-veggies dish if you need to. I made the dish pictured above with parsnips, celery root and rutabaga and it was delightful.

As I note above, parsnips can have woody and fibrous cores but if they are quite fresh they probably don’t and you don’t need to cut out the core. Taste a thin slice raw and see how it seems. I’ve found that parsnips I buy at the farmers’ market are quite tender all the way through, even the really big ones.

You want to slice your veggies very thin. A sharp knife works great if you’re comfortable and a bit practiced and the food processor is a good alternative too.

1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large or 3 small (or 2 medium!:) parsnips, scrubbed and thinly sliced.
1/2 a medium celery root, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme, chopped up a bit
6 tablespoons vegetable broth or stock (I use veggie bouillon)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.
Toss the sliced onion and veggies in a large bowl with they thyme, at least a teaspoon of sea or kosher salt and plenty of pepper. You need to be generous with the salt.

Put the butter in a baking dish and place it in the oven while it’s preheating. When the butter is melted add the veggie mixture and combine well and pack the veggies down as evenly as possible. Pour the stock or bouillon over the mixture. Place a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil over the veggies and press down firmly. Bake for an hour and then remove the foil and turn your oven up to 425 (or to broil if you’re in a hurry) and cook for another five minutes or so until the top is nicely browned and the veggies are very tender.

Japanese Cabbage Pancakes (Okonomiyaki)
–adapted from Food52.com 

These pancakes are fantastic. They make a light supper with a salad on the side. Don’t be put off even if you don’t love cabbage. They are quick, cheap, and I have yet to encounter any resistance to these, adults and kids alike. Traditionally they include shrimp though I always make them without and love them that way but by all means add 1/2 cup of chopped shrimp if you like.

Makes about 12-18 pancakes (depending on how big you make them).

Sauce:
Scant ½ cup mayo
Scant 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other hot chili sauce)

Pancakes:
3-4 large eggs
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups cabbage, finely sliced
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped (or 3 tablespoons or so diced red or yellow onion if that’s what you have)
Olive, coconut or peanut oil for pan-frying
1-2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Whisk the first set of ingredients together for your sauce. Set aside while you make the pancakes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs with the soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt. Gradually add the flour until incorporated. Fold in cabbage, scallions, and shrimp. Warm a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until glistening. Spoon the batter into the skillet in whatever size you like. I make them about 4-5 inches in diameter. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Keep pancakes covered in a warm oven as you make the rest. Scatter sesame seeds on top of pancakes and serve with dipping sauce.

Summer (Cherries, Green Couscous, Garlic Scapes)

Dessert in a tree.

My four-year-old son Ellis and I spent a night at my mother’s place last week.  She lives in the middle of nowhere and has neighbors with cherry trees and fruit picking ladders. Ellis climbed right to the top of this rather tall ladder and ate his fill of Royal Ann cherries, gleefully spitting the pits down onto our heads. Actually he mostly missed our heads but cackled with each dropping pit. The setting sun and a sticky, happy kid . . .. Summer, finally here (though absent again today) is so wonderful. And if you have lots of cherries and need a new idea for them, try this wonderful recipe by David Lebovitz for Cherries in Red Wine Syrup.

My cooking has been somewhat sporadic and a bit frenetic of late. We’ve been out-of-town, had visitors, had lots of picnics and barbeques, even a meal or two out. I want to be outside all the time and am spending more time processing berries than making dinner. This means we’ve had a lot of frittatas, salads and artichokes for dinner lately or anything else I can throw together in minutes so I can get back outside.

Green Couscous from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

I have made two dishes worth noting in the last few days. The first comes from one of my favorite cookbooks Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi that you’ve  heard me rave about here before. It’s called Green Couscous and is a herb-heavy, full flavored dish. If you, or you in combination with your neighbors grow mint, cilantro, tarragon, dill, parsley, and arugula, you might be able to make this salad on a moments notice. The recipe calls for toasted pistachios but I didn’t have any and substituted toasted almonds which worked beautifully. This recipe is not super quick. It has a few more steps than most of my dishes but it’s well worth it.

I know our spring here in the Pacific Northwest was cooler and wetter than others so if you no longer have garlic scapes (tops, whistles) in your neck of the woods just file this away for next year. Garlic scapes are the long, elegant stalks that grow up out of a garlic plant. So while the head of garlic is finishing up its growth underground the plant gives us a fragrant, sweet, tender shoot to work with as well. These scapes make a wonderful pesto so if you have some in your garden or see a bunch at the farmers market or in your CSA box, this is one thing to do with it.

Garlic Scape Pesto. Next to the bowl of pesto you see the very tops of the garlic scapes which hold the flower of the plant. You want to use the scape right up to this part but I typically don't include the immature flower in the pesto but come to think of it I'm not sure why. . . .

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 bunch (about 7-8) garlic scapes

generous handful of toasted (or raw) walnuts

1-2 ounces parmesan or Asiago stella

3/4 cup (or more) basil leaves

1/3 cups of good-tasting extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper

Roughly chop the garlic scapes, with our without the very top, flower part (See note in caption above). Process the nuts and cheese in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve on toasted bread, with pasta, potatoes, eggs dishes other grains. . . .

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. Two spots left in my August Eat Better Series. Save money, eat well, fewer trips to the store and more fun in the kitchen . . .

Strawberries, Roasted, Baked, . . .

Strawberries: ready to be transformed into popsicles, ice cream, jam and a roasted compote.

It’s been a tough season for strawberries here in the Northwest. The cold and rainy spring has delayed the season and the berries tend to be smaller and less sweet than usual. However, they still are a treat, a long-awaited treat. They are my husband’s favorite berry and they’re really quite versatile. Once you’ve had your fill of them plain, right out of the green cardboard pint basket there are so many options. And if you’re like me and u-pick them or buy them by the flat you’ll quickly realize there really are only so many berries one can eat in the moment before they spoil.

So, this is what my kitchen counter looked like last week after my first real haul of the season. And I’m going back for more later this week since I don’t yet have my quota for plain, frozen berries, jam, etc.

Sliced strawberries waiting to be turned into jam, strawberry yogurt popsicles, roasted strawberries and strawberry ice cream.

I make popsicles all summer and usually add a bit of yogurt and honey to any fruit that’s suitable for popsicles (berries, peaches, etc.). The strawberries I picked last week were not very sweet or particularly flavorful so I decided to roast a bunch of them which is what is in the container on the far right of the photo above. Roasting brings out the sweetness in most any fruit or vegetable and strawberries are well-suited to this technique. I spread about 2-3 pints worth out on a sheet pan (cut in half), drizzle them with about one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and about 1/2 cup of sugar (more if you like them sweeter or the berries are particularly tart), toss well and roast at 375 until they are greatly reduced and the juice becomes syrupy. This can take anywhere from 40 – 70 minutes. They are wonderful over ice cream, stirred into yogurt, mixed with other, fresh fruit in a crisp or cobbler, etc. . . .they are quite intense in this preparation so can go along way.

Baking with strawberries is a bit trickier than other berries. They don’t hold up so well and tend to lose their punch. As you might recall from my wedding cake adventures last summer, creating a concentrated, stable strawberry filling was quite the task. So I was delighted to find this simple strawberry cake recipe on smittenkitchen this spring and have been enjoying it immensely. It’s quick, beautiful and delicious. I have adapted it only in two small ways. I reduce the amount of sugar in the batter to 3/4 cup  and I add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper to the batter–Makes for a slightly more mysterious cake. And if you’re feeling really adventurous add a little Kirsch to your whipped cream.

Strawberry Summer Cake

And if you really find yourself in a time crunch and need to process berries just freeze them whole in containers or bags. In mid-winter those berries are perfect in a bowl of steaming steel cut oats.

Happy Summer!

Fava Beans and Cookbook Winner(s)

From the bag into the pot! No washing, no shelling, no nothin'!

I just realized that last week I posted basically the same recipe I had posted a year earlier (even using the same photo!!!!) and that my plan for today’s post was to link back to a post I swore I wrote last year about this short-cut way of cooking fava beans . . . but alas that post seems only to have been imagined!

I’m writing two posts this week because I’ll be out-of-town and on vacation next week. Appears I really need that vacation . . .

Anyway, I learned how to cook fava beans like this from my friend Carol (of Ayers Creek Farm fame). Favas are a spring treat in our region and are only in the markets for a few weeks. They are often overlooked because most preparations have you shell them, then cook the beans and then peel each individual bean. And while the result is definitely worth it, it is a more labor intensive and time-consuming process than most veggies require. So since I learned the below method I enjoy far more favas each year than I used to.

You literally cook the favas, big squishy pods and all in a large pot of heavily salted water until the individual beans start following out of the pods and then you don’t peel the individual beans. So if you like fava beans and wish you used them more, make this and report back. Curious to hear if you love it as much as I do.

Now to the cookbook giveaway winners. I had to choose two of you since there were just so many lovely comments. So, as randomly chosen as possible (having my four-year old pick two numbers): Ginna and Quisicosa will receive the Grand Central Baking Book. Please email me your addresses and I’ll send you your books. Thanks to the rest of you for your lovely comments and I’ll do another one of these sometimes soon.

Fava beans dressed with yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice and zest and garlic

Fava Beans with Cilantro, Yogurt and Lemon

Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm told me about this method of cooking fava beans which eliminates the time consuming step of peeling each individual bean. This is an Iranian way of cooking favas.

2 pounds fava beans in their pods

¼ cup kosher salt

1/3 cup Greek yogurt or plain, whole milk yogurt (or more if you want it saucier)

1/3 – 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (can use a few tablespoons of chopped mint instead)

1 -2 teaspoons lemon juice (to taste)

zest of one lemon, finely grated

1 medium clove garlic, minced (or 1 stalk green garlic, minced)

1 tablespoons olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place your whole fava bean pods in a six-quart pot (or slightly larger). Fill the pot three-quarters full of water or until the favas are just covered. Add the salt (it seems like a crazy amount of salt but I promise it turns out just fine) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water stays at a rapid simmer and cook covered, until the pods start falling apart, between 20 and 30 minutes. Drain and fill pot of beans with cold water. This allows you to extract the beans more quickly. You can also just drain and let sit until cool. Remove beans from pods. There is no need to peel each individual bean. The skin should be tender and the beans perfectly seasoned. Toss beans with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Enjoy as a side dish or on crusty bread or tossed with cold pasta for a hearty salad.

Fava beans cooked this way (and without the dressing) are delicious with pasta and a bit of parmesan, with boiled potatoes and parsley. I’ve added them to Israeli couscous with some mint and grated, hard cheese (Asiago Stella, I think).

Class Update: It’s getting down to the wire for signing up for the two remaining June Cooking Classes. One or two spots left in each–lunchtime and improv!

Spring Meals

We’ve had some sun and warmth, albeit fleeting, here lately in the Pacific Northwest. And while it isn’t really warm enough yet to ditch the socks and shoes I’ve been cooking differently. Against all the weather odds the farmers markets have beautiful produce and we’re eating asparagus and radishes several times a week. Below is a quick review of some of my favorites from the last 10 days.

Salad of avocado (not from the farmers market!), radishes, lots of cilantro, scallions and lime juice.

Asparagus Quinoa "Risotto"

I blogged about this dish last spring and had to make another mention of it. It’s not like risotto in that you don’t slowly add stock and stir as it cooks. In all other ways (excepting the grain itself) it is like risotto. It takes about 18 minute start to finish and is one of the most satisfying one-dish  meals I’ve had in a while. The quinoa is added to sautéed onions and a bit of diced bacon, then hot broth is added–cover the whole thing and cook for 10 minutes then spread the asparagus on top and cover again for a few minutes until tender. Then mix some grated parmesan and butter into the whole thing and voila!

Roasted cauliflower and asparagus, canned Oregon albacore, fried potatoes and salsa verde.

I make so many variations of this sort of meal. Roast or blanch or boil whatever veggies you have. Add some  good canned tuna and drizzle the lot with salsa verde.

Greens, beans, eggs, tuna, and cilantro yogurt sauce.

I guess this is the protein heavy version with home-cooked pinto beans, my favorite Oregon Albacore (from Stonewall Banks Seafood), hard-boiled eggs, greens and cilantro yogurt sauce.

All of these meals were fairly quick, last-minute kind of  meals and if you already have cooked beans and/or eggs all you have to do is make your sauce, dressing of choice or cook the quinoa and you’re set.

As much as I love to cook, this time of year I’d rather spend more time in the garden or have a beer at the neighbors watching all the kids in the neighborhood chase each other down the slide in the early evening sun!

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.

Carrots & Distractions

“Mommy will you fix my truck?! . . . please!. . . .right now!”

“Mommy, come look! Now! Please!”

That’s the typical soundtrack when my four-year-old is home. I love it, most of the time. Sometimes it makes writing a blog post, testing or photographing a dish, or updating my website a wee bit challenging. But I’ve become completely used to this less-than-linear work environment. This morning I was uploading photos for today’s post at the kitchen counter while trying to get Ellis to eat at least a few bites of oatmeal and apple before we headed out the door to pre-school. Did I already crop that photo? Not sure, but it will suffice. . . .

I’ve also been mightily distracted by two cookbooks I just bought. I’ve been staying up too late reading them. . . .been considering teaching new classes entirely inspired be them. . . and I’m going to post a recipe from one of them here today. I’ve seen many references to Breakfast Lunch Tea in the blogosphere lately and the hype seems justified. Rose Carrarini’s book with recipes from her bakery in Paris (Rose Bakery) is full of gorgeous photos and many simple, veggie-and fruit filled recipes.

I’ve been making grated carrot salads for years. I love them especially in the winter and early spring. Dressed with plenty of lemon juice and fresh herbs they are a nice counterpoint to the heavier and sweeter flavors of the season. Carrarini’s version is so simple and so, so good. Her generous addition of salted, toasted sunflower seeds is perfect, if you can keep yourself from eating all of the toasty seeds before they make it onto the salad.

Make extra so you don't skimp on the amount you add to the salad.

I followed her recipe exactly with the exception of not having enough chives but having some green garlic so I finely minced that and added it. I think it would be good with parsley or tarragon or mint too. This recipe makes a lot of salad. I just had some of it for lunch and it was still delicious today. So if you have that many carrots on hand, make the whole batch.

Carrot and Seed Salad

–very slightly adapted from Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Carrarini

1 cup sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds)

1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil

2 generous pinches of kosher salt

8 medium carrots, grated

1 handful chopped chives (or whatever you have on hand)

Dressing:

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus possibly more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar or 2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup

about 3 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil (I used a good olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350.

Toss the sunflower seeds with the tablespoon of oil and several pinches of salt and roast on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes, turning frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.

Place the grated carrots in a serving bowl. To make the dressing whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper and oil. Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix well. Sprinkle with the chives (or other herbs) and the seeds, mix again, and adjust seasoning and serve.

Summer at the Beach and a new Technique

Try as I might, I did not manage to write a post last week. We had our annual family beach week and though I took my laptop, not much work transpired. But I did cook and bake–cherry pie, soba noodles with a cilantro and ginger dressing, pancakes with raspberry syrup . . . and these fabulous scalloped potatoes!

Scalloped potatoes are kind of an old-school dish I think. My grandmother made them all the time (she topped hers with a layer of little pork, breakfast sausages:) and I grew up making them-sans sausages-with my mother. In fact they were one of the first dishes I made for my family for dinner all by myself when I was about 10. I remember it distinctly because I was in a bit of a black pepper phase. I ground so much pepper on each layer of potatoes that it verged on inedible. My family was gracious about it but that pepper phase lasted a couple of years.

So, I’ve always layered potatoes with whatever herbs, cheese, veggies, or spices I was using at the time. However this last week at the beach, wanting to spend more time  reading in the hammock, I scrapped the layering and just tossed everything in a big bowl, put the mixture in the baking dish, added milk half way up the potatoes and baked it. Voila! Don’t know why this just occurred to me! It was just as delicious as always and much faster–actually better I think because the flavors were more evenly blended. Now I’m going to use this technique for other gratins, using summer squash and I don’t know yet what else, but I’m excited to experiment.

A friend recently lent me Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. It’s a wonderful book of quick meals and what I like most is that his recipes are written in a paragraph or two with no long lists of ingredients and detailed instructions. The subject of recipe writing and how much detail to give warrants a whole post but in short, I would like to think that with some dishes, describing the process with approximate quantities give the cook more freedom and license to use whatever he/she has on hand and to taste and experiment along the way.  Cooking can be very fun this way and in my quest to get people cooking more often, it’s an important part of demystifying the process and getting people to think about what they really like and how they might turn that into dinner every night. It really can be simple, fast, delicious and fun.

Scalloped Potatoes

Scrub and thinly slice (by hand, slicer on a box grater, or food processor) about 2 1/2 – 3  lbs of waxy potatoes (not Russets, all other kinds work well) and put in a large bowl. In a small bowl mix about 1/4 cup of flour, 2 + teaspoons of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and whatever other seasonings you like. I used 2 1/2 teaspoons each ground cumin and pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes. Grate some sharp cheddar, gruyere or other cheese of your choice. Finely dice a small onion.

Mix the flour spice mixture with the potato slices and toss well with your hands. Add the grated cheese and onions, toss again. Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 baking dish, pat down a bit with a spatula. Pour milk (or broth/stock of some kind) about half way up the potatoes. Sprinkle the top with a bit more grated cheese and bake at 400 degrees until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork about 45 minutes. Finish under the broiler for a minute or two if the top isn’t well-browned.

Variations include lots of chopped herbs like parsley, marjoram, chives or oregano, diced bacon or slices of sausage, minced garlic, finely chopped greens or peppers, etc.

And on a completely different note, I have to include this photo of the blissful, beach week! Happy cooking and eating and reading everyone!