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Posts tagged ‘Tomatoes’

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.

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What a Wedding!

250 corn cakes, 150 “caprese” toasts, and 160 deviled eggs! Done, consumed, enjoyed and almost forgotten. I have not, however, and never will forget the spirit and beauty of the day. You can get a sense of it here and I’ll post more photos as I get them. My brother has always been good at throwing parties and he (and Emily!) outdid themselves this time. They managed to organize four days of celebration beginning with cider pressing on Thursday followed by a totally impromptu “cook with what you have dinner” for 20 by yours truly and my mother. Then we had a day of set up, rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on a beautiful evening. The only hitch was that the lasagnas were still solidly frozen 4 hours before dinner and I was afraid they were going to turn from block of ice to mush in those four hours they spent in the oven. Somehow they managed to survive.

Ben (the groom), uncle Hans (from Germany), brother Reuben

The wedding day dawned foggy with a pink sunrise that just barely permeated the fog to lend a warm glow to the quiet morning. We all scurried about hauling straw bails (supports for the last couple of benches for the ceremony site), setting tables, arranging flowers, and in my case frying corn cakes. That was the longest slog on the food prep front–frying 250 of those little buggers in two 9-inch cast iron pans for 90 minutes straight. I had had lots of  help with the deviled eggs the day before and new helpers arrived Saturday morning to assemble the appetizers. Thank you Susan, Bridget and Vita!

Corncakes with cumin lime Greek yogurt and parsley

Deviled eggs with homemade mayonnaise and lots of herbs

"Caprese" toasts

In the middle of the appetizer prep and the bride getting ready with her bridesmaids and about an hour before picture time, the power inexplicably went off. I panicked, just a bit. No power means no water at my mom’s place (where all this was happening) since water arrives in the faucets via a pump that is powered by electricity. My brother Ben calmly looked at me and assured me all would be fine. My other brother Reuben started calling neighbors to see if this was an isolated problem or general problem (turned out to be a general problem). Some groomsmen and Reuben retrieved the generator from the barn and hauled it down to the wedding site to ensure proper amplification during the ceremony. My mother hastily taped notes with “do not run water” on all the faucets and toilets and my helpers and I continued toasting our hundreds of slices of baguette in the old propane oven in the kitchen. The lamb and pig were both happily roasting up at the barns without any need for electricity and I realized Ben was right. Everything would be just fine!

Then just as photos were wrapping up and we started to line up for the real deal the power came back on. So no need for that loud generator after all and I could rid my hands of the greasy, bacony corncake smell just in time.

To make what could be a record-breaking long blog post shorter, the ceremony was beautiful, funny, moving and everything it could have been. The highlight of the dinner was the pulled pork that had been roasted overnight in a pit underground resting on the apple trimmings from the previous day’s cider pressing.

Ryan, the expert pig roaster (and wedding officiator) and I preparing to "pull" that juicy amazing meat off the bones

The dinner was followed by 45 minutes of moving and funny toasts and stories about the couple, amazing mini-bundt cakes made by Emily’s sister and then there was dancing, until 2 am!

And now back to those corncakes. They  make a wonderful dinner and are a good way to take advantage of some of the last of the season’s corn. And by all means make them regular pancake size, not silver-dollar-sized!

Corncakes

4-5 ears fresh, sweet corn, kernels cut off cob

1 oz bacon, diced

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

1 poblano or anaheim chili, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (optional)

1/2- 1 tsp. ground cumin

salt & pepper

2 eggs

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 – 3/4 cup water

Saute the bacon and onion in  large saute pan for about five minutes until the onion is soft. Add the cumin, salt, pepper, roasted chili if using, and corn kernels. Cook for about five minutes then take off the heat. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, add flour, cornstarch another pinch or two of salt and water and whisk until smooth. Start with 1/2 cup of water. Add the corn mixture and mix well. If the mixture seems too thick and sticky add a few tablespoons of water at a time. Heat another frying pan with a little oil (just to coat the bottom–these are pan-fried not deep-fried) and spoon the batter into the pan. Flatten the cakes a bit and fry until golden brown on both sides. Just a few minutes on each side.

Serve with greek yogurt mixed with more cumin and some lime or lemon juice, to taste.

Finally, three orders of business. First of all, most of the fall classes I’ve posted are almost full or sold out. I do have a few spots in this coming Sunday’s Soup Class #1 (since yesterday’s was overbooked) so let me know right away if you’re interested.

Secondly, I will be doing the chef demo at the Portland Farmers Market this Saturday  at 10 am. Come say hello and have a snack and shop the fabulous bounty of the market.

Finally, one of my favorite cookbook authors, Dorie Greenspan, is going to be in town on October 19th and will be speaking at the Heathman about her new book Around my French Table. And there will be free appetizers to boot. 5:30, 10/19 co-hosted by Powells Books and The Heathman.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!:)

Quick Favorites

I work at home which means I eat lunch at home almost every day. I very much like my quiet lunches on the days Ellis is in school. And recently, I’ve been incorporating tomatoes in all of them. This time of year is so wonderful because with a decently stocked pantry you can make so many wonderful things with tomatoes in a matter of minutes.  The above lunch was an impromptu fried egg, tomato, basil and soft cheese sandwich. The bread is toasted, the egg warm–which gives the basil even more fragrance–and the whole thing is gooey, messy and so satisfying.

I tend to have frozen chickpeas on hand. I cook them (and black beans, etc.) in big batches and then freeze them in a bit of cooking liquid in quart or pint  containers.  Every other week or so I put a container in the fridge to use as needed. The other day I mixed said chickpeas with diced tomato, arugula, feta, olive oil, a little red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. And I had myself a delicious and hearty salad.

And finally, I  made this tomato and goat  cheese tart from David Lebovitz’s wonderful collection of recipes for a recent brunch with friends. It was quick because I had pre-made tart dough in the fridge. The dough itself is quick and easy to make and this recipe doesn’t even mention letting it chill before using so if you’ve got company for lunch  or dinner or brunch, it’s a winner and far easier than it looks.

Finally, two photos just for fun. This is my yellow crookneck squash plant on overdrive even as most of its leaves have already succumbed to the powdery mildew of all summer squash plants at this time of year.

And my dear brother Ben who is getting married on Saturday! I can’t wait!

Last but not least, I am having a great time testing soups but a very difficult time narrowing down  which ones to choose for the upcoming Soup Class on Sunday, October 3rd. A few spots left in that one and the Savory Condiment one in which we’ll be making tomato and onion jam and preserving sweet red peppers. Let me know if you’re interested.

Happy cooking and eating!

Katherine

Crepes

There's hope!

This photo has little to do with today’s post but I did want to share it to give hope to my fellow Portland-area gardeners. My tomatoes are really ripening and delicious!

So, I eat too quickly. I have ever since I can remember. I’m not sure whether it’s because I grew up in a large family and there was always a rush to get seconds before it was all gone or not. As you well know my mother is a good cook which meant we–us children, my father and whatever exchange student or visitor was at the table–always wanted more. I’d like to think I’ve slowed down a little bit over the years but it is something I really have to work on. I don’t like inhaling my dinner yet I often do, lately maybe even more now having a young child since meals aren’t quite as peaceful as they once were.

As involved as I am in Slow Food (even though we are NOT about cooking or eating slowly!) you’d think I’d ease up a bit and appreciate and savor meals more. The other problem with dinner is that by the time we sit down to eat, I’m already half full. I taste the food I make as I prepare it and I emphasize this almost more than anything else in the classes I teach. So with all that tasting and with my usually being really hungry by the time I’m putting dinner together, I taste a little more generously than I would need to.  Now it might follow that since I’m half-full already I would really not need to eat quickly when we actually sit down, but alas, this is not a rational issue. It’s funny how irrational I (we all?) can be about our food preferences, habits, quirks. . .. A topic maybe for another post.

Crepes sprinkled with cheese and a little cream about to go in the oven

In any case, a dinner I made last week inspired this confession. It was one of those truly last-minute what-do-I make-for-dinner? evenings. I looked around the fridge and the garden and came up with crepes filled with a mix of lots of onions, a few diced tomatoes and generous sprinkling of thyme that I stewed together for about 15 minutes. I didn’t taste the filling very often but the crepes were the problem. You know the first crepe always falls apart and another was just too thin to hold up, so hungry as I was at 6pm, I ate both of those mishaps flavored with the tomato bits clinging to the side of the stewed veggie pan.

I filled the rest of the crepes with the onions and tomatoes, sprinkled each with a bit of Asiago Stella (my regular aged, grating cheese I use instead of Parmesan–much cheaper and very tasty and similar enough to fool some folks–and available at Pastaworks and City Market). I packed them in a casserole dish, sprinkled the whole thing with more cheese and drizzled on about 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and baked the whole thing for about 20 minutes until heated through and the cheese was melted and bubbling. It was a really good dinner! Despite all my snacking I managed to enjoy it and the green salad we had on the side very  much and may even repeat it.

That’s the funny thing about this cook-with-what-you-have method. I find myself inventing things that sometimes turn out really well but then I rarely repeat them. The blog is a good tool for cataloging these though and in choosing to share it with you all I will also remind  myself to repeat and adapt this as the months go by. I’m thinking that they would be equally good with a mix of winter squash and leeks (one of my favorite fall/winter veggies combos); or caramelized onions and sausage; or sweet versions with stewed apples and/or plums with a bit of ginger and cinnamon. . . .you get the drift.  Oh and I did make enough crepe batter so that we had the leftover crepes for breakfast with greek yogurt and strawberry jam. So I got two meals in one this time.

I don’t think you need a recipe for the filling, just remember to taste for salt add more herbs or a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar if it’s bland. But here’s my crepe recipe. This will make about 15-18, 8-9 inch crepes.

Crepes

4 eggs

3 cups whole milk (2% works in a pinch)

1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons melted butter

pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend for about 15 seconds, scrape down the sides of the blender and blend again briefly until smooth. Let sit on the counter for half an hour (or in the fridge for longer and up to a day or so) if you have the time, otherwise, start cooking. I use a non-stick crepe pan but a well seasoned cast iron pan works well and you get more of a fore-arm workout:) like my mother! For the first crepe I add a little bit of oil or butter but after that it never needs any (especially with the non-stick) since it has butter in the batter. Ladle in about 1/3 cup of batter and lift the pan off the heat and rotate and jiggle the pan until the batter more-or-less evenly coats the surface. Cook briefly on both sides until golden around the edge and in spots. Stack them on a plate (and don’t bother separating them with wax paper or some such if you’re not going to use them immediately). I’ve never had a problem getting them apart again.

Fill the crepes, sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with cream and bake at 400 degrees, if you’re in a hurry as I usually am, for about 20 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

Happy cooking and (slow) eating!

P.S. I may not blog for the next 10 days or so but will resurface after my brother’s wedding. I did just buy 7-dozen eggs, that’s 84 eggs, which will be turned into deviled eggs next week. Photos will be taken and posted . . . .

Ratatouille

This is not the correct ratio of ingredients for ratatouille but I was in such a rush to make the dish that I did not take any photos beforehand and this is all I had on hand this morning.

I had no particular intention of writing about ratatouille but I returned from the farmers market last Saturday around 12:30 (sleepy child on the bike) with a single-minded focus on ratatouille. I postponed the nap routine long enough to get the peppers and onions sauteing in one pan and the eggplant in another. I chopped the zucchini and left my husband with instructions to finish the eggplant and start the squash while I did the nap routine. Ellis went to sleep easily and I had that ratatouille done in another 20 minutes or so!

My husband and I sat down with a glass of red wine and our ratatouille at 1:15 on the sunny porch. I probably hadn’t eaten this dish since last October and was just overcome by the perfection of it, as I am every year.  For about two months every summer/fall all the ingredients for this classic french vegetable dish are available and even abundant. And the combination of flavors and textures is just unbeatable.

I won’t even attempt any claim of authentic preparation since I think it’s one of those dishes that has as many versions as cooks making it, but I am a believer in my technique and will encourage you to give it a try. It may seem like a lot of steps but it really comes together quickly and just entails a bit of chopping, none of which has to be terribly precise for this dish. And it’s even better the next day and is always best at room temperature. I, however, did not take the time to wait for that on Saturday . . . .

The next morning, having no bread in the house, I decided to make Ratatouille Breakfast Burritos. I scrambled a few eggs, chopped a bunch of parsley and grated a bit of cheese (feta would have been good too I think) and rolled the whole thing up in a whole-wheat tortilla. They were unbelievably good!

Ratatouille

Quantities listed here are just guidelines so use what you have but you want to have more or less equal amounts of zucchini, eggplant, onion, and pepper, a bit less tomato and just a sprinkling of herbs and garlic at the end.

3 sweet red peppers (or 6-7 skinny Jimmy Nardello peppers–pictured above, now available in the Portland area farmers markets), cut into about 1 inch chunks

1 small-medium white or yellow onion or Walla Walla Sweet, cut into 1/2 dice

1 medium-large (or several small) eggplants, cut into  1/2 inch dice

2 medium zucchini or other summer squash such as patty pan or yellow crookneck, cut into slices or 1/2 inch dice

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

10 or so leaves of basil or  tablespoon of fresh oregano (or a combination), finely chopped

salt

olive oil

Heat 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil (don’t skimp on the oil in this dish!) each in two large saute pans over high heat. Add the onions and peppers to one of the pans. Sprinkle generously with salt. Add the eggplant to the other and do the same. Stir well to coat veggies with a little oil. Continue cooking over fairly high heat, stirring occasionally. You want to soften the vegetables and browning them a little is fine. Turn down to med-high and continue cooking until they’re soft. Turn off the peppers and onions but leave in the pan. Remove eggplant and set aside on a plate, add another tablespoon of olive oil to that pan and add zucchini, salt well and cook, stirring frequently until they’re soft. Add eggplant, zucchini and diced tomato to the onions and peppers. Over high heat bring it to a boil–the tomatoes will give off a bit of liquid–reduce to medium-high and cook for about 5-7 minutes until much of the liquid from the tomatoes has been cooked off. Add the garlic and herbs, cook for about 2 more minutes. Turn off heat, adjust for salt, drizzle generously with good extra virgin olive oil and voila!

Best warm or at room temperature but I don’t blame you if can’t resist digging right in. Wonderful with good, crusty bread, over pasta, with eggs, a green salad, etc.

P.S. I’ve just planned and posted my October and November class schedule including some soup classes, an everyday baking class, a fall preserving one focused on tomato and onion jams, etc.

Pizza (class)

It’s fun, it’s a treat, it can hold most anything, and it’s really good and easy to make at home. Whether you buy pre-made pizza dough or make it yourself (we’ll be doing the latter in class next week) it really is an easy meal. I forget about it for periods  and then when something inspires me to make one I always wonder why I don’t do it more often. The dough is easy to freeze so mix up a double batch and save  half.

I’m teaching a Pizza Class next Thursday, August 26 from 5-7:30pm  We’re going to be making fresh pizzas with homemade dough with Jim Lahey’s (of No Knead Bread fame) wonderful pizza dough recipe. Three kinds will be on the menu: Stewed Red Peppers and Sausage; Classic Margarita with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, and Potato.

I’ve had many requests for this class and already have requests for repeating it though this class isn’t even full yet. So, if you’ve been meaning to learn or refresh your skills on pizza making, sign up. Three spots left.

Happy cooking and eating!

Too Much To Say & Two Recipes

I’ve been wanting to write a post about my recent trip to NYC for Slow Food, my upcoming pizza class; the wedding cake I made this summer; the annual Deumling Goat Roast (you have to scroll down a bit on this link for the photos); what’s in my freezer and why; how I source my products; why cooking is as much art as science,  . . . .And instead of any of those I’m going to write about what I made for dinner last night. I’ll eventually cover the above topics (though you might have to remind me) but I felt compelled to write about last night’s dish and the process of making it because it seems that the last-minute, creative, sometimes-under-duress kind of cooking that I often talk about is of interest.

I had an exhilarating but long weekend of teaching and often the Monday after I have little inspiration left. I am a bit under the weather too and didn’t know what to make. It had to be quick and couscous is by far the fastest starch in my pantry. I had one big, beautiful tomato, some summer squash (which I quickly diced and sautéed) and feta so I figured all together that would be a good start.

Then I remembered some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge from a few days ago and the basil that needed picking in the backyard. I made a very lemony dressing with garlic, a bit of hot chili pepper, black pepper and good olive oil and within about 15 minutes total I had a lovely, fresh, light meal in a bowl!

And I have to admit I was being casual with my measurements and did not stick to the 1 cup of couscous to one cup of liquid rule and used more water. At first I feared the couscous would be too gummy once I started fluffing it with a fork, however, after a few minutes left uncovered and fluffed some more it was just fine. The dressing was perfect and the occasional salty, tangy bites of feta and rich bites of egg made for a nice, summery combo. At the end I decided it needed a bit more heft and sliced up a frozen Italian pork sausage, quickly fried it and added that to. My husband was concerned this ad-hoc dish might suffer from what we somewhat disdainfully refer to as ingredient pile-up, but luckily it did not and each ingredient added something relevant. So, whether or not you make this as described or use it as inspiration to combine whatever you have on hand, is immaterial. The fun part, for me at least, is coming up with something delicious even when I don’t feel like cooking and haven’t planned a thing. And if any of you know of a source for whole wheat couscous please let me know. I’ve heard such a thing exists but have not tracked it down!

And since you have to read this whole post to get a sense of this “recipe” I’m going to give you another one that I’ve been making and teaching a lot of late. It’s another perfect and fairly quick summer supper from the ever clever Mark Bittman. I’ve changed his recipe for Tomato Paella just a bit by omitting the oven step and just do the whole thing on the stove top. Works perfectly and avoids heating up the kitchen on a summer night (not that we’ve had much heat to begin with!) And I imagine you could add a handful of shrimp and/or clams during the last few minutes of cooking, cover the pan, and steam those, for a slightly more authentic paella.

Happy Cooking and Eating!