Monday, April 28, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Since they can be suited to any season, it is hard for a dish of roasted vegetables to become boring. Here is quick list of options for each season, along with good accompanying fresh herbs:
- Beets, Cauliflower, Carrots (whole when small), New Potatoes, Baby Artichokes, Fennel, Spring Onions, Butter Turnips, Whole Red Radishes, Asparagus.
- Herbs: Thyme, Oregano, and/or Savory added at the beginning. Parsley, Tarragon, Chive, and/or Fennel Frond added when the veggies come out of the oven.
- Summer Squash (just wash and cut in half), Fennel, Potatoes, Peppers (in large chunks), Eggplant, Corn Cob Pieces, Garlic Cloves, Halved Plum Tomatoes.
- Herbs and Seasonings: Thyme, Marjoram (really good with summer squash), Minced Garlic (the garlic works here because most summer vegetables need little roasting time), all added at the beginning. Parsley, Basil, Cilantro, added at the end.
- Sweet Potatoes, Any kind of Potato, Winter Squash (butternut chunks, acorn round, kobacha, sweet dumpling, pumpkin), Beets, Cauliflower, Carrots, Chunks of Peppers, Eggplant, Whole Garlic Cloves.
- Herbs and Seasonings: Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Marjoram, Whole Bay Leaves, Fresh Ground Dried Chilies, Fresh Ground Cumin, all added at the beginning. Parsley and Basil added at the end with Eggplant and Peppers.
- Potatoes, Onion Pieces, Winter Squash, Sweet Potato, Celery Root, Turnips, Rutabagas, Whole Garlic Cloves, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cabbage Wedges, Fennel (if you have good winter weather).
- Herbs and Seasonings: Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Whole Bay Leaves, Paprika, Mustard, Winter Savory, all added at the beginning.
I'm sure there are other options I have missed, so be creative. It is hard to mess up roasted vegetables. A few rules to follow are; always cut the vegetables in larger chunks so they do not dry out, drizzle with olive oil for moistness and flavor, salt right before putting in the oven (if you add salt an hour before roasting, the salt will pull out moisture from the veggies, making them crisp up more in the oven, which can be good for potatoes if you like oven fries), and cut everything the same size so they cook in the same amount of time. Roast vegetables between 350 degrees (for harder, denser vegetables that need longer cooking) and 400-425 degrees for shorter cooking vegetables.
Savory Roasted Spring Vegetables
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
-2 large spring onions, cut in quarters through the root
-3 red or golden beets, peeled and cut in quarters
-2 bulbs fennel, cut in quarters through the root
-1 tablespoon fresh chopped savory
-salt and fresh ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss all the cut vegetables, except the beets, in a large bowl with the olive oil, most of the savory, a sprinkling of salt, and fresh ground pepper. Pour out onto a sheet tray lined with baking paper and arrange in a single layer (use two sheet trays if you need to). Toss the beets with the left over savory, a little more olive oil if the bowl is dry, and salt and pepper, arrange on the sheet trays as well, away from the other vegetables (the beets will turn everything red or yellow). Roast in the oven, stirring about every 10-15 minutes, until tender and caramelized, about 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
If you have the inclination, and time, steel cut oats are worth it. They make a substantial breakfast, have a wonderful chewy texture, and sweet, true oat flavor. They are not hard to prepare by any means, they just need to cook for about 20 minutes with occasional stirring. Steel cut oats, or Scottish oats, are whole oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces. Oats are great for helping to lower cholesterol (as is any whole grain), are high in soluble fiber (which helps to remove cholesterol), have good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, and protein. Oats are good anytime of the day depending on how they are prepared. In countries where oats are an important food source, places such as Ireland and Scotland, oats are eaten as a simple porridge just flavored with a little salt and fat. Oats have a natural affinity for many foods. Examples are berries, bananas, apples, pumpkin or butternut squash, nuts and seeds, cinnamon, and root vegetables. Berries happen to be my favorite, and since organic strawberries have shown up at the market, I can't seem to get enough of the following recipe; Berries n' Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal. I don't actually use cream, but you can if you like, it will be much richer than my version. I like to use a thick, homemade almond milk, or full fat soy milk. If this was to be prepared on a weekend, say for company, I would set out a basic, piping hot pot of cooked steel cut oats and put all the garnishes on the side, like a buffet, and let everyone make their own. It's hard to say how much milk and sweetener a person likes in their oatmeal, it's quite personal actually.When finished, this oatmeal turns a beautiful purple and smells heavenly with berries. This oatmeal is a great start to any day. The below recipe serves two if you have a hungry husband and are yourself pregnant, or 4 with other foods along side, like toast or scrambled eggs.
Berries n' Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal
-1 cup organic steel cut oats
-3 cups water
-pinch of salt
-4 cups of berries, fresh or frozen (defrost before hand)
-soy milk, almond milk, cow's milk, or even real cream (you will need much less if using real cream)
-real maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup
Place the oats, water, and salt in a 4 quart saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Simmer the oats, stirring often, until quite tender and the oatmeal is very thick, about 20 minutes. Set up a large bowl of the berries, a pitcher or two of chosen milks, and a bowl of chosen sweetener/s. Ladle the very hot oatmeal into each bowl and let everyone garnish their own. Alternatively, add the berries to the oatmeal and stir in while still on the heat to slightly soften the berries. Serve as above. I like to add frozen blueberries and blackberries to the oatmeal while still on the heat, stir in to defrost and soften, stir in strawberries and maple syrup off heat, and then top with a good pouring of fresh, homemade almond milk.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
If you have ever prepared fresh fava beans, you know they can be a bit of work. Their thick pods must first be removed to reveal the light green, kidney shaped beans inside, which then need to be quickly steamed or blanched to remove their leathery outer shell. These de-podded and de-shelled beans are what we normally consume as fresh favas. Fava beans can also be left on the vines to grow large and yellow, and then dried to be used year round. Most favas are eaten in this form, but I prefer the fresh version more. I have heard and read recipes using the pods of the fava beans, but have never found one I really enjoy. I don't like wasting food, and fresh fava beans have a waste percentage of about 80%, so I typically compost my pods, which seem to break down quite fast and add a good amount of greens to the compost pile. If the beans inside the pods are small an naturally tender, then their leathery outer shell does not need to be removed.
Since fresh fava beans take some effort to prepare and are only around for a short amount of time, I like to prepare them as simply as possible. I actually prefer to prepare most of my foods in simple ways, letting their true flavors, colors, and textures speak for themselves. I believe there is great genius in simplicty. One of the tastiest ways to prepare fresh favas is to serve them with a good bread, sheep's milk cheese, and cracked black pepper. I decided to go with this theme for my first fava preparation of the season, but switched out sheep's milk cheese for goat's (only because that is what I had on hand). I also had a bunch of beautiful red spring onions, so decided to incorporate those as well. Spring onions look sort of like overgrown scallions, with bulbs that get bigger as the season progresses. If you can't find spring onions, then use scallions instead, or even an equal amount of minced shallot. For the favas, first remove the beans from the thick pods. Drop the beans into a pot of boiling water and blanch for about 1-2 minutes if they are to be sauteed later, or until tender if being used right away. For this recipe, they will be sauteed later, so blanch quickly to avoid overcooking them. Once blanched, shock in cold water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Slip the favas out of their leathery skin and set aside. Now they are ready to use. You will need about 1 1/2 pounds of fresh favas in their pods to get 1 cup of ready to use beans.
Fava Bean, Spring Onion, and Goat's Cheese Crostini
-8-10 slices whole grain baguette or other sturdy, crusty bread
-4 large cloves garlic, papery skin still on
-4 oz chevre style goat's cheese at room temperature
-1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 cup shelled and peeled fresh fava beans
-3 small spring onions, bulbs and 1 inch of green top, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
-salt and fresh ground black pepper
-fresh chopped parsely
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush each slice of whole grain bread with a small amount of olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until slightly browned on the edges and crunchy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. These toasts can be done up to a day in advance. While the toasts are baking, wrap the whole garlic cloves up in a small piece of foil and bake until very soft, about 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins, chop fine, and set aside.
Lightly mash the goat's cheese with a fork in a bowl. Mix in the roasted garlic, minced rosemary, and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
In a medium sized saute pan, heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add in the fava beans and sliced spring onions. Season with salt and a little ground black pepper (don't overdo the pepper!). Stir often, adjusting the heat as neccessary to avoiding burning, until the onions have wilted and fava beans are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add a splash of water or vegetable stock, about 1-2 tablespoons, and stir to mix. This gives a little moisture to the mix, which may be quite dry. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the fresh chopped parsely.
Spread each toast with some of the goat's cheese spread, top generously with the sauteed fava beans, and a little more fresh chopped parsely if desired. Great with a salad of seasonal greens and fennel, and maybe even a poached egg.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
**I almost always cook with an extra virgin olive oil because it has a slightly high smoking point and is heart healthy, but I do not cook with the best one I can find. I usually keep two kinds of extra virgin olive oil on hand; a cold-pressed, organic one that I use to season, say for salads or dips, or for anything where the flavor of the oil is important. For cooking, I buy a less expensive extra virgin olive oil that is not as high quality.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Meyer Lemon-Shallot Dressing
-½ cup wild rice
-15 asparagus spears with tough ends removed, cut into
-½ cup finely minced fennel bulb
-½ cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
-1 teaspoon minced tarragon
-1 tablespoon minced fennel frond
-1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
-2 teaspoons white miso
-1/4 cup organic, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
Combined the ½ cup wild rice with 1 ½ cups water and a pinch of salt in a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Pour the rice out onto a plate to cool. When cool, combine the cooked wild rice with the blanched asparagus spears**, minced fennel, and chopped hazelnuts. Season with a little salt and pepper, set aside.
For the dressing:
Place the minced shallots, Meyer lemon juice, vinegar, honey, and white miso in a medium sized glass jar fitted with a lid. Shake the jar to mix the ingredients and to incorporate the miso. Remove the lid and add in the olive oil. Shake vigorously again. Alternately, whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Slowly add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream, to evenly incorporate while constantly whisking.
Assemble the salad:
Pour about 4 tablespoons of the dressing over the rice mixture to moisten. Mix well and taste for seasoning of salt and white pepper. Let the salad stand a few minutes to absorb the dressing and taste again. If it is too dry and bland, add about 2 more tablespoons and repeat the same procedure, allowing the rice to absorb the dressing. This recipe usually takes about 6 tablespoons of dressing, but it is a good idea to add slow. You can always add more, but never take away. Add the herbs right before serving to preserve their bright flavors. This salad serves about 4 people as a side dish, or 2 as a main course.
** To blanch the asparagus pieces: Instead of dropping the pieces into lots of rapidly boiling salted water, instead, I place the pieces into a large bowl and cover with three times as much simmering water and cover. I leave this for about 3-4 minutes, or until the asparagus reach a crisp-tender texture. I then immediately drain the asparagus and run under cold water to cool quickly and preserve crunch and color. I like the asparagus just slightly crunchy for this dish, and I prefer the gentle cooking this method provides. Your asparagus will not turn brown from this unless you leave it in the hot water for a long time. This is the method I use when I want to just take away the raw edge from a vegetable.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I've started this blog as a way to convey my thoughts, emotions, knowledge, and passions for seasonal foods, small farmers (usually organic), vegetable gardening, and most of all, cooking. I'm a whole foods chef (with classic French training) and I teach culinary arts for my local community college. I am married and 5 months pregnant with our first child. I feel as if I have so much to say and teach regarding whole, seasonal foods, and am hoping this blog can be an effective avenue to have lively discussions regarding current foods systems, concerns, sharing of cooking knowledge and recipes, promotions of farmer's markets and CSAs, or anything that has to do with clean and honest foods. Most of the time I think I will be posting recipes I am writing for my cook book Seasonal Cuisine, but also intend to include posts about current food issues and happenings, book reviews (involving food of course), probably rantings and ravings over certain food systems (school lunches being a big one), and so on. I would appreciate and welcome any comments, questions, answers, stories, and discussion topics.
So now that you know a little about what I am hoping to offer and gain from this blog, here is My Food Philosophy. I give this to all my culinary arts students so that they can know right away how I feel about food and cooking.
Along with this garden came a nightly tradition; my family always had dinner together around the table, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have come to deeply appreciate this simple household rule that kept (and still keeps), our family so well bonded. This simple ritual of family meeting around a table of honest food to nourish hungry bodies, also nourishes hungry hearts. It’s a ritual missing from many families that could make such a difference. More than just physical nourishment was accomplished at our family dinner table. Jokes were told, chaos awakened, peculiar eating habits discovered, and the fate of boyfriends decided, all in one glorious hour of consumption. There is more to food than the ability to quench bodily hunger; its ability to bond and connect is its greatest virtue.
Honest food prepared with love and integrity has the magnificent ability to bind not only families, but communities as well. Different cuisines stir up interests of origin, especially in the minds of young people, and as knowledge and understanding are established, fear and hatred are broken down, and acceptance, if not respect, is accomplished. The connection between earth, seed, plant, table, and body, can be realized in any honest meal, and everyone in this world, no matter what country or culture, takes part in this connection.
My eating habits have changed somewhat since I was a little girl, running around in that garden, but I have lost neither love, nor hunger, for that earth to table relationship. My seasonal, whole foods diet is a direct product of that relationship, and is the basis to my outlook on life. I know that in every country, every culture, there is a similar little girl skipping through rows of tangled beans, nibbling fresh carrots and peas, developing the same love for earth to table, and realizing that all human beings are connected through the simple, basic act of eating. Our actions at home can have profound effects else where, and just the act of being responsible for what we eat can change the world we live in. As John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”