Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sometimes You Have to Look Below the Surface

At the end of October, The Splendid Table's weekly recipe, "Weeknight Kitchen", arrived in my inbox. In keeping with the fall season, a root vegetable was the focus. I had not yet tried one of these suggested recipes, but Celery Root Soup with Blue Cheese felt like the recipe to start with. I've never tasted celery root and I was up for trying something new. Also, when it comes to autumn, I find it hard to turn down food that celebrates this season. The recipe is from Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont by Melissa Pasanen with Rick Gencarelli.

Finding a decent celery root took two tries and the price of $4.99 a pound gave me an appreciation for this ingredient before I even tasted it. The voice behind The Splendid Table, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, advised me to look for a root that is firm and as smooth as possible. She also recommended going with high quality blue cheese. I opted for a Pacific Northwest favorite: Gorgonzola.

Celery root is a big, ugly bulbous root with smaller roots growing out of the bottom. Peeling it is not much different from peeling a potato, but eliminating the smaller roots felt a little counterintuitive. As I cut the small roots away, I began to worry about just how much weight I was losing and how the loss would affect the taste of the soup. I decided to add my flavorful cheese slowly and pressed forward. The rest of the directions were easy enough, I had to simmer the celery root in milk for about 30 minutes and then blend it with the cheese and chicken stock. Lemon juice and a topping of crumbled cheese made the meal complete.

I loved the earthiness of the delicate celery flavor and the cheese was a wonderful compliment. The taste of the soup ended with a little bitterness and it seemed a little dry. This wasn't so noticeable at first, but after a while I decided to add oyster crackers. I think that my bowl of soup would have made a better cup of soup for me. I'm so glad I tried celery root an I would definitely try it again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Been a Long Time

It's been an embarrassingly long time since I shared some thoughts on food. At the time of my last post, I think that spring was approaching and um, that is the time when the garden steals my attention. I grow crunchy snow peas before I prepare them and finally eat them. It's a very long process so you can understand just how busy I was. As spring turns to summer Jack conveniently becomes interested in grilling and I'm still gardening. Most of the time anyway. I don't think this excuse is panning out as well as I'd hoped. Uh, Let's move on.

September and October have been very interesting. I did a bit of traveling for work and had a few adventures in food. (I travel to schools to train teachers to use the program my company produces.) My boss accompanied me on my first trip. We spent two days in Lake Jackson, Texas, just south of Houston. The first night Janet and I ended up eating some classic fast food at Whataburger. Their signature orange and white roof had caught my eye from the airplane that morning and I was curious. The burgers were quite large as Janet demonstrates. They were also delicious with the fries following suit. We both easily recommend you try a Whataburger if given the chance.

Janet and I are big fans of barbecue. Texas favors beef to pork and I was looking forward to tasting this approach. I asked an administrative assistant at the school for recommendations. I couldn't quite tell if she was amused or flattered by my request, but she lead us to the yummy Brian's BBQ. I love the old-school sign!! A large steer is located atop the roof above the entrance; it's very serious. The only beef item on the menu that day was brisket. The meat was tender and the sauce was sweet and vinegary. Good stuff, so good I kind of forgot what my sides were.

It's late autumn now and this time of year puts me in the mood to cook and bake. Both kind of hit me at once, but don't fret, I can handle it. My Cooking Light magazines are thicker, stuffed with more recipes than usual to keep me inspired. Cooking Light isn't my only inspiration; tomorrow I plan to make Celery Root Soup with Blue Cheese from "Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont" by Melissa Pasanen with Rick Gencarelli. This recipe came to me by way of an email subscription the radio show The Splendid Table offers called Weeknight Kitchen. I hope I'll have time to write about it by the end of the weekend.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Collard Greens Got Nothing On Me

Wednesday night was a fine night indeed, for it marked our third Pioneer Organics delivery. A new bin full of organic produce had been placed on our porch (perhaps by magic farm elves) while we were at work. The Friday before, I was looking at the list of food that Pioneer Organics had emailed to me with my studying-to-be-a-dietitian-friend Kathryn. The company sends a list of what they could deliver and the collard greens where intimidating me a little. I was considering striking them from the list and replacing them with the familiar spinach when Kathryn stepped up and encouraged me to try them. I believe her words were something like, "They're quite good!" Well it doesn't take much to sway me and I do like to try new things, so collard greens made the journey to our porch. But I didn't have a plan for them. Luckily Pioneer Organics supplies a few suggested recipes with each order. I made Greens with Roast Potatoes as a side dish to go with Oven Fried Chicken. Oh, the Parmesan and potatoes and collard greens smelled and tasted so wonderful together. Roasting really brings out flavors like no other technique.

Greens with Roast Potatoes

from Pioneer Organics
Servings: 4
Time: 1 hour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, sliced into half moons
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and cut into thin ribbons
water or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, or red potatoes, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes,
diced red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or more (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large shallow saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add collard greens, water or vegetable stock--enough to come ½” up the side of the pan. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Stir, turn the heat down, and cover. Check periodically to make sure nothing is sticking, and that there is still a small amount of liquid in the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes. Place the potatoes in a roasting pan and drizzle with a light coating of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook in oven for 25 to 40 minutes, until almost soft. Remove potatoes from oven, and add cooked greens, garlic and tomatoes. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, if using. Toss to combine. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top, if using. Turn oven down to 400°F. Return pan to oven and cook until cheese is melted and brown around the edges.
I'm going to publish the Oven Fried Chicken recipe too. As far as I can tell, it's legal as long as credit is given. This has become a standard in our household and it's just too good not to share.

Oven-Fried Chicken
From Cooking Light

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large egg whites, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 chicken breast halves, skinned (about 1 pound)
2 chicken thighs, skinned (about 1/2 pound)
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned (about 1/2 pound)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425°.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine buttermilk and egg whites in a shallow dish; stir well with a whisk. Combine flour, cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a separate shallow dish; stir well. Sprinkle chicken evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Dip chicken in buttermilk mixture; dredge in flour mixture.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet; lightly coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until chicken is done.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half or 1 drumstick and 1 thigh)

CALORIES 450(28% from fat); FAT 13.8g (sat 2.5g,mono 6.1g,poly 3.6g); PROTEIN 43.5g; CHOLESTEROL 109mg; CALCIUM 88mg; SODIUM 803mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 3.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 35.3g

In non-related news, I spent my 30th Birthday at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. It was super-fantastic! In the interest of comfortable gardening footwear I bought a pair of crocs. Jack made me promise to never wear them in public. Not a problem. They're great for all the standing that cooking requires. The photo features my favorite comfy P.J.s. (Thanks mom)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Picture Post

I have not done any noteworthy cooking this past week, but I do have a handful of fun pictures from the past few months. I made some treats for Annabelle from, "The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook" by Liz Palika. Annabelle scafed down the Crispy Cheese Circles from page 38.

Sometime in December, I made my first yeast bread. It was a rustic loaf of rosemary focaccia. I took the opportunity to tame a tiny section of our rosemary bush from the front garden. I should look up more recipes that use rosemary, my supply is quite healthy. Jack and I enjoyed the bread with sun-dried tomato olive oil. (Red wine too.) The saltiness on top of the bread is wonderful!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunny Morning

Seattle is enjoying its first sunny weekend in a long time! There is new growth on the paperwhite bulb I planted in early January. It feels like spring might just be around the corner, for this weekend anyway. I have recently bought another container for planting some hyacinths once they become available. Last year I fell in love with their scent. It started with one perfuming the kitchen and when that faded, I replaced it. I ended up purchasing three in succession. Those bulbs are in the yard now. Hopefully, they will visit us again this spring.

Saturday morning Jack woke up with the cough he has had for about a week now. Enough was enough, he was ready to go to the doctor. I made arrangements and then started thinking about breakfast. We had just over an hour before the appointment. Hmmmm... I have really been into grapefruit lately. I recently picked up the February edition of "Eating Well". There is a whole section on citrus; savory and sweet. I decided to make Jack and I the dessert "Grapefruit Brulee"(p. 57) for a quick breakfast before his trip to the doctor. You may think that I am quite daring to attempt a brulee in a short amount of time. You may also think I am a little silly for serving a dessert for breakfast. Fear not. Although I respect the magazine, I think "brulee" was used loosely and this is a dessert on a diet.

Grapefruit Brulee
"Eating Well" Feb 2007
Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough

3 large pink or ruby-red grapefruits
6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of butter, cut into tiny pieces
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Position oven rack about 5 inches from broiler; preheat broiler
2. Slice the stem end and opposite end off each grape fruit. Stand the grape fruit, one cut end down, on a work surface. Cut off the rind and pith with a sharp knife, making sure to remove all the white pith. Cut each fruit into 4 rounds, about a half inch thick, by making slices parallel to the ones you made on the top and bottom.
3. Place the slices in a large baking pan in a single layer. Top each with 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar, dot with butter and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
4. Broil the grapefruit until bubbling and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Drizzle pan juices over each serving.


Jack found a warm grapefruit to be a little odd. He wondered if he might like it better cold. I, on the other hand, loved this dish. The membranes around each section of the fruit take a little navigating, but it's worth it. The butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar go nicely with the tart, sour grapefruit.

The doctor said Jack had a cold that was heavy on the cough. Maybe the vitamin C from breakfast will help him out. I guess I should take a look at some chicken soup recipes next.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Arsenal of Family Recipes

Last week Jack had a brilliant idea. He employed his love of cooking breakfast to host a pancake playoff breakfast last Sunday. Eleven of us gathered around the television to watch a very close game in which our charismatic Seahawks lost to the Chicago Bears. Yes, I did use the term "charismatic"to describe a pro football team. We've got nice guys Josh Brown, Matt Hasselbeck, and Shaun Alexander. In fact, once you've seen Shaun Alexander's smile, you'll realize there's no argument. Ah, I digress. What to do when your team must exit the playoffs? Employ your best emotional eating techniques and enjoy the food. My humble opinion tells me there is no better way to get over that 49 yard field goal in sudden death overtime, making the score 27-24. Jack's blueberry pancakes were in our bellies to aid in adjusting to the end of the season.
For my part, I sought out my best Midwest brunch recipes; Cheese Strata and Sticky Buns. I usually try to eat healthy, but I bring out these recipes for special get-togethers and holidays just as my extended family does. When you're part of a 20-member, Midwest family with German-Catholic roots you can expect congregating for nearly every birthday and first communion. This presents many opportunities for testing recipes on a broad range of tastes and ages. Winners will emerge. Since I've moved to the West coast, my mother has been supplying me with hand written or typed instructions for the tried and true, the food of my memories.

Cheese Strata
Grandma Lucile Bohr

1/2 cup Margarine or butter
10 - 12 Slices of bread, trim crusts and cut/tear into cubes
1 cup Crab meat, canned or frozen, drained
1/2 cup Old English cheese, cut into cubes (I doubted this cheese could be found in Seattle, so I used the almighty Cheddar)
4oz of Canned or fresh mushrooms
5 Eggs
2 cups of milk
Salt, pepper, dry mustard, red pepper (I guessed a teaspoon of the first 3, & a conservative 1/2 teaspoon of the red pepper)
I added cubed red bell pepper (1 small pepper)

Melt butter in a 9 x 13" pan. Put half of bread cubes and cheese cubes in pan. Sprinkle crab meat and mushrooms over top. make another layer of bread and cheese cubes. Combine eggs, milk, and seasonings; pour over all. Let stand overnight in fridge. Bake at 350 about 1 hour. Serves 8 to 10.

For variation in tastes and budget, try substituting ham, chipped beef, tuna, shrimp, or lobster for crab.

Sticky Buns
Kris Bauman

2 dozen Frozen dinner rolls
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 cup Nuts
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
1 (3.5 oz) box Butterscotch pudding (not instant)
1/2 stick Butter

Grease a 9 x 13" pan well. Melt butter and brown sugar together and spread on bottom of pan. Sprinkle nuts, then dry pudding mix. Mix white sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of mixture in pan. Place dinner rolls in pan. Cover with foil and let stand in a warm place overnight.
Bake uncovered, at 350 four about 30 minutes. Invert on plate immediately.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Holiday Pictures

This is a quick pictorial post.

Christmas Eve a Karen's. This was her yummy crab cheese dip with a cute presentation.
Me cooking Roast Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Stuffing from the Cook's Illustrated December 2006 issue.

There' s some spinach in there too.
A silly picture Annabelle going for a gift bone. Thanks mom and dad!

Getting Steamy in the Kitchen

I am back after a long absence - whew! There were the holidays of course and a new job before that. I have been cooking all along, but not from the "Asian" cookbook. It's time to get back into the fish sauce and garlic. In November, I made "Steamed Fish and Green Onions with Ginger" from page 58. My mouth still waters when I remember this meal. We splurged on the fish; halibut for $15.99 a pound - oh, but it was worth it. To me, halibut tastes buttery, yet clean, almost crisp. It has a refreshing quality to it that makes me feel a little healthier for eating it. The ginger and green onion flavors in the sauce add to that satisfying, yet healthy experience. This kind of meal is great after a few nights of heavy eats. In the past, Jack and I have made a tofu udon noodle dish with ginger, garlic and green tea leaves used like a spice when we feel like we need a "cleansing". I can add this recipe to that category.
I had a certain challenge as I prepared this meal. The fish is mean to to be steamed in a bamboo steamer. I have admired bamboo steamers from afar. I used to eat dim sum at Pike's Market on my lunch break when I worked downtown. The vendor had large bamboo steamers for the steamed meat-filled dumplings and buns. My Christmas list and time constraints did not allow me to buy one before making this meal. Our limited storage in the kitchen makes me hesitate as well. Anyway, I had to come up with a makeshift version of the traditional steamer. I filled my stir-fry pan with a bit of water and placed a metal steamer in the pan. The fish is instructed to be placed on top of a bed of green onions on a plate. The bed of green onions was simple, but what a way to add flavor! I placed the plate on the metal steamer and covered the setup with a frying pan. I believe this will be the closest to mechanical engineering that I will ever get.