Archive for ‘Recipes’

August 17, 2012

Sausage, Tomato, and Kale Recipe

I had grand plans to share recipes with you in the past couple weeks.  And then the plans fizzled.

First I planned a peach cheesecake – I’ve been on a peach kick all summer, so when a neighbor stopped by with fresh, hand-picked peaches from a local orchard I kicked into gear.  I’d just gotten a German cheesecake cookbook from my mother for my birthday, and I decided the stars had aligned for me to make a peach cheesecake.

But it flopped. Quite literally.  While it tasted delicious, the juiciness of the peaches (the original recipe was for a berry cheesecake) was too much for the poor cake to handle and the bottom third just oozed peaches and the remains of the crust.  David’s mom called it “Peach Delight” and we all gobbled up the flavors of summertime. But the sad dessert was not photogenic, and certainly not something I’d recommend to others before tweaking it a bit more so it holds its shape.

Then yesterday morning around 8am, I beat the heat and did some gardening. I had some pruning to do in the tomato plant section and ended up with a bunch of small green cherry tomatoes as collateral. Almost immediately (it was early after all and I hadn’t had my coffee yet), a light bulb went off in my head: fried green cherry tomatoes!

We had them for dinner, crisped with flour, an egg/yogurt mixture, and panko. They flopped too. At first I thought the first batch was bitter because the oil was too hot. I turned the oil down and cooked the rest of the pint of tomatoes, heaped them up on a serving plate, and dug into them for dinner. The whole batch was so bitter we couldn’t eat them. And everything else tasted bitter, including the rib-eye steak we served with it.

I’m so glad we didn’t have guests over. Those fried green cherry tomatoes look way too innocent.

So, with photos that look deceptively delicious but don’t have good recipes to go along with them, I had a conundrum on my hands for a blog recipe.  Which brought me to this tried and true favorite.  Unlike the peach cheesecake, it’s supposed to be a bit a bit soggy, and the kale cooks long enough that the bitterness dissipates and the whole dish just tastes amazing. We used to blanch the kale separately, but we recently started just throwing it in with the liquid washed and chopped up. There’s enough liquid to “blanch” the kale, but you still keep all the nutrients in the liquid that turns into the base of your sauce (and you spare yourself making a third pot dirty).

So here you go: this week’s recipe.  I worked hard on this post, so you better go out and try it. Besides, these vegetables are all in season right now, so you don’t have any excuse not to. And did I mention it was easy? It’s really easy.

Sausage, Tomato, and Kale Linguine

1 lb pork sausage (pick your favorite flavor, you can also substitute for chicken or turkey for a healthier option. I usually buy bulk sausage, but you could also use link sausages chopped up or removed from the casings)
1 lb linguine pasta
1 cup leeks, washed thoroughly and minced
1 cup onions, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 bunch kale (somewhere between 6 and 10 stems), washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups water or broth
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup cheese, finely grated (I like using a mix of Jarlsberg and Parmesan, though also use Gruyere when I’m feeling like splurging. Other Swiss cheeses such as Emmenthaler would be good too)
red pepper flakes to taste (optional) for less spice but still peppery flavor, consider using aleppo peppers
parsley and/or chives, chopped (optional)

1. In a heavy-bottomed saute pan, brown the sausage and set aside on a plate lined with paper towel to soak up the grease.

2. Meanwhile, set a pot of water on high on the stove to boil for the linguine. Season it liberally with salt.

3. Drain any left-over grease out of the now-empty saute pan. Add a dash of olive oil (if needed) and the leeks and onions. You want the vegetables to pick up the sausage bits and flavor on the bottom of the pan, so do not clean the pan between cooking the pork and the alliums (=members of the onion family, aka leeks and onions – maybe you learned a new word today!).

4. Add the kale and the liquid and cook covered for about six minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the kale gets “blanched.”

5. By this point your pasta water will likely be boiling, so add your linguine and stir, cooking to package directions.

6. When the kale is cooked down, check the level of the liquid.  There should be a bit left coming about a quarter inch up the pan. If not, add a bit more liquid. Then add the cherry tomatoes, sausage, cheese, and pepper flakes.  The cheese will thicken the leftover liquid enough to coat the vegetables and linguine.  Bring the vegetables and sauce to a light boil, then turn off the heat almost immediately. Taste and correct seasonings (notice you haven’t added salt or pepper until now, because the sausage is flavored enough and the cheese also provides salt – I rarely add pepper unless I’m not using pepper flakes).

7. Drain the noodles and gently pour them into your saute pan and carefully mix them into the vegetables.  If your pan is too small for this maneuver then mix everything together in a large serving bowl and top with the parsley/chives.  Voila! Your meal is done.  Guten Appetit!

 

July 12, 2012

Cold-Brewed Iced Tea

I love iced tea in summer. It has less caffeine than coffee, doesn’t need sweetener, and still tastes delicious and refreshing.  I never worry about drinking my calories, because it has hardly any.  It’s also incredibly versatile – one can turn pretty much anything into iced tea.  I used to make iced tea during my time as a barista in the coffee shop in Cambridge, but I’d never really made it at home.  Until this summer that is.

 

 

I first made a batch of cold-brewed iced tea from bags of Trader Joe’s pear and white tea.  I was trying to use up teas in Boston to reduce the amount of stuff I needed to move, and iced tea was a great way to do so in the hot weather we experienced while we packed up our home.

This week, in Oregon, it’s been pleasantly hot as well.  I’ve turned the shady back deck into my own personal office, camping out with my laptop and books to get work done in the great outdoors. What an incredible difference from a few short weeks ago! I get to enjoy the sounds of squirrels chasing each other, bluebirds calling to each other, and the occasional annoying crow.  The flowers are in full bloom around the yard, and it feels like it couldn’t be more beautiful.

 

 

 

The memories of my refreshing first attempts at cold-brewed iced tea came back earlier this week.  I discovered an old quart canning jar in the basement,  picked out some loose-leaf black tea, poured it into a coffee filter, closed it up with a wire twist, and threw in a sprig of mint from the garden.  No lemon on hand, but that would have been good too.  A few hours basking in the sunshine (where it was hard to photograph without getting a reflection of myself and my camera) and it was ready to go into a glass of ice to savor at my outdoor desk.

 

 

Cold-Brewed Iced Tea

1 quart jar (preferably see-through so you can watch the steeping progress)

4 tea bags OR 4 teaspoons loose-leaf tea (herbal, black, green, or white)

1 coffee filter (if using loose-leaf)

Optional: combination of mint sprigs, basil leaves, lemon slices, orange slices, or fruit (berries or peaches are delicious)

1. Fill the quart container with cold tap water (filter if you need to, but please don’t use bottled water).  Place the loose-leaf tea in a coffee filter and twist closed with a wire twist like the kind that come with bread or sandwich baggies.  Submerge the coffee filter package or tea bags into the tap water.  Add any flavorings you like or leave it plain.

2. Set out in a full-sun area (on a windowsill or outside if you have a space safe from roaming pets who might knock it over).  Let it steep for at least four hours, up to eight.  The longer it steeps, the more developed the flavors become.  Taste it the first time you make it so you can decide when you think it’s done to your liking.  Remove the tea bags and flavorings and chill it, or serve immediately over ice.

 

July 6, 2012

Broiled Salmon and Thoughts on Oregon Cuisine

Last week, as we were frantically packing up our lives in Boston, I kept telling myself that it was all going to be temporary.  That this craze was going to end, and suddenly we would find ourselves on the back deck in Oregon, under the oak trees enjoying a salmon dinner and a beautiful sunset.

 


It took a few days after our arrival home for this dream to come true, but finally today it was sunny and warm enough.  And the salmon was delicious.

As we had prepped for our trip, friends who knew our love of food kept asking us what Oregon cuisine was like.  I kept going back to one opinion I’ve recently come across.  At a conference I attended a couple weeks ago, I met a Portland-based consultant for food and sustainability, Ron Paul.  Paul argues that Oregon cuisine is not so much about the dishes and method of cooking, as it is about letting the “pristine flavors of [...] regional ingredients [...] emerge.” He continues that this focus on the taste of ingredients over recipes and methods is what makes it possible for professional chefs and home cooking enthusiasts to be on even footing.  Therefore, a smoked salmon dip is just as Oregonian as a salmon filet with soy glaze and shaved Thai basil topping. I like this way of thinking, but want to explore it more in relation to other theories of cuisine.

Nevertheless, using Paul’s theory of Oregon cuisine, Oregon’s bounty of U-Pick produce farms, farm stands, and now CSA’s is an example of what we can do to promote our regional cuisine.  In short: if Oregon’s cuisine relies on its ingredients, then we need to make sure that those ingredients are available to both chefs and the public.  Paul is promoting the James Beard Public Market in downtown Portland precisely to encourage this farm-to-table, regional Oregon food system.

 


With this definition of Oregon cuisine in mind, through a truly Oregonian method, my parents recently acquired a beautiful, freshly-caught Chinook salmon.  Fishermen of the Yakama, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Chinook tribes in the mid 19th century signed a treaty with the US government so that they could maintain their right to fish their traditional waters for salmon and other fish.  Today, this fish is sold in parking lots up and down the Columbia River, most often at Cascade Locks under the Bridge of the Gods.

The ten-pound fish was too much for my parents to eat in one go, so they portioned it and froze filets. To our delight, David and I now get to benefit from them.  Tonight, on the back deck, we enjoyed broiled salmon, lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper and crispy brown on the edges.  I served it with sauteed zucchini and onion slices and some boiled potatoes tossed in butter and dill.  For the occasion, we opened a bottle of Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon, so you could argue that the majority of our meal came straight from the Columbia River Gorge.  It doesn’t get much more Oregonian than that!

 


Broiled Salmon Filet

Note: When picking out a salmon fillet at the fish counter, you want one preferably from the head (wider) section of the fish, which has more fat and therefore more flavor. Look for a fillet with thick white stripes of fat in between the pink flesh.  The pinker doesn’t necessarily mean better – most farmed salmon gets feed with pink food coloring in it.  Look for wild salmon if you can get it, which often will have a lighter-pink color compared to the farmed.

1 8 to 10-ounce fillet of salmon
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the broiler to high and place the rack in the middle of the oven. (Note: if you’re not sure how hot your broiler is, heat it to low – you can always turn it up if need be)

2. Wash the fillet and pat it dry with paper towels.

3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.  Place the salmon skin-side up and coat with half the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

4. Place in the heated oven for three minutes.  Check to see how it’s doing after a minute and a half and adjust the heat as necessary.  If after three minutes it looks half-way cooked and the skin is nice and crisp, flip it over.  Coat with the remaining olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.  Cook for three more minutes.  Check to see if it’s done.  If not, adjust the heat if necessary and return to the oven to finish cooking.

5. Serve immediately.  If you don’t like the skin, you can easily lift the cooked salmon off and leave the skin on the parchment.  Otherwise, serve the salmon with the skin (which is very healthy and delicious).

Guten Appetit!

April 25, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Homemade Granola

 

On camping trips, our menu varied, but my mom would always pack three camping staples in the cooler: chili con carne for our first dinner at camp (who wants to cook on the first night when there’s so much set-up to do and so much excitement to be had in the great outdoors?), a 2-pound block of Tillamook cheddar cheese with Dad’s bread, and homemade granola.  Nowhere do those food taste better than on a campground.  Mom mostly only made this granola when we went camping, rarely anytime else.  I’ve been breaking my cream of wheat habit and eating this granola for breakfast these days, because the whole grains and dried fruits fill me up so I can last until lunchtime.

The recipe is originally from the Menonite cookbook “More with Less,” but my mom and I have both adapted it for our liking. And that’s the great thing about this recipe: its endless variations. I mix it up a little each time I make it, but the base always stays the same: oats, honey, oil.  It’s easily scalable, so feel free to double or triple the recipe (if you have a convection oven and multiple large cookie sheets, you can make up to three batches of this at once!).

The only tricky thing is keeping track of the cooking time. You might think that a minute here or there doesn’t count, but trust our experience here: it counts. Keep a timer, and don’t wander too far from the oven when the granola is baking. And lastly, don’t skip a stir, it’s necessary to make sure everything is coated and bakes evenly.

Now go get creative, and let me know what you come up with! And as camping season gears up, remember to pack this easy breakfast along with your sunscreen.

 

Homemade Chewy Granola
Yield: 6-7 cups (depending on added ingredients)
Time: 20 minutes, including prep and baking time

Note: I’ve broken down the ingredients by round that they get added to the baking process.  This will help for when you choose variations. The only ingredients you have to have are the oats, honey, and oil – and are marked with asterisks.  Otherwise, feel free to mix things up!  If you want a crunchier granola, use less honey (but not less than 1/2 cup)

1st Round
6 cups whole rolled oats*
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds (if seeds are already toasted, add in 2nd Round)
1/2 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or nut/seed of your choice (if nuts are already toasted, add in 2nd Round)

2nd Round
2/3 cup honey*
2/3 cup vegetable oil*

Last Round
1/2 cup dry fruit (currants, dates, raisins, apricots, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, go wild – but not too wild, I usually only put one of these in at a time)

*Required ingredients

Baking Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper (important: even if your cookie sheet is non-stick, this stuff sticks and you’ll thank me later for telling you about the parchment paper).

Mix 1st round ingredients together and bake on lined cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

Take out, add 2nd round ingredients, stir to coat evenly. Bake again for 5 minutes.

Take out, stir ingredients, and bake again for 4 minutes.

Take out, stir ingredients, add Last Round ingredients, and bake for 3 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool. Enjoy!

Suggested nut/fruit combinations: walnut & currant (pictured), pecan & date, almond & apricot, hazelnut & cherry

 

March 19, 2012

Making Hazelnut “Cotton Candy”

I stumbled across Hazelnut “Cotton Candy” by accident. It was a result of a total experiment before my friend’s wedding. And it’s a good thing it went well, because if it had gone wrong, over 150 people would have known about it.

 

I’ve been known among my friends to make chocolate truffles. I have made upwards of 300+ for a few weddings. The first times I made them they included four different kinds with tempered chocolate coatings. However, last summer for a hot Willamette Valley vineyard wedding (say that five times fast!), my friend and I decided that simple would be better. Many of her guests were coming from out of town, and she wanted to spotlight Oregon’s bounty. What better way than to have a hazelnut dessert?

 

 

We decided on making a hazelnut center with a chopped hazelnut coating. I took it a step further and candied the hazelnuts, then ground them in a food processor. I had no idea what I was doing, but when I tasted it I jumped up and down with glee (if you know me, you know I did this, and then looked around sheepishly to see if anyone in the empty house noticed). It took me a second, and then I realized it: these hazelnuts had the texture of fluffy cotton candy with a sweet nutty flavor. Perfect!

 

 

The truffles were delicious, despite the 90-degree melting heat.  Since then I’ve also used this “cotton candy” for coating a Frankfurter Kranz (see above), and I’m sure it would be delicious sprinkled on custards and topping berries. Or, you could just eat it plain with a spoon when nobody’s looking. Not that I’ve done that before…

Hazelnut “Cotton Candy”

1 cup hazelnuts, whole
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar

1. Preheat an oven to 350F and roast the hazelnuts for about ten minutes, until golden. Let cool, then rub in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins.

2. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. While the nuts are roasting, in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and sugar on medium-low heat. If you have not made caramel before, keep it on the low side of heat. The sugar will begin to melt, then parts will start to brown. Do not stir it. At some point, you will have some whole sugar grains, melted clear sugar liquid, and caramelized brown liquid. Pick the pan up and rotate it gently to make sure the brown liquid doesn’t burn, but still don’t stir it. Be zen, and let the whole thing just melt out. If it looks like it will burn, immediately take it off the heat and let it cool.  If it burns, start over.

4. When the sugar has completely melted and becomes a nice light-brown color (careful, it will go from perfect to burned in milliseconds!), add the hazelnuts. Stir quickly to coat as much of the hazelnuts as possible, then turn out onto the prepared cookie sheet. Let cool. It will be one big, ugly, almost unmanageable, and incredibly hot chunk at this point. That is okay, just be careful not to burn yourself. Do not touch it until it’s cooled for at least fifteen minutes!

5. When cool, break up the hazelnuts with your hands (carefully, the caramel can be sharp), and toss them into a food processor. Whir until you get a fine powder. It will keep for several days in an air tight container. If it becomes hard, break it up and then process it again, or use it in larger chunks (delicious for breakfast with cheerios or other unsweetened cereal). If you prefer larger chunks, just don’t process it as long.