Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Early Summer Menu (week of June 20)

Sunday: Baked Eggs over Croutons; green salad
Monday: grilled veggie sausages & grilled green garlic; strawberry-rhubarb crumble
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: roasted chicken; baked sweet potatoes; braised kale
Thursday: stir-fried pork, broccoli, and green garlic; brown rice
Friday: skillet-seared tofu; oven-roasted asparagus (topped with miso sauce from tofu); brown rice
Saturday: out

Friday, June 25, 2010

strawberry extravaganza

As I so often do, I ended up going a little overboard with the canning this weekend. This month's can jam is everything berries, and I'm thinking I should pick just one of the following recipes for my entry... it's so hard to decide, though! They all turned out wonderfully, but I think that the "oven-roasted strawberry jam with rosemary" is my favorite.

Two weeks ago, we went to our usual Sunday market, sampled strawberries from all the organic vendors, and found only one place with truly flavorful ones. (It's been so wet here that the berries are a little watery, I think.) Typically, they were also the most expensive strawberries at the market. I asked if they had any seconds, and it turns out that they bring all their seconds to the Saturday market and sell them by the bucket. With no idea what size that bucket was, we tentatively decided to go to the Saturday market the following weekend.

Here is what we ended up with on Saturday:

It wasn't labeled (other than with price - it was $20), and I neglected to weigh it or otherwise figure out precisely how much was in that big bucket. It took us about 3 hours to hull and quarter all the berries, enough to make 20 half-pint jars of jam, plus however many berries we ended up eating as we worked.

We spontaneously decided to break in our new pasta maker, so partway through the hulling process, Aaron came over and he and Victor made linguine:
(why didn't we cover the chairs? no idea)

Meanwhile, I divided the strawberries for different recipes and let them macerate. We ended up with:
For all but the oven-roasted jam, I used some Pomona's Pectin to thicken the liquid slightly. It still has a "European-style" lightly-gelled set, but I didn't need to fuss with it as much to get there. Because I hadn't originally intended to use the pectin, I ended up mixing the pectin power with just a few tablespoons of sugar and blending that in for the last few minutes of boiling. In a few cases that led to some clumping, so I think that in the future I'll try harder to remember to add it when I add the bulk of the sugar (prior to letting the strawberries macerate).

Lazy Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam
adapted from Saving the Season

My adaptations mostly had to do with forgetting to keep the rhubarb and strawberries separated during the maceration (hence the "lazy" in the recipe title).

  • 1 lb rhubarb, sliced
  • 1.5 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered lenthwise
  • 2 C sugar (if using Pomona's Pectin, mix with 2 tsp pectin powder)
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • optional: 2 Tbsp Kirschwasser
  • optional: 2 tsp calcium water (only if you're using Pomona's Pectin - if you are, this comes with the pectin powder)
Toss prepared rhubarb and strawberries with sugar, zest, and juice. Allow to macerate at least an hour (mine sat for maybe 5 hours - overnight would be fine, too).

In a large sauce pan, cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. If you want a little fruity kick, add the Kirschwasser, too. (If you're using Pomona's Pectin, add the calcium water early in the cooking process.) During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, stir with a whisk to break up the fruit into a sauce, if desired.

Ladle into hot prepared jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
yield: 5 8-oz jars

Oven-Roasted Strawberry Jam with Rosemary
adapted from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving

  • 8 C strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise
  • 4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 4 sprigs clean fresh rosemary
Combine berries and sugar and allow to macerate, two hours (up to a day or so). Stir to mix in the sugar occasionally.

In a large saucepan, add lemon juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat a simmer, and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Pour into two 13" x 9" pans, add two sprigs rosemary to each pan, and bake in a warm oven for 10-12 hours. (The directions say to use a 150F oven - the lowest my oven will do is 170F, so that's what I used. It worked fine. If using a convection oven, apparently the process only takes 2-4 hours.) Stir occasionally. Keep baking until the mixture has thickened and will form a gel.

Ladle into hot jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
yield: 4 8-oz jars

Thursday, June 17, 2010

perfect kale

Wednesday: roasted chicken; sweet potato spears; "braised" kale

The Zuni Cafe roast chicken recipe is pretty much the only one I use. Once in a while I'll dally with another technique for roasting the bird, but I always come back to this. It is especially good if you have time to let the chicken rest for three days before cooking, though two or even one day of rest will still give you a delicious dinner.

I don't bother with the herbs - I don't think their flavor gets into any of the meat that's not in direct contact with them. I also have decided that the pan drippings are put to better use in a gravy than in the bread salad she suggests (I say this even after having had the chicken/bread salad at Zuni in SF... it's good, but not worth giving up gravy for). I usually add some stock to the pan after I take the chicken out, but this time I made the gravy with some white wine we had in the fridge - definitely a tasty addition.

Last night we also roasted some sweet potatoes while the chicken cooked - they were tossed with olive oil/salt/pepper. I think I ended up having them in the oven for about half the chicken's cooking time. I'd also planned to make Michael Ruhlman's braised kale, but as I started cooking I realised two things: I didn't have most of the ingredients, and my 475F oven was likely too hot. What I came up with was probably the best kale I've ever eaten, though, so it all worked out in the end.

Kale with Guanciale
inspired by Michael Ruhlman's braised kale

  • hunk of guanciale, diced
  • two large bunches kale, cleaned and cut into strips (don't dry it - you want the residual water clinging to the leaves)
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • glug or two sherry vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
In a large pan over medium-low heat, cook the guanciale until the fat is mostly rendered and the meat is beginning to crisp. Add the kale and turn the heat up to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until it has started to wilt. Add a pinch or two of salt, a grind or two of pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 15-30 minutes (honestly, I have no idea how long it was cooking for... until it looked done, I guess). When it's mostly cooked, add the honey and sherry. Cook off the liquid, taste, and add more salt or pepper as needed.
makes 3-4 servings

Sunday, June 13, 2010

quick & easy Vietnamese chicken

I went on a trip to the recently-relocated Elliot Bay bookstore a few weeks ago. I'm resisting buying more fiction, which I can get from the library, and instead focusing on things I'll reference again and again (like cookbooks!). The "bargain" section there was very well stocked, and I ended up buying three new books.

Quick & Easy Vietnamese
is a book I've been meaning to get for a while, and so far it's been great. The first recipe I made from there - Lemongrass Chicken - was perfect & easy. The second - Chicken Stir-fried with Fresh Ginger - I loved but Victor pretty much hated. He felt like it had a "mentholated" flavor somehow; I think it must have been ginger overload. I'm looking forward to cooking more with it, since Vietnamese is mostly what we get when we go out to eat, and this book truly does make it simple. Yay!

Late Spring (week of June 6)

Sunday: Ricotta Omelet (Vegetarian Suppers); steamed asparagus spears
Monday: Chicken & Ginger Stir-fry; garlicky chard
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: out
Thursday: left-overs
Friday: out
Saturday: picnic in the park

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spring II (week of May 30)

Sunday: spicy asparagus soup; sweet potato, asparagus, and parmesan bread pudding; cherry crumble
Monday: hot dogs; peanut-radish slaw; baked Pope's beans; sliced pickled shallots
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: Memorial Day leftovers; quinoa pudding
Thursday: more leftovers
Friday: lemongrass chicken; jasmine rice
Saturday: mashed potatoes and turnips with sauteed onions and greens (Vegetarian Suppers); improvised spicy asparagus risotto (using leftovers from Sunday)

Friday, June 4, 2010

pickles: an exercise in delayed gratification

Although I just missed the deadline for the asparagus portion of May's Can Jam, I did actually pickle a few jars. Of course, since they're still pickling, I have no idea how they taste. They sure do look pretty, though. (If the sun comes out in western WA again, I will take some photos.)

"Herbed Asparagus Pickles," adapted from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: the only changes I made were that I used 12 oz jars, so the recipe only made 3 jars' worth of pickles and that I substituted baby Walla Walla onions for the shallots called for in the recipe.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

post boot-camp breakfast

I recently signed up for a "boot camp"-style fitness class at the local Y. It meets very early in the morning, so I don't eat much of anything beforehand (I just have a glass of milk). I'm hungry when I get back, but (so far at least) I mostly just want to fall down somewhere and not move for a while. This is a simple little meal that I can just sit down and eat: whole-wheat couscous cooked in orange juice (heat juice in microwave for about 2 minutes, add couscous, and let sit for 5 minutes). I add some dried cranberries and walnuts and top it off with some drained yogurt (which is similar to store-bought Greek yogurt, I think). With a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, it's quick, tasty, and nourishing.