food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Archive for November, 2010

Simple Sauerkraut Salad

There’s often a depth to simplicity that those who can truly embrace it are lucky to enjoy.  That said, this last Thanksgiving (a beautiful event I’ll devote more time to writing about later), I couldn’t help but feel a little sheepish as my additions to the feast included not one, but two, cabbage dishes.  Sitting alongside the oyster stuffing, the chestnut soup, the delectable casseroles, they looked a little plain jane.  But, I have to say, the fresh flavors of the veggies were a perfect compliment to the rich bready cheesy deliciousness of the other dishes.

This recipe comes from my friend Aldona who is also responsible for helping me turn 10 huge heads of cabbage into 5 gallons of sauerkraut.

 

So, without further ado, my contribution to the most epic dinner of my life:

 

SIMPLE SAUERKRAUT SALAD



INGREDIENTS

1 Quart Sauerkraut

1 Granny Smith apple, grated

2 medium carrots, grated

1 small sweet onion, chopped fine

2+ Tbs Olive Oil

salt and pepper, to taste

 

The HOW TO:
  1. Stir together all of your fruit and veggie ingredients.
  2. Mix in olive oil and top with salt and pepper.
  3. Give thanks and enjoy!

Carrot Apple Fennel Salad with Garam Masala Dressing

A quick post for a quick and delicious salad.  The weather in Bellingham has been frigidly cold and icy, and we hamsters have been forced to navigate the sidewalks like a bunch of geriatric penguins sans tuxedoes.  It’s pretty entertaining actually if you can just keep your extremities thawed.  I came home to the yurt yesterday afternoon to find it at 22 degrees  (blast that clock thermometer – when it’s that cold, I don’t want to know!).  And yes, for the last time, I am from Michigan – and yes, it can get quite cold there.  But 1) I haven’t lived there in 5 years  2) it was 60 degrees in Michigan yesterday and  3) that doesn’t make me a reptile!  I digress …

So salad! That’s what I went to our hoophouse to pick for dinner yesterday, only to find an entire bed of super sad looking frozen greens.  So much for season extension!  I don’t know about you, but I really like to have something green – and usually something raw – with most meals.  Definitely with dinner.  So when it became clear that the lettuce was toast, I took stock of what was happening in our fridge.  There I found a couple of bulbs of fennel we got last weekend at the farmers market from Osprey Hill Farm (my biggest Bellingham farm crush).  Then some Cloudview carrots caught my eye and the rest, as they say, is history.

CARROT APPLE FENNEL SALAD

 

INGREDIENTS:
1 Granny Smith apple, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
tops of 1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 handful of raisins
1/2C plain yogurt
1.5tsp garam masala spice mix
salt
THE HOW TO:
  1. Combine the top four ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together well.
  2. Stir the garam masala into the yogurt and pour over the veggies.
  3. Season with salt to taste.
  4. Enjoy! super easy, super fresh – Experiment with the sauce: I think curry powder or a creamy dressing with mustard or tahini would be good to counter the sweetness of the fruits and veggies.

The Great Return

People far more eloquent than I am have already put words to the beauty, the energy, the magic of the return of the salmon to their native streams this time of year.  While the timing of their life cycles differ by type, salmon share this epic end to their life’s journey: a return (most often) to the waters in which they were born and a decay of their own bodies as they push upstream to lay their own eggs.  It’s an incredible sight to see even without that context, but, to someone who’s pondering a return to her own homeland, this year’s salmon run was especially captivating.   Neil and I spent a few hours on Sunday watching the Chum make their return, Neil churning out fascinating salmon facts all the while [he works for a non-profit that focuses on restoring salmon habitat and improving water ecology – Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group (SFEG)].

As I watched the salmon, I did my best to see them just as they were in that moment in Padden Creek, doing my best to ignore the thousands of ways salmon have been woven into the fabric of human culture.  They have been – and are –  both exploited and revered.  Economic commodities, an icon of the environmental movement in our area, an indigenous staple, and a candidate for genetic engineering: an ambiguous collection of values salmon have been chosen to represent.  For my part, I feel so blessed to live in an area where I can visit these incredible animals and observe their story firsthand.  The story itself seems to me to be of a great value;  before we reduce salmon to filets, price points, science experiments or even extinction, I hope we can reverse our current trend of exploitation in time to keep it alive.  For now, I’m looking forward to more Fall afternoons with the fish.

:: I’m having some trouble loading a video I took on Sunday that shows actual living fish making their way upstream – I’ll keep trying; it’s a pretty neat video!  ::

** Credit goes to Neil for the photos, including this one:


Pumpkin Granola

Iron Chef: Pumpkin continued!  The mini squash we managed to grow in our garden this year, while they seem frustratingly small at times, have proved to be just the right size for a batch or two of baked goods.  The second half of the sugar pie pumpkin we used for the pumpkin scones went towards some delicious pumpkin granola this morning.  A self-professed granola addict, I can’t believe I haven’t introduced pumpkin into the mix before now.  A great addition!

PUMPKIN GRANOLA


 

INGREDIENTS

3.5 C rolled oats
1/2tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp each, ground ginger and cloves
1/2C+  pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C   maple syrup
1/2 C toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1/2C  raisins
THE HOW TO:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and spread a piece of parchment paper on your baking sheet.
  2. If using hazelnuts or any nut or seed, spread them onto another baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes while preparing the granola – once toasted, chop into whatever size you like.
  3. Mix together the oats, salt, and spices in a large bowl.
  4. Stir together the pumpkin puree, vanilla and maple syrup in a small bowl.  Add these wet ingredients into your oat mixture and incorporate well – the oats should be well coated and slightly moist.  If you like some clumps in your granola, squeeze the oats together in whatever sized pieces you prefer.  This recipe doesn’t make a super-sweet granola, so if that’s what you’d prefer, mix in some extra maple syrup or brown sugar.
  5. Spread granola onto the parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, stir the granola up to cook it evenly through.  Bake for an extra 10 – 20 minutes, taking it out when it starts to turn a nice light brown.
  6. Stir in raisins and hazelnuts.
  7. Enjoy with milk or yogurt, or by the handful.

Pumpkin Scones

What to do when it’s snOMG-ing outside*?   When the temperature in your yurt has dipped down to 35 degrees (Fahrenheit) and Winter looks like it’s here a month early?  Well, if you’re me, you commit yourself to a weekend of Iron Chef: Pumpkin and start with the crumbly but moist, the sweet but not too sweet, the spicy and ridiculously delicious Pumpkin Scone.  Neil and I picked one up from The Calico Cupboard in Mount Vernon recently, and I vowed that 1) this is the best sweet treat ever  and 2) we’ve gotta make these ourselves.

PUMPKIN SCONES

(a slightly adapted recipe from The Brown-Eyed Baker blog)

INGREDIENTS  (makes 12 scones)

Scones:
2C whole wheat pastry flour
7Tbs cane sugar
1Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 Tbs butter, chilled
1/2C cooked pumpkin, mashed
1 egg
3 Tbs milk
Spiced Glaze:
1C Powdered Sugar
2Tbs Milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
quick dash each of ginger and cloves

The How To:
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, spices, salt) in a large bowl.  Using either a food processor or a fork, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it’s well incorporated and crumbly.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the milk and pumpkin puree.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together well.  This creates a pretty sticky dough.
  4. To form your scones, try this (the Brown-Eyed Baker explains it better than I ever could):  “Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle about 3 times as long as wide. Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut each of the portions in an X pattern (four pieces) so you end up with 12 triangular slices of dough.”
  5. Place your dough triangles on the parchment paper and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until just starting to brown.
  6. While the scones bake, prepare the spiced glaze by combining all glaze ingredients in a bowl and stirring well.  (I think a maple syrup glaze would be just as, if not more, delicious with this recipe).
  7. Drizzle glaze onto the scones once they’ve cooled a bit (if you can wait that long).
  8. Enjoy in front of a warm fire.

 

* snOMG is credited to my friend Erica, who last winter withstood a snowstorm (a snow-pocalypse, if you will) in DC that makes Bellingham’s recent snowfall look like child’s play.  Though only a meager 4 inches or so, this snow has got me excited about winter and the end of the year holidays (that’s when I’m not looking at the frozen droopy kale in the garden).   Highlight of the day: watching the sudden overnight appearance of snow blow our chickens’ minds as they came running out of the coop today.  It blew my mind too!


Quinoa Casserole

Tis the season for casseroles, folks.  And there’s no one better than a Midwesterner to tell you so.  Broccoli, tater tots, containers of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, and, of course, french-fried onions  – everything is pretty much fair game in the casserole world.  Memories of Grandma Lavern’s hot dog and egg noodle casserole still warm my heart, even though my hotdog days are thankfully long behind me.  Hotdogs or no, casseroles are the quintessential comfort food.  Cheesy, starchy, fresh out of the oven – delicious!

Really, a casserole (or hot dish, as some like to call it) is just a word for something baked in a casserole dish.  So it’s like calling something a “crock pot meal,” pretty open for interpretation.  And just like whatever you put in your crock or your soup pot, there’s a wide range of ingredients (and ingredient quality, nutritional value, etc) you can use – that’s up to you.

This is the dish to make when you’re craving the comfort of a casserole, but don’t seem to have any tater tots on hand.   I’ve used the following recipe (or some derivation) for quite some time now.  It’s perfect for when I’ve made extra quinoa (sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident).  Quinoa is relatively new on the scene and is touted by some as being a “super food.”  I think a lot of foods are pretty super, but quinoa does have protein in amounts impressive to a vegetarian like me.  It cooks quickly (comparable to white rice) and has a texture and flavor that lend itself to a lot of different dishes.  For those of you who aren’t sold on quinoa, give this recipe a try.  Let me know what you think.

QUINOA CASSEROLE

 

 

INGREDIENTS

4 Cups cooked quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked)
1 bunch greens
other veggies*
Olive Oil (2Tbs or so)
1 medium onion, chopped
3+ cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 3/4 C cheese, grated (Gruyere and Feta have both been delicious)
2 eggs
salt and pepper
Herbs (sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
* There’s a lot of room to experiment in this recipe.  I like to make the dish more about the veggies: I’ve added sweet peppers and zucchini (one each)  in the summertime, tons of extra kale in the spring.  The creaminess of  winter squash or sweet potato would compliment the cheesiness I think.  The eggs and cheese act as binders in this recipe, so you can always add more of either of those if you feel like you’re getting veggie-heavy – particularly if you’d like a casserole you can slice up instead of scoop out.
** This time around I used 3 eggs from our chickies, all kinds of greens (and the pinks, yellows and reds of chard), broccoli, a sprig each of rosemary.thyme.oregano, and a Jalapeño Queso Fresco from Samish Bay Cheese in Bow, Washington.

THE HOW TO
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish, I mean … casserole.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent.  Add other veggies and saute until close to soft, definitely not mushy.  They’ll finish baking in the oven.  Saute greens too; if they lose a lot of liquid, drain most of it off. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, adding a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Stir in the quinoa, cheese (reserve a little cheese for the topping if you like), the veggie mixture and the herbs.   I go pretty heavy on the herbs (a few tablespoons, depending on what I’m using) – fresh herbs are so tasty!  Sometimes I’ll add crushed red pepper here too.
  4. Scrape the mixture into your oiled baking dish.  Add some of your reserved cheese or some parmesan for a topping if you want; it’s perfectly delicious without.  A little drizzling of olive oil over the top will give it just a little crispiness too.
  5. Put on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes,  until the cheese has browned just a bit.
  6. Ignore the rumors of impending snow flurries and warm yourself from the inside out – enjoy!


East Meets West: Chana Masala

 

 

 

I know, I know – At first glance, this is not a shining example of regional seasonal fare.  The sky was clearing this evening, hinting at a cold night and my mind went straight to one of my favorite Indian meals, a spicy chana masala (tomato-y garbanzo bean curry type dish).  Look deep into the exotic spicy goodness though, and you’ll see onions and garlic from our garden, last year’s canned tomatoes, and 2 other exciting highlights, both of which I bought from Alvarez Farm at the Ballard Farmer’s Market last weekend in Seattle:

1. A ghost pepper (insert oohs and aahs here): What is a ghost pepper, you ask?  I asked the same thing, and quickly knew by the smile in the vendor’s eyes that I was in for a treat.  The ghost pepper, or Naga Jolokia (AKA the California Death Pepper), is rumored to be the hottest pepper in the world.  Hundreds of times hotter than your standard Tobasco sauce, it puts the Habañero to shame!

 

 

I brought my bright red ghost pepper home, timidly cut off a slice and tossed it in my mouth and waited for all hell to break loose.  And waited… and waited… It was sweet, with just the tiniest bit of spice – and I was being a coward.  This first slice was from the very tip of the pepper, no chance of making contact with seeds.  The second slice: holy toledo!  The ghost pepper has its newest fan.  I’ve been using it in moderation, a few quarter sized pieces in a pot of lentils, a pinch of seeds here, a pinch of seeds there.  Spicy, but certainly not lethal.

Back to the Ballard Market and my second find:

2. local garbanzo beans! I get so excited about the prospect of locally grown beans and grains.  Particularly when they taste this good – did I mention Alvarez grows peanuts too?  An incredible farm on the East side of Washington, support them any chance you get!

 

Ok, onto the recipe which does, admittedly, use a lot of spices you may not have readily available.  There’s a small Indian market (that also carries a wide range of VHS tapes) in the U-District in Seattle where Neil and I stock up.  If you cook Indian food frequently, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment; if not, maybe just get a couple staples: cumin seeds and curry powder, for example.  There’s a lot of room for experimentation in this recipe, and the flavor only improves as the spices meld.

 

Chana Masala

(another adaptation from The Smitten Kitchen)

 

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 hungry people)

1 Tbs Coconut Oil or Butter

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 hot pepper (1/4 ghost pepper), minced

2-3 Cups tomato puree or stewed tomatoes

2 Cups (precooked) garbanzo beans

Spice Mixture

1 tsp ground coriander

4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garam masala

salt

lemon juice

The How To:
Heat oil or butter in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion and hot pepper and sauté until the onions begin to brown.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the spice mixture.  Cook for a couple of minutes; this intensifies the taste of the spices and lets the onions and garlic really absorb the flavor.  Add the tomatoes and garbanzo beans and simmer for at least 10-15 minutes.  Add salt, lemon juice and any other spices to taste (my canned tomatoes were acidic enough that I didn’t need too much lemon juice, but I cooked them longer to make them taste more stewy/smoky and less fresh).  The flavors of this dish deepen and improve the longer it simmers – that said, from start to finish, this took about 40 minutes to make.