Sunday, March 27, 2016

Egg Salad Sandwiches with Bittercress and Rosemary Blossoms

Well, it's been quite the year. Lots of changes, including leaving my beloved New Mexico, the place where my husband grew up and that was my chosen home for fourteen years, to return to Seattle, the place where I was born and where all my mom's family lives.

As the magnificent changes of spring unfold in the Pacific Northwest, I'm still in the midst of my own big transition, but I feel like we've landed in the right place. On this beautiful Easter morning, I am grateful for all the familiar joys of family and places I grew up loving, as well as the fun of exploring new places and new things to do.

We found a great little house with a great little yard, and I'm so excited about all the things I can grow here in Seattle's long, cool spring. Rhubarb, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, maybe even watercress! And I'm discovering new weeds, too... like bittercress, also known as shotweed. It's an annual weed with funny-shaped leaves that all grow out from a central point near the ground, little white flowers, and long skinny seed pods that shoot seeds out everywhere when they dry and pop open. It's everywhere now, and it's delicious! It tastes just like watercress, not bitter at all.

One of the most delightful things about our new garden is that it has the most gigantic rosemary bush, taller than me and in full bloom since December! And there is a hummingbird that seems to live in it, or at least spend most of its time there, feeding from the rosemary blossoms. They are such gorgeous, tiny, edible flowers, with a delicate flavor of rosemary.

It just occurred to me recently that I might like egg salad sandwiches, because they are basically like deviled eggs in sandwich form! So here's a simple recipe for egg salad sandwiches that are a great way to use up all those Easter eggs and the perfect vehicle for bittercress and rosemary blossoms.

4 eggs
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 tsp. mustard (any kind will do)
A big handful of bittercress
A small handful of rosemary blossoms
4 slices of bread

Mash up the eggs, mayo, and mustard with a fork. Taste and adjust the amount of mustard to your liking. Pick the little tender fronds off the bittercress, wash them well, and dry them in a salad spinner. Pile the egg salad on top of the bread and top with lots of bittercress and rosemary blossoms.  Serve as open-face sandwiches or put the two halves together, whatever suits you in the moment.

Serves 2.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blackened Cabbage with Kombu Brown Butter

When I saw this recipe in last month's Bon Appetit, I knew I had to make it. Isn't it beautiful, the purple cabbage with the purple chive flowers? It came at a perfect time, too, just as I was preparing to give a whole talk on cabbage at the Naked Food Fair! Yeah, I know, I'm a vegetable nerd.

I'm a big believer in getting a little char on all the cabbage-family vegetables - it brings out their incredible sweet, nutty, umami flavors. This recipe takes it to the extreme, and it really is fantastic. The basic idea is you throw a half a cabbage in the pan and let it cook undisturbed so that it gets almost burned, while basting it with butter.

As I was researching for the cabbage talk, I discovered some amazing things about cabbage-family vegetables (actually, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, and kohlrabi are all botanically the same exact species - Brassica oleracea - just bred for different leaves, flowers, and stems.)
  1. They are well known to help reduce cholesterol - the fiber in cabbage can bind up bile acids, which are synthesized from cholesterol in the body, allowing them to be excreted and thus lowering overall cholesterol. Steaming actually makes the fiber better able to do this. 
  2. Some of the phytochemicals in cabbage-family vegetables are actually being seriously studied for its cancer-prevention properties. A compound called 3,3-diindolylmethane may help mitigate damage caused by radiation treatment. Compounds called glucosinolates are converted to isothiocyanates in your body, with the help of myrosinase enzymes. Raw cabbage has the maximum amount of these compounds, but steaming is not too bad. Cutting the cabbage and letting it sit a few minutes allows the myrosinase enzymes to begin their work.
  3. They have tons of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds too. Anthocyanin in red cabbage is a great example. And a substance called kaempferol in broccoli and kale may lessen the impact of allergens.
So, this recipe is actually kind of the best of both worlds - you get the deep browning that develops great flavor, but the rest of the cabbage just basically steams. 

1 small to medium cabbage
1 Tbs oil
4 Tbs butter
1 strip kombu (kelp) - this is really optional
Chives or other fresh herbs for garnish, finely chopped

Cut the cabbage in half through the core. Save one half for something else, or if you're really skilled, double the rest of the ingredients, get another pan, and do two at once.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high. Set the cabbage in the pan, cut side down, and cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Don't worry if it looks burned!

Add the butter and baste for 10 minutes (pour spoonfuls of it over top of the cabbage to help cook the top). Don't worry if the butter looks really really brown. Check to see if it is done by poking a skewer or a knife all the way through - if it goes in easily, it's done. If not, keep basting for another few minutes. Crumble the kombu and baste a few times more. Cut in half and serve on two plates, drizzled with some of the brown butter and sprinkled with chives.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Black Radish and Frisee Salad with Oranges

Early in the market season, and sometimes at the winter markets, you may find the striking black radish! Its skin is rough and its flavor is pungent - no delicate vegetable, this. It's not for eating out of hand or with buttered bread, like other radishes. It needs a more robust preparation, either roasted to mellow it, or paired with other strong flavors, as it is in this delightful salad.

1 T. honey
2 T. good white wine vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
1 large black radish (about 3 inches diameter) or a few smaller ones
2 oranges (blood oranges are especially pretty)
1 T. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped roasted almonds or pistachios (optional)

In a medium bowl whisk together the honey and vinegar. Scrub the radish really well and remove the top and tail. Grate it into the vinaigrette and let it marinate about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the frisee, tear it up into bite size pieces, and spin it dry. Cut a slice from the top and bottom of the orange so that it stands up nicely on the cutting board. Cut downward to remove the skin and pith, following the curve of the orange. Then slice the orange crosswise to make pretty medallions.

Add the frisee and olive to the bowl and toss with the radish mixture. Season with salt and pepper and top with orange slices and chopped nuts.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Orange, Radish and Jerusalem Artichoke Salad

I'd been wondering what to do with some Jerusalem artichokes I bought - they are kind of like jicama, but nutty tasting. They are the root of a type of sunflower! So I came up with this salad, inspired by (once again) Ghillie Basan's Modern Moroccan, a gorgeous cookbook with lots of pictures and surprising flavors.

4 oranges
3-4 Jerusalem artichokes (or perhaps sliced artichoke hearts)
2 radishes (or not)
1 T capers (or Kalamata olives)
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

Slice the peel off the oranges, cut in half lengthwise, then cut in thin slices crosswise. The Jerusalem artichokes can be peeled, or just washed thoroughly, then cut in thin slices, or perhaps matchsticks. Slice the radishes thinly. At this point the salad needs a bit more sour and salty, so I added lemon juice and capers. I think Kalamata olives might be even better though. Toss with olive oil and salt to taste, then sprinkle with paprika. Many people think of paprika as just for decoration, but I love its nutty flavor, so I use lots!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Romanesco and Chorizo Scramble

Romanesco has got to be the most gorgeous vegetable in the world. I always struggle to find a way to prepare it that honors its delicate beauty. One morning, Dave came up with this perfect pairing - romanesco sauteed with Spanish chorizo and softly scrambled eggs. It was heavenly for breakfast, and would make a delightful light lunch or breakfast-for-dinner.

Spanish chorizo is made with smoked paprika, then stuffed in casings and slowly dried, so it is hard and its flavor is intensely savory. I was so excited to find some at La Montanita Co-op recently! (It's very different from Mexican chorizo, which is sometimes made with beef, and is usually sold fresh as bulk sausage, not stuffed in casings.)

2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 head romanesco broccoli
2 oz Spanish chorizo
4 eggs

Break romanesco into small florets. Chop chorizo into small bits. Heat olive oil over medium flame. Add romanesco and chorizo, toss to coat with oil, and cover. Cook until the romanesco is just tender. Whisk eggs in a small bowl, and add to the pan. Cook, stirring gently until eggs are just set. Serve hot, with toast or grilled bread.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cheddar and Date Biscuits

Ok, so I may have gone a little crazy... I ordered a whole Benton's Country Ham after watching David Chang and Sean Brock rave about it on Mind of a Chef (my current TV obsession). These biscuits are a delightful blend of savory and sweet, the perfect vehicle for a paper-thin slice of country ham. And no refined sugar, just dates!

2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 425F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or a fork, or two knives. Or use my new favorite technique - just squish it lightly with your fingers, a sort of sifting motion. The goal is to have the mixture resemble coarse cornmeal mixed with plenty of bigger flour-coated bits of shortening. For me, this has always been the most frustrating part of biscuits and pie crust, and the reason I don't usually bother making my own pie crust. Another great way to accomplish this step is to grate frozen butter into the flour mixture and then just stir it in with a fork.

Add the milk, cheese, and dates, and stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Drop handfuls onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Serve with country ham, or eggs, or just slather with butter and enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garden Obsession - May 17

I'm so excited about gardening again! It's been a couple of years since my garden really did well - I got so busy with work that I neglected all kinds of things like adding enough compost, weeding, pest control, etc. But this year I got a full load of compost from Soilutions and started early in March with broccoli and cauliflower starts, arugula, radishes, fava beans, and fennel.

Here is the harvest on April 30: radishes, red-veined sorrel, arugula, garlic scapes, parsley, and purple sprouting broccoli.

And a lot has happened since then!

The Good:

Cauliflowers are doing well, not bolting yet.

 Beautiful radishes!

Escarole! My first try growing this - it's definitely a cool season crop.

Fava beans started flowering around April 30, and now have tiny pods. Hopefully we'll be able to harvest some before the end of this month, when it gets too hot.

Irises, parsley, and red-veined sorrel.

Chervil! A classic French herb with a subtle anise flavor like tarragon. I've been adding it to scrambled eggs.

Both rose bushes are doing great!

Mustard greens are doing well, radishes and gladiolus are coming up along the front of the porch.

Tiny fennel! Coming right along.

The artichoke came back after the winter. It seems to be doing ok in this shady spot, and maybe we will actually get a couple of artichokes!

I planted mint and sorrel in the same bed, because I've heard they like the shade. We'll see. This is always one of the most challenging areas - right under a mulberry tree.

We've harvested about four good-sized heads of broccoli. This photo was from earlier, when they were smaller.

I planted eight tomato plants... Sungold, San Marzano, Principe Borghese, Kellogg's Breakfast, Brandywine, and three Black Krims! I love these cages I made from re-mesh (it's for embedding in concrete slabs). Most of them I bought at Hand to Mouth Foods at the Los Ranchos growers' market - they have THE most amazing selection of varieties I've ever seen.


And this ground cherry! I've never tried it before, but I ran into this fabulous woman I met at the Edible Santa Fe food writing workshop, and she convinced me I had to have it.

The pomegranate tree is in full bloom - this is the most flowers it's ever had! Should be a great crop.

The Green Gage plum has tons of baby fruit, so it should be a fantastic crop this year!

And the gooseberry has fruit, not ripe yet, but looking good! It is thriving in the shade of the mulberry tree, with just a little sun at the end of the day.

The Bad:

Stink bug invasion!!! These little guys are sucking the juices of my hollyhocks, which normally never have pest problems, causing the flower heads to droop pathetically. When we saw Eli from Chispas Farms at the growers' market this morning, he suggested we set the chickens loose on them. I was worried they would eat the plants too, but just as Eli predicted, they were far more interested in the bugs! They ate a ton of them, which is why there's only one in this picture. There were dozens congregated on each plant this morning.

Aphids, and cabbage loopers have been at work on the cauliflower, but I think that's an easy fix. Spray them hard with the hose to get the aphids off - they can't crawl back up. And then maybe a little Bacillus thuringensis for the caterpillars.

The other thing that's got me worried is the plague of grasshoppers I've been seeing all over town. But I haven't noticed them doing much damage in the garden yet.

The Weird:

Awww. Like a mama radish snuggling a baby radish!