Thursday, October 5, 2017

Summer 2017 IMK Notes



In and Out of My Kitchen...

Summer 2017 has been memorable for Seattle's record-breaking stretch of hot, dry weather; an incredible number of horrific wildfires that torched forest lands in western US and Canada; throat-irritating smoke and ash from those same fires that filled the air for weeks, transforming both sun and moon into brilliant red/orange orbs; and the fleeting thrill of a rare total solar eclipse. Life in my kitchen tended toward the unpredictable as well, but we're back on track for a calmer Autumn. 



Foodwise, we reveled in the abundance of produce. Our three sunloving Asian pear trees produced a record crop, a challenging mixed blessing since so many ripen at once. I've tried to be magnanimous and forgive the marauding raccoons and squirrels who take one big bite, just one! out of dozens of pears. This year there was more than enough fruit to share.


Summer stone fruits, melons, blueberries, and mint make my tastebuds sing. Mint is a total pest, growing like a weed in a sideyard bed, but it's so aromatic that it is worth the effort to keep it in check. Think more fruit salads, more mojitos...




 Vine-ripened tomatoes are the gold standard flavorwise, and 2017 produced a bumper crop locally. Now I wish I had put in a few plants, but the neighborhood markets kept us well supplied. Tomatoes plain, tomatoes sauced, tomatoes in soup, tomatoes in salads... yes!




Pastry hand pies were not my thing, no matter how I tried, so I moved on and worked instead with pizza dough to bake calzone and stromboli. Mushrooms, kale, mozzarella, basil, garlic and walnuts combined for the latest filling. I ate mine plain, but RL preferred his share dunked in spicy red sauce.   



After sorting through my kitchen towel drawer, reluctantly tossing some threadbare favorites, I treated myself to some replacements. The first two were plain and serviceable, my favorite color but nothing special. More remarkable is the lack of any new kitchen gadgets. Such restraint!




In and Out of My Galley...

Tea towels plus matching pot holders caught my eye at Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures, a First Nation store in Campbell River, BC. I carried these treasures south after the trip, thinking they might make attractive gifts for friends. They would, but I decided to keep them for myself and will transport them back to the boat for galley use.





During her week aboard niece Slone helped me organize galley cabinets and pantry, discarding items past their pull date or otherwise questionable. No effort required to deal with the fridge - it had stopped chilling and was empty. We went old school during the trip and used two styrofoam coolers instead. Two freezer drawers and a separate icemaker still functioned so we froze ice blocks to rotate in and out of the coolers on the back deck. It worked, though Slone made countless trips daily in and out to the coolers. Our preplanned menu shifted a bit as we focused first on fresh greens etc., using them while they were stilll crisp. 


Photo: Slone's Loaded Chicken Taco Salad
Our several restaurant outings were all about seafood. The Bouillabaise at the Pt. Roberts, WA Compass Rose Bar & Grill was bowl-licking good... so good I forgot to take photos. I wish they sold cartons of the base sauce, it was that good. Trollers Fish & Chips on the dock in Nanaimo, B.C.'s busy harbor failed to live up to its advertised "Best in town" claim. Overbreaded and overcooked fish proved disappointing. Again, no photos. Ah, but the totally terrific dinner at Campbell River, B.C.'s Riptide Marine Pub was everything we could hope for; very fresh seafood that was well-prepared, a knowledgeable and efficient waitstaff, plus an upbeat vibe. This time I remembered photos.      

Photo: My Togarashi Tuna Plate at the Riptide Marine Pub
Photo: RL's Seafood Linguini at the Riptide Marine Pub
Photo: Slone's Seafood Puttanesca Fettuccini at the Riptide Marine Pub
And then the weather changed; Fall was suddenly in the air if barely on the calendar. The rainbow below hints at good things to come. I'm ready.




Linked to a post at Sherry's Pickings highlighting the happenings in other kitchens around the world. Pop over to meet some interesting cooks, find tempting new recipes and enjoy tales of life, travel and so much more.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Chickpeas & Herbs



Niece Slone arrived at the boat weighted down with Portland Chef Joshua McFadden's amazing new cookbook, Six Seasons: a new way with vegetables. This treasure presents nearly 400 pages of interesting commentary and appealing recipes for vegetables raw and vegetables cooked; a chapter of go-to recipes for tasty sauces and accompaniments to enhance fresh vegetables; a scattering of tempting recipes that incorporate meat, sausage and/or seafood; plus an occasional dessert. All of that and photos for most dishes. 

Co-author Martha Holmberg adds considerable talent and experience to this cookbook. An award-winning food writer and editor, former publisher and editor of Fine Cooking magazine and most recently food editor of the Oregonian newspaper, her guidance is felt throughout. I would love to hear this team share the back story of creating this book.   


The six seasons title reference acknowledges the overlap and variability of our Pacific Northwest growing seasons. McFadden notes "summer is where the action is", emphasizing different vegetables for early summer, midsummer and late summer. I flipped through the Late Summer chapter, waiting to see which photo drew my tastebuds' attention. Oh my, how to choose between sweet corn, peppers, chiles, tomatoes and more?! 



Ingredient availability made the decision an easy one. I went with a modified, ship's galley version of McFadden's 'Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes, Yogurt Sauce, and Chickpeas.' Six just-picked, garden-fresh cucumbers sat on the countertop, recently shared by a dock neighbor. Local markets offered mounds of fresh, in-season tomatoes and herbs, and my pantry held za'atar. Olive oil and vinegar substituted for the yogurt sauce, changing the flavor blend and consistency somewhat. A topping of feta cheese added to our second servings restored the savory edge quite nicely. I'll use yogurt and feta next time.     

The Seattle Times included the same recipe in their review of Six Seasons; "A menu for all seasons - and then some." Obviously, a popular choice. We agree! Thank you, Slone, for the inspiration. 




Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Chickpeas & Herbs
from a Joshua McFadden recipe in Six Seasons

For the tomatoes:
4 medium tomatoes, cored & cut in fat wedges
1 rounded tsp za'atar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 rounded tsp garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

For the cucumbers:
1 or 2 cucumbers, cut in fat wedges
1 handful each of fresh basil, mint & Italian parsley leaves; rough chopped; divided
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or substitute oil & vinegar mix)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the chickpeas:
1 cup cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin (or use green onions)
2 TBS red wine vinegar (or white balsamic)
Splash of extra-virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of the mixed fresh herbs from above
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Optional: crumbled feta cheese to sprinkle on top.

Directions:

  1. Place the tomatoes in a wide, flat-bottomed bowl. Add the remaining 4 ingredients, toss to coat, and let sit at room temperature while preparing the cukes and chickpeas.
  2. In another bowl, add the cucumbers, fresh herbs, yogurt, salt and pepper. Toss gently together, taste and adjust seasoning. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the chickpeas.
  3. In a third bowl, add the chickpeas and remaining ingredients. Toss, taste, and adjust seasoning.
  4. Spread the tomatoes and their juices on a serving platter; layer the cucumbers plus any juices over the tomatoes; scatter the chickpeas and their dressing evenly over all. 
  5. Sprinkle feta, if desired, over the top and serve. OR toss and serve in individual bowls.
McFadden suggests serving with warm "Slightly Tangy Flatbreads" - sounds good to me!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Banana Zucchini Muffins




I love freckles on kids, but not so much on bananas ...unless I'm in the mood for banana bread. For eating out of hand ...or sliced on yogurt or cereal ...or cut up in a fruit salad, I absolutely require frecklefree bananas that are still firm and faintly green. Picky, picky, I know. Soft bananas with brown spots are peeled and dispatched to the freezer, waiting to join the party in a blender for a morning smoothie, or maybe turn into The Best? Banana Bread from a recipe found online at epicurious

Our recent spurt of hot weather hurried three small bananas along on a rapid ripening journey from almost-ready to oops! soft-and-spotted status. Three small bananas aren't sufficient for a full loaf of banana bread and the freezer already held an ample supply of frozen over-ripe fruit, so today I opted to make muffins, adapting the Zucchini Banana Bread recipe found at Two Peas and Their Pod. The basic recipe is quite tasty, but why stop there? You can produce amazingly different muffins, depending on which optional add-ins or flavorings you select.  

Go for it! Have fun and play around with the recipe. Sometimes those full-flavored, soft and spotted bananas are a good thing.





Banana Zucchini Muffins
adapted from a recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod
yield: 12 muffins

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups AP flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
3 small, very ripe bananas (2 mashed smooth, 1 in small chunks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup loosely-packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed dry in paper towel or tea towel

Optional Add-ins & Flavorings
Finely chopped nuts
Dried fruit (currants, sultanas)
Coconut shreds or flakes
Orange or lime zest
Powdered or freshly grated ginger

Muffin liners
Muffin pan

Directions

  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin pan with liners or grease each cup. 
  2. Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to a large bowl; stir to combine, being careful to keep the banana chunks intact.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture; fold gently with a rubber spatula until flour is incorporated. Add any optional items if using.
  5. Use a scoop or ladle to fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Place in oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
  6. Cool on a wire baking rack.

  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Balsamic Glaze with Maple and Lemon

 ...an amazing topping for salmon, chicken, roasted vegetables, fresh strawberries and more!



Balsamic vinegar is a ubiquitous kitchen staple, especially the affordable, supermarket condimento grade. But why settle for using it straight from the bottle? This recipe for a balsamic glaze adds a touch of maple and citrus, concentrating the flavors of an already complex, sweet/sour treat. While definitely not the authentic Modena or Reggio Emilia balsamic reduction, not barrel-aged for 12 to 25 years, the glaze does rate high marks for versatile deliciousness. And as a bonus, it only takes minutes to prepare. 

Recently the glaze was popular brushed on salmon fillets and drizzled atop grilled nectarine halves. Quick, easy and incredibly flavorful, this Balsamic Glaze with Maple and Lemon is a winner!  




Photo: Iron Skillet Salmon

Photo: Butter-basted Salmon Brushed with Balsamic Glaze


Maple, Balsamic and Lemon Glaze

1/4 cup lemon juice (or other citrus juice)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil


  1. Combine the first 4 ingredients (lemon juice through garlic) in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Do NOT let it foam up and boil over.
  2. Lower the heat enough to maintain a bubbling simmer and cook to reduce for roughly 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. As it cools the liquid will thicken; thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Not thick enough? give it a few more minutes on the heat.
  3. Stir in the olive oil and you're ready to go.

Notes: 

  • Grill or broil a salmon fillet or steak, brushing occasionally with the glaze as you cook. Avoid flareups! OR use as a finishing glaze immediately after you pull the fish from the grill or skillet.
  • This should hold for several weeks in the fridge, but it never lasts that long in my galley. 
  • See also the recipe and steps for my Balsamic Reduction.

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Bean Chicken Chili - a quick version




This recipe is a speedier chicken version of Chile Verde, a boat or shoreside favorite when I have time to cook from scratch. However roasting chiles and tomatillos, slowly simmering chicken pieces, soaking and cooking dried beans and grilling fresh corn doesn't work when you want dinner soon... like right now... "is dinner ready yet?" soon. This week I pulled a container of White Bean Chicken Chili out of the freezer and looked like a hero when a quick meal was in order. 

I've found that the flavors mellow and deepen when the chili is cooled and reheated, a tasty bonus when making a double batch to freeze. You might want to add additional chicken broth or maybe some green taco or enchilada sauce if the chili thickens too much after a day or two in the fridge, or decide to use the thicker chili as a terrific taco and enchilada filling. Fill some crispy, store-bought tortilla chip scoops with thick chili for an easy appetizer, or griddle some cheese and chili-filled quesadillas for lunch. Yummy! 


Photo: White Bean Chicken Chili topped with a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of green enchilada sauce.
What's your favorite chili recipe? I have too many favorites to pick just one, but this recipe certainly rates two thumbs up for Quick and Tasty.



White Bean Chicken Chili
based on a recipe at epicurious (link)

4 servings, but you will want to double the recipe for tasty leftovers, or to have some to freeze.

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon chili powder (Penzey's Chili 3000 preferred)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Poblano chiles, roasted, deseeded & chopped (or canned chiles)
6 chicken thighs, cooked & shredded (or use rotisserie chicken) 
1 cup frozen corn kernels
3 cans (15-oz) cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
2+ cups low-salt chicken broth
salt and white pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup Mexican crema (optional)

Topping suggestions:
fresh salsa:tomato/cilantro/green onion/lime
fresh cilantro
grated pepper jack or cheddar cheese
avocado chunks
sour cream
lime wedges
hot sauce (green Tabasco preferred) 
corn tortilla strips 

Directions:

  1. Use a medium pot and heat the olive oil. Cook the onion until softened. 
  2. Add the next 6 ingredients, garlic through smoked paprika, and heat until fragrant. 
  3. Toss in the chopped chiles and shredded chicken, turning to coat all with the spice mixture. Cook for a few minutes, adding more olive oil if the pot begin to dry out.
  4. Add the corn, beans, and 2 cups of chicken broth to the pot; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt and white pepper if desired.
  5. Mash some of the beans to thicken the chili somewhat. Stir in the crema, if using, and add more chicken broth if you want a soupier chili.
  6. Let the chili sit to blend the flavors, reheating gently to serve with a variety of toppings.
Notes: 
  • Like so many other soups and chilis, this chili will thicken and develop a deeper, more mellow flavor after an overnight rest in the fridge.
  • Adding a few Tablespoons of lime juice or green enchilada sauce to the pot offers a popular flavor adjustment.
  • Add more broth for a looser mix to create a delicious southwestern soup.
  • Serve the chili over cooked rice or potatoes for a heartier dish. 


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poppyseed Dressing



Today marks the official start to Summer 2017 and there's cause to celebrate; strawberries abound at our local farmers' markets and TV weathercasts predict warm, sunny days for the rest of this week. Weather forecasts aside, freshly picked berries can brighten any day with their distinctive floral aroma, and sweet/tangy bursts of flavor. No doubt about it, in-season strawberries sing "Summer!" and will brighten a variety of dishes. 


Strawberry/spinach salads rank high on my list of favorite June lunches. A recent salad bowl featured my version of Poppyseed Dressing, a trial-and-error experiment that I'll definitely make again. 


The same Poppyseed Dressing was delicious with a mixed bowl of fruit featuring strawberries (of course), plums, cantaloupe and grapes. The dressing highlighted the individual flavors of the fruits without masking or overpowering the various tastes.


More of the same sauced fruit won raves as a perfect waffle topper, along with a portion of cottage cheese. Forget the maple syrup and butter and pile your waffles with Poppyseed Dressing and fruit... really!


This dressing might not win any awards for appearance, but it does merit high marks for taste and versatility.




Poppyseed Salad Dressing

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard (Coleman's)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (Best Foods)
1/2 cup canola oil (divided)
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 teaspoons poppyseeds

Blend together (with blender or a whisk and small bowl) the honey, vinegar, dry mustard, and mayonnaise. Add half of the oil in a very thin stream while blending or whisking. Check the consistency; add the remaining oil as desired to thicken slightly. Note: this will be a very loose dressing.

Stir in the mint and poppyseeds. Taste; add salt if desired (I don't). 


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sweet Potato - Fully Loaded



Inspired by a photo in Diana Henry's cookbook Simple, one lone sweet potato hanging out in the crisper became 'Breakfast for Dinner'. Containers of caramelized mushrooms and braised kale already lurked in the fridge along with several links of chorizo sausage, making this a quick cook. The recipe called for an accompaniment of baby spinach leaves, but the earthy bite of braised kale better balanced the potato's sweetness and the mushrooms' savory umami. Topped with a soft-yolk cooked egg, each bite was an ooey-gooey, savory-sweet delight.

This deceptively simple, boldly flavored dish was nearly effortless to construct, reflective of Henry's desire to offer a book of low-effort food ideas.
"What we mostly lack are ideas. That's what I tried to give... here. You don't have to be a chef. I'm not. You just need some inspiration to help you turn the ordinary--the building blocks of meals--into something special."
Simple inspiration comes through text and photos, most of Henry's recipes offering suggestions of alternate ingredients, plating notions or food pairings. So far I have played with recipes in chapters on Toast, Pasta & Grains, and Vegetables, adapting each to suit our palate and available ingredients. 

Loaded potatoes are nothing new, but this loaded sweet potato was indeed 'something special', perfect for any time of the day, even Breakfast for Dinner.

Cooking notes (suggestions rather than a recipe)

Bake or microwave a sweet potato in your regular manner. Split lengthwise and squish slightly to open up the inside (I sliced lengthwise into halves for 2 portions). Place on serving dish.



While the sweet potato is cooking, or ahead of time:

 - Heat butter and/or olive oil in a saute pan; add mushrooms (cut into thin wedges or slices) and cook until they give up their juices; continue cooking until liquid evaporates.   

 - Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat; add 3 cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup diced onion and cook until soft. Add 1/2 bunch of destemmed lacinato kale, coarsely chopped and 1/2 cup stock or water. Toss to coat greens, then cover and cook until softened and wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and cook until liquid evaporates. Toss with a heavy splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. 

Top the cooked sweet potato with a generous amount of the mushrooms and kale.



Add cooked coins of chorizo, or your favorite spicy sausage. 



Top with an egg or two, cooked with the yolk left soft and runny. This egg was fried...


...and this egg was poached. Mmmmm, good either way.




Monday, June 5, 2017

In My Kitchen - June 2017



It's that time again! time to see what's new with kitchens and cooks all 'round the globe via the links found at Sherry's Pickings. Currently hosted by Sherry, an active food blogger in Brisbane, Australia, this monthly IMK event is not to be missed whether you link your own post or just enjoy reading the notes from other cooks.

In my kitchen...

...Spring blooms transform the view from the kitchen windows, something to appreciate when gray days linger on, so I'm reluctant to cut too many for indoor display. Instead, you'll find odd containers repurposed as vases to hold herbs and miscellaneous greenery. Rosemary roots readily, and often moves outdoors to fill empty spots in the southside flowerbeds, so I don't mind cutting it. Now I'd better get busy planting some colorful annuals along with a few veggies; with any luck the local ducks and geese will eat the slugs and not the tender plants.




...friend Charlene sent me this bragging apron, just because. BFF Char is my oldest friend, not in age but in length of friendship, and we have had decades of cooking adventures together. Some of the more memorable events may have included a lot of wine (for the cooks if not for the recipes). Swipes of flour and dough down the sides of my jeans remind me that aprons are useful, functional items only when worn. Sigh.



In my kitchen...

...I have been a lazy cook while RL traveled, existing on fresh fruit, light snacks, and an occasional lunch out. Then foodblogs and cookbooks nudged me back into action. Several IMK cooks have recommended recipes from Diana Henry, a British cookbook author previously unknown to me. The local library had her A Bird in the Hand available for checkout; I skimmed it but meh! wasn't thrilled. A newer Henry cookbook, Simple, sounded more promising, so I became number 57 on the reserve list. It was worth the long wait. I began by exploring some of Henry's meals for one - Toast Toppers. Success, and a lot of fun creating my own variations. Now I'm eager to try some of the many other Simple recipes I've marked with PostIt notes.



Recent adventures with savory asparagus hand pies spurred renewed interest in this rediscovered little cookbook, a resource for inspiration if not actual recipes. Pie crust skills still terrify elude me, but frozen premade dough removes the intimidation factor. It's strange that breadlike pizza, calzone and stromboli seem effortless, but rolled pastry anything is daunting. Hmmmm I might be missing the pastry gene.




Tanya shared some enormous lemons from her yard in Yuma, Arizona. They are super juicy with incredibly aromatic zest; special treats from a special friend. Lemon Poppyseed Cookies disappeared rapidly when I shared several dozen with a group of medical professionals. I'll credit the lemons, and the appetites at UWMC for this success.

RL returned from the boat with an empty food jar, requesting a homemade version of his newly discovered favorite food. Ja, right. I'm on batch #3 and haven't quite matched the flavor yet, but each attempt has been... well, interesting. Think Goldilocks progress: #1 was too sour,  #2 was too sweet, so it follows that #3 should be "just right". Right? Na. If only my Austrian Mom and Grandma had recorded their red cabbage recipes. 



Now that official summer is mere weeks away, it's time to seek out some fresh local rhubarb, sweet strawberries and more asparagus and get cooking. Maybe it's time to whip up that batch of Moscow Mules that didn't work out earlier.(link) What's happening in your kitchen?

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