Monday, October 26, 2009

Fesenjan, rice, and greens

Rice: Combine 1 cup dried brown rice with 1.5 cup water and a small handful salt. Bring to a boil covered, and simmer on low 20-25 minutes; then steam at least another 20 minutes. Rice will hold its heat for a long time if left covered, and just get better as it does.

Fesenjan: In a large pot, sauté two large red onions, coarsely chopped, in a mix of walnut and olive oil, with a bit of salt. Then add a lot of garlic, minced, a lot of dried cinnamon, and some turmeric, nutmeg, and ground pepper. Reduce heat to low. Process 1 lb walnuts in a food processor until coarsely ground (or in the kitchenaid with the paddle attachment; some will pulverize, but you'll still have some medium-sized pieces), and add to the onions. Then stir in 1/2 cup pomegranate syrup. Cover, and let cook on low at least 30 minutes.

Greens: Sauté lots of garlic in olive oil. Then add one head each red russian kale and turnip greens, washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped, with plenty of water clinging to the leaves from the washing. Cover and let steam five or ten minutes. When the greens have reduced in volume, remove the cover, and mix in golden raisins, salt, a pinch of sugar, and a little cinnamon. Cook on high until most of the water has cooked off, and serve immediately. The greens determine the timing of the meal; the other dishes can sit on the stove for an extra ten or fifteen minutes no problem.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bouillabaisse and rouille

I have yet to find Pernod, a primary ingredient in bouillabaisse, and I refuse to take as many steps as are called for in Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook. Nevertheless, this was a wonderful soup.

I always save my scraps for souping, including shellfish shells. I don't know if they have much flavor — crabs and lobsters have tons of flavor in the shells, though — but I figure, why not? This time, though, our biggest pot couldn't fit all the shells and tops of leeks, celery, and fennel, so we had to do it in the canner.

Oh, and the fish heads. Turns out that Berkeley Bowl sells "chowder fish" (heads and fins) for $1/lb: look on the top shelf of the freezer across from the fish counter. Especially as it gets colder and we start souping more, I'm going to be frequenting that freezer.

In any case, barely cover the stock ingredients with water, add dried bay leaf, fennel seed, celery seed, aniseed, and peppercorn, and simmer at least an hour. If I had thought of it, I would have thrown in some seaweed too.

Then make the rouille: homemade garlic mayonnaise with saffron. I had a lot more trouble with it than I normally have, I think because Joy called for much more water than I normally add to my aiolis. (She thickens the rouille with breadcrumbs. I guess rouille should also have roasted eggplant, but we didn't have any, and didn't want to overpower the soup anyway.) What should work is the following. Pound in the mortar and pestle many cloves garlic and as much saffron and as you can afford, with a little salt to help the garlic pastify. Mix with 1/2 tsp boiling water or broth, and let steep half an hour. Then whisk in 1 egg yolk and between 1/2 cup and 1 cup olive oil, and adjust the salt. Refrigerate a few hours until ready to serve, and plan on whisking again right before setting out.

When it's close to dinner time, chop onions, leeks, fennel, and celery into a mirepoix, and sauté with salt and olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Cover and cook until onions are translucent, and then add garlic and mushrooms. Sauté a bit more, until the garlic overcomes the onions. Set a strainer over everything, and ladle in stock, straining out the previously frozen bits. (You may have leftover stock: after dinner when it has had time to cool, strain it well and then ladle into wide-mouth pint mason jars (one of the only freezer-safe kinds), label, and freeze.) A splash of white wine, a splash of Pernod, a splash of anise extract (all different sized splashes), etc.

When the soup has come to a boil, add 1/2 pound snapper or other rockfish, cut into 1/2-inch strips, and add 1 lb mixed clams and mussels. Boil ten more minutes while you set the table and open a very chilled bottle of dry white wine.

Remove soup from heat, and salt to taste. Let cool five or ten minutes and cut up a loaf of french bread.

Serve bowls of soup with a slice of bread, covered in rouille, floating in each. Set out more bread and rouille at the table.

Stuffed delicata squash

Wash, halve, and scoop the seeds from delicata squash (allow one squash per person). Bake face-down in a glass pan 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: 1/4 lb mushrooms, diced; 1/4 lb ricotta cheese; 1/2 cup grated parmesan; lots of garlic, minced; 1 bunch basil, coarsely chopped; 1 pt canned diced tomatoes, drained; salt to taste; finally, add 1 egg. When the squash has started to turn that wonderful roasted-squash color, turn them face up, salt the insides of the squash. Fill squash with the filling, and sprinkle more parmesan on top. Bake another 15-20 minutes, then brown 5 minutes under the broiler. Delicata is a wonderful squash for stuffing, because it's a winter squash, but you can eat the skins.

Penne with broccoli and clams

If you're clever, you can do the entire dish in one large pot, with a strainer set in the top. Toss with lots of garlic, olive oil, and butter, and serve with grated cheese and a dry white wine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pan-fried snapper and pasta with tomato sauce in Ashland

Last week we drove to Oregon for my mom's birthday. On the way up, we stopped in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespear Festival, where we saw All's Well That Ends Well. The play was massively rewritten (it's a "problem play") and set in WWII France; it was one of the best Shakespeare productions we've seen in a while. We stayed in the Columbia Hotel, because we could get a room with a kitchen. The bathrooms, on the other hand, are down the hall.

B, who's in the English department here, was understandably excited about Shakespeare:

The meal was simple, except that the kitchen had only two pots and neither strainer nor cutting board. Begin boiling water for pasta in the sauce pot. In the fry pan, heat plenty of olive oil and begin sautéing (wait a little between ingredients): 1 leek, washed and chopped; plenty of garlic, diced; 1 sweet bell pepper, cut into slices; some salt. Then add 1/2 lp penne to the pasta water, and pour in a can of tomatoes (drained as well as you can) into the sauce.

Boil everything 6 minutes. Then drain the pasta as well as you can, keeping it in its pot, and transfer the sauce, stirring it into the pasta. Return to the heat on low, cover, and let steam while you make the fish. There is no need to clean the fry pan. Heat more oil with garlic, and fry fillets of snapper a few minutes to a side. Be sure to salt the snapper as it cooks and sprinkle with lemon juice at the end. Serve with the pasta (the sauce should run under the fish for the perfect pairing); pairs well with romano cheese and a dry white wine.

We did not get pictures of the sauce. Here's B making salad, and pictures the fish and the table:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Squash bisque

The first step of a soup recipe is to collect scraps for the broth over the course of a few weeks. For a vegetable bisque, good scraps include celery, onions, leeks, carrots, fennel, and cheese rinds. Keep a few zip-lock bags in the freezer for different soups (we have three very full bags of mussel shells for a bouillabaisse later this week).

In the morning on soup day, empty the frozen stock bags into a large pot, and barely cover with warm water. Add some whole peppercorns, two dried bay leaves, and some celery seed. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer covered for an hour. Then remove from heat and let it continue to cook itself while it cools.

Also in the morning, halve two acorn squashes and discard the seeds. Peel eight cloves garlic, and place the squash halves face-side-down on an ungreased cookie sheet, with two cloves garlic set inside each half. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, and let cool.

Shortly before dinner time, peel and slice three small white onions, and sauté in the bottom of a large sauce pan with a wooden spoon; sauté with some salt and olive oil and cook until translucent. Turn the heat to low and add the roasted garlic, mashing it with the back of the spoon, and also scoop the flesh of the roasted squash out and mash into the garlic-and-onions. Set a sieve over the squash pot, and carefully pour in vegetable broth until the pot is mostly full. (You can freeze any remaining broth — be sure to use either a plastic tuperware or a freezer-safe jar, e.g. the wide-mouth pint-sized mason jars.) Stir the soup to distribute the squash, and add lots of salt to taste. Then turn up the heat to bring the soup to a boil.

Let the soup cool some before serving, and meanwhile slice up a loaf of bread and open a bottle of wine. Bon appétit.

Leek tart and Autumn salad

We've made this leek tart, from Chez Panisse Vegetables, before, but I don't think I've posted the recipe here. Make a galette dough with 2 cups white flour, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 6 oz room-temperature butter, and 1/3 cup cold water. (Combine dry ingredients, then cut in half the butter, then add the rest of the butter in small pieces and add the water; at best, let everything relax at least an hour, or in the fridge all day, or frozen for as long as you want.) Sauté the whites of three leeks in olive oil with some salt and fresh thyme. Roll out the dough, transfer to a cookie sheet, top with the leeks, and fold over the edges. Brush the crust with an egg wash, and bake 400 degrees F for 45 minutes.

The second dish tonight was a luxurious salad. In the bottom of a large salad bowl, crush three small cloves garlic, and combine with salt, plenty of olive oil, and a splash of sherry vinegar. Then assemble the salad out of:
  • One bulb fennel, washed and shaved (the trick is to cut off the stems and then use a vegetable peeler, holding the base of the bulb and shaving from the top down).
  • Four heads baby gem lettuce, carefully washed and dried.
  • 1/2 pound green beans, tips removed and cut into 1-inch pieces; boil a few minutes, then plunge into ice water a few minutes before drying.
  • Four small asian pears, cut into thin slices.
  • 1/4 pound shelled walnuts.
  • 2 oz shaved romano (or parmesan; use the vegetable peeler).
  • Croutons, made by chopping old bread into small cubes, tossing with oil, salt, and dried basil, and baking 10-30 minutes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Entrée salad

Begin with the aioli: one egg yolk; a small spoonful of water; many gloves garlic, mortar-and-pestled with salt; one can anchovies, washed, shells and bones removed, and mortar-and-pestled; a few spoonfuls capers, rinsed and minced; a cup and a half olive oil.

The rest of the salad: romaine lettuce; peas from Catalan (a fall harvest!); nicoise olives; cooked salad shrimp; sweet red peppers, sliced; onions, sliced; the last harvest of cherry tomatoes.

Toss everything together in a large salad bowl, and serve with fresh sour baguette and with a chilled rosé.

Guest Post: Making Dough: The Growth of a Local Bakery

Sasha is a high school student from Eugene, OR, and incidentally my younger sister. She attends her high school classes in the morning, takes university-level math and anthropology in the afternoon, and one evening a week attends the local school board meetings as her high school's student representative. Sasha is a talented writer, dancer, musician, and painter (most of the paintings in the background of the pictures on this blog are by her). This essay was for her economics class; I have given it only a light editing.

Making Dough: The Growth of a Local Bakery

As I walked into Eugene City Bakery at nine on Saturday morning, I was first hit by the sweet smell of baking bread. Walking into the bakery feels like putting on an old, warm sweater — comforting and cozy. The small room was already full with people starting their weekend morning with a pastry or bowl of soup, and there were even people outside braving the 50-degree overcast sky, sitting at the tables as if they were on a cobblestone street in Europe. Later, the owner pointed out some of her regulars and told me that "this is many people's first stop of the day."

After buying a cup of tea, I was sent back into the kitchen for my appointment with DeeAnn Hall, a neighbor of mine and the new owner of Eugene City Bakery. The kitchen was relatively small, but filled with satisfyingly large wood-block countertops and oversized pots hanging from the ceiling. DeeAnn was standing over two large circular pans that had pie dough and cheese in them. Every surface, utensil, or machine was covered with a layer of flour. I almost slipped on the floor while I was walking in.

"Hello, DeeAnn," I called to her from behind a metal mixer. She had her short, frizzy hair pulled back with a bandana, and was wearing a large white apron.

"Hello." She smiled, then ushered me to a spot where I wouldn't be in the way. She explained she was making quiches, and would be able to sit down and talk after she finished them.

When DeeAnn Hall first moved to Eugene in the early 1990s from the San Francisco Bay Area, she was very disappointed with the bread. For the first couple of years she lived here she could find no good bakery in Eugene, and so would order bread from San Francisco. In 1997, however, Eugene City Bakery opened up. Just five blocks away from her house and with high quality bread, DeeAnn fell in love. Back then Eugene City was just a bakery, with a small, poorly designed reception area, selling mostly bread and a few pastries. Eventually, though, the owner of Eugene City became too old to manage the bakery, and was looking for somebody to to take over. DeeAnn bought the Eugene City Bakery in 2006, after being an executive chef at the Kings State Winery for four years.

"What I really wanted was a restaurant," DeeAnn said as she pulled out a tray of eggs and started cracking them into a foot-high tupperware container. "But I loved this bakery, and it needed help."

DeeAnn decided that a natural progression for the bakery would be to expand from bread and pastries to include desserts, soups, and sandwiches. She remodeled the reception area, and added tables both inside and out to increase the presence on the street. The result was a European-style cafe specializing in artisan breads. "The bakery was in a pretty good condition when I got it; it had good accounts, a good location, and loyal neighborhood customers. I loved bread, and it had a cafe, which was a plus for me."

DeeAnn measured out what looked like about a gallon of whole milk and poured it into the container with the eggs. She carefully chose a short whisk with a thick metal handle from a jar by the stove and started mixing the concoction, making even scraping noises as the whisk hit the bottom of the tupperware.

When the previous owner left, some of the employees quit, but DeeAnn hired a fair number of the former staff to work for her. She now has 20 employees, with somebody on site 24 hours a day making pastries and loaves of bread at night and lunch foods in the morning. She said she hired people by their character and love/interest for baking, rather than by cooking credentials. She starts new hires behind the counter, where they can then learn about how to make bread and pastries, then eventually move them back into the kitchen. That way she can know all of her employees, and train them herself.

The bakery sells products both in their own store and wholesale to local restaurants, such as Bepe and Giani's (across the street from Eugene City) and Excelsior (on 13th near campus), and to other local stores such as Sundance, the Kiva, Capella Market, and PC Market of Choice. She also sells pastries and bread to the EMU on campus, which are then sold to students. "I definitely sell more retail than wholesale," she said. This surprised me; I would have thought wholesale would be at least as profitable as retail given the range of places to whom DeeAnn sells her bread.

DeeAnn brought over a pan of cooked zucchini, onion, and bell pepper from the stove to the counter where she was working. She spooned them out to make a layer over the cheese in the pie dough, then filled the pans to the brim with the milk and eggs. I followed her as she carried the tray into the other room, where their fancy new German oven is located, and where most of the bread is made. She said that the oven was really the only new piece of technology they had, because bread making is such an ancient practice in itself. After sticking the quiches in the oven, she wiped her hands on her apron and brought me outside to talk.

DeeAnn is clearly proud of her bread, and for good reason: it's all handmade artisan bread made from organic flours with loving hands. Bread is still her most popular product, although she said her lunch business is continually going up.

The main other local bakery that DeeAnn considers competition is Hideaway Bakery behind Mazi's at 33nd and East Amazon. Although places like Provisions and Metropol also sell similar products, it's clear she thinks Hideaway is the only other bakery in town that really competes with Eugene City. Hideaway uses a wood oven, which is one of the oldest bread-baking technologies. Hideaway is growing too, specifically in the cafe market, and as DeeAnn put it, is going with the "foodie thing." Although DeeAnn said there is room for everybody in the market, she expressed how hard it is to make money on bread anywhere.

The year DeeAnn took over Eugene City, wheat prices were incredibly high, and skyrocketed in the next year. She attributes the price increase to the government subsidies for corn in the United States, which meant many wheat farmers were switching to corn. A drought in Australia also decreased the wheat yield. Although the prices are finally starting to go down, organic flour, the kind Eugene City buys, is still pretty expensive. "My biggest expenses are definitely the cost of goods and labor," she explains. Although she doesn't have an explicit formula for calculating prices, it is approximately the cost of expenses times a multiple factor. "It's really what the consumers will pay," she says. "For example, they'll pay $4.95 for a loaf of bread, but not $5."

My last question for DeeAnn was what her favorite part about owning the bakery was.

She thought for a moment before answering. "Well, I've always loved to cook, but I like the culture here the best. I love being in the neighborhood, the smell of bread, and my customers."

Black bean burgers

A good burger bun should be roughly two parts white flour to one part whole wheat, with lots of honey. Don't overyeast unless you're sure you'll eat all the rolls in a night — we usually have leftovers, and overyeasted dough goes stale really fast. The dough should be well-salted, well-kneaded, and reasonably stiff. Roll the dough in sesame seeds and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet. Allow two rolls per person, although not everyone will eat that much. Each roll is about half a cup of flour, so start with the same number of cups of flour as you have eaters. Serve the rolls whole, with a bread knife at the table, so that they have a chance to cool slightly before being cut open.

For the burgers, soak black beans the night before and then boil to mushy. Drain and let cool. Combine beans in the standing mixture with salt, nutritional yeast, minced garlic and onion, clove, and paprika. Then add wheat gluten spoonful by spoonful until the beans come together into a tight ball. Mold the beans by hand into good-sized patties and wrap well in foil. Bake forty minutes.

For the sides, scrub a few small sweet potatoes and cut into french fries. In a glass lasagna pan, toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt, and cumin; bake uncovered thirty minutes. Also slice up some onion, tomatoes, and cheese for the burgers, open a jar of bread-and-butter pickles, and set out prepared ketchup and mustard. Serve with a light red; the Cab Sauvignon by Firefly Ridge is a good standby and is currently steeply discounted at Safeway.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cuisinart Pizza

We're visiting my family for a few days for my mom's birthday. Tonight, B and I made pizza, taking advantage of my parents' food processor to do all the hard work. For five people, we doubled the following:

Preheat the oven as hot as it will go. In the cuisinart, combine three cups all-purpose flour, one packet of yeast, and a large handful of salt, and pulse to mix. In a measuring cup mix one cup warm water and two heaping Tbsp honey. With the food processor on, pour in the water. The dough should come together, but you may need to add up to another half cup water, depending on whether you round up or down with your measurements. Rub olive oil in a large bowl, and transfer the dough; allow to rise.

Clean the cuisinart and pulse four medium tomatoes. Pour the resulting pink smoothie into a sieve set in a bowl to drain some of the juice. Clean the cuisinart and use it to mince three or so large cloves garlic, peeled; set aside. Clean the cuisinart, change the blade for a grater, and grate a little over 1/2 pound of brick mozzarella. Also, wash and julienne two to three orange squash. Find a large can of sardines, and go pick some fresh oregano.

When the dough is ready, roll it out on a floured surface. Sprinkle a large rimmed cookie sheet with corn meal, and transfer the dough to the cookie sheet, hoping that you rolled it so that it will fit well. Brush the dough with the garlic, and then spread it with the tomato puree, leaving between half an inch and an inch crust at the edge. Sprinkle with whole fresh oregano leaves, and then two thirds of the cheese. Salt liberally.

Next evenly distribute the sardines. Probably you will have to inspect each sardine: they definitely have backbones to remove, but you may also need to remove fins and scales (the scales of any fish come off really easily by rubbing your fingers from tail to head — the canned sardines have had their heads and tails removed, but you can still figure out which way to rub — and some running water takes care of them easily). After the sardines, cover with the peppers, and then the rest of the cheese.

Bake at 500 degrees for about twenty minutes. If the crust browns before the cheese does, switch to broil for just a few minutes more. When the pizza is done, remove from the heat and let cool a few minutes; then transfer to a cutting board and let cool a few minutes more. Cut into pieces and serve with a light-bodied red wine; finish the meal with a lettuce salad (mustard balsamic vinaigrette) and a blueberry pie.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scallops and scalloped potatoes

Hudson Fish Company sells incredible fish at the Thursday and Saturday farmers' markets, and also at the El Cerrito and Kensington markets just north of Berkeley. We buy their catches usually twice a week, and are particularly fond of their tuna. For the last month or so, they have been offering dry-packed scallops from Portsmouth NH (not available in Berkeley, where the market rules are stricter about non-local foods). We finally bought some (driving to El Cerrito before going to the Berkeley market for our vegetables, eggs, and coffee), since the weekly e-mail announcing the fish availability warned that this would be their last week with scallops.

Thus we were put in the difficult position of having to pick a side to pair with the scallops. Then B had a fantastic idea: how fun would it be to pair scallops with scalloped potatoes? We had two potatoes in the fridge, and some summer squash that was dying to be eaten, perfect for a rich au gratin.

Begin by preheating the oven to roughly 350°. Crush half a large clove of garlic into a large ceramic baking dish, and rub all over the inside of the dish. (Crush the second half into the bottom of a salad bowl, add a little salt, lemon, and olive oil, and viola: a very strong salad dressing that pairs well with anything.) Then coat the dish with butter. Slice thin two medium red potatoes and two or three round summer squash. Layer in the baking dish.

In a medium sauce pan, heat about 2.5 cups of some mixture of milk, cream, half-and-half, and butter. We had only butter and milk, so I used about 2 1/4 cups milk and a little under half a stick of butter, and felt like the dish was plenty rich. Add one tsp salt, and black pepper and nutmeg to taste. When the milk mixture is hot, pour over the potatoes and squash, so that the vegetables are just barely covered.

Cover the vegetables with whatever cheeses you have lying around: we used a mix of sharp cheddar, romano, and ricotta. Bake the casserole uncovered 45 minutes. Meanwhile, wash lettuce and finish making the salad, leaving it refrigerated and un-tossed, of course, until you are ready to eat it.

When the timer announces that 45 minutes have passed, remove the gratin form the oven and let cool while you prepare the scallops (which will take only a few minutes). In a medium cast-iron pan, melt a helluva lot of butter on high. The butter will begin to froth, but wait until the frothing subsides before you start to cook the scallops: you want the butter really hot. Meanwhile, wash and chop a bunch of scallions.

When the butter is hot, add the scallops and then the scallions. Scallops are a little hard to tell when done (they're already pretty opaque, and they don't turn pink). But trust your instincts; they don't take very long to cook. Turn once or twice to brown both sides.

Remove the pan form the heat and plate the scallops directly. With the pan still very hot, pour in a splash of white table wine (we paired the meal with a 2007 Chardonnay from Mondavi Private Selection), and spoon the wine-butter-and-scallions over the scallops.

Note: Always buy "dry" scallops. Most supermarkets only offer "wet" scallops, which have been soaked in soap-tasting chemicals to extend shelf-life. Joy says that live scallops are easy to shuck (the shells are plate-sized) and the rest of the critter (usually you can only buy the muscle) is tasty too.

Two lunches

Fresh mozzarella di bufala, one of the highlights of the week, from Cheeseboard. Tomatoes from Riverdog, basil from Blue Heron, and supermarket salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. The cheese in particular is delectable, and well worth the $6.25/person.

Baguette and brie from Cheeseboard. Grapes from Kaki.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Canning tomatoes

My boyfriend has taught me that canning tomatoes does not need to be a long and stressful activity. His basic recipe is the same as mine: briefly boil whole tomatoes and then plunge in ice water to release the skins, fill quart jars with whole skinned tomatoes, add 1 tsp salt and 2 Tbsp lemon, cover with boiling water leaving 1/2-inch head space, wipe down rims and add lids, process in the water-bath canner for 50 minutes.

But somehow when I've tried that, I enjoy it but get exhausted and worked up, whereas B makes it a relaxing meditative experience. First of all, B argues that one does not need to wash every tomato before boiling — the boiling and plunging does the trick — simply check each tomato carefully for mold and remove the green stem. Second, I've always cut a small cross in the bottom of each tomato, so that the skin can come off, but B points out that the skin releases without this, if you let the tomatoes boil an extra minute, and since they'll be processed for 50 minutes, what's an extra minute going to do?

But most importantly, I've always done a sort-of "small batch" approach to huge batches of tomatoes (we buy 20-lb boxes of tomatoes from our CSA, and process about 15 lbs, saving the other 5 to eat that week). So I'll destem, boil and plunge, and peel enough tomatoes for a can, and then fill that can and stick it in the canner, repeat, trying to do more than one thing at a time. This, of course, generally fails: you lose track, and tasks take different amounts of time. Much better is to destem 10 lbs all at once, boil them in your largest pot (second only to the canner), and then peel all of them.

In any case, it makes a mess, but if you're not exhausted by the canning, then even the clean-up can be relaxing. Processing 15 lbs of tomatoes is the work of a few hours.

Here's the work of a few months: