Friday, September 24, 2010

Roast goat

Long-time readers of this blog know that a few years ago we were fairly committed vegetarians — I used to be the kitchen manager at a vegetarian/vegan co-op! But we have in the last few months started eating fish at every meal, and "lapsing" further: pork from our CSA, rabbit in Spain. I think we're currently not so much "vegetarians" as "Farmers' Marketarians".

To this end, for our second and final dinner with my dad in Eugene, we brought home two and a half pounds of leg-of-goat from the Eugene Saturday Market. We also bought potatoes, for mashing with garlic from my parents CSA; beets, onions, and carrots, for roasting with the goal; and green figs, for pickling. Yes, pickled figs: a week ago or so, B's uncle took us out to eat at Revival Bar and Kitchen (the new restaurant started by the owner of Venus), where I ordered the goat, and it was served with pickled figs. So, while I was out getting my hair cut, B began by bringing to a boil equal parts water and vinegar, with salt and whole cumin, and pouring the mixture over quartered figs packed into a jar.

Then he prepared the roast. (Did I mention that B did all the cooking, and made it all fantastic?) He chopped the root vegetables and layered them in a glass baking pan. We had some shallot-and-sage butter from the previous night, and he used it to stuff and tenderize the meat. The roast and a bouquet garni followed, and then red wine. He baked the roast for about an hour, basting it regularly. He added about half the figs near the end of cooking, and the acidity provided a nice counterpoint to the sugars in the root roasted root veggies.

Finally, B mashed some potatoes with the roasted garlic from the previous dinner. My dad broke out a particularly nice bottle of wine for the occasion, and we had a wonderful dinner.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seared ahi tuna with fennel and radishes

My dad loves fish, and particularly barely cooked tuna. For our first of a mere two dinners in Eugene, we made one of our favorite fancy dinners. Press fennel seeds into boneless sashimi grade ahi tuna. Heat a cast-iron pan until it is very hot, and then sear just the outer half-centimeter or less of the fish, leaving the middles that wonderful tuna purple. Slice very thin a bulb of fennel and some radishes, and slice the fish into quarter-inch-thick (or less) strips. Layer the fennel, the fish, and the radishes in the kitchen, and cover with a very strongly shallot-y sherry vinaigrette. Serve with sourdough bread, sage-and-shallot butter, roasted garlic, and an Oregon pinot noir.

Picnic at the airport

Last weekend we visited my dad in Eugene, leaving Thursday evening and returning Sunday. Our flight from Oakland was delayed almost three hours, which was annoying. But it wasn't as bad as it could have been: Oakland International Airport is reasonably comfortable, with free wireless, lots of plugs, not too many people, and a decent (if airport-priced) wine bar.

We had planned on a small picnic at the airport and then desert when we got home, although the latter meal turned into wine and olives at the wine bar. The picnic was wonderful, though. While B taught his morning class, I put together two small composed salads in disposable tuperwares. In the salad we had sliced armenian cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, beets, corn cut from the cob, olives, capers, hard boiled egg, basil from the garden, and shallot vinaigrette. To complete the "appetizer picnic", I also sliced a wedge of gouda and gathered up some crackers. If only I had thought to pack the camping wine glasses, we could have bought some wine at the already-mentioned wine bar to have with dinner! Next time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wheat berry with red sauce

Pan-fried snapper, sauteed peppers, and Israeli couscous pilaf

Pesto with garden basil

Composed salad with beets, fingerling potatoes, shrimp, capers, heirloom tomatoes, and hard boiled egg

Brunch: baked eggs in tomatoes

Select unblemished, firm early-girl tomatoes, and hollow them out: remove the stems and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Sprinkle a little salt on the inside of each tomato, and set them in a muffin tin. Crack an egg into each tomato, and sprinkle the top with grated parmesan or romano cheese. Bake under the broiler about fifteen minutes: the goal is to cook the white most of the way through but leave the yolk runny.

Carefully scoop the cooked tomatoes (and any white the spilled out) out of the muffin tins, and serve in shallow bowls. Garnish the baked tomatoes with capers and nicoise olives.

Baked snapper with onions, tomatoes, and herb chiffonade; corn on the cob

Pasta with green beans, fennel, and smoked tuna

Summer soup for the Harvest Moon

Tonight we were treated to a once-in-three-decades event: a full moon on night of the Autumn Equinox. Every year, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the equinox, but this year "closest" means "five and a half hours" rather than "ten days".

We began by making a hearty whole-wheat bread. Combine three cups whole wheat flour, one tablespoon wheat gluten, two teaspoons salt, and one tablespoon yeast. Also mix in one cup cooked wheat berries. Our flour and berries are from the always excellent Massa Organics, and after tonight's bread, we need to buy more of both. Then slowly add about one and a half cups water, mixing while you go. Knead a little bit and let the dough sit for a few hours. Bake the bread for about fifty minutes if you make it all into just one loaf, and let cool ten to twenty minutes before slicing.

Our soup was really more of a vegetable stew. Begin by sauteing half a red onion and some garlic in salted olive oil. Then add two bunches turnips, thinly sliced, and three quarters cup wine and six cups water, and adjust the salt. Bring to a boil and add one cup dried French green lentils. The lentils should cook a total of about thirty minutes, so take a short break and do dishes.

In a separate fry-pan or wok, heat some olive oil into which you have ground some black pepper. When the oil is hot, fry about half a pound thinly-sliced summer squash. Add the squash to the soup.

Also add the corn cut off of two or three ears, and one bunch greens (some quick-cooking kind: red chard, which is what we used, is particularly pretty; alternately, use the greens from the turnips if they are still fresh). Cook about ten minutes while you finish setting the table. Right before serving the soup, stir in two very fresh heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges.

Serve the soup with the whole-wheat bread, butter for the bread, grated grana padamo for the soup, and a chilled white wine.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First batch of tomatoes for the year

Riverdog Farm, from whom we get our weekly vegetable box, offers bulk veggies too. In particular, they have an amazing deal on Early Girl and Roma tomatoes: 20 lb for $25. (These tomatoes go for $3/lb at the market.)

In order to be well-stocked until April or May, we expect to can about seventy pounds of tomatoes, all together, and while they're fresh eat another ten pounds at least. So for four weeks this month, we'll be canning tomatoes, seventeen or eighteen pounds at a time. This week, we filled eleven quart jars.

Get the canner heating up on two burners. On a burner in the back, keep the tea kettle ready in case you ever need more boiling water. On your last burner, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Also prepare an ice bath in a large pot.

While waiting for things to come to a boil, make sure your jars are clean, and add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice to each quart jar. If you like, add also some strongly flavored herbs to the bottom: whole peeled garlic cloves, bay leaf, etc.

Working half a dozen at a time, drop whole clean tomatoes into the pot of boiling water. Wait ninety seconds and remove them with a slotted spoon, plunging the tomatoes immediately into the ice water. After about thirty to sixty seconds, you should be able to handle the tomatoes without difficulty, and the skins should slough right off. It's important to peel tomatoes before canning, because the skins turn very tough when cooked. Remove the tough part right around the stems, halve the larger tomatoes, and pack the jars, trying to squeeze as much tomato into the jars as possible.

Bring that tea kettle back the a boil, and pour boiling water into the packed jars to fill them up, leaving half an inch of headspace at the top. Tap the jars on the counter a little to dislodge any air bubbles. Add clean, unused lids, and screw the rings on only very loosely: they're there just to keep the lids in place while canning, but you want air to be able to escape.

Boil the jars fully submerged in the water for forty five minutes. This will cook and sanitize the tomatoes (boiling is at 212°, sanitizing is about 180° for five minutes, so you're just trying to heat the jars through, really). It also makes the air in the jars expand and escape. The rings have a wax coating on them, so once the air leaves, they attach down. Then, after you remove the jars, air can't get back in, and there's enough pressure to keep the jars closed, even without the rings. After canning, let the jars cool twenty four hours, and then test all the seals. Those that don't seal you should keep in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks. Those that do can sit on the shelf for about a year, and should be refrigerated after opening.

(Botulism bacteria, which creates a lethal toxin, can survive boiling, although dies at boiling after about ten hours. But it cannot grow in high oxygen environments, which is why it doesn't hurt us usually, although its spores are everywhere, and more importantly, it can't grow in acidic environments, which is why you added the lemon juice (tomatoes are almost but not quite acidic enough on their own). Nevertheless, never eat an exploded can. Don't even touch it. Wear gloves to move it into a plastic bag, seal the bag, then put another bag over it, and tie it off, and bleach the kitchen, and don't let animals get access to the spoiled food, even at the dump. Botox should be treated as hazardous waste. But it is very rare that this is ever a problem; just take basic precautions and you're fine.)

Breakfast: sweet omelet with a trio of homemade jams

We have had such a success at preserves this summer. Yes, the strawberries were a failure, but the cherries, olallieberries, and huckleberries were (and continue to be) all fantastic. So most mornings our breakfast consists of poached eggs, toast, and jam. But occasionally we have no bread in the house, and want to try something different.

Over low heat, melt a tab of butter in a wide non-stick pan. Whisk together thoroughly two eggs and just a little flour. When the butter is melted but not yet bubbly, pour the eggs. Let the eggs cook over very low heat, slowly thickening from the bottom. In your mind, divide the circle of eggs horizontally into four strips of even thickness. When there is a full layer of cooked egg on the bottom, place small mounds of homemade preserve (one to two teaspoons each, depending on how much, and how many, jam(s) you have) in the second strip from the end. When the eggs are done (I like them still just slightly runny on top) run a soft, plastic spatula along the edge of the pan to release the now-mostly-cooked eggs, and fold the eggs over the jam: begin with the first strip (the one between the jam and the edge) and then fold the remaining half-circle over everything. Place a plate over the pan and flip the omelet onto it, and finally fold the remaining strip over the omelet.

If you are feeling particularly fancy, transfer to a cast-iron pan, or do everything in well-seasoned cast-iron, and, after cooking and wrapping the omelet, sprinkle it with some sugar and stick it under a very hot broiler. (We weren't feeling that fancy.)

Serve with cappuccino.

Salad with fingerling potatoes, beets, garden cherry tomatoes, shrimp, capers, and a soft-boiled egg


Pizza with corn, tomatoes, and fennel

We have yet to eat at Summer Kitchen, but we read their menu every time we wait in line at Ici. A few days ago, their pizza consisted of a combination that we knew we had to try: tomatoes, corn, and fennel. Sure enough, at least when B made it, the pairing was great (so good that we forgot to take any pictures).

Quince Cake

I occasionally come across recipes I wrote up in a private journal before starting this blog. Here's one from October 2007.

Makes enough for a review session with 15 students; in fact, I doubled this recipe, and had a little more than necessary, but not too much more.

Preheat oven 350°F. Wash and core
  • 1 large or 2 small quinces
and chop into small slices. Place in saucepan, and add enough water to not quite cover. If quinces are not extremely ripe, add a handful of sugar. Set over high heat, bring to boil, and reduce to medium. Cook ten minutes or so, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare a couple loaf pans or one 9x13-inch pan: grease, then line with parchment, then grease again. Or a bunch of muffin tins, spray-greased. In standing mixer with paddle, combine (all numbers rough)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg and/or clove
Mix thoroughly, then pour in
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
and let combine fully. In a liquid measuring cup lightly beat
  • 3 eggs
and pour into flour with mixer running; beat 30 seconds, scrape down sides, and beat again (or skip that part).

When quinces are easily mushed, scoop quinces into batter, one third at a time. Batter will be very liquidy. Pour into prepared pans, filling about 2/3 to the top. Bake 20-40 minutes (muffins are done in 20; glass lasagna pan takes about 25-30; large metal pan will take longer). Cake is done when tester comes out clean. Let cool before cutting for a stable, moist crumb, or enjoy a sticky gooey treat.

Remove from pans with parchment still on the bottom. Slice and load into tupperware, using parchment (or wax paper) to separate layers. Bring to review session, in an effort to bribe your students.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lunch: Greek salad and cappuccino

In the salad we had an Armenian cucumber from Riverdog, sliced and dressed in balsamic vinaigrette; cubed French feta cheese; and early girl tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh oregano from the garden. The coffee, as always, is made with Straus milk and Blue Bottle espresso.

Pasta with tuna confit and beans

We followed the recipe for tuna confit from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook. We began by slicing a one-pound piece of tuna into four pieces and liberally salting everything. We placed it in a medium mixing bowl with about half a head of garlic (crushed but not peeled), one or two fresh bay leaves, a small hot red pepper, some whole pepper corns, a handful of fennel seed, and a few sprigs of thyme. We covered everything in olive oil (about 2.5 cups — Alice says 3), covered the bowl with saran wrap, and refrigerated the fish overnight.

The next day, we transferred everything to a pot, and warmed it on medium-low. The fish should cook ten to fifteen minutes, until it is don't on the outside but still a little pink in the middle. (Actually, we cooked it through, but Alice prefers it pink in the middle, and so do we.)

Meanwhile, we prepared a pound each of green beans and fresh cranberry beans. Following the instructions, we simmered the shelled cranberry beans for half an hour in lightly salted water with a sprig of thyme. This got the beans mushier than we like — next time we'll do twenty minutes. Alice likes her green beans parboiled two minutes, but we like them softer: between six and eight. We also boiled a pot of water for pasta: whole wheat penne from Barilla.

After draining everything, and reserving the oil (passing it through a sieve), we minced a few scallions (Alice wants shallots) and whisked in a liberal dose of the flavored oil, and then mixed this with the beans and pasta. We should at this point have flaked the tuna into the pasta as well, but instead we decided to serve the tuna in steaks. It was very good, although a bit too salty for steaks, and had a taste of the very best canned tuna you've ever had. Grated cheese for the pasta, of course, and white wine.

Of course, it was enough food for at least four as the main course.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Huckleberry Weekend


JB is a good friend of mine from college. She's in the area, and she joined us for a wonderful afternoon stroll through Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, one of the East Bay Regional Parks (we're working our way south). The park is not large, but includes a beautiful two-mile nature trail, with wonderful plants. In particular, we were amazed to see the eponymous bushes filled with berries. B and I decided to make sure to go picking the following day. Here's the slide show of the park from our two days of hiking:


We brought a picnic with us for our second trip to Huckleberry Preserve, eating at the bench by #6. The dinner consisted of kumamoto oysters from Hog Island, Fromager d'Affinois with homemade baguette, and salad.


We filled two yogurt containers with berries — close to eight cups. We processed all the berries into preserve: huckleberry preserve from the Huckleberry Preserve. This morning (Monday) we had some of the jam at breakfast. It is, perhaps, the best jam we've made.

Pan-fried perch with couscous and fresh tomatoes

Sometimes, we find ourselves with ingredients but absolutely no plan. Sometimes these are the very best dinners, especially when they also come together within a matter of minutes.

Mince a lot of garlic. Put half of it in a medium bowl, and the other half in a small pot with a well-fitting lid. To the small pot, add curry powder, cumin, raisins, and almonds. Add also a cup and a half of water, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in one cup couscous. Let the couscous steam itself, covered, off the heat for at least five minutes. Fluff right before serving.

Heat a little oil in a wide pan, and cook some thin fillets of perch, about two minutes to a side.

To the bowl with the garlic, add a sliced ripe tomato and a liberal handful of capers. Mix the tomatoes, garlic, and capers together.

Plate everything in the kitchen: fish, couscous on the side, and the salsa over the fish so that the juices run into the couscous.

Seared tuna with steamed corn

It's been hot out here, so we've been looking for dishes that don't require a lot of cooking. Seared tuna and corn each take all of about ten minutes on the stove. Marinate the tuna in a mix of olive oil, minced garlic, minced rosemary, salt, and white wine. Place the corn in a steamer, and cook six to ten minutes. Heat a little oil in a pan, and when it starts to shimmer add the tuna. Cook a few minutes to a side. Plate the fish and corn, and continue to heat the oil remaining in the tuna pan. Pour in more of the marinade and reduce. Pour the reduction over the fish and corn.