Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Spring seems to have finally arrived here in Portland.  And it’s about time!  I feel as if it’s been months since I saw the sun, even though I know that it has peeked out for as long as a few hours at a time in the past few weeks.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees.  I’m not sure how I can contain myself.

One of the first signs of spring, of course, are tulips.  These were given to me by a thoughtful co-worker.

And the other sign of spring?  Farmer’s markets, fresh, local produce, lots of greens and daylight that lasts into the evening and inspires leisurely, light meals.

Today the intermittent sunshine and a big pile of ripe mangoes at the grocery store (and a package of fresh Dungeness crab meat in the fridge)

inspired me to make a crab, mango and avocado salad with micro greens (from the farmer’s market) and a lime ginger vinaigrette.

For such an elegant dinner, the prep was incredibly easy and the flavors a perfect combination of sweet, tart and little bit salty.

Crab, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

(Serves 2 hungry people as a main course, or 4 as a starter)

For the Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking briskly until the dressing emulsifies.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Set aside while you assemble the salad.

For the Crab Salad

2 cups fresh salad greens

2 ripe mangos (I like the Manila variety), peeled and cut into small dice

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced into thin slivers

8 ounces fresh crab meat (here in the NW we use Dungeness Crab, but any fresh crabmeat will do)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Choose a nice plate on which to assemble the salad.  Spread the greens evenly over the plate.  Cover the greens with a generous layer of mangos, saving a few for garnish.  Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the plate and fill in the middle with the crabmeat.  Garnish with remaining mango, and, if you like a little spice with your crab, sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the whole thing.

Just before serving, drizzle no more than ½ of the vinaigrette over the salad.  Serve with the extra dressing on the side.

Even though we’ve finished dinner, the sunset still seems a long way off.  It must really be spring at last!

Advertisements

Inspiration

My sister-in-law Karen is frequently the person who inspires me in the kitchen.  (She’s also the person who inspired me to start this blog.)  Her kitchen is a spacious, family-friendly spot and the food that she creates is always tasty, and even really good for you.  I’ve spent many happy hours there, watching her cook and also cooking side by side with her.

Unfortunately, that kitchen is more than a thousand miles away from my own.  When we are not together, I often take inspiration from her blog, FamilyStyle Food.  And that’s where the inspiration for this post came from.

Last spring when Karen and the rest of my family were visiting Portland (during the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting) she brought home a recipe from Portland chef Greg Higgins for walnut taralli.  She said they reminded her of something she had eaten growing up in Providence.  I was tempted.

Then we all got the flu and the thought of those biscuits flew far from my mind.  Until a few weeks ago, when Karen posted about them on her blog.  The thought of making them was back with a vengance, and this afternoon, while S was out doing errands and I was listening to the local NPR fund drive (yes, really), I decided to give them a try.

One of the great things about these biscuits is that they are really easy to make.  You mix the dough, let it rise, roll out and shape the taralli,

and bake.

Voila, crunchy little nuggets that taste great with cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil and some salt,

or just plain.

Chef Higgins’ recipe can be found here.  I made Karen’s version, with fennel seeds and 1/2 whole wheat flour; here’s her recipe,

Toasted Walnut Taralli

  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli

Using the dough hook on your standing mixer, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.

Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn’t be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water. (in Portland, today I needed only about 1 ½ cups of water)

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 ” long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.

Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between.

Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool.

*toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Store at room temperature in covered container.

Makes about 5 dozen taralli.

I highly recommend that you give them a try.


One of the things I do to get inspired to post on my own blog is read other blogs, especially food and knitting related blogs.  I have a few favorites (some of them are listed in the right-hand column — take a look) that I check regularly.

The other day during a brief break at work (it’s been really busy there lately so there haven’t been many breaks), I checked out Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  I love her site because it is so beautiful and because the food is always good.

The recipe she posted last week caught my eye right away.  The photo of the finished loaf cake was striking, the recipe looked like something I could make with ingredients I had at home, and I haven’t baked in a while.

Of course, I did have most of the ingredients, but I also had some bananas that needed to be used and I didn’t have any garam masala in my spice drawer.  Heidi suggested that bananas could be substituted for the roasted winter squash in her recipe, and encouraged bakers to use other spices if they had no garam masala.

I mashed one very ripe banana (happily that gave me exactly the 1/2 cup I needed), and decided to use Chinese 5 spice to replace the garam masala.

The cake turned out really well (though it needed a bit less time in my oven than the original recipe called for — my loaf was fully baked in about 45 minutes).

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Happy New Year!

We didn’t celebrate late into the night (still recovering from a long flight and a very late arrival home the night before), but before we went to bed we did manage to pull together the batter for a wonderful New Year’s tradition (well, it should be a tradition, anyway), what the Joy of Cooking calls Raised Buckwheat Blini.

Blini are little pancakes, traditionally associated with Lent in Russia and the Ukraine, served with caviar or, in my house, smoked salmon, and creme fraiche.  Raised refers to the fact that they are made with yeast and need to rise for at least an hour before making (I refrigerated the batter overnight after it’s initial rise).  The yeast makes them light and airy, the buckwheat gives them a nutty flavor and a lovely brown color.

They can be made on an ordinary griddle, like any other pancakes, but they are even better when made on a “platar” or “plett” pan.

Here’s the recipe, straight from the pages of the Joy of Cooking (1997 edition).

Raised buckwheat blini

1 ½ cups milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and let cook until it is between 105 and 115 degrees F.  Sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until the yeast is dissolved (about 5 minutes).

Whisk together flours, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and pour the wet ingredients over them, whisking until just combined.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the batter has doubled in volume, about one hour.

Once the batter has risen you can make the pancakes right away, or refrigerate the covered bowl for up to 24 hours; let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before proceeding.

Stir to deflate the batter and whisk in the lightly beaten eggs.

Prepare and preheat your platar or griddle.  For the platar, spoon or pour about 2 tablespoons batter into each depression.  Cook until the top of each blini is speckled with bubbles and some of the bubbles have popped, then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned.  (The easiest way to turn blini is to spear them with a thin skewer, nail or knitting needle; you can also slip a narrow icing spatula under the cakes.)  If you are using a griddle, spoon a scant ¼ cup of batter for each pancake, leaving space between cakes for some expansion.  Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you finish cooking the rest.

They are also good with a little jam on top (Marionberry in this case).

Fresh grapefruit as a side,

and everyone is sure to clean their plate.


Negroni time

Something about the holiday season puts me in the mood for a festive drink before dinner. Lately, S seems to be in the same mood, and his current favorite cocktail is a Negroni — the classic drink made with gin, campari and sweet vermouth.

When I first started making this cocktail I stayed true to the traditional 1:1:1 ratio and used the same amount of each ingredient in my drinks.  Over time, though, I have come to prefer my Negronis a little less sweet, a little more bitter and a little heavy on the gin.  And since I make them, S likes them that way too!

The recipe is still very easy.

For one drink, I pour 2 ounces of good gin (I like Plymouth), 1 1/2 ounces Campari, and 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth into a shaker filled with ice.  I shake gently, just enough to thoroughly chill the mixture, and pour it into a glass over an orange peel or a slice of orange for garnish.

Not only does it taste great, but it looks just right for the holiday season.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Well, now it’s really fall.  In fact, with snow in the forecast, some might say fall is over and gone.  Luckily there are still some wonderful apples in the markets, and on Saturday while shopping at New Seasons I had a taste of a phenomenal ripe pear.

The other day it was the apples that inspired me, though.  My mother used to make applesauce every fall and the bowl full of heirloom apples on the counter was too good to resist.

Applesauce is an uncomplicated dish, but before I got started I thought I’d look around for some inspiration.  The Gourmet Cookbook had just the thing — a simple recipe with a touch of calvados (brandy made from cider quality apples).  I just happened to have a bottle of Clear Creek Apple Brandy on the shelf, too.

Brandied Applesauce

(loosely adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

1 pound assorted firm and flavorful heirloom apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon orange zest

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons apple brandy

Combine apples, orange juice, sugar, zest and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove lid and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5-10 minutes.  Add the apple brandy and simmer for about one minute more.  Remove from heat and mash with a fork or a potato masher until it is a chunky sauce.  Cool (the juices will thicken as the sauce cools).

Makes about 1½ cups.  Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Of course, I had to make a few changes to the original recipe — I used fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange zest in place of water and lemon zest, and substituted brown sugar for the white granulated sugar.  I think it turned out perfectly, let me know what you think.

I just finished reading a wonderful book — A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  Molly is the creator of the smart and tasty blog Orangette and the owner, along with her husband Brandon, of the Seattle restaurant Delancey.  I plan to eat at Delancey on my very next visit to Seattle.  I promise.

Anyway, as I was saying, I just finished reading A Homemade Life.  Every chapter tells a story and includes a recipe, and I pretty much want to cook or bake every recipe in the book.

Not wanting to put my exploration of these dishes off too far, I chose to start with one of the simplest — not that most of the recipes are complicated, but this one is particularly simple.  There are only 4 ingredients, and all but the tomatoes are something most of us have in our pantries all the time:  olive oil, salt and ground coriander.

The tomatoes are those Roma tomatoes, the ones that you can find year-round in most supermarkets.  I ran out to get some.

Preparation is quick — slice the stem end off each tomato and cut them in half lengthwise.  Toss them with the olive oil, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and coriander and put them in the oven (which you have preheated to 200 degrees) and let them roast.

The only thing challenging about this recipe is that it takes a while.  The tomatoes roast in a very slow oven for 4 to 6 hours.  Yes, 4 to 6 hours.  The nice thing is that you don’t need to do anything to them while they are roasting, just check in on them now and then.  I roasted mine for the full 6 hours, and honestly, they could probably have even roasted a bit longer.  I think they turned out perfectly.

I’ve used these tomatoes in at least three dishes since making them — we added them to a duck ragu that was tossed with homemade fettuccine, to a saute of chard and caramelized onions, and served them with scrambled eggs, for breakfast.

They even taste good on their own.


%d bloggers like this: