In My Kitchen – June 2018

In My Kitchen – June 2018

This month is about gratitude. I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for wonderful and loving friends and family who joined us to celebrate our new home, two significant birthdays, our 30 year anniversary, and survival. Survival through my second brush with cancer last year. i have a lot to be grateful for.

Gratitude

My kitchen and home in Fort Bragg was filled with those friends. Here is a small glimpse of those who came to celebrate. I wish there were more pictures. We had such a lovely time that we were too busy to take them. Even the playlist (that I spent hours pouring over) never got played. It would have interrupted the conversation.

My tartine sous chefs – Diane, Pat and Jane

I had lots of eager help. These lovely ladies came from Florida and Texas, they were my sous chefs for the three tartines served as a first course. Such a joy to have them in my kitchen.

In my kitchen is pickled asparagus, wonderful minced and mixed with sour cream (and/or mayonnaise) as a sauce for roasted asparagus.

Pickled Asparagus

Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

In my kitchen I had another sous chef who helped with the lentil salad and many more tasks in the week prior to the party.

Lentils with roasted cauliflower, almonds, dates and sliced onions – Marylinn

The lentil salad was a big hit. Thank you to my book club friend who recommended the recipe and my San Diego friend who helped assemble it.

Roast cauliflower and lentil salad with dates and almonds

In my kitchen I had grilled salmon. My husband was able to purchase an entire 18 pound salmon in Oakland’s Chinatown a few days before the party. The recipe came from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Ericklson in Seattle. It was amazing. Only a little was left over to be smoked by another friend. Look for that in next month’s post.

Grilled Salmon with Cherry Tomato and Cucumber Salad

In my kitchen I had sous vide chicken breasts with magic green sauce.

Sous vide chicken breasts with magic green sauce

Sous vide chicken breasts, coconut brown rice

And in my kitchen I always have an eager clean up crew.

We are ready anytime you need us!!!

Thank you everyone or coming and spending time in my home and kitchen; whether in person, in spirit, on on line. I truly feel blessed.

This post is part of a monthly peek into kitchens around the world, and I do mean the world. Australia, US, sometimes New Zealand, the UK and others that come and go. Sherry @ Sherry’s Pickings is the host. There is always something new, click on the link to take a look and please, join in with us.

May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

Whatever you call them and no matter what their size, these toppings are unique and delicious. I call them the perfect start for a party. Made larger, bruschetta sized, they could even be considered dinner. What is the difference between the three? Crostini are smaller, in Italian the word translates as “little toasts”. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word ‘bruscare’ meaning ‘to roast over coals‘. Traditionally thin slices of bread are toasted and rubbed with garlic, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served warm. They are usually larger than a crostini and can be topped with almost anything…I love them topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and vine ripened tomatoes in late summer. Add a glass of rose to the mix and I am in heaven. A tartine is the French version of an open faced sandwich, pretty much the same thing as a crostini. All three start with a crisp slice of toasted bread.

The three toppings are fresh ricotta and pickled plums, fresh goat cheese with pickled fennel, and sweet butter with chili marinated anchovies.

If you don’t have pickled plums on hand (I had a couple of jars in the pantry from my backyard plum tree at the old house), use any pickled sweet fruit. And if you haven’t tried pickled fruit you are missing something. They are amazing in combination with cheese. I’ve seen some jars in the gourmet grocery stores. You can find recipes on-line, here’s one I found interesting. I might try pickling peaches this summer, they sound delicious as well.

You can toast the bread a day or two ahead and store the toasts (once cool) in a plastic bag. They keep well and leftovers make a delicious and crunchy garnish for a bowl of soup or a dip. When the kids were little I kept a jar on the kitchen counter, they didn’t last long and were a favorite snack.

To make the toasts, cut a baguette into 1/4 inch slices (you want it thick enough to hold the toppings but not so big that it isn’t an easy bite if you are standing up with a glass of wine in the other hand). Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and lay the bread slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for about 7 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Check them frequently as they can burn. You want them a little charred and brown on the edges but not blackened.

Ricotta with Pickled Plums

Soft Goat Cheese with Pickled Fennel

Chili Marinated Anchovies with Sweet Butter

Pickled Fennel Tartines

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into ½-inch slices

For serving

  • 2 dozen toasts
  • 1 lb. fresh goats cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fine sea salt such as Maldon
  • ½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley

METHOD:

1 day to a month in advance, pickle the fennel. 

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, salt, red pepper flakes, and optional fennel fronds.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pack the fennel into 3 wide mouth pint sized canning jars.
  4. Carefully pour the hot brine over the fennel, diving the herbs and spices between the jars at the end.
  5. Cover and refrigerate.
  6. For serving, add a smear of goat cheese to each toast, top with some chopped pickled fennel, then a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and a leaf of chopped parsley.

 

Tartine with chili-marinated anchovies and sweet butter

INGREDIENTS:

First prepare the anchovies if they came packed in salt.

  • 1 (1.5 lb.) can of salt-cured anchovies
  • 1 (10.2 oz.) jar of Calabrian cilis
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) good quality sweet butter (unsalted)
  • 2 dozen toasts from a good quality baguette

METHOD:

Marinate the anchovies at least a week before making the crustadas.

  1. Rinse them well.
  2. Place them in a large bowl and add water to cover, soak for about 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse again, then set aside to “drip dry” in a colander. Use when no longer drippin
  4. Drain the oil from the jar of chilis into the work bowl of a food processor or heavy duty blender.
  5. Add the chilis, removing and discarding the stems, keep the seeds. Pulse the chili oil and chilis together about 10 times, until roughly chopped.
  6. Add half the chili mixture to a large mixing bowl, pulse the remaining until more finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse to blend.
  7. Once the anchovies are dry, transfer them to the bowl. Pour over the pureed chili mixture. Blend gently.
  8. Transfer the mix to a large glass container, seal, and refrigerate for at least a week or up to 6 months.

Just before serving, use a cheese slicer, vegetable slicer, or a sharp knife to shave the butter into thin slices. Cover each toast with the butter shavings, top each with 1 or 2 anchovies, and serve.

Lastly, the ricotta and pickled plums. You could use any pickled fruit for this one, the interest is between the ricotta and sweet but tart pickle. Pickled sliced and spiced peaches would be good, also figs. Use what you have in your cupboard or in the local specialty grocery store. I happened to have some pickled plum from a backyard tree. Let me know if you want my recipe for pickling them. They were cherry plums, actually wild ones that had sown themselves from the neighbors yard.

Unfortunately I don’t have any final finished pictures because they were carried out to a hungry crowd as most excellent nibbles to have with a glass of wine or beer. The contrast made them interesting and easy to eat while in the midst of conversation.

 

From A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus, Menus and Stories. i have really enjoyed this cookbook from Renee Erickson of the Seattle based restaurants.

In the Garden – June 2018

In the Garden – June 2018

I don’t even know where to start this month, so much happened during the month of May. Biggest, our fence was finished! The dogs love being able to safely roam around the property. I think dogs are happiest when they know their territory. We found that our normally well behaved (as much as an Aussie can be anyway) dogs heard the “call of the wild” when up at the Fort Bragg house. We had to keep them on leash when outside to prevent them from chasing the ducks in our neighbors pond, chasing the deer that wandered across the meadow, chasing the wild turkeys that raided the bird feeders, chasing the one lonely squirrel who lives in the pine grove…you get the message. They were completely out of control and sometimes disappeared long enough for us to worry. But now they are calm and know their place. The fence is 7 feet and will keep out the deer and neighboring dogs, I’m not sure about the wild turkeys and other critters. It probably won’t keep out a mountain lion or a bear, but maybe it will convince them to go somewhere slightly easier to get into.

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New Front Gate – Fort Bragg

There are dangers in letting them roam though. A game of chase ran through one of my island beds, trampling the plants. I have had to cut some of the poppies back, but it will bring in the sun to some of the later blooming summer flowers. The dogs will learn where they aren’t supposed to run (unless there is a squirrel in the yard…then all bets are off).

 

The other big news is the beginning of my new vegetable garden. I was waiting until the fence was complete before putting in the first plants. I would have been very sad to come out one morning and to find that a herd of deer had destroyed all the plants. So far the plants are in half wine barrels (available in abundance here in the Mendocino wine country) and large pots. But it is the start. Eventually I will put in raised beds. Meanwhile I don’t have to worry about gophers.

My friend, who knows the area and plants that will flourish in this climate, gifted me 3 tomato plants and 1 squash. I found 2 more squash plants at the nursery. These are the varieties I planted.

 Bloody Butcher

A sensational and very popular, very early producing tomato variety. A good choice for a tomato as you wait for later varieties to harvest. Our organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, vigorous, potato-leaf plants that yield copious amounts of 2″, 4 oz, fruits that are deep-red color, inside and out. Five to nine fruits per cluster with a rich heirloom tomato flavor. Plant produces well until frost. A good tomato variety for cooler growing regions since fruits ripen quickly. A good canning tomato.

Days: 54

Size: Indeterminate

Season: Early Season

Nyagous

A rare Russian heirloom “cluster tomato”.  Regular leaf plant producing beautiful, smooth, 6oz, round “black” tomatoes that are dark mahogany with dark grey-green shoulders.  Nyagous is a wonderfully firm and blemish-free tomato with lots of sweet, complex fruit flavors and a clean acidic finish.  Up to 6 fruits per cluster.  A good market variety that has become a favorite of the Russian varieties.  Resistant to cracking.

Days:  76

Size: Indeterminate

Color: Purple-black

Season: Mid-Season

Yellow Bosnian

Old heirloom tomato from Yugoslavia. Seeds were sent from her friend Aleksandra Wiz in Zagreb Crotia. A shorter, regular leaf, indeterminate that produces a very heavy yield of 10 oz., slightly-flattened, yellow, oblate beefsteak tomatoes with deliciously rich, well-balanced. slightly sweet flavors. RARE

Days: 73

Size: Inderminate

Color: Yellow

Season: Mid-Season

Astia Zucchini

Zucchini Astia

Astia is a well-bred French bush zucchini variety, developed especially for container growing and planting in small space gardens. These non rambling, compact squash vines are also highly ornamental with big silvery-green, deeply indented leaves. Early bearing and productive, Astia bears abundant zucchini near the base of the plant where they are easy to harvest. These uniformly smooth, lustrous, glossy-green zucchini have excellent flavor and are delicious whether roasted, sautéed, steamed or baked.

Plus I added two additional summer squash varieties, Black Beauty bush type and a Costata Romanesco, one of my favorites from Oakland. I don’t know if the Costata will flourish in a large container much less the cooler climate here.

Small summer squash, picked right off the plant and grilled, are a BBQ treat.

Vegetables in the Garden

This section of the garden gets quite a bit of sun, certainly more than my tiny side yard did in Oakland. There is good potential.

Finally, the bottlebrush bush is blooming! Why is this important? Because the hummingbirds have returned with the blooms. I see and hear them buzzing around the flowers as the nectar is a favorite. The rest of the garden has been planted with lots of other flowers which are supposed to attract them, but so far only the Salvias are blooming. It hasn’t been enough to keep them around.

Bottlebrush shrub

I understand that in the “old days” the flowers were actually used as a bottle brush. The seeds are also quite rough and I can imagine would give things a good scouring.

That’s all the big news from up here on the California Coast. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens, be they big or small.

 

May – Pickled Asparagus

May – Pickled Asparagus

I just can’t get enough of asparagus when it first comes into season! By the end of May I am looking for ways to preserve it for the rest of the year. Out of season asparagus is often shipped long distances and can be dry and lacking in that wonderful grassy flavor (not to mention enormously expensive and environmentally irresponsible). I want to take full advantage of the long spring season, there are so many ways of serving it. Have you ever thought of combining different cooking methods with the same vegetable? The combination of fresh asparagus and pickled ones in an inspiration. Think thinly sliced or finely chopped pickled spears combined with sour cream (or even better, creme fraiche) as a sauce for fresh asparagus cooked on the grill. You could add equal parts mayonnaise if you want. Serving it as a sauce elevates the vegetable to a new level. What about putting a poached egg on top, serving all on top of a slice of crisp toast? I could see a slice of crisped prosciutto somewhere in there as well or even a slice meaty bacon. Yum!

I am getting ahead of myself because a simple platter of grilled or roast asparagus with pickled asparagus sauce is delicious.

Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

But first you need the pickled asparagus. I have found jars in better grocery stores but they are the tiny grassy spears, and are quite costly. It is far easier to pickle your own when asparagus is in season.

For pickling you can use either thin or thicker spears, peel the ends of the thicker ones first. if you haven’t done this before you can find the tips here. I found large mouth quart canning jars so I could pickle the longest spears possible. But you can cut them into smaller pieces and use pint jars if that is all you have. Either way pack them with the tips up to preserve the shape as much as possible.

Start with 4 pounds of asparagus to ensure enough for 3 quarts. I purchased 3 large bunches, thinking it would be enough (it looked like an enormous amount) and was short a 1 quart container. You’ll need about 16 cups (hard to measure). At the end I had one unused sterile quart container and extra pickling solution…what to do? I found a head of celery in the fridge and remembered reading somewhere about the joys of pickled celery. Why not? Now I have a jar of pickled celery and will let you know how I like it.

Asparagus waiting to be pickled

If you have to buy your asparagus a day or two ahead, store them like flowers with the ends in cool water.

Pickled Asparagus

For 4 quarts:

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/2 cups of white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 8 sprigs of fresh fennel fronds if available
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 16 cups of asparagus or 4 pounds

Method:

  1. First bring the water in your canning jar to a boil. I find this takes the longest and always start it at the very beginning of the canning process. You can use the water to scald 4 quart canning jars. Or, I find it easier to run them through the dishwasher, then place them open side down on a clean dishtowel until you are ready to fill them.
  2. In a dry small skillet, toast the fennel seeds on medium heat until they are turning golden brown and aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove and place on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare the asparagus by measuring the length you will need for your jars, snap and peel the ends once the appropriate size. You really only need to peel the ends of medium or large asparagus stalks.
  4. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil. You will use this to blanch the asparagus. While it is coming to a boil, put a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Once it comes to a boil, add the asparagus in batches. Set a timer for 1 minute, then remove the stalks from the boiling water and drop them into the ice bath to cool quickly. Once cool, remove them to a clean dishtowel lined tray. Repeat as necessary until they are all blanched.
  5. In a pot bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil. This is your brine. Keep hot.
  6. In a small pot soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the seal.
  7. Now you are ready. Turn the jars right side up and add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 bay leaf, and 2 garlic halves to each jar. Pack the asparagus in tightly, tips up.
  8. Carefully pour the hot brine over the asparagus in the jars. Leave about 1 inch of head space. Check for air pockets and add more liquid if needed. Wipe the rims, add the lids and screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
  9. Place the jars in the pot with the lid, add water to cover the jars (by about an inch if possible). Bring the water back to boil, cover, and process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars for a few minutes. Remove the jars and let cool completely. Check to make sure the lid pops in, indicating proper canning.

And here is the lone jar of pickled celery.

Pickled Celery

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy. It is probably one of my most used books on preserving.

I think I will take this as part of my recipe for asparagus with pickle sauce to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!

 

 

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

This is a wonderful vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a side dish for a large party. It’s perfect when you have folks with different dietary needs, also being gluten and dairy free. And because it is served at room temperature, you can make it several hours ahead. It will only get more flavorful as the lentils absorb the tahini sauce. What more can you ask for? On one platter you have your greens, roasted vegetable and starch/protein. The dates add a sweet note while the almonds add crunch and even more protein.

I served this to a large gathering, the leftovers the next day were still yummy (and didn’t last long).

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Lentils with Roast Cauliflower, Chopped Dates, and Almonds

The original recipe came from Food and Wine, but it came to me about a year ago via one of the members of my book club. It’s been hanging out just waiting for the right time to make it.

I have given two measurements for the spices. The original recipe used the smaller amount but I found it was not sufficiently spiced for my taste. Cauliflower is quite mild and can absorb a lot of flavor.

This recipe serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup beluga or green lentils, rinsed and checked for small stones
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, briefly toasted in a dry frying pan
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 10 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula or baby spinach

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a pie plate or sheet pan and toast for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. When cool, coarsely chop.
  2. Increase the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the lentils. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool.
  4. Prepare the cauliflower. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower florets with 1/4 cup of olive oil, the spices (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the tahini with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until smooth. Add the lemon juice, honey or maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water.  Mix well.
  6. Add the lentils to the bowl and toss to coat.
  7. On a large platter lay a bed of the lentils, top with the roasted cauliflower, dates, almonds, and sliced onion. Sprinkle the arugula or baby spinach on top and serve.

 

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