May 2021 – In My Kitchen

May 2021 – In My Kitchen

This post is part of a monthly roundup of goings on in kitchens around the world. It’s hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings. Please consider joining and adding your own monthly update.

We had our first weekend guests at start of this month (who were vaccinated and actually allowed indoors) since the pandemic started 14 months ago. Although it was sunny during the day, evenings were chilly and we were able to beat a welcome retreat inside for dinner.

To celebrate we had these stunning botanical gin and tonics featuring elderberry tonic garnished with flowers and herbs from the garden. Spring is definitely here.

Botanical Gin and Tonic

Botanical Gin and Tonic

Along with buttermilk brined beer can BBQ chicken, I served this delightful celery and lentil salad. Along with crisp crusted local sourdough, it was an easy and delicious meal.

 

In my kitchen there have been new salads that are perfect for serving with spring and summer cookouts.

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad – I’ll have some of that!

A curried sweet potato salad with cashews and creamy goat cheese served with a simple grilled steak.

In my kitchen I have a new Korean pepper paste made with brown rice and red peppers.

Gochujang

Gochujang

While considering what to make for dinner in my kitchen, I saw a recipe for Spicy Fire Chicken (it was also called Maangchi’s Cheese Buldak) in the NY Times food section and was intrigued. Truthfully cooking has become somewhat tedious and the recipe was outlandish and completely out of my usual comfort zone. Here is a link to a YouTube video of Emily Kim (she is the Korean web star known as Maangchi) preparing the dish. I was able to order the rice and red pepper paste on Amazon. And although I fully intended to try the dish, when I tasted a spoonful of the paste it was HOT! So much so that I questioned the wisdom of cooking with it and imagined the hours of heartburn that might result. To the rescue came another very simple recipe using it. This time a simple marinade of equal parts gochujang and honey with a splash of soy sauce and olive oil. To my surprise the comments said that it was not overly spicy. And it was true. So true that I don’t have pictures because we wolfed down the dish before I could pull out my camera! The marinated skirt steak was delicious, it was not hot at all but had a wonderful depth of flavor. I will try and restrain myself long enough to post it next time.

In my kitchen was (all gone now) a cheesecake made with labne. The recipe is from the cookbook Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman. She called it Sweet and Salty Cream Cheese Tart, it’s made with a crust of Ritz crackers and includes grapefruit juice. It appealed to me because it wasn’t overly rich or sweet, and it was easy to prepare (very important). I don’t usually make desserts, preferring savory over sweet.

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

 

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

It cracked a little in the center when cooling but a few fresh raspberries concealed it.

Lastly in my kitchen I made a sheet pan coconut fish and tomato bake. I will post the recipe because it was wonderful. Stay tuned.

Sheet Pan Coconut Fish and Tomatoes

Sheet Pan Coconut Fish and Tomatoes

The rockfish was purchased fresh off the boat in Noyo Harbor. I served it with fresh asparagus and a creamy combination of mashed potatoes and pureed roast cauliflower (left over from a previous meal).

What’s new in your kitchen this month?

May – Celery and Lentil Salad with Salsa Verde

May – Celery and Lentil Salad with Salsa Verde

Celery and Lentil Salad

Celery and Lentil Salad

So I am going to start this post by admitting that I am not a great celery fan. Not a fan of celery seeds either. But this salad converted me. The celery provides a crisp freshness to the lentils, toasted almonds and sauce which is rich with umami from anchovies and capers. I personally love anchovies but I know many folks do not agree. For a vegetarian version leave them off; you may want to add a splash of coconut aminos or soy sauce to the dressing to provide a similar lift. If you want to make the salad several hours ahead, just bring it back to room temperature before serving. Refrigerated leftovers were wonderful for lunch the next day, this time with some crumbled goat cheese on top. I think cottage cheese would also be good.

If your celery from the market has its leaves, use them in the salad. Otherwise chopped Italian parsley or baby arugula will work. I used a combination of all of those.

I served it at our first BBQ of the season with a buttermilk brined beer can chicken and crisp sourdough bread. It was perfect.

Celery and Lentil Salad with Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

For salsa verde or vinaigrette:

  • 3 anchovies, smashed and minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 large lemon, finely grated zest and 3 tablespoons of juice
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

For salad:

  • 3/4 cup of green French lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 pinches kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 5 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (about 3 cups)
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups of chopped celery leaves, Italian parsley leaves, and/or baby arugula
  • 1/3 cup toasted thinly sliced almonds
  • 2 oz. shaved pecorino or parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Toast the almonds in a small dry skillet until beginning to turn golden. Turn them out to a small plate to cool.
  2. Place lentils and bay leaf in a saucepan and cover with several inches of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Keep the lentils covered by addition additional water if needed.
  3. Meanwhile make the salsa verde: combine the anchovies, shallots, capers, lemon zest and juice with a few pinches of salt in a small jar with a lid. Shake to combine and let sit for about 5 minutes for the flavors to meld. Then add the oil and shake to emulsify.
  4. When the lentils are done, drain them and discard the bay leaf. Return the lentils to the pan, add about 3 tablespoons of the salsa verde and the raisins. Let cool and then taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed.
  5. In a large serving bowl, toss the celery and leaves with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette, red pepper flakes and salt if needed. Add the lentils and almonds, toss to mix. Taste again and add more of the vinaigrette, lemon juice or salt if required.
  6. Shave the pecorino or parmesan on top when serving.
  7. Can be served immediately or at room temperature.
Celery and Lentil Salad

Celery and Lentil Salad

 

This recipe comes from the Food52 site by EmilyC.

I’m taking this one to Fiesta Friday, a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie. The party is home to bloggers with recipe and craft ideas. It’s Fiesta Friday #379 and this would be wonderful served at your Mother’s Day BBQ. Please consider joining us and adding your own post to the party.

Celery and Green Lentil Salad

Celery and Green Lentil Salad

April – Curried Sweet Potato Salad

April – Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad – I’ll have some of that!

I have shortened the title of this recipe which should really be Curried Sweet Potato Salad with Toasted Cashews, Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Goat Cheese. Yes, I agree, much too big a mouthful. Serve this warm from the oven if you want a melty cheese topping. You could also let it cool a bit, crumble the goat cheese over the top and refrigerate. It will keep for a few days. Let it come back up to room temperature for the best flavor before serving (although I ate the leftovers for lunch right out of the fridge).

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Feta could be alternative to the goat cheese. Leave off the cheese if you want to make it vegan.

Pine nuts or pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) can sub for the cashews.

If you want something sweet in the salad, how about a few raisins? Plump them first for 10 minutes in some freshly boiled water.

Sweet potatoes are one of those vegetables that I could eat every night. Give me a big roasted sweet potato and a green salad, I’m happy. I don’t even think it needs any butter although I often add a big spoonful of Greek yogurt.

Curried Sweet Potato Salad with Cashews, Garbanzos, and Fresh Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds (3 – 4) sweet potatoes, unpeeled but scrubbed – any color although yams are pretty. I used a combination since that was what I had on hand.
  • 4 tablespoons of neutral oil or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup of cashews
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of mild curry powder (use less if it is hot)
  • Red pepper flakes if you want it hot
  • 1 15-oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 4 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled goat or other fresh white cheese
  • optional – chopped cilantro would be good

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line a sheet pan with baking or parchment paper
  3. Cut the sweet potatoes in half, then into 1/4 inch half moon slices.
  4. Put the potatoes into a large bowl with 3 tablespoons of the oil, the curry powder, red pepper (if using), salt and freshly ground pepper. Scrunch them around until they are coated with the seasonings and oil. I find my clean hands the easiest.
  5. Scatter the potatoes evenly on the prepared sheet pan. It’s ok if they won’t fit in one layer. Roast the sweet potatoes for 20-25 minutes until they are beginning to brown on the bottom.
  6. Meanwhile, add the drained garbanzo beans to the empty bowl, stirring them to coat with any remaining oil and seasonings.
  7. For the cashews – heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet. Add the cashews and cook, stirring, until they begin to brown. Remove the nuts and any remaining oil to a small plate to cool.
  8. If using the raisins, put them in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Drain after 10 minutes.
  9. After the sweet potatoes have roasted for 20-25 minutes, remove the sheet pan from the oven. Carefully turn the sweet potatoes over and add the garbanzo beans to the pan.
  10. Roast for another 15 minutes, then remove and squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over the pan.
  11. Transfer everything to a serving dish. Squeeze the juice of the limes over, scatter the raisins and cashew nuts (plus any oil) over the top.
  12. Garnish with sliced scallions and crumbled fresh goat cheese.

The garbanzos will get a little crisp from their stay in the oven.

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

This could be a great side for a BBQ, or an entire vegetarian dinner.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday #377 would also enjoy it and plan to take it over to Angie’s place for the party. Click on the link to read all the fun blog posts. You will find recipes for yummy food, decorating and craft ideas, plus much more. And please think about adding your own link to the party. This week I am co-hosting the party with Angie.

Quinn agrees as you can see from the first picture.

April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

I am not a taco snob. What do I mean by that? If you or your family like those crisp shells from a box sold at the grocery store, I am not one to criticize. Go for it! That’s what some members of my family prefers. Now I wouldn’t order tacos that way in a restaurant. But at home, they are perfectly fine and save me a lot of trouble when I’m trying valiantly to get dinner on the table. I myself prefer a soft whole wheat or gluten free tortilla that I can roll into a big fat burrito; the bigger the better. I want to have to eat it with a knife and fork.

Tacos are great because you can put out the fixings on the counter and let everyone customize it to their own taste. That way of putting dinner on the table is also ideal if you have a mix of vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers to feed. A taco bar is a lot of fun, you can let you imagination run wild (or not if it’s one of those days). All you need is a wrap of some kind, filling, salsa, cheese (vegan cheese  is not bad), and some sliced cabbage or lettuce. Anything else is icing on the taco so to speak. But do try the pickled onions, their sharpness is very welcome against the smooth and creamy black beans.

This version of a vegetarian filling came from the blog Smitten Kitchen.  I have increased the amount of seasonings, otherwise I followed the recipe fairly closely. It features one of my favorite vegetables, cauliflower. And it’s prepared in my favorite way, roasted until brown and charred in spots. It really is the most amazing vegetable and it’s good for you as well.

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

You add the drained black beans to the sheet pan when the cauliflower first comes from the oven, warming them and further flavoring the beans in the seasoning in the pan.

The pickled red onions are definitely addictive. I keep a jar of these in my fridge. They are wonderful on a grilled cheese sandwich (any kind of sandwich for that matter), quesadilla, salad or taco. You can pickle them for 30 minutes to several days, they get better and better.

Pickled red onion

Pickled red onion

Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Pickled onions:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (rice vinegar results in a milder pickle)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Cauliflower and black beans:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive or other neutral oil
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken and chopped small (they need to fit into the taco)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 15-ox can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • tortillas
  • 1/2 to 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • crumbled or shredded cheese
  • optional – salsa, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, thinly sliced cabbage or lettuce, sliced radishes, etc.

Method:

  1. Make the pickled onions by combining the vinegar, water, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Add the onion and toss to coat. Set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Line a sheet pan with baking or parchment paper.
  4. Put the cauliflower in a large bowl, toss to coat with the oil, cumin, salt, and red pepper to taste.
  5. Spread on the sheet pan and roast for a total of 25-30 minutes, turning them midway through.
  6. Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the cauliflower. Add the black beans to the warm sheet pan. Taste and add more lime juice if you want.
  7. Heat whatever vehicle you want for eating, top with the cauliflower and beans, add avocado, pickles onions and whatever else your taste desires.
Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

For us it was slim pickings that night, no avocado, no cabbage (I did have a lonely head of romaine), and no cheese. But the cauliflower and black bean filling was delicious and easy. We still counted this a wonderful dinner which was worth repeating.

And the leftover cauliflower and black beans were delicious tossed into a salad the next night, this time with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, pickled onions and cherry tomatoes. I would consider making a batch just for the leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – April 2021

Spring is an especially beautiful season in Northern California. The winter rains encourage an explosion of flowers as soon as the weather warms a bit and the sun comes out. Just taking my camera for a walk is an adventure.

So, I’m not going to do a lot of writing this post. I hope you will join me for a leisurely saunter around the garden, maybe with a glass of rose or a cup of tea in hand.

Here are the photos.

In the vegetable garden I am worried about having space for the zucchini and tomatoes that will soon need their own bed. I hate to pull anything out as everything is doing so well. We are enjoying salads every night.

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In the pollinator garden native perennials predominate. It will be interesting to see what grows as the year progresses. It’s been 4 years since I first seeded it with a commercial mix of Northwest optimized meadow wildflowers. This area gets minimal to no summer water and very little attention except to whack it back in the late fall. It’s an interesting and ever changing experiment.

Some small plants were added, the ceanothus, mimulus, and pineapple sage. The lilies were shared garden gifts from friends. The small oak tree grew from an acorn that hitch hiked in a planter from our Oakland garden. The squirrels buried them in all my pots each fall. It’s only about a foot tall right now but seems to be thriving. Hard to believe it may eventually grow in a giant tree like the one that shaded our back deck each summer.

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Here is what it looked like in April of 2020.

Pollinator Garden April 2020

Wildflower and pollinator garden April 2020

And now, a walk around the rest of the garden beds starting with those closest to the vegetable garden and rounding towards the garage.

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The rhododendrons are just starting to bloom, the azaleas were first.

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I used to think succulents were boring, but there have been an explosion of varieties in the past few years. Many of them are absolutely gorgeous.

 

Chores for the month include weeding (my least favorite garden activity), but they are definitely getting out of hand.

We’ve had the second driest winter in 100 years…

As a result we are putting in a rain catchment tank the end of the month. It won’t help much this year but water has become a serious concern. I’m starting to shift the garden to more water wise plants and encouraging the existing ones to dig deeper with their roots.

Thank you for following me around the garden. I hope your own spring garden, large or small, is doing well.