Category: Seasonal

Mellow Yellow

October 4, 2011

I’m going to keep this short because, you know, it’s October and I’m still talking about corn.  On Saturday, my little family went apple picking and we passed farm stand after farm stand advertising corn.  It occurred to me, after the fifth one or so, that I had yet to make corn chowder.  And even though what I really wanted to make is butternut squash soup, I can’t deny corn when there is corn to be had.

Chances are, if there are still a few ears to be bought where you live, you might want to get right on making this soup and not read a rambling post from me.  But a few notes.  I love this version.  I don’t like super creamy soups so this has just a hint and it comes from puréed corn kernels and coconut milk.  Big chunks of potatoes are key, I used some with a lovely pink skin and a while flesh and I kept fishing them out of the pot long after I was full.  And I think tarragon is really important here.  Basil would be good too if you want to defy me.

One Year Ago:  Savory Rugelach
Two Years Ago:  Smoky Chard Over Grilled Bread
Three Years Ago:  Fruit and Spice Granola

Corn Chowder with Coconut Milk
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

4 ears of corn
1 cup of coconut milk, divided
Olive oil
1 large leek, washed well, trimmed, cut into quarters, and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound red skinned potatoes, scrubbed well, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves, coarsely chopped

Shuck the ears of corn and set aside two ears.  Cut the kernels off the other two and place the kernels in a blender along with ¾ of a cup of the coconut milk.  Add a pinch of salt and purée until smooth.  Set aside.

Set a soup pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot and then add the leeks, carrots, celery, and a large pinch of salt.  Stir well, then add the dried thyme.  Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are fragrant and starting to soften, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.  Pour in the corn/coconut milk mixture and stir to coat the vegetables well.  Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, about another 10 minutes.

Cut the kernels off the other two ears of corn.  Add to the soup pot and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the corn is just cooked through.  Stir in the remaining ¼ cup of coconut milk.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve in soup bowls garnished with tarragon.



Favorite Colors

October 3, 2011

When I was a little girl, my favorite colors were pink, purple, and red.  In that order.  Tomboy I was not.  I wasn’t overly froufy but I did love to wear dresses and pretend jewelry, I begged my mom to let me get my ears pierced when I was six (she let me), and I could not wait until the day when I could wear makeup.

In seventh grade, I changed schools and it was suddenly not cool at all to wear dresses or skirts.  Jeans only and those jeans had to be Levi 501′s – the kind that you bought indigo blue and stiff as a board, and had to wash a million times to get them to look cool at all.  I pretended, in those years, that I liked wearing jeans that were clearly cut for male bodies and that my favorite color was blue.  I got a blue ski jacket and painted my bedroom blue and all the while I missed pink.  And purple.  And red.  And dresses.

Somewhere along the line, in high school, I reclaimed myself and my girly ways.  I wore dresses again and became known for my love of purple because, at some point in those blue years, purple overcame pink as my true favorite.

The only way this ties back to food is beans.  This is the time of year when school starts and when I start seeing fresh shelling beans at the markets.  Do these cranberries beans look like something found nature?  Or something that might be found, say, in my closet.  Or something that my kids would color for me because they are now aware of the concept of having a favorite color and they know what mine is.   I gathered all the ingredients for a stew at my farmers’ market and it all is so beautiful, is it not?

Sometimes cooking is just assembling really great ingredients and doing just a bit to bring out their flavors.  When you are using peak of the season produce, it’s easy to make something delicious.  This is not to say that this stew makes itself.  I took the time to roast the squash because I like it best that way but you could certainly just add it raw along with the potatoes to save yourself a step and a baking sheet to wash.  You also need to cook the beans separately but seeing as these are fresh, it only takes a half hour or so.  At my markets, you will often see the beans pre-shelled for you.  It is nice that someone did the dirty work for you and I used to buy them that way.  But the truth is that the beans in the pods are much fresher, they are cheaper, and shelling them is even easier to do than shelling peas.

One Year Ago:  Braised Purple Cabbage with Apples, Pecan Molasses Bundt Cake with Bourbon Glaze
Two Years Ago:  Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon, Soba Noodles with Mushrooms and Bok Choy, Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies
Three Years Ago:  Dimply Plum Cake

Cranberry Bean Stew with Maple Roasted Delicata Squash and Sage
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

1½ pounds delicata squash, cut in half, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch chunks
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. maple syrup
1 cup fresh shelling beans
1 medium red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 pound new potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
½ cup dry white wine
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
½ bunch Swiss chard, leaves only, chopped
4 sage leaves, slivered, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Place the squash chunks on a baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil, a large pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the maple syrup.  Using your hands, toss well.  Place in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and flip the pieces over, return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, or until completely tender and browning in spots.  Remove and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Pour in the beans and cook, keeping the water at a mellow boil, until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 25 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onion along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic.  Give it a stir, then add the thyme leaves.  Stir in the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are browned in spots, about 8 minutes.  Things will start to stick but don’t worry about it.

Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.  Stir in the red pepper.  Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and add the squash and the beans.  Stir well, then add the chard.  Continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the stew is heated through, the chard has wilted slightly, and the potatoes are fully cooked, about another 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls garnished with fresh sage leaf slivers.



End of Summer Heirloom Tomato Tart

September 18, 2011

Uh oh.  I think I may have waited a bit too long to share the recipe for this tart with you.  Feel that?  Smell that?

Fall.

September in Seattle actually means the end of summer produce-wise.  Those things that many of you get in July (squashes, tomatoes, corn, etc) we don’t really get until September.  I’ve said this before but as amazing as our markets are in the peak of summer – tables filled to every square inch with berries, peaches, peas, green beans – fall is the produce season that makes me swoon.  Heirloom tomatoes, corn, and summer squash sit right next to booths with winter squash, carrots, eggplants, and all manner of peppers.  For the next six weeks or so, I will be a very happy shopper.

This lovely tart was inspired by three things.  One, my new rectangular tart pan.  Two, a similar tart that Ashley made last summer in a class I attended.  Three, a crust from this book I keep yammering on about.  Ok, four – those gorgeous tomatoes that keep calling my name.  This is actually quite simple.  A cornmeal studded crust, soft goat cheese mixed with fresh basil, perfect tomatoes, salt.  Oh all right, I did use a secret weapon.

Rather than just drizzle the top with olive oil, I took a cue from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume and mixed together some pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and olive oil.  I drizzled that simple but intoxicating mixture sparingly over the top and gave it a healthy sprinkle of sea salt.  You know how once in a while you take a perfect bite?  What is in your mouth is an ideal mix of texture and flavor?  This tart is full of those bites.  The cornmeal in the tart dough gives it a delightful crunch and a bit of sweetness – also, the crust has more heft which is a nice contrast for the creaminess of the goat cheese.  The tomatoes, of course, are the star but they are certainly helped along by the sour punch of the lemon and pomegranate molasses.  I hope you don’t have to wait until next year to give this a try.

One funny note.  I balanced the tart on the railing of our deck for these photos.  I am a bit vertically challenged and was having trouble getting enough distance from it to get a good photo.  I didn’t want to put it on the ground.  Randy, who is 9 inches taller than I am, offered to take a shot.  So here is the view from 6 feet.

One last piece of news!  My friend Jen and I are doing another yoga retreat together on October 1st.  These dates always sell out which is why I’ve never mentioned them beforehand.  This time, with the busy fall that we are all diving into head-first, there are a few spots.  Come join us on Bainbridge Island for the most amazing yoga day complete with lunch made by me.  Details are here.

One Year Ago:  Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Two Years Ago:  Nutella Pound Cake (probably the most popular recipe on my site)

Heirloom Tomato Tart with Basil Goat Cheese and Cornmeal Crust
Dana Treat Original (inspired by many)
Serves 6-8

If you don’t have a 14 x 4-inch rectangular pan, this can also be made in a 9-inch round tart pan.  I also made mini tarts for a party and used colorful cherry tomatoes as the topping.  You will have left over pomegranate molasses mixture but it’s pretty great on just about any vegetable.

For the crust
1 1/3 cups flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg, beaten

For the tart
8 ounces soft goat cheese, such as Montrachet
2 tbsp. heavy cream
¼ cup (packed) basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons, plus additional for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 (depending on size) heirloom tomatoes, mixture of colors
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt

Make the crust
Place the flour, cornmeal, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Process until well combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Add the egg and process until the mixture comes together.  Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead to bring it together into a cohesive mass.  Flatten into a rough rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Roll the pastry out into rectangle about 1/8th of an inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan.  This dough is very stiff and can be difficult to roll out without tearing and cracking.  You can also just press it into the pan with your fingers rather than rolling.  Trim any edges.  Prick all over the bottom with a fork and place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the freezer, line with parchment paper or foil, and pour in pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove the pie weights, return to the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is a nice golden brown.  Cool completely.

Finish the tart
Place the goat cheese in a large bowl and mash roughly with a fork.  Add the cream and mix well to combine.  (The cream will make it, um, creamier, and will also help with the chalkiness that goat cheese tends to have.)  Gently mix in the basil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Scoop the goat cheese into the cooled crust and smooth it with a spatula.  Slice the tomatoes and layer them in decoratively.

Mix together the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Drizzle the mixture over the top of the tart.  Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of your best sea salt and a few more ribbons of basil.



Corn with Tons of Herbs

September 13, 2011

I’ve been writing this blog for 3½ years.  In blog years, that is like, eternity.  I’m sure there are those who wonder, why bother?  Why spend money to get it up and running and then hours a week on something that brings you no income, no direct contact with your audience?  I can very easily tell you why.  It’s reading about people’s favorite teachers which gave me so much hope about our new school and the upcoming year.  It’s sharing some personal and kind of painful stuff and getting love and support in return.  I often say this but sitting here in our little study, typing, watching the cars drive by, I most often feel that there are five people reading my blog.  And then I share on a more personal level, and I am blown away by the support.  So.  Whether you are a first time reader, a first time commenter, someone who visits often and comments often or someone who has just commented for the first time, I want to thank you for being here and for supporting me, on many different levels.

One more thing, before we move on to corn.  The winner of the $50 Target gift card is comment #92 (randomly generated and coincidentally, the year I graduated college).  Congratulations Jennifer!  I will contact you to get your mailing address!

Without further ado, I have to ask are you tired of corn yet?  Is it possible to be tired of corn?  Let’s talk about corn.  What is your favorite way to eat corn?

Up until very recently, I would have said “boiled for three minutes, slathered with butter, showered with salt”.  Because corn is pretty perfect that way.  Especially if it is height-of-the-season farmers’ market corn.  Which is the only time I buy it.  Certain vegetables I buy all year regardless of the season.  Broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, the usual.  All of those taste pretty good to me whether I buy them in January or July.  Tomatoes taste terrible in the winter but I need tomatoes in my life and yes I know they are a fruit.  Corn and asparagus are things I eye warily in the produce aisle, suspicious of why they are there when spring and summer are one or two seasons away.  But come late summer/early fall, I buy a lot of corn.

I catered a party for about 40 people last week and as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I needed it on the menu.  I tested it several times beforehand and with one bite, I knew I had a winner.  I’m sure there are some of you out there who stubbornly believe that you don’t need to do much to corn to make it taste good and I encourage those of you to realize that not much is actually done here.  The corn doesn’t even cook for that long but the time it does spend in a hot pan, it is accompanied by a bit of butter, shallots, cumin seeds, and tons of herbs.  Like, tons.  The original recipe called for higher quantities of tarragon and dill, but I say use what you have.  At this time of year, I always have a lot of bits and bobs of herbs floating around and I used them all.  Cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, mint, parsley, chives – all of them went in.  We are coming to the end of corn season but before we do, please give this a try.

One Year Ago:  Saffron Cauliflower, Summer Squash Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint
Two Years Ago:  Holly B’s French Bread, Thai Green Curry, Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart 
Three Years Ago:  Rosemary Aioli

Summer Corn Sauté with Tons of Herbs
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 6-8

The only herb I wouldn’t use here is rosemary – I don’t think its unique flavor would mesh well with corn.  Fresh oregano is pretty strong if you are using that, just add a bit.  If you are doubling this for a party of 40, use two sauté pans and prepare for it all to be eaten.

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large shallots, chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
6 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 8 large ears)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped assorted herbs
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and cumin seeds.  Sauté until shallot is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Add corn kernels, 1 tsp. coarse salt, and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Sauté until corn is tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix in all herbs.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Eggplants in the Summer

August 29, 2011

Occasionally, someone will still introduce me as a personal chef.  It surprises me because I hung that hat up years ago.  It was my job for three years and was a big reason I started this blog, but it really has been two years since I regularly cooked for anyone other than my family.  I loved that job.  The only reason I stopped doing it is that I found it too solitary.  I cooked alone in my kitchen, drove alone in my car, and let myself into empty houses.  After three years, I was ready to have more direct contact with people.  Adult people.  I started doing more catering and now I teach regular classes.

One of the things I do miss about the personal chef gig is the incredible creativity that the job required.  Or, I should say, that I decided it required.  None of my clients ever told me that I had to make something different for every meal, but I thought I should give them tremendous variety.  This necessitated me using my many cookbooks well.  Within my own insular cooking world, I tend to reach for the same books over and over, or make up recipes based on restaurant dishes I have enjoyed, or just let the gorgeous produce at the farmers’ market guide me.  But when I was cooking for several families three times a week, I couldn’t be that willy nilly – I had to be very organized.  I sat down each Friday with a big stack of books and decided on the week’s menu.  Saturday I would shop.  Sunday I would prep.  And Monday I would start to cook in earnest.

I don’t miss the pressure of those days but I do miss the forced creativity.  I miss my books.  Most weeks I am either catering an event or teaching at least one class and I find myself turning to easy old favorites to fill in.  Coming back from our week in Sun Valley, and with a relatively quiet week before the insanity of September begins, I indulged in my books.

First up was this delicious (if a bit ugly) stew from what is probably my real true favorite cookbook – Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen.  (If you don’t own any of her books, I would buy Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone first, then buy this one.)  This is a relatively slim volume but I’ve made about half the recipes and they are all winners times ten.  It is my only cookbook where most of the pages have separated from the binding.  Her recipes are tested to perfection, written clearly, appropriately portioned, and, well, just plain tasty.  Everything.

Eggplant and I are not BFF’s.  It wants to be my friend because I have been a vegetarian for 25 years and vegetarians are supposed to love eggplant.  I have never been one to rock the boat too much but I have not been able to fully embrace eggplant as the meat substitute of the vegetarian diet that people claim it to be.  Let’s face it.  Much of the year, eggplants are giant, bruised, and bitter.  In late August/early September, they are small, perky, firm, and sweet.  It is then that I start to understand why some people love them.

Like many that highlight the glories of late summer, this recipe is really a guideline.  I found everything at the farmers’ market because my pantry/refrigerator/fruit basket was empty after a week away.  You probably have some late summer produce on hand and you should use what you have to make this delicious.  I changed the recipe by slicing things differently, adding more herbs and a dose of white wine.  This is a great dish for a warm night because it is delicious served at room temperature.  I intended to make a quinoa studded with fresh corn kernels and scallions to serve alongside but decided at the last minute to keep it simple.  I wish I had made the quinoa – this dish needs a grain of some kind.


Summer Potatoes Stewed with Eggplant, Peppers, and Olives
Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4

I used oil-cured black olives in this dish and they were sublime.  They are my favorite olive to cook with – you can find them in the olive bar of your grocery store.  They tend to have wrinkled skin and are jet black.  Kalamata can be used instead.  I usually reserve my non-stick frying pan for eggs, but it’s a terrific tool to cook eggplant.  You can get it nice and brown with a minimum of oil. 

This is a great place for “second” tomatoes – your tomato farmers’ cheaper, slightly ugly, but still delicious offerings.  Finally, Madison gives instructions for salting the eggplant, allowing it to stand, then continuing with the recipe.  If you use super fresh eggplant, you don’t need to do this.

About 2 tbsp. olive oil
1½ pounds super fresh eggplant, cut into thin rounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and sliced lengthwise
2 large bell peppers, cut into ½-inch strips
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 large garlic clove chopped with a handful of parsley leaves
2 tbsp. chopped oregano
1/3 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
¼ cup (or more) dry white wine

Place a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add about a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the eggplant along with a large pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.  Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the eggplant starts to turn golden brown.  It doesn’t need to cook through, just take on some color.

While the eggplant is browning, heat another tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven.  Add the onion, potatoes, and peppers along with a large pinch of salt.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned here and there, 6 to 8 minutes.  Lower the heat, season with another pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Stir in the tomatoes, garlic/parsley mixture, and the oregano.  Pour in the wine and stir to combine.

Add the eggplant and olives and gently mix everything together.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, or longer if time allows to concentrate flavor.  Add more wine if things are sticky or the stew seems to dry.  Serve garnished with additional parsley.



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