November 8th, 2011
Fat, Bones, and what to do with the rest…

The witty and charming Toronto-based author, Jennifer McLagan, has done it again. After her award-winning books FAT and BONES, what else would she write but ODD BITS: How To Cook the Rest of the Animal? In celebrating the low and slow cooked goods like shank, brisket, ribs, and more, she also offers tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) takes in “Melancholy spleen,” “Have a heart,” and “Heads up.”
If you are serious about sustainable eating, then get yourself a copy of ODD BITS, and get cooking.

oddbits

September 14th, 2011
Last tastes of summer

peachesandverbena

I just received a phone call from a good friend of mine who is spending the month on the Island of Limnos in Greece. Much of her husband’s extended family live on the island and they are always dropping in for impromptu meals of garden salads and local seafood. My friend told me she found fresh langoustines and has kilos of sun-ripe tomatoes and peppers to keep her entertained for most of the day.
It made me long for summer, which is quickly fading away, and ripe peaches and lemon verbena, as in the photo above. It’s a simple salad I like to make with just a squeeze of fresh lemon. Peaches are also wonderful, peeled, lightly poached in Lillet Blanc and lemon verbena, one of my favorite herbs for its heady lemony fragrance and flavor.

WHAT SUMMER FLAVORS WILL YOU MISS?

September 1st, 2011
Of Black Beans and Oatmeal…And the winner is….

I’m just back from the great city of Portland, OR (thanks Bob and the Bob’s Red Mill crew) where I was honored to judge, along with Leather Storrs, chef at Noble Rot in Portland and winner of this season’s Food Network’s “Extreme Chef;” and Rachel MacRitchie, Scottish native and honorary president of the Daughters of the British Empire, the Spar for the Spurtle Ultimate Oatmeal Throwdown.
Matthew Cox, The 2009 World Porridge Making Champion and Golden Spurtle Winner, animated the event, which will send the winner to compete in Scotland later this year.
It was a tough decision among the 3 finalists. Jim Schafer, from Wisconsin, had already made almond milk and churned his own butter for his Nutty Coconut Oatmeal by the time the judges arrived. Portland resident, Rachel Kimbrow, wowed us with her gorgeous silky custard and a gingerbread-flavored oatmeal. In the end, Merry Graham, of California, won us over with crisp black bean porridge patties. I know…I know…oatmeal patties? I thought the same thing, but once we tasted them, we loved the Southwestern flavors and crisp coating as well as the surprising take on “oatmeal porridge.”
blackbeanpatty
Black Bean Porridge Patties with Black Bean Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:
2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Award Winning Steel Cut Oats
1 2/3 cups water
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinse, drained, divided
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup minced cilantro for patties, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro for pico
3/4 teaspoon Bob’s Red Mill Baking Powder
1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour, additional for forming patties
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 ½ chopped fresh tomatoes
2 green onions, chopped, additional for garnish
1/2 cup picante salsa, medium or mild if preferred
2/3 cup Greek yogurt

1. In a 4-cup bowl, combine Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats and 1 2/3 cups water, stir and set aside for three hours. Do not drain water after oaks have soaked. *Alternative non-soak method listed below.

2. Pour softened oats and soaking water in a 4-quart or larger saucepan, combine, garlic, water, and salt, cover, and cook on high or medium-high for 9 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Uncover, add 1-cup black beans, cumin, and red pepper, stir constantly and cook 4-minutes.

3. Pour hot porridge into a large bowl and stir in 1/3-cup cilantro and then add baking powder, stir, add all but about 2-tablespoons of the oat flour until uniform in consistency. Sprinkle a work surface with about 1-tablespoon of remaining oat flour. Form 4 patties by scooping 1/2-cup oat mixture. Sprinkle each mound with about 1-tablespoon of oat flour; press down with the back of a metal spatula and shape with hands. Use additional oat flour if needed.

4. In a large non-stick skillet, heat grapeseed oil on high. Fry patties on both sides 5 minutes, adjusting heat between high and medium-high, until patties are brown and crispy. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl toss together remaining black beans, 1/2-cup cilantro, tomatoes, green onions, and picante salsa.

5. Place Black Bean Porridge Patties on a large serving patter or on individual salad plates. Top patties with Black Bean Pico de Gallo and dollop with Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onions. Serves 4

Winning Recipe by Merry Graham, COURTESY OF BOB’S RED MILL

* Alternative non-soak method: Combine oats with 2 2/3 cups water in a 4-quart saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cover, adjust heat to medium and cook for 14 minutes or until water has almost completely absorbed into oats. Uncover, and add black beans, cumin and red pepper, stir constantly and cook 4-minutes. Continue instructions as listed above.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO COOK OATMEAL?

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August 21st, 2011
Summertime, and the entertaining is easy…

sbfarmersmarket

People often ask how often I cook for myself (or others) and the answer is: every single day, but it doesn’t have to be a gourmet 5-course meal. I get inspired by my travels and visiting with friends and their favorite local vendors and markets. Recently, I was dazzled by the scents and colors of the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Fresh Lavender, Sungold Tomatoes, Cranberry Beans, White Peaches, Purple Onions, and more inspired an impromptu get together at the beach. First, we headed to the Santa Barbara Fish Market where we picked up fresh Santa Barbara uni (we couldn’t help cracking one open on the spot and scooping out the fresh, sweet roe) sbuniand a whole black cod, “the Darth Vader of the Sea”, as my friend Myles described. sbfishmarket.
We wrapped peaches in prosciutto di Parma and tossed up a few salads while Darth got warmed up on the grill.
peaches
Here are three salads I made up, using produce from local dairies and farmers:
3salads
1) heirloom tomatoes, spring onions, feta cheese, cucumbers, mint, and basil, olive oil
2) cranberry beans, cilantro, green garlic, jalapeño, olive oil and lemon
3) New potatoes, lots of fresh dill, spring onion, creme fraiche, and yogurt

Everyone brought something and no one was stressed about having a perfect and elaborate dish, my recipe for simple, summer entertaining at its best!

What’s your go-to recipe for an impromptu get-together?

August 12th, 2011
Bob Moore, the Red Mill, and a Model A Roadster

I recently visited Portland, OR and was lucky enough to get a grand tour of Bob’s Red Mill by the One and Only Bob Moore himself. Bob has a fascinating story and is one of the most passionate people in the industry. More than that, he is beloved by his staff (who share company ownership) and makes the rounds of his 7-acre facility at least several times a day, stopping to say hello to various employees. I’m several decades younger and work out regularly, but keeping up with Bob, who just turned 82, was not an easy task.

Before and during the tour, Bob played the piano, and talked about everything from his love of books and mechanical engineering to his antique mills. He also made me promise to tell everyone to “make sure to store Bob’s Red Mill flours in a cool place so they stay fresh.” Bob’s Red Mill now offers over 400 grains, seeds, flours, and more, including gluten-free and certified organic products. Some products that I personally love and always have stocked in my kitchen are the Steel Cut Oats (for muesli), Almond Flour, 7-Grain Hot Cereal, Organic Medium Grind Cornmeal, and Coconut Flakes (great in banana bread and chocolate chip cookies). I’m also eager to try the newer products like Teff, Organic Amaranth and Chia Seeds.

After our tour, Bob insisted on taking me to the Whole Grain Store for lunch in his Ford Model A Roadster.

I was sad to leave but will be back soon to judge the SPAR FOR THE SPURTLE CONTEST, the Ultimate Oatmeal Throwdown.
bobandfordmodel

quinoapackage
I love this quinoa salad, which is also gluten-free; free toss to in the best from your garden.

shunI love the Shun Chef’s Knife.

Quinoa Salad

Organic Quinoa Salad


Combine 1 cup cooked quinoa, to package directions with a cucumber, peeled and chopped, 1 spring onion or red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh chopped mint, basil, and/or flat-leaf parsley, and
1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped. Stir in good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and a crack of pepper. You can always add a few chopped tomatoes, and snow peas (as I did here), or whatever you have fresh on hand. Serve as a light main course or with grilled fish or chicken.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOB’S RED MILL PRODUCT AND WHY?

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July 14th, 2011
Organic Kohlrabi

kohlrabi
A friend of mine brought this bouquet of bulbs to me from her local CSA in Alaska. Beautiful, organic kohlrabi is a strange looking member of the cabbage family. I was heading to Seattle and needed to pack a picnic, so I tasted the kohlrabi wrapped in pea shoots and prosciutto di parma. The salty, sweet prosciutto gives the kohlrabi a nutty flavor.
photo-3
Wrapped in damp paper towels, the kohlrabi kept its crunch and was so much better than any airplane food.
Here’s more on how to grow kohlrabi.

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June 24th, 2011
French Breakfast Radishes

photo

This is my first attempt at planting French Breakfast Radishes. Actually, I gave the seeds to my boyfriend’s father, Paul, since I’m new to Alaskan gardening and Paul is a seasoned gardener. This year he’s planted collard greens, peas, strawberries, raspberries, onions, lettuces, radicchio and more. Knowing my love of radishes, a friend from California had sent me the seeds for this oblong French Breakfast Radish.
I’m impatient when it comes to harvesting–I want to taste everything as soon as possible. Radishes mature quickly and since the radishes needed thinning, I was able to pick a few of the first radishes and, most importantly, get there before the moose.
I love radishes whole, with a bit of butter and dipped in fleur de sel. Or, sliced and layered on buttered baguette. They’re also delicious roasted in the oven for about 25 minutes and then drizzled with a bit of good balsamico or braised in brown butter.
photo-1
During my last visit to Alabama with friends, we made this simple platter of radishes, butter, spring onions, pea shoots and eggs. These are 6 minute eggs that yield a luscious soft yolk, perfect for spreading on toasted bread. The carrots: I simply steamed them and drizzled with Pasolivo tangerine oil and a squeeze of fresh orange juice.

How do you like your radishes? And what will you be harvesting first from your garden?

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June 3rd, 2011
Garden Bounty

masalabounty

I was looking for inspiration in the kitchen and came across some photos I took last summer while visiting the American Masala Farm in upstate New York. There’s nothing like harvesting fresh vegetables and fruit from the garden. What to do with all this goodness? Aside from sitting in the garden and eating vegetables out of hand, sun-warmed and raw (which is always a pleasure), I love to lightly steam cauliflower and broccoli and snap beans and serve with a quick anchoiade, which is basically just a few tablespoons of olive oil, 2 to 3 crushed anchovies, some fresh garlic cloves, crushed and a dash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Melt it all together in a small pot over medium heat and add some fresh parsley or capers. Serve with lots of bread and fresh garden vegetables. It’s also delicious tossed into pasta with some fresh tomatoes.

May 20th, 2011
A Taste of the South: Sara Foster’s Secrets to Perfect Fried Chicken

FINAL-SaraFoster'sSouthernKitchen_cover

Sara Foster’s new cookbook, SARA FOSTER’S SOUTHERN KITCHEN (Random House), is spectacular, and “absolutely stunning,” according to Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa). Sara cooks whatever inspires her from the farmers’ markets in the Durham-Chapel Hill area where she has owned and operated the beloved Foster’s Markets for over 20 years.  In her fourth and most personal cookbook, with a foreword by Lee Smith, Sara gives us a slice of Southern heaven–squash-laced hush puppies, Carolina shrimp chowder–but always with her own twist and respect to what’s seasonal and fresh.  There are also classics, welcome any time of year, including her Granny Foster’s Sunday Fried Chicken.

I was recently in North Carolina visiting with Sara, and some of our friends, including authors Frances Mayes and Lee Smith.  Sara and I worked together for years at Cottage Living magazine and we always seem to spend time testing recipes, tasting new things, and dreaming up the next dish we’re going to cook.

We spent an afternoon first buying free-range, organic chickens at the Durham market and frying up some crisp bird before heading to see Bill Smith over at Crook’s Corner for some fried softshell crabs and garlicky carrot slaw. Bill had just returned from winning the James Beard Award; Crook’s Corner was honored as an American Classic. Also, in the neighborhood, is the delightful chef, Andrea Reusing of Lantern Restaurant. We’ll cook from her brand new cookbook, COOKING IN THE MOMENT, next…

Bill had arrived the evening before and, just off the plane, freshly-churned some honeysuckle sorbet; it’s divine, pure summer on a spoon. He knows that if I’m in town and it’s honeysuckle season, I’ll be begging for this gorgeous floral ice. Here’s a video from last summer. If you can’t make it to Crook’s in Chapel Hill, you’ll find the recipe in his book, SEASONED IN THE SOUTH (Algonquin Books).

Back to fried chicken. It’s easier than you think. You just need to know a few basic things:

-The vessel. Every Southerner knows that a skillet is the way to go. If you don’t have one passed down from a family member, start your own tradition. They’re great for frying chicken, of course, as well as baking cornbread and stewing greens, all wonderful accompaniments.
-The chicken. A Free-range, preferably organic chicken from your local farmer or market.
-To brine or not to brine. Here, we have two options. If you have time, make a salt brine with Sara’s recipe, or just soak in buttermilk with a few seasonings for about 30 minutes.
-The temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by tossing in a bit of flour. It should sizzle but not burn. Keep the frying temp to between 350 to 375 degrees F.
-A table of hungry (and soon-to-be-happy) friends.

Click here for SARA’S RECIPE FOR GRANNY FOSTER’S SUNDAY FRIED CHICKEN.

SFfriedchickenvertical

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April 10th, 2011
Top Chef Masters, Chef Suvir Saran and the American Masala Farm

Top Chef Masters has just premiered and already there seems to be a favorite.  This season’s Masters include Floyd Cardoz, Mary Sue Milliken, NOLA’s Sue Zemanick, Naomi Pomeroy, Traci des Jardins, John Currence, Hugh Acheson, George Mendes, Alessandro Stratta, Celina Tio, and John Rivera Sedlar.

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Suvir calls himself Susie Homemaker…well, here he is. Actually, Suvir graced food lovers and writers with his presence and taught us that there is life beyond curry at The Floating Island Workshops last summer in Seaside, Florida. Photo courtesy Rose Dobrez

As to my favorite: I feel that Suvir doesn’t need to be on any show to prove that he is a “Master,” but for Reality TV viewers, he is definitely a breath of fresh air.

He reminds us that there is no need for drama in the kitchen, that cooking is fun, and that Top Chef Masters is entertainment first and foremost.

“When we cook with friends–chopping and shopping, talking together, there’s no sense of judgment.  There’s a sense of ownership when everyone is involved,” he told me earlier today. “It seems we share as little as possible for fear that we may be asking too much of another. But in the kitchen and at the table, all is forgiven. Each chore requested of a guest, makes them that much more vested in your dining experience thereby eliminating any performance anxiety. I hope for more Americans to think of every day cooking and eating as a family concert in the form of a symphony with an elaborate orchestra. Let the fancy chefs be the solo performances. The day we free ourselves of the fear of failure at the table, is the day we become the masters of our own destiny and fate. You are what you eat, so make more of an effort in indulging yourself and sharing it in a meaningful way with all.”

We’re happy that Suvir took time out of his busy schedule to write about  turmeric in Organic Gardening.  Suvir and his partner, Charlie, have a wonderful farm in Upstate New York with an organic vegetable garden, chickens, ducks, goats, and more.  For more on Inidan cooking, check out Suvir’s books Indian Home Cooking and American Masala. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of cooking with him in Seaside and summers at his American Masala farm; not only is he fun and funny, but he’s a true testament to his craft.

Peppers in the wok.

Peppers in the wok.

Here are some recipes Suvir and I have cooked together with Charlie and friends at the American Masala Farm, especially the Mirchi kaa Salaan; the recipe will be available in his forthcoming cookbook, Masala Farm.

TELL US WHO YOU’RE ROOTING FOR ON TOP CHEF MASTERS AND WHY. AND WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE INDIAN-INSPIRED RECIPES?

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