Newsletters: 16 Apr., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 16 Apr., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the garden
The WSU Master Gardeners say this is the time to plant dahlias, gladiolus, calla lilies, corn and beans, and harden off your vegetable starts. They also suggest planting out your tomato, squash, pepper, and cucumber starts, but some local tomato growers tell me it’s better to wait until really warm June weather to plant out tomatoes, basil, and other heat-lovers.

In the kitchen
At this time of year, lettuce is the one thing we can be sure of finding at the market.

Wilted lettuce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup water
ca. 3 slices bacon, chopped (or cut up with kitchen shears)
1 head leaf lettuce
Mix sugar, vinegar, and water; these measurements will probably give you enough for more than one head of lettuce but it can be kept in the fridge longer than I’ve ever needed to use it up – months, at least. Wash and tear up lettuce and place in a large bowl that won’t object to a little hot grease. Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off some of the grease if there’s a lot, but reserve 1-2 Tbsp. of it. Add bacon to the lettuce, then the sugar/vinegar/water mixture in about the amount you would any dressing (not enough to leave the lettuce swimming, though). Toss, then add the reserved bacon grease and toss again.
From: Kelly Iverson

Fried lettuce
1 large head of lettuce
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch salt
1 tsp. Vesop, Bragg’s, or soy sauce
Wash and trim lettuce and shake off excess moisture. Cut into four sections. Heat the oil and fry lettuce for 1 min. Add crushed garlic, salt, Vesop; mix well and cook another minute.
From: The Left Foot Organics cookbook : recipes for great food and a healthy community. Gateway, [2008].

Index to all blog posts.

Newsletters: 17 Jan., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 17 Jan., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

A new year, another couple of recipes

It’s only January, but I have to talk about Valentine’s Day this month because the February newsletter will be too late. If, like me, you’re too practical and down-to-earth (and aggressively single) to enjoy all that mushy stuff, feel free to roll your eyes. Next month I’ll talk about the cold, dark winter and the patience of seeds in the dark warmth of the earth, I promise.

My favorite Valentine’s Day story is about a young couple (no, not Gift of the Magi; I think this was a Reader’s Digest filler) who agreed not to buy each other Valentine’s Day gifts, to save money. So the Day came, and the young man produced a package for his beloved, which turned out to be a small volume of love poems. His wife was delighted, but objected that they had agreed not to buy gifts that year. With a grin, he pointed out the library stamp, and the due date.

The thing is, it is possible to be romantic without spending a bunch of money. Going out for a fancy dinner and show is a lot of fun, true, but I submit that staying in for dinner and a show can be just as good a date. In fact, staying home has some advantages — if only that the couch is a far more comfortable place to neck than movie theater seats. You can of course rent a movie, but I encourage you to emulate the young man in the story. The library has movies for free, you can usually keep them longer, and if the hold line is too long to get the one you want soon enough, why not pick up some silly old musical or even a “B” horror movie? I mean, how much of it are you really going to watch, considering that comfy couch and all?

About that food…
I went looking in Isabel Allende’s Aphrodite for a discussion of food erotica — basically, reading cookbooks in bed, dreaming of all that rich and succulent food — but instead found an interesting discussion of the seductiveness of culinary ability in men. So, knowing that many men are more comfortable in front of a grill than at a kitchen counter, I thought a little commentary on barbecuing in the winter might be useful to my gentlemen readers.

Winter grilling by Kelly Iverson
(with advice from Barbecue Master Kevin Iverson)
So you want to grill steaks for your sweetie on Valentines Day, huh? Well, relax, winter grilling isn’t all that different from summer grilling; the basics remain the same but with a winter spin. You trade the T-shirt for a parka, flip-flops for hunter socks and boots and the cold beer for a hot-buttered rum. Seriously, it isn’t that different, the cold affects the heat that is produced by the grill so you either run the grill hotter or extend the time it takes to cook the steak. If you can be out of the wind, if there is one, is even better as the wind sucks the heat away even faster requiring not only a hotter grill but also more time. So grab those steaks and your parka, fire up the grill and plan on a great, winter-grilled dinner with your favorite person!

To finish off, here are a couple of dishes with supposed aphrodisiac qualities, from Aphrodite : a memoir of the senses / Isabel Allende. HarperFlamingo, c1998. I was going to suggest strawberries dipped in chocolate, which are a classic, but this is the wrong season for strawberries. I wonder if one could make a sort of dried-strawberry bark…?

Noodles with artichoke
1/3 c olive oil
1 c bottled marinated artichokes, chopped, liquid reserved
1 small jar pimentos
1/4 c pine nuts (optional)
1/2 lb. noodles, cooked and drained
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
6 large black or green olives, chopped
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
salt, pepper to taste
Heat oil, artichoke liquid, pimentos, and pine nuts. Combine all ingredients in the warm noodle pot. May also be made a day ahead and served cold.

Curried sea bass
1/2 small onion, quartered
1/2 carrot, sliced
1 bouquet garni
salt, pepper to taste
1 c water
2 sea bass fillets, skinned and washed
1/2 lemon
Boil onion, carrot, bouquet garni, salt, and pepper in water 15 min. Rub the fish with the lemon and place in a pot; cover with boiling water mixture. Cook 15 min. on low. Remove and keep warm. Reserve liquid for sauce.
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 Tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tart apple, peeled and grated
pinch brown sugar
1 tsp. flour
liquid from cooking fish
1/2 c coconut milk
2 heaped Tbsp. grated coconut
salt, pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. cream
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Melt butter; stir in curry powder, vinegar, apple, and sugar. Add flour and cook 5 min. on low. Gradually stir in reserved fish liquid, coconut milk, and coconut; continue cooking 10 min. Adjust seasonings; keep warm but do not allow to boil. Add cream and egg yolk; pour over fish.

Well, and one more, just because of the name.

Chicken breast Valentino
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 c. cream
1/2 c. chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (i.e. both sides), quartered
salt, pepper to taste
1 egg yolk beaten with a little milk
1 Tbsp. cooked, chopped red pepper
4 Tbsp. Kahlua
1/2 tsp. salsa picante
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c chopped roasted peanuts
Melt butter and mix in flour; add cream and chicken stock, being careful to prevent lumps. Add chicken and season. Cover and cook 30 min. on low, turning occasionally. Add egg yolk, red pepper, Kahlua, salsa, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook another 10 min., stirring gently. Sprinkle with peanuts. May be made ahead and reheated.

The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on December 31.
— Marie Huston —

And love can come to everyone,
The best things in life are free.
— Lew Bowen & Buddy De Silva, Good news —

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
— H. L. Mencken —

There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
— Isabel Allende —

Who can give law to lovers? Love is a greater law to itself.
— Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae —

Quien bien te quiere te hará llorar (Anyone who loves you well will make you cry).
— Spanish proverb —

Index to all blog posts.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Another recipe from gourmet Kelly, less complex this time. She tells me that despite the milk in it, this soup can be frozen as long as you squish or shake it every 15 minutes while thawing to keep the milk from separating.

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup half & half
1 cup chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste

Cook green onions in butter in a large skillet or stock pot over low heat for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in flour and continue to cook 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat; whisk in chicken broth and half & half. Continue whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil over moderate heat and simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve.

quantities for 34 cups:
3 cups butter
9 cups green onions, chopped
24 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup flour
12 cups half & half
12 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste

Freeze in 2-cup packages; mix frequently while thawing.

Adapted from

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Broccoli Salad

2 heads broccoli
4-10 slices bacon (enough to go with broccoli amount)
4-8 green onions (enough to go with broccoli amount)
1/4 – 1/2 cup almonds, sliced (enough to go with broccoli amount)

1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. vinegar

Slice the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and fry until almost crisp, set aside and let cool. Brown the almonds in a 350F oven until light brown, set aside and let cool. Cut the broccoli into bite size florets and put into a bowl. Slice the onions thinly (including the green parts) and but into the bowl with the broccoli.

In another bowl, mix the dressing until smooth and creamy.

Mix the bacon and almonds in with the broccoli and onions, and mix until all ingredients are well distributed. Pour in dressing and mix well until everything is well coated. Use judgment here; use enough to liberally coat the salad ingredients but you don’t want things swimming. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

From: Carolyne McNary, adapted by Kelly Iverson

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Two French onion soups

French Onion Soup

This recipe was contributed by Kelly Iverson, who says it is fussy but so awesome it’s worth the effort. She’s an excellent cook, so when she recommends a recipe you can be sure it’s worth trying. She likes this recipe because it tastes good, of course, but also because it freezes well and is a good way to use up those end-of-winter onions that have lost their looks.

3 Tbsp butter
6 large onions
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups water (plus more)
1/2 cup Amontillado (or other dry sherry)
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
bouquet garni of 6 sprigs fresh thyme and 1 bay leaf

for serving:
slices of your favorite artisan bread, toasted
slices of Gruyere cheese (or Swiss, fontina, or provalone)

Halve onions and cut into quarter-inch slices. Generously grease inside of heavy-bottomed, large pot or Dutch oven (at least 7 qt). Divide butter into 3 pats and place in pot; add onions and 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook at 400F for 1 hour (onions will be moist & slightly reduced in volume). Remove from oven and stir, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and cook another 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours, until onions are very soft and golden brown, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.

Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium if onions brown too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6-8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6-8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 to 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the chicken and beef broths, 2 cups water, thyme, and a little salt. Scrape up any more bits of browned crust from the bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

At this point you can freeze the soup. When ready to serve, reheat if necessary, ladle into bowls, top with toast and cheese, and place under broiler until cheese melts.

The soup can also be used for dipping French dips and for the liquid in pot roasts, particularly beef roasts.

From: Cooks Illustrated

For contrast, here’s what a reluctant cook like me would do:

Simple onion soup

2 Tbsp butter
2 lbs onions, thinly sliced
3 cans beef broth, 14.5 oz. each
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)

1 1/3 cups seasoned croutons
4 thin slices Swiss cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes or until deep brown. Add broth and wine; boil until soup is slightly reduced and flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To garnish:
Put as many as 4 deep ovenproof bowls on baking sheet and add 1/3 c croutons to each. Ladle soup over croutons and top with cheeses. Stick under the broiler until cheeses melt.

Adapted from Bon Appétit (via the Epicurious website)

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.