Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and best of all I wasn’t responsible for this one. (Thanks Ted.) My wife and I hosted T-Day for our extended family for years and years, starting in college. Starting way back then, I instituted a policy of multi-culturalizing our holiday feasts by picking a different culture every year for Thanksgiving and for Christmas dinner. This resulted in (I thought) some pretty spectacular feasts. I did Russian food one year, Scandinavian, a great Mexican Christmas dinner complete with stuffed chiles with walnut sauce
And somewhere along the line various outlying members of the family started to rebel. People would show up at my house for Thanksgiving dinners with turkey breasts and “request” that I cook them, since they “had to have” turkey at Thanksgiving. I complied, but it pissed me off to no end, so at some point I just gave up and went back to traditional “Thanksgiving food”. Which isn’t to say they haven’t been good. A year or two back we compromised and I barbecued a couple of ducks instead of the turkey. There are plenty of interesting things that you can do with “traditional” recipes, but sometimes I miss the variety. The other advantage to non-traditional options is that it saved us from the traditional argument over whose grandmother’s stuffing we were going to make. At least we don’t have to go through that anymore. Naming our children was easier than choosing the stuffing.
I’m considering doing something wacky for Christmas dinner this year. We’ll see. Medieval French? Hmmmm.
Friday, November 12, 2004
One of my very favorite soups has got to be caldo gallego, a Spanish soup (from Galicia, hence the name) which consists of sausage, potatoes, kale or other hearty greens, onions and white beans. A similar soup appears in Portugal, where is is called (I believe) caldo verde. I made some last night, and since my buddy Greg asked for the recipe at lunch today, I thought I'd go ahead and post it.
start with broth. I use Pacific Food's "Natural" beef broth. It has a great flavor, and no added junk.
- onions (chopped)
- kale or other greens: I like "lacinto" or "dinosaur" kale, which has thin very dark leaves. I've also used oak leaf kale, regular curly kale, or collard greens to good effect. I've seen some recipes that call for turnip greens, but I find them too bitter.
- sausage: the best bet is if you can get real Spanish chorizo (the hard kind, not the squishy Mexican kind you often see in markets here). Since I don't have a regular source for those (although occasionally if I'm in Seattle I stop by the Spanish market at the top of the Pike St. hill climb) I use a hard smoked andouille that my New Seasons carries. I've also used Polish or Keilbasa, but it's not as good.
- Potatoes: I actually have started substituting tofu instead, being opposed to simple carbs, but I've used white potatoes or yellow fingerlings (the absolute best if you eat taters).
- white beans: navy beans are nice, or great northern. I think I used great notherns from Westbrae Natural last night.
Bring to a boil and cook until the kale is softened up enough to eat. Goes excellently with some extra tabasco dashed in at the table (if you like that kind of thing).
Monday, November 08, 2004
Last night I tried out a pork roast after a style that my friend Lori showed me. I used a medium sized, boneless pork shoulder roast, browned it in a cast iron dutch oven, then poured in some beer (Ommegang Belgian Abbey-style from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY) salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, just a little cinnamon. Popped it in the oven at 400°.
After an hour I threw in an onion, and a Mutsu apple. About an hour and a half after that I threw in a bunch of chantrelle mushrooms, and put it back in for another 45 min - 1 hour. Total cooking time was about 4 hours. It came out really well. Served along with a lentil and rice pilaf, and some green salad. Worked out very nicely.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
I'm a big fan of whole grain cereal, particularly raw, sugar free muesli types. These days I have a new favorite though. The clever people at Food For Life have come up with a new flourless, sprouted grain cereal that I really like. It's basically their Ezekiel Bread, ground up and dried until it's crunchy. It's very reminiscent of Grape Nuts (tm), only it's all organic with no additives, sugar, preservatives, etc. It's great with a little soy milk and some bananas and raisins. Very crunchy. While obviously full of dreaded “carbs” it's all made from low-glycemic sprouted grains, which are high in both protein and fiber. Godd stuff. And it takes a bit less chewing than muesli.
Monday, October 18, 2004
I love squash season. There are so many great things you can do with them, and they are really easy to cook. The hardest part tends to be cutting them up to clean them. The worst offender in that arena that I know of is the kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin. Little green guys. Hard as a rock. I've resorted to hatchets.
Last night I went with the common (and often under appreciated) green acorn squash. I cut them in half and cleaned them, then baked them until very tender (put them face down in a pan with 1/4 or so of water in the bottom, 350° for about and hour and a quarter) then turned them over and brushed the faces with a mixture of
- almond butter
Then put them back in the oven (turned off) until the rest of the food was ready (mushroom barley soup and corn on the cob). It worked really well. The squash came out very creamy, and played will with the almond butter. I used just enough honey to make it sweeter than just almonds, but not too sweet. It got rave reviews from the family, so I guess it's a keeper. Hazelnut butter also works really nicely.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Our friend Bill was celebrating his birthday this weekend up in Olympia, so we headed up to wish him the best. He arranged to borrow the outdoor masonry oven at the local bakery for the day, which was totally cool. He spent the morning firing it up and then sweeping out all the ashes, etc. Then people brought over all things bakeable for the rest of the afternoon and we just hung out baking and eating and gabbing and baking and eating some more.
There were spelt pizzas, baked vegetables (asparagus, tomatoes, winter squash, Italian frying peppers), little pies filled with leeks, fresh herbs and kalamata olives, calzone filled with ground turkey, onions, fresh mushrooms and parsley with yogurt (mmmmmmm), a casserole of roasted peppers, pine nuts, cheese and rice, a very tasty strawberry/rhubarb crisp with shortbread on the bottom, the list goes on. It was all amazing. We left just as they were getting ready to put 15 loaves of bread into the oven, made with the spent grains from the previous day's beer brewing.
The oven was amazing. We left around 5:00 in the afternoon, and the oven was still around 500°. Bill estimated that they could keep baking until 9-10 in the evening. Now if only I had space for one in my backyard. While there, I was checking out a cool book called the Bread Builders, on making traditional bread and constructing masonry ovens. Neat.
I also got a chance to check out the garden at Bill's house. He and his housemates have a pretty amazing setup, complete with chickens, and a huge garden with just about everything good growing in it. They still have about 30 pepper plants with lots of peppers on them, as well as kale and other nice Fall/Winter goodies. I'm jealous. I don't have any space in my yard for much of anything, let alone something on that scale.
Happy birthday Bill, and thanks!
BTW, if you are in need of any fabulous jewelry, check out Bill's site. He's an amazing artist.
Friday, October 01, 2004
We're lucky enough at my workplace to have quite a nice employee cafeteria (which is actually open to the public as well). Paul, the food service genius who runs the place, comes up with some really great stuff.
Today he had a "lo-carb luncheon" that consisted of your choice of ham or chicken, with garlic spaghetti squash and some steamed broccoli.
It was the spaghetti squash that really caught my eye. I totally dig it. My mother never went within 100 yards of one as far as I know, so I am one of the (apparently) few who was never traumatized my childhood exposure to this oft-maligned squash. I don't cook it very often at home, largely because my wife is one of the traumatized, but I think she's starting to get over it. It's a great vegetable. You can do just about anything you would with pasta, only it's not full of bad-for-you over processed white flour and dreaded carbs. This was very well executed, plenty of garlic, nicely al dente. Mmmmmmm.
Do yourself and your palette a favor and check out a spaghetti squash near you.
Monday, September 20, 2004
I tried something new this weekend that I thought I'd share. I was cooking over an open campfire, so it didn't turn out quite the way I'd been shooting for, but was still pretty good.
My wife had made some cheese earlier in the day, so we had some leftover whey, which makes a great base for soup, so I added to the whey some onions, a couple of nitrate-free ham hocks, some turnips, and about half a dozen Italian prune plums (all chopped). I let that simmer (or as close as possible on a fire) then added some beef broth and some lentils.
I think everything boiled a bit more vigorously than I had intended, so by the time it was done it was more casserole than the soup I was going for, but still quite tasty.
Monday, September 13, 2004
I did a stint as the Viking Chef at an SCA demo this weekend. Pretty fun. Lots of people wandered by asking questions and trying the snacks. It wasn't quite as organized as I had thought it was going to be, so I skipped the "they didn't have recipes" spiel and just answered questions. My contributions to the snacky bits were some "Viking porridge" which consisted of bacon, onions, apples, and oatmeal, and some barley cakes (just barley flour, salt, milk and eggs) with strawberry jam. The porridge was better-received than I would have thought, although several people reflexively recoiled as soon as they hear oatmeal and onions in the same sentence.
My son, on the other hand, came back for seconds.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Portland's weather has been a bit more reasonable (by our standards) this week, and it makes my thoughts turn to cooking. I tend to do much less cooking in the summer time, since I'm loath to pump any extra heat into my kitchen. I realize there are plenty of things you can cook without resorting to heat, but that takes some sort of forethought and planning, both of which I've had in short supply this summer.
One of my favorite cool weather dishes is soup, of just about any kind. Way more than my family wants to eat usually. My top favorite soups:
- Chowder, of just about any kind. Fish, clam, etc. My son's totally wild for clam chowder. I prefer cod chowder myself, with salt pork instead of bacon. Check out Jasper White's 50 Chowders.
- Caldo gallego (or caldo verde in Portugal). A fabulous soup of spicy sausage (linguisa or spanish chorizo is best, I often settle for andouille, since I have a good source) with potatoes, white beans and kale or other greens. I usually use a nice dark beef broth, and "dinosaur" or "lacinto" kale, which has very dark, long thin leaves.
- Gulyas (aka "goulash"). I like the Hungarian version, with little egg noodle dumplings and lots of paprika. There's another Hungarian soup that I almost like more that involves lots of smoked pork products and sauerkraut, but I can't think of the name right now. It's supposed to be a great hangover cure.
- Borscht. Love it. Especially with both beef and ham. And a really lot of beets. I also like to add apples and white beans, and lots of garlic.
- Pozole. A Mexican dish, often with pork, lots of hominy, and lots of toppings that you add as you like, such as lettuce, cheese, lime juice, tomatoes, avocados etc. Very tasty, and can be bland for those who like it plain, to jazzed up with extra ingredients for the more daring. There was a great little Mexican hamburger place down the street from my house that had great pozole. Unfortunately they closed, so I'm looking for a new source. I make it at home a fair amount too, since it'd dead simple. Use lots of Mexican oregano (not the Mediterranean kind).
- Kimchee and tofu soup. One of my favorites, with pork, and possibly white fish. Very tasty, and warming.
This isn't even taking into account bean dishes that might be soupy. I'll address them some other time. Mmmmmm, beans...
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