The Little Things

Snow in Arizona 1998

Snow in Arizona 1998, oil on canvas, 30 x 22 inches (Hilary and Mimi)

On a cold Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple hours preparing beets, carrots, peppers, seeds, nuts and quinoa.  We had a busy week ahead with meetings and social events that  would limit my cooking time so I prepared several small dishes to have on hand.  With jars and pots of side dishes in my fresh pantry I will have delicious tidbits to add to our meals.

I have made these marinated carrots for many years since discovering the recipe in a British cooking calendar. They are the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich.

carrots

Cut 5-8 peeled carrots into chunky matchsticks about 1/4 inch across and any length. carrots cooking

Place them in a large skillet and barely cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for just a minute or two, long enough to slightly soften them.  Drain and toss with a mustardy vinaigrette:  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Store in a jar in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving. Top with minced green onions or chives and some chopped dill. (I used my dried dill.)

carrot salad

Next I steamed yellow beets until tender, peeled them, cut into batons and tossed with a bit of olive oil. I stored these in the fridge, ready to add to a salad, or dress with lemon and anise seed for a lovely condiment alongside a sandwich.

beets

We had some of them to accompany our Sunday soup, tossed with arugula, pistachios and crumbled goat cheese.

beet salad

On to the red peppers.  I roasted them over the flame on my gas range, peeled them, and cut into strips.  Stored in a jar with some crushed garlic and olive oil, they are ready to add to a grilled cheese sandwich or a quinoa salad.

red peppers

Like these grilled cheese sandwiches made with a smear of chipotle puree, roasted red peppers, cilantro leaves, Mexican quesadilla cheese and Catamount cheese.

grilled cheese prep

sandwich

I like to have jars of toasted nuts and seeds on hand to add to a salad or to snack on before dinner.

Toast a cup of sunflower or pumpkin seeds in the toaster oven at 300° or in a dry heavy skillet until fragrant, don’t let them burn. Have ready a bowl with a teaspoon of shoyu or tamari.  Toss the hot seeds in the sauce.  They will sizzle a bit.  Let cool.  If there is excess shoyu, drain on a paper towel.  These have just the right amount of saltiness.

sunflower seedsseeds with shoyu

 

 

 

 

 

 

With my pre-cooked quinoa I made a  salad.  I combined 2 cups of the cooked grain with this vinaigrette: the juice of a lime, 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes, salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil.  I added 2 tablespoons of dried currants, chopped roasted red pepper and a handful of picked cilantro. Other vegetables you might include are cucumber, fennel, green onions, cherry tomatoes and avocado.

quinoa salad

Finally, I had a yen for gingersnaps.  They seemed a good match with apples or tangerines for a touch of sweetness after studio lunches this week.  The recipe comes from Marion Cunningham, but I have altered it some. I make this dough in my Cuisinart but it is easy to make by hand.

Cream together 6 tablespoons butter, 3/8 cup vegetable oil and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Add 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses and 1 large egg.  Then stir in 2 cups unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sometimes I add finely chopped fresh ginger or some crystallized ginger cut into tiny pieces.

cookie dough

Shape into walnut-sized balls, roll in turbinado sugar and place 2 inches apart on a parchment covered or greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350° for 12 minutes.

My Sunday work done, I couldn’t resist a taste.

gingersnaps

 

A taste for corn

Minolta DSC

Apple – Maggie and Lauren 2005, charcoal on paper, 30 x 44 inches

My friend Maggie once told me about her sudden late night desire for corn tortillas. She decided to make a batch to satisfy her craving. I imagine her in her kitchen in the middle of the night,  pressing the masa into tortillas, the limey smell making her mouth water, then savoring the succulence of the finished tortilla.  I bet she ate the second one slowly, smeared with butter and a pinch of salt.

I share Maggie’s love of corn in many forms. One of my favorites is spoonbread ─ soft-centered spoonbread from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking.  I haven’t made it in a while, but remembered how well it goes with many meals. It is the perfect accompaniment to a vegetarian dinner as it provides a dose of protein.

The recipe is very simple but it does take about 45 minutes to cook so I planned accordingly and put it in to bake while I assembled the rest of the meal.

First, I turned the oven to 375°. I  prepared the baking dish, a souffle dish, by putting it in the hot oven with 2 tablespoons of butter.

spoonbread pan

The batter is simple:  1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup unbleached flour, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk. I used the corn meal that friend James brought me from Aspen Moon farm. It is finely ground but retains the bran ─ the brown flecks in the batter.

spoon bread pan (4)

When the oven and the dish with the butter were hot, I poured in the thinnish batter, then carefully poured another 1/2 cup of milk, without stirring to combine, over the center. This will make the custardy soft center.

batter

Bake for 45 minutes until crusty brown and the center a bit jiggly.

spoonbread

Another quick bread in my repertoire is corn muffins with jalapeños. I serve these with lunch salads, soups, buffalo steaks, grilled chicken, almost anything.

corn muffins

Combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, (use three teaspoons at a lower altitude), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar. Add 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk and 6 tablespoons safflower (or canola) oil.  Stir in a large chopped pickled jalapeño.  Pour batter into a well-buttered muffin tin.  This makes 10- 12 muffins.  Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

muffin

The final dish in my corn marathon was posole.  Bud always smokes our Thanksgiving turkey over coals on the Weber and I look forward to the smoky broth I make from the remains. This year I used it in posole, a New Mexico dish of chile and hominy.

posole

I soaked the dried corn kernels (the best are from Rancho Gordo),  overnight, then cooked them in water to generously  cover.  Once the corn was softened, in about an hour, I added a hunk of onion and an ancho chile and left the pot to simmer, partially covered, until the posole was tender and had ‘bloomed’. This took another couple hours and I added water as necessary to keep the posole covered.

with poblanos

To make the soup, I sauteed a large, chopped onion and four cloves of garlic in a little safflower oil, then added three roasted, peeled, chopped poblano chiles. I  dumped these into the cooked, drained posole, added several cups of my smoky turkey broth and let the mixture simmer.  Just before dinner I added chopped leftover turkey to the soup and prepared the garnishes.

with turkey

I used my mandoline to cut a piece of cabbage into fine shreds, tossed it with the juice of half a lime, salt and a little olive oil.  I prepared cilantro and cut up an avocado and a lime. Other inclusions might be a melty Mexican cheese, slivered radishes, or a salsa. I used what I had on hand.

garnishes

I tasted the posole for salt, stirred in a big spoonful of chipotle puree and served the soup in bowls made by Thea and Lele.

posole 2

 

 

Soup for a snowy autumn night

Phoebe 1988

Phoebe 1988, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches

There are several hundred cookbooks on my kitchen shelves.  I have been dipping into some I haven’t used lately, stumbling over recipe gems that I once cooked.

book shelf

On a recent cold afternoon I paged through Poor Cook, a book I used often when we lived in London on a limited budget. I was learning to cook and this little volume inspired my budding interest in cooking and taught me many wonderful dishes.

I wondered if the Pasta e fagioli soup was as delicious as I remembered so set out to make it.  My Rancho Gordo bean club delivery had arrived and I had a pot of flageolet beans cooking with a piece of kombu.  Just right for the soup.

flageolet beans

While the beans cooked,  I chopped a head of fennel, three stalks of celery, four cloves of garlic and some small potatoes.

veggies

When the beans were done I removed about three cups with some of the bean broth (and saved the rest for another dish).  These went into the soup pot with the veggies, a teaspoon of salt and a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes and left to gently cook until tender.

Next, I added several cups of water and brought the soup to a boil, threw in two handfuls of casarecce pasta (about a cup) and cooked until al dente tender.  With a handful of chopped Italian parsley, one of grated parmesan, and a good grind of black pepper the soup was ready.  And yes, it was as delicious as I remembered, becoming creamy and succulent with the pasta and cheese. (I placed a bowl of parmesan on the table to add as we wished.) Served in Thea and Lele bowls.

the soup

To go with the soup I made a salad of roasted butternut squash and pomegranate seeds, lettuce and arugula, a nice contrast to the savory pasta e fagioli.

squash

pomegranate seeds

To the greens, I added the chopped squash and seeds and tossed everything with a simple olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper vinaigrette.  Buon appetito!

salad

 

 

 

A comforting fall dinner

Eating

Eating  2011, oil on board, 12 x 12 inches

On these cool, fall evenings with the light failing so early, I turn to familiar, comforting dishes for our dinner.  One of our favorites is pasta carbonara, creamy and savory.  My version is not a traditional Italian carbonara and I hope you too will feel free to add and subtract ingredients to suit your taste. I adapt the recipe according to whatever is in my fridge, be it a bit of bacon or ham, herbs such as parsley, thyme or chives, and onions, shallots or garlic.  A vegetarian version might include mushrooms cooked over high heat in olive oil until brown and tender. This is how I made carbonara a few weeks ago.

parsley and ham

I chopped a yellow onion and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil, then added pieces from a slice of Black Forest ham.  I strewed the mixture with leaves from several sprigs of thyme, still growing under the apple tree outside the kitchen.

onions,ham,thyme

I kept this warm while I brought a pot of water to the boil then tossed in about 5 ounces of penne,  enough for the two of us.  In a small bowl I combined two eggs with a big handful of grated parmesan and beat them together. (Use one egg and more parmesan for each additional serving.)

eggs and parmesan

When the pasta was tender, al dente tender, I drained it. I dumped the hot pasta into the warm pan with the ham and onion, then added the egg and parm mixture, tossing and stirring until combined, creamy and liquid.  (I didn’t want to make scrambled eggs.)  The heat of the pasta cooked the eggs just enough to make a delicious sauce.  I added a large handful of chopped parsley and a good grind of black pepper and the dish was ready to eat.

 

ready to serve

To accompany the pasta I made a simple salad inspired by a traditional Waldorf Salad but without the mayonnaise.  I added thinly sliced apple and toasted walnuts to salad greens, then dressed everything with a mustardy vinaigrette to offset the creamy pasta. (Combine a tablespoon Dijon mustard with a tablespoon red wine vinegar, or to your taste.  Slowly add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil  to make an emulsion.)

apple salad

With a side of steamed broccoli and some homemade breadsticks, dinner was served.

So, the breadsticks.  My usual favorite commercial breadsticks are out of stock so I decided to make my own.  No more store bought for me.

Combine 3/4 cup of very warm water with 1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast and a teaspoon of barley malt.  This last is optional but adds a subtle flavor to the sticks.  When the yeast has proofed, add it to 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

ingredients

This will make a soft dough.

dough

Knead until well combined and smooth, adding a bit of flour as necessary to keep from sticking.  On your lightly floured counter, roll or pat the dough into a 10 x 7 inch rectangle.  Rub with olive oil and cover with plastic.  Let rise for about an hour.

ready to rise

I use a marvelous technique for forming the breads that I learned from a recipe in Carol Field’s Italian Baking. When the dough has risen, don’t deflate but cut in half, then into narrow stripes across in the other direction. Pull each piece gently and twist slightly from each end to make a skinny stick.  Mine always have a nob on each end.  I like the rough, rustic look.  The dough is soft so don’t fuss. Place on a sheet of parchment laid on a baking sheet.

risen dough

ready to bake

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until brown.  Cool on a rack.  (I rewarm leftovers in the toaster oven at 300° for a few minutes to regain the crunch.)

baked

I like to serve the breadsticks upright in a pretty vessel, this one made by Chiu Leong.

on the table

 

A visitor from Hawai’i

 

hiroki

Hiroki  1989, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches

Artist Hiroki Morinoue was with us for a week in late September, here to work on a new woodcut with Bud. We have eaten many meals with Hiroki, Setsuko and their family in Holualoa, Hawai’i.  I learned to use Asian flavorings in my cooking from observing the Morinoues in their kitchen.

One of recipes I make for parties in Holualoa was inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe, Sweet Winter Slaw, from his cookbook, Plenty.  Mangoes were on sale at the market and I bought a big one for the slaw to accompany a grilled pork tenderloin. (See blog post Fresh peas for details on cooking the meat.)

I cut half a beautiful green cabbage from Zweck’s into thin shreds and tossed it with a dressing made of the juice of a lime, a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, a teaspoon of shoyu, a tablespoon of maple syrup and a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes.

cabbage

dressing

I thinly sliced the mango and added  it to the cabbage with a big handful of chopped cilantro and a smaller handful of chopped mint leaves.

salad

Tossed this with the dressing then added the crowning touch ─ candied macadamia nuts.

I toasted a handful of macnuts in a teaspoon of butter, added a couple teaspoons of sugar and let caramelize, watching closely so the nuts didn’t burn, then sprinkled them with a bit of salt and pepper flakes.  Let cool.

macnuts

candied macnuts

I scattered the cooled nuts over the salad, served in a Doug Casebeer bowl.

slaw

At the end of the week we celebrated Hiroki’s birthday with a special lunch capped with an apple galette.  Our apple tree had given us a bounty of tart/sweet apples this year.  They are perfect for pie as they retain their shape after baking while becoming tender and succulent. I tossed the slices with the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of sugar, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  (Other apple varieties will need sweetening to your taste.)

P1020163

I prepared half a recipe of my pie crust ─ see blog post Pie! for details.  After chilling the dough for an hour I rolled it into a large circle, about a 1/4 inch thick. For the final passes with my rolling pin, I sprinkled the bottom parchment paper with turbinado sugar.

P1020164

I slipped the pastry round (ish) with the parchment onto a baking sheet and piled up the apples, leaving a good margin.

P1020165

Folded over the edges, pressing a bit to seal.

P1020166

Baked at 450° for 45 minutes.

Happy Birthday, Hiroki!

P1020168

 

Pan Bagna for lunch

The Three Graces

The Three Graces 1993, pastel on paper, 31 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches   (A picnic on Bald Mountain with Zoë, Phoebe and Theo)

 

Yesterday I harvested lots of tomatoes.  Finally.  I hope the remaining green/yellow ones ripen soon as we expect cooler temps later this week. Fall is surely here.

tomato harvest 2

In the morning, as I  practiced tai chi, the memory of delicious, messy pan bagna sandwiches floated among my random thoughts.  In the past, I had taken these succulent sandwiches on picnics, their savory, oily goodness wrapped in wax paper and foil.  I decided to prepare them for our lunch using some of the sweet, ripe tomatoes I had picked.

I hurried into the kitchen after I finished my exercise, knowing the pan bagna needed a few hours to marinate.  I sliced, then chopped a couple largish tomatoes, added a crushed clove of garlic, a good handful of chopped basil, a big pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil.

ingredients

Then I crumbled a tin of tuna into the mixture with a few grinds of black pepper.

tomatoes and tuna

I had ready a fresh baguette from the St. Vrain Market.  I cut it in half  then cut the half horizontally,  removing some of the crumb to make a depression into which went the tomato/tuna mixture. I pressed the top half of the baguette over this, squishing it firmly, and set the sandwich on my cutting board with another board on top.  I weighted this with an unopened bottle of olive oil.

pressing

The concoction sat for a few hours until lunch time when I cut the half loaf into 2 inch slices. Garnished with a green salad, lunch was served.

pan bagna

This may be prepared a day in advance, wrapped, weighted and placed in the fridge. Other fillings might include cucumbers, roasted red peppers, anchovies, artichokes, olives …..

 

Preserving the Bounty of Summer

Minolta DSC

Harvest  2004, oil on canvas, 32 x 60 inches

With the shorter, cooler days, I begrudgingly accept the coming end of summer and work to preserve some of the season’s bounty.   As a cook who prides herself on cooking seasonally, I also love to have a pantry of summer tastes for dark winter nights.

In the past, I went mad for making various fruit jams, using boxes of our favorite apricots and peaches, and buying pounds of raspberries from Mr. Bankert on Hygiene Road. These days,  Zoë brings us jars of her lovely  jam and we eat those boxes of fruit I cannot resist in desserts, pies and out of hand.

There are several things I do put up, jalapeño and poblano chilés and, this year, corn and salsa.  Zoë is an ambitious canner and one of our favorite of her many delicious concoctions is her peach salsa.  With a twenty pound box of peaches awaiting my attention I decided to get her recipe.  I hope she doesn’t think we don’t want her salsa gifts.  No, no, dear, please keep them coming ─  who ever has enough peach salsa?

salsa ingredients

Prepare a canning pot, your pint jars and lids. (see my book for detailed directions on hot-water bath canning).  Have hot sterilized jars ready, and water boiling in the canner.

Combine in a large, non-reactive pot, 1/2 cup white vinegar and 6 cups of peeled, chopped peaches. Peel by immersing peaches in boiling water for 10 seconds or so until skin rubs off.

salsa mix

Add 1 1/4 cups of chopped red onion, 3-4 jalapeños, diced, 1 red pepper, diced, 4 roasted and chopped Anaheims, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.  Then boil gently until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, top with the lid and screw band. Process in a hot-water bath for 20 minutes (at our Colorado altitude, 15 minutes otherwise). Remove canner lid and let jars sit in the hot water for 5 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  This made 4 1/2 pints.

peach salsa

Zweck’s farm had gorgeous, large jalapeños again this summer. I pickled them to use all year in many Mexican and Indian preparations.  They are also great in a peanut butter sandwich with a sliced banana!

chiles in brine

The recipe comes from my sister Mimi on her farm in central Missouri and can be found in How I Learned To Cook, An Artist’s Life. Briefly, the chilés are slit, immersed in a salt brine for 24 hours, packed in jars with vinegar and processed in a hot-water bath.

jalapenos

And I couldn’t resist the poblanos at the Zweck farm. I roasted them on my gas stovetop.  Other years I have used the gas grill outdoors but have found the range works more quickly ─ the chilés sit right in the flame. I roasted two dozen chilés in about 1/2 an hour, using three burners. The smell is intoxicating.

 

roasting poblanos

Here is a heap, cooled and ready to go into ziplocks, (unpeeled) and frozen.

pile of poblanos

Lastly, I put up fresh corn.  Connie Zweck couldn’t believe I hadn’t done this.  “But it’s so delicious in the winter,” she said.  So I gave it a try.   The process was faster than I imagined.  I had a dozen ears and it took me about an hour to prepare them for the freezer. First, husk the corn.

cobs

Have ready a big pot of boiling water and a big bowl of ice water. Cook the corn for a minute then drop into the ice water.

corn cooling

I cooked four cobs at a time, cooled them and sliced off the kernels.

cutting off cob

I put the kernels from two ears into each ziplock, enough to add to muffins, Indian fritters or to stuff a chilé.

ready to freeze

With these jobs done, I am ready to enjoy the autumn, knowing I have preserved a little taste of summer.