Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Menus-July


Isn't the farmers' market produce lovely! The top egg in this photograph is actually greenish. Yet another reason to love the farmers' market. Here is another batch of six menus. I am particularly looking forward to the Tortilla Soup!

1. Tortilla Soup, Watermelon, Corn Tortillas (Soup & Stew)
2. Big Green Salad, Corn on the Cob, Biscuits (Salad)
3. Phad Thai, Cucumber Pickles, Sticky Rice and Peanut Sauce (Noodle & Rice)
4. Egg Salad Sandwiches, Potato Chips, Green Pea Salad (Sandwiches)
5. Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Sauteed Zucchini (Cassarole)
6. Grilled Bread, Lemon Toasted Almonds, Caponata, Cheese, Olives (Mezze)

Shopping List:
Produce:
Cob corn (available at my farmers' market)
Avocado
Lemon
Lime
Cilantro (available at my farmers' market)
Onion (available at my farmers' market)
Garlic (available at my farmers' market)
Watermelon
Lettuce (available at my farmers' market and in my backyard)
Tomatoes (available at my farmers' market and in my backyard)
Cucumber (available at my farmers' market)
Zucchini (available at my farmers' market and in my backyard)
Eggplant (available at my farmers' market)
Sweet pepper (purple peppers available at my farmers' market)
Proteins:
Chicken (pastured chicken available at my farmers' market) OR pinto beans
Eggs (eggs from pastured chickens available at my farmers' market)
Tofu OR alternative meat for phad thai
Monterrey Jack Cheese
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Table cheese (goat cheese available at my farmers' market)
Milk
Plain yogurt
Nuts
Whole Almonds
Bakery:
Baguette
Frozen:
Green peas
Shelf-Stable Staples:
Tortilla Chips
Masa de Harina (to make your own corn tortillas you need a tortilla press, too)
Chicken stock OR Vegetable stock (if you are not up to making your own)
Flour (whole wheat and all purpose)
Shortning
Sugar
Salt
Rice stick noodles (for phad thai)
Fish sauce
Rice vinegar
Tamarind paste OR limes
Red curry paste
Glutinous rice
Peanut butter
Mayonnaise
Anchovies
Bite-sized dried pasta
Whole water chestnuts
Greek olives

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Menu Planning, Part II


One of the difficulties with conventional cookbooks and menu planning is that cookbooks are organized and focused in such a way that one becomes lost in the planning process. Dishes are highly stylized and, unless one is in an extraordinarily creative mood, difficult to adapt to different ingredients without a great deal of effort. It can be frustrating to seek a recipe for a specific ingredient and find that the book includes only one or two applications. Additionally, cookbooks are heavily focused on meatcentric entrees and this can discourage the use of alternative proteins, particularly when one is unfamiliar with their best uses. These are some of the reasons why I have developed my own approach to menu planning and cooking.
In evaluating dishes in my many cookbooks I have assembled a list of several types of cooking. Into these I group my recipes. The recipes are written so as to invite adaptation to seasonal ingredients and non-meat proteins. I also find that as I assign recipes from the different groups over the course of the week, I experience less redundancy in my dinners. For example, one of the categories is searing/sautéing/pan-frying and this category includes stir-frys. A basic recipe for stir-fry  would include suggestions for vegetables that suit the three growing-related seasons, which are pre-growing season, growing season, and post-growing season. The following are my cooking categories:
  1. Direct Heat (this includes searing, sautéing, pan-frying, and grilling)
  2. Indirect Heat (this includes roasting and braising)
  3. Salad (this includes any amalgamation of cold ingredients and a sauce) 
  4. Mezze (this includes menus that consist of a variety of little dishes, often consistent with a cultural theme, which are designed to be tasted together)
  5. Cassarole (this includes dishes for which the ingredients are handled separately before being combined and baked as a whole)
  6. Soup & Stew (this includes any amalgamation of hot ingredients in suspension, which may or may not be cooked together) 
  7. Sandwiches, etc. (this includes any marriage of a bread and a protein, as in sandwiches, pizzas, tamales, dumplings, etc.)
  8. Noodle & Rice (this includes all dishes in which the noodles or rice are the primary ingredient)
As you organize your recipes into these categories you will find that planning can become much more streamlined. It is far easier to look at a large cookbook and find something in it that is a casserole because it is Monday and you always have casseroles on Mondays, then it is to flip aimlessly through the pages with glassy eyes and a distracted brain. There are clearly more categories than there are days of a week so you will obviously not cover all categories in the course of a week. On The Provident Table blog I will identify the category into which the recipe falls, as well as write recipes and suggestions that can be easily adapted to varying ingredients.

To access Menu Planning, Part I, please click here:
http://theprovidenttable.blogspot.com/2012/06/planning-menus-part-1.html

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Noodle--Summery Tomato Sauce on Fettuccine, Roasted Zucchini

This sauce does not use fresh tomatoes, something I find way too labor intensive for everyday dinner preparation, but relies on lightly cooked canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and pungent garlic. You could probably use diced fresh tomatoes if said tomatoes were REALLY ripe. Canned tomatoes preserve the essential summery tomato freshness very well for sauce purposes.


Summery Tomato Sauce on Fettuccine
1 lb fettuccine noodles, cooked according to package instructions with 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp salt in the water, reserve a cup of the water when draining
2 28 oz cans plum tomatoes (I used my home canned tomatoes from last summer)
3-5 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 handful basil leaves, chiffonade (cut into thin strips)
Salt to taste (add in 1/4 tsp increments)
Pepper to taste
Freshly shredded parmesan cheese to finish

Place the drained tomatoes in a large saucepan over medium high heat and break up with a potato masher or straight-edged spatula until the tomatoes are uniformly crushed into small pieces. Stir in the olive oil and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Adjust the seasonings. Whisk together 1 Tbsp of the reserved pasta water and the olive oil and stir into the tomatoes. Add the basil leaves and immediately toss with the cooked, drained pasta. Taste and adjust seasonings again. Toss with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

My zucchini plant has become quite generous in the last week. Here is a very tasty way to use it. Draining helps to get rid of some of the water and roasting intensifies the zucchini's flavor. If you like a soft, lush zucchini dish than skip the draining step.

VEGAN NOTES: Omit the parmesan cheese if you would like to make this dish vegan. Use vegan noodles (without egg).
GLUTEN NOTES: Use gluten-free pasta.

Roasted Zucchini
1 medium zucchini
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
2 tsp sugar
Salt

Cut the zucchini in half width-wise and cut each half in half length-wise. Cut each section into 1-inch wide (at the wide end) triangular wedges (think steak fries). Place the cut zucchini on a towel lined cutting board and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover with an additional towel and allow the zucchini to sweat for 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450-degrees. In a large bowl toss the zucchini with the oil, vinegar, and sugar. Place the zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are caramelized. Serve.

VEGAN NOTES: This dish is vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: This dish is gluten free.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dinner Conversation

Sitting at the table as a family for dinner is so ingrained in my head that I have never considered any other course for my family. This is a good thing because I keep hearing of studies that prove the benefits of family dining for the individual diners, particularly the children. Dinner is a unique time when we begin to unwind and focus more on one another and less on the pressures of the day. It is a great time to get to know our families better.

I recently checked a fantastic book out of my library entitled "The Family Dinner" by Laurie David. She is a huge proponent of having dinner as a family and her book is all about how to accomplish this. One thing that she addresses is the necessity of interesting conversation that will engage the participants and make dinner together more enjoyable. Besides the obvious rules of avoiding outside communication (i.e. phone calls and texting), this requires question prompts and even assigned topics of conversation. I decided to try to do better with this and hopefully make dinner more interesting for my family.

There is a poem that always makes my children giggle, which I believe applies well to this situation:

Daddy Fell Into The Pond by Alfred Noyes
Everyone grumbled. The sky was gray.
There was nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And there seemed to be nothing beyond,
Then
Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click.

And the gardner suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up shaking silently.
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft,
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.

Oh, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond,
When
Daddy fell into the pond.

Sometimes a bit of tumbling into the pond is all you need to kick start an interesting conversation. Laughing over dinner is a good thing. Children need to laugh and love to do it when given the opportunity.

Tonight we played the "I'm thinking of an animal that..." game and talked about George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt.

This is the link to Laurie's website:
http://thefamilydinnerbook.com/

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Sandwich--Herbal Spring Rolls, Garlicky Green Beans, Apricot Triffle


Occasionally I find that my dinner plans do not suit my palate on a particular day and I decide to improvise. This keeps me from feeling trapped by my menus and adequately serves my impulsive creativity. It also allows me to take advantage of ingredients that I may have previously overlooked. Such was the case this afternoon as I contemplated my planned dinner of pasta with a light tomato-basil sauce. Certainly this would have been delectable, particularly on a warm summer evening; however, my son brought me a handful of chives and my plans changed. Chives, if you have never attempted to grow them, are one of the easiest and most tolerant herbs to grow. They survive very cold winters and return each spring with broader clumps and their characteristic purple pompom flowers.
When faced with chives I thought about rice paper spring rolls. These are the soft spring rolls that make an appearance on the menus of many Southeast Asian restaurant menus and which beautifully showcase fresh herbs. The technique is relatively simple, although you may turn out a messy roll or two at first, and the results are quite satisfying. I served these rolls with extra bean thread noodles (used in the rolls) tossed with hoisin sauce and sesame oil, garlicky green beans, melon, and cucumber onion refrigerator pickles. We had an apricot trifle for dessert. The oven was not engaged. My kitchen was cool. I love summer.
Fresh Herb Spring Rolls
Round rice paper spring roll wraps (translucent and brittle)
1 7.5 oz package bean thread or rice thread noodles, covered with boiling water and allowed to soften
8-12 oz protein of choice (I used thinly sliced, steamed tempeh, rubbed with hoisin and baked at 425-degrees until crisp)
1 handful of chives
1 stalk of basil, leaves cut into chiffonade (thin strips)
Hoisin or other thick Asian sauce (peanut sauce could be yummy)

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Fill a pie plate halfway with cool water and place a spring roll wrap in the water. Allow it to soften before removing it and placing it on your work surface. Add another rice paper wrap to the water. Place one chive, folded in half or thirds in the center of the wrap and add a couple of pieces of basil. Layer the protein on top of this and drizzle with the sauce. Layer a generous pinch of the noodles on top of this and fold the narrow ends of the wrap over the filling. Roll the longer sides over the middle filling to create a burrito shaped roll. Set it on the waxed paper. Repeat for as many as you would like to make. Cover with a damp cloth until it is time to serve to prevent the rolls from drying out.

VEGAN NOTES: This recipe is vegan. If you use peanut sauce be careful that it does not contain fish sauce, which is not vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: This recipe appears to be gluten free but be careful with anything containing soy sauce (such as the hoisin sauce) because this contains wheat flour unless otherwise marked. You can purchase gluten-free soy sauce products online and maybe even in your local health-conscious grocery store.
Garlicky Green Beans
Green beans appeared at my farmers’ market and I was happy to see them. They are so much more pleasant when they are really fresh.
1 lb freshly trimmed green beans
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Salt to taste

Blanch the green beans by placing them in a pot of cool water, bringing it to boil, boiling for about three to five minutes (until the beans are crisp-tender and bright green), and removing the beans to a bowl of ice to stop the cooking. Pour out the cooking water and add the olive oil to the pan. Allow the olive oil to become heated and add the garlic. Saute until the garlic is fragrant but not burned and remove it from the heat. Return the beans to the pan and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate until serving.

VEGAN NOTES: This recipe is vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: This recipe is gluten free.
Apricot Triffle
1 cup yogurt
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp almond extract
Left-over cake or biscuits, broken into bite-sized pieces and toasted
6-7 apricots, sliced and pitted
2-3 Tbsp sugar

Whisk to combine the yogurt, sugar, and almond extract in an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Layer the cake over the yogurt. Combine the apricots and sugar and allow to macerate for approximately ten minutes. Pour the apricot syrup evenly over the cake and then spread the apricots evenly over all. Cover and chill until serving time.

VEGAN NOTES: Use non-dairy yogurt (such as soy, although taste before adding sugar as this yogurt tends to be sweet) and vegan cake or biscuits.
GLUTEN NOTES: Use gluten-freen cake or biscuits.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mezze--Lebanese Grilled Flatbread

Lebanese Grilled Flatbread
The slightly crispy texture that is characteristic of this bread is achieved best when the bread is not allowed to rise for very long. This makes it quick to prepare, despite its characterization as a yeast bread. If you find your bread is risen substantially and would like the bread to be crispy then make sure to deflate it thoroughly. If you want it to be softer then allow the dough to rise and do not deflate it too much when rolling out.

2 cups/10 oz all purpose flour
2 cups/10 oz whole wheat flour (you could use all all purpose, but whole wheat adds a nice flavor)
2 Tbsp sugar/honey
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
½ cup oil
1 egg, beaten

Stir the yeast, flours, sugar, and salt together or proof yeast in the water if necessary. Beat the oil and egg together and stir the oil mixture and the water into the flour mixture to form a rough dough. Kneed the dough for five minutes and add additional flour only as necessary to prevent it from coming off on your hands. Form dough into a circle and cut it into six pieces. Allow the dough to rest, covered, if you have time because this will make it easier to roll out. If you want it to rest for longer than an half hour then put it into the refrigerator. Roll out each ball into a 1/8-inch thick round. Cook on a griddle pan or frying pan, which has been preheated over medium heat, for about two minutes per side. Keep cooked breads covered until you serve them.

It was interesting to me to learn that in many parts of the world people cook their everyday bread without the oven concept that is so familiar to us in the States. Grilling bread does not produce the lift or “oven pop” that an oven brings, but does produce a lovely, and relatively quick, flatbread that pairs nicely with just about anything. Leftovers make great lunch pizzas the next day.

VEGAN NOTES: Use egg substitute of choice or make your own by combining 1 cup potato starch, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/3 cup soy flour, 2 Tbsp baking powder, and 1 Tbsp xanthan gum. To reconstitute an "egg" measure 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp of this mix into a saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it smells toasty. Combine with 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp soy lecithin (a little extra element I learned from Crescent Dragonwagon's "The Cornbread Gospels"). Mix into the recipe as you would an egg.


GLUTEN NOTES: Use all-purpose flour substitute (you can make your own by combining 2 parts rice flour, 2 parts potato starch, 1 part millet flour, and 1/2 part tapioca flour) and be sure to weigh this because it is denser than the all purpose flour--you will probably need only 3 1/4 cups or so but I have not weighed this for precision. Add 4 tsp xanthan gum with the flour. Be sure to use gluten-free baking powder.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Salad--Corn, Greens, and Shrimp

Salads are quintessential summer. Yesterday I made a really fantastic salad using greens from my own garden, which made me feel quite self-satisfied. Growing lettuce really is not particularly difficult, other than the fact that there are major inertia hurdles to overcome in gardening with little children, but I still felt that its harvest and use in my dinner was very satisfactory.

Since it was the primary element of our dinner, this salad was very substantial. I started with a Mexican-inspired corn and shrimp salad then built from there. Here are my basic instructions for building a salad with commentary on how I customized this one.

Corn and Shrimp Salad
1 lb uncooked shrimp (preferrably wild caught American shrimp)
1 tsp salt
1 handful cilantro, mostly leaves, minced
6 cloves garlic, pressed
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups frozen (thawed) or very fresh (cooked) corn kernels
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp chili powder (optional but nice)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees or preheat a skillet over medium high heat. Combine the salt, cilantro, garlic, and olive oil. Toss with the shrimp and cook for 6-7 minutes, cook just until the shrimp is opaque and turn halfway through. Cool the shrimp slightly and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces. Toss the shrimp with the corn, mayonnaise, and chili powder if you are using it. Chill.

Building a basic green salad (main course)
2 handfuls of mixed greens per eater
2 Tbsp to ¼ cup chopped/julienned/sliced fruit or vegetable per eater (I used Farmers' Market carrots)
1 Tbsp toasted, chopped nuts per eater OR ¼ cup croutons (I used candied and salted slivered almonds)
1-3 Tbsp grated or crumbled cheese per eater (I used 3 Tbsp grated Edam/eater)
Vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp olive oil per eater
2 tsp vinegar or 2 Tbsp acidic fruit juice per eater
1 small clove garlic per eater, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp sugar per eater

Place the fruit or vegetable, nuts or croutons, and cheese in the bottom of your salad bowl of choice. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients to emulsify. Add the corn-shrimp salad and toss to combine thoroughly. Add the mixed greens and drizzle some of the vinaigrette over the greens. Toss lightly and taste a lettuce leaf to determine whether seasonings and vinaigrette levels are correct. Season the salad with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Artisan salts are very nice on green salads because they provide another point of flavor intensity and textural interest.

This salad's elements could be fully made ahead of time and the salad tossed immediately before serving.

VEGAN NOTES: Use additional nuts in place of the cheese and substitute fried or roasted, crumbled tempeh for the shrimp. Use vegan mayonnaise.
Roasted Tempeh
8 oz tempeh (simmered for 10 minutes in water and then cooled slightly)
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, minced (optional)
1/2  onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Whisk together the sundried tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke. Crumble the tempeh into the marinade and allow it to sit up to one hour. Preheat the oven or skillet over medium-high. Spread the tempeh on a layer of silicone liner or foil. Bake until the tempeh is crispy. Cool slightly and use in your recipe.
GLUTEN NOTES: As prepared (without the croutons) this salad is gluten-free.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

My Love Affair With the Farmers' Market

I have to set a limit in the amount of money I allow myself to spend at the Farmers' Market or I could end up with insufficient funds for the rest of my shopping. There is something so satisfying about purchasing food from the producer. Not only can I be confident that I am supporting local people and businesses, but I also can talk to the purveyors about their wares. Generally they are most engaged in their wares. This past weekend I enjoyed conversations with the Mushroom Man, who made me promise that I would eat the coral mushrooms he sold me that night and gave me directions on their preparation, and the Honey Lady, who encouraged me to pursue my goal of establishing a bee hive in my backyard. In the course of my conversation with the Honey Lady two other beekeepers materialized and we all talked about our favorite invertebrates for several minutes. It was a connection with my community that just does not occur at the national chain grocery store and I relished it.

My children love trips to the Farmers' Market, and I like to think that it is not only because of the honey sticks that they get at the end of the trip. I hope that our conversations with the producers of their food make an impression on them, that they realize that food does not just magically materialize in sterile plastic. I hope that they learn to enjoy the music in the air, the fragrant fresh breads and flowers, and the conversations. I hope that the little details of color and texture and sound find their way into the permanent folds of their memories and they feel drawn to the source of their food when they are grown up and making their own dinners.

This is a community drawn together by food. Food is an elemental and a critical element of our survival. The patrons and sellers are most likely unagreed on political and religious opinions, but here the frenzied angst for those whose opinions differ from one's own, which is so pervasive in many forums, is suspended. We can get beyond all of that and just see one another as fellow human beings who need to eat and want to support their community.

I am thankful that my community (Spokane) supports several farmers markets and a public market. It is a mark of good things here.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Menus--July

1. Farmers' Market Salad, Lebanese Flatbread
2. Rustic Vegetable Tart, Cucumber and Onion Pickles
3. Stir-fry with Jasmine Rice
4. Hot Dogs, Popcorn, Melon (minted if you are adventurous), Coleslaw
5. Spaghetti with Tomato-Basil Sauce, Green Salad, Apples and Honeyed Peanut Butter
6. Tortilla Soup with Fresh Corn Tortillas

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

The Lag

I suppose it was inevitable, although I had lots of preparations and reasons why it would not happen, but I have encountered a lag period. Early, too. I hope that it will not kill this blog but I have been plagued by none other than Life recently and hence the posting that trickled off then just stopped. I vacationed with my family and, although we returned nearly a week ago, I have still not successfully fully reentered my life. Between a stomach bug, a toddler getting her top canines (the pointy, vampire ones), and a yard that needs way more attention than it has gotten, the blog has suffered.

HOWEVER,

I do intend to right this wrong shortly. Thank you to all of you who hang on and are still interested in the fruits of the labor of one very human human being.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sweets--Family and Cookbooks, and English Toffee

It seems appropriate to combine a post on family and a cookbook I reviewed today entitled. The Spice Merchant's Daughter, by Christina Arokiasamy, which details the author's childhood in Malaysia, is a fabulous book that details the author's experience with food and spices in her childhood. The descriptions are vibrant and inviting and the recipes quite approachable. I love checking out cookbooks from the library. It is a great way to "shop" for new cookbooks and get my new book fix without spending a penny.

I just spent a few days with my grandmother and enjoyed covering her fabulous English Toffee with my daughter. There is something transcendent about family recipes and cooking traditions. My grandmother learned to love candymaking from her father and she has passed her knowledge along to me over the years. Here is my recipe for English Toffee that is based on hers.


English Toffee
2 cups butter
2 Tbsp light corn syrup OR Lyle’s golden syrup
1/3 cup water
2 ½ cups sugar
½ tsp salt (1 tsp if using unsalted butter)
1 tsp vanilla

Lightly oil a marble slab with vegetable oil and wipe off any excess.  Place butter, corn syrup, water, sugar, and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil over moderate heat.  Cook until the syrup reaches 294°F (290°F for Spokane) and wash down the sides two or three times during the cooking process. Do not wash down the sides of the pan once it reaches the specified temperature.  The syrup is ready when it turns the color of a paper bag and the popping bubbles emit a bit of smoke.  Pour the syrup onto the prepared marble slab.  Run a large knife or spatula under the candy to make sure that it does not stick to the slab.  When the candy is set but still pliable score it into 1 ½-inch pieces with a sharp knife.  Cool completely.  Break into individual pieces along scoring lines and cover on all sides with melted chocolate.  Place chocolate covered pieces on waxed paper to set.  English toffee can be kept for at least a month in an airtight container. 

Variations:        Stir 2 cups toasted almonds, coarsely chopped, into the finished syrup just prior to pouring it onto the slab and dip milk chocolate covered pieces into chopped toasted almonds.
Stir 2 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped, into the syrup just prior to pouring it onto the slab and dip semisweet chocolate covered pieces into chopped toasted pecans.
Stir 2 cups toasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped, into the syrup just prior to pouring it onto the slab and dip candy into white chocolate.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Baking--Biscuits

Keep your mixing hand light but thorough (DO NOT kneed or squeeze the dough, rather fold and press).

3 cups/15 oz flour (up to 1/2 cup whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup/1 1/8 oz shortning
1/2 cup plain yogurt (not non-fat)
3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450-degrees. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together the yogurt and milk. Cut or rub the shortning into the flour until it is in petite pea-sized pieces. Pour the yogurt mixture over the flour mixture and fold the two together with a spatula or wooden spoon just until a dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold over itself four to five times. You want the dough to be relatively homogenous and not crack but you do not want to work the gluten. Press the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Use a pizza cutter to cut into squares (easier than circles with less waste). Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.


VEGAN NOTES: Use 1 1/2 cups non-dairy soy milk and create buttermilk by adding 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar and letting it sit for several (5-10) minutes.

GLUTEN NOTES: Use all-purpose flour substitute (you can make your own by combining 2 parts rice flour, 2 parts potato starch, 1 part millet flour, and 1/2 part tapioca flour) and be sure to weigh this because it is denser than the all purpose flour--you will probably need only 2 1/2 cups or so but I have not weighed this for precision. Add 1 Tbsp xanthan gum with the flour. Be sure to use gluten-free baking powder.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Pan-fry--Salmon With Fennel and Onions

1 Tbsp oil
1-2 bulbs fennel, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 large onion, frenched (sliced with the ribs) 1/4-inch thick
2 Tbsp butter
1 salmon fillet
Salt and pepper

Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot add the oil and tip the pan to coat evenly. Add the fennel and onion and sprinkle with salt. Saute until the vegetables wilt and begin to turn golden. Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper (you can mix 1/2 tsp of garam masala into the salt prior to rubbing it onto the salmon for a lovely complexity). Add to the pan, flesh side down and cook for five minutes without moving. Flip the salmon with a large spatula and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or just until the salmon flakes. Return the fennel mixture to the pan to reheat and serve immediately.

VEGAN NOTES: Salmon is obviously not vegan. You could use pressed and marinaded tofu (8 oz firm tofu, sliced in half and pressed for at least 15 minutes, marinaded in 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 clove garlic, pressed) in lieu of the salmon. Reduce the heat slightly to do this.

GLUTEN NOTES: This recipe is gluten free.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Baking--Cornbread

2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup cornmeal (I use stone ground)
1 cup/5 oz flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
3 Tbsp oil

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Place the butter in a 10-inch skillet and place this in the oven to brown. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together the milk, yogurt, eggs, and oil. Pour the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir together until no big patches of flour remain but there are still lumps. Remove the skillet from the oven and place an oven mitt over the handle so you do not burn yourself. Pour the batter into the skillet and return the skillet to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Cool slightly and serve warm.

VEGAN NOTES: Use vegan margarine. Use 1 1/3 cups non-dairy soy milk and create buttermilk by adding 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar and letting it sit for several (5-10) minutes. Use egg substitute of choice or make your own by combining 1 cup potato starch, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/3 cup soy flour, 2 Tbsp baking powder, and 1 Tbsp xanthan gum. To reconstitute an "egg" measure 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp of this mix into a saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it smells toasty. Combine with 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp soy lecithin (a little extra element I learned from Crescent Dragonwagon's "The Cornbread Gospels"). Mix into the recipe as you would an egg.

GLUTEN NOTES: Use all-purpose flour substitute (you can make your own by combining 2 parts rice flour, 2 parts potato starch, 1 part millet flour, and 1/2 part tapioca flour) and be sure to weigh this because it is denser than the all purpose flour--you will probably need only 3/4 cups or so but I have not weighed this for precision. Add 1 tsp xanthan gum with the flour. Be sure to use gluten-free baking powder.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Sandwich & Pie--Quiche

I love quiche. It can be so chic, it is French after all, but it is not difficult to assemble. Quiche is good warm or at room temperature so it can be made ahead of time if your schedule so requires. Quiche toppings are also an invitation for creativity and you can divide toppings if there are eaters in your household who do not appreciate some of the same things you do!


Quiche
1 9-inch pie shell, baked and cooled
5 large eggs OR 4 eggs plus 2 whites or yolks if you have some to use up
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
Pinch nutmeg
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees. Whisk the eggs until well blended. Whisk together the milk and sour cream until smooth and then whisk into the eggs. Season the egg mixture and pour into the prepared pie shell. Sprinkle with desired filling (cheese, bacon, spinach, etc.) and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center is just set (i.e. it is not liquid but is a bit wobbly). Cool to warm or room temperature.

Variation: Make a frittata if you do not have time or calories for the pie shell. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish and pour the egg mixture right into the baking dish before proceeding with the recipe as outlined above.
Variation: Make a strata by layering 1-inch cubes of good bread(approximately 6-8 slices) on the bottom of the greased baking dish before adding the egg mixture and other mix-ins.

VEGAN NOTES: This is not a good candidate for vegans because it relies so heavily on egg.
GLUTEN NOTES: Use all-purpose flour substitute (you can make your own by combining 2 parts rice flour, 2 parts potato starch, 1 part millet flour, and 1/2 part tapioca flour) and be sure to weigh this because it is denser than the all purpose flour--you will probably need only 3/4 cups or so but I have not weighed this for precision. Add 1 tsp xanthan gum with the flour. Be sure to use gluten-free baking powder.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Salad--How To Build A Great Salad

It's salad season (as I have been nicely reminded by an acquaintance to whom I promised this recipe A YEAR ago--this blog is good because it is making me actually write these things down) and lettuce is available at the farmers' market. These are basic guidelines for making a great salad but they are anything but comprehensive. Salads are very forgiving so try something interesting, just try to remember to balance flavor points (salty, sweet, tart, etc.).

1 handful of mixed greens per eater
2 Tbsp to ¼ cup chopped/julienned/sliced fruit or vegetable per eater
1 Tbsp toasted, chopped nuts per eater OR ¼ cup croutons
1-3 Tbsp grated or crumbled cheese per eater
1 Tbsp olive oil per eater
2 tsp vinegar or 2 Tbsp acidic fruit juice per eater
1 small clove garlic per eater, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the fruit or vegetable, nuts or croutons, and cheese in the bottom of your salad bowl of choice. Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar to emulsify. Pour the vinaigrette down the sides of the salad bowl and toss to distribute the vinaigrette evenly. Season the salad with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Artisan salts are very nice on green salads because they provide another point of flavor intensity and textural interest.

Some good combinations:
Dried apricots, chopped toasted almonds, crumbled blue cheese
Apples, toasted chopped walnuts or croutons, shredded aged cheddar
Julienned carrots, julienned cucumber, chopped olives, croutons, feta cheese

VEGAN NOTES:  Use additional nuts, perhaps even a variety of nuts, in lieu of the cheese. Do toast the nuts.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Noodle--Spaghetti alla Carbonara

It is no wonder that Italian cooking is often featured in the quick cooking books; the very nature of pasta often requires that the cook not linger. In its final moments spaghetti alla carbonara is perhaps one of the quickest pastas and it must be so to obtain its very character. Lingering over this dish is not a good idea, at least when one is at the stove. The table is entirely another issue.

3-4 oz lean bacon, chopped medium
2 medium onions, chopped medium
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb spaghetti
1 Tbsp salt
Salt and pepper to taste

(NOTE: the bacon and onions can be prepared in advance and reheated prior to tossing with the eggs, noodles, and cheese) Place the bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat and cook until it is crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, as well as all but a tablespoon of the fat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden. This can take some time but the rich caramelized flavor of the onions makes up for the reduced amount of bacon in this recipe. It may be necessary to deglaze the pan during the caramelization process in order to prevent the onions and their fond (the brown layer on the bottom of the pan) from burning. Use about 1/4 cup water to deglaze when necessary. Return the bacon to the pan and reduce the heat to low to just keep the mixture warm. Bring a full pot of water to a rolling boil with 1 Tbsp salt. Add the pasta and cook until it is al dente (tender but not mushy), approximately 8-10 minutes. Now you need to work quickly to preserve the necessary heat. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Immediately return the pasta to the hot cooking pot and top with the bacon mixture. Drizzle three tablespoons of the pasta water into the lightly beaten eggs while beating in order to temper the eggs. Stir the cheese into the eggs and pour this mixture over the noodles. Use kitchen tongs or a long handled spoon and fork to toss the mixture together thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

VEGAN NOTES: This is not a good recipe for vegans due to the elemental nature of the bacon and eggs.
GLUTEN NOTES: Use gluten-free pasta.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012