Why Tomatoes Crack & Split

split tomatoesIn late summer, I'm bound to receive texts from my friends and clients showcasing cracked and split tomatoes asking me what went wrong. In short, you can blame it on the rain. When tomatoes (and all ripening fruits) have a sudden fluctuation in their water levels, they are bound to react. After a somewhat dry summer (and with a consistent watering schedule), a sudden downpour allows plants to drink up way more water than usual. As they take up water, the fruits expand, causing the skins of tomatoes to crack and split. This is particularly offensive in the case of almost-ripe tomatoes; They are already super moist and so have a greater tendency to split right before harvest - a total bummer.

The good news is, if you get out in the garden and harvest almost-ripe tomatoes BEFORE forecasted rain, you can save them. Just keep them on a windowsill or countertop to continue ripening. (Any time you can ripen fruit in the sun, hence a windowsill, it will produce better-tasting fruit.) If you miss the window and rain comes, harvest cracked and split tomatoes asap and ripen them in the same fashion. While ugly, the cracks don't do a lot to alter the flavor, and for any purist, you can cut around the tough skin and compost that portion.

 

Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus Recipe

It's full on asparagus season. Those verdant stalks are a dime a dozen these days, so while I full encourage GORGING on them any chance you get (morning omelet, shaved raw in salad, in my awesome lettuce + pasta dinner & of course grilled) I also highly encourage you to do some preserving this spring! True confession: before I moved to Washington as a 20-something, I had never eaten asparagus. I grew up in New York and while we ate vegetables at every meal, asparagus was never one of them. It wasn’t until I started working in the Seattle restaurant industry in the late ‘90s that I got into the swing of things and started looking forward to our local asparagus season. With such a versatile vegetable, the chefs would grill, sauté, steam and bake asparagus, creating a two-month parade of verdant and fresh-tasting dishes.

Luckily for us, Washington is a major producer of the country’s asparagus supply, producing over 22 million pounds annually, making it that much easier for locals to gorge. Sadly, these snappy green stalks are gone too soon—the season never lasts as long as I like.

The solution to this, of course, lies in preservation. While it’s difficult to keep the crisp in an asparagus spear, the flavors are easy to preserve. Here, a delicious way to put up a spring glut - a preserved asparagus recipe wherein the spears are submerged in flavorful oil. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to quick-blanch and freeze a bag or two. Between jars in the cupboard, containers in the fridge and a handful of freezer bags, you can stock up enough to last nearly until next spring.

Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus makes 4 pints | start to finish: about 30 to 45 minutes active time

Asparagus is a low-acid food and therefore needs special care when preserving. Here, olive oil preserves by inhibiting oxygen from touching and spoiling the asparagus. It will not, however, ward off bacteria. To insure you do not introduce bacteria, you briefly pickle the asparagus before the oil bath. The final product is stored in the fridge, as a cool refrigerator will also retard bacterial growth.

To eat this, simply strain from the oil (reserve the infused oil for sautés or salads) and use the spears in salads, soups or as a light snack. I love it for breakfast, underneath an over-easy egg and alongside buttery toast.

5 pounds asparagus, woody bits trimmed 1 ½ cups white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon peppercorns 2 cloves garlic, cut in half 1 cup fresh lemon juice 4 wide strips lemon zest 2 sprigs rosemary, cut in half 2 cups olive oil

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add pint jars (you may need to work in batches) and let sit for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars from water and set aside until ready to use.

Measure the asparagus to match the depth of the canning jar, leaving a 1” gap at the top for headspace. For pint jars, the spears should be about 4” long.  Rinse the trimmed spears and set aside in a shallow baking dish.

Add the vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over asparagus spears, letting them marinate for 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is brining, add the aromatics to the jars. To each pint jar, add equal parts salt and peppercorn, one half a garlic clove, 2 ounces of lemon juice and 1 strip of lemon zest. Set aside.

After 10 minutes, drain the vinegar and pack the pickled spears tightly into the jars. It helps to turn the jar on its side while adding the asparagus. When the jar is nearly full, add one rosemary sprig. Press asparagus together as firmly as possible and pack the jar completely.

Pour the olive oil over the asparagus, tapping the jar lightly on the countertop to release any bubbles. Cover the asparagus by 1/2”, creating an olive oil seal, and leaving about 1/2” of headspace. Place in the fridge to macerate for at least two weeks before eating. Asparagus will last about 3 months.

sterilized jars • store in fridge

Le Pichet’s French Onion Soup Recipe

1214frenchonionThis is the recipe for french onion soup perfection - that uber rich broth that holds velvety onions and is covered in burnt cheese. Le Pichet is in Seattle and a def must-visit if you haven't been in some time.

For Le Pichet’s French onion soup (aka soupe a l’oignon gratinée or gratin lyonnais), chef/co-owner Jim Drohman uses at 14-month cave-aged Comté cheese, which has a strong, nutty flavor and smells slightly of the barnyard. On its own, the cheese is satisfying, but melted over a bowl of rich, French onion soup, it’s sublime. At Le Pichet and Café Presse, “duck jello” is added to the onion soup. Duck jello is the term Drohman uses to refer to the gelatin-rich duck juices that are left in the bottom of the pot when slow-cooking duck legs for confit. This sort of addition is typical of the French bistro kitchen, where nothing tasty is ever allowed to go to waste. Since most home cooks aren’t regularly cooking duck legs, use duck or chicken demi-glace, which can be purchased in small containers in stores, but which can also be left out of this recipe. Read more about Comte cheese here.

Chef/co-owner Jim Drohman serves this soup with 14-month cave-aged Comte cheese

8 servings

Ingredients 4 cloves garlic, germ removed 2 1/2 pounds yellow onions 1 sprig thyme 1 bay leaf 1/2 stick unsalted butter 1 1/2 cup sherry 3/4 cup dry white wine 2 quarts chicken stock 1/8 cup duck or chicken demi-glace, optional Salt and black pepper 2 cups grated Comté cheese 8 slices rustic country bread, preferably day-old

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Slice the garlic thinly. Wash, dry and stem the thyme. Chop it finely.

Bake the slices of country bread on a sheet pan in a very low oven until dry and crispy.

In a large soup pot set over medium heat, sweat the onions and garlic with the butter, stirring often, until richly colored. Add the sherry, increase the heat and cook until the sherry is almost completely reduced. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the thyme, bay leaf, chicken stock and duck demi-glace (if using) and bring to a simmer. Simmer to combine the flavors, about 20 minutes.

Carefully skim the soup to remove any fat. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls. Top first with the crouton and then with a nice layer of Comté cheese. Heat under the broiler until crusty and golden. Serve immediately.

Crispy Squash Croquettes

crispy squash croquettes I love this recipe from my book Fresh Pantry. It is a clever way to use winter squash, changing the texture from something soft to something crispy, which is universally appealing. The smaller the croquette, the more crumb-to-squash ratio, so if you're making for kids who normally steer clear from veg, start small - a little trick!

You can check out the book at your local library, purchase a copy at an independent book store, or download the chapter at my eShop for $2.99.

Crispy Squash Croquettes

Croquettes are little fried patties, typically made with boiled potatoes or fish. I remember eating potato croquettes as a kid growing up in New York. My grandmother’s Italian neighbor in Queens used to season leftover mashed potatoes and shape them into flat-sided domes, then shake them in a brown bag filled with bread crumbs. “Rita used to make hundreds,” my mom recalled, “and everybody loved them.” Inspired by this same idea, the squash here is steamed and mashed as a binder, then liberally seasoned before being shaped and briefly shallow-fried, only to brown the crust before they are finished off in the oven. These crispy croquettes are delicious. Using a starchy squash for these croquettes (such as Hubbard or kabocha) will help them hold their shape better. For frying, I use vegetable oil or olive oil interchangeably.

MAKES 8 TO 10 CROQUETTES

1 pound squash (Hubbard or kabocha), seeds removed and cut into large pieces 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon butter ½ cup finely diced onion 10 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped Pinch of salt FOR FRYING 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs 1 egg Splash of milk ½ to 1 cup vegetable or olive oil

In a large stockpot, add the squash and about 1 inch of water. (You don’t want to submerge the squash; you only want to provide enough water to steam.) Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let the squash steam until very soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain the water from the stockpot. Replace the lid so the squash continues steaming and set aside to cool.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high. When the butter starts to bubble, add the onion, thyme, and salt. Stir the onion mixture often, until very soft and brown, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Scoop the soft flesh from the squash pieces and add to the sauté pan. Mash together to combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Move the squash-onion mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until very cool, preferably overnight but at least an hour. (Cooling the squash will help the croquettes maintain their shape later, so don’t scrimp on time here!)

Set up your frying station. Place the bread crumbs on a small plate. Beat the egg with a splash of milk in a shallow bowl to create an egg wash and set aside. Add about ½ cup of the oil to a deep-sided sauté pan and set over medium heat.

When thoroughly cooled, remove the squash-onion mixture from the fridge. Using a large spoon, scoop and shape it into football-like dumplings, working quickly so it doesn’t warm too much. Using a fork, gently coat the dumpling

in the egg wash and then immediately move it to the bread crumbs. Roll softly with the fork until the entire croquette is covered. Push it to the end of the bread crumb plate, then shape two or three more croquettes. Handle the croquettes as little as possible so they maintain their shape, and only shape as many as you can fry each time. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Test the oil for heat by dropping in a small pinch of bread crumbs. You want the oil hot but not smoking hot. When heated well, the bread crumbs will start frying immediately, though not vigorously. If they are only slightly fizzy, wait until the oil is a bit hotter before frying.

When the oil is ready, gently roll the croquettes into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. They will start to brown immediately. When one side is brown, quarter-turn the croquettes to brown another side. Work in this fashion until all sides are golden brown. The process for one croquette should take about 6 to 8 minutes total. When brown on all sides, remove the croquette with a spatula and slide onto a shallow roasting pan. Continue until all croquettes are done.

Put the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

PANTRY NOTE: These croquettes store well in the fridge, loosely covered, for one day. Any leftover mashed squash can be used in Baked Squash Shepherd’s Pie or as filling for Butternut Squash & Shrimp Dumplings in Green Onion Broth.

Cooking with Peppers

Fresh Pantry, PeppersTis the season for getting the last of the peppers. Now is a GREAT time to roast and freeze varieties that aren't available all year - sweet Jimmy Nardellos or fresh and hot cayenne or hungarians. You can also pickle pepper, or make big pots of pepperonata for winter stews and snacking. All of the below recipe ideas are available in my eBook, Fresh Pantry : PEPPERS, which also includes 14 recipes + essays on How To Grow Peppers all Winter Long and an instructional method for making Homemade Red Chile Flakes. For anyone reading this post, I'd love to offer it to you for $.99. Follow this special link to download and purchase. For now, the goal is fresh-eating - enjoy them while you can with these recipe ideas……. BAKED PEPPERS, TOMATOES & EGGS My perfect breakfast pairs a mass of vegetables with baked or fried eggs. Here, tomatoes and bell peppers are stewed with a generous mix of spices, drawing on the traditional North African dish shakshuka. A raw egg is cracked into the stewlike mixture and poached until just done. The goal is for the yolk to break and bleed into the peppers. You can bake this dish in individual ramekins or crack four eggs into a large sauté pan and cook them all together to serve a crowd.

Peppers, Amy Pennington

SEARED STEAK with QUICK PICKLED PEPPERS Here, perfectly cooked steak is succulent, seasoned only with salt and pepper. The beauty of this dish lies in the quick-pickled peppers. Choose peppers that have some heat—serrano, jalapeño, or even Hungarian peppers all work; you are only limited by how much heat you prefer. I like serranos for their medium heat and bright red pop of color.

Peppers, Amy Pennington

SEAFOOD BAKE with FENNEL BULB & PEPPERS I love this recipe for both its effortlessness and promised piquancy. An abundant portion of seafood is paired with a savory, thick pepper and tomato sauce spiked with preserved lemon. Caramelized onions and fennel bulb add yet another layer of flavor. Cut the fish into approximately the same size as the scallops and shrimp so they cook simultaneously. This elegant but quick-cooking meal is sure to impress. Healthy, light, and simple on its own, it can also be served with a bowl of pasta, the sauce spooned over.

Peppers, Amy Pennington

HOW TO :: IDENTIFY, HARVEST & COOK SQUASH BLOSSOMS

Squash Vine & BlossomsOne of the most frequently asked questions I get every summer is when and how to harvest squash blossoms. These brilliant tangerine-colored flowers can be cooked in broths, sautéed, or more commonly stuffed and dipped in light batters and fried. Every- one loves fried squash blossoms! Summer squash plants (all members of the Cucurbitaceae family, for that matter— cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, gourds, and so on) send out both male and female blossoms. Through pollination, male blossoms lend their pollen to the female blos- soms, and those female blossoms turn into the fruit of the plant. A plant will create more male blossoms than are necessary for pollination, and some of these may be harvested and eaten. (But if you eat all of the male blossoms, you will not have any fruit to harvest!)

Identifying male versus female blossoms is a reasonably simple task. Male flowers have stamens—a long, slender “stalk” that runs up the center of the bloom, tipped with a thick carpet of pollen. Male blossoms grow on long, thin stems from the base of the squash plant—typically about six or seven inches in length. By contrast, female blos- soms sit low to the plant and do not have a stamen. To harvest, cut the male blossoms at the base of their stems, as close to the plant as possible. You can use the stem in your cooking or trim it down to a few inches. (You may also harvest female blossoms, if you are trying to reduce the fruit of the plant or it’s early in the season and you wish for the plant to fully establish itself before fruiting.)

Use harvested squash blossoms right away, as they wilt quickly. If you need to store them for a short time, line a storage container with a linen cloth or paper towel and mist it until just damp. Lay out the flowers in single layers, leaving space between the blossoms, and stack them between layers of moistened towel. Store in the fridge for up to two days.

To prepare squash blossoms for cooking, I like to remove the stamen, particularly if the anther is thick, as it can taste quite bitter. (The anther is the tip of the stamen and contains the pollen.) To do this, use a small paring knife and delicately open the blossom to remove the stamen at its base or as close to the base as possible. Cook squash blossoms by dipping them into a light egg batter and frying, briefly, in a shallow pool of oil. Make sure the heat is high, as they cook quickly and you need only let the batter brown slightly before serving. For more crunch, roll them in bread crumbs (after dipping them into the batter) before frying.

You can also chop squash blossoms and add them to soups, such as Ricotta– Squash Dumpling Soup or Carrot Peel Soup. I have also had squash blossoms in a simple, light quesadilla. Heat a tortilla in a dry pan; when both sides are golden, add cheese and several squash blossoms to one side and fold in half, pressing the sides together. The cheese will melt and the blossoms will steam. Delicious!

[This article has been excerpted from FRESH PANTRY, so if you're looking for more tips & tricks for eating, growing and living seasonally, please check out my book!]

 

The Whole Plant :: Using All of the Crops You Grow

Squash vinesLearn how to harvest plants from root to stem. Don't stop at eating fruits and vegetables -- eat pea vines, squash blossoms, and even tomato leaves!

Urban farming implies that you’re growing in a small space, so maximizing that space with an eye toward production is the most practical way to grow and harvest food. Fortunately, many plants are a virtual buffet, with edible, harvestable parts from root to stem. You need only know what bits you can harvest and how to introduce them into meals for a progressive harvesting schedule that lasts for months. Today: a round-up of goodies to harvest and cook with -- a timely, seasonal guide for what to harvest now.

Pea Vines

1. Pea Vines Spring peas are on their way out (though in temperate climates, now is a great time to sow a second crop of peas for fall harvest), and it’s time to pull the plants out of the garden to make way for another crop rotation of summer lettuce, or a row or two of bok choy. Before tossing pea plants into your compost or yard waste bin (or feeding them to your chickens), consider using the last few inches of pea vine in your kitchen. Harvest them by cutting the topmost 6 to 12 inches of tender, thin vine from the plant.

These pea vines can be sautéed or tossed in to salads, but this late in the season the odds are greater that you’ll be harvesting woody, tougher stems from the plants. It may take a little effort to coax them into something delicious, but using every bit from the plant is economical for both your time and your budget. I have a great recipe for Pea Vine Dumplings -- try it! It’s a great recipe to double, as well: just freeze extra dumplings and use them for another meal or as a quick appetizer the next time you need to whip something up in a hurry.

Squash Vine & Blossoms

2. Squashes This is the perfect time of year for squash blossoms, and zucchini are shallow-rooted plants so anyone can grow a plant or two in containers. (Make note for next year, if you aren’t growing already!) All squash plants make flowers -- zucchini, pumpkin, winter squash, etc. Before you harvest squash blossoms, know that there are both female and male blossoms on every plant. Male blossoms grow at the end of a long, thin stem, and have a long stamen in the center of the blossom. Female blossoms have no stamen and will develop fruit -- you can see the to-be zucchini just under the flower's stems. They also tend to die a bit faster. If you’re harvesting squash blossoms, be sure to opt for the male blossom, leaving the females behind to grow zucchini. Stuff the blossoms with cheese and fry, fill them with seasoned rice or meat and bake in the oven, or cook them into a frittata. Some Mexican cultures use the squash blossoms for a thin tomato soup.

You can also use squash leaves in recipes. While they are edible, they can be a bit prickly and tough, so choose smaller leaves. Some Asian cultures sauté young tender leaves or curling vines. I have also used large squash leaves to cover and insulate squash gratins. They act as a gentle covering to keep vegetable gratins moist while the leaf on top chars to a crisp – a nice final combination of textures for a vegetarian meal.

Fava tops

3. Fava Tops Fava beans have a long growing cycle, and anyone lucky enough to have space for these tall plants should plant a thick crop in the fall for an early summer harvest. While you wait for the fava bean pods to mature, snip liberally from the top of each plant -- about the last 4 to 6 inches, which are the most tender. Use these tops as you would pea vines: as a simple sauté or raw in a salad serve them best.

Carrot Tops

4. Tiny Carrots & Greens If you’re growing carrots at home, you will need to thin them in order to make space for each individual carrot to mature. I try and thin carrots at the last possible moment -- this means that I harvest teeny tiny carrots and greens that can be used as garnish or, even better, pickled whole.

You can use carrot greens as you would parsley. The flavor is strong and slightly carrot-like, but the bitterness makes a nice counterpoint to fatty fish or meat -- use carrot greens in a gremolata with lemon peel next time you grill this summer. It is also worth noting that the older the carrot, the more bitter the green, so opt for thinned carrots or smaller tops when harvesting.

Tomato leaves4. Tomato Leaves
It is widely supported that tomato leaves can be poisonous, as they’re in the nightshade family. Tomato leaves, however, are not dangerous if ingested in small quantities, and in fact can be used as an infusion, much like tea leaves. Tomato leaves add a level of depth to the flavor profile in a simple red tomato sauce. They can also be steeped in strained tomato water for a super fragrant cold summer soup or beverage. (I don't recommend eating them up three meals a day, but occasional use is just fine.)

Best Salads in Seattle

Amy PenningtonIt's not easy being green. Literally. Yesterday, after another lack luster salad selection while out to lunch, I took to the airways and posted a note about my abhorrence of "mixed green salad." You know the one - a small plate full of simply dressed greens that look like the mixed salad bag from Trader Joe's. I hate those salads, truly. To me, they are the ultimate intimation of either a lazy chef or passionless chef. Am I being judgmental? Yes, of course, and listen….. I know that it is tough stuff to run a kitchen, work your rear off and not make a lot of money. But I also know (know!) it takes so little effort to make a nutritious, green salad that tastes great. Take, for instance, the Leafy Green salad at the Dahlia Lounge. For years, that salad has not changed and for good reason. Expect a generous pile of full-sized frilly greens served with a covering of grated parmesan and a thin crostini with goat cheese. There are herbs in there, but not enough to make it super herbaceous (like the memory-searing, ultimately perfect salad at Mary's Fish Camp in NYC) - just a subtle hint of the plants oil on your palate.

Thankfully, there are a few places around Seattle that offer amazing salads, according to the horde of people that posted on my Facebook account yesterday. Rather than letting the crowd-sourced info fall to the wayside, I decided to share it here. So in typical blog-y fashion, here is a round up of Seattle's Best Salads. I took the liberty to break them into sub-categories for ease, and because frankly, I don't consider a traditional Lyonnaise salad of lardon & eggs to be particularly "green" (i.e. predominantly vegetative & healthy). From the results, however, I'd been clearly (and happily!) overruled.

……….. SIGNATURE GREEN SALADS (expect to find these most any time you visit)

Leafy Greens from Dahlia Lounge

Salade Vert from Cafe Presse - a stack of butter lettuce with a mustard vinaigrette & sprinkling of hazelnuts

Jersey Salad at Delancey - two call outs for this one!

Lettuces Salad at The Whale Wins - three shout outs for this one!

………..

SEASONAL SALADS

Insalata Di Ciccoria from Spinasse - chicory, pear & more

Winter Chicory salad with citrus, sheep's feta and pistachios at Delancey

Raw Winter Greens salad from Golden Beetle (with a cumin vinaigrette that is so subtly brilliant)

Haricot verts, shaved asparagus, almond and Gribiche sauce, that was noted to be a "simple, rogue, delicious salad," from Marrow

Brussel Sprouts Salad with The Station Pizzeria - two shout outs for this one!

Kale & Roasted Cauliflower Salad at Grub

…………..

GREENS WITH A LITTLE OOMPH (i.e. Protein)

Salmon Nicoise at Nordstrom Café

Chicken Saigon Salad from Ba Bar

Corned Lamb salad at Revel 

Duck Confit salad at Cafe Campagne

**Special thanks to all the reco's from (in order of salads listed above): Jenise Silva, Cara Ely, Lara Hamilton, Rachel Belle Krampfner, Tara Austen Weaver, Rachel Davies, Carilyn Platt, Caylee Betts, Henry Lo, Lorraine Goldberg & Regina De Wing (and apologies to anyone I left off, which happened if I could not find your salad online OR you didn't specify a salad - leave your note in the comments!)

Homemade Stock - 3 Recipes for Winter Preserving

Winter is the perfect time to move your attention from stocking your pantry to stocking your freezer. The absence of farm fresh greens brings dependence on root vegetables and alliums—perfect partners for making homemade stock. Making chicken stock can be an incredibly easy process using leftover roast chicken, or a more intense cooking project if you are searching for a perfectly clear stock with intense flavor and brilliant clarity. Try both! For the vegetable stock, we move away from traditional flavors and add a fennel bulb to the mix.homemade chicken vegetable stockPantry Note: Chicken stock will not necessarily go bad in your freezer, but it does have the potential to get freezer burn. To minimize the risk, cover your stock with a layer of plastic wrap, making sure it is lying directly on the surface, before putting on the plastic container lid. I have used stock that is plenty older than four months with good results.

……...

Fennel Scented Stock

Makes about 4 cups | start to finish: 1.5 hours

The following vegetable stock recipe is an excellent way to incorporate a new flavor into traditional vegetable stock by using whole fennel bulbs, which are available throughout the winter. The finished stock will have a slight licorice-note and a gentle flavor thanks to the addition of leeks instead of onions. Use this simple stock as a base broth for a light fish soup, or enrich it by adding a splash of cream and diced potatoes. This stock also makes a wonderful addition to a pot of steamed clams in the middle of winter. If you have Pernod, a splash of this anise-scented liquor will liven up the finished soup after it has spent some time in the freezer.

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1 whole leek, rinsed and cut into thin circles 1 medium fennel bulb & fronds, roughly chopped 1 carrot, roughly chopped Splash of dry white wine Water, to cover 1 fresh or dried bay leaf A few whole black peppercorns Salt

Place olive oil and butter in the bottom of a large stockpot and heat over medium-high. Add the leek and a pinch of salt, sauté, stirring often, until leeks are soft, about 6 minutes. Add the fennel bulb and carrot, sautéing until the pot is almost dry and vegetables start to stick. Add a splash white wine, stirring to deglaze.Cover the vegetables with two inches of water, add the bay leaf and peppercorns and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and cover, simmering for an hour. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain the stock from the solids. Put the stock in the fridge until cool. Once the stock has cooled, use within three days or pour into plastic freezer tubs and store for up to four months.

……... Superb Chicken Stock

Makes about 6 cups | start to finish: 2.5 hours

This chicken stock is a labor of love, but will make the most beautiful clear stock you will ever see. You first blanch and then cook a whole chicken gently in a water bath to draw out the maximum flavor. While the meat will be spent (having given its all to flavor the broth), you can still use it in cold salads or pot pies with success, extending your dollar even further.

1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 lbs, cut into pieces 1 carrot, cut into thick slices 1 celery stalk, cut into thick slices 1 onion, peeled and cut into large cubes 1 bay leaf About 6 cups water

Bring water to a boil. Cut chicken into several pieces, making sure to cut through some bones. Add chicken to boiling water and blanch until water comes back up to a boil. Drain into a colander and rinse with cool water.

Fill a tea kettle with water and bring toa boil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot (about 5 or 6 quarts), place chicken, vegetables and bay leaf and cover with water. Cover and set pot in a deep-sided roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot water from the kettle, creating a water bath. Place roasting pan in oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the chicken, and reserve for picking. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain the stock from the remaining vegetables. Put the stock in the fridge until cool. Once the stock has cooled, use within three days or pour into plastic freezer tubs and store for up to four months.

……...

Resourceful Chicken Stock - Excerpted from Urban Pantry

Makes 4 cups | start to finish: 2 to 2.5 hours

This recipe is called “resourceful” as it’s made up of various bits and bobs you have in the kitchen and does not adhere to strict proportions. This is an excellent way to use up pantry vegetables that are past their prime. The only thing you must have is the leftover carcass from a roast chicken. It is important to re-roast the bones creating a nice brown caramel on the bottom of your stockpot. This adds more flavor than if you were to simply cover them with water, as you would if making stock from a fresh bird.

Olive oil 1 cooked and picked chicken carcass, broken up into sections small enough to fit in your stockpot Chicken heart and neck (reserved from whole roast chicken) 1 carrot, roughly chopped 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped 1 clove garlic, smashed 1 fresh or dried bay leaf Herb stalks (any you’ve saved) Salt to taste Water, about two quarts

Cover the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat over medium-high. When the stockpot is hot, add the chicken carcass, heart and neck. The trick here is to not continuously stir the meat and bones, but to let them sit on the heat and caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Once the bones are brown, remove them from the stockpot and set aside.

Put the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic in the stockpot. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes or until brown. When the veggies have caramelized, drop the chicken bones, neck, and heart back into the stockpot and cover with 2 inches with water. Add the bay leaf and herb stalks and bring all to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for and one to two hours.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and drain the stock from the solids. Discard the solids. Season the stock with salt to your taste. Put the stock in the fridge until cool. Once the stock has cooled, use within three days or pour into plastic freezer tubs and store for up to four months.

Five Vegetables to Avoid in Stock

Beets: the flavor is too earthy…and they’ll turn your broth red! Broccoli: part of the brassica family (think kale, Brussels sprouts) this family is far too strong for stock and will add a bitter flavor and smell. Potatoes: these add no flavor and their starches cloud the stock’s clarity. Squash: squash, both summer and winter varieties, do not add flavor to stocks. Lettuces: lettuce is composed mostly of water, and will add nothing in flavor.

5 for Friday - with amyp!

HI! I decided to interview myself for 5 for Friday this week, as I've just released my 11th eBook, Fresh Pantry - BEETS! Annnnddd......maybe I forgot it was Friday. It happens. Fresh Pantry - BEETSBEETS is the eleventh volume in the 12-month series and features fun and inspired recipes for onions that will liven up your kitchen, without boring your palate or relying on processed foods. Fresh Pantry: Beets features: 16 creative & easy recipes spanning every meal of the day, including morning noshes -  Corn Crepes with Beet Sauce, afternoon snacks/apps like Beet-pickled Eggs (these are so gorgeous) & a KILLER Fennel-Beet Borscht that will warm your soul and keep you healthy all winter long.

I hope you check it out, post it to your Pinterest, share it with friends and sing this book series from the mountaintops! I wrote Fresh Pantry eBooks as a means to help people eat seasonally and it's been a labor of love that I'm thrilled to share.

1. What did you eat for breakfast this morning? A cup of Detox tea and a bowl of yogurt with oats, pumpkin seed granola (from Apartment Gardening) and maple syrup.

2. What is one thing you do EVERY day, by choice?  Drink a boat load of water.

3. If you had all the time in the world and no budget restrictions, what one project would you take on just now? (Can be a hobby, business, trip, etc)  I would make UrbanGardenShare a urban farming hub full of information and great resources. (But in a good way, not in a yahoo communities sort of way.)

4. Where is your ‘happy place’?  Nature. Could be a trail in the woods (with the sun shining through the tree tops) or a beach where I can swim.

5. What is your signature dish – something you make well and consistently?  Perfect Roast Chicken - it's always a winner.

Winter Transition in the Garden - How-To

garlicHere in the Pacific NW we've had the good fortune of a relatively mild autumn, while on the east coast it snowed this week. Regionally, garden news will vary in terms of timing - I still have tomatoes in the ground in gardens here in Seattle, but everyone should (or should have!) work to transition their gardens this week or next. A winter garden transition essentially rids the beds of any lingering summer crops and any plants that will not over winter. In their place, it is best to cover and protect the soil. You can do this by ...mulching - adding a layer of autumnal leaves or a sack burlap directly over your soil. Sowing cover crop will also generate a green mulch, one that you can chop into the soil for green compost next spring. Choose a cover crop mix (often sold in bulk at small nurseries) of cereal (rye, barley), vetch and favas.

Below, I have a few bullet pointed items for winter transition. If you like them well enough, let me know in the comments and I can expand the section to include your landscape plants, trees and shrubs. (Or maybe even your rosemary and sage bushes that are out of control??)

- It's not too late to plant garlic. Plant single cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart, and push them (tips up) about 2 inches below the surface.

- Collect flower head seeds and save the seed if so inclined. Work methodically, as seeds are easily dropped and it is NO fun weeding out 100s of borage plants in February, trust me on this!

- Remove all of your annual plants and compost them.

- Cut back perennial plants like thyme, sage and oregano. As leaves dull and brown, you can trim off their woody stalks at the ground. Take care not to cut off any new shoots - those will put on slow growth through the season.

- Remove all summer crops from the beds - green tomatoes can be harvested and stored in a bucket in the garage, where they will ripen slowly. Check for ripe tomatoes daily, as they will break down and mold/rot easily if not removed.

- Mulch strawberry plants with a covering of dry hay. You can find this at Walt's Organic in Ballard, or try your local hardware store. Sprinkle a layer directly over the strawberries, but no more than a few inches deep, which can smother plants. Plan to mulch as the temperature continues to drop, so put it on your list for late November/early December.

cutting back raspberries- Cut back any dead raspberry canes. Dead canes are those that have fruited and/or have brown, brittle canes. Thin remaining canes (choosing the thickest and strongest) so there is one every 6-inches, leaving them room for them to grow in and receive sun. Lastly, you must tip or trim the canes, using sharp pruners, to about 4 or 5 feet in height.

- Mulch all overwintering vegetable garden beds with dry leaves or hay, being careful to leave a bit of space around the stem of each plant.

 

 

 

Asian Noodle with Kale & Avocado-Miso Dressing Recipes

Kale & Avocado Miso DressingI am in love with this salad from my new eBook KALE. Last week on the TV show Top Chef, Dana Cowin (the long time editor of Food & Wine Magazine) said kale is one of her most hated food trends. Then, this......"I love kale, that's not a trend to me," says host Padma Lakshmi. "The idea of kale has now become boiled down to ONE iteration - it's either Kale Salad or Kale Chips," responded Dana Cowin.

I'm happy to say THIS kale salad stands out for it's bold flavor and healthful properties. Buckwheat noodles (ie gluten free) are coated with a healthy vinaigrette of mashed avocado (great fat) and miso (fermented food - good for the gut) and paired with just-blanched kale (nutrient rich.) Check out my new eBook for more awesome kale-inspired ideas............along with two great raw salad recipes, as well! How could I not include a few?!

New KALE eBook - Kale Recipes Abound!

KALE eBookI am happy to share that I have just released a new eBook chapter as part of my yearlong series - KALE! Welcome to autumn - the season of heavy & hearty greens that are fantastic for you. I am thrilled to share these thoughts and recipes on growing, cooking and eating kale, the trendy new veg everyone is loving lately. This book is one meant as a tool for anyone hoping to (and trying to) eat seasonally. There are LOTS of recipe ideas for any seasonal veg, and sometimes it's nice to shake up your recipe repertoire. I hope you'll download this eBook and send me your thoughts about what's cooking in your kitchen. My favorite recipe in the book (though, truly this answer always changes for me) is the Raw Kale Salad with Apples & Cheddar. This recipe takes advantage of all the best ingredients available in fall, resulting in a flavor-rich and to-die-for salad that will be your new fave. Report back!

You can buy the Fresh Pantry: KALE book here.

APPLES - From Harvest to Table in the Oregonian

_MG_3639 Grant Butler of The Oregonian reviewed "Apples" recently, and then sent this message out on Twitter: "I love this new cookbook "Apples: From Harvest to Table" by Seattle author @gogogreengarden. Lots of wonderful ideas! http://ow.ly/p8cCj"

This is the first 'review' of the book and I'm happy to see he found it useful, clever and informative. He writes:

In a nutshell: Fresh apple season is finally here, and a sure-fire way to indulge in the bright flavors is with this collection of 50 recipes from Seattle food writer and organic gardener Amy Pennington. Sure, she's got your traditional apple pie, but where the book really excels is with savory dishes where apples provide a sweet juxtaposition of flavors, including dishes with Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern influences. Read more....

The second review came from my dad, as I just sent him a copy in the post. "What a nice surprise, am going to the woods tomorrow to select the grandest apple to find and use your knowledge, Love you so DAD"

Late Summer Tomato Care

Summer is waning, and the days are getting shorter. September marks the time of year where diligent tomato care pays dividends in the shape of glossy, colorful tomato harvest. TomatoesMost importantly, you really need to start pruning the plants, allowing almost-mature fruit to ripen and discarding any very small or grossly immature green fruits. This is especially true on plants that produce larger fruits. There is not enough time in the season/day to mature a big slicing tomato or a medium-sized paste. I know you don't want to, but remove all of those green tomatoes from the plant will allow the almost-mature fruits to ripen successfully. For notes on how to prune, read this post from earlier in the summer.

Secondly, I recommend getting aggressive about harvesting tomatoes. When fruit is nearly mature, it often times cracks. Cracked tomatoes are a product of fluctuating water levels for the plant. If the plant takes in too much water, it swells the fruits which may not have enough elasticity in their skin to stretch, so the fruits crack. To minimize this, harvest mature tomatoes immediately as they are ready. Letting them sit on the vine risks a late summer rain and leads to mushy fruits. Always try and harvest fruits after a few days of dry weather - they are the sweetest then, and won't be overly saturated with moisture.

Questions?

Also, if you haven't already, please check out my new TOMATO eBook. It's $2.99 for 16 awesome tomato recipes, including a handful of preservation recipes. (It's the time to save some for winter!)

Summer Shrubs

IMG_1486Send in the Shrubs

simple summertime drinking vinegars BY AMY PENNINGTON, excerpted from Edible Seattle

Several summers ago I stayed on my friend Lynda’s farm in the Methow Valley. As expected in eastern Washington, the long summer days saw temperatures climbing and without air conditioning (we were on a farm, after all) we suffered through the stifling heat by moving slowly and wearing sun hats. In the evenings, we would sit on the porch and sip yuzu vinegar with a splash of sparkling water and a glass full of ice. It was Lynda’s trick for keeping cool and while the first sip was bracing, the second was nothing short of refreshing. An addiction was born.

Trendy bartenders across the country are turning to similar drinking vinegars, or shrubs, to add that special splash of flavor in their cocktails. Shrubs are not a new creation, and were used in colonial America as a way to preserve quick-spoiling fruit. Lacking proper refrigeration, fruit turned quickly. Adding vinegar to the fruit solved the crisis and was a means of preservation, as vinegar is high in acid and prevents mold and bacteria from forming.

At home, there are no limitations to what can be combined and preserved safely, so shrubs are a great way to experiment with preserving. Be sure to choose a high acid percentage (5%) in the vinegar you use, which assures stability. I prefer softer and sweeter vinegars: apple cider or champagne work well with many fruits and vegetables.

As an added bonus, shrubs are alcohol-free, and thus are a festive option for anyone who does not drink alcohol. You can add a spoonful to make juice more complex, or go straight for the sparkling water and make a brightly colored fizzy drink.

Strawberry Vinegar Fizz Makes about 1 cup | start to finish:  2 hours

This drinking vinegar screams spring and smells like strawberries fresh from the field. The acid from the vinegar and sweetness from the strawberries wakes up the palate without being offensive. You must be careful to strain all of the fruit pulp out of your final vinegar, lest you have unsightly bits floating in your beverage. Try this with sparkling water or amp it up by topping off a few spoonfuls with champagne. It can also be used as salad vinaigrette--perfect tossed with toasted almonds and spinach leaves.

3 cups hulled and chopped strawberries (about 1 1/2 pounds whole berries) 1 cup sugar 2/3 cup champagne vinegar

Combine chopped strawberries and sugar and stir to combine. Let macerate for at least one hour, or let sit overnight, stirring occasionally and making sure all the sugar dissolves. Using a blender,  blend the strawberries along with the macerating juices into a smooth puree, about 4 minutes. Do this by starting on the “chop” speed and working up to “puree”. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp. Do this several times until the puree is very smooth and does not contain any flesh from the fruit. Stir in champagne vinegar and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months.

To serve, fill glasses with ice and add one or two tablespoons of strawberry vinegar. Pour seltzer over, filling the glass and stir to combine. This drink makes an excellent adult beverage, too. Add one ounce of gin per glass (Aviation or Bainbridge Organic gins are exceptional) or top off the shrub with champagne instead of sparkling water.