Chamomile and Coconut Granola Recipe

chamomile granolaOriginally published in my book Apartment Gardening, this is one of my all time favorite recipes. This is also the recipe that was highlighted in this fun interview I did for the Wall Street Journal. (And YES, I still feel the same way about bacon.) With all that recipe sharing, I figured I should probably offer it here, too - right?! I often have a jar of this granola on the shelves of my pantry. It's a nutritious and filling topping for non-fat yogurt, making it an excellent choice for anyone trying to eat healthy or commit to a morning routine.

My friend Lynda worked as a cheese maker at a goat dairy. A few summers ago I got to spend a few days out in farm country with her, and every morning for breakfast I had a deep bowl of her perfect goat milk yogurt topped with spoonfuls of her homemade granola and a drizzle of honey. Her granola has no added butter or sugar, so it’s not gooey-crunchy like most granola, but it does have toasty, flaky bits like coconut, oats, and almonds. The flavor is intensified with some chamomile buds and sesame seeds. After trying this, you’ll never think of granola in the same way again.

Chamomile & Coconut Granola

Makes 6 servings

1 cup rolled oats 1 cup sliced almonds 1 cup raw, unsweetened coconut flakes 1⁄4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon crushed dried chamomile buds 1 tablespoon untoasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F. Place all ingredients on a sheet pan and stir to combine. Place in the oven and toast for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and toss, redistributing granola into a single layer. Toast until the coconut flakes are golden brown, another 3 to
4 minutes. Serve by the handful over a bowl of plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some fresh fruit. Cooled leftover granola can be stored in the pantry, in a sealed container, for about 3 weeks. For MORE recipes using chamomile, check out my Chamomile Cordial recipe here.

For TIPS on harvesting and drying chamomile for recipes or medicinals, check out my How-To guide here.

Rhubarb Recipe

Rhubarb Yogurt SauceWe are firmly rooted in rhubarb season and while my preferred consumption is via my morning raw juice, I do love rhubarb for it's astringent, bracing quality. Pairing well with fatty foods and delicious when raw, rhubarb is often overlooked as a staple and treated simply as an addition to cakes and pies. Big mistake! Here, a more simple rhubarb recipe highlighting the bitter qualities of rhubarb - a great place to start for anyone puckering at the thought of eating rhubarb raw - from my eBook series, Fresh Pantry. Get the eBook here, and the print book (full of seasonal references & growing tips) here.

I absolutely love yogurt, especially when served alongside a savory dish of roasted or heavily spiced meat. Here, yogurt is made into raita, a traditional yogurt sauce often made with cucumber and mint, but I’ve replaced the cucumber with small bits of rhubarb. Honey is added to the mix to round out the sour flavor of both the yogurt and the rhubarb, but it can be omitted if you prefer the tang.

Lamb Meatballs with Rhubarb–Yogurt Sauce

SERVES 4

LAMB MEATBALLS 1 pound ground lamb 2 teaspoons garam masala 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon red chile flakes 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon dried oregano Freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh-Pantry-RhubarbRHUBARB-YOGURT SAUCE

4 ounces rhubarb (about 2 stalks), trimmed and cut into a very small dice 1 cup plain yogurt 1 teaspoon honey ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the ground lamb and all of the spices except the nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix well until the spices are evenly distributed throughout the lamb. Shape the mixture into small meatballs, about 3 inches in diameter, and place them in a roasting pan (be sure to leave space between the meatballs). Drizzle olive oil over the top of the meatballs and put in the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

While the meatballs are roasting, make the rhubarb raita. In a small bowl, combine the rhubarb, yogurt, honey, and nutmeg, stirring to combine well. Set the mixture aside.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving alongside a bowl of rhubarb raita.

PANTRY NOTE: Lamb meatballs can be made ahead and chilled until ready to use, up to three days. Leftover rhubarb

 

 

Best Trellis Ideas

pea trellisIf you haven't planted your Sugar Snap, English or Snow peas by now, it's time to get them in the garden! These springtime plants grow quickly and can be used in a vertical garden, thereby freeing up precious space on the ground. I use all sorts of different trellises in the garden and no one exhibits these better than Lily over at Rake & Make. This is her favorite pea trellis, and I'd have to agree. We use string in all of our gardens, but a staple gun and netting is a fine idea - you can roll it up when the season ends. I also love her version of a cucumber trellis - it's a great way to get those heavy fruits up and off the ground and makes them easy to harvest.

Incidentally, both peas and cucumbers can be grown in pots, making them a great choice for anyone with limited space or a small balcony. These tall pea vines would provide temporary (and delicious) privacy between neighbors.

Lily and I met in 2007 when we both attended an intensive organic gardening series. She had just bought a home and I was researching an article for Edible Seattle. Since then, she has become and urban farming master and a wonderful homemaker as well. She made her own wedding dress, knits her own sweaters and grows her own food. Marry ME, Lily! Her blog is an amazing resource full of great information.

Check out her site for more awesome vertical garden tips and best trellis ideas, along with crafty DIY projects. I highly recommend!

Save

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.

Best Soups in Seattle

I loved putting together this list of what I think are the best soups in Seattle. The article ran in January's Seattle Magazine, but I've condensed it here to a selection of soups that I would personally recommend, versus having to include neighborhoods across town. I would eat these soups any day of the week. What am I missing?! DOWNTOWN 

Tom’s Tomato Soup at Dahlia Bakery and Dahlia Lounge  In the jewel-box space that houses the Dahlia Bakery, people queue up year-round for takeout soups, salads and sandwiches. Just like mom used to make, Tom’s tasty tomato soup (available daily) is loaded with canned tomatoes and cream in perfect proportions, creating a super tomatoey soup that is best eaten with the brown-butter croutons (always served in Dahlia Lounge, next door; order as an extra at the bakery). Tom's Tasty Tomato

Go with the large portion ($6 at the bakery and $9 at the lounge)—the soup has an irresistible piquancy, and the smaller cup ($4 and $6 respectively) will surely leave you wanting more. Dahlia Bakery and Dahlia Lounge, 2001 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.4540 and 206.682.4142. Also available daily at Home Remedy, 2121 Sixth Ave.; 206.812.8407; tomdouglas.com 

BALLARD Huevos Ahogados at Señor Moose Cafe   Although it is easy to overlook on a menu teeming with tacos, masa cakes and hand-mashed guacamole, the huevos ahogados (“drowned eggs”) soup ($11.95) is not to be missed. Two suspended poached eggs—complete with oozing yolks—float in light tomato broth over a bed of thick, roasted poblano pepper strips and a dusting of Mexican Cotija cheese. On the side, a deeply golden piece of grilled bread slathered in butter is perfect for tearing into small pieces and adding to the broth, softening the bread’s crisp edges and providing texture. Sit at one of the many oil-cloth-covered tables or eat at the counter, which faces the kitchen (a great spot for solo dining) and enjoy this for breakfast (yes, this makes a terrific breakfast), lunch and dinner. 5242 NW Leary Ave.; 206.784.5568; senormoose.com 

CAPITOL HILL  Avgolemono at Vios Cafe   Owner Thomas Soukakos, who hails from Sparta, offers classic Greek dishes that are wholesome and flavorful. While the menu changes seasonally, in winter, you’ll find several soup options, including the popular avgolemono ($4/cup, $6/bowl, $10/lunch bowl). This traditional Greek soup, speckled with white rice, tastes creamy, but the chicken broth is actually thickened with egg yolks, creating its signature yellow hue. Lemon juice gives the soup a refreshing tang; the bright citrus hints help to lighten winter doldrums. While soup can be ordered for takeout, the neighborhood cafés (also in Ravenna) are comfortable, and the staff is always friendly, so stick around to slurp. Capitol Hill, 903 19th Ave. E, 206.329.3236; Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave. NE, 206.525.5701; vioscafe.com 

Matzoh Ball Soup at Volunteer Park Cafe   Thick, fat matzoh balls and coarsely chopped vegetables give this matzoh ball soup ($4.50/cup, $5.50/bowl) a satisfying, toothsome texture. Drawing on a love of one-pot cooking, chef and owner Ericka Burke has been making this soup for years, and it’s one of the most popular dishes at the café. A daily offering (along with one other rotating soup at lunch), the soup boasts a house-made broth that has a strong, pleasant hit of black pepper along with large, pulled pieces of roasted chicken. Communal seating promises a social lunch hour. 1501 17th Ave. E; 206.328.3155; alwaysfreshgoodness.com

Pho Tai Nam at Ba Bar   This soup’s deeply flavorful, salty stock is made with oxtail and marrow bones, plus charred shallots and ginger at this airy enclave, which serves fresh, house-made Vietnamese food all day, every day. Large, satisfying bowls of steaming soup are served with a perfect amount of thin rice noodles, along with strips of North-west fatty beef brisket and lean London broil from Painted Hills Natural Beef ($9 breakfast, $11 lunch and dinner). Bowls are served on platters with traditional fresh pho accompaniments—basil sprigs, lime quarters and sliced jalapeño—along with a squeeze of oyster sauce and Sriracha, and can be ordered from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. most days, and until 4 a.m. on the weekends. Beef balls, shiitake mushrooms or tendon can be added to the bowl for $2 extra—we recommend the plump and succulent mushrooms. 550 12th Ave.; 206.328.2030; babarseattle.com 

Tortilla Soup at Poquitos    At less than $5 for lunch and $9 for dinner, this soup is an excellent choice day or night. Healthy, hardy and chock-full of vegetables, with a pronounced roasted tomato flavor, this bowl of soup is garnished with fresh cilantro, avocado, raw white onions (which add crisp texture) and a crumble of salty Cotija cheese. The chicken-broth base is infused with roasted red chiles, adding heat, and it’s loaded with pieces of grilled chicken. The large room seats diners in plush booths and cushioned swivel chairs around the bar, while the atrium-like bar area next door is an oasis of natural light, even on gray winter days. 1000 E Pike St.; 206.453.4216; vivapoquitos.com 

WALLINGFORD Shoyu Ramen at Yoroshiku Ramen joints are a dime a dozen in Seattle, but few do it better than Yoroshiku, which offers traditional foods from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where chef and owner Keisuke Kobayashi grew up. At lunch, it’s all ramen, either traditionally served in a bowl with broth or as “tsuke men”—noodles dipped into broth before slurping. Select from three broths (chicken and fish broth seasoned with soy sauce, house-made miso base or house-made miso base with chili oil), and several additional ingredients; the list runs the gamut of an exotic and well-stocked pantry. Our recommendations: the popular shoyu ramen ($9), with the addition of a soft-boiled egg or roasted seaweed. Also, a house-made miso broth works well with the vegetable soup, which is hearty when accented with roasted mushrooms or sweet corn. 1913 N 45th St.; 206.547.4649; yoroshikuseattle.com

shoyuCHINATOWN–INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT  Brown Beef Noodle with Soup at Szechuan Noodle Bowl   Located on the edge of the International District in an aging building, this restaurant has long been a foodie favorite for its green onion pancakes and savory dumplings. Inside, perfunctory tables and a low ceiling await guests. The staff is friendly; however, be sure to bring cash, as plastic is not accepted. The vague-sounding brown beef noodle with soup ($7.95) gets a little lost on the menu full of delicious-sounding options, but you’d be remiss not to order it. A big bowl of hand-cut, thickly misshapen noodles (cu mian, similar to Japanese udon) comes topped with a deep brown broth that is rich and salty. Cubes of beef are soft, tender and full of flavor, and are accompanied by a handful of wilted baby bok choy and chopped green onions, which add a bit of verdancy to the bowl. 420 Eighth Ave. S; 206.623.4198

MADISON VALLEY  French Onion Soup at Luc  Tucked into the busiest corner of Madison Valley, Luc serves French classics in a casual dining room fit for all occasions. Chef and owner Thierry Rautureau began cooking in kitchens in France as a teenager, learning the regimented classics at a young age. It is no surprise then that this traditional French onion soup ($9) is the best the city has to offer. Made from a rich stock of poultry and veal, the slightly sweet broth is bulked up with caramelized onions. A thick, toasted baguette wedge floats in the center of the bowl, while sharp Gruyère cheese is layered over the top and broiled, producing a bitter-crispy topping that is irresistible. Good thing the dish is available on both the dinner and weekend brunch menus.  2800 E Madison St.; 206.328.6645; thechefinthehat.com 

MAGNOLIA  ‘Nona’ Vita at Mondello  The meatball soup at this Magnolia Village eatery is served as you’d expect it to be in Italy: no fancy garnishes and no secret flavors, just a wholesome, simple bowl of soup. Two friends—Corino Bonjrada and Giuseppe Forte—from north of Palermo own and run Mondello, named after the small town where they grew up. Small veal meatballs scented with parsley fill a shallow bowl of chicken stock, making the soup a hearty bowl fit for dinner. This version includes a small amount of spaghetti. Bonjrada’s mother, Enza, cooks most nights, while his grandmother, “Nona” Vita, is often perched at the bar waiting for closing time. The women’s presence, together with the heavy wood tables, the colorful room’s muted shades of blue and terra-cotta, and a hodgepodge of decorative items, lend to the overall homey feel. 2425 33rd Ave. W; 206.352.8700; mondelloristorante.com 

A handful of local places offer tasty and speedy options for soup lovers in a hurry

I blame my boyfriend for this one because that man is obsessed with soup. If I took him to a soup bar for lunch every day, he'd be thrilled. He even gets soup at……wait for it…..Fred Meyer, sometimes. Yeouch - sodium bomb.

Metropolitan Markets   In the grab-and-go grocer realm, Metropolitan Markets excels in its daily soup offerings—a large, self-serve bar offers various soups, depending on the location. French mushroom bisque is earthy and spiked with sherry, while the tomato basil leans toward creamy and is laden with fresh basil. All soups are made from scratch in-house by a team of trained culinary staff using traditional soup-making techniques.  $2.99–$8.99 for individual portions. Various locations; metropolitan-market.com  Shoyu ramen at Yoroshiku in Wallingford; photo by Easton Richmond

Homemade Yogurt

yogurt + bowlHomemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency……... When I was in elementary school, my mom packed my lunch every day. I wasn’t one of those kids who glamorously got to wait in line for a hot lunch; I was the one with a grease-stained paper bag. On the very rare occasion, my mom would pack up a yogurt cup. I favored the kind with sweetened yogurt on top and jam-like fruit on the bottom.

Thankfully, my taste buds have matured and the thought of pre-sweetened yogurt is cringe-inducing. And while I eat yogurt daily, I never considered making it at home until my friend Lynda eco-guilted me by pointing out my habit creates considerable waste from all the plastic yogurt containers I blow through. This simple statement of fact forced me into the kitchen.

Homemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency. Made from the binding of milk proteins, homemade yogurt will vary in texture and richness each time you make it. Temperatures, good bacteria and milk fats will vary slightly with every batch you make, so no two will be identical.

To make yogurt, milk is heated to just below boiling and then cooled—a warm jump start wherein good bacteria can proliferate—and then held at a consistently warm temperature for hours. You need to introduce good bacteria (just like bread yeast) to the milk to activate the fermentation process. You can use either non-fat, low-fat or whole milk as all produce excellent results. The biggest challenge with homemade yogurt is maintaining a warm space needed for the milk proteins to bind together. You can incubate warmed milk in a number of ways: storing in a cooler with a hot water bottle, placing in a warm cupboard next to a hot water heater, even using one of those 70s-era plug-in yogurt makers. Over the years, I’ve settled on a simpler technique that doesn’t require special equipment—justyour oven.

After the yogurt sets up in the oven overnight, it is chilled where it will thicken further. Homemade yogurt varies in texture. I prefer a smooth, pourable consistency, but you can easily manipulate yogurt into a thicker, lusher product.  If the final batch is too loose or you are after a Greek-style yogurt, strain the chilled yogurt through a fine mesh sieve at room temperature for several hours. This produces less yogurt (about a pint, depending on just how thick you want it) and a cup or two of whey that you can use in another recipe (try using it to cook polenta).

For a hands on class about homemade fermentation, including how to make yogurt, kefir kombucha and more, check out my upcoming class schedule. Hope to see you there!

_MG_6117

 

HOMEMADE YOGURT

makes 4 cups | start to finish: 30 minutes active time + overnight rest

6 cups of dairy milk 4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live yogurt cultures

Heat the milk over medium heat until quite hot, but not boiling—about 180 degrees if you’re using a thermometer. Remove pot from the heat and let cool until it’s 115 degrees, still nicely warm, but not immediately hot to the touch.

While the milk is cooling, preheat the oven to 120 degrees or your lowest setting. Turn oven off once it’s been warmed, but do not open the door.

When milk has reached 115 degrees, place the 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt into a large, non-metal bowl and slowly whisk in one cup of the warmed milk. Add the rest of the milk to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover with a large plate or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, poke a few holes on top to allow air flow;  if you’re using a plate, air will escape around the edges.

Working quickly, place the bowl in the oven and close the door. Turn on the oven light, if you have one, and let the bowl sit overnight.

In the morning, remove the bowl from oven and test the set of your yogurt. If the yogurt is very thin, like heavy cream, and you’d like it thicker, you may reheat your oven to 120 degrees and place the bowl in the oven for another 4-6 hours. Afterwards, move to the refrigerator to chill completely, where yogurt will continue to thicken slightly.

If you would like a Greek-style final yogurt, set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain off the whey. The longer you strain the yogurt the thicker it will become, so be mindful and check the set every hour or so.

Store the final yogurt in a covered glass jar or plastic container in the refrigerator. Yogurt will keep for several weeks. Save four tablespoons as a starter for your next batch.

washed jars • store in fridge

HOW TO :: USE HEMP SEEDS IN YOUR COOKING

Cannabis sativa is having a moment—from selling out in our first recreational marijuana stores to adding heft as hemp to vegetarian dishes around town. And while everyone is talking about the former, we’re here to celebrate the latter. hemp seeds

Hemp seeds (which have no psychoative effects) are a favorite of Colin Patterson, chef and owner of Sutra Seattle (Wallingford, 1605 N 45th St.; 206.547.1348; sutraseattle.com), the city’s only vegan fine dining restaurant. “Hemp seeds are one of the only plant-based foods that contains the same omega fats you find in fish,” says Colin Patterson, who has always relied on whole foods for flavor, not fake meats and proteins such as tempeh or seitan. “I don’t think [fake proteins] showcase food very well, it’s an easy out, and it’s also not very nutritious.”

Hemp seeds can be pulverized and used as a thickening agent for vegan-friendly “creams.” “If you add saffron to broth-soaked hemp seeds and purée them, you get a similar effect to a seafood saffron sauce,” as the omegas contribute a subtle fishy undertone.

At Sutra Seattle in Wallingford, Patterson uses hemp seeds for sauces, creams, salad dressings and soups. The seeds help enrich lobster mushroom risotto or a house-made Caesar salad, which he also blends with seaweed for a strong, ocean-like flavor. They may also be eaten raw, although Patterson suggests soaking them for at least 15 minutes before eating. “They have a very subtle, toasty flavor,” and soaking them helps to release the seeds’ nutritional flavor. “You’re making them come alive.”

Why you should try hemp seeds: For vegans or people with dairy allergies, hemp seeds give food a velvety texture that is otherwise hard to create. “Without [having to use] coconut milk or nuts, hemp seeds let you explore a fatty feel,” Patterson explains, “and diversity is good in a diet.”

How to use them at home: Soak the seeds in liquid—broth, water or vegetable juice—for 15 minutes or longer. Purée and strain to remove any solid pieces of the seed. For adding creaminess to soups, plan to use about 1 cup of hemp seeds per every 1.5 cups of liquid. For salad dressing, add soaked seeds to a blender with fresh herbs, lemon juice and water, and blend until the desired consistency is reached—no need for oil, as the seeds add the fat.

Where to find hemp seeds: Patterson orders them in bulk and recommends purchasing shelled hemp seeds, which break down more easily. They are sold as hemp hearts or shelled hemp seeds at most natural food stores, including Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com; $21.99/pound). They are also available in 7-ounce (organic) and 8-ounce (non-organic) bags at PCC Natural Markets (pccnaturalmarkets.com, $10.50).

Click here for Patterson’s recipe for smoked lentil sunchoke cake with black garlic hempseed sauce.

**published in Seattle Magazine, February 2015 PHOTO CREDIT: CHUSTINE MINODA

WEEKEND DIY :: Orange Marmalade

marmalade This time of year, the best way to boost your pantry is to step outside our local sources and reach for some citrus. As winter draws to a close, we could all use a little zing, and this recipe for orange marmalade is zingy and versatile.

The secret to a good marmalade is in your preparation. Make sure to leave time to peel and slice your fruit properly, and reserve the seeds for an added boost of pectin. You can leave the citrus rinds as thick or thin as you prefer, but I like long thin slivers in my marmalade. This recipe is a great marmalade basic that will leave chewy rinds suspended in clear orange jelly. You may use any oranges you like. I love Valencias for their heavy juice, or Cara Cara, whose rind smells and tastes like a traditional orange but whose fruit gives a lovely red tone.

This basic marmalade recipe can be modified to suit you with the addition of spices or booze. A splash of bourbon stirred in at the end will smooth out the bitterness of the citrus and give the marmalade some depth. You may also add a vanilla bean to the pot, infusing the fruit with a round sweetness from the beans. A whole clove or two also complements the citrus, offering a bit of warm spice to the jar.

Marmalade is a great pantry staple because of its ability to be served with sweet or savory foods. Use this on your toast, or smear a layer on the bottom of a sweet tart. You can also add fresh garlic and water to the marmalade for a fresh-tasting glaze for fish, chicken, or duck. I also serve marmalade on cheese plates alongside a soft creamy cheese.

Orange Marmalade

Makes about 4 half pints start to finish: 1 hour + overnight

2 pounds oranges, scrubbed 1 lemon, scrubbed 3 cups water 2 to 3 cups sugar

With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer peel from both the oranges and the lemon, avoiding the white pith. When done, stack peels, cut into very thin strips and toss into a large pot. Cut the peeled fruits into halves. Extract the seeds and juice from each half, placing the seeds into a muslin bag and reserving the juiced halves. Pour the juice from the fruit into your pot, along with the muslin bag of reserved seeds. Add all of the juiced lemon halves, and 4 of the juiced orange halves. (Adding the juiced citrus halves aids in adding pectin to the marmalade.) Add the water and set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the rinds are soft, about 30 minutes. Cover the pot and put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

The next morning, measure the marmalade. For every cup of citrus and liquid, add 3/4 cup of sugar to the pot. Return the pot to medium-low heat and cook down the mixture. Skim off any foam that forms and stir the marmalade often. Put a plate into the freezer for testing the set. Cook until the marmalade gels, 30 to 60 minutes.

While marmalade is cooking, prepare jars and lids for canning by washing in hot soapy water. To test the marmalade, remove the plate from the freezer, spoon a small amount onto the cold plate, and let it sit a moment. Push the marmalade with your fingertip. If a wrinkle forms in the jelly, the marmalade is done. If it is loose and runny, keep cooking and stirring until thickened. When your desired consistency is reached, remove the muslin bag of seeds and the citrus halves, squeezing any excess juice into the pot. You can compost your solids.

Add the hot marmalade to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and place lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When cooled, remove the metal rings,check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Store in the fridge after opening.

Batido Recipe - a Better Breakfast

chamomileAs a food writer, cook and an urban farmer, most people assume I eat well all the time. It is my job to test recipes, eat out and harvest seasonal produce and any day finds me doing any combination of these work tasks. While it is likely true that I do eat well (comparatively speaking) for someone who grows and cooks food for a living I am often astonished at my poor nutrition. There are plenty of occasions where I will skip a meal, forget to drink water the entire day or succumb to ‘Popcorn Dinners’ because I am too tired or lazy to cook after a long day running around. Breakfast, for the most part, is my downfall. My mornings are full with answering emails and getting organized for my day, a cup of coffee in hand. It is often the case that I’m flying out the door, laptop in one hand, bow rake in another before I remember that I forgot to eat. I hate those mornings because inevitably, I’m already late and don’t have time. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t even like breakfast. I never have. Eating a meal in the morning is often too much for my stomach and if anything, I want something light and digestible, especially because we all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When I’m in a rush or don’t feel like sitting down to eat, I whip up a nutritionally dense and super easy breakfast-on-the-go – a batido.

Batidos are chilled drinks made with fruit and milk. I add some fiber to mine by shaking in flax meal and every so often, I’ll add a raw egg. Yes, a raw egg. Eggs add protein and calories to an already light meal and also give the ‘shake’ body and froth. I make certain to purchase eggs from local, organic farmers and I’m still alive to tell you about it so I must be doing something right. Just try it – you’ll like it. This is one of my favorite batido combinations and it's perfect for winter, as it relies on dried fruit and flower buds - both available in the bulk section of your local co-op.

Excerpted from Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen By Amy Pennington, Skipstone 2010

Fig & Flower Batido

1/2 cup milk 4 dried or fresh figs, quartered 1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers (optional) 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed Spoonful of flax meal 4 ice cubes

Combine the ingredients for your chosen combination in a blender and whiz on the lowest setting for 2 minutes or so. After the ice is fairly broken up, switch to a higher speed (purée or liquefy) for 3 to 4 minutes. Letting your blender run this long ensures that you won’t be stuck sucking on big ice cubes and that you’ll incorporate enough air to make the drink fluffy, so it feels like a proper frozen drink. Pour into a glass or a to-go thermos and hit the ground running.

Pantry Note: Adding fresh herbs or flower leaves to batidos is not only delicious, but adds a new flavor for your palate. Try mint, scented geranium, or garden roses. Flax meal is used only as an addition of fiber, so feel free to omit if you prefer.

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.

Leafy Greens & Coconut Milk Soup :: Clean Eating

Leafy Green & Coconut-Broth SoupThe new year is a great time to recover from holiday indulgences. Personally, I'm so over food and drinks just now. Instead,  I'm craving clean eating foods that I know will work through my system quickly and provide me with energy. (I've been counterbalancing bourbon with green juice for a week!) Craving fuel, January 1 is when I typically make a shopping list and stock up on frozen cut fruit for smoothies, bunches of leafy, winter greens and make sure I have some lean proteins available for adding to meals.  

 

_MG_5686

Here, the good fats found in coconut milk satiate and homemade beef stock provides a calcium and phosphorous dense broth full of minerals providing a base for the Leafy Greens & Coconut Milk Soup. I fill a large, shallow bowl with torn spinach leaves, a handful of mixed herbs (whole cilantro, basil and mint are delicious and invigorating) and some finely chopped green onions. Add thinly sliced jalapeño for spice - they're especially great when you're fighting a cold as the capsaicin from the seeds (the compound that creates the spiciness) thins mucus and helps to open up your nasal passages.

 

 

Pour hot broth directly over the greens - the heat cooks the greens, allowing the soup to come together in minutes. Keep the pantry filled with at least one can of coconut milk (look for a pure brand that avoids adding carageen - a seaweed derivative that is thought to be an allergen) and keep a container of stock frozen in the freezer, for easy meal-making.

Leafy Greens & Coconut Milk Soup 2 parts bone broth :: 1 part coconut milk

Place broth and coconut milk into a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Meanwhile, fill a large, shallow bowl with greens, as above. When broth is at a low boil, pour over the veg and serve immediately.

Leafy Greens for soupFor bone broth, check out this recipe for beef pho from Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen. For a simple chicken bone broth made at home in a slow cooker, here's a goodie from the ever-healthful Nourished Kitchen.

DIY Christmas Gifts

spiced pecansA lot of people have been asking me for recipe and gift-giving ideas this week, so I figured a round-up post was in order. Avoid the last-minute shoppers this weekend and spend time in your kitchen instead. These gifts can be elegant, feel special and are delicious. Make sure to package them simply - channel your inner Martha Stewart. Preserved Lemons - Preserved lemons are a staple of Moroccan cuisine but can be used in most savory dishes calling for lemon. Tasting of muted lemon, with none of the sour tang, they add a subtle undertone to dishes. Meyer Lemons are just coming into season. They are thin-skinned and cure in the salt quickly, so you can still start this project this week and pass them on for holiday gift giving. HALF of one lemon fits perfectly in a small 1/4 pint jar, so you can knock out gifts quickly. Not to mention, you’ll be turning them on to a new ingredient that may just inspire them to get creative in the kitchen.

Spiced Pecans - I'll be the first to admit spiced nuts are a little dated as a hostess gift, but pecans are an expensive treat and this recipe is perfect in every way. Double the batch and plan on making one for yourself.

Herb Vinegar - Made of two simple ingredients—vinegar and fresh herbs— these aromatic vinegars can be made in minutes. Subtle in flavor, herb vinegars impart an undertone of herb along with the tang of acid. They can be used in vinaigrettes to dress green salads, grain dishes or legumes.

Urban Pantry and Fresh Pantry - I can ship this book overnight to you, no probs. Read the reviews on Amazon & I'm happy to sign it for you and write a fun message.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

How To :: Homemade Herb Vinegar

Oregano vinegarFresh herbs can get expensive if you’re buying them at the store, so I like to grow my own. I always make sure to use every last sprig. If you have leftover herbs, or a prolific plant that needs cutting back, you can dry herbs for your spice cupboard (see the sidebar “Spice Cupboard” in chapter 6, “Nuts”) or use them to flavor vinegar. Herb vinegars are made of two simple ingredients—vinegar and fresh herbs—and can be made in minutes. Subtle in flavor, herb vinegars impart an undertone of herb along with the tang of vinegar. They can be used in salads and vinaigrettes.

Use fresh healthy sprigs and distilled white vinegar for the best results. Any herb can work—try  mint, lemon balm, basil, or tarragon. Use two sprigs of herb for every cup of vinegar. Add the sprigs directly to prepared jars. (Wash and sterilize jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath before using.) Heat the vinegar until just beginning to boil and pour over the herbs, leaving a bit of head space. Store the vinegar in a cool, dark place for three to four weeks, checking the flavor after two weeks. When the flavor is to your liking, strain and discard the herbs and store the infused vinegar in a cool, dark cupboard. Use glass containers that can be sealed with a lid or cork.

Herb vinegars will keep for three months, longer if refrigerated. Be mindful of any mold or fermentation bubbles—this means the batch is spoiled and should be thrown out. As vinegar has a high acid content, there is no risk of botulism; mold and yeast are the two culprits of spoilage.

HOW TO :: Harvest Rose Hips & Dry for Recipes

rose hips for harvestingWith the recent autumnal frosts, now is the perfect time to collect rose hips. A bit of frost sweetens them up. Rose hips offer a subtle floral flavor to dishes, but their real power is in the health benefits they possess. Rose hips contain more vitamin C then most other herbs - even many times those found in citrus pound per pound. These antioxidant, red globes, are best harvested in late fall and used in syrups or jams. Rose hips look like little tomatoes, often orange-red and shiny. They are more round than long, about the size of a red globe grape. Harvest rose hips by snapping the stem from the plant. They are tough enough that you can toss them into a plastic bag and then a backpack without doing too much damage. Rinse them well when you get home to drown out any bugs and use them within a day of bringing them home.

Following is a quick guide on how to harvest and dry rose hips. Their chewy skins can be used in tonics, jams or recipes. To dry rose hips is quite an effort, but if you're looking for  a slow winter project, this is it. Of course, you can always skip this step and purchase dried rose hips at your local apothecary or herbalist, or order online.

Dried Rosehips makes about 2 cups | start to finish: about 2 hours active time

Harvest 6 cups of rosehips from untreated, wild bushes between late October and mid-November. To begin the drying process, wash and dry them completely. Trim off both the stem and blossom ends. Lay them out on newspaper in a single layer to dry for several days.

After three to five days, cut the rosehips in half, and using a small spoon, scoop out the interior hair and seeds. (Allowing them to dry slightly first makes the removal of the hair and seeds far easier. This process can be long and arduous, but the hairs can be very irritating if ingested.)

harvest & dry rose hipsOnce all of the rosehips have been cleaned, preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Place the semi-dried rosehips in a single layer on a sheet pan and put it in the oven to dry overnight. The drying time will depend on the size of the rosehips, but figure it will take 5 to 7 hours. Rosehips are done when they are entirely dry and hard to the touch.

When rosehips have been completely dehydrated and cooled, add them all to the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until they are coarsely chopped. Do not over process, or the rosehips will turn into a powder. Store crushed rosehips in a glass jar in the cupboard, where they will keep for several months.

washed jars • pantry storage

HOW TO :: Preserving & Canning Apple Pie Filling

applesApples are available all year long, but they are certainly not in season all year long. New crop apples, those that are harvested and sold in the same season, are the best tasting—their juice just contained under firm, naturally shiny skins. To preserve the natural, raw integrity of fresh fruit, buy in bulk when they come into the markets. Boxes of apples are infinitely less expensive than buying a pound at a time, so choose a favorite variety (most farmers offer samples) and load up. For more awesome apple recipes, check out my APPLE COOKBOOK. Apple Pie Filling

makes about 4 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking. Blanching the fruit before canning them will preserve their crispness, ensuring that they won’t break down to mush when they’re baked. Choose a firm, crisp apple, and mix something tart (Bramley) with a sweeter bite (Spitzenberg). When it comes to baking time, simply pour the apples into a prepared shell and bake, or slice them thin for layering in a tart. Either way, expect to use two pints of filling per 9” pie.

6 pounds apples, cored and sliced 1 cup water 1 cup apple cider 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup apple pectin (available online or in health food stores) 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

apple pie filling

Fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a boil. Drop in half of the sliced apples and cover, returning to a boil. Once the water returns to a boil (about 8 to 10 minutes), use a slotted spoon to strain out the apples. Add the slices directly to clean pint jars, leaving a small amount of room at the top. Repeat the process with the remaining apple slices. On a folded-over dish towel (for padding), strongly tap the bottom of each jar on the counter, to help pack down the apples. If necessary, redistribute apples so each jar is full, with 1” of headspace.

In a medium saucepan, add the water, apple cider, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice, and spices; bring to a boil. Simmer the liquid for 15 minutes, reducing it slightly. Using a ladle or a liquid measuring cup for ease, pour hot juice over the jarred apples, leaving 1/2” of headspace. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place them in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

Pineapple & Mint Drinking Vinegar Recipe

Making Pineapple Drinking VinegarDrinking vinegars, or shrubs, are refreshing beverages made from fermenting a combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Last week, in honor of my new SodaStream, I created a pineapple drinking vinegar recipe that is light, energizing and fresh. Shrubs are not a new idea - they 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 issue of decay and was a means of preservation, as vinegar is high in acid and prevents mold and spoilers from forming. There are no limitations to ingredients that can be combined and preserved safely, so drinking vinegars are a great way to experiment with preservation. I prefer softer and sweeter vinegars - apple cider or champagne work well with many fruits and vegetables.

Products like Bragg's apple cider are a great choice as they have healthy bacteria that is alive and active. (Read: Great for your gut!) Of course, you can also make your own vinegar at home, using a fermentation process. This is a great idea for apple season, and I have a recipe in my Apple Cookbook that is easy to follow and make.

Straining Pineapple Drinking Vinegar

Drinking vinegars and shrubs are alcohol-free, thus a festive option for anyone who does not drink alcohol. Add a spoonful of drinking vinegar to make juices more complex, or go straight for the sparkling water and make a brightly colored fizzy drink. (Here, I have a lot of other lovely ideas for homemade sodas! And here I have additional recipes for drinking vinegar, including one using beets.)

To age, I leave the drinking vinegar out on the counter for several days, covered with a thin linen kitchen cloth. This allows the mixture to breath and ferment, while keeping out insects. The pineapple-mint mixture fermented for five days, but a few days longer or shorter is also fine. Use your nose - when it's strong and yeast-y smelling, call it done.

Pineapple Mint Drinking Vinegar

I use my SodaStream to create fizzy water at home. I went for a big bubble in the water and compressed the machine seven times. The fruit juice is dense and thick and I wanted the water to sparkle in the mouth. To serve, spoon some juice into a glass and top off with soda water. Using more drinking vinegar results in a stronger, sweeter drink. Less is obviously more subtle. I'm in love with my new SodaStream!

PINEAPPLE MINT DRINKING VINEGAR 

2 cups chopped pineapple 1/2 cup sugar or honey 1/2 cup mint leaves 1/2 cup LIVE apple cider vinegar

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a blender and puree until fruit is mashed and mint is chopped fine. Pour into a 1 quart jar and cover with a thin linen cloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band. (This prevents gnats and other insects from getting in.) Leave on the counter for 3 to 5 days to ferment. To serve, set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour in the fruit, pressing on it to release all of the juice. Store any leftover shrub in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for many weeks.

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

5 for Friday :: Lidia Bastianich

about_lidia-2I have the great providence of being surrounded by inspiring people. 5 for Friday questions will be asked of artists, farmers, curators, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs etc – all of the people that I find interesting. Everyone gets the same five questions. Today we feature graceful celebrity, Lidia Bastianich. She needs no introduction for anyone who loves food. Lidia has hosted several cookings shows on PBS, including Lidia's Italy which is produced by Tavola Productions, an entertainment company she founded and oversees. She owns four restaurants, is a partner at Eataly in NYC, owns a B&B and winery in Friuli (see #3 below) and has authored MANY award-winning books.

Lidia Bastianich is a business powerhouse that shouldbe studied, I think particularly by woman who own their own business. She has a lot of irons in the fire. As her site notes, "Lidia has married her two passions in life – her family and food, to create multiple culinary endeavors alongside her two children, Joseph and Tanya." She runs restaurants, builds cooking shows, and would seem to continually be on the lookout for the next great endeavor. (See #3, below.)

Despite her clear successes, Lidia's appeal to me is more personal. Firstly, she was born in Pula, Istria. While this peninsula is now part of Croatia (Lidia's parents lived there when it was a province of Italy), I can't help but feel personal kinship as my family is from the north of Croatia, Krk. There is cross over between our culinary histories, and while visiting Pula several years ago I couldn't help but think, 'Lidia grew up here.' Additionally, I've had the fortune to meet Lidia on several occasions over the years and she has always been calm, kind and interested. I used to produce Tom Douglas' radio show, and she was often our guest. After each visit, she would send me (little old me, Tom's assistant) a thank you card on personalized stationary. That nod to formality always struck me as a very considerate manner, and I quickly adopted the habit. Recently, I saw her at an event for KCTS9 and I introduced myself. Lidia totally lacked any air of celebrity status and stood and chatted awhile - a really cool lady.

This week, YOU get a chance to meet her at an upcoming Gala on November 1st to support Saint Martin's University. Go talk to her! Go eat delicious food! Tickets are available here. And for anyone that can't make the gala, meet Lidia Bastianich…...

1. What did you eat for breakfast this morning? This morning, I had some fresh pineapple, whole wheat toast and a cappuccino.

2. What is one thing you do EVERY day, by choice? I love to always read the New York Times as I drink my coffee.

3. If you had all the time in the world and no budget restrictions, what one project would you take on just now? There are two projects that I would love to work on:  1) I have always been interested in setting up a table of peace, where a group of both men and women from places of conflict can come together and actually cook in the kitchen and eventually sit down at a “peace table” where they will enjoy each other’s ethnic foods and negotiate.    I think the table is a natural place for communication and serious discussions, and I love the idea of having both men and women cooking together in the kitchen AND sitting at the table negotiating.  2)  I would love to develop and produce an animated children’s series that instructs children about where their food comes from, how it grows, how to take care of it and ultimately how to create nourishing meals with it.

4. Where is your 'happy place'? My happy place is in the region of Friuli, Italy at Orsone, our Italian home and B & B at our winery.  It is where I find peace, especially as I walk the rows of vines in the vineyard.

5. What is your signature dish - something you make well and consistently?  I love making risotto.  All of my family members love it, and I can whip it up with any ingredient that we have in the house.  Even salad leaves, when not at their prime, make a delicious risotto.

HOW TO :: Quince Recipes

quinceSeveral years ago, I received an email from a friend, who had a friend who was giving away 40 pounds of quince. I didn’t even know what quince was back then, but I figured I could preserve it easily enough. I sent an email to this woman I’d never met. Within hours, I found myself driving to Ballard. I rang her bell, she invited me in, we had some tea and I walked away with over ten pounds of quince. Better still, I made a new friend. Every year since, Elaine has emailed me to let me know when her father’s quince tree ripens. I drive to her place, chat about food (last year’s topic du jour—kimchi), and walk away heady with a huge bag of fragrant yellow fruit. Quince is beautiful when poached, roasted or baked but it absolutely shines as a thin syrup or thick paste, and the pulp that cooks into membrillo is a natural byproduct of making the syrup. While the recipes take some time, starting with a large quantity (in this case five pounds) will keep your pantry stocked in quince.

Quince Syrup Makes about 2 pints | start to finish: 3 hours

The flavor of this syrup offers a hint of the floral fragrance that makes quince so appealing. This syrup can be made as thin or as thick as you like. Thinner syrup will take less time, and is best for adding to cocktails or soaking a sponge cake or other dessert. You can also choose not to reduce the liquid at all, and drink it as a refreshing beverage on its own.

10 cups water Juice from one lemon 5 pounds quince, thoroughly scrubbed clean of hair, stems and blossom ends removed

Fill a large pot with both water and lemon juice. Quarter quinces and immediately place into water. When all the quince is cut and added, the water should just cover the fruit. If needed, add more water to cover. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the fruit is cooked all the way through and can be easily pierced with a knife, but is not yet falling apart, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Strain fruit from cooking liquid, and set the fruit pulp aside. Using a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth-lined colander) filter the cooking liquid to strain out any remaining fruit fibers. Place the strained cooking liquid in a clean pot and set over medium-high heat. Reduce the syrup by about half or until desired consistency is reached. For a medium-body syrup, this will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Prepare pint jars for canning. Add quince syrup to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the syrup is cool, check for proper seals and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

Quince Paste Makes 4 thin loaves | start to finish: 12 hours

Quince paste is also known as membrillo, and it’s commonly cut into squares and served alongside cheese. The paste is made from the fruit pulp reserved from making the syrup, requiring only some additional sugar. Note that you will need to commit some time to this project. Cooking the fruit down to a paste can take well over an hour and then it must be dried in an oven. Be patient and know that the effort will be handsomely rewarded.

Reserved pulp from 5 pounds cooked quince, about 8 cups 4 to 5 cups sugar

Place the cooked quince pulp in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Push the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Measure the puree and pour it into a large, heavy pot. For every cup of puree, stir in 1/2 cup of sugar. Set over medium low heat and cook, stirring regularly, until quite thick and paste-like, between 1 and 2 hours. It may stick to the pot as it thickens, so adjust the heat lower as needed. The paste is done when a small spoonful is placed on a plate and no liquid separates out.

While the pulp is cooking, prepare a pan for drying out the paste. You may use a shallow high-walled cookie sheet (such as a half sheet pan or jelly roll pan) or a smaller, deeper glass baking dish (about 11″ x 7″) depending on how thick you would like your sliced paste to be. Just make sure you dish is no deeper than two inches; otherwise the paste will not dry sufficiently in the center. Rub the entire surface with a thin layer of vegetable oil and line with a layer of lightly-oiled parchment paper. Set aside.

Turn oven to 140 degrees or the lowest setting it will allow. Pour the quince paste into your prepared baking pan and bake for 3 hours. Turn off the oven, and leave the paste inside overnight. In the morning, cut a small piece of quince paste to see if it is dried throughout. If still loose and jam-like in the middle, you may need to continue drying in the oven for a few hours more. When the paste is dried through, turn it out from the pan, remove the parchment paper and cut into four to six small loaves for easy storage. Wrap each paste loaf in fresh parchment paper before storing in the fridge, where it will keep for several months.

store in fridge

Originally published in Edible Seattle

Getting Busy With The Fizzy :: Homemade Cocktails with SodaStream Play

sodastreamIn the latter half of the 18th century, carbon dioxide was introduced into water creating soda water or seltzer. (Interesting food fact - the origin of the name seltzer hails from water that had natural effervescence and came from the town of Nieder Selters in Germany.) Today, anyone can make fizzy water at home and can vary the degree of the fizz and the amount of bubbles in each glass. Personalizing soda water may sound a bit bourgeois, but I liken myself to a soda water connoisseur and find most people have a preference. I like a slight, small bubble. My sister's family prefers big, round bubbles that explode in the mouth. All five of my nieces and nephews are soda water snobs - slightly flat and they turn up their nose. I've been coveting a SodaStream  for years and finally got my hands on my very own machine. This SodaStream Play comes with the options of wrapping in 'skins' of various designs - or you can customize your own skin by uploading an image of your choice. I picked the NY skyline - an homage to my roots and Eli the Seltzer Guy in Brooklyn, who used to deliver soda water to our brownstone monthly - a wooden crate full of handblown glass bottles that were made in the 30s and hail from Czechoslovakia. Incidentally, he fills the bottles at an old seltzer factory in Canarsie, where my father and all of my aunts, uncles and cousins grew up.

This nostalgic feeling likely influenced my choice in first experiment - a chocolate egg cream. Egg creams are a thing of the past, though you can find them in vintage east coast delis. The Townhouse Diner in Honesdale, PA (by my dad's house) serves them still, with no hint at irony. Egg creams have big bubbles, so I used 6 compressions on the SodaStream Play to achieve a strong, vibrant bubble.

While they're traditionally made with a heavy chocolate syrup, I made my version with a dark, organic cocoa powder. 2 cups whole milk + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1/2 cup vanilla sugar - heat this up over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and cocoa powder is well blended, then cool completely. For really creamy soda, make this with half & half.

1 part chocolate milk : 2 part SodaStream soda

chocolate egg cream

Given the autumnal energy in the air, I also decided on a cider beverage of some kind. I was gifted a gallon of TreeTop apple juice in honor of National Apple Month, so decided it was high time to use it. Mulled apple juice pairs well with bourbon, so that was the jumping off point. I wanted to veer from super traditional mulling spices, so opted for lavender - a heavy floral note with an earthy undertone. Once the juice is steeped with aromatics and cooled, the only trick is nailing the proportions. This cocktail was a crowd pleaser - all my girlfriends sat around sipping and singing the praises of autumn. I wanted a soft sparkle here, so I used 3 compressions on the SodaStream Play to achieve a gentle, small bubble.

: Apple-Lavender Fizz : 2 cups apple juice, or cider 3 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender buds 2 thin slices fresh ginger root 1 tablespoon cloves 1 tablespoon allspice 10 cardamom pods 1 cinnamon stick

Place a small saucepan over medium high heat, and add the juice and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce heat slightly, allowing the apple juice to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain the spices, pressing into the solids to release any juice, and serve.

1 part bourbon : 2 part juice : 1 part SodaStream soda

apple-lavender fizz

I also rimmed the glass with "apple powder" - essentially dehydrated apples that I pulverized with a bit of sugar. The moisture gives it a molasses-like consistency, though the apple flavor shines through.

Because I was on a roll and had company over, I whipped up an easy, refreshing non-alcoholic drink using frozen fruit juice as a base. It's smart to keep a container of this juice around (opt for an organic company, which won't use high fructose corn syrup) for quick beverages - a good pantry staple. Rather then blending with water, I used SodaStream Play soda water resulting in a light, effervescent drink. You could of course add a splash of vodka. I had some Blood Orange vodka from 3 Howls Distillery and it worked beautifully together.

1 part frozen lemon concentrate : 4 part SodaStream soda

lemon-thyme spritzer

For this lemon-thyme fizz, I wanted major bubble action, (the bubbles have to lift the syrup, which is heavy) so I used 8 compressions on the SodaStream Play. Worked like a charm.

The SodaStream Play comes with a selection of syrups, too, for anyone wanting a pure soda option.I have more experiments going now, so stay tuned for more. There is this pineapple fermentation thing that my friend declared "tastes like colors," which is a pretty spot on assessment.

[This is a sponsored post. All personal commentary, stories and recipes are original content, written by me at my discretion and whim.]