Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Foodie Adventure 4: rhubarb fool

I've been sitting on these photos from a food adventure for over a year now. 
A Whole! Year! 

Some friends and I attended a "Culinary Cooking 101" class back in ye olde 2012 and it completely slipped my mind that I hadn't shared. 

Well. I can't wait another day to write to you about rhubarb fool. Is it terrible for me to say I'm a rhubarb fool for not writing sooner?

A whiiile ago, the ever-classy and connected Neighbor Kristen took me and our friend Nicole to a Taste event at the Art Institute of Portland. This cooking class/dinner party took place in the kitchen for the institutes' culinary program, overlooking the North Park Blocks downtown. (Read about the time I went to Beast for another Taste event here.)

We wobbled on tall stools and craned our necks to hear what Chef Cory Schreiber had to say. Cory talked us through creating a reduction, how to roast meat, to use nettles for  pesto, and how to cook fresh fava beans. A handful of students in the culinary program there flitted around the kitchen helping.

Of course, the meal knocked our socks off. Cory and his students created each course and talked us through the process of each dish. We started with a spring soup with fava beans, had roasted lamb and vegetables for the main course, and ended with this dead-easy dessert.  

To make a "fool," start with fresh, tart fruit like rhubarb or raspberries--as fresh as you can get it from your back yard or from the farmer's market. Add honey, vanilla, and freshly grated orange rind. 

(I love the focus on this student's face. She was both sweet and shy in person.) She adds a pinch of ginger to the mixture. Then, it's time to heat things up.

Cory explains how to reduce the rhubarb and sweetener into a fruit compote (which would eventually be blended with whipping cream.) 

He was a kind man who was serious about food. His students thought he was fascinating, and you could tell they respected him.

While Cory created the fruit reduction, two students whipped heavy whipping cream into fluffy clouds of heavenliness. Who doesn't smile when full-fat cream is involved?

Once the fruit was reduced into a fragrant mass, Cory chilled it in the fridge for 30 minutes. The students carefully folded the cooled fruit and whipped cream together, then garnished each dessert with a home-made shortbread round.  

Lucky for me and my dining companions, the evening didn't end with full bellies and contented sighs. Cory gave us all a copy of a book on desserts he co-wrote with baker queen Julie Richardson (of Baker & Spice.) What a guy!

Rustic Fruit Desserts come crammed with recipes for crumbles, buckles, pies, cobblers, and pandowdys for every fruit, in every season. I'm particularly fond of making the citrus olive oil cake in the fall, and fruit fools in the spring. Now you can, too. 

Rhubarb Fool
from Rustic Fruit Desserts
  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 4 cups) rhubarb, trimmed and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 Tb. candied ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tb. granulated sugar
Combine rhubarb, honey, orange zest and juice, candied ginger, vanilla bean and salt into a saucepan over medium heat. 
Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, for about 10 minutes. The mixture will boil and the rhubarb will soften by this point. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool. Transfer the compote to a bowl and refrigerate, uncovered, until very cold (at least 30 minutes.) 

Whip the sugar and cream using a mixer or by whisk until soft peaks form. 

Set aside 1/3 cup of fruit compote to use as garnish, then gently fold the fruit compote into the whipped cream. Spoon the fool into six glasses, top with remaining compote, and chill for an hour before serving. 

The fool is best served on the day it's made. However, you can cover leftovers with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge for up to two days. 

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dinner chores: onion-and-roasted pepper shrimp with garlic butter

I'm kind of in love with the Tumblr site Dinnertime Confessional. It's real-time photos that people snap of their dinners and upload.It enables snoopy readers like me to spy on the dinner-time rituals of people across America. 

Dinnertime Confessional is probably not an accurate representation of what people are eating, though. I think it's what NPR nerds want people to think they eat every day. Where are the Totino's Party Pizzas? Where is the fast food? The takeout? Only a few brave souls have snapped photos that include frozen vegetables or (gasp) tater tots, and those submissions often come tagged with an apology or excuse about having children or 57 jobs or some other vegetable on the side that's local/organic/redeeming. 

Still! It's an inspiring list. Here is what we come up with when we rustle up dinner. Some people have wild-foraged salad greens and risotto; others have pickled herring and wine or peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke at their desk (holla!

If I'd thought to do it, I would have shared a photo of my dinner yesterday: a party pizza topped with balsamic vinegar rode kool. Kind of a low-class take on the the "home-made pizza topped with arugula" thing--still cheesy, crispy, crunchy, and fresh with lemon and vinegar. Maybe....later we'll have more of a real recipe on that front. 

Until then, there's this awesome shrimp/vegetable thing I made the other day while "cooking ahead." Sometimes I get on this Cooking For the Future! kick that makes me feel like a Real Adult and and Astronaut at the same time. It's the best and also dinner for the next week is d.o.n.e.

I can't nail down the exact measurements for this dish, because at the time I was also cooking boring-yet-essential things like a pot of rice, bean burritos for work lunches, roasted tomatoes, and probably iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk (a.k.a nectar of life.) Your takeaway from this is that you can't fail with this dish, even when you're multi-tasking! 

This recipe serves three, but can easily double or triple for cooking ahead/freezer funtimes. Serve over some of that rice you cooked yesterday and rock on.

Onion-and-roasted pepper shrimp with garlic butter sauce
serves threeish
  • 1 1/2 cup pre-cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup roasted red pepper
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 fat TB. unsalted butter
  • 1 diced garlic clove
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried herbs de Provence
  • 1 tsp sea salt or garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
Chop the onion fine and slice a roasted red pepper into small strips. I used red pepper that had been canned in water and a little salt and vinegar; you can used canned or roast your own using this method

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Saute onion and garlic in the butter for five minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent. Add in the shrimp, pepper, herbs, garlic salt, and red pepper flakes. Cover the saucepan and let the mixture cook in the oven 'till the shrimp is heated through, about 10 minutes. 

That's it! The shrimp and peppers and onions should be soft and sweet, and have joined with the butter in saucy matrimony. Remove from heat and serve over rice. I made some for lunch with a dash of soy sauce and it was heaven. 

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Butternut squash gratin
Spaghetti with red pepper cream sauce 
Raymond's Cajun shrimp

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where I've Been and Kansas Day Cookies

Some stuff's happened since I last wrote you. I'll put them in mostly chronological order.

1) Raymond and I took a road trip down coastal highway 101 to Crescent City, California. We stopped at any beach that looked interesting (oh, there were many), had all the fresh chowder and salmon we could handle, and hiked in the California Redwoods. I wish we'd stayed another day or seven.

2) The next weekend, I flew home to visit. Also, I accidentally ran my digital camera through my mom's washing machine, losing the Redwood Forest and beach photos.

3) I applied for a job at my old radio station in Kansas. 

4) The jazz station I worked for won Jazz Station of the Year. 

5) I got the job at KMUW. 

6) My Grandma Mickey died. I'm still sad that she died less than a week before I came home. This is us getting coffee in 2009.

7) Because of when I needed to start my new job and when Raymond had to end his, we had to drive from Portland, Oregon, to Wichita, Kansas, separately. I brought one of our two kitties and enough clothing to last for a week until Raymond arrived.

8) I wanted to get home in time for Grandma's funeral, so I drove fast through snow storms and mountains and got back just in time. By "just in time," I mean with enough time to take a shower and drive directly to the funeral. 

9) Two days later, my sister married her sweetheart, Neil. 

10) I started my new job as a radio host a week before Christmas. 

11) Raymond drove across the country on his own, with the other kitty and a rental truck full of all our furniture. He says he almost died three times. When he arrived at 3am, I showed him his Christmas: the upright piano I'd moved to Wichita from my mother's house. 

12) We moved into our cozy home and hosted a last-minute Christmas family feast of whatever we had in the house: cheesy noodles, Black Forest ham, French rolls, and star fruit and sweet potatoes from the Asian market (Thank you for being open on Christmas, Thai Binh.) 

So! We're all caught up, in a kinda-sorta/not really kind of way. There's no way to cover an eight-month absence in one post, so let's take it one step at a time. With cookies. For Kansas Day. Happy birthday, dear Kansas. You're 152 years young.

They're oatmeal chocolate chip, with some sunflower seeds and sunny seed drops for added color and crunch. The recipe's from the Northwest's own Grand Central Bakery; Raymond got me their baking book for Christmas and man, it was love at first sight.

Grand Central uses whole grains, real butter, fresh fruit, and takes a no-shortcut approach to pies, pastries, and cookies. I miss living a 10-minute walk from the Multnomah Village Grand Central.

Raymond and I still feel like we're living in both Oregon and Kansas. That we can walk to get coffee at the Donut Whole and then go catch a movie at the Avalon Theater later. It's a funny, in-between place. We take walks and try to notice the new things around us. 

In a nod to that, I made these in-between cookies. Bob's Red Mill oats from Milwaukee, Oregon, and Kansas flour. A recipe from the Northwest with chocolate-coated sunflower seeds. It all works out.

Sunflower-studded Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies
adapted from the Grand Central Baking Book. 
  • 2 cups whole-wheat baking flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 twp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups rolled oats 
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup sunny seed drops 
Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Measure the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, and salt into a bowl and combine. 

Cream the butter and sugars together for 3 - 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved completely into the butter and the mixture is lighter in color and fluffy. While the mixer is still running, add eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla. Scrape the bowl sides as needed and make sure everything is well incorporated. 

Turn the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients slowly, in 2 - 3 batches, until just combined. Add oats, sunflower seeds (but not drops), and chocolate chips and mix to just combined. 

If you've got the time and you're using rolled oats instead of the quick-cooking kind, refrigerate the cookie dough for 1 - 2 hours. The chilling period lets the oats soak up all the buttery/sugary goodness and the flavors will develop more. If you can't wait, no one will judge you for baking the cookies right away. 

Scoop the dough into ping pong ball-sized balls and then place them, six per baking sheet. Flatten them to 1/2 inch-thick disks with your hands. Press some sunny seed drops into the top of each cookie. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. 

When you remove the cookies, the edges of the cookies should be golden brown and the centers will appear blond and slightly underdone. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets. Once the first batch of cookies is cooled, rotate in the next round. 

Happy Kansas Day. Thank you for reading. I'm sorry for leaving for so long. The Keeper of the Plains and I salute you.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy: 
Ranger cookies
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English seed bread

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holy Whole Grainz!

Attention whole grain-heads! 

Bob Moore of The Bob Behind Bob's Red Mill just came to my work as a guest on Think Out Loud. They spent the whole show talking about the benefits of cooking with whole grains, the mill's gluten-free line (which is prepared in an entirely separate section of the factory from the wheaty foods), and why Mr. Moore is turning the ownership of his company over to the employees. It's great listening, and you can download the podcast here:The Bob Behind Bob's Red Mill.

Elise and I toured the mill last spring. She and her husband and I were the only kids under age 60 on the tour, but we all had a swell time. We took as many pictures as we liked, and Bob stopped by to say hello. For about a minute, I thought we could be related, as his family and a branch of mine are both Helms and have connection to the same Kansas town, but alas! No dice. 

We saw the first millstone they used to grind the grains, giant stones from a flour mill. You can see that first mill above, with a rather silly photo of Bob propped next to it. Below, here's a close-up Elise took of that same mill's interior. Still tough after decades!

After we saw our fill, they gave us samples of 10-grain hot cereal and corn meal and we ate lunch at the mill restaurant. Before we left, we spied this fun corner of the office. The tour guide said that Bob and his administrative assistant love to play the piano on their off-time, and they are particular to duets. Cute, cute, cute.


This post isn't a giant love letter to Bob's Red Mill, tied with a red ribbon. It's a hat tip to whole grains, though. I thought you and I could listen to a little podcast together and whip up some whole-grain goodies. I've come a long way from my days of trying to sneak flax meal into everything I cook, but I still love me some whole grains. 

                                     Sunflower Scones with Boiled Citrus Glaze

Don't these dishes tempt you? Enjoy the rest of your week. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring = preserved lemon & asparagus risotto

Hey there.

You may have noticed I've kept a low profile in Blogland. At first, I took a "break" when my arsenal of killer recipes and great photos ran low. Then, I thought I'd wait to post until I had something extra compelling to share, like a story that would make you weep or a recipe that calls for candied pansies or whatever latest twee foods are popular on Pinterest.

After that, I felt my writing and my food pics were inferior to everything else on the entire Internet. In other words, I fell into a vat of self-pity.
So...my oven got tired of that shit and spit fire at me.

It was a wake-up call fire!

I'd just turned on the broiler to brown a gratin, completely forgetting that Friday night's pizza box still sat inside. All I can say about the broiler incident is, wow. Cardboard sure is flammable. I remember thinking, as I saw the oven belch sheets of flame, "This could end badly." 

As I tried to recall the types of kitchen fires and the different ways to extinguish them, from the lecture the fireman gave my third grade class at Washington Elementary, I saw a giant cup of water sitting next to the sink. Perfect. Flames be gone!

The next day, I scrubbed and scoured the oven with baking soda and vinegar, to literally smooth things over. That sparkling-clean oven made me feel like a culinary super hero, because ovens in my house are usually only clean on the day I move out. All that cleaning went to heck that same day, when a glass dish full of leftovers exploded in that same angry oven. Everything was warming up to a comfy 350 degrees until I cracked open the oven door to check. Neighbor Kristen's pie dish exploded into a cloud of airborne glass shards and burning vegetables.

I looked at the burning mess and thought, You're mad enough to spit glass? Ok. Time to blog.
So I did and here we are. There's a lot of catching up to do, but we'll start out easy.

Raymond and I bought a new sleeper couch in March. Then, a steady stream of visitors from Kansas and Ohio slept on it. We spent the whole month showing people the best of Portland, and the best of Oregon. We took my mom and sister to Kenny & Zukes Delicatessen and their pastrami fries blew our minds....

Later, our dear Kansas friends Elise and JJ spent their spring break with us in sunny, rainy, gray beautiful Portland. After seeing all the usual sights in Portland (Powell's, Voo Doo Donuts, etc., etc.), we drove them to the coast and hula hooped at Hug Point on the beach.

Raymond and I chill with JJ, looking toward the ocean

Elise is the present-yet-unseen photographer in these gorgeous photos. Don't forget her there!

Hug Point is so named because back in ye olde Oregon Trail days, the stagecoach "highway" here actually hugged the coast closely, even at low tide.  You can still see traces of the old path here, near the cave and waterfall. Can you imagine trying to drive a stagecoach here in bad weather, so close to giant waves?

Sneaking around at low tide with my hoops. Little-known fact: hula hooping by the ocean is the best thing in the world.

Here's a closer view of the waterfall, which feeds directly into the ocean, just a few feet away.

JJ hadn't been to the Pacific coast before this trip. We took her and Elise to several beaches this day, but Hug Point was everyone's favorite. How can you not fall for low-tide caves, waterfalls, and giant waves breaking right in front of you?

 "Hug Point is the best!" - JJ

After all that beachy fun, we needed to eat.

Raymond and I love cooking for all our guests, as much as we love sharing our favorite Oregon restaurants with them. Basically, if you ever stay with us, plan on eating a lot.
Raymond pancake breakfasts for everybody (with bacon!) and I, in turn, cooked the risotto.

Elise loves fresh asparagus, so this risotto is full of fresh, tender asparagus tips and salty preserved lemon slices. It gets a handful of shredded Parmesan right at the end to smooth out the fresh, tart flavors. Elise and JJ loved this risotto so much, I didn't hesitate to make it for Lauren when she visited last weekend. It's basically spring, in a bowl. I hope you can make it for someone you love soon.

Oh, and it's good to be back. Missed you.

Asparagus and preserved lemon risotto
serves 8
  • 2-3 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears and stems, sliced
  • 3 - 4 sliced preserved salted lemon, diced into 1/4" cubes
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
The trick for great risotto is stirring. Stir constantly. Prepare everything ahead of time and plan to spend a good 30 minutes in front of the stove, stirring. It's a recipe and a workout, and your efforts will be rewarded with a creamy deliciousness.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan. When the oil is nice and hot, stir in the diced onion. Cook the onions for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to sweat and become translucent.

Stir in the rice, and make sure it's all evenly coated with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes, until the tips of the rice are translucent. Add wine (or an extra cup of broth) and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in 1 cup of broth. Stir constantly, until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until all the broth is incorporated into the rice. Stir in the fresh asparagus and preserved lemon. Remove the risotto from heat and stir in the Parmesan until the rice is smooth and creamy. Serve immediately as a main course with a green salad, or as a side with salmon or pan-fried chickpeas. 

Learn to make your own salt-preserved lemon slice, from Salt & Fat, where I learned how to make them!

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