Tarragon, two ways

Posted by Anita on 04.23.10 4:53 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*

This month’s CanJam roundup — hosted by Marisa at Food in Jars — focuses on herbs, a fitting subject for a month when many canners have little fresh produce close at hand. Our garden is overflowing with herbs, but in the spirit of exploration I decided to make use of a big bunch of tarragon from our latest Mariquita Farm delivery. My only problem was deciding whether to make a sweet preserve or a savory pickle.

Eventually I rationalized that there will be plenty of time later in the year to put up fruit, and pondered the early spring crops I know I would be craving later. Top of that list is asparagus, so I started by using my herbal ingredient to flavor a batch of asparagus pickles. After all, béarnaise sauce — essentially a Hollandaise flavored with tarragon and shallots — and asparagus are natural partners.

Aside from the fiddly task of trimming each spear to the height of a quart jar, the pickled asparagus was simple enough. but I found myself with plenty of leftover tarragon. Rather than wait another week for the next farmers market to put up more asparagus, I rummaged around to see what else I had on hand that would pair well with this anise-scented herb. A quick turn through my canning books yielded a simple recipe for fresh herb jelly, using a base of dry white wine.

I didn’t want to crack a full bottle of vino to get the cup and a half I needed for the recipe, but I did have a half-bottle of bubbly leftover from a recent brunch; swapping in Champagne vinegar for the recipe’s white wine vinegar made the Champagne theme complete. The resulting preserve isn’t the sort of thing you’d spread on toast, or swirl into yogurt — at least to my palate. Much like other savory-sweet jellies (like popular ones that feature jalapeno or mint) this jelly works well as a companion to cheese and crackers, or as a condiment for roast meats.

Asparagus Pickles with Tarragon
- adapted from Jan Roberts-Dominguez, Eugene Register-Guard

2-3/4 cups white distilled vinegar
2-1/4 cups water
3T canning salt
2 sprigs tarragon, about 4 inches long
3 bunches tender asparagus, preferably thin stalks, washed
2 small shallots, peeled and partially split in half
2 garlic cloves, peeled and partially split in half
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp whole peppercorns

Prepare canner, lids, and two narrow-mouth 1-quart jars according to the usual method; keep jars hot until needed. canjam01

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, and salt over high heat.

Meanwhile, trim the asparagus of any white or tough ends, then cut to the height of the jars’ shoulders. (There are usually enough tender trimmings to make asparagus pesto.)

Divide the tarragon among the two jars, then pack the trimmed asparagus into the jars, along with 1 shallot and 1 clove of garlic per jar. Sprinkle in the mustard seed and peppercorns, then pour in the boiling brine, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims and center lids on jars. Screw band to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process covered for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check for seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

(For crisper spears, you can also make these as refrigerator pickles: Seal the jars after pouring in the brine, but do not process. Cool completely to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.)

Champagne Tarragon Jelly
- adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

2 cups loosely packed, coarsely chopped tarragon
1-1/2 cups sparkling wine
1 cup water
1 cup Champagne vinegar
1 packet powdered fruit pectin (1-3/4oz) *
5 cups granulated sugar

Prepare canner, lids, and five 8-oz jars according to the usual method; keep jars hot until needed.

Combine tarragon, sparkling wine, water, and vinegar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and cover, steeping for 15 minutes. Stir well, pressing tarragon to extract flavor.

Pour the tarragon mixture through a dampened jelly bag (or a strainer lined with several layers of dampened cheesecloth) set over a deep bowl. Let drip, undisturbed and without squeezing, until all of the liquid has fallen from the tarragon. (At this point, you should have 3-1/4 cups liquid.)

Transfer the liquid to a clean deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in the pectin* until completely dissolved, then bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from pan from the heat and quickly skim off any foam as needed.

Using a stainless-steel canning funnel, pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims and center lids on jars. Screw band to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process covered for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check for seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

* If using Pomona’s Natural Pectin, use 3T pectin powder, and combine it with 1 cup of the sugar before proceeding.

CanJam, preserving & infusing, recipes


Salad fit for spring

Posted by Anita on 04.18.10 12:03 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*Now that the Dark Days are over, we’re back in the kitchen, casting hungry eyes on spring’s new crops. We’ve had asparagus at our markets now for more than a month, and we’re gorging ourselves on it every week. It’s making its way into every course but dessert!

For a recent brunch party with friends, I wanted to include asparagus on the menu — it’s such a perfect spring flavor — but didn’t really want to mess around with Hollandaise sauce, or any of the other prepped-to-order asparagus dishes in my repertoire. None of the recipes for asparagus salads I found really appealed to me, so I winged it, adding ingredients until I found a combination that looked as good as it tasted.

The recipe below was more than enough as a side dish for 8. Our guests took home some of the leftovers, and we still had enough for two lunch-size portions. So unless you’ve got a big group on hand, or you’re serving it as a main course, a half batch should be more than sufficient.

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Asparagus Salad
- serves 8 as a light meal, or 16 as a side dish

1 bunch medium asparagus
8oz orzo
1-1/2 cup matchstick-sized pieces of ham
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Parmesan cheese, broadly shaved with a peeler (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cut asparagus on the bias into 1/8-inch slices, discarding woody or tough ends. Cook the orzo al dente, then rinse in cool water to cool; drain well, shaking the colander to remove excess water.

In a wide skillet, bring oil, zest, juice, salt, and pepper to a simmer. Stir in the garbanzo beans, then remove from heat and let steep. When beans have cooled to near room temperature, place in a large bowl along with their dressing. Toss with the orzo, ham, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve at room temperature, or cold.

Note: As long as your ingredients are fresh and the pasta very well drained, the salad can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead with no loss of texture.

entertaining, recipes


Dark Days, spring chicken

Posted by Anita on 04.04.10 9:43 AM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*Spring has come to the blog: We made it to the end of the Dark Days Challenge! We’re excited to share some spring recipes with you soon. But before we head off into the sunshine, I’m sending a round of applause to all the other Dark Days bloggers who stuck it out to the end, especially our hostess, Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery.

It’s been funny, pretending it was still Dark Days when the weather — and the market — make it clear that spring is upon us. Despite last week’s avocado orgy, we’ve tried to stick with the spirit of the challenge (and not torture participants in colder climates), using pantry goods and foraging in the freezer.

The weather has been obligingly wintery here in San Francisco this past week, so for our final Dark Days meal, we turned to a cool-weather dish I’ve been wanting to try for months. I came across this recipe in the River Cottage Cookbook, and was captivated: Why on earth had I never heard of pot-roast chicken before? We make pot roast with beef, and pork, and even lamb, but apparently the Brits (or at least Hugh F-W) know something we don’t. Dead simple, this one: Just chunk up whatever hardy vegetables you have on hand — vary the list below with the seasons, so long as there’s a starch and some onions — pop them in a big pot with a chicken in the middle, and Bob’s your uncle.

We made a few tweaks to the River Cottage recipe: Even once it was fully cooked, we found the chicken a little flabby and the pan juices a little thin for our taste. We solved both problems by popping the chicken back in the oven on its own for a few minutes to crisp the skin while reducing the pan juices a bit on the stove top. (Even if you don’t take this extra step, everything tastes delicious.) Cooked in this novel method, even the breast meat stays moist — a perfect ingredient for, say, chicken salad the next day. And should you have any leftover vegetables, they make a fine soup pureed with chicken stock and garnished with a bit of cream and a sprig of herbs.

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Pot-Roast Chicken and Vegetables
- adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook

1 chicken, 4 to 6 pounds
2T butter
2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 onions
3 large carrots
3 stalks of celery
2 leeks
3 potatoes
2 bay leaves
1 cup white wine
1 cup unsalted chicken stock (or water)
3 sprigs of thyme

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut up the vegetables into large chunks. Smear butter over the top of the chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Place the buttered chicken in a large casserole or a deep lidded roasting pan, and surround with the chunked vegetables. Pour in the wine and stock, add the thyme, cover, and place in the preheated oven.

After an hour, remove the lid; stir the vegetables and baste the chicken with the fat on the top of the pan juices. Return to the oven, uncovered, for another 30 minutes or until the breast is browned and the juices run clear at the thigh.

Carve the chicken into individual portions and place in an oven-safe plate or pan; return it to the oven to get a little more brown and crispy while you finish the pan juices. Remove the vegetables to a serving bowl, and cover to keep warm. On the stove, simmer the juices in the roasting pan, reducing to a medium consistency (or as you like).

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:darkdays09-10_bug

Soul Food Farm, Vacaville: chicken
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: onion, leeks, celery
Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz: carrots
Little Organic Farm, Marin: potatoes
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: Jersey butter
Souverain, Geyserville: white wine
Guisto’s Vita-Grain, South San Francisco: sea salt

…and our own homegrown bay leaves and thyme, and home-canned chicken stock

exemptions: black pepper

Dark Days challenge, locavore, meat, recipes
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Dark Days, simple & spicy

Posted by Anita on 03.29.10 8:19 AM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*The first glimmers of spring are showing up at the farmers market, just as we’re on the home stretch of the Dark Days Challenge, and boy are we excited. Not so much for the strawberries; they’re still white in the center, and I’ll happily wait until they’re fully ripe. But we’re gorging ourselves on the new, tender asparagus, and we’re definitely making up for lost time in the avocado department.

We put up jars of salsa last summer to help get us through the bleak winter months — without tomatillos, tomatoes, or chile peppers, Mexican food becomes downright impossible. But avocados defy preserving, and even on those rare occasions when we break down and buy an out-of-season avocado or two (sometimes it’s a guacamole emergency, I tell ya!) we always remember why it pays to wait. The watery, wan specimens that make their way here from Mexico or Chile just can’t compare with Will’s buttery, nutty avocados. So we wait. And wait. And wait. Rather impatiently, I might add. It’s one of the few winter deprivations that actually makes me cranky.

And so this week, we celebrated the avocado’s return to our kitchen with a big mess of tacos. It’s another one of those shopping-not-cooking recipes: Once you’ve got all the ingredients on hand, it’s a little bit of chopping, and a whole lot of gobbling. And should you have any leftovers, I can vouch that this filling, along with perhaps a little cheese and a soft-scrambled egg or two, makes an exceptional breakfast taco.

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Chorizo-Potato-Mushroom Tacos
- adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time

2 medium waxy potatoes (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 pound Mexican chorizo
1/4 to 1/2 pound mushrooms, any variety, sliced
1 small white onion, diced
1/2 cup or more tomatillo salsa (homemade or store-bought)
1 ripe avocado
6 to 8 fresh tortillas

Cube the potatoes and simmer in a pot of salted water until tender; drain and set aside in a medium bowl.

Saute the chorizo and onion in a wide skillet over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage and onions to the bowl with the potatoes, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the mushrooms to the pan and saute until softened and beginning to brown. Return the potatoes and chorizo-onion mixture to the pan and cook until the potatoes begin to brown.

Meanwhile, thoroughly mash the avocado in a bowl, then add the tomatillo salsa. Add more salsa until the mixture is like a sauce. Season with salt as needed.

Warm the tortillas in a skillet or griddle, or by running them over an open flame. Wrap them in a towel as you go, to keep them warm for the table. When tortillas are all warmed, move the taco filling to a serving bowl, and bring to the table with the avocado salsa and the warm tortillas. Let each person build their own tacos at the table with a scoop of the filling and a drizzle of the salsa in the middle of each tortilla.

darkdays09-10_bugFarmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:

Little Organic Farm, Marin: potatoes
Fatted Calf, Napa: chorizo
Far West Fungi, Moss Landing: mushrooms
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: onion
Will’s Avocados, Soledad: Avocados
La Palma Mexicatessen, San Francisco: fresh tortillas

…and our own home-preserved tomatillo salsa

Dark Days challenge, locavore, meat, Mexican, recipes


Dark Days, pork pie

Posted by Cameron on 03.07.10 2:40 PM

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Tara, one of our very favorite meat-eating vegetarians, is on the San Francisco leg of her book tour. Happily for us, we’ve been able to see quite a bit of her when she’s not chatting with admirers, moderating debates between militant vegetarians and ethical carnivores, and seducing the crowds with her prose.

We got to talking about meat pies in general and pork pies in particular, and Tara told us about something that she had read in Danny, The Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. The passage, which she first encountered when she was very young, describes a cold meat pie with hard-boiled eggs buried in it. The description struck a nerve, and it stayed with her into adulthood (apparently, she’s not the only one).

I love meat pies. Love, love, love, love. Cornish pasties, forfar bridies, empañadas, pot pies, steak pies, pork pies, you name it; there’s just something completely, utterly, and ineffably right about the combination of meat and pastry. Tara hadn’t even finished her story before Anita and I were waggling our eyebrows at each other and grinning like schoolkids. “So,” I asked the woman who has only recently begun to forge a relationship with meat after a lifetime of vegetarianism, “Want to make a pork pie?”

What fun! While Anita weighed and diced up the filling, Tara pulled together the hot-water crust with the quick, sure movements of a woman who has been cooking almost since she could walk. I caught the briefest of hesitations when she turned to the next step, but undaunted, she was quickly up to her forearms in a bowl of three different kinds of cold chopped pork. In honor of Mr. Dahl’s Danny, we buried hard-boiled eggs in the filling, and then I rolled out the top crust and crimped it in place.

This is my third time through this recipe, taken from The River Cottage Meat Book, and it’s a winner. The recipe doesn’t call for hard-boiled eggs, but they did just fine when we popped them in there.

The only downside of pork pie is that — because it’s best cold — you don’t get to taste it until the day after you’ve made it. We put together the pie on Sunday and it was our Dark Days Challenge dinner on Monday night, with pickles and mustard on the side.

Raised Pork Pie
- adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book

2# pork shoulder, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 oz fatty sausage meat (or ground pork belly)
8 oz salt pork, pancetta, or bacon, finely chopped
5 to 6 hard-boiled eggs, top and bottom trimmed so yolk shows through (optional)
12 sage leaves, finely chopped
leaves from 2 good sprigs of thyme, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 t ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground mace
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup good pork stock that will set to jelly

7 T lard, diced
7 T butter, diced
Scant 1 cup water
4 1/4 c AP flour (approximately 630 g)
1-1/2 t salt
2 medium eggs, beaten, plus 1 egg, beaten, to glaze

Make the hot water crust pastry first. Put the lard , butter, and water in a saucepan and heat gently until melted; do not let it boil. Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Make a hollow in the center and add the beaten eggs, stirring them gently around with a knife so they are half mixed with the flour. Pour in the melted fat and water and mix together to form a soft dough; add up to 3 1/2 T extra warm water if it is too dry. Knead gently, adding more flour if it is too sticky to handle. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill thoroughly (at least 1 hour).

For the filling, mix all the meats with the herbs, salt, and seasonings (except the bay leaf), so they are thoroughly combined.

Now assemble the pie. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off a generous quarter of the pastry and keep in the fridge, for the lid. On a floured surface, roll out the rest of the pastry into a 12 inch circle around 1/3 inch thick. Use this to line an 8 inch springform (or removable bottom) cake pan, pressing the pastry into the sides and flattening any overlap with your fingers. It should come 2-1/2 to 3 inches up the sides of the pan.

Fill with the seasoned pork mixture and push the bay leaf into the middle of it. (If you are adding eggs, lay down a thin layer of filling, place the eggs in a ring halfway between the center and the pie edge, and then add the rest of the filling around and covering the eggs.) Roll out the reserved piece of pastry into a circle about the size of the pan. Brush the edges of the lining pastry with a little beaten egg, and lay the pastry lid on top of the pie. crimp the edges together so they are sealed. Cut a 1/3-inch diameter hole in the center of the pastry lid.

Place the pie in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for a further 1-1/4 hours. If your top crust is concave instead of convex, a pool of juice and fat may form around the center hole during baking that you’ll want to remove with a turkey baster, or the crust may become soggy.

Remove the pie from the oven and carefully release the side of the pan. Brush the top and sides of the pie with beaten egg and cook for another 15 minutes to set the glaze. Take the pie out of the oven and allow to cool. The filling will have shrunk slightly, creating a cavity that is traditionally filled with jellied stock. When the pie is still a little warm, heat the jellied stock just until it’s pourable — not too hot! Carefully lift the edges of the center hold of the pastry with the tip of a knife, making sure you have good access to the cavity. Use a small funnel or, better still, a turkey baster to gently introduce the stock through the center hole. Tilt the pie from time to time to distribute the stock, then try and get a little more in. Stop when the stock begins to overflow from the hole. Leave the pie to cool, then put it in the fridge.

darkdays09-10_bugFarmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:
Shasta Valley Farm, Gazelle: pork loin and pork sausage
Boccalone, Oakland: pancetta
Prather Ranch, MacDoel: leaf lard
Soul Food Farm, Vacaville: eggs
Guisto’s Vita-Grain, South San Francisco: flour, sea salt
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: butter

…and our own homemade pickles, and homegrown celery and carrots (for pork jelly); sage, bay, and thyme

exemptions: pepper, mace, cayenne

Dark Days challenge, locavore, meat, recipes


Dark Days, warm salad

Posted by Anita on 02.28.10 5:33 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*I used to work with a woman who brought in a sleeve of bagels, a tub of cream cheese, and a carton of orange juice every Monday. She parked them in the office fridge and then religiously ate the identical breakfast every morning, for weeks, months, years.

Just the memory of it makes me a bit twitchy, but also more than a little envious — think of how much time I could save if I could be content with monotony! But though I crave familiarity as much as the next person, I could never be one of those people who eats the same thing over and over, day in and day out. Heck, I can barely stand to repeat a dinner menu more than monthly.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself craving — and then making — the same salad three times in two weeks. Originally, the recipe appealed because I found myself the proud owner of three heads of escarole, courtesy of our latest Mariquita Farm mystery vegetable box. I’d intended to use this broad-leafed chicory in a variety of recipes: in Zuni bread salad, in brothy Italian sausage soup, and sauteed simply and scattered with pine nuts. But once I’d tasted this salad, I couldn’t stop making it.

It bears more than a passing resemblance to salade lyonnaise – that heavenly mixture of pleasantly bitter frisée and thick lardons of bacon, crowned with a poached egg — but requires a lot less fuss. You can boil the eggs and fry the bacon hours ahead of time, then whip everything together when you’re ready to serve. And it’s interesting enough to hold its own, or sit happily alongside a simple main course like the roast chicken we made for this week’s Dark Days Challenge dinner.

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Warm Escarole Salad
- adapted from Bon Appétit

1 small head of escarole, torn into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
1 large slice bacon
1T extra-virgin olive oil
1T balsamic vinegar
3T finely chopped shallot
1 hard-boiled egg, diced

Over medium heat, cook the bacon until just crisp. Remove to paper towels, reserving the bacon drippings in the skillet. Chop bacon and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil and vinegar together. Reheat the bacon drippings in the skillet; add shallots and sauté until slightly softened but not browned. Add olive oil mixture and stir until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide escarole between two plates, and drizzle warm vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with egg and bacon, and serve warm.

darkdays09-10_bugFarmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:

Mariquita Farm, Watsonville: escarole
Shasta Valley Farm, Gazelle (via Live Culture): bacon
Bariani, Sacramento: olive oil & vinegar
Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz: shallot
Soul Food Farm, Vacaville: eggs and chicken
Guisto’s Vita-Grain, South San Francisco: sea salt

exemptions: black pepper

Dark Days challenge, locavore, recipes


Dark Days, deep dish

Posted by Anita on 02.22.10 12:12 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*I find it fascinating how some recipes languish in my clippings folder for months, years even, before I set my mind to trying them. It’s not that they don’t sound appealing — clearly they do, or I wouldn’t have bothered putting them aside — but maybe the moment’s not right, the ingredients aren’t at hand, the quantities are best saved for a party.

Not every recipe gathers dust, though. Some send me sprinting to the kitchen as soon as I read them. And our friends Michael and Jen’s deep-dish pizza is one that I absolutely had to try right away.

I saw the original version of the recipe on Jen’s blog, Last Night’s Dinner, almost a year ago. We made it ourselves fairly soon thereafter, and we liked it. But we’re rather set in our pizza-making ways here, generally leaning toward thin-crust Italian-style pies when we decide to go the home-pizzeria route. Seeing Jen’s photos of Mike’s latest tweaks to his deep-dish recipe reminded me that we have a giant stash of Italian sausage waiting in our freezer, and got me thinking how well it would complement a sauce made from last summer’s home-grown tomatoes for this week’s Dark Days Challenge meal.

We gave Mike’s new edition a try — actually two tries in one week, that’s how much we like it — and weren’t surprised that it’s even better than the original pie. I made a few tweaks to the crust to adjust it to our taste; unfortunately, these changes turn Mike’s relatively painless recipe into a process that’s less convenient for weeknight preparation, so you may very well prefer his streamlined version. I often like to make and rise my pizza dough after dinner on one night,  then tackle the second rise on the next. If your schedule’s a little more compressed, you can quick-rise the dough — as Mike’s master recipe does — and the end result will still be very, very good.

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Deep-Dish Pizza
Adapted from Last Night’s Dinner, with crust tips from American Pie

- Crust
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1C warm water
3T unsalted butter, softened
1tsp table salt or 2tsp kosher salt
3C unbleached AP flour [15oz]

Grease a medium bowl with olive oil and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, butter, and water; let sit 5 minutes or until frothy. Add the flour and salt, and combine at low speed. Increase speed to medium and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and crawls up the dough hook, about 1 minute. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water if dough is dry; add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is wet. Continue to knead (in the mixer, or by hand) until dough is silky smooth and passes the windowpane test.

Form the dough into a ball and place in the oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides of the dough ball with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it doubles in bulk, about an hour. Punch down, reshape, and let rise again (covered) in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours or overnight. Bring the dough back to room temperature 2 hours before you plan to roll it out. (You can also use the dough immediately after the first rise, or even let it complete the second rise at room temperature, but the texture and taste will be better if you proceed with the second, slower rise.)

- Sauce
1T extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
2T shredded carrot
1-1/2 T chopped fresh thyme
a 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with your hands
1/4 C red wine or port
salt, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt; sauté until soft and golden, then stir in garlic and cook until soft. Add carrot and thyme and continue cooking until the carrot is soft.

Add tomatoes and their juice, plus wine. Lower the heat and cook until the sauce is thick, about 30 minutes, seasoning to taste as you go.

- Finishing
1 recipe crust
1 recipe sauce
1/2 lb Italian sausage
2T olive oil
3/4 to 1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
8 oz mozzarella (if fresh, torn into 1-inch pieces; if drier, shredded — we like half and half)
1/2 cup freshly grated hard cheese (such as Dry Jack or Parmesan)
1/2 cup fresh basil or spinach leaves, chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add 1T olive oil and crumble Italian sausage into the skillet. Brown, adding more olive oil if needed, until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the fat in the skillet. (If your sausage is on the fatty side, you might remove some of the fat, but be sure to leave the skillet well greased.)

While sausage is cooking, saute the mushrooms in a large skillet: Heat 1T olive oil over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and saute until they lose their liquid. Salt if desired, and set aside.

Pat or roll the room-temperature dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Let rest for 5 minutes — this will help keep the crust from shrinking — then transfer it to the skillet. Press dough down into bottom of skillet and partway up the sides. Drizzle a little olive oil over the crust, then layer the sauce, sausage, mushrooms, and mozzarella. Bake on bottom rack of oven for 30 minutes. Start checking the pizza for doneness; you want the pizza crust to be golden brown, and the toppings to be just starting to brown. Remove pizza from oven and top with grated cheese and basil.

darkdays09-10_bugFarmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:

Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: butter
Guisto’s Vita-Grain
, South San Francisco: sea salt, flour
Bariani, Sacramento: Olive oil
Catalán Family Farm
, Hollister: onion
, Half Moon Bay: garlic
, Occidental: Rancho Bello Zinfandel (for sauce)
Shasta Valley Farm
, Gazelle (via Live Culture): Mangalitsa Italian sausage
Far West Fungi
, Moss Landing: button mushrooms
Belfiore Cheese Company
, Berkeley: mozzarella
Vella Cheese
, Sonoma: dry Jack cheese
Mariquita Farm
, Watsonville: spinach
Anchor Brewing, San Francisco: beer
…and our own homegrown carrots, tomatoes, thyme

exemptions: yeast, sugar

Dark Days challenge, locavore, other blogs, recipes


In a (carrot) pickle

Posted by Anita on 02.19.10 8:02 AM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at canning but held back because it seems complicated, consider getting yourself into a pickle.

Pickles are one of my favorite canning projects, because I am both lazy and messy. When dealing with simple brine — instead of the sticky goo of preserves, or the splattery plop of tomatoes — canning becomes almost too easy. You prep your vegetables, mix the pickling liquid, and put everything into jars. And because of most pickles’ high acidity, the chances that anything bad will happen during storage are practically nil. They’re the perfect beginner’s canning project.

The best part is, you don’t even have to wait until cucumbers are in season. Sure, those dilly spears are America’s favorite pickle, but canning books are jammed full of an international variety of vinegar-preserved vegetables. Even the bleakest winter farmers market usually has a decent assortment of root vegetables, and many of them — especially carrots and dense radish varieties — make excellent pickles.

If you’ve ever eaten the Vietnamese heaven-on-baguette sandwich known as banh mi, you’ve almost certainly enjoyed the type of pickle I made for this month’s edition of Tigress’s CanJam. Typically made with little more than carrots, daikon, ginger, vinegar, and salt, the version here adds star anise to give the julienned garnish a mysterious note.

They’re rather on the sweet side, but that makes a nice foil for the meaty, salty goodness of their signature sandwich partner. As the canning gurus at Ball tell us, “The job will go faster if you have a mandoline to julienne the vegetables”. But I managed a half recipe using just a very sharp knife and a lot of patience.

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Vietnamese Carrot and Radish Pickle
- from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

3 C white vinegar
3 C filtered water
1-1/2 C sugar
2 tsp grated ginger (microplaned)
2 pounds carrots, 1/8-inch julienne
2 pounds dense radish (such as daikon or watermelon) 1/8-inch julienne
6 whole star anise

Prepare canner, lids, and 6 pint jars according to the usual method.

Tigress Can JamIn a large non-reactive saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add carrot and radish; stir for 1 minutes, then remove from heat.

Place a star anise into each hot jar. Using a funnel, pack vegetables into hot jars up to just shy of 1/2 inch of the rim. Ladle hot pickling liquid to cover vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace; wipe rims and apply lids and rings.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process covered for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check for seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

CanJam, preserving & infusing, recipes


Dark Days, my valentine

Posted by Anita on 02.15.10 10:45 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*We hardly ever go out for big holidays like Valentine’s Day. It just seems so fraught, in so many ways. Somehow you always end up paying through the nose for a prix-fixe menu full of things that really aren’t what you’d want to order. And expectations are so high — not only because it’s everyone’s Special Night, but because, hey, you walked through fire to get that prime 8pm reservation — that there’s hardly any way a restaurant could rise to the occasion, much less impress.

So for as long as I can remember, we’ve chosen to stay in and cook ourselves a special meal. This year, we both decided we wanted a classic steakhouse dinner: A big, crisp salad with chunky bleu cheese dressing, a nice grilled ribeye big enough to share, a giant baked potato with all the fixins, a luscious ramekin of creamed spinach, and a special-occasion bottle of red wine.

With a little careful shopping, we managed to combine our romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two with this week’s Dark Days Challenge meal — a wonderful match, if I do say so. Better still, we got to spend our evening cooking together, rather than circling endlessly looking for parking and jostling for a harried waiter’s attention.

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Steakhouse-Style Creamed Spinach
– serves 2

10oz fresh spinach
3T butter (divided use)
3T all-purpose flour
2T diced onion
1 small bay leaf
1 whole clove
2 C whole milk
pinch of nutmeg

Blanch spinach in large pot of boiling, well-salted water just until tender. Drain, then cool the spinach in a bowl filled with ice water. Drain well, then roll up spinach in kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Transfer spinach to food processor and chop.

Melt 2T butter in skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir until light golden. Stir in onion, bay leaf, and clove. Whisk in milk, stirring until mixture boils and thickens, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until sauce is very thick. Remove bay leaf and clove, and add a pinch of nutmeg.

Add spinach to warm sauce. Simmer over low heat until spinach is heated through, stirring often. When ready to serve, stir in remaining tablespoon of butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

darkdays09-10_bugFarmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:

Mariquita Farm, Watsonville: spinach
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: butter
Guisto’s Vita-Grain, South San Francisco: sea salt, flour
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: onion
Claravale Farm, Paicines: Raw milk
Little Organic Farm, Marin: potatoes
Clover Organic, Petaluma: sour cream
Prather Ranch, MacDoel: ribeye
Ottimino, Occidental: Rancho Bello Zinfandel
Star Route, Bolinas: Little Gem romaine lettuces
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, Pt. Reyes Station: Bleu cheese

…and our own homegrown bay and radishes

Exemptions: pepper, clove, nutmeg

Dark Days challenge, locavore, recipes


Dark Days, soup again

Posted by Anita on 02.07.10 9:16 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*Yes, yes — soup again. I’d really hoped to have something better to share by the end of the week, but I’m still fighting the after-effects of a particularly nasty cold. Making dinner is doubly complicated: Not only do I not feel much like cooking, but I often have to trick myself into eating something I’m craving before my appetite disappears again.

Early last week, the only thing I could really get worked up about making was tortilla soup. We’re still at least a month away from local avocados at our farmers market, but I couldn’t imagine this classic soup without them. Sometimes it’s worth it, I rationalized, to make an exception for an ingredient that has no reasonable local alternative.

As luck would have it, Cameron found semi-local organic avocados at our co-op — California is better than Mexico, right? And we have plenty of local tomatoes in the pantry, so I didn’t have to venture too far off the local path to satisfy my sick-kid whims.

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Sopa Azteca / Tortilla Soup
- adapted from Mexican Everyday

2 cups diced tomatoes in juice
2T ground pasilla or ancho chile
2T chicken fat (or mild vegetable oil)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
1 large sprig epazote (optional)
2-1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, skinned, and cubed
6oz (about 1-1/2 cups) shredded mild cheese, such as asadero, Jack, etc.
6oz (about 4 cups) broken tortilla chips
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges

Preheat the broiler. Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice, and place on a parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheet. Broil the tomatoes until beginning to blacken; turn with a spatula and cook a little longer on the other side, until toasted and aromatic. Remove from oven and set aside.

Melt the chicken fat in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened. Add the ground chile and cook for another minute or two; be careful not to burn the chile — add water and/or adjust the heat if you smell it getting too hot. Remove the vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving behind as much of the fat as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth, adding only as much of the tomato juice as you need to get a puree going.

Return the pan with the fat to medium-high heat. When hot, add the puree and stir constantly until the puree is thickened to a paste. Puree the roasted tomatoes and the reserved tomato juice, and add them to the pot along with the broth and the epazote. Bring the soup just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt. Add the chicken to the simmering broth and heat through.

Divide the avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips between four individual bowls. Serve the lime wedges separately at the table.

darkdays09-10_bugFarmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:

Tierra Vegetables, Santa Rosa: chile powder and garlic
Soul Food Farm, Vacaville: chicken
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: Jack cheese
Primavera, Sonoma: Corn tortillas (for homemade tortilla strips)
Mariquita Farm, Watsonville: limes

…and our own home-canned chicken stock and tomatoes, and homegrown epazote

Exemption: avocado (California organic)

Dark Days challenge, locavore, Mexican, recipes