Thursday, October 5, 2017

Summer 2017 IMK Notes



In and Out of My Kitchen...

Summer 2017 has been memorable for Seattle's record-breaking stretch of hot, dry weather; an incredible number of horrific wildfires that torched forest lands in western US and Canada; throat-irritating smoke and ash from those same fires that filled the air for weeks, transforming both sun and moon into brilliant red/orange orbs; and the fleeting thrill of a rare total solar eclipse. Life in my kitchen tended toward the unpredictable as well, but we're back on track for a calmer Autumn. 



Foodwise, we reveled in the abundance of produce. Our three sunloving Asian pear trees produced a record crop, a challenging mixed blessing since so many ripen at once. I've tried to be magnanimous and forgive the marauding raccoons and squirrels who take one big bite, just one! out of dozens of pears. This year there was more than enough fruit to share.


Summer stone fruits, melons, blueberries, and mint make my tastebuds sing. Mint is a total pest, growing like a weed in a sideyard bed, but it's so aromatic that it is worth the effort to keep it in check. Think more fruit salads, more mojitos...




 Vine-ripened tomatoes are the gold standard flavorwise, and 2017 produced a bumper crop locally. Now I wish I had put in a few plants, but the neighborhood markets kept us well supplied. Tomatoes plain, tomatoes sauced, tomatoes in soup, tomatoes in salads... yes!




Pastry hand pies were not my thing, no matter how I tried, so I moved on and worked instead with pizza dough to bake calzone and stromboli. Mushrooms, kale, mozzarella, basil, garlic and walnuts combined for the latest filling. I ate mine plain, but RL preferred his share dunked in spicy red sauce.   



After sorting through my kitchen towel drawer, reluctantly tossing some threadbare favorites, I treated myself to some replacements. The first two were plain and serviceable, my favorite color but nothing special. More remarkable is the lack of any new kitchen gadgets. Such restraint!




In and Out of My Galley...

Tea towels plus matching pot holders caught my eye at Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures, a First Nation store in Campbell River, BC. I carried these treasures south after the trip, thinking they might make attractive gifts for friends. They would, but I decided to keep them for myself and will transport them back to the boat for galley use.





During her week aboard niece Slone helped me organize galley cabinets and pantry, discarding items past their pull date or otherwise questionable. No effort required to deal with the fridge - it had stopped chilling and was empty. We went old school during the trip and used two styrofoam coolers instead. Two freezer drawers and a separate icemaker still functioned so we froze ice blocks to rotate in and out of the coolers on the back deck. It worked, though Slone made countless trips daily in and out to the coolers. Our preplanned menu shifted a bit as we focused first on fresh greens etc., using them while they were stilll crisp. 


Photo: Slone's Loaded Chicken Taco Salad
Our several restaurant outings were all about seafood. The Bouillabaise at the Pt. Roberts, WA Compass Rose Bar & Grill was bowl-licking good... so good I forgot to take photos. I wish they sold cartons of the base sauce, it was that good. Trollers Fish & Chips on the dock in Nanaimo, B.C.'s busy harbor failed to live up to its advertised "Best in town" claim. Overbreaded and overcooked fish proved disappointing. Again, no photos. Ah, but the totally terrific dinner at Campbell River, B.C.'s Riptide Marine Pub was everything we could hope for; very fresh seafood that was well-prepared, a knowledgeable and efficient waitstaff, plus an upbeat vibe. This time I remembered photos.      

Photo: My Togarashi Tuna Plate at the Riptide Marine Pub
Photo: RL's Seafood Linguini at the Riptide Marine Pub
Photo: Slone's Seafood Puttanesca Fettuccini at the Riptide Marine Pub
And then the weather changed; Fall was suddenly in the air if barely on the calendar. The rainbow below hints at good things to come. I'm ready.




Linked to a post at Sherry's Pickings highlighting the happenings in other kitchens around the world. Pop over to meet some interesting cooks, find tempting new recipes and enjoy tales of life, travel and so much more.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Chickpeas & Herbs



Niece Slone arrived at the boat weighted down with Portland Chef Joshua McFadden's amazing new cookbook, Six Seasons: a new way with vegetables. This treasure presents nearly 400 pages of interesting commentary and appealing recipes for vegetables raw and vegetables cooked; a chapter of go-to recipes for tasty sauces and accompaniments to enhance fresh vegetables; a scattering of tempting recipes that incorporate meat, sausage and/or seafood; plus an occasional dessert. All of that and photos for most dishes. 

Co-author Martha Holmberg adds considerable talent and experience to this cookbook. An award-winning food writer and editor, former publisher and editor of Fine Cooking magazine and most recently food editor of the Oregonian newspaper, her guidance is felt throughout. I would love to hear this team share the back story of creating this book.   


The six seasons title reference acknowledges the overlap and variability of our Pacific Northwest growing seasons. McFadden notes "summer is where the action is", emphasizing different vegetables for early summer, midsummer and late summer. I flipped through the Late Summer chapter, waiting to see which photo drew my tastebuds' attention. Oh my, how to choose between sweet corn, peppers, chiles, tomatoes and more?! 



Ingredient availability made the decision an easy one. I went with a modified, ship's galley version of McFadden's 'Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes, Yogurt Sauce, and Chickpeas.' Six just-picked, garden-fresh cucumbers sat on the countertop, recently shared by a dock neighbor. Local markets offered mounds of fresh, in-season tomatoes and herbs, and my pantry held za'atar. Olive oil and vinegar substituted for the yogurt sauce, changing the flavor blend and consistency somewhat. A topping of feta cheese added to our second servings restored the savory edge quite nicely. I'll use yogurt and feta next time.     

The Seattle Times included the same recipe in their review of Six Seasons; "A menu for all seasons - and then some." Obviously, a popular choice. We agree! Thank you, Slone, for the inspiration. 




Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Chickpeas & Herbs
from a Joshua McFadden recipe in Six Seasons

For the tomatoes:
4 medium tomatoes, cored & cut in fat wedges
1 rounded tsp za'atar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 rounded tsp garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

For the cucumbers:
1 or 2 cucumbers, cut in fat wedges
1 handful each of fresh basil, mint & Italian parsley leaves; rough chopped; divided
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or substitute oil & vinegar mix)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the chickpeas:
1 cup cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin (or use green onions)
2 TBS red wine vinegar (or white balsamic)
Splash of extra-virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of the mixed fresh herbs from above
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Optional: crumbled feta cheese to sprinkle on top.

Directions:

  1. Place the tomatoes in a wide, flat-bottomed bowl. Add the remaining 4 ingredients, toss to coat, and let sit at room temperature while preparing the cukes and chickpeas.
  2. In another bowl, add the cucumbers, fresh herbs, yogurt, salt and pepper. Toss gently together, taste and adjust seasoning. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the chickpeas.
  3. In a third bowl, add the chickpeas and remaining ingredients. Toss, taste, and adjust seasoning.
  4. Spread the tomatoes and their juices on a serving platter; layer the cucumbers plus any juices over the tomatoes; scatter the chickpeas and their dressing evenly over all. 
  5. Sprinkle feta, if desired, over the top and serve. OR toss and serve in individual bowls.
McFadden suggests serving with warm "Slightly Tangy Flatbreads" - sounds good to me!

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