Saturday, December 28, 2013

South Fork Public House

Road trips are about so much more than merely traveling from Place A to Place B, and often it's the small things that linger in the memory. One of the best food memories from a recent trip comes from an early dinner at the South Fork Public House in Pullman, WA.   

When dining in an unfamiliar locale you could a) randomly choose a spot by interesting name or signage, b) cruise the downtown or nearby mall and look for restaurants with full parking lots, a sign that it's popular with the locals, c) skim Yelp reviews, or d) ask the hotel's front desk staff for recommendations. We asked. We scored! South Fork Pub and its Cilantro Pesto Pasta sounded appealing for a late lunch/early dinner after our 285-mile drive and a few photo-shoot stops.

Cilantro Pesto Pasta - Penne pasta tossed in a cilantro pesto with chicken, black beans, corn, sauted peppers & onions, and salsa fresco. 
Cilantro was a dominant flavor in the creamy pesto sauce, as you would expect, but the fresh, bright notes of the salsa added a sufficient contrast to provide balance to the dish. Cilantro-haters won't order Cilantro Pesto Pasta, but the rest of us shouldn't miss it. The photo above shows a half-portion of the entree, plated by the accommodating kitchen. We loved every forkful we ate, and still had enough left over to enjoy the next day. That's a lot of pasta, enough for really hearty appetites!   

Lentil Chili - Thick and hearty house-made chili made with ground beef and pork, Andouille sausage, and Palouse Brand Lentils.
I'm a committed chili fan and love to sample new recipes everywhere we travel - culinary research of a sort. Lentil Chili sounded...well, odd, beyond my experience tasting or cooking, so I cautiously ordered a small cupful. My mistake, I should have ordered a bucketful of this amazing concoction. Definitely not vegetarian, the trio of meats provided a rich, deep, background flavor for a mellow blend of spices and chiles. Beans and lentils?! Don't get me started on the Beans vs. No-Beans regional debate. Here in the Palouse Country it seems beans belong in chili and lentils are welcome additions to the pot. It works. This is damned fine chili and I'd return again for this dish alone. 

When I skim the rest of the pub menu I realize, there's more than a handful of other tempting items to taste test, several new brews to sample, and that warm, friendly atmosphere to welcome us back like valued friends. South Fork Public House celebrates its fourth anniversary this month and seems certain to flourish for years to come. I'm ready to return again soon... and I think I'll start with an order of Lamb Sliders topped with tomato chutney, caramelized onions and tzatziki sauce. Meanwhile I will keep updated on SFPH happenings on their Facebook page. (link)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lunch at WildFin

What were we thinking, driving to a major shopping center on a busy Saturday, the weekend before Christmas?! This was not about holiday shopping, not your typical seasonal shopping run. Nope, RL we had an emergency. We absolutely, positively, needed printer ink. That need sent us to The Landing, a medium-sized shopping center in Renton, hoping with fingers crossed that it would be less crowded than some of the other malls in the area. Hah! the parking lots were jammed, the stores crowded, and the people looked "focused".

Mission accomplished with minimal fuss and reasonable lines, but it was lunch time and we had earned a reward. We took the opportunity to enjoy lunch at Wild Fin American Grill, a new-to-us eatery at The Landing. Good choice! The decor was oddly interesting, with large graphics of cows, assorted poultry and a moose (I think) adorning the walls. WildFin, what's up with the barnyard motif? Moving on... I sipped a warming Hot Toddy while studying the menu, a perfect beverage to counter the chill of a damp Winter Solstice afternoon. It was odd to have a teabag, spoon and dish of honey plunked down alongside the mug of lemony hot water and booze. No problem, I was up to a DIY challenge and actually enjoyed having the honey available to adjust the sweetness level.

 Check out the cover of the 3-fold paper menu for the week, a listing of local sporting and cultural events. That was a friendly welcome-to-the-neighborhood touch.

The lunch menu was challenging with too many tempting choices. I couldn't decide between a dozen or so items, and that was my short list of choices. Skim WildFin's online menu and you'll see the problem. RL ordered the New Orleans Fettuccine, a large plate of pasta with ample chunks of Andouille, shrimp and chicken scattered throughout. The jambalaya sauce was sensational, spicy but not overwhelmingly so, and the seafood cooked perfectly. The portion was large enough to serve two, so RL enjoyed it reheated for Sunday lunch. 

Photo: WildFin's New Orleans Fettuccine 

Indecision was my issue, not uncommon when I face a large and  appealing menu. I took the easy option and went with a choose-your-favorite lunch combination. A cup of Smoky Chicken Tortilla Soup and half a Smoked Chicken Club Sandwich were good choices but more than filling. The soup stole the show, one of the best versions I have ever tasted. Yes, better than my own recipe so I need to up my game! The broth was smoky, tangy with lime, spicy but not hot, and packed full of veggies and large pieces of tender chicken. I wish I knew the spice combination that provided the back notes. The club sandwich was quite good, but totally overshadowed by that delicious soup.

While I'm not usually a fan of desserts at lunch, the Salted Caramel Bacon Popcorn Crunch Sundae did sound intriguing. How many sweet, salty, crunchy, boozy and smooth ingredients can you pile on?! The menu states the adult version comes with Grand Marnier, Godiva Chocolate liqueur and brandy. Now that's some combination!

I'm already plotting our return visit, reviewing the lunch menu again and again to select my next entree. Tuna Tacos with mango mint salsa? Shrimp and Cheese Grits? Cougar Gold Chili Prawn Mac & Cheese? The Appetizer Tower with stacked crab, prawns & artichoke dip, calamari and clams? Sausage & Mushroom Flatbread? Sigh, and I haven't even skimmed the dinner menu yet!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sourdough Popovers with Bacon, Cheddar, Chiles and Corn

- a savory SouthWest version of the classic.

Sourdough Surprises selected popovers as the December 2013 baking challenge. Sourdough and Popovers? This was a surprising pairing. I hadn't baked or even thought about popovers in ages, and certainly never with sourdough starter in the ingredient mix. This would be "interesting".

A King Arthur Flour recipe was referenced but my inspiration came from two other sources; an online post here followed by a recipe in my local food co-op newsletter. Both offered a different take on savory popovers packed full of southwest flavors. Oh yes, these recipes called my name. It is impossible to resist bacon, cheese and chiles in anything

The results were surprising, definitely tasty but not quite what I had expected. These were not the everyday popovers I had attempted before, those towering, airy wonders that totally collapsed as they exited the oven. No, this sourdough variation delivered less puff and more egg, resembling a light, savory custardlike pudding encased in a thin-shelled pastry. 

I sampled one bite of the outer crust and then nibbled the soft, flavor-packed center. Forget the fork, I pulled the remaining crust apart and ate it with my fingers... every crumb... piece by piece. Mmmmm, I loved that delicate, crispy edge. Recovering my manners I returned to the fork to finish the moist center of that first popover, and then ate a second one. Even RL, not usually an egg enthusiast, enjoyed two popovers. 

Lighter than a quiche or frittata, but more dense than a traditional popover, this Loaded SW Popover was a new crossover wonder. Thanks for the popover challenge, Sourdough Surprises.

Loaded SouthWestern Sourdough Popovers 

based on a recipe from PCC Chef Lynne Vea (link)
makes 12 regular-muffin-size or 6 Texas-size popovers

3 strips bacon, finely chopped (or cooked whole, then crumbled)
1 cup white sweet corn, fresh or frozen
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 scant cup milk
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons unbleached AP white flour 
2 tablespoons fine grind white cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup grated (not shredded) sharp white cheddar cheese
2 chopped green onions, both green and white parts
2 tablespoons diced chiles (canned or fresh, adding more or less as you like), tossed with a light sprinkle of flour to keep them clumping and diving directly to the bottom of the muffin cups.

Move a baking shelf to the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 F. 

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Remove from the pan, drain and set aside, saving the drippings. (It's easiest to fry up whole or half slices, then crumble after cooking and cooling.)

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and pepper) in a small bowl. Set aside. (I sifted them through a sieve, an optional exercise.

Place the corn in a second, larger mixing bowl. Add the beaten eggs,  milk, and sourdough starter; blend well. 

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and mix. Fold in (fold innot whisk in or beat in) the bacon, cheddar, chives and floured chiles. 

Use 2 muffin tins and plan to fill alternate cups with batter. Place 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon bacon drippings in the bottom of alternate muffin cups. Place in the preheated oven to warm for 3 minutes (any longer and you'll have smoke alarm issues). Remove and quickly pour the popover batter over the heated bacon drippings in those cups, filling about 3/4 full. (Optional suggestion found online: Pour a little hot water, less than an inch, into each empty muffin cup to avoid warping the pan.) Bake until puffed and a dark golden color, approximately 15-20 minutes for regular size and 20-30 minutes for Texas size.

Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool for a minute or two. Run a butter knife around the edge of each popover to loosen, tilt in muffin cup or remove to a backing rack for a few minutes to set up a bit. Serve when still quite warm.

Cook's Note: Next time I will try using a blender, whizzing up half of the onions and chiles with the wet ingredients and stirring in the rest by hand.   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

...a fine filling for Green Onion Biscuits

Chicken salad is ubiquitous, or so it seems. Recipe ingredients may vary widely but there's a lot of chicken salad happening across the country. It's the "little black dress" of salads, simple but ready to be dressed up or down with accessories depending on the occasion, the accompaniments and the presentation. Chicken salad is terrific as a salad, but it's also a versatile filling for bite-sized appetizers or heartier sandwiches. This week it paired especially well with Green Onion Biscuits. Just imagine the salad's creamy, mellow dressing playing off the contrasting textures of grapes, pecans and celery; the blend of sweet honey and tart lemon juice or zest; the flavor pop from curry, cumin and fresh herbs... oh my! All of that plus moist chunks of chicken contained in a savory biscuit - now that makes for a flavor-popping bite! 

My Secret Recipe Club assigned blog for December was Angelas Kitchen, an amazingly rich resource for gluten free/dairy free recipes and tips. In the past few weeks I have prepared several of Angela's recipes, some as written and others adapted for our non-bf/df kitchen; delicious both ways! I'm sharing my non-gf/df version of her curried chicken salad recipe, but also recommend Angela's Almond Quinoa with Asparagus and Mushrooms, Spinach Burgers with Mint, or Coconut Lime Chicken. Take some time and explore Angela's Kitchen, you will enjoy meeting her as well as gaining a wealth of information about the gf/df approach to cooking.

Curried Chicken Salad
adapted from a gluten free/dairy free recipe at angelaskitchen

  • ½ cup or more mayonnaise, depending on how moist you like your chicken salad (I used Best Foods Lite)
  • several dashes of hot sauce, optional (I used Cajun Sunshine)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (OR the zest of 1 small lemon) 
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin powder
  • salt and white pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro or parsley, optional
  • 1½ pounds cooked chicken, chopped (turkey is another good choice)
  • 1½ stalks celery, finely diced
  • ¼ cup roasted chopped pecans (or almonds, etc.)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
  • 1 cup red grapes, chopped 
  1. Mix together mayonnaise, hot sauce if using, honey, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and minced cilantro or parsley until blended. Refrigerate until ready to dress the salad. 
  2. Place the chicken, celery, pecans, green onions and red grapes into a bowl, add the mayonnaise blend and mix until evenly distributed. Taste and adjust seasonings.

  3. Serving Suggestions
    Serve a large scoop of chicken salad atop dressed, mixed greens, or
    Put into a leaf of butter lettuce for a lettuce wrap, or
    Fill a puff, biscuit or baked wonton wrapper cup for an appetizer, or
    Layer with thin pear slices and blue cheese on your favorite bread for an amazing panini. or…

Friday, December 13, 2013

Green Onion Biscuits

It's true, I have a weakness for boules… baguettes… breadsticks… biscuits… rolls... and most other savory breadlike things.  Who can resist any of these baked goods when they are homemade and fresh from the oven? As the tantalizing aroma fills the kitchen, its easy to anticipate the taste, the crunch, the soft, airy interior. I've been known to scorch my mouth sampling a biscuit as soon as it left the oven. No drama today, just a fine batch of Green Onion Drop Biscuits, a new-to-me recipe that is worth repeating.

For years Parmesan Puffs have been my "go to" favorite for savory, one-bite biscuits, all crunchy on the outside with soft and melty interiors. They are dangerously addictive and never last long enough to worry about leftovers. But, they weren't quite what I needed this week. Today's Green Onion Drop Biscuits came about from a need to pair with - well, I'll fill that in in my next post, an SRC Reveal on Monday next. Just know that this recipe produces a tasty savory biscuit with a firmer interior, a crumb that can stand up to dunking or hold a moist filling. Check back in a few days to see them put to good use… the ones we didn't devour today. 

Update: Curried Chicken Salad made a delicious filling for mini versions of these Green Onion Drop Biscuits. The biscuits will be just the thing to serve with a steaming bowl of borscht tomorrow; I'll add a scattering of dill weed and skip the hot sauce in the dough. 

Green Onion Drop Biscuits
approx 6 medium biscuits 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, grated or cut into small pieces
1/4 cup minced green onion, green and white parts
1/3 cup plain yogurt
several dashes of your favorite hot sauce, optional (I used Cajun Sunshine)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Use a sieve and sift together into a bowl the first 5 ingredients, flour to white pepper. 
  3. Add the butter and incorporate until you have a mealy texture.
  4. Stir in the green onion, yogurt and hot sauce if you are using;  mix just enough to have the soft and sticky dough just comes together.
  5. Divide the dough into 6 portions and drop by heaping spoonfuls onto a silpat-covered baking sheet.
  6. Bake on the middle shelf of a preheated 425 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. (Note: If you choose to make 9-10 smaller biscuits, they will require much less oven time) Be careful not to over bake or the biscuits will be rock hard and dry after they cool. Eat while still warm to enjoy them at their best.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hot Apple Toddy

Brrrrrr, baby it's cold outside! We bundled up for an early evening stroll and carefully crunched our way along snow-covered docks and shoreside walkways to the Riptide Pub. I warmed up with a hot toddy and the Capt sipped a cup of tea before dinner, enjoying festive holiday decorations and the cheer of the nearby fireplace. Mmmm, that hot rum toddy was tasty enough to repeat.

Today the sun is out but it's still cold outside. While this isn't the midwest, bone-chilling kind of cold, the weather dudes predict the recent Arctic Blast will hang around well into next week, keeping temperatures below zero (celsius, of course, since we're in Canada). That's reason enough to enjoy more hot toddies, though I'm partial to this apple cider version. I recommend either Captain Morgan Spiced Rum or Bacardi's Oakheart, my latest favorite. Try it, you'll like it, even if your weather isn't all that cold.

Hot Apple toddy with Spiced Rum
serves 1

Hot apple cider
Cinnamon stick
2-3 whole cloves
Peel of 1 clementine
1 scant tablespoon honey
1-2 oz spiced rum (Bacardi Oakheart or Captain Morgan recommended)


  1. Coat the bottom of a glass mug or cup with the honey; add the rum.
  2. Heat the cinnamon stick, cloves, orange peel and cider in a small pan over medium heat; let simmer and steep a bit.
  3. Pour the heated cider over the rum, stir with a cinnamon stick and serve.
  4. Garnish with the cinnamon stick if you like… I'd rather leave it in the pan and heat more cider for another toddy or two.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Tim Horton's Morning

Photo: Tim Horton's vanilla latte and scone 
"Awake before dawn" sounds dramatic, but it's routine when sunrise is scheduled close to 8:00 a.m. This morning the hours before dawn felt unusually quiet, with none of the usual waterfront sounds filling the air. The color outside the windows felt wrong, much too monochromatic gray. No wonder, an inch of snow covered everything and the flakes were still coming down. The snow didn't stop falling all day.

I grabbed the camera after a light breakfast and set off to explore this unexpected winter wonderland. Hmmm, the ramp was my first challenge, not so much steep as very slippery. 

A handful of local feral cats looked quite unsettled, lifting one paw then another to shake out the crusty snow clumps as they waited for the Kittycare Crew to come by with breakfast.

I wandered about the waterfront for an hour before the cold finally penetrated my jacket, seeped through the soles of my boots, chilled my fingers through my gloves, and nearly turned my cheeks and nose into lumps of ice. Enough of this fun! Across the busy Island Highway a Tim Horton's Restaurant beckoned to me, promising a warm interior with hot drinks and good company to save me from freezing any vital parts. 

The restaurant was warm, the company was terrific (good to see you N), but next time I will know better and order tea, just tea, instead of a vanilla latte and scone. The latte was overwhelmingly sweet with a heavy hand on the odd vanilla flavoring and the scone was cold and quite dry. It must not have mattered since I ate every crumb and sipped away at the drink for over an hour. Warmed and cheered by good conversation I trudged out once again into the falling snow… after N drove me back to the marina... meandered back to the boat and heated up a bowl of chili verde for lunch. Now I wonder where the dozen or more waterfront cats are curling up to stay warm in this weather.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cucumber Wrapped Tofu with Dipping Sauce

Today at the grocery I was surprised to find small, pickling-sized cucumbers… mini cucumbers, available in December! Checking the label I found they were grown in Delta, BC greenhouse, perhaps in one of those multi-paned buildings we motor by enroute to the boat. Does that make them local vegetables, even if not quite not seasonal???

Acres of new commercial greenhouses keep popping up along our route from Seattle to the Tsawwassan Ferry Terminal.  Delta, B.C., located just north edge of the USA-Canada border, has long been known for its year-round "greenhouse grown in B.C." tomatoes. Lately we have noticed more and more of these structures along Highway I-5 on the Washington State side of the border. I wonder if all of this glass-enclosed acreage is used exclusively for vegetables or is some space dedicated to flowers? Just curious, I might need to check this out in the future.

Hmmmm, what to do with these mini cukes? We enjoy Quick Bread and Butter Pickles, and Japanese Sunomono Salad was another possibility. Easy decision, a package of six little veggies offered the opportunity to enjoy familiar recipes and still try something new. That something new was Cucumber Wrapped Tofu with Dipping Sauce. Well, new to me, though I'm certain there is a recipe online somewhere. I played with the notion of quick-pickled, sunomono dressed, cucumber noodles combined with tofu for a more filling dish. This was cute packaging, but the appeal was much more than visual. The tofu bundles' light, bright flavor was an instant hit at lunch today, and would work equally well as an appetizer or a bento box addition. Two thumbs up on this versatile dish - it's a keeper. Below is the procedure I followed rather than a list of specific measures, so experiment and enjoy.

Cucumber Wrapped Tofu with Dipping Sauce

Small pickling cucumbers, or an English seedless cuke

seasoned rice vinegar
sesame oil
sesame seeds
hot pepper flakes

a package of extra firm tofu

low sodium soy sauce

Ponzu sauce
Seasoned rice vinegar

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to cut long cucumber ribbons and toss them with a sunomono-style dressing. 
  2. Sprinkle soy sauce over long batons of firm tofu and wrap them with the cucumber ribbons. 
  3. Serve with a dipping sauce mix of Ponzu and seasoned rice vinegar to add one more flavor note to the party.    

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey and Cheese Enchiladas Verde

We mixed it up this year and enjoyed turkey leftovers on Thursday, waiting to officially celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday. Flight schedules and weather get the blame - or credit - for the change this year. It's always worth waiting for family to arrive and join the party, plus this gave me an extra day to get organized.

Leftover turkey before you roast a bird??? It's easy enough when you roast several turkey legs and thighs for gravy stock several days ahead of time. Today we enjoyed turkey and cheese stuffed enchiladas filled with said poultry, three cheeses, onion, poblano chile, mini sweet peppers, cilantro and some heat from ground chipotle chile and green taco sauce. Yes! they were delicious, and hooray! there's still some turkey left to enjoy in turkey posole or gumbo later next week. 

My enchiladas are random creations, never the same twice, but here is a close approximation of today's version. 

Turkey and Cheese Enchiladas Verde

1 Tbs oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 large poblano chile, seeded and diced, divided
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried cilantro
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1/4 cup green taco sauce (La Victoria)
3 cups homemade turkey stock (+ 1/2 additional to mix with cornstarch)
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch 
salt and pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey thigh meat 
4 mini sweet peppers, seeded and diced
1 cup kale, destemmed and rough chopped
generous 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
generous 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 slices havarti, sliced for topping (or substitute another soft cheese)
5 medium-sized flour tortillas (more or less to fill the baking dish)

  1. Saute the onions in tablespoon of oil until translucent; add half of the poblano and cook to soften. Stir in the seasonings: oregano, cilantro and chipotle. 
  2. Add the taco sauce and turkey stock and simmer a while. Mix cornstarch with the additional 1/2 cup of cool stock and add to the pot to thicken into a thin sauce. Keep simmering (but don't boil or the cornstarch will loose its thickening effect). Taste, add salt and pepper if desired, and adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. Spoon some of the sauce into a baking dish to cover the bottom with a thin coating. (I used an 8x10-inch pan)
  4. In a medium-sized bowl mix combine the shredded turkey, shredded cheeses, remaining poblano, sweet peppers and kale. Add a little of the sauce, just enough to moisten and flavor.
  5. Dip a tortilla into the sauce and place on a dinner plate. Spoon a line of the turkey/cheese mix down the middle and roll up. Place seam side down in the sauced baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.
  6. Drizzle any remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas (optional). Cover with remaining cheese.
  7. Tent the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 325 F. Uncover and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until the top crisps up a bit and the cheese turns golden brown. Let the dish stand for several minutes until the sauce and cheese firm up a bit. 
  8. Serve with additional taco sauce, sour cream, avocado slices or guacamole. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Microwave Risotto with Lemon and Broccoli

Hilary and Chelsea came by for another cooking session (see previous post) and their requested topic was Side Dishes 101. That covered a huge range of possibilities, so we narrowed it down to a vegetable and a starch. The girls suggested Brussels sprouts and rice, two ingredients that can be prepared in a variety of ways. We began with the sprouts, first Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Potatoes and Bacon and then Sprout Chips with a honey and Sriracha sauce. Next came a traditional stovetop Risotto with Mushrooms, Lemon and Basil followed by a Rice Pilaf with Nuts and Dried Fruits. The girls measured, chopped, stirred and tasted, and we filled the afternoon with good eats and laughing conversation. I organized, and they did all of the work cooking and cleaning up. Lucky me!

Evidently the leftovers were popular the following day as well:

"Thank you, thank you for such a fun cooking lesson yesterday! We could not stop talking about the dishes when we got home. I added some chicken to my rice pilaf and packed it up for lunch today...sure beats a cold turkey sandwich! I wonder if there will be any risotto left when I get home tonight ;)" 
Each dish took 45 minutes or longer in combined preparation and cooking time, an issue when you arrive home super-hungry after work and want something quick to eat, quick like right now. I wondered if risotto in the microwave would (1) speed up the process significantly and (2) produce an acceptable, authentic-tasting risotto. Barbara Kafka's 575-page Microwave Gourmet, a terrific guide to all things microwaveable, provided helpful guidance. This cookbook is so useful that I keep a copy in the kitchen ashore and have another copy onboard in the boat galley (thank you Jean for that second copy).

Kafka's risotto recipe recipe provides variations and directions for portions to serve 6, 2 or 1 as a first course. Single portions are handy when you want to test a new recipe, or to experiment swapping ingredients. I added lemon juice and zest, broccoli florets and parsley to the basic recipe-for-one, and was pleased with the result. The rice kernels finished perfectly, midway between too soft and too toothy, and the dish's overall flavor had a lovely citrusy tang. This was definitely a tasty rice dish worth repeating, but... not quite my usual, creamy risotto. Perhaps a larger 6-person batch, with more liquid and its longer 30-minute cooking time, would better approximate the classic version, but it wouldn't save much time for the cook. 

Final thoughts: microwave risotto is a useful preparation for one or two, but I will continue to use the traditional method for company meals. This is still a work in progress. Now, about risotto in the pressure cooker... there's another quick-cook method to try.

Microwave Risotto with Lemon and Broccoli
based on Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet

Serves 1 as a first course, 2 as a side dish

1/2 Tablespoon butter
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup Arborio rice
2 green onions, chopped; divided into white and green portions
handful of broccoli florets, chopped; divided into flowers and stems
juice of 1/2 lemon (approx 1 tablespoon)
1 1/4 cups homemade or lo-salt chicken broth, at room temperature
salt and white pepper, to taste
2 Tbs shredded fresh Parmesan
2 Tbs loosely packed, minced, fresh flat-leaf parsley
zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a deep pie dish, uncovered, in a full-size microwave at full power for 30 seconds. 
  2. Add the rice, the chopped white portion of the onions and the chopped broccoli stems to the dish and stir to coat. Cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the broccoli florets, the lemon juice and all of the broth. Stir to mix and cook, uncovered for 6 minutes.
  4. Stir again and cook, uncovered, for 6 minutes. (Yes, that's a total of 12 minutes with some stirring in the middle.)  
  5. Remove from the microwave and let stand, uncovered, for 3 or 4 minutes. If you want a creamier risotto, this is a good time to add an additional tablespoon of chicken broth. Taste, then add salt and white pepper as needed.
  6. Stir in the Parmesan, green portion of chopped onions, minced parsley and lemon zest if you are using some.
Risotto can be made ahead of time, IF you hold back a portion of the liquid and stop the final cooking 2 minutes early. Cover the partially cooked dish and hold at room temperature. When you are ready to serve, add the remaining liquid and cook, uncovered, for 2 or 3 minutes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fish in Parchment

Fish en Papillote... Take 3

The morning schedule today was chock-a-block full of errands and appointments that had me running all over town, from the south end to downtown and some in-betweens. By lunch time I was ready to either pick up take-out or drive home to pick up the husband and head for the local pub. Food... fast... right now... ran through my mind, repeating over and over like the moving banner on an animated ad. 

STOP! Mutual Fish was on the route home and provided a much healthier solution. I recall that happening once before, when H and I created some delicious variations of fish en papillote (link). My first experience with this technique came in 2012 (link), participating in a cooking challenge with The Daring Cooks, and it has become routine on board the boat. I don't often buy seafood ashore, but when I do it is guaranteed to come from Mutual.

Lunch at home was fast, easy and fabulous, a much better choice today than either take out or eating out... and more affordable even  than splitting a sandwich at our favorite local eatery.

Fish Baked in Parchment

For the fish package:
1 lemon, sliced
1 fat sturgeon steak (or other firm, white fish), roughly 3/4 pound
2 tablespoons tapenade (homemade olive spread)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (mixed Italian parsley and basil today)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 scant tablespoon olive oil 
parchment paper to wrap 1 or 2 bundles

Serving suggestions:
cooked spaghetti or other long strand pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
sprinkle of garlic powder
additional chopped fresh herbs for topping
1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Layer the first 6 ingredients, lemon through olive oil, in the order listed on 10x12-inch piece of parchment paper.
  3. Double-fold the long edge to seal; double-fold the ends and tuck under.
  4. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Repeat with other fillet. (Refrigerate until ready to bake if you make this ahead).
  6. Place baking sheet on middle oven rack and bake approximately 12 minutes, depending upon thickness of the fish. At this temperature my oven takes 12-15 minutes per inch of thickness. 
  7. Open one parcel to check for doneness; the fish should be opaque and flake easily. Remove the fish from the oven before it is completely done - it will continue to cook for several minutes while out of the oven. Be careful not to overcook your seafood - ever!
  8. Serve parcels immediately, still wrapped so each diner can enjoy the fragrant steamy flavors as they open their individual serving. 
OR serve the contents of each parcel (including the juices) on warm plates atop cooked pasta sauced with olive oil and garlic powder. Sprinkle with fresh herbs (and Parmesan and capers if you choose). Serve immediately.

 * If you serve the packages still wrapped, provide a bowl of cooked rice, quinoa or couscous for diners to spoon inside their opened bundle. The juices are too good to leave behind.
 * RL reports a final squeeze of fresh lemon juice is essential, no matter how you serve the fish! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cream Cheese Kolacky

for Sourdough Surprises: November 2013

Kolacky, kolachy or kolache mean different baked goods in different cultures. Some are sweet, some savory, some have a yeast-based dough, others feature a cream cheese and butter base. When Sourdough Surprises announced Kolache, a soft pastry that is typically filled with sweetned cheese or fruit, as the November theme, I cheered and turned to a well-worn, 3"x5" card, handwritten by my Austrian-born mother long ago when I was a newlywed. Mom's recipe came from her mother, though it's origin before then is uncertain. 

Some food memories recall special moments and family traditions, and these Kolacky do that for me. Kolacky, along with Apfelstrudel , Kupferlin (Viennese Almond Crescents),fruit and nut-filled Austrian coffee cakes and Mom's secret weapon Applesauce Rum Cake have graced the table at decades of Christmas celebrations and birthday parties, as much a part of the festivities as the people who enjoy them. Four generations of our family have relished these treats over the years, but this was the first batch to alter the traditional recipe and incorporate sourdough starter. I won't tell Mom if you don't. 

This dough holds no salt and no sugar, but they aren't missed. The sweet fillings don't require any flavor boost from the dough. Any hint of the typical sourdough tang was not discernible, but the starter seemed to react with the baking powder and lighten the dough a bit... maybe. Whatever, the end result made it worth all of my fussing and fiddling with the troublesome dough to form each cookie-like pastry  

Troublesome? Oh yes! this dough is notorious for changing from too cold and hard to roll almost instantly into too warm and sticky to handle. Rolling chilled dough between two sheets of plastic wrap solved the rolling problem, but filling and forming called for fast action. Pinching the diagonal corners seemed easy enough, but too many of them unfolded during the final 4 or 5 minutes of baking as the dough puffed. 

Pinching all 4 corners and securing with a toothpick was one solution, though it did produce an unusual-looking kolacky. No matter, sprinkled with powdered sugar these square bundles disappeared as quickly as the others with more traditional shapes.

Kolacky are bite-sized treats, so light it's easy to eat half a dozen or more before you realize what you've done. The plate below holds roughly half of today's single batch - all that I could rescue for a photo before enthusiastic tasters reached for "just one more".

Kolacky with Cream Cheese Dough  
(from the family recipe, today's notes in red)
approx 6 dozen cookies

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2  pound butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 generous cups AP flour (rounded to account for the liquid in the starter)
1/4 cup well-fed sourdough starter (not in the traditional recipe)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
plus your favorite fruit filling*
powdered sugar to dust over the baked cookies

  1. Cream together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. (Add the sourdough starter and mix briefly.)
  2. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the cream cheese mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together.
  3. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions, form into disks and wrap each separately in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. (Don't skip this step, you'll thank me later.)
  4. Working with one dough disk at a time, keeping the others in the fridge, roll out very thin between two sheets of plastic wrap. Cut into 2-inch squares. Put a small amount of filling in the center of each square. (Don't overfill, it will run out while it bakes.) Press 2 diagonal corners together and place on a silpat or prepared cookie sheet. Repeat for remaining dough.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Rotate position midway through baking, avoid over-browning. Remove to a baking rack and dust with powdered sugar.
  6. Best eaten the same day, but they will hold for several days stored in the fridge in a covered container. 
*Today's Fillings
 - my homemade Spicy Italian Plum Jam
 - Bonne Maman's Fig Jam, plus a handful of pignoli (pine nuts)
 - Bonne Maman's Apricot Preserve

Mom's fillings
 - canned Solo or Wilderness brand filling (apricot, poppy seed and 
almond are favorites)
 - homegrown apricot jam, whizzed up in the blender
 - storebought apricot or strawberry jam with orange or lemon extract added for extra tartness to tame the sweet

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