It got down into the mid forties here last night and that means it’s officially soup season. Even though I had to make soup every day for almost three years in the US Coast Guard I still love to make and eat soup. It’s high on the list of comfort foods in taste and ease of cooking and re-heating. It invokes memories of mom’s making soup for their children home from school sick watching TV with a tray to hold the soup and crackers close by. And memories of coming in from the cold to a steaming bowl of mushroom soup, or cream of tomato soup. Tops on the list of soups is chicken noodle soup, a soup that really does help cure a cold according to many.
There are so many types of soup from the chunky to the bisques, and creamy to clear.Or made from chicken, beef, and other type of stocks. There are soups made to start a meal, and soups made to be the meal. When it comes down to picking a soup that is hearty enough to make it a meal almost nothing beats chili. Served with crackers, tortillas or bread this is an American favorite. When I was living and working in Frisco, Colorado back in the 1980’s I worked at The Moose Jaw and loved their chili recipe. I would eat a bowl of that great chili at least once per week in the winter time while at work. BTW, they are still open and celebrating 40 years in the same location, and run by the remaining member of four owners who bravely bought the place so long ago.
Fast forward to the present and there is a movement to make chili healthier, and with less meat. When the good folks at Phillips Mushrooms asked me to develop a recipe blending mushrooms with meat into a new kind of chili I was up to the task. After all I love mushrooms and chili so why not mix the two? This recipe is super healthy due to less meat and no added oil or fat. It is started by sauteing the onions, garlic, meat and mushrooms in water. If you have not tried this method of sauteing it’s worth a try. With recipes like this most people would never guess it was made without sauteing in oil.
So when it gets cold where you are give this easy, healthy chili recipe a try and don’t forget to pass it on. If you like it or have something to add please leave a comment.
Portobello Mushroom and Beef Chili
1/2 yellow or white onion diced
2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb portobellos cut into 1/2 cubes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 15 ounce can kidney beans
1 4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies
1 jalapeno minced, optional
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Cook onions in a 3 12 quart cast iron enamel pot, or other heavy pot in just enough water to cover bottom by 1/2 inch on medium heat for 5 minutes stirring often.
Add mushrooms and beef and cook on medium high for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium cooking 5 more minutes.
Add tomatoes and sauce then stir in spices and salt. Add beans and bring to a simmer cooking for 20 minutes stirring about every 5 minutes uncovered.
I use about a quarter cup of water to rinse the tomato cans with then pour into the chili so as not to waste what doesn’t come out of the can easily.
Chili powders vary in flavor and spiciness so feel free to add or reduce accordingly. I used McCormick’s chili powder for this recipe.
I like it hot and will add red pepper or jalapeno powder to kick it up.
I used to live in the Seattle area way back in the 1980’s and even though I was glad to move back to Colorado I loved many things about the Seattle area. I have returned many times as a visitor over the last twenty years. Big trees is what comes to mind when I think of the north western part of the US, and the Seattle area has plenty. There are some wonderful parks where you can see these famous trees, like O.O. Denny park in Kirkland. This park is on the shores of Lake Washington and has some beautiful Douglas Fir trees standing tall trying to reach the sky.
Marymoor Park in the Redmond area is King County’s largest, oldest and most popular park with over 600 acres to enjoy. Marymoor has nice trails and you can even take in a concert from some big name musicians if you have the time. If you really want to see the big trees hop a ferry to the other side of the Puget Sound from Seattle and drive to the Olympic National Park where there you have the worlds largest Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar, Sitka Spruce, and Douglas Fir.
Seattle is the gateway to the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. Not to mention close to the San Juan Islands. With all this natural beauty one could almost forget Seattle’s attractions. They have a vibrant art scene, and world class food too. Sports fans have the Mariners for baseball and the Seahawks for NFL Football. The summers are often dry with lots of clear blue skes unlike the winters when it can be cloudy or rainy six days a week. With that much rain and clouds you need a variety of things to do inside.
On our recent trip we hoped for sunny weather, but expected rain for most of the three day visit. However we lucked out and had many hours of sunshine. The first two days we walked around the downtown area to take advantage of the sun while it lasted. We walked the world famous Pike Place Market the first thing in the morning and watched the vendors set up. We grabbed the usual breakfast at Le Panier a French bakery that is as good as it gets in the US. The smell of butter comes wafting out of the place long before you even get to the front door. I swear they must have a pot of butter simmering on the stove and exhausted outside to get that level of butter in the air near their bakery. The croissants they bake are the best I have ever had in the US and beat many I have had in France too! Over the years I have tried virtually everything they bake with my favorites being the tarts, croissants, palmiers(pigs ears), and their breads.
After walking the market we headed to Pioneer Square on foot to see the area where many a would be miner heading to the Klondike gold rush bought their equipment before boarding a ship to Alaska back in the 1890’s. This is a nice historic downtown area with many shops and restaurants to chose from. After our visit to the square we hoofed it down to the waterfront to stroll the shops there and watch the ferries come and go. The Washington State Ferry system has many destinations served from the Seattle waterfront. You can hop a ferry to Victoria BC, Bremerton or Bainbridge Island. We decided to return after lunch to ride the Bainbridge Island Ferry just for the fun of it. first we wanted to go to Dahlia Bakery to see if the reviews of the triple coconut cream pie were accurate. You never know about such things until you try them for yourself so even though it was a great sacrifice to my usual healthy eating program off we walked and climbed to the bakery. Once we got there we opted for the Dahlia Lounge for a light lunch of salad two ways, and both were fresh and well dressed. Then came the pie, and let me tell you it’s hard to beat this fluffy creation anywhere on the planet. It was as good as coconut cream pie can be with not too much crust, and great coconut flavor with a touch of shaved white chocolate on top.
After that splurge we walked all the way back to the ferry landing-about a mile- and then under bright blue skies headed for Bainbridge Island. We had been there about ten years ago to see the Bloedel Reserve an old timber baron’s mansion and grounds. It’s worth the trip if you like that sort of thing with beautiful gardens and a waterfront view of Seattle. We did not have the time to grab a taxi to Bloedel due to a reservation at Sutra a restaurant know for great vegan dining. We had never been to a restaurant that just served vegan food so this was an adventure. First we had to get back and check into The Inn at the Market our lodging for the next two nights. After disembarking the ferry in Seattle we walked back up to the market again and grabbed a bottle of local Pinot Gris for a happy hour treat on the rooftop garden of the hotel. We also bought some goodies from City Fish the oldest seafood vendor in Seattle. There we bought a dungeness crab cocktail and salmon poke( a sushi like preparation of raw salmon and seasonings) for our happy hour. At the market we bought a lovely bouquet of flowers for our hotel room for a whopping $5 that would cost double just about anywhere else.
The rooftop garden at the Inn is fabulous with sweeping views of the waterfront and Puget Sound. There we had a happy hour to die for before catching a taxi to Sutra.
Just after arriving at Sutra the skies darkened up and did what Seattle is famous for, and that is rain, but we were safe inside Sutra with no worries other than choosing our drinks to go with dinner. This cool restaurant offers wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic beverage pairings to go with the vegan meal. Since this was a novel idea we decided that one of us would have the wine pairing and the other would do the juice and teal pairing. Both were great with the meal and quite affordable. Of the five courses I think my favorite was the third course of chili cashew cheese lasagne with zucchini, but all of it was creative and very tasty. By the time dinner was over so was the rain and back to the hotel we went for some much deserved rest as our plane was 2 1/2 hours late the night before arriving at 12:30 am.
The next day we went back to the French bakery(Le Panier) for another lovely meal before heading to the Chihuly gardens of glass exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. We rode the monorail there just because it is a cool and goofy way to travel, and it was included with our hotel package. The exhibit was a mind blowing, glass blowing trip through several rooms of Dale Chihuly’s best work, and included a movie room where you could watch several short films on the artist who is known world wide for his talent and large displays. My favorite was the small boat filled with all sorts of beautiful glass objects on top of a black mirrored platform. Too cool for words! The outside part of the exhibit was great too in the way natural elements were at play with Chihuly’s glass masterpieces.
If you ever get a chance to see one of his exhibits just do it! Often his works are featured outside of Seattle. My wife and I stumbled upon one in Dallas a year ago when we were visiting the area and it was great.
After the glass show we went to the market for lunch at the Athenian since it’s a tradition to do so. The steamed clams lived up the expectations, but the clam chowder fell short. Hey, but the view was great as we got a window seat overlooking the Puget Sound.
After lunch we walked ten blocks of 2nd avenue through Belltown on our way to the Olympic Sculpture Park that opened in 2007 and winds down the hillside until you reach the waterfront. It was a fun walk and we enjoyed the many sculptures, including the house rooftop that we both climbed up on. Then we walked the waterfront for a bit until we noticed several people looking towards the water where a school of about 30 salmon were swimming by. Nice to know the water is still clean enough to support wild salmon!
We walked towards our hotel, but stopped when we came to Anthony’s seafood Restaurant for a small bite to eat and some much needed ice water. We had a fine preparation of edamame tossed in soy sauce, sesame oil and hot peppers that was one of the best ways to eat edamame I have ever had. We were sad we didn’t have room for the Boysenberry Cobbler, but we had reservations at Canlis, one of the best high end restaurants in the Seattle area for dinner and didn’t want to fill up before that. So up the hill to the market we walked once again to get cleaned up for dinner.
We arrived at Canlis at 4:45 a full 15 minutes before they opened. That gave us time to gawk at the view of Lake Union and Gasworks Park. Canlis has been around for more than 60 years(three generations) and many think of it as the best fine dining restaurant in Seattle. If you like fancy high end dining with fresh local ingredients this is worth a visit. The service is top notch as well as the presentation of the foods. We were wowed by the trio of complimentary appetizers sent out before the salad course. Even though the the main course was good our favorite part of the meal was the Canlis salad, a family recipe of the house includes romaine lettuce, fresh oregano, bacon, romano cheese, green onions, croutons, fresh mint, and a dressing of olive oil and lemon. You can get the recipe on their website:http://canlis.com/food/recipes/the-canlis-salad/ if you want to try and make your own. After being sufficiently stuffed we went back to the hotel for some reading time before bed after our long day of hiking scenic Seattle.
Day three was upon us and it looked like it might rain all day. We had reserved a rental car for exploring the area and since it was raining decided to go to Woodinville to visit Chateau St Michelle winery. Back in the 1990’s when we visited this winery there was only one other in the area so we were surprised to find out there are more than 100 in the area now. The other big change was price. Gone were the $7-10 priced bottles of wine. Now most wines were in the $15-25 range, but it was still fun to try a few even if we didn’t buy any. The chateau is best visited on a sunny day so you can stroll the grounds and enjoy the fine landscaping that includes trout ponds. Columbia Crest winery is just across the street so we went there too and tasted some of their best. The prices had gone up a bunch there also so we didn’t buy, but when we left the sun had come out so we popped into the world famous Herb Farm just up the road to see what the fuss was all about. It wasn’t open but the lodge was so we asked to see a room for future trips, and were quite surprised how nice they were and affordable too for what you got. The Willows Lodge and Spa occupy several acres of well landscaped gardens across from the Herb Farm. The other restaurant onsite-The Barking Frog- was open so we decided to have a small meal before heading south. I got the antipasti plate and boy was it good. It had olives, marinated feta cheese, sun dried/oil cured tomatoes, humus and pita chips. Just the right snack before heading to Marymoor Park in Redmond on our way to our airport hotel. Marymoor has both regional and back country trail access, but we just did a quick drive through because we were on a time cruch to get to our next stop.
That place to explore before ending the trip was the Copperleaf Restaurant at the Cedarbrook Lodge. I have stayed at the Doubletree hotel in Seatac, Washington for over twenty years and never had a clue the Cedarbrook Lodge was just a couple hundred yards behind it hidden in the trees, This used to be owned by the now defunct Washington Mutual mortgage lender. Now it’s a really nice hotel with manicured grounds that remind one of a fine Japanese garden with water features and fish ponds. It’s quite the building with it’s large exposed wooden beams and huge windows.
The Copperleaf Restaurant was highly rated on Tripadvisor so we decided to give it a try. The farm to table themed food was excellent, and presented well. Even though we only had appetizers and salads we can’t wait to go back and try their seven course vegetarian tasting menu. As for the service, they thought it took too long to get the first course on the table and comped us a nice appetizer of caviar on cute little blinis that was quite good. This kind of service isn’t found everywhere unfortunately.
So ends the almost perfect three days in Seattle for this year. Why only almost perfect? Well it did rain half the day on our last day in town after all when we had high hopes for three sunny days, but this is Seattle we are talking about.
My wife and I had a great time in Seattle for a mini vacation, and discovered several new spots worth visiting again. I’ll post a review of the trip soon, but for now I’m home and in the kitchen. Since it is cooler out it’s time to fire up the oven and bake some granola. You all know I like to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, but there are exceptions and granola is one of those.
Granola has been around since 1863 when a man named Dr James C. Jackson called his version Granula as part of his healthy diet regimen. Others like Dr John Harvey Kellogg made his version but changed the name to Granola after being sued by Dr. Jackson.
The hippies of the 1960’s might be the ones who brought this healthy breakfast food back to popularity, and now days you can find as many as 10 different brands in any given grocery store vying for your attention. But why buy granola when you can make your own large batch?
It’s main perk is you make/cook it once and eat it for days or weeks after. When you make it yourself you have control of what goes in it. Granola is one of those foods that has several ingredient options available. You can put many types of nuts in it, or no nuts at all. You can put many types of dried fruits in it like apricots, apples, raisins, currants, cranberries, pears, pineapple or dates. Then you can put your choice of sweetener in it too. I like using honey, but brown sugar, or even agave would work.
You also get to chose to make organic, or not. I almost always chose organic even though some say there is little or no difference in purity and quality.
So next time you see an old hippie, thank them for bringing back granola, and try this batch soon in your kitchen. It’s a great recipe to get your kids to help with too.
Home made Granola
10 cups rolled oats
4 cups coconut
3 cups sliced almonds
1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1 can frozen unsweetened apple juice
1 cup canola oil
1 cup honey
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
4 cups chopped dried apples
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups dried cranberries
Mix together in a large bowl oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds and set aside.
In a 1 1/2 quart pot combine apple juice, oil, honey, almond extract, salt, and cinnamon. Cook over low heat stirring often until honey is melted and all ingredients are combined.
Pour over oats and mix well.
Spread over baking sheets and bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Stir occasionally- every 15 minutes or less, and rotate pans.
Cool on pans and when cool add apples, raisins, and cranberries
Sometimes it’s hard to find dried apples so feel free to substitute other dried fruits like apricots, pineapple, dates, pluots, peaches, or whatever else is available that sounds like it would work.
When stirring be sure to rotate pans from top shelf to bottom each time you stir.
Adapted from a recipe at Mendano Zapata Ranch in Southern Colorado.
Last year my wife and I went to Ithaca, New York to explore the Finger Lakes region figuring on seeing pretty landscapes and tasting local wines. We did see pretty landscapes, and tasted local wines, but the big surprise was the amazing food scene in the area. We had no idea that Ithaca is home to one of the best farmer’s markets either of us had ever been to. We had no idea there was such a love for heirloom vegetables and fruits there. We also had no idea there were several great eating establishments in the area. With all that, we knew we would return and explore some more this year.
This year it seemed like a good idea to skip Labor Day weekend and go to Ithaca the following weekend for a less crowded vacation. The weather was still quite nice with a couple of clear blue sky days with temperatures around 70 degrees. The farms were still putting out lots of amazing produce. We planned the trip so we could be there for the weekend farmer’s market by Cayuga Lake to get the most out of our trip. This market features several fruit and vegetable growers that show off their heirloom tomatoes that are both huge and beautiful as well as tasty. Most of the produce at the Ithaca farmer’s market is organic or “no-spray” which is a big selling point to me.
A short primer on heirlooms is in order here. Many people are new to the term “heirloom” as it applies to food. If I understand it correctly it is a type of vegetable, fruit or animal that was not mass produced and once planted changed, or adapted to a certain region were it grew year after year. Many years ago there were many varieties of foods than we see in our grocery stores today. If you were buying tomatoes you might have ten to twenty types to choose from.If you were buying apples you might have over one hundred to choose from. Pigs, sheep, cows, chickens and turkeys came in many varieties that were suited to the area and climate that they were raised, and all had their own unique flavor. Many of us foodies are just now realizing how limiting grocery store food is and are seeking out local farmers that are bringing back heirloom varieties on a small scale. The Ithaca farmer’s market opened a door to the heirloom treasure trove of food like I have never witnessed.
There is a fruit grower that had a cute little basket of plums containing four varieties with the smallest being the size of your average grape. They were handing out samples of this small plum that was bursting with sweet juicy plum flavor all its own.
There is the honey guy, the maple syrup guy, the apple cider stand, and more sweet stuff too.
There are a couple of bakery stands, crepes, breakfast foods, Cuban food, and Cambodian food to buy a great hot meal and eat on the nearby lakefront. The Cuban stand had some of the best black beans and rice I have ever tasted! They also serve a delicious baked chicken that goes great with the beans and rice. I ordered the chicken with beans and rice and let my wife and in-laws taste it. They all liked it so much they bought it for lunch also.
One of the smaller farm stands had two types of fresh corn on the cob that we bought and tasted last night. I just tossed it in boiling water for three minutes and wow was it good and sweet!
A short trip up either side of Cayuga Lake brought us to small farm stands selling pears, squash, green beans, Asian pears, onions garlic, and pumpkins. I bought Asian pears, Bartlett pears, and four kinds of apples from “One of a kind orchards” in Lansing, New York. This amazing farm advertises that they have over 200 varieties of heirloom apples, but the owner explained to me that she thought there were probably over 300!
It was there I bought four types of apples I have never had. I bought Freedom, Mother, Paula Red, and Padukah apples to make applesauce with. I’ve tried two of the varieties so far and it will be hard to put them in applesauce they taste so good. I now wish I had bought thirty pounds instead of fifteen.
We also stopped at Bellwether Hard Cider to taste several types of alcoholic cider made from local apples. Once upon a time cider was way more popular than it is now, but Bellwether and others are changing that by bringing cider back to compete with beer as the summer cool beverage of choice. You can find more info about Bellwether Cider at www.cidery.com as they can ship it to you in most states.
The restaurant scene is worthy of a whole post of its own, but I will mention Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca since they are celebrating their 40th year in business. They have won several James Beard awards for their cookbooks over the years, and are quite well known. This creative restaurant has taken vegetarian and vegan food to a whole new level and they have been doing it for years. They have a cookbook celebrating this important anniversary with 250 of their favorite recipes. I bought a copy of it and will start trying out some of the recipes and post the results for you all soon.
We had dinner there and even though it didn’t earn a score of 10 out of 10, I’d still give it an 8. The most amazing dish was the vegan chocolate cake. All of us agreed we couldn’t tell the difference between it and a cake made with butter and eggs from this vegan masterpiece. If you get a chance to go to Ithaca give Moosewood a try even if you are not vegan or vegetarian. They also serve fish on the menu daily for the meat eaters.
There might be a better place for a farm to table food scene, and if there is I want to go there. Next month I’m flying to Portland, Oregon to write a post on the food scene there, and also Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, California. I expect both will be full of great food and fun to report to you dear readers that like to travel as much as I do. Until then here is a recipe using ingredients purchased on the Ithaca area for you to try at home.
Oven Roasted Delicata Squash with Carrots and Golden Beets
This is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer, side dish or vegan main dish.
1 medium sized delicata squash
2 to 3 carrots
4-6 golden beets
1/4 cup sliced shallots
4 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Cut delicata squash length wise to expose seeds. Remove seeds and set aside. Cut squash length wise again so you have four wedges, then cut into about one inch pieces, and place on baking sheet pan.
Wash and cut carrots into one inch pieces, and place in pan with squash. If using organic carrots don’t peel them.
Wash and scrub beets. Trim top and bottom and cut off any other root like bits. Cut beets into almost one inch pieces by first cutting them in half length wise with the first cut and then into quarters with a second cut. Now cut beets into pieces a bit smaller than the carrots and squash(due to cooking time), and add to pan.
Peel and slice shallots and add to the pan. Mix all vegies then drizzle oil over them. Add salt and pepper then bake for 25-35 minutes at 350 degrees or until tender.
Serves six to eight as an appetizer, four as a side dish or two as a main dish.
Note: The trick to this dish is to get the vegies cut to the size that allows them to cook in the same amount of time at the same temperature. Don’t be too worried though as these vegies taste good a bit under or overcooked.
Cook squash seeds in same oven for about 15 minutes with a bit of salt and pepper. Remove sponge like substance from around seed first, and then bake. These are great on soups or salads, or by themselves.
I used purple heirloom carrots, but regular carrots will work well too.
Americans, and other cultures eat too much white rice, and it’s about time for that to change. In some cultures it is viewed as poor people food, and scorned by those who can afford the good stuff(white rice). Yet since I switched to eating way more brown rice than white rice I think it not only tastes better, but is way better for you. I’m no expert on nutrition, but the way I understand it is many people with type two diabetes get it from eating too much of the three white poisons. Exercise is also noted as a contributing factor, but here the naughty three white poisons:
These foods are all too refined and our digestive systems were not used to these foods when they showed up over the last hundred years or so. Maybe with a few thousand years of eating these white poison foods we can eat them with no ill effect, but for now it’s best if we limit them. Heck, National Geographic even put sugar on the cover of their last issue, and discuss the health hazards of eating refined foods. I recently read on Health.com a post on eating brown rice as a way of avoiding diabetes. Here’s the link:http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306709_4,00.html
Part of the problem with getting people to switch to brown rice is the need to know that not all brown rice is the same. I have tried many different types of brown rice since switching 20 years ago, and some are barely edible. I have had some that have gone rancid from being on a store shelf too long, but many people wouldn’t know that it was rancid rice they were eating. They would just know it tastes bad. Look for the “best by date” on the package when buying brown rice,and buy from a store that sells a fair amount of it so that it doesn’t sit on the shelf too long.
I would recommend you try Tsuru Mai California brown rice, or Lundberg’s brown rice if you want the best. Neither are very expensive. It’s fairly easy to find one or the other in most grocery stores, or Asian markets. Once you taste good brown rice with its nutty taste and great texture you will find adding to your diet is easy. It’s great to see more and more restaurants offer brown rice to their customers. Tokyo Joe’s, and P. F Changs are two that I know of that offer it on their menu.
I almost always cook more brown rice than I need at the time because it’s great to add to bean dishes, or cook up as fried rice. It stays fresh in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days if covered tightly. It also microwaves well.
Here then is a easy stir fry recipe to try in your home that only takes 12- 15 minutes to cook, and is served on top of brown rice.
Asian Eggplant Stir Fry with Chicken Breast
1 tablespoon garlic infused oil, or 1 tablespoon oil and 1 clove minced garlic
8 ounces asian eggplant 1/4 inch slices
6 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 yellow onion diced large
3 cups broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon Thai fish sauce,optional
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 thai chili peppers, optional
1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil leaves, thai basil is best
Slice chicken breast in 1/4 inch slices. In a wok or 12 inch saute pan heat oil then add eggplant and cook on high to medium high for 3 minutes stirring often. Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Add broccoli, chili peppers, and onion and cook on high for 5 minutes. Add fish sauce, soy sauce and oyster sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in fresh basil and serve on top of steamed or fried brown rice.
Note: Red bell peppers add a nice color and crunch when added with the broccoli and onions.
Light soy sauce may be used to lower the sodium.
Disclaimer. I have not been paid to write about the businesses noted in this post. I mention them because I like them, and their products.
It’s been a busy week here a the fast and furious test kitchen with lots of great things from my favorite farms. I’ve been getting the tastiest farm fresh lima beans ever from K.P. Huber’s Farm in Kingsville, MD. These are the best looking and best tasting lima beans I have ever bought! At $3 per quart sized basket they are a deal.
Just up the road at Wilbur’s Farm I’m getting great organic produce that my garden doesn’t have, or is struggling with. They have the sweetest white corn I have ever tasted, and everything they sell is certified organic. I like their potatoes, onions, green beans, eggplant, and zucchini. I just made a lovely ratatouille last night from their zucs, and eggplant and my tomatoes. Good stuff indeed. If you have not tried making ratatouille you should. It’s good hot the night you make it and if not overcooked it’s quite good at room temperature for leftovers. It stays fresh for several days after cooking too.
Tuesday was a big day for me as I was able to drive down to Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. There I walked the farm to see if what I have read is true about Joel Salatin turning the farm world on its head by developing sustainable methods of raising cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and more on his 450 acre family farm. It seems all true, and I witnessed happy cows in a beautiful pasture, and happy pigs in the woods about a mile up the hill from the farm house.
I bought a chicken from the farm store to test in the FFC test kitchen tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight it’s a French style roasted half chicken with fresh garlic and dried rosemary. Tomorrow night it’s Filipino Chicken Adobo. Come September 16th I’ll visit the farm again to be guest chef for Joel’s family, the farm workers and apprentices for dinner. That night I plan to cook the same two chicken dishes for all 21 people on the farm. Lucky for me the cook, Brie, will be helping me in the kitchen.
With all the great tomatoes my garden has been putting out I decided to buy some salad greens to pair with them. Last week I had some leftover bread from our supper club dinner and decided to turn it into fresh croutons. These are better than store bought by far, and almost as addictive a Doritos for munching. It does help if you use good bread like a whole grain loaf, or even ciabatta works well. I made another batch today and took a sample across the street for Wendy and Mary at Moore’s Orchard to taste and both of them liked the croutons a lot. Therefore I share with you now another fast and furious cook original recipe to try in your kitchen. This will take about 15 minutes to make , and lasts for 2-3 days if you don’t eat them all the day they are made.
As always, please try the recipe and comment on my blog.
Pan Toasted Spicy Croutons
2 1/2 cups day old bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano, or mixed italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or fresh thai peppers sliced thin
optional, 1/4 teaspoon salt
optional, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Add oil to saute pan and heat on medium low for 10 seconds or so.
Add the bread and toss well to distribute the oil on the bread cubes.
Continue cooking on medium to medium low for 5-7 minutes tossing or stirring every minute or two.
Add oregano, and chili and cook for two minutes on low heat.
Remove from saute pan to a sheet pan to cool for 3-5 minutes before adding to a salad.
Use regular olive oil in place of garlic infused and add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder with the chili and oregano.
finely shredded parmesan cheese is a nice addition at the end. Just add after the heat is off and toss or stir well to distribute the cheese.
Great with soups or salad.
Cooks best if your saute pan is big enough to keep the bread cubes at just one layer. If the pan is too small the cubes will stack up and won’t brown properly.
I love good tomatoes! With my garden producing plenty of heirloom and conventional tomatoes this year I’m doing more experimenting than ever. Mind you that the last time I worked on a decent garden it was back in 1992 in Alaska when my room mate decided to grow an Alaskan style garden. Then I moved to Baltimore in 2009,the land of easy gardening, and installed raised bed vegie gardens in the backyard. It’s so easy to garden here you don’t even have to build a moose fence! All though I have had encounters with deer and bunnies they can’t compare to the damage a full grown moose can do to a garden. Here in Baltimore most vegies grow quite well but tomatoes really shine. I had high hopes when I planted about ten different varieties of tomatoes in April and May, but then we got a very cool and rainy spring and early summer. It took quite a while before I knew what the tomatoes would think about all this cool and rainy weather, but by the time August rolled around I could tell it was going to be the best crop of my three years here at our new home.
This presented a challenge to use all these great tomatoes without letting them spoil or have us get sick of eating tomatoes. We have had the following meals so far using the fruits of my garden:
Tomato avocado sandwiches
Orechiette tossed with tomatoes and olive oil
Lasagne made with fresh tomato sauce
Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and feta cheese
Heirloom tomato and avocado salad
The last preparation on the list is the favorite due to the amazing taste of the Cherokee Purple, Mr Stripey, and Marmonde heirloom tomatoes I put in it. I took a sample of this salad to my favorite taste testers across the street today and both gave it two thumbs up. I know most of you don’t have heirloom tomatoes in you backyard, but you can find them in many places these days such as:
local farm stands
Whole Foods grocery stores
Trader Joe’s grocery stores
After you manage to get ahold of some give this recipe a try. It’s a great one for a summer salad with lunch or dinner.
Just for fun, if any of my readers can get five of their friends, or family to signup for my newsletter at www.fastandfuriouscook.com I’ll overnight two of my heirlooms to that one lucky reader. This is available to the first one to comply, and valid until the end of tomato season which ever comes first. I’ll post the lucky winner’s name on my blog. In case of a tie, well they both get tomatoes from my garden. However this is only available to those who have a shipping address in the 50 US states. It would be a bit much to ship tomatoes to another country!
Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salad
2 cups one inch cubes of fresh heirloom tomato
1 small or medium sized avocado cut into one inch cubes
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh basil cut thin,(chiffonade)
salt to taste
optional, 1 fresh jalapeno deseeded and sliced thin
Cut tomatoes and put into a medium sized mixing bowl.
Cut avocados and add to mixing bowl.
add jalapeno if using
Cut basil and add to bowl.
Pour olive oil and lime juice over the mix, and stir gently.
Refrigerate for 1/2 hour and serve as is or on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce.
You can serve this at room temperature, or chill for 1/2 to 4 hours.
On many of my trips to France I have been impressed how good the salads and salad dressings are. In France tarragon is used often in salad dressings, and it makes them taste fragrantly delicious. Since I have tarragon growing in my garden I experimented with dressings to use it in and came up with the following recipe. Now I know not all of you are growing tarragon in your gardens, or you don’t have a garden, but most grocery stores carry it fresh in the vegetable aisle. Give this a try and see if you agree that tarragon is an excellent choice for salad dressings.
1/2 cup salad or olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, Bragg’s or Spectrum brands are best.
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Bragg’s Amino’s, or soy sauce
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Combine all ingredients in a 1 quart mixing bowl and mix well with a whisk. Put in a bottle, or jar suitable for salad dressing and refrigerate for an hour or more. Can be used right away but develops more flavor if allowed some time for ingredients to blend flavors.
Note: a small clove a garlic minced fine is a good addition
Once there was a time when most everyone knew what foods were in season. As recently as the 1970’s most of us still ate a majority of foods that were somewhat local and in season. But modern farming and shipping being what they are have changed that landscape to one of most every food being available most every month throughout the year. For instance, you can buy asparagus from South America in the US in October through December and beyond. Well outside of it’s normal season of April through June. Same with fresh cherries, and other fruits and vegetables.
Gone are the days of anxiously awaiting any given food season unless you are a strict locavore(one who eats only foods from their immediate area). I can’t wait for certain seasonal foods like, heirloom tomatoes, blueberries, peaches and salmon. I am guilty of buying some foods that are out of season here in the US, like apples from New Zealand, as well as a few others. Ever since I read the great book “Animal Vegetable Miracle” I have paid way more attention to buying local foods that are in season. I freeze, or can several seasonal foods to last through the winter as my grand parents did. It’s very gratifying to open up a jar of tomatoes in January that I canned in August or September.
Blueberries freeze exceptionally well, and last up to a year without losing much if any flavor. They just lose their consistency so I use them only for cooking. Salmon freezes very well and is quite edible 10 months after storing in vac-packed bags in my freezer. I usually go to Alaska every year for the last 20 years to catch a years worth of salmon to bring back as filets, and smoked salmon. I have only missed two years out of the last 20. This year was a typical year as far as the amount of salmon we caught. We fish for the very tasty Alaska Red Salmon(aka sockeye) and bring it home with us to eat and share for the next year.
We brought back a 45 pound box each filled with mostly red salmon fillets and several packages of smoked salmon we prepared using my smokers I left up there when I moved down to the lower 48 twenty years ago. These wild Alaskan salmon are not endangered, and we usually don’t have much trouble catching what we need for the year. It’s kind of a working vacation to stock up on an excellent source of protein. It is also a lot of fun.
It’s always special to eat that first fresh caught salmon at the cabin we rent in Soldotna. It’s also great each time we cook up the salmon we bring home and remember the fun we had on vacation catching it. One of our favorite ways to eat fresh or frozen salmon is to marinate it in teryaki. If the weather is good we grill it and serve it on steamed brown rice. If the weather is rainy we just bake it. Since we are always quite busy catching, cleaning, smoking and packaging the salmon it’s good to plan meals ahead when we can so I always cook double the salmon and brown rice we need as it makes a great leftover dish that we simply call “salmon and rice”. This is prepared by hand flaking the salmon to remove the bones and get the pieces down to size for mixing with the rice. The a saute pan is heated with a bit of olive oil(1 teaspoon or so) and cooking the rice and salmon together just until hot.
You could saute onions and celery first, and set aside for incorporating later after the rice and salmon are hot. You could also add frozen peas for some color, but whichever way you do it the flavor comes from the marinated salmon and carries the dish. It is a time saving way to do this dish that I hope you will try. It has you cooking once and eating two great meals from your effort. Sure you have to reheat it, but that only takes about 3-5 minutes. So give this dish a try with red salmon(sockeye), or whatever type of salmon you can get and see if you agree that this is a great way to cook once and eat twice.
Teryaki Marinade for Salmon
1- 1 1/2 pounds salmon
1 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup white wine, (Chardonnay or Savignon Blanc)
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup sliced onion
3 cloves fresh garlic sliced, or crushed
1 teaspoon ginger powder
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour over salmon. Place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Drain and pat dry before grilling so it doesn’t stick. Cook skin side down for 5-7 minutes then cook for about 4 minutes skin side up.
*If cooking bite sized pieces for skewers use less time in marinade, about 1 hour should do it.
*If using cooking wine with salt added use a low sodium soy sauce.
*Fresh grated ginger(1 teaspoon) can be substituted for powdered dry ginger.
*If you like a sweeter tasting salmon add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the marinade.
I’m mostly recovered from the long overnight trip back from Alaska, and in the kitchen today using up some great produce from my backyard garden. We had a great time in the Kenai Peninsula with great weather and good fishing most days. I am thoroughly whipped from hours of fishing and processing our catch. I’m not complaining about the processing as there is no processing if there are no fish caught. We each brought back about 45 pounds of salmon filets frozen and packed in special wet lock boxes for the long flight.
Being on vacation usually means eating a richer diet and different foods than we do at home. After all that is part of being on vacation. It’s not like we eat cake and ice cream daily, but we did eat the amazing fish and chips at Homer, Alaska’s Lands End Resort one day even though we rarely eat deep fried foods. Ah, Lands End is one incredible place to watch the fishing boats and seagulls pass by, and we once saw a bald eagle grab a fish and fly to the roof of Lands End while dining there in years past.
Picture the most amazing mountain, glacier and ocean scene you can imagine and a lovely deck with brand new outdoor furniture to sit and view it from and you have Lands End Resort. Top it off with the fish and chips using fresh halibut, served with great tasting seasoned french fries, and a starter of steamed clams with bread that delivers the ultimate in outdoor dining in Alaska.
Some other goodies we had were from my brother who brought along his special molasses cookies for some naughty treats, and I did buy Tillamook Huckleberry ice cream at the local grocery store that is only available in a few western states. Other than those goodies we ate fairly healthy there. We had some sort of fresh salmon daily, like salmon salad wraps, teryaki grilled salmon, and salmon mixed in brown rice. There were a couple of other regional seafood delicacies we had to have, like sauteed razor clams and steamed side striped shrimp. How could we forget the king crab feast at the cabin on the last night all four of us were there? Now that I’m back home I don’t miss any of those wonderful Alaskan foods because I have my garden full of quality vegies that are very hard to find in Alaska.
The best thing my garden produces is by far the heirloom tomatoes! If you aren’t familiar with heirloom tomatoes they are tasty tomatoes of yesteryear that the The Big Food Machine doesn’t bother with. They don’t ship as well as the tasteless types of tomatoes you see in your grocery store so it’s not worth the bother for most grocery stores to carry heirlooms. The seeds can be found at seed companies that want to save these heirlooms from disappearing. I get mine from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but I also buy the starter plants at my local farmer’s market in the spring.
I picked three types of heirlooms tomatoes since coming home. I got about 8 yesterday and 5 today. One of my favorites is the Cherokee Purple. Talk about a large, juicy, beautiful tomato! This one has flavor, color and large size going for it. I weighed one of the big ones yesterday and it came in at one pound two ounces. They can get even bigger than that sometimes.
There are many things one can do with these beauties, like a nice Caprese salad that is nothing more that sliced tomatoes drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with sliced fresh basil leaves. I also like to cook and toss them with pasta and fresh basil like I saw while in southern Italy. For the best fast and furious cook way to use fresh heirloom tomatoes I like the simple avocado and tomato sandwich with a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Put that on your favorite hearty bread and you have a winner. A bit of lettuce is a good addition, or serve with a side salad.
Today I sliced a medium sized Cherokee Purple and put it on my home baked wheat bread I had sitting in the freezer since the last baking session in July. I served it with my black bean and corn salad on the side that also had some garden fresh tomatoes in it. With less than five minutes of prep I had a wonderful lunch with most ingredients from my garden.
Now don’t pout if you don’t have these heirloom tomatoes in your garden. Many upscale grocery stores are selling heirloom tomatoes these days. I’d recommend several types like, Brandywine, Mister Stripey, Cherokee Purple, or even one of the yellow varieties like Taxi. Be sure and eat them soon after making the sandwich as they are so juicy they don’t pack well. If you can’t find these type of tomatoes in your local grocery stores then find a farmer’s market nearby and chances are good they will have heirloom tomatoes. Good luck and good eating!