Monday, February 16, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - Week 14 Report

I'm about to head out of town for a week. Leaving at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning - a fact which my airport driver really appreciates. Off to visit my Mom, sister Patty and her kids and one of my U.M. friends. And then there is the 32 degree weather and predicted snow. Not that I care about that. Oh no. Love having to find room in the suitcase for a pair of boots.

But, on to the topic at hand. I have no idea what kind of food local to upstate New York will be available in February, so I'm going to report in on our dinner this evening. It was very simple and the camera was packed away already, so I have no pictures. But, we had hamburgers made with our Kookolan Farms grass-fed beef. and I used four Oregon Yukon gold potatoes to make a gratin as a side dish. And that is pretty much the start and end of it.

If we end up with some more interesting Rochester-local meals as the week goes on, I'll chime in with a blog post from Mom's computer. Cheerio!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

A dozen beauties from my sweetheart.
fair trade-certified roses, of course :)

In starting up this short note, I realize what a creature of habit I am. As I was typing in the Title, the words popped up - signifying that I had used that same title before. So, I looked in the archives and, sure enough, same title this time last year. On top of that, last year, we evidently went to Vindalho for dinner last year. Tonight we are going to Lauro Kitchen - same owner/chef - different cuisine. But, neither restaurant was my first choice at the times I made the reservations. Last year, I called "Sel Gris", a new restaurant in our neighborhood at that time - called them a week before Valentine's day only to find they were already full up for the 14th. So, this year, I got smarter and called two weeks ahead. And got the same response.
Hmmm. Predictable we are.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fish Tacos - Dark Days, Week 13

OK, so I know this looks like mud and leaves. Yum. We're all over this natural eating business. However, if I could post this as a scratch and sniff photo, you'd think differently. This is a Moroccan Spice mixture that has been combined with some olive oil, lemon juice and cilantro. The spice mix has cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, turmeric, and salt. The aroma is fabulous. I made up a small batch of the spice mix and will be able to use the rest of it for something else.
Chunks of fish fillets are coated with the Morrocan mixture, baked in the oven

and served with corn tortillas.

Accompaniments: cilantro yogurt sauce, lettuce and tomatoes.

The Moroccan Fish Fillets are a recipe in my newest cookbook:
The authors suggest this can be used in fish tacos, served in pita bread, or on top of rice, all of which sound good to me. The fish tacos were very tasty. My recollection is that most fish tacos use a fried fish. That's what I remember from the famous-for-fish-tacos place Aileen took us to in San Diego. And I have to admit I kind of miss that crunchiness of the fried fish. But, really, the taste is so interesting with all those spices that it makes up for being a healthier version with the baked fish.

Local ingredients
dover sole fillets - wild caught off the coast of Oregon
Yogurt - Nancy's from Eugene
Tortillas - Carmen's, also out of Eugene
From farther away
cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce, lemon juice, olive oil from California
exotic spices - presumably from exotic places

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - Week 12 Report

It all started with the need for another freezer clean out. I don't know how we manage, but we seemed to start accumulating lots of odd bits of this and that in the small upstairs freezer until it gets almost full. Then it becomes time to start meal planning at the freezer. So, the item retrieved yesterday was chicken chorizo. Since I don't have an overly extensive culinary imagination, I decided to make the first thing that came to mind ,which was chili. The returning cold weather led me in that direction.

The only problem with writing this up for the Dark Days Challenge is that I don't really know where the chorizo itself came from - other than that it was purchased at New Seasons. I think they made their chicken sausages with chicken from California. And the bell peppers were not local. But, everything else came from somewhere in Oregon or Washington - the hot peppers, onion, canned tomatoes, dried pinto and black beans. The hot peppers were ones we grew last summer and have been kept in the freezer. And, the black turtle beans I used were from Little Frog Farm, our CSA.

I made a variation of the Moosewood's Red, Green and Gold Chili. I sauteed the chorizo and set it aside. Cooked one large onion, one each of red, green, yellow and orange peppers - plus the hot ones from the backyard. Once those are well under way, I add (this time of year) canned whole and crushed tomatoes. I put the chorizo back in and let the whole thing cook while the beans finished cooking. Finally, I added the beans and gave it another half hour or so. For seasonings (besides the chorizo and the peppers), I added cumin and chili powder.

The only other thing we had with the chili was cornbread. Grady's sister, who is here visiting, made it using Bob's Red Mill corn meal. So, altogether a pretty straightup, simple, but satisfying dinner. Good thing because somewhere I lost my mind in planning for tonight's dinner. We invited 8 people for a birthday dinner for my niece, Karla. And I decided to bake "Birthday Party Paella" - bought the ingredients before looking again at the recipe to remember how much work it is. Plus, of course, being a birthday I had to make a cake as well. So, I'm having a bit of overzelous meal-planner's regret. But, I'm sure it will all taste great and we'll have a good time. And, that's what all this cooking is about, after all - isn't it?!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Comfort Food on Cold Evening

The past two nights we have enjoyed a Baked Penne With Marinara, a recipe that Laura at (no so) Urban Hennery shared recently. She has the recipe at that link to her blog. Simple, but very delicious. She talks about cooking the sausage, onion and garlic until the aroma makes your mouth water. For me, the mouth-watering aroma came while the whole thing was cooking in the oven. It was simply a wonderful smell. Unfortunately, reheating it in the microwave doesn't give you the same experience. But, the taste is still great the second day. This recipe makes a large amount, so keep that in mind if you try it. I decided to go ahead with the whole thing so we could have it two nights and then also have a fair amount to put in the freezer for an evening when we don't have much time. One thing about this recipe that was new for me was adding pesto to the marinara sauce. I have always treated those as two separate ways to cover pasta. But, I would like to try the combined version again in other uses. It added a lovely flavor to the tomatoes, onions and garlic. I was lucky to have both tomato sauce and pesto in the freezer from last summer, so it was a partially local meal.

It was great as is, but, as I'm writing about it, I was thinking that it could also be nice to add mushrooms to the marinara. This time of year, mushrooms are one of the fairly readily available local items we can get here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chocolate Orbit Cake

Now, doesn't that look delicious?! Well, if I had some actual photographic skill, it would. And, if you tasted it, you would agree. Unless you are one of those people who do not appreciate rich, dark chocolate. This cake has no flour - a LOT of butter, quite a few eggs and very expensive chocolate. But, no flour.

This is the cake I made for Grady's birthday - the Friday night version. And, remembering how good it was, I decided to throw in the recipe. This was in the newspaper at some point.

Chocolate Orbit Cake
one 9 3/4 oz bar Scharffen Berger 62 percent semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
15 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 C granulated sugar
Optional: gently whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, combine the chocolate and butter, whisking until melted and blended. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well blended. Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture until blended. Pour the batter into prepared cake pan. Place the pan in a larger baking pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan.

Cover the larger pan with foil and bake in the center of the oven for 90 minutes or until cake appears set and, when you touch its center, your finger comes away clean. Remove the cake pan from the water, transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

I actually found a bar of the Scharffen Berger exactly as described in the recipe! I was expecting to have to substitute. Not cheap, but, boy, the result is terrific. In typing the recipe, I realized I hadn't done that business with the foil when I made this cake, but that didn't seem to be a problem. One other note - when I made this a previous time, I also put together a raspberry sauce to serve on top and that was wonderful.

And, here is the birthday boy enjoying his orbit cake:

Pesto Spread for Laura's Potluck

Laura, at Not So Urban Hennery invited Dark Days Eat Local Food Challenge participants and other local food bloggers to her house on Sunday. A chance to meet people behind the blogs, share a snack or treat from our local area, get ideas from other folks. And, for those who save seeds, a seed exchange. And, of course, a chance to see where Laura and her clan live. It was a lovely afternoon and I enjoyed the chance to meet her and the others.

Laura asked us to share the recipes for the food we brought. So, here is mine, borrowed from Epicurious:

Pesto Goat Cheese Spread
4 oz. soft mild goat cheese, at room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 C. pesto

Stir all together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I had never made this recipe, so I was taking a chance and hoping it would be decent. Itried to think of something that we had from our own garden, available this time of year, and also would lend itself to appetizer type food. So, I pulled the pesto out of the freezer - made last summer with basil in the back yard. I added Fraga Farm (Sweethome, OR) goat cheese, and Nancy's (Eugene) cream cheese. The biggest challenge turned out to be trying to find crackers made anywhere near here. Just for the sake of the activity, I actually looked at the packages of every type of cracker at New Seasons that looked like it would be suitable for this dip. And the closest I could find were some flatbread type crackers made in Yelm, Washington!

So, I will just add a public thank you to Laura for organizing this gathering and opening her home to those of us who were able to make the trip.

A Tale of Three Birthday Dinners - Dark Days Week 11

Sometimes, it just works out this way. Grady's birthday was last Thursday. I had made plans for us to go to Seattle on the weekend and celebrate with some friends there on Saturday night. And, we also wanted to have Jeff over for a birthday dinner, but he couldn't come on Thursday night. So, Grady ended up with birthday dinners on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. And they represented the range from a homemade meal, a home-cooked meal, and dinner out - with varying degrees of attention to local foods.

Thursday I had to work late, so I got some ready-to-cook food at Pastaworks on Hawthorne - ravioli and a tomato sauce with greens. These were made by a local business, but I don't really know about all the individual ingredients they use. To accompany the pasta, I roasted a delicata squash and some mushrooms I had gotten at the People's Coop farm market the day before. Pastaworks is a good source for chicken that is locally raised on small family farms. If it weren't so darned hard to park around there, I would shop there more often. So, that was the home-cooked, but not entirely homemade meal.

Friday night I made beef stroganoff (see recipe information below). Beef from New Seasons market (Country Natural Beef), mushrooms also from the farm market and Tillamook cream. The broth was out of a pot roast I had made earlier in the week using a roast from our beef share. I could have used locally made noodles for the stroganoff, but Grady prefers it with rice. Jeff brought a lovely winter salad with red cabbage, apples, carrots, onions and fennel.

Saturday night we ate at Artemis Cafe in Seattle. Their website says they showcase "local, high quality ingredients", although the menu doesn't give any details. The food was very good, but the meal was mostly memorable for the great company and livey conversation. We dined with six of our long-time friends who live there. This is part of the group Grady first met when they were all in architecture school at U.W. a year or two ago.

I checked back and found that the recipe I used for Beef Stroganoff came from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious. So, you can take a look at that link. But, I made several modifications:
1. I don't use the mustard at all because I despise mustard. I don't think anything feels missing. But, if you are a mustard lover, have at it.
2. As mentioned earlier, we had it with rice since the birthday boy prefers stroganoff on rice. But, if it was for me, I'd use the noodles.
3. I don't use the paprika at the end - not because I don't like paprika, though. Some other recipe I've used in the past suggested finishing stroganoff with fresh ground nutmeg and we have always liked what that does for the dish. I don't know how much- I just grate a whole nutmeg onto the finished stroganoff until it looks right. But, you might want to try the paprika. I'm sure it would be tasty as well.

Finally, the original impetus for the trip to Seattle was to join Laura and others at a gathering of bloggers interested in local foods. I'm going to include the recipe from that in a separate post since Laura asked us all to share.