Archives for the month of: January, 2012
painting shows January fruit, vegetables and tulips from the farmers' market

January Bounty. 12″ x 12″ gouache, watercolor and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

One of my Saturday habits is to journey to the Berkeley Farmers’ Market — I go if I can at all justify a trip because I like walking through the market and seeing what is there. I usually go with my friend Margit. We walk up one side of the market and down another. Today I stopped to buy black trumpet mushrooms, cilantro, small red grapefruit, a couple of jumbo artichokes, carrots, fresh lemongrass and a bouquet of orange tulips because January is a month of orange and green, fueled by greens and citrus. Then I found a twenty dollar bill on the ground and promptly bought a bottle of vanilla palm syrup (I had tasted it months before). I saw many things that I did not buy today: attractive displays of tiny red kabocha squashes that would make adorable soup bowls, tulips in purple, hot pink and a variety of reds. I could stare at the tulip stand for ten minutes and not get my fill.

You can walk through the market tasting things. At one stand the vendor handed me a slice of raw milk cheddar cheese. At Frog Hollow Farm, they had a whole row of preserves with tasting spoons: my favorite was a mild Meyer lemon marmalade. The artichoke farmer had tiny squeeze bottles of his preserves so I was able to taste the Tayberry jam that I had bought on a previous visit but have not opened yet.

I have no idea what I will cook this weekend: I have blogged about things I am still eating, such as romanesco with gorgonzola, and black bread. I have cooked some things that were edible but not worth writing about. In my refrigerator I have several celery roots, parsnips, green garlic, baby bok choy, braising greens, eggs, milk and cheeses and sourdough starter. On the counter I have winter squash  (delicata and buttercup), seven tangerines and eleven oranges. We have potatoes in our potato bin and a couple of yams. Shall I make soup from one of the recipes I’ve saved, a celeriac version of Five Euro Foods’ Jerusalem artichoke soup or a sweet potato and carrot concoction inspired by Kat at Sensible Lessons? If I simply cook the artichokes in water with lemon and a garlic clove and we eat them with lemon and butter, what is there to blog about? We eat three meals a day. Sometimes I cook three meals a day. Sometimes we eat all leftovers for a few days: I shred cabbage on the mandoline and serve it with the last of my orange-tahini dressing and a couple of helpings of leftover romanesco with gorgonzola. My freezer is full of citrus peel to candy. There is plenty to cook and plenty to eat and yet…

The blues are still dogging me around, but January doesn’t care. Tulips bloom in profusion and a grower hauls them to market. The sun shines again although the morning temperatures require long underwear. I paint a picture of my tulips and most of my other Farmers’ Market finds. I acknowledge that January in the Bay Area is easier than January many places: we have no snow, no ice. This year we have little mud and rain. I have fingerless gloves and silk long underwear and cashmere sweaters for when the temperature dips. I have the radio for company, the Saturday folk music shows, my cat on the love seat, my mother in the next room watching T.V. I am healthy. I am counting my blessings for you and for me, but I am not convinced that I am blessed in the moment. Count the miracle of electricity that powers my computer and the wondrous WordPress templates that let me drop things into them. Count ears to hear. Count fingers to type. Count eyes to see the glorious colors at the market.

Try something. Okay. I made polenta croutons, which I have been wanting to make since I first saw them. I thought, “Make something fun.” I put in extra Parmesan because I like Parmesan and wanted to make sure I could taste it. I used polenta instead of cornmeal because they were called “polenta croutons.” Alas, the 1 tsp of cayenne overwhelmed the other flavors even with the extra cheese. I was not happy with them. I think I might have the kitchen equivalent of a “black thumb” today: if I had started with 1/4 tsp of cayenne I could have always bumped it up in a future batch, but I followed the recipe for the spice level.

I have run out of flour. Well, not exactly. “We” have run out of flour: I have some that I bought for a baking contract that I am carrying out for a friend, but we have run out of shared “household” flour. This morning I made sourdough waffles with the last 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour — I had to use cake flour and whole wheat flour to make the batter, which tasted frighteningly sour. I added another tablespoon of sugar. The waffles were fine once I had folded in the egg whites and baked them — just fine, though, not outstanding.

I make lemongrass tea. Not much of a recipe to that: cut up some fresh lemongrass. I slice it in rings from the root up toward the top of the stalk. One stalk makes a couple of large mugs of tea, plus a little more. I use one stalk of lemongrass to 3 cups of water. I put in a little minced fresh ginger for a little sweetness and a little kick. I let it simmer for awhile while I go do other things. Technically a tisane rather than a tea (there’s no “tea” in it) it is nice to drink when you want more hot fluids and can’t take anymore caffeine. I store what I don’t drink in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It’s good hot in the winter and cold in the summer. If you want it sweet, put a little honey in it or make simple syrup. Lemongrass is in season in northern California right now, part of the January bounty: it freezes well if you want to save some for later. January will pass. The food in the fridge will be eaten. Meanwhile, enjoy the tulips and make yourself a cup of tea or a lemongrass tisane.

Painting shows loaf of black bread and a few ingredients

Winter Bread. 12″ x 12″ gouache, watercolor and pencil. Sharyn DImmick

I am a water sign and a watercolor painter. I think about water. I love to swim in open water. I like to take hot baths. And I conserve water. On a blog which shall remain nameless I ran across the suggestion that leaving your sink faucet running while you chop onions will cause you to cry less. I ran to the comments field to beg all who read the post not to leave their water running. My friends in New Mexico and Colorado know not to waste water. People in Africa know not to waste water. Some of us don’t understand that potable water is a limited resource and we need to treat it as a limited resource. When you turn on the faucet, water comes out. For now. If you or your landlord or your parents or your roommates have paid the water bill. If you are lucky, you live in a place where the water is good, drinkable, not polluted. Where I live we have good water: it is soft. It tastes good right out of the tap.

Recently, I read another blog post, a wonderful round up of all the things you can do with citrus peel. You can candy it — I knew that. You can zest it. I knew that, too. You can compost it. Check. You can make it into cleaning products. But some people make citrus salts. And some people make liquor. And some people make flavored sugars. You should read the wonderful post yourself.

One of the reasons I loved this post so much is that it was full of lovely things to do with something that we often waste. And one of the reasons I like learning things people did in the past is that some people had some good ideas about how to use things fully. Citrus peel is a lovely thing, quite edible and useful. Water is a lovely thing, drinkable, useful and quite versatile. Please don’t waste it.

Now, it’s winter in the Northern hemisphere and winter has got me thinking about Northern people, perhaps some of your ancestors and mine. People who lived where it was cold. People who lived where crops were limited. Many of those people grew rye. Do you know where this is going? I am offering you some northern winter bread to go with your water. Perhaps you will make some citrus marmalade to spread on your bread where it will look like trapped sunshine. Just saying. Perhaps you will eat winter bread with summer’s blackberries or raspberries preserved in a jar, or your friend Carol’s boysenberry jam.

Anyway, this is winter bread. It is dark. It is hearty. It contains yeast and all manner of dark things: coffee, molasses, cocoa. Don’t get excited — it’s not sweet: it is winter bread and the holidays are over for now. You can eat chocolate bread on Valentine’s Day if you want to, but it is January and Heidi Swanson across the bay aka 101 Cookbooks posted a recipe for black bread, the stuff I call winter bread. Her recipe is even darker than mine because it includes the dark, bitter flavor of caraway seeds. Caraway is bitter enough that it should have made it into the bitter herbs for the Passover table. I passed on the caraway. Her recipe also has golden flecks of carrot in it. You might like that. I might like it, too, but I made winter bread without carrots or caraway this time around. You can make it, too.

Winter Bread, inspired by and adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Black Bread

Get out a 1 cup  glass liquid measuring cup. Put 3 Tbsp butter in it and microwave for about fifteen seconds. Empty butter into a large mixing bowl. It doesn’t have to be melted, but should be soft enough to slip out.

Now, measure 1/3 cup molasses into the same cup.

Pour it into the mixing bowl. It should slide right out. If it is recalcitrant, use a rubber scraper or a clean finger to help it along.

Take the greasy, sticky measuring cup and add 1/2 cup lukewarm water to it.

Dissolve 1 packet or 2 and 1/4 tsp active dry yeast in the water by whisking it with a fork. Set aside for now.

Add to your bowl of butter and molasses:

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp instant espresso powder diluted in 1/4 cup warm water

2 tsp kosher salt

Now add your proofed yeast to the bowl. Get it all: use a utensil or finger — fingers are truly useful in the kitchen.

Measure  1 and 1/3 cups rye flour. Add to your bowl

Measure 3 cups unbleached flour or bread flour into your bowl.

Have a cup of cool water at the ready, plus 1/4 cup flour for work surface, plus additional flour.

You can make this with a mixer with a dough hook. I do sometimes. But this time I hand-kneaded it: it was a new recipe. Rye flour takes a lot of kneading to make good bread and hand-kneading made it easier for me to make adjustments and keep track of how it was going.

First I stirred it. Then I mushed it with my hands. It was still pretty dry and shaggy with wet bits. Finally, I filled a cup with water like I’ve told you to do and spread 1/4 cup of flour on my bread board. Then I dumped the not-quite-bread-mass out on the board, added a little water with my fingers and started kneading. Do you know how to knead? It’s really folding the dough on itself and pushing it forward, letting the weight of the dough work on the dough, then repeating. Endlessly — it will seem that way the first time you knead a loaf of rye or whole wheat or sourdough: it can take awhile to work the proper amount of flour and water into your dough. If the dough will not pick up the flour from the board after several minutes, it is too dry — add some more water. If the dough is super-sticky and gloms onto the board, add flour by the tablespoon and work it after each addition: as you knead bread it tends to get drier and less sticky. You want it neither dry nor wet. It should feel sort of like your ear lobe. Touch it. Like that. Rye bread can take ten or twenty minutes to knead. It’s winter. Slow down. You can sing to yourself as you work: rhythmic songs are good: “I’m gonna WASH that MAN right OUTta my HAIR…”

When it’s done, butter or oil your mixing bowl, put the bread in it, cover with a warmed, dampened linen or smooth cotton dish towel and set it in a warm place to rise, for instance an oven that has been on “Warm” for a few minutes and then turned off. Or an oven with a pilot light. Or a pre-warmed clothes dryer.  Go away for at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half. When it has doubled in size, reward it by deflating it: push on it to let the air out. Form it into a rustic round and put it in a tart pan or on a baking sheet to rise again. Check it in half an hour. Preheat your oven to 425. Take a sharp knife and cut an “X” or cross in the top of your bread. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350. Check again in 25 minutes. Bread is done when it makes a nice sound when you thump it. No thump? Bake it some more.

Then you have to let it cool. I know, but if you cut it hot, the middle gets icky and soggy. So wait awhile. You have my permission to cut it warm — barely warm. Eat with unsalted butter. Or jam. Or marmalade. Dunk it in your soup. Get out the cheese. You know what to do.

Food Notes: Oh yeah — I added just a touch of orange juice and zest — I had half an orange sitting on the counter. You can use brewed coffee instead of instant espresso. Use whatever salt you like and adjust accordingly. For a completely different, lighter, sweeter rye that incorporates more citrus, try Swedish Rye Bread.

Painting Note: I’ve had the blues lately, so I decided to inventory my paints. I found I had a lot of ultramarine blue. As in four tubes. I had some other blues, too, so I made a tablecloth of blue stripes with blues straight out of the tube: starting at the left, the stripes go cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, violet and then repeat. The window frame is mostly cobalt. The glass has mauve pencil underneath the blue created by all of the pigments in the water.

painting depicts ingredients for Romanesco with Gorgonzola Over Pasta recipe

Romanesco. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

This week’s farm box included romanesco. Romanesco looks like cauliflower invented by Martians: it has points, spirals, triangular formations and it is often a stunning shade of neon green. You may not have eaten it: I would not have eaten it if I had not subscribed to Riverdog Farm in 2007.

Now, I’ll just tell you that I grew up eating cauliflower smothered with cheese sauce. I would have grown up not eating cauliflower smothered with cheese sauce if I could have managed it, but our family had rules, one of which is that you ate everything you were served. I did not make up this rule, but I had to live with it.

Part of my journey as a cook and as an adult has been to revisit foods I did not care for in my childhood. Some of them stay on the “Do not eat” list: avocado and asparagus have not made it to edible, much less pleasurable, and English peas require careful and judicious camouflage. I still will not eat cauliflower in pale orange cheese sauce, but I will eat it with a sauce featuring two of my favorite things: gorgonzola and cumin seeds.

The same farm that brought romanesco into my life brought me the recipe with which to cook it from the RiverNene CSA in England. I modified their ingredients list and then I modified their cooking method: what I have kept are a little butter, the cumin seeds, some milk and some gorgonzola, although not the quantities of each that I first saw. To get the most out of the creamy, cheesy sauce I like to serve it with pasta. I like whole wheat penne because the darker-colored pasta looks nice with the pale vegetable and sauce and has a nice chewy texture. That said, you could serve it on spinach pasta or tomato pasta for some color and you can eat it without pasta if you are counting carbs.

Romanesco with Gorgonzola over Pasta

Put your pasta water on to boil.

Cut or break your romanesco into florets.

Melt a little butter in a saucepan, perhaps 1 or 2 tablespoons

Fry 1 Tbsp cumin seeds in the butter until aromatic.

Stop the cooking by whisking in 2 Tbsp of flour

Then add some milk — start with 1/2 cup and have more at the ready.

Alternate stirring the sauce and breaking up some Gorgonzola to melt into the sauce. The cheese will help thicken the sauce. If it gets too thick, add a little more milk. If it is too thin, cook it down for awhile or add more cheese.

When your pasta water boils, throw in 1/2 pound of whole wheat penne.

After the pasta has cooked for ten minutes, add your broken or chopped romanesco to the pasta water. Cook for one minute and drain, letting the pasta water fall into a serving bowl to preheat it.

Transfer the sauce, pasta and romanesco to your (drained) serving bowl and stir so that everything gets coated with sauce. Eat while it is warm.

Food Notes: If you don’t have romanesco, you can make this with cauliflower, or even broccoli — it just won’t have the Martian atmosphere. Sometimes I add a few snipped sundried tomatoes into the sauce for the bright taste and the flecks of color: it is winter, after all. Regular pasta works, too. Sigh. The original recipe called for 2 Tbsp of brandy — if you are a brandy-swiller, go ahead and add it to the sauce: I’m sure it tastes delightful.

I like to serve this with a winter salad of raw spinach and sliced oranges. Sometimes I dress it with Orange-Sesame Vinaigrette. However, I had recently read about an orange-tahini dressing and wanted to see if I could put one together (I love tahini and January is a big citrus month). I started by juicing one orange, one Eureka lemon and two Meyer lemons. That yielded one half cup of juice, which I poured into my old Good Seasons cruet (Remember those? They are handy for salad dressings that don’t come in packets!) I added 3 Tbsp Tahini. I tasted it. Now what? I had on the counter some olive oil that I had used to cover roasted red bell peppers. The peppers went onto last night’s pizza, but the oil. I measured 2 Tbsp of the roasted red bell pepper oil. Mmm. That gave a nice roasty flavor. Gotta have salt: I put in 1/2 tsp Kosher salt. And garlic: I pressed 1 small clove of garlic. A little sweetness: in went 1 tsp honey. I thought about putting some cumin in it, but I kept it simple this time — there’s cumin in the romanesco sauce after all.

For a little more heft, I kneaded up a batch of black rye bread, basing it on a recipe by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. But I left out the carrots and the caraway and threw in a little orange juice and zest. It’s rising now: I’ll report on it on Wednesday (or not, if it is not worth writing about).

It’s still January, so they are still doing citrus recipes over at #citruslove. They are worth checking out if you like citrus or have a seasonal glut of it like we do.

painting depicts shrimp diablo and ingredients

Shrimp Diablo. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pigment. Sharyn Dimmick

I have a big binder of recipes that I have clipped from newspapers over many years. When I say, “big binder,” I mean I can’t lift it without both hands and I have been thinking about dividing it into two lately. My binder is loosely organized by main ingredient or type of food: for instance, there is an “Apple” section, but also a “Biscuits” section, “Pork,” but also “Pasta.”

Friday my Mom informed me that she had purchased some Gulf jumbo shrimp for Monday’s lunch. We don’t eat shrimp often because we don’t want to eat shrimp farmed in Thailand. Then she told me she wanted a recipe with a sauce and, of course, it needed to include ingredients we had on hand.

We had no open white wine, which lets out many recipes right there. We do have two bottles of open red, but I did not want to make that substitution in case Merlot was too strong for the shrimp. I took the “Shrimp” section out of the binder and handed her the recipes. “See what you think.”

After some discussion we settled upon Shrimp Diablo. The day she had bought shrimp I had bought a couple of grapefruit. Shrimp Diablo calls for tomatoes and grapefruit juice, dried and fresh chiles. I could use diced canned tomatoes as fresh tomato season is long past and I have always been curious about the effect of grapefruit juice in this dish.

Today I set to work. The first task was to find the New Mexican chiles. I found some expired New Mexican chili powder first and swept it into the garbage — the powder had disintegrated the cellophane packet and another plastic bag (I guess it was powerful in its day — either that or the packaging had been weakened by the New Mexico sun). I found another batch in a glass-stoppered jar (smarter) that had its full strength. Then, hiding on top of the refrigerator among the jars of tea and rice I found the dried chiles.

I put the chiles in a Pyrex bowl with water and nuked them for a minute, covered them with a plate and let them sit while I found the diced tomatoes, opened the can, peeled and sliced garlic, dug the small container of pickled jalapenos from the fridge. Mom said she was going to the store for sourdough bread. I asked her to please get some fresh cilantro.

Meanwhile I sliced five small scallions, measured out a cup of diced tomatoes, zested and juiced one grapefruit, drained the chiles. Then I put on a pot of water for pasta. Uncharacteristically I read the directions, which said to cook the pasta for twelve minutes. At the ten minute mark, Mom had not returned from the store, so I drained the pasta, reasoning that it could finish cooking in the sauce.

Then I peeled shrimp, reserving the shells in a small plastic container to freeze for future stock.

Eventually, Mom returned, bearing cilantro and bread. While I cooked the shrimp, she chopped cilantro and sliced bread and heated bowls. The resulting pasta was piquant, pleasantly hot, with a distinct grapefruit aftertaste. The sauce reminded me of cioppino and was great for soaking up with bread.

Shrimp Diablo (modified from a camping food recipe, originally published in the Contra Costa Times)

For four servings you will need a pound of jumbo shrimp and half a pound of whole wheat pasta. If you will not be satisfied with that quantity, go ahead and adjust the recipe for more pasta or more shrimp

Nuke 1 large dried red New Mexican chile in a glass bowl with a little water for one minute. Cover said chile with plate while you continue with the recipe.

Measure 1 cup diced tomatoes into your blender or food processor (or use 1 large tomato during tomato season).

Peek 5 cloves of garlic and slice or chop roughly. Add to tomatoes in blender

Mince 2 jalapenos or toss in 1 Tbsp of pickled jalapeno rings

Zest 1 grapefruit. Add zest to blender

Now juice the grapefruit (which should yield 1/2 cup juice) and set juice aside for now.

Slice 5 scallions into small pieces. Set aside

Peel 1 lb jumbo shrimp. De-vein if necessary.

Chop 1/3 cup cilantro and add it to blender

By now, your dried chile should be pliable. Tear it into small pieces and add to blender. Whir contents of blender to get a thick, chunky paste.

Put pasta water on to boil for 1/2 lb whole wheat penne

Now assemble next to your stove your tomato-pepper-garlic paste, your reserved juice, your reserved scallions, your peeled shrimp, some olive oil.

Get your pasta cooking before you make the shrimp and sauce, which only takes about five or six minutes.

Heat some olive oil in a good-sized skillet. When oil shimmers, cook the onion. Then add the shrimp and cook until just opaque.

Add the contents of blender and the reserved grapefruit juice. Cook until it simmers and add your drained pasta just until heated through.

Serve in bowls with some good sourdough bread for cleaning up the sauce.

Food Notes: If you don’t like spicy food, cut down on the chiles. If you don’t like chiles at all, skip this recipe. If you don’t like cilantro or are allergic to it, choose some benign herb of your liking. I can imagine tarragon or summer basil. Please make this with fresh grapefruit, which has an incomparable flavor that you just don’t get in a can or frozen. And, yes, you can make it with “regular” pasta, but I don’t know why you would, unless you are out of whole wheat.

By the way, my sister-in-law was here for lunch, just so you know that Mom and I did not eat two bowls apiece. We each had a bowl and there is a small bowl left with two lonely shrimp.

How ’bout that: fresh grapefruit juice and zest makes this fit for a little citruslove, the wonderful January blog hop. #citruslove. Go check out some more citrus recipes here.

Painting note: I did this painting with pigments and brushes only. No watercolor pencils for a change.

painting depicts meal of bread, soup and salad for January

January Feast. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

In January I crave greens. After the excesses of the winter holidays with their meat, squash, bread, potatoes and sweets, I want things sharp and bright-tasting while still needing warm dishes to chase away the chill. Thursday I cooked all day and hit upon that classic meal of soup, salad and bread.

I started with the oven on for Savoring Every Bite’s caramelized oranges and made some granola while I was at it, plus roasted a kabocha squash. Then I cleaned leeks and peeled potatoes for soup, scrubbing the potatoes first so that I could toss the peels and tough leek greens into a stock pot for vegetable stock. While that boiled, I sauteed 3 sliced leeks, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of minced ham and some crumbled dried rosemary (use fresh if you grow it) in 2 Tbsp butter. As that cooked I peeled and diced about 1 pound of yellow Finn potatoes and added them to the pan to brown a bit. I then covered them with a pint of chicken stock and four cups of water, covered the pot and let them cook. Then I got out the mandoline to shred Savoy cabbage — I shredded nearly half a head of cabbage and set the mandoline aside for another use later.

When the potatoes were tender I mashed some of them and left some chunks. The soup was a little watery, so I seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it continue to cook uncovered.

Meanwhile, I got out three small fennel bulbs, whacking off the stalks and fronds for the vegetable stock pot, along with the tough outer pieces. Then I cut each bulb in half and shredded it with the mandoline over a salad bowl. I scored the peel of 1 large navel orange into quarters, saving the peel to candy another day, and segmented the orange and sliced the segments, putting them into the bowl with the fennel. Then I took my remaining orange-sesame vinaigrette and poured it over the oranges and fennel and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.

I turned off the soup and let it sit (I added the cabbage ten minutes before reheating and serving it).

Then I turned my attention to bread, an orange-cumin yeast bread adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook. The warm oven from caramelized oranges, granola and roasted squash would help the bread rise. Here’s my modified recipe

Orange Cumin Bread

Juice and zest 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice)

Scald 1/2 cup milk and set off heat to cool.

Dissolve 2 packages active dry yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (or measure 4 and 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast).

Into large bowl of stand mixer, measure

1/2 cup sugar (any kind will do)

4 Tbsp corn oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp ground cumin, plus the scalded milk and the orange juice and zest.

1/2 cup warm water

Mix to combine and then add dissolved yeast. Mix again.

Now add 4 cups unbleached flour and

1 scant Tbsp kosher salt

Switch to dough hook, or knead by hand, remembering to knead for at least ten minutes to develop the gluten. This dough can be sticky so you may need to add a little extra flour a tablespoon at a time or keep flouring your kneading surface.

Put dough in large bowl (I use the same one I mixed in) greased with a little oil or vegetable shortening. Cover dough with damp smooth kitchen towel (I warm my towel in the microwave for twenty seconds) and set bowl in warm place to rise until double (about an hour). Punch down and let rise again until doubled (thirty minutes this time). Meanwhile grease two standard loaf pans.

When bread dough has risen for the second time, deflate it and shape into two loaves. Put loaves in prepared pans and let rise until dough is even with the edge of the pan. Fifteen minutes before it gets there, slash the dough with a sharp knife — I make two parallel diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf — and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for forty minutes, until crust is brown and tapped loaf sounds hollow. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Now you can heat up your soup, toss in the cabbage, take the salad from the fridge and feed some happy people.

Soup notes: Any kind of potatoes will do for this soup — just don’t use purple ones! If you are a vegetarian, omit the ham and chicken broth in the soup and prepare it with vegetable stock or milk and water. If you are an omnivore and don’t have ham on hand, you could substitute bacon or prosciutto. If you don’t have leeks, substitute onions. If you don’t have Savoy cabbage, use another kind — anything but red or purple which will give you an undesirable color.

Bread notes: Mark Miller’s recipe calls for dried milk and orange juice concentrate — I have adapted it to use whole foods instead. He also calls for starting with whole cumin seed, toasting it and grinding it. I have done this and it is good, but if your cumin is fresh or you can’t get cumin seed, you can just use ground cumin. If your cumin has been around for awhile, toast it in a dry skillet. This bread is light and wheaty: for a variation, try reversing the proportions of cornmeal and whole wheat flour. Like most breads with fruit in them, it makes excellent toast.

This month I am participating in citruslove, a glorious collection of seasonal citrus recipes, #citruslove. Check ‘em out here at the bottom of the post. Click on Linky tools there to see all the submissions.

painting of tangerine curd and ingredients

Tangerine Curd. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

It’s tangerine season and that means tangerine curd. Riverdog Farm delivers pounds of mandarins and oranges each week. Because I have a contract baking/barter arrangement right now with my friend C., who brought me to music camp, I offered her some curd. She wanted eight jars. Eight jars! See Sharyn scurrying around the garage, looking for empty jars of an appropriate size. See Sharyn buying three dozen eggs at Trader Joe’s. See Sharyn topping a couple of those jars with plastic wrap and rubber bands because good lids were wanting. See Sharyn making angel food cake from scratch to use those first twelve egg whites.

Now, I had on hand eight organically grown tangerines from the farm and eight tangerines of unknown provenance from Safeway. Using the blood orange curd recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts for proportions, I made my first batch with the eight organic tangerines, 18 tablespoons of butter, a dozen egg yolks, plus three whole eggs, 3/4 cup sugar and the juice of three Meyer lemons. This yielded nearly two cups of juice and five jars of tangerine curd. Then I made a second batch with Safeway tangerines. They only yielded a little over a half cup of juice. I added Meyer lemon juice to get to a cup and followed the recipe as written, except for using tangerines instead of blood oranges. The lesson? Different tangerines will yield different amounts of juice — either buy organic ones or get a few extra in case your juice is too scant. The second recipe yielded three small jars of curd.

Tangerine Curd (adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts)

Zest, then juice 4 tangerines to yield 7 Tbsp juice (have a few back-up tangerines in case yours are dry)

Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice (I juiced 1 Meyer lemon)

Separate 4 eggs and reserve whites for another use.

Whisk 4 egg yolks and one whole egg with 1/4 cup sugar in a non-reactive sauce pan.

Add juice and zest.

Cut 6 Tbsp unsalted butter into small pieces and add to saucepan.

Bring to low-medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until curd coats the spoon. Hint, draw a clean finger through the curd on the spoon — if the track remains clear, the curd is done.

Pour curd into clean glass jars (I washed my jars and lids and boiled them in a water bath before filling them).

This recipe will yield three small jars. Cool and store in refrigerator. The curd will keep for one-to-two weeks. It is good on rye toast or as a cake filling. Or, you might do as my friend Bob suggested and make a tangerine meringue pie. If you want to use curd as a pie filling, Lindsey Shere suggests that you mix 1/4 tsp cornstarch with the sugar before you make the curd — apparently, it helps the curd hold together under oven heat.

Now, remember I made a triple batch the first time and had a dozen egg whites leftover: the simplest thing was to use them to make an angel food cake, delicious with curd. I had not made an angel food cake from scratch since I was a teenager, but I saw no reason not to attempt it. My trusty Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook offered not one but two options for homemade angel food. I chose option two, which contained confectioner’s sugar and seemed to skirt the possibility of being grainy. I got out my whisk, tube pan, metal utensils, beaters, scrubbed and dried them all, got down the cake flour and confectioner’s sugar and set to work. The recipe said to sift the flour and sugar together three times. Uh-huh. Right. Instead, I sifted them each once into a mixing bowl and used my whisk to blend them. Then I beat egg whites, added sugar, beat them again until they nearly overflowed the mixing bowl. I then followed the instruction to sift the sugar and flour over the top of the egg whites. I found this to be quite tedious, perhaps because our sifter is sixty years old and cranky, or perhaps because I really don’t like to sift, just as my mother does not like to stir. What the recipe should have said was to sift some of the mixture on top of the egg whites, fold it in, sift some more, because if you do it all at once you then have a difficult job of folding the mixture into the egg whites because you have no room left in your bowl. I got the job done, however. The other hard part is scraping the batter into the tube pan with a metal spatula. It is much easier to scrape things with a rubber scraper, but verboten for egg whites.

The reward for all of this excess and troublesome labor was a good-tasting cake with none of the odd flavors that show up in commercial angel food cakes or mixes. The cake tastes purely of vanilla and sugar and has a moister texture than you would expect. Mom says I didn’t beat the egg whites enough, but I thought the moist texture was gorgeous.

Here is the amended recipe from Betty Crocker

Angel Food De Luxe (sic)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together 1 cup sifted Softasilk cake flour and 1 and 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Beat 12 egg whites with 1 scant teaspoon of cream of tartar and 1/4 tsp salt until foamy.

Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 Tbsp at a time, while continuing to beat egg whites.

Beat to stiff peaks and fold in 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Sift 1/4 of the flour sugar mixture over the meringue and fold in. Repeat until all flour and sugar are incorporated.

Using only clean, dry metal utensils, transfer cake to waiting ungreased, unfloured 10 x 4 tube pan. Level cake gently with metal spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until top springs back when gently pressed with finger.

Set tube pan on top of glass or plastic bottle (I used a ketchup bottle) and cool completely before unmolding. Use table knife to loosen edges. Eat with curd or plain. Yum.

P.S. When the comments started to come in, people suggested that angel food cake was a North American dessert. I didn’t know that. Now I do. I consulted Granny Wise and she’s written up a history of angel food cake for you.

painting depicts salad, varierty of citrus fruits.

Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

What do we eat in January? The reds of the summer and late fall have given way to orange and green. Citrus is pouring in from the farm box, from the market, from my sister-in-law’s orange tree. Lemons and limes are ripening in the yard. This week’s box from Riverdog Farm featured a red Kabocha squash (which is a deep shade of reddish-orange), two pounds of oranges, one and a half pounds of mandarin oranges, a couple of leeks, rapini, spinach, two celery roots and a pound and a half of potatoes.

First up, I stir-fried the rapini in olive oil with garlic and squeezed a lemon over that. We ate it with roasted delicata squash seasoned with ginger, lime and an apple cider reduction made from the last of a bottle of cider. We had a slice of heated up ham, which Mom splashed a little maple syrup on at the last minute. We each ate a slice of homemade whole wheat bread. I peeled a tangerine for dessert and Mom cut half an orange into quarters. I watched as her face puckered and volunteered to use the other half of the orange in salad dressing tomorrow.

I first saw this vinaigrette recipe in the farm newsletter, where it was reprinted from the Sun-Times. I have adapted it to use a variety of citrus and I’ll make it from now until citrus fruits fade out in the spring to be replaced by strawberries. While the original recipe called for canola or safflower oil I like to use peanut oil, which goes well with the Asian flavors of ginger, sesame, rice vinegar and tamari.

Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

Juice and zest 1 orange or 2 tangerines or 2 blood oranges or any combination into a bowl, bottle or cruet.

Add

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp tamari

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp honey

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1/2 tsp kosher salt

black pepper to taste

minced chives, scallions or green garlic, depending on what you have

Whisk in

1/4 cup peanut oil (or add it to jar and shake vigorously).

Toast

2 Tbsp sesame seeds in a skillet

Now, make a salad of winter greens: spinach, arugula, lettuce, watercress — whatever you can get. If you can’t get fresh greens, you can slice up napa cabbage on a mandoline. Add slivered carrots, cabbage, sliced fennel, radishes. Throw in roasted peanuts or almonds if you like. Segment your favorite citrus fruits. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and reserved sesame seeds.

Food notes: You can also eat this vinaigrette on cooked greens or Brussels sprouts. If you are allergic to peanut oil, substitute another oil that you like. Tamari is a wheat-free soy sauce, not as salty as standard soy sauce.

Painting note: This painting is a little blurry because it is a photo of a photo — the original is in a private collection and is more vivid and well-defined.

January is citruslove month. Which makes sense in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate. There is a citrus love recipe posting project. The hash tag is #citruslove. More about it here.

Now, Lauren of PrinceProductions has kindly awarded me another blogging award, Food Bloggers Uncovered, just to make sure I start the New Year off right. She posted ten questions to answer:

1.   What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

After struggling mightily over how to launch a website and what would be on it, I was talking to my friend Neola and she said, “Why don’t you just write about food? You could write about what vegetables you get and what you do with them.” Neola knows I am passionate about seasonal eating, that it actually pains me to see recipes containing basil and tomatoes in January.

2.   Who is your foodie inspiration?

I have had the good fortune to eat at Greens in San Francisco, at Chez Panisse and Ajanta in Berkeley, and at Joseph’s Table and The Love Apple in Taos, New Mexico. The chefs at those restaurants, Alice Waters, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and Michael Pollan’s books have influenced me mightily. The produce from Riverdog Farm has forced me to stretch my cooking muscles, and increase my versatility and look for ways to render a variety of greens delicious.

3.   Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?

The old Betty Crocker Picture cookbook, which is where I go when I have a question about anything basic (substitutions, cooking methods, standard dishes). I like it that it has tabbed sections for yeast breads and pies as well as main dishes, meat, poultry. Read more about the cookbooks I use the most here.

4.   Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

It would have to be in Paris in the winter where I ate coquilles St. Jacques, a poached pear and the best white bordeaux I have ever tasted, perfectly matched to the food.

5.   Another food bloggers table you’d like to eat at is?

I would like to dine with Susan Nye when she is cooking lobster, dine with anyone who likes to cook lamb, sit down to an Italian meal with John of the Bartolini Kitchens. Greg of Rufus’ Food  and Spirits Guide can make the pre-dinner cocktails and perhaps the bread pudding and you can all submit selections for the dessert cart. Are you listening, Linda? Get out the cheesecake! And I want to know what Christine of Angry Cherry is baking as well. Sally can bring the bread.

 6.   What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

We have a KitchenAid, but I would like the heavier-duty model, please.

7.   Who taught you how to cook?

Mom taught me the basics, including the pie crust, and then I started collecting recipes and techniques and ideas wherever I found them: learned to cook a few Indian and Thai dishes from college roommates, copied flavors I had had in restaurants, watched people cook on T.V., and read lots and lots of cookbooks.

8.   I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?

It depends on the season. Turkey and apple stew, perhaps, or posole (without the kale!). Served with home-baked bread and a simple pudding or pie. Or green curry of anything. Or something Indian served with cucumber raita, whole wheat tortillas and chutney: chicken biryani or Indian-style black-eyed peas from the Ajanta cookbook.

9.   What is your guilty food pleasure?

My secret love of these processed foods: Cheez-Its (original flavor), barbecue chips, and Golden Grahams, which they might as well call candy.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I refuse to eat a number of common foods: mayonnaise (I don’t care who makes it or if you call it “aioli”), avocado, hard-cooked eggs, most organ meats, tuna. I also refuse a number of delicacies: pate, sushi, oysters, caviar, Brie.

Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on.

No, no. We live in a democracy. Take it upon yourselves to answer these questions, or tell your friends about them. Alright, I nominate Granny Wise of Granny’s Parlour because I want to hear how she answers the questions. Who else? You know my favorites already. There’s Eva and Betsy and John, who doubtless have all been nominated for this before. I know, let’s give another award to Jane at ArtEpicurean. Done.

Painting of kitchen on stormy night.

Mad Scientist’s Crackers. 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick.

On the eve of leaving for a five-day sojourn at music camp north of Santa Rosa I was in the kitchen cooking up some snacks. I went to the kitchen armed with Fifteen Spatulas’ recipe for cheese crisps and Bits and Breadcrumbs’ recipe for spicy roasted almonds. I ran into a problem with Joanne’s recipe because it called for eight ounces of cheese. I realized I didn’t know whether she meant to start with an eight ounce package of cheese by weight or to use one cup, a volume measurement, considerably less cheese.  I didn’t want to open a package of cheese — I wanted to use the odds and ends I had lying about, which meant that any measurement at all would be a rough measure. I did take from Joanne’s recipe the instruction to include a cup of crisp rice cereal. I did not, however, want to use 7 Tablespoons of butter and leave the lonely 8th out of the picture. In a fit of after Christmas nutritional penitence. I was willing to use butter and cheese, but I did not want to use a lot of white flour, both for my own health and that of my music friends, so I decided to combine some rye flour, some whole wheat flour and just a tablespoon or two of white flour to make sure I got a crisp result. I took my flour to fat ratio from our famous pie crust recipe: three to one. That meant with one half cup of butter I would need one and a half cups of flour. Since I was adding rice cereal, I scanted the cup slightly. I added salt as directed and substituted hot paprika for cayenne to tone down the spiciness a bit to serve the varying tastes of several people. Then, on a whim, I cut up about a quarter cup of dried tomatoes (just tomatoes that I had dried in my dehydrator) and nuked them with a little water. Our pie crust recipe calls for water and vinegar, so I reasoned that the small amount of tomato liquid would not be a problem.

My cheese selection was the end of a package of white extra sharp cheddar, about an inch-long piece of Cotswold cheese, some leftover blue cheese dip (primarily blue cheese and yogurt) and some fresh grated Parmesan. I would guess that came to about four ounces of cheese or five.

I then floured a cloth and rolling pin with white flour, rolled the cheese cracker dough as thinly as I could and cut it with crinkle-edged round biscuit cutters. I re-rolled the scraps into another batch and then made scrap crackers from the second trimmings by patting them into vague cracker shapes. I baked the trays of crackers in a preheated 350 oven for about fifteen minutes a batch, removing them as soon as I saw browning on the edges, and letting them cool completely on the sheets.

The crackers were delicious.

I then turned the oven down by twenty-five degrees to 325 and nearly managed to follow Betsy’s recipe for the almonds, including her optional orange zest.  The only change I made was to rub some olive oil on the baking sheet since I do not keep cooking spray of any kind. The almonds proved delicious and I did not come home from camp with any left. I will make them again for sure. I might reduce the sugar by a tablespoon — it seemed like I had more sugar-y goo than I strictly needed. I might also try them with lemon zest instead of orange, just for a variation.

I can’t provide you with an exact recipe for the Mad Scientist crackers — it is the method of mad scientists to be inexact and well, not scientific, except in the sense of inquiry: “I wonder what will happen if I do this.” I will provide you with an approximation — mess with it to your heart’s content: as long as you keep the flour to fat to cheese ratio fairly constant, you should get something you like.

Mad Scientist Cheese Crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Toast 1 cup of Rice Krispies for a few minutes on a baking sheet (unless you happen to be opening a brand new box of cereal). Set aside

Measure 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup rye flour into a one-cup dry measure.

Add unbleached flour until you have a scant cup of mixed flours, something over 7/8 cup and under 1 cup — you know, a cup where you are a little sloppy.

Add 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp paprika

Cut in 1 stick (4 oz) of butter.

Cut some sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces: I used 1/4 cup. If they are home-dried or not packed in oil, cover them with water and nuke them for one minute in the microwave. If you have no microwave, you can hydrate them in plain warm water — it just takes longer.

Add tomatoes to dough.

Add odds and ends of cheese to the dough — I used cheddar, Cotswold, Parmesan and some leftover blue cheese dip, 4 or 5 ounces total, grated.

Add reserved Rice Krispies and mix until just combined.

Flour a cloth or a board. Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick (We always think thinner is better). Cut crackers with cookie cutters, biscuit cutters or the edge of a glass. Re-roll scraps into another batch. Push second scraps into vaguely cracker-like shapes. Place crackers on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until edges are beginning to brown. Let crackers cool completely on sheets and then transfer crackers to an airtight container. If your container is not airtight, your crackers will lose crispness, but you are probably going to eat them fast anyway.

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