Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Breakfast..Spiced French Toast!

I love waking up on Sunday and heading straight for my favorite spot in the house, the kitchen. I get the water boiling, grind some shade grown coffee, (my weekend treat), and start cooking. The pace is leisurely while the low winter sun crawls in through the windows, bumping into the steam from our mugs. The whole wheat bread leftover from baking our "slider buns" earlier in the week, spends it's last morning here on earth dunked in spiced egg and milk, and pan fried to golden brown. Seven stars biodynamic yogurt, coconut, seeds and honey will force your fork into the first bite before you even reach the table. I love the weekends!

Spiced French Toast:
*4-6 thick slices of high quality bread
*2 fresh eggs
*generous splash of cream or whole milk
*pinch ground cinnamon
*pinch ground clove
*1 cardamom pod, finely grated
*dollop almond extract
*splash vanilla

Mix the eggs, milk, spices, vanilla, and almond extract together in a medium bowl. Set a large cast iron pan over medium heat with a bit of butter. Dunk the bread slices in egg mixture one at a time flipping a few times to fully saturate. Cook each side to golden brown. Continue with remaining slices. Cut on the diagonal, arrange on a plate and top with plain yogurt, nuts, seeds, flaked coconut, and drizzled honey. Linger over your last's the weekend!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Potato Leek Soup!

Okay, how about another soup recipe with a side of foodie philosophy?

I have always tried to strike a balance between my fondness for the "food experience" and my health, and truly, it hasn't been that difficult. In fact, the two go quite well together despite common misconceptions. This is not to say there haven't been plenty of occasions where I happily drilled fried oysters while visiting the coast, splurged on overly expensive cheese, or had one too many glasses of wine, and most likely I will continue to do things of this nature on occasion. What keeps me in check overall however, is my love for cooking and eating fresh meals at home and a desire to source high quality ingredients. I've tossed dogmas to the side and opted for something simpler. . . no processed stuff, just real food. I find that being mindful most of the time gives me a pretty good margin for error.

I was struck by this month's Food and Wine magazine's letter from the editor. It explored the publication over the course of time, and declared this a new era, one of a healthier attitude. I was so thrilled to see a magazine such as this, (sometimes known for it's decadence), combining it's commitment to fine food and enjoyment with more of a lean toward health consciousness. Really it could have been done long ago, but now is the time when it will undoubtedly be well received.

This is a new era indeed. People are interested in eating healthy food, and that doesn't mean it has to be appealing only to a rabbit. Healthy is finally being recognized as what it can be: tantalizing, comforting, innovative, well sourced, beautiful and simplistic. I commend a magazine such as Food and Wine, for broadening it's horizons. Turns out there is a whole world out there beyond cheese, pasta and cream....not that we will forget about these!

On to the recipe! I'm just going to say it, this soup ROCKS! I'm not really sure why I've posted any other soup recipes other than this one? Please make it! You will be so glad you did!

Potato Leek Soup:
*3 leeks
*5 medium gold potatoes, chopped
*3 generous Tbsp butter, or I could just say 4 Tbsp
*3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
*2 celery stalks, chopped
*4 cups water
*2 bay leaves
*salt and pepper to taste
*splash of cream or half and half

Chop leeks using only the white and pale green portions. In a heavy soup pot, saute for about 5 minutes. Add the celery, saute for 4 minutes or so. Add the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir.

Add the potatoes, water, and bay leaves. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat and simmer covered until potatoes are tender and flavors marry, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Discard bay leaves. Add the splash of cream. Stir. Blend 2 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth and return to pot. Reheat, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Local Bison Sliders with Homemade Buns!

What could be more American than a burger and fries? How about a burger made with America's native, once prolific, free roaming bison and locally grown baked gold potato wedges? Add today's trend, turning burgers into bite sized "sliders", and you've got yourself something
to. . . well. . . blog about!

I am very excited to discover my local bison farm, Carolina Bison, owned and operated by local physician Dr. King and his family, (advocates of organic farming practices and homeopathic medicine).

Bison meat contains less fat and cholesterol than equivalent portions of beef, turkey, pork, lamb, chicken and even some varieties of fish. The taste is far from gamy, instead subtle and packed with flavor. When you eat meat this high quality, a small amount fully satisfies!

Homemade whole wheat buns, pesto mayo and grainy mustard join in. If everyone could have had a bite of tonight's meal, we may have collectively experienced a moment of world peace!

Bison Sliders:
*1/2 pound fresh ground bison
*1 tbsp minced onion
*1 tsp mustard
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
*fresh ground pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, taking care not to over mix. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat. Form bison mixture into small patties (should make about 5) and sear on each side until desired doneness...I recommend medium rare. Remove from heat, and serve with favorite toppings on fresh mini buns-see last paragraph....

Whole Wheat Slider Buns: (makes about 10 buns and 1 loaf of bread as well)
*2 cups lukewarm water
*1 pkg active dry yeast
*1 Tbsp honey
*1 Tbsp salt
*3 cups organic all purpose flour plus more fore kneading
*2-2 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine water with yeast and honey. Allow to proof for about 10 minutes. Begin adding flour to the bowl one cup at a time, mixing as you go. Add salt after adding the 5th cup. Turn the sticky dough out onto a generously floured surface. Knead for 15 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed.
Place dough in a large clean bowl, coated with olive oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down risen dough and divide in half.

Form one half dough into a thick log shape and place in a greased bread pan. Smooth over with flour and lightly score the surface of the bread with a sharp knife. Divide the other half of dough into about 10 pieces, and roll into balls. Coat in flour, divide between 2 lined baking sheets and lightly score surface of each roll. Cover loaf and rolls and allow to rise again for about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450.
Bake rolls at 450 for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 375, and bake until golden about 15 more minutes. For loaf, bake at 450 for 15 minutes before reducing heat to 375, and baking until dark gold in color, about 40 minutes.

Slice rolls and smear with pesto mayonnaise (1 Tbsp pesto to 1 Tbsp mayo), shredded lettuce and grainy mustard. Enjoy with baked gold potato wedges and a big salad!

*The buns/rolls can bake first. Leave the oven at 375 afterwards to bake your potatoes. Meanwhile, you can make the burgers, and begin eating right after you put the loaf in. Cool loaf completely
before storing.

Roasted Fennel and Beet Salad!

Beets and fennel seem to relish each other's company in this simple arrangement.
Quick, eye catching, a delight to eat!

Roasted Fennel and Beet Salad:
*1 fennel bulb, rinsed and sliced thin
*1 red beet, peeled, sliced thin
*1 gold beet, peeled, sliced thin
*1 tsp fennel leaves, chopped
*1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
*1/8 cup olive oil
*1 garlic clove, pressed
*sea salt and pepper
*1/2 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 375. Place beets and fennel upright on a cutting board and slice thin from top to bottom. Place on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with a small amount olive oil and roast about 15 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile mix olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and honey in a jar with a lid. Shake. Adjust seasonings.
Remove beets and fennel from oven, arrange on a serving plate, alternating the colors, and drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with fresh fennel leaves and serve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Caesar Salad With Purple Sweet Potatoes and Rustic Croutons.

The key to good Caesar salad lies within the dressing. I find the store bought versions to be heavy and strangely cheesy. Fresh lemon and salty anchovies combine forces to give you a whole new appreciation for this classic composition. Purple sweet potatoes and crunchy croutons top it all off.

Caesar Dressing:
*3 garlic cloves
*1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
*5 anchovy fillets
*juice from 1 lemon
*1/4 cup olive oil
*1 tsp. Worcestershire
*salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Set aside.

Rustic Croutons:
*2 slices thick bread, cubed
*1 Tbsp olive oil
*1 garlic clove, pressed
*pinch of chopped rosemary
*salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add cubes of bread. Transfer to a small baking sheet and bake or broil, stirring occasionally until brown and crisp.

Purple Sweet Potatoes:
*4 purple sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
*olive oil for drizzling
*salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place sweet potatoes on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with hands, and bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Cool.

Caesar Salad:
*1 head romaine lettuce, chopped and rinsed, and dried
*small block aged Parmesan Reggiano
*Caesar dressing
*sweet potato wedges

In a large bowl, toss romaine with just enough of the dressing to coat. Divide onto plates. Top with sweet potatoes, croutons, and Parmesan shavings. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Split Pea Soup!

These tiny split peas love an opportunity to wear their soup costume! Something about this subtle green dish reminds me of a familiar childhood bedtime story, gently calming and soothing.
Carrots offer a supporting role, in addition to some fresh parsley, gold potatoes and radish garnish. Ladle yourself a bowlful, sink into a cozy chair, and unwind!

Split Pea Soup:
*2 cups dry split peas, soaked overnight
*5 cups stock
*1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
*2 carrots chopped
*3 stalks celery, chopped
*1 gold potato, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*2 bay leaves
*2 Tbsp butter
*sea salt and pepper
*fresh parsley and sliced radishes for garnish

In heavy soup pot, saute onion, carrot and celery in butter over medium heat. Add garlic, potato, and bay leaves. Strain split peas and rinse. Add to pot with stock. Lightly salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until peas are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Add slices of fresh chopped radish and serve.

*Split peas are a dense source of dietary fiber and protein. They also offer vitamins B5, B1, B9 and iron.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Poached Eggs with Stewed Okra, Pole Beans and Quinoa.

With our Fedco seed order tantalizing me
with thoughts of the approaching growing season, I figure it's time to use up what's in the freezer. This evening's menu: stewed okra, Kentucky wonder pole beans, quinoa.....and a stroll out to the chicken coop for some fresh eggs. The result, an even deeper itch to get into the garden. Until then, another great meal to savor.

Poached Eggs:
*2-4 very fresh eggs
*2 Tbsp white vinegar
*large pot 3/4 full of water

Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat until water is gently simmering. Add vinegar. Crack eggs one at a time and slowly drop into the water using a wooden spoon to fold the white over the yolk. Repeat with remaining eggs. Cook for about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove eggs from cooking water and submerge in a bowl of cool water briefly, before serving.

*For more on poaching, refer to Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". She explores egg preparation with priceless detailed instruction.*

*I will post the recipe for fresh stewed okra this summer. Meanwhile, you can serve poached eggs over almost anything. Try them with any of your frozen or fresh garden veggies, some wilted greens, and a whole grain (brown rice, grits, quinoa, amaranth, or millet)- and of course some sauteed onion and garlic.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Faves....

There are some things this girl in an apron cannot do without. Here are some of my top favorite kitchen staples......oh so good!

In order from top left to right:

1. Flower of the Ocean Celtic Sea Salt- once you try this you will never go back to regular table salt. Celtic Sea Salt is distributed right here in WNC by the Grain and Salt Society.
2. Avocado- to be such a fan of local/seasonal eating, avocados are my total's worth it!
3. Carrots- most dishes, from stir-frys to soups benefit from this amazing, sweet root.
4. Our Daily Red Organic Table Wine- at $8.50/bottle, organic & sulfate free, and super delicious, It pays to always have it around.
5. Miso Master Miso Paste- great for miso soup or added to sauteed veggies as a nutritious flavoring. Produced right here in town! Don't worry, miso is fermented soy, making it a whole different beast than non-fermented soy products. The phytic acid is neutralized during fermentation, and consuming fermented foods promotes friendly intestinal flora, aiding digestion!
6. Lusty Monk Original Sin Mustard- like no other mustard! Brilliantly crafted here in Asheville, available at our local groceries in the refrigerated section, and at Farmer's Market. It really packs some heat!
7. Garlic- I go through at least 3-4 cloves per day. My friends the Haney's used to say, 1 clove per person per dish. It never fails.
8. Bubbies Sauerkraut- Very good with meat dishes or as a little afternoon nibble. Kicks sugar cravings to the curb in a hurry! Kraut is another fermented "live" food promoting good bacteria in the body.
9. Flat Leaf Italian Parsley- I've never figured out what the curly stuff is for?
10. Celery- an absolute must. Makes everything flavorful, from stocks and soups to sauces and sautes.
11. Lemon- lemon zest is the secret ingredient in anything that seems like it's missing something. Combine lemon with garlic, butter and sea salt, and it makes anything taste good.
12. Ginger Root- love it steeped in hot water for sipping or in marinades and stir-frys.
13. Loose Organic Green Tea- every day begins with a mugful!

Share yours.....

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Turnips With White Miso.

I know, just mentioning turnips conjures up images from the Great Depression or implications of eating something nasty for the sake of health. But hopefully by now, you know I won't steer you in that direction. Turns out, turnips are very tasty. They're mild and creamy when cooked. A friend of mine told me how she sautes them in butter and adds a bit of white miso.
I tried it. And it was successful. Even my 1 year old nephew had a bite....and liked it. Plus, turnips are very high in vitamin C, something we all benefit from in the winter cold!

Turnips with White Miso and Kale:

*1 large turnip or two medium sized turnips, peeled and chopped
*1/2 cup sweet onion, sliced thin
*2 Tbsp butter
*2 Tbsp organic white miso paste
*1/2 cup water
*1 bunch green kale, rinsed and chopped
*1 clove garlic, minced

Saute turnips and onion in butter over medium heat. Periodically stir and add splashes of water. Once turnips begin to brown and soften, turn heat to med low. Cook until soft. Add 1 Tbsp miso paste to 1 Tbsp water and mix. Pour over turnips. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. In the same pan, heat a touch more butter or olive oil and wilt kale with the garlic, about 1 minute. Repeat mixing 1 Tbsp miso with 1 Tbsp water and pour over kale. Stir and remove from heat. Toss kale with turnips. We had this with broiled salmon served over top.

P.S. If you're not into miso, just saute in butter or olive oil, with garlic, onion sea salt and pepper. Delicious!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pesto Noodles with Mustard Greens and Free Range Turkey.

In the winter months, eating dishes with vibrant greens seems to lighten the mood. The mustard greens in this dish are high in vitamin A and K, as well as iron, zinc, chromium and selenium; healthy elements taken up from the soil.
Whole brown rice noodles also make this dish a bit lighter. Plus, with 1.88 pounds of bone in free-range turkey costing me only $3.50, my wallet did not have to suffer. Buying meat this way is a steal, given how wonderful the bones are for stocks!
Put the turkey in about an hour before cooking, and the rest only takes about 20 minutes.

Pesto Noodles with Mustard Greens and Free Range Turkey:
Serves 4
*2 free-range turkey legs
*1 package Tinkyada fettucini style whole brown rice pasta
*4 Tbsp. basil pesto
*1 bunch fresh mustard greens, washed and chopped
*1 Tbsp butter
*1 large carrot, chopped
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1/3 cup frozen organic peas
*sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Rinse and dry turkey. Place on baking sheet with the chopped carrots. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake until cooked through, about 1-1.5 hours. Remove from oven and cool. Chop the roasted carrots into smaller pieces. Set aside. Remove the meat from bones and set aside. Reserve bones for stock.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add brown rice pasta. Cook until just tender about 3 minutes. Strain.

Wilt chopped mustard with the garlic and 1 Tbsp butter in a medium skillet, about 1 minute. Add peas after removing from heat.
Toss pasta with pesto, carrots, mustard greens, peas and the turkey meat. Salt and pepper to taste.

*Note: If you don't have pesto in your freezer, you can skip it and toss noodles with a bit of high quality butter or olive oil, some lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper. You can also easily leave out the turkey for a vegetarian option.
One more thing....dark turkey meat is a bit more nutrient dense than the white meat options, with higher concentrations of vitamins B6, B12, riboflavin (a water soluble B vitamin that must be replenished daily), iron, zinc, selenium, folate, and thiamine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Poached Pears!

It sounds fancy, but really it's about the easiest dessert out there. Served warm right out of the spiced poaching syrup, you won't mind it's still cold outside.

Poached Pears:
*2-3 Pears
*4 cups water
*generous pinch of cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick
*generous pinch of ground clove, or 5 whole cloves
*splash of high quality vanilla
*3/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
*2 oz 80-100% dark chocolate

Combine water, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and sugar in a medium saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Peel pears, leaving stems in tact. Slice a small portion off the bottom so they sit upright when served. Place in the poaching syrup and very gently poach until tender (make sure not to over cook), about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the syrup.
Remove pears from syrup, and dry off with a towel. Place upright on a plate. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler and drizzle over top of the pears. Allow to cool slightly and serve.

*Variations: Add 2 cups red wine in place of 2 cups of the water for poaching syrup.
You can skip the chocolate step and serve as is or with a bit of the syrup spooned over top.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Meal's Story....Local Grass Fed Beef!

Established white pines line the long drive leading up to the self serve farm store at Red Tail Ridge Farm, a short walk away from my house. Inside are 2 large chest freezers, one with various cuts of grass fed beef and the other pastured pork. There is a chart to help you decide which cuts are which, and a price list. That's it. Pick your cuts, put money in the box and wave goodbye to the free roaming chickens on the way out.
I cherish the fact that I can do this. The meat is lovingly raised and the experience of buying food from my neighbor helps create a story behind my meal. A story that comes back to me as I prepare the beef and sit down to eat. This serves as a reminder that food is so much more than vitamins and minerals. Food is an experience, and this is, if anything, what stands to nourish us most.

Grass Fed NY Strip Steak Salad with Goat Cheese and Cherries:
*1/2 lb grass fed NY Strip
*4 oz washed fresh spinach
*2 Tbsp goat cheese
*3 Tbsp pecans, toasted and chopped
*2 Tbsp dried tart cherries

Grapefruit Balsamic Dressing:
*1/4 cup olive oil
*1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
*1 large garlic clove, pressed
*1/8 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
*1 tsp honey
*sea salt and pepper

Shake all ingredients together in a jar with a lid. Taste and adjust seasonings.

For Salad: Serves 2
Rinse and dry steak. Salt and pepper both sides. Sear in a heavy skillet until medium rare, about 7 minutes per side. Allow to rest before slicing into thin strips.
Place spinach in a large bowl, (I was able to find local spinach from Jake's Farm in Candler, NC!). Add enough dressing to coat. Toss. Divide spinach onto two plates, and sprinkle with goat cheese, pecans, cherries and then the steak slices. Take a moment to remember your meal's story.

The End....