Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Oh, Fiddle(head)!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A plateful of fiddlehead ferns is the ultimate in local and seasonal food. I have a nice stand of ferns, especially thriving this year’s  cool, damp-enough spring. Last evening, I broke off as many of the cobra-headed spirals as I could find.  It came to about three cups of trimmed fiddleheads, all about the size of a quarter:

The harvest came to about three cups of trimmed fiddleheads. They have to be rinsed several times to get rid of the grit.

Blot the curls dry and then saute in a little butter.

And get out the forks!

 

 

Epiphany!

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Today, January 6th, is the 12th day of Christmas, celebrated as the day the Three Kings, the Magi, brought gifts to the infant Jesus and his parents.

The word epiphany has come to mean, as well, remarkable meaning from a common occurrence.  It can be as simple as sharing a bowl of soup. Wishing you an abundance of everyday joy and insight all year long.

Peace on Earth:  an idea whose time has come.

Mary

Masters in Action

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Among the masters in my midst are Martha Nichols and Susan (Sue) Palmquist.  Martha, an interior designer, is a longtime friend who has helped me make my successive homes more lovely than I could have done myself.  Besides her skills in putting together all the design details, I call her the Color Empress.  To see Martha consider colors for a room is akin to watching Dale Chihuly invent his glass creations or Olympic gold medal figure skater Kim Yu Na soar over the ice.

I’ve recently gotten to know Sue, Martha’s collaborator in many projects and friend of many years. Sue, co-owner of Sawhill Kitchens in Minneapolis, designs kitchens as a maestro who first listens to the client’s vision and then, makes sure the range plays well with the sink, that the backsplash complements the countertop and cabinets, and there will be room to open the refrigerator door all the way to remove the crisper drawers.

I watched these masters in action last week. Imagine an equally supportive game of tennis between two of the very best. Martha and Sue each have true joy in what they do and the highest standards of excellence.

Not only does Susan make kitchens that work, she’s a wonderful cook. She made us a Roasted Vegetables and Orzo Salad and served it with baked chicken breasts.  My contribution to this lunch was bread and chocolate chip cookies. Here’s Sue’s recipe:

Roasted Vegetables and Orzo Salad

Cut the following vegetables into 1-inch cubes, squares, or pieces:

  • 1 eggplant (medium size)
    1 red pepper
    1 yellow or orange (or both) pepper
    1 red onion
    1 cup green beans

3 cloves garlic – minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 pound orzo

Dressing

1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice – approx. 3 lemons
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Final additions

6 scallions, minced
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
3/4 lb. feta cheese (crumbled or diced)
20 – 24 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place eggplant, red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, onion, and zucchini in baking pan. Toss in 1/3 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast about 30 minutes until browned, turning once.

In medium saucepan, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain, rinse lightly, and place in large bowl. Add the vegetables along with all the scrapings from the pan. Meanwhile, make the dressing and add to the warm orzo & vegetables.

Just before serving, add scallions, pine nuts, feta cheese, and basil chiffonade.

Serve with roasted or grilled chicken breasts.  Makes about 10 servings.

Rites of Spring: Rhubarb

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Rhubarb tastes best to me when I pull it myself and cook it right away. Always pull from the root plant to get the ‘good end.’ I’ll be replacing my small, unproductive rhubarb patch this year. In the meantime, I watch for stands of rhubarb that look as though the owners have more than enough of the stuff or simply don’t pick it. I look for the pale green bulb, meaning the plant has “bolted” or gone to seed. The stalks taste best if it has only just gone to seed.

I’m not shy to inquire about the rhubarb. If the answer is “no,” no problem. But, it never is.  Yesterday, I was granted permission to pick what I wanted and got enough rhubarb for two pies and some sauce.

Adding eggs to rhubarb pie makes a creamy filling that balances rhubarb’s tart, sour flavor. Sugar is essential, of course. My mom’s recipe came from the Better Homes and Gardens “Red Plaid” and the Betty Crocker “Big Red” cookbooks she received as a bride in the early 1950s. Alas! Neither the latest BHG book nor the latest BC book still has the recipe. My copy of the Pillsbury Kitchens Family Cookbook, 1979, has it.

A side note: in my first job, I helped test the recipes for the dessert section of the Pillsbury book, working with experienced home economists who contributed to my development as a cook and food writer. Later I wrote as a staff food editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine and worked often as a freelance food writer for the Betty Crocker kitchens.

Rhubarb Crumble Custard Pie

Adapted from the Pillsbury Family Cookbook, 1979.

9-inch single crust pastry

4 eggs

1½ to 1¾ cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon nutmeg

5 cups sliced rhubarb, ½-inch pieces

Oatmeal Crumble:

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup oatmeal     TIP: I use a mix of  steel-cut and rolled oats.

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ to ½ tsp. nutmeg

3 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice:  pecans, walnuts, almonds

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place pastry crust in 9-inch pie plate.

TIP:  Pastry cooks most evenly in pottery or ceramic pie plate than in glass or metal.

In large bowl, beat eggs. Stir in sugar, flour, and nutmeg; mix well.  Stir in rhubarb.

In separate bowl, prepare Oatmeal Crumble: Stir together brown sugar, oatmeal, and flour.  Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives. Stir in chopped nuts.

Spoon rhubarb mixture into pastry. Flute pastry edge. Sprinkle filling evenly with Oatmeal Crumble. Bake in 400 degree oven about 70 minutes. Place aluminum foil collars around pastry edge to avoid over-browning. If it browns too fast on top, place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over top. Bake until golden brown, filling is set, and mixture bubbles. Makes 8 servings.

Korean Sushi: My Neighbor’s Kitchen

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I have the great, good fortune of living next door to a family that loves to cook and eat as much as I do. They’ve introduced me to Korean cooking. Most recently, I walked into their kitchen to see kimbap (also spelled kimbop and gimbap) under construction from a pot of cooked, seasoned rice, sheets of nori, and long-thin slices of English cucumber, chicken sausage, imitation crab, and fermented daikon radish.

With daughter Hailey nearby prepping the ingredients, the mom, Mary, smoothed the sheet of seaweed, nori, on a bamboo rolling mat.  Then she added a helping of rice seasoned with sesame oil, green onion, and rice vinegar.

 

I took small bites of the kimbap slice. “You must eat it all in one bite,” came the instruction: Mary, Hailey, Dolan, and Jada demonstrated. I did the same with my cheeks bulging, chewing all the way.  Delicious!

Easy Red Wine Sauce for Vegetarians or Not

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I cooked for a vegetarian friend today. As I thought through my favorite recipes, I kept having to remember: no chicken broth, no sausage, no ham. I eat and enjoy meat, but even more, I rely on those ingredients to add the extra dimension of flavor that vegetarian food may lack. It’s unami, the fifth flavor, the flavor of broth, meat, and salts. Think grilled and sauteed meats, olives, Worcestershire sauce, miso, tamari, mushrooms.

White Bean and Vegetable Stew in Red Wine Sauce, adapted from wonderful vegetarian cookbook author Deborah Madison, solves the challenge with a red wine sauce that I can’t wait to make again with a meat dish.  My concern was unfounded that a red wine sauce would discolor the white beans. The sauce enhances both the flavor and appearance of the beans and veggies.

After the beans and veggies are cooked, brown a couple tablespoons butter and add chopped shallots or green onions. Stir in red wine and reduce the mixture by about 2/3’s.

Let it simmer 10 or more minutes until the mixture reduces to  about 1/4 cup total.

When the sauce has reduced, fold it into the beans and veggies.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with hot, cooked rice alongside a green salad.

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

by Deborah Madison, Broadway Books, 1997

4 cups cooked cannellini, Great Northern, or white Aztec beans

1 medium sweet potato, pared and cut in 1½-inch cubes

5 carrots, cut in 2-inch lengths

2 large or 3 medium leeks, cut in ½-inch rounds

2 to 3 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch lengths

6 tablespoons butter

3 shallots or 6 green onions, chopped

1 cup dry red wine

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot cooked rice

Chopped parsley

In 3-quart saucepan, place sweet potato, carrots, leeks, and celery. Place beans on top. Add water to cover about ¾’s vegetables and beans. Cook until vegetables and beans are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain excess liquid and reserve. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, melt half the butter with shallots or green onions. Cook over medium heat about 3 minutes. Watch carefully and let butter brown. Stir in wine and simmer until only ¼-cup remains and the pan is nearly dry.

Stir into beans and vegetables.  Stir in garlic. Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer about 5 minutes. Cut remaining butter into small pieces and gently stir into beans. Let cook a few minutes. Stir in a few more tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid.

Serve stew with cooked rice and chopped parsley.  Makes 6 dinner-sized servings.

Creative Pursuits: Irresistible Food Images

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Welcome MaryGunderson.com Guest Creative, professional food stylist and expert in all things food, Lisa Golden Schroeder

Seven Food Styling Secrets: You Can Do This!

by Lisa Golden Schroeder

As a professional food stylist, I have the luxury of working with amazing food shooters who make my food look incredible. But if you are trying to capture your own food for a personal blog or to document your favorite family recipes, here are a few tips for enhancing the visual sensibilities of your food.

Never use a flash. If you’re in a restaurant, choose a table near a window. The flash flattens everything out and sometimes gives an earthly glow to photos. When that’s not possible, choose one of the camera’s “white balance” settings; for example, the setting indicated by a light bulb compensates for the yellow tint indoor lights can cast.

Get in close. Fill the frame with the dish, making the food the star. Use a camera’s macro setting (often indicated by a flower icon) to bring a part of the dish into sharper focus. Or widen the aperture to reduce the depth of field, which allows you to focus on foreground details—say, the crusty corner on a dish of macaroni and cheese—and keep the background soft (“select focus” in professional parlance). No need for formal garnishing (forget that huge sprig of parsley) if the food is really your hero.

Wipe glasses and plate edges.
Be sure surfaces are free of smudges and greasy fingerprints (a little glass cleaner or rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab is great for small clean ups). In good light, they really stand out.

Work quickly, but deliberately. The longer it takes to set up a shot, the more salads wilt or sauces congeal. For food to look delicious, it needs to look fresh. A small spritz bottle or a paintbrush dipped in water can be used to moisten up food if it needs some dewiness. Pay attention to color, shapes, texture—contrasts in the way you arrange the food on the plate will make a shot more compelling. Drips and crumbs are appetizing, but too much messiness is not.

Keep your hands steady. In low-light conditions, even the slightest tremor can produce a blurry photograph. Brace your elbows against the table to keep the camera steady. Or try this trick: use the top of a water glass as a makeshift tripod.

Shoot a lot. A photo may seem fine on the camera’s tiny screen, but when you look on your computer, it is likely to be out of focus or too bright. So click away, then edit. Capture shots in both a vertical and horizontal format, too. So you have the option of how you can crop it. And less is more—keep your shots simple, elegant.

Shoot food as it’s being prepared.
Don’t get hung up on capturing the quintessential “final shot.” Sometimes the most interesting moment in a food’s life is during its preparation. There are all sorts of great details that emerge throughout the cooking process.