Monday, February 28, 2011

Family Feast February 2011

February 26, 2011
Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Black Olives
Olives with Garlic, Lemon, Cumin

Spanish Potato Salad with Mussels

Filo and Dried Plum Pie with Hazelnut Gelato




Thursday, February 24, 2011

Celery Root and Wild Rice Chowder

It's cold out there tonight.  There's talk of snow for tomorrow.  Snow.  Snow near sea level!  Snow in San Francisco!

So I did some searching around and discovered on Peter Hartlaub's blog that the past sixty years have seen three snow falls in San Francisco--February 28, 1951; January 21, 1962; and February 6, 1976.  And The Chronicle records that there were two other snows in December 1882 and February 5, 1887.  I love this 1887 photograph of Shotwell Street (between 22nd and 24th).  Besides the absolutely lovely lamppost, I love the ladies with their umbrellas. 

Hartlaub, Peter. "A Century of Snow in San Francisco : The Poop." San Francisco Bay Area — News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.
Tonight to keep warm, I made one of my favorite soups.  Celery and wild rice were quite simply made to go with one another.  Wild rice, as you probably already know (you smartypants, you) is not really in the same genus as what we think of as rice.  Although wild rice and Oryza sativa (sometimes known as Asian rice and what we know as white or brown rice) share the same tribe (which I just learned is the taxonomic rank between family and genus).  Wild rice boasts having high-fiber, being higher protein than regular rice, and being fat-free.  Plus it does that cool "butterfly" thing when it opens during cooking. Which, let's face it, is way cooler than what happens with regular rice.  Which is nothing.

Anyway, there's something about the earthy nuttiness of the wild rice and the crisp brightness of the celery that beg to be paired.  Luckily Deborah Madison--tonight's cookbook author--has done all of the work in combining the two.  All you have to do is follow the recipe and then tuck in, stay warm and dry, and hope for newsworthy snow.

One Year Ago: Swiss Chard Flan

Celery Root and Wild Rice Chowder
Adapted from Local Flavors

4-6 servings

1/2 cup wild rice
1 celery root (about 1 pound) peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
2 large leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced and cleaned
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 rib of celery, diced
1 cup thinly sliced russet potato, peeled
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk (or cream if you're feeling extravagant)
white truffle oil, optional

1.  Cover the wild rice with 5 cups of water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.  Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until tender.

2.  Melt the butter in a soup pot.  Add the leeks, diced celery, the celery root, and the sliced potato, as well at the parsley, bay leaf, thyme and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.  Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then add the stock.

3.  Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.  add the milk and simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 5-10 minutes).  Taste for salt and season with pepper.

4. To thicken to soup, puree 1 cup of the vegetables and return to the pot. 

5. To serve, divide the chowder among 4 to 6 bowls and mound some of the wild rice in the center.  Garnish each bowl with parsley and a drizzle of the white truffle oil (if using).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Sage Risotto

Continuing in my squash-related posts...

I love risotto.  However, I didn't grow up with risotto, as my (single) mother (of three) often opened a can or a box, added sauteed hamburger, poured us a glass of milk, and called it a meal.  She had a lot more to do than stand at a stove and stir constantly, as risotto demands that you do.  Further, she wasn't taking any chances on whether we would like dinner.  She stayed with what was tried and true--chili, tuna tetrazzini, tacos, and spaghetti.  She made the mistake once of letting me choose my dinner for myself.

Imagine with me: my mother's first birthday celebration after her divorce from my father.  Younger than I am now, she was taking her three children (ages 9, 8, and 2) to the nicest restaurant in town.  For something special, she announced that we could order anything we wanted--what joy for a seafood-loving, land-locked, midwestern girl.  I scanned the menu, quickly passing over the pasta and the children's chicken tenders.  And then there they were--stuffed soft-shell crabs.  My mother asked if I was sure, and when I said that I was, she repeated the question before letting me sit proudly on the edge of my chair to order directly from the waiter.  I placed my napkin on my lap, kept my elbows off the table, and kept my left hand down when the plate of crabs was placed before me.

Crabs. I was expecting bright orange pincers stuffed with sweet, salty meat.  Instead, I found a dun-colored, whole-body shell stuffed with brown mushy crumbles that looked as if they had already been chewed (I have come to understand not that those were probably herbed breadcrumbs).  Their bellies were torn open and then their backs precariously propped back on. They even had eyeballs.

I drank my glass of milk.  I smoothed my napkin.  I pushed the top of the crab shell around with my fork.  Then, unable to stall any longer, I pried open the shell and lifted a minuscule bite to my mouth.  Immediately I started to cry.  I wanted to like the food because it was my mother's birthday and I didn't want to ruin everything and I wanted to be all grown up and I was taught not to waste food and I was so certain I liked crab.  My mother tried to calm me, but I said I just wanted the vegetable on my plate.  She looked around the restaurant, giving that half smile to the other patrons who were starting to glare at us.  There were no vegetables.  I blubbered that I didn't like the crab, I was so sorry, but could I just eat the vegetables, and I didn't want to ruin her big night.  By then my older brother was weighing in with unhelpful advice and my little sister was beginning to fuss.  All I want are vegetables, I cried.  But there are no vegetables, my mother insisted.

But I meant the parsley.  Yes, the garnish, the adornment, the little spot of green.  And that is why for my mother's 35th birthday, I ate parsley for dinner.  And why, I imagine, she (rightfully) didn't bother to take many chances in the kitchen with three children under the age of ten.

This risotto, however, may have been something I would have eaten as a child, because it is darned tasty.  I added bacon as the base because we didn't have any white wine, and when in doubt, bacon can be substituted for anything.  Plus, I just thought bacon would be good as the base.  The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of oil with the leek and celery and then 1/3 of a cup of white wine as the first round of liquid.  Then you carry on with the rest of the recipe with the chicken broth.  The end result is quite savory.  Had I not told an elaborate and completely unrelated story about stuffed crab shells, I would have given you more history of risotto.  But this just means that I will need to make another risotto in the near future, and then I will give you a much more relevant post.  In the mean time, just be sure to always garnish with parsley.

One Year Ago: Frakh Ma'amra (Mediterranean Pigeons or Squabs Stuffed with Couscous)

Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Sage Risotto
Adapted from  The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

4-5 cups

2 slices of bacon (or just some olive oil)
3/4 cup thinly sliced leek
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced sage
1/3 cup dry white wine (optional)
3 cans fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth (or you could use vegetable-broth and go full vegetarian)
4 cups 1/2-inch cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper


1.  Heat bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon from pan and crumble.

2.  In the bacon fat, add leek and celery; saute 2 minutes.  Add rice and sage; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in wine (if using--if not, use 1/2 cup broth); cook 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.  Stir in 1/2 cup broth, squash and crumbled bacon; cook until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.  Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total).

3.  Stir in Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Butternut Squash-Oatmeal Rolls

Oh, I have been away.  But that doesn't mean I haven't been making steaming bowls of Red Russian Kale with lemon juice and salt or a plate full of chicken with stir-fried bok choi, or my personal favorite, a casserole of organic broccoli, brown rice, cheddar cheese and a can of Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup (seriously, the Midwestern in me is in California-hippie-heaven with that one).  I just haven't been photographing and writing about them.  I have fallen behind.  You understand.  But such is the fate of February, when the end of our second term at school doesn't creep up on you so much as all out assault you, take-no-prisoners style.  And while I still have twenty more papers to grade today, I am making the sacrifice to cook before I tuck into them.  Such a sacrifice.

Anyway, today, we're going to try to put a dent in the butternut squash.  Full Belly Farms, the CSA that sends me this box, thinks that I have more uses for butternut squash than I really do.  So this time around, I am going to bake it into a roll.

This recipe used only white bread flour so I upped the ante a little and added some whole wheat flour.  What resulted is a solid but surprisingly springy roll that made the whole house smell that perfect afternoon, just baked bread smell. 

The goal is to still have enough of these left over come dinner time so as to eat them with soup.  But dinner time is a long ways off.  Anything could happen.

One Year Ago: Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Chicken and Shrimp

Butternut Squash-Oatmeal Rolls
Adapted from  The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

15 rolls

1 package dry yeast (about 2 or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
2/3 cup warm water (body temperature or a little warmer)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cup bread flour (divided)
1 cup whole wheat flour (divided)
2/3 cup mashed cooked butternut squash (about 1/2 medium)
1/8 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon quick-cooking oats (divided)
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon water


1.  Dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar in a small bowl or glass; let stand 5 minutes.  Combine yeast mixture, 1 cup bread flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, squash, molasses, oil and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth.  Stir in 1/2 cup oats and 1/2 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat to male a moderately stiff dough.

2.  Turn dough out on a floured surface.  Kneed until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), adding enough of remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to keep dough from sticking to hands.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm pace, 35 minutes or until doubled in size.

3.  Punch dough down;; cover and let rest 5 minutes.   Divide and shape the dough into 15 balls.  Place in a 9-inch round or square cake pan coated with cooking spray.  Brush the rolls with 1 tablespoon water; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon oats.  Cover again and let rise in a warm place for 25 minutes, or until doubled in size.

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until browned.