Food Epiphany

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Slow Food

“I didn’t know this was a slow food dinner, this is going to take all night. Let’s get out of here.” That was the first time I had ever heard of “slow food”. We did leave and it felt naughty and fun to leave the room full of people that were about to embark upon a night of eating and education, like the cool kids that cut out of a guided tour of an historic monument. The problem is I like guided tours.  However, I like hanging with the cool kids even more, so I missed out on this almost-first slow food event. The people I was with didn’t want or need an education in artisan food preparation or sustainable agricultural practices, they just wanted to eat. Admittedly, I was relieved to leave the large room full of vaguely hippieish diners sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs around family-style tables, about to join together in song–I was sure. That was five years ago and I’ve never thought of attending a real slow food event since.

So it was odd to me that I felt such an intense desire to attend Slow Food Nation in San Francisco at the end of August. Outside of Slow Food I had already begun to think about food in a different way, and now I wanted more than just to read about it, I wanted to be a part of the event (plus the flyers were cool and I’m a sucker for advertising). Slow Food Nation promised the education I desired (panels with famous food activists, writers, and chefs) but also offered, well, food. Both the large Farmer’s Market at Civic Center Plaza and the Tasting Pavilion at Fort Mason Center had food that was presented in a very nicely designed and marketed way. I thoroughly enjoyed the pomp with which everything was done and I’ll admit to having developed a huge crush on San Francisco, again. But, at the end of it all I still felt, well, hungry.

While I was participating I was so busy that the days and nights literally flew by and the volume of people was amazing if often annoying (waiting in line for 45 minutes for a cheese sample). I felt the entire time that I was a part of something historic, and I still feel that way. The thousands of people that flooded San Francisco that weekend was staggering and for awhile it seemed everyone I met had had their own food epiphany. (I should also mention that I was flying solo that weekend. Just me and a girlfriend, which exclusive of Slow Food would have been a fantastic event itself.) I enjoyed everything just a little bit more, stayed out just a little bit later, slept in just a little bit more, and thought clearly, without interuption.

I experienced Slow Food in an interesting way in that I was on both sides of the event. The first day I was a regular participant, going to a couple of talks, touring the victory garden, checking out the (farmer’s) marketplace and hitting the tasting pavilion that evening. The second night however, I worked behind the scenes with the “bread crew” helping with the end of the afternoon shift, preparing for the evening shift, and working the entire night shift. This was of course followed by the kitchen tradition of drinking until late, making some more food with whatever you find around and then stumbling home early in the morning. Without this second night, I wouldn’t have had a full experience. I realized something that Slow Food Nation forgot: everyone needs to eat. Not just the people who paid thier $65 to enter the pavilion, but the hundreds of people who made and served that food. At the end of each shift there was literally no food for the workers who had been working for hours without a meal. What was there plenty of? Alcohol. Wine tastings, spirits tastings, and a beer pavilion…yet no vegetable tastings. 

In the end it was an incredible, historic experience. But I think it can be improved upon for next year…especially for the vegetarians in the world!

Oops, missed last week!

But I was cooking! I made home-made caramel apples for Halloween (without corn syrup–harder than it sounds), had a wonderful swiss fondue (and tomato provencal) with friends on Saturday, and last night Nora helped me make another galette–this time with leeks and goat cheese! Alec tried his hands at braised radishes, which the kids loved (go figure), and stir-fried broccoli with carrots for another veggie hit. I also made my family’s best cookie recipe: Cookie Jar Gingersnaps, they didn’t even make it through the evening, yes, I inhaled nearly 4 of them before realizing it. Tomorrow is another CSA distribution day, only three more until the end of the season. I’ll also be assisting with a vegetarian thanksgiving cooking class on Saturday, hope to get lots of ideas for my first vegetarian Thanksgiving.

Pop Overs

A few months before I turned vegetarian, I clipped this article/menu that included a beef dish with a popover cooked around it. I still have it eventhough I know that I probably won’t ever use it. So I was thrilled to find this recipe from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors. It is easy, delicious, and inexpensive since I didn’t use the chanterelles the recipe called for, but instead a mix of cremini and oyster mushrooms. I had a friend in Big Sur that used to forage for chanterelles and sell them to the local restaurants, she made something like $25/pound. Apparently it was a competitive second job, as she kept her spots secret, even from me (this was before I became a mushroom lover). Even if you think you don’t like mushrooms, I would suggest you try the expensive ones, cooked like in this recipe with cream or else with a little white wine, they are really amazing.

Giant Popover with Chanterelles

1 pound chaterelles or other mushrooms

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large market eggs

1 cup milk

3/4 cup flour

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons cream

1 scant teaspoon minced thyme

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1. First clean the mushrooms: Pick out any pine needles and brush off and forest dirt. If using morels, slice them in halve lengthwise so you can brush out the centers. Only if they are quite dirty should you dunk them in water, but you can wipe them with a damp cloth. Slice into attractive pieces that nicely reveal the shapes of the mushrooms. Set them aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven with half the butter while you whisk the eggs, mild, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. When the butter has melted, brush it around the rim of the skillet, then stir in into the batter. Add the cheese, then pour the batter back into the hot skillet. Set in the center of the oven to bake. In 20 minutes it will have risen dramatically around the edges and be puffed in the center as if it’s trying to lift itself out of the skillet.

3. While it’s cooking, melt the remaining butter in a saute pan. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms, salt lightly, and saute over high heat. Once they begin to give up their juices, reduce the heat to medium and cook the mushrooms until they’re tender, about 5 minutes, possibly longer for wild mushrooms. Stir the cream into the juices and allow them to mingle and thicken slightly. Season with pepper, then toss with the thyme and parsley.

4. Remove the popover from the oven and spoon the mushrooms into the center. Or slice the popover into wedges and spoon the mushrooms over each serving.

Making Pasta

Last week I pretty well stuck to my planned menu, but I didn’t get to the pumpkin! This week I hope. I have been making a lot more things from scratch and also wanting to put things up for the time this year when we don’t have fresh tomatoes and other lovely things. One of the best things was the spinach pasta with goat cheese gratin. This was the second time I’ve made it and everyone seemed to really like it. I have to say that I usually need to add a lot of salt at the table, but Alec says that I am a little heavy on the salt…I have to disagree!

Alec helped out by running the spinach pasta through the machine. We didn’t use the entire pound the recipe called for so we froze the rest. I’m often unsure of how to store things so I just throw it in the freezer and hope for the best. Making pasta is kind of fun, but also a bit messy, time-consuming, and equipment dependent. We bought our pasta maker at a garage sale so it wasn’t a huge investment, but it does take up valuable real estate in our small kitchen. The recipe was two parts (okay maybe three): one make the pasta, two make the bechamel sauce, and three assemble the “Tossed Spinach Lasagne and Goat Cheese Gratin” by who else, but Deborah Madison. 

Fresh Spinach Pasta

2 cups flour

2 extra large eggs

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups washed and dried spinach leaves

In the food processor: First combine the spinach leaves with the eggs and puree them until they are liquidy. Pour the spinach mixture into a bowl, wash and dry the food processor. Next, combine the flour and salt and turn on the motor. Add the oil through the feeder then the spinach mixture. Work until little pealike particles are formed, then turn the dough out, gather it and form it into a ball, and knead until smooth and pliant. Cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. 

Flatten the dough out with your hands to make pieces that will fit though your machine. Set the machine to the widest setting and feed the dough through once. Now fold the dough into thirds, press down and excessively thick parts, and run it through again, repeat till dough is smooth four or five times. Go to the next notch in the machine and roll the dough through. Turn the gear to the next notch and continue rolling through once at each setting (ours only has three settings) but don’t use the last setting as it is too thin, especially for this recipe. 

At this point you may want to cut the pieces using one of the cutting attachments on your machine (our has fettucini and spaghetti) but this recipe calls for wide shortish noodles, so you can cut them by hand with a knife. You can cook this pasta right away or set it aside to dry and cook it the next day.

Tossed Spinach Lasagne with Goat Cheese Gratin (from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

1 pound fresh spinach pasta

2 cups bechamel

1/2 cup cream

8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Make the pasta dough and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly butter a 3-quart gratin dish.

Make the bechamel. Add the cream and goat cheese to the sauce. Don’t worry about the lumps of cheese–they’re wonderful to bite into.

At this point I throw the pasta into the boiling water for just a minute or two (make sure you salt the water), then drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Combine with the bechamel mixture and add the thyme, pepper, and all but two tablespoons parmesan. Pile it into the gratin dish and cover with the remaining cheese. Bake until bubbling and browned on the top, 30-40 minutes.

Cheese and Caramelized Onion Enchiladas

Last night I made these fantastic enchiladas for maybe the third time. I’ve always wimped out on earlier version with the amount of chiles because of the spiciness, but this time I followed the recipe exactly. They were a touch to hot for me, but still extremely good! I think they are even better than anything I’ve had eating out, which is saying a lot when you live in Southern California! I forgot to choose romaine lettuce at the farm, so there wasn’t any lettuce, to cool them off a bit we had heaps of sour cream on the side!

The recipe is from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop, which I helped work on when I was working with Rux at Houghton Mifflin.

 

Quick Red Chile Sauce

1 tablespoon canola or corn oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 large chipotle chile in adobe sauce, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons), with 1 tablespoon sauce

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground corriander

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup canned tomato sauce

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

salt

1. for the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chipolte, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the head and simmer to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasonings, adding alt to taste. The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for a day or two.

Fillings and Tortillas

1 tablespoon canola or corn oil

1 pound onions (about 3 medium), halved and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

2 ounces drained pickled jalapenos, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

10 6-inch corn tortillas

Garnishes

8 leaves romaine lettuce, sliced crosswise into thin strips

1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, scooped from skin, and diced

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

For the filling and tortillas: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, sugar, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown slightly about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned deeply and very soft, about 15 minutes. Scrape the onions into a medium bowl and cool to room temperature. Add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, the pickled jalapenos, and cilantro to the bowl with the onions and toss to combine.

Move the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread half of the chile sauce evenly across the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Divide the tortillas among two large rimmed baking sheets and generously spray both sides of each tortilla with cooking spray. Bake the tortillas for 3 minutes, or until pliable enough to roll easily. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Arrange the tortillas on a work surface. Working with one tortilla at a time, spoon about 1/4 cup of te onion filling across the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla very tightly (the ends will be open) and place it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. Spoon the remaining sauce over the filled tortillas, making sure the sauce coats each tortilla from end to end. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the filled tortillas.

Cover the baking dish with foil and place it on the upper-middle rack of the oven. Bake until the enchiladas are hot, about 20 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and uncover the pan.

To serve: Place the lettuce in a bowl and toss the avocado and lime juice in a second bowl. Use a spatula to transfer the enchiladas to individual plates. Serve immediately, passing the garnishes separately at the table.

Wrap up of the week

We did a fairly good job this week of eating through the share. However, there is currently a glut of peppers in the fridge right now, some hot, some not. But I have to come up with something for them this weekend. Talking with a few folks from the farm yesterday I’ve decided to attempt a green sauce. It was supposed to be easy to find on epicurious, but alas I didn’t see it, so I may have to wing it (with a little help from Deborah Madison). I definitely want to start sharing my recipes too, well not my recipes exactly, but at least let you know where they are from and how I liked them…

Therefore, the onion galette I made a week ago was from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I made the galette dough from scratch (not too hard) and them made the mustard cream and onion “filling”. I want to have pictures too, soon….

The chocolate caramel nut tart was from a library book…The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. When I have a moment, I will write out the recipes…

Corn Fritters, Soup, and a Tart

Yesterday Victor and Faye returned from their three week vacation in Switzerland. To celebrate we all joined together to enjoy a cheese fondue. I had already made a winter squash soup with fried sage leaves (which triggered the smoke detector, which woke the kids from their nap) as well as the chocolate caramel nut tart which I had been planning to make for the last few days.  One thing that was holding me back was the purchase of a round tart pan, so I headed out to Williams-Sonoma on Saturday and picked one up. However, I also decided it was time for me to buy my first real knife. Since it was my birthday last week and I didn’t get anything, rationalized away the purchase quite easily. It wasn’t the most expensive knife (under $100 on sale) but it is one that I will be taking very good care of. 

The tart turned out fairly well, everyone said it was photograph worthy, but I am still unsure of how to take good pictures of food in low light conditions, so I didn’t even try. I am thinking about buying a new lens and a flash so that I can achieve (in time) the quality of smitten kitchen or vegan yum yum

 

CSA items used: 4 ears corn, onions.