Monday, September 1, 2014

Trader Joe's doesn't know beans about lentils

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
I was going to make a refreshing green lentil salad from Patricia Well's "The Provence Cookbook" last week. Jim said he would go to Trader Joe's and get what I needed. Well, he came back with a bag that said "Small Whole Green Lentils." They didn't look very green to me, but I thought maybe it was just a variation in color.

No. They are not little green lentils, as you can see by the photo above. They cooked up exactly like regular lentils, only smaller, too mushy for salad use.

Luckily, the ones I ordered through Relay Foods were the correct ingredient, and that salad was excellent.

I sent in a product feedback form to Trader Joe's. We'll see if anything is done about this misrepresentation.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Odd fruits and vegetables get new life

If France can do this, why can't we? It certainly would go a long way in providing food security for everyone.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just peachy salad

Inspired by a macerated peach dessert prepared recently at the Charlottesville Cooking School, this salad is a delightfully fresh way to welcome summer.

It is at once tangy and a little sweet, but not enough to overwhelm the lettuce and other vegetables.

The avocado also gives it a rich mouth feel.

Just Peachy Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 very ripe peach (skin should peel off easily)
6 basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 tablespoons nectarine vinegar
½ teaspoon raw sugar
½ avocado, diced
1 small seedless cucumber, sliced
½ head romaine heart. torn into bite-size pieces
2 mini red bell peppers, sliced into rings
Handful of microgreens such as mache or tatsoi, or sprouts
Fleur de sel or other tasty salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions
Peel and de-stone peach; chop roughly. Add basil, vinegar and sugar and marinade for about 15 minutes in the salad bowl while you chop the rest of the vegetables. Add the avocado to the peaches and mix well. Then add the other vegetables, salt to taste, then pour on the oil. Toss until well coated, then serve.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Savory tart centerpiece of vegetarian meal


Photographs ©2014,  Lori Korleski Richardson
Now that we're back from vacation, it's time to get back to the gym and start eating better.

One way to make sure we get the variety of vegetables that are the key to good health is to have at least one vegetarian meal a week.

Tonight's was a savory chard and onion tart, with a side of carrot salad on a bed of arugula.

I made the tart in a 10-inch spring-form pan for easier serving (it also looks good enough to serve to company that way, especially decorated with nasturtiums from your herbicide-free garden. The cheery salad is a simple and delicious Alice Waters creation that depends in large part on the freshness of the carrots, parsley and lemon, and the quality of the olive oil.

Savory chard and onion tart

Ingredients for crust
1 ¾ cups flour
pinch kosher salt
1 stick (4 ounces) frozen unsalted butter, grated into small curls
Ice water

Instructions for crust
Combine flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl and grate in the frozen butter; mix with two knives or a pastry blender until texture resembles stone-ground cornmeal. Add 4 tablespoons ice water, mixing with a fork, until the dough comes together. You may need to add another tablespoon or two. Handle dough as little as possible, form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the dough and place in a 10-inch spring-form pan or 9-inch tart pan. The dough sides need to be at least an inch deep. Refrigerate until the filling is ready.

Ingredients for filling
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large finely chopped onion
1 pound chard, stems removed, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 ounces chèvre or ricotta
¼ cup evaporated milk or cream
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (or to taste)
Dash cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Instructions for filling and assembly
Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, then add the onion and cook until it is soft and golden, add the chard, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool as you preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the eggs, cheeses, milk or cream and nutmeg, then add the cooled chard-onion mixture. Pour into the crust, sprinkle with the nuts and bake 45 minutes. Serves 4 as an entree, 8 as a side dish and 16 as an appetizer.

Alice Water's Spring Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients
1/2 pound of carrots, peeled and shredded
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon white sea salt or kosher salt
Juice of one lemon
¼ teaspoon cayenne or paprika
¾ cup good quality olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley

Instructions
Put the carrots in a mixing bowl. Mash the garlic and the salt into a paste. Mix it with the lemon juice and any spices you are using. Toss with olive oil; add parsley at end. Chill.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Shiso, funny

Shiso, prepared for ochazuke. Photographs ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
Looking for ways to use the bunch of shiso I picked up at the farmers market last week, I ran across an ifood.tv video series called "Cooking with Dog" (no, dog is not one of the ingredients).

As the cook shows how to prepare a recipe for ochazuke featuring salmon and shiso, her trusty and well-coiffed gray miniature poodle sits on the counter, or perhaps a stool, next to her, very nicely behaved.

It must be seen to be believed. Click here to view. As a bonus, you will learn how to prepare a recipe. Bon(e) appétit!

Ochazuke
Serves 1

This is a good way to use leftover rice. It's said to be especially good after a night of drinking.

Ingredients

For first bowl
1.75 ounces salted salmon fillet
1 tablespoon sake
Toasted white sesame seeds
Hojicha or other type of Japanese green tea
Scoop of steamed rice
Toasted nori seaweed, sliced or chopped
1 tablespoon salmon roe marinated with soy sauce based seasoning
1 tablespoon cilantro (Chinese parsley)
Wasabi
Salt

For second bowl 
Scoop of steamed rice
1 pickled Japanese plum, stone removed and flesh chopped finely
1 tablespoon shirasu whitebait
2 tablespoon chopped takana-zuke - pickled takana greens
2 shiso leaves, stems removed, cut in half vertically, then sliced thinly at an angle horizontally
Hojicha  or other type of Japanese green tea
Toasted white sesame seeds

Topping Suggestions
Toasted tarako - salted Alaska pollock roe
Salted kombu seaweed
Ika Shiokara - salted semi-fermented squid
Tsukemono - Japanese pickles
Arare - bite-sized Japanese rice crackers

Instructions

Put the salmon fillet in a bowl and sprinkle the sake over both sides.
Heat a pan over medium heat. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Sauté until brown, removing excess fat with a dry paper towel, and flip it over. Reduce the heat and sauté the other side. When both the sides are browned remove the fillet. Cool.
Toast the sesame seeds in the pan and put it in a mortar. Grind the sesame seeds.
Make the green tea in hot boiling water.
Place the steamed rice in a bowl and sprinkle the nori.
Remove the skin and the bones from the fillet. Roughly crumble the fillet and place the salmon on top of the rice along with the roe and cilantro. Add tea. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and add a dab of wasabi. Serve.
For the second bowl, place the steamed rice in a bowl and sprinkle the nori. Make another cup of green tea. On top of the nori, put the plum, whitebait, takana and shiso. Pour the tea over and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve.

Use other toppings as desired.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Breakfast blossoms

In "Rancho Cooking" (Sasquatch Books, 2001, 238 pages), Jacqueline Higuera McMahan, an eighth-generation Californian, mentions that her people loved squash blossoms more than they loved squash itself, and although I'm fond of squash almost any way one cooks it, I would have to agree.

You usually don't find squash blossoms in the grocery store; they are fragile and don't take to handling and transport well. But those big showy male flowers are wonderful in a number of recipes. I found them at the farmers market in Sacramento yesterday, along with a long stemmed spring garlic and some beautiful maitake mushrooms, also known as hen of the woods.

This morning, I made omelets with them. Unfortunately, we were so hungry, we ate them before I had a chance to take a photo. If I make them again tomorrow, I will photograph them before we eat.

Lori K's Squash Blossom Omelet 
with Maitake and Spring Garlic
Serves 2-3

Ingredients

Butter
⅛ pound maitake mushrooms
1 clove spring garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 squash blossoms
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat a 12-inch crepe or omelet pan over medium-low heat. Swish the butter stick over the bottom of the heated pan, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté until softened, then remove from pan and set aside.

While the mushrooms are cooking, twist the stems off the blossoms and remove them and the pistil and throw that part in the compost. In a separate bowl, beat the three eggs until smooth.

After removing the mushrooms from the pan, add the oil, swish it around and place the flowers in it with the stem areas near the middle. When they have wilted, turn them over.

Add the beaten eggs, swirling the liquid gently around the blossoms as not to disturb them. When they have mostly set, sprinkle the mushrooms over and season to taste. When the edges start curling up a bit,  flip in half, then split the omelet and serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An anniversary dinner to remember

Detail of wallpaper at
Chez Panisse.
Photograph ©2014,
Lori Korleski Richardson
We were due to be in Berkeley on the day of our 25th wedding anniversary, so there was one restaurant that immediately jumped to the top of our list: Chez Panisse.

And we were not disappointed. Although a printed menu comes to each table, there was more to each dish than what was described. Each course seemed somewhat small, but by the time we were done, we were quite full. We ordered a glass of Spanish sparkling rosé (a 2011 Cava Rosado) for each of us to start, then I had a glass of chardonnay (2010 Votes du Jura, Peggy et Jean-Pascal Buronfosse, France) with the fish course, and Jim had a pinot noir (2011 Ponzi Tavola, Willamette Valley) with the duck (we shared sips).

After we were seated in a room that had been redone after a fire closed the restaurant last year, and presented with menus and a wine list, a basket of rustic whole wheat and a pain d'epi came, with a small butter bell and some fleur de sal. A server then came by with a few green, unpitted olives that had been marinated in orange and lemon zest.

 Here are the menu items, followed by photos.

First:
Porcini mushroom and celery salad with fava beans, mint and new garlic vinaigrette. The favas were mashed and spread on a delightful crostini; the sprouts and radish were also nice additions. Much to my delight, the celery was absolutely fresh and not overpowering in quantity.

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
Fish:
King salmon in saffron brodetto with agretti greens. The broth was made from halibut and the little yellow orbs were cooked and peeled yellow cherry tomatoes. The poached squid was amazingly tender and tasty. Agretti is a salt-tolerant plant that is native to the Mediterranean, but tonight's greens were locally sourced. They had the look of rosemary, the taste of spinach and the texture of a delicate seaweed.

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
Main:
Grilled Salmon Creek Ranch duck breast and leg with sage and pine nut salsa, wild rocket and squash tian. As you can see from the photograph, a couple of spears of peeled asparagus slipped in, along with a generous grate of parmesan. The sage was muddled with the pine nuts, rendering it an amazing seasoning for the duck. The leg was exceedingly rich, having been cooked confit style then crisped, while the breast was grilled in the fireplace until just warm. It was so melting tender that practically dissolved on our tongues. The tian was like a light, crustless quiche. Side note: Wild rocket, indeed. Just try keep arugula in the garden.

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson


Dessert:
Star blueberry tart with candied Meyer lemon.

I stopped taking photographs before dessert arrived, so I'll try to describe it the best I can. The tart was a slender slice, with a light, whole wheat crust. The candied Meyer lemon was in tiny bits scattered on a side drizzle of honey and a goodly number of raspberries. On the other side was a dollop of vanilla-bean crème anglaise. It was pure heaven.

After dinner, our server stopped by with the restaurant's version of an Almond Joy: two tiny coconut macaroons and two almonds dusted in cocoa.

What could we say but yum! And we'll be back well before we celebrate our 50th.