Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mussels with Fennel and Orange Broth

Mussels may be the husband's favorite food. This always seems a little weird to me because he despises fish (although he will eat tilapia or halibut if coerced) and doesn't like clams or oysters. He, like me, is a big fan of escargot though, so maybe it's a texture thing (they always seems similar to me).

When I got fennel in the box I immediately thought of using it with mussels because I think fennel matches nicely with seafood (but, as mentioned, the husband doesn't like other seafood). Then I started to think about what matches with fennel. Here's what I came up with.

2 tablespoon butter
1 head fennel, trimmed, core removed and diced
1 bunch red scallion, diced (any other sweet onion or even leeks would work instead)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup orange juice
1 sprig thyme, leaves removed
2 pounds mussels, beards removed

1 loaf of crusty bread (to sop up the delicious broth)

I started by melting the butter over medium heat in a saucier (a stock pot would work just fine). I added the fennel, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and let it all sweat until fennel and onion were cooked through. Next I added the wine, orange juice and thyme and brought the mixture to a boil.

Then I added the mussels to the pan. Gave it a stir.

Then put the lid on and let them cook. After six minutes I checked them and decided they needed a little more time (they were still slimy in the middle). Three minutes later I dished them up.

The husband enjoyed the dish immensely. I always like it when I make a dish he really enjoys (he is just so picky). I enjoyed the mussels well enough, but the broth was definitely my favorite part of the dish (it always is). Yummy bread, sweet, tangy broth. What could be wrong with that?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How does your garden grow?

I thought it might be time for an update on my (tiny) garden.

The Roma Tomatoes are pretty small, but tasty (this one topped a pizza moments after I took the picture)

I've got lots of jalapenos started, but they are all round and I'm not sure they are getting any bigger.

Beets and White Beets: Fail. I had a feeling these were not going to grow when the greens bolted when it got really hot.

I have hundreds of cherry tomatoes. They are sooo sweet and delicious. The vines are so heavy with tomatoes that I have had to add lots of extra stakes to keep them from breaking.

I have four stalks of corn and two of them have tiny ears of corn starting. Yay!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

White Albacore Tuna Crudo

While shopping at Whole Foods for a client a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a fish that I had never seen before. Nestled next to the Big Eye and the Yellowfin was something labeled local white albacore tuna. It was the only fish that I have ever seen still in cyrovak in the display case at Whole Foods.

I decided to ask a few questions of the fish monger. I was informed that this time of year the albacore migrate by this area. They are fished younger than most tuna so their mercury levels are lower. They keep them cryovaked because they can only be fished for a few days, but they would like to sell them for more than a few days (without freezing them). I was also told that this particular Tuna can be served raw, seared or cooked through and it's still tasty (a bonus when fish is being left to be cooked by the client).

I bought some for my client and a bit for myself. My lunch that day was so good.

Yesterday while shopping once again for my client I spied that they still had the tuna. I bought a bit and decided to have it for lunch today.

Here's the ingredients:

6 ounces white albacore tuna
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
Hawaiian pink flake sea salt to taste
the good olive oil

I diced the tuna and tossed it with the lime juice and bit of the sea salt. Once I had it on the plate I drizzled it with olive oil and then sprinkled it with the lime zest and a little more salt.

That's it. So easy. I decided to enjoy this with a few tortilla chips (a nice crunch against the texture of the tuna).

Best. Lunch. Ever. Nuff said.

What's in the Box?

.34 pound Salad Mix (Cut Greens)
1 bunch Red Torpedo Salad Onions

1 bunch Red Radishes
2 Orange Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
.75 pound Farmer's Choice Of Peppers
1 bunch Carrots

1.5 pounds Freshly Dug Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Walla Walla Sweet Onions
3 each White Flesh Nectarines

3 each Peaches

.75 pound Santa Rosa Plums

Sadly the corn that was supposed to be in my box isn't ripe yet. Maybe next time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

D. Jen Harris, Chef/Triathlete

It all started innocently enough, about nine months ago. One day, while working with Cathy, my personal trainer, I turned to her and said "do you think I could do a triathlon?" Yes, was the answer.

I knew that I wanted to join her training group (which starts 10 weeks before the event), but I also wanted to get a head-start on my training. I started hitting the pool once or twice a week, walking (because I only run if some one's chasing me) once or twice a week and shopping for a bike. I was feeling good about my progress, until that sad day.

January 31st. My dog knocked me down, I sprained my ankle, and while I can say the triathlon was not the first thing I thought about (because at first I was just ow, ow, ow, ow, owwww), it came to mind pretty soon.

My ankle was so severely sprained I couldn't even swim (the gentlest of sports) for two weeks. I continued working out with Cathy (she adapted my workout so that I could do it in my huge ankle boot) but I was unable to walk or ride my bike for months.

I really started to worry about whether or not I would be able to participate in this year's Danskin Tri. But things turned around when I added Tami, my physical therapist, to my team. I let her know early that I needed to be ship shape in time to join the training group and together we made it happen.

Flash forward to race day. I knew that with the help of my physical therapist, my trainer, and the incredible women in my training group I was ready, but I was still nervous.

The day started early (but not as early as some). My wave was going to start at 7:34 a.m. which meant that I needed to be dropped off around 6:30 a.m. so that I had time to set up my transition area, pee, and warm up a little in the water before the race started.

Finally it was time...3...2...1...go! I took off into the water trying hard to find my own space to swim in, so many legs kicking, arms flailing. The first leg of the swim was the hardest for me, but once I rounded the first buoy, I found a space and settled into my rhythm. I started to notice swim caps of different colors around me (the waves in the Danskin are color coated by swim cap) so that meant I was passing people that had started 3, 6, 9, even 12 or more minutes ahead of me. I'll admit, that felt good. I knew at the start that the swim was going to be my strongest leg and it was. My time goal for this leg was 30 minutes (in the pool, I have not swam 1/2 mile in under 27 minutes) and my official time was 21:48. Unbelievable.

Onto the bike. Following a pretty slow transition (but my bike was FAR away from the swim) I started out on my ride. Due to a couple of vacations, I didn't get as much training for the bike as I would have liked. Of the three events this is the one I was most worried about (especially following a disastrous training ride the Wednesday before the event).

The first couple of miles were nice and flat, then one medium hill (complete with cowbell) then a super steep, windy hill. I knew this hill was coming and had decided ahead of time that I was going to dismount and walk up the hill (trust me, I was not the only one that did this). Next came the express lanes of the 1-90 bridge. I found my (slow) pace and just started pedaling. Soon came the first hill. I looked at it and said "I can get up that hill", and I did.

The road evened out inside the Mercer Island Tunnel and I let out a big whoop (it echoed very nicely) which was met with several other whoops of triumph. The first hill was followed by another hill, then another (and maybe another) until I made it to the half way point. I turned around and that's when my knee (another old injury) started talking to me. I persevered, going up and down the hills again. I heard "on your left" a LOT more than I said it (but I did say it, which, like in the swim, made me feel good). I rode down the steep windy hill and soon heard "two miles to go, and it's all downhill". Some of the sweetest words I have ever heard. My time goal for this was 1:10 (not fast I know, but that was my goal) and I finished in 1:07.

My second transition took half the time of my first. I switched out my shoes and headed for the run/walk start. My husband, who had cheered my coming in on the bike, had run around to the other side of the transition area to wish me well on my walk (I was very happy to see him again). My ankles do not like much walking, so I knew I had to find a nice, pretty slow, but steady pace. I soon found myself walking next to a 59-year old cancer survivor named Terri. It's a little embarrassing to say that my pacer was a 59-year old, but she kept me going, and I kept her going.

The end of mile 2 included a very steep, mean hill, but we conquered it (with the help of the drummers keeping the beat at the bottom of the hill). As we got to mile 3 I told Terri it was time to pick up the pace, "Were almost done, let's finish strong." As we crossed the line I was greeted by several members of my training team and lots of hugs. My goal for the walk was 1 hour (again, not fast, I know) and I completed the walk in 1:00:08.

Soon, more hugs (and kisses from the husband) lots of "good jobs" and a few "I'm proud of yous". I couldn't stop smiling (and I'm proud of me too).

While I was training, I came across a saying "If you think you can, you can, if you think you can't, you're right." This molded my training and my thoughts on race day. While I was in the race I saw lots of shirts with motivational sayings on them. The one that really struck me was "The miracle is not that you finished, the miracle is that you started." That could not be more true. I don't know how it even occurred to me to try a Triathlon, but I'm so glad that I did.

I could not have accomplished this without the help of Cathy, my trainer, Tami, my physical therapist, the cheerleading squad that was my training group and of course my wonderful and supportive husband.

Today, the day after race day, I signed up for another Triathlon. I guess I've got the bug.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tangy Basil Potato Salad

You may have noticed a whole lot of basil being used in my recipes lately. Well, that's because I have two huge basil plants in my herb garden. And, luckily, I love basil.

I wanted to create an easy alternative to traditional potato salad that would take advantage of my wealth of basil. This version contains just six ingredients (salt and pepper doesn't count).

Here they are:

1 pound new potatoes, cut into eighths
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Walla Walla sweet onion, diced
2 big handfuls fresh basil, julienned
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper

To start, I cooked the potatoes in boiling water until they were tender, drained them, put them in a single layer on a sheet pan (so they would cool faster) and then drizzled them with the vinegar.

While the potatoes boiled I worked on the dressing. I placed the garlic in a medium bowl and added 2 Tablespoons of the boiling water (from the potatoes) just to take the edge off the garlic. Then I stirred in the onion, basil and sour cream.

Once the potatoes were cooled, I added them to the dressing, stirred it together and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

How was it? Yummy, good and summery. And so easy to make (my traditional potato salad has nine ingredients, which doesn't sound like that many, but six of them need to be chopped, diced or mashed). I think this might be a good option for an upscale BBQ or summer party. It's going to be a definite addition to the permanent repertoire.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Purple Carrot Soup with Basil-Pea Cream

Every once in a while, the people packing the CSA box seem to lose track of where they are on the packing list. A couple of boxes ago, this resulted in getting two packs of red raspberries and no red radishes. This week, it resulted in a double helping of purple carrots. Look how pretty.

I decided to use the carrots to make soup. Often times the quantity of veggies included in the box isn't enough to make soup, but with the double helping I though it would be enough.

Here's the ingredients for the soup:

2 bunch purple carrots, peeled and chopped
3/4 Walla Walla sweet onion, chopped
1-2 cups chicken stock (veggie stock would work too)
salt and pepper

I started by heating just a little olive oil in a sauce pan. To this I added my onion and let it sweat for about five minutes (sweating cooks the onion through, but doesn't color the onion at all). Once the onion was cooked, I added the carrot and then added just enough broth to cover the veggies. I let this simmer until the carrots were tender, about 10 minutes.

I blended the soup in a couple of batches until is was very smooth, then I returned it to the pan. At this point I decided the soup was a little thick, so I added more chicken broth until it was the consistency that I wanted.

While the carrot soup was simmering, I decided to make a little cream sauce to further flavor the soup. With a search through the crisper drawer I came up with some English Peas and thought that the green of the peas would contrast nicely with the purple carrot soup. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been making a Pesto Pea Soup for some of my clients, and thought that a take on this soup would be good for the cream.

Here's the ingredients for the Basil Pea Cream:

1 pound English Peas, shelled (this resulted in roughly one cup of peas)
1/4 Walla Walla sweet onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken broth (again, veggie stock would work too)
a bunch of fresh basil
salt and pepper

Basically, the pea cream followed the same steps as the carrot soup, with the addition of the cream to the pan for simmering.

I added the basil to the cream when I put it in the blender.

Once the soup and the cream were both done, I ladled the carrot soup into the bowl and then spooned on a bit of the basil cream (giving it a little swirl for good measure).

How was it. Delish! Both the soup and the basil-pea cream were wonderful on their own, but together they were great. My only disappointment was that I expected the carrot soup to be purpleyer (is that a word?) but the flavor more than made up for it.

Of course the carrot soup could easily be made with orange carrots instead of purple. Or you could get really crazy and make orange carrot soup, purple carrot soup and then the green basil pea cream. That would be really striking.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's in the Box?

.75 pound Mixed Sweet Peppers (apparently this means Green Bell Peppers)
1.5 pounds Freshly Dug Yukon Gold Potatoes

.75 pound Green Beans
1 bunch Baby Purple Carrots

.5 pound Tomatillos

1 bunch Baby Beets

1 head Fennel
1 bunch Red Scallions
1 Savoy Cabbage

3 Yellow Peaches

4 Black Splendor Plums

.5 pint Blueberries

I got a bonus bunch of purple carrots. I'm thinking about making purple carrot soup.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not Your Typical Camping Food

Sorry about the lack of updates lately. Last week in the Seattle area, we had record high temperatures, we're talking over 100 degrees.

Now, it is just not supposed to do this in Seattle. In fact, when the husband and I were deciding where to move after graduating from college in Phoenix, AZ. one of the factors in our decision was that it had never been over 100 degrees in Seattle (after four years we were both done with the heat). So, when it got too hot, our method for dealing with it was to turn on our portable air conditioner (which will not cool a large room, but will turn a small room into an icebox) and lock ourselves in the bedroom (which, in our house, is a small room). We moved the cable box, the good TV, brought in our laptops and lived on cheese and crackers, cold salads (that someone else had made) and ice cream. Cooking was the last thing on my mind.

By Friday, the weather had cooled down a little bit (it was only 88 degrees instead of 107 degrees) and it was time to prepare for a camping trip with lots of friends (there were 19 of us in all). This is the second year that the husband and I have thrown what we like to call "The Big-Ass Camping Trip". We provide three meals, with dinner on Saturday being a wee bit nicer than your typical camping food.

Here's what I made:

Spit-Cooked Pork Loin, Sangre de Cristo Style
Pork loin, garlic, fresh sage and marjoram, mild ancho chilies

Beer-Can Chicken
Spice-rubbed chicken, cooked with a can of beer up it’s butt

Spit-Cooked and Roasted Onions
Sweet onions, fresh herbs, butter

Summer Slaw
Cabbage, fennel, apple, poppy seed dressing

Grilled Potato Salad
Fingerling potatoes, parsley, capers, garlic

Roasted Corn

Deluxe S'mores

Graham crackers, chocolate bars, mint chocolates, peanut butter cups, marshmallows, bananas

I wish that I had more pictures of both my prep work on Friday (but I was so behind on packing for the trip because of the heat I had to hurry) and of the meal that I prepared on Saturday, but the one that I do have is pretty good.

That's the pork loin on the rotisserie (with a walla walla sweet roasting between the pieces) and the chicken on the grill. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the way through the cooking time my chickens fell over (in my rush to pack I forgot my chicken holders) and I ended up having to prop them up in a stock pot. The chicken still cooked through nicely (and was sooo moist) but the skin didn't get very crispy.

After the meal was over, I packaged up the leftover pork loin, along with the roasted onion and all the juices the had accumulated in one of the drip pans that was under the pork. I covered it with foil and the next day reheated it right in the coals for about 45 minutes. The husband and I (and our remaining fellow campers) decided that this may have been even better than the first time we ate it. So good, super moist and tender.

All-in-all it was a great weekend with lots of greats friends and food. Can't wait until next year.