Friday, August 29, 2008

Mediterranean Madness

Tomatoes from the garden, fresh basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and
a bit of salt are ready to mound on crusty bread for Italian Bruschetta.

The Douglas County Master Food Preservers are once again offering a What's for Dinner cooking class on Thursday, September 11 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Sutherlin Community Building. Our theme this month is Mediterranean Madness and we'll be featuring fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, eggplant and fresh fruit in our menu:
Italian Bruschetta
Spanish Gazpacho
Eggplant Parmigiana
Moroccan Stuffed Bell Peppers
Fresh Fruit Desserts
Ed Hoffman and I will be doing the demonstrations and a full lunch is included with the $15 registration fee. You can print off a form by clicking here. Pre-registration is required as the class is limited to 24 participants.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fresh and Roasted Garlic

Four varieties of garlic from Tranquility Meadows Farm:
From left: Tranquility Meadows 2, Susanville, Rocambole, and Persian Star

Roasting the garlic heads in my mini slow cooker.
While I love the aroma of garlic, not everyone here at home appreciates it. Using the slow cooker outside keeps my family happy and my neighbors intrigued! Simply cut a slice off the top of each head to expose the cloves, brush the tops lightly with olive oil, place in the slow cooker, cover and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 4 to 5 hours on high. To use, just squeeze gently and the cloves will pop out.
Roasted garlic has a mellow flavor that is delicious spread on toast, in hummus, used in bruschetta topping, or added to mashed potatoes.
Whole roasted garlic cloves were kneaded into this rustic loaf of bread.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pear Picking

Local pears are not quite ready, but my daughter and I had the opportunity to pick pears in Medford last Saturday as part of a church service project. The temperature reached 106 that day, but luckily our shift started at 6:00 am (yawn!), so we were finished before the heat became unbearable.

Sunrise over the pear orchard.

The fruits of our labor. One of many bins we helped fill. The pears were shipped to a church cannery for processing and will soon be available to families in need around the world.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

Garden Valley apples and Bandon cranberries under a buttery blanket of brown sugar, oats, flour, local walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg. I stock up on fresh cranberries when they are available in the fall, but this crisp can also be made using a can of whole berry cranberry sauce.

For the filling:

tart green apples--5 or 6 Gravensteins or 4 Granny Smiths, peeled, quartered, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (see variation below)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons flour

For the topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cranberries and apples slices. Transfer to a 9 x 13 pan.

In the same bowl, stir together all of the topping ingredients, adding the melted butter last Crumble over the filling to cover the fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown.

To use canned cranberries, substitute 1 (16 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce for the berries, decrease sugar to 3/4 cup and flour to 1 tablespoon. Mix well with apples and proceed with topping.

Primo Potatoes

Marble-sized red potatoes from Riggs Family Farm at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market are pan-roasted with olive oil and fresh rosemary for a simple, but satisfying side dish.

Here's my method:
Scrub potatoes well and remove any large eyes. Any size will work, but I prefer those no more than an inch and a half in diameter. Pontiac Red, Yukon Gold, peanut or fingerling potatoes are all delicious.

Place potatoes one layer deep in a large skillet. Add enough water to come about one-third of the way up the sides of the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just barely tender when pierced with a fork or cake tester. This will only take about 5 minutes for very tiny potatoes and 8 to 10 minutes for those a bit bigger.

Remove cover, turn heat to medium-high and cook until any remaining water has evaporated. (If there is a large amount of water remaining just drain it off and remember to add less next time.)

Add a tablespoon or so of butter or olive oil to the pan, along with a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped or snipped with kitchen shears, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss to coat potatoes well and let cook until the skins get browned and crispy, 5 or 10 minutes. Give the pan a good shake once-in-awhile so the potatoes roll around and cook evenly on all sides (makes you feel like a TV chef!) Add some finely chopped or pressed garlic toward the end, if you like, but I generally have so much garlic in whatever else I'm preparing that I don't bother.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

A mix of peanut potatoes and Red Pontiacs from Jim and Joni Leet of Linnea Marie Farms

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Umpqua Valley Pesto

Local garlic, walnuts and basil combine with imported extra virgin olive oil and a chunk of parmigiano-reggiano to make a perfect pesto. Of course, it's delicious tossed with pasta or vegetables, but I love a dollop stirred into homemade minestrone soup.

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or about a 1 ounce chunk
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts* (about 1 ounce)
4 cloves garlic, peeled (or more if you really like it)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (2 ounces)

If the parmesan is not already grated, place it in the food processor first and process into small pieces. Add the basil leaves, walnuts and garlic and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the olive oil through the feed tube and process until to the texture you like. If your cheese is not very salty, you may want to add a pinch of salt. For extra zing add some freshly ground pepper to taste.

Makes about 3/4 cup. I like to freeze it in a ice cube tray until firm (it will make 4 to 8 cubes, depending on whether you put 1 or 2 tablespoons per cube) and then store them in a baggie in the freezer to use whenever the mood strikes. If you want to freeze the whole batch, pour it into a jar and coat the top with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the basil from drying out.

* to toast the walnuts, preheat an oven to 350. Place the nuts in a pie pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, just until they begin to color and become fragrant.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thornless Blackberries

Blackberries are in full swing now and I am amazed at the difference between wild and cultivated berries. The cultivated berries are gigantic! I have gotten my share of scratched up hands and arms over the years picking the free, wild blackberries that abound in this area, but lately I have been happy to pay for the privilege of picking these enormous berries from thornless canes, neatly held upright on wires. Check out The Berry Patch in Melrose (440-8484) or Phillips Berries in Winston (679-0251).

A cultivated blackberry and an average-sized wild blackberry

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sunshine in a Bowl

Mmmm! Luscious, sweet, dripping with juice...ripe peaches from Brosi's SugarTree Farms in Winston (679-1472) are incredibly delicious. Suncrest is usually my favorite variety for fresh eating, but these New Havens are hard to beat.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sour Cream & Chive Potato Bread

Fresh chives from the garden, sour cream, local eggs, butter and mashed potatoes combine to make a deliciously light loaf of bread. The dough also makes excellent dinner rolls. The loaves or rolls can be shaped and refrigerated overnight and baked just before serving.

Sour Cream & Chive Potato Bread
Stir together in a large bowl:
3 cups unbleached bread flour or all-purpose flour (you will need an additional 3-4 cups of flour)
½ cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 teaspoons instant yeast (also sold as Bread Machine Yeast or Quick-Rise Yeast)
1/4 cup minced fresh chives (½ to 3/4 oz)

In a medium bowl combine:
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed potatoes*
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 cup water** (I use the potato water left from boiling the potatoes)

*Note: If using leftover mashed potatoes that have added salt, you may want to decrease the salt measure slightly

**Note: If the potatoes are cold (leftovers), you will want to use very warm water. If you are boiling potatoes fresh for this recipe, you will need to let the mashed potatoes and potato water cool to room temperature.

Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture with a large, sturdy spoon. Stir well until thoroughly combined. Gradually stir in the remaining 3-4 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a well-floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding enough flour to keep dough from sticking to the board and your hands. Kneading by hand will take 8 to 12 minutes. (You could also knead in a heavy-duty mixer. This will take 6-8 minutes.) You want to knead the dough until you can pull a small piece into a transparent sheet without it tearing. This is called the membrane or window-pane test and tells you the gluten is fully-developed.

Place dough in an lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn out onto a floured board. Fold the top down, bottom up and sides in overlapping each other. Replace in bowl, smooth side up, cover and let rise until doubled again, about 30-45 minutes.

Divide into 3 loaves. (You could also make 2 round loaves and a dozen dinner rolls!) Shape into rounds, pinching bottom to seal. Place in well-floured cloth-lined baskets (a floured cloth napkin in a bowl works well too), seam side up, cover lightly and let rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes. (At this point, you may spray the tops lightly with cooking spray, cover tightly and refrigerate several hours or overnight. They will proof in the refrigerator. Take them out of the frig when you begin preheating the oven the next day and let rest at room temperature until you are ready to bake.)

Meanwhile, preheat a baking stone in the oven to 425 degrees for at least 30 minutes. When the loaves have doubled, uncover and turn them out onto a peel (or cookie sheet) that has been sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. Slash the tops and slide them onto the hot stone. Bake 20 to 25 minutes for loaves, 12 to 15 for rolls (a bit longer if dough has been refrigerated) until nicely browned and hollow-sounding when thumped on the bottom. The internal temperature should reach at least 180 degrees. This bread will not have a crispy crust because of all the dairy products in the dough.