Filed under: Chocolate, Food, My favorite things, Organic, Recipes, The Finer Things
It seems that everyone is talking about how much they love fall lately. The changing leaves really are lovely, and the crisp, gloomy weather is a nice change of pace from the summer heat, but I’ve always loved the arrival of fall because that’s the time when I prepare to hibernate. And no hibernation would be complete without the addition of a few pounds around the old midsection and a well stocked pantry because regular trips to the farmer’s market and grocery store just ain’t happening.
Here are some of my very favorite pantry staples:
1 Arvum finishing vinegar This family of vinegars are perfect finishing vinegars for soups and salads. Throughout the autumn and winter drizzle a little bit over a kale salad or a nice bean soup to add a little zip.
3 Askinosie chocolate hazelnut spread Oh my god, I love this stuff. Askinosie’s chocolate hazelnut spread is my favorite for sweet tooth cravings and snacks. No weird ingredients and no cheap chocolate here, just Hazelnuts from Lynden, Washington and the same cocoa powder and nibs used in their bars. They’re the only chocolate maker in the US making this from scratch! I like it on toast or in Andrew’s pastry dough as a pop-tart.
4 Cento San Marzano tomatoes San Marzano tomatoes are the shit, but you have to make sure what you’re buying has been certified. There are (expesive!) brands stateside that are not authentic, and therefore not nearly as good or as sweet. Our favorite Cento brand is grown in the ashes of Mount Visuvius where the rich soil makes for sweet tomatoes. Such a bright spot in the middle of a cold winter we use these for pasta sauce and soups. Though the organic is hard to find, the conventional is easily found at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores.
5 Red Boat fish sauce Artisan fish sauce, finally! Made using a 200-year old process free of chemicals or added water this fish sauce really is wonderful. Having grown up on fish sauces there really is something about the clean flavors and finish of Red Boat. It’s not cloying or sharp, so whatever you’re using it in is that much better. Perfect for a nice bowl of Jok.
6 Olo’s Chipotle paste Chipotle paste in a tube is genius. My friend Tessa created this amazing paste and it’s one of my very favorite pantry staples. We use it to spice up condiments (like ketchup or sour cream), or in soups for a bit of smoky spice. Tessa does this as a hobby in addition to work and two kids, and somehow that makes this even better. Give it a go and you’ll absolutely love it.
7 Bob’s Red Mill organic steel cut oats Love Bob. Love steel cut oats. These award-winning organic guys are great for oatmeal with a little texture. I like mine with butter, milk, brown sugar, and almonds.
8 Matiz Espana sardines and pulpo These are probably our most essential pantry items because they’re so easily converted into great snacks or meals. Both the sardines and octopus are easily dressed into salads and served on toast or crackers. Also, sardines have more omega-3′s and fewer toxins since they’re lower on the food chain.
9 Aptera olive oil This olive oil from the island of Crete is not only one of the best olive oils in our collection, but the pricepoint is crazy affordable. It is also naturally organic as it is illegal to spray pesticides on the island. We use this as our everyday oil for cooking, but it’s still good enough to use in salads and finishing too.
10 Arroyabe Italian tuna in olive oil Italian tuna packed in olive oil, the best tuna ever. Like the sardines and octopus we love this guy for emergency snacks and sammies.
11 Rancho Gordo heirloom beans The heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo are so badass. Have you ever seen such beautiful beans? We use any variety of their beans for soups, chilis, and stews.
12 Wakame seaweed Andrew’s lamb seaweed soup is one of our favorites, so we have wakame seaweed by the pound in our pantry. Aside from soup we like it as a cold salad and we use the water for spa-like purposes.
13 Raw organic almonds Also on-hand by the pound in the pantry, we use these raw almonds for almond milk for smoothies and almond cake for sweet cravings. Briden WIlson Farms has beautiful almonds so we get our almonds directly from them. Their fall harvest is available now.
14 Organic saltine crackers Sometimes you just need a saltine. My favorite is with an application of almond butter and jam, but then there’s also the times we use these as a crust for fried chicken thighs.
Eeking this in as our raspberry season is coming to an abrupt close, but with any luck you’ll be able to grab a pint at the farmer’s market this weekend so you can savor the flavors of summer berry-ness through the fall and winter. I mean, look at this sexy ruby color.
Like the chive blossom vinegar from earlier in the season, flavored vinegars are a great way to add variety to salads or anything needing a kick of acid. Raspberry pairs especially well with salmon, by the way, so I use this in grilled salmon salad with capers and shallots.
The simplest no-recipe-recipe:
I use a handful of raspberries (about 15) for each 1/2 pint canning jar, fill them with white wine vinegar, and set aside for two weeks when the color is most vibrant and red. Strain the berries from the vinegar and funnel into an air-tight bottle for easy pouring (or back into a canning jar would work too).
Don’t be shy, use as often, and in anything you’d like. In salads as a primary or finishing vinegar, soups, sauces.
I remember the first time I had these peppers at a little restaurant in Marin. I loved them so much I ordered a second round and didn’t share with anyone else at the table. I don’t know why but at the time it seemed so complex that I’d never be able to duplicate at home, I mean, where would one even find shishito peppers in the first place? Granted, it will require a trip to the farmer’s market, but even with that task these peppers are worth the errand and so easy to prepare.
Shishito peppers are a Japanese variety of pepper and only about one in ten are hot. They’re mostly fragrant with barely a hint of sweetness. We get ours from the Japanese farmer of Mair Farm-Taki at the University Farmer’s Market.
How to prepare:
Heat a large pan at medium-high heat. Once hot add a small amount of olive oil and tilt to coat the pan. Add the peppers in a single layer and shake the pan to toss and coat with the olive oil. Continue to toss and remove when the skins are blistered, this should only take a minute or two. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with sea salt. I used a coarse black Japanese sea salt but Maldon flakes would also be great for seasoning and texture. Eat as a snack or get creative and add to a salad.
Note: I like the peppers nice and charred but after having them in a beautiful melon salad at Sitka and Spruce yesterday we realized we could cook them even less. I’ll be experimenting with our next batch this weekend, but really there’s not too much you can do to wrong.
We are salad people. And while I’ve always craved for seasonal leafy greens I have never met anyone that can build a salad quite like Andrew. He often laughs about his time in the kitchen, preferring to work the garde manger station while others fought for the grill. The truth is that properly seasoning fresh ingredients is an art that many restaurants chefs haven’t even mastered. We all know the horrors of an over-dressed, soggy salad. (If you’re looking for a proper salad in Seattle, Matt Dillon is the master.)
Salads are compositions and are a complex form of cookery. Using what’s fresh and available, assessing how sturdy the ingredients are to inform your seasoning, and honing your sense of touch are all important elements to salad-making and are so much more rewarding than opening a bottle and pouring. If you’re bored of your salad routine and hoping to elevate your technique here are some tips to help you compose a salad like a true artist, and a recipe to help you practice.
Try a new leaf
We are all about Mizuna this season. It’s like everything you wish frisee actually was, but we all know that it just isn’t. Mizuna is a Japanese mustard green with a slight peppery taste and small, narrow serrated leaves. For as sturdy as the leaves are (they’re also great sauteed) they make for a really delicate salad.
There’s also my other fave, purslane that is also in season right now.
Soap box: Salad greens should never come from a bag or a box, especially this time of year. I’ll share my tips for washing produce very soon.
Use your sense of touch
No tablespoon measurements or emulsifying. Here we’re going to drizzle and use our hands to feel how we season. Start with a light drizzle of olive oil to coat the leaves, and use your thumb or finger to regulate how the oil is dispersed. Then move on to the acid and salt. (This bit of info was new to me. I never knew you started with the olive oil!)
* assess the greens: How sturdy are they? How much oil, salt, tossing can they take?
Toss with a delicate hand
Use just the very tips of your fingertips to toss to keep the lettuce light and airy. Collect only a few sprigs at a time…like 1/4 of a handful and let the leaves fall through your fingers. Just as the ingredients are coated use the bowl to toss once more and maintain the height of the leaves.
Make two different salads, then combine
This is key! Build flavors by making two components of the salad that are seasoned differently. Essentially all you’re doing is using two different vinegars. It’s magical and your taste buds will freak.
Use separate bowls
Each component should have its own bowl. This will help you stay organized, save time, and will also serve as a tossing implement. We love our stainless steel guys.
Mizuna salad with Summit Cherries and Blackcap Raspberries
We came up with this salad based on what we had on-hand after a farmer’s market haul last week. Don’t feel restricted by a recipe, use what you have and don’t be afraid to try different pairings. In this, the savory chives with the sweet fruit and vinegar are unexpected but so, so good.
For the Mizuna:
– Mizuna leaves, ends trimmed
– feta cheese, crumbled
– chive blossom vinegar (or other savory version)
– olive oil
Lightly drizzle the olive oil and gently toss to coat the leaves. Once the leaves are coated drizzle a small amount of chive blossom vinegar, feta, salt, and pepper. Toss gently once more with your hands and then by tossing the bowl. Set aside.
For the cherries and raspberries:
– 5-6 cherries, pitted and halved
– small handful blackcap raspberries
– 4 sprigs chives, finely minced
– sherry vinegar (or other sweet version)
– olive oil
Lightly drizzle the cherries, raspberries, and chives with olive oil. The berries are fragile, so very few and delicate touches are important. Gently sprinkle the vinegar, and salt.
Plate by gently placing the cherries and berries around the plate. They’re heavy so we want them beneath the Mizuna. No arranging! Just let things fall as they may. Then gently pile the Mizuna on top. To keep height let the greens fall through your fingers as you transfer them from the plate. Scrape out any remaining pieces of feta and oil. Drizzle with the tiniest bit olive oil before serving.
Even amidst all of the heat yesterday I had a crazy craving for a big bowl of pasta. And after feeling slightly bitter that my appetite was in no way suppressed by the heat I finally gave in and embraced the idea of a belly full of noodles and all the summery produce I could add. Mom saw these first of our northwest season cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market and got an extra pint for us along with a bunch of the most tender basil and some crisp shelling peas. Let me quickly say that to miss out on fresh peas in the height of pea season is a crime! Save the frozen guys for the dead of winter and focus on shelling faster than you can pop those little suckers. I promise, you will be so happy.
The only piece of this dish that isn’t in-season per se is the lemon for the sauce, but since it’s often a summertime heat wave staple it’s no biggie.
Not oily in the least this dish is instead wonderfully polished with the perfect amount of tang from the lemon, sweetness from the tomatoes, crispness from the peas, and creaminess from the butter and touch of feta. All together the sum of these ingredients, even in pasta form, makes for a light and fragrant dish for even the hottest of days. It travels well too and can even be eaten cold-ish. Just not right out of the fridge.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous amount of sea salt. Drop 1 pound organic spaghetti and cook to package directions.
Meanwhile, melt about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 2 Tablespoons of Kerrygold butter* in a sautee pan on medium heat. Add thinly sliced spring onions (white part only for this recipe) and slowly melt them into the butter and olive oil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to melt the onions. Remove from the heat and add the zest and the juice from one lemon and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.
Once the pasta is done transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, season lightly** and quickly toss to coat.
Still working quickly add the lemon sauce. Once the pasta is well coated toss in the fresh cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, shelled peas, and crumbles of Israeli feta***. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper if needed.
* Kerrygold butter is badass and should be used if you can find it.
**The key here, and to any pasta really, is to layer flavors by creating individual pieces that are seasoned and flavorful on their own. Ultimately this means seasoning the noodles before adding any embellishments. It will elevate your pastas and people will notice.
**We have our own little house mix of seasoning that Andrew made (we call it Magic Powder) and we use on anything and everything in the kitchen. Some of the basic ingredients of our mix include white pepper, organic garlic powder, and fine sea salt. Pulse into a fine powder and add to to the noodles…conservatively though. A little goes a long way!
***We love the Israeli feta from Trader Joe’s. It’s less tangy and salty than others, and packs a bit more of a creamy punch.
A few extras:
I will often add a fried or poached egg (I totally did yesterday). Give it a go, it works really well.
Use the lemon sauce as a base sauce and adjust the vegetables as the seasons and produce change.
You know those pretty blossoms atop the chives in your (or your neighbors) garden? They’re the ones that are typically admired for their pretty lilac color, but often left to wilt and die as if they’re purely ornamental. But wait, they’re not! They are yummy as they are pretty, and if you’re an acid freak like I am, you’ll love adding a delicate taste of chive and onion to use as a finishing vinegar for salads or soups. (The blossoms are also good sprinkled in salads.)
All you need:
Vinegar – champagne or white wine
Jars with lids – I used small canning jars
Just snip the blossoms at the base of the bud and pile them into a container or two.
Fill the containers with vinegar and seal with the lid.
Let sit for four to five days then strain out the flowers and use the vinegar in place of your usual. Voila!
I don’t know how he comes up with this stuff but when mom gave us some dried porcini mushrooms last week Andrew immediately said he wanted to make it into a powder and add it into his mom’s macaroni and cheese recipe. I was stunned at first as I had to process the greatness of this idea, but after the gears got up to speed I knew it would be the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day (and Dad’s birthday too). Some say to add cheese to mushrooms is a hack and a cheat, but I can’t help but to disagree, especially with this recipe.
There are a few secret ingredients in here that you won’t be able to taste outright, but they’ll add an insane depth of flavor to the mornay (cheese sauce) that takes this dish into a realm that is like no other macaroni you’ve ever had. Aside from the earthy richness of the Porcini’s there’s a dash of Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. Again, you won’t necessarily taste them, but you’ll know there’s something special there.
Give it a go, so simple but deceivingly complex. The best kind of dish, no?
Porcini Mac n Cheese
Serves 6-8 as a side (or in our case 4 with lots of leftovers for snacking).
We used 2- 12 ounce packages of macaroni. (Actually, Bionaturae’s Chiocciole “snail” shaped. So many big wells to collect cheesy goodness.) Cook to package directions.
Sautée 1/2 cup finely diced onion in 5 Tbs butter.
Add 1/3 cup flour, blend and cook until incorporated and very lightly browned.
Slowly add 3 cups milk and 1 1/2 cups chicken broth. Whisk well to combine and avoid lumps.
Flavor with 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1/4 tsp white pepper.
Add 3 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese and mix well. Cook until thickened slightly and the cheese melts.
Add 2 tsp of dried porcini powder (pulse in a spice grinder or food processor). Mix well.
Add the cooked macaroni to a buttered casserole dish (or two) and pour the cheese sauce over the noodles. There may be extra sauce so don’t use it all if you’re worried it’s too much. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.
Enjoy! But avoid temptation and let it cool slightly before snacking.