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Archive for the ‘Seasonal eating’ Category

A major haul in Colorado’s Lizard Head Wilderness. Those are not my hands…I may have eczema, but not man-hands.

Ever since I wrote a report on mushrooms in the fourth grade, I’ve been obsessed with fungi in all its glorious permutations. I spent many childhood hours tromping around after a rainfall, searching for elusive species. Yet, typical of my finicky palate at that age, I refused to even consider actually eating a mushroom. The horror.

Thankfully, things change, and some gluttons are made, not born.  I now enjoy eating wild mushrooms as much as I love foraging for them.

Although this recipe long predates an epic chanterelle harvest I did in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, it’s still my favorite way to showcase these meaty, woodsy-tasting golden mushrooms.  Hello, autumn.

WARM FINGERLING POTATO & CHANTERELLE SALAD

serves four as a starter

1 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. fingerling potatoes, parboiled and drained, and cut into 1/2-inch slices

3/4 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered if large, halved if smaller

1 medium shallot, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and the olive oil.  When butter is foamy, add chanterelles and cook until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Important: the first few minutes of cooking, the mushrooms will release their liquid- you must keep cooking until the liquid has absorbed and mushrooms begin to brown.

Add remaining half tablespoon butter, and sauté shallots and thyme with chanterelles for 1 minute.  Add potatoes to heat through, being careful not to break them up as you stir. Remove from heat.

Allow salad to cool in large bowl for several minutes, then add Champagne vinegar, more  olive oil, if needed, and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve warm.

©The Sustainable Kitchen 2001®

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In honor of National Grilling Memorial Day, I’ve decided to rerun this post on how to make the most kickass burgers you’ll ever taste. Really. Happy holiday weekend!

I have Depression-era parents. That’s why I grew up eating freezer-burned heels of bread, and why there are spices in my mother’s pantry older than I am. One useful culinary thing Mom did teach me, besides making braising liquid for pot roast with Lipton’s Onion Soup mix (totally trailer, but so good), is to stretch my pennies by mixing egg and breadcrumbs into ground meat when I make hamburgers. Not only does this make for a lighter, juicier burger, but they taste pretty kick-ass when you liven up the grind with minced shallots, garlic, and chopped fresh herbs.

So, now that summer is finally here (yes, I realize it’s September but I live in Seattle), I thought I’d celebrate by firing up my metaphorical barbecue (I also live in an apartment at the moment), and share with you my tips for making a better burger.

*Remove your ground meat of choice from the fridge half an hour before you plan to make your burgers. You’re going to be adding stuff to it, and it will bind better if the meat isn’t too cold. Allow about one-and-a-half pounds for four people, depending upon what else you plan to serve. It’s always better to prepare too much than too little, and leftover burgers are great crumbled into stir-fries, pasta sauce, or scrambled eggs.

*Open a beer (personally, I prefer cocktails or wine but raw meat flecks and smeary fingerprints on glasseware is just not sexy).

*Dump the meat into a large bowl. Add one egg and one or two largish handfuls of panko or breadcrumbs; make them yourself with leftover bread or score some discounted day-old stuff from a bakery or local dumpster. Storebought stuff works, too. Add another egg if the mixture seems too dry. The point of these two ingredients is two-fold. The egg adds moisture and acts as a binding agent, while the breadcrumbs increase your yield and ensure your burger won’t end up festering in your colon for the next several months.

*Be sure to wash your hands after handling the egg and raw meat, and keep them separate from any utensils or ingredients you plan to use on raw food. E. coli is also not sexy.

*Add to meat one large shallot, minced, and at least three cloves of garlic, also finely minced. I always add a dash or four of soy sauce or Worcestershire, for added flavor. Throw in a handful of chopped Italian parsley or chives. Ground lamb with mint is also wonderful.

*Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well using your hands until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. To determine if your seasoning is right on, fry up a pinch of the mixture. Form into one-and-a-quarter-inch-thick patties by scooping the meat into your hands and gently! patting them into shape. Resist the urge to fondle too much, as it will compact the meat, making for a dry, tough burger. If you make them slider-sized, you’ll be able to double fist, clutching burger in one hand and beer in the other. I may not like greasy glasses, but I’m a huge advocate of eating and drinking ambidextrously.

I always make a slight indentation in the center of each patty, because that’s what my mom did to prevent “shrinkage.” I have no idea if this is true or not, but it does make you look like a wise old kitchen sage. You can make the burgers up to a day ahead; if you’ve got a crowd, place a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap between layers to prevent them from glomming on to one another. Bring up to room temperature before grilling.

*Preheat your grill or flat-top. Have another drink while you’re waiting.

*When coals are ashy and white and you’ve got some flame going, lightly oil the grill using a damp rag dipped in cooking oil. If you’re using a pan, get it smoking hot and brown both sides of the meat for better flavor. Try to refrain from cooking past medium rare if you’ve thrown down cash for good meat.

*Toast your buns. Artisan or Wonder Bread, they’ll taste better and it will help prevent the condiments from making them soggy.

*One more drink. Eat. Enjoy. Make friends or significant other clean up.

Lamb makes great burgers, too!

Lamb makes great burgers, too!

Sourcing

Depending upon your budget and the state of your arteries, you can opt for lean ground beef (around the eight- to ten-percent fat range), or go big on something 20- to 25-percent fat. Hamburgers are not the place to skimp on fat–it’s a necessary component, whether you use ground chuck, sirloin, or round. I recommend grassfed- and -finished beef for health, humanity, and flavor reasons, but bear in mind it’s lower in fat and shouldn’t be cooked past medium-rare.
Chuck is the most popular and economical, and provides a good fat and flavor balance. When purchasing, look for a bright, pinky-red color, and if cellophane-wrapped, avoid anything gray, leaky, smelly, or otherwise bio-hazardous. Tempting as it may be to purchase the preformed, opaque-packaged, phallic “chubs,” refrain. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth eating gussied up pet food.

If you’re on a tight budget, however, even if you buy the $2.99/lb. ghetto
grind, it will be vastly improved by the addition of a truly great egg. Pasture-raised chickens snack on foraged bugs and decaying vegetation (Those of you with McNugget crumbs around your mouths shouldn’t look so horrified) and the results are exceptionally rich, orangey-yellow yolks packed full of all kinds of that healthy antioxidant crap. They’re a great, inexpensive protein source on their own, and so much better than pale, watery, flavorless commercial eggs that are god knows how old.

Bon appetit!

[Photo love: burger, Flickr user Adam Kuban]

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Ever had the urge to eat a sea creature that resembles a giant, uncircumcised penis? No? You have no idea what you’re missing out on.

Read all about my day digging for geoduck clams on Seattle’s Olympic Peninsula right here.

[Photo love: Langdon Cook]

Got geodick…er, duck?

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Whether your idea of hardcore is bagging volcanoes or wine tasting, Chile’s got it. Read all about it in my new BootsnAll  feature, “Ski, Surf, Sip, Raft and Ride: Six Places to Explore the Diversity of Chile.”

Laguna Chaxa, Atacama

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Aah, spring. The first tender buds are unfurling on the trees; crocuses and daffodils push their bright heads up through the damp soil. The music of birdsong is audible once again.

Photo love: Flickr user Stellas mom

Despite all that, the weather is still utter shit here in Seattle, and frankly, I’m fucking over it. I’m hearing about spring break (college town, after all), and I’m still wearing my Uggs and pj’s in the house and huddling in a blanket to stay warm (Welcome to the world of self-employment; looking presentable unnecessary).

Needless to say, many farmers in these parts have had a tough winter, what with Snowmageddon and all, so aside from heaps of brassicas, there’s not much inspiration to be had at the farmer’s market.

But at least I can provide you with a recipe that speaks of spring. Not that smoked trout really reminds me of the vernal equinox, but whatevs. I came up with this salad for a cooking demo I did at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market, based upon what was available from the vendors at this time of year. Hence the smoked trout–not something I’d ordinarily gravitate toward–and watermelon radish. Turns out, it’s a lovely concoction, full of contrasting textures and flavors. Try it; you’ll see.

SMOKED TROUT, GRAPEFRUIT & WATERMELON RADISH SALAD

serves 4

Vinaigrette

2 T. Champagne vinegar

salt, to taste

2 t. finely minced shallot

2 T. lemon juice

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

5 c. baby arugula or watercress

2 medium pink grapefruit or two medium blood oranges, segmented

one medium watermelon radish, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible

¼ lb. smoked trout (about one fillet), flaked into chunks

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For vinaigrette:  Place the shallot, Champagne vinegar and a pinch salt together in a small bowl and let macerate for at least 10 minutes and up to one hour to mellow the flavor of the shallot.  Add the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

For the salad: When ready to serve, rewhisk the vinaigrette, and place the arugula, citrus segments, and radish in a large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette (note you may not need to use all of it; better to add too little than too much).

Arrange mound of arugula on each of four chilled salad plates, adding several citrus segments and slices of radish. Top with some of the smoked trout.  Season with a twist of freshly ground black pepper.

© The Sustainable Kitchen®, 2004

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I created this recipe for a cooking demo/lecture on sustainable eating I did in the Bay Area. I love the sheep and cow milk cheeses made by Northern California’s Bellwether Farms;  Stracchino di Crescenza is a traditional cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy. Make this simple salad with the last nectarines of the season;. citrus such as blood oranges are nice during the colder months.

NECTARINE, PROSCIUTTO & ARUGULA SALAD WITH BELLWETHER
 CRESCENZA TOASTS

serves four

Four slices of baguette, 1/4-inch thick and cut
on a long bias and brushed lightly with extra virgin olive oil

4 oz. (1/4 lb.)  Bellwether Farms Crescenza cheese (available online and at select cheese shops nationwide; you may substitute chevre, Pont l’Eveque, or blue cheese), placed in a strainer to drain any liquid

Vinaigrette

2 t. finely minced shallot

2 T. good-quality white Balsamic Vinegar (I like the one from Stonehouse) or Champagne Vinegar

Pinch kosher salt

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, or to taste, plus extra for brushing on baguette

5 c. arugula

2-3 medium nectarines, ripe but not mushy, cut into 1/4-inch slices

4 oz. prosciutto, sliced paper thin (about eight slices). Tear each slice
into halves or thirds, so you have medium-size pieces that will crumple nicely on the salad.

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Brush baguette slices lightly with olive oil, place on a baking sheet and toast until crisp but not browned.  Alternatively, you may grill them.

The vinaigrette:  Place the shallot, vinegar, and salt together in a small bowl and let macerate for at least 10 minutes and up to one hour to mellow the flavor of the shallot.  Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking to combine. Add more vinegar or oil, if necessary. If not using immediately, rewhisk before dressing greens.

When ready to serve, spread each toast with one ounce of Crescenza. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss the arugula with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves. Add nectarine slices and gently toss one more time to coat nectarines without bruising them. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Arrange mound of arugula on each of four salad plates, adding several nectarine slices. Gently crumple and add the prosciutto and place a Crescenza toast on each plate. Serve immediately.

© The Sustainable Kitchen ®, 2009

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