29 June 2011

Dinner from the Farmer's Market: Sauteed Kale and Sugar Snap Peas


At least it wasn’t raining at the Camas Farmer’s Market last Wednesday afternoon. In fact business seemed brisk while I was there. The mixed spicy greens from Yacolt Mountain Farm had sold out before I stopped by so I settled for a bag of kale. Only one box of strawberries remained at the stall where I bought peonies. The strawberries were pretty and petite and I bought them too. A little farther and I found more strawberries and sugar snap peas. At other stalls I saw rhubarb, onions, radishes and cherries.

That was about the size of the produce selection at last week’s market. Still it was enough and then some. I also picked up Gibassier and a Molasses Cookie from Truly Scrumptious, stopped by Navidi’s Oils and Vinegars and grabbed a cup of hot coffee from Caffe Piccolo before starting for home.

Though it is late June, variety at our local market is still limited. Even so, added to a few leftovers from the fridge, it provided for a delicious dinner....and dessert.


Kale with Olives and Grape Tomatoes

1 bunch kale, chopped (approx. 3 cups)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons black olives, chopped
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil (I used Whole Fruit Lemon Olive Oil)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt (I used Northwest Alder Smoked Salt)

I roughly chopped the kale and halved a handful of grape tomatoes that were leftover from a salad I made on the weekend. I heated a tablespoon of Navidi’s Whole Fruit Lemon Olive Oil and when it shimmered I tossed in the kale. Stirring gently I let it cook for several minutes before adding the tomato halves and olives along with a splash of balsamic vinegar. When the tomatoes began to soften I tossed in the leftover chicken. When the chicken was warmed through I served it over pan-toasted Polenta and dusted it with a pinch of Alder Smoked Salt from Navidi’s.


Simple Sugar Snap Peas

2 cups cleaned sugar snap peas
1 Tablespoon olive oil (I used Whole Fruit Lemon Olive Oil)
pinch of salt (I used Northwest Alder Smoked Salt)

Adding a little more Lemon Olive Oil to the pan I placed it back on the heat and then stir fried the cleaned sugar snap peas until they were bright green and crisp tender (approximately 3 minutes). I finished them with just a pinch of Smoked Salt and freshly ground black pepper and served them on the side.


What did I do with the strawberries? I’ll have to save that for my next post…

17 June 2011

Wild Rice Salad with Ginger Dressing




Today the weatherman came through and then some! The sun is shining and the sky is that beautiful shade of clear blue that lends precision to every detail of our gorgeous landscape in the Pacific Northwest.

From my vantage point on the back deck there isn’t a cloud in sight.  The air is clean and  scented with late spring blossoms. The bees are busy about their work on the lavender and the bunnies have an extra bounce in their step as they dart around the garden.

This fresh and beautiful weather is the perfect setting in which to enjoy a Wild Rice Salad with Ginger Dressing. This salad first found its way into my recipe collection some years ago from a newspaper clipping. I’m sure it was the ginger that attracted my attention but the result exceeded expectations both in good looks and flavor.

This salad's bright mixture of crisp confetti colored vegetables, nutty grains of wild rice and tender orzo provide a colorful contrast that dresses up almost any main dish. The flavor blends particularly well with grilled salmon or many Asian inspired dishes. It also holds its own as an anchor for a salad buffet where it’s light gingery dressing sets it apart as uniquely fresh and flavorful.




Wild Rice Salad with Ginger Dressing

Salad

8 ounces wild rice
16 ounces orzo
8 ounces snow peas, cleaned and diced
2 large yellow or red bell peppers, diced
¾ cup red onion, finely chopped
8 radishes, cut in matchsticks

Ginger Dressing

½ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
3 Tablespoons grated gingerroot
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon pepper

Cook both wild rice and orzo according to package directions.

In a very large bowl stir together the prepared wild rice, orzo, snow peas, bell peppers, onion and radishes.

To prepare the dressing: In a glass jar with a lid or in the container of a blender, combine the cider vinegar, olive oil, parsley, gingerroot, mustard, salt and pepper.  Shake or process until thoroughly blended.

Up to two hours before serving, combine the rice mixture with the dressing.  Mix until the dressing evenly coats the salad.

Note: The dressing can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated separately.  Prepare remaining ingredients and wrap separately up to 24 hours before assembling.

Another thought: This salad makes a lot so be sure to share it with friends.

Enjoy!

16 June 2011

Summer?


I woke this morning to sunshine and the promises of a beautiful sunny day from the weatherman on the radio. By midmorning he had already been proven wrong. Before lunch the gray had convincingly settled in, again. Good grief! It is past the middle of June. Summer officially begins in only a few days.

This morning the temperature was in the 40s. This afternoon, it may hit the mid-60s. Customers walk slowly into the local Starbucks where I am hiding from the gloom, crushed by the forecast’s broken promises of at least this one day of clear skies. It is in fact less clear than yesterday when thick clouds were predicted.

The line at the counter is subdued. Customers order their drinks in hushed tones. One by one they turn away from the counter with their hands deep in the pockets of their most summery long-sleeved dark gray sweatshirts or black coats.

For the most part the natives have stopped trying to pretend that it feels like summer and have taken a step back into a winter comfort zone. The occasional fashionista walks by on the sidewalk in short sleeves and sandals with the nervous gait of one who is fighting off a chill.

The brave guy beside me dared to order a Venti Iced Tea but it sat on the table in front of him nearly full until after I finished my Extra-Hot Double Tall Soy Latte and left for home. I admire the determination of the young but there is no mistaking this place for Southern California, Dallas, or anyplace warm. Sunshine has been scarce this year and summer fashion and drinks are a recipe for discomfort that few of us are cooking from this week.

I give up. Instead of trying out some new summer salad, tonight I am opening a can of soup. When it looks something like summer again I will share the recipe for a fantastically fresh tasting wild rice and orzo salad in a gingery dressing. Until then I look longingly out the window and wait….


...there I am reminded that I don’t wait alone. Summer is coming, even to the Pacific Northwest. I just hope it gets here soon!

The forecast says tomorrow...

05 June 2011

Celebrating Sunshine - Strawberry Shortcake



Summer Weather

Ahhh! This weekend has been gorgeous. Sunshine at last!

If you aren’t from this part of the country you may read that last line and smile faintly thinking, “Sure, sunshine is nice but what’s the big deal?” You may be thinking you are tired of the heat already. You may say to yourself,  "It’s June" and "It’s hot!" and "Isn’t air-conditioning the greatest modern convenience ever?"

On the other hand if you are from Portland or Southwest Washington or even Seattle, I have no doubt that you are smiling and nodding and doing a little dance in total agreement. After an extremely sparse spring and a lackluster Memorial Day weekend, following day after day of gray and cold and soggy, after looking at folks walking around in boots and sweatshirts and dark colors and still appreciating your fireplace in June, this was a weekend to break out in color and celebrate. And, given cause to celebrate, no one knows how to drop everything and celebrate sunshine like those who live in this part of the country.

Strawberry Season

Suddenly summer is at least knocking on the door and nothing says summer is very nearly here quite like the advent of Strawberry Season. Though the fruit and vegetable stalls at our farmer’s market are sparse and there is nothing at all growing in my garden that isn’t left over from last year I have seen strawberries featured at the grocery store and Friday I ordered Strawberry Shortcake from Roots local seasonally inspired menu.

Having tasted a few bites of Roots’ inspired response to sunshine, on their patio no less, with sunshine and shadows dancing across my table in a faint breeze, I couldn’t resist the call to make my own version of Strawberry Shortcake. The inspiration happened to coincide with my husband’s birthday so guess what kind of cake he got for the celebration?


Strawberry Shortcake

1½ - 2 pounds strawberries
¼ (to ½) cup sugar, more as needed

1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, if desired

Wash, hull and cut strawberries into ¼-inch slices. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of sugar and stir. Allow the berries to sit for 10 minutes, taste and adjust sugar adding up to ¼ cup more to achieve the sweetness you desire. Allow the strawberries to macerate (soften and release their juice) at room temperature for another 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, prepare dough for Buttermilk Scones as directed. Bake the dough in one large circle, as the recipe suggests, but without cutting the dough into wedges before baking. Alternately, cut the dough into 3 or 4-inch rounds, for individual sized shortcakes. These may take a few minutes less to bake so watch them carefully. I bake mine on an ungreased baking stone to encourage a crispy bottom crust which makes a nice counterpoint to the soft berries and cream.) The scones are done when the tops begin to turn golden.

Combine the whipping cream along with ¼ cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, if desired, in a small mixing bowl. Beat at medium to high speed until peaks form.

To serve:

Just before serving, cut the scone in half horizontally. Place the bottom half on a serving plate and top with a layer of berries. If you are making one large shortcake use about 2/3 of the berries in this layer.

Top with a layer of whipped cream and then position the upper half of the scone on top. Arrange the remaining berries on top of this layer letting the juice run down the sides. Drop a nice sized dollop of whipped cream over the berries to top it off.

Other ideas:

Strawberry Shortcake can be served a number of different ways depending on the occasion and your preference:
  • One large cake cut into wedges is ideal for a family style dessert.
  • For pretty individual desserts, cut the scones into 3 – 4 inch circles before baking and spend a little extra effort in arranging the strawberries over the biscuit layers and stacking the cream.
  • As an alternate to layers of shortcake, berries and whipped cream you can go light on the whipped cream, place just a dollop on the top or even skip it altogether, and serve the berry filled shortcake in shallow bowls. After the cake is served, pass a pitcher of half-and-half for guests to pour over their shortcake as desired. It gives an extra homey feel to the dessert experience and tastes wonderful.
Notes:

Strawberry Shortcake is delicious no matter the shape or style of assembly. It is best, however, to save assembly until just before serving. If the situation allows this treat is at its peak when the berries are freshly cut and macerated, with the shortcake still slightly warm from the oven and the cream cool and just whipped or the half-and half cold from the refrigerator. The subtle play of warm cake against cool cream, of tender berry against crispy crust, of tart fruit bathed in sweet juice, makes a beautifully balanced and expressive dessert.

In fact Strawberry Shortcake is so good that it almost seems a shame to dull the taste buds by eating dinner first. As my friend Alanna shared with me one spring-time long ago (and in a post at Kitchen Parade) in her family, when the first local strawberries are ripe and ready, “Shortcake is supper, nothing else.“

I had never thought of it before, but why not? Why not think of Strawberry Shortcake as more than simply a dessert? One day a year, when spring is blending into summer and the strawberries are at their peak of sweet perfection, why not focus on the moment and make Strawberry Shortcake the only thing on the menu? Share it with family or friends. They'll be glad you did!

Enjoy!