green chile posole

IMG_9582My efforts to cook down the freezer continue, and soupily.  I am off to pick up the beef today, and am proud to announce I managed to clear about half the space, so I should be fine.  A major part of the square footage was taken up by what I thought was a half of a pig’s head (nope, a whole; surprise!) from my butchery class with Camas Davis.  I also found a jowl and a cheek, as one does.

Because the head was so big, I roasted it and stripped it for tacos (cabeza), then added the leftover bits to pork stock for a wonderful green chile posole with the other parts I had uncovered in my latest archaeological dig.

Posole!  If you haven’t tried it, it’s wonderful.  I used up a bag of homemade posole (nixtamalized) corn, made last year, the last of my peppers from the two potted plants I had maintained until the frost, the last of the green tomatoes, some roasted anchos I found in the freezer, a big handful of oregano and tarragon still hanging on in the garden, and that wonderfully rich, gelatinous cabeza meat and some pork shoulder. The cabeza really added so much to the broth, and I recommend it if you should have a head in your freezer.  No questions asked.

If you’re making it, here are a few more tips: I threw in a handful of local cornmeal to slightly thicken the broth, and simmered everything for 30 minutes or so, adding a lemon and some powdered ancho pepper and garlic powder near the end of cooking. Perfect winter meal, all local, but with a taste of warm sunny skies.

fungstravaganza: wild mushroom soups and dumplings!

IMG_9282I spoke to a full house at the mushroom festival on Sunday.  A full house, I’d like to believe, that was there to soak in my culinary wisdom and wit about mushroom soups and dumplings, but I am not too vain to know they were there because they were soaked.  The makeshift stage, arranged as one does at rural festivals with hay bales and sheltered by a fabric tent, provided a reason to come sit and listen to my radio voice in the downpour.  Heck, it was the only dry spot with seating in the entire joint, and one that smelled like garlic and pork and ginger and mushrooms, so I know it was a natural place to hang out.  Yay!

If you’re here because of the demo, welcome!

IMG_9285So I talked about three mushroom soups using wild mushroom stock, and promised to provide the recipes here.  One was a creamy, full-bodied soup from Eastern Europe featuring sauerkraut and pork, and the other two were lighter and good for vegetarian dining. I also discussed two mushroom dumplings: bolete (a.k.a. porcini or cep) spaetzle and chanterelle potstickers.  The spaetzle is good in soup, the potstickers, of course, are good as an accompaniment to soup.

Wild mushrooms in these recipes can be used interchangeably with what you have on hand, but I suspect most of you will have chanterelles or hedgehogs or boletes if you forage in Oregon, or you can rely on the markets to get others and the dried shiitakes or boletes or Chinese brown mushrooms you’ll need for the stock.

I don’t have any magic way to make pictures of brown or creamy soups look good, so enjoy this picture of spaetzle with pork medallions in a creamy chanterelle sauce I snapped in Germany.

20141020_142010Interested in more wild mushroom recipes?  Check out the brand new and comprehensive community cookbook compiled by the Cascade Mycological Society as a fundraiser for scholarships.  If you’re new to foraging, this is THE local organization to know.

Wild Mushroom Stock

This recipe is based on a stock I made for a Japanese vegan dinner using only dried shiitakes and soy, and a more complex stock popular at Greens restaurant in San Francisco.  It’s dark and well-rounded in flavor, and great for vegetarian soups and stews.

  • 10 cups water
  • 2 cups dried mushrooms, mixed or single variety (shiitake, Chinese brown mushrooms, boletes, morels)
  • Any trimmings of fresh mushrooms you have
  • two leeks, including the tops
  • one celery stalk with leaves
  • one yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • a dozen black peppercorns
  • handful of fresh herbs: fresh parsley, bay leaf, thyme
  • salt to taste

Bring water to a boil, then add dried mushrooms (they will reconstitute in the boiling water) and the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 1 hour or more, then let cool in pot.  Remove vegetables, reserving the mushrooms for other uses (like fried rice), if you like.  Clarify stock using an egg raft or several coffee filters and a sieve.

For the simplest soup recipe, serve cups of hot broth with tiny slivers of:

  • fresh ginger, preferably new ginger
  • carrot and/or burdock
  • fresh mushroom
  • and chopped chives.

Add just before serving.

Another idea for this stock is a vegetarian version of the classic French onion soup, enriched by caramelized onions and topped with a melty cheese toast.  Wild foods expert Butter Wilde has a recipe for a gorgeously rich Porcini French Onion Soup on Hunger and Thirst, her blog.

Wild Mushroom and Sauerkraut Pork Goulash (Szekely Goulash)

Chanterelles are a delicious addition to this traditional Transylvanian stew. This recipe is very popular every time we do a sauerkraut class with the Master Food Preserver trainees, and I make it frequently.  It’s a good use for your homemade fresh sauerkraut.  Consider rinsing your kraut if it’s very salty; I usually don’t. The pork browns on top of the sauerkraut as it’s baking, so no need to brown ahead of time.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a shake of paprika on top.

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 large white onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 cups chanterelles or boletes, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons imported sweet paprika, or a mix of sweet and hot
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dillweed
  • 1 lb. sauerkraut, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes, tossed with some salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups mushroom stock or chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a heavy dutch oven or similar pot with a lid, heat onions, garlic, and caraway seeds with oil until onions are limp and golden brown.  Add chopped mushrooms and saute until liquid cooks away, then add paprika, bay leaf, dillweed, and sauerkraut, stir well.

Layer pork cubes on top of sauerkraut and add stock.

Bring to a boil, then cover, place in oven and cook for 2 hours, or until pork falls apart.

After removing from oven, add cream and let flavors meld for 15 minutes or so before serving.  Do not boil again after adding cream.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Hazelnut Spaetzle

Bring mushroom stock up to a simmer, then add cooked spaetzle (see recipe below).  While soup is heating, sauté tiny cubes of carrot, potato, celery hearts, and shallot in a little vegetable oil until browned, then add to soup dishes.  Pour soup on top, dividing spaetzle evenly between the bowls.

Wild Mushroom and Hazelnut Spaetzle

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts or almonds, or similar nut flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered dried bolete/porcini/cep mushrooms (grind dried mushrooms in a clean coffee grinder to a dust, pick out any remaining large pieces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

Mix dry ingredients, then add egg and half the milk, and beat well.  Add more milk until the batter is stiff but not yet a dough.  Let sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

In a medium pot bring several cups of slightly salted water to a boil. The water should fill the pot about halfway.  Turn down to a simmer.

Method 1:  Using a ricer, spaetzle-maker, or colander with large holes, push a portion of the batter through the holes in large strands directly in the simmering water.  Repeat after dumplings float to top (see below).

Method 2: Spread the batter out flat on a large cutting board or tray without sides. with a long knife, cut off bits of batter in very thin strips, pushing them into the boiling water as you cut.  Move quickly so the dumplings will cook evenly in a batch.  Repeat after dumplings float to top (see below).

When the cooked spaetzle are ready, they will float to the surface.  Remove and drain, then toss into a bowl with a teaspoon or two of oil and stir gently to lubricate, so they won’t stick.

These are best in any clear soup, or drain well after cooking, then toss in some hot butter and brown a little before serving with a saucy main course as one would noodles.

Serve immediately.

Oyster Mushroom Potstickers

Follow the method outlined on my “little green potstickers” post, substituting the following ingredients for the filling:

  • 2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms, cleaned, chopped finely, and dry-sautéed with a splash of soy sauce (2 t. or so) until all the liquid is gone.
  • 1/4 cake regular (firm) tofu, drained well of water
  • 1/4 lb. ground pork
  • 3-4 green onions, white parts only, minced
  • 2-inch long piece ginger, grated finely
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. sesame seeds
  • 1/2 t. salt

Let dry-sautéed mushrooms cool, then combine with filling ingredients and proceed as in the post linked above.

culinaria eugenius in germany: mushrooms, here and abroad

IMG_6727IMG_9182IMG_9179IMG_6816IMG_681520141018_174446 20141020_142010IMG_6864 I’ve been in Germany, fitted with a stylish orthopedic boot for my lame foot, and sampling wild mushrooms and newly fermented wine and sausages.

Now the foot’s healed and I’m back just in time for our own mushroom festival at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum today, rain or shine.  They’ve decided to experiment with cooking demos, so I’m hauling my little portable cooktop down to the festival to whip up some delicious soups and dumplings featuring the ingredient of the day!  Thrilled to be a part of one of the best festivals we hold, with a huge mushroom display and walks, activities, music, and food.

Come see me at 11-12:30 on the Moon Stage!  I’ll be sampling wild mushroom broth with spaetzle and creamy mushroom sauerkraut goulash for the soup demo, and oyster mushroom potstickers for the dumpling demo.  Recipes later!

The images above show the Alps from Garmisch; wild mushrooms at the Kleinemarkthalle and little marzipan boars rooting about in acorns in Frankfurt; pork medallions with spaetzle in Heidelberg; and glorious fall leaves in Wuerzburg.

summer soups

IMG_7866In this endlessly hot weather, the only thing to do is to delicately sip cold soups and drink Pimm’s Cup.  Why don’t I have a croquet course set up on my lawn again?  This is outrageous.  I demand immediate measures to be taken to remedy the situation.

Until then, I will be eating chilled gazpacho.  I like my gazpacho milled to a fine consistency, then made chunky with chopped veg and freshly made garlic croutons.  This version added Sungolds and fried padrons from Groundwork Organics.

Want more cold soup ideas?  Try the aforementioned gazpacho in red or green, sour cherry apricot soup, borscht, cucumber melon soup, or okroshka, a mixed vegetable soup based on tangy kvass.

 

 

 

 

ozette potatoes, queen spud of the northwest

IMG_4256Of the many cool vegetables grown by relatively new farm Turnip the Beet, the ‘Ozette Fingerling’ potato must top the list.  Rush over to the farm tomorrow at the Lane County Farmers Market to see if Farmers Lela and John have any of these big fat fingerlings left.  Locavores won’t regret it.  Last Saturday, Lela told me that they might have them for another week.

On that very day, when I was trying and failing to blow through the market just to get a few things, I was stopped by a very excited anthropologist who told me that the Ozette, grown by the Makah people of what is now the tippiest tip of northwest Washington for centuries, was available for sale.

The Ozette is a potato that came up the coast from the Andes, I was informed dramatically, bypassing Europe altogether!  Unlike most potatoes that were collected in Peru and environs by the Spanish and colonized back in the Old World, then returned to America, the Ozette had been left behind by Spanish colonists. They had decided the Makah area around Neah Bay wasn’t a good port, so they left their settlement behind.  The Makah people, who seem like a sensible lot, saved the potatoes from the garden, named them after a local island, and planted and cherished them for generations.

The potato looks like a long, fat oca, if you know that Andean root from your travels to Peru or New Zealand.  It’s bumpier and creamier and smoother than a standard fingerling.  When baked, the potato becomes dense but still floury, like a Russet on steroids.  And the flavor is nutty and rich.  It makes an absolutely delicious soup because of the starch content, and doesn’t need butter if you bake or mash it.  I still have a couple left I’d like to fry.  My guess is that they’ll be terrific latkes for Thanksgivukkah this year, if they last in the fridge or cellar that long.

If you’re interested in the history of this singular Pacific Northwesterner, check out Gary Nabhan’s Renewing America’s Food Traditions.  You can also read about Slow Food’s presidium (scroll down) Ozette project and the details of the Ozette’s development and commercialization as a seed potato. There’s a great video featuring narration from a Makah woman about Native farming and naming the Ozette that was produced by the Seattle area restaurant/farm The HerbFarm, one of the first non-Makah Nation concerns to grow the potato.  The Ozette’s entry in the Slow Food Ark of Taste is here.

The Ozette made me a wonderful vegetarian soup this week with some leftover corncob broth I had from prepping my Bodacious corn for freezing for the year.  It’s fine to substitute water, but the corn added a snappy note to the potatoes and cauliflower.  I’d strongly recommend it.  Corn broth freezes beautifully. I love potato soup, and think it never needs added bacon or pancetta, but if you wanted to gild the lily…

Ozette Potato Cauliflower Soup with Corn Broth

Serves 4.

  • 6 cups corn cob stock
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 t. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 3 cups potatoes cut in 2-inch chunks, preferably Ozette but ok to substitute 1/2 Russet and 1/2 Yukon Gold
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • fresh thyme
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Make your corn cob stock by simmering six denuded cobs in heavily salted water for about 20 minutes, then remove cobs.  Or use chicken stock or water.  Saute onion until golden brown.  Add onion, cauliflower, potato, and carrot to the corn broth, and cook until soft. Taste and add salt and white pepper to your liking. Mash vegetables, then blend with a hand blender until smooth.  Alternatively, use chinois to mill soup smooth.  Add fresh thyme and buttermilk and simmer on the lowest heat for a couple of minutes to blend flavors, then serve.

cold soups made with a magic elixir called kvass

IMG_5306My new addiction is an old Russian fermented drink called kvass. It’s great as a breakfast juice or as an afternoon refreshment on a hot day: slightly sour, ice cold, a strong nose of beery grain or funky beet.  it’s a drink for those of us who like deep, dark, barnyardy flavors.  Or beer!

As discussed in my Russian zakuski party post, kvass is a healthful tonic full of enzymes and the lactobacilli that are the new popular kids on the block.  Whey can be added to rye bread or raw vegetables and fruits with nothing more than water, and the liquid will magically be soured to your taste.  Like lacto-fermented pickles, kvass sits on the counter until the good bacteria multiply and give it a characteristic tang.

I’m at work on my first blackberry kvass and a fermented version of tomato juice that I’m planning to push on an unsuspecting friend for bloody marys, and I will report back.  Until then, I wanted to share some easy cold soup recipes using kvass as the base, since I’ve already gone on about it and I can’t get enough.

IMG_5201Easy Beet Kvass

Chop up two big red beets; add to a half-gallon jar with two teaspoons of salt and a 1/4 cup of whey, sauerkraut juice, or a similar fermented liquid to hasten fermentation.  I used fermented dill pickle juice in the photo above, which is why you see a juniper berry floating on top.

Fill jar 3/4 to top with water and stir. Let sit on the counter for 2-4 days, depending on how sour you’d like the mix.  (I went for 4 days and the flavor was great for soup.)  Skim off any mold bits daily.  Strain and refrigerate.  Drink as is, or use uncooked as a liquid for cold soups, correcting for salt.

Beet Kvass Borscht

Serves 4.

There are various names for soups like this in Russian and Polish, but let’s just keep it simple.  You have two choices here: you can add your vegetables and let sit in the stock overnight for improved flavor but a thoroughly hot pink color; or you can add your vegetables just prior to serving for pretty colors (above).  It’s, as they say, all good.

To a quart of cold kvass, chop up and add some or all of the following: cooked beets of various hues, cucumbers, scallions, chives, dill weed, apples, hardboiled eggs.  Serve immediately or let flavors develop in the refrigerator.  (But if you decide to add eggs, place on top just before serving.)  Taste and salt if necessary.  A gamechanging addition, should you have it on hand, is a good slug of dill pickle juice.  Or try kimchi juice?  Optional garnish: more herbs, a dollop of sour cream.

IMG_3596Rye Bread Kvass

This recipe is slightly more complicated and gooey than beet kvass, and yields a mildly alcoholic brew. You’ll need to get your hands on decent rye bread, either light or dark, with no preservatives.  Darker rye, such as the thinly sliced German or Russian stuff that’s bursting with grain and almost moist, is terrific but will yield a darker color for the kvass. In the picture, my kvass is a combination of about 1:3 dark:light rye. Alternatively, you can make your own rye or buckwheat mash, but I’ll leave it up to your powers of the internet to find a recipe for that.

I’m going to play with yeast types (I’ve heard ale and champagne yeasts make better kvass) and did not bother to secondary-ferment my kvass, as I wanted it for soup and fizzy soup sounds kind of gross to me, so let me know if you have any advice.

  • Half gallon jar or crock
  • 5-6 slices good quality bakery or German rye bread
  • packet of active dry yeast or piece of sour dough or 1/2 cup whey
  • fresh juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • handful of raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • (For secondary fermentation, you will also need a 2-liter plastic bottle or similar)

Dry bread in the following manner: (1) let it sit on your counter until hard; or (2) toast in the oven until hard and golden brown.  If it burns a little, that’s ok, since it will add to the flavor.  Place in half-gallon jar.

Boil 7 cups of water and pour over bread in half-gallon jar.  Cover and let sit overnight.

Strain bread and press very gently to get as much liquid out as possible.  Discard bread and pour liquid back into jar.  Add yeast or sourdough or whey, lemon juice, honey, salt, and some raisins.  Cover and let sit on the counter for 2-4 days, checking for bubbles (good) and skimming off any moldy bits (bad) daily.  It should smell a little like beer once it gets going and look like the photo below.

IMG_3642For secondary fermentation, strain the kvass through cheesecloth and pour into a 2-liter bottle.  Add a few raisins to bottle.  Seal the cap and let sit for a few days.  Fermentation will build up inside the bottle.  When the raisins float to the top, it will be done.  Refrigerate and use as a drink sweetened with more honey, or as a delicious cold soup stock.

IMG_3664Okroshka (Cold Rye Vegetable Soup)

Serves 4.

Similar to the borscht recipe above, add chopped vegetables to a quart of cold rye kvass.  Since this is a clear soup, don’t add beets or the color will be ruined. Season with a bit of and a healthy dose of dill pickle juice, whole grain mustard, salt, and parsley.

There are as many versions of this soup as there are Russians.  Sandor Katz offers a version with potatoes and turnips in addition to the apples and cucumbers, but I’m not sure I like the texture of potatoes in cold broth because they are softer than the crisp apples and tend to taste merely waterlogged to me. I might try a version that is only cold cooked veg, though: yellow or chioggia beets, tiny waxed potatoes, tiny turnips, steamed Dutch round carrots. Several recipes call for the addition of chopped fermented dill pickles, a brilliant touch if you ask me.

In any case, the soup is even better with more dill and sour cream mixed in.

Oh, and one more.  I already posted my cold melon and cucumber soup made with kvass recipe here, but for sake of completeness…

Melon Cucumber Soup with Shiso

Serves 6.

  • 1 honeydew or other pretty green-fleshed melon
  • 3-4 medium pickling cucumbers or one firm, medium-sized cucumber
  • 1/2 cup kvass
  • 1/2 stale dinner roll or a slice of white bread
  • a pinch or two of salt
  • 1/4 cup any chopped green or banana pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons tarragon
  • 5-6 green shiso (perilla) leaves, plus more for garnish, optional
  • crème fraîche for garnish, optional

Wash and peel melon, cut into chunks.  Peel and seed cucumber only if using one of those grocery store kinds with leathery skin and big seeds.  Tear bread into pieces and soak in kvass.  Add to food processor bowl or blender melon, chunks of cucumber, kvass/bread, salt, peppers, tarragon, and shiso.  Blend until as smooth as possible.  You might try pressing through a food mill or chinois after this step, if you and your guests are fancy.

Refrigerate for several hours, up to overnight but not more, to blend flavors.  Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a chiffonade of shiso in each bowl.

cool as a melon cucumber soup

IMG_5304I’m really into cold soups this summer.  It’s like mainlining vegetables.  And my latest love, kvass (yes, yes, a recipe soon forthcoming, I promise), is making them all the better.  Kvass, a fermented drink made from bread, beets, or fruits, sours up a sweet soup and gives it depth.

This melon-cucumber soup, when done with a meltingly ripe melon from Eastern Oregon, will be too sweet, so you need the balancing agents: kvass, cucumber, green pepper, salt.  Be careful with your garden cucumbers — they can be bitter in this hot, dry weather.  Taste each one before using.

Shiso is an herb everyone should grow, both the green and purple kinds.  Its flavor is a little like basil, a little like tarragon, a little like holy basil, a little like mint.  The purple stuff provides a great dye for pickles, and dried, produces a traditional topping for Japanese rice.  The green stuff can be salted to preserve and used fresh on seafood and, as you shall see, in cold soups.

Melon Cucumber Soup with Shiso

Serves 6.

  • 1 honeydew or other pretty green-fleshed melon
  • 3-4 medium pickling cucumbers or one firm, medium-sized cucumber
  • 1/2 cup kvass, should you be lucky enough to have it, or hefeweizen or other light-flavored beer
  • 1/2 stale dinner roll or a slice of white bread
  • a pinch or two of salt
  • 1/4 cup any chopped green or banana pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons tarragon
  • 5-6 green shiso (perilla) leaves, plus more for garnish, optional
  • crème fraîche for garnish, optional

Wash and peel melon, cut into chunks.  Peel and seed cucumber only if using one of those grocery store kinds with leathery skin and big seeds.  Tear bread into pieces and soak in kvass.  Add to food processor bowl or blender melon, chunks of cucumber, kvass/bread, salt, peppers, tarragon, and shiso.  Blend until as smooth as possible.  You might try pressing through a food mill or chinois after this step, if you and your guests are fancy.

Refrigerate for several hours, up to overnight but not more, to blend flavors.  Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a chiffonade of shiso in each bowl.

chicory chic: a winter vegetable worth the rain

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I’ve spent the winter getting to know one of winter’s sexiest families — the chicory.  Anyone who has inadvertently grown a crop of dandelions in the Willamette Valley knows how massive and fertile these relations can be.  If I’m not careful, I will find weeds locally foraged greens the size of dinner plates in my garden.

I’m not really a fan of wild dandelions, but I do like their evolutionary determination, and the underlying bitterness common to all plants in the chicory family.  Endives, curly escarole, red radicchio (both the round chioggia and pointy treviso types), frisée, and the huge heads of sugarloaf (puntarelle, see top photo and the loaf Marco is holding, below) are becoming more and more popular as a winter substitute for romaine lettuce.

IMG_3281 IMG_3277

Farmer Marco Franciosa of Sunset Lane Farm in Brownsville, a gentle man and gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting this winter thanks to fellow preserver Linda Ziedrich’s blog post mentioning his work, cultivates many kinds of chicories for the restaurant and specialty market trade in Portland with his wife, Kay.  We went out into the fields on two grey, rainy days a month or so ago, and he showed me the easy way to grow chicory, above, and the hard way, which I’ll explain in a second.

IMG_2719Marco uses seed from European sources and closer to home: his neighbor, Adaptive Seeds/Open Oak Farm (above, Farmer Sarah Kleeger marvels at the size of her heads).  For the past three years or so, he has been experimenting with open-pollinated varieties and gorgeous crossed varieties that have yielded some stunningly pretty leafy greens.

When I saw the chicory crops growing, I was immediately smitten.  I’ve enjoyed Belgian endive for years; it was one of my first salad delights in my early twenties, served by a budding chef on a picnic on the bleak cliffs of Point Reyes, California, with pear and blue cheese and walnuts.  I had never had anything that juicy and delicious that could be termed “lettuce.” There’s a recipe for a variation of this simple salad featured on Sunset Lane Farm’s website (I’d swap out the pecans for hazelnuts, personally, being the Willamette Valley nut I am).

And local restaurants, most notably Belly, have been grilling escarole and using pretty speckled chicories raw in winter salads for years.  Right now, for example, Belly has a chicory and duck confit salad with pomegranate seeds — one of the best things on the menu with a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and meaty.  Go check it out asap.

But I hadn’t ever had much respect for the most common chicory we use in winter, curly escarole, which so often serves as a green base for something actually edible on a catering plate.

IMG_3903IMG_3895The Dutch, as previously covered in my post on the traditional escarole mashed potatoes, like to use the big green leafy heads that they call Andijvie to add color and flavor to a winter staple.

But they have a much greater variety of recipes for Witlof, the tight yellowy-white bullet-shaped chicory pictured above that we call the Belgian endive.  (There is some debate about its origin in the area that now defines the Netherlands or that of Belgium.)  It’s a vegetable beloved by children and adults alike, and a surprising number of recipes that range from the typical Dutch ham and cheese endive au gratin casserole to some strange and wonderful combinations.

I’m seeking a publisher for a longer article on Belgian endive — both to showcase Marco’s wonderful specialty farm, which is to my knowledge one of two domestic producers of the crop, and the only one that uses the traditional method versus mechanized hydroponics — and to spread the word about this wonderful winter vegetable.  For some reason I can’t fathom, local magazines don’t seem to be interested in this story of Oregon tenacity and unique deliciousness, so I’m forging eastward (and learning how to write better pitches). Anyone interested?  :) Here’s a snippet of what you’re missing.

Belgian endive is, quite simply, a complete pain to grow.  Unlike the other chicories discussed above, it needs to be grown twice — first, out in the rainy winter field as its brethren above, then chopped down, leaves cut off at the bud head, roots chilled, then replanted and forced in the dark to produce that little white silky endive.  Then you can use the big roots for drying and grinding into chicory coffee.  Another post on that to come.

IMG_3265 IMG_4095 IMG_4092 IMG_4077It’s a labor intensive endeavor, one made easier in Europe and in the sole (?) California producer here in the U.S. These large farms rely on big hydroponic operations that force the heads in dark rooms in liquid fertilizer solution so you don’t have to actually bury the things in sand and add variables plus cleaning off the sand.  But Marco does it the old way by packing the roots tightly in heated raised beds.  He compellingly argues that it’s worth it — the sand method provides a more complex taste and a fuller head.

And oh, how right he is.  Compare, for example, the prosciutto-wrapped heads below with Marco’s, above.  See how there’s separation and greening at the top?  I bought the green ones at Market of Choice.

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But even if you can only get the hydroponic endives, they’re still quite tasty.  They store for a long time in a paper bag in the refrigerator.  If you don’t keep them properly, they will start to darken and grow more bitter, much like the rest of us.

I’ve developed a version of the renowned Cook’s Illustrated recipe for braised endive, a recipe I’ve used religiously for many years, that incorporates a bit of the Dutch preparation with ham.  I found that regular boiled ham tends to get too leathery when you brown it off and tends not to “stick” to the endive when browning (see the image below — too much ham!), so I switched over to a standard-quality prosciutto.  Don’t bother with your finest Italian stuff here.  It’s meant to be an accent, not a pig party.

IMG_4175The result is an exquisite, buttery, slightly bitter, slightly smoky braise that’s so delicious you will not be able to stop eating them.  I’m writing the recipe to serve two, even though, technically, it will serve four people with restraint.  Because, yeah, whatever.  Chicories.  Give them a chance.  You won’t regret it.

IMG_3006

Braised Belgian Endive with Prosciutto

  • 4-5 heads of tight, white Belgian endive
  • enough prosciutto to wrap heads (try 4 oz. or so)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or winter savory
  • 1 tablespoon parsley for garnish

Remove any damaged leaves and cut endive in half, lengthwise.  Wrap halves in prosciutto tightly.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter on medium heat in a chef’s skillet large enough to hold all the heads in one layer (and make sure you have a cover large enough, too). You’ll use the rest of the butter for the sauce.

When the foam reduces, add salt and sugar to promote browning.

Place the heads in the skillet, cut side down.  Cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes), then flip over and cook for another 5 minutes.  Mix together the chicken stock, lemon juice, and thyme or savory, and pour into the skillet.

Cover and cook until soft and succulent, about 15 minutes.

Plate the endive, cut side up.  On high heat, boil down the remaining juices with the tablespoon of butter reserved earlier until it forms a dark syrup, stirring frequently.  Be careful to watch it, as it’s easy to burn the sauce at this point.  Pour the sauce over the endive, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Serves 2 as a main dish with quinoa or bread, or 4 with restraint.  It reheats nicely, but again, you won’t have any left.

a world of possibilities for stuffed cabbage rolls, fermented!

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Polish stuffed cabbage (golabki, or little pigeons, pronounced, basically, Guh-WUMP-kee) was never a favorite of mine growing up.  I don’t particularly like the mixture of ground beef, rice, and sweet tomato sauce — often ketchup — in the funky steamed cabbage that forms the roll.  It is rarely seasoned properly, so it lacks salt and flavor, and with its yellow-grey leaves and smear of orange sauce is just about the ugliest thing to emerge from a pot ever.  And the name is vaguely horrifying.

But, I reasoned, if a dish has survived generations across an entire continent, it should have a good reason to continue.  I do like meatballs, and I do like cabbage, and I do like the Greek dolma stuffed grape leaf filling with lemon.  I’d try to pull together a tomato-free version of the classic stuffed cabbage recipe, something that improved the taste and the look as much as possible.

Turns out I can’t stop eating them now.  They’re surprisingly light and flavorful, and would make a great new year meal.

The beauty of stuffed cabbage is the variety of possibilities.  If you can break away from your Eastern European traditions, or look more deeply into them, you’ll see that stuffed cabbage has as many flavors as Eastern Europe had geopolitical borders.  And the little pigeons graciously subjugate themselves to our new emphasis on local and whole grains, too.

The basic recipe is 1 cup of rice, 1 lb. of ground beef, and an egg, with seasonings.  Instead of a boring swap to brown rice, we could start with kasha or buckwheat groats (or cracked grains), a traditional substitute for rice golabki.  Quinoa or couscous would be similarly mushy and appropriate. And if we go there, we could easily move over to wheatberries or rye berries or frikeh or fregola sarda for a less firm stuffing, but still very delicious.

We used black “forbidden” rice, then swapped out the ground beef for some ground veal and pork sausage I had languishing in the freezer.  The pork sausage added a moistness and flavor from within.

From without, well, I had the brilliant…I’m going to go there, BRILLIANT…stroke of BRILLIANCE to use whole leaves of fall cabbage that I had fermented sauerkraut-style a few months back.  These sauerkraut bombs I nestled in between rolls wrapped more conservatively with savoy cabbage, a light variation on the more traditional round cabbage leaf wrappings.  When cooked in chicken broth instead of tomato sauce, it make for a tangy and delicious stuffed cabbage.  Don’t have whole cabbage leaf sauerkraut?  Just use regular sauerkraut, mixing some in with your filling and adding a layer or two in the cooking pot for more flavor.

If you’re meat-free, I suggest using any number of fillings to substitute for the meat.  It’s perfectly traditional to use farmer cheese or potatoes or mushrooms with your rice/kasha (try this Jewish version with mushrooms, kasha, and a cream sauce). And why not lentils and chopped walnuts and carrots?  Kohlrabi!  Leeks!  Parsnips?  If you’re afraid of the filling not holding together, just add another egg.  I also suggest bread crumbs to help on that score.

The decadent can skip the grains altogether. Chopped pork shoulder is divine.  How about a traditional tamale stuffing of shredded pork or beef, almonds, and raisins?  And think about it: do you like stuffed peppers?  Same filling, so why not make an inverted stuffed pepper, and put the peppers inside the cabbage rolls?  Chef Tiffany Norton at PartyCart even uses pickled ginger for her forcemeat.  Why can’t you?

Yes, the world is your cabbage.  You can stuff it with anything.

EDITED TO ADD:  More ideas from the Queen of Preservation, Linda Ziedrich!

EDITED AGAIN TO ADD:  A vegetarian Polish option from a reader, Linda Peterson Adams.  Thanks, Linda!  “Parboil the cabbage to remove leaves. [Mix] 2 cups cooked dry rice, pearl barley or buckwheat groats, a few tablespoons soaked and chopped fine porcini mushrooms, salt and pepper. Stuff rolls with this mix. Put a layer of leaves in a dutch oven, and add 2 cups fermented rye liquid or stock with the mushroom soaking liquid. Dot with butter. Cover and simmer until tender, about an hour. Thicken leftover liquid with beurre manie. You can also add sour cream at the end. You can also use sauerkraut to nestle the birds in in cooking.

Tangy Stuffed Cabbage Master Recipe

  • 1 large head savoy cabbage
  • 1 cup cooked grains (try short-grain rice, black rice, kasha, quinoa)
  • 1 lb. ground meat (try a combination of beef, veal, pork, pork sausage, etc.) or 2 cups farmer cheese or sauteed wild/button mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs IF you are using the vegetarian fillings only
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-4 cups sauerkraut, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Cook the rice or other grains as necessary and cool.

Prepare the cabbage leaves.  Heat a pot large enough to submerge whole cabbage leaves with enough water to blanch the leaves.  Carefully remove the core and outer leaves, keeping the whole cabbage intact.  Peel off the layers of leaves without tearing if possible, and rinse thoroughly.  Reserve the inner, smaller leaves for the bottom of the pot.

Trim the thick bottom vein of each leaf by either cutting it out or shaving off layers until it is almost as thin as the surrounding leaf.  (If you do not do this, it will make rolling harder.)

When the water comes to a boil, blanch the prepared leaves for about 30-45 seconds, or until pliable and easy to roll.  Note: plain cabbage should be blanched longer, about 2 minutes; if you are using whole-leaf sauerkraut instead of savoy cabbage, just rinse the leaves, don’t blanch them.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place the smallest leaves in the bottom of a dutch oven or similar large pot with a lid.

Mix up the filling.  Add the cooled, cooked grains, the meat/cheese/mushrooms, a large egg, and a cup of the sauerkraut (eliminate sauerkraut if you are using whole leaf sauerkraut as a wrapping, add breadcrumbs for structure if you are using the vegetarian fillings).  Drop a bit of the filling into the steaming water or the microwave for a few seconds, so it will cook enough so you can taste for seasonings.  Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Roll the cabbage rolls by placing about 2 tablespoons full of filling at the thick end of the leaf, folding the end over the filling, then folding the two sides over the filling, then rolling up to the end tightly.  Place seam side down into a dutch oven.  Repeat for all rolls.  If there is filling left, roll it into a meatball and nestle it among the rolls.  Nestle the rest of the sauerkraut between rolls and between layers.

Add chicken stock, cover, and cook for about 2 hours, or until the filling is firm and most of the stock is soaked up into the cabbage rolls.  Better the next day.

Serves 4-6.

quarter of a cow: spring chuck pot roast with salade mirepoix

This is Episode 1 of my new occasional series, Quarter of A Cow.  Given I have not been very good about my earlier series, Meal of the Week, I am opting for an unscheduled series.  I would like to help others eating through a beef share with helpful hints and tips, and I’d like to keep a record of what might work for next year. 

Today’s topic: chuck roast.

Life in the southern Willamette Valley means we’re kissing cousins to our livestock production.  All along the valley, one can buy some of the best local meat in the world in bulk — cow, lamb, pig — for an astonishingly low price/quality ratio.  Until just a few years ago, we couldn’t easily buy poultry, but that has changed with more purveyors of chicken, turkey and duck, not to mention chicken awareness in the form of the urban chicken craze.  I had the fortune to watch a chicken butchering at Sweetwater Farm last spring, and I see that the Ancona duck farmers Boondockers Farm is allowing folks to attend their own butchering process.  It’s a good thing to see and understand.

But…I’m already getting off topic, no?

Beef.

This year marked my first as a chest freezer owner, so I opted to share a quarter of a cow with a friend from a small farm with just a few head of cattle.  Completely grass fed, the cow worried me a bit because I was concerned with flavor and fat content often not sufficient to create juicy, marbled meat.  And yes, it is leaner, but the taste is marvelous.  It’s almost as if it was aged. (Um, could that be because we couldn’t pick it up for a week when it was ready?  I hope so.)  We had the meat cut and wrapped at Farmers’ Helper in Junction City, a charming little place that does custom cutting and sells local meat by the pound.

As we move into grill season, I’ll be offering suggestions for the primer cuts; for now, it’s all about the soup bones, chuck, and other tough cuts suitable for braising. A note on names: butchers’ cuts are often confusing because of the bewildering number of names each cut can be called, and similar names for very different cuts.

On a chilly, rainy spring day, I wouldn’t say no to a simple pot roast.  My spring recipe modifies my winter lemon pot roast recipe — it cooks the roast at a low temperature overnight, so it doesn’t heat up the house during the day, and it’s not browned, which creates soft, tender, mild slices of beef.  Browning the pot roast does unquestionably provide a richer broth and a pretty sear, but I also like the cleaner spring version with lemon.  A beef share usually comes with a bone-in chuck roast, so I’ve written the recipe using that cut, but feel free to use a 3-4 lb. boneless roast more commonly available in the market.

Even springier is to forgo the mirepoix — the saute of chopped celery, carrot, and onion which forms the base of so many winter braises — and use the vegetables instead as a chopped salad with a lemon and parsley vinaigrette to serve on the side.  Substitute chives or green onions for the yellow storage onions, in this case.  I would mince the carrots, celery, and parsley instead of chopping it roughly as I did in the picture.

Instead of potatoes, why not cook up some whole grains, like the purple barley from Open Oak Farm?  Also nice and light for spring.

Spring Chuck Pot Roast

This roast needs to be cooked overnight or for at least 10 hours, then cooled so it slices nicely, so plan ahead.

  • 4-5 lb. chuck roast, bone-in
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot, or a mix
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • a few fresh thyme springs (lemon time if you have it) or 1/4 dried thyme
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup beef broth (homemade or low-salt)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Face the roast situation: how large is your pot?  If bone-in, I recommend deboning.  For me, that means cutting into two or three large pieces, which fit nicely into my 5 L. dutch oven.  Rub the meat with liberal amounts of salt and pepper.

In a dutch oven large enough to hold your roast, saute onion and garlic in butter slowly over medium-low heat until golden brown.

While the onions are browning, zest one lemon and juice both of them.

Add the meat to the pot with the lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, and beef broth.

Before closing the lid, take a large sheet of aluminum foil and cover the pot tightly.  Then add the lid. This improves the seal.

Place in oven and let cook overnight or for about 8-9 hours.  In the morning, open up the pot.  The meat should be a ghastly grey.  As long as it’s thoroughly cooked and falling apart with tenderness when you slice off a piece, you’re good to go.  If you’re feeling unsure, don’t hesitate to turn the oven up to 300 degrees and let cook another hour or so.

Essential: after cooking, remove the roast and let rest until cool.  You might do it quickly on the counter for about 20 minutes, or even better, in the refrigerator for a few hours.  You’ll find the roast slices beautifully when cold, then you can reheat it in the juices left over from the braise.  Don’t discard your meat juice!  Boil it down with a pat of butter, then strain and pour over the meat after sliced.  Add some chopped chives to be very springy, indeed.

Serve with the salade mirepoix described above (minced celery, carrots, and chives in a lemon-parsley vinaigrette) and steamed barley.  Also wonderful with spring greens.

Other Chuck Roast Recipes from the Files: