Saturday, November 20, 2010

Colcannon in color

Colcannon with  real and fake squash, plus a pear.
It was a stormy Friday night, snowing and blowing so that the evening dog walk was severely truncated. It was fun to walk (or in Parker's case gallop in excited circles) with my back to the wind as the snow zipped by and whirled around in the street, but facing into it was another matter. I needed full Sumas Northeaster gear instead of the girly little scarf and hat I'd grabbed on the way out the door. It was hard to breathe, and the sleety flakes stung.

So we came back early and I made some colcannon, the Irish potato/cabbage combo that got many a poor family through winters like these, until the potato famine wiped out even this basic fare. Colcannon is mashed potatoes, boiled cabbage, butter and salt, and maybe some scallions. Winter Harvest has a recipe, but you don't really need one.

There's a nostalgic song about colcannon, which the Kulshan Chorus will be singing at our concert this December 11. One verse goes:

Well did you ever make colcannon,
Made with lovely pickled cream
With the greens and scallions mingled
Like a picture in a dream
Did you ever make a hole on top
To hold the meltin' flake
Of the creamy flavoured butter
That our mothers used to make...

Well, I like colcannon well enough, and I like the song, but I don't seem to be true enough to my Celtic roots to dream about it. It's not exactly exciting stuff. And that got me thinking....what if it were more colorful, literally?  So I whipped some up with the purple potatoes and red cabbage from my Osprey Farms CSA, with results seen above. Whether this is a picture from a sweet dream or a nightmare depends on how you feel about purple food, I guess. My housemate says it would look better on a hotrod. The bread is celeriac bread (also in Winter Harvest), which is basically Irish soda bread, with celeriac. It's tasty.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Costco here I come

One of the great things about my Bellingham neighborhood is that I can walk or bike to the grocery store, or make a quick stop on the way to somewhere else. So I haven't set foot in a Costco for years, probably since the girls moved out on their own.  But I'll make a day of it Saturday for Winter Harvest book signings: Burlington from 1 p.m. (ish) until 5 and Marysville from 7 to 9. Greg Atkinson--a James Beard Award winner and nice guy--will be there too, promoting his latest cookbook, Northwest Essentials.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My winter CSA, weeks 1 and 2

What I’ve gotten so far
Week One --Nov 4-10
Onions, garlic, red cabbage, parsnips, pea vines (with November flowers!), rainbow chard, baby beets with greens, purple potatoes, pickled garlic scapes.
Week Two  -- Nov. 11-17
Shallots, garlic, fennel, fingerling potatoes, romanesco, kale, canned heritage tomatoes, specialty carrots—Purple Haze and a pale, pale yellow variety, rosemary

What I’ve made so far
Mashed potatoes and parsnips with chopped garlic scapes and a splash of Worcestershire

Beet greens and chard braised with garlic, garlic scapes, and kalamata olives

Stir-fried pea vines: Ehhh. This is the first time I've cooked pea vines and I was underwhelmed. I'll try a different approach before I give up on them.

Lentils with garlic, roasted sweet potato and roasted purple potato; this was good, and was further improved by the addition of caramelized onions.

Risotto with pureed fennel and romanesco. Nice, but the kind of risotto that is clearly meant to accompany a meat course. I like my risotto as the main event.

Kale and carrots braised with shallots, a few olives, and a smidgeon of bacon. I added a few tiny boiled potatoes in there too. 

I think the next project is going to be a Day-glo Colcannon, with purple potatoes and red cabbage. 

I also need to do something with the beets and remaining parsnips, pronto. I'll feel lousy if I let this beautiful produce go to waste.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Squashed, but not complaining

I am proud of this recipe (which I recently invented myself, so any duplicates are due to independent inspiration). The name comes both from the mystery ingredient and the fact that the first time I made it I inadvisedly used a tube pan and then turned it upside-down to cool like an angel food cake.  So instead of a nice round creation with a tidy hole in the middle I ended up with a pile of moist and tasty chunks. I put it in a casserole for transport to school, where it passed the teenage test and was quickly polished off. Even when I told them it contained baked squash, they still came back for more. That’s because it was moist (the squash), but not leaden (the egg whites), and just flavorful enough (the spices) to be interesting without getting in the way of the chocolate. 

If you’re not wedded to pumpkin pie, this could be a good addition to the Thanksgiving table.

Squashed Cake
1¾ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups sugar
3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup baked, pureed pumpkin or winter squash (I used a small kabocha)
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, and spices.
In a separate bowl, beat the oil, squash, and vanilla. Add the oil and squash mixture to the dry ingredients and stir or beat to form a stiff batter.
Whip the eggs into stiff peaks and fold into the batter.
Spoon into a lightly greased Bundt pan or a rectangular cake pan and bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. Baking time will vary with the pan and moisture content of the squash. Start checking at 25-30 minutes. 

A well flavored squash keeps more familiar company here in this simple dish from the  Winter Harvest Cookbook, which, I am happy to say, is starting to hit the stores.

 Coming up on November 26 is International Onion Day, which is the kind of holiday I can get behind. It’s also my son-in-law Ronny’s birthday, another big day around here. I’m very fond of both—Ronny and onions. This Greek recipe reminds me of good diner food—maybe those sweet potato fries that even the healthiest eater can’t resist every now and then.

2/3 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 cups cubed winter squash
3 cups diced yellow onions
1 teaspoon dried thyme
olive oil

Put the flour, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl (or you can do what my mom did when flouring stew meat and put it in a paper bag). Add the squash and onions and coat evenly, by tossing the veggies in the bowl or shaking the bag.

Heat ½ inch of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Watch it carefully and don’t let it smoke. Olive oil has a lower smoking point than many frying oils, but you want it for the flavor. Use a slotted spoon (to remove extra flour) to add the vegetables in two or three batches, depending on the size of the pan. They need enough room to fry rather than steam from the moisture in the onions.

Fry until browned on one side and then turn over and brown the other side, maybe 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat and drain. Repeat with the remaining squash and onions.

Sprinkle with thyme, check for more salt and pepper if needed, and serve hot.