I love zucchini! It's an under-appreciated vegetable, for sure. Maybe that is because it tends to overtake people's backyard gardens and produce an abundance that you can't make a dent in, no matter how many loaves of zucchini bread you make. But, I guess I have a thing for underdog vegetables.
A few days ago I was visiting my friend (you know, the one with the chickens) and she offered me some leftover soup for lunch. I never turn down a free lunch, and I love to try new soups. This one is going straight into the recipe box- the flavor was perfect, the creaminess lent it a satisfying richness, and the zucchini made me feel like I was eating something reasonably healthy. A small cup was the perfect amount for a light lunch.
I asked my friend for the recipe, so she sent it on over:
From Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant:
3-4 leeks, rinsed well and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3-4 medium zucchini, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon dried tarragon (Editor's note- I would immediately think that I'd want to use fresh, but I asked Alia and she said she used dried, and it tasted fantastic, so carry on, y'all- maybe garnish with some fresh tarragon on top if you're feeling crazy?)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
In a medium soup pot, on medium heat, saute the leeks and onions in the olive oil and butter until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. (Editor's note, again- 10 minutes? That seems like a really long time. It really only takes like 2 or 3 minutes tops to sweat some onions.) Stir in the zucchini, salt, and garlic. Saute for 10 more minutes, until the zucchini is tender(Editor's- Wait, REALLY? 10 minutes? That's a long time to saute stuff, am I crazy? Zucchini is pretty delicate, too- it gets mushy really fast. Saute at your own discretion). Add the tarragon, fennel, and black pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes. Remove half of the vegetables and set aside.
Sprinkle the flour into the soup pot, stirring, until the vegetables are well coated. Whisk in the stock. Heat, stirring frequently, until the soup begins to thicken. Remove it from the heat. When the soup has cooled a little, puree it in a blender or food processor and return it to the pot.
Add the reserved vegetables and heat the soup to simmering. Stir in the cream or milk. Take care not to let the soup boil.
Despite my reservations about the cooking times presented in the recipe, this soup was delicious- so don't mind me. Just do what you do when you make soup. I especially love that it's only partially blended, with some large chunks- it gives it a creaminess but still maintains some texture in the zucchini. Perfect! Get your soup on while it's still chilly- tomorrow March begins and it's all downhill to spring time!
Actually, I just thought about it for a minute, and I guess the 10 minutes direction makes sense (at least for the zucchini). Since this soup doesn't simmer for a long time, you'll want the veggies to be fully cooked during the saute portion, rather than with a chicken soup or something brothy, where you can just sweat the veggies and then let them finish cooking in broth. Never mind my rambling!
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I was recently asked to fill out an interview with Cafemom for their "In the kitchen with" blog. The interview and photos are up, so if you are interested in knowing more about me and my kitchen, check it out!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Oh lord, if I don't post this now, it will NEVER get posted. We had gumbo the other night, dudes!
My husband and his coworkers decided to have an impromptu gumbo cook-off, and he was immediately in muddy waters. One of his coworkers is originally from the south, and the other does a lot of southern cooking. I didn't get a chance to taste the other offerings, but I'm sure they were delicious.
Let me be frank- you can put whatever the hell you want in gumbo. It's just a big ol' messy pot of gravy-like sauce, some meat, some particular spices, and vegetables. For this version, we made some decisions based on two variables- whether or not our son could/would eat it, and The Competition. Because we had a toddler to take into account, my husband chose a smoked beer sausage that really tasted like a mildly spicy hot dog. Andouille sausage would have been more traditional, and probably a little tastier, but we weren't sure if the little dude would dig it. Plus, he wanted to go with something a little less traditional, figuring that the other dudes were going traditional all the way. I would have liked a little shellfish action, but we weren't sure about the whole allergen thing (our son is only 2 1/2) so we wussed out and put fried catfish on top instead. Overall, it was very good. I don't know if it won the contest, but the effort was valiant and the result was delicious.
For this gumbo, we did:
1 rough chopped green bell pepper
2 rough chopped stalks of celery
1 yellow onion, diced
Some sausage (we used 'smoked beer sausage' but andouille would be best)
Chicken thighs & drums, bone-in
Green onion for garnish
File (I'm too lazy to find the accent mark- that's like Fee-lay) Powder
Salt & Pepper
pinch of chili powder
Few splashes of wine
3-4 cups of good stock (homemade is best).
handful of all purpose flour
In a small pot, heat stock. Then, melt a pat of butter in a big huge pot, and saute vegetables until they begin to soften. Deglaze the pot with a small amount of white wine, allow to burn off for a moment, then dump veggies onto a plate and reserve for later. Add a little more butter (or some oil) and dump in some chopped sausage, (not all of it, just a good handful or so.) and allow some of the fat to render in the pan. Remove the sausage, then throw in a handful of flour and whisk into a roux. You want to cover the bottom of the pan with roux, so if you don't have enough butter, go ahead and add some more. Keep whisking and let the roux toast until it reaches a nutty brown color (Or go darker, if you'd like. Apparently Jason's coworker simmers his roux for up to 2 hours to get it very thick and dark. Crazy!) and then add the hot stock gradually while stirring. Bring to a quick boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Throw in a bay leaf, a pinch of chili powder, and some file powder. At this point, you can add your chicken, the whole legs, to the pot. Try to get them covered with the liquid (which should be pretty thick, but still rather soupy). Cover and let simmer until chicken is cooked. (How are you going to know if it's cooked? Holy crap, that's a good question. Just remember if you get impatient and pull them before they're done, it's gonna get added back in and finish cooking anyway.) When the chicken is done, pull the legs out and shred them on a cutting board, and then add meat back in. Add vegetables and sausage, and let the whole pot bubble and simmer. Keep tasting it, keep stirring it. Add what you need and let it go for awhile. (Ours was on the stove for like 3 hours.)
Serve over white rice, and top with cubes of pan-fried (dredged quickly in flour) catfish if you desire.
This was so hearty that one small bowl filled me up. There was plenty leftover, most of which got taken into work with my husband. The next day we had barely enough leftover for like, maybe one or two servings (after taking most of the leftovers to work, I mean- there would have been plenty.) so I chopped up some carrots, celery, and zucchini, and quickly sauteed them before adding the gumbo to the pan to heat up. Basically I just stretched it out a little, and it was very tasty.
And I don't want any southern folk getting on my case if this is like, ALL WRONG, either, because first of all- I didn't make it, and second of all, I've never even had real southern gumbo. Relax! It's just a big old pot of delicious, that's all. You don't have to get tricky with it. If you use good sausage, the whole damn thing is just gonna taste like sausage anyway, and I can't complain about that.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Oh my god! What would you do if your friend sent you home with 6 fresh eggs from her backyard flock of chickens? I want to hard-boil and just eat at least 1 of them. I'm thinking something with runny/raw yolks, maybe a pasta dish with raw yolks or some kind of spicy rice thing, I don't know. They're pretty small, too. A friend of mine was recently describing a snack she made by cutting a hole out of a leftover dish of vegetable gratin and cracking an egg in the middle, should I do that?
Monday, February 23, 2009
Well, it's true. Summer is off pursuing her design interests full time, and between me working every weekend, baby-sitting during the week, and hunting down freelance work wherever I can (drop me a line!), things around here have been placed on the back burner, so to speak. (Sorry. I know that was a terrible pun.)
So, now you're stuck with me! I feel like I should address some slight changes now that the lineup has shuffled- the most important and glaringly obvious one being that I DON'T BAKE. I know, stop the presses. We never got around to making an F.A.Q. for this blog, but if we did, it would have looked something like this:
Q: "How do you find the time to do all this?!"
A: We're both stay-at-home moms. It takes a lot of time, actually, and for awhile we made plenty of time for it, but lately we've been finding ourselves with less and less time to do fancy things. So it goes! Life with children is constantly evolving.
Q: "How do you eat all this stuff without gaining a million pounds?!"
A: Er, I don't. Summer eats some of it, but it usually gets (or used to get) evenly distributed between friends and family. I actually try to eat as healthy as possible and I've put a lot of work into my diet over the last year or so, and I avoid pastries like the plague, generally speaking. The problem is that I find them ADORABLE and I love taking photographs of them. But yeah, I don't bake. Well, I bake bread. Rarely. And usually just so I can take cute pictures of it. And I always bake mini-loaves.
Q: "What kind of camera do you use?!"
A: A canon 20D with a kit lens and a 50mm 1.8 lens.
There! The F.A.Q. you've been waiting for, all this time.
Anyway, I can't promise that I'l maintain updates as frequently in the past (actually, I think I've already proven that I can't maintain the momentum we once had, but whatever.) but I do plan to update whenever we cook something that seems interesting. Our weekly menus are usually just a mishmash of old standards- pasta night, salad night, stir fry night, roast veg and meat night, etc.- we eat as cheap and healthy as possible, for the most part. Occasionally we splurge and do something fun. When that happens, I'll be happy to share it here.
I also plan to showcase guest blogs from a lot of my friends- Portland has an amazing food community, and working in the food industry for so long means that I can get my hands on some neat people to contribute. I want to feature locally produced foods, as close to farm-to-table as possible. (can I squeeze in a few more foodie buzz words please? I'm avoiding the dreaded "locavore" for all your sakes.) I want to show what my friends make in their home kitchens, their work kitchens, and more, and I'd like it to be pertinent to you, the reader. Because if nobody was reading this, frankly- I wouldn't bother, haha.
So! As always, keep an eye on this space, watch as it evolves. For time killers, there's always my flickr page which I update pretty much daily. (Warning- contains about 8 bajillion pictures of my 2 1/2 year old son. Borrrring!) I just started a new blog called ten dollar drawings where I am offering (omg! surprise!) drawings for 10 bucks. My personal website will be getting an overhaul as soon as I get around to it (oh man, that's a laugh), and dang, I think that's about it unless you want to be my facebook buddy and read my stupid status updates that say crap like, "Alicia Carrier is so full of gumbo." Excitement!
I love hearing from you, so if you have any questions or requests for future posts, let me know. Have a lovely evening, tomorrow I'm looking forward to getting in on a gumbo taste-off with my husband's coworkers. The results will be posted here, of course. ("Wait, that's not healthy!" "SHUT UP.")
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I am going to make this rather short, since I have never been one for long, dramatic goodbyes, especially in the world of blogging. Recently, I have found myself lacking the passion and means for continuous food-related updating, spending the majority of my online time blogging over here. And so, I have decided to hand over Bread & Honey to my friend and up-until-now co-blogger Alice. Besides, she is the one who takes all those gorgeous photographs you all know and love.
As for my future in food blogging, I think I am going to start a side blog to my regular website centered only around the sweet side of the food world (and of course, the beautiful design that surrounds it.) We'll see how that goes.
Anyways, so long. I have had a lovely time doing this. Take it from here, Alice!
Friday, February 20, 2009
I feel like most of my posts start the same way- blah blah blah, when I was a kid, I was a picky eater, now I'm not, blah blah blah. I can't remember the first time I tried a hard boiled egg, (it wasn't that long ago) but I love them now. I often forget they exist- and when I remember, I'm like- HEY! You can do that? Let's do it right now! I'm not the type to keep hard boiled eggs around, usually I just make them when the mood strikes and eat them right away. That's what I did today. I crumbled some on a salad, and the sliced one and ate it with a pinch of sea salt.
If you google "perfect hard boiled egg" you'll find that everyone is an expert when it comes to boiling eggs. I've read a lot of recipes that say to boil for 10 full minutes, but that sounds crazy to me! Considering how easy it is to overcook scrambled eggs or fried eggs, I can't imagine applying that much consistent heat. I'm in the Martha Stewart, "bring it to a boil & let it sit" camp. Cover eggs with cold water, bring to a rolling boil, then cover and remove from heat. Let them sit for 12 minutes and then rinse with cool water to halt the cooking process. I don't know what makes a perfect hard boiled egg, because I'm lazy and this is the only way I've ever tried to do it, but they're never overcooked and that's all that matters to me. Nobody likes a gross green yolk.
The only thing I hate is peeling the damn things, I suck at it. Oh well.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Photographs by Matt Sanders.
This recipe comes from my buddy Matt. Remember Matt? He's the darling who showed us all how to can peaches. How domestic! The same day I went over to his house to photograph the peaches, he was kind enough to serve me some leftover beef stew for lunch. It was delicious, and I made a mental note to bug him for his recipe. Recently he dropped me a line to let me know that he was making it, and then- because I was too lazy to come over and take pictures, he provided me with these lovely photographs in addition to his recipe! Score! Life couldn't be any easier for a blogger, haw haw.
Here's what he has to say:
-Center cut Beef shanks
-Shallots (or leeks)
-Red wine (something decent enough to drink)
-Beef stock (or water)
-Carrots, Potatoes, Parsnips, or other winter root vegetables
-Mushrooms (i like criminis, but white buttons work very well too)
-Salt (kosher is awesome, sea is rad) and Pepper (fresh ground plz)
"No measurements or quantities- stew is flexible. Wing it, make it once, adjust as you go or for what you like. For example, if you don't want your stew to be as sweet, cut out the red wine, or use less, and fill in with beef stock. The best cut of meat i've found for doing beef stew is a Center Cut Shank, with the bone still in. It is anywhere from 2-4 dollars cheaper than precut "stew meat," which is an old grocery trick. Precut "stew meat" might be from fairly high quality cuts, but it's never labeled as what they are, and what you get may not be good for braising or slow cooking. AND- they're usually old. When meat gets close to its pull date, if you re-cut it, it counts as new product with a new pull date. It's a strange loophole that even the best markets participate in, so your stew meat: probably old. Ask your butcher to cut it for you if you're worried, but still, get a cut of meat that can withstand a long, slow cook. I love the center cut shank because its got those two little bones in it. They add TONS of flavor to a stew. If you don't yet know the joy of marrow, oh man. That's a whole other tangent, we're talking about stew here.
So, ideally you'd want to use some sort of heavy cast iron or enamel dutch oven style action to make this dish in. It will make it better in the long run, but not everyone has one on hand. A stainless steel pot will work just fine, just stay away from anything non-stick. Cut up two strips of bacon in little chunks and cook, but don't brown them. Just get the fat to render a little bit.
While that is cooking, cut your beef shank into bite-sized chunks, and if you desire, trim off any wild chunks of excess fat (but that will be to the detriment of your end product). Brown the beef in the bacon fat with just a little bit of salt and pepper over it. Depending on the size of your pot, you might have to do this in batches. Once the beef is browned on the outside, remove it and the bacon chunks from the pot. Toss in diced onion and shallot, and let them soften (again, just a touch of S+P), and let the bottom of the pan get a little glaze-y. Once they're ready to go, toss in the big marrow-bones from your shank, and enough wine to de-glaze the bottom of the pot.
Once that gets simmering, toss in chopped parsnips, carrots, potatoes and celery. Reintroduce the beef and bacon at this step too. Depending on the kind of stew you prefer, you can add your carrots and potates later in the game, so they don't get totally sloppy. Now, add in enough beef stock and wine so that the meat and vegetables are almost covered, but you can still see everything, don't go overboard. There's no set amount to this, but you're basically doing a giant reduction, so you don't want the stew to be too wet; you'll end up with a wicked soup, but not exactly something as thick or hearty as a stew, so be careful. Bring the pot to a boil but only for a minute or two, crank that sucker down to as low as your oven will go, and just let it simmer and sit.
About halfway through your cook time, you should ladle out about a cup or two of liquid from the pot. Throw that in a sauce pan along with a little bit more wine. Dice up some garlic, and mushrooms. Throw a sprig of rosemary in there with half a tomato with the seeds removed. Get this little dude simmering and reducing down, and you'll have an intense, bright, sunny and non-starchy thickening agent on your hands. Reduce this into a thick sauce, take the rosemary sprig out, and throw it back into the stew...the mushrooms will be intensely flavored and really stand out in the stew.
Now, 3-6 hours later, you should have some bangin' stew. Pair it with some no-knead bread, some sharp cheddar cheese, the same wine that you put into the stew, and some bright, ripe, sliced oranges for desert, and you've got a meal that will make the last few months of winter here actually bearable. The only disappointment though (editor's note: this disappoints you?), is that this stew, like many soups and thick concoctions will taste about a billion times better the next day. Unless you're feeding a family of 8, you'll have leftovers for sure."
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Recently my good friend Alia bought a sweet little home in outer SE Portland, the area where I am poking around. Until we figure out this home buying thing (I'm taking Home Buying 101 through the Portland Housing Center at the end of the month, very exciting!) I've been living vicariously through my buddies who have been lucky enough to get into some lovely little houses. Alia told me that last year, a persistent little green vine kept poking its way to the top of her compost heap. After covering it over and over, not really thinking about what it might be, she finally felt bad and pulled the whole thing out (it turned out to be several inches long!) and planted it. As it grew, it revealed that it was a bean plant. She pulled the pods open and was surprised to see little spotted pinto beans! The plant hardly produced enough beans to mention, but she ended up with a good handful, which she dried, and plans to plant this spring. I can't wait to help her pick, dry, and cook them. (Or at least photograph the process. By the way, if you've got sharp eyes- yes, the photo above pictures pinto beans and sunflower seeds. She had them in the same jar.) Hopefully by this time next year we'll be getting ready to buy our own home, and when I start thinking about the endless gardening possibilities, my eyes glaze over. Thoughts of rain barrels, chicken coops, worm bins- you know, hippie stuff. I can't wait to show my son how to grow vegetables. One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was walk out to the garden and pull up carrots, rinse them with the hose, and eat them with the tops still on (usually while impersonating Bugs Bunny). I also enjoyed (and still do) eating green beans raw, straight off the vine. My mom usually got pretty pissed if I snagged all her beans, but it was worth it.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I feel like ever since the new year, I've been showing up sporadically to make excuses for why I'm not updating this blog. Do I really need to make excuses for why I'm not blogging? How silly. Life gets in the way, of course! I'm working a second job now (nannying for a good friend, it's great!) and preparing for a lot of big things: trying to purchase a home- this is a long way off, practicing drawing every day in anticipation of going to tattoo school, so I can become a tattoo artist- these things are keeping me very busy! When we were in our heyday, Summer & I were churning out baked goods daily, chatting over coffee and updating as much as 3 times a day, but I put a lot of things aside to get this blog going. To be quite frank, I don't get paid to do this, and I don't particularly have the inclination to hassle people to put up ads so I can get paid doing it, it's a LOT of work to churn out all these photographs on a daily basis, especially when I have a lot of other things to do (in the creative sense, and just the general- I'm a mom, after all).
So here, may I offer you these beans? They're lovely, right? I soaked them overnight (2 cups of kidney, 1 cup pinto) and cooked them this morning until they were not quite finished. I cooled them off, popped them in the refrigerator, and tossed them into a huge batch of chili this evening- enough to keep us set for a few days. This was bare-bones chili, the "Oh crap, we're out of food" chili, with half a large red onion, a small white onion, a handful of garlic, a single carrot, one 12 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes, a few bay leaves, and about 2 cups of water. I sauteed the veggies, tossed in the tomatoes and water, dumped in the beans, and let it simmer for about an hour and a half until the liquid reduced, the beans were fully cooked, and the whole thing came together. Seasoned liberally with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, & salt. It was the perfect cool weather dinner (after a few days of sunshine, here we are, back to the dreary grey Portland winter) and it'll be the perfect lunch for me, my son, and our little friend that I'm watching tomorrow afternoon.
So forgive me, readers. Despite being too lazy to update, I'm still checking stats obsessively (of course) so I can see that you are all still coming back every day, hoping for something new. It's not that I want to disappoint anyone, the problem is that I don't really eat anything exciting. We have a pretty solid revolving menu in our house of things like pasta with canned sauce, brown rice & steamed vegetables, salad night, etc. I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, it's kind of pathetic (granola with plain yogurt and honey). But, a light at the end of the tunnel! A friend of mine is planning to make his spectacular beef stew next week, and I can't wait to photograph and eat it. Another good friend has a small backyard flock of chickens, and she's been making fresh pasta with her amazingly fresh eggs. We keep meaning to get together and make a "thousand layer" lasagna. So, don't give up on us. The year is young. (And if you get bored, visit my flickr for daily updates, it's not all food, but it's still something to stare at.)