Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living Art

Last weekend I was out in Ballard, hunting for cool stationary, when I decided to step inside a little plant store, The Palm Room. Once inside I was taken aback by the incredible display of epiphytes (AKA air plants). The owner/designer, Brandon Peterson, suspended them throughout the space, by using wire, and hanging them from the ceiling. He also had them displayed on trays and decorative rocks, like art piece accessories for the home. The pièce de résistance, however, was this shadow box of, epiphytes, spanish moss, sticks, and lichen. Now, it has been said once or twice that I have an affinity for ancient and obscure plants, but this truly is something remarkable. It is in effect, a framed living art piece. I now have it hanging on one of the walls in my office. To take care of it, I simply mist it with water once a week. Feel free to stop by my house to check it out, or better yet, see Brandon's many creations at The Palm Room on Ballard Ave in Ballard, Seattle (Thursday through Sunday, noon-5pm) http://thepalmroom.com/.


Friday, January 15, 2010

This is my favorite pizza, what's yours?

My favorite pizza has the following toppings: pear, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and carmelized onions. It is somehow the perfect combination of sweet, salty, savory, nutty, cheesy, and meaty. Yes meaty. Not sure how this vegetarian combo imparts a meatiness. Perhaps it comes from the thick, soft but firm pears, or the umami imparted from the blue cheese. In reality, it does not matter if I can pinpoint what it is that I absolutely love about it -- I just love it and that's all that matters.
Here is how to make it:

  • 1 high quality pizza dough -- from scratch or from your local pizza parlor
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ripe, but firm pear, such as Red d'anjou, sliced into 1/8" slivers
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup high quality mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup high quality blue cheese, such as gorgonzola, crumbled
Start by slowly caramelizing the onion in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the honey, over low heat. This will take about 1/2 an hour, so be patient.

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees.

Roll out your dough to desired thickness, and place atop your pizza stone. Working quickly, brush the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil onto the top of the dough, add cheeses, pears, and onions. Return the pizza stone, and pizza to the oven, and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the pizza is brown and the dough is cooked through. If you do not have a pizza stone, an upside down cast iron skillet also works great, or simply use a good old fashion cookie sheet.


If you want to make your own pizza dough here is how to go about it:

  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Dissolve 1 packet of dry yeast in 3/4 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon honey, and let rest about 3 minutes. In a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, slowly add about 2 1/2 cups flour to the yeasty water, with the machine on low. You should actually add just enough flour for the dough to form a ball, this may be more or less than 2 1/2 cups of flour. At this point add 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and continue mixing/kneading for another 10 minutes to develop the gluten. The reason not to add the salt in the beginning, is because a salty mixture will actually retard the growth of yeast. After kneading for 10 minutes, pull the dough from the dough hook, form into a ball, coat with olive oil and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. At this point you are ready to roll out your pizza dough!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beets: a new confession

Since confessing about the cabbage that I have hidden in my veggie drawer for the last month, I now realize that it feels good to get such secrets off my chest (those of us with Catholic families love to confess everything).
So here's my new one:
"Dear locavore clergy I have sinned, for I have had three enormous beets in my fridge for at least as long as the cabbage."
It's just that, well, I'm afraid of them. Do you know what they do to your excrement? They have a strong sweet taste, but not a sugary sweet. They have a deep, sophisticated sweetness. They stain my hands, cutting board, and everything else they touch a deep purple. I know they are delicious, but I am afraid.
There. I said it. I'm afraid of a vegetable, and it's name is "beet".
What should I do with the beets???

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have a pot of fresh herbs that lives on the windowsill above my kitchen sink. It gives me something pretty to look at when I’m doing the dishes, and fresh flavor boosters when I’m cooking. What I grow in there is constantly changing. The other day I bought a bunch of scallions for a recipe (the root vegetable hash described below). Rather than throwing the root tips in the compost bin, as usual, I decided to see what would happen if I stuck those little roots in my herb pot. Within two days I started to see green growth from the little root nubbins. Within two weeks I had already started to harvest the green tips. What an easy, and unexpected herbal treat! For those of you out there who want to start growing herbs and vegetables, but don’t know where to start, I recommend trying this. It is cheap, fast, easy, and you can do it in your windowsill. Just remember to water the pot every few days, and change the potting mix every 6 months.

Q: Is there anything exciting about cabbage?

A: Why yes, there is.

I have secretly stashed a cabbage in the back of my vegetable drawer for the last 4 weeks. We received it over a month ago in our CSA box, and I don’t think my husband has even noticed. What can a woman do with this dauntingly enormous vegetable? After putting it off for an embarrassingly long time, I decided to come up with a game plan. The result: I decided to use it in my Thai spring roll salad. The cabbage worked beautifully by adding a satisfying crunch to every bite.

This is a salad I invented when after making a plate of spring rolls I threw all of the left over ingredients into a big bowl. The next day I used the peanut dipping sauce as a salad dressing, and declared it a master piece. The following recipe is meant to be more as a guideline rather than a recipe. I always add and subtract ingredients, depending on what I have stashed in the back of my vegetable drawer. The result is a healthy, light, and delicious meal. The salad keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (undressed).

Salad: • 1 ½ cups diced cabbage leaves • 3 carrots, grated • ½ head romaine lettuce, chopped • ½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped • 3 tablespoons chopped mint • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro • 3 tablespoons chopped basil • 3 tablespoons chopped scallions • 2 cups rice or mung bean noodles (softened)

Peanut Dressing:
• peanut butter • lime juice • soy sauce • warm water • thai sweet chili sauce • rice vinegar • saracha (rooster sauce) • sesame oil • fresh grated ginger

In proportions of your taste, mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl combine salad ingredients. Stir in enough peanut dressing to coat, but not drown, the salad. Enjoy.

*Good options for adding protein are shrimp, chicken, and tofu.

What is a rutabaga and what do you do with it?

The farmers of Jubilee farm are on vacation this month, and as a result I am going through all the veggies from my CSA that I have been putting off using. My house is stuffed with winter squashes, cabbage, and rutabaga because I either cannot think of another creative use for it, or in the case of the rutabaga, I didn't know what it was. Last week I adopted my adventurous persona, and googled "rutabaga". This is what I found out, and what I did with it. Warning: the results were delicious.

What is a rutabaga? Rutabaga is a mostly forgotten root vegetable, that is a member of the brassica family (other members include mustard, cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, turnip, and kohlrabi, among many, many others). In Europe it is often called a Swedish or yellow turnip, as it is particularly popular in Scandinavian countries. While technically rutabaga is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, it's root tastes more like a cross between a turnip and a broccoli stem. It has a crunchy texture and an exciting sharp taste when raw, but roasts beautifully and mellows out, like a potato or turnip.

What do you do with it?
Rutabaga can easily be added to roasts, purees, and mashes, just like turnips and parsnips. It can also be eaten raw like celeriac. While I have not tried it yet, I imagine it would taste divine if grated or julienned into various salads, especially cole slaws. Below is a recipe for my new favorite dish: roasted root vegetable hash with poached eggs and parsley pesto. Recipe courtesy of epicurious.com

  • 2 cups (packed) fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 5 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled parsnips
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled rutabagas
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled carrots
  • 1 large yellow onion diced to 1/2 inch
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons light vinegar, such as white wine or apple cider

For pesto:
Blend all ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

For hash:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss root vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme; spread in single layer over 2 rimmed baking sheets. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring and turning occasionally, about 45 minutes. Stir in garlic; roast 5 minutes longer. Mix in green onions. Fill large skillet halfway with generously salted water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar; bring to boil. Reduce heat to maintain steady simmer. Crack eggs, 1 at a time, and gently slide eggs into simmering water. Poach eggs until softly set, about 3 minutes.

Divide hash among 4 plates. Using slotted spoon, top each serving with 2 poached eggs. Drizzle with pesto. An alternative to the parsely pesto is to top with Tabasco, Tapatio, or your favorite hot sauce. You can also add sausage to the hash to make it more appealing to all the meat lovers out there.