jambalaya

There were some Silvana Meats hot links left over after my birthday party (along with several pounds of coleslaw, enough hot dog buns for an army and an embarrassment of macaroni salad – guess what I was eating for breakfast all week), so the obvious next step was to make jambalaya. I’ve had great success with the gumbo from James Villas’ wonderful book The Glory of Southern Cooking, so I looked up his jambalaya recipe. I ended up following it almost exactly, except for substituting a pound of large shrimp for the crawfish (and not putting it in until the very end – why does he tell you to cook seafood for twenty minutes?) and adding two hot links, cut into small dice.

Holy moly, it was good. The rice absorbed all the wonderful flavors of the hot links and clam juice, and the texture was perfect. There really isn’t that much difference between this and a paella, except for the lack of saffron or a bottom crust. And it was really, really easy to make.

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Afghan experimentation

Afghan dinner

It was a chain reaction. I picked up a copy of Tamasin Day-Lewis’ book Supper for a Song at the library, and while finding it attractive but irritating (does she really think that scallops and pheasant are budget ingredients?) also noticed that she included a lot of Afghan-inspired recipes from the book Noshe Djan by Helen Saberi. I adore Central Asian food, especially Afghan, but have very few recipes to work from, so I was happy to get the recommendation. I returned Day-Lewis to the library and went looking for Saberi instead.

Afghan Food & Cookery

I managed to find the book shortly afterwards while browsing at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks in Vancouver (always a good place to look for obscure cookbooks), republished under the title Afghan Food & Cookery. It’s definitely no-frills, but there are some really intriguing dishes in here, including several versions of ash and a hell of a lot of kebabs. I finally tried some recipes out of it last week, and was pleased with the amount of detail in the cooking instructions. The spinach with rhubarb was very successful, the mastawa (sticky rice with lamb and yogurt) more  of a mixed result. I want to make both of them again, but possibly with some adjustments.

spinach with rhubarb and leeks

The spinach dish is a wonderful thing to make at this season, when greens and rhubarb are both at their best. I sliced some leeks, sauteed them in olive oil, then added spinach to the pan and cooked it down. A stalk of rhubarb, cut into pieces, was fried in a little oil and tossed in along with some dried dill. The whole thing cooks down to a rather unappetizing-looking mess, but it’s delicious, the rhubarb adding a quiet tart note that balances the sweetness of the leeks. It reminded me of the Kurdish Rhubarb Braise that we often make in early summer, but it’s much simpler.

glorp

Mastawa was much more complicated and time-consuming. I simmered whole lamb shoulder chops with water and onions until the meat fell off the bones, then shredded it by hand. I added washed short-grain rice to the lamb and broth and let it cook, then added soaked orange peel, a can of chickpeas, two whole cups of yogurt and dried dill. It smelled wonderful, but the result was strangely like orange rice pudding – the lamb and onions nearly vanished, and the orange flavor was overwhelming against the blandness of the rice and yogurt. It was very soothing, like congee, and we found a good splash of Sriracha helped a lot to perk it up. I would make this again if I wanted something soft and comforting to eat from a deep bowl in an armchair during the winter, otherwise I would maybe add less rice and a lot more herbs.

soaking orange peel

adding rice

adding orange peel

Afghan dinner

I do think it was a successful venture into Afghan cookery. Looking forward to grilling some kebabs and naan!

more paella

cooking class

Last week we went down to Gretchen’s to help with Knut Christiansen’s latest cooking class. Once again the theme was tapas and paella, but he mixed it up with some different dishes and approaches this time. Sadly for me, a lot of this meant almonds, but I was hardly in danger of starving.

chanterelles & rosemary

waiting to be made into paella

As usual, Knut did his shopping on the way down to the class and arranged his ingredients as beautifully as possible. It almost seems a shame to chop the things up to cook them.

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crab and eggs

breakfast

In the annals of putting fried eggs on top of things, this breakfast came very close to perfection. Here’s how to make it.

crab

Take one Dungeness crab, cooked and cleaned.

crabmeat

Pick the meat out and set aside. Put the shell into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain and keep warm.

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new & improved peanut sauce

tofu and broccoli with peanut sauce

A while back I wrote about tofu with broccoli and peanut sauce. One of our favorite easy weeknight meals, it has evolved through various permutations, and I really like where it is right now. We’ve actually eaten it twice in the last two weeks – partly because Jon is still on meds that don’t allow alcohol, so we’ve been having a lot of things that go with Oolong tea, but also because it’s really, really good.

My current approach is to sear cubes of silken tofu in peanut oil until hot and crispy on the outside, piling it onto bowls of brown rice with steamed broccoli (we do still make it with buckwheat soba occasionally, but it gets extra gooey – brown rice is easier to mix). Over this goes my new favorite peanut sauce, which I found in Deborah Madison’s book on tofu. It’s easy to mix up from pantry ingredients (as long as you keep Chinese black vinegar in your pantry), which makes it a great emergency recipe. We always have a few boxes of silken tofu on hand these days for just these occasions.

I can’t really explain why this combination of flavors is so good, but you’ll have to take my word for it. Everything gets combined in the bowl, creating a rich, salty-sour-hot amalgam of good things. Try  it!

Peanut Sauce

adapted from This Can’t Be Tofu! by Deborah Madison

  • 1/2 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter (I use Adams)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp Sambal Oelek or other hot chili sauce
  • hot water

Mix together the peanut butter, garlic, soy, vinegar, sugar and hot sauce until combined. Add hot water until it reaches the consistency you want. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

smoked salmon risotto

smoked salmon risotto

I wasn’t sure there was any higher calling for alder-smoked salmon than a bagel and cream cheese, but this risotto may have changed my mind.

smoked salmon

Some friends brought this salmon to a party at our house (very good friends, indeed). It was from Pure Food in the Pike Place Market, according to the bag, and it was the best smoked salmon I have ever eaten, juicy and tender with just the right amount of smoke and sweet. I was trying to think of some way to use a bunch of it at once, and Jon said, “What about in that risotto we’re having on Thursday?” Hmmm.

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south of the border risotto

dinner

I had assumed that we would be eating all kinds of leftovers for days after our end-of-summer party. We did have huevos rancheros for breakfast (with drunken pinto beans and cotija cheese), and chips and guacamole for lunch, but then I realized there wasn’t really much else left except for a large pile of poblano and jalapeño chiles that somehow never got used, plus some leftover grilled corn. I really didn’t want to go to the store again, so I needed to think of something for dinner based on what was on hand. In a fit of fusiony madness, I came up with a sort of Tex-Mex risotto.

peppers

I chopped two poblanos and sauteed them in salted butter (I should have added onions, which would have given even more sweetness and depth), then added Arborio rice, followed by a glassful of white wine. I brought a quart of garlic-scented chicken stock to a boil and began adding it to the rice.

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roasted parsnips and friends

parsnip

The fish guy at the supermarket had arctic char (one of our very favorite fishes) a couple of weeks ago, but we had other plans for dinner that night. I asked him if he thought it would keep until Friday if I bought some that day, and he gave me a firm “nope.” Sigh.

But char doesn’t come around every day. Feeling uncharacteristically optimistic, I bought a filet anyway and stuck it directly into the freezer when I got home. The following week, I thawed it out and improvised a meal to go with it. And it worked, hurrah!

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dinner by candlelight

candlelight

dinner table

A holiday that we like to celebrate in this household is the festival of Brigid, otherwise known as Imbolc, Candlemas or Groundhog Day. To us, it marks the break between the dark days of winter and the rise of spring, as the days get longer and the garden begins to bloom again. Even though we know it’s going to keep raining until July, just the fact of being able to walk home in daylight is pretty exciting.

hellebore bud

Earlier in the day, I celebrated by going out and doing battle with blackberry vines and cutting back the hellebore leaves. We have hellebore flowers coming up, as well as the first glimpses of snowdrops and violets. Hurray, flowers!

cocktail hour

Afterwards, we had a little cocktail hour. Continue reading

a good food day

November sunbreak

After a successful food safari out on the Skagit Flats on Saturday (including a truly amazing brunch at the Rhody – I mean, seriously, potato pancakes with sausages, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce!?! Not to mention those little cranberry walnut things – yum) we came home prepared for a cozy November evening inside.

We brought home bread and strawberry jam from the Breadfarm (we bought fresh macaroons, too, but somehow they never made it home), fresh leeks, celeriac, broccoli, shelling beans and chioggia beets from Dunbar Gardens, and a nice bag of groceries from Slough Food: multicolored eggs from Osprey Hill Farm, farro from the Methow Valley, guanciale (cured pork jowl) from Salumi, Humboldt Fog and Petit Basque cheeses, and a bag of fresh chanterelles. Dinner almost cooked itself!

Humboldt Fog cheese Continue reading