One of the real perks of living in Ellensburg, as we did many years ago, was proximity to the town of Cle Elum, home of Glondo’s Sausages. Recently recovered from a serious bout of vegetarianism, we were ready to take advantage of Glondo’s wonderful products, and this recipe is what we invariably made when we were feeling festive. Now that we’re an inconvenient 140 miles from Glondo’s, we have to make do with the sausages from our local grocery, but the pasta is still very tasty.
I recently invented this soup, and its become one of our favorites – as it turns out, really just a version of pasta e fagioli (Italian for noodles and beans, also known as pasta fazool). It also happens to be one of the easiest soups I’ve ever made, with the exception of the kind that involve opening a can or two. The first time I made it with freshly shelled borlotti beans from Colony Creek Farm (which were incredible), and the second time I used some locally grown, cupboard-aged Calypso beans (like little Yin-Yangs) that had taken up embarrassing residence in my pantry. Good thing dried beans don’t go bad very quickly.
As of last year, I decided that cassoulet would be my New Year’s Day tradition, beans being good luck and all. Cassoulet 2008 was thrown together with leftover pork roast and andouille sausage – it was very tasty, but I wanted to experiment a bit. I found a good-looking formula for cassoulet on Kate Hill’s blog, and followed the instructions loosely.
I was going to use duck confit this year, I swear, but the co-op sold out of the stuff, then closed early on New Year’s Eve. We made do with sausage and a small slice of uncured ham. I didn’t have any ham hocks or bacon to flavor the broth, either, so I used some of our good roasted turkey stock from Thanksgiving. The final result wasn’t particularly meaty (or fatty), but the beans had a wonderful deep flavor – they soaked up every bit of broth I gave them. I didn’t use any breadcrumbs for the top, but the crust turned out fabulous. Continue reading
first snow and choucroute garni
We got our first snow this weekend, with a vengeance! Saturday was breezy and cold, and a light snow fell all afternoon, but then it really picked up overnight and by Sunday morning we had a good 5 inches on the ground. Too bad I had to go to work on Sunday – fortunately I have a very short commute.
But at least I had Saturday at home, and it was a good one. We picked up our Christmas tree in the morning from a local tree farm, and I was able to spend the afternoon in the house, making a batch of caramels, decorating the tree, and putting together a choucroute garni for dinner. It simmered away quietly in the oven, perfuming the house with the scent of cabbage and pork, while we fussed about with stockings and ornaments.
toad in the hole
Toad in the hole, which generally involves neither toads nor holes, is really a perfect food. Browned sausages, nestled into a creamy batter with crisp, buttery edges – what is there not to like? And not only is it delicious – it’s both fast and easy. The other day we went out for a drink after work, came home and threw one of these together, and had dinner by 7.
I don’t claim that my toad in the hole is particularly authentic – I’ve never eaten anyone’s version but my own – but I think it’s pretty great. I learned recently that some people put sauce or gravy on their toad in the hole. I’ve always found it plenty interesting au naturale, but why not experiment? I did try tossing a bit of fresh chopped sage into the batter, and I loved how it smelled while it baked.
Some sort of soup or vegetable is recommended unless you, unlike me, can eat a plateful of sausages with butter on them and not feel guilty. I like a salad of mixed greens with a garlic-mustard vinaigrette, to cut through the richness. A glass of red wine or a bitter beer is a nice addition.
fresh produce, hot dogs and beer
Downtown Mount Vernon had its Fall Festival this weekend, so we wandered down to check it out. This is the second year for the event, so it’s still a bit casual, but I like it: the farmer’s market moves down from the riverfront and sets up in the middle of the street downtown, plus there’s a beer garden, a car show, craft booths, several bands playing, and a grill set up for hot dogs and bratwurst. It’s all very festive.
Although the weather’s starting to get colder and fall is definitely coming, the market is still at its peak. We got some beets, potatoes, summer squash, mozzarella cheese, and cauliflower, plus a rhubarb pie. I would’ve bought some delicata squash and sugar pumpkins, but we were on foot – we’ll have to bring the car next time, or a wagon, so we can carry it all home. Continue reading
Well, this was the big birthday weekend, and I do believe we did it up right. In honor of my birthday, my aunt’s birthday, my father’s 60th birthday and my parents’ upcoming 40th anniversary, we hired our friend Knut Christiansen of Paellaworks catering to come out and cook up a paella for us and about thirty friends and neighbors. Despite the annoyingly autumnal weather (wind AND rain, sheesh), everything went beautifully.
My parents put together this contraption for the paella pan – Knut said it was the best fire setup he’d ever used. The great thing about the metal rails was the way the pan could be slid onto the fire and off again. There was plenty of good fruitwood to burn, too.
The paella was built up gradually over the course of the afternoon. We all stood around and watched and got in the way while eating olive bread from the Anjou Bakery (thanks, Heather & Kevin!) and a wonderful goat cheese/pear/butter mixture that Knut had brought.
The first thing to go in was the chorizo, to render all that good pork fat into the pan. Continue reading
a small celebration
We had a little impromptu celebration the other night, in honor of my first published piece of food writing. Nothing fancy, just some rotini pasta tossed with garlic scape pesto from the freezer and some hot Italian sausages, a salad with balsamic vinaigrette, a bottle of Bonny Doon Dolcetto, and a bowl of all the ripe tomatoes left on the vine. Easy to throw together, and fun to eat while curled up on the couch watching a very stupid movie. Sometimes you don’t want to have to try too hard.
an easy lunch
Just a short post today, so I can gloat for a minute over this lunch I threw together the other day. Jon and I were both home, we hadn’t done our grocery shopping yet for the week, and there was a bunch of rapidly wilting beet greens in the fridge that I was assuming I’d have to throw out. But wait! There was sausage in the fridge as well! The week before we’d had a simple supper of Uli’s linguica sausages with tabouli, and there were two left – hurrah! I can always work with sausages and greens.
All I did was chop up the beet greens (we ate the beets last week), saute them in olive oil with some sliced garlic, toss in a can of Progresso cannellini beans and stir it all up, then I cooked the sausages in a separate pan, sliced them and added them in. I found a few ripe Stupice tomatoes on the vine on the deck, and sliced those in as well – wow, they were good. Tiny, but powerful.
We ate it all up in the kitchen with a glass of wine, with rain pouring down outside (ah, that balmy August weather). Gave us the strength to go grocery shopping.
We finally got to the farmer’s market early enough last week to get hold of some fava beans. They tend to sell out fast, given that you really need to buy at least a pound or two to have enough worth eating. I don’t often feel like spending the time to shell and peel fava beans, but I like to make sure we have them at least once a year.
When we first started getting favas (always from the same person, Debbie of Colony Creek Farm), I knew one way to fix them: blanched, peeled and sauteed with green onion, prosciutto and some cream, then tossed with pasta. Delicious, indeed, but we actually managed to burn out on the flavor. I wanted to try something different, and we just happened to pick up a fresh bunch of garlic scapes at the same market, which made me think Pesto. Continue reading