Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tantré Farm: Week 1

At last, the Tantré Farm harvest has begun! I sent my information and deposit in back in January and have been waiting anxiously for the first share of the season which arrived (or, more accurately, was picked up) on Tuesday this week. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the goodies that come in my first box because John has our digital camera and he's fishing in northern Ontario this week. For a good picture of this week's share, check out Jen's (also a Tantré member) post at A2eatwrite.

Now I can settle into the business of eating these vegetables. This will be my challenge for the rest of the summer. I will be the primary vegetable-eater in our house since John frowns upon most of them. Little does he know I am going to make them irresistible to even the pickiest of vegetable-eaters!

Tuesday evening before I had to dash off to opera rehearsal I succumbed to the lure of fresh asparagus and whipped up a batch of oven-roasted asparagus which is my absolute favorite way to enjoy it. It's so easy even a caveman could do it (sorry, couldn't resist). Just lay the spears on a baking sheet, draw a few lines of olive oil across them, shower them with a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and pop into a preheated-to-400-degree oven for about 8-9 minutes. I like my spears on the crunchy side so that's why I only roast them for 8 minutes. Fresh asparagus + bulgur burger = dinner love!

Wednesday night I decided to do something with one of the bunches of spinach taking over my fridge. I nosed around on one of my favorite recipe Web sites, Epicurious, and came up with this delicious-sounding vegetable frittata. I hardly altered the recipe at all; I added what was left of a can of petite diced tomatoes that had been languishing in my fridge and left out the Asiago cheese in favor of some fat-free feta which I sprinkled over the top once it was out of the oven. I think the bunch of spinach I used was way more than 2 cups but it wilted down so nicely it wasn't a problem. I decided to show some restraint and divided it into thirds, intending to eat one third and save the rest for some other time, but I ended up eating my initial third plus a little extra because it was so good. This morning I hacked off a piece and took it to work for a midmorning snack. I still have half of it left! Is it weird that I'm this excited about leftovers?

I wish, I wish I wish I had my camera because I made something so delicious and visually appealing for dinner tonight I can't believe it came out of my kitchen. It was like a magazine picture come to life and tasted just as fantastic.

OK, confession: I caved and had salmon for dinner. I know, I know...I was doing so well with the vegetarian meals! Tomorrow I have opera rehearsal at 6:30 so I have to zoom home from work, wolf something down for dinner between 5:00 and 6:00, and then jet back to Ann Arbor, so no chance for leisurely cooking then. Saturday my pal Patti is coming over and we're going to have burgers and beers, and Sunday...well, I suppose I could have waited until Sunday but my newest issue of Saveur arrived today and as I was flipping through it I saw this recipe and it was just Meant To Be (mostly because the first ingredient was asparagus and I still had half of my farm share bundle left over).

Salmon à la Nage (Swimming Salmon)
from Saveur, issue 112, June/July 2008.

  • 6 stalks asparagus
  • 9 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 6-oz skinless salmon filets
  • 24 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
  • 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
Turn on oven to "warm" or lowest setting. Snap off and discard ends from asparagus. Thinly slice stalks on the bias leaving tips intact. Set aside. Grease a 10" straight-sided skillet with 1 tbsp butter. Sprinkle skillet with shallots. Season salmon filets with salt and pepper; arrange in skillet. Scatter mussels around filets; pour in wine and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, covered, until mussels open, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside, covered, until fish is just cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer fish and mussels to a baking dish or sheet, leaving broth in skillet. Place fish and mussels in oven to keep warm.

Place skillet containing broth over high heat and bring to a boil. Whisk in remaining 8 tbsp butter 1 tbsp at a time until smooth. Add asparagus and peas; cook until tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Divide fish and mussels among 4 bowls and divide broth between them.

This is an exact transcription from Saveur. I did not prepare this exactly as written. For one thing, I didn't have any mussels. And no way was I going to use an entire stick of butter! Plus I only had one salmon filet. So what did I do? I used 1/4 cup dry vermouth (in place of the white wine), and 1/4 cup vegetable broth for extra flavor. I omitted the mussels and peas and dill. I did, however, have fresh tarragon, chives, and parsley from my herb garden. I used olive oil to get things started instead of butter at the shallot-sprinkling step; however, I caved in and added 1 tbsp of butter at the end. I think it made all the difference because the fragrance wafting up from the simmering broth was heavenly. At the same time all this madness was going on I was cooking a batch of quinoa, sautéeing garlic, onion, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes to add to the quinoa, and readying a pot of water to steam another bundle of spinach. Somehow, everything came together at exactly the right time. The spinach wilted, I scraped the onion mixture into the quinoa, plopped the spinach into that vacated skillet, dashed some salt, pepper, and lemon juice over it to make it sizzle, got my dishes ready, brought the fish out of the oven, spooned the broth into a bowl, and nestled the salmon in the middle of the broth lake (hence the à la nage part of this recipe). The quinoa pilaf and spinach went on a separate plate. I was ready to dine. This was when I wished I had my camera. The salmon in broth with the asparagus and herbs all around was so lovely. I found out it tasted just as good as it looked and ate it so fast, too fast, really, since I was so hungry and it was so good and I just. couldn't. help. it. The quinoa pilaf was sort of an invention, an amalgamation of a couple of different recipes, and it was also quite fine. As for the spinach, well, two whole bunches down, three to go. Wilted with a bit of S&P and lemon juice wasn't half bad even though I made it up.

I'm figuring out that the stuff I invent, alter, edit, and otherwise fiddle with turns out to be not so bad after all. Who knew I would arrive at this point when once upon a time the only thing I could make for myself were tuna melts and boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese! Bowls of cereal don't count as cooking.

Bulgur Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise

This week while John is out of town I decided to see how I would do as a vegetarian. I would not attempt this experiment otherwise because my husband likes his meat and you should hear the complaints I get when I cook something without meat. It's now Thursday and I haven't had any meat since my ham sandwich for lunch on Saturday. So far, I'm not really missing the meat!

The situation was greatly helped by a recipe that appeared in my most recent issue of Gourmet, which arrived a week ago (how timely). It was for bulgur veggie burgers. I love bulgur and I love veggie burgers. I had almost everything I needed already and a quick trip to the Chelsea Market netted me a couple of limes, pinto beans, and some wonderful-looking multigrain buns from Ed's Bread. I decided to make the burgers for dinner on Saturday.

(Photo from Gourmet since I couldn't take a picture of my own.)

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion, divided
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (2 1/2 oz)
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 4 slices multigrain bread or buns

Cook half of onion with 1/4 tsp salt in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add bulgur and water and cook, covered, over low heat until water is absorbed, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in beans and soy sauce.

Pulse bulgur mixture, walnuts, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, a rounded 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and remaining onion in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and chill at least 20 minutes. While mixture chills, stir together mayonnaise, zest, and juice. Form rounded 1/2 cups of mixture into 4 (3 1/2-inch-diameter) patties.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook patties, carefully turning once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total.

Of course I tweaked the recipe. I used flat-leaf parsley instead of cilantro (I like the taste better), I only used 1 tbsp of soy sauce, I cooked the patties on the stove because I don't have a perforated grill sheet, and I used buns instead of making open-faced sandwiches. I also found out very fast that attempting to form the mixture into patties immediately after processing was next to impossible. The mixture is much too gummy and sticky and I ended up with a huge mess all over my hands and a misshapen glob instead of a patty. I made one patty for dinner that night and put the remainder into the fridge in a bowl. The next day I made a patty for lunch and found that the mixture, now that it was thoroughly chilled, was so much easier to handle. Thus I altered the instructions from the original recipe to include adequate chilling before making the patties.

The multigrain buns from Ed's Bread were as yummy as they looked in the store, and I toasted them while the patties cooked and spread the lime mayonnaise on them while still warm. I topped the patties with some fresh tomato slices and a couple of romaine lettuce leaves. Can I just say this was one of the most delicious things I have eaten in a long time? I had a patty for dinner on Saturday, lunch on Sunday, and dinner both Monday and Tuesday. The recipe made enough for four patties and I parsed the mixture out so I had it every day for four days. It was that good. I will definitely make this again!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Righteous Herbs

Yesterday, finally, I got the chance to work in my herb garden.

My yard is a messy tangle of random plants that receive minimal tending, but my herb garden is the one area upon which I lavish love and care. The garden was in place when we moved into this house six years ago, but since then I have moved, replanted, and altered its makeup dramatically. Only two of the original plants remain: oregano and tarragon. I have a few other perennial herbs: chives, lovage, lavender (not that I cook with it, but it sure smells nice), mint, thyme, dill, and sage. Each year I have to plant new crops of rosemary, parsley, and basil. I waited so long this year to get the basil because poor tender, fragile basil is killed by frost and we have certainly had our share of spring frosts, haven't we?

I paid my annual visit to the Potting Shed downtown and picked up this year's batch of basil, parsley, and rosemary. I scored an excellent, already well-established upright rosemary plant and flat-leaf parsley, about which I am particularly excited, because I use tons of flat-leaf parsley. The parsley went into the ground and the basil and rosemary went into their own individual pots. I would like to bring the basil and rosemary indoors for the winter which is why I keep planting them in movable pots but each year I neglect to do so before the plants are done in by frost.

I weeded and cleared the bed of old leaves and other detritus, moved the sage plants to the middle of the bed where there is more room, and watered the crap out of everything.

The lovage is already four feet high. That plant is insane! I inherited a lone lovage sprig from a plant at my parents' that had grown to large-shrub proportions and it has done quite well for itself. I just wish I knew of more dishes that used lovage. Currently I only have one, new potato salad with lovage and mustard.

The oregano is busy expanding to fill the known universe, as usual. I swear, that plant would take over the entire garden and adjacent lawn if it could. That and the mint. Those pesky mint runners are everywhere. I guess I will have to start using it in mint tea or gin smashes or something. Speaking of a gin smash, it is one mighty fine drink on a hot summer day!

Lastly, the yard contains a great abundance of catnip, which is of no use to me but is greatly loved by our two cats, resulting in the cat insanity visible here:

Monday, May 12, 2008


Yesterday we filled out and submitted our pork cutting order to Back Forty Acres, and within a month we will have a freezer full of pork! I am so excited.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Semolina Ghribia with Orange Flower Water Fruit Salad

I saw this recipe on 64 Sq Ft Kitchen last week and the mention of orange flower water made me anxious to try it. I had seen just such a bottle of orange flower water at Plum Market in Ann Arbor and I recall standing there looking at it wondering what I could use it for. When I saw the recipe on Warda's blog last week I thought, aha, here it is! I went to Plum Market on Friday and got the orange flower water. I popped its top when I got home and with the first inhalation I was instantly transported back to my grandparents' backyard in my hometown of Los Altos in California, sinking my face into the exhilarating fragrant blossoms of their orange tree. The memory was overwhelming. My grandparents' orange tree holds an almost sacred place in my heart. Many was the morning when I was dispatched to pick full, ripe oranges from the tree with which to make freshly-squeezed orange juice for breakfast. Nothing, and I do mean nothing one can buy in any grocery store can compare to pure, freshly-made orange juice squeezed straight from oranges plucked ripe from a tree not five minutes previously. Oh, that orange juice. Oh, those orange blossoms! This little bottle of heavenly nectar was my childhood in a bottle.

But first, the delectable little cookies that go with the fruit salad. I'm not sure whether to call them cookies or biscuits because their taste and texture is like nothing I have ever tried before. They are an Algerian specialty called ghribia and are absolutely delicious. I have never made anything like them before.

And now for something completely different!

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 ounces powdered sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups semolina flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Powdered sugar and cinnamon for dusting
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liners. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Melt the butter in the oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat when melted and allow to cool down. In a bowl, stir together the semolina flour, salt, baking powder and set aside. Beat the eggs with the powdered sugar until well blended.

Add the butter mixture and vanilla and mix until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix just enough to moisten the dough. The dough will look crumbly and soft.

Wet hands and shake off the excess water. Wet again as needed. Form the ghribia by pinching off balls of dough and forming a dome shape with your palms. Flatten the bottom of the cookie, arrange on the prepared baking sheet a little apart from each other, and sprinkle with a little of icing sugar and ground cinnamon.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. They should remain pale and will have a cracked top. Let them cool on a wire rack before moving them from the baking sheet.

Once the ghribia were done I turned my attention to the fruit salad. The choice of fruit is up to you. I used strawberries and blackberries that I purchased at Plum Market the other day. I can imagine using other varieties of berries depending on what is in season.

For fruit salad:
  • Seasonal berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc)
  • Granulated sugar, at least 1 tbsp, maybe more depending on taste
  • Orange flower water, at least 1 tbsp depending on amount of fruit used
Cut berries and place in bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and orange flower water and toss to coat. Allow to macerate for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. A fragrant syrup will form in the bottom of the bowl. Spoon into bowls and eat with ghribia.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Couscous with Lime-Scallion Sauce

After a major overindulgence at lunch (a catered party to celebrate someone's 10th anniversary with my company) today, I was ready for something a little lighter for dinner. I picked up two yellowfin tuna steaks at Plum Market and whipped this up as a side dish to go with the grilled fish. I just wanted something light and fluffy but with a vegetable component as well.

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
Nothing like freshly chopped vegetables!

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil; add the couscous, salt, and oil. Remove from the heat; let stand until the water is absorbed, about five minutes. Fluff with a fork. In a large bowl, combine the bell pepper, carrot, scallions, lime juice, parsley, and cumin. Add the couscous and toss to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled.

I admit I did not allow the couscous to chill for the recommended three hours. We would not have eaten until 10:00 at that rate. It was fine anyway. The grilled tuna steaks came out perfectly and the meal was just what I wanted: light yet satisfying and flavorful. We had a 2006 Beaulieu Vineyards (California) Pinot Noir with our meal.