Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Asparagus Season

Oregon asparagus season’s in full swing! This time of year the asparagus is so succulent, I could eat it every single day. I like to make the usual grilled asparagus, roasted asparagus, broiled asparagus, and blanched asparagus. But I recently had a completely different idea. I was getting ready to cook a beautiful bunch from the farmers market.

As I was trimming off the woody ends, the raw asparagus just begged me to take a bite. And I didn’t take just one, it was so delightfully crunchy and juicy and sweet. A brainstorm ensued, and this little salad was borne.

I guess I'd never thought about eating raw asparagus before that moment, and I have no idea why. Have you ever tried asparagus raw? If not, I have to say I highly recommend it.

Shaved Asparagus Salad
Printable Recipe

¾ pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into paper-thin slices.

Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, lemon zest, and oil in a small bowl. Toss together the asparagus and dressing in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a side dish. Select only thick asparagus spears for this recipe. The easiest way to shave them into paper-thin slices with a vegetable peeler is to start at the stem end.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Yields 2 to 4 Servings

Possibly the world’s largest spear of asparagus.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eat Your Greens

They’re good for you. Isn’t that what your mother always said? Did you think it was a convincing argument? Well, I’ve got a better one for you: eat your greens because they’re delicious.

By the way, that’s beautiful Winterbor kale at the farmers market.

Garlicky Braised Kale
Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
Generous pinch red chile flakes
10 ounces kale
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and chile flakes and sauté for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the kale and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until just wilted. Add the water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 2 to 4. A fantastic side dish that will go with just about anything. Toss with pasta and grated Parmegiano-Reggiano to turn it into a simple and delicious complete meal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring's in Full Swing and Rhubarb Sorbet

The sun is shining, the tulips are all blooming, and birds are singing. It’s glorious out. The farmers market has already been open for a month, overflowing with lush greens, leeks, and radishes. But to me it doesn’t quite feel like spring until the rhubarb comes. I don’t know if it’s the brilliant red color or the fact that it always makes me think of berries, but somehow only rhubarb can confirm that spring’s really here. Last week, the rhubarb finally made its first appearance at the farmers market. I picked out four of the fattest stalks.

It seems like rhubarb is always paired with strawberries. Well, Oregon strawberries are only starting to flower now and still a month or two away, so that wasn’t an option. And besides, I wanted to taste the rhubarb all by itself. I figured a Rhubarb Sorbet would be perfect.

And it was perfect. As it happened, a friend invited us over for breakfast the next morning. She said that she would make waffles, and I said that I had the perfect topping. Breakfast was divine—crispy waffles hot from the griddle topped with Rhubarb Sorbet (between the four of us we ate nearly the entire batch) and whipped cream. By coincidence, there was also homemade strawberry freezer jam, I guess rhubarb and strawberries are just meant to be together. Spring is definitely in full swing.

Rhubarb Sorbet
Printable Recipe

2 cups water
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 pound rhubarb, diced
1 large egg white

Combine the water, sugar, and rhubarb in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly and puree in a food mill using a fine disc. Chill over an ice bath until ice-cold. Whisk in the egg white. Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. Transfer to a container and freeze for 4 to 6 hours before serving.

Makes about 1 ½ quarts. The egg white gives the sorbet a fluffy texture. If you’re uneasy about eating raw eggs, omit it or use pasteurized eggs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Duck Eggs

By now you probably know that I’m head over heels for eggs. So when I saw big, white, farm-fresh duck eggs at the farmers market, I couldn’t resist. They just dwarf chicken eggs, they’re so big.

What better way to showcase these beauties than with the classic French salad?

Frisée aux Lardons
Printable Recipe

¼ pound bacon, cut into 1½×¼×¼-inch strips
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Kosher salt
2 duck eggs
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 medium head frisée, torn into bite-size pieces
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper

Add enough water to a large, heavy sauté pan to come to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium heat to a bare simmer. Heat a small, heavy sauté pan over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon and fry, tossing frequently, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until rendered.

Meanwhile, crack each egg into its own ramekin. Add the white vinegar and a generous pinch of kosher salt to the pan of water. Gently slip each egg from its ramekin into the barely simmering water and poach for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the desired doneness. Using a wire skimmer, remove the eggs to a paper towel-lined plate and drain.

When the bacon is rendered, remove it to a plate. Add the shallot to the pan and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until translucent and fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the oil, red wine vinegar, and mustard. Immediately toss together the frisée, bacon, and dressing in a large bowl and season to taste with fleur de sel and pepper. Arrange the salad on individual plates, top each with an egg, and serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main course. Narrow strips of bacon like the ones used in this recipe are known as lardons. Pepper bacon is a fantastic choice here. If you cannot find duck eggs, use chicken eggs instead; poaching time is 2 to 3 minutes for large ones. The fresher the eggs, the better they will hold their shape during poaching. Maintain the water at a bare simmer throughout the poaching time for the best results. A baguette is the perfect accompaniment to this salad.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Japanese Cravings

Here’s a recipe inspired by produce from the farmers market and the flavors of Japan.

Soba with Mizuna, Shiitakes & Sesame-Miso Dressing
Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons red miso
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
2 green onions, sliced
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces soba
Kosher salt
6 ounces mizuna, blanched
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Whisk together the miso and water in a small bowl. Whisk in the tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, sugar, and green onions.

Combine the shiitakes and ¾ cup hot water in a small bowl and let soak for 10 to 12 minutes, or until rehydrated and pliable. Remove the shiitakes to a cutting board, trim off and discard the stems, and thinly slice the caps.

Cook the soba in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to the package directions. Drain the soba when it is just tender. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Toss together the soba, mizuna, shiitakes, sesame seeds, and dressing in a large bowl. Arrange on individual plates and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6. The dressing is also fantastic on green salads.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Black Truffles and a Birthday

Oregon black truffles are still in season, and they had them at the farmers market yesterday. Yes, it’s true—truffles really do grow in Oregon. Considering it was the hubby’s birthday, we decided to splurge just a little bit.

Now that’s what I call black gold. We shaved our truffle over Fresh Egg Pasta tossed with some beautiful farm-fresh butter (another one of our market finds), chives from our garden, fleur de sel, and Parmegiano-Reggiano.

It was unexpected, simple, and just lovely. Happy birthday, husband of mine!

Fettuccini with Black Truffles
Printable Recipe

¾ pound Fresh Egg Pasta fettuccini
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup minced fresh chives
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, for serving
As many black truffles as you can afford

Cook the fettuccini in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the fettuccini when it is al dente. Toss together the fettuccini, butter, and chives in a large bowl and season to taste with fleur de sel and pepper. Arrange on individual plates, top with plenty of Parmegiano, and using a truffle shaver, shave paper-thin slices of truffle over the dish. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main course. This simple dish is all about the truffles. If you don’t have fresh black truffles, a drizzle of truffle oil would also be good.

Friday, April 10, 2009


The humble egg I must praise,
Its versatility does amaze,
No food is more delicious,
Or so highly nutritious.
If your pockets aren’t deep,
You can dine well on the cheap,
One full carton that you buy,
Will a dozen eggs supply,
Always select AA grade,
These have longest before they fade,
Large ones are best,
Do not choose any of the rest,
Recipes are always tested,
And this size is what’s requested.
Farm-fresh eggs in all their splendor,
Are so rich and so tender,
With yolks gold as the sun,
Cook in no time till done,
Fragile white and brown shells,
Also different colors pastel.
We owe many thanks to the chicken,
Eggs expertly clarify, bind, and thicken,
Then there’s duck egg and quail,
If only you can find them for sale,
Egg wash as a glaze or dip,
Browns and won’t let a crumb coating slip,
As a leaver eggs act,
So many possibilities once cracked.
For the first meal of the day,
I’ll take my eggs any way,
Scrambled or over-easy,
It’s not hard to please me,
Boiled soft or hard,
Fried, preferably in lard,
Vegetable frittata,
Or breakfast sandwich on ciabatta,
Even sunny side up,
As long as there’s coffee in my cup.
I like breakfast tacos so spicy,
Truffled eggs though pricey,
Omelettes with mushrooms and Swiss,
Coddled eggs I won’t miss,
No egg have I denied,
With sausage or bacon on the side.
And I haven’t even mentioned yet,
Morning quick breads, don’t forget,
Eggs are a must,
Without them crêpes would go bust,
There would be no pancakes or waffles,
How to make muffins would baffle.
Not just for breakfast or brunch,
Equally satisfying at lunch,
For a snack any time,
An egg is so sublime,
Even for late dinners,
Eggs are definitely a winner.
Serve a quiche with crust brown,
A poached egg with frisée and lardons around,
Egg salad on rye,
Scotch eggs deep-fried,
Homemade pasta knead,
Deviled eggs with dill weed.

So many Asian dishes,
Also fulfill my egg wishes,
Egg drop soup is nice,
My favorite part of fried rice,
Pad Thai noodles with stir-fried eggs please,
As does egg foo yung, omelette Chinese.
Eggs go on green salad sliced,
As a mimosa garnish diced,
Eggs sauces too make,
All of these examples take,
Over eggs Benedict hollandaise,
Everything’s better with aïoli or mayonnaise,
On the sweet side sabayon,
Or in Italian zabaglione.
Necessary no matter what you bake,
For genoise or sponge cake,
Angel food light as air,
Any custard you prepare,
Crème anglaise frozen till ice,
Pudding, chocolate, bread, or rice,
Cinnamon-scented French toast,
Pot de crème worthy of boast,
Crème brûlée, crème caramel, and flan,
Eggs are critical in the plan.
Without eggs you cannot do,
Perfect tasting pâte à choux,
Popovers filled with cheese,
Buttercream from pastry bags to squeeze,
Vanilla bean pastry cream,
Mousse as fluffy as a dream,
Marshmallows and divinity candy,
So many ways eggs are handy.
If floating islands you will create,
You don’t use whole eggs straight,
Separate yolk from white,
But be sure to do it right,
With a single drop of fat,
The foam will certainly go flat,
Whip whites and sugar together,
Your meringues will be light like a feather,
Soufflés savory or sweet,
Whites to stiff peaks you must beat.
Who cares what the name,
Eggs, oeufs, or huevos, they deserve acclaim,
The ovum is a wonder to behold,
Of this I have now much told,
Any cook must conclude,
Eggs are the perfect food,
It’s the generosity of the hen,
That can sustain the race of men.
No matter how many I ate,
The next with great anticipation I await,
Don’t make me beg,
For any meal, please cook me an egg.

Eggs en Cocotte
Printable Recipe

Unsalted butter, for greasing the ramekins
¼ cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
6 large eggs
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Minced fresh chives, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter 6 ramekins and divide the cream or crème fraîche among them. Add 1 of the eggs to each ramekin and place them into a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the desired doneness. Remove from the water bath and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with plenty of chives and serve immediately.

Serves 6. This is a most simple, yet delicious version of Eggs en Cocotte. If you like, add bit of chopped ham, browned sausage, diced tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, or cooked vegetables to the bottom of the ramekins. And feel free to top the eggs with a sprinkling of shredded cheese. You can cook 2 eggs per ramekin for big eaters. Serve with a baguette.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Market

Up here in the Pacific Northwest spring arrives later than in the rest of the country, especially when it comes to the growing season. For us, early April usually means a chill in the air, grey skies, and more rain. While family and friends located in warmer climes are already flooded with asparagus and rhubarb, I’m still waiting impatiently. Our farmers market only has a few greens, veggie starts, and cut daffodils.

So I went to the farmers market over the weekend not expecting too much. But there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me—ramps!

Pristine ramps, so fresh and alive. In my anticipation of asparagus season, I had forgotten all about the ramps. I bought one bunch, and then thought better of it and went back for another.

I found one other thing at the farmers market—inspiration. I can wait for the other spring produce; this week we’ll be having lightly sautéed ramp greens and grilled ramp stems and Pickled Ramps.

Pickled Ramps
Printable Recipe

½ cup white vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
3 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
½ pound ramps, cleaned and blanched

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander, black peppercorns, allspice, and bay leaf in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Place the ramps into a medium jar and add the hot vinegar mixture. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings. Ramps tend to be very dirty. To prepare them, trim the root ends, peel away any dried or dirty layers, and rinse them thoroughly. If the leaves are dried, mushy, or discolored, trim them too. Pickled Ramps keep for weeks tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Don’t hesitate to double the recipe because they go fast. These sweet and sour pickles are perfect on steak sandwiches. In case you’ve never had a ramp, they’re related to onions, and they taste like a cross between onions and pungent, pungent garlic. Ramps are absolutely delicious, but what I’m trying to say is don’t plan on getting too close to your sweetheart after you’ve dined on ramps.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake

My favorite cake is this Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake. (Well, to be completely honest, my favorite cake is whatever cake I happen to be eating at the moment, but never mind that.) This particular Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake is perfection. It’s light as a feather and fluffy as a cloud. It’s incredibly moist and incredibly tender and not too sweet. And it really tastes like the name promises—the flavors of lemon and crème fraîche shine through. It fulfills all of my cake fantasies in every way.

This perfect Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake originally came from the Pearl Bakery in Portland. I first encountered it there years ago. I remember how, as I was checking out the beautiful array of goodies behind the counter, the plain-looking cake caught my eye. It was already missing a slice so I could see the crumb. I ordered it on the spot. With no hesitation. Now, I’m not usually a decisive person when it comes to ordering in a bakery. I take my time considering the selection of pastries, I debate croissant versus Danish, and I pay no attention to the line forming behind me. But on that one day I knew exactly what I wanted—this cake was calling, no, screaming my name.

I was so smitten with the Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake that I had to ask the bakery’s pastry chef at the time for the recipe. She graciously shared it, though the directions were a bit sketchy. I’m so thankful that she did because I haven’t seen my favorite cake at the bakery in a long time. Whether they’re all sold out by the time I get there or whether they’ve completely lost their minds and discontinued it, who knows? And with the recipe, who cares?

Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake
Printable Recipe

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
10 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 1 lemon
5 large eggs, at room temperature
11 ounces sugar
¾ cup crème fraîche, at room temperature
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×3-inch round cake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir the lemon zest into the flour mixture.

In a mixer fitted with a whip attachment, mix the eggs and sugar on high for 4 to 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy and doubled in volume. Add the crème fraîche and mix on low until just combined. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the butter, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the lemon juice, and then the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing on low for only a few seconds after each addition until just combined, and stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Do not overmix. Transfer to the cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the edges of the cake start to shrink away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack and finish cooling completely. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar, cut into portions, and serve.

Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8. This cake is best the day it’s made. Definitely try the recipe with Meyer lemons when they’re in season. And if you don’t have crème fraîche, you can substitute sour cream.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Search Continues

Last weekend’s unsuccessful clam digging expedition left my cravings for pan-fried razor clams completely unsatisfied. But when a craving strikes, I’m not one to give up easily. Bound and determined to feast on the elusive razor clam, I continued my search...this time at the local fish market. Luckily, finding razor clams is a lot easier at the market than at the beach.

Pan-Fried Razor Clams with Lemon-Tarragon Sauce
Printable Recipe

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced fresh tarragon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 razor clams, cleaned, rinsed, and patted dry
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
Canola oil, for frying
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, garlic, and tarragon in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Whisk together the eggs and ¼ cup of water in a large, shallow dish. Mix together the panko and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in another large, shallow dish. Season the clams generously with salt and pepper. Dip each clam into the flour to coat and shake off any excess, then into the egg wash, and then into the panko mixture to coat, patting so that it adheres. Arrange the clams in a single layer on a plate and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Add enough oil to a very large, heavy frying pan to come to a depth of 1/8 inch. Add the butter and heat over high heat until a pinch of the breadcrumb mixture sizzles immediately when added. Add half of the clams and fry without disturbing for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a fish spatula, turn the clams and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until just cooked through and golden brown. Remove the clams to a paper towel-lined plate and drain for about a minute. Fry the remaining clams in the same manner. Arrange the clams on individual plates, divide the sauce among them, and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6. Razor clams are a popular seasonal delicacy in the Pacific Northwest. They are most commonly eaten breaded and pan-fried, like this. For tender razor clams, fry them in very hot oil as quickly as possible.
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