July 5, 2015

Strawberries !

photo by Mette Nielsen

Strawberries taste best freshly picked and eaten right away while still warm from the sun. Wait until blueberries and plumbs appear to make cobblers and pies, as heat destroys their delicate perfume. Enjoy the berries whole or slice and fold into whipped cream, yogurt, and softened ice cream. 

A hit of acid perks the sweetness, a drizzle of lime, lemon, or balsamic vinegar; or sprinkle with a grind of pepper, a little chopped basil, is all you really need.

In a hurry, try this whip of yogurt and whipped cream and sliced berries, put in the freezer for a few minutes to firm and then serve semi fredo. 

Strawberry Frango
Serves 4 to 6

1 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more to taste
Mint sprig for garnish

Slice the strawberries and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream until it hold stiff peaks. Fold in the yogurt and the sweeten with brown sugar to taste. Fold the sliced berries into the mix and turn into individual glasses or a large serving bowl. Put in the freezer until firm (but not hard) and serve right away. Garnish with mint.

June 22, 2015



Photo by Mette Nielsen

Early summer is the season for marriages - culinary being my favorite kind. There's melon and prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella, watermelon and feta, and of course, strawberries and rhubarb. What a jam!  Shockingly tangy and sweet, intense as summer itself. This simple recipe is for small batches, easier, quicker and tastier than more traditional jam. Store these in the refrigerator and enjoy ASAP.  

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam!
Makes about 5 1/2 pint size jars

2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups strawberries, keep the small ones whole and cut the small berries
2-1/3 cups sugar

Put the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar into a stainless steep pan and allow to sit for several hours, or overnight, until the berries release their juices. Put over medium heat, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring gently, until the fruit is soft looking and translucent, skimming off any froth that appears on top, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Transfer into hot, sterilized jars and allow to cool. Cover with the caps and store in the refrigerator. 

May 6, 2015

Why I love cookbooks

Deborah Madison
Literary Treasure, Culinary Luminary

There are people who see cookbooks as instructional guides, manuals to making a descent meal. And there are those of us who love to read cookbooks. As a teenager I discovered Joy of Cooking on my mom's crammed cookbook shelf, started to thumb through the pages and was hooked. I'd tuck it into my book bag to read like a novel when I should have been studying and later, in college, when I felt lost or homesick, I turned to cookbooks for they both sooth and entertain. Beneath a cookbook's lists of instructions and steps to follow lie tales as rich and deep as any to be found in fiction. They are forays into families' homes and glimpses into far off lands redolent with garlic and rosemary, saffron and cardamom. Recipes are stories with happy endings, of being sated and cared for in a way that feels gentle. I'll even suggest that the intentions of a cookbook author are the same as those of a novelist, to use both creativity and format to transmit an experience to the reader.

Last night Deborah Madison spoke at a gathering for the University of Minnesota's Library Foundation and celebrated the Kirschner Collection of cookbooks. She told of how cookbooks guided and informed her on a lifelong journey as chef, cooking teacher, gardener and writer. Drawing deeply from the volumes written before her, Deborah saw how to lift up vegetarian cooking to satisfy even the most stubborn omnivore. Through cookbooks, she realized she could make meatless meals taste good, by recreating a classic meat ragout into one with meaty-tasting mushrooms. The illustrations and photos in classic cookbooks helped her create gorgeous meals of beautiful plates for her ground-breaking restaurant in San Francisco, Greens. Later, she relied on cooking and gardening books to transition into the different phases of her very successful career.

Through reading and using cookbooks, Deborah found her voice -- warm and inviting, confident, inspiring. Deborah's books invited you into the kitchen, into the garden, as you stand at her side learning to make a lovely stir-fry or hearty soup, while you hear stories of her remarkable life. 

So. whenever I'm feeling lonely or flat, I turn to cookbooks, especially Deborah's. Her recent work, Vegetable Literacy is a masterpiece as well as a very dear good friend

May 5, 2015

Spring Love & Radishes

Radish Butter
Photo by Mette Nielsen 

Perky red, peppery, crunchy and utterly delectable, radishes add spice and snap to spring meals.
It's early yet, but with the warming weather, we should soon see those pretty French Breakfast radishes with white tips as well as the big, marble-like bulbs. Members of the mustard family, radishes grow quickly from seed, about 4 to 6 weeks. So plant them now. 

The best way to eat radishes? Sliced thin and layered on top of pumpernickel smeared thickly with cultured butter and finished with a sprinkle of coarse salt. Ignore suggests of cooking radishes, they turn limp and loose their crisp, spicy bite with heat.

Radish butter makes a fabulous spread for crostini and sandwiches and a pretty addition to the bread plate. Make it ahead, it will keep, covered in the fridge about a week. Let it soften a little before serving.

Radish Butter
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 stick unsalted cultured butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped radishes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, work all of the ingredients together. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator about a week. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

April 10, 2015

SPRING ! Scrambling to keep it light!

photo by Mette Nielsen

It's THAT time of year. The season of in betweens. What to wear?  What to eat?  I'm weary of dark grays and black and wool, yet not quite ready to shuck my coat (or reveal my winter pale, puffy arms and legs).  If radish were a color, I'd be wearing it now. There's not much green in our gardens, so but thanks to our innovative growers, I can still eat fresh greens and crunchy radishes and salad turnips, all fine in the pan as I scramble to lighten up.

It wasn't until I started working with Birchwood's recipes, that I began to appreciate tofu. In Chef Marshall Paulsen's capable hands, everything tastes good. But the guy's a tofu guru. See how Mette's gorgeous photo captures the color and energy on this beautiful plate. Just be sure to marinate the tofu, then it's a quick one-two into the pan. Toss in a few beauty heart radishes, some kale and scallions. Good to go.

Tofu Scramble
Serves 4 to 6

This is such a simple marinade that I make it in batches to use in scrambles, sandwiches and grilled tofu. Use extra firm tofu and be sure to press and drain it first.

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup rice bran oil
2 teaspoons salt

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and puree.

Drain & Press Tofu
Place the blocks of tofu in a perforated pan and set into a larger pan and put a sheet or pan over the tofu and weight it down with a heavy pot. Place in the refrigerator to drain for at least 6 and up to 24 hours before marinating.

To make the scramble, simple drain the tofu from the marinade and cut into cubes. Lightly film a pan with rice bran or sunflower oil and set over medium-high heat. Toss in the tofu, kale (or any green you choose) and cook until the tofu is heated through and the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes. Then serve with diced beauty heart or any crunchy radish you choose.