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. 

March 29, 2015

First Local Food of Spring - How Sweet !!

Maple Syrup!

Maple sugaring is our sweet farewell to winter. Crews of friends head into the woods to tap maple and birch and boil the sap to thick liquid gold. It's all-consuming work that requires hours of standing and stirring over open kettles, faces flushed with the steam, sipping maple coffee, maple hot toddies, and tossing syrup on snow for crackling candy. Syrup is the first real harvest of the season that can see us through the year.  

Nothing compares to the slightly smokey flavor of real maple syrup boiled over an open fire. In these two simple recipes, the flavor shines.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette
Makes 1-1/2 cup (easily doubled)

I keep big jars of this on hand for salads (especially wild rice salad), to baste roast chicken, or drizzle over pork chops as they come off the grill. 

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 shallots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon coarse mustard
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Put all of the ingredients into a blender, except the vegetable oil and process. Gradually add the oil in a slow steady stream.

Maple Frango
Serves 6 to 8

It's really important to use great maple syrup in this very simple old fashioned dessert.

1 cup maple syrup
4 eggs, separated
2 cups heavy cream

In a medium sized saucepan, warm the syrup, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (it will lightly coat the back of a spoon). Remove and allow to cool.

Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Whip the cream. Fold both the egg whites and cream into the maple mixture; don't overmix -- there should be streaks.  Pour this into individual glasses or into an 8 x 8-inch pan. Put into the freezer to chill until very firm but not frozen and cut into squares to serve. (You can make this ahead, freeze, then remove from the freezer to soften before cutting and serving).

March 16, 2015

Spirited Corned Beef!


St. Patricks Day, the favorite dish is corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. And while, it's not a traditional feast dish in Ireland, it is tender and delicious and about the easiest cut to cook, perfect for a crowd. The only trick is to cook it long enough on a low simmer with plenty of pickling spices and a bottle of beer -- a good stout (Guinness or a Harp Larger works well).  Once the beef is cooked, remove it and drain off most of the liquid, then remove the meat and glaze it with a little honey and mustard before serving it up. Add sliced potatoes and carrots in the pot to steam in the leftover cooking juices. Slice and serve the meat on top with lots of soda bread and plenty of beer.


Corned Beef Dinner
Serves about 8

2-1/2  pounds corned beef brisket
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon peppercorns
3 to 5 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 bottle beer
10 to 12 cloves garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 leek, white part only, sliced into coins
2 carrots sliced into coins
1 parsnip cut into coins

Put the brisket, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves bay leaves, mustard seeds, cardamom, beer and garlic cloves into a large pot and add enough water to cover by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 3 to 4 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Remove the meat and set on a baking dish. Rub the mustard and honey over the top of the meat. Bake in in a preheated 350 degree oven about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the meat is nicely glazed.

Drain off all but about 10 inches of the cooking liquid from the pot. Add the cabbage, leak, carrots and parsnip and return to the heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 5 minutes.

Slice the meat thin and serve on top of the vegetables.

February 23, 2015

Cuban Heat!

Cuban Black Bean Soup

Cuban Black Bean Soup
with Cumin and Lime

Serves 4

Just returned from Cuba, a pretty country, gracious people and fabulous food. On this tiny island, the Cubans grow nearly 90% of the fresh produce they enjoy in vibrant salads and robust dishes of beans and rice. Soon as I return to our sub-zero winter, I craved homey warmth.  

Fragrant with cumin and sparked with fresh lime juice and a splash of rum, this hearty soup makes a great dinner paired with a hunk of cornbread. Make a big batch, it tastes even better the next day and freezes beautifully.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin, or more to taste
2 tablespoons dark rum, optional
3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained
4 cups vegetable stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Couple of dashes Tabasco or hot sauce, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
Minced cilantro for garnish

In a large deep skillet set over medium-high, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes then stir in the cumin and cook an additional minute.
Stir in the rum, beans, stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. Working in batches, puree about half of the beans in a blender and return to the pot. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and lime juice. Serve garnished with the cilantro.

January 9, 2015

Lighten Up!

Photo by Mette Nielsen
Birchwood Cafe Tofu Scramble

I've learned to love tofu, something I never thought I'd ever do. It's indistinct and neutral, but those very while those qualities can seem unappealing, they also make it a forgiving and flexible medium for bold, innovative flavors. Take this simple Tofu Scramble from the Birchwood Cafe. It's one of my favorites in the book I've been working on with Mette Nielsen, Tracy Singleton and Chef Marshall Paulsen. The key here is to marinate the tofu in coconut milk and spices for at least 8 hours. Then simply drain well, saute it with seasonal vegetables, toss in pickled radishes or onions for zip and drizzle with a flavored oil. It's great over rice, faro, skinny noodles -- filling yet deliciously light. Isn't that what we want now? More light?


1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch cayenne

1 block firm tofu, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 tablespoon rice bran oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced
1 bunch kale, stemmed, trimmed and torn 
1/2 cup cubed marinated vegetables (beets, radishes, Brussels sprouts)
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil or lemon oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add the tofu, cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. 

Drain tofu. In a small skillet heat the rice bran oil and saute the garlic, green onions and kale until the vegetables soften. Stir in the tofu and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve topped with the marinated vegetables and garnished with a little of the seasoned oil