may 17 weekly menu | spring table

Farm Fresh

asparagus, chard, chives, collard greens, leeks, mushrooms, radishes, kale, spinach, thyme

What’s for Dinner?

This week’s menus are a tribute to Michael Pollan, author and foodie extraordinaire.  Lest you immediately jump to thoughts of “Enough Michael Pollan!”, his new book explores some fascinating, unchartered territory related to the world of cooking.  Powell’s and OPB brilliantly put Pollan on stage with Dave Miller (Think Out Loud); what ensued was an entertaining interview and conversation highlighting the themes of Cooked, A Natural History of TransformationThe ideas and explorations meander broadly through time, place, cultures, and food preparation methods.  What emerges as crystal clear is that cooking in our own home kitchens, with ingredients we have actively and mindfully selected, is a highly powerful individual act.  It takes giant steps toward rendering the American food system healthier and more sustainable; it vastly improves our own personal health and well-being; and it creates and strengthens connections with people.  Really, just by cooking dinner?  Yes!  Let’s do it…Michael Pollan style.  Each day represents a small sampling of one of his oh-so simple and logical “food rules” – I look at them more as really helpful guidelines in this world of overwhelming food choices and messaging.  All fall under the broad umbrella of possibly his most famous seven words:  “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  Got that covered!

Friday – “eat your colors” + “eat all the junk food you want” 

leek, chard, & corn flatbread (Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen)

rhubarb sauce over ice cream (Portland Farmer’s Market), or
strawberry rhubarb crisp (Mark Bittman, The New York Times)

Saturday – “have a glass of wine with dinner”

warm vegetable salad with brown butter dressing (Gabriel Rucker)
sauteed butter-thyme mushrooms (Cooking Light)
roast chicken with thyme (Thomas Keller, Bouchon)
baguette

Apolloni 2009  chardonnay, or
Apolloni 2010 pinot noir

Sunday – “eat mostly plants, especially leaves”

braised greens tacos (Serious Eats, Rick Bayless)
radish salsa (Mark Bittman)
mexican beans

Monday – “dinner like a pauper”

collard green and white bean gratin (Serious Eats)

Tuesday – “treat meat as a flavoring”

vegetable and beef lo mein (Cook’s Illustrated, The Best 30-Minute Recipe)

Wednesday – “eat more like the spanish”

spinach and chickpeas (Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen)
salted toasty bread

Thursday –  “eat what stands on one leg” 

asparagus risotto (Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food)
grilled halibut

_____________________________________________________

Friday –  “eat your colors” + “eat all the junk food you want” 

leek, chard, & corn flatbread (Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen)

rhubarb sauce over ice cream (Portland Farmer’s Market), or
rhubarb crisp (Mark Bittman, The New York Times)

IMG_1084

Super fun, interactive, and delicious way to use those veggies –Pizza Night!  Let this prior post be your inspiration and step-by-step instructional for pizza making. Friday is the perfect night for this, not only as an end-of-the-week celebration, but because I can literally pick and choose veggies off my table to top the pizzas!  I think flatbread is just pizza stretched a different direction (and maybe with a little less cheese.)  I’ve been eyeing this recipe on Smitten Kitchen for a few weeks now, thinking how heavenly it would be in July or August with corn off those just-picked cobs.  But, I have gorgeous leeks and chard now, so I decided why wait?!  Frozen corn will do just fine!  The images are so striking…”eat your colors” indeed.   Make it into whatever shape you’d like, and put lots of cheese(s) on if that sounds good.  Good old fashioned mozzarella would be delicious too (or fontina, or or or…).  And, yes, I have mentioned rhubarb before…it’s just so darned good, and it’s such a quintessential Northwest spring fruit (vegetable?), another round of delicious desserts is in order.  Pollan’s “eat all the junk food you want” guideline, is followed by a very sly “as long as you cook it yourself.”  The theory being, chances are good, this won’t be every day, because it won’t be cheap and easy.  Not sure this always holds true; this rhubarb crisp (add farm-fresh strawberries if you’d like) or the rhubarb sauce are really tiny little investments in money and time.  But the rewards are stupendous!  Somehow, I’ll refrain from every day.

Other farm fresh combinations:

winter squash and wild mushroom 
potato and rosemary 
leek, crimini mushroom, and prosciutto
kale, sundried tomato, & feta
portabella mushroom & roasted red pepper
shitake mushroom
leek, sundried tomato, and goat cheese
caramelized leek, mushroom and Italian sausage pizza
pizza with kale raab, leeks, and olives 
pizza with fennel sausage, braising greens and rosemary
dandelion greens, Italian sausage, and fontina cheese pizza
spinach and chive pizza
grilled pizza with kale, mushroom, & sausage
shaved asparagus & parmesan pizza

Saturday – “have a glass of wine with dinner”

warm vegetable salad with brown butter dressing (Gabriel Rucker)
sauteed butter-thyme mushrooms (Cooking Light)
roast chicken with thyme (Thomas Keller, Bouchon)
baguette

Apolloni 2009 chardonnay, or
Apolloni 2010 pinot noir

Well, OK.  A glass of wine with dinner it is (he sites cardiac benefits).  Pollan also suggests eating real meals (not just series of snacks), eating at a table, with people, and spending time enjoying it.  This sounds easy!  We’ll celebrate Gabriel Rucker’s (Le Pigeon, Little Bird) Best Northwest Chef James Beard Award, just announced.  I can guarantee there’s amazing roast chicken at both of his restaurants.  Tonight we’ll try our hand at the simplest of homemade roast chickens.  This is a wonderful step-by-step (not many though!) guide by Thomas Keller.  This is definitely one of those dishes where less is more.  A little thyme, a little butter, and a little salt & pepper – that’s it.  Or, if you have no burning desire to see how your own roast chicken might taste, pick one up at your favorite trusted market.  And I just had to try this warm salad with brown butter dressing.  Yes in celebration of chef Rucker’s big win; but also in celebration of butter on salad!  He’s using it in place of oil, to create that wonderful combination of radishes, butter, and salt.  I’ll skip the beans, use my leeks, and use spinach instead of arugula.  With a good quality vinegar (I love Unio Moscatel Wine Vinegar – available at New Seasons and many other places, I’m sure) and farm fresh veggies, I think the essence of his recipe will be preserved.  Adding another side of simply sauteed mushrooms and thyme will be just right to complete the meal.  Skip the shallots and wine if it feels too fancy – all a mushroom needs to reach absolute perfection in my book is some butter and a hot pan!  Slice up a fresh baguette, and cheers to the ease of following these food rules!  Wine suggestions compliments of my dear friend, Laurine, of Apolloni Vineyards.

Sunday – “eat mostly plants, especially leaves”

braised greens tacos (Serious Eats, Rick Bayless)
radish salsa (Mark Bittman)
mexican beans

Boy have we got our pick of the leaves…chard, collards, kale, or spinach!  Any would be fabulous in this rendition of braised greens tacos.  I think I’ll use my kale this week, and caramelize leeks instead of onion.  Some of those sauteed criminis would be a perfect addition, adding a little meatiness to the tacos.  I’ll skip Bayless’ homemade salsa, since I’m going to give this radish salsa a whirl.  Plus of course a little salsa sampling of family favorites from the store.  And since it’s still the weekend, I’ll stray from the can, and slowly cook these out-of-this-world Mexican beans.  Each time I make them I wonder why oh why I ever use canned beans.  It’s really ridiculous how simple they are:  soak a pound of beans (any kind – I’m using the black beans I got from HRO) overnight (or use the quick soak method), cover with chicken broth about one inch above the beans, add one half of a white onion, a couple whole cloves of garlic and 1 tsp. of salt.  After bringing to a boil, cover the pot and cook very slowly (on low or warm) for an hour.  Test them at this point, but I usually add a bit more salt and cook for another half hour or even more. Use them tonight, then either freeze the rest or use them again this week for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Beans, sauteed greens, and an egg on top?  Yum!  And our dinner composed of “mostly plants, especially leaves” feels very unlike a rule, and much more like a reward.

Monday –  “dinner like a pauper”

collard green and white bean gratin (Serious Eats)

The entire guideline is “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.  The theory being it’s better for your heart (and your behind!) to consume more calories earlier in the day.  This rendition of beans and greens, with only a tad bit of meat (if you wish), and assembled as a casserole,  I think qualifies perfectly!  We’ll use the classic Southern hearty green, in a mix of Italian-inspired ingredients and combinations, with a fancy French name.  Don’t be afraid…gratin just implies baked in a dish with a crunchy, breadcrumb-y, cheesey topping.  It’ll be an easy, satisfying weeknight dish, especially since I’ll use canned white beans and can guarantee I won’t pre-boil the collards (one less dish!).  Just saute up the onion (or leek?), bell pepper, sliced Italian sausage (or whatever your choice is) for a bit, then toss the chopped collards in too.  They’ll wilt right away, and you can slow cook them until the texture and flavor are as you wish.  Don’t worry about the order here – you’ll just end up mixing it all together, spreading it in a baking dish, and topping it with bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil – yum!  Hard to believe this is what eating like a pauper is like!

Tuesday – “treat meat as a flavoring”

vegetable and beef lo mein (Cook’s Illustrated, The Best 30-Minute Recipe)

Asian dishes are wonderful in their ability to use SO MANY fresh vegetables in one dish, packed with flavor from any number of incredible sauces and seasonings.  Often, it’s neither here nor there whether you add the meat or not.  For so many of us trying to do our part in reducing the detrimental effects of meat consumption (both to our bodies and to our world), dishes like this are a winner.  This week, you could literally use any of the veggies received from HRO in a completely customizable stir-fry.  I’ll probably use mushrooms, spinach, and radishes, if I have any left.  Just remember if you use a more delicate green like spinach, instead of a heartier one like kale, you’ll want to add it at the end of the cooking time just until it wilts.  The steak in the dish becomes a flavoring, not the main event.  Recipes like this often call for 10 or 12 ounces of meat for an entire recipe for four people, sometimes even less.  And as the eater, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything!  (I often even skip the meat all together, and throw in a bag of frozen edamame for that protein.)  Polan’s suggestion that we “treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food” ?  Simple, when you start each week with your table piled high with veggies – they are the main event, not the afterthought.  Unfortunately, my veggies don’t seem to nudge out that ice cream!

Wednesday – “eat more like the spanish”

spinach and chickpeas (Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen)
salted toasty bread

Pollan says to “eat more like the French, or the Japanese, or the Italians, or the Greeks”.  I’m going to extend that to the Spanish as well.  (Really, just insert any traditional diet, other than the modern Western one full of processed foods.)  These are generally people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture.  They have a long-established, healthy diet, both in terms of what and how they eat.  This recipe Deb Perlman describes as straight “from a tapas bar in Spain”.  Let’s go!  I’m going to use my gorgeous bunch of spinach in this weeknight-simple dish, loaded with amazingly complex smokey, spicy, tangy flavors.  I’ll use canned chickpeas for a shortcut, but will give the toasted-in-olive-oil bread crumbs a shot.  Deb says the essence of this recipe would be preserved by just skipping this bread crumb part (just sauté the garlic, and continue without the bread); the final dish will just be a bit saucier.  In Spain, they would eat this on little fried bread toasts.  I’ll go simple, skip the fried, and use my HRO baguette – just slice, brush lightly with olive oil, and give a little sprinkling of salt before broiling or grilling.  A healthy, tasty, full-meal-deal, even if we aren’t eating tapas in Madrid.

Thursday – “eat what stands on one leg” 

asparagus risotto (Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food)
grilled halibut

The visual here kind of made me laugh.  The full rule:  “Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs, and other mammals)”.  I think we’re spot on with this meal.  I’m envisioning the asparagus (and all of my veggies!) as standing on one leg.  This Alice Waters risotto recipe is delicious, and lets the asparagus shine.  I try not to get all caught up in the proportions or timing of the broth adding and stirring of risotto.  Heck, I don’t even heat the broth first.  After the garlic, onion, & rice are sauteed in the butter/oil, I just add a little broth, cook a little, add a little broth, cook a little.  Add the veggies at some point, just to reach a barely tender point.  To complete the meal, I’ll grill a piece of deliciously fresh halibut (on special at New Seasons this week), brushed lightly with olive oil and a sprinkling of lemon juice and chives.  And last I checked, fish have no legs, so I think we’re good in the rule book!

“What the Kale?!?”

Don’t panic and get out the compost bin if all of the sudden you have a giant veggie delivery coming your way, and you still have a fridge full.  Here are a few suggestions for preserving the bounty!  (Soups and stews freeze wonderfully in those gallon zip lock freezer bags.)

  • spinach pesto (Epicurious)
  • collard green olive pesto (Gourmet)

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