january 31 weekly menu | winter table

Farm Fresh

beets, carrots, kale, leeks, micro greens, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, squash

What’s for Dinner?

Friday pizza night’s on hold, in order to appropriately honor the Year of the Horse, on which we are about to embark! My veggies will find the perfect home in authentic chinese dishes from noted and honored chef Ceclia Chiang. After that, sorry, more quinoa. Why am I apologizing, I wonder. It’s the quintessential whole grain – lightening-fast cook time, tantalizing texture, and a complete protein, all in one. The rest of the weekend is full of it! Yes, because I’m still trying to lighten my load of the many bags that were unearthed during Pantry Clean-Out 2014. But, also because I was recently served this quinoa soup that I found so delectable, I just had to make it myself. And also because it’s the Super Bowl, and on Super Bowl day, whether I care about the game or not (not), I make chili. No way was I going to buy a bag of bulgar for my normal go-to veggie chili. Quinoa chili it is!

Remaining menu items include a smattering of dedications to local foodies I met recently at a Diane Morgan (local cookbook hero!) class. Chefs, restaurant-owners, cookbook authors (and wannabe authors), wine experts, culinary event planners, bloggers, home cooks, etc. So many interesting people, so many inspiring ideas!

Friday – ring in the (chinese) new year!

rice crackers & chinese dumplings
mushrooms in oyster sauce (Cecilia Chiang, SF Gate)
shanghai stir fried pork & kale (Cecilia Chiang, Food and Wine)

Saturday – bright & zesty quinoa soup 

butternut squash soup with quinoa & kale (Not Just Baked)
crusty bread

Sunday  – super bowl veggie fest

crudités, chips plus:
spicy red lentil dip (Oregonian Food Day)
edamame hummus (Oregonian Food Day)
avocado and goat cheese dip (Oregonian Food Day)

black bean & quinoa chili (Vegetarian Times)
jalapeno cheddar cornbread (Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

oatmeal chocolate chip carrot cookies (On Anna’s Plate)

Monday – breakfast-for-dinner, chez marie style

chez marie southwest scramble (Chez Marie)
oven roasted home fries (Martha Stewart)

Tuesday – taco tuesday + beets(!)

beet salsa with avocado & blood orange (Diane Morgan, Roots)
black bean & chicken quesadillas (NYT)

Wednesday – a perfect mid-week pairing

savory squash bread pudding (Real Simple)
pinot noir

Thursday – sammie night, ala cutters

open faced crab & cheese on toasted sourdough
parsnip fries (Bon Appetit)


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Friday – ring in the (chinese) new year!

rice crackers & chinese dumplings
mushrooms in oyster sauce (Cecilia Chiang, SF Gate)
shanghai stir fried pork & kale (Cecilia Chiang, Food and Wine)

Today, according to the Chinese (Lunar) New Year, we mark the beginning of The Year of the Horse. The celebration traditionally revolves around cleaning out the bad from the year behind, making way for the fortunes ahead, celebrating with friends and family. And of course, Chinese food! I found no better source to turn to than Cecilia Chiang, the ninety-four year old chef, restauranteur, and James Beard lifetime achievement award recipient. Arriving in San Francisco from Asia in 1960, she introduced authentic regional Chinese cuisine to an audience that was accustomed to Americanized Cantonese specialties like chop suey and chow mein. Talk about paving the way…she taught not only Beard himself, but also the likes of Julia Child and Alice Waters. And opened the renowned Mandarin restaurant, which she ran successfully for decades. She still walks the hills of the city, and cooks up a storm, most notably her famous twelve-course Lunar New Year feast. I wasn’t quite up for that task, but I did seek out two of her recipes that seemed ripe for my veggies and a friday night celebration. To get started, Chinese dumplings (aka pot stickers) from The Dump Truck. Or, choose some frozen ones from a favorite market – they’re a snap to cook up, and surprisingly delicious. With a selection of Asian rice crackers, and some Tsingtao beer, the party is well on its way. The mushrooms in oyster sauce couldn’t be simpler. The important points to this recipe, I think, are using a couple (at least) different types of mushrooms, for the color, texture, and flavor contrast. And she was a stickler for chopping her veggies and meat into uniform pieces. Feel free to use regular rice wine instead of the Shaoxing she calls for. I’ll also make this stir fried pork and kale. OK, it’s supposed to be cabbage, but I’m confident my kale will be a fine substitute. If you’ve got fresh shitakes, feel free to use these instead of dried. A veritable mushroom feast! While it may not be twelve courses, with a big pot of rice and chopsticks all around, it’s sure a fun way to greet the Year of the Horse!

Saturday – bright & zesty quinoa soup 

butternut squash soup with quinoa & kale (Not Just Baked)
crusty bread

My first nod to a cooking-crazed compatriot goes to Fabi – writer, photographer, chef, blogger, and trusty assistant to Diane Morgan. This final designation also garners her the joy of preparing lunch for the culinary-obsessed in Diane’s classes. Lucky for us! Fabi whipped us up this deeply comforting yet zesty soup, combining butternut squash and kale in a bright & vibrant quinoa-based masterpiece. Quinoa?!? With my own pantry quinoa-clean-out mission still underway, I took this as a sign. Of what, I’m not sure. I sign I should eat it, for sure. For the class, she made the vegetarian version – just ignore all the parts about the chicken and chicken broth, and replace with boxed veggie broth. Also simplifies things quite a bit! Just breeze past the whole “broth” portion of the recipe, and head straight for the “soup”, skipping any references to “chicken” along the way. Believe me, you won’t miss it. That final sprinkling of sea salt, and the squeeze of fresh lime juice made all the difference. Get your favorite crusty bakery bread, and dig in. I, unfortunately, don’t see the recipe for the salted chocolate chip cookies she made us for dessert – a perfect ending to be sure.

Sunday – super bowl veggie fest

crudités, chips plus:
spicy red lentil dip (Oregonian Food Day)
edamame hummus (Oregonian Food Day)
avocado and goat cheese dip (Oregonian Food Day)

black bean & quinoa chili (Vegetarian Times)
jalapeno cheddar cornbread (Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

oatmeal chocolate chip carrot cookies (On Anna’s Plate)

Just because this is a national holiday built around party wings, potato chips, and beer doesn’t mean I can’t do my own crazy “veggie thing”. Especially after I saw the Oregonian’s Food Day special on 13 Super Bowl dips & spreads! I chose three that looked to be especially enticing alongside a giant platter of farm fresh veggie crudités. Carrots, parsnips, and beets would all be great options this week. The carrots, of course, can be served pretty much straight from the ground, with just a little rinse and trim. The parsnips I’ll peel, cut into sticks, and with a sprinkling of olive oil and salt, roast in a hot oven until lightly golden. Beets, as usual, are wrapped in foil and roasted right when I get them. Peel and chop into any friendly dipper shape. Along with a silky, smooth bean dip, a zesty asian-ish hummus, and a creamy, tangy cheese spread, these tantalizing crudités will take us right through half-time. Of course, my veggie platter is non-exclusive, and includes heaping piles of pita & Kettle chips too!

When it’s time for more of a “real meal”, I say chili is not overdone as a sensational Super Bowl pick. It can sit, warming on the stove, until people are ready to help themselves. This vegetarian version will aid in my continued quinoa dig-out, using it as a hearty thickener. I’ll skip the celery and peppers, adding extra carrots and maybe some mushrooms. OR, a diced winter squash – yum! (Pre-cook the squash a bit to make it easier to peel and chop.) I’ll use the fire-roasted variety of chopped tomatoes, and instead of adding any “fresh”, will add a can of tomato puree to thin it a bit. You could also add a beer – a winner of a chili flavor enhancer! Because it’s a party, I’ll set out a fun, do-it-yourself chili toppings bar:  shredded cheese, green onions, black olives, sour cream – whatever sounds good! Get a Bob’s Red Mill cornbread mix if you don’t feel like going the homemade route, although this perfectly crumbly, cheesy, Ina classic provides just the right kick as a Super Bowl crowd pleaser.

And because every party needs a sweet treat, I’m going to make these classic-sounding oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Plus shedded carrots! Just a taste of beloved carrot cake intermixed with lots of rolled oats & chocolate! To make them lickety-split, I’ll make a bar version, spreading the batter into a greased 9X13 pan and baking until done, maybe 20 or 25 minutes. Cookie bars are a perfect football finger food dessert.

Monday –  breakfast for dinner, chez marie style

chez marie southwest scramble (Chez Marie)
oven roasted home fries (Martha Stewart)

After all my ranting and raving about the veggie burger that is a permanent fixture in my freezer, it was a real delight to meet the Marie, behind Chez Marie, at Diane’s class. I discovered her product at Burgerville long ago, where I quickly solidified my preference for their veggie burger over the “real thing” (plus fries and a chocolate shake, please!). That spicy anasazi burger with just the right mix of black rice, beans, carrots, peppers and perfectly spicy seasonings – it’s really the best thing on the menu. And the greatest news was when Burgerville (so the story goes) took Marie out of her garage and into large scale production and veggie burger business. Her healthy and delectable patties are now available at many local stores and businesses, and come in lots of tasty and unique flavor combinations, with more on the horizon. The WOW mushroom burger is a recent fabulous find. I pick them up in the freezer section of New Seasons, and always have a box on hand for a quick and healthy oven, skillet, or BBQ dinner. This week, I’ll try out one of Marie’s own recipe suggestions. Using her cubed, sauteed veggie patty as a mix-in to scrambled eggs – quick, simple, & healthy. Adjust the quantites according to how  many hungry eaters you’ve got. While the eggs are cooking, the spuds will be roasting, probably with just my farm-fresh, chopped leeks, for some easy hash browns. Thanks, Marie, for this breakfast-for-dinner inspiration!

Tuesday – taco tuesday + beets(!)

beet salsa with avocado & blood orange (Diane Morgan, Roots)
black bean & chicken quesadillas (NYT)

The week wouldn’t be right without a tribute to cookbook author extraordinaire and class leader, Diane Morgan. What a delight she was, as an instructor and a person. I barely started flipping through her most recent book, Roots, when I came upon the perfect recipe for my own roots to go with a new item I received in my Hood River Organic CSA box this week. They are now partnering with La Cascada of Hood River, providing freshly made organic flour and corn tortillas. If this doesn’t inspire taco night each week, I don’t know what will! I’ll roast the beets ahead of time (Diane has a wonderful beet-roasting video tutorial on her website!), having them at-the-ready for a mid-week meal. Her salsa is a wonderfully wintry blend of blood oranges, zesty lime & cilantro, avocado, beets, & chiles. I’ll use this straight-forward recipe (can you call it a “recipe” when it’s just adding two spices to a can of beans?!?) to create a black bean filling for make-your-own-quesadillas. Any grated cheese, maybe some shredded chicken (from a made-by-someone-else roasted version), and a big ‘ol cast iron pan is all you need to whip up some lightly golden and crunchy quesadillas. Served with Diane’s beet salsa, this is a giant step up from our usual salsa-in-a-tub accompaniment!

Wednesday – a perfect mid-week pairing

savory squash bread pudding (Real Simple)
pinot noir

We live in the very heart of pinot noir country. I was reminded of this when I also met the organizer of the International Pinot Noir Celebration at my class. Of course there is such a thing. A summer, three-day celebration of all things pinot noir and northwest cuisine. A good reminder to me to occasionally, very intentionally, plan my meals (even 30 minute weeknight versions!) with the red wine that put Oregon on the map in mind. And it does not have to be something “meat”. Pinot noir is medium-bodied, and exceptionally food-friendly. Gone is the notion that is goes only with fowl and fish. Creamy sauces (gruyere!) and hearty, full-bodied vegetables (squash!) make delightful pairings. Tonight I’ll make this savory bread pudding, highlighting my two darling carnival squash. With onions (I’ll use my leeks), sage, and rich gruyere, this is full of flavor and hearty enough to stand on it’s own as a main course. And although this recipe exceeds my usual 30-minute weeknight limit, it is just a half an hour of work time – the rest is baking time. A perfect opportunity to sit and sip that pinot!

Thursday – sammie night, ala cutters

open faced crab & beecher’s cheese on toasted sourdough
parsnip fries (Bon Appetit)

Another unexpected acquaintance made this past week was with a Seattle-based Cutter’s chef. Steps from Pike Place Market, perched with an unobstructed view of Elliot Bay and the mountains beyond, this classic Northwest restaurant has been serving up some of the region’s best seafood for over twenty-five years. It was the special occasion place during my Seattle college years (and beyond). Apparently, it has recently undergone a bit of a facelift and menu update. But given their focus since inception has been the freshest local seafood, prepared classically, I see the menu maintains this vital integrity. I’ll hone in on a weeknight-simple sammie, highlighted on both Cutter’s menu, as well as that of nationally famous Beecher’s cheese, which happens to be located right across the way. I think I’d suggest using the oven for these – first broiling a lightly olive-oiled and salted sturdy sourdough slice, then piling it high with dungeness crab and shredded Beecher’s flagship cheese, and baking until warm and melded. It’s worth the splurge to buy the crab at your local market, already plucked from the shell. You won’t need all that much, and tonight is not one of those festive occasions when sitting for hours with the platter of whole-in-the-shell crabs is in order. This is a heavenly combination – a hard crusted bread with a mildly tangy taste, some couldn’t-be-fresher northwest crab, and melty Beecher’s flagship cheese, with its robust, slightly nutty flavor. For a bonus taste & texture, set out those gorgeous micro greens for people to pile on top of their own sammies. And here’s where my parsnips come in…as an extra special type of french fry gracing the sammie dinner plate. I even cut them like fries – when simply roasted, their delicate, sweet flavor will surprise you.

“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.)

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2 responses to “january 31 weekly menu | winter table”

  1. Dad says :

    So sad to read that I was never at your special occasion go to place during your Seattle college years…looks pretty swanky. Potstickers are also good steamed, or halfsteamed, then fried. Seahawk bread for us Sunday (like Tidal Raves): sliced baguette, cream cheese, smoked salmon, dill, capers, small (salad) shrimp, Havarti cheese–broil for 5 mins or so. Love to all.

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