December 12 weekly menu | fall table

Farm Fresh

beets, cabbage, celeriac, collard greens, kale, mushrooms, parsnips, winter squash

What’s for Dinner?

The seasons have officially changed, at least according to my CSA calendar. After nearly seven months of the most stupendous summer and fall veggies from the farmlands of Sauvie Island Organics, today marks the beginning of my winter and spring deliveries from Hood River Organic. And yes, I said “deliveries,” as in home deliveriesOh, how I love hearing that doorbell ring on Fridays, just knowing it’s not a person I’ll be greeting, but rather a box. My HRO box, filled to the brim with produce dropped by the veggie van, straight from the Hood River area. In addition to the veggies, the share also always includes a bit of gorgeous gorge-grown fruit, scrumptious freshly baked bread, and the occasional delightful surprise such as pear butter or honey. You can also request farm fresh eggs and dairy, and specialty grains and other local products. The weekly delivery is completely customizable to your own whims and tastes. I keep it simple, taking the “get what you get” approach, and relish in the surprise. What will this week’s harvest bring? What will be on our plates for dinner this week?

This week an assortment of dishes to make the holidays less harried, to bring some pizzazz to the potlucks, and to celebrate the comfort food that’ll be right at home on our tables for the foreseeable future.

Friday – anyone-can-do-it potato bar

baked potato bar

Saturday – fougasse

fougasse (Tabor Bread)
beef barley soup (Martha Stewart)

Sunday  – next-best-thing-to-santa fest

christmas crudités
mini ham, brie, & apple butter sandwiches (epicurious)

cornflake wreaths (Food.com)
candy cane cookies (Betty Crocker)
fantasy fudge (Kraft)

ruby jewel holiday special

Monday – highbrow revelry

christmas kale salad (bay area bites)

Tuesday – super simple spaghetti

spaghetti with thyme-chili celeriac puree (Serious Eats)

Wednesday –  march preview

red beans and rice (+ collards) (Rosso & Lukins, The New Basics)

Thursday – twofer

local food school potluck lunch:
northwest winter slaw (Simply Classic, Seattle Junior League)

music & merrymaking potluck dinner:
beet, pomegranate, & orange salad (bon appetit)


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Friday –  anyone-can-do-it potato bar

Before the veggie van pulls up, I’m bound and determined to use that last, lone squash atop my counter. I’ll make do-ahead dinner number two, in preparation for the week away over the holidays, where some meals will come right along with us. Enchiladas are a great candidate for this, freezing nicely, and requiring just an oven warm-up before a zero-effort quintessential comfort dish emerges. To save a bit of prep work, I’ll make a squash and bean enchilada casserole, instead of the traditional individual roll-up style enchiladas. I’ll improvised a little, using an entire sugar pumpin, some leftover rotisserie chicken in addition to the beans, a can of fire roasted tomatoes instead of salsa, twelve corn tortillas, and an entire jar of Fronterra enchilada sauce. You really can’t go wrong, just keep layering, and it’ll all work out delightfully in the end.

Try as I might, I’ve got potatoes coming out my ears. And because the kids love a toppings bar, I thought I’d leave them in charge tonight, cooking up dinner for Grandma as Mom and Dad have a night out. “Cooking” might be a stretch; we make good use of the “potato” button on the microwave. Beyond that, it’s a kids-choice topping line-up, which will surely include all of the traditional items:  sour cream, chives, cheddar cheese, and chopped crispy bacon (again, microwave friendly!) –  all essential for that true baked potato bar experience. It could also include some slightly non-traditional ones too, like some some freshly foraged, chopped and sautéed wild mushrooms, as well as some thinly sliced, lightly sautéed cabbage. A couple minutes at the stove would be well worth it for these ingredients!

Saturday – fougasse…say what?

fougasse (Tabor Bread)
beef barley soup (Martha Stewart)

Tabor Bread on SE Hawthorne is currently making fougasse, a sort of French flatbread (they also call it “mountain bread”). In their rendition, it is baked with vegetables and cheese, which they change up daily. It is served with olive oil and pickled seasonal veggies, which they include even when you get it to go. Served alongside (and as a dipper for) homemade beef barley soup, this combo is a proven crowd-pleaser. I love this soup recipe because it uses so many additional veggies – carrots, parsnips, winter squash, and onions (could use shallots, leeks, whatever you’ve got). Plus freshly foraged local mushrooms! This comforting soup-for-supper menu is highly qualified. Add a sparkling drink of sorts, plus a holiday dessert, and it’s a special occasion meal fit for even the most discerning company.

Sunday – next-best-thing-to-santa fest

christmas crudités
mini ham, brie, & apple butter sandwiches (epicurious)

cornflake wreaths (Food.com)
candy cane cookies (Betty Crocker)
fantasy fudge (Kraft)

Holding to a long-standing tradition, Grandma is in town for our pre-Christmas celebration. Lucky for me, this visit also includes a donning of her elf hat for several of these frenzied holiday days. House decorator, gift shopper, package wrapper, card assembler, and cookie baker, among other things. (This is a special kind of personal elf who also does laundry, dishes, childcare, and kitty cuddling – everyone should be so lucky!) Sunday is our annual gift exchange and dinner – we really kind of pretend it’s Christmas. She brings stockings for all, and gifts way beyond the one-gift-per-person limit. I make a holiday-ish dinner. Tonight, instead of a more traditional prime rib roast or the like, in the spirit of keeping everything just a bit simpler and saner, I’m going to let my veggies shine, and add simple ham mini sandwiches. For the veggie platter, I’ve got carrot sticks, roasted parsnip sticks, roasted beet slices. Other wonderful wintery and crunchy choices would be fennel and cauliflower. I’ll add some pickled fennel I made recently, as well as these unbelievable pickled tomatoes from Duker’s Dills. With a big pile of assorted olives and your favorite pre-made dips, this is one crudite platter bound to be a hit! To accompany this, ham and cheese sandwiches, mini-style. I’ll just set out  a platter of cute little slider buns, sliced ham, creamy brie, sweet apple butter, and a selection of flavorful mustards. For dessert, a return to some retro favorites, that also (embarrassingly?) happen to hold a special place in our holiday baking line-up. These edible wreaths, candy cane cookies and creamy fudge contain the likes of marshmallow creme (Jet-Puffed!), giant marshmallows, and food coloring…not so natural, not so foodie PC. But in my house, Christmas just isn’t the same without these goodies. Add a couple of Ruby Jewel seasonal ice cream specials…eggnog, chocolate marzipan with candied orange, peppermint candy, iced gingerbread cookie? All that this ice cream offers in terms of artisan, local, sustainable, organic, etc. is sure to at least (very) partially redeem my homage to the classics.

Monday –  highbrow revelry

christmas kale salad (bay area bites)

I try to include my veggies whenever I can in these holiday potlucks, and people are usually quite appreciative. Salad is often the forgotten menu item, losing out to must-haves like hot crab dip and peppermint bark. For the annual gathering of my book group, I’ll make a festive, hearty, wintery kale salad. This one boasts pomegranate seeds, avocado chunks, tangerine segments, grated parmesan, and a citrusy Meyer lemon dressing. Doubling the recipe, I can leave half with the family, adding a made-by-someone-else roasted chicken for a full meal deal on the home front. With kale in full season, I can imagine this recipe will serve as a go-to as a special-occasion, christmassy (or new year’sy) salad.

Tuesday – super simple spaghetti

spaghetti with thyme-chili celeriac puree (Serious Eats)

I have to admit, I still get a bit nervous when I see those celeriac bulbs. But I’ve done enough with them to know their great transformative abilities. From knobby, hairy, dirty to smooth, creamy, and delightful, with a mildly sweet parsley and celery flavor. In this recipe, the celeriac is cooked and mashed with garlic, fresh red chili, and thyme to create a silky sauce for your favorite pasta. Sprinkling with fresh parsley and parmesan would make it extra special.

Wednesday – march preview

red beans and rice (+ collards) (Rosso & Lukins, The New Basics)

What jumped to my mind when I saw the collards emerge from the box was Southern fare, or better yet, New Orleans fare. Red beans and rice just had to be made. Not that red beans and rice includes collard greens, but it’s those associations that pull together a full-fledged meal. This version from The New Basics is a family favorite; adding the collard greens is a delicious way to get a little taste of New Orleans during a decidedly non-Mardi Gras season. (If you’re a purist, and like to keep things separate, just make a quick side of sauteed collard greens – works the same as the chard in this Bon Appetit recipe.) I make it all one big happy marriage, preparing it a little differently than the recipe suggests. I would sauté the onion, garlic and bacon together in a little olive oil first, then add a head of chopped collards just until they soften a bit. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, adding the liquids, bringing to a boil, and baking. The quick version would be to use canned beans (2 cans) and just simmer on the stovetop until the flavors meld and it is the consistency you want. Any way you go, it’s sure to get us in the mood for some of those March mardis gras celebrations that’ll be here before you know it.

Thursday – twofer

Yikes…a fun and festive Thursday, just before the long winter break. What this often means, besides the cheer and merriment, is figuring out what the heck to bring to these many celebrations. Again, my CSA comes to the rescue for me, limiting the choices in a very attractive and calming way.

local food school potluck lunch:
northwest winter slaw (Simply Classic, Seattle Junior League)

My son came home with an assignment to prepare (and write, photograph, and video about) a dish to share in which nearly all of the ingredients are from Oregon. I showed him what we’d be getting from Hood River Organic, he immediately honed in on the cabbage and suggested a winter coleslaw. Perfect! I pulled out the northwest autumn salad recipe I make for Thanksgiving, and changed its title just a bit. And, after a bit of analyzing, we discovered that yes, truly every ingredient in this could be from our very own state – most of them right in our own backyard. Crispy and crunchy cabbage and apples from my box, tart dried cranberries from Vincent Family, roasted hazelnuts from Freddy Guy’sand crumbled blue cheese from Rogue CreameryEven the dressing could be modified to suit our “go local” mission. With Oregon Olive Mill olive oil, apple vinegar from Blossom Vinegars, minced shallots from my box, an Oregon Meyer lemon, and substituting GloryBee Willamette Valley clover honey for the maple syrup, we had it made! As for the salt and pepper, let’s go with the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy”. The last part of the assignment involves Google Maps and a calculator – certainly the food miles required for this tasty winter salad will be quite low indeed.  

music & merrymaking dinner:
beet, pomegranate, & orange salad (bon appetit)

For this confluence of pint-sized musicians and their parents, we come prepared to applaud and sing-along, as well as to feed the frenzied. For my assignment, I picked “veggie”. A loose category, that could go in so many directions. Salads, sides, or even main courses with vegetables as their centerpiece. I think I’ll go festive again, with a a colorful salad of deep greens and reds, and a fabulous dressing with special occasion pomegranate molasses. I’ll have pre-roasted and peeled the beets at the beginning of the week, leaving just the salad assembly for pre-dinner. I don’t think blood oranges are here quite yet, so I’ll use tangerines, along with pomegranate seeds and red onion. I think this would be especially gorgeous spread over a bed of deep green spinach greens.

“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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