february 20 weekly menu | winter table

Farm Fresh

beets, kale, kale raab, leeks, mushrooms, spinach, sunchokes, winter squash

What’s for Dinner?

Friday pizza night is on hold in order to appropriately honor the Year of the Sheep, on which we have just embarked! My veggies will find the perfect home in authentic Chinese dishes from noted and honored chef Ceclia Chiang. Add in an Oscar celebration complete with veggie-inspired festive finger foods, and the season’s first delivery of fresh spinach, sunchokes, and kale raab, and this week anything but the same ‘ol, same ‘ol!

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 – potluck polenta +

white cheddar polenta with braised greens, mushrooms, & pancetta (SIO Blog, Emily Thomson)

Sunday – and the oscar goes to…

beet dip with goat cheese & hazelnuts (Yotam Ottolenghi)
walnut-mushroom pate (Lizzy Caston, Mushroom Farmers Grow…)
wild mushroom, leek and chèvre galettes (Bon Appetit)
leek toasts with blue cheese (Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen)
bruschettta with winter greens pesto (Katherine Deumling, Cook With What You Have)

Monday – salad (+ snacks) for supper

spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette (Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perleman)

Tuesday – espinacas con garbanzos 

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

Wednesday – one pot, 20 minutes

pasta with garlicky kale raab (Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen)
roasted chicken

Thursday – sammie night

squash, manchego, & balsamic leek grilled cheese (Food Network)
smashed roasted jerusalem artichokes (Gourmet)

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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 Sheep (or Goat). 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 Sheep!

Saturday – potluck polenta +

white cheddar polenta with braised greens, mushrooms, & pancetta (SIO Blog, Emily Thomson)

Polenta…no longer fuddy duddy peasant food, that’s for sure. As a matter of fact, prepared with all of these amazing and fresh ingredients, I think it’s just right for a potluck. It is a super versatile, humble cornmeal dish that can be baked, fried, grilled, or simply cooked gently on the stovetop with some butter & parmesan for a wholly satisfying, rich and delicious dish. This week’s kale lends itself wonderfully as a polenta “topping” – any greens would work beautifully. In this recipe, I double the polenta portion and make it in a wide bottomed pan suitable for serving as well. When the polenta seems “done” (not grainy or hard to the bite), let it settle in the pan after mixing in the not-to-leave-out butter (the essential rich and creamy part of the best polenta!) The lightly sautéed and braised mushrooms, greens, and garlic are then spread over the top, with the grated white cheddar adding a finishing touch. Just before serving, warm it in the oven, letting the cheese get just barely browned. You could skip the pancetta and mix in some white beans, or just leave it as is, with the greens and mushrooms for a wonderfully rich and satisfying vegetarian dish. See where your taste buds and diners take you. A little Italian bacon is hard to pass up.

Sunday – and the oscar goes to…

beet dip with goat cheese & hazelnuts (Yotam Ottolenghi)
walnut-mushroom pate (Lizzy Caston, Mushroom Farmers Grow…)
wild mushroom, leek and chèvre galettes (Bon Appetit)
leek toasts with blue cheese (Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen)
bruschettta with winter greens pesto (Katherine Deumling, Cook With What You Have)

The annual Academy Awards…time for finger food and bubbly! The red carpet moments, the glamorous gowns, and the full-evening fanfare that Oscar Night brings…this evening’s “meal” is devoted to choosing which local-bounty-inspired hors d’oeuvres strike your fancy, cooking up a few, then sitting back to enjoy the glamor of it all. With it’s gorgeous, vibrant red color, this beet spread is a wonderfully festive appetizer. Plus it has so many other delicious and good-for-you ingredients (hazelnuts, yogurt, goat cheese), it really could stand on its own as lunch or dinner. This, along with the mushroom pate or winter greens pesto, would be perfect served with thick pita crackers, and even some raw veggie crudités. For the galettes, I’ll skip the dried mushrooms, and use mixture any of my freshly foraged ones. Cut the puff pastry into star shapes for the Oscar celebration! And if you’re ready for the most straight-forward but special-occasion party appetizer, look no further than these leek toasts! I’ve got a freshly delivered HRO baguette, ready to be lightly salted, toasted, and topped with caramelized leeks and a sprinkling of blue cheese. Popcorn, licorice, and milk duds are of course also on hand to snack on, alongside this Oscar-worthy spread of veggie nibbles.

Monday – salad (+snacks) for supper

spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette (Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perleman)

A gorgeous, first-of-the-season spinach salad…for dinner! Skip the warm bacon vinaigrette if you don’t want the hassle of bacon-frying, but it sure is good! (You would mix olive oil with the dijon and vinegar instead.) With a small sprinkling of chopped leeks, instead of the red onion, and maybe even some toasty croutons, this is a salad that can easily stand on it’s own as a heart-healthy and delicious dinner. I’ll add in a smattering of finger food that are sure to be left from Oscar night…a perfect accompaniment to our main dish spinach salad.

Tuesday – espinacas con garbanzos 

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

Mmmm…Deb Perleman describes this as straight “from a tapas bar in Spain”. I’m in. A gorgeous bunch of spinach is featured 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 even if you skip 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 a baguette – just slice, brush lightly with olive oil, and give a little sprinkling of salt before broiling. A healthy, tasty, full-meal-deal, even if we aren’t eating tapas in Madrid.

Wednesday – one pot, 20 minutes

pasta with garlicky kale raab (Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen)
roasted chicken

In this Smitten Kitchen post, Deb highlights an end-of-the-farmers-market-day meager bunch of broccoli raab. It’s a perfectly detailed run though of how to create something big, bold and beautiful from nearly nothing. That large bunch of gorgeous kale raab from HRO is far from “nearly nothing”, that’s for sure! Raab is available only in the spring, when over-wintered plants in the brassica family (such as cabbage, brussels sprouts, collards, kale, and broccoli) begin to flower and send out seed shoots. When the kale flowers, the stalks lengthen, and the leaves change shape and become very tender and sweet. Raab is most tender before the florets actually flower, and is wonderful sautéed, braised, stir fried, grilled, or raw in hearty salads. In this recipe, a short, chunky, clever-shaped pasta of your choice is combined with our kale raab and just four other miracle ingredients that together make a sensational and complete one pot, 20 minute meal – olive oil, garlic (lots of it!), red pepper flakes, and salt. That’s it. Taste it and you’ll see why I love our local farmers, Deb Perelman, and the kitchen!

Thursday – sammie night

squash, manchego, & balsamic leek grilled cheese (Food Network)
smashed roasted jerusalem artichokes (Gourmet)

I know I’ll cheat on this, and use pre-roasted, peeled, sliced squash. But it’s hard to resist that spicy, sweet oven-roasting, so I may just pop it in the oven for a few minutes, giving it a nice coating of the maple syrupy, chili peppery concoction. I’ll definitely caramelize a couple of sliced leeks with a bit of balsamic to get an amazing spread. Either almonds or sliced chicken from last night would be a great sammie addition. My trusty ridged cast iron skillet (with another cast iron topping the sandwiches) whips up two paninis at a time. While you’re assembling the sammies, toss the sunchokes with a bit of olive oil and bake. In this version, a final “smash  and brown” step makes them crunchy and downright close to a french fry!

“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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