january 27 weekly menu | winter table

Farm Fresh

carrots, collard greens, fennel, kale, leeks, mustard greens, onions, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, winter squash

What’s for Dinner?

Holi-days, travel days, snow, ice, sleet, and slush days…so many crazy and unexpected days got on the way of my normal veggie routine recently! What better way to launch back into the groove than celebrating the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster! My veggies will find the perfect home in authentic chinese dishes from noted and honored chef Ceclia Chiang. Upon opening my Hood River Organic veggie box, I was just in awe of the fresh, local produce that continues to grow in our region, even in this dark depth of winter.

Friday – old school pizza, tv trays, movie

old town’s dragon lady (mushrooms, leeks, etc.)

Saturday – ring in the (chinese) new year!

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

Sunday  – winter dahl

vegetable curry with coconut milk (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog)
sukhi’s somosas

Monday – breakfast-for-dinner

leek and mushroom quiche (Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
oven roasted home fries (Martha Stewart)

Tuesday – south of the border collard greens

collards & beans tacos (The Splendid Table)

Wednesday – spaghetti squash pudding

savory squash bread pudding (Real Simple)
shredded kale salad (Serious Eats)

Thursday – sammie night, crab style

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


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Friday – old school pizza, tv trays, movie

old town’s dragon lady (mushrooms, leeks, etc.)

After many snow days filled with empty cupboards and several rounds of “shi shi” Portland pizza, it’s fun to turn our attention to really what couldn’t be more opposite. And cook it myself! Portland’s Old Town Pizza is legendary, both for its straight-forward and delicious pies, as well as its storied past. Complete with a grand old bar, creaky floors, and alleged ghosts, it expresses the soul of old Portland. One of their specialty pizzas I remember well is the Dragon Lady, a healthy (as pizzas go) veggie option loaded with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, artichoke hearts, and capers. IMG_1084At home, I’ll use my farm fresh mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and caramelized leeks or onions and fennel. (Caramelize is just a fancy word for cook in olive oil until very soft and golden.) Follow this previous Pizza Night post for a no-fail dough recipe I rely on each week. It makes enough for two pizzas, even three if rolled out in the super thin, best-for-crispy-pizza style. With a traditional red sauce (I’ll use canned Cento) and shredded mozzarella, this ought to be a close approximation to the creation of this wonderfully unique and quirky local institution.

Other pizza combinations:

winter squash and wild mushroom 
leek, crimini mushroom, and prosciutto
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
leek, chard, & corn flatbread
pizza with green garlic & arugula
pizza bianca with goat cheese & chard
fresh ricotta and red onion pizza
sweet onion pizza
pizza with grilled fennel and parmesan
eggplant & tomato pizza
caramelized onion, kale, & corn flatbread
classic margherita pizza
caramelized fennel, onion, and sweet pepper pizza 
pizza with red and yellow peppers
kale, sundried tomato, & feta pizza
ricotta and gremolata pizza
parsley pesto & potato pizza 
roasted red potato pizza with taleggio, roasted leeks & pancetta
roasted acorn squash & gorgonzola pizza 
winter squash pizza 
butternut squash and caramelized onion galette
sausage, leek, & shitake pizza
potato & rosemary pizza 

Saturday – ring in the (chinese) new year!

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

Today, according to the Chinese (Lunar) New Year, we mark the beginning of The Year of the Rooster. 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 Saturday night celebration. To get started, Chinese dumplings (aka pot stickers) straight from the freezer aisle of Uwijimaya – 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 greens. OK, it’s supposed to be cabbage, but I’m confident my slightly spicy mustard greens will make 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 Rooster!

Sunday – winter dahl

vegetable curry with coconut milk (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog)
sukhi’s somosas

This wonderful veggie dahl from Katherine Deumling is healthy, delicious, and simple. It spans the seasons, and is a go-to of mine when I have a hankering for Indian food. It makes a terrific vehicle for nearly vegetable you have on hand. This lentil-based dahl has that magic formula of fresh garlic, Indian spices, and coconut milk. The rest is really up to you. I’ll use thinly sliced mustard greens or kale, and lots of chopped carrots, an onion or leeks, and a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. The fresh cilantro and mint add a magnificent flavor to Indian food. Ladle the stew over a nice wide bowl of basmati rice, and sprinkle with additional herbs – YUM! Add naan from your favorite Indian restaurant or food cart. For a special treat, add these Sukhi’s samosas to the Sunday Indian dinner line-up. I discovered these little gems at a recent potluck, with someone describing them as “better than any restaurant version around”.  Somosas are a delightful Indian street food, with a savory and perfectly spiced filling wrapped up in a delicate crust. These even come with a spicy, cilantro chutney for dipping. Pick some up in the freezer section at New Seasons.

Monday – breakfast-for-dinner

leek and mushroom quiche (Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
oven roasted home fries (Martha Stewart)

Although I’m sure this homemade pate brissee (tart dough) is out-of-this-world, for a weeknight quiche, I’ll purchase the tart or pie dough from the freezer section of the grocery store. The leek and mushroom filling adapted from Julia Child (how can you go wrong?!?) will be fabulous, and more than make up for cheating on the crust. I’ll definitely use milk instead of cream, and probably skip the port (due to lack of), although I’m sure this adds a unique touch. While the eggs are cooking, the spuds will be roasting, probably with just my farm-fresh, chopped leeks, for some easy hashed browns.

Tuesday – south of the border collard greens

collards & beans tacos (The Splendid Table)

Corn bread and collard greens are a southern match made in heaven. Here, we stretch that in a Mexican direction, pairing nutty corn tortillas with sweet slow-cooked collards. I’ll make it weeknight simple by purchasing green tomatillo salsa. Use canned beans of any type. Have diners assemble the tacos themselves, adding finely chopped onion, mashed avocado, a squeeze of lime, and salsa. To step up this dinner one giant notch, slow cook these out-of-this-world Mexican beans. It’s really ridiculous how simple they are:  soak a pound of pinto beans  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 for taco night, then either freeze the rest or use them again this week. Beans, sauteed greens, and an egg on top for breakfast?  Yum!

Wednesday – spaghetti squash pudding

savory squash bread pudding (Real Simple)
shredded kale salad (Serious Eats)

Tonight I’ll make this savory bread pudding, highlighting my tasty and fun spaghetti 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. I’ll pre-bake the squash, 375 degree oven, about 20-30 minutes just until barely cooked (think al dente pasta). Instead of using uncooked, cubed butternut squash, I’ll just scoop out the innards of this wonderfully unique winter squash, adding both barely cooked halves to the mix. With its creamy gruyere sauce and hearty, full-bodied squash, this makes a delightful full-meal-deal. I’ll add a nearly effortless kale salad. I use the basic formula again and again – kale, the very few dressing ingredients, toasted hazelnuts (or any nuts), and a farmer’s market cheese. I pre-dress the chopped kale a bit before dinner time, to soften it up.

Thursday – sammie night, crab style

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

With our northwest crab in full season, I’ll pick some up for a truly extra special sammie night. Seattle-based Cutter’s makes one of my  favorite winter sandwiches. Steps from Pike Place Market, perched with an unobstructed view of Elliot Bay and the mountains beyond, this classic Northwest spot 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). It’s undergone a couple of facelifts and menu updates since then. But given their focus since inception has been the freshest local seafood, prepared classically, 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. 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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