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I’ve been really excited to post about these ravioli we made, although it’s been nearly TWO MONTHS since we made them.  It doesn’t seem right to pretend that we just made them last week, but it also doesn’t seem fair to withhold this information from you just because it isn’t brand new.  So I’m coming clean, to let you know that once-upon-a-time we made some great pasta and I haven’t found the time to write about it until just now.  I hope you can forgive me 😉

This pasta extravaganza took place on New Year’s Day.  We pre-made the fillings and assembled the ravioli in Bellingham in our friends’ kitchen (hi Peter and Katie!).

I was pretty excited about our fillings.  I made a beet filling based on a Tom Douglas recipe found here.

We also created a geoduck filling based on the assumption that clam linguine is good, and by extension why wouldn’t geoduck ravioli be good too?  We made the recipe up with the help of The Flavor Bible.  I highly recommend this book for anyone with a kitchen library and the desire to learn how to pair flavors together best.  Our recipe relied on the basics like shallots, white wine, parsley, breadcrumbs, garlic and bacon.

I think I got distracted by the endless glasses of wine and the post dinner Settlers of Catan game because unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture of the end result.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  We’ll be making these raviolis again.  They were good.

Hi again!  Sorry it’s been over a month since I last posted about a Dark Days meal.  Life has a way of sometimes getting between me and my best intentions.  There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m not going to get into them.  I’m just happy to be back to tell you about my successful medium boiled egg.

Isn’t that picture above beautiful?!  It’s so fresh looking and it makes me hopeful that spring is around the corner.  Our chickens started laying again several weeks ago.  I’ll take that as a sign that we are through the darkest winter days!

Growing up, I really only remember having hard-boiled eggs around Easter.  The point really wasn’t eating the eggs, our focus was in decorating them.  My mom would boil two dozen eggs or so and my brothers and I would sit and dye them for hours.  Eating the eggs was sort of an afterthought.  It was novel for a couple of days to eat a hard-boiled egg, but after a while we just made a big batch of egg salad and didn’t think about hard-boiled eggs until the next Easter.

What I never realized was, you don’t have to boil an egg until the yolk is chalky and dull.   The egg doesn’t have to be so done that the yolk leaves a green tinge in the white of the egg.  An egg can be soft-boiled.  I also never realized that really fresh eggs are very difficult to peel.

I’ve been trying to perfect my soft-boiled egg skills for a while now.  Some recipes say to never let the water boil, and to take the eggs off the heat just when you see the first bubbles start to appear.  Other recipes say to let the eggs boil for exactly five minutes and then take them off the heat.  Needless to say, the conflicting information has resulted in some very under cooked eggs and some over cooked eggs.

Today was a success.  Here’s what I did:  Two weeks ago I set a half a dozen eggs aside in the fridge.  (Fresh eggs hard-boiled will REALLY frustrate you when you try to peel them.)  Yesterday I went out to the garden and harvested some greens from under our fall/winter cloche.  I picked claytonia, cress and cilantro.

This morning, I set one egg in a pot of water and brought it to a very strong simmer.  I let it simmer for two minutes.  I promptly removed the pot from the heat, covered it with a lid,  and set the timer for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes,  I drained the hot water, replaced it with cold  and gave the egg a tap to crack the shell.  Next, I dressed my salad with a simple vinaigrette and peeled the egg.   A satisfying grin came over my face when I cut the egg in two.  A bright orange/yellow yolk was what I was after and that’s exactly what I saw.  Next time I will cook the egg for slightly less time to see if I can make a slightly softer-boiled egg, but I think I’m on the right track.

Around our house we don’t put the grill away at the end of the summer and we don’t grill with gas.  I grew up with my dad bbqing year-round on a Weber grill so it seems natural to me to grill on dark, cold, rainy nights in the northwest winter.  I like the ritual of starting the bbq with charcoal, matches, and newspaper in the bbq chimney.  Waiting half an hour for the coals to get hot gives us time to salt the meat and prepare the rest of the meal while we wait for the grill to be ready.  Food tastes better when grilled with charcoal.  At least that’s what my Weber grilling family has taught me 🙂  Bbqing may even be better in the winter than in the summer.  The bbq warms you up as you place your meat on the grill and the smell of smoke and meat as it follows you inside is intoxicating.

This week we dug into the side of beef that we split with our family (hi Matt and Emily!).  We decided to grill some ribeye steaks.  We salted them with kosher salt while the grill was heating up then washed off the salt and patted the steaks dry before putting them on the grill.

While the meat was marinating I braised some delicata squash we’d grown this summer in homemade chicken stock, thyme, butter and maple syrup.

Once the steaks went on the grill, I worked on a salad of claytonia and some oven-roasted beets which were both grown in our garden to round out the meal.


It was satisfying to sit down to a meal that was mostly grown in our yard.  Everything except the maple syrup was local.

For our 4th Dark Days meal, we made something we hadn’t had since last year’s DDC:  Anita’s Deep Dish Pizza!  This is fun to make if you have a cast iron skillet.  Last year when we made it, we invited our friends over (hi Marisa and Mike!) and borrowed their cast iron skillet, but now we have our own thanks to Tyler’s aunt (hi Noona!).  Although this recipe seems like a lot of steps; dough, sauce and toppings- it’s well worth it.  My approach is to make the dough and sauce the night before you plan on eating the pizza.  The sauce will taste better since the flavors will have a chance to meld and the texture of the dough will improve.  Pour yourself a glass of wine while you prep the toppings and assembly will be easy.

I followed Anita’s recipe fairly close, but omitted the basil and substituted parsley because it was in the garden.  I used home-canned tomatoes and home-grown garlic and thyme for the sauce.  Except for the  cheese and olive oil, the remaining ingredients were from WA and organic.   And, although we have our own cast iron skillet these days, we still shared our pizza with Tyler’s brother (hi Ryan!).

May 2010 brought a new adventure that we hope will be an annual event: “duck” hunting.  No, not the kind that fly and quack,  the kind that burrow three feet deep in the intertidal zone.  I’m talking about geoducks; the world’s largest burrowing clam!  Geoducks are only found in the Pacific Northwest and they make up the largest biomass in Puget Sound.  That means if you were to put every type of living creature found in Puget Sound in it’s own pile, the geoduck pile would be the largest (by far!)  We’d never tasted one, and had only seen the offensive looking creatures at the Pike Place Market, but we’d heard they were tasty and we thought we were up for the challenge.

Geoducks can only be dug at the lowest tides of the year.  We checked the tide charts and decided on a weekend in May.  Luck was on our side because it was the ONLY nice weekend in May this year.  We loaded up our canoe with our friends in Olympia (hi Adria and Andy!) and headed out to an island for the weekend in hopes of  finding some geoducks. We learned a lot that weekend.   We learned the difference between a piddock,  a horse clam and a geoduck (piddocks and horse clams are not what you’re looking for).  We learned that hunting this mega-clam is challenging!!!!  (It helps to have a tenacious attitude and a long reach.)  And we learned that geoducks are delicious.

That last lesson wasn’t fully realized until we made geoduck chowder.  Sure, we’d fried up some clams that weekend in May and made some fresh geoduck cevichi based on this recipe, but it wasn’t until we tasted the geoduck chowder that we realized what a special clam we had.  This was hands-down the best chowder we have ever tasted.  The flavor is almost sweet the way scallops or oysters are and because we processed them late that Sunday night in May, they were tenderized and frozen in ziplock bags waiting for us in the freezer.

We based our recipe on one for razor clam chowder we found here.  It turned out so good we made it again for Christmas Eve.  Everyone around the table loved it, including my 86 year old grandma (hi Mimi!) who didn’t think she liked geoduck (though she had never tried it.)  Hope you’ll be inspired to try this clam someday too.

Geoduck Chowder

  • 2 cups chopped geoduck (dug near Olympia, WA)
  • 4-5 strips of thick, quality bacon, diced (Hemplers – Ferndale, WA)
  • 1 large onion (WA, organic)
  • 2-3 cups peeled and cubed potato (backyard)
  • 3 tbsp butter (Golden Glen Creamery – Bow, WA)
  • 3 tbsp flour (Stone-Buhr, WA)
  • 1 quart chicken stock (homemade-freezer)
  • 1 1/4 C. heavy cream (Golden Glen Creamery – Bow, WA)
  • 3/4 C. milk (Golden Glen Creamery – Bow, WA)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme (backyard)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauté bacon in heavy pot, then remove with slotted spoon.  Sauté onions 1 minute in bacon fat, add potatoes and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove onion-potato mixture for later use.  Melt butter and mix in flour to make roux.  After the flour begins to brown slowly add stock over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Return onions and potatoes and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Add thyme and seasonings.  Slowly add cream and milk.  Add clams and cook over low heat for a couple minutes immediately before serving.  Serve piping hot with good bread.

Melvin and Gertrude, our geoduck Snooter-doots went to a friends house the night we made chowder.   To them, it was as if nothing happened.  It’s probably better that way.  🙂

For our second Dark Days meal, I thought we’d make some pasta.  We got married this summer and received an Atlas pasta maker from my aunt and uncle (hi Sue and Tom!) as a wedding gift.  We’ve already used it a half-dozen times and it will be fun to continue to experiment and perfect our technique over the years.  Making pasta is really quite easy and not as time consuming as you might think.  It has a more delicate taste and texture than dried pasta and I find it very rewarding to make.

I used a basic recipe from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld which calls for:

  • 2 C. flour (Stone-Buhr, WA)
  • 2 eggs, (backyard)
  • 1/4 salt
  • 2 tsp water
  • Rice flour, for dusting

I didn’t have the rice flour, but purchased some later in the week, so we’ll try it next time.  It’s supposed to help the dough from sticking to itself after it’s rolled out.  I thought the dough felt really good because it was soft, moist and supple.  I realized I misread the recipe and added 2 TBS of water instead of 2 tsp.  It was somewhat difficult to roll out, and when it came time to cut the pasta, the noodles didn’t want to separate on their own.  I think less water would have helped.   Anyway, I pulsed all the ingredients in the Cuisinart and let the dough rest for about half an hour before running it through the pasta machine.

The recipe I wanted to try for the pasta noodles is also from Jerry Traunfeld, but it comes out of his Herbal Kitchen cookbook.  It’s a simple combination the French call fines herbes, which often includes chives, tarragon, parsley, and chervil.  This was the first year I grew chervil and I’ve been exited to try it in lots of recipes.  If you haven’t had it before, it’s a mix between anise and parsley.  It’s very perishable so you don’t usually see it at the grocery store or market.  It’s very easy to grow and it’s winter hardy.  I sure love growing unusual and/or hard to get items.

This recipe is also a good choice with fresh pasta because it doesn’t overpower the noodles and lets it’s flavor shine through.

  • 1 TBS butter ( Golden Glen Creamery, Bow, WA)
  • 1/3 C. ricotta (not local)
  • 1 TBS chives (backyard)
  • 2 TBS parsley (backyard)
  • 2 TBS chervil (backyard)
  • 3 TBS Parmigiano-Reggian0 (not local- Costc0)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Melt butter in skillet.  Add ricotta, herbs, Parmesan and salt.  Take off heat and add to cooked pasta.  Grind with pepper and serve hot.  I served our pasta with some roasted parsnips and kale and a salad of claytonia and cress from under the cloche in the garden.  All the produce from this meal came from our backyard.

Before I tell you about our first DDC meal, I’d like to describe our definition of local.  When I eat locally, I’m aiming for food originating within 100 miles of our Everett home.  But if ingredients are grown in Washington, I’m going to count those as local too because you just can’t grow everything we want to eat within a 100 mile range.  I also make some exceptions: salt, pepper, some spices, and staples such as oil, vinegar and cheese.  I know I can get local vinegar at the Ballard Farmers’ Market in Seattle and I’ll try to get down there to get some, but mostly we buy our vinegar in bulk from Costco.  We go through quite a bit of oil and vinegar because we always make our own salad dressings, and it doesn’t make sense for us to make a special trip in the car to get “local” vinegar from Ballard.  Also, I know there are some wonderful local cheese producers in WA, but we eat a lot of cheese and I buy most of it at Costco.  They carry Seattle’s Beechers cheese and we keep that stocked in the fridge, but most of our other cheese is not local.  Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about our first meal!

This year has been good to us.  In addition to our large backyard garden we transformed our front yard into productive growing space as well.  We purchased 50+ chickens through Pastured Sensations to share with family and friends, we split a side of beef with family and we foraged wild foods with friends including geoducks, chanterells and nettles.     All that adds up to a well stocked pantry and freezer going into my second year of the Dark Days Challenge.   When it came time to cook my first DDC meal, I picked an old favorite: Laura’s meatloaf.

I don’t remember having meatloaf too often growing up, but when we did my mom made it in a bread loaf pan.  My mom is an excellent cook, but I don’t remember ever requesting her meatloaf or even liking it that much (sorry Mom!).  I think I initially tried making Laura’s meatloaf because it required a minimal number of ingredients which I already had on hand, and because she called it “40 Minute Meatloaf”.  It’s always good to have some quick and easy mid-week dinner recipes in your back pocket.

The reason I keep making this meatloaf is because it’s SO GOOD.  The recipe makes 6 to 8 individual loafs and you brown them before they go into the oven.  This allows each loaf to sear and seal in the juices for better flavor.  I chop the onions coarsely, which for me really makes this meatloaf great.  The larger onion pieces still get cooked tender, but they also retain some of their distinct flavor and crunch.  This recipe really can be made quickly and makes delicious leftovers for the rest of the week!

I served the meatloaf with potato/parsnip mashers, sauteed kale and a favorite local Merlot.  Almost all the the produce came from our garden.  There were a few non-local ingredients, but I’ve listed them below.  This was a very satisfying and successful first DDC meal!

Laura’s Meatloaf

(Adapted from Laura’s Meatloaf)

  • 1 lb. ground beef  (Wild B Ranch, Ethel, WA)
  • 1 lb. ground pork (Hempler’s, Ferndale, WA)
  • 1/2 medium onion – chopped  (organic, WA)
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced  (backyard)
  • 1/3 cup milk  (Golden Glen Creamery, Bow WA)
  • 1  egg  (backyard)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs  (not local – leftover Costco croutons)
  • 1/3 cup parsley – chopped  (backyard)
  • 2 tbs oil  (not local – Costco)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (not local- organic Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (not local)
  • 2 tbs brown sugar (not local)
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, heat oil in cast iron skillet until shimmering.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the beef, pork, onions and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, bread crumbs and parsley;
  3. Combine milk mixture with meat mixture, mix well. Form meatloaf mix into 6 – 8 small loaves, about 4″x2″x2″.
  4. Put the loaves into the skillet and brown on top and bottom.
  5. While the loaves are browning, whisk together ketchup, vinegar and sugar. Place browned loaves on broiler pan, top each with ketchup sauce and put into oven.
  6. Cook at 500 for 8 minutes, adjust heat to 450 and cook an additional 10-20 minutes until thermometer inserted into center of loaf reads 170.
  7. Let rest 5 minutes and then serve.

Potato/Parsnip Mashers

  • 1 1/2 lb potatoes (frontyard)
  • 3/4 lb parsnips (backyard)
  • 3 TBS butter (non local – Trader Joe’s)

This is a lazy mashed potato recipe, but it’s really good.

1.  Scrub potatoes and parsnips well.  Trim ends or blemished areas, but don’t peel.

2.  Boil potatoes and parsnip in medium pot until tender.  Drain and add back to pot.

3.  Add butter and smash with a wooden spoon.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauteed Kale

  • 1 TBS olive oil (not local – Costco)
  • 1 bunch kale (backyard)
  • salt to taste

1. Wash and trim the kale.

2.  Add olive oil to saute pan.  In this case I didn’t wash the skillet from searing the meatloafs and just used the pan dripping to saute the kale.  Easy and good!

3.  Saute until kale is wilted, but still bright green.  Season with a bit of finishing salt to taste.