Monday, August 27, 2012

How to eat more salad: the home salad bar

Summer is for open windows and breeze through your bedroom at night. Summer is for dipping toes in lakes and streams and ponds and pools. Summer is for fingers stained with blackberry juice and fingernails lined with soil. Summer is for a diet where fresh local fruits and vegetables take center stage and turn meat and grain into understudies.

I have spent a month eating beautiful ripe stone-fruit and dark berries and leafy greens and fragrant tomatoes.  I keep my salad spinner in the fridge, full of lettuces and baby spinach and spicy salad greens. I eat a salad everyday, sometimes too. To eat so many salads, I had to find ways to keep it alluring everyday. I came up with the idea for a home salad bar and have kept it stocked since.

I used a plastic shoe box, sold at organization stores for a dollar or two. I fill it with canning jars, about six to eight will fit, depending on their size. Each week, I fill the canning jars with salad toppings, making sure to mix it up each time. Each week, I make sure to never use the exact same combination of ingredients, letting myself find new marriages of sweet and salty and savory and spicy. Be sure to keep a few different salad dressings on hand - checking labels to find some with lower amounts of fat (if you care about such things).

Next time you are at the farmers' market, look for salad greens beyond head lettuce. My favorites are mizuna and types of cress - they add a great spicy bite that I love. Here is a list of salad toppings that I have been using, to get your own ideas flowing:

  • diced tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • black olives
  • kalamata olives
  • chopped button mushrooms
  • sliced cucumber
  • roasted red peppers
  • diced raw peppers
  • blanched green beans 
  • roasted cauliflower
  • blanched or raw broccoli
  • feta cheese
  • blue cheese
  • grated mozzarella
  • mozzarella balls
  • garbanzo beans (marinated in olive oil, lemon juice salt, pepper and one grated garlic clove)
  • edamame (steamed soy beans)
  • french lentils
  • cooked, chopped beets 
  • grated raw beets 
  • grated carrots
  • diced red onion 
  • diced scallions 
  • baked chicken breast 
  • diced salami 
  • diced ham 
  • boiled egg 
  • leftover steak, sliced very thin 
  • smoked salmon 
  • spiced pumpkin seeds
  • walnuts 
  • blackberries
  • raspberries
  • strawberries 
  • boiled baby potatoes 
  • basil leaves
  • cilantro 
  • chopped mint leaves 
  • nasturtiums and other edible flowers

Monday, April 30, 2012

Goal #48: Learn to make pie from Kate McDermott

Twitter has a bit of a crush on Kate McDermott and I caught it too. Let me explain.

I have no real culinary training other than what one can gain from reading cookbooks like novels and spending thousands of hours playing in the kitchen. When you are self taught, sometimes there are basics that you somehow never really learn to do well. I find this is true of my culinary skill, gardening and quilting among other self taught loves. When I put my goal list together, I added quite a few goals that aimed to correct some of these gaps - either through practice or learning from the hands of people who know better than me.

half butter and half leaf lard for a perfect dough 

Pie crust is one of those basics that can be so simple yet so difficult. It consists of only a few simple ingredients: flour, fat, water. Yet ten cooks can read the same recipe and end up with different outcomes ranging from tender flaky layers to dense chunks of drywall. Its one of those things best learned from an expert.

use the pie pan to measure out the fruit for the filling 

Kate McDermott is this expert. Her pies have been featured on the cover of Saveur and Edible Seattle. Seattle Magazine named her Food Rock Star of the year. Ruth Reichl, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine, called baking pie with Kate a "liberating experience." Every Seattle blogger has blogged about her (so, I am about two years late to the party). Anytime anyone on twitter talks about pie they reference Kate. This is the person to learn pie from. I caught the Kate bug and she made it onto my goal list - number 48 - "learn to make pie from Kate McDermott."

a heaping cup of sugar and a third cup of flour to thicken and sweeten the rhubarb 

This last week I was lucky enough to be invited by Kate to drive out the peninsula and learn from her. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity and I squeezed my ninth month pregnant self behind the wheel and headed down to the ferry line.

Kate was all she had been cracked up to be - a pie expert with a warm personality and cold hands (all the better for flaky dough). Being comfortable in the kitchen, and able to make a perfectly acceptable pie already, I wanted to learn more than I could from a good recipe - and I did. She showed me all the secrets that no written recipe could have taught and a few that are easier to pass on (use "leaf lard" instead of shortening). I had been making my dough too wet and my filling without enough thickener. I learned to work the fat into the flour until it looks like "peas...and almonds and a few walnuts," to not be afraid to use my hands and to stop before I think I am done.

The beautiful Kate and swollen pregnant Lara 

Before the week was done I had already tried my hand at another pie to see if my talents would translate out of her kitchen and into mine. My guests raved about my strawberry rhubarb pie and I even impressed myself. No gift is more valuable than a newly learned skill. Follow this link for a tutorial from Kate herself. Thank you Kate!

Pure spring time - rhubarb pie and cherry blossoms 

Sources for Leaf Lard:

Sea Breeze Farm, Vashon Island, University District and Ballard Farmers Market

Skagit River Ranch, Sedro Wolley, University District, Ballard, West Seattle and Bellevue Farmers Market

Dietrich's Meat, Pennsylvania, order on-line

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Carving a wood (linoleum) block stamp

Goal #47: Carve a woodblock stamp

I attended an "art night" event yesterday and it was not until I got there that I remembered that it was one of my goals to carve a stamp. The hostess had all of the materials so I got to work thinking and sketching. Apparently in the 21st century, "woodblock" stamps are carved into blocks of linoleum, which carves like butter, very pleasant.

I had drawn a picture of a dandelion blowing its seeds into the breeze and thought I would write something about, "You can not live a positive life with negative thoughts." But that was a lot of letters. Then I thought of my dear grandpa and the phrase, "Yeah, keep on wishing" came to mind. I ended up settled on a few words that sum up my philosophy on wishful thinking as a good first step to dreams realized.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Going to the Circus

Goal #12: Go to the Circus

This last week brought me to two nights of Seattle's Moisture Festival: comedy, variety, burlesque. Just my kind of show - low budget, high talent. You still have time to catch a show this week.