It's hot, have a shake.

I don't know about you, but during the summer my appetite shifts dramatically. I want a lot of cold foods, and I have considerably less desire to chew things. I feel this way during the very manageable Portland summer, so I can't imagine the energy it takes to chew in the midwest, where they've been rocking the 100+ temps all summer long. So, to eat breakfast or lunch in the laziest possible fashion, I like to make a shake. The great thing about shakes is you can pretty much throw anything into a blender and it will taste good. Perhaps not meats, but fruits and vegetable-wise, I think yes. The breakfast shake I've been loving lately is my peanut butter and jelly with a glass of milk and a spinach salad shake. Yes.

Spinach makes a great and healthy additive to shakes - it's very mild, almost sweet, and it melds with anything else you mix with it. I have a hand blender but a regular blender works just as well. Put a handful of spinach into your blending device, maybe about a cup. I don't measure these things, that would be entirely too much work and defeat the purpose of lazy eating. Drop in five or six frozen strawberries. Add a cup of milk, I like 1%, but whatever you like will work. Squirt in maybe around a tablespoon of honey, or less. Sometimes I use agave syrup if I have it on hand - it's super sweet, so you need less than with honey. Add in a large dollop (non-measuring tablespoonful) of natural peanut butter. You could use non-natural, but it will be a sweeter end product with less texture, which I enjoy most about these shakes. Blend until combined.

Easy. Stick a straw in it. Don't be alarmed that the shake is the color of your grandma's curtains. Just enjoy.

Here's a variation I love too. I called it peanut butter and jelly with chocolate milk. About a cup of berries, any type, or mixed, which is what I generally use, go into the blender. A cup of milk follows. A healthy dollop of peanut butter, and a squirt of chocolate syrup. Slightly less healthy than the above shake, but amazingly delicious! This recipe would take the spinach as well.

Happy lazy eating. ~T


Summer Stacked Beet Salad

So this recipe is an amalgam of three inspirational food moments - one, eating a marinated beet with horseradish cream salad at Radio Room in Portland; two, having a purslane and roasted beet salad at the incomparable Chez Panisse cafe, where I was lucky enough to go with Alex and his parents last summer for our birthdays; and three, seeing a photograph on the interwebs of roasted beet napoleons. I have been dreaming of creating this beet salad for some time - the farmer's market made the moment able to happen by making available purslane! I had never had it prior to my Chez Panisse visit - but it's an excellent green - apparently known as a weed through North America - it has a really extraordinary flavor - slightly spicy, lemony, sweet. It's wonderful. So, I purchased a box, along with beautiful golden and red beets, and locally made goat cheese in anticipation of this salad.

Here is what you need: fresh beets, golden and red; prepared horseradish; sour cream; goat cheese, freshly made if you can get it; a handful of herbs (I used tarragon and parsley); pistachios; purslane, or if you can't find it, watercress or other pretty, citrus-y, or peppery green.

The salad is slightly high maintenance, in that it has many component parts, but I think they're all important to making it truly exceptional, based on the flavors I've experienced in the salad inspirations.

So begin with the beets. I had seven total, medium in size, from two farmer's markets bunches. Roast them. I looked up how to do this in the Joy of Cooking, which hardly ever ceases to help me with basic kitchen tasks I've never tried before. Preheat the oven to 350, and cut the greens off your beets, so there is about one inch of greens left on the beet. Place them in a glass pan, I used an old casserole dish with a glass top that I have, it worked great. Add about a half cup of water. If you don't have a top, use foil. Roast them, depending on size, 45 minutes to an hour, until they can be easily pierced with a knife.

 It should slide right into it, the only thing I can think that is a good reference is a potato you are planning to mash - soft like that. I checked mine at 45 minute then left them in the oven another five. I took them out, left the lid on, and continued to let them steam another ten minutes. They were tender and and lovely and fragrant and OH! Please change out of your nice clothes and into something you don't care much about - because look at that knife; beet juice stains - and you're about to have all kinds of beet juice all over you. So, I removed those beets to a plate to let them cool a bit.

While the beets were roasting, I got other component parts of the salad ready. I have a fairly substantial herb garden, and after consulting the internet for flavor pairings, I clipped a bit of parsley and some tarragon to chop and combine with my farmer's market goat cheese.

 If you can't get to the farmer's market for goat cheese, they probably have it at your local upscale market, if nowhere else. Homemade is so good though, and worth seeking out. Chowhound exists for a reason friends - but I digress.

 So I chopped these herbs and stirred them together with maybe a half cup of the goat cheese. I wasn't really measuring anything on this - but I probably had about two tablespoons of chopped herbs to mix in. I left the cheese out to soften even more to make for easy spreading later.

 I then made a horseradish dressing - probably the easiest part of this endeavor. I didn't measure, but I probably spooned about 1/4 cup sour cream into a bowl and added a heaping tablespoon of horseradish. Combine. Done!

Finally, I toasted the pistachios, which I shelled first. Get out a small pan, like you would use for cooking an egg by its lonesome. If you have a le creuset, use that so you can heat it while you're shelling the pistachios - otherwise just use a non-stick pan and heat it up once the pistachios are in the pan. Toast on about a four on an electric stove, and move them around frequently so they don't burn. To see if they are ready, I lean my head close to the nuts and use my hand to whiff the smell towards me - when they smell nutty and roasty, they're finished. This took about ten or fifteen minutes.

After they cool in a bowl for a few minutes, grind them in your nut grinder. And if you don't have one, you could chop them. But seriously, get a nut grinder - it is a great kitchen tool for a baker or cook.

After you finish these tasks, the beets should be about ready. Once they are cool enough to touch, you can peel the beet skins right off. I didn't drop them in ice cold water when hot, like you do when you blanch a tomato, but was thinking that might make the skins pull away from the beet and be even easier to remove - try it and let me know. So remove all the skins and prepare to have very stained fingers while you work. Don't worry though, that beautiful magenta washes right off with soap and water. After this task is complete, you're ready for salad assembly! 

Cut the beets into about half in rounds. You'll probably have leftover beets, which you can use later in a salad - which I will be doing tomorrow! Yum! So, after you cut the beets, try to find two red and two golden rounds that are nearly the same size. If you want these to be exact rounds, get a small cookie cutter.
Take the bottom round, and spread with a little - maybe a spoonful, of the goat cheese mixture. Stack the different color beet round on top and spread it with the goat cheese mixture. Do this one more time, then top with one last round. Once you've made as many as you want (with this recipe I had enough for four salads), place each one on a salad plate.

Rinse and dry your purslane or other green, and place in a circle around the stacked beet.

 Then spoon horseradish on the top of the salad, and around the salad in little circles. Sprinkle the pistachios over the top. And you're done!

These are incredibly delicious. I thought they needed just a touch of sel gris to finish them off perfectly, Alex thought they were delicious without the salt, so maybe top the pistachios with a tiny sprinkle of salt if you find they need it. These are relatively simple to make, if time consuming, and will make a gorgeous salad for a summer dinner party. Hope you love this salad as much as I do.



Whipped this up in nothing flat... you should too.

Nectarines, homemade brown sugar, cinnamon, a pat of butter a small scoop of ice cream. It tastes amazing, and I thought, I need to post this! Which explains the lonely picture of half eaten fruit goodness. Here it is, 10:15 and I've just returned from my summer class which meets until 9:30 ... I often need a sweet at this hour, and today I ran to a store on my way home to get Hood River strawberries, but they were sold out until tomorrow! Alas, I got home and remembered I had nectarines ripening in a paper bag on the counter. So this happened, literally ten minutes from idea to eating the deliciousness. You should make this promptly.

I pared the nectarines skin-on into a small skillet, then cut a small pat of butter, about half a tablespoon, and tucked it under them. Turned that on, let it melt and coat the fruit. Then sprinkled on the brown sugar (it doesn't have to be homemade, but it is extra delicious ... mix a tablespoon of molasses into a cup of sugar and see for yourself), and a little cinammon. Let that get hot and melty / sticky on medium heat. Put a small scoop of ice cream in a pasta bowl, and sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top of it. Let the nectarines get hot and coated with the sugar - five minutes tops - then pour everything in the skillet over the ice cream, and, well, see above. You won't be sorry, and if you are, I really don't know what to tell you. Nothing beats summer fruit. More fruits and sugar recipes to come soon. ~T


This post brought to you by the color white, or Angel Food Cake from Scratch

Okay, honest moment. I took these pictures over a year ago, before I moved in with Alex, with good intentions of posting about this amazing, incredible angel food cake. But, I got busy. I started law school. It got crazy. I've posted about twice in the past year. But I did make this angel food cake at least two times. And it was amazing as ever. With the coming bounty of berries in June, you should consider making this cake. It's light, airy, perfect for a hot day, with berries, and maybe mashed with ice cream. This recipe comes from a book I received as a gift years ago  - the Book Club Cookbook. It has this incredible Angel Food Cake recipe in it: called Mrs. Nesbitt's Angel Food Cake with Lemon Cream. I never make, or have made, the lemon cream. But the cake, oh my. I've never made another angel food cake again after discovering this recipe. It's incredible. It's more dense than the box angel food cakes, but in a good way. It is moist, sweet but not too sweet, and flavored with almond extract instead of vanilla. I think this is what makes this cake so incredible. It's amazing that just 1/2 teaspoon of anything can do that. Enjoy this. I know I do. 

You will need a a 10 inch angel food cake pan (this is the one I have), a big bowl, two other bowls, a hand or kitchenaid mixer, a sifter, a whisk, and a spatula. The other great thing about this cake is the relatively few ingredients, all white as can be. Go to the store and get a dozen (good, free range or something) eggs, sugar (fine or regular granulated works fine, I've made it both ways), cream of tartar, salt, almond extract (get the real stuff, not anything synthetic), and cake flour (NOT all-purpose). It comes in a red box. The only brand I have ever seen is Swans Down.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Do you know how to separate eggs? Probably yes, if you're reading baking blogs. But let me share my method anyway. I use my hands, which I think is the fastest way. I crack the egg and open it into one cupped palm over the measure. I then let the white slip through my fingers while moving it back and forth between my hands. It goes really fast, and it prevents the yolk breakage you sometimes get when you use the shell halves. As an aside, I think those egg separating tools are entirely unnecessary to have in a kitchen. But whatever works for you. Give my method and whirl, see what you think.

You need a 1 and 1/4 cups egg whites. I use a 1 cup glass liquid measure and add egg whites until I get what looks like about a 1/4 cup over the 1 cup measure. Just eyeball it. It doesn't have to be absolutely perfect. For me, this is usually 10-11 large eggs. Apparently I did not photograph that, so trust me. I did photograph the shell and yolk detritus though. I know it's a waste, but I usually just throw the yolks away. I know there are things I could do with them. Sigh. Pour the whites into a large bowl.

 Next, sift your flour once, in your sifter. Measure 1 cup of cake flour from this sifted bowl and add it to another medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 tsp of salt (I use kosher, pulverized to make the grains smaller) to the flour, and combine with whisk. Set this aside for the moment.

 Go back to the egg whites in the bowl.  Get your mixer and beat the eggs on medium high speed until they are foamy.
Then add 1 and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar. Cream of tartar helps egg whites maintain their structure once they've been beaten. It's pretty cool - more about that here.

Get 1 cup of sugar ready. Turn your mixer back on and start beating the egg whites again. Slowly add the cup of sugar while continuing to beat the eggs. This is slightly easier if you have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, but I find I almost always prefer to use a hand mixer when I am mixing batters. I can feel the batter with the hand mixer, which is not possible with the stand mixer.  But it is a little trickier. Maybe get a friend to pour the sugar for you if you're not particularly well-coordinated.

Beat the whites until they peak. Basically you want to be able to stop the mixer, pull it out of the whites, and have the white create a peak. Then beat in the almond extract. You don't want the egg whites to be overly stiff. It's just something you have to get used to, if you haven't made a lot of egg white batters. The best I can tell you is to try to emulate the photos - shiny, peaking batter is what you want.

You're finished with the mixer at this point. Take the bowl of sifted flour / sugar / salt and sprinkle over the batter, about a half cup at a time (I just eyeball this, and separate into three pours), using the spatula to very gently folding in the flour to the whites after each addition. Be gentle, and work slowly. You are trying to avoid crushing the fluffy whites. Incorporate gently and don't worry if it isn't fully incorporated. After adding the last of the flour, gently fold it in and try to slowly incorporate all the dry into the whites, but with a light hand. This is where you could end up with an extremely dense cake if you overwork the batter.
You don't grease or butter angel food cakes, so no prep is necessary for the pan. Use the spatula to pour the batter into the angel food cake pan, again, trying not to crush it. Even it out, it will fill about half the pan.

Bake it about 30 minutes. Look for the top to be lightly browned, fairly soon after you start to smell it - that's when it is done. Check the photo for the color you're seeking.

 Pull it out of the oven and invert it to cool. After about an hour, use a bread knife around the outside of the cake, on the outside and the inside core, to help it turn out of the pan. Put it on a plate, and serve it with those soon to be in season strawberries, and every other delicious berry. Hooray for summer! Hooray for delicious light cake! Hooray for a new post!

 ~ T


My Mom's ham and beans

I'm back! Yes, it's been some time, but forgive me, I've been studying the law, and that's rather time consuming. It's a rare day I get to cook or bake at all, let alone blog about it. I have so many posts ready to go with pictures, but at this point, I need to wait until summer to write most of the recipes. Because really, you're not going to be making an airy summer dessert like a pavlova in February. But you will be making something along the lines of my mom's ham and beans, and you'll be glad you're doing this, for quite a few reasons: it's warm, comforting food, almost like a stew; it has a total of four ingredients plus salt and pepper. No really.; it's adaptable; it's cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean it. We're talking at least eight big bowls of soup for a total of around $5. Now that's economical. Any of my law school colleagues reading this blog will surely agree this is the time for economizing. So, let's get to it.

One of the many things I love about my mother is her delicious meals, mostly made without a recipe. I called her up and asked for her ham and beans recipe, which always hit the spot on a cold day when I was a kid. Here is what she said, and what I did. I love that there are no measurements here. My mom cooks almost exclusively this way, and everything she makes is amazing  - just terrific Midwestern food. It's very impressive, and worth emulating.

You'll need to plan ahead on this; the beans need to soak overnight. You need: beans, a ham hock or ham bone or both, water, a stock pot, a large yellow onion, pepper, and possibly salt.

Go to the store and get your one pound bag of beans. I got great northern beans. You could also get navy beans. According to  my (not in-depth) research, they're pretty much interchangeable, though navy beans are smaller and cook more slowly. Apparently, they hold their shape better than great northerns, which may give you more of a soup and less of a stew. Rinse the beans in a colander (mom pro-tip) to remove possible stones or other non-bean detritus. Put in a large stock pot and cover with a lot of water. Those beans are going to expand. Leave them to soak overnight.

Wake up to seemingly more beans than you had the night before. Some people rinse the beans to remove the starch that has leached out from them, but I think that starch does your final product a favor, so decide what works best for you.

At this point you need your ham hock. They're kind of ugly, and it's probably best not to really think about what part of the pig you're throwing in the pot. These are smoked, and available at meat counters generally. I suggest getting yours from a good meat counter or a meat market, like my beloved Gartner's, which I have mentioned in the past. I got this one from New Seasons. The larger the hock, the more meat will end up in your beans, so purchase accordingly. You can also throw a ham bone in there, though there is less meat on a ham bone. I have used ham bones in soups in the past, and really like the flavor they impart. If I make these again some time soon, I will use a medium sized hock and a small bone. Pork it up, I say. Throw that in there with the beans.

Chop up your onion. Throw that in the pot. Get out your pepper grinder and grind a hearty amount of pepper into the pot as well. No salt yet, wait until you're done cooking, because the ham might impart enough, and no one wants overly salty ham and beans. Bring those beans to a boil.

Reduce the heat, anywhere between a 2 and 4, depending on your electric stove, or low for gas, and simmer for 3-4 hours. Hours. Yes, I did just write that. You're reading along thinking, this sounds great! I'm making this tomorrow! But that was before you knew what a commitment you were making to these beans. So yes, it's a weekend thing, maybe. It's worth it. The thing you must remember to do over this expanse of time is to stir those beans on a regular basis. Every half hour at the minimum. Make sure you are getting the beans off the bottom of the pot, because they will stick. When the beans are basically disinigrating and very soft, and the hock is falling apart, you're pretty much ready.

 I know, this picture is kind of icky.
With a fork, remove the ham hock to a plate, and use a couple forks to pull the (very soft, very tender, very tasty) meat from the hock and return it to the pot. Stir again, taste, salt to taste if necessary. You're pretty much done, and now you have meals for days! Ham and beans freeze well, and this post reminds me that I need to freeze my leftovers promptly, because really, no two people can eat this many beans before they go bad.

Alex and I were discussing the dish as we were having it for dinner last night, and noting that smoked sausage could be a fine addition to this meal (I'd add it maybe halfway through cooking), or possibly some fresh herbs. I liked thyme with it. Rosemary was a little strong.

You know you want to spend a Sunday afternoon stirring a pot of beans on the stove for hours on end, while scents of deliciousness waft through your home. In between stirs, call your own awesome mother. Now, get to it, and then, eat!

I'm glad to be back! I will try to get back to it, but forgive me, the reading and studying, it's epic.