Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cooking through SIS

Hurrah for Wendy Hammond, who, "Julie and Julia"-style, is cooking her way through all the recipes in Simply in Season!

Read about her ambitious project, and check out her reviews of SIS recipes on her blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cooking Simply in Season for a crowd

Had a nice chat this evening with a woman in Indiana who’s going to be making SIS Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos for a group of 200. Wow!

Cooking for a crowd that size is quite a different thing from your typical supper for four or two or six, so we were brainstorming how to adapt the recipe to make it work. As we say in the SIS preface, recipes are meant to be "a theme on which to playfully improvise rather than a blueprint to follow precisely." And it simply wasn't designed for groups of 200 -- although it can and has been used to feed a crowd.

The cook had a bushel of sweet potatoes on hand, and thought of buying a french fry cutter to help do the chopping. That brought back fond memories from when I was growing up. Back in the days before cholesterol was invented, our favorite and fairly regular Sunday noon meal was hamburgers and homemade french fries. I don't remember that much about the hamburgers -- I think Mom cooked them under the broiler -- but I remember the french fries quite vividly! We had a cutter and a little deep fryer, and we ker-chunk ker-chunk cut and fried potato after potato.

Anyway, I think a french fry cutter might work really well. The sweet potatoes don't need to be in cubes -- just halves or third of the sticks should be fine. Toss with some oil and then roast in a single (or shallow) layer, stirring occasionally, until tender. The regular recipe calls for pan-frying, but you’d need an awfully big skillet for 200 people!

Other stories anyone would like to share about adapting a SIS recipe for a crowd?

My favorite use of the Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos filling is to panfry it in a tortilla, quesadilla-style. Must say, I really like this idea: Brush the tortillas with butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon before serving.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Come around to cauliflower

Fall is the season for brassicas, and during interviews on “Travel & Dining with Pierre Wolfe” and “The Happy Cook” recently I had to confess that cauliflower is one of those foods that my inner picky eater hadn’t come around to accepting – until about two weeks ago. I was thinking to myself, I still don’t like cauliflower, and then I realized that I was planning to buy some at the farmer’s market.

Well, fine, it’s one thing to enjoy it smothered in cheese sauce (a la SIS Broccoli Gratin, which also works with cauliflower) -- ya gotta start somewhere.

But Red Lentil Coconut Curry is also one of my favorite SIS recipes, and with it there's no sign of cheese, sausage, or bacon -- which is where I like to go for the "overpower" approach to preparing distasteful vegetables. (BTW, in that NPR link about beets it sounds like she's talking about Secret Chocolate Cake, although SIS suggests pureeing the beets rather than grating them.)

And then there are two new cauliflower recipes in the SIS Extended Version: the recipe for Autumn Tagine is online, plus Nutty Cauliflower Skillet below is a new favorite. It’s so quick and easy, and the spiced peanut butter (groundnut) flavors work beautifully with cauliflower.

The cauliflower gets coated with spices and sauce, so it doesn’t matter what kind you use, but I like to buy a pretty variety of white, orange, and purple – or even the incredible Romanesco, pictured right, which is almost too amazing to eat.

Nutty Cauliflower Skillet

1 tablespoon ginger root (peeled and minced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)

In large soup pot sauté in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds.

1 head cauliflower (cut into 3/4-inch / 2.75-cm florets)
1 teaspoon each ground coriander and ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon each ground turmeric, paprika and salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Add and mix to coat.

1/2 cup / 125 ml tomatoes (chopped) or 1/3 cup / 75 ml tomato juice
1 cup / 250 ml peas or green soybeans (edamame)

Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until cauliflower is crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. If using green soybeans, add with tomatoes; peas will take just 1-2 minutes to cook.

2 tablespoons peanut butter
Stir in. Serve over brown rice topped with peanuts and chopped fresh cilantro (optional). Serves 4-5.

Here’s what folks are saying about SIS recipes:

Broccoli Gratin: "I rustled this up a couple of nights ago – a recipe I found on the net, which is very simple to make, and tasted fantastic. It turned out to be very light and delicious and the kids wanted more."

Red Lentil Coconut Curry: "I received this cookbook in December 05. It is now Spring 07 and I have cooked my way through it. I love it. This book has given me so much more confidence in my cooking abilities. I don't fret when friends come over for dinner because I know I have my SIS Cookbook in hand. … The Maple Parsnip Soup and Red Lentil Coconut Curry are two of our favorites!"

Secret Chocolate Cake: "It is very good and moist! I know it makes me a non-purist to use my [CSA] veggies to make cake, but ... I was really struggling with how to make the beets and decided to try this first..... If you don't have the book, you should! It is the best in season type of cookbook I've looked at. I checked many of them out of the library but this is the one I bought."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Radio interviews coming up

I'm looking forward to talking about Simply in Season on a number of upcoming radio programs. If you're in the listening area, I hope you'll tune in!

Sunday, October 4, at 1:00 PM Pacific Time (live interview)
Travel & Dining with Pierre Wolfe

Tuesday, October 6 (taped interview)
WREL “The Happy Cook” / Virginia
Host: Dolores Kostelni

Thursday, October 15, at 9:00 AM PST (10:00 RMT/Colorado Springs)
KCMN-AM “Morning Show with Tron Simpson” (live interview)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread

My friends Zanne and Gerry have an enormous pear tree and end up giving away bags of pears almost every year. The moist, sweetly-spicy Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread from Simply in Season has become my very favorite autumn dessert (although do try the Pear Custard Bars, too).

I must admit that my gingerbread doesn't always turn out as beautifully as this picture from another friend in town, also made (I believe) with Zanne and Gerry's pears.
To make a double recipe in a 9x13 pan as shown here, allow a little more baking time.

Here's what others have said about Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread (most include links to the recipe):

From the Musings of a Wine Country Catholic: "Made the cake last night, and the pears were transformed into wonderful caramelized gooiness. As with other recipes in the book, the pear cake one was simple and good -- whole wheat flour combined with regular flour, all elements coming together in about 3-4 steps, no special bakeware required."