Friday, September 17, 2010

Late night herb bread

 Even the oregano knows it's autumn

Sometimes, internet, I don't know what I did when I was single. I know I cooked. A lot. It's not like I was suddenly imbued with magical cooking powers when my sweetheart came along. I have clear memories of cooking many tasty things in the kitchen, wine glass in hand, and belting out to Dar Williams, nary a boy in sight. I'm not single now, but this summer, I've felt like it. The sweetheart's on a job a couple hours away, and only home a few nights every couple weeks.  Consequently, I just haven't felt like cooking. 

I've been eating though. Usually a big salad, or (and I'm sharing my Number One Sexy Single Secret meal here) a baked sweet potato with sauteed kale and garlic on top. Topped off with a dollop of yogurt, and a dab of harissa mixed in if I'm feeling particularly ambitious. It's superfood heaven. Green, white and bright orange. Sweet and bitter. Creamy and crunchy. 

All this to say, every time I've cracked open the cookbook this summer, it's been hard to motivate for a big meal I can't share with anyone. I don't want to hog all the sandwich recipes!

But fall is setting in here in Alaska, and I'm beginning to putter around the kitchen again. I've been making my way through 4 gallons of cherries that I picked last week, and last night I made herb bread. It was late, and I had blog guilt. But the bread was fantastic!

Mezza Luna Loveliness
My fresh herbs are still kicking. I went out to my garden and snipped chives, oregano, tarragon,  thyme and parsley. While the yeast bloom was... blooming, I chopped the herbs with my lovely mezza luna.

 Kneading away

I started out mixing and kneading in the KitchenAid, but switched to hand kneading a couple minutes in. I felt like kneading, and the the dough looked (and was) so sumptuous to the touch.
The loaves have risen!

Two healthy rises in the oven, a quick shape into loaves and one more rise. Out came perfect, fragrant bread. Great for toast on my way into work this morning. This is the second bread I've made from the cookbook, and both have suggested 3 rises. It paid off big time, as they loaves were the loftiest I've ever made. I think next time, I'll see if I can knock off one rise. 

Morning toast

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall is Soup Season: Halibut Bisque and Chowder

Fall is here! Cottonwood leaves litter the ground, there's a crispness and chill in the air, and students and teachers are heading back to school. Fall ushers in the start of soup season. This week, I cooked up two Fiddlehead halibut soups, the bisque and the chowder.

The Halibut Bisque (page 11) is a keeper of a recipe. It has a rosy color and delicious flavor. We had a loaf of "Peace Bomb" (I kid you not) whole wheat bread from Freddy's organic section to serve with it.

You'll only have one dish to wash after you cook this recipe--do it all in one pot. First, poach the halibut (or substitute other white fish) in the Fish Stock. Save the halibut and fish stock separately.

Use the same pot to saute the veggies in butter and add the fish stock and milk in.

Add the tomatoes and halibut at the end and bring up to temperature before you serve. I love the subtle tang from the white wine, giving the soup an extra layer of complexity to its flavor.

It's a clean, very healthy food. If you're ever feeling puny, there's nothing like hot soup to "spoon your way to health."


Remember Pep's Packing in Gustavus? Our local Jerry's Meats and Seafood had Pep's smoked halibut in stock when I picked up the fish. The smokiness is key in the Smoked Halibut Chowder (Page 13).

Chop the veggies small, and saute them in fat before adding the broth. Though it called for fish stock again, I had no fish heads laying around to boil. This time I used vegetable broth instead, steaming celery, carrots, lemon, and spices in water. It worked, but it might be more flavorful with fish stock.

Bucking tradition, there's no clam in this chowder. And no cream, either: only 2% milk. I've never had smoked halibut before. It's smoky, but mild. In fact, this is a good chowder for someone who isn't the biggest fish fan. Made with the vegetable stock, it didn't have a very fishy flavor at all.

Soup's on! Happy Fall.

Friday, September 3, 2010

One last taste of summer: Peach Crunch Pie

Despite it being so awesome to live here otherwise, I commonly hear complaints about our year-round produce selection. During Alaska's winters, bright green bananas, or hard, white tomatoes never quite satisfy if you've lived Outside in a place near farm country.

Don't get me wrong. In the summer that's a different story. The Tanana Valley Farmer's Market, the Mat-Su Valley, Anchorage, and even Southeast have farmers markets. Long hours of daylight lend to a short growing season that packs a punch! We're becoming known for our 1000-pound+ pumpkins that we blue ribbon instead of roast. Even here in the rainforest, we've got enough backyard growers to fashion an annual local food fest and a fledgling weekly market.

Cool, northern climates grow potatoes, carrots, kale, and cabbage very well, but nothing says summer like a peach. And for those, we look to our neighbors down the coast. The organic peaches from Washington state I used for Peach Crunch Pie (Pages 194-195) were juicy and colorful: pure ambrosia.

Peeling peaches is tedious work. Luckily for me, I had my 94-year old sous chef to assist. That's the trickiest part. Then just mix the sliced peaches with the sour cream sauce and dump the whole thing into the unbaked pie crust, and bake!

This is a keeper of a recipe. You've got three heavenly flavors combined: a flaky crust base filled with a creamy peach middle, topped by a crunchy streusel topping. Yum.

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