Orange is the new black…

 

Everything is Orange.  Or gold.  Or turning orangey-gold.  The sun is shining, and setting fire to every rust and russet that shimmers in the breeze, clinging without real hope to sleepy trees.  The frost adds a certain magical sparkle to anything that doesn’t quite meet my glittery requirements. Pumpkins of various hues adorn every doorstep in the neighbourhood, and the twinkle of fairy lights are slowly becoming ‘de rigueur’.  It is official . . . winter is coming.  My nose is red and my cheeks are more so, I blend well with the colours of autumn and the Michelin style oversized down jacket has made its’ annual reappearance.  Carmex and Coffee are not a winning pairing, I note, as my first sips of morning Americano are tainted by the scent and slick of menthol lipsalve.  But a little frozen hand is thrust in my spare one, and I make a decision. I like November in Seattle.  I like it very much.

Though feeling hopelessly romantic about this particularly pretty moment, I know that imminently I will be plunged into 50 shades of grey depression, brought on by short gloomy days.  Too cold and wet to venture outside, except to pick up and drop off damp grumpy children.  Meals become larger, heavier, and wetter too, often echoing the colours of outside in an effort to bring some colour into the kitchen.  But, god help me, I am bored of squash. I cannot bear the thought of one more Butternut soup, Pumpkin Pie, roasted Spaghetti or Delicata.  I am ‘pumpkined’ out and I haven’t even started thinking about Thanksgiving – and the ubiquitous pie that cannot be avoided.  I think I shall be serving pumpkin ice cream with crunchy amaretti biscuits and a little shot of Theo’s Chocolate hot cocoa.  Anyone got any better ideas?

I have not given up on everything orange, though.  Well, not quite.  Carrots are still abundant at the farmers market and deliver all the earthy notes and smoky sweetness that I crave at this time of year, without the sugary, creamy richness of its rounder second cousin.  Throw it in an oven that is just a little too hot, with plenty of garlic and spices, and you have something robust and hearty enough to take centre stage at the table, not simply stand humbly beside the main event.

In this recipe the combination of hot, caramelized (even slightly burnt) roasted carrots and a cool, creamy, tangy cheese is one I find refreshing.  The clash of textures awakens the palate, and hails perhaps just a hint of Spring on the distant horizon with the perky, clean additions of fresh coriander/cilantro and tart, rich cheese.

My guilt about berating the Butternut will undoubtedly ensure an imminent recipe.  Watch this space…

Dukkah

The ingredients below are relatively numerous, but don’t be put off. Make a batch of Dukkah and you won’t be disappointed – it can be used in so many ways; a crust for fish or poultry, an addition to vegetables, dip a hard boiled egg in it or just serve it with warm, crusty bread and a slosh of very good olive oil when supper isn’t quite ready and you need to keep your guests at bay!

I like to use the stunning organic rainbow carrots grown in California, paired specifically with Yarmuth Farm’s French Creek Cheese; a bloomy, creamy cheese with a distinct tart kick – I believe they are still at the University District and Ballard Farmers’ Markets throughout the winter.  However, any tangy creamy cheese will strike a good balance – use your favourite and get creative!

Ingredients For Dukkah

50g flaked almonds
20g pistachio nut meats
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dry green peppercorns (or white, as an alternative)
3 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp Sea salt flakes
1 tsp Za’atar
1 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of sumac 

 

Dukkah Method

Gently roast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds in a hot cast iron pan until they start to pop – this will take about 30 seconds. Remove and put into pestle and mortar. Turn off the heat and allow pan to cool a little, then tip in the nigella and sesame seeds, constantly stirring, and remove when the sesame starts to turn golden. Add them to the seeds. Lightly crush until coarsely ground with the peppercorns.

Finely chop the almonds and pistachios and add to the mix with the final ingredients. You should end up with a coarse, dry, well combined mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Maple Roasted Carrots with Dukkah and Goat’s Brie

Roasted Carrots

15 medium sized carrots, halved or quartered if larger
2 TBSPs Good Olive Oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 TBSP coriander seed
1 TBSP cumin seed
1 TBSP fresh lemon zest
2 TBSPS Maple Syrup
2 TBSPs Dukkah
a large handful of fresh coriander/cilantro
One small, ripe, Goat’s Brie, or similar

 

The Dressing

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Olive oil
S & P
1 tsp maple syrup

 

Method

Pre heat oven to 450F

carrots on a tray ready for roastingGrind the coriander and cumin seed with a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, lemon zest and maple syrup and slowly add the olive oil as you continue to grind to a loose paste. Toss the carrots in the paste with your hands in a large bowl, ensuring all are evenly covered in the mixture and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet/oven tray.

Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots take on really good colour, even becoming a little burnt around the edges. Remove and drizzle over the dressing, allowing to cool slightly, before composing the dish. Pile the carrots jauntily, adding coriander/cilantro leaves and fat slices of the brie as you layer them slowly upwards. Sprinkle liberally with Dukkah and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Filed under Everything!, Savoury, Winter

Smug Gardening and Dirty Olives

The Pea Thief

The Pea Thief

 

At this time of year I like to take my time in my kitchen. Actually … scratch that. I like to spend as little time as possible inside my kitchen, and as much time as possible outside in my garden and at the grill on our deck. Thanks to my long-suffering husband, a ridiculously large gas grill, and a table or two; I am now the proud owner of a pretty much fully functioning makeshift kitchen in my back yard. I am about to complete it with an equally makeshift sink connected to my garden hose in order to wash veggies and muddy little hands without ever having to step inside. Cooking and composing a meal from ingredients grown feet away from my back door adds a layer of contended accomplishment to every mouthful.

dot and joshua in pea patchThe joy I glean from watching my two little people cram secret baby salad leaves or wild strawberries into their mouths (especially when they think I am not watching) is immeasurable. J eats Sorrel plucked from his own patch; paired with cream cheese and crispy prosciutto slammed together between slices of Sourdough for lunch (his own invention). If he wasn’t my own child the nauseatingly pretentious precociousness of it all would be unbearable. But he is mine.

And instead, I am smug.

 

D breaks all the pea vines trying to reach the fattest ones hiding at the back, that the rest of us have missed. It turns out that only skimming three feet in height has its’ advantages. I don’t care that she was too full to even contemplate a proper supper. Her clandestine foraging fills me with pride.

And so I have come to the comfortable conclusion that I am two things:

1. Ridiculously spoiled. 2. Becoming middle aged.

I know that to have a kitchen in your garden or back yard is an incrsecret strawberriesedible luxury. To have produce grow in that garden, that
can then be prepared on the spot, is even more so. It is also a lot of hard work, and one that until a couple of years ago I did not have the inclination (that I can only conclude comes with age) to even attempt to grow food to actually eat myself. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, which to the trained eye I am sure can easily be spotted. However, perhaps my naivete is a blessing; and I am easily pleased with the results.

peasAny success I put down to happy accident, and the peas in particular seem to taste all the sweeter as I genuinely didn’t believe I would actually be able to grow any! I can highly recommend growing even just herbs with your kids. I defy you to find a fruit or vegetable that they won’t eat if you get them to grow it, prepare it and cook it with you. It is empowering. Confidence building. An adventure in your very own backyard (or even window box). Who knows, perhaps J’s sandwich, or your own 7 year olds’ crazy combo will become the next big thing?

Let’s hope so … someone is going to have to support my new found (officially middle aged) obsession with Seattle Tilth!

Dirty Olives

In case you don’t have the shared inclination or space for a veggie patch, I thought I would share this summer standby that is a bit of a permanent fixture in our family. Anyone that has had dinner more than once in my kitchen will undoubtedly have been subjected to these at one time or another. If you have managed to grow some herbs this is a great way to showcase them, and one that the kids can easily help with making – a great way to bash out the days’ frustrations if you have a decent pestle and mortar too!

 

dirty olives in copper pot

A good thing to fend off the hoards while you work out what to cook them for dinner!

 

Buy the best, greenest olives you can afford. Castelvetrano are great. I have used a mixture of Castelvetrano and some cured farmers’ market olives here, for added variety.

 You will need:

2 cups of olives

1 lemon; use a peeler to make a few strips of the peel (about half), zest the other half and then juice it, setting aside 1 TBSP for this recipe

1 clove garlic

2 bay leaves

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp pepper corns

½ tsp sea salt

2 TBSPs olive oil

a handful of fresh coriander (or cilantro) and/or fresh flat leaf or Italian Parsley to finish

 How To:

Pound the garlic, seeds, pepper and salt and lemon zest until you create a paste in a pestle and mortar. Slowly add the lemon juice, continuing to smash and stir until as you go, and then whisk in the olive oil with a fork.

Massage the marinade into the olives with your hands, gently bruising the flesh to allow the aromatics to penetrate, then add the slivers of peel and bay leaves. Place in a Ziploc bag or jar in the fridge overnight and then allow to come to room temperature before serving. Throw in some finely sliced fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro, and serve with hot bread and a cold white … or better still … icy beer.

 

IMG_7828

The best lemon squeezer you own … bare hands! You can catch the pips, get into the trickiest of corners and don’t have to wash up the reamer.           C’mon . . . get your hands on your food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Everything!, Fun to do with little people..., Recipes, Summer