Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Day Off - Farmer's Market, Pickles, Cookies & Steak with Potatoes Two Ways

As those living in Portland well know, this "summer" we've been having is quite depressing. It rained this morning. It hasn't hit 80 in 5 or so days and I think we're all a little desperate now that it's August. I've been trying to keep my spirits up by enjoying the bounty of our farmer's markets and on my day off yesterday I went to town (literally and figuratively). We started at the downtown Pioneer Square market yesterday morning where I scored two types of family made chevre cheese (the 12 year old who sold it to me assured me she helped make it), one amazing cheddar (made from cow's and goat's milk), salmon cream cheese spread, salami, eggplants, zucchini, adorable fingerling potatoes and pickling cucumbers. For something to munch on while I shopped, I bought a fleur de sel chocolate chip cookie from a local bakery and decided it was time to make cookies, too.


I saw these picking cukes on the table at the farmer's market and decided to finally try my hand at quick pickles. I've been reading a lot about them and they seem easy and delicious. So, I got the cukes and some green beans (sadly, the market didn't have any so I got these from Fred Meyer) and read up on how to make them. I came across several vague articles, but the one I ended up using is from Serious Eats. The slide show they provided made the process somewhat more clear.

You start with your cucumbers (or green beans, or asparagus, or whatever you want to pickle) and generously sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit for 15-30 minutes while you prepare your brine.

The brine can be whatever you want it to be. I suggest using distilled white vinegar over any other vinegar because it tastes much cleaner than say a white wine vinegar. You want about a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water (I used about 2 1/2 c vinegar to 2 c water). I added cumin seed, fennel seed, white and black peppercorns, garlic, red pepper flake and coriander. And a bunch of kosher salt (I used Morton's) and about a 1/4 c of sugar. Let that boil. Once it boils you can pour it over your veggies that you've packed into jars. Let them cool and then put the lids on the jars and put in the refrigerator. I can attest that my cukes tasted great after about 2 hours in the fridge. The green beans needed about 24 hours to really let the flavor seep in. They are both really good, though, and I'm very excited to make burgers with the cheddar cheese I bought and have the pickles on the side. Keep in mind that with this method of quick pickling you'll want to eat your stuff within about 2 weeks or they'll go bad.


I named these cookies "Emily's Uh-Mazing Chocolate Chip Cookies". It's not my sister's recipe, but she's the one who gave it to me so I named them after her. They are brilliant. There are a few things different about this recipe. For one, you use a ton of brown sugar and vanilla. For another, you only let them bake for 9 minutes. That's it. No longer! They'll stay soft and chewy for days. I added one more ingredient (after being inspired after the farmer's market cookie) which was fleur de sel. I sprinkled just a bit on top of each cookie before I baked them. Yummmm...

1 cup real butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2-1/2 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups chocolate chips (I just use a bag, which is about 2 cups)

Beat butter, sugars, eggs & vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda & powder. Beat dry ingredients into creamed mixture & stir in chocolate chips.

Place golf ball sized portions 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet & bake for 9 minutes at 350. Do not over bake, even if they don't seem done.
So, these fingerling potatoes were just too cute to pass up. I've had a couple of potato dishes swimming around my head for awhile and I thought, why not try them both?!? Hence, the potatoes two ways. The first is a tarragon green bean and potato salad that I've adapted from this blog. The second recipe is for salt potatoes, apparently a delicacy in upstate New York. How they've managed to keep these babies a secret is beyond me. They were simply divine. I want my potatoes cooked like this from now. No more baked or gratin potatoes for me. Simple, delicious and gorgeous. I beg you to try this recipe. 

Tarragon, Green Bean and Potato Salad:

For the dressing:
125 g / 4½ oz. plain yogurt
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
2 Tbsp. vinegar (I used red wine, but should have used white)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil

Combine the yogurt, shallot, vinegar, tarragon and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk in the oil and season to taste.

For the salad:
200 g / 7 oz. haricots verts (or thin green beans), washed and broken in half if long
360 g / 13 oz. small, waxy potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into rounds 65 mm / ¼” thick
50 g / ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Place the green beans in a strainer or pasta insert and cook 2-3 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender.  Remove them from the pot and give them a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain.  (You may need to do this in two batches if your strainer is small like mine.)

Add the potatoes to the pot, return to a boil, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.  (No need to save the water this time.)

Transfer the hot potatoes to a salad bowl and toss with the green beans and the dressing.  Allow the flavors to meld for at least 20 minutes.  Just before serving, sprinkle in the almonds and stir to distribute.  Serve at room temperature.

Salt Potatoes:

I couldn't find a good recipe online for these, so I improvised and they turned out amazing. I hope my recipe makes sense!

1 lb. fingerling potatoes
1 C. Kosher salt (I used Morton's)
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp. chopped rosemary, plus some for garnishing

Boil water in a large pot and add the salt and the potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender (about 12 minutes). Drain potatoes and let them sit on a cooling rack - as the water dries, the salt makes a nice crust. Add the butter to the same pot over low heat. Add the dried potatoes and let them meld until all your butter is melted. Throw in the chopped rosemary and remove the potatoes into a small serving bowl. Pour excess melted butter into the bowl and garnish with rosemary.


I won't go overboard on this steak recipe, since you should all know how to cook a perfect steak by now. I just wanted to mention that this was a bone in rib eye steak from the Montavilla Farmer's Market (Sundays). It was spendy ($20.99/lb) but really good. It was redder than any other steak I've seen which scared me at first but I guess that's probably how steak SHOULD look. We dressed it simply with salt and pepper and grilled for about 3-4 minutes per side (they were pretty thin steaks). There was just enough fat on these suckers to have a small bit of fat with each bite of steak. I would've liked to see more meat on these for the price we paid, but the meat that was there was just butter. Delish! Trey and I discussed the option of buying a cow this year so we can great steaks like this all the time. Anyone know of a cow co-op?! Let me know if you do!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Appetizers - Gougeres & Bruschetta

 I apologize for not posting as much as I should be - I've just been so busy! Sunday night presented a great opportunity for me to make a couple of my favorite appetizers so I thought I better document them for you all! Trey's wonderful cousin and wife invited us over for a BBQ and asked if I would bring appetizers. Of course! I love appetizers. Sometimes I will make a meal just out of appetizers! A long, long time ago I worked a summer for a caterer and she made wonderful little bites for the parties she catered and I've been in love with small "amuse-bouche" type foods ever since. In fact, I'm pretty sure the bruschetta I made last night was inspired by her. The gougeres (accent over the first "e"), I found on Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. Who can resist a fluffy cheese ball? Not this guy. They are also super easy, fairly quick and will wow anyone who pops one in their mouth (of course, not everyone will be able to stop at one. I usually eat like five myself). Also, my friend Ric pointed out that the choux paste can be used for pretty much anything! Here's his advice:

"Pate choux is one of the most versatile doughs there is. It's kind of a cross between dough and batter. When you make it, save some out before you put the savory ingredients in, and pipe out a few to make cream puffs, and eclaires. Your recipe is for a cheese puff, but you can add other stuff, black olives, diced sun dried tomatoes, capers, previously browned sauteed garlic cloves, You can split them to add little pieces of rare beef, rare barbecued beef, filet tartare, it's endless. Pate choux is also basically the same recipe as is used to make yorkshire pudding, that classic served with prime rib."

Thanks, Ric!!!

The bruschetta is a little labor intensive, especially if you are cooking for more than two people. I used about 10 heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market and opted to peel and seed them before I chopped them. It's nice not to have to worry about the skins as you serve guests and it gives a cleaner presentation, I think. Anyway, everybody loved them (I think!) and we had a wonderful time hanging out with Trey's family.


Tomatoes (one for each person you're serving), peeled, seeded and chopped
Mozzrella, chopped into little squares
Garlic, chopped
Basil leaves, chopped
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Bread, I used baguette cut into about 1" pieces

To peel your tomatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the bottom of each tomato in an "X" pattern using a paring knife. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water for a minute and remove. Dunk into an ice bath. Using your fingers remove the skins and let cool. To seed, cut each tomato into fourths and remove seeds. Chop the tomatoes into about 1/4" cubes. Place in a large mixing bowl.

Chop your mozzarella, garlic and basil and add to your tomatoes. Cover the mixture with olive oil, about 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Let rest.

Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to broiling and brush one side of your cut bread with olive oil. Toast for about 3 minutes or until crisp and slightly brown. Remove from oven, let cool.

When you're ready to eat, just top a piece of bread with the tomato mixture and devour...Yum! A note: If I had been making these at my house, I would've omitted the chopped mozzarella and instead topped each slice of bread with a slice of mozzarella before I toasted it to melt the cheese a little.


1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp Tillamook)
Coarse salt (fleur de sel or kosher salt) to sprinkle on top

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and cayenne to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and mix vigorously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms a ball. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute to dry the mixture a bit.

Transfer to the bowl of a food processor, let cool for 5 minutes, then process for about 5 seconds.
Add the eggs and paprika to the processor bowl, and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until well mixed.

Transfer the choux paste to a mixing bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with a reusable nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese, then add the remainder and all the cheddar cheese to the choux paste. Stir just enough to incorporate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out a level tablespoon of the gougère dough, and push it off the spoon onto the cooking mat. Continue making individual gougère, spacing them about 2-inches apart on the sheet. Sprinkle a few grains of coarse salt and a little of the reserved Parmesan cheese on each gougère. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crisp. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with drinks.

Bon Apetit!