Monday, September 4, 2017

Figs and Fall, Two of My Favorite Things!

I wrote a lovely blog, waxing poetic about living two full seasons with a lovely fig tree (I moved, the tree did not, unfortunately), and how grateful I was for every, lovely bite it offered me (and many birds in the neighborhood). And then I noticed a formatting issue with the images, and a little voice in the back of my head said "don't deal with it now, it's late and you should go to sleep and do it in the morning". 

The colors and tastes of Fall, in a black matte/crazy green bowl on a beautiful
table runner by textile artist Susan Webb Lee.
Side note: you should always listen to the little voice in the back of your head. I fixed the issue with the images, but then, in one seemingly insignificant moment, I hit a key and it was all gone. I hear people saying they barely touched the keyboard and "the whole thing disappeared", and I secretly laugh at them, because seriously, how can you erase an entire blog with a random keystroke? 
My spur of the moment poetry is in a pile, next to my astonishment at what I just did, so I'll just say that the fresh figs you buy in the grocery, unless the farmer who picked them just put the pint or quart out on the shelf, are nothing ... NOTHING like fresh figs off the tree. And if you are fortunate enough to have a fruiting tree in your midst, do not let them all go to the birds (and wasps, and spiders, if you leave them too long!). 

And now, because it really is time for me to sleep, I'll forego trying to recreate all my lovely fig/seasonal/pottery poetry, and leave you with some images of my recent reunion with fresh figs. I hope you're enjoying all the flavors, aromas, and textures of the changing season!

Lunch in the changing season: figs drizzled with a reduction of balsamic vinegar
and pommegranate molasses, with an end of season tomato and local goat Paprika Tomme.
This happened at the studio today - we were closed, but most of the collective members were there, firing kilns, making new pots, and enjoying our labors on Labor Day. I found myself in the kitchen with bags of donated ingredients, and in my own version of "Chopped", made this to go with our lunch - the description below the image is as much recipe as I have, because I kind of made it up as I went along. Figs and sweet potatoes. Add bacon and caramelized onions. Can't go wrong there!

Ode to Fall: roasted sweet potatoes, tossed with crumbled bacon, fresh figs,
and onions caramelized in bacon fat and balsamic vinegar.
Someday I hope to have a fig tree again, but until then I will be grateful for Friends with Figs, and the seasonal abundance at the tailgate markets. And if I can stop eating them fresh and tossing them in other dishes, I'll dry some out to save for Sugar Plums later in the winter!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tomato Season: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 65

You may notice my 100 days are skipping some numbers here at the blog (and if you did, wow, thanks for paying attention!), and that's because many times my recipes are quick snippets captured only on Instagram, but they still count! I did want to make a mention here of how happy I am to be in Tomato Season. Many years ago, I discovered that if I took nightshade veggies (tomatoes, white potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant) out of my diet, or mostly out of my diet, I had less creaky joints and stiffness. Creaky joints and stiffness are not fun for the potter (nor anyone else, I'm guessing), and once my body makes it clear that it will react negatively to a food, I try to not eat that food. It wasn't too hard to stop eating eggplant, as it's never been something I enjoy outside of a really good moussaka or occasional dip into a bowl of baba ganoush. And green peppers have also never been a favorite outside of using it in mirepoix, and when I started using fennel bulb instead, I discovered I loved fennel, and my aromatic base for all sorts of dishes got a whole lot tastier. I'm a much bigger fan of sweet potatoes than white potatoes, so that was an easy switch, although some days it's hard to pass up a really good french fry. 


I love slicers and big, beefy tomatoes, but when the season starts and there
are so many beautiful cherry and pear tomatoes, I could eat a whole bowl!
These lovelies are from Mudluscious Gardens, and they are luscious!
  The one food in the nightshade group that I was saddest about limiting (couldn't ever do the whole elimination!) is the tomato, but because I noticed how much better I felt, I did limit it greatly. And in the process, I realized how much I had taken tomatoes for granted, adding them to recipes and/or eating them in dishes 'just because', without paying attention to the quality of the fruit itself. In doing this, I also re-remembered how much better tomatoes taste when you eat them in season, and even better if you can eat them soon after they come off the vine. Throughout the year, I still get the occasional jar of pasta sauce or crushed tomatoes,  and I keep a tube of tomato paste in the pantry. But outside Tomato Season, I avoid the actual fruit, not only to feel better, but because they just don't taste good otherwise.

And in tomato season, I happily dive in to all the gorgeous tomatoes while they are in abundance at my local tailgate markets. I think the absence throughout the rest of the year makes those first bites even sweeter, and until the stiffness and creaky joints come back, there will be many tomato-themed recipes to come!


Almost too beautiful to cook, but knowing how much that delicious flavor
will intensify in the oven makes it easier to wait for the finished pie.

Today's recipe was motivated by needing to make more room in my tiny freezer for some stock items, and finding a 'wood-fire grilled whole wheat pizza crust' I didn't even know I had! 

Tomato Pie

1 thin, whole wheat pizza crust (this one was frozen, and already grilled)
1 cup sauce: 1 slightly over-ripe tomato, crushed and blended with 1 TBSP tomato paste 
      plus a good pinch of salt.
1 leek, sliced (whites and some greens) thinly
4 leaves of kale, sliced thinly
5 cloves pickled garlic, sliced
5-6 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 small handful size Lion's Mane mushroom, chopped
1 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
Fresh tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick - as many as you can fit on top
Pecorino Romano, grated
Grey flaky sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Optional: additional aged cheddar or manchego cheese, grated

Spoon your sauce on the crust, and spread it out evenly across, leaving about 1/2" or slightly less around the edge for the crust. If you'd like more cheese, grate your cheddar or manchego on next. Top with your toppings, and finish with a good grate of Pecorino, a nice sprinkle of flaky sea salt, and a nice grind of pepper.

Slide the pizza into a 400 degree oven, on a pizza stone or a parchment lined baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes, or until the crust is nicely crisped and the edge of the crust browned and tomatoes lightly bubbling.


A fine pie, and the freshness of those tomatoes just bursts in each bite!

Leftover Note:
Take a slice out of the fridge and let it come to room temp while you scramble up an egg or two. Use that slice to hold the eggs. Sprinkle with basil and maybe some hot sauce. Good stuff.


Leftover win.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sweet Potato & Leek Top Tortilla Española - 100 Days of Recipes: Day 62


If you come to Asheville (and you really should, you know!), you will find unending possibilities for good food and drink. One of my favorites, and they were even before they were a client, is Cúrate Tapas Bar, and their Tortilla Española is something I love! I also love sweet potatoes, and in fact I like them much more than white potatoes, so as soon as I had this goodness at the restaurant, I began wondering how it would taste with sweet potatoes. 

I kept wondering, and then a wonderful thing happened: chef Katie Button released her Cúrate cookbook, and included was her recipe for the Tortilla. I loved it so much the first time I made it myself, I think I made it easily five more times within as many weeks. I think it's my favorite way to eat white potatoes.

But the question remained, I wonder if I could make a version with sweets? The opportunity presented itself this week when I decided to put together some small bites to celebrate a neighbor's birthday. I was thinking of making the tortilla from the cookbook for the event, adding the blanched leek tops (see Day 59, June 26) from the freezer. Well the day did not go as planned, and I didn't get a chance to shop for the cookbook tortilla, but when I got home, I realized I had the eggs, I had some onions, I had the leek tops, and I had a good pile of sweet potatoes. Here was my chance to test out a new version!


Flipped out of the cast iron pan and onto a platter - perfect for entertaining, because
you can plate it, then get ready and it'll be at a perfect serving temperature
by the time your guests arrive!
I don't always test new recipes when I'm entertaining ... oh wait, yes I do. In fact, I think I make a point to do that, so this fit right in. In addition to the leek tops, I had some beautiful oyster mushrooms from the tailgate that just seemed to want to go in the tortilla, so in they went.

I was a bit rushed from the 'day that did not go as planned', so I didn't think to take any pictures until the plating, but I think the key to making sweet potatoes work for this is to slice them thin, and then watch them in the fry pan and turn them just as they begin to get color. The texture stays really nice in the tortilla!

The recipe below is what I made, following the original recipe out of the Cúrate Cookbook, but adapting for the ingredients I had - the result is sweeter than the original, to be sure, but if you love sweet potatoes, you'll love it. And I may add some more fresh herbs next time to offset the sweetness .. or not - this was really, really good!!


Sweet Potato, Leek Top, and Oyster Mushroom Tortilla

6 eggs, whisked well
1/3 cup blended oil (I used a little olive oil with a little veg oil)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (a bit less than 1/8")
1/2 large yellow onion, 1/16" slices
1 cup blanched leek tops
1 cup sliced oyster mushrooms (loose pack)

Whisk the eggs in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, then set aside near the stove.

Heat the oil in a 10" cast iron or other heavy-bottom pan. Stove tops vary, but you're looking for a medium heat that's a little hotter than medium. Cook the sliced sweet potatoes in batches, turning them often so they don't burn too fast. Adjust your heat as needed. Once you have a nice, light browning on both sides, use a slotted spatula and remove them, shaking off excess oil, to the bowl of eggs, and add a nice pinch of salt. Repeat until you've done all the sweet potatoes. If you still have a lot of oil, pour off the excess and leave just enough to saute the onions. Lower the heat a bit, add the onions to the pan along with the leek tops. Stir to coat with the oil, cover and let them soften for about 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and a nice sprinkle of salt, stir to mix, cover and let cook another 3 minutes.

Add the onion mixture to the eggs, stir to combine thoroughly. Add 2 TBSP oil to the pan, and set the heat to medium/low. Pour in the eggs, and spread it out in an even layer. Cook until the underside is golden and the center is set - about 10 minutes.

Place a plate 'face down' on top of the pan, and using towels or oven mitts, flip the tortilla from the pan to the plate. Immediately slide the tortilla back into the pan so you can get a nice browning on the other side. That'll take another 5-6 minutes. 

Loosen the sides of the tortilla with a spatula, then you can either flip it back onto your serving platter, or get a spatula under it and lift it out of the pan and onto the platter.

*Don't cook it until it's solidly firm all the way through, or you may end up with an over-done tortilla. Let it have a little give in the center, and you'll have a nice moisture (think 'over easy' eggs in creaminess, but not as runny) inside.

This is best at room temp, so you can do it up to an hour before serving.

Swirls and layers of flavor, perfect for a small Swirl Plate!


Monday, June 26, 2017

Leek Stock: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 59

It feels like it's the pinnacle of harvest time at the Tailgate Markets, with flowers and plant starts everywhere, strawberries and blueberries abounding, piles of greens, radishes, squash, carrots, garlic... it goes on and on (and don't forget the cheeses, eggs, fish, poultry, and meats), and the tomatoes are JUST starting! It's a huge blessing of abundance, and I feel like it anchors my week when I get to stroll an early Saturday morning away through the crowds and chat with the wonderful people who produce all this goodness.

I've also been more mindful of getting as much as I can out of all the wonderful locally produced foods I bring home, and that's included looking at the parts that often get relegated to the stock pot or even the trash bin. I love making good veggie stocks out of skins, tops, and other bits and pieces, and I usually keep a bag or two in the freezer on hand to collect all those scraps. It didn't occur to me to make specific stocks out of just one ingredient (possibly because I have a skinny 'side' freezer, and I have to be creative about the 'stock' items I keep in addition to all my other freezer residents). That was about to change.

My Tailgate finds for the weekend - those lovely, wide, bands
of green are my leek tops!
This weekend, I picked up a generous bunch of beautiful leeks, and unlike those I might get at the grocery store, these have not had their green tops trimmed down, so there was a LOT of extra greens. To be honest, to save time I might just lop off the top third (the really green parts) and toss them, saving the rest of the stalk (minus the bulb) for stock. But they smelled so good, and were just so beautiful, I couldn't believe they wouldn't be good to eat with the proper treatment - I knew they could be a great steaming bed or wrapper for fish, and I had seen them used to tie up a 'bouquet garni', but I hoped for more. A quick scan online showed me multiple recipes using leek greens, so I knew I wanted to keep them for something better than 'just stock'.

Leeks pre-blanche: I wish you could smell this - leek heaven!
They are a lot tougher, and are more fibrous, than the softer parts near the bulb, so I cut them into smaller pieces and then blanched them. Actually, I'd say I did more of a double or triple blanching - not just a quick toss in boiling water, but more of a simmer for about 5 minutes. I was multi-tasking so ended up letting the leeks cool in the liquid on the stove before draining them into a big bowl.

I changed my mind - NOW I wish you could smell this!
So now I have these beautifully softened leek tops, ready for a nice leek tart, or maybe inclusion in a meatloaf, or a curry, or who knows what else? Even better, I have this GORGEOUS leek stock. I really didn't even think about that part when I was simmering away, but just before I was about to drain the liquid into the sink, I got a whiff and realized I needed every drop of this goodness as well. My freezer has an ice maker, so I don't have ice cube trays. I used my popsicle molds so I could get some stock into the freezer for later use. These other two jars will soon become a base for a soup (cauliflower/sweet potato is what I'm thinking right now), and also a braising liquid for other cooking this week.


I had ideas for several uses of the blanched leek tops - they got a LOT smaller,
so maybe one really nice tart for the tops, and several uses ahead for the stock!
This recipe is more for an ingredient to be used in another recipe. In short: I cut up the leek tops, put them in a stock pot, covered them with water, and brought them to a boil. I lowered the heat to a simmer and let them go for about 5-7 minutes. They cooled in the pan, and then I drained the leeks, squeezing out the excess liquid, which I retained in jars and molds for the freezer. The leeks were then double bagged, labeled and also headed to the freezer.

I'm sure you'll see them pop up again in another recipe!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Baked Sweet Potato Fries: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 58

Meanwhile, back to my non-consecutive 100 days of recipes! Pretty simple recipe today, but one that I go to when I don't know what I want. I try to make sure I always have sweet potatoes in the house or in the studio, because they can be a fairly filling snack or light meal all alone, and they're like that favorite sweater or scarf - they go with just about everything!

This recipe started one morning with the idea of an alternate "fish & chips". Before I left for the studio, I checked the freezer and found that the only fish I had was a beautiful sockeye salmon filet. Not my usual 'fish & chips' choice, but once you start making substitutions, why stop? This actually simplified things, as my favorite quick way to enjoy a salmon filet is salt, pepper, bit of oil, hot pan, sear skin side down about 7-8 minutes (or until the skin is crispy), flip, another 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and rest. That was that recipe, in case you weren't paying attention.

For the Fries that aren't fried, my ingredients:
 
Sliced sweet potatoes, coconut oil, salt, turmeric,
paprika, cayenne, and nutritional yeast.
Just drizzle about 1 tsp. of coconut oil on top of the potatoes, then sprinkle the salt and spices on top, followed by the nutritional yeast:

One bowl, less mess! Except maybe your hands,
because that's the next step.
Next, get your hands in there and make sure the sweet potatoes are nicely coated with everything you just put on top of them. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and evenly space out the sweet potatoes, so they have room:

Easy peasy!
Stick it in a 400 degree oven, and let the sweets roast for about 20 minutes - your baking time will vary depending on how thin/thick you slice your fries.

I love these wide, open bowls for piling high with homemade goodness!

Sweet Potato Fries

1 medium (about 6" long) sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 'fries'
1 tsp coconut oil
generous sprinkle of salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 TBSP nutritional yeast

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place sliced 'fries' in bowl a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients on top, and with your hands, lightly toss the fries to coat them evenly with all ingredients. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the fries across evenly. Roast in your 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes - more or less time depends on how thick you like your fries!

Serve as is, with a sriracha ketchup, or as a side to a nicely seared piece of fish for your own version of Fish & Chips!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I'm a Featured Artist!!

So proud and pleased to be the Featured Artist for the Cara Mae Skin Care blog, and grateful to Cara Steinbuchel for her love of community and supporting fellow artists, not only with her incredible Potters' Skin Butter (seriously, you need some!), but with her desire to celebrate those around her, in both word and deed.

You don't need to be a potter to benefit from this lotion (also
an unscented version, not pictured) - gardeners, chefs, new parents,
construction workers, teachers, office wizards, really if you
HAVE HANDS, you will benefit from this lotion!
Cara and I had a wonderful interview, and she even agreed to run around with me on a delivery day. Seeing my world through her eyes only increases the extreme gratitude I have for all that I do, and for all the incredible people I work with - Cara saw a portion of both the work and the people, and I love how she reflects it back in her lovely writing.

Click here to read the full blog!
Thank you so much, Cara!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Veggie Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 57


It seems the later I get home, the more I want to putter in the kitchen for a meal. It's a perfect way for me to relax, but it also means I might be eating later than I want, and it could also mean waking up to a messy kitchen. Usually worth it, and in many cases I'll end up snacking my way through the prep, and my lovely meal will be lunch the next day. The other thing that happens is that if I am 'puttering', I'm likely not following an exact recipe, so sharing the loveliness is more challenging the next day. This is fairly simple and straight-forward, though, so if you read along, you'll get the gist of it!

I picked up a nice variety of vegetables last weekend at the Tailgate, but this week hasn't exactly cooperated with my intended cooking schedule, so when I got home last night, I saw I had a nice variety of vegetables that were looking a little sadder than when I picked them up. Before resorting to an oversize batch of vegetable stock, I pulled out the veg that might not make the prettiest salad, and decided to go the quiche, or something very much like it, route.


Late dinner so not the best planned imagery, but it sure tastes great!
Challenge: no crusts in the freezer, and it was already late enough that I just didn't feel like messing up the kitchen any more to make even a quick crust. Enter the sweet potato - I had seen mention of a sweet potato crust somewhere a while back, so a quick check with Google and I made a simple sweet potato crust by thinly slicing the sweet and layering the slices around the inside of my lightly greased baking dish. Since I was using one of my handmade dishes, I put it in a cold oven before setting the temp to 450. about 30 minutes later, I had a nicely cooked crust, ready for my quiche.

Does this placemat make me look green? It was later, so I was more
interested in eating than setting up a photo! It was delicious, and
my 'salad' of cabbage kimchi was a perfect side.
While the crust was baking, I first fried up some sage leaves that were still pretty in a drizzle of olive oil, and chopped up the less pretty to add to my saute of onion, fennel bulb, broccoli stems, kale, broccoli flowers, oyster mushrooms, and garlic (in that order), with salt, paprika, and cumin. I wanted this to be more veggie than eggy, so I whisked up 6 eggs instead of the 8 that usually goes into this pan, with some salt, paprika, and a splash of cashew milk. When the crust came out, I re-set the oven to 350. The veg went into the sweet potato crust, then I poured the eggs on top. I put the fried sage leaves on top of that, and added a light sprinkle of Pecorino. The pan went back into the now 350 oven for about 20 minutes, or until it was nicely puffed and set.

I definitely want to play with that sweet potato crust again, and next time, I'll write it all down!


So good for dinner, I had a slice for breakfast, with local blueberries
from Mudluscious Gardens and some Thai Chicken Sausage from East Fork Farms.