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.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Veggie Delight: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 56

I'd like to think that people who have my pottery are inspired to create fabulous dishes to go in and on them. Maybe it's because that's what I do, or maybe they create fabulous dishes, and then see which plate or platter or bowl is worthy of holding its fabulousness. I do that, too. Either way, if they then share that result with me, I am in turn inspired - sometimes it's to make more and/or new pieces for future fabulous dishes, and sometimes it's to make a fabulous dish of my own.

So when Chef Kajsa Alger posted this:

homemade tastes better on handmade, 100 day challenge, 100 days of recipes, veggie delight, handmade pottery, inspirations, chef kajsa
My ReGram of Chef Kajsa's yumminess on my platter.
I was inspired, not only because I absolutely love seeing how others use my pottery, but because once again I saw something yummy and realized "hey, I have those ingredients!", or at least some version of those ingredients.

I had just been to my favorite Asian Market to pick up some coconut creme for a special creation (sure to be chronicled here later...), so really, the main thing that popped into my head was that I had a nice package of rice noodles. Having been to the tailgate market on Saturday, I knew I also had veggies, so it was just a matter of putting them together.

Softening the onion, fennel bulb, ginger, and turmeric.

The rest of the players: shaved carrot and sweet potato, thin cuts of kale,
snap peas, broccoli stems, zucchini, and squash. Plus broccoli flowers and
oyster mushrooms. True vegetable delight!
What I love about using these thin, rice noodles is that while they soak in a bowl of warm water, I can quickly cook up the veg, and just when they are about perfect, toss in the noodles, make a hot 'dressing' and it's all done - practically a one-pot meal!

homemade tastes better on handmade, made in asheville, pottery, 100 day challenge, 100 days of recipes
My roped platter holds the Veggie Delight beautifully, and I've got
meals and parts of meals for the rest of the week!
Veggie Delight

This makes a nice pile of noodles! Easily feeds 2-4, depending on how hungry the eaters, and if you decide to add a protein or other sides. Of course, I'm already planning for the leftovers...

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
1" piece of ginger, sliced thin and chopped
1" piece of fresh turmeric, sliced thin and chopped
8-10 leaves of lacinto kale leaves (long/flat), thinly sliced
1 small head of broccoli, about 4-5 stalks: cut at the crowns, and thinly slice the stalks
   (peel tough outer skin if necessary)
1 small (about 5") carrot, shaved into strips with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup shaved (use the peeler) sweet potato
1 cup thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash

About 5 oz. thin rice noodles - the kind you soak in warm water, and then add to stir-fry.

1 1/2 TBSP sesame oil
2 tsp pomegrante molasses
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
generous squirt sriracha
generous pinch of salt
pinch of date sugar

Place the rice noodles in a bowl large enough to cover the rice completely with warm water. Do that, and set it aside while you cook the veg.

Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium heat (or just below medium) and saute the onion, fennel bulb, ginger, and turmeric until soft and fragrant (about 5 minutes). Toss in a pinch of salt, then add the kale, carrot, sweet potato, and broccoli stems. Raise heat just a bit (to medium, or just higher than that) and continue to saute/stir for another 3-4 minutes, or until the kale is wilted. Add the broccoli crowns and squash, and continue to stir/saute for another 3-4 minutes. 

Mix the first four ingredients of the dressing together, then taste. Add some salt, taste again, then add some date sugar if it needs balance. Whisk it hard (or put it all in a jar and shake it hard!). Find your happy place by taste.

Drain the noodles, then add them in small tong fulls, folding together with the veg to get them incorporated and 'unclumped' if necessary. Drizzle the dressing on top, and lightly toss the noodles and the veg together to thoroughly incorporate and coat with dressing. Put the lid on and let the noodles steam in the veggie mix for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Great as is for a light lunch, or add the protein of your choice to make it a bit heartier. And I already see an 'over easy scramble' with some of the leftovers in my future.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bagel hack and back to the Nibs! 100 Days of Recipes, Day 55

I was just re-reading my Carrot Top Gremolata posts before I started today's entry, and I've been pondering the past few minutes about "what if I put nibs in the gremolata?"... I think there is a version there, but I'll have to get back to it.

Today's quick late breakfast and carrier for my nibs came about mainly because I didn't realize the peanut butter I picked up recently was creamy, not crunchy. I like it crunchy, so I was wondering what I might add to get that missing texture ... nibs!

We call this size plate the "bagel plate" because it's the perfect size... for a bagel!

Not really a recipe, just another fabulous way to use nibs. Although I will share a wonderful bagel hack I learned from my friend Nancy, and then wondered why it never occurred to me. I don't eat bagels every day, so when I buy them they generally go into the freezer. My bagel desires rarely, however, announce themselves with an appropriate amount of time to take one out of the freezer to thaw slowly so I can slice it with ease before toasting. Add to that, I don't always want a whole bagel, so if I DO manage to get it cut in half, half of it might have to go back to the freezer for a second indignation. So enter Nancy: I have these dear friends in Georgia and they are avid bagel-eaters, and whenever I visit them over a weekend, I get to go with them on their weekly trip to Golberg's Bagel Company to replenish their bagel supply. The first thing Nancy does is cut the bagels in half before putting them in freezer bags. Want a half a bagel? Grab it and toast it - I think the most brilliant ideas are the most simple. Nancy didn't invent the idea of cutting bagels before freezing, but she invented it in my head, so to her goes all the glory!

A nicely sweet/tart strawberry or three is a nice compliment to each slightly rich, peanuty-nibby bite, and while I use these plates for so many things, it always makes me happy when they get to serve their named purpose of being a 'bagel plate'.

Now, about that nibby gremolata...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Carrot-Top Gremolata Pt. 2: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 54

A 'leftover' follow up to my carrot top gremolata on fish recipe - I had some leftovers, and my original plan for them before the gremolata was to make tacos for lunch at the studio. That didn't change, but the tasty gremolata inspired a 'gremolata slaw' of sorts for the tacos. By the way, kind of on the run this morning, so the recipe is in the descriptions. :)

Gremolata Slaw: Carrot tops, kale, carrots, red cabbage,
lime peel, roasted garlic, and salt
I had a tiny bit of the gremolata left, and I used it to start my slaw, adding some thinly sliced red cabbage, kale, more carrot shavings, a bit of lime zest, and roasted garlic. A sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lime juice finished it off, and I had a nice, bright slaw that was the perfect accompaniment to my leftover fish in a taco.

I had some new test plates out of a kiln, so lunch was the perfect time to try them out.

I don't use my copper glaze on food surfaces, so the center of this plate is glazed with
my new black satin matte glaze, with just enough 'crazy green' to make a beautiful frame.
It's always nice to have enough to share with a friend, and to test another new form and glaze!

The tacos were filled out with Gremolata Slaw, leftover cod, some avocado, and a 'crema' I made by thinning out some hummus with a little hot sauce and a splash of cashew milk.

And like a good recipe should, there was a bit of the slaw leftover, which extended my Carrot-Top love one more day when I blended it with some almost too-ripe avocado to make another condiment to go with sweet potatoes I had roasted with olive oil, salt, turmeric, and smoked paprika. That made another tasty taco lunch, and a chance to try out another test from the last kiln.

A final hurrah for the carrot-top gremolata, now in an 'avocado slaw' with roasted sweet potatoes.
A sprinkle of nutritional yeast and a dash of hot sauce were the only other condiments
in this quick studio lunch, but every bite very tasty!

All in all, very happy to say that carrot tops will no longer be relegated solely to the stock pot!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Carrot Top Gremolata: 100 Days of Recipes, DaysI l 53 & 54

Two days of recipe inspiration comes from the recent episode of the new series "Scraps" (FYI network I believe - I don't get that one, but you can watch it online after it airs). I love the show and how it features great chefs and recipes in general, but even more for how it focuses on using the bits and pieces that usually end up ... well, as scraps! In this episode,  I loved everything that Chefs Joel Gamoran and Jenn Claiborne made, but the Carrot Top gremolata really caught my attention. I love using the leaves and tops of most all vegetables, but for the most part, when I have carrot tops, they usually go into a stock pot. Not this time! I had a lovely piece of cod I wanted to cook up, and the gremolata sounded great to go with it. It didn't end there, tomorrow I will share how I used my leftovers and that same idea for a whole new meal.

I love my new garlic keeper by Hannah McGehee, and it also keeps
my fresh ginger and turmeric! Her larger version (top right) holds the onions.
Chopping up the carrot tops with some lemon peel and garlic, I had a strong smell memory of pulling carrots out of a garden when I was younger - it had a nice, fresh, earthy aroma and I could almost taste the fresh carrot. I knew then it would be a great combination for my fish.

I made a 'bed' of gremolata in my baking dish, topped it with a lightly salted
piece of cod, then more gremolata. I put it in a cold oven and brought it up to 375 degrees.
The result was delicious! Each of the flavors in the gremolata came through and the combination with a beautifully flaky cod was the perfect compliment to a fresh market salad.

It's Easy Being Green! Crazy Green glaze makes a beautiful frame, and deep, lush 
Tenmoku glaze makes a perfect canvas for Tailgate delights: baby greens, radish sprouts, 
snap peas, and kale plus some shredded carrot for a little color.
Roasted Cod with Carrot Top Gremolata

1 large handful of carrot top greens
2 large cloves of garlic, cut into thin strips
pinch of salt
3 strips of lemon peel (try to avoid too much white pith)

Smash the garlic, then sprinkle salt on top. Add the lemon peels and continue to dice finely. Add the carrot tops (I'd say I had a loose cup or so) and continue to finely chop it all together.

For my fish, I laid a bed of most of the gremolata in a handmade baking dish. After lightly salting the cod filet, I placed that on the bed of gremolata, and then sprinkled the rest on top of the fish.

The baking dish went into a cold oven (heat your handmade with the oven!), then I set the temp at 375. Cook time will vary depending on the size and thickness of your filet, but mine was perfectly flaky after about 22 minutes. If you use a more traditional baking pan that doesn't need to be heated with the oven, check it sooner!

I continued the light, fresh flavors on my very green salad, using a light sprinkle of salt and squeeze of lemon for a dressing. Baby greens, snap peas, and a few shreds of carrot have a lovely sweetness, and the radish sprouts have a light, peppery bite to compliment. All together with the cod and gremolata made for happiness in every bite!

And as often happens, I was enjoying this lovely meal and already thinking about what I wanted to do with the leftovers. Stay tuned...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Feeding the Pirates Right for MANNA and Spicy Extras: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 52

I am always so amazed, impressed, and grateful to live in a city filled with so many creative entrepreneurs in every sort of medium imaginable. But those who like to play with their food really get my attention.

This weekend, my friend Matt and I attended MANNA FoodBank's Blue Jean Ball, their biggest fund raiser of the year. I participate in the Asheville Empty Bowls event every year, making bowls and trying to motivate other potters to make bowls. It was through that participation that I was invited to my first Blue Jean Ball several years ago. The event is always themed, and there is a costume contest for most creative interpretation of the theme, with tickets to the next year's Ball given as prizes. Thanks to my very talented friend Matt, also a creative entrepreneur, we have won our way back to the Ball for the past three years!

As for the food, it's always delicious, creative small bites from some of the best restaurants in the area. 

As my hands were most often filled with small plates or a cuppa, I didn't take pictures of all the gorgeous and tasty bites, but we did get a lovely shot of what I think perfectly captures everything I love about Asheville, and this lovely human:

Rosetta, always feeding the family right!
 Rosetta has been feeding the family right at her restaurant, Rosetta's, downtown since 2002, and this year marks 14 years that she's been sharing that love at the Blue Jean Ball. Not only is the Family Favorite my favorite dish at her restaurant, it's the perfect first bite before an evening of food, drink, and dance. We seem to be too darn busy to find each other on a regular basis the rest of the year - and this year she has been busy feeding and loving her family beyond just those she regularly tends here in the Asheville area, so this is one place I knew I would find this lovely lady for a soul-nourishing hug. 

And just to make you wish you were there, here are a few more tasty bites I recall:

Jerked duck with coconut biscuits, black bean gravy, and curry pickled shallots from Biscuit Head (the pickled shallots were my favorite part - delish!)

Flambe strawberries with rum over mango sorbet from Bouchon - a perfect palette cleanser.

Smoked duck breast on crostini with herbed goat cheese, arugula and orange reduction from Chestnut - that was great, but they also had a pile of Joe's Chips, and you most definitely can't eat just one!

Island Creek oysters from Lobster Trap - always a favorite stop!

Luella's BBQ had Cured Pork Belly wth pickled watermelon rind that was a lovely bite.

Posana had what was perhaps my favorite single bite: Seared Scallops, smoked pork belly, and coconut rum butter.

That's just what I remember - there was more goodness there from Ambrozia, Biltmore, Carmel's, Red Stag Grill, Rezaz, Twisted Laurel, Webo's BBQ, Harrah's, PF Chang's, The Cantina ... and we didn't even make it under the dessert tent for Ultimate Ice Cream or French Broad Chocolates (I blame my pirate shoes - not much keeps me from the Chocolate Lounge!).

And while I'm not sharing a particularly new recipe today, I am sharing a new find - when we arrived at the parking lot and were waiting for the shuttle to the event, we met Tad McBride who had a trunk full of hot sauces he was sharing with everyone on the shuttle. I added some generous dashes of the Matador sauce to my eggs (on avocado, on toasted bagel) this morning for a flavorful punch. It's base includes mango nectar, pineapple juice, and habanero chili pepper, which gives it a lovely flavor to go along with the heat. Since we were there for the "Pirate Ball", I made sure to also get a bottle of the Pirate Sauce, which includes orange juice, coconut bits, and spices. I'm looking forward to trying that as a marinade.

And if you were wondering, yes, we won again, and we can't wait to hear the theme for next year's Ball!!

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, a Pirate's life for me!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Nibs! 100 Days of Recipes, Day 50

Or rather, Return of the Nibs! And let me take a moment to acknowledge that I finally reached the half way point of what didn't seem to be such a grand undertaking at the beginning. I also remind you, gentle reader, that it's not necessarily a daily undertaking, and that some days will just be on the Instagram feed. But I digress...

I ran out of cacao nibs a little while ago, and didn't think much of it, until I went to make a smoothy. Out of nibs, oh well. Hmm.... not quite as wonderful as it usually is. Went to make a salad. Out of nibs, oh well. hmm... it's just missing ... something. Thought about making cookies for someone. Out of nibs - that's a deal breaker now for my chocolate chip cookies, so it finally dawned on me that I needed more nibs. I was a nibs needer. 

Cacao Nibs, from The French Broad Chocolate Lounge

I know that nibs have become one of the new foodie darling trends, so they are much easier to find than in the days of yore, when after explaining to someone what they were, you had to then explain to them WHY you wanted them. And if you didn't know, cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks, and broken into smaller pieces. There have been all kinds of nutritional benefits that actually date back thousands of years, both for the nibs and the dark chocolate products that are made with the cacao bean. That's all very attractive, but my own experience with nibs started with a visit to The Happiest Place On Earth, which of course is the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It was there I first tasted the 'Nibby Brownie' - dark chocolate goodness that would be a fine brownie just by itself, but the added texture and flavor boost from the nibs just puts it over the top. I tried nibs myself for the first time in a chocolate chip and dried cherry cookie, and I was hooked. When I read about the nib's 'super food' qualities, I looked for other ways to add it to things, like my smoothies and salads. When the Chocolate Lounge started selling nibs, it was an even happier day as I knew they would be sourced with as much love and care as all the products (including my mugs!) that they sell.

I toodled on down to the Chocolate Lounge yesterday, determined to end my nib drought, but when I went inside Chocolate + Milk, my heart skipped a beat - No Nibs!!! Lucky for me, the Manager, Melissa, was there and somehow she sensed my distress (not sure how, I'm sure I was so subtle!), and she called over to the Chocolate Factory and learned that they had some precious nibs. Double win - I would get my nibs AND I would get to visit the Chocolate Factory. I'm sure you can add years to your life just by walking in the door of the French Broad Chocolate Factory and inhaling deeply. Two bags of nibs in hand (along with a bar, and a bag or two of the truffle packs by the register - such chocolate pushers they are!) later, I was on my way home to revel in a nib-filled world.

All that (and it did go on!) to say, I have nibs, and the next several entires in my 100 Day Project may indeed feature ... wait for it ... nibs.

Today's entry, and one of my favorite dishes:

Fruity, nibby salad

One grapefruit, sectioned and sitting in its own juices, plus a handful of walnuts, some frozen blueberries, a handful of nibs, a drizzle of pomegranate vinegar, and a light sprinkle of large-flake salt. 

Happy Hump Day to all, and may you always have nibs.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Progressive Toast: 100 Days of Recipes, Day 49

You know that thing where you've made a new dish, it's really tasty yet while you're eating it you're thinking about what you want to do to it the next time you make it? Well that happened.

Last night's Market Veggie sandwich gave me some ideas, and that turned into today's lunch:

I love how food pops on this tenmoku-glazed small plate. And I love how the
plate pops on this tea-cup towel!

Toasted levain, with Roots' Mango Sriracha Hummus, some cucumbers, radish sprouts, and a drizzle of pomegranate vinegar. Crusty, spicy, cool, fresh, sweet, crunchy, and just a bit of a twang. Every bite a delight.