Inventing Dinner: Smoked Salmon Frittata

There are days when I get home late for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes the hospital is crazy, or my kid can’t possibly leave the playground early, or like today, I was forced to drive on the regular freeway (not the express lanes) in the pouring rain with morons.  People like to complain that Seattleites can’t drive in the rain, but I think we natives are great at it; it’s the transplants who suck.  But I digress.

I got home late at 5 PM, beating the hubs and our toddler by about 1o mins.  What to make for dinner? A search in the fridge revealed:

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Perfect ingredients for fritatta

A work friend had a freezer overflowing with salmon from several guided fishing trips she took with her hubby. Being the native that I am, I offered to host a dinner party where we cooked some and I smoked the rest. We shared the smoked stuff, so I had smoked steelhead and salmon (I’m lucky), as well as eggs, cheese and some veggies.  Ta Da! Dinner!

Smoked Salmon Frittata

Note: I think most of the components here could be swapped out easily for alternatives.  For example, leftover salmon or even trout would taste good, and instead of goat cheese, either cream cheese or Gruyère would be a nice choice.  Chives could also be a nice addition.

Ingredients:

1 cup roughly chopped onion

5 ounces sliced mushrooms

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1.5-2 cups smoked salmon broken into small chunks (just small enough to know you have all the bones)

3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

9-12 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

Fritatta going into the oven

Frittata going into the oven

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat in a 10″ frying pan.  When butter has melted, add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté for 10 minutes or so until the mushrooms and onions are turning brown (brown=flavor), then pull the pan off the heat.

3. In a bowl, mix the eggs and salt. Whisk well.

4. Add crumbled goat cheese and mix gently.

5. Making sure that the onions and mushrooms are laying out uniformly in the frying pan, place the smoked salmon in an even layer on top.

6. Pour egg mixture over top of the salmon and put  into the oven for 20 minutes.  It’s done when the center is firm.  A thicker frittata will take a few minutes longer.

Smoked salmon frittata with pasta salad on the side

Baked Oysters

I’m always on the look out for new oyster recipes.  We get to harvest them fresh off the beach throughout most of the year and only getting to eat your oysters raw, fried or smoked can get old.  I love oysters, I love harvesting them and I think our shellfish licenses are one of the most economical purchases the hubs and I make every year.  Hence, I’m always looking for new ways to use up my oysters.

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My cookbook Northwest Essentials: Cooking with Ingredients that Define a Region’s Cuisine by Greg Atkinson is a great resource for oyster recipes and has some great ones that I used as inspiration.  My only issue with his recipes is that he must buy his oysters with the shell on (you’re not allowed to take the shells off of the state beaches in WA) and puts them straight onto a BBQ.  I’m not about the pull out the ol’ grill in the winter rain so I improvised.

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Baked Oysters with Greens, Cheese and Olive Oil

Note:  This is an extremely flexible recipe, you basically use what you have on hand and make it work.  Consequently, I didn’t include any measurements, I just use what looks good to me.  They always taste good.

Ingredients:

Greens – I’ve used chopped spinach, arugula, and chives.  I think you could use just about anything.  Rinse them well and give them a rough chop.

Cheese – You want a flavorful cheese that will melt nicely.  I’ve used grated parmesan and grated pecorino.  I think a sharp cheddar has potential as well as a dollop of goat cheese.

Olive Oil

Fresh Raw Oysters – I usually do at least a dozen at a time

1. Set oven to 450 degrees

2. On a baking sheet place either small ramekins, small gratin pans or oyster shells.

4. In each vessel put down a layer of greens, then put 1-4 oysters on top (in a single layer).  You can also put the greens on top of the oysters if you forget to put them underneath like I did.

5. Sprinkle with cheese

6. Put 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil on top of the cheese

7. Feel free to add some salt and pepper

8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just barely done.  I like mine just barely cooked all the way through.

9. Serve hot.  Works well as an appetizer or a side dish.

I apologize for not having pictures of them after they come out of the oven.  The get eaten up so quickly I never seem to have time to take photos.

Right before going in the oven

 

Ready for spring...

Trying to raise an open-minded eater

I have a great kid.  He’s 2 years, 8 months and a wild bundle of energy and joy that continually amazes me.  He’s definitely in his “terrible twos” phase of life and we have a lot of challenges, but one challenge we don’t have is his eating.  We never have.  A  lot of people think we got lucky, but I don’t think that’s the case.  The hubs and I made some very deliberate choices both when I was pregnant and throughout his young life that would encourage him to be an open-minded and adventurous eater.  Here’s some of  what we did.

1. We (mostly I, but WE) read A LOT about what we could do to raise an open-minded eater while I was pregnant.  Some books that I specifically enjoyed and recommend are Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, My Two-Year Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything, and Feeding Baby Green: The Early Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood and Beyond.  I didn’t think it was possible to read too much while I was pregnant so I read everything.   Much of what we learned and did was inspired by these books.   The best lesson I learned from these books is to NEVER order off the kids menu at a restaurant.

Eating Yakisoba

Eating Yakisoba

2.  We ate healthy while I was pregnant and made a point of eating specific foods that I wanted my child to love.  Now, I have no idea if it has been scientifically proven that your kid will eat what you ate during pregnancy but it usually works out that way.  For me I ate fruit, especially citrus, pineapple and blueberry, potatoes and pho.  Those were the things that I craved most, but I also consciously wanted to pick foods that were healthy.  I ate a lot of fish, I tried not to ingest a ton of junk food or pop.  I now have a child who will choose fruit over just about everything in the universe.  He would easily choose a strawberry or kiwi over chocolate any day.

3. Food and mealtimes are fights we choose not to have with our child.  What I mean is, we don’t force him to eat anything he doesn’t want to (though we always encourage him to take at least one bite of everything), and we never force him to keep eating when he says he’s done.  The best part? I NEVER, EVER stress over whether he’s had enough to eat.  There are days he takes a few bites and he’s done and other days the kid eats as much as a linebacker.  We don’t judge, we don’t praise when he eats everything, we let him decide what is right for him.  This instills good eating habits and teaches him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full.  We do have some light snacking at our house, but not much and we try to not have any snacks for at least 2 hours prior to mealtime to make sure we’re all hungry when we sit down.

Eating pho

Eating pho

4. Our family eats together at the table for almost every meal.  I have to be at work at 7 AM, but we still sit around the breakfast table at 6 AM and eat our cheerios with blueberries or refrigerator oatmeal.  Dinner is the same, as well as lunch on the weekends.  He has been allowed to eat in front of the TV exactly twice: once for the State of the Union Address and once to watch a movie as a special Mama-Son Date Night.  We make a point of asking about each other’s days and have a nice conversation.  If the kid is done first, that’s OK; he washes his hands and is allowed to go play while we finish.

5. I am not a short order cook!  We all eat the same meal.  I cannot stress this enough, I literally think the most important thing we do is we don’t classify food as kid food vs. adult food.  It’s all the same, and he eats what we eat.  I know there are things he doesn’t like (carrots), but that doesn’t mean I don’t serve them.  I still cook them when I want and in different ways and sometimes he’ll like them, sometimes he won’t notice them (shredded in sauce or soup) and most of the time he’ll eat around them.  That’s ok.  We don’t make food specially to suit his taste.  I barely can handle making one dinner, much less two.  The thing that has been great about this is he’s been exposed to a lot of different foods and has come to love them.

6. We always introduce his food to him.  This may sound weird, but at each meal we set it in front of him and tell him what it is and point to each item.  Everything is always stated positively.  “Tonight we’re going to eat eggplant, it’s really yummy.”  We always phrase things as though he’s going to love them: “oh man, those carrots look so good.”  The goal is to never set him up to dislike something before he’s even tried it.

I’m super proud of the adventurous eater we’re raising, he’s constantly surprising me by trying new things and giving them a chance.  Now if I could just get him to use the potty….

Ready for spring...

Ready for spring…

Is it springtime yet??

Last Saturday was one of my personal holidays.  The Seattle Tilth Early Plant Sale was held down in Sodo.  For weeks I’ve been working on my spreadsheets, trying to determine exactly how many plants I can cram into my beds and containers.  I’ve been up late reading over the lists of plants that were going to be there and re-writing my list over and over again.  I think it’s my coping mechanism for getting through the late Seattle winter glum.  Going to the tanning bed is now frowned upon, and I don’t have a trip to Hawaii till April so I’m left with fantasizing about my summer garden to get me through.

Blooming shrub in my yard...not sure what it is

Blooming shrub in my yard…not sure what it is

This year I’m doing a modified square-foot gardening method.  I have a tendency to put my plants too close together and I think I’ll have better results if I space them out more appropriately.  The whole square foot gardening thing seemed a little too kitschy and “hey you need to buy all this stuff to make it work” which I’m not down with.  I refuse to buy special soil and replace it every couple years.  So, I modified the idea to fit my style.  The hubs built me a wooden one square foot frame with wood screws at 1 inch intervals around the sides.  I used the frame to mark out square foot intervals in my garden.  Long rubber bands were put on the screws so that I could adjust the internal squares to be 2″x2″ or 3″x3″ or 4″x4″.   It worked like a charm.

On Saturday I purchased my spring crops.  I’m trying broccoli again this year, specifically Umpqua and Early Dividend varieties.  In 18 square feet I put in 10 plants.  My previous attempts at broccoli have been mediocre I think because I had no idea I wasn’t going to be harvesting until June or July, and I crowded them.  This year I’m giving them room (and time) and then will use the bed for winter crops that will be planted in late summer (shallots and garlic).

Beautiful shallots!

Beautiful shallots!

The biggest purchase of the day was leeks.  2 containers of Bleu de Solaize, 3 of King Richard and 1 Carentan.  I know I should be planting my leeks from seed, but I’m feeling lazy this spring so I bought starts.  The square gardening peeps say  there should be 9 leeks per foot which I think is ridiculous, so I planted them 16 per foot, which still seems a little far apart but we’ll see.  Leeks keep well in the garden, the last of my leeks planted in March 2013 were picked in January and made a fabulous leek risotto.

Broccoli, arugula and spinach

Broccoli, arugula, leeks and spinach

My favorite purchase of the day came from Burnt Ridge Nursery.  An Olympian fig, Bay Laurel (large one) and Native Star Huckleberry have joined my small but growing collection of trees and shrubs.  I’m always thinking about things I can grow that are native to the Pacific Northwest and are not readily available for purchase.  The Olympian fig is an heirloom that was found in growing in Olympia, Washington.  It’s great for the Pacific Northwest and I’ve been told and read that it’s one of the tastiest and sweetest figs you can find.  I’m so excited!

My new Native Star Huckleberry

My new Native Star Huckleberry

Homemade enchilada dinner

What to do with that turkey in the freezer

After Thanksgiving I trolled my local Whole Foods looking for deals.  I ended up buying an 8-10 pound, organic, free-range, happy-life-living turkey for something like $30.  I brought it home and promptly tossed it in my chest freezer.

The January Freezer

The January Freezer

Last week I had dreams of roasting my turkey, Thanksgiving-style, but then reality sank in.  For me to work all day and then come home and roast a turkey would mean eating dinner a lot later than we usually do.  Probably after I normally go to bed.  So after I had let it defrost in my fridge for 4 days I had a dilemma…what to do with this bird.

I ended up cramming it into my very large slow cooker with a tablespoon of salt and a quart of chicken stock.  I left it on low for something like 6-8 hours and the thing was cooked almost perfectly.  I think if I had started checking the temperature earlier it really would have been perfect (165 degrees for birds).  After it was cooked I took all the meat off the bone and put it in the fridge.

What to do with tons of left over turkey?  I’m not a sandwich person…. so I tried 2 different things.  I made turkey noodle soup and turkey enchiladas.  Both were delicious.

Turkey enchiladas

Turkey enchiladas

Turkey Enchiladas

Note: I used homemade verde sauce made from tomatillos and jalapenos that I made during the summer and then froze.  But I think it would taste just as good with canned verde sauce.  The recipe I used is by Rick Bayless.

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded or diced cooked turkey meat, both white and dark meat

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups chopped greens (I used salad greens that were starting to get wilty, but I think spinach would also be tasty)

4.5 cups verde (green) enchilada sauce, divided

8  tortillas, 10″ diameter

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (you could probably do regular cheddar or monterey jack)

Filling the enchilada

Filling the enchilada

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix turkey, onion, greens and 1.5 cups sauce in a large bowl and mix until everything is coated
  3. Place a heaping 0.5 cup of enchilada filling into the center of each tortilla
  4. Roll tortillas and put into a large, un-greased baking pan
  5. Pour remaining 3 cups of sauce on top of enchiladas, then top with the 2 cups of grated cheese
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cheese is browning and the sauce is bubbling
  7. Serve with sour cream and beans or rice on the side
Homemade enchilada dinner

Homemade enchilada dinner

Resting the roast chicken

Simply Amazing Roast Chicken Dinner

The people in my family are big on comfort food.  All three of us have favorites that we never get tired of. The toddler loves pho, eggs and all kinds of fruit/berries and eggs.  Me, I could eat lasagna or mashed potatoes any day of the week.  For my hubs, at the top of his list is roast chicken.  I started making it about 5 years ago when we first moved to Seattle.  I was on this weird kick where I was trying to cook foods that I hadn’t grown up with, forcing myself to cook outside the comfort zone that my mom taught me.  My mom was a boneless, skinless chicken breast person, and for a long time that’s all I made.

Finally got some snow in Seattle!

Finally got some snow in Seattle!

Then I read a whole lot of books.  I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  These books changed my life and my whole perspective on food.  Looking back I realize how ridiculous I got, but I made the hubs and I do a locavore diet in JANUARY.  Do you know how much fresh, local stuff you can get in January???

It was hard, and we did it for about 6 months, but it was totally worth it.  I went on an organic crusade that I still can’t seem to let go of, and most importantly I began to care about where my meat came from.  I was that person in Portlandia asking if the chicken I was buying had a “happy life.”

My focus turned to quality and thinking about what was important to me about the food my family ate.  Ultimately my experiments led us to a few key principles that still govern our eating today:

1. We buy what’s in season.  This is HUGE at our house.  We do not eat fresh strawberries or blueberries in February.  We also only eat fresh tomatoes during the summertime.  I find that we now get really excited about the changing seasons and we truly enjoy things when they are in season.  We also do a lot of freezing, drying and canning to preserve things when they are abundant and taste their best.  I think Rainier cherries are the perfect example of this.  Many people in the country will never get to try our amazing cherries fresh, they’re too delicate, so if they do get flown across the country they get crazy expensive.  During early summer everyone I know in the Pacific Northwest eats Rainier cherries with gusto.  They taste incredible!

Winter salad of greens, carrot, pickled beets, cheese and vinegarette

Winter salad of greens, carrot, pickled beets, cheese and vinaigrette

2. We don’t buy produce from Mexico or South America. For the most part we choose products that are from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia.  Our next layer is California, then the rest of the US.  I will sometimes get kiwis from New Zealand or Pineapples from Costa Rica, but it’s rare.  The stuff from here just tastes better and I’d prefer to support my people.

3. During the summer, we try to hit up the Farmer’s Market every week.  We also like to go to the U-Pick places for berries and such.  Again, I just like to keep it local and in season.

4. We don’t buy more than we can eat.  My hubs HATES throwing out food, something I was terrible about until we started living together.  I have seen the man eat literally stale, rotten, moldy, gross food [Hubs' note: I cut off the rotten and moldy parts.] just so that it won’t get thrown out and be wasted.  So, I have learned to become creative and cook what we have on hand. I’ve also learned to menu plan.  But, I think the biggest change is I don’t cook to feed an army anymore; I have a better sense of appropriate portions and use all leftovers to make lunches.  I personally hate eating day-old salad–I absolutely refuse to eat it–which means I’ve learned how to make the right size salad for the meal (TOUGH lesson to learn).

5. We buy only meat and dairy products that are hormone- and antibiotic-free.  Period.

All this brings me back to my chicken, the hubs’ favorite roast chicken.  This recipe has evolved over the past 5 years into what I think is an amazing dinner.  All it needs is a side salad or some roast broccoli and you have a meal your family will devour.

Roasted veggies

Roasted veggies

Roast Chicken with Vegetables

1 4- to 5-pound whole chicken (preferably one that was humanely raised)

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

0.5 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper

0.5 teaspoon baking powder

2-3 pounds of vegetables cut into large chunks (carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, onion and beet are preferred)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Resting the roast chicken

Resting the roast chicken

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut up your veggies into large chunks, try to make them fairly equal so that they will cook at the same rate.  Put them onto a cookie sheet, pour olive oil on top, give them a mix and then spread them out into a single layer.

3. Mix salt, pepper and baking powder into a small bowl.  The baking powder can be omitted, but it helps the chicken skin dry out and get nice and crispy.

4. Set the chicken breast-side down on top of the vegetables and sprinkle/rub the salt mixture onto the skin.  Turn the chicken breast-side up and get that side as well.  You don’t have to use all the salt mixture, but it’s OK if you do.

A roast chicken with extra breasts in the oven

5. Put the chicken in the oven breast-side up for 30 minutes, then turn it over breast-side down and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

6. Check the temperature of the thigh meat and the breast.  You want it to be 165 degrees. If it’s not there yet, stick it back in the oven for 10 mins.  Repeat this until the chicken is done.

7. Once the chicken hits 165 degrees, take it out of the oven and place it on a cutting board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

8. While the chicken is resting, use a slotted spoon or spatula to lift the veggies off the cookie sheet and into a bowl.  Leave the juice on the cookie sheet.  You likely will not need any salt or pepper on the veggies; they will be well flavored from all the chicken goodness.

9. Carve your chicken and serve while warm.

Roast chicken dinner with veggies and salad served family style

Roast chicken dinner with veggies and salad served family style

Peach and Blueberry or Apple Crumble

For the most part the Seattle winter has been pretty mild, but right now we’re in the middle of a frigid cold snap.  I think the high today is supposed to be 32 degrees, should make for a fun Superbowl Parade today.  Go Seahawks!

What I really want to be doing is working in my garden, tilling, weeding and puttering… but frozen soil makes that hard to do.  So instead I want to make a dessert that reminds me of the joys of summertime.

I spent most of the summer perfecting my crumble recipe, and I don’t think it’s 100% yet, but it’s super close so here it is.

Raised beds in January

Raised beds in January

Fruit Crumble

Note: This is a perfect recipe for people who want some yummy baked summer fruit, but aren’t pie people.  I’m not big on pie crust, I prefer a think oatmeal-crusty topping.   This recipe can be adapted to any fruit, just increase or decrease the sugar based on the sweetness of the fruit and increase the amount of flour if you’re using watery fruit.

Ingredients for peach and blueberry filling:

3 pounds of frozen peaches and blueberries (peaches should be peeled and cut into slices or bite-sized chunks)

0.25 cup packed brown sugar

3 Tablespoons of whole wheat flour

0.5 teaspoon cinnamon

Peach and blueberry crumble filling

Peach and blueberry crumble filling

Ingredients for apple filling:

8 cups peeled apple slices (~26 ounces)

0.5 Tablespoon lemon juice

0.5 cup packed brown sugar

2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour

0.5 teaspoon cinnamon

Apple crumble filling

Apple crumble filling

Directions for filling:

1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently with a spatula.  Try to get everything evenly coated. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan add another tablespoon of flour to help soak it up.

2. Pour filling into an 8″x11″ baking pan

Ingredients for crumble topping:

0.25 cup whole wheat flour

0.75 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup quick rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

0.5 teaspoon cinnamon

0.125 teaspoon ground cloves (optional: it adds a definite tingly taste that some people love)

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) salted butter cut into pieces

Crumble topping

Crumble topping

Directions for crumble topping:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Put all ingredients into bowl of stand mixer and use paddle attachment on low to medium and mix thoroughly.  You want the butter to be pea sized or smaller.

3. Put topping over filling and bake for about an hour.  If you’re using a smaller dish and it’s really full make sure to put it on a baking sheet to catch and boil over.  The top should be crusty brown and the filling should be bubbling up.

Enjoy with ice cream or home-made whipped cream.

Apple crumble for dessert

Apple crumble for dessert