Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kuri Curry Coconut Soup & A Day on the Farm

This pretty pumpkiny thing is a Kuri squash. I picked it right out of the patch with my own two hands along with the butternut and a whole bunch of onions. I'll get back to this.
Photographing pureed soups is just best left to the experts. I lacked the werewithal to come up with photo friendly garnish strategies because this soup was so damn good that I couldn't bear to let it sit around while I noodled around with what?...chives? fried shallots? squeeze bottle drizzle art? No. None of that because I realized that this soup was not about that particular destination. It's the farm to table journey that bears note.
I went to Sonoma last week to get my first gander at the Bi-Rite Farm. I did more than gander. I harvested. I traveled up the afternoon before with a small caravan of co-workers. We spent the night at my boss Sam's gorgeous weekend home, cooking a lovely meal together in a true chef's kitchen around a ginormous island. 
After our meal of chili & cornbread, a few beers and a round of Cards Against Humanity, we hit the sleeping bags and got out to the farm early the next morning.

I picked this crazy lemon cucumber.
This was really overgrown, at first I thought a melon snuck it's way into the cucumber patch. I'd never seen a lemon cucumber until last year when I started working at Bi-Rite. They are ready to harvest when they are the size of a fat lemon, speckly pale green with a blush of yellow. 

We picked the last of the red beans, then pulled up the plants and mashed them into the compost heap. Amaranth weeds were yanked and  fed to the cows next door, one of which was destined for our market shortly and carrot tops were fed through the fence to the donkeys at the other next door farm. There is virtually no waste here. The pretty stuff goes to the markets and the rest goes to the kitchens.

A new crop to the farm... hops. I was invited to tear into one of these buds and rub it around in my hands. It was like perfume. These are destined for a limited edition Bi-rite brew. I've renewed my love of beer since working at the market. I've had the opportunity and great good fortune to be able to taste a vast array of amazing small craft brews and after 15 years of bloaty beer banishment, I am back and truly in love with all manner of hoppy beers. IPA all the way.
I came home with a couple of squashes, a bunch of red torpedo spring onions and fistful of rosemary. I didn't want to get greedy, thinking of what I was capable of using soon and carrying along with my sleeping bag and other gear once we got back to the city.

The very next day I got this going:

I caramelized most of the onions & roasted up the kuri squash. The great thing about the kuri squash is that you can eat the skin. Here's how this all went down:

Kuri Curry Coconut Soup

1 medium Kuri squash cut into 1" cubes
3 spring onions-caramelized
1 teaspoon of Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder
1 teaspoon cumin
olive oil
salt & pepper
2 large cloves of garlic
4 cups water
1 heaped tablespoon Better than Bouillion Chicken broth base
1 can coconut milk

Cook down the onions first. In general it takes about an hour to get a good caramelization if you go with the low and slow method. These farm fresh onions took even longer because they were so juicy...not like the drier supermarket/produce market onions I'm used to that have been sitting around for god-knows-how-long. It took me a while to figure that out. I cooked the first batch within 8 hours of picking. I was seriously thinking "What is wrong with these onions? Why are they taking so long?" City girl. It was really hard to resist turning up the heat to get them to go faster. I refrained. I'm not sure what difference it would have made to the soup, but I like to think a world of...

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the squash with big glug of olive oil, curry, cumin, salt and pepper. Spread onto parchment lined sheet pans, using as many as needed so as not to crowd the pan. Roast for 15 minutes, toss and roast for another 15 minutes.
I had caramelized the onions the night before, so I reheated them in the bottom of the pot with some chopped garlic. Heat up a pot of water and start a broth with the innards of the squash, cooking for about 30 minutes. Strain and add the chicken broth base and dissolve. Add more water if needed to reach 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil. Add the roasted squash wasn't until this moment that I realized I could have roasted a bunch of garlic with the time. Maybe. This soup turned out so great that I seriously had to resist over thinking it.
Anyhoo...let the soup simmer for 30 minutes. Puree (carefully-it's super hot). Return to the pot and stir in the coconut milk. Done and Delish!
This soup is killer with a grilled cheese sandwich to dunk into it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lemon Zucchini Bread

There's been a sad lack of content here these days but that doesn't mean the little kitchen has been inert. In fact, productivity is at an all time high, thanks to the little sister kitchen joining forces with me for a while. It's usually technical difficulties or just plain laziness that inhibits post production. I can't manage to get from the kitchen to the computer, well that's a lie. I get to the computer just fine. Here I enjoy my favorite OCD/ADD procrastination activities along with homemade baked goods. I came home from work last night to a batch of biscotti.
I'm way too easily sucked into that vortex known as Pinterest...not that there's anything wrong with that because that's where I found this little gem at one of my faves, My Baking Addiction. I saw the words lemon & zucchini in the same recipe title and well...the brain went into overdrive thinking about two ginormous lemons one of my co-workers brought me from his tree and that zucchini sitting in the veggie drawer ready for my next round of fritters.
I managed to make it home and make this beautiful bread and it blew me away because it's a rare, rare occasion when I get my mitts on lemons this fresh. I've always been a city girl and small apartment renter. Lemon trees? When was the last time I saw one of those? I don't get out much-but when I come across a recipe that inspires me to commit it to paper right then and there-then it manages to exceed my expectations AND teach me a lesson...well, in my little world, it doesn't get any better.

I learned a lesson about lemons-well, more of a heightened awareness because of course I know that fresh is best. I have this weird thing about lemons. I love them and I always want to have them because I never know when I'm going to be in the mood for popcorn or salad dressing or a spritz in my sparkly water, but every now and then-sad to say-I'll wind up with a lemon or two teetering on the edge of petrification. I've been known to zest up some sad, sad lemons even though they're dry as dirt. 

This was the polar opposite of that.

one ginormous lemon=2 tablespoons zest.

The AHA moment: working the zest into the sugar with my fingertips. The fragrance was out of this world.

Lemon Zucchini Bread
Adapted from allrecipes via My Baking Addiction

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 medium lemons)
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (packed and undrained)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray an 8x4 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest, mixing with your fingertips until fragrant. Add the egg, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in zucchini. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove pan to wire rack and cool in pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto the wire rack to cool completely.
4. Once bread is cooled, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Drizzle the glaze over the bread.
Bread will store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days-if it even lasts that long.

Make this ASAP!! You'll be so glad you did.