Hitting the carrot jackpot

I love carrots!  You knew that, didn’t you?  If you didn’t, you do know.  Love them so much that years ago, while in high school, I ate so many that I think my skin turned kind of orange.  I’ve tamed my appetite since then, but still think carrots are wonderful.  Not all carrots, mind you.  Some are too old or large to still be sweet.  But when you find good ones, I think they’re like gold.  Only orange colored.

My boss likes to garden,  He has a large garden at his country home, and this year had a bumper crop of carrots.    However, none of his household members are all that crazy about carrots.  So he brought some into work to share.

I brought home a large bucket of very tasty carrots.  They were just begging to be part of dinner.  So tonight I prepared them for dinner using a recipe from Tyler Florence.

Roasted Carrots with Orange Brown Butter

Scrub and peel a bunch of carrots.   The recipe said to leave the top on, but since the carrots came to me already shorn, that’s the way I fixed them.

Place in large, shallow baking pan and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in 400 degree oven for half an hour or so (until tender when pierced with a fork).

On top of stove, in saucepan, melt a few tablespoons butter.  Keep heating until it starts turning brown, then add a few tablespoons of orange juice and a half tablespoon of brown sugar.  Heat a few more minutes to thicken.

Take roasted carrots out of oven and drizzle with orange browned butter.

Last step – pile on your plate and enjoy!

Sue and the beanstalk?

The Yakima Valley is paradise when it comes to summer produce.   The rural farm stands and city farmer’s markets are filled with a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Dave and I went down this morning to check out the Yakima Farmer’s market, and left when we could not easily carry anything more.  Since we’d been gone for two weeks, the refrigerator was pretty empty.

We brought home  sweet peppers (green and purple), several pounds of nectarines, an eggplant, cucumbers, beets, leeks, and sweet cornWe didn’t buy tomatoes since our tomato plants in back of the house are starting to bear lots of both cherry and large tomatoes.  The surprise in the backyard is that the pole beans I planted last spring are still alive and thriving.  We don’t have much garden space so I decided to try container gardening for beans.  We filled up two barrels with soil, and added a tepee of bamboo poles for the beans to climb on.

First the birds ate the sprouting seeds until I covered the entire area with netting. Then the insects came in and munched away.  I seriously considered ripping out the plants and giving up.  But I didn’t.  At some point the vines started to thrive, and when we returned from vacation I was pleased to find that the two containers are now forming a trellis.

Yes, here I am, barefoot as usual.  And drawfed by the bean stalks.   I picked off the “too large” beans yesterday when we got home and was surprised that they weren’t tough like I expected after cooking.  Today I picked a bunch of “just right” sized  beans, and will make a Chinese inspired dish of sizzling green beans (like we enjoy in Seattle when out for dim sum).

Chinese style Green Beans

1 lb fresh green beans
vegetable oil cooking spray or 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon gingerroot, peeled, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Wash beans, trim ends and remove strings.

Arrange beans in a vegetable steamer (or a colander that will sit nicely in saucepan), and place over boiling water.

Cover and steam 5 minutes.

Drain and plunge into cold water, drain again.

Coat a large nonstick skillet (or wok) with cooking spray or peanut oil and heat until hot.

Add gingerroot and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Add beans, saute 5 minutes.

Combine 2 tablespoons water and remaining 5 ingredients.

Stir well.

Add to beans, cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly.

Roasting in the Pacific Northwest

It’s hot here in Selah. No, not outside, where the temperatures remain unseasonably cool. Highs in the mid ’70’s, evenings really cool in the ’40’s. Not like the Midwest which seems to be roasting hot outside.

No, it’s hot in my oven, where I’ve been roasting cauliflower. Are you saying “ewww” right now? Well, don’t. It’s the simplest possible “non-recipe” for turning something kind of plain into something really yummy. Cut up a cauliflower into small flowerets. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place in 400 or so degree oven (anywhere between 400 and 450 works for me) for about half an hour. Part way through remove and toss around with a spatula. Remove, sprinkle with coarse salt, and see if it actually makes it to your dinner plate, or instead gets nibbled away in the kitchen and magically disappears.

Tonight I served this with a dish of “starter chicken curry” (blogged a few months ago), except I used quinoa instead of rice. Whole grain goodness with mild, delicious taste.

Once it finally heats up outside, I’ll stop roasting things inside (the oven). Until then… happy eating for us!

Slow baked asparagus…as Spring slowly approaches

OK, OK.  It’s been ages since I’ve blogged.  I honestly hope that my formerly loyal readers don’t even catch that I’m back.  As I don’t know whether I just took a long break, or this is just a fluke post.

Spring.  The apple trees are in bloom and the Yakima Valley is looking absolutely beautiful.  The sagebrush has new leaves of (incredibly!!) sage green color, much different than found later in the summer as everything dries up.   Spring flowers are in full display.  Even the blossoms on the locoweed are lush and lovely this year (with warnings from me to the cows to “stay away – makes you crazy. Look but don’t taste”.)

And I am once again in love with asparagus.  It’s back in the stores- local and cheap.  Filling my shopping basket, and then my head, with visions of spring dishes.   Look and then definitely do taste! I thought that I had this one down pat.  Either steam it, grill it, or roast it in a hot oven after drizzling with olive oil.  And then I read an article in the New York Times last week about “slow cooking asparagus in paper packets” It included this recipe:

Baked Asparagus With Shiitake, Prosciutto and Couscous

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed

1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch strips

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons; additional for drizzling

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Grated nutmeg

3 tarragon sprigs

3/4 cup whole-wheat couscous.

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (it should be twice as long as pan). Lay asparagus in a pile in center. Scatter mushrooms and prosciutto on top. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg. Toss vegetables to coat evenly. Lay tarragon over top.

2. Fold parchment to completely enclose vegetables, and staple top and sides shut (or tie up with string). Transfer pan to oven and bake for one hour. Asparagus should be just cooked through. If too crisp, return to oven until done to taste.

3. In a small pot over medium-high heat, bring 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons olive oil and remaining salt to a simmer. Stir in couscous and remove pot from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

4. Spoon couscous onto serving plates and drizzle with oil. Divide prosciutto and vegetables, and their juices, among the plates and serve.

Yield: 2 main-course servings, or 4 side-dish servings.

I got our my roll of parchment paper and got busy – altering the recipe. No shitake mushrooms here, so regular white cremini will have to do. No prosciutto either. But I did have some Canadian bacon that I cut into little strips. Also no tarragon sprigs, so dried tarragon had to suffice. I put everything together, got out my stapler (great suggestion to use this instead of string) and popped it in the oven. I doubted that anything would even cook 200 degrees. But an hour later, when I took it out, it was heavenly. WOW! I tried it again a few days later and took it out after 45 minutes. Still WOW!. This is a keeper.