Archive | April, 2012

They’re Baaaaack!

15 Apr

One of the first things I learned in foraging on the Oregon Coast is that Banana Slugs are delicious.  Might I clarify learned, as in, someone told me so.  My pleasantly surprised, “Oh, I have so many of those in my backyard!” statement lead to the thankful explanation that the backyard ones should NOT be eaten.  Those slugs live off poop.

Needless to say, I have not delved into the wonderful world of Gastropods.

Figures, since Sig donates his fair share of excrement to the earth, and waiting for the sun to dry the ground just enough to collect his donations hasn’t happened, since, well, pigs flew around dropping the money that grew on their barnyard trees.  Thus, the slugs are back!  They kill my rosemary plants every year, wrapping their black, slimy, squidgy bodies up and around the very top branch, leaving not one little pine leaf unslithered.  Blech.  And now they have taken a liking to little Siglet, attaching themselves to his furry shorts every chance they get (maybe to get closer to their food source?).  There’s nothing like the comfort of walking around the house barefoot, until you step on a slug.  Squish.

There are many home remedies for slug removal, the most common being beer.  Can’t you just picture it: good ol’ drunk, fat slugs having their own little frat party until they pass out?  (Don’t worry – no hazing involved.  These are civilized slugs.)  And normally, I’d be all for the drunken explosion of herb destroying slimy bugs, but there’s a big problem: Sig. Loves. Beer.  We’d have dead slugs and a slurring Sig.

So in honor of the fact that I can’t kill the slugs, and Sig can’t have the beer, and Rob is underway and is not allowed to have beer, I decided to make a tasty pub concoction: Honey Oat Beer Bread.  Toasted with a slather of Orange Butter and you’ve got a treat that any person, or slug, or Sig for that matter, would enjoy.

A Caution Tested Through Experience: This bread will make your house smell heavenly while baking.  But, like most breads, it’s best after having cooled quite a bit.  So, have a hanky ready (to wipe the ensuing drool) and consume yourself with a good book to avoid scalding your mouth.

Honey Oat Beer Bread with Mandarin Butter (makes 1 loaf) 

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c 5-grain oats, plus more for sprinkling on top (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand) 
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 + 1/8 c honey
  • 1 bottle good flavorful beer 

Mandarin Butter 

  • 1 stick room temperature butter 
  • 2 mandarin oranges, zest and juice 
  • sprinkle of fine sea salt 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the butter, using a small spatula, mix all ingredients together until incorporated.  Taste for seasoning.  When mixed, spoon onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and mold into a log.  Put in the fridge to harden.

For the bread, mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add 7 tbsp of the melted butter, the honey (tip: it pours and mixes better when warmed; just heat for about 15 seconds in the microwave), and slowly pour in the bottle of beer.  With a heavy whisk, mix together until just combined.  The dough should be loose, but thick.

Pour into a prepared greased and flour-dusted loaf pan.  Top with a sprinkling of oats, and then drizzle with the last tbsp of melted butter.

Bake until golden and when a took pick is inserted, it comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Let the bread cool, then spread a dollop of Mandarin Butter on top.




A Spring Story – YUM

9 Apr

There’s an episode of Friends where the gang is trying to explain to Ross the difference between Spring Break (spending a week as a kid at grandma’s), versus Spring Break – WOOHOO! (spending a week in and out of buzzed consciousness on a sunny Mexico beach). It’s funny, as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized neither of the two polar-opposite-mutually-exclusive events are desired.  No offence to grandmas (love you both!), nor Mexico (¡ole!), but this cook and educator wanted Spring Break – aaaaahhhhh. Lots of relaxation at home in sunny Southern California, cooking, eating with family, enjoying the sun, and cooking some more.  All my wishes came true except one: Where was the sun?!

Leaving the winter-weather stricken Oregon Coast to arrive in a grayed-out Southern California was a bit of a surprise, and of course, my luck.  But everything else fit the bill for my favorite things: family and cooking.  My mom and I played a perfected tag team offense cooking for our family, and had our traditional Sunday dinner together.  To give my mom a treat, I decided to make citrus & garlic roast chicken with cippolini onions and asparagus.  Since it’s been a cold spring, the strawberry and flowering arugula salad turned out more bitter than preferred, but still had a So-Cal farm-fresh taste that we don’t see much this time of year on the Oregon Coast.  We pickled fresh garbanzo beans (shelling them makes the most satisfying popping sound), made herbed chicken salad, and more than enjoyed lavender and meyer lemon gimlets.  My cousin and his 100% Italian girlfriend also came into town, and I tried to impress her with my spaghetti and meatballs with red wine marinara.  I had spent the day feeling blue from saying goodbye to Rob (he’s deployed on a big boat out somewhere in the bigger ocean), and the rich red sauce was a perfect complement to craving comfort food.  I left Irvine with a Boar’s Head “loney” sandwhich (Jenn’s coined term for baloney, and one of my favorite guilty pleasure deli treats), and a bit of sadness having to come back to the cold emerald coast.

But now I’m back and while it’s still rainy and glum, the sun is doing its best to break through at every possible moment; so much so that the wild daffodils are once again telling off the rain with their bright cheery blooms.  And bright green spring food is just now starting to make an appearance, much to my happiness.

After a roller-coaster-ride of a week back at work, Easter was greeted with an Easter egg hunt left by Rob (it was hard not to look for the eggs before the actual day!), treaties of all kinds (it doesn’t matter what anyone says – eating jelly beans until a stomach ache ensues is a perfectly fine practice), and a few good friends enjoying good food together.

I decided to tweak Easter brunch a bit this year with some unexpected tastes.  After all, we’re celebrating the day Jesus rose from the dead – I might as well keep my guests on their toes.  Instead of a big ol’ traditional lamb dish, I made it more of a side with braised lamb and lentil salad.  I braised lamb shanks in red wine, balsamic vinegar, and orange juice until it could no longer hold onto the bone and surrendered in tasty submission.  Shredded into a mixture of dried figs, leeks, and French lentils, and then tossed at the last minute with bibb lettuce and basil, the salad acted as the piccolo in an orchestra – subtle, yet clearly noticed.

Next was the pea and mint crepe cake.  Crepes are hands down, one of my favorite things to eat.  But, when entertaining, I’d rather be chatting than flipping.  So getting creative, I made a springy, vibrant green pea puree (with mint, tarragon, and meyer lemon) and lathered it between thin layers of crepes.  Sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts, the unique dish was sliced like a pie, and placed on my prized Vera Wang cake stand.  Again, Jesus’ resurrection – time for the fancy stuff.

The rest of the meal was fairly standard with strawberry bread pudding, lemon poached asparagus, my mom’s deviled eggs, and Rob’s favorite: rosemary maple bacon.  A fine glass of champagne washed down the meal, while the fabulous company made it what it was – a simply nice celebration.

The last couple pieces of left-over crepe cake are chilling in the fridge – my own little celebration awaits me for dinner tonight, and I’m excited.  Sorry, typical spring break scenarios – over the last few weeks, the laundry has piled up, and the window sills absolutely need dusting as my non-work life has been surrounded, consumed, and taken-over by lots of fantastic food, family, and friends.  And that’s exactly the way I like it.  🙂

(pics and recipe to come… stay tuned!)

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