Friday, January 29, 2010

Eggs and Spinach Breakfast

No recipe this morning. Just pure gratefullness.

Freshly laid eggs, still warm from the nest . . .

Juicy spinach leaves, just picked from the greenhouse.

Put them gently together, garnished only by a light sprinkling of sea salt.

Words simply cannot describe.

To see more about our backyard chickens, click here and here, and here.

Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr.

He needed to be where he was then for us to be where we are now.

Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Earthquake Country Plus a Recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Cheese Soup with Fresh Marjoram

6.5 on the Richter scale is the official measurement of yesterday's earthquake that shook us up around 4:30 in the afternoon.

Sitting in my office chair, I felt a big jolt as if something had hit the building, a pause, the power went out, then bigger jolts, jumps, lateral shaking that scooted my chair several feet away from my desk, rolling - all lasting way too long.

This was a big one.

By that time I was up and out of my chair yelling up the stairs to Mr CC asking if he was okay - my heart pounding.

I'd experienced big earthquakes before in Chile and Argentina. Some of them rumbling through like a freight train on steroids, some of them the toss-you-against-the-wall type. But in all the years I've lived here, through all the earthquakes that happen fairly regularly, I'd never felt one like this. It had it all: that vertigo-inducing rolling, jumping up and down, shaking side to side. It was unreal; hard for the brain to grasp.

Amazingly enough, no damage occurred chez nous; nothing jumped off shelves or walls. Unlike Ferndale, parts of Eureka and Arcata, who all sustained some damage, we live on a rocky marine terrace above Trinidad and somehow escaped the worst of it. Thankfully, no people were badly hurt and no tsunami followed the earthquake - something we are all too aware is a possibility in our triple-junction corner of the world.

So with no power and darkness beginning to fall, we invited neighbors over to share the evening and a pot of soup with us. My trusty 1950s-era Wedgewood gas stove never fails to do the task assigned to it. That I couldn't use my stick blender as originally planned became a non-issue; the potato masher did a fine if more rustic job. The light and warmth from 25 candles, our good friends, a bottle of red wine, and the hand-cranked radio to give us updates, we were doing pretty well.

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup With Fresh Marjoram
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
2 medium-sized heads cauliflower, separated into florets (organic and local is always best)
1 large yellow onion. peeled and chopped
2 Yellow Finn potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (yields 3-4 cups)
1 tablespoon (more if you wish) fresh chopped marjoram or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups chicken stock (preferrably your own, but a good organic, low sodium broth will work just fine)
olive oil
unsalted butter for the pan
1 tablespoon kosher salt (more if necessary) and numerous grindings of black peppercorns
3 cups coarsely grated white cheddar cheese
At least 1 hour before starting the soup, put the cauliflower florets in a roasting pan with a drizzling of olive oil, cover the pan with foil and roast in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
Remove the foil and continue to roast the cauliflower until it is tender - about 20 minutes more. You may need to add a bit more olive oil to prevent sticking and you may need to adjust the heat in your oven to prevent burning.
Begin sautéing the onions in about 1 teaspoon each olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté until the onions are tender. Adjust the heat so they don't burn.
Toss in the white wine and give it a stir.
Add the potatoes, chicken stock, salt, pepper and marjoram to the pot and cook over medium high heat, partially covered until the potatoes are tender.
Add the cauliflower and stir to blend and heat.
Remove the pot from the heat and, if your power is out, mash the soup with a potato masher until all the chunks are broken up.
Alternatively, run the soup through a food mill if you have one. Something I could have done but was vetoed from doing so by the hungry mob.
If you have lots of power, use a stick blender to make your soup smooth and creamy.
At this point you might need to add more chicken stock if your soup is too thick.
Taste and add salt and more pepper if desired.
Stir in the grated cheddar cheese until it is fully melted.
Et voila!, you are ready to sit around the table with candle-power all around you, great friends to talk to and share the events of the day with, and a hearty soup for the earthquake-stressed soul.

What could be better?

Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Buckwheat Crêpes with Chestnut Spread Filling Plus Gifts From Paris

I'd been waiting for oh so long, never giving up hope, checking the post office every day, when finally it arrived.

That old adage, good things come to those who wait, was never more true: The moment I tore into the package and saw what Emily of Tomato Kumato had sent me, I couldn't have been more delighted. How did she know just what to send me? Clever girl!

I knew right away just how I would use the Bonne Mamman Chestnut Spread, which you will see in a minute. The Fleur de Sel is one of my favorites and I was just about to use up the last of mine when this arrived. Great timing, Emily.

Season's Eatings is Katie's (Thyme for Cooking) holiday gift exchange event that pairs bloggers from all over the world and challenges them to send a gift specific to their region to the person they've been paired with. I'm glad I participated this year and plan to do it again next time the holidays roll around. Click on this link to see Katie's roundup. Be sure to come back for breakfast . . .

After going wheat-free last summer, pancakes and waffles were off my list of things to eat, leaving me feeling a bit deprived from time to time. So for some while now I've been working on perfecting a buckwheat crêpe which finally came together a few days before my Paris package arrived. (Showing again what perfect timing Emily has.) This is going to be my go-to recipe when a craving for pancakes gets to be more than I can resist.

These crêpes are light, airy, moist, slightly nutty in flavor, a little sweet, and utterly delicious and satisfying. You don't have to stuff them with chestnut spread as I did for my sons and daughters-in-law last weekend; they are perfectly wonderful on their own or with blueberry preserves on the inside and a bit of cinnamon on the outside.
But . . . If you can get your hands on a jar of this stuff with the cute brown gingham lid, go for it. It's fabulous. A bit sweet. Fruit butter smooth with a slightly grainy tooth at the same time. Perfumed with vanilla. Holy cow! I took one bite and thought, OK, yeah there's sugar in here and I'm just going to live with it for a day.

Buckwheat Crêpes with Chestnut Spread Filling
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
Makes 6-8 crêpes - recipe may be doubled
Ingredients:1/2 cup organic buckwheat flour (see Cook's Notes)
1/4 cup organic brown rice flour
1 tablespoon organic tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine kosher salt
3 packets Splenda (equals approx. 2 tablespoons sugar in sweetness)
1 egg lightly beaten
2/3 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
Unsalted butter for the pan
Sift together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Whisk together the wet ingredients until fully blended.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid mixture into it.
Using a fork, stir until all the flour is mixed with the liquid. The batter could have lumps in it, and that's fine. The batter will be watery.
Melt 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon butter in a 5 to 6-inch pan over medium-low heat, spreading the melted butter to cover the bottom of the pan.

Drop 1/4 cup batter into the center of the pan. It should spread to the edges. If it doesn't, next time use 1/3 cup batter for each crêpe.
Cook until bubbles form on the top of the crêpe, steam begins to form, and the bottom is just turning brown.
Using a wide spatula, flip the crêpe and cook an additional 30 seconds on the other side.
Stack the finished crêpes on a plate and keep them warm, covered with a kitchen towel, until all the crêpes are done.
Spoon Bonne Mamman Chestnut Spread or your favorite filling along one side of a crêpe and roll it up, cigar style. Repeat with the remaining crêpes.
Sprinkle with cinnamon or drizzle with your favorite syrup.

Cook's Notes
For those who are interested, buckwheat is not a grain. It's a fruit seed, related to the rhubarb family, and it's entirely gluten-free. Studies using buckwheat have shown a number of health benefits in humans, which you can read about on the World's Healthiest Foods site.
I would be remiss if I did not brag about our local farmer, Kevin Cunningham, who raises barley, oats, buckwheat and other grains at Shakefork Community Farm, turns them into stoneground flours and sells them to us lucky folks at the farmers market. And although I avoid the grains these days, I'll be stocking up on the buckwheat groats and flour whenever they are available.

Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, A New Decade - Happy 2010!

One day when I was quite young, school in our small town was closed because of heavy flooding . The water covered the street and came several feet up our lawn which was elevated from the street by about 4 feet.

I have no memory of it, but it must have been raining for days for the water to rise that high. We kids stayed in the house oblivious to the havoc outside, and played; happy to not be in school.

The thing that I remember vividly about this small snapshot in my life is that the rain finally did stop and the clouds broke, spilling sunlight over everything including a vivid rainbow that hovered in the west, down Amherst Drive.

My mother must have made a sound because I looked up at her and she had tears in her eyes.

Why are you crying, I asked.

Because the rainbow is so beautiful, she responded.

Why do we get rainbows, I asked.

It's God's way of telling us that everything is going to be okay, she said.

I'll never forget that moment. Possibly because I found it comforting; possibly because it was so unlike my mother to say such a thing (she was not a religious person in any conventional sense and she swore like a trooper. I am very much like my mother.)

The reason I tell you this is because I've been thinking about where we find ourselves on this day, launching into a new year and decade amidst domestic and global troubles and uncertainty. Some of us not knowing when and from where the next paycheck will come. Some of us living on the streets. Some of us living in and with war, violence, abuse. Some of us barely keeping body and soul together. Some of us starving. Some of us cold.

It's a grim picture. And yet, humankind continues on.

I once had a sociology professor who, on the first day of class, said that besides the animal instinct to survive, human beings exist on faith. I thought he meant religion and God and immediately dismissed him. But he went on to explain that it is a kind of faith that we hope and believe that we will continue to exist from day to day for all of our lives, and eat and sleep and love and have children and aspire to goals, doing both great and small things.

I don't know if I would put it just the way that professor did, but as I grow older and look at life from a more existential point of view, I do believe that the things that sustain us most in this world truly are faith, hope and love.

And if we can keep those three words in the forefront of our minds as we go about our day to day living, and if we can keep those three words in the forefront of our hearts when we think about or see the plight of those less fortunate, and if we can keep those three words in the forefront of our deeds (which includes who we vote into office) when we interact not just with other human beings but with all living things, including our planet, then I can't help but believe that everything is going to be okay.

My mother told me so.

Cook's Notes:
Love and gratitude to all my food blogger friends who sustain me in this whacky endeavor of blogging.
In 2010 Christine Cooks will get a new look and, come March, I will have a bit more time in my life to devote to this blog that I love.
Here's a little something to watch, if you would like. And, please, I'm not promoting Starbucks.

Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved