Allium Green: 2010


I've moved!

Thanks for visiting Allium Green. I've renamed my blog and moved platforms. Please come and visit me at Kitchen Chronicle where you'll find all my old posts along with a new design and lots of new content.


Sunday afternoon lunch


We have been eating well lately. That trip to Montreal; some cranberry beans simmered in broth with parsnips, carrots, onions; a wicked-spicy Thai-inspired rice noodle dish; and then... then the buckwheat crepes. Last weekend in Montreal, I had another buckwheat crepe with Nutella in the Jean-Talon Market that made me swoon. So when the February Bon Appetit arrived with a feature dedicated to buckwheat, well, the crepes definitely had my name on them. 

I made the batter yesterday, actually while Hubby was making oatmeal for breakfast. And we tried just one with melted butter and brown sugar along with our oatmeal. And it was heaven. Brown sugar and buckwheat? Seriously good stuff. So I stuck the batter in the fridge until lunchtime and then sliced a ripe pear and some blue cheese for the second round. Excellent.  

But today's batch was the best. I sauteed some shallots and mushrooms and folded the crepes around the mushrooms along with sour cream- and with that meal, this recipe made it into my canon. It is just enough outside the ordinary standbys to feel a little exotic, but flexible enough that I made three versions without a special trip to the grocery store. I am smitten. And you don't need a special crepe pan- I used a non-stick saute pan, and it worked just fine (though if you're the kind of guy or gal who likes an excuse to buy new kitchen gadgets, by all means, don't let me stand in your way here).

The mushroom crepe, with some red wine, and a little bowl of the aforementioned beans in broth, somehow felt more like a summer lunch than one where the windows are lacy with frost. And smack in the middle of two weeks where the temperature is hovering around zero, that is just about what I need right now. Enjoy.

Buckwheat Crepes with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sour Cream
As I mentioned earlier, I played around with several different fillings for these crepes and none of them disappointed. Feel free to adapt to suit what you have in the fridge, or your own taste. 

For the Buckwheat crepes: 
(adapted from February 2010, Bon Appetit magazine)

1 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
3 large eggs
1/4 c. canola oil
3/4 c. whole milk
1 1/4 c. water
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 160 degrees. Put large plate in oven to warm. Whisk all ingredients together in a mixing bowl, taking care not to leave lumps. Heat 10 inch non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Brush the bottom of the pan with oil (or not- I kept forgetting and it wasn't really much different than when I did) and drop a ladle-full of batter onto the pan, swirling it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the crepe for 30-45 seconds or more, until golden on the bottom. Then gently slide silicone spatula around the edges to loosen crepe and carefully flip onto the second side. I used my fingers for this more often than not once I'd pried up the edge with the spatula. Cook the second side for 30 seconds. The slide the crepe onto the plate warming in the oven. Return to oven and continue with remaining batter.

For the mushroom filling:

3 large shallots, finely diced
2 large handfulls shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced
shiitake mushroom caps, diced
canola oil
2 glugs dry white wine
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 tb. butter
salt and pepper to taste

Heat skillet over medium heat and lightly cover the bottom with canola oil. Add shallots and mushroom caps and saute until softened. Add sliced shiitake mushrooms and sage. Season with salt. Saute until mushrooms are soft and starting to brown. Add white wine and saute a few more minutes until liquid evaporates. Turn off heat and add butter, and salt and pepper to taste.

To fill crepes:

Buckwheat crepes
Sour cream, to taste
Mushroom filling

Take warm crepes out of the oven. Spread a dollop of sour cream on one crepe. Spoon a soup spoon's worth of mushrooms over the sour cream. Fold crepe into quarters. Serve immediately.


January thaw

It rained yesterday, like nobody's business, ruining all our lovely snow and uncovering all the debris we never managed to clean up this fall. Let me remind you that this is January and that, really, we'd all just as soon be skiing. These cruel January thaws just make spring feel that much farther away. Yesterday's rain yielded today's flooding and ice jams which tends to raise blood pressure at work along the banks of the Winooski River. And I have to say that that's pretty much what this week has been like. I sort of wish I'd get the same kind of warning that the weatherman gives on the radio: "This week: expect flooding and ice jams. Do not try to ford high water or otherwise accomplish feats requiring skill or sound presence of mind. This could be bad."

As just a wee sample of my frame of mind, allow me to present exhibit one. Today at the gym, some very unkind person flagrantly crossed out my name on the sign up sheet for the treadmill and wrote in her own. I'll be honest, I was torn between sitting down on the floor and sobbing and going over and yanking her sorry ass off the treadmill in indignation. Fortunately, I did neither but you know that stress is creeping up on you when you're standing in the gym, sweaty and irritated that it's only Tuesday, and find that someone's thoughtlessness reduces you to visions of hair pulling and name calling. And then, finally at home and excited because some frames we'd ordered for photos had arrived, I watched my cat calmly squat in the middle of the empty box and pee on it. Yes, it's shaping up to be one of those weeks, folks. Flooding and ice jams. This could be bad.

It's been kind of going like that lately. So in a fit of cabin fever and a desperate need to get out of my house, I talked Hubby into a spontaneous drive up to Montreal this weekend. It was such a relief to get out of the house, get a little urban exposure, eat some yummy food. On Saturday, we drove straight to the Jean-Talon Market, my new favorite spot in Montreal, and spent the early afternoon taking photos, eating, and speaking very bad French. We then wallowed in the pool, sauna, and steam room before heading to dinner.

If you ever get to Montreal, I seriously recommend eating at Le Nil Bleu. This is super delicious Ethiopian food and there's nothing else like it. It's in the plateau section of town, which was a brisk (Read: freezing. The rain had not yet come.) 20 minute walk from our hotel. And let me digress for a minute to say that I am deeply envious of people who can do this on a regular basis. There is no such possibility at my house. We cannot walk anywhere that's practical and I have to say that part of my cabin fever lately has come from all the damn time I spend sitting in my car, driving to work especially. So, anyway, I was appreciating the walk, cold as it was.

But the food. The food was truly lovely. The foundation, literally, of the meal is a huge, flat pancake called injera, made of fermented teff flour. On top of this pancake is a whole array of curry-like stews. We had one with yellow lentils, one with chicken with a sauce that was not unlike mole, a spicy-hot beef stew, and lamb and vegetables that was warm and perfumed with herbs. In the middle of all this was a little salad of lettuce, tomato and onion. With this platter, they bring a plate with strips of injera rolled into little scrolls which you unroll and use to scoop up the stew, eating the whole mess with your fingers. There are no utensils, which I have always loved after living in India. And when you've eaten all your stew, you thriftily eat the injera from the bottom. Pretty neat, eh?

I am sorry to say I have no photos of this meal. As we set out for dinner that night, I considered bringing my camera and elected not to. I then immediately found a million things I wanted to shoot. I will learn someday. But in lieu of that, allow me to share some other photos from Montreal. And along with it, my sincere hope that your week is warm and dry with no ice jams in sight.


Comfort food

There has been so much in the news this week about the earthquake in Haiti. It's hard to know what to say in response to such a horrible suffering. It's been a dark week and my response to this sadness has been mostly to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Food as comfort is something we're all familiar with so I offer this post and recipe as my best shot at comfort. I wish I had more to offer.

That time in the kitchen has meant more of Orangette's caramel corn, a lemon poppy seed cake that I may make again tonight, gratin dauphinois from the Joy of Cooking (thinly sliced potatoes baked in cream or milk, akin to scalloped potatoes), and chicken Marbella. It's the chicken Marbella that I want to tell you about. It's warming, homey, a nice balance of sweet and salty and sour, and easy to make. We almost always have the ingredients for this, or at least enough of them, and I think it's hubby's favorite way to eat chicken.

I've adapted the recipe from a faded photocopied page from the Silver Palatte cookbook, sent to me by my sister-in-law. She once sent an overnight package to us with a vacuumed sealed bag of the marinade, with instructions, and vacuumed sealed bread to accompany the chicken. All we had to do was add the chicken and bake. It was a very welcomed gift.

Lots of people seem to make a version of this recipe; this is mine.

Chicken Marbella (loosely adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook)
I have completely changed the seasonings in this recipe and omitted the cup of sugar it calls for sprinkling over the top just before baking. I think that the dried fruit offers plenty of sweetness.

8# of bone-in chicken, cut into parts
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
3T dried sage
pinch dried, ground rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes (we didn't have quite enough, so I added a handful of raisins)
1/2 cup pitted olives
1/2 cup capers
6 bay leaves
1 cup white wine

In a large bowl, combine the chicken parts with garlic, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper, vinegar, oil, prunes, olives, capers and bay leaves. Marinate up to 24 hours, refrigerated. (Though I only let it sit for 20 minutes or so and it was just fine).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chicken in a large baking dish - you may need to use two - keeping in a single layer. Distribute marinade between two pans and pour the wine over the chicken. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the juice from the thighs run clear when poked with a knife.

Serve over rice.


Making it through the winter

It is the first weekend in recent memory where the sun came out. After nine days of snow and freezing rain, the sun was damned welcome. We spent yesterday snowshoeing, skiing, and playing around with our cameras, and I thought I'd share some photos. Several of these are part of my 365 series on Flickr

Much of the time when it was snowing, I was considering chocolate. (Come on, who wouldn't? I said it was nine days of snow and freezing rain, remember?) And  I am pretty sure I need to hand in my chef credentials (er, well, figuratively - I don't actually have any). I, apparently, cannot manage to melt chocolate successfully. I even have an actual double boiler. I know I just need to look this up, and probably stop using chocolate chips, and well, just look it up. But instead, I was stomping around my kitchen, getting progressively more frustrated, as my chocolate in its fancy All-clad double boiler just turned into paste. Damnit. Why does this happen? Someone who is savvier than I am in the kitchen, please explain. I have done this before and it works out just fine sometimes, and not well at all other times. Sigh.

Anyway, what I'm really here to tell you is that I have been making this lovely little chocolate treat for a while and I thought it might be nice to share. It's hardly a recipe. It's not really anything special. Except that it uses lovely ingredients- dark chocolate, nuts, citrus zest... can't go wrong, right? Well, unless you have the aforementioned chocolate problem.

Yes, I know, this is January. The month of vegetables and tofu and vows to make friends with the elliptical trainer. And I am, I swear. I have a new gym membership that I'm semi-serious about. And I have a charming new mid-day ritual involving my husband's new XC skis and the groomed trails at my office, plus trails outside my back door. But, well, dark chocolate is good for you, I hear. So feel free to exercise your own will power. But know that this is a stellar grown-up nibble for that mid-afternoon lull.

Chocolate Candy Goodness 

I'm leaving it up to you to work out the chocolate melting thing. I can't be held responsible for how it goes in your kitchen. But do try this out. It's super easy and a nice little after dinner treat. I also pretty much throw any kind of nuts, fruit, and citrus I have into this. Experiment with different flavors. I think the only thing I wouldn't do without is the salt. That makes it perfect.

8 oz. chocolate, finely chopped
splash of Cointreau
handful of walnuts, chopped
zest from one grapefruit
freshly grated nutmeg
coarse salt

Melt chocolate (ahem). When smooth and glossy (unlike mine), fold in Cointreau, walnuts, and grapefruit zest. Working quickly, spread chocolate out on parchment paper and spread to 1/4" thickness. Grate fresh nutmeg lightly over chocolate and sprinkle with coarse salt. Let the chocolate cool then break into bite-size pieces.


Something new, every day

I did complain a while back about the lack of snow, right? Well, I no longer have anything to complain about because we have something ridiculous like two feet of snow that's fallen in the last 48 hours. Everything has that frosty, muted look that big snow gives. And it has come just in time for my new venture for the year.

One of the things I've loved best about this blog is the motivation it's offered for taking photographs. Short little essays are well and good, right? But the photos break it up and give you something to think about if you're not enraptured by tamales, for example. So I've enjoyed getting to know my camera better and learning to look at the world with a bit of a frame around it.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon Flickr (thank you, Tara). If you're at all interested in photography, this is one of those places where you will get lost, without question. It's a place to share photos, learn from others, and generally - as I said - lose a lot of time perusing. There's a group called Shutter Sisters 365 for people who have committed to taking one photo per day for 365 days. I am now one of those people.

This is my attempt to take the next step, photographically, and to challenge myself to pay attention - every day of the year. Come on over and check it out. If you click on the album labeled Project 365, you'll find my days of the year, laid out one by one.


A New Year to Try

On the last day of 2009, Hubby and I took a walk. The light was the flat, blue light that comes with cloudy skies and snow on the ground. We went away for a week and came back to a thick layer of snow, so welcomed after the bone-chilling, cold, hard ground we'd left. And so, I elected not to go back to work just yet and we went for a mid-winter walk. Hubby was very patient while I took a few photos.

The end of a year, the end of a decade, it demands a bit of introspection, I suppose. I'm not sure I'm up to summarizing or otherwise finding meaning in a whole decade. But 2009, well, that's something else. So, for you, and for me... some moments of note from 2009:

January meant drinking rum punch at ten in the morning with my in-laws and snorkeling with sting rays in Jamaica.

The death of a beloved grandmother and another bittersweet trip to Colorado in March.

Watching daffodils I'd planted the previous fall start to break through the cold ground in April.

May was the month of planting all things green and beloved in my garden with Hubby.

The start of this blog. Will anyone want to read? What will I write? Oh, how I love this blog now.

June meant a trip to Bellingham, Washington (beautiful Washington) to see friends.

And then a stopover in Ohio for a fourth of July replete with Americana and family not seen for years.

Niece and nephews camping out in the backyard felt like summer as a kid.

The tomato blight devastated gardens and farms all over the east and I sincerely, truly, thought I would escape this plague.

The abundance of summer, nevertheless, overwhelmed me as usual.

I jumped, at work, and the net appeared. This was not without stress.

Hubby and I spent the first ever Thanksgiving together with his family, a few days early. And then spent our own, together alone.

Another year, we made our trek down the eastern seaboard for the Christmas holidays- 1200 miles in eight days.

And now, home again, another year is spread out before us, ready to be tested, tried, tasted.
Happy New Year.