Grill’n Between Storms


Grilling in February isn’t unheard of where I live. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are many winter days that are sunny and dry. On days like that, that come between storms, I get the urge to roll my little grill out of the garage where I keep it and grill away.

Today was one of those days and I found myself in the mood to grill. But what?  A quick inventory of the the fridge turned up fennel and asparagus which both grill up nicely, a further search turned up up spring lamb chops.

Now that I knew what I was going to grill I headed to the back yard for some herbs. Rosemary, definitely a must have, for the lamb. Some thyme for the veggies, but not English thyme, I have some lime scented thyme in my garden.  I know lemon is a good accompaniment to both asparagus and fennel, so why not lime?  I marinate the lamb in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, the asparagus and fennel in olive oil and the lime thyme.

I decided to add one item that didn’t require grilling, a nice soft “pumpkin” polenta. I had some roasted winter squash left over and decided that this recipe from The Tra Vigne Cookbook, Seasons in The California Wine Country, by Michael Chiarello was just begging to be tried. It was fantastic. The perfect accompaniment to the grilled lamb and veggies.

Put a little summer into your winter days by firing up your grill in between storms.

Soft “Pumpkin” Polenta

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch ground white pepper

5 tablespoons polenta

5 tablespoons semolina

1 cup roasted winter squash pureed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine stock and cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the polenta and semolina and cook over very low heat, whisking regularly, until the grains are soft, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the squash then the cheese.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Asparagus

Fennel

Lamb chops

Rosemary

Thyme (lemon or lime)

Garlic

Winter squash

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Are You Still Using Plastic Bags?

Last year I decided that I would buy some reusable produce bags to use during my weekly foray to the Farmers’ Market. I bought several styles and use them every week.  While the bags I bought are not  as neat looking as the ones highlighted here, they function very well and best of all I’m not using the plastic bags I loth so much.

courtesy sustainablebite.com

In the hope that I can motivate some of you to switch from plastic to reusable cloth here’s the source for these really nice looking reusable produce bags. They are from Bite, sustainable food storage systems. The bags are not only good looking, they are ultra-light, durable, machine washable and made in the USA. Click on the “Buy The Bags” link for descriptions and pricing.

You can also check out my previous post regarding reusable produce bags here. You’ll find links to the sites where I purchased the bags I use there.

If you’re one of the many shoppers who now take your own reusable bags to the grocery store, please carry that idea one step further by carrying some reusable produce bags too. You’ll be doing the environment a big favor.

Ever wonder why some onions are yellow, some red and some white? Me too!

Last weekend I was up in Minden, NV. It’s beautiful up in the Carson Valley with the snow capped Sierras framing their western view, and it’s only a short 30 minute trip to Hope Valley and snowshoeing or even less time if you prefer skiing at Heavenly Valley.  But, the best thing about that area is one of my sisters, Judy, lives there. I made the trip “up the hill” to help her move. It was an easy move in that we only had to move her things a few blocks. We’d load up my Explorer and her Escape, drive a couple of blocks, unload, and then go back for more. We worked like this for a couple of days then we decided we needed a break so we took off for a couple of hours of snowshoeing up by Red Lake off Hwy 88. It was a nice break for the three of us. Judy’s black Lab, Ellie, had been having a hard time with the fact that we kept taking the stuff from the only home she has ever known to this other place. The change in scenery and routine was a boost to all our psyches.

There are no year-round Farmer’s Markets in the Carson Valley area. Their market season runs from around May till September. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find local produce. You just have to know what’s available and where to look for it. Luckily, Judy knew that Nevada white onions were available and she knew where to find them. She also knows I love them. So, on one of our outings we stopped to pick up a nice little bag of white onions grown in Yerington. I could hardly wait to cook with them. The next morning I made omelets with white onion, bacon, avocado and cheese. Delicious.

Yesterday as I was photographing the onions I got to thinking about the different colors they come in and wondering what the differences were.

I found the answer on the National Onion Association‘s website:

The Color of Onions
Onions come in three colors – yellow, red, and white. Approximately 87 percent of the crop is devoted to yellow onion production, with about 8 percent red onions and 5 percent white onions.

Yellow onions are full-flavored and are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French Onion Soup its tangy sweet flavor. The red onion, with its wonderful color, is a good choice for fresh uses or in grilling and charbroiling. White onions are the traditional onion used in classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed.

I had no idea that white onions made up only 5 percent of the onions grown. Considering how much I love them I’m really glad they grow so well up in Nevada and that my sis lives there so I can buy them local.

Why Simple Unpretentious Food is so Important to Us All.

Jamie Oliver has been drawn to the restaurant kitchen since he was seven or eight. First working in his father’s pub-restaurant and then training in England and France, he not only displayed incredible culinary talent but also a passion for creating fresh, honest and delicious food. Although he is now one of the worlds top celebrity chef’s, his commitment to simple, unpretentious food remains and with it his drive to break people’s unhealthy eating habits and get them cooking again.

With the obesity epidemic growing globally, Oliver is using his notoriety to bring attention to the changes Englanders and now Americans need to make in their lifestyles and diet. Campaigns such as School DinnersMinistry of Food and Food Revolution USA combine Oliver’s culinary tools, cookbooks and television with more standard activism and community organizing to create change on both the individual and governmental level.

Recently, Jamie activism was was recognized when his wish for help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity was recognized by TED,  a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.  He was asked to speak at TED 2010, which is currently being held in Long Beach, CA and awarded  $100,000.00 prize to help in making this wish come true.

You can learn more about Jamie’s action plan and help needs on the TED Prize site.

Please watch the outstanding video of Jamie’s presentation. I know you will be as inspired as I was and that you will want to join in supporting the movement towards erasing obesity from the world’s list of diseases. You can watch the video here.

Some contents excerpted from TED Prize site.

Macadamia Heaven – A Valentine From Me To You!

This is, far and away, my favorite Valentines’ Day dessert. It’s a luscious combination of dense chocolate cake studded with chopped roasted macadamia nuts, topped with a semi-sweet chocolate ganache, and all sitting atop a beautiful raspberry coulis. It might look complicated but it’s quite easy to prepare and more than easy to enjoy.

Happy Valentines Day!

MACADAMIA HEAVEN

Cake

¾ cup roasted macadamia nuts

1 tablespoon flour

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs

½ cup sugar

Ganache:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

3 tablespoons cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Raspberry Sauce

2 baskets of fresh raspberries or  210 oz. packages frozen raspberries, thawed

¼ up powdered sugar, or to taste

Prepare cake: Generously butter an 8” cake pan. Preheat oven to 350°. Finely chop macadamia nuts, add flour. Melt chocolate with butter until just melted in top of double boiler.

In large bowl, beat eggs with sugar. Beat in nuts and melted chocolate. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until cake almost tests done-don’t over-bake. Cool 10 minutes. Invert to wire rack and cool completely.

Prepare ganache: In top of double boiler, melt chocolate with cream and butter, stirring frequently until smooth. Quickly pour ganache over cake, turning cake so glaze falls evenly over top and sides.

Prepare raspberry coulis: Puree raspberries and strain out the seeds. Add sugar and stir well.

To serve: Pour a small amount of raspberry coulis on each plate and top with a thin slice of cake.

Serves 12

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Raspberries

Macadamia nuts (available at some Southern California and Hawaii Farmers’ Markets)

Eggs