Pantry – Mixed Greens Blog Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Other Olive Oil . . . California’s Mon, 27 Jan 2014 01:00:39 +0000 Vatican's olive tree

I’ve taken a circuitous route to olive oil, beginning with the pig, followed eventually by the fruit of the Mediterranean.

Whenever she cooked bacon, which was several times a week, my grandmother saved the drippings in a small aluminum container that had its own built in ‘filter’ in the top. Any bits would remain in the filter and whatever dripped through would be pure bacon grease. Not appealing to some, but pure heaven to those of us who ate my grandmother’s food. She fried steak in bacon grease, potatoes, embellished green beans with a spoonful, and used it to make her wilted green salad, a salad which as a young child I loved. Kudos to bacon grease.  Still true, though I’ve added olive oil to my repertoire. (Though no bacon ice cream for me. There are limits.)


Olives and their oil are not my grandmother’s bacon drippings, but they’re equally delicious. Pork fat, by the way, has come into its own again as a ‘safe’ fat, and some say we should be eating it for its benefits. Likewise with olive oil, its origins the drippings of the olive.

Mixed Greens’ primary focus is about encouraging ourselves and others to eat seasonally, locally and sustainably whenever possible – at least keeping it in mind when consuming whatever and making thoughtful choices. Olive oil and the Mediterranean are ageless and we’re smitten with their history, but there is the other olive oil . . . the California variety. The one that comes from a few hundred miles south of here. California’s Olive Oils Challenge Europe’s , NY Times, October 26, 2011.

December-January 6

Domestic and imported versions look almost the same, are almost the same. However, one was transported five to six thousand miles to arrive in PNW grocery stores, the other more like seven hundred miles. One is steeped in romance and ancient history, the other not so much, though California has a little olive oil history of its own. Olive trees were originally planted at Spanish missions there in the 18th century, thrived for a while and then languished during most of the twentieth century. Clearly there’s a revival happening. Italian, Greek and Spanish oils are not easily abandoned, but we do have a domestic alternative that deserves consideration.

I’ve heard rumors that there may be a gutsy B.C. farmer willing to try growing olive trees. It sounds crazy, but there’s more and more evidence about the variety of foods we’ve given up trying to grow that we might grow successfully again. PNW olive groves may or may not be one of them. So, what’s the point? If you enjoy the taste and health benefits of olive oil, and wish to find ways to diminish your carbon footprint and the affects of global warming, then domestic olive oil is something to consider. Or, you could buy a pound of locally produced bacon every couple of weeks!

While you’re thinking about it all, try this herbaceous mix with a delicious loaf of bread.

dried tomatoes in olive oil

Pour a little dish of olive oil (from California?) and add to it a few morsels from the garden: a sprig of rosemary, a smashed clove of garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Dried Sungold tomatoes from last summer are a luxurious addition. Dive in with a piece of bread, take a bite, savor it and be grateful that seven-hundred-mile olive oil is an option and about five thousand miles closer than the admittedly luscious imports from southern Europe.

.December-January 26

California olive oil can be found in most grocery stores, including  organic Napa Valley Olive Oil (the Napa Valley Naturals brand), and there are options to explore online. Links below are a source of additional information.

Recent New York Times magazine article, Visiting the Source: Olive Oil.

California Olive Oil Council

Napa Valley Naturals


This post is a Mixed Greens blast from the past, originally posted in 2009.

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Polenta Polenta Mon, 25 Feb 2013 02:02:49 +0000 Like with rice, beans and pasta, when you make polenta you’re part of a universal culinary network. Each has its distinctive character and flavor and each has a vast culinary repertoire. Polenta, ancient peasant food, was necessary for survival long before we decided to relish and make it important again. We know this stuff, it’s in our genes.

Pesto Polenta

Pesto Polenta

Maybe you can’t get beyond the polenta is mush is grits mindset. Well yes, grits it is, hallelujah. Polenta cooked properly is soft and luxurious comfort food. Silky even. Gluten free, an egg’s worth of protein in a serving, potassium and vitamin C. Polenta’s pretty good stuff on its own. But make a pot of polenta and embellish it. Like refrigerator soup, use what you have on hand that’s appealing, garnish the polenta and call it a meal as with sautéd sweet peppers and sausage, or with roasted garbanzos and leeks – each described below.

There’s soft polenta and hard polenta. One basic recipe gives you both options, and then get creative. Think about flavors and foods that appeal, decide if it fits with polenta and give it a try.

From The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen Cookbook:

Like grits, polenta is inexpensive and rib-sticking. Like pasta and risotto, it’s a culinary chameleon. You can serve polenta plain, with butter and salt and pepper, white, and yellow. You can grill it and serve it with sausages or with game birds. You can melt sharp cheese on it. You can stir meats or vegetables or cheeses into it. And although it’s made from corn, which often flattens a glass of wine, polenta gets along with wines just fine.

Polenta is one of the oldest foods known to man. The conquering legions of the Roman Empire subsisted on pulmentum, a sort of porridge made from various grains, which they learned about from the Etruscans. Polenta as we know it today, is made from cornmeal, has been a staple of Italian peasant cooking ever since corn was introduced from the New World to the Old. In Italy, the techniques and utensils for making polenta are decreed by ancient custom and observed with reverence bordering on superstition.


Basic Polenta Recipe

From The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen Cookbook. For 4 servings.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 t salt/ 4 C water (I’ve used chicken stock too)/ 1 1/2 C cornmeal, fine, medium or coarse. Fine cornmeal cooks up faster and smoother.

Directions: Use a broad bottomed pan for faster cooking/ Dissolve the salt in the water/ Add cornmeal gradually, whisking or stirring vigorously as you do so/ On medium heat, stir more or less continuously until liquid comes to a simmer and begins to thicken/ Turn heat to low and, using a large spoon, continue to cook and give a thorough stir every minute or so/ Polenta will continue to thicken and eventually begin to stick to itself, rather than to the pot/ 15 – 25 minutes for cooking depending on size of pot and type of cornmeal.

Begin to taste the polenta after fifteen minutes or so of cooking. Some people prefer it with a little cornmeal bite, others not. Cook for a longer or shorter time according to your own preference. Medium ground cornmeal took about 20 minutes. Alton Brown’s recipe for polenta calls for getting it going on the stove top, putting a lid on and finishing it in the oven. Check it out.

For soft polenta, pour into serving dishes or a platter and eat immediately. Add butter if you like, grated cheese, whatever suits your fancy.

For grilled polenta, pour mixture, without having added any additional liquid, onto a flat plate or marble that has been lightly moistened with cold water. Flatten and smooth with a spatula dipped in water and then allow to cool completely. Cut into desired shapes and grill in butter or olive oil, a few minutes on each side until lightly golden. Serve on its own or with any variety of stews, sauces, roasted vegetables . . . with roasted garbanzos and leeks. Recipe below.grilled polenta

Polenta with Sausage & Pepper Recipe

Pesto Polenta with Peppers & Sausage

Pesto Polenta with Peppers & Sausage

Make a batch of polenta. While it’s cooking sauté a sliced onion and red pepper sprinkled with fresh or dried basil and/or oregano. In another pan cook some Italian sausage. When sausage is done and sliced, place together with onion/sweet pepper mixture. Serve on soft, just cooked polenta with maybe a spoonful of tomato sauce and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Grilled Polenta with Roasted Garbanzos & Leeks Recipe

grilled polenta

Grilled polenta with roasted garbanzos and leeks.

Grilled polenta with roasted garbanzos and leeks.

Prepare grilled polenta as described above.

Ingredients & Directions for roasting: Drain garbanzo beans and put in a bowl, toss with plenty of olive oil (2 – 3 tablespoons for 2 cup of beans), 1 – 2 t cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Clean and then slice 2 medium or 3 small leeks lengthwise, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. On a parchment lined roasting pan spread beans and leeks evenly, roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove leeks sooner if they become golden brown.

Roasted garbanzos and leeks.

Roasted garbanzos and leeks.

Dressing: 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, 2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice, 4 T olive oil, 1 t cumin, 1 t lemon zest, salt & pepper to taste/ Whisk together and reserve/ Drizzle 3 Tablespoons on garbanzos and leeks immediately after removing from oven/ Add 1 tablespoon of dressing to yogurt/sour cream mixture/ Drizzle remaining dressing over beans and plolenta when serving.

Sauce: In a small bowl stir to soften 1/2 C plain yogurt and/or sour cream. Stir in 1 T of the lemony dressing. Reserve and use to garnish, to ‘sauce’ the beans and polenta when serving.

Maybe the idea of roasted garbanzos doesn’t appeal. The idea here is to find accompaniment for  grilled or soft polenta that sounds delicious to you. Could be grated cheese is enough.

Some other ideas to get you going: Doesn’t hurt to stir in a big chunk of butter at the end, or some half and half, not too much. Polenta is a perfect vessel for dried wild mushrooms. Rehydrate, chop and add to polenta while it’s cooking. Sauté shallots, mushrooms, any finely chopped ingredient you like and then add the water, salt and cornmeal and proceed from there. Stir in pesto (as shown above) and/or grated cheese, dark greens after the cooking, but while polenta is still piping hot. Stir in a bunch of chopped, fresh herbs as polenta begins to cool. Serve a fried egg and chives along side polenta.

More Mixed Greens polenta recipes: Big Corn, Little Corn,   Polenta Cake


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Chanterelle Sauce, Salute to Autumn Sun, 23 Sep 2012 23:49:43 +0000 Another thing that I’ve put off in my life is learning to forage for wild mushrooms without killing myself and my family. Maybe chanterelles I could safely identify, but do they have a menacing cousin? That’s the tricky part. I hope to eventually check this one off my list, but for now I depend on the Farmer’s Market to fill the need for fresh wild shrooms and dried ones for the pantry. I use the dried version as an ingredient in soups and risotto. Their broth is nectar that, as a culinary sidekick, is unbeatable. I’m serious. Nectar of the forest.

In the meantime, fresh mushrooms are available at Farmer’s Markets. Last week I found chanterelles and made a creamy sauce for pasta. Easy and a teensy bit decadent, the mushrooms prevail and it’s perfect autumnal-winter comfort food.

I followed Langdon Cook’s (Fat of the Land) recipe, sort of.  Omitted the bacon and peas – mind you, I love both ingredients, but didn’t have them available – used a different pasta and a little less cream perhaps. No matter. As with many recipes, use it as a guide and then make it your own. I started with the butter and shallots and proceeded from there. This came together quickly and was delicious. Very mushroomy. Thanks Langdon. I think it’s fair to assume that a person could use a variety of fresh mushrooms for this dish.

If you’re interested in local, seasonal, forageable, and then stories and recipes to go with, Fat of the Land is your go to blog. Langdon is an accomplished forager, cook and writer.

Creamy Chanterelle Pasta Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients: 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter/ 4 ounces thick, quality bacon (4 slices), diced/ 1 to 2 shallots, finely chopped/ 1 pound shaped pasta, such as bow-ties/ 1 pound fresh chanterelles, roughly chopped/ Salt and ground pepper to taste/ 1 pint heavy cream (or less)/ 4 ounces garden peas, fresh or frozen/ 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, with more for table.

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the diced bacon. Do not drain the fat. As bacon begins to crisp, add shallots and cook until tender. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat, and add pasta.

Add chanterelles to the skillet and cook several minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have released their water. Season with salt and pepper. While the chanterelles are cooking down, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and half the cream in a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the warm oven.

Slowly add the remaining cream to the skillet and simmer, continuing to stir occasionally while pasta cooks. When pasta is nearly done, add peas to the chanterelle sauce. Remove pasta from heat, drain, and add to warm mixing bowl. Mix the sauce with the additional butter and cream. Add the grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Another of Langdon’s chanterelle recipes, published recently: Steak and Chanterelle Stroganoff. Haven’t tried it. I bet it’s good.



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Fooling Around With Risotto Mon, 30 Jan 2012 00:03:28 +0000 It’s lemons and clam nectar that I’d like to put on the table, or to be more exact, into a pot of bubbling risotto. If you’ve never made risotto before, it might be time. Perfectly beautiful winter food it is, here are a couple of really simple ways to change it up.

Lemons. It’s a stretch to call them local here in the Pacific Northwest, though California is part of my local circle when it comes to a few things. California olive oil, for example, is wonderful and far more local than Italy or Spain’s. Compared to South America or Florida, California’s my backyard. Clam nectar, on the other hand, is of the PNW. We know grey and rain, beaches, tides and clamming. Lemons, clam nectar, together or separately, they create a risotto that’s so seafood worthy it’s ridiculous.

And this is slow food that’s actually a pretty efficient meal. Prep the rice, broth, shallot, a little wine, the lemon and possibly small pieces of seafood in 10 or 15 minutes, and then . . .  thirty minutes of meditation in the company of a glass of wine and some music or conversation or John Stewart while stirring the pot.

While my husband cooked salmon and made salad the other night, I got the risotto going and decided to play around. Nothing complicated, just some lemon zest and juice stirred into the pot along with chicken stock and Arborio rice, finished with plenty of pepper or lemon pepper if you have it. Served with a piece of Loki grilled salmon on top, and a pinch of fresh dill, it was amazing. But then I’m the person that almost can’t eat fish without a squeeze of lemon. For me it was a no-brainer.

Use clam nectar combined with some water and/or tomato juice as the liquid for risotto making. Again, use lemon zest and juice if you like, and when the rice is just done or almost add a handful of clams, B.C. shrimp, or both, bite-sized pieces of halibut or salmon. Stirred into the simmering risotto, it will take the seafood just a few minutes to cook. Finish with a big dollop of butter if you like, another squeeze of lemon juice and some cilantro, parsley or dill. Brilliant, as Jamie Oliver would say.

Lemony risotto by candlelight.

* I used the zest – finely chopped – and the juice of one lemon for cooking 2 cups of Arborio rice in chicken stock, about 6 cups including some water, stirred in a little at a time. I ended up with four lemon-infused cups of creamy deliciousness. Some of the lemon juice and zest were added at the beginning, the rest at the very end of cooking. Stir in butter before serving if you like, even a little cream.

* Instead of stock or plain water, clam nectar can be combined with water or tomato juice for the cooking liquid.  Add small pieces of seafood when risotto is almost done and cook for just a few minutes. For 2 cups of Arborio rice about 6 cups of simmering liquid will be needed, making about 4 servings.

The general idea. That is to say, this will get you started with risotto. Ingredients are limitless.

Prep: Finely chop 1 medium shallot, 2 – 3 T/ Zest one lemon and chop finely/ Cut lemon in half for squeezing/ Measure 1/4 C white wine (optional)/ 2 T butter/ 1 t salt and pepper or lemon pepper to taste/ Measure 2 C Arborio rice/ Bring 6 cups of liquid to a light simmer – this can be plain water, any broth, clam juice, tomato juice, or a combination/ Pieces of seafood like clams, halibut, salmon, shrimp – which are optional, can be chopped into bite-sized pieces in advance, or while rice is cooking/ Add pieces of almost any vegetable – some will need to be par-boiled or sautéed before adding about mid-way through cooking time/ I like to add rehydrated wild mushrooms and their broth, chopped kale or chard, thin spears of asparagus when in season.

After prep proceed to cook Aroborio rice in the usual way until it becomes the creamy Risotto we know and love: Sauté shallot in butter for just a few seconds/ Add 2 C of rice and cook together for 1 minute/ Add wine and cook until it nearly disappears, another minute or so/ Season lightly now with salt & pepper, and adjust when risotto is nearly finished/ Add about half of the lemon zest and juice/ Stir in simmering liquid 1/2 C at a time until it just covers the rice/ Allow rice to simmer, uncovered, with occasional stirring until broth has ‘disappeared’ into the rice, then add more liquid until rice is barely covered again and stir/ Proceed in this manner until rice is tender and creamy, about half an hour/ Heat up additional broth or water if a little more is needed/ When rice is tender or nearly so, adjust seasoning, add seafood, if any, and the rest of the lemon/ Cook just a few more minutes until seafood is done/ I like risotto ‘juicy’ so I stop cooking while there’s still plenty of liquid present/ Optional: stir in 2 T of butter/ Garnish with fresh herbs like cilantro, dill or parsley, a slice of lemon.

If you’d like a subtle lemon flavor, cut the amount of zest and juice in half, add more if needed. Sometimes I add a little cream, which is against the rules for classic Risotto, but hey, I’m fooling around. It’s allowed. And it tastes realllly good.

*Getting to Know Risotto, a basic recipe.

* A recipe for preserved lemons.

Next I’m going to make risotto with last summer’s preserved tomato sauce. I’ll add 2 cups of water or broth, maybe more, to a quart of sauce until it becomes a thinnish liquid of 6 or 7 cups. I’ll use that for broth and add it, simmering, to the rice a little at a time – as it is with risotto-making. Parmesan and a touch of cream at the end, I think it’ll be delicious. But then last summer’s tomato sauce is culinary magic. I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be enhanced by its presence. The thing is to not be afraid to mess around, especially with flavors that you know have already won your heart.

First time for risotto? Follow a recipe. The particular cooking technique is important.

A Bon Appetit Lemon Risotto recipe via

Backyard rhubarb patch in late January.

It’s nearly Imbolc, February 2nd, Ground Hog’s Day, halfway to spring. As if to underscore that point our very old yet vigorous rhubarb plant in the backyard is doing its normal late-January thing, bursting through its own mulch with hot pink nubs of new life.


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My (Almost) Edible Gift: Homemade Nutella Mon, 12 Dec 2011 03:40:21 +0000

Just mention nutella to anyone who’s tried it and their eyes will light up and you can feel their fingers itching to grab a spoon and dig in. That’s what inspired me to try my hand at a homemade version of this addictive chocolate hazelnut spread. I had visions of slipping a jar into gift boxes imagining the delight it would inspire on Christmas morning. I wish I could say that I have half a dozen jars, all neatly tied with a festive red ribbon but that’s not how my vision turned out. I’m writing this not to discourage you (or myself) from giving it another go but to tell you where I went wrong and hopefully save you from making the same mistakes I made.

First I watched an online video on how to make your own homemade nutella based on a recipe from the L.A. Times. She made it all seem so easy-breezy, said it takes 20 minutes to make. I was thinking an hour, max and I’d have several more gifts checked off my list. I was using local (and expensive) hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards so I thought I was off to a good start. The recipe says to roast them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. First mistake — this was way too long and they were burnt but I couldn’t tell because the skins were so dark. Next they tell you to rub the nuts together in a damp tea towel to remove the skins. I tried this and ended up with a badly stained white linen towel and only a couple of the skins removed.  It was time to consult another recipe. It turns out there are two methods to remove hazelnut skins, one works, the other, not so much. I then dunked my already-over-roasted hazelnuts into about a quart of boiling water with 3T baking soda, boiled them for 3-5 minutes, then ran cold water over them in a colander. This method, called blanching, removes the skins but by now the nuts were soaking wet and too far gone to roast any longer so I stuck them in a warm oven to try to dry them out.

My next mistake was thinking that my 20-year-old-duct-taped food processor was strong enough to make the creamy hazelnut butter shown in the video. Nevertheless, I gave it a whirl and ended up with something that resembled and tasted very much like coffee grounds. I kept going thinking maybe adding the oil at the end would bring it all together. Adding the dry ingredients (unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar and salt), some vanilla and now the whole thing was incredibly dry so I started adding oil, first a little, then a lot. After 10T, I gave up, grabbed a carton of milk and started splashing and stirring until I ended up with something at least spreadable — no longer vegan, which at this point was the least of my problems. You may be wondering how it tastes and I’d have to say, it’s really not bad considering. I even attempted to make some hot chocolate using a couple of tablespoons stirred into hot milk. It wasn’t pretty, sort of grainy and definitely not gift-worthy.

  After this attempt, I snuck outside with what was remaining after I filled a small jar and tossed it into the yard waste feeling like I was destroying the evidence. At least it was good for a laugh when Charlie got home from work and he so sweetly agreed to eat the rest, but he’s just like that. You don’t have to worry though, you won’t be receiving any in your gift box this year unless I get inspired to give it another try.

Here, instead, are some tried-and-true recipes that make excellent gifts:

California Fruitcake                               Candied Hazelnuts                    Roasted Cranberry Sauce

Chicken Liver Pate                                   Beet Infused Vodka                       Salt Cod

Happy holiday gift-making!





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Happy As A Clam Pasta Mon, 07 Nov 2011 01:57:57 +0000 Happy as a clam? The quote in its entirety explains a lot: Happy as a clam in mud at high tide. A clam at high tide cannot be dug up and eaten, and is, therefore, a happy one. Our state has plenty of clams, Razor, Geoduck, Manila, Butter, Littleneck . . .

Either fitting or odd that my dad, an eastern Washington farmer/rancher/rodeo guy, loved the Washington coast so much. Clams, smelt, oysters, he went for it. Once, when he discovered that we’d hit a smelt run, he took off his pants – we did too – knotted the legs, waded into the surf and started scooping. When in season, we went for razor clams, his favorite. He brought my brother and me into the muck along with him. No matter the time of day, we were there at low tide with boots, burlap sacks, buckets and those narrow, flat-nosed clam shovels. Mostly we clawed into the sand with our bare hands. Freezing cold, sandy mud and wet, we didn’t notice until after. Our mission was clams and we went all in. I mean that literally. For supper we’d eat razor clams in dad’s chowder, smaller clams breaded and fried with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

When John Hinterberger, Seattle Times columnist and restaurant critic, published his clam spaghetti in the Seattle Times in 1987, of course, it caught my eye. I followed his recipe exactly at first and after a while his clam pasta became my clam pasta. Our recipe calls for dried herbs and pasta, canned clams, nothing fresh save the onion and garlic, which is why it was, and is, such a good pantry supper. White wine, mushrooms and olives appear in a revised version, but I’m not budging. Clams from a can? Some of us might be scornful, as I was. I got over it.  A person can’t turn her back on something this convenient and delicious. We took these ingredients on our Utah camping trip last spring and it was a Coleman stove gourmet dinner in two pots in about 30 minutes. Once you’ve gotten past the canned clams, then go ahead and try it with fresh clams. They’re local, as is Hinterberger.

His pasta has been part of our supper routine for a long time now and we’re happy as you-know-what about it. I looked through my own recipe archives hoping that maybe the original was there. I must have been a little obsessed with losing it at the time. I found the original 1987 newspaper clipping, a photograph on one side, recipe on the other, and I’d made three copies. Smitten from the beginning I guess.

Thanks to Hinterberger, and to my dad who got me going with clams and cooking. This is the original recipe, hot off the 24-year-old press.

John Hinterberger’s Clam Spaghetti Recipe

4 – 6 servings. This is a light sauce, coating pasta just so and underscoring the clam flavor. Make it with canned, or, if you must, with fresh clams.

Ingredients:  ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided (I use less.)/ 1 dried red chili pepper, finely chopped/ 1 large onion, chopped/ 3 large garlic cloves, minced or mashed/ ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried/ 1 tablespoon dried oregano/ Salt and pepper/ 2 cans (4½ ounces) chopped clams, drained with liquid reserved. (I use 3 cans)/ 1 pound dried spaghetti/1 cup chopped parsley/ Pimento, chopped (optional)/ Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

1. Put ½ cup, or less, olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet and heat slowly. Add the dried chili pepper, chopped onion and garlic cloves. Cook slowly for about 30 minutes or until the onions are very soft. (I often add red pepper.)

2. Add to pan the basil, oregano, salt and pepper and liquid from the clams. Continue to simmer until liquid is reduced. Keep warm.

3. Bring kettle of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook spaghetti until just al dente.

4. As pasta is cooking, add the clams, parsley and 3 tablespoons of cheese to the sauce and simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes. Add pimento, chopped, if desired.

5. After draining the pasta, stir into the sauce and toss. Sprinkle generously with grated cheese and serve directly from the skillet.

With fresh clams: Same basic recipe, but instead of the liquid from canned clams, reduce 2 cups of clam nectar by about half. While pasta is cooking, put fresh clams in the lightly simmering sauce, cover and steam until clams open, 3 – 5 minutes. Remove clams, toss pasta with sauce, add remaining cheese. Serve with clams, a squeeze of lemon and a little more parsley.

What’s for dinner? Keep clam. Hinterberger’s spaghetti is waiting in the pantry.


This recent NY Times recipe for clam pasta uses roasted tomatoes in the broth. Roasted tomatoes? I’m in. Add a half cup to Hinterberger’s sauce or follow the NY Times recipe.

Harvest Washington State clams on your own? Check this out.

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Tale of two cities, two pastas Mon, 28 Mar 2011 00:57:10 +0000 When in Maine eat lobster, in Philadelphia a Philly cheesesteak, in Seattle salmon or Dungeness crabcakes. Regional culinary pride. In Italy there’s ancient culture in a town’s particular sauce or pasta dish, determined by whatever can be found or produced from nearby.

Pasta Carbonara

While in Rome last spring, we consumed bowls of Pasta Carbonara, while in Montepulciano, Pici alle Briciole. Both will melt your heart with their deliciousness and both are simple, which is the hallmark of the best food anyway. Recipes for both are below, along with the handmade pici pasta.

Both of these pastas are right out of the pantry, if you consider the fridge part of the pantry. Delicious food that can be prepared in a hurry with what you might have around anyway. And these can be mostly local meals by using a locally produced hard cheese instead of Parm – there are plenty around – eliminating or substituting bacon for the Pancetta, and local eggs are abundant at Farmer’s Markets. In summer there are plenty of ingredients grown nearby for the Aglione sauce.

Pasta Carbonara Recipe

One of the most luscious, easy meals ever. Make the sauce while the pasta cooks, stir it all together and dinner is ready. Classic Roman food. I am whispering this next part because it’s so anti-carbonara – you could skip the pancetta and have a meatless, creamy pasta.

Ingredients & Directions: This makes enough for four servings. While cooking approximately 16 oz. of spaghetti, linguine or fettucine-style pasta, prepare everything else. (I used Tinkyada’s fettucini-stylebrown rice pasta the other night, cooked it about nine minutes. Delish.) Dice and sauté 3 – 4 oz. Pancetta in a large pan until well-browned, add 1 T finely minced garlic, stir together for another minute, turn off burner and set aside/ Combine 1 egg, 3 egg yolks, 1 C half & half (or combine cream and whole milk), 2/3 – 1 C finely grated Parmesan, 1/2 t salt, & pepper to taste.

When pasta is done, drain it and immediately add to the pan with Pancetta & garlic/ While pasta is piping hot, stir in the uncooked egg mixture. Use tongs or a pair of forks and mix thoroughly. Though you’re not supposed to – you don’t want to fry the egg – I usually turn the burner on very low for 20 seconds or so while mixing constantly.  Turn burner off, continue tossing the mixture. The hot pasta cooks the egg just enough, sauce thickens and coats every single noodle. Place steaming hot pasta into serving bowls, top with plenty of additional Parmesan and freshly ground pepper. Fresh or frozen peas are a good addition.

In the time it takes water to boil and the pasta to cook, 20-25 minutes, dinner is ready. Bon Appetito.

Pici Pasta alle Briciole

We climbed up and around the nooks and crannies of Montelpuciano one day and late in the afternoon stepped into La Grotta dei Sapori, Bruschetteria & Wine Bar, for a glass of the region’s famous wine, Vino Nobile. That and a few nibbles. A courteous chat with the owners who spoke a little English, certainly more than our bare-bones Italian, turned into a full blown conversation, halting, awkward and hilarious at times, all of us with dictionaries in hand. We discussed our wedding days, marriage, and eventually we got to food. In the end Gianna and I were pouring over our dictionaries in order for me to make sense of the famous local pasta she wanted me to know about. Pici Pasta alle Briciole.

She described how to make both the pasta and its topping, how to roll out and stretch the pasta by hand, how her mother and grandmother had taught her. With some skepticism about my own ability to pull off Pici pasta without an Italian grandmother in the wings, I took it all in, wrote down some notes, no exact measurements, and swore I would try it at home.

I finally had to dig in and give it a shot. The handmade Pici pasta from scratch takes some time, but is so much fun. Ten minutes to mix and knead the dough, another hour for it to rest, and then another 45 – 60 minutes for rolling out and creating the Pici-style pasta. I had to commit and then be patient. I have to say, with music in the background and a rustic aesthetic in mind, this pasta is supposed to look handmade, my husband and I spent a meditative 30 minutes spinning the pasta. It was so worth it, but you could skip the handmade pasta, use whatever pasta you like and make just the topping. Still a fine meal. If you like crunchy parmesan garlic bread, or can imagine liking it . . . that’s the topping and it’s easy. Note: next time I’ll make a finer breadcrumb mixture. I believe that’s the intention, the custom with this dish and will improve it somewhat.

Pasta alle Briciole Recipe

Thank you Gianna. This is my attempt at honoring her generosity and the wonderful evening spent in her and Antonio’s Montepulciano wine bar.

These are the ingredients she wrote down for the topping: garlic, oil, medium fine breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmigiano. Here’s my interpretation of her verbal directions. Sauté 2 T finely minced garlic in plenty of oil, 1/4 C or so, for just a few seconds/ Add 3 C fresh bread crumbs to garlic, toss and toast with salt & pepper on medium heat until crispy and golden, 5 – 10 minutes/ Remove from heat/ When cool add 1 C chopped, fresh parsley and 1/2 C Parmesan to breadcrumb mix. Next time, I’ll make finer breadcrumbs. In retrospect, these were too coarse.

When pasta is cooked and drained, reserve some of the liquid, toss pasta with plenty of additional olive oil, a few tablespoons of grated Parm and enough pasta water to create a creamy consistency. Place in a large bowl or in separate serving dishes, top each dish with a generous amount of the topping plus additional cheese as needed. Elegant in its simplicity, ingenious . . . another way to use leftover bread in a most delicious way. TGIF, front steps, warm sunset, glass of wine and this bowl of pasta. Not Tuscany, but a delicious Seattle moment none-the-less.

Pici Pasta Recipe

If you’re not in the mood to make pasta from scratch, Bucatini would be a reasonable alternative. But if you are in the mood to roll up your sleeves and get down with some flour and egg, you’ll appreciate making these handmade noodles and how good they are with any topping you like, though Braciole and Aglione are traditional. Alle Briciole, recipe above, and Pici alle Aglione: “many garlic, paprika, parsley, tomato, cheese”.

Here’s how I made the pasta, using Gianna’s ingredients and her description for stretching the noodles. This makes enough for 2 very hefty or 4 small dishes of pasta. And, I found Hunter Angler Gardener Cook which offered excellent pictorial instructions on the making of Pici Pasta.

Ingredients: 1 C semolina/ 1 C all-purpose flour/ 1 T olive oil/ Pinch of salt/ 1 large egg/ 3 T water (or a little more if needed).

Directions: Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix them together and then create a shallow well in the middle for the egg and water/ Mix together with a fork or with bare hands until sticky dough begins to come together, a couple of minutes/ If dough seems excessively dry add a teaspoon or two of water, if too wet and sticky, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour/ Knead for 7 or 8 minutes right in the bowl or on a flat surface/ Shape kneaded dough into a disc, cover and let sit for an hour.

Divide dough into four sections and work with just one piece at a time, covering the rest. Roll out the small piece into a thin rectangle, or whatever shape you can manage. Dough should be 1/8″ thick give or take. Slicing down the longest edge, cut noodles about 1/3″ wide – they’ll look a lot like fettucine at this point. Then, in order to roll them, I found I had to roughly pinch each piece in order to unflatten it so that I could then roll it. Once the noodle is pinched and unflattened – which takes just a moment –  do what you did in grade school with a piece of clay. Roll from the center out like you’re making a snake, stretching lightly as you go. (And yes, the pasta even looks a little snakey, which is a little creepy, let’s not go there.) Repeat the rolling from the center out a couple of times until noodle is viable and anywhere from 8 – 18″ long.

It turned out to be easier than I thought it would be and I love the idea of making a pasta noodle by hand, no machines. It took me and then my husband thirty minutes or so to make the noodles.

Bring salted water with 1 T olive oil to a boil/ Cook pasta for 4 – 8 minutes, depending on size of the noodle. Drain and toss with more olive oil and whatever topping or sauce you like. The Briciole topping is like crumbling your favorite crunchy garlic bread all over the pasta, then throwing in some parsley & Parm. Not too shabby. Thank you Tuscany.

Poppy’s recent post, A Poor Girl’s Parmesan, shows the versatility of this mostly toasted bread topping known as Pangretto.

My grandmother’s non-Italian egg noodles.

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Fruitcake Good Enough to Eat Thu, 17 Dec 2009 09:35:25 +0000 California Fruitcake

I admit that I might have had a little problem with the traditional candied fruit and cake product. Winter’s culinary ritual perhaps, but show me one who loves fruitcake and I’ll give you ten who don’t. (Or am I way off about this?) Poetic justice happens and when I got married fruitcake was part of the deal, a large family’s holiday favorite. Oh great, I thought. Turned out to be not a problem. At all.

What changed? Solstice brings Roberta’s fruitcake and it’s good enough to savor, to long for, to put on the holiday table, to wrap up in a package for anyone you love. Abundantly endowed with dried apricots, dates, and walnuts this is the fruitcake that’s become tradition in our family. And there’s room for innovation like dried plums from the backyard, dried cranberries or apples, almonds or hazelnuts . . . the character, the beauty of this fruitcake is in its dried fruit and nuts with just a little binder, eggs, flour and sugar, no fat and nothing whatsoever candied. Fruitcake gift

I know I’m beating the drum, and loudly. Here’s the deal. My mother-in-law, Roberta, found our California Fruitcake recipe in a 1960s Sunset magazine, recognized its potential, made many loaves every Christmas for decades and distributed them widely to her children, friends and family, gradually converting dozens of Pacific Northwesterners to the other side of the fruitcake debate. And I have to say that every one of us is glad to be here, eating fruitcake and liking it, not as a courtesy, but in grateful adulation.

Thanks to Roberta’s culinary tenacity, and Sunset, loaves of fruitcake multiplied, along with our devotion to them. Family tradition now. California Fruitcake

The thing about fruitcake in general is that we came to it, well, our ancestors did, out of necessity. Traditionally, fruitcake was a way to savor fruit mid-winter, a way to use whatever had been dried from the previous summer. Fresh strawberries, blueberries, bananas, lemons and oranges are recent winter commodities (and, contribute to a hefty carbon footprint as they’re transported from southern to northern latitudes each winter). A hundred years ago you might have had dried fruit like apples, apricots, cranberries, grapes, peaches or plums preserved from the previous season, walnuts from a neighbor’s tree. Fruitcake was, and is, about using a previous summer’s preserved bounty in winter. Ingredients can be stored on a shelf in the pantry, back then it was the cellar.

Another thing about this fruitcake, OK any fruitcake, is that each slice is an eyeful, a collage, a fruity kaleidoscope of color and curve, a stained glass window of food . . . sigh.

That Sunset magazine’s gone, but each of Roberta’s children has a handwritten copy of the recipe. Culinary legacy is a pretty wonderful thing to pass on and Roberta has. (See Bert’s Brownies in a previous post.) Her children, her friends and cousins make this fruitcake, as will their children, and theirs.

California Fruitcake

Ingredients: 3/4 C flour/ 1/4 t baking powder, 1/4 t soda, 1/2 t salt/ 3/4 C brown sugar/ 2 C whole, pitted dates/ 1 1/2 C apricots, coarsely chopped/ 3 C walnut halves/ 3 eggs and 1 t vanilla, beaten together until frothy/ Parchment or waxed paper-lined small loaf pans/ Preset oven to 300º. Note that other fruits and nuts may be substituted. The dates, though not a local fruit, provide a rich base.

Bowl of flour with whisk Frothy eggsBowl of dried fruits and nuts Flour covered dried fruit

Directions: Sift flour, BP, soda and salt together/ Mix together with sugar in a large bowl/ Add fruit and nuts, stir together to coat/ Add eggs and vanilla to the fruit and dried ingredients/ It becomes a wonderful gooey mess of mostly fruit and nuts. Unbaked fruitcakes

Spoon into small loaf pans – 4 very small or 2 larger pans – lined with wax or parchment paper/ Bake at 300º/ Time will vary according to pan size. Original recipe suggests 1 1/2 hours, convection baking requires less time, and a little more than an hour is about right in our oven/ Toothpick testing doesn’t work – you have to take a visual read on the fruitcake, even remove it from the oven for a moment, peel off a corner of the parchment, which I did, take a peak and return to oven if you like/ An hour and fifteen minutes, give or take, works for me/ Remove paper immediately after baking is complete. This is important/ Place on rack to cool/ Slice the fruitcake, savor its beauty and fruity deliciousness. Happy Holidays.


Previously published holiday favorites:

Roasted Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Upsidedown Cake

Pear Ginger Upsidedown Cake

Spicy Candied Hazelnuts

December 25th Breakfast: Salmon with Eggs & Potato Gratin

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Bring Pears to the Party Mon, 09 Nov 2009 09:03:08 +0000 Put a pear in a red dress and she’ll dance all night long. And she’s got moves.


We love her decisively pear-shaped bod and the way she fans the culinary flame at the swivel of her ample hip. Party animal. Local pears are in town for the holidays offering feastworthy fare from salads to chutney to desserts. Put your party dress on, grab a pear and get cookin’.


Etta’s Pear Gingerbread Upsidedown Cake


Roasted Pear & Radicchio Salad with Hazelnuts & Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

Radicchio’s bitterness is softened with grilling or roasting and is a zesty partner for honey roasted pears, toasted hazelnuts and blue cheese. A gorgeous winter salad, throw a few dried cranberries on top if you have them. A little extra effort is required for the roasting of the pears and radicchio, toasting hazelnuts, but it’s worth it, and the blue cheese dressing comes together quickly.

Roasted Pear & Radicchio Salad Recipe

with Hazelnuts & Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing


Peel, cut in half and core 2 pears. Place sprigs of thyme on a parchment-lined baking pan, place pears, cut side down, on top of thyme. Drizzle with 2 T honey. Roast in a 350º oven for 15 minutes.

While pears roast, lightly oil, salt & pepper quartered pieces of radicchio. Roast with the pears, for 8 – 10 minutes, remove from the oven, cool and slice.

Lightly toast 1/2 C hazelnuts, or more ambitiously, make  sweet & spicy hazelnuts. Chop coarsely for salad.

Dressing: 3 – 5 oz. blue cheese (reserve half of it), 1/2 C sour cream, 1/4 C mayonnaise or yogurt, 2 T half & half or whole milk, 1 small peeled clove of garlic. Mix together in a blender, or by hand with a whisk. If it’s too thick, add a little more milk.

Assemble a mix of radicchio or mazuma and arugula among four salad plates – or whatever greens are available. Drizzle with plenty of creamy dressing. Top with 1/2 roasted pear, a few bits of the reserved blue cheese, and a generous handful of coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Grated fresh pepper. Good way to start a party.

Etta’s Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Recipe


This Tom Douglas recipe arrived in the mail several years ago when he was doing monthly newsletters. We love it.

Makes a 10-inch cake, serving 10 or 12 people. Active time 30 minutes, total time 1 1/2 hr.

The Topping: Preheat oven to 350º/ 2 1/2 firm pears (like Bosc), 1/2 stick melted butter (1/4 C), 3/4 or 1 C packed light brown sugar.

Peel, core and slice the pears. 1 1/2 large pears, sliced, filled my pan./ Brush the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan with some of the 1/4 C butter, reserve the rest/ Press the brown sugar in the bottom of the pan and drizzle the reserved melted butter over it/ Arrange pear slices in a circular pattern over the brown sugar-butter mixture/ Set the prepared cake pan aside.

The Gingerbread Cake: In a large bowl whisk together 2 eggs, 1 C melted butter, the zest of 1 orange and 1 C sugar/Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together 1 C brewed coffee, 1/2 C molasses and set aside/ In yet another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 C flour, 2 t baking soda, 1 t salt, 1 t cinnamon, 2 t ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg/ Alternately add the wet (coffee-molasses) ingredients and the dry ingredients to the egg-sugar mixture/ When the batter is completely mixed, pour it into the prepared pan (over the pears, sugar & butter).

Bake at 350º for 40 – 45 minutes or until done. Full disclosure. This gingerbread was slightly undercooked. Delicious anyway, it needed more like 50 rather than 45 minutes baking time.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in the pan 5 – 10 minutes, then run a knife around the outside edge and carefully invert pan onto a large plate. Lift the pan away and there you have the circle of caramelized pears on top of the ginger cake. Dark and rich and gooey, with or without cognac-spiked whipped cream, this is another of the versatile pears’ party moves.


Pear Ginger Chutney Pear Chutney Delicious with pork, chicken and turkey, a great gift. Doesn’t have to be preserved, it will hold refrigerated in a jar for two or three weeks.

Speaking of parties, we’re all invited to participate in the Eat Local Thanksgiving challenge. “The Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign was created to shine a public spotlight on the connections that buying locally has to the environment, use of fossil fuels and energy, supporting our local community, and helping keep our local farmers farming.”

I might end up eating my words, but with Farmers Markets offering abundant autumnal fruits, roots and greens the challenge of putting local food on the Thanksgiving table is readily attainable. A little more thought might be required to find a local/regional turkey, but they’re around too.

COMING SOON: We’re updating, and we think, uplifting our site. Same Mixed Greens header, same broads at the helm, but with more photographs, easier maneuvering for readers, we hope, and a photo gallery. A couple of weeks away give or take. Stay tuned.

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Roast It! Apples, cranberries, tomatoes . . . Thu, 05 Nov 2009 01:49:53 +0000 Apples, cauliflower, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, cranberries . . . you name it, you can probably roast it. Starting with this applesauce.



My roasting memories involve a chunk of meat on Sundays with a pile of vegetables that were conveniently roasted along side. The word roast was synonymous with the meat so I grew up assuming that you must have to have a piece of meat to legitimize the roasting. Not so much. Roasting has come into its own as a process that adds dimension and a culinary exclamation point to any fruit or vegetable. And that would be FLAVOR.

On a roasting bandwagon, I consulted the internet to find out something about the science and was immediately delivered to Wikipedia and introduced to the Maillard Reaction. A lot of scientific jargon in the first couple of paragraphs, but the bottom line is flavorization (my language).

“The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat.”

“In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds in turn break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to create artificial flavors.”

A devotee of almost anything roasted as the easiest and most delicious mode of preparing vegetables and fruits, especially when it’s cool outside, I hadn’t thought about applesauce until now. You literally pile the ingredients into a big pot, put the lid on and leave it alone. Take it out, stir and you have applesauce that, for me, surpasses anything I’ve had before. The same sort of epiphany I had with tomato sauce this summer – just roast ’em dammit, and the sauce will reveal itself.

Roasted Applesauce Recipe


Ten, fifteen minutes of prep.

Ingredients Place together in a large roaster: 6 or 8 peeled and quartered apples (I used Braeburns & Granny Smiths)/ 1/3 – 1/2 C brown sugar/ 1/2 – 1 t cinnamon/ 1/2 C apple, orange juice or water (I used apple juice)/ Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt/ If you’ve used a red apple, place a couple of long strips of peel onto the top, easily removed later and it adds color to the sauce. roasted-applesauce-2

Directions: Lid on, place in a 350º oven for 45 minutes; stir apple mixture and return to oven for another 30/35 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir together thoroughly, including scraping the darkened caramelization from around the edge of the pan. This applesauce is thick, which is part of its appeal. Eight apples yields about 4 cups of sauce.

This has the potential to burn after about 75 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot. Set a timer, don’t lose track.

While apples are roasting, make a mustardy/garlicky rub for a pork loin. This herb topping is a guideline for any ingredients you’d like to emphasize. Mix it up and spread it over the top of the pork. For a  2# roast: 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 t finely chopped fresh rosemary, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper,  1 T mustard, 1 t olive oil. Stir together and pat the mixture over the top of the pork. Make more or less of this rub as you like. You can’t mess it up. Cook at 400º for ten minutes, turn down to 325º and continue to roast to an internal temperature of 160º, which will take another 35/40 minutes, depending.

Easy dinner. Aromatic, herb encrusted slices of this roasted pork – cooked in the oven along with the apples, together with the deliciously flavored pan juices – precipitated a collective family swoon the other night. Second thought, maybe it was the World Series.

It’s possible these days to buy pork that’s sustainably raised, local or at least regional in origin. PCC carries Pure Country Pork from Euphrata, WA , for example. Sea Breeze Farm has pork available at some Seattle Farmers Markets, and Audrey from Eat Local Northwest tells me that Lopez Island Farm pork is excellent.

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower roasted-cauliflower-2-1

roasted-cauliflower-2-4 roasted-cauliflower-2-3 Preheat oven to 425º/ Slice the cauliflower into 3/4″ wide sections, or cut into florets/ Place cauliflower on a parchment-lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil/ In a small dish mix 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t cumin, 1/2 t chili powder, 1/2 t paprika, 1/2 t salt, & pepper to taste/ Sprinkle this over the cauliflower/ Gently toss florets/ Roast uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes or until fairly tender. Remove from oven, add a sprinkle of sea salt and serve.

During roasting natural sugars are seduced and reawakened. Vegetables and fruits caramelize and darken, signaling that the science has happened and it’s gonna taste good. Roasting elicits something extraordinary in vegetables and fruit that we might as well take advantage of. It’s easy cooking. Pop it in the oven, set a timer and walk away. Brussels sprouts in the backyard, you’re next.

More roasting possibilities: Oven Fried Sweets (sweet potatoes) from Shelley at the Tom Douglas blog.

Previous MG roasting postings:

cranberries Roasted Cranberry Sauce,

Roasted Root Vegetables,

tomato-sauce Roasted Tomato Sauce

Gourmet magazine, November 2009, inspired the roasting of cauliflower, and Mangochild host of the Living in the Local Zone blog inspired its spicy rub. Ima Garten, Food Channel, opened my eyes to oven-roasted applesauce. Check out her oven-roasted vegetables.  Fellow cooks, thank you.

Turn on the oven and roast on.

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