Cookbook Sunday Dinner

I’d like to think that I’m not the only one…but, I love cookbooks. I love getting them as gifts, buying them as a treat, and reading them while lying in bed to unwind from the day before falling asleep. A well-written cookbook tells a story of a cuisine or the author, or both, sometimes blatantly but other times the story telling is so subtle, it’s easy to miss. Most cookbooks are charming and inspirational for me. I love them. Truly. But, admittedly, I don’t often cook from the cookbooks. I read them, frequently many times; but I rarely follow the recipes they contain. The internet or the many magazines we receive provide the recipes we try in our kitchen. And, honestly, I have no idea why that’s the case. So, in an effort to correct my lack of cookbook usage, I’m starting a ‘cookbook Sunday dinner.’ Each month, I’ll pick a cookbook and plan Sunday dinners with the recipes in that specific book. This way, I’ll try out a few recipes in each book–and blog about them. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired, too.

First one up: Heritage by the James Beard award winner, Sean Brock. This cookbook is beautiful; it is a lovely celebration of Southern food and was awarded the James Beard Foundation book award for ‘American Cooking.’ Sean Brock highlights the beauty of Southern cooking, demonstrating that Southern food, at its heart, is farm-to-table and seasonal. Heritage is a joy to read, telling the story of ingredients and recipes, and of Sean Brock. It’s a feast for the eyes and I’m excited to cook my first dish: Farrotto with acorn squash and red kale. This seemed quite appropriate for the first Sunday of October, especially with the autumn colors starting to show and the cool touch to the air this weekend!

img_3965A little note to you, dear reader, the recipe calls for a single bunch of kale and notes that it weighs about 3 lbs. (!!) of kale. Now, I’m not sure how big the bunches of kale are in North Carolina, but my bunch of kale did not weigh 3 lbs., merely about 5.5 oz (about 156 g) and this was plenty of kale. I’m guessing this is a typing error or we’re getting shorted on our bunches of kale in Seattle. Also, my small squash didn’t weigh about 2.5 lbs. as the recipe suggested a small acorn squash would–it weighed in at right about 1 lb. and, like the kale, I think this was enough and it was delicious. And, if you have leftovers, you’re in luck! This dish is reheats wonderfully and taste even better the next day.

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Farrotto with Acorn Squash & Red Kale
Recipe from 
Heritage by Sean Brock
Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side

ACORN SQUASH
1 Small acorn squash
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Scant 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 C vegetable stock*

1 bunch Red Kale or other kale of your liking

FAROTTO
2 Quarts vegetable stock*
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
1 1/2 C farro*
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 C diced white onion
1 garlic clove, sliced paper-thin
1/2 C dry white wine
1 C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Details:

Acorn Squash

  • Preheat the oven to 425 °F.
  • Cut the squash in half, remove & discard the seeds; rinse the squash under cold water.
  • Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with foil.
  • Divide the butter between the two halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast the squash for about 35 minutes or until fork-tender.
  • Heat the 1 C Vegetable stock.
  • Remove from oven, add the melted butter and any juice from the squash to the vegetable stock, then let the squash cool.
  • Once the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the pulp, discard the skin, and add the puree the squash with the vegetable broth.
  • Set aside until the faro is cooked.

Kale

  • Remove the stems from the kale. Stack the leaves and roll into cylinders; cut the kale into thin ribbons.
  • Wash the kale with cool water and drain a few times to remove any grit. Dry the kale with paper towels.

Farrotto (this can be started while the squash cooks, or made up to 3 days in advance)

  • Heat 2 quarts of vegetable stock over medium heat; keep the stock warm.
  • Heat the canola oil in a large skilled over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the farro and stir to coat.*
  • Cook without stirring for 4 minutes; stir and cook for another 4 minutes. Be careful not to burn the farro.
  • Transfer the farro to a bowl and wipe the skillet.
  • Return the skillet to medium-high heat; add 2 Tbsp butter once the skillet is hot and reduce heat to medium.
  • Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent—about 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for another 2 minutes.
  • Then, add the wine and increase the heat to high; cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the farro, stir to coat. Then, add 1/2 C warm stock, reduce heat to medium and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed.
  • Continue cooking, adding the liquid 1/2 C at a time, stirring to prevent scorching and letting each addition absorb before adding more liquid, until the farro has expanded and is al dente. This will take about an hour.
  • If made in advance, reheat over low heat before proceeding.
  • Remove the farro from the heat; add the squash and kale. Stir until the kale is lightly wilted.
  • Place back over medium heat and add the remaining 2 Tsp butter and the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste after addition of the cheese.

*Notes:
-I used a parmesan broth in place of the vegetable stock — 4-5 parmesan rinds and 2.5 quarts of water, simmered for a couple of hours before I needed it.
-I used Blue Bird grain’s Split Emmer Farro. Farro is not a single grain but a family of wheat grains, sometimes called ‘ancient grains’: einkorn, emmer, and spelt. I’m most familiar with emmer farro, also known a farro medio. That’s what I used for this recipe.
-Sean Brock’s original recipe has you cook the farro in the oven for the initial 8 minute toast but I kept the skillet cooking on the stove top with success.img_3983

 

For the love of cake

Growing up, for every birthday and every holiday, we had (still do!) something sweet–sometimes many, many sweet things and always cake. Mostly, the sweets were made by my mom, who stayed up all night or many nights in a row mixing, baking, and, when there was cake, decorating. One birthday, I had a Barbie doll cake with white and pink icing–you know, the one where Barbie is dressed in a fancy ballgown made of cake and icing? I’m pretty sure I had that one more than once because I loved Barbie and all of her friends. For my 16th birthday, I had a three-tiered cake decorated with fresh roses; just about every birthday cake was made by mom. Sadly, I don’t have pictures of these lovely handmade creations but, my mom’s love of baking and creating delicious things for the people she loved was firmly passed on to me. Continue reading

Friends, family, & whiskey

Skip and I spent the last couple of weeks in Kentucky and Tennessee—it was hot and familiar. The first week of our trip also happened to include Skip’s birthday, which was the first full day we were in Kentucky; so, what better way to celebrate his birthday than with whiskey? We started the day with a stop at Waffle House for a birthday breakfast then, headed to the Jim Beam Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky. We learned a little history about Jim Beam; it all started in the late 1700s when a German immigrant, Jacob Beam, made and sold corn whiskey. Centuries later, we have bourbon and Jim Beam makes an insane volume of product—they are the largest bourbon maker in the world. We also popped over to Willett, small by Kentucky standards but high-volume in comparison to Letterpress. We topped off Skip’s birthday day with a fabulous dinner at Decca in Louisville with some of the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had, followed by cocktails at The Silver Dollar.  I’d say that Skip had a pretty good birthday!

The rest of the week included visits to Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and Kentucky Peerless Distilling, along with a quick stop at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Kentucky. All of the tours were entertaining and the guides were very friendly, we learned a few things and tasted a lot of whiskey! We even managed to squeeze in a day touring a couple of distilleries with some friends who joined us for the day from Cincinnati.

Continue reading

Summers, past & present

I grew up in the deep, deep South. Summers–and most of the year–were filled with thick, suffocatingly hot days and the nights were only marginally cooler, sometimes. I was a kid, I didn’t notice. There was a pool to cool off in or a popsicle or ice cream to eat; and, there was fun to be had. Most of my summer breaks included weeks on end at my grandparents house in a tiny town in Louisiana called Mt. Hermon. My mom had grown up there; my grandparents owned a farm–it was my grandfather’s family dairy farm. The summers were, at least in my 41-year old memory, idyllic. Rolling farm land, big sweeping magnolia trees that provided welcome shade to the swing sets sitting beneath their branches, a pool where all the grandkids would spend hours, and the noise of the ice cream churn in the background. It was wonderful and, I know, it was so very hot, but, I didn’t care. Continue reading

Little bit of cheesy southern love

Living in Louisiana and Alabama, I could always find a decent pimento cheese in any grocery store, big or small. When I made my way to Rhode Island, then all the way across the country to Seattle, it was just about impossible to find. Most people, I’m pretty sure, don’t really have the slightest idea what it is and why you’re asking for it. But, I love the stuff. I used to slather it, quite liberally, between two soft slices of white sandwich bread or just eat it out the container with Ritz crackers. The kind you bought was made with processed American cheese, neon orange and tangy. The stuff you make is much better–I don’t make it too often because it’s not exactly health food and I would eat it everyday, seriously. That would not be the wisest decision; but, every so often, it’s a tasty little treat to make and share.  Continue reading

Hot day, cold drink

Wow, it’s warm in Seattle this week! Now, this doesn’t happen that often, and the Southerner in me laughs at the idea that this is hot but…it’s 92 degrees and we DON’T HAVE AIR-CONDITIONING, only a couple of fans. Yes, it’s not humid and the temperature will cool down late at night, allowing me to sleep. But, while I’m awake, the sun is shining, it is hot. Continue reading

Good for your eyes & appetite

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Summer in Seattle this year has been a little grayer and wetter than the last couple of years–still, on those blue sky-kind of days, it’s one of the loveliest places to be. This week is starting cool and rainy and ending (supposedly) with heat and sun. So, I’ve planned our meals accordingly. Tonight, dinner will be cooked in the oven and towards the end of the week, we’ll have a cold soba salad. The one exception, of course, is pizza Friday…unless we go to one of our favorite pizza places for dinner. Hmm, a plan is forming. Continue reading

Love & Cocktails

Skip and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary last week in Big Sky, Montana. I was there for work and he joined me mid-week to celebrate our anniversary with a visit to Yellowstone and a delicious dinner at the Rainbow Ranch Lodge. This was my first trip to Montana and to Yellowstone; it was warm, sunny, and breathtaking. We only saw a tiny portion, mostly the geyser basin, of the park but it was enough to make me want to go back! The highlight of that visit was, by far, the Grand Prismatic Pools—you need to see these, and please, for the love of God, follow the rules and stay on the walk way. Seriously.

When we got married, we tried to do lots of little things that made our wedding reflective of who we are and what mattered to us. Skip’s ‘best man’ was his close friend, Katy; my ‘maid of honor’ was my man of honor, my oldest nephew, Wes. Our ring bearer was our beloved border collie, Oliver, who even wore a tie to the ceremony. Our wedding favors were cookie versions of a fungus plush toy from Giant Microbes made by my talented friend, Lori Trammel; the actual toy was from our engagement and served as our ring pillow. There’s a whole story behind that little fuzzy fungus that I’ll tell you one day! Our close friend, Chris, performed the ceremony.

Our cake topper comprised two handmade figurines–Oliver with a top hat and bowtie and Cricket, my little calico, wearing a veil and daisies. Cricket, unlike Oliver, was not known for her people skills and would not  have enjoyed being at the party for real but she, of course, needed to be part of it! And, two good friends, Elizabeth Lowry and Nathan Yee, were our photographers. Friends and family from all over the country joined us to laugh (lots of laughter), cry, and celebrate. Oh, it was wonderful!

We had a cocktail hour before (& after, of course) the ceremony so that our wonderful guests would have a cocktail in hand while we said our vows. The bride’s cocktail was a basil gimlet and the groom’s cocktail was a take on a Manhattan—guess this was sort of our version of a ‘wedding cake’ and a ‘groom’s cake’. These cocktails put a smile on my face when I make them and remind of the day I put on a fancy dress, had a crazy fancy party, and married my best friend.

The Bride’s Cocktail: Basil Gimlet
Tools & Extras:
Boston shaker, coupe glass

2 oz. Gin
1 oz. Basil simple syrup*
1 oz. Lime juice
Basil leaf

Details:

  • Add everything but the basil leaf to a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill with ice & shake for 30 seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled coupe glass & garnish with a basil leaf.

*Basil simple syrup: Mix 1 C granulated sugar with 1 C water; boil to dissolve the sugar. Once the the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and lightly crush 10-12 basil leaves and add to the syrup. Steep for 10 minutes; strain into a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for 1 month.

The Groom’s Cocktail: Manhattan, Sort of but not really
Tools & Extras:
Cocktail mixing glass, bar spoon, old fashion glass, ice ball or large chunk of ice 

1.5 oz. Rye Whiskey
1.5 oz. Carpano Antica Vermouth
Dash Orange bitters
Orange rind & brandied cherry

Details:

  • Add everything but the orange rind & brandied cherry to a cocktail mixing glass.
  • Fill with ice & stir for 30 seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled old fashion glass with an ice ball & garnish with a orange rind & cherry.