Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween! Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

OK, are roasted pumpkin seeds really worth writing a blog post about? Such a simple thing. And yet… every single time I make them, I am wowed by how good they are. Somehow I forget, and then I taste one hot from the oven. I taste them and think, goodness these things are awesome. Plus, it's fall. They're essential. So here it is. A post for the humble roasted pumpkin seed. On Halloween no less.

I bought a pie pumpkin thinking I would be good and roast it up for a pumpkin pie or muffins rather than use good old Libby's canned. But after just a couple of days decorating the table, I noticed that it had already started to rot and realized it had to be roasted immediately. I sliced it open, but found that it had just too many areas of full-on mold. So I salvaged the seeds to roast on their own.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat the oven to 325º. Rinse the seeds under cold water immediately after scooping them out so that the fibers don't have time to dry out and permanently attach themselves. Remove as much of the fibers and strings as possible and shake them out to dry them. (I don't recommend using a paper towel to blot them. Every single one will stick to said paper towel. Damn. I learned that the hard way. Scatter them on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and spread into even layer. Roast until browned and crisp, about 25 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container — or scarf them down while still warm from the oven!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shop Update: Stanley Thermos

It's been quite some time since I've had a new print in the shop, but here you go: Stanley Thermos for your warm, toasty beverage of choice. (Mine being coffee, of course!) It's a new piece for what I think of as my "Favorite Things" series. A nice compliment to the French Press, also part of the series, since the two are part of my morning coffee rituals. I've also almost completed updating my inventory with the gift tags and variety of sizes of each print I now offer — almost! I hope to be on a roll with some more new pieces soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beneath the Wreath

The holiday season is coming on all too quickly and the first of several shows I'll be participating in is less than two weeks. Beneath the Wreath is hosted by the Junior League of Grand Rapids and runs from November 6 to 8. It is a juried show that raises money for local charities. I'm excited to be a part of it and can't wait to do some shopping while there.

First Born by Richard Lamson

I am particularly looking forward to seeing the work of Richard Lamson of Birdville Art. I love what I've seen of his sculptures online. They are colorful, playful and fun. I can't wait to see them in person!

Bob Bear Canoe by Linda Chamberlain

I'm also interested in seeing the paintings of Linda Chamberlain. I have a special thing for bears and this image just charms the heck out of me.

For the complete list of vendors, check out the Junior League of Grand Rapids web site.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now I Can Say I've Tried It: Jerusalem Artichokes

As mentioned yesterday, I've been trying out some new ingredients in the kitchen and will be telling you about them as I go. Today: Jerusalem Artichokes, or the sunchoke.

1. Purchase unusual ingredient.
I didn't even know what Jerusalem artichokes looked like. But I saw a sign for them at the store saying they were from a local farm and felt compelled to try them after hearing about them for years. The sign was surrounded by a variety of vegetables and I wasn't sure which item it referred to. By process of elimination, I picked up two small knobs that looked like a cross between ginger and a potato. When I went to check out, the clerk asked me what they were. I had to laugh and say that I thought they were Jerusalem artichokes but wasn't really sure. The man behind me in line confirmed for us that they were indeed. Whew.

2. Prepare unusual ingredient.
After a little internet research, I found that some people peel them, others don't bother. Having just two little sunchokes to work with, I peeled one and left the other with skin. There was general agreement that simple roasting is a fine way to enjoy the flavor for a newbie. So, I preheated the oven to 375º, chopped them into bite-sized pieces, coated with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted away. I waited until they got nice and browned — ten minutes or so.

3. Taste unusual ingredient.
I tasted my lovely roasted Jerusalem artichokes and came to this conclusion: Tasty? Yes. Mild but distinct flavor. Good texture.
I preferred those with the skin to without. It gave them an earthier, stronger flavor. Would I go out of my way to hunt these babies down? No, not really. Given the fanaticism with which I've heard people talk about them, I guess I expected them to rock my world. I think they would be a great addition to stews or pot pie. Maybe mixed together with some potatoes for mashing.

Hey, that's just my two cents. At least now I can say I've tried a Jerusalem artichoke. Aha! The title of a new regular feature here on SGF!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More comfort food: Beer-Braised Chicken Stew

As you might have guessed from this blog, I am not an unadventurous eater. When it comes to cooking at home though, I tend to pick recipes that are new to me but that have familiar ingredients. Maybe it's because these are the recipes I can imagine the flavor of when reading them. Whatever the reason, while at the store yesterday I got the urge to pick up some ingredients I've never tried. I'll be sharing my experiments with you over the course of the week.

In the meantime, today's recipe. It starts with an ingredient I certainly know and love, beer, but the predominant spice is one I have never used before: anise. I knew it had a licorice flavor, but didn't know how it would play out with the rest of the mix. I was really happy with the end result and it certainly has a blend of flavors that were fresh and delicious to me. It's a surprisingly delicate spice blend that really doesn't taste like licorice by the time the anise has melded with everything else. I think next time I might kick up the cayenne.

Beer-Braised Chicken Stew with Fava Beans and Peas
Adapted from Food & Wine, May 2006
2 tablespoons anise seeds
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure olive oil
8 skinless chicken thighs
1 cup shelled fava beans
1/2 cup fresh peas, preferably English peas
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound button mushrooms, halved
8 scallions, thinly sliced
2 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
One 12-ounce bottle Belgian beer
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  1. In a small skillet, toast the anise seeds over moderate heat, shaking the skillet, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let the anise seeds cool slightly, then crush with the side of a knife.
  2. In a mini food processor, combine the toasted anise seeds with the chopped garlic, saffron, paprika and cayenne. Add the lemon juice and puree. Transfer the mixture to a large, shallow bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs and turn to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add salt and the fava beans and cook for 1 minute; using a slotted spoon, transfer the fava beans to a small bowl and let cool slightly. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes; drain. Peel the fava beans and add to the peas.
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, scraping off the excess. Season the chicken with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken thighs to a platter.
  5. Wipe out the casserole, add the butter and heat until melted. Add the halved mushrooms, sliced scallions and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until any liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are browned, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the beer and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the casserole.
  6. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole and season with salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Add the cream, fava beans and peas, increase the heat to moderate and cook uncovered until the sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs. Serve the chicken stew in shallow soup bowls, sprinkled with the parsley.

1. I couldn't find frozen favas anywhere, so I substituted soybeans/shelled edamame and really liked the mix. I used frozen peas as well. You could really use just about any vegetable you'd like though: carrots, green beans, corn might be nice (Hmm, why didn't I think of that one sooner?). You get the idea.
2. I used boneless skinless things and threw in a couple extra just 'cuz I had 'em.
3. I used Grolsch becasue that's what we had, but something more caramely or nutty would be great.
3. Obviously saffron is very expensive, and I cringed at using it in the marinade since it gets scraped off before cooking. I did though and while it was beautiful, I think it's certainly optional.

I'm sure this could be served on its own, but I went whole hog and served it on top of orzo — a really good combo. I definitely plan to make this again and try some experimenting. And for those of you have never tried fava beans, I love them and urge you to seek them out. Since they are likely out of season where you are now, frozen is a decent substitute. Let me know how it goes!