Fresh Rhubarb Roundup

Rhubarb at Northwest Farmers Market

The Northwest farmers markets are overflowing with field-grown rhubarb. And the bounty will extend well beyond the time the large commercial growers call it quits for the season. This is because small local growers have taken up the cause and have discovered that they can keep rhubarb growing about as long as customers show enthusiasm for buying it. My own enthusiasm never seems to wane. The absence between October and February just makes the heart grow fonder.

Ricotta Cavatelli with Toasted Walnuts & Baby Greens

Ricotta Cavatelli with Toasted Walnuts & Bitter Greens

This is a delicious pairing of chewy, pillowy ricotta cavatelli; earthy, almost sweet walnuts; toasted garlic; slightly bitter greens; and crisp pancetta; punctuated with a creamy, tangy goat cheese.

Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs

Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs

f I could have only one dish this Thanksgiving, it would be a tossup between this stuffing and this tart. Wait, I also need these rolls, these mashed potatoes, and this gravy. Okay, it’s hopeless; may as well throw in this salad and this turkey. But even though each of these dishes is memorable, I bet this stuffing wins “Best of Show” at our Thanksgiving table this year. I can’t seem to get enough of it.

Spiced Apple Cider Brined Roast Cornish Game Hens with Apple Cider Mustard Glaze

Spiced Apple Cider Brined Roast Cornish Game Hen with Apple Cider Mustard Glaze

A large roast turkey is considered mandatory for many families as part of the massive meal that typifies Thanksgiving. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and definitely celebratory. When you have a large crowd to feed, there is no grander way to go. But what if your family is small, dispersed across the country, or for whatever reason, you long for a more intimate but still festive dinner with only a few close friends?

Marbled Spiced Cranberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

Slice of Marbled Spiced Cranberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

I am very for­tu­nate that the newest mem­ber of our fam­ily, Christo­pher Weaver, LOVES cheese­cake. Because I love to cre­ate end­less vari­a­tions, and can’t afford all those calo­ries hang­ing out in the fridge taunt­ing me. Chris is a work­out machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calo­ries. If there are a few slices of cheese­cake left after a fam­ily din­ner, he saves me by tak­ing them home.

Decidedly Different Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart

Decidedly Different Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart

Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.

Lime & Vanilla Scented Rhubarb Clafouti

Lime & Vanilla Scented Rhubarb Clafouti

Clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), a simple French custard-cake, is the perfect foil for the fresh fruit and berries of summer. Formulas vary wildly from one end of the spectrum (custard) to the other (cake). I love trying them all, and I’ve shared two of them with you already. What I am sharing with you today is a chewy, cake-style clafouti with a sweet-tart topping of lime and vanilla-scented fresh rhubarb.

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

Bread Crisps with Wheel of Chevre Brie & Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

My Grandma Mary would have loved homemade chutney, but alas, I doubt she ever tasted true chutney, even though her cellar walls were lined yearly with row upon row of pickled and candied veggies and fruits.

She preserved everything she could get her hands on. Her large yard boasted mature peach, pear, plum, sweet cherry, pie cherry, and crab apple trees, which we loved to climb and pilfer.

Rhubarb Rose Petal Caramel Syrup + 4 Variations

Fresh Rhubarb Roundup: Rhubarb Rose Petal Caramel Syrup

One of the easiest and most effective ways to elevate a simple dessert to epicurean heights is to add a brightly colored, brightly flavored dessert syrup. You can serve a dessert syrup over ice cream or gelato, alongside panna cotta or baked custard, with tea cakes, or as the key flavoring of an Italian soda, lemonade, or limeade (recipe below).

Fresh Strawberry Roundup

Northwest Strawberries

To kick off Northwest strawberry season, here are the tried-and-true recipes from past seasons. Check out the Strawberry Primer first for a wide range of other flavors that partner beautifully with the inestimable Northwest strawberry.

Potato Gratin with Ricotta, Pancetta & Melted Leeks

Potato Gratin with Ricotta, Pancetta and Melted Leeks (2)

There are few dishes in the world more deeply satisfying than a perfectly made Potato Gratin. And by perfectly made, I mean the potatoes are cooked just until tender (not falling apart), are enveloped in a creamy (not curdled) sauce, and are well-seasoned, (not bland). Of course, it goes without saying that you should use a copious quantity of cheese and it should be excellent quality and aged to boot. In a dish this simple, each ingredient counts.

Lemon & Thyme Marinated Artichoke, Tiger Prawn & Strawberry Salad

Lemon & Thyme Marinated Artichoke, Tiger Prawn & Strawberry Salad

I think of myself as a component kind of cook. Just as I prefer a wardrobe full of separates that I can mix and match as fancy strikes, I also like to mix and match culinary components. What I learn from one dish always has ramifications to another dish later.

Take this new salad for instance. I am in the lingering thrall of the Lemon & Thyme Marinated Artichokes posted last week. They were so good that I can’t get them out of my mind. We had barely finished the first batch of artichokes, and I had another batch marinating in the fig.

Warm Spiced Red Kuri Squash & Orange Soup with Cinnamon Harissa

Warm Spiced Red Kuri Squash & Orange Soup with Cinnamon Harissa

Did you have a chance to read the recent post: Eat. Boston. Winter Squash Soup.? I was so inspired by the winter squash soup creations we encountered in Boston in October that I couldn’t wait to get back to the OtherWorldly Kitchen to create my own offering to the seasonal gods.

I chose to work with Red Kuri squash because, of all the winter squash, it is the one with which I am least familiar. It’s also beautiful au natural and holds its gorgeous orange color when cooked.

Kicky Tomato Strawberry Gazpacho

Kicky Tomato Strawberry Gazpacho

If you’ve been following along with me this summer, you know I am enthralled with the tomato and strawberry flavor pairing. Earlier, I created Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Dessert Sauce to accompany Heavenly Parmesan Sour Cream Pound Cake. It was a surprise hit. I have to explore at least a couple more strawberry-tomato dishes before the summer season is over.

While pondering what to cook next and flagging from the 90+ degree heat wave that hit Seattle this week, the inevitable happened. I opened the oh-so-wonderfully-cold frig and saw, at eye level, a large bowl of strawberries alongside a large bowl of grape tomatoes, both of which were intended for salad.

Fried Banana Split with Mexican Chocolate Sauce & Strawberry Lime Salsa

Fried Banana Split with Mexican Chocolate Sauce & Strawberry Lime Salsa

As I said in the previous post, Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Almonds, are you ready for one of the most spectacular desserts I have ever created? It is so indulgent, so bright, so refreshing, so festive, and so sinful (Using fresh strawberries out of season? Have I gone to the dark side?) that it may well be the PERFECT dessert with which to bid winter a grateful farewell. Goodbye freezing rain, mud, ice, and threats of snow. Goodbye short grey days and long dark nights. Have a safe journey to the other side of the globe, and please please please don’t hurry back.

Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Shortbread

Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Cookies in a Stack

If there is one cookie in this year’s Starry Night collection that positively shouts CHRISTMAS, it has to be this one. If you don’t overbrown the cookies, the sparkling red cranberries, green pistachios, and yellow lemon zest and candied ginger will glow like little jewels. To enhance this jewel-like effect, I like to keep the surface embellishment to just a light dusting of fine, clear sanding sugar, which lends sparkle but doesn’t detract from the colorful bits studding each cookie.

Linguine with Balsamic Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Linguine with Balsamic Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

As often happens in the OtherWorldly Kitchen, I see a picture of an interesting dish in a culinary magazine and then can’t locate it when I actually want to try the dish. I can’t bear to discard a great magazine, so there are stacks everywhere. That’s how this quick and easy midweek supper dish came to be: a vague memory of a picture in a magazine, several heirloom tomatoes on the counter begging to be used, and raging hunger.

As often happens in the OtherWorldly Kitchen, I see a picture of an interesting dish in a culinary magazine and then can’t locate it when I actually want to try the dish. I can’t bear to discard a great magazine, so there are stacks everywhere. That’s how this quick and easy midweek supper dish came to be: a vague memory of a picture in a magazine, several heirloom tomatoes on the counter begging to be used, and raging hunger.

I was intrigued by the idea of intensifying the flavor of the tomatoes by roasting them with herbs and aromatics and then simply laying them on top of cooked pasta. I confess that I did not expect the resulting dish to taste this divine. I merely wanted to throw together a quick meal after a demanding day at work. Isn’t it great when results EXCEED expectations?

Fresh Primer: Blueberries

Northwest Blueberries Close Up

Although blueberries are indigenous to American soil and were one of the first fruits encountered by early settlers, the blueberry industry was still a relative newcomer to Washington and Oregon agribusiness in the 1990’s when I first wrote about it in Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking. At that time, the industry was 25-30 years young by most accounts.

Fresh Primer: Strawberries

Honeoye Early Season Oregon Strawberries

If you ask ten people at random to name their favorite berry, eight of them will say, “strawberries of course.” And who’s to argue? In the height of Northwest strawberry season, it’s hard to imagine anything tasting better than these juicy, incredibly sweet, powerfully flavorful berries. They are simply perfection.

Rhubarb Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Spring Rhubarb and Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

If there is a vegetable/fruit harbinger of spring in the Pacific Northwest, it is definitely rhubarb. Graceful, firm stalks of crimson red begin to appear in Northwest farmers markets in February, long before spring actually arrives. The first flush of rhubarb in the market is hothouse grown and typically paler in color and lower in […]

Fresh Primer: Rhubarb

Boxes of Rhubarb at Portland Farmers Market

I have loved rhubarb for as long as I can remember. As kids, my brother, Daniel, and I would pilfer it from between the pickets of the deteriorating white fence that separated our yard from the neighbor’s. We thought of it as “high crime,” stealing if you will, but as I look back on our shenanigans now, I realize that no one but us gave a darn about that forgotten patch of rhubarb.

Quintessential Potato Gratin with Seven Masterful Variations

Potato and Onion Gratin

Is there anything finer in the world of vegetable cookery than a properly made Potato Gratin? Not in my book. However, there is a complicating factor that needs consideration. Potatoes are surprisingly acidic and have a definite tendency to curdle milk, half-and-half, and even, but to a lesser degree, heavy cream. What’s the cook to do?

Cranberry Orange Yogurt Pecan Bread

cranberry-bread-lead-shot

This cranberry bread is especially tender because of the softening effect the yogurt has on the gluten in the flour, and it has an appealing acid tang as well. This loaf is as appropriate for breakfast as for afternoon tea, especially during the holiday season.

Hazelnut Honey Toffee Tart with Cranberry Variation

Hazelnut Honey Toffee Tart

Every year when fresh cranberries hit the markets, I immediately stock up, and then almost as immediately, make this delectable tart. OK, to tell the truth, I am in the markets a few weeks early, whining to whoever will listen, or muttering to myself even, about the absence of cranberries. “Shouldn’t they be in by […]

Spiced Pumpkin Sour Cream Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Spiced Pumpkin Sour cream Upside Down Cake with Caramelized Cranberry Hazelnut Topping and Orange Cream

After several testing sessions and a review of dessert cookbooks par excellence, SMS Bradley’s recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Sour Cream Upside-Down Coffee Cake with Caramelized Cranberry Hazelnut Topping is now perfection. An absolutely luscious Fall cake.

Apple Cranberry Deep Dish Pie with Toasted Walnut Streusel

Apple Cranberry Pie with Toasted Walnut Streusel

I am thrilled to share with you one of my favorite apple pie creations–a little in advance of cranberry season. When you see the first bags of fresh cranberrries in the market, grab a few. I know you will want to make this pie again and again this autumn.

Fresh Corn Soup with Prawn, Avocado, & Lime Escabeche

Corn and Chipotle Soup

For this early Fall soup, I decided to keep the focus on the corn. It’s all too easy to overwhelm the sweet, subtle flavor of corn with other more assertive ingredients. By keeping the more assertive flavors separate, as in the accompanying escabeche, the contrasting flavors do a little jig on the palate, taking turns on center stage–rather than melding together in an incomprehensible mash.

Mac & Cheese Roundup: Northwest & Boston

mac-and-cheese-ingredients

My favorite dish in the world is Mac & Cheese, especially in Green Corn Moon (September) when the leaves begin to turn brilliant shades of coral, crimson, and gold, and the shortening days begin and end with a decided chill in the air. But not just any Mac & Cheese, mind you. It must be […]