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Coriander Potatoes

18 Oct

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I am very sorry to have to tell you this, but I have been holding out on you. For a few months now, I have been in possession of the simplest, most delicious side dish known to all of humankind, and I have not, as yet, shared it with you. There is no excuse for this, particularly when this recipe takes under 20 minutes to prepare, contains only a few simple ingredients, and is, I have delightfully discovered, so popular with those pickiest of eaters—children—that is disappears almost as quickly as a slice of chocolate cake. Almost. Not quite. This is a potato dish, mind you, not a plate of miracles.

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Inspired by my son’s favorite side dish at a nearby Lebanese restaurant, the potatoes are perfectly warm with coriander, spiked with a bit of fresh chiles, and tinged with just enough garlic to make them interesting, but not dangerous. I can’t recommend enough that you make this side dish a last-minute staple at your house, as it has become at ours.

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Last Year: Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones and Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Coriander Potatoes

1 ½ pounds potatoes (I use Russet, but I imagine a waxier potato would work just fine here as well), peeled and diced into ½-inch chunks

¼ cup olive oil, or a mixture of 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of ghee

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 small chile (a Serrano works well here), sliced into thin strips or rings (seeds and ribs removed if you desire less heat)

salt to taste

sprinkling of chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat olive oil (or olive oil and ghee mixture) in a large pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the coriander and allow it to sizzle and brown for 10 seconds. Add the potatoes, stir to combine with coriander and oil, then cover, lower heat to medium, and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until potatoes have just begun to soften. Add the minced garlic on top of the potatoes, but don’t stir to combine. Place lid back over potatoes, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add sliced chile, stir to combine, and cook for an additional 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste, then sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 6 to 8 people as a generous side dish.

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Watermelon Lime Popsicles

6 Jun

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As utterly boring as it is to hear someone drone on and on about the weather, it can’t be denied that, when you tend to base most of your cooking decisions on the current state of the weather, not thinking and talking about the weather can quickly become a rather taxing enterprise. Making the situation even more complex is the fact that spring in Portland can never make up its everloving mind about whether or not it is going to call for nine days of straight rain and wind, or a solid block of sunny 75 to 80 degree days. How is a person supposed to know what to cook when yesterday was a grilling day, but today is a hearty soup and warm bread day?

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What this is leading up to is the story of how I bought a watermelon when the weather was nice, but then, rather suddenly, the weather turned on me, lashing us with a week of 50 degree days that punished us with nonstop rain and wind. As everybody knows, watermelon is meant to be eaten on warm and sunny days, so there I was, watermelon at the ready, but in no position to partake of it.

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Eventually, as we hope (but never really know) it always will, the sun did come back out. In a city where 75 degrees is as good as 100 degrees, it was watermelon weather again, and I was determined to crack my melon friend open and get to slicing. Wedge after wedge of watermelon was enjoyed and, due to the pleasingly large nature of a watermelon, there was plenty of melon available to freeze into homemade popsicles. And not just any homemade popsicles, my friends—all fruit popsicles, with no sugar added, and only as many ingredients as the number of fruits you choose to squeeze into them. It’s like eating nothing but fruit, because, well, it is eating nothing but fruit, only frozen, and in a pleasing popsicle shape, which, as we all know, is what one does when the sun comes out.

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Last Year: Vegetable Biryani and Baked Brown Butter Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pears

Watermelon Lime Popsicles

4 cups of watermelon chunks, preferably seedless watermelon, but, if not, seeds removed

juice of half a lime

¼ to 1/3 cup fresh fruit of your choice, sliced into small pieces (I used kiwi, but I also like the sound of sliced strawberries or raspberries, or whole blueberries)

In a food processor, puree watermelon chunks until smooth and liquid. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl, using a flexible spatula to urge the puree through the strainer. Stir in lime juice.

Pour watermelon mixture into popsicle molds, filling the molds about ¾ full (I was able to fill 8 molds, with a bit of juice leftover for drinking directly from the bowl with a straw, a clean-up method I highly recommend). As you can see, I filled some molds all the way, in the interest of my son’s request to have some popsicles without fruit chunks in them. Do not place the tops on the molds. Place the molds in the freezer for one hour, until the mixture becomes slightly slushy. Drop bits of fruit into each mold, making sure the mixture does not overflow over the top of the molds. Place the tops on the popsicle molds, then freeze overnight.

To release the popsicles from the molds, run the base of the molds under warm water for about 10 seconds. The popsicles should release with ease.

Makes about eight 3-inch popsicles. Your number of popsicles will vary depending on the size of mold you use.

Cauliflower and Herb Spread

3 May

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It’s picnic season! I knock on wood as I say this, but Portland has really been delivering some fine spring weather this year, and I can’t wait to keep our outdoor time at its maximum level. Playing outdoors, eating outdoors, sleeping outdoors—it’s all in our future.

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My love of picnics is no secret, but I do sometimes wonder how I can shake up our picnic spreads without diverting too much from what makes a picnic meal so enjoyable for me. Picnics are casual affairs for us, without a reliance on silverware or fussy presentations. While we do sometimes pack a picnic that includes a salad or two thrown into a lidded container, it seems almost antithetical to the very spirit of a picnic to make your food fork or spoon-required. This means our picnics tend to include a lot of cheese selections to pair with bread, a good amount of fruit and vegetables in their most casual form, and, of course, a treat or two…or threeoh, fine to round out the meal. It’s a lovely way to eat, but, tough as it may be to imagine, even I, at times, get a bit overloaded by cheese and sweets.

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Last week, when thinking of ways to diversify our picnics, I started dreaming of my favorite white bean spread. It’s a nearly perfect item to slather over a hunk of crusty bread, and, with silky pureed cauliflower swapped in for the creamy white beans, I began to imagine a new picnic food to audition this year. As it turns out, this combination of sweetly sautéed onions, fresh herbs, and smooth cauliflower is even better than I thought it would be. It’s even better, dare I say it, than cheese. For your friends who are allergic to legumes, it makes a great alternative to hummus or other bean spreads. For your vegetarian friends, it’s a super flavorful topping for bread that needs no meat to make it shine. For your vegan friends, try swapping the butter for ¼ cup of good olive oil, and sauté the onions and garlic slowly, until they begin to really melt. For everyone, make a batch of this right now, grab yourself a picnic blanket and a baguette, and head outside.

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Last Year: Crisp Baked Vegetable Wontons and Spinach, Fennel, and Pear Salad with Brown Butter Hazelnuts

Cauliflower and Herb Spread

1 medium head of cauliflower

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 pinches red chile flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Trim cauliflower of leaves and tough inner stem. Cut cauliflower into small florets, then place in a steamer basket. Over a pot of boiling water, cover and steam cauliflower florets for 10 to 12 minutes, until the florets are tender. Remove steamer basket from pot, and allow cauliflower to cool a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In separate saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat, then add onions, garlic, herbs, and chile flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent about 7 to 10 minutes. Add steamed cauliflower. Mash or puree with a food processor or stick blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a dish or bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with crusty bread.

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