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Good Weather for Ducks

A pastel bouquet of Rainshadow duck eggs

 

Local duck eggs are a seasonal delight

We’ve passed the Vernal Equinox, and spring is definitely in the works–daffodils are blooming, leaves are unfolding, and–inevitably–rain is falling.  Birds, responding to longer hours of daylight, are laying eggs–and this includes domestic fowl like chickens and ducks.

Chicken eggs, of course, are the standard for many of us in Western culture–but they’re not the only eggs in town.  Duck eggs are catching on, particularly on the Pacific side of the country–you know how we love Ducks in Eugene!–and they’re more readily available in the spring.  If you’re duck-curious, now is the time to experiment.

Duck eggs are, in general, not extremely different in flavor and use from chicken eggs–both can be eaten fried, boiled, scrambled, or used in baking or salads.  The flavor is similar, though duck eggs are stronger and richer.  People who have had a bad experience with duck eggs with an unappetizing taste may have had a stale egg, or an egg from ducks whose feed imparted an off-flavor.

The Kiva carries duck eggs from Rainshadow El Rancho and Egg It On, which are both farms where the poultry are not only free-range, but pastured in a natural setting.  Due in part to the fact that ducks have not been as intensively bred for egg-laying as chickens, they don’t produce eggs as consistently–seasonal temperature and light variations mean their eggs are much more plentiful in the spring, and tend to get scarcer as the weather warms up.

Gram for gram, duck eggs are significantly lower in water and higher in protein than chicken eggs, so they’re more easily overcooked, which can make them tough–and because they are larger and have a thicker texture than hen’s eggs, they take a little longer to cook, so some experimenting may be in order.  (Remember that the rules for safe handling of eggs applies–cooking eggs all the way through is the rule of thumb.)

The timing doesn’t have to be so fussy when using duck eggs in baking, and their thicker consistency, higher protein and fat content are all characteristics that make them great for baking.  (Duck eggs are about 30%–nearly one third–larger than chicken eggs, so factor that in when substituting.  One blogger recommends substituting duck eggs for chicken eggs one to one anyway, on the grounds that a little more egg will usually just make a recipe better).  Duck eggs have a thicker shell and membrane, so they’re a little harder to crack neatly, and their thicker nature makes them a little more work to beat, but the loft they add to baked goods is worth the minor added effort.  Try them in omelets, frittatas, cakes–anywhere you want the fluff and body of eggs.

Recipes specifically for duck eggs aren’t hard to find–here’s one page I found with some great tips for cooking duck eggs in general, and their use in gluten-free cooking specifically.

But to keep it exclusive, here’s a recipe from our winebuyer’s family that she preferentially makes with duck eggs:

Mom’s Best-Ever Waffles

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, well-beaten
1 cup milk
4 Tablespoon melted butter
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt and sift again.  Combine egg yolks & milk; add to flour, beating until smooth.  Add butter in a thin stream (it shouldn’t be so hot that it cooks the batter on contact!).  Fold in the beaten egg whites.  Bake in hot waffle iron or on hot, greased griddle.  Serve with maple syrup and/or fruit and/or jam.

Healthy Comfort Food

Nutrient-dense dry beans are filling, economical, and delicious

Brr! It’s the coldest part of the winter in our part of the world.  When it’s frozen outside, comfort food can be—well, comforting.  Happily, some of the most filling and satisfying winter foods are also some of the healthiest—beans, whole grains, and root vegetables are nutrient-dense, high in fiber, versatile, economical, and delicious.

Beans can be eaten at every meal, from appetizers (there’s a world of bean dips!) to desserts (Candy-Cane Black Bean Brownies, anyone?).  It’s a broad topic, and the possible dishes are infinite!  In this article I’m going to share a few Kiva employees’ tried-and-true recipes for dried beans, peas, and lentils.

First, a few general notes:

Dry beans pack a nutritional wallop.  A half-cup serving of cooked beans contains 7 to 8 grams of protein.  They contain a variety of minerals, including iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium.  Darker beans are especially rich in antioxidants. The vitamin list is also impressive: thiamin, folic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin B6, to name a few.

With all that going for them, what’s not to like?  Oh, yeah—that.  You can find many suggestions for eliminating legumes’ unfortunate side effect, most involving changing the soaking and/or cooking water to reduce the indigestible sugars that cause the problem.  Cooking with certain spices like fennel or cumin might help.  Sherrill, our vitamin buyer, also recommends experimenting with different digestive enzymes, such as Solaray’s Super Digestaway or similar brands, to find one that works best for you.

Two cups of dry beans usually weigh about a pound, and a pound of dry beans cooks up into five or six cups, making them an affordable superfood.   (Canned beans also offer great nutrition, and require a lot less preparation.  The sodium content of canned beans can be reduced significantly by draining and rinsing, if desired, and no-salt-added brands such as Eden are also available.)

A few notes about the cooking of beans in general:

Many varieties, especially red kidney beans, contain a toxin (phytohemagglutinin) which must be reduced to a safe level by boiling before eating–beans eaten raw or undercooked can result in a nasty and even dangerous form of food poisoning; undercooking can make them even more toxic than they are raw.  Directions for the safe preparation of beans vary, but the standard method is as follows:

1. Sort.  Put the beans in a shallow pan or dish and pick them over to remove foreign objects (sorting machinery has gotten much more efficient in recent years, but the occasional stone, stick, or bean-sized blob of dirt sometimes gets through).  After any unwanted material is removed, rinse the beans thoroughly to remove dust or dirt.

2. Soak.  Beans should be soaked for at least 5 hours, and preferably 8 or more.  They may be soaked in the refrigerator to reduce the possibility of fermentation.

3.  Discard the soaking water, and add fresh water to cook.

4.  Boil.  Beans should be boiled rapidly for at least ten minutes for safety.

These steps are especially important if you plan to cook beans in a slow-cooker:  many do not get hot enough to reduce the phytohemagglutinin to a safe level, and cooking at too cool a temperature may increase its level.  Many bean recipes work wonderfully in a slow-cooker and are well worth the extra steps of pre-soaking and boiling.

Southern Style Mixed Bean Soup

Pretty much any mix of beans will work in this recipe: kidney beans, red beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, cranberry beans, lima beans, green and yellow split peas, green lentils, etc. etc.—the more the merrier.  Be aware that when you cook black beans, the cooking water will turn purple due to pigment in the beans.  Don’t be alarmed.

2 cups mixed beans and peas, picked, rinsed, and soaked overnight
1 hamhock or hambone
1 16-oz can diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sausage (spicy Italian is my first choice, but any tasty sausage, either sliced links or loose, will do)
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp powdered bay leaf or 2 whole bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 Tbsp salt, more or less if desired
Pepper to taste

Put beans and 3 quarts water in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.  Add 1 Tbsp salt and the spices.  Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Add undrained tomatoes, chopped onions, minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer uncovered to allow reduction, 1 1/2 hours or until thickened.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage and chicken, let cool, and chop or slice.

Add the chicken, sausage, parsley, and wine; simmer 30 – 45 minutes.

Stir often and taste occasionally as the soup approaches being done.  It keeps well, freezes well, and is best made the day before serving, as its taste will improve with time.  Great served with crusty bread.

Split Pea Soup

This is a thick, traditional, solidly satisfying version of split pea soup.  

Dried peas and lentils don’t require pre-soaking, though cooking time can be reduced by soaking.  

This is traditionally made with a ham hock or a hambone.  You can also use deli (sandwich) ham or bacon for flavoring (remove big pieces of limp bacon before serving).  I’ve never tried to make this as a vegan dish; however, a little smoked paprika or other savory flavor ought to lend the necessary note.

2 cups dried split peas (green or yellow)
7 – 8 cups water; can be partially replaced with chicken or vegetable stock, or add 1 Tbsp Better Than BouillonChicken Stock with the water (optional)
1 ham hock, hambone with some meat on it, chopped ham, etc.
2 carrots
1 large or medium onion
3 stalks celery
2 – 3 Tbsp butter, olive oil, ghee, or a blend
2 small to medium potatoes 
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf

Chop the onion and slice the carrots and celery.  Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and meat and cook, stirring, until the vegetables’ color deepens, about 5 minutes.  Add the water, split peas, Better Than Bouillon (if using), mustard, and herbs.  Stir and bring to a boil; reduce heat until bubbles are barely rising.

Stir occasionally until the peas start to turn into a puree, then stir more frequently to prevent scorching (which happens easily—be vigilant!).  Cooking time varies, but I find I usually leave this soup on the stove for several hours.  Freezes well.

Occasionally I’ve added a small dash of wine vinegar or a little white wine to the soup to lend a little zest.  Great served with whole-grain bread and a green salad.

Gil’s Spinach-Lentil Soup

An original recipe by our multi-talented grocery-buyer Gil, this soup is zesty and lighter than many lentil recipes, and equally good in winter or summer.  Easy, delicious and unusual!  The use of the smaller and firmer French lentils is a must. 


3 cups French lentils

9 cups vegetable stock
Bay leaf
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large lemon or two small ones, zested and juiced (save juice)
Cumin
Salt
Black pepper
About three big handfuls of fresh, chopped spinach 
Half a bunch of cilantro
More salt


Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil and simmer the onions, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, salt, and black pepper until “just so.” (Gil leaves this up to your judgement.)


Combine lentils and stock, add bay leaf and salt to taste; bring to a boil and simmer approximately 30 minutes (test lentils for doneness).


Add spinach, cilantro, and lemon juice.


Reheat to cook the spinach.  Adjust spices.  Serve.

More Chanterelles!

As promised, I’m back with a couple more recipes from Kiva employees.

Robin, one of our talented chefs, made us a sample of the following recipe today that amazed all who tasted it.  This is a recipe that should be read all the way through, so you can familiarize yourself with the details and the length of preparation before you try it.  Without further ado, I present this gem:

Robin’s Chanterelle Ragout

Robin’s Polenta Wedges with Chanterelle Mushroom Ragout

Polenta:

  • 1 c polenta (corn grits)
  • 3 c water (for added flavor use chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Chanterelle Mushroom Ragout

  • 2 c chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and pulled by hand into strips
  • 1/4 c minced shallots
  • 1/3 c chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c Marsala wine
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Polenta wedges:  In saucepot, bring 3 c of water or stock to a boil.  Add 1 cup polenta.  Turn heat to low. Stir the polenta constantly until grits are creamy, then add 3 Tablespoons of butter, salt, white pepper, and parmesan cheese.  Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.  On a greased baking sheet with a lip pour polenta out and smooth into an even layer.  Chill for 1 to 2 hours or until firm (can be done overnight).  Flip pan onto a cutting surface and cut into wedges, or use a biscuit cutter to make rounds.

For Mushroom Ragout:  Clean chanterelles with a damp paper towel, rubbing gently.  Pull the chanterelles into strips.  Over high heat, bring the oil to the smoking point in a sauté pan.  Throw the polenta wedges into the pan and cook on each side until golden brown (be careful; it will spatter).  Remove and dab dry on a paper towel.

To serve:  Place Polenta Wedges on a plate and drizzle a generous portion of Chanterelle Ragout on top.  Garnish with additional grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

If you’re looking for something a little faster, here’s another to try.  This looks like a terrific potluck contribution.

Elena’s Chanterelles en Pastry

  • 1 lb fresh chanterelles, chopped
  • 6 oz salted butter
  • 1 medium leek, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 2 to 3 packages Puff Pastry
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté leek and onion in 1 oz of butter until caramelized.  Set aside.  Saute mushrooms and garlic with 1 oz butter and add to caramelized onions and leeks.  Toss with ricotta, add salt and pepper to taste.

Melt remaining butter.  Unfold pastry.  Brush with the melted butter, then cut in 2-inch strips.  Put a teaspoon or two of mushroom mix on one end of strip, then fold into triangles.

Place on parchment-covered cookie sheet.  Brush top with melted butter.  Bake at 350 until golden on top.  Serve warm.

The Season of Rain and Chanterelles

A match made in Heaven

Well, here it is: after a record-breaking dry spell, the old familiar cold and rain have finally arrived.  Some of us love it; some of us hate it; and some of us tolerate the long grey months because we know that they have their rewards.

Rewards?  Yes, there are a few.  What’s rain in the valley is usually snow in the higher elevations, providing sport for skiers and snowboarders.  After we wait out a soggy winter we often have a beautiful spring (a little lacking in recent years) and wonderful summers, for a start.

And for the intrepid hiker who isn’t afraid of damp feet and slippery footing, Oregon’s forests can be beautiful in the rainy season, and the many species of fascinating and edible mushrooms that spring up when the rain comes down are a reason to welcome the wet.

Of the wealth of the Northwest’s wild mushrooms, one of the most versatile–and certainly the best-known–is the Chanterelle.
Rob Miller has been the Kiva’s major supplier of chanterelles for about a decade–often our sole supplier.  Our produce department likes the fresh, clean, sound mushrooms he brings us, as well as his reliability and his sensitivity to the areas in which he picks.

“I don’t like to work with intangibles,” he says; he made the choice long ago to be out in the weather hunting for chanterelles rather than sitting behind a desk shuffling numbers.  Rob says he loves to spend time in nature and take longs walks in the forests where he harvests fungal delicacies; he needs time in the wild to be happy.  This is especially lucky this year, since unusual weather (the long, late-summer dry spell followed by not only rain, but cold) has made this year’s mushroom crop scarce and harder to find–the worst year for picking that Rob has seen.

Since we don’t all have the time, ability, or know-how to go on those long walks ourselves, many of us rely on the convenient commercial availabilty of chanterelles and other wild mushrooms.  Having someone else do the legwork can be well worth the time and effort saved for busy folks, even though this year’s smaller harvest has driven prices up.

Chanterelles have a nutty, savory, delicate flavor with wide appeal–varieties of this mushroom grow in the northerly areas of Europe, Asia, and America, and they’re relished in many different cuisines.  There are endless ways to prepare and enjoy them; a quick search for “chanterelle recipes” on Google yielded 42,000 hits!

Chanterelle recipes are easier to find than mushrooms, but in search of more, I solicited recipes from Kiva employees this week and got some to add to the record.

A caveat:  these are not recipes written or tested by professional chefs, so use your own judgement.  Your mileage may vary!

The simplest came from Tom, our local grocery buyer.  He likes to slice, pan-fry, and eat chanterelles before they leave the skillet.  It doesn’t get easier than that!

Dave, one of our produce managers, offered this recipe:

Dave’s Kale with Chanterelle

Dave and a tasty friend

1 bunch Italian kale, chopped
A couple of medium-large chanterelles, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small or 1 large shallot, minced
A couple tablespoons olive oil
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add minced garlic, stir until garlic is translucent.  Add minced shallots, simmer until translucent.  Lower the heat and add the chopped kale.

In a separate pan, heat the chanterelles until they release liquid, then add them to the kale mixture.  Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper; serve immediately.

—–

Our wine buyer Ziggy makes this creamy Chanterelle Chicken every autumn at least once.  As you might expect, wine plays an important part in this dish.

Ziggy’s Chanterelle Chicken (serves 4 to 6)

Ziggy’s Chanterelle Chicken Sauce ready to serve

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, browned and cubed (1/2 inch cubes)

About 1 lb chanterelles, chopped fairly small
Two very large or four small shallots, minced
2/3 to ¾  bottle of dry white wine for cooking
½ pint heavy cream or Half-and-Half
4 Tablespoons butter, give or take a little
A couple of Tablespoons of flour
Fettuccine pasta, preferably fresh
The proportions of this recipe are very flexible, and I vary them every time I make it with the same great results.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet until bubbling; add the minced shallots.  Cook until translucent (don’t let them brown), then add the chopped chanterelles.  Heat until mushrooms are cooked through and have released their liquid; cook a few more minutes, then add the white wine in dollops of about a cup and let reduce between each addition.  Allow some time for this; I generally let the shallot-chanterelle mixture simmer for an hour or more while adding wine slowly.  (Chanterelles, like many foods, have alcohol-soluble factors that release and develop flavor during cooking with wine.)
Note:  For cooking wine I used the Domino Pinot Grigio; any crisp, dry white wine would do, though for my personal taste I prefer not to use Chardonnay for cooking.  The usual caution about not cooking with wine you wouldn’t want to drink applies; you don’t want to cook with wine which is “off” or yucky.  However, I do often cook with wine which is simpler (and less expensive) than I usually want to sip with dinner.
Brown the chicken on a grill or in a separate skillet with a little additional butter or olive oil.  I usually cook it whole over medium or medium-high heat until the surface is browned, then cut it in cubes and brown the cut sides lightly.  The chicken can then be set aside while the shallot-chanterelle-wine mixture cooks down.
When the sauce is thickening but still contains a fair amount of liquid, add the browned chicken (the good stuff in the pan can be deglazed with a little wine and added along with the chicken) and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.  The meat absorbs the flavor.
The flour is used to thicken the finished sauce; it can either be sprinkled lightly over the mixture and stirred in until the sauce gets a little dry, or a roux can be made in a separate pan or skillet (heat a little extra butter until bubbly; add the flour and cook for a few minutes without letting the mixture brown) and then added back into the main mixture.
After the sauce is thickened, add cream to taste (I like it to be a gravy-like consistency) and serve it over pasta.  (Pasta Plus’s fresh linguine is my favorite.)

This is a traditional autumn recipe in my house, and I always pair it with an oaked Chardonnay which complements the savory woody notes of the mushrooms.  I recommend Stangeland for an Oregon Chardonnay (oaky but also floral and subtle with some crispness left), or J. Lohr’s Riverstone or Arroyo Vista Chardonnays for Californiawine.

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

I also always accompany the Chanterelle Chicken with a pear/blue-cheese salad.  Any pear of your choice can be sliced or cubed, topped with small pieces of blue cheese (I love the Fourme D’Ambert, which is sweet and nutty and complements fruit very well), and crushed roasted hazelnuts, covered with a balsamic vinaigrette and served on a bed of greens.

That’s it for now.  Next week we’ll be back with a few other recipes from familiar faces at the Kiva.  In the meantime,  tell us–what do you do with chanterelles?