Friday, September 11, 2009

Foodie Friday!

Happy Foodie Friday from the Monkey! This week a beautiful color brochure FULL of recipes and chef bios found it's way to my desk. Given that this brochure was based around potatoes, I HAD to track the producer down. - I was a LITTLE excited to find a whole commission for one of my favorite food groups... er... vegetables.

This led me to a great conversation with the Washington State Potato Commission's Assistant Executive Director, Karen Bonaudi. She gave me permission to feature the recipes and gave me a few facts.

I was surprised to learn that Washington's climatic and geological conditions allow it to produce an average of 60,000 of potatoes per acre in red, white, yellow/gold, blue/purple, and fingerling varieties! Holy potato!

Feel free to check out the Washington State Potato Commission at for more information. They have many wonderful recipes, facts, and suggestions on ways to cook potatoes but here is one of the scrumptious looking recipes that I will be trying this weekend.

Smoked Salmon Latkes

Makes 4-6 servings of about 3 latkes each

1 pint sour cream
1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning (or any good crab boil seasoning)

In a small bowl, combine sour cream and seasoning. Set aside.

1 1/2 pounds Washington Russet potatoes
5 oz smoked salmon, finely chopped
1 small white onion, peeled and grated
1/2 cup flour
1 egg yolk
2 tsp kosher salt (I'm partial to the Red Monkey Sea Salt Grinder)
1 tsp ground black pepper (Again, go figure, I'm a fan of the Pepper Medley Grinder)
Vegetable oil

Scrub potatoes under cold running water. Shred with large holes of box grater or food processor. Turn the shreds into a strainer set over a bowl. Press potatoes firmly. Reserve liquid in bowl. Let liquid stand several minutes. Pour off top clean layer and reserve cloudy starch remaining.

Rinse squeezed potatoes with cold water. Drain in colander.

In large bowl, combine all latke ingredients, including the reserved starch, and mix well. Form into silver dollar sized cakes, squeezing to form the cakes. Arrange cakes on a paper towel covered cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towels.

In large skillet over high heat, heat enough oil to cover 1/4 inch over bottom of pan until very hot. Add cakes and cook until well browned. Turn and cook second side. Serve 3 cakes per portion. Spoon cream over.

One of the best things I found about this recipe: only 414 calories with 12 grams of protein and a serving of fish! Thanks so much to Karen, the great people at the Washington State Potato Commission, and all the potato farmers. I'm a fan!

Best wishes for a great weekend all!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Flavors of Fall


September 22, marks the official beginning of fall. As the beauty of the autumn leaves begins to surrounds us, so does that wonderful aroma that fills our kitchen this time each year. Fall is the time when we focus our attention on making those delicious comfort foods such as stews,curries, soups and of course all of those wonderful desserts. As we say goodbye to the hot days of summer our attention turns to stocking our cupboards with all of the ingredients needed to make those wonderful autumn dishes. Below you will find a list of a few fall spices that will not only fill your home with a delightful aroma but will also incorporate some hidden health benefits while creating those great tasting meals.

cinnamon illustr

Cinnamon- While cinnamon is by far the most loved spice for the baker, there are a few things that one should know before purchasing cinnamon. Cinnamon derives from the bark of the cinnamon tree. It takes approximately 15 years for a cinnamon forest to mature to harvest. The 1st meter of the trunk contains grade A cinnamon. The 2nd meter up the trunk is grade B and then further up the tree is a C grade. When the bark is cut away it kills this section of the tree and the remaining part of the tree is cut down and used for firewood or making furniture. When using cinnamon for baking grade B or C is recommended as it has less volatile oil. Grade A has the highest content of volatile oil making it too bitter to use for baking. It can be recognized by the color in which it is very red. So, when choosing a cinnamon for baking look for a rich brown color. Cinnamon is also known for it’s many health benefits such as; lowering blood sugar, increases circulation, mildly lowers cholesterol and helps with indigestion just to name a few.

tumeric illustr

Turmeric- Also known as Indian saffron it is commonly used in curries and Asian dishes giving them that beautiful golden yellow color. Turmeric is a great spice to experiment with when preparing chicken and turkey dishes, vegetables and salad dressings. This spice, a part of the ginger family, is a ribosome root, called fingers and has earthy notes and very pungent which gets stronger when cooked . With this in mind it is better to start with a small amount and add more if needed to reach your desired level of flavor. Turmeric goes through a process of being boiled, dried and then ground into a power that can range from a deep orange-yellow to a bright yellow in color. Turmeric is believed to be a very powerful antioxidant and has been used to treat inflammation, joint pain, poor circulation and allergies.

bayleaf illustr

Bay Leaves- Are commonly used in soups, stews,meat dishes, marinades and vegetables. The majority of bay leaves come from Turkey where the trees grow as tall as 40 feet. The young branches are cut, the leaves removed and dried in the sun. All leaves are gone through by hand and measured. The leaves that are not chosen are thrown into a pile and bailed to be used for crushed bay leaves later. While bay leaves add great flavor to a variety of dishes, it is important to note that the leaf itself is bitter. If the recipe calls for crushed bay leaves make sure that they are crushed very fine to avoid the bitter taste. If you will be using whole bay leaves remove them before serving. Bay leaves are used by some for blood sugar imbalances.

cloves illustr

Cloves- A great spice to keep on hand as it works great with other spices to create flavorful blends in both sweet and savory dishes. Madagascar with it’s tropical climate is known for it’s clove production where the clove trees grow from 40 to 60 feet tall. Flower buds from the trees are harvested by hand at the yellow and red phase. If possible buy whole cloves as apposed to ground. Ground cloves will lose their flavor much quicker than whole which can be stored up to a year in an air tight container. When cooking with cloves it is important to understand that it is a very strong spice and should be used sparingly. Cloves and clove oil have been used to relieve the pain of a toothache. It is also believed to help with depression and fatigue when used aromatically.