Paper Chef #17: Tapas! Tapas! Tapas!
Not so long ago, I ducked back into our archives to take a peek at the very first comments left on our infant blog, just over a year ago. Turns out, comment #1 was left by Jen of Life Begins at 30, comment #2 by Kevin of Seriously Good, and comment #3 by Owen of Tomatilla!.
How appropriate is that?
See, here we are, launching into the first Paper Chef since our one year Blogiversary, and not only is Kevin hosting (while Owen takes a much-deserved break), but this month’s theme includes local ingredients, in solidarity with the Eat Local Challenge, organized by Jen! It’s The Circle of
Knife Life, Paper Chef style!
Now, some of our more observant readers (okay, okay, everyone) will notice that we haven’t been posting much lately. It’s spring fever, I tell you. It’s going around. The garden calls my name, the pooch begs for serious ball time; who am I to ditch that in favor of slouching at the computer?
But, when Chopper read this month’s ingredients and went on an immediate culinary brainstorm binge, I knew my time away had to end. Chopper cooks and I must blog.
And boy oh boy did he cook this time. Seriously. This food is so damn tasty, I want to head to the kitchen for seconds, thirds, and fourths before I type up another paragraph.
Hang on. Just a sec…
(Dusts crumbs off keyboard.)
Now, where was I?
Ah yes, the ingredients. For this month, Kevin used his fine scientific skills in Haberdasherdivination to produce these pleasing results:
And Chopper, because he loves this style of food (and no, not because we’re trendy, dammit! We’re NOT trendy!), immediately announced his decision to produce a four course tapas extravaganza, with a different local ingredient for each course.
For our local ingredients, we hit three places: the Farmers’ Market, Westcott Bay Sea Farms, and, er, our freezer.
Now, here’s the thing about eating local on the island in May: There’s not a heck of a lot available. The San Juan Island Farmers’ Market (in its weekly, outdoor incarnation) has only been running two weeks now, and at last Saturday’s visit, I counted a grand total of 15 stalls, only three of which were actually selling produce. This time of year, local produce means greens, greens, and more greens, with the occasional baby root vegetable thrown in. Lucky for us, greens at the Farmers’ Market are surprisingly cheap — especially compared to later season vegetables (and to the scary-expensive $6.99/lb bucket of “organic mixed greens” at the grocer’s).
In our short jaunt along the thoroughfare (I’d say main thoroughfare, but at this market, there’s only one thoroughfare), we scored green garlic from Blue Moon Produce, and sorrel and a lovely bunch of baby turnips with greens attached from Thousand Flower Farm. (Total cost for the three bunches: $5.50) Both of these farms are located on Waldron Island, a remote island northwest of Orcas that’s known for its amazing produce. (For a great chapter on the farmers of Waldron, I highly recommend Greg Atkinson’s book In Season: Culinary Adventures of a San Juan Chef.)
Next, it was off to Westcott Bay Sea Farms for clams, because as far as Chopper is concerned a tapas spread just isn’t a tapas spread without clams.
Lastly, we took a trip to our freezer where, among all the other oddities that deny us room for ice cubes, Chopper had stashed a pair of lamb’s kidneys. Yes, local lamb’s kidneys. These particular kidneys came from last year’s farmer’s market and from Local Island Meats, a stand run by the fine folks at Z Lazy J Farm & Feed, which is located just a few miles up the road from us. Chopper had been saving them for steak and kidney pie, but this weekend, they just screamed empanada filling.
Now, how close to home did we find these goodies?
Well, inspired by Tana’s Chefs & Farms map over at Small Farms, I’ve launched Island Local, a map for San Juan County growers and producers of culinary products. So far, I’ve just marked the locations listed above, but I’ll be adding more in the weeks to come. (Now, if I can just get Platial to recognize all these wacky island addresses…)
In case you’re wondering, Casa Belly Timber is just south of the map’s visible area, right below the ©2006.
A quick word about our other ingredients:
We discovered, though it wasn’t much of a shock, that neither of the two grocers on the island carry dried chickpeas, so all of our dishes were made with the canned variety. The miso was from a container of shiro miso paste already in our fridge, lucky for us.
Our attempt to use local lavender in addition to our other local ingredients was thwarted by two things: our own tiny lavender plant that’s not even close to blooming, and the exorbitant price the local lavender farm charges for their culinary lavender. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I love about the lavender farm, especially in mid-July when the fields are all in bloom, but nine bucks for a container the size of a tin of shoe polish? That’s not one of ‘em. So, our lavender came from an herb and spice distributor and I haven’t the foggiest idea where it’s grown.
Chopper made all four of these dishes at once so we could have a true tapas spread (and I could go a little nuts with the photography). I garnished everything with herbs from our garden, quickly snapped away, and then we dug in. And oh, was it good.
Now, Chopper’s asked me if I have a favorite (his is the spicy clam dish), but to be honest, I can’t make up my mind. The clams are indeed spicy, but perfectly so; the fritters just amaze me in that I can taste the fermented tofu, the smoked paprika, the green garlic, and the lavender; the spread, with that tang of sorrel in it, is something I want in the fridge for snacktime from now on; and the empanadas, well, I think the highest compliment I can offer Chopper is that I, Mrs. D, an admitted hater of organ meats, could taste the lamb kidney in the filling — and I still loved it!
Good lord. Mrs. D. eats kidney without cringing? I’d say this was a hands down Paper Chef success!
For the dough
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces vegetable shortening
- 2 teaspoons shiro miso paste
- 1 cup water*
- Dissolve the miso paste in the cup of water.
- Add flour and shortening to a mixing bowl, and with your fingertips “cut” the shortening into the flour. Stop when the shortening is down to pea-sized chunks covered in flour.
- Make a “well” in the center of the bowl, and begin adding the liquid in 1/4 cup amounts. Add just enough to bring the dough together. You may end up having to use more water, or less miso liquid.
- Cover your board with plastic wrap, and without too much handling, turn the dough out onto the board.
- Form the dough into a rough disk and wrap it tightly in the plastic. Then place it in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes to a hour; the longer the better.
For the filling
- 1 pound chorizo, uncased
- 2 lamb kidneys, diced small
- 1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained
- 2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
- Place a medium sized pan over medium-high heat, and add a tablespoon of oil.
- When the pan is hot, add the chorizo and break it up.
- Add the diced kidneys and cook them with the chorizo.
- When the meats are near fully-cooked, add the chickpeas.
- When everything is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the lavender.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
To finish the empanadas
- Preheat an oven to 350 F.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator and unwrap.
- On a well floured board, roll the dough out to roughly 1/4 of an inch.
- Cut three inch discs out of the dough, collect the scraps, and repeat.
- Lay a small dab of the filling in the center of a disc.
- Lightly wet the edge of the disc and fold it up around the filling, pinching the edge closed.
- When all the empanadas are ready you can place them on a parchment lined pan, brush with a little eggwash, and place in a 350 F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. You can also pan-fry, or even deep-fry them, my personal choice.
Spicy Paper Chef Clams
Makes 20-30 clams
- 2 1/2 pounds Westcott Bay clams
- 1/2 to 3/4 of a 15 oz can of chickpeas
- 1 1/2 teaspoons shiro miso paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
- 4 fresh spicy chiles
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- Preheat an oven to 350 F.
- Place the clams in a medium sized pot over high heat.
- Add 1/2 cup mirin and one tablespoon of chopped garlic, and steam the clams just until they open.
- Remove clams from the heat and quickly get all of them out of their shells.
- Place the shelled clams, chickpeas, miso, and lavender into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped. Place the mixture into a bowl.
- Split, scrape and slice the chiles and add them to the clam mixture. Stir well to distribute.
- Spoon the mixture back into the clam shells; don’t fill too high.
- Sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated Manchego cheese, then top with a thin slice of compound butter.
- Place in the oven and bake until butter and cheese are melted and the bread crumbs start to brown.
- Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Chickpea and Fermented Tofu Fritters
Makes 25-30 fritters
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 ounces spicy fermented tofu
- 1/2 of a 15 oz can of chickpeas
- 1 bunch green garlic, sliced, green part only
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
- 2 teaspoons shiro miso paste
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup milk
- Add the egg to the milk and beat to combine.
- Add the chickpeas, tofu, miso, and lavender to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
- Place mixture in a bowl with the flour, and add the egg and milk.
- Whisk to combine all ingredients into a thick batter.
- Heat a cast iron skillet with 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom over medium heat.
- Test the oil by dropping bread crumbs into it. When they sizzle, the oil is ready.
- Add spoonfuls of the batter to the pan, about six to seven at a time. Cook on each side for 30-45 seconds, or until brown.
- Serve with the Lavender Miso Aioli
For the Aioli
- Place two egg yolks, one teaspoon of Chinese hot mustard, one teaspoon of shiro miso paste, 1/2 a bunch of green garlic (white part only), and one teaspoon dried lavender flowers into a food processor.
- Start the food processor and slowly add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Then add canola oil until the sauce is thick enough to spoon out.
Chickpea and Baby Turnip Spread
Makes ~24 ounces
- 1 1/2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas
- 1 bunch baby turnips, trimmed, greens reserved and roughly chopped.
- 1 bunch sorrel, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon shiro miso paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Blanche the turnips until they are soft, but not mushy.
- Place a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of butter.
- When the butter is melted, add turnip greens and sorrel and cook until the leaves are wilted.
- Add chickpeas, turnips, miso, lavender, and paprika.
- When everything is heated through, transfer to a food processor and puree.
- Serve hot, with either toast points, pita bread, or crostinis.