Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rainy day dish ideas

Spring is here and that means days that begin and end with rain. Winter days that turn to snow are cold and dry. Spring is windy and wet and there are days that never warm up.

For such days, put the soup on or else reach for a good can of whole tomatoes in their own juice. Bundled up against the wind and rain while shopping the last couple of weekends at the farmers markets, I brought home dried beans, carrots, cabbage, Skagit River Ranch bacon and spicy Italian pork sausages, and a salmon fillet from the F/V Loki out of Ballard. Here's some of what's been on the menu.

The soup is really simple but substantial. Start with a classic mirepoix. Saute that carrot, celery and onion combo to its' essential vegetable-ness. Then add the Skagit River Ranch sausage. They come in a four-pack, so add two sausages. Next, add some chicken. I used two whole legs. Brown the chicken and the sausage together in the mirepoix. Next, add stock. I used just a cup or so of ready-to-use chicken stock and then about a quart of water. (If you go with the prepared chicken stock, it's just makes sense to find one you like; one that actually tastes good.) Bring to a boil and then simmer. I finished with salt and pepper and a dash of sherry vinegar. This makes about 4-6 or so servings.

I used the other two sausages in a pasta sauce. Maybe it's because the sun had absolutely no chance of shining through today that I wanted to use tomatoes to remind me of warmer days ahead. I like to use Muir Glen Organic whole tomatoes. I also like the Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted tomatoes. For the sauce, I used a different trio; this dish called for onions, fennel and garlic. Saute the trio in extra virgin oil, then add the sausages and brown them. Cut the sausages into bite-size pieces to release their spices before adding the tomatoes. Simmer a good long time. At the end, add tomato paste if you want a thicker sauce. If you have some, also add fresh basil at the very end. The fennel paired with the sausages is a savory, warm supper for cold, rainy days.

For the salmon, another piece of produce I used to remind me of warmer days was the fresh young ginger from Hawaii that I brought home from Uwajimaya. Another simple preparation. Salt and pepper the fillet. Thinly slice the ginger and lay them over the fillet like scales. You can either steam the fillet with the ginger or bake it en pappillote with a drizzle of a good oil. You can add more ginger to the steam water and also add Vietnamese fish sauce or slices of lemon to the steam water.

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