Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Watch This Space

Why Hello!
It's been a while, hasn't it?
I spent the whole summer in Europe and only checked in once!
We bought a new house with a kitchen I can really work in and I haven't even told you about it!
Well, keep your eyes peeled on this space.
I'm not much for New Year's Resolutions. I prefer to wait, until the first week of February. You see, that's when I celebrate my birthday. And that's when I like to launch my resolutions. The crowds are gone, my head is clear, and I've had a month of being inspired by everyone else.
I can give you a preview though. I've already locked on few.
This year I resolve to post 2 - 3 times a week.
I resolve to share my love of local and sustainable eating with a broader audience.
I resolve to do this thing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

La Vie Française

You have to imagine me saying that in my very best Julia Child. That's where this started, really. With Julia, and the brave way she just jumped in to France.

We're in France. I'm in France. My husband and my kids are in France. We sold our house in Austin, TX, put everything we own in storage and we rented an apartment in France. Sérieusement!
It sounds crazy, right? It is.

But I really wanted to cook in France. I really wanted to eat in France. And I really wanted to see what would happen to my kids' brains and gumption if we just really tried something totally new. In France.
So far these kids are killing it. I mean, seriously. My daughter has become the family expert on the French language, and my son has joined me in my quest to try the pain au chocolate at every patisserie within walking distance. We are ALL IN.

Lettuce even bigger than Jimmy Neutron's Head!
So far, the eating is good.
The wine, the cheese and the pastry are all MUCH cheaper than in the US and much yummier. I knew they would be delicious. I'll admit that I have obsessed on the fact that cheese outside of the US is more authentically made with unpasteurized milk. I've felt robbed for years. I just want that real cheese! I expected it to be good. But I didn't expect it to be so cheap. I bought a sampler of 5 cheeses for 5.5 Euros (about $7)  - any single piece of cheese in the assortment would have cost that much alone at Whole Foods. And the cheese was all fantastique!

A chocolate croissant is less than a buck.
We got the most amazing peaches, cherries and strawberries I've ever tasted and I paid for it with change! (In fairness, there are 1 Euro and 2 Euro coins, but still.)
Just look at this lettuce! It was so much like a huge zinnia - I can't even tell you - just layer on layer of leaves packed tight into a neat little half sphere.
We are going to eat our way through Europe. I'll try and keep you posted. In between bites.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Chilies! Open-faced chicken chili sandwiches

We are getting some really beautiful produce from our farm share this fall. I was originally feeling overwhelmed, honestly, by the number of peppers, but I am now feeling inspired. Tonight I needed to get dinner together quickly, and chilies played a central part. Chile peppers are cholesterol free, low in sodium and calories, rich in Vitamins A and C, and a good source of folic acid, potassium and Vitamin E. They are also delicious. And although they have a reputation for being hot, the ones we've gotten this week are mild and flavorful. This recipe also uses some of the green tomatoes we received. I recently realized how good they are grilled, and the texture and flavor pay a key part in the following recipe.
I use a chicken breast in this, because it's what I had in the house. But this would also be good with pork chops, fish fillets (really, really good, although I would leave off the cheese), hamburger patties, veggie burgers, or, really, nearly any protein you like with bread.

I lost a little of the cheese to the pan I covered it with - but look at those chilies!
This meal is very simple, but you're going to have several elements going at once. You'll want to pre-heat a frying pan on the stove top. And you're also going to want either a stove-top grill (which is what I used) or a broiler pan in the oven. You could also do this on the oven on a cookie sheet. It's EASY,

Green Chili Chicken Melts
One green tomato (Optional)
One half mild white or yellow onion, sliced
4 mild green chilies, medium sized, sliced into rings
4 chicken breasts
4 slices of bread
4 slices of cheese (provolone or Monterrey jack would be good....)
4 TBSP mayo
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

Okay - we're going to have a few elements going at once here. But the whole process is about 15 minutes once you have the veggies sliced.
Drizzle olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once it's warm (sizzles if you drip a little water) add the peppers and onions, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, over medium low heat,  as you complete the next steps. Just keep an eye. You want them to soften, and take on a little color, but you don't want them to brown or get too burned or crispy. Just give 'em a stir every minute or two.
Rub a little olive oil on the chicken, and sprinkle with salt a pepper. Place on the grill pan, or the broiler pan.
Drizzle both sides of tomatoes with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the tomato slices to the pan.  Broil or grill  for 2 - 3 minutes, and flip the tomatoes ONLY. Broil  or grill another 2 - 3 minutes and remove the tomatoes. (Look at 'em. They should be lightly browned and soft. If not, give them a few more minutes.
After 5 - 7 minutes cooking time, the chicken will be ready to flip, and the tomatoes will be done. Flip the chicken, and use a spatula to remove the tomatoes to a plate or cutting board for assembly.
While the chicken and tomatoes are cooking, mix together the mayo, mustard and Worcestershire together in a small bowl, and set aside.
Remember to give the chilies a stir during this time - every few minutes - over low heat.
When the tomatoes are done, add the slices of bread to the pan. The bread will also need just 2 - 3 minutes per side. If you're using a grill you'll get some nice grill marks, and if you're broiling, you'll get a light brown toast. You just want to warm the bread, and give it a very light toasting.
The chicken and bread should be done about the same time. But don't stress if they aren't. Remove the toast, and set aside. The chicken should cook for 5 - 7 minutes per side. When it's thouroughly cooked, top each piece with 1/4 the chili and onion mixture, and top that with cheese. If you're using a grill, you'l want to cover the chicken to help the cheese melt. (Honestly? I flip the pan I just used upside down and cover the chicken with that, to help melt the cheese. The residual heat from the pan helps it along and the depth of the pan gives it some room.)
While the cheese melts, spread a tablespoon of the mayo mixture on each slide of bread, and top with the grilled tomatoes.
Add the chicken breast.
Eat wtih a knife and fork OR top with a second piece of toasted bread. (Adjust recipe to 8 pieces in that case, and make sure and grill all 8!)
Does it sound complicated? It's really not. You're just cooking a chicken breast and topping it with some sauteed chili peppers and cheese. That's it. Fast and easy. Really!
And yum!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cabrito Chili with Cornbread Topping

It's finally cooling off here in Austin. Well, some days. And some days are not. We had a little cold spell a week or so ago, and I decided to make chili. Chili, it turns out, was a fairly elegant solution to the question, "What does one do when one receives goat stew meat in ones meat share?" Goat chili, cooked low and slow, is delicious. But this recipe would work with any stew meat, really.
One of my favorite chili recipes is from Alton Brown, and involves using a jar of salsa. As much as I enjoy this recipe, I decided to play with it and see if I could adapt it to use up some of the beautiful peppers we've been getting in our farm share. And the final kick? I also had a hankering for a cornbread topping. I cooked the chili in a dutch over, made a batch of cornbread and layered it on top, and baked it in the over. Soooo good!
This isn't a soupy chili - this is meant to be more like a casserole - a ramped up version of something you might find at a potluck. The chili is very thick, and the peppers give a lot of texture and flavor to the stew.
The basic idea here is making a pepper heavy salsa out of fresh vegetables.

For the pepper "salsa":
1 cup diced fresh peppers  (About 3 - 4 medium/large peppers and a few small, too. These can be Anaheim, lipstick, green, red, or whatever you have on hand. Mild peppers will make a mild chili. Hot peppers will make a hot and spicy chili. Mix and match! Use several mild to give you the volume you need, then add a few small, hot ones for some spice!)
1 onion
2 - 3 cloves of garlic
1 can stewed tomatoes, or 2 - 3 fresh tomatoes
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until finely ground to a salsa-like texture.

For the chili:
2 - 3 TBSP Canola Oil or Olive Oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
3  TBSP Chili Powder (or to taste)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
(All of the seasoning can be adjusted to taste)
2 lb stew meat (goat, beef, bison, pork, whatever! I often combine 2 or 3)
1 bottle beer (try and use something dark and flavorful, but not too complex. Something you'd drink with a burger....)
2 - 3 cups beef broth, or any broth on hand

Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Add the stew meat in batches, evenly browning the meat. (Add just enough meat per batch to cover the bottom of the pan, and get it just a bit brown on each side. Remove the meat as it browns and process the rest in batches.)
When all the meat is browned, remove it all from the dutch over, and add the pepper mixture, and the bottle of beer, and "deglaze" the pan - scrape the tasty bits of brown meat and flavor from the bottom. Add the cornmeal, the salsa you made, the spices, and the meat. Add enough broth to cover all the meat, plus an inch or two. Place the lid on the dutch oven and place the dish in a 325 degree oven for 3 - 4 hours. The slow even heat will cook the goat (or any meat you use) to a nice, tender braise.
When the chili is done, or close to done, mix up your favorite cornbread recipe. (You don't need to take the chili out of the oven for this, but don't forget to reset the oven temp to match your cornbread recipe!)
Remove the chili from the oven and spread the cornbread batter evenly over the top. If you want, add a layer of grated cheddar to the top! Bake according to the cornbread recipe - no lid.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit!

Doesn't everyone display their beans?
I love a good pot of beans. I always, always have. I grew up in Phoenix in a single parent household, with a plant based diet. One of the staples of our diet growing up was a good pot of beans, and to this day. I love 'em. There are so many wonderful varieties of beans out there. I have to admit, I have a little bit of a bean buying addiction. Our local co-op sells so many types, and I can't help buy buy ones I've never tried before. I also love going back to old favorites, and some of the ancient Native American varieties. I'm sure it seems super-whack, but I get excited about a good bowl of beans.
The great thing about beans is they're a wonderful way to provide a no or low-meat meal to your family without cooking for hours. Satisfying and warm, a pot of beans can be prepared with a minimal amount of work, and they're a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. And honestly? After the excesses of the holidays, I'm happy to eat something so healthy and satisfying.
I was hesitant to post about beans at first. To me, they seem so basic. Honestly? Refried beans were my first solid food. I've been making pots of beans since I was old enough to reach the stove. And then a friend (or two!) reminded me that part of the point of this blog is to share the things I love to eat with other families who are striving to eat non-processed food without cooking for hours.And of course, beans are the perfect slow-cooker food. And really? That's kind of the whole point. It's so important to me to find healthy food that I can feed my family while balancing the demands of a full-time job and the responsibilities of home life.

And so, my recipe for beans. Please note, there is all kinds of room for improvisation in this recipe. I'll write down the basics for you, and then give you a few notes about where you can make changes.

Beans are not particularly photogenic. But hey!
You can see the vintage cake plate I got for Christmas!

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

1 lb pinto beans

1 small onion (or 1/2 large onion), finely diced
1 - 2 small carrots (or 1 large carrot) finely diced
1 - 2 small peppers, or 1 large bell pepper, diced. (I love to use the little mild or spicy peppers I get in my farm share. Jalapenos are great too, as are Anaheim or Serrano, depending on how hot you like it.) (Optional)
1 can diced tomatoes
3 - 6 cloves garlic, finely diced (more or less depending on your family's taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 chipolte in adobo sauce, finely diced (optional)
1 - 3 tsp salt, or more, to taste (Do NOT add until after the beans are cooked)
1 Tbsp vinegar, or more, to taste (Do NOT add until after the beans are cooked)

The night before you plan to eat the beans -
Rinse beans in a colander or strainer, and place in the insert of your slow-cooker. Cover beans with water and nearly fill the pot. Cover with lid, and leave to soak overnight at room temperature.
Dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and place in a small container to store in the fridge overnight. I also like to add the other seasonings to the diced veggies at this point, so it's all ready to dump in the slow-cooker in the morning. So, add the cumin, pepper, oregano and chipolte, and store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning -

Drain and rinse the soaked beans, and return to slow cooker. Add the diced veggies and seasoning from the fridge, and add the can of diced tomatoes (juice and all). Cover with water plus 2 - 3 inches of water above the "bean line". (Some of the water will evaporate, and some will be soaked up by the beans. You want to make sure there's enough to keep the beans covered while you're out earning a living.)

Set the slow cooker to low for 6 - 10 hours (the longer they cook, the softer they'll be. I like 'em anywhere from al dente, to falling apart. For most people, 8 hours will be perfect. Alternately, you can cook them on high for 5 - 6 hours.

After the beans cook -

Add the salt to taste, and a tablespoon or two of vinegar. (I like to add a good vinegary hot pepper sauce, honestly, but I like it spicy!)

Garnish the beans with your choice of sour cream, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, diced raw onions, diced scallions, salsa and/or hot pepper sauce.
I LOVE homemade cornbread with a pot of beans, but corn chips, tortillas and rice are all good, too.

As you work with this recipe, you might want to try it with various beans. Black beans. Kidney beans. 7 bean mix. Adzuki beans. The choices are endless.....

You can also play with the seasoning. Want chili beans? Add a tablespoon of chili powder. Plan on making an Italian bean soup? Use white beans, and leave out the cumin and hot peppers. Add a bay leaf.  Like your beans smokey? Add some smoked paprika, or chipolte powder. And there's always the ol' pork fat option. A little bacon or a smoked pork knuckle would go a long way in a pot of beans.... I usually do mine without any meat, but I also tend to think if you have a family member who feels they *need* meat in their supper, using just a little as seasoning is better for your bodies and the planet than loading up your plate.

Enjoy those beans! Toot Toot!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bruschetta - where tomatoes SHINE

My daughter loves bruschetta. She requests it all the time. When we picked up our farm share this week and she saw the tomatoes and the basil she immediately shouted for bruschetta.

I also love bruschetta. I love it for its simplicity. It’s a “cruda” at its best – simple, flavorful ingredients chopped roughly and combined simply. It’s also a perfect summer dish. Bruschetta makes a simple, flavorful use of all kinds of amazing ingredients, with simple basic preparations. Because of the bounty of tomatoes this year, I’m posting a traditional tomato recipe today, but look around on-line and I’m sure you’ll find recipes using chick peas, roasted garlic, olives, anchovies, eggplant and all kinds of amazing ingredients. But for today, we’re going for summer simplicity. This is also a perfect summer recipe because nothing gets cooked, meaning you’re not introducing any heat to your kitchen!

What kind of tomatoes should you use for this? You can use ANY tomato you have. I used the beautiful little black cherry heirloom tomatoes. I halved the very small ones, and quartered the larger ones, so that I had uniform sized pieces. In the recipe below I call for “diced tomatoes” - but halving and quartering smaller heirloom cherry varieties is good, too.

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Bruschetta
• 1 cup diced tomatoes
• 3 – 4 leaves basil, stacked, rolled and sliced very, very thin. (Here’s a description of the chiffonade technique)
• ½ cup diced FRESH mozerella – use fresh, seriously. It makes a huge difference.
• 1 tbsp olive oil (a drizzle)
• 2 tsp balsamic vinegar (a smaller drizzle)
• Salt & Pepper to taste (a pinch and a grind if ya’ know what I’m saying….)
• A baguette or a loaf ciabatta or some other chewy, crusty, lovely bread, sliced.

Combine everything BUT the bread in a bowl and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture on to the sliced bread. Some people start with toasted bread, and that’s good too. Toasted bread will maintain more texture when the wet tomatoes are introduced, and for parties or any time the bruschetta will sit at all, this is preferable, and you should toast the bread. But at home, we like the bread untoasted, so it soaks up all of the juices. (But then you have to eat it right away, so it doesn’t get soggy, dig?)

This is such a simple appetizer, but we also enjoy it as dinner on easy nights, with maybe a little deli meat, maybe some olives, maybe a bowl of gazpacho.

Summer! Gazpacho!

We are definitely in the thick of summer here in Austin, and it’s only June! It’s too hot! It’s too hot to cook, it’s too hot to eat & it’s way too hot to be hanging out endlessly in the kitchen. But as usual, nature has the answer. The veggies being harvested right now are exactly the veggies you need for one of my very favorite summer soups. In fact, the vegetables this year are amazing. I don’t know how our farmers here in Austin are managing in this crazy weather, but we are getting such gorgeous produce.

Between the heat, and the bounty, I couldn’t wait to make gazpacho. Seriously. When I picked up my farmshare last week all I saw was the complete palette of raw ingredients for the perfect cold summer soup. And yes, I’m goofy thrilled to be able to make this soup almost entirely with produce from our local farms.

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho
• 4 fresh tomatoes, diced & divided in 1/2
• I fresh cucumber, seeded & diced & divided in 1/2
• 2 fresh bell peppers, seeded, cored & diced & divided in 1/2
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled & diced
• 1 small handful fresh parsley, rinsed and diced
• 3 – 4 leaves basil, diced
• ¼ cup red wine vinegar
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tsp salt
• Several grinds of fresh pepper
• 4 – 6 cups tomato juice, divided
• A few shakes of hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce – this can be added to the whole batch or to individual bowls at the preference of the eater)

Place ½ of the diced tomato, cucumber & bell pepper in a large, pretty bowl and reserve.

In the jar of a blender, place the diced garlic, parsley, basil, red wine vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and hot pepper sauce (if using in whole batch) & 1 cup tomato juice and blend until smooth. (The idea here is to get all of the garlic and herbs blended evenly throughout this “flavor base”.)

To the mixture in the blender, add the remaining ½ of all of the diced vegetables. Blend until mixture is consistent and smooth – but still textured, about 30 – 60 seconds.

Add this mixture and 3 cups of the remaining tomato juice to the bowl of chopped veggies. Now take a
look. Is it too thick, or just right? If you’d like it to be a little thinner, add more tomato juice.

Chill for an hour or so, to allow the flavors to blend, or you can eat right away. It keeps well in the fridge for 2 – 3 days, and works great packed for lunch. I like mine with a little cheese and crackers, or bruschetta. And don’t forget the pepper sauce!