Monday, November 29, 2010

And this, my friends, is the last of the Turkey

It's the last of the turkey, for now, but surely just the beginning of a nearly endless string of recipes using all the greens we get this time of year....
So, when I came home from work tonight I faced your standard dinner dilemma.  I wanted something fast.  I wanted something (I'll admit) with cheese.  I needed to use up the leftover turkey (I know, right?) and I also had several lovely veggies from the farm waiting to be eaten, post haste. So, I did what I do, and I invented a little something for your dining pleasure.
Two things you should know, first -
I finally managed to get my camera working again.
I totally did NOT take any pictures of dinner tonight, which is a shame, because I had these little hands helping as my prep cook, and I do love to show off his knife skills.
File photo - meal pictured is not represented in recipe.
Alas, you'll have to settle for a list of lovely farm ingredients used in this one recipe, and instructions for recreating at home.
I'm not really sure what to call this - you could very easily take all the ingredients and eat them over rice or pasta.  We ate them inside a very simple whole grain flat bread called Roti Chapati that I buy from the refrigerator section of Costco. 
(And here's something you might as well know about me.  I maintain my sanity while working full time and raising a family by purchasing some simple staples which can be readily and easily prepared to supplement a healthy meal.  Sure, there are the stand bys that we all use of dried pasta and good ol' rice.  But I also like to have frozen pasta on hand, like tortellini, and interesting flat breads like  Roti-Chapati, as well as frozen shrimp and my new favorite, breaded tilapia.  [Oh, believe me, you'll be seeing a fish taco recipe using some of that yummy cabbage soon enough....] And yes, in a perfect world, I love makinig my own tortillas, and bread, and you know what?  I even asked for a pasta maker this year for Christmas.  But my life isn't perfect, and if some raw flat bread from Costco is going to save me 30 minutes in the evening, bring it.  [Plus, this stuff is wicked good, okay?])
So  back to tonight's dinner.  This time of year we see all kinds of beautiful greens from our farm share.  Chard, kale, beet greens, turnip greens and all the beautiful varieties of lettuce.  We're also getting leeks, onions, green garlic and varieties of winter squash, plus fresh herbs like dill, cilantro and parsley. I love the greens, and I adore how the members of the onion family add a roundness to the flavor.  In today's recipe I combine some chard with eggplant - the two flavors match up well, and the meatiness of the eggplant contrasts beautifully with the bite of the greens.  You'll soon discover that I frequently add a splash of balsamic vinegar when I cook with greens - the acid brings out the bright flavors, while the sweetness of balsamic cuts the bitterness of the greens just enough. And of course, I love anything with a nice flavorful cheese like sheeps' milk feta.
Let's call it Turkey and Chard Tacos Roll Ups - (but it's so much more than that.)
And there's a sauce!  I do love a good sauce....
For the filling (which would also work as a pasta topping.....)
A glug of olive oil
2-3 small cloves of garlic, very finely diced/smashed/crushed (or however you like it)
2 small eggplants, quartered and sliced (so you get triangles about an inch or so each) ((I don't peel it either, when it's small and fresh and tender.))
1 bunch chard (or other robust, leafy green) thinly shredded (an 1/2 inch chiffonade if you want to be fancy...)
about 2 cups shredded/diced cooked turkey meat*
salt & pepper to taste
balsamic vinegar
crushed red pepper
Heat a saute pan over medium heat, and add a thin layer of olive oil to the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the eggplant, garlic, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Saute for about ten minutes, covered, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is nice and tender. Once the eggplant is very nearly cooked, add the chard and stir, then add about 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and cover.  Cook, stirring occasional, for another 5 minutes or so. Add the turkey and continue cooking until everything is heated through.
Fill a piece of roti-chapati with filling, and add some lovely sharp feta and some of the dill sauce, below.
*this would also work without any meat at all, or with some shrimp, or some chicken

Dill Sauce
2 diced small green onions, including the green parts
1 diced pickled beet (totally optional, but adds a fun pink color!)
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
a good sized large spoonful of Greek or Bulgarian yogurt (or any good plain yogurt)
a slightly smaller large spoonful of mayo
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice OR white vinegar IF you didn't use a pickled beet (or even if you did but you really like the acid flavor.....)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until the mayo and yogurt are fully combined, and serve with our mid-eastern version of a turkey taco.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Farm Fresh Snacking - Hummus

The day before Thanksgiving seems to inspire anticipatory light eating, doesn't it?  Today, my family is baking, and prepping, and playing and talking and snacking. Thankfully this week's farm share included some really beautiful produce perfect for creating some lovely snacks.
Cilantro, Dill and Green Garlic were all in our farm share this week.  Mmmmmm
I love green garlic.  Aside from the occasional store bought dip, though, I had never encountered it first hand until we started our Green Gate Farm Share.  The farm considers green garlic one of its signature veggies, and once you try it, you'll know why. We like it sauteed in scrambled eggs, mixed into stir fry, or added to any number of dips.  As you can see from the above photo, it looks a lot like a small leek, or a scallion. But it packs a great deal more flavor. So good!
If you're using it for the first time let me give you a little tip.  It's good to clean it like you would a leek.  Chop off the very tip, where the roots are. Pull off the first outer layer of two from the bulb, and then split it right down the middle and fan it out a bit under running water to insure you're removed all the grit. When I use it in recipes, I use both the green and the white parts - all the way from bulb to tip, stopping only at the very top where the green gets a bit stringy - really, much like you would a scallion.
And speaking of scallions (or green onions) - don't let the lack of fresh green garlic deter you from creating this yummy hummus.  You can use green garlic, green onion, or plain ol' garlic with similar results.
Hummus is one of our go-to foods.  It's versatile, protein rich, smooth, creamy and delicious.  Or in this case (I can't resist!) Dill-icious.  We got our first taste of green garlic for the season in our share this week, and it combines perfectly with the dill in the share for a lovely, herby hummus.
Herby-y Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans
1 bulb of green garlic, lightly chopped
Juice from1 lemon
1-2 gloves garlic
1/4 cup dill (roughly - a good handful works fine)
Several tbsp cilantro (a small handful)
Several tbsp parsley (small handful, and optional)
1/3 cup tahini (or less, about 1/4 cup, if you want it less creamy)
4-6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
A dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
Here's how I mix 'er up.
Place smashed raw garlic, juice from one lemon and the tahini in the bowl of a food processor and process until the garlic disappears into the mixture. (I do this first to avoid bit of raw garlic clove surprising us as we eat.)  Add 4 tbsp olive oil, slowly, so it emulsifies.  At this point, scrape the sides of the food processor and add everything BUT the fresh herbs and green garlic.  Process until the mixture is nice and creamy.  If it's too thick for your taste, add more oil and/or tahini. When you have the desired consistency, add the green garlic, dill, cilantro and parsley.  Pulse into herbs and garlic are fully incorporated.
Serve with crackers, chips, raw veggies, etc.  I can tell you right now this is particularly yummy served on a small cracker with a tiny little tomato on top.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving! And Tacos!

We didn't have a hard and fast Thanksgiving tradition when I was a kid, growing up in Phoenix.  Sure, we always ate turkey, but where and with who changed from year to year. We often ate with my Mom's extended family, rotating houses from year to year. My Uncle Charles had a wonderful house, with a pool and horses, but they didn't allow drinking, so while it was a favorite with the kids, the adults were less enthusiastic. I didn't understand the big deal then, but I certainly do now. I remember fondly a food fight in my Aunt Kay's back yard, started by her son Andy.  Thank goodness we were outside, and no wonder we rotated.  Who wanted to sign up for that potential every year?
Beautiful, Lovely Aunt Irene
Taking a well deserved break from cooking. Dig the sweat band!
One of my favorite was when my Aunt Irene hosted. Her house felt like home. Irene was married to my mom's brother, Boyd, and they lived right across the street from my grandparents for years. We would run back and forth between the two, and play ball in the street in front of them. I knew both houses well, but I loved Irene's the best. When she hosted, it wasn't just Boyd's (and my mom's) side of the family who attended. Irene's sisters would be there, too, and her niece, who I knew as my cousin Allyn. Allyn had hair like Streisand in Funny Girl.  She was an adult - 10 or 15 years older than me - but still a cousin. Irene is the one who taught me that the definition of family should extend to include everyone you love. She's also the one who taught me that you should embrace the culinary traditions of where you come from and where you live, so Thanksgiving at her house always meant turkey, and tamales.
When I was about 12, our old neighbors bought a house in Northern Arizona, in Prescott.  And for years after that we spend Thanksgiving with them.  These were some of my very best Thanksgiving memories.  The best years, of course, were when we would wake up to snow Thanksgiving morning.  Growing up in Phoenix, this was a big, big deal.  But more than the snow was the whole weekend in the house with all the leftovers.  Thanksgiving seemed to last for days there. And it seems like we had pie at every single meal.  Of course, pie for breakfast on Black Friday is a tradition I still observe....
When I was in college in Tucson, my folks moved to Rhode Island. That first year I spent Thanksgiving with them, but after that it just wasn't financially feasible to fly for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so for a while, I was on my own.  Rather than resenting it, it gave me such freedom! As an adult child, I knew I had options. I could always spend the holiday with my parents, but I was free to stay with friends, travel, etc. The world was my oyster stew.....
Two important things came out of my childhood Thanksgivings, for me.  One was that I view Thanksgiving as a very flexible holiday.  Some years we travel.  Some years we visit family. Some years we stay home and invite everyone we know. The second thing?  I'll get to that at the end of this post.
My step-dad also enjoys when my mom and I cook together.
He just had to take this photo before breakfast one year....
This year, we cancelled our plans to go to Big Bend after I realized something.  I miss Thanksgiving with my mom. I don't think either of my kids have ever spent a Thanksgiving at her house.  And although she and I both love to cook and have more fun in the kitchen together than you can imagine, it's been a few years since we've been together on Thanksgiving.  (And the last time was at a condo in Destin - it was fantastic, but it wasn't a kitchen either of us knew, you know?) So this year we're going to my mom's house.  We're still deciding what to cook, but I know that it will include some Minnesota Wild Rice - since regardless of where we ate as kids, I always knew my mom would make wild rice from her childhood state.
The second thing that came out of my childhood Thanksgivings ties into so much of my past.  The love of regional food.  The glory of the leftovers, and the need for a little something from my childhood.  This, my friends, brings me to my favorite use of leftover turkey.  My mom's turkey tacos. This will be the rare recipe on my site that doesn't celebrate local ingredients (although I encourage you to source your turkey locally) but it does make good use of quality ingredients on hand, while allowing you to enjoy the holiday weekend. And you know what else? It's fresh tasting.  No gravy. No heavy - nice and crunchy, which is a nice break from the hot and mushy of Thanksgiving, frankly.
Best. Leftovers. Ever.
Diane's Turkey Tacos

Approx 2 or 3 cups leftover turkey meat, shredded
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 can chopped green chillies (you pick the size - depending on how many chillies you want....)
1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (hey! I have some of this in this week's farm share!)
salt and pepper
1 package crispy taco shells
chopped lettuce
diced tomatoes

diced raw white onion
grated cheddar, Monterrey jack or similar mild cheese
La Victoria Green Taco Sauce (this is what makes it taste like home, to me.)
Line a baking pan (a 1/4 sheet cake pan works well) with the taco shells (upright, ready for filling) and set aside.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Very lightly coat a frying pan with canola oil or olive oil

Add the chopped onions, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes
Add the turkey, green chillies, cumin and salt and pepper, and cook until everything is warmed through.  Toss is the cilantro. Fill the taco shells and place in the heated oven for 5 - 7 minutes, until the edges of the shells crisp up, and the bottom gets just a wee bit chewy from the turkey filling.....
Remove, fill with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and smother with La Victoria.
Enjoy with a side of rice and beans, and a nice cold beer.

I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holiday, however you spend it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Onion Dill Bread!

Fall has finally arrived in Central Texas! Cooler weather means baking around here. And as I mentioned in my last post, our farm share this week inspired me.  Tonight I finally had time to bake some bread. I used the green onions and fresh dill from my farm share, as well as some white whole wheat bread.  To round out the meal I also made some white bean and chard soup.  I'll post that recipe tomorrow.

Buttermilk Onion Dill Bread

1 cup warm buttermilk, 115 to 125 degrees F (like a nice warm bath – not too hot – just warm)

1 tablespoon active dry baking yeast
2 tablespoons sugar, honey or agave nectar
3 cups white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur’s)
2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup onions or green onions, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
Pour warm buttermilk into bowl, and add sweetener and yeast. Let sit 5 -10 minutes until yeast is bubbly.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add 1 cup of flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and add egg and olive oil. Mix together, then add the rest of the flour mixture, cheese, onions and dill.
Turn mixture onto floured board or counter top and knead for about 5 minutes, until texture is even and smooth.
Place dough into oiled bowl and allow to rise in warm, still spot for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Punch down, divide in half, and divide each half into eight even pieces. Roll pieces into balls and place on oiled baking sheet about 1 inch apart.(They will just barely touch after they rise - which I like - it makes a softer roll.  If you like a crustier roll, place them farther apart.)
 Allow to rise for 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Night

It's 10 PM on a Friday night, and I'm exhausted. I've been running around with the kids all afternoon. We picked up our farm share, dropped off car pool, went to The Girl's piano lesson, and went to The Natural Gardner where we picked up some native landscaping for the yard.
Part of this involved running around in the car with our farm share in the back. You wouldn't think fresh veggies would smell so good, but they do. There was a lot of good stuff in our share this week.  But the stuff that made the car smell best? Fresh green onions, and dill.  Those two will be combined at some point this weekend in a yeasty onion bread.  I cannot wait!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seriously McDonald's? No shame at all, huh?

So, I finally saw the McD's add "Where does breakfast come from Mommy?" and I went apoplectic. That the symbol of all that is wrong with American food would be so blatantly proud of it - and in fact craft a sweet little fairly tale around it?  Oh, that made me crazy. 
Breakfast, like all actual food, comes from a farm. If you're very lucky it comes from a small farm where the chickens and pigs are raised naturally and humanely.  If you're lucky your breakfast is whole grain  deliciousness mixed with farm fresh milk. The reality is, the more recently your food was actually on a farm, the better for you.  Did your breakfast spend any time in a lab?  Maybe think about finding another breakfast.... One made of food.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's LIKE Bubbles and Squeak, but it's not.

Today I bought the Korean Chili Powder needed to make Kim-Chi.  So now you have something to look forward to. 
The other thing I did today?  I used the other half of the GINORMOUS head of Chinese cabbage to make my version of Bubbles and Squeak.  Bubbles and Squeak is a British dish made with potatoes, cabbage and sometimes other stuff. Mine is more like hash browns with cabbage, and it's pretty easy, as long as you don't skip the squeezing step.  So maybe I should call it Bubbles and Squeeze.

Bubbles and Squeeze
3 cups of grated potatoes. (I've used russets, purple, white and red on various occasions.  Use what you have on hand.)
2 cups shredded (very thinly sliced) cabbage.  (Perfect with Chinese Cabbage)
salt and pepper to taste (and of course, I like to add smoked paprika)
Canola oil
The most important step?  Take the shredded potatoes, place them in the middle of a thin, linen style dishtowel and sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of salt.  Let it rest for a minute or two, and then, while standing over the sink, gather the ends of the towel with the spuds in the middle, and wring it.  Just squeeze the bejeezus out of those 'taters. All kinds of water will come out - keep squeezing until water stops pouring out. (There will still be some liquid - you're just trying to get the majority out.)
Add the potatoes to a bowl and mix in the cabbage and the seasoning.

While you're squeezing the spuds, preheat a frying pan with some canola oil over medium heat.  Once the pan is hot add the potato and cabbage mixture, and spread evenly over the surface of the pan, and press down.  Now, leave it.  Just let it sit on the heat for about 3-4 minutes.  Then stir, press and leave for another 3 minutes.  Repeat one more time.  After you've let it sit, then stirred, 3 times, flip it.  I know it's really hard to flip the whole thing.  I don't even try.  I take my spatula and flip in sections, then I press it out evenly again, let it sit for another 3 - 4 minutes.  At this point, you should have a giant potato pancake that is crispy on both sides and tender in the middle. 

I've served this any number of ways.  I love it with a poached egg.  I place about 1/4 of the mixture on a plate, use the back side of a spoon to create a little well, then plop an egg on top.  (Even better with hollandaise....)
This afternoon I picked up pork cutlets from Richardson Farms at the Triangle Farmer's Market and served the Bubbles and Squeeze with pork, applesauce and fried green tomatoes (we had green tomatoes in last week's farm share).
You can also add finely diced onions to the mixture, and serve with any number of sausages or sausage like products.  It's also good with cheese melted over the top, and a fried egg, or you know, nothing at all.
Simple food, simple preparation, and a good, new use for an old standard leafy green.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Like my Chicken like I like My Men; Local, Fresh & Easy*

Have I mentioned posting every day is somewhat exhausting?  But I seem to have gotten into a bit of a rhythm of easy post easy post involved post easy post.  I'm likin' it.  Today, then, will be an easy post.
But first, might I suggest reading this article by Carol Ann Sayle called, "Eats Shoots and Leaves".  It's a very short article about the benefit of the whole vegetable, and I'm going to work it into tonight's recipe, to boot.
This one is easy.  And since it's so easy, I'm going to write it out like we were chatting on the phone or over coffee.
Let's call it:
Easy Chicken and Broccoli!
1 lb chicken thighs (actually, optional, which I'll explain)
1 lb broccoli (or however much you would like to serve)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle or two of olive oil
Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces - about 1 - 2 inches or so each.
Mix all the spices in a bowl, and add the chicken, and mix to coat.  (I like to get my hands in there and really rub the seasoning in.)
Coat a baking dish (about 8x13, but whatever size, as long as it's large enough for a single layer of the chicken) with olive oil, and add the chicken in a single layer.  Try and leave some space between the pieces, but honestly, I usually do this in a dish where the pieces all touch a bit, and it's totally fine.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
While the chicken bakes, wash and dry the broccoli and cut it into bite sized pieces.  Remember what Carol Ann said - use the stems, too.  They're yum. I like them either sliced in coins, or diced in cubes.  Both good, although if I do the coins I then halve them.
After the chicken has baked for 10 minutes, pull it from the oven and add the broccoli (mix it with a spoon so the chicken juices and spices coat the broccoli) and  bake for another ten minutes. 
This is good with mac and cheese on the side BUT for some '50's style goodness, you can mix it into your mac and cheese before you bake it.  (And honestly, that's what we ate tonight!) It would also be good over brown rice, or with buttered pasta and a sprinkle of cheese.
This preparation would also totally work without the chicken. Just cut up some broccoli, coat with olive oil and the spice mixture, and roast at 425 degrees until it's done to your liking.
One last thing - all we did here was coat chicken with a favorite seasoning and bake in bite sized pieces, adding veggies for the final 10 minutes.  I've done this with chicken marinated in soy sauce, coated in oregano and garlic, etc.  It's easy, and yummy. 
Not bad for a Tuesday.
*And of course, the title is just a play on "I like my women like I like my coffee" - I like my men local, fresh , already married to me and named "Brit", naturally.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Where are the cucumers?

I did something incredibly painful tonight.  Something that, in all my years of cooking, and all my years of self inflicted pain, I have never done before.  And something, as a matter of fact, that was very much cartoon worthy.  I didn't rub my eye after seeding hot peppers.  (If I had a dollar, though, for every time I had.....).  I didn't squeeze a lemon with a paper-cut finger.  I didn't even drop something from the freezer onto the highest part of my foot.  (I swear, last time I heard a bone crack.)  Tonight, while enjoying the smokey aroma of one of my favorite seasonings, I managed to get a bunch of chipolte powder up my nose.  Oh, the sneezing that followed!
What has that got to do with the picture of pickles, you ask?  Patience, I'll get there eventually.  (Did you know those were pickles?  All those colors and textures and shapes?  They are! And not a cucumber among them....)
As I mentioned yesterday, I've been dying to do some simple pickling.  Not canning, just pickling.  In his book, Momofuku, David Chang waxes rhapsodic about the virtues of pickling.  He also advocates pickling nearly anything you can get your hands on.  After a wonderful experience recently with a pickley appetizer I decided to take his advice, and so my pickling adventure began. 
Kohlrabi, Beets, and Radishes, oh my!
The great thing about these pickles is you're not canning - you don't need to go through the time consuming (and nail biting) canning process of boiling everything and sealing it forever.  I used canning jars with the lids simply screwed on.  You could use any glass or plastic container you have with a lid.
In my farm share this week were several veggies prime for the brine.  Did I mention I'm over okra?  I decided it was time to pickle it.  We also got some beautiful green beans.  I love farm fresh green beans, and I love pickles, and having had some great pickled beans I decided to go for it.  We also got kohlrabi this week.  (Oh, kohlrabi - how I struggle to love you. In the future I'll share with you my recipe for apple and kohlrabi slaw, too.)  This week, I roasted the leaves (a la' every kale recipe out there right now - works with kohlrabi leaves to) and saved the bulb for pickling.  I can't wait to try the results. I also pickled some turnips, some radishes, red and yellow beets, and carrots.  (I purchased the beets and the carrots but every thing else came from the farm!)
I started with a master brine from the book, with a few alterations to suit my family.  My husband is a die-hard pickle fan, and he likes salty and sour more than sweet. I also love vinegar, and have been reducing the amount of sugar (even if only a little) in all my recipes lately.  So, I reduced the sugar, uppped the salt just a smidge, and increased the ratio of vinegar to water.  With that in mind, here's the brine I ended up with  - scale it up or down to fit your needs, depending on how many jars you need to fill:
Master Pickle Brine
2 cups boiling water
1 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Pour this mixture over prepared vegetables in a canning jar or other container, and refrigerate for 1 - 2 weeks.

From here, there is so much space to improvise! Use whatever vegetables you think would work.  Peel if applicable and scrub them good and clean.  I sliced most of mine to the size I thought would work best for snacking - some I quartered (beets and radishes) some I left whole (carrots, green beans and okra) and some I slided into cute little half moons (turnips and kohlrabi).  All you need to do is put the prepared veggies in a jar and pour the brine over.  In traditional canning you would smash them as tightly in the jar as possible, but for our purposes, that's not necessary.  In most cases I didn't have enough of the veggie to cram the jar full - so I just tossed in what I had, filled the jar to the top with brine, sealed it and placed it in the fridge.

Garlicy Dilly Beans, Plain Jane Carrots, and Smoky Spicy Okra
Now, I did play with the master recipe a bit.  For the veggies with their own bite and flavor I used the recipe as written.  I mean, I don't have any idea how pickled turnips or kohlrabi will turn out (although I'll let you know in two weeks!) so I stayed pretty close to the recipe.  I can play with it when I understand the flavors it produces better.
I also left the carrots and radishes alone.  Because that's what sounded good to me.

I spiced up the beans just a bit, by adding garlic and fresh dill, both from this week's share. (I think some peppers would be good in there, too. Next time!)

But oh, the okra.  And oh, my sinuses - here's where the chipolte powder comes in.  In the other cookbook I've mentioned this week, Vegan Soul Kitchen, Bryant Terry lists a recipe for smoky spicy purple okra, which inspired me.   So, here's what I ended up with there:

Spicy Pickled Okra
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbs chipolte powder
3 or 4 cloves garlic
whole peppercorns
any hot peppers you may have in the house (I used 3, you guessed it, from my CSA share)
Several small stalks of whole, fresh dill
A canning jar full of fresh, clean okra

Add the fresh dill and the fresh peppers to the jar of fresh okra. Combine vinegar, water, salt, chipolte powder, garlic and peppercorns in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and fill the jar with this brine.
Cover, allow to cool, and refrigerate for 1 - 2 weeks.

All of these recipes should sit and pickle for a week or two.  One week for small, thin veggies or anything you've sliced this, and two weeks for whole veggies, or anything cut particularly thick or large. Once you start eating on them they should last a month, but I bet they'll be gone within two weeks.

I think our are going to be served as snacks at a pirate party.  I mean, pirates would have had to preserve any veggies they were going to eat, right?  And what's a more salty brine than ye olde ocean, aye?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I took this photo from the window of a train in the Great Smoky Mountains of NC.
Sunday is a day of rest, right?  For me, it's usually a day of satisfying work.  Private work.  Home work.  Today I'll get invitations together for my son's classmates to his birthday party in two weeks.  I'll clean the kitchen.  I'll pick up the living room.  I'll put away laundry. Hopefully I'll find the manual to my camera and figure out how to fix it. I'll even try and find a little time to lay on the couch and watch bad TV for just an hour or so, for me.
Blogging daily is a lot of work. Fun work, but work.  My other plan today is to finally get some radishes pickled - something I've been meaning to try since I got back from North Carolina a couple weeks ago. We tried some pickled radishes at a lovely little locavore restaurant there, and I've been wanting to make a go of it at home ever since.
I recently acquired the Momofuku cook book.  I think I'm going to use the pickling discussion there as my jumping off point.
I promise to let you know how it goes. And since I want to work a little bit of rest into my Sunday, that's all the blogging for today.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Apples and Trees

Is there anything in the world like seeing a bit of yourself in your child, and finding just a bit more joy in who both of you are? It's not narcissistic, right? For me, it's more like self-acceptance through my true love of that kiddo, you know? One of my great joys in life is cooking with the kiddos and seeing just how much they really enjoying it. The Boy started surprisingly early. He seems to genuinely really love it, too.

The Boy was just a few months shy of 3 when he made this breakfast (And The Girl was about 8 when she filmed it....):

(This is really not a very exciting video, but it is somewhat amazing to watch a not yet 3 year old handle a fork this way. And again, I'm padding the blog. A post a day is pretty ambitious.....)
Really, the point here? I'm a big, big believer in getting the kids in the kitchen and having them cook, and it's never too early for them to start. Understanding where their food comes from, including visits to the farm, helping with grocery shopping and preparing the meals is so important in having a healthy relationship with food. At the end of the day, they're why I do it all. I want them to be healthy, and making their little bodies is so important to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oh Okra.....

Friday is my favorite. I leave work at noon, pick up my daughter and we go together to pick up the farm share.  Then, I work from home all afternoon and think about those veggies...
Today's share is AMAZING.  When it rained earlier this week I had a good feeling and hoo-boy!, I was right.  We have kale, beet greens, lettuce, green beans, okra, green tomatoes, garlic, dill, cilantro and the list goes on.....
But I have a confession.  A horrible confession for the end of summer.  I'm done with okra - not forever, just for the season. (And based on the swap box, I'm not alone.) It's been a long, lovely summer and okra is a beautiful hardy crop.  We've had okra in our share every week, I believe, for the past 7 or 8 weeks.  I'm over it.  Last night, in fact, I made a gumbo with last week's okra.  If you need a recipe for gumbo, ask someone else. I'm from Phoenix.  I have NO business telling anyone how to make gumbo.  (Although later this month I'm pretty sure I'll post my quick and simple cheater gumbo, so there's that....)
But I do have a really, truly fantastic okra recipe up my sleeve for all of you, RIGHT NOW.  Do you think okra is slimy?  This recipe will teach you how to de-slime it!  Are you just plain sick of it?  I bet you've never had it prepared like this!
The recipe is from the book Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry.  We're not vegans, but we do love our veggies and we do love our soul food, and this book is chock full of inventive, healthy (low fat!) versions of southern classics.  I love every single thing I've made from it so far.  Seriously.
I first made this recipe the week of July 4th, at my parent's lake house, when my Aunt and Uncle were visiting with their grandkids, and we all just devoured it.  Oh, July, when I was so excited about the first lovely, fresh and exciting crop of okra......  The recipe has a couple little steps, including making a lime vinaigrette.  This is so totally worth it, even if your dad is using the blender to make margaritas (pre-limed blender!) and I don't recommend skipping it.  What I do recommend, though, is feeling comfortable subbing whatever fresh or dried herbs you have on hand. For instance, I've made the lime vinaigrette with dried oregano (in fact, almost always), and if I were making this today, I'd use the cilantro from my share.  The lime, and some herbs (plus the other ingredients), are the key.  What herbs is slightly less important.
And check this out - I found the recipe in an excerpt from the book on Amazon.  Yes!
Here is a link to the recipe - it is on pg 46! (The recipe title IS the link - click it! And below that is an embedded screen of the recipe, so you can find it.)

Crispy Okra Strips with Lime Thyme Vinaigrette

The recipe above is linked from a preview on Amazon - it seemed much more honest and "public domain-y" than just typing out the recipe.
What?  You don't have p. 167?  Conveniently, that gives me a chance to type out a recipe and see which of the two options gets me into more trouble.  I'm hoping neither!
The Multi-purpose Coating for dredging is very basic, and should be good on pretty much anything you dredge and fry or bake.
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper (I will tell you, mine isn't "freshly ground")
1/4 tsp cayenne

And you just whisk, sift of shake it all together.  Simple enough.....

One more thing - when you are de-sliming the okra as described by the Bryant Terry, call in the kids!  Call in the neighbors!  It's so fantastically slimy and oooky and viscous.  I put the okra in a colander inside a larger bowl full of cold water, and just lift the colander out.  And all that slime - OH! - all that SLIME!  It just oozes out of the bottom of the colander.  Party trick!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh Sweet Thing!

Sunday was Halloween.  Monday, I worked from home. In other words, I was in the house all day surrounded by an ever-decreasing supply of the kids' Halloween candy.  I. Could. Not. Stop. Eating. Candy. On Tuesday I quit sweets altogether. I had too. I demonstrated a complete inability to control myself around sweets in any way, shape or form. It was the sugar version of waking up naked in a parking lot, frankly. In fact, yesterday I found not one but two candy wrappers in my jean's pocket. And so I decided to quit cold turkey for two weeks as an exercise in self control.
And really? Candy isn't usually even my thing. I like chocolate, of course, but I've never had a Snickers a day habit or anything like that. I like it, but I can take a piece from the jar at work and move on, usually. I love baked goods, but I'm usually able to eat two or three cookies and rest easy knowing the rest will be there the next day.  But seriously, on Monday? Snickers, Butterfingers, M&Ms, MilkyWays, Bit-o-Honey..... 
Why am I telling YOU all of this?  Today is Day Three.  Day Three Sucks. I want candy.
So in a twist of dramatic irony I'm giving you a recipe I've been meaning to post for months.  This summer our fig tree went crazy and I finally had enough figs to make jams and also try out a few recipes for ice cream.  My favorite of the bunch was Orange Chocolate Fig Frozen Yogurt.  The tartness of the yogurt complemented the sweetness of the figs.  The chocolate covered candy orange peels mirrored that sweet and tart combination.  The whole thing was divine.
And while it's true that the season for figs and ice cream is now behind us for the year, the season for reminiscing about recipes using homemade candied oranges, and chocolate (and ohmygodImissdessertgivemethatcandy) is not.

Fig Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Covered Orange Pieces*

Candied Orange Slices
Divide orange into four sections, and remove peel from each. Cut into ¼ inch slices, and trim off as much of the white pith as you can.  (but don't stress out.....)
Peel from 1 orange
1TBSP Cardamom Seed
1 TBSP crushed whole cinnamon stick
3-5 star anise seeds
3-5 whole cloves
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Melted Dark Chocolate

Boil slices of peel for 15 minutes, and rinse in cold water.
Add peel slices to 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar and the whole spices. Bring to boil, and then reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 45 minutes.
Strain and reserve syrup
Place orange peel on parchment and allow to dry overnight.
Dip peel in melted dark chocolate, freeze for 30 minutes and dice.
(This will be added to the frozen mixture during the final 5 minutes in the ice cream maker)

Fig Paste
Place all ingredients in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and simmer for 1-2 hours, until you have the texture of a thick, lovely jam.
3 cups chopped figs
The zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
¼ cup reserved syrup form orange peels

Fig Frozen Yogurt
Add all ingredients EXCEPT yogurt and reserved ½ cup fig paste to small saucepan and heat just to simmer. Remove from heat and strain. Let cool. Mix with yogurt and process in ice cream maker. Once the mixture has reached the frozen consistency, add remaining ½ cup fig paste plus the diced orange slices and process for just another minute or two, or alternately fold these ingredients in by hand. Place in freezer safe container and freeze for several hours before serving
1 cup cream
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
¼ cup fig paste + ½ cup fig paste
½ cup reserved syrup
Zest from 1 orange
1 TBSP orange flavoring
2 cups full fat Bulgarian yogurt

*I have to admit to being very, very proud of this recipe.  I spent several days conceptualizing it before I made it and I'm so pleased with the flavor combination and how it turned out.  I fantasize about being a pastry chef and this is one of the first dishes I've made that I feel really show some sophistication in the multiple components and how they work together.  That said, it's really inconsistent in many ways with my goal to make this a blog about using fresh ingredients used in a simple way in every day life.  (Although it's very consistent with my passion around using home grown figs!) In any case, I'm not always going to post daily - so this month, we're going to see all kinds of crazy stuff.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our Farm

The Boy helping me pick out our share
I'm not a meal planner.  I mean, I could be.  I probably should be.  And I do like to think ahead about the possibilities.  But I'm not someone who decides what to make and then goes shopping.  Instead, I'm someone who picks up our farm share, and then decides what to make.
So, okay, I plan.  I get this great food surprise every week, and then I plan. And really, I usually plan around two things: what we have in our share, and what I'm hungry for. So a lot of the meals you're going to see this month, as I challenge myself to post every single day, are based around our farm share. So let me tell you a little bit more about that.
I know I've written about our share before.   I really do love it.  It's not just about the food, either.
We're part of a milk co-op, and provided I remember to place my order, every other week we pick up fresh milk, buttermilk and cheese. The milk is raw and delicious, and I can do things with the cream on top. And the buttermilk?  Oh, I love it.  I buy it just for baking and it sings to me.  It sits in the 'fridge and it whispers seductive baking suggestions to me. It finds its way into my mind, then a bowl, then my oven, and then things like yesterday's scones. But of course, the milk is just a fringe benefit.
Skip and Erin from Green Gate Farms - used with permission from their Flickr stream
I love saying, "our farm" or, "my farmers" when I'm talking. Because I'm a big ol' nerd. And because Skip and Erin, the farmers, are truly delightful and inspirational people. They welcome people to the farm. They encourage us to look around and explore the grounds.  For them, the best part seems to be all of it. Erin loves the joy and surprise when a child discovers a warm chicken egg. Skip believes passionately in what they are doing for our bellies, our local economy and our planet. Well of course, everyone there does.
June farm stand
Oh, the bounty! Also used with permission from the Green Gate Flickr stream
I especially love our Fall farm share. This isn't even a little bit unique among food fans, of course, but it's very true. Our lettuce has a flavor. A strong, green, fresh flavor. And I love cabbage. Who knew? Braised cabbage is one of my favorites. You would not believe the cancer fighting greens - kale, beet greens and frankly, things I would have thought were weeds if I didn't know better. (They're totally not, of course.  They're incredibly delicious heirloom greens.)  And after years and years of buying produce in markets all over the place, our farm surprised me with a veggie I'd never tried. Kohlrabi. You'll see it in a recipe later this month. The farm has also challenged me to try new things with old favorites.
I've told this to the farmers, and now I'll share my secret with you.  It's not really about the food.  Sure, the fresh produce is beyond yummy.  Sure, I have a nearly pathological belief that our bodies actually really enjoy seasonal food more. And yes, I'm a firm believer that fresh seasonal food is the healthiest thing I can do for both the planet, and my family.  But that's not really why I love our share. There are babies, people, babies.  Chicks, ducks, goats, pigs - babies!  And we're allowed to wander around and exclaim at their cuteness as much as we want.  Seriously.
This is for Pine Curtain Gal, and was also used with permission from the Green Gate Flickr stream.
My camera and I are sill fighting, okay?
This week, I'm going to try something new.  On a recent trip to North Carolina we ate at a great place in Asheville which featured seasonal food. We started our meal with a plate of house made pickles. The surprise hit of the plate?  Pickled radishes.  The radishes from the farm are about to be introduced to some brine. I'll keep you posted...

Madsen Cycles Cargo BikesAnd one other thing?  If I ever get one of these, I'm totally taking it to the farm just to enjoy the SMUG. By posting this cute link, I've entered a contest to win a Madsen bike.  And my dog? Dude, he really wants me to win. How fantastic is that giant bucket?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Breakfast Scones

So, I'm posting later than I wanted to tonight. You know why? I've gone slightly apoplectic over a facebook post. My super cute friend is struggling with how to approach more nutritious snacks at her son's school. She's trying to gently suggest to the teacher that the school should supply guidelines for community shared snacks - she's not reaching for the moon. She just wants them to limit sugary snacks. And one of her friends? This woman wrote, "There aren't really any healthy prepackaged snacks to feed the kids and fresh is usually too messy" I just can't quit saying, "Fresh food is too messy." Seriously? Fresh food is messy? My adorable friend isn't asking for perfection. She's asking for less sugar. That's all - less sugar. Dude. Fresh food is too messy? I wonder where she stands on pudding cups vs grapes? Chef-boy-ar-dee vs whole grain crackers? Cheetos vs carrot sticks? So anyway I've been too busy freaking out over how messy fresh food is to write tonight's post. But I think I finally pulled it together to tell you about breakfast at our house.
My camera? She is not working. This pic? Cell phone. I warned you....
I believe in sleep. I like my kids (and okay, me) to sleep as much as possible. I put off waking the kids up until the last minute. And for that reason, breakfast is almost always grab and go at our house. But you know what? Grab and go in the morning takes a little bit of planning during the week. We're big fans, for instance, of muffins. However, we've been doing the muffin thing for a while now, so I decided to mix it up with some scones. I knew what I wanted. Something whole grain. Something with oats. Something low in sugar and fat and something with lots of fruit.

My current go-to cookbook for baking is King Arthur's Flour Whole Grain Baking. In there I found a lovely oatmeal scone recipe which I altered a bit. I reduced the sugar and butter, added quite a bit of fruit and supplemented it with some extra oats and ground flax seed. I'm pleased. It uses beautiful seasonal apples and the buttermilk I get from our milk co-op which I am in LOVE with for baking. I know the whole grain has staying power through the morning, and the fruit is giving the kids fiber and some quick start energy for the morning. The eggs and protein from the flax and oatmeal give them some longer term protein, too, so they don't crash from the fruit. A winning breakfast, and I feel good, too. Maybe I'm not a mom who can get eggs or pancakes on the table in the morning, but those crumbs in my back seat? They're full of natural goodness.

Cherry Apple Oat Scones
(Adapted from the Oat & Current Scones in KAF's Whole Grain
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
1 cup finely diced apples (granny smith, Jonathon, Jonagold or whatever
your fav baking apple)
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup oats
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Place the cherries in a small bowl, add just enough water or juice of your
choice (or a mixture) to cover the cherries, and microwave on high for 1 minute.
Leave them to cool until you need them.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet or
line with parchment or silpat

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and
sugar. Using a fork, pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into
the dry ingredients until it resembles bread crumbs.

Drain the cherries and chop very coarsely. (or not at all - just bite
sized, you know?). Add cherries, apples and oats. Mix.

Whisk together egg, buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl. Add, all at
once (dump it in!) to the dry mixture. Stir quickly - use a light hand -
until everything is moist.
Flour a large cutting board or your counter-top. Dump the dough on
the surface and form into a large rectangle. Don't handle it too
much. Just enough to keep all the dough together - knead it 2 or 3 times
in the process. Cut the rectangle into triangles (Make squares
or rectangles then cut those in half corner to corner like a good ol'
sandwich.) You should end up with 8 - 12 squares, which become 16 - 24
triangles. YOU decide how big. I go little because my kids only eat
a little b'fast. But then I make some bigger, for me and my spouse. (If
you do two different sizes, place them on 2 different baking sheets since, you
know, the smaller ones will be done faster and ready to come out

They will look prettier if you brush the tops with milk or cream before you
bake, but you don't need to.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until the scones are puffed up and golden
brown. As soon as you see color showing up around the bottom, pull 'em

Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 - 5 days. OR
freeze and defrost a couple nightly.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Should be Committed

Keep an eye on this space. By this time tomorrow (or maybe a little later....) I should have a new post up. Today I went ahead and signed up for NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month - all it means is I've committed to writing and posting every day. We'll see how it goes when I'm in Big Bend, unplugged, over Thanksgiving, but let's face this one day at a time, shall we?
It's been AGES since I posted, I know. I cook nearly every day. And I even remember to take photos of some of those meals. But two things keep me from posting:
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of faith in my photos
I've decided that both of these can be overcome. Ironically, I've decided this just as my camera's auto focus has mysteriously stopped working all together. Hopefully I can find the manual.....

I've been reminding myself that I started this blog because I LOVE seasonal cooking, and I love preparing meals that my family enjoys in the limited time I have after work using farm fresh ingredients. I'm still doing these things. I've just been keeping the recipes and the excitement to myself.
Frankly, Fall is hailed by foodies everywhere as nirvana. I decided now was the perfect time to get back into the swing of things. Even as I type this I can smell our breakfast scones - oat scones with apple and dried cherries - baking in the oven. Whether I get a decent photo of them or not, I promise to post the recipe by tomorrow. Y'all know what flour and diced apples look like anyway, right?