Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oh vegetable stir fry, how do I love thee...

I think I could write a poem about the colorful elegance of my dinner tonight. I "fridge shopped" again, plucking things from the crisper drawers which I thought would blend nicely in my big stainless steel pan. I combined two recipes from my last Tantre share newsletter, because I wanted to use both the daikon radishes and the tatsoi. Add an onion, red bell peppers, garlic, and carrots (all from my share), and I ended up with a beautiful plate of bright red, green, orange, and white. I made a pot of brown rice, nestled the vegetables next to it, and paired this gorgeous yet simple and healthy meal with a chilled Torrontes from Argentina.

I was at the Home Grown Festival in Ann Arbor yesterday afternoon, where I saw many of my Michigan Lady Food Blogger friends. I tasted tomatoes, ate a black bean taco (Arbor Brewing), blueberry and feta pizza (Silvio's Organic Pizza), goat cheese and carmelized onion tart (The Grange), a delicious pastie (Tranche de Vie), a Rice Krispie square (Bizzy Lizzy), several local beers, and the best thing of the whole day: Maitelates dulce de leche cookies. Oh my god people those are TO DIE FOR. I bought a bag of six and I know they will not be my last.

I wanted to eat more, more, MORE!! but after the blueberry pizza I was totally stuffed and as badly as I wanted a tamale I just didn't think my stomach could handle it. Plus the crowds were reaching a point which had triggered my inner alarm and I knew I had to get out of there. I ran 16 miles Saturday morning, an endeavor which burned 2100 calories, and I definitely earned every delicious bite I ate at the festival.

I love living in such a foodie town!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sometimes a little chaos is good

I rummaged through my refrigerator and threw together a dinner of no particular provenance or coherence: chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, a bunch of leafy greens, and shredded roast chicken. The veggies were from my Tantre farm share and the chicken was Back Forty Acres. I sauteed the veggies, splashed some broth over the mess to keep it moist, threw in the chicken, and let it simmer. I had originally intended to toss it with pasta but then I thought, "why not just eat the mixture?" So I did. Just the mixture plopped in a bowl. With a hearty glass of my newly received wine shipped from California, it amazing dinner. Just a big sloppy mélange of ingredients and a glass of wine and a cat on my lap. Delicious. Nutritious. Fabulous. No recipe, no direction, no plan, just me and my cutting board and knife and fingers dipping into my jar of salt for a crystalline sprinkle across a fragrant bubbling pan of food, good food, that I made for myself.

I love cooking. I love eating. I love opening my fridge and thinking, "So, what do I feel like tonight?" and pulling something down out of thin air. Yes, I dine alone these days. But I'm never lonely.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Kitchen Sink Pasta

I was going to call it "Instapasta," and then "Garbage Can Pasta," but I think "Kitchen Sink Pasta," as in "Everything But The..." works best. This is what I make when I want a fast, easy meal which uses up ingredients I already have hanging around the fridge and pantry. Whatever is on hand. Tonight's version went like this:
  • Whole wheat mini shells (carbs for my long run tomorrow)
  • Kale (farm share)
  • The onion end of some green onions (farm share)
  • Arugula (farm share)
  • Garlic
  • Shredded chicken (leftover roasted Back Forty Acres chicken)
  • S&P
  • Parm cheese
A quick sauté in olive oil of the onion and garlic, throw on the chicken to heat it up, add the greens to wilt, all while the pasta is cooking...drain the pasta, add to the mixture, and toss. Presto! I have carbs, protein, and vegetables in one dish. As summer marches on, squash, peppers, and tomatoes will all get their chance as well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fabulous Frittatas

Now that the vegetables are flooding in, I have turned once again to one of my staples in order to utilize them: the frittata. I have learned there really is no wrong way to make a frittata, and you can put almost anything into one. For the one in the picture, I used Tantre Farm spinach and scallions from my farm share, added sun-dried tomatoes, and topped it off with grated Parmesan cheese. The eggs came from Back Forty Acres. I cooked up some bacon as well and had myself a little breakfast for dinner. The nice thing about these big-dish frittatas is I can take pieces of it to work for a midmorning snack for several days. Last night I made one with kale, scallions, onion, and cheddar cheese. Ah, the frittata. Making dark leafy greens taste good since...forever!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Salad Days

It's that time of year again. Farm share time.

It was a long dry spell between the closing of the 2008 Tantré Farm season and the beginning of this year's influx of vegetables. I picked up my first share on May 26: spinach, scallions, radishes, potatoes, lettuce...oh, the drive down the familiar road was like coming home. I dived into a sea of green and I don't want to come out. Tuesday evenings are produce prep time: washing, spinning, drying, dividing, wrapping, storing. I prep my salad greens for the week, bag my radish leaves, wrap the spinach, caress the strawberries. And then it's dinner time. Scan the fridge, open the crisper drawers, what part of my bounty will I use today?

Tonight I decided it was time to eat the remainder of my leafy greens from last week. Into the salad spinner went the last bunch of spinach, the tatsoi, the spicy greens mix. I sliced some sirloin from my quarter side of beef, chopped a couple of carrots and an onion, minced ginger and garlic, and threw the whole lot together in my stir-fry pan. The huge pile of greens wilted down to almost nothing. I divided the mass in half (one for now, one for lunch!) and devoured it. So good.

Last week I received strawberries in my share box. I used them to make orange blossom-infused fruit salad on two occasions. My god, the scent of that orange water is intoxicating. And the fresh strawberries mixed with blackberries...I almost had a moment, if you know wht I mean.

My farm share pickup day is Tuesday. Tomorrow is another day full of potential.

Oh yes, and, where are my beets? I want my beets. Chocolate beet cake and oven-roasted beets are calling!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pâté de Foie de Porc

That's fancy talk for "pork liver pâté," which is what I made for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers' "April in Paris" gathering on April 26. The theme for this event was French cooking, using Julia Childs' seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking as inspiration. (Aside: Julia was a fellow Smith College alumna, class of '34. Smithies represent!)

I decided I wanted to use the pork liver from my Back Forty Acres hog for pâté. I honestly didn't know what on earth I was going to do with those pork livers. This presented itself as the perfect opportunity. I awakened the livers from their frozen slumber and got them ready to perform.

When I read the recipe I had chosen more thoroughly, I realized it called for ground pork livers. Oops. Well, break out my trusty food processor!

Uh, gross. I can only describe this as "liver slurry." I was fairly disgusted.

Stirring in the cream. No, this recipe is NOT healthy. What on earth gave you that idea?

After dealing with the red mush of puréed liver and cream, I had to console myself with a hearty adult beverage, in this case, Dark Horse Brewing's "Tres" Blueberry Stout. It calmed my nerves.

Sautéeing onions and herbs: something I've done scores of times. This, I can handle.

All mixed together and ready to go. It doesn't look quite as nasty now.

Pâté on display: the finished product.

La table français.

A few of the MLFB gang.

I confess I did not get my pâté recipe from "MTAOFC" (as we started referring to it). I was too lazy to procure a copy from my library so I just looked up a recipe online.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork liver
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 3 bay leaves
Put the pork liver in a bowl. Add the cream and let stand for one hour. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Sauté the onions in the butter over medium heat for about five minutes, or until they are very soft. Add the garlic, parsley, thyme and basil and mix well. Remove from the heat. Place the ground pork in a mixing bowl. Add the vegetable mixture, ground liver and cream mixture, eggs, salt, pepper, flour and brandy. Mix well. Spoon the meat mixture into a loaf pan and top with the bay leaves. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the loaf pan in a larger pan that has been filled halfway with hot water. Bake for 1-1/2 hours. Carefully drain off excess fat. Cool. Cover again tightly with aluminum foil and weight it down on top with two or three canned goods. Refrigerate for at least eight hours. Remove the bay leaves. Serve with toast points or crackers.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Clearly, I Can't Multitask

This morning before I left for work I put half a pound of Rancho Gordo Runner Cannelini beans into some water to soak all day because I am going to use them for dinner tonight (Chicken with White Beans and Rosemary).

I just remembered that I forgot to pull the chicken thighs (you know, the "chicken" part of this meal) out of the freezer to defrost.

It's Monday; what can I say?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Summer in January

The spread

On January 24 the lovely ladies of the MLFB descended on my house for a late-afternoon get-together that was intended to transport us back to those warm and luxurious days of summer. If it had to be winter outside, then it could also be summer inside, if only for a few hours.

I can't emphasize enough how fortunate I feel to be part of this group of women. You guys (gals?) rule!

This is what happens when you spend the first part of the afternoon listening to opera and get home 45 minutes before the party starts: total biscuit chaos.

Patti, Diana, and Jen (Zora on the couch)

Zora, Cathy, Kim, and Alex (I apologize for the big fingerprint smudge)

Cindy (aka MK) and Alex's fabulous mojitos in the foreground (oh, so divine!)

Maggie's miniature cones and berry sorbet...yum!

Patti's blackberry pudding made with frozen blackberries from Locavorious

The way it should be: an empty glass at the end of the day

Monday, January 12, 2009

Indoor Picnic: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Oven Fries, and Homemade Ketchup

In a couple of weeks the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers will be descending on my house for a "sweep away the winter blahs" event, the theme of which is "Summer in January." I decided to take the concept for a test drive, inspired by a recipe for homemade ketchup that was in my most recent issue of Saveur. From there, it was a natural branching-out to pulled pork made with one of the last two remaining pieces of our Back Forty Acres hog and oven fries done right from the fine folks of Cook's Illustrated (aka America's Test Kitchen). Put everything on a red-and-white checkered tablecloth and I had myself an indoor summer picnic.

But first, the ketchup (Saveur Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009, p. 52).

  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chile flakes
  • 1/4 tsp whole allspice (about 6-7 pieces)
  • 2 lbs tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 anaheim chile, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
Wrap cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, celery seeds, chile flakes, and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and put into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat along with tomatoes, salt, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, and anaheim chiles; smash and add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and chiles are very soft, 40 minutes. Remove spice bundle; pureé sauce in a blender until smooth. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer into a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 30 minutes. Add more salt, sugar, or vinegar, if you like. Transfer ketcup to a glass container. Set aside to cool. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

I didn't have any anaheim chiles; if I had done my homework beforehand I probably could have found them or an adequate substitute but the day I did my shopping for this dinner (Saturday) was such a diaster, weather-wise (you MLFBs know what I'm talking about!) that the prospect of trying to drive anywhere chilled my blood and thus I just clomped through the snow to the New Chelsea Market instead. I am lucky to be able to walk to a well-stocked grocery store. I even grabbed the last bundle of Zingerman's Bakehouse hamburger buns while I was there.

I also boosted the number of tomatoes in the recipe (I think I used closer to 3 pounds) and since the recipe only said "onion" I chopped up three very small onions, assuming that was approximately equal to one large onion. Hey, it didn't seem to affect the recipe at all.

I used my stick blender to puree the mixture directly in the pot (MESSY!) and didn't strain it at all; consequently, my ketchup had chunks and seeds in it. What can I say, I was lazy. And no one seemed to care.

That's some fine-looking condiment.

Oh, half hog, we hardly knew ye.

Next, the pulled pork (Weber's Big Book of Grilling, p. 169):
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder roast (also known as Boston butt), 4 to 5 pounds
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Allow the roast to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before grilling. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the roast, fat side up, over indirect medium heat until the internal temperature reaches between 185 and 190 degrees F, 3 to 4 hours. The meat should be so tender it pulls apart easily. Remove from grill, place on platter, and loosely cover with foil. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes.

For the barbeque sauce:
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once the roast has finished resting, thinly slice, chop, or "pull" the pork meat into shreds with your finger or two forks, discarding any large bits of fat. Moisten the meat with some of the sauce and mix well in a bowl. Toast hamburger buns, if desired. Serve the pulled pork warm on the buns with the remaining sauce on the side.

Of course I used my freshly-made ketchup in the sauce recipe!

And last, but not least, the oven fries (Cook's Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2004, p.21):
  • 3 russet potatoes (about 8 ounce each), peeled and cut lengthwise into 10-12 evenly sized wedges
  • 5 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475 degrees F. Place potatoes in large bowl and cover with the hottest tap water you can get; soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coat an 18 x 12-inch heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tbsp oil and sprinkle evenly with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper; set aside.

Drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels. Rinse and wipe out now-empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with remaining 1 tbsp oil. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on baking sheet; cover tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15-20 minutes, rotating sheet after 10 minutes. Using spatula and tongs, loosen potatoes from pan, then flip each wedge, keeping potatoes in single layer. Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 5 to 15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly. Transfer fries to second baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Season with additional salt and pepper and serve.

Just pretend it's 81 degrees outside instead of 18, OK?