Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Soon 'Til Spring



Many folks are lamenting the passing of Christmas without snow on the ground, I must be honest, I'm not one of them. This brief respite has created loads of good tidings in my household. We tend to disagree on the weather, what with them being from across the pond and me hailing from well below the Mason-Dixon line. What's driven our mutual agreement about the weather is that each day, leading up to the Winter Solstice, has been darn right balmy. It is sunny and my husband is worried about the songbirds who didn't get the memo to fly to warmer and brighter climes.

Then today's New York Times answers the question about the durability of the seed. That piece conjured this memory of the fading days of summer spent over Labor Day back up on Lake Superior:


Lovely Day w/ Coasters rising.Brown trout brought to hand.Fresh bear scat spotted.Who will forage the wild berries 1st, me or the bear?

What remains is to start choosing the seeds now to sow.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Giveaway Contest Winner and Belated Can-It-Forward Day





Sorry for the delay, but I spent last weekend on a belated “Can It Forward” with a new friend.  “Can It Forward” was held back in August.  It’s a day of canning activities and there’s not a single one I can think of that’s better than sharing the love of canning with someone new.

The peaches at the Farmer’s Market looked great and she wanted to learn how to can peaches with BLiS.  We spent about four hours sampling jams, canning peaches with BLiS and prepping another batch for her to take home and finish processing.

I hope she brings some of her jars of peaches with BLiS to the Canning Exchange on October 29th.

Oh, but there is a winner of last week’s canning giveaway and it is commenter #5 (yep, I used a random number generator) Melissa Smejkel.  So please contact me so I can get you a jar of preserves.  Even better, let me know when you want to start canning, assuming you don't do so already.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Exploring Mes Confitures: A Treasure of Jar-Worthy Preserves and a Giveaway


Sour Cherries with a Smidge of Apricot



What I’m explaining to you here is my way of doing it.  With time and practice, you will refine your own technique.  And before long you’ll bring your imagination into play and put together some unexpected flavors.”- Christine Ferber

Jar-Worthy: 1) A food item that is canned and it is fantastic.  2)  Is the recipient of a jar going to really, really appreciate it?  Earlier this canning season, my husband asked me to set aside some jars for a few folks.  I struggled to part with any of the jars.  I asked him several questions about how sophisticated the person was when it came to food.  Would they realize they had something special or would they just pass it off as a host gift to another soul that I didn’t know?  I actually said, “I just don’t know if so-and-so is jar-worthy.”  I felt a lot like Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.

Almost every jammer I know loves this book.  Ferber makes preserves something special.  Let me tell you even Martha Stewart has a flagged copy.  Still, is it really worth all of the hype?

 I wanted to find out.   Last summer, that’s summer 2010 (sigh), I dipped a toe into canning, jamming, and pickling.  In anticipation of my expanded canning projects, I requested a copy from the local library early in summer 2011.  It never appeared.  When I would check, it would show as the dreaded “pending”.  Fortunately, I had a friend who had a copy.  She was actually heading to my home state of South Carolina for about a week and she lent it to me.

 Wow! Reading it and seeing the photos was jaw-dropping.  I’ve always thought of preserves as a humble condiment.  You know something to put on white toast or to be married to peanut butter, but these recipes were something different.  This book showed me that preserves, jelly, jam, could be just as sophisticated as a fine wine, a black truffle, a well-marbled steak, or any other high falutin’ food you could think of except, even in this higher place, the food was accessible.  You could still put it on white toast or marry it with peanut butter.  There was only one substantial drawback, how would you ever go back to eating normal preserves again?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Savoring Summer with Watermelon Grown at Home




It just seems like I always end up talking about watermelon outside of its season.  Summer ended last week, but I think it’s up for debate how much of a summer we had here in Chicago.
The growing season was delayed, both for commercial farmers, as well as personal vegetable gardeners.  So I’m grateful that I was able to get any watermelon out of our very short, and relatively cool, summer in my Earthboxes.  This summer I planted a variety of watermelon unfamiliar to me.  I picked it from the seed catalog based on the description.  Productive, 85 days, cool and short growing season, all sounded like Chicago to me.  A light-fleshed wonder averaging around 10 lbs called Sweet Siberian.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals: #35 Making the Most of the Bounty of Eggplant




Sorry, I missed last week but I was busy cooking and canning and preparing to hit the road again.

This summer I planted a variety of eggplant that I had not seen, let alone grown, before.

It’s called Kazahstan.  It can be green and mottled.  It may have a bit of a purple tint to the green.  Or it could show up in an array of multi-colored hues.  So it’s pretty.  It also gives up lovely fruit that weigh-in at about 5-7 ounces a piece.  No need to figure out what you are going to do with a monster that needs to stuffed.  You betcha this is going into next year’s garden.

I used it two ways this season.  The thing about eggplant is it’s an awful lot like tomatoes.  It will keep you waiting and then you get flooded with them.  Both of these eggplant dishes should become staples for you.  They are fast and delicious.  Neither of these applications requires salting the eggplant and your dish will be sweet and reminiscent of the fruit that eggplant is, not the least bit bitter.

Baba Ghanoush (Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip)


Ingredients

1-1/2 lbs of eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1 t. salt
¼ c tahini
¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice eggplants in half, along the length of the fruit and place flesh side down on a foil lined pan (I like to use the non-stick foil).  Broil on high until the skin is black and crisp.
Scoop the flesh out of the skin and cool in a bowl for a few hours.  Drain off any liquid that accumulates in the bowl.

Using your high powered blender, I’ve got a Vitamix, or a food processor, add garlic, eggplant, salt, and tahini.  Blend until smooth.  While machine is running, add lemon juice.

This is perfect as a spread in sandwiches, with pita and olives, or thinned with a bit of lemon juice and used as a salad dressing.

Roasted Eggplant with Chickpeas and Feta (Martha Does It Again, from Everyday Food with a tiny change)

Ingredients

3 lbs of eggplant, cubed
4 oz. of feta, rinsed, patted dry, and crumbled
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 T. EVOO, divided
¼  c. minced fresh basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place cubed eggplant in a bowl and toss with 3 T of EVOO, salt, and pepper.   Divide the eggplant between two rimmed baking sheets (yep, I line them again with non-stick foil).  Roast for 15 to 25 minutes rotating the baking sheets, between the oven racks, halfway through the cooking time.


While the eggplant is roasting, whisk the remaining 2 T EVOO with the lemon juice.  Once the eggplant is done, it will be charred and sweet, place it in a bowl.  Add the chickpeas, feta, and basil.  Pour the dressing you made over everything and toss.  Taste and adjust seasoning and Serve.



This dish is wonderful warm, at room temperature, or the next day cold.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals: #34 A Warming Stew Straight From the Garden




This one’s down and dirty.  I had a great holiday weekend of al fresco dining on the shores of Lake Superior.  Yes.  It was cold, still absolutely breathtaking.

You could tell the bear hunters will pour in this week because there was berry-filled bear scat on our friend’s property.  Somehow, I think they will make themselves scarce this week, at least I hope so.

This is a perfect dish for hands-free cooking.

Slow-Baked Beans with Kale with very few changes from Martha Rose Shulman, found in the NY Times

Ingredients

1 bunch of kale (I cut a very, very large bunch right from our garden), stemmed and washed
2 T. EVOO
1 T. melted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery (use the leaves also), chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 2/3 c. white beans, soaked overnight
1 6 oz. can tomato paste, dissolved in 1 c. water
½ c. bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.  Boil a large pot of salted water; you should be able to taste the salt in the water.  Add the kale and blanch for two minutes.  Remove kale to an ice bath.  Drain kale.  Then squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it, I use my hands to do this.  Roll the leaves into bunches and then chop.

Heat 2 T. EVOO over medium heat in a large ovenproof pot.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Stir frequently, you will probably get a brown fond on the bottom of your pot, until the onion is golden.  Add the garlic and stir until your kitchen smells fantastic.  Add the dissolved tomato and bring to a low boil.

Add the rinsed and drained beans, 3 c. of water, salt and pepper to taste to your pot.  Add the kale and bring to a simmer.  Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.  Bake for three hours.  Adjust seasonings.

Mix the melted butter with the bread crumbs.  Top the inside of the pot with the bread crumbs.  Increase the heat to 325 degrees and cook until bread crumbs have browned.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 33: Not-too-hot and Not-too Cold Tomatoes and Pasta


If this cool weather continues, my other cool summer soups may have to wait until 2012!

So tonight is another night when something a bit more substantial makes sense.

How about a not-too-hot, not-too-cold but just right offering?

This one takes some time, but it’s really hands-off time. It’s perfect to set up the night before, or in the morning before coming home and finishing it. Besides I know you want to see what happens when the Sungold tomatoes come pouring in, like they did last week.

Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce, from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

Ingredients

1 head of roasted garlic* (do this the day before, and do it every week—it’s a staple!)

EVOO

2lbs of Sun gold and should have been Sun gold cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped

½ c chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

½ t. crushed red pepper flakes

4 oil-cured black olives

1 T capers, drained (mine were salt packed so I rinsed them once I removed them from the jar)

1lb of pasta





For the Roasted Garlic
(can be done up to 2 days in advance, just make sure you don’t use it all before you make this dish!):

Take head of garlic and stand upright in small ramekin. Drizzle olive oil on top. Place in oven at 350 F for an hour.

For the Pasta and Sauce:

Place everything except the pasta, in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it to meld for at least 2 hours, but 8-10 hours would be great.

Make pasta. Drain pasta. Mix with the sauce. Garnish with a bit of chopped basil and watch the room get quiet while folks eat this.

This is my way of roasting garlic, not necessarily Martha Stewart’s prescribed way.





Monday, August 22, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 32: Sweet and Cool Corn Soup



Last month I ate at Bonsoiree. It’s one of those fine dining multi-course places, but no jacket or tie are required.  I’d always wanted to eat at a multi-course place during the summer when the chefs would have the best of the Midwest’s cornucopia to choose from, although eating multi-courses in summer kind of goes against the grain.  Anyhow, one of the courses stayed with me, in a good way.  It was a chilled corn soup.  It was fantastic.


Summer is waning and I love a cool soup.  I’ve got a perfect gazpacho and a perfect fruit soup but I didn’t have a perfect corn soup, heck I wasn’t even thinking about cold corn.

Chilled Corn Soupfeatured in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food (yes, I changed it)

Ingredients
8 ears corn
1 3/4 c whole milk (do not make it skim or 2%, I’m begging you)
¼ c cream
2 T. EVOO
2 T. unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced (don’t do this until just before serving)
Salt, preferably Kosher
Pepper, preferably white

 Remove ends of corn (that’s the pointed end) and stand, one ear at a time in a shallow and wide bowl, I used my casserole Corning ware.  Shuck corn and then cut kernels off the cobs.  Place cobs in a large pot. Add the milk and 6 c. of water.  Boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove cobs from pot.

While cobs are simmering, heat EVOO and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once the pan is glistening, add shallots and cook for 2 minutes.  Add corn and cook for 4 minutes.  Salt and pepper (I used white pepper) to taste.  Set aside ½ c of kernels.  Add sautéed corn to pot of corn milk and bring to a boil.  Add ¼ c. of cream and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

In batches, fill blender with soup and puree until smooth.  Set up a large bowl with a fine mesh sieve over it.  Pour pureed soup into sieve and press on the solid matter to extract the liquid.  Once you’ve completed that throw away the solids.  Adjust the seasoning and chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight to permit the flavors to meld.

Garnish each bowl with bell pepper and reserved corn.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

May I Have the Envelope Please

And the Winner of the Foraging and Canning: An Ode to Elderflower Giveaway is (drumroll):






City:


Helen Gunnarson said: " Giveaway City! I maintain that I do not need to explain either why foraging isn’t a dying skill or why food preservation is experiencing a come back in our fast-paced world, because your post already PROVES those very points. Come on–here we have a busy Chicago litigator (vous) who’s plugged into all the latest gadgets, software, and web applications, serves on at least two active committees within her state bar association (one of which you chair, if I’m not mistaken), does I don’t know how many other cool things in her professional and personal life, tweets, and blogs not only about matters related to her profession but also about food AND, to top it all off, FORAGES, CANS, and MAKES HER OWN ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL, for heaven’s sake! I pride myself on my own knowledge of plants, learned mostly from my mother when I was a child in a small town downstate, but I had no idea that wild parsnip would do those awful things (though I did know it’s a noxious weed) and am not at all confident of my ability to distinguish elderflower from noxious and/or poisonous weeds. Filled with admiration at your prowess, and hope I get to win some of your cordial!"


and
City Winner #2:


Natasha said: "Giveaway City, for sure.
I don’t so much think it’s a dying skill, but I do think it’s making a comeback. Though, I’m not nearly so aware of everything as Helen is!
It just seems to me that there’s a few things going into all of this. A surge of creativity. An interest in getting our hands on our food. An interest in where our food is coming from & how it’s made. A desire to preserve the truly grand flavors that can happen when things don’t have to be shipped.
Maybe that’s just my reasons, but I think I’m not alone."

Wait, we haven't even announced the Country winners so read more over at the Local Beet...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 31: Summer+ Cool weather= Corn and Pasta




Okay, this is going to be brief.  I need to do something about my poor wilderness of tomato plants and I have a short window for putting up pickles because I have the audacity to not time my weekends away with the crops.

Here’s a new way to enjoy corn and I’m going to do my darndest to bring you at least a little more love of corn before the season ends.

I know it sounds like a starch lovers dream but Bon Appétit nailed it last year with this corn and pasta dish.  Trust me; my family went gaga for this one.


Pasta with Corn Pesto, adapted from Bon Appétit:

Ingredients

4 cups of fresh corn, shucked from the ears
1 clove of garlic
1 t. salt
½ c. freshly grated parmesan
1/3 c. pine nuts*, toasted         
¼ c. plus 1 T olive oil, divided
 8 oz. of pasta shells

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pre-heated skillet, preferably non-stick.  Once the pan is glistening add the corn, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.  Cook the mixture until tender and fragrant, remember overcooked corn is tough.  Set aside 1 ¾ c. of the corn. 

Place the remaining corn in a food processor, or high speed blender, I use a Vita-Mix.
Add parmesan and pine nuts.  Turn on processor, or blender, and process at a low speed while slowly drizzling in the remaining ¼ c. of olive oil.  Blend until smooth.  Don’t worry you will have enough liquid to make this creamy from the corn milk that forms during the processing.

Cook pasta to desired level of doneness, seriously, I loathe al dente pasta.  Place bowl under colander so that you don’t loose pasta water as you drain your cooked pasta.  Reserve 1 ½ c of the pasta water.

Place pasta back into drained pot.  Add the corn pesto and the reserved corn kernels.  Use reserved pasta water to thin to desired consistency.




I won’t tell if you lick the plates!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Foraging and Canning: An Ode to the Elderflower and a Giveaway




I’ve had elderflower on the brain for a few weeks now.  I really can’t explain it, but it appears I’m not the only one with elderflower on the brain.  I re-read this thread on the Chicagoland Food Lover’s chat site LTH Forum.  But I also found out that even Martha Stewart has elderflower front and center.

There was only one thing left to do and that was to go gather elderflowers.  Fortunately, in the middle of farmland for some trout stalking in Wisconsin with my husband I saw it everywhere.  The flowers that you are supposed to pick, have a light perfume that reminds me of honeysuckle,without being cloying.
There was only one major problem; it was surrounded by a poisonous invasive species known as wild parsnip.  This made me leery of foraging because there was no question, wherever the prettiest blossoms of elderflower were, it would be almost impossible to pluck them without touching wild parsnip.



Unlike poison ivy or oak, wild parsnip dares you to look at it.  It’s pretty.  If you touch it and are subsequently exposed to sunlight, your skin won’t itch at all.  You will not get a rash.  Instead you get blisters as if your skin had been boiled.  I didn’t get any on me while I harvested, but my husband did while he was bushwhacking to get to streams for trout spotting.

Once we got home I shook each and every one of my blossoms to remove any bugs; both bees and ants are a good sign when harvesting,because you know you’ve got sweet blossoms.  Into a large bowl of water  went my blossoms for cold steeping, before being made into elderflower cordial.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 30: Fast, Healthy, and It Tastes Good





Did I tell you I’m kind of a new lover of tofu?  I know, kind of odd for someone who doesn’t eat animals but it’s the truth.

So I’m on a bit of a kick and you will see future recipes of things that taste fantastic and are good for you.  I know I love food and I just see no reason for fantastic food and food that’s good for you not to have a long and fruitful union.


Tofu and Vegetable Toss adapted from Dr. Joel Fuhrman:

Ingredients
3 garlic scapes, diced
½ c red bell pepper, diced
14-16 oz block of firm tofu, rinsed, blotted, and crumbled
15-25 cherry-sized tomatoes, quartered
10 oz  baby spinach
1 T. nutritional yeast
1 t. Bragg Liquid Aminos

In a large non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat, sauté garlic scapes, red pepper, tomatoes.  You may need to add about a ¼ c. of water, but wait until you get a bit of browning on the vegetables before adding it.  Then add everything else to the skillet and heat through, about five minutes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 29 It's Hot & You Are Hungry= King Corn for dinner




I've got a confession.  I generally feature food that we literally have for dinner on the same Monday night that the post goes up.  That's why sometimes the posts go up long after a lot of folks have had dinner.  This last week I was out of town at a conference in Boston so I did no cooking.  I didn't get back until late Saturday night and I haven't really gone shopping for dinner staples, just rushing against the season to put up food.  Yes.  I will post soon, so you can try some of them this season, but that's another story.

My husband said he wasn't very hungry so when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said, "Corn."

Corn should be a seasonal staple in your home because it's quick and versatile.

Here's what you can do with it.

Strip the husk and eat it.
Cook.  Then strip the husk.  Then slather it, like our Mexican food cart guys do, with mayo, cayenne, butter (yeah, I know they use bottles of Parkay), and a squeeze of lime.
Cook it.  Strip the husk and remove the kernels from the cob for an array of uses including my favorite, in salad.

But, corn is a far more fragile vegetable than it appears.  Sure you can roast in literally on top of coals, grill it, boil it, but if you cook it too long the kernels go from sweet and juicy to dry and crunchy.  And really, I don't know why anyone would remove corn from its protective husk until immediately before using it, buy you are drying your corn out the minute you do it.  I watch folks do it all the time at the farmers markets and I'm always wondering are they literally going right home to cook it?

No real recipe in our urban abode.  So here you go.

Corn


Take ear(s) of corn, still in husk.  Wrap in a paper towel.  Wet the entire thing, including paper towel.  Place in microwave and hit vegetable setting.  If your microwave doesn't have a vegetable setting try about 3 minutes on high.

Remove hot corn from microwave (use an oven mitt) and allow to rest for 4-5 minutes.  Carefully strip the husk and remove the silk.  You should be able to do this simultaneously.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 28 It's Hot & You are Hungry= Making Salad a Meal









We've had our heat wave. It was so hot that at first I mistakenly thought my tomato plants were simply hot and thirsty.



"
"

What you want is something quick and easy during these dog days of summer.

This one is very easy and permits you to take two staples ( I think it's a great idea to make these, the yogurt, the broccoli,and the bread on Sunday for the work week) the oven roasted tomatoes* and the roasted portabello mushrooms for a tasty meal Yes. I will show you how to use the other staples in meals.



Quick Salad for the Hot and Hungry

Ingredients

1 to 2 mushrooms per person
3 to 4 oven roasted tomatoes per person
2 handfuls of salad greens (your choice, lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, etc)
Add, as you have at hand, other vegetables, I like fresh corn, dried cranberries, and olives but anything works here.
Salad dressing


Toss all ingredients, except the mushrooms. Divide salad onto plates and top with mushrooms
Enjoy!

*Tomatoes in picture were not roasted by me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 27 Pock-Marked Tofu





Last weekend I went to Sun Wah for a lecture on tofu hosted by the Chicago Food Roundtable.  Later, I kid you not, that same day I see this article in the current issue of Food and Wine.

It’s time to show some love to this most important and good-for-you food.  Tofu.

I’ve had a problem eating it for years.  It’s been a lot like broccoli for me.  But taking a page from Mr. Steingarten, I’ve found a way to enjoy it.  Don’t worry, I will show you other ways in the future.
                                     



I finally worked up the nerve to make the Chinese classic mapo dofu a/ka/ ma po tofu.

As I read through this Chinese cook book I’ve had for decades it finally clicked.  There’s an anecdote prior to the recipe about how restaurants in China have you pay by the gram, or maybe the ounce, for mapo dofu.  You order so many grams of tofu and so many grams of pork or beef to be cooked together and presented.  I substituted the animal with a meat substitute and enjoyed it thoroughly.  If you don’t like meat analogs, leave it out.  You will still have a fine dish.

This does take a bit of time, but still doable for a weeknight meal where you have some time.






Pock-Marked Ma's Bean Curd a/k/a ma po doufu a/k/a ma po tofu


Ingredients

3-inch piece fresh ginger
5 scallions
1/2 pound Gimmelean or other meat substitute
5 T soy sauce (separated as 2 T and then 3 T)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
8 cloves of garlic
1 block of fresh tofu (approximately 1 lb)
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 ½ t. hot chili oil
1 t. chili paste, like Sriacha
1 t granulated sugar
3 T soy sauce
2 t. of cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground, roasted Szechwan peppercorns
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 T. of rice wine vinegar

Peel the ginger, and then chop it into teeny, tiny pieces.  When you think you are there, chop those teeny, tiny pieces down in size by at least half.

Clean the scallions, then chop them, both the white part and about one-third of the green, into pieces slightly larger than the ginger.

Take 1 tablespoon of the minced ginger and about 1 scallion’s worth of chopped scallion and mix into meat analog.  Then add 2 T of soy sauce and sesame oil.  Mix well and set aside for a half hour.

Meanwhile, peel garlic, chop coarsely then mix with the remainder of the ginger.  You are trying to create a ginger-garlic pulp out of this combo.  This is a pain in the neck, and takes some time but it is worth it.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can’t tell where the garlic starts and the ginger ends.

Make ½ in. cubes of tofu.

Mix the cornstarch into the meat substitute just before you start cooking.


Heat pan on a medium high for a minute or two.  You should place the palm of your hand over the pan and when it feels quite warm, your pan is ready. 

Now add oil to the very warm pan and it is hot enough when you see just a bit of smoke.

Add to your sizzling pan your garlic-ginger pulp and stir constantly so it doesn’t stick or burn.  You are building layers of distinct flavor this way, so next add the chili paste and hot chili oil.  Continue to stir constantly, now throw in the meat substitute and use a wooden spoon or a spatula to break it up into small bits.  Cook until done and a tad bit crispy.

Bean curd gets thrown into your sizzling pan of fragrant garlic-ginger pulp with crispy meat substitute.  Don’t forget to toss in the rest of the scallions and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. 

Next add the sugar, I know it sounds weird but at moderately heat it helps with browning as well as a flavor boost.

Add ½ c. of water and the remaining 3 T of soy sauce to the pan.  Let it come to a light boil.  After the contents come to a boil continue cooking for 2 minutes.  Add the Szechwan peppercorns.

Now spoon into the pan the sesame oil and stir to incorporate.  Finally, sprinkle the vinegar into the pan and stir until the slightly sharp smell hits your nose.

Serve with rice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Support Agricultural Sustainability and Clean Water


(from left to right) Todd Hanson (Wisconsin Trout Unlimited State Council Secretary), Ray White (Retired Assoc. Prof. of Fisheries Science at Montana State University), and Sara Strassman (Director, River Restoration Program at American Rivers) discuss water quality issues and trout habitat on the West Branch of the White River, Wautoma, WI, in the fall of 2010.


Today, we have a guest post from my BFF, Alistair George Stewart.
Alistair is an avid cold water resource conservationist and trout fisherman. He’s spent a lot of time over the last 15 years exploring pure, crystal-clear streams throughout Wisconsin. The time he has spent there has made him a lover of the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion in particular. Read below about an imminent threat to a resource we all depend upon – clean, safe water.
CAFOs, meaning large-scale confinement animal feeding operations, are the epitome of industrial agriculture. Virtually every argument made in support of CAFOs is based on their supposed economic benefits to rural communities – promises upon which they have consistently failed to deliver.
While the promised economic benefits of CAFOs are illusions, their environmental and social costs are real. Today, there is no legitimate basis for the denial of those costs. Virtually every socioeconomic study done on the subject in the past 50 years has shown that both the social and economic quality of life is better in communities characterized by small, diversified family farms. Even in cases where larger, specialized farming operations have brought more jobs and total income to communities, they have also brought greater inequity in income distribution.
Recently I learned of the proposed Richfield CAFO, in Wisconsin’s Adams County, on the eastern edge of the Central Sand Plains Ecoregion, immediately adjacent to the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion. The potential environmental degradations caused by such a large facility in areas recognized for their environmental significance and sensitivity concern me greatly. The planned water resource impacts alone are staggering and frightening.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 26 Portobello Mushrooms--a Staple



It maybe summer, but sometimes watermelon and cherries aren’t enough.  Generally, that’s all I need, let alone even want to eat during the summer months.

Still, I find that menu planning makes life easier.  The only problem is I get stuck zipping through books, magazines, and online trying to plan meals for the week and taking account of when we will definitely be eating out.

Here’s an easy winner that lends itself to menu planning.  Just roast all of them on Sunday and it should be easy to stick them into an array of places throughout the week.  I’ve used them hot as a primary vegetable.  Warm. And cold they’ve been featured prominently in salads.  Seriously, they make wonderful “bread” for sandwiches that any low-carb and/or high nutrient seeker can enjoy.

Plus they are good for you and if you are like me and make your own salad dressing, then by all means use it as the marinade for these lovely fungi.




Oven Roasted Portabello Mushrooms

Ingredients

2 lbs of Portabello mushrooms stems removed & caps brushed off
6 T. of vinaigrette (preferably homemade)
Pinch of Truffle Salt (optional)           

Preheat a shallow baking sheet in oven at 500 F.

Remove gills from mushroom caps.  Simply take a spoon and scrape the gills out. 

Place vinaigrette in a bowl and add pepper to taste.  One at a time place each mushroom in bowl of vinaigrette. Flip the mushroom over so that both sides get some vinaigrette.  Remove mushroom from bowl and place in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle with a generous portion of truffle salt and roast for seven minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

What Kind of Pickle Do You Like?

Parisian Pickling Cucumber


Last year’s garden was defensive.  What I mean by that is it wasn’t really planned.  We kind of just jumped in.  Plus it was the first time I’d ever planted anything.  This year’s garden is interrupted and distracted.  I started late and I’m already thinking of different varieties I want to plant next year.

This year’s distracted and interrupted garden features three types of cucumbers.  Last year I fell in love with pickles.  It’s intriguing.  Earlier this week, my husband and I had lunch together in the Loop.  I ordered a toasted cheese sandwich and it came with the ubiquitous spear.  As I reached for my pickle and took the initial bite, yes it was dilly, but I liked it anyhow, my husband looked at me, shook his head and smiled.  “It’s so odd to see you do that. Last year, you wouldn’t have been able to stand having it on your plate and I would have gotten it.”  He said with a glimmer in his eye, I asked him if he wanted the rest and he said, “No. It’s just funny.”

Okay, so now you know what I wish to do with three different types of cucumbers.  All of them can be pickled and only one variety can be used as a slicer.  I’m also going big by not giving them any trellis space.  I find trellising and staking rather annoying so I’ve done my best to avoid these two important methods as much as possible this season.  Already, I’m having second ideas and will probably give the watermelons some place to grow up.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Horticulture Horrified by Hail




First I couldn't get things in the ground soon enough.  Then the weather was literally hot and cold, now this!

Mon Dieu!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 25 Last Days of Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Ramps, & Preserved Meyer Lemon



Spring has Sprung is one of my husband’s favorite sayings.  While I know many of us are willing summer to be here, today with a high in the 60’s and a low in the 50’s makes it still comfortable eating weather for heartier dishes like this risotto.

Here's my love letter to spring. xoxoxo





Risotto with Asparagus, Ramps, & Preserved Meyer Lemon

Ingredients
2 c. Arborio rice
1 c. dry white wine ( I use the non-alcoholic one by Ariel or Fre)
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ c minced ramp (bulb and stalk only)
1 c. grated parmesan
3 T. unsalted butter
1 T. EVOO
5 c vegetable broth
1 ½ c water
1 lb. of asparagus, tough stems removed and then chopped on the bias into thirds
½ of a Preserved Meyer Lemon, minced


Heat 5 cups of broth and water until a roiling simmer then decrease heat to a bubbling simmer.


In a Dutch oven melt 3 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon of EVOO over medium heat.  Once shimmering adds ramps and stir until tender, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about one minute.

Add rice to pan and stir to incorporate ramps and garlic.  Continue stirring until grains are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add wine and stir until absorbed about 5 minutes.

Stir in 5 cups of broth and cover for 15 minutes.  Remove cover and stir.  Cover, again and leave it alone for 10 minutes or until the liquid is almost completely absorbed and the grains are soft.  Stir in 1 cup of broth and add asparagus.  Stir frequently for 5 minutes.  Add parmesan and stir to incorporate.  Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes.  Stir in preserved Meyer Lemon, season to taste and plate.


Friday, June 10, 2011

I’m Late, I’m Late for a Very Important Date, Or Am I: Is the Garden Planted?



Right now, it’s all about the weather. It’s been hot. It’s been cold. It’s been wet. I mean the kind of wet that washes seeds away before they take root wet.

It’s all just a reminder that it’s still spring! While we like to mark the beginning of summer with Memorial Day ( the first warm, sunny one I can remember having here in a very long time) it’s still spring until June 21st this year. That’s right, we have almost two weeks left of spring, which seems to have worked out to my advantage for planting. I’ve gotten a late start, how’s that for irony a newly tested Master Gardener Intern and…nothing planted until the end of last month. In fact, I’ve felt like a day trader, except I’m constantly looking at the weather forecasts instead of whatever they monitor.

Continue Reading over at the Local Beet...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 24 Homemade Yogurt, Because I Can



One of the great things about being a person who doesn’t eat animals is the throwing off of food shackles.  You don’t have to eat three times a day.  You can eat peanut butter whenever you fancy.  You can drink your food and feel fantastic.  Breakfast, if you even want that meal, can be broccoli.  And yes, dinner can be pancakes!
Last week, I thought I was being super nice and buying my husband’s favorite yogurt, there was only one problem, it comes in the same container as the company’s milk and I grabbed their milk instead.  Don’t get me wrong, this is the most fantastic milk I’ve ever had.  But I really just don’t drink much milk (think about it, it’s the nursing liquid intended for baby bovines—blech!).  I’m not doing much baking, and this milk tastes too good to freeze for a later use.  I decided to make yogurt.  There was only one problem, I’d only made yogurt, previously, with wait for it…yogurt as a starter.  I didn’t have any yogurt.  I did have those probiotic capsules that you can get in the health stores.

So what do you do with yogurt?  Everything.  Wherever you see sour cream in a recipe, try yogurt.  When you want a great treat, my husband likes to finish a meal with a naked bowl of the stuff.  Me, I’m partial to a crunchy breakfast cereal with a bit of fruit, below it was served with peach conserve with rosewater.

Yogurt

Ingredients:
Quart of Milk (mine had a layer of cream on top & yes it was organic)
Probiotic Capsule (I would up it to 2 or 3 capsules for the next batch)

Heat milk in large pot, before it get’s that film and around 105 degrees, add just the powder from the capsules, not the capsule itself) to the pot.  Remove from heat.

Pour into glass containers for yogurt maker and process according to instructions.  I left mine in the yogurt maker for 24 hours.  Then refrigerate. 

You don’t need a yogurt maker, is my understanding.  Some folks place it in a warm, draft-free spot (if you bake bread, put it in the same place you use for the bread to rise.)



Monday, May 16, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 23 I’ve got my Vegetarian Card Back!




All of my life, I’ve been called a finicky eater.  I still can’t imagine that there are that many people in America that just eat stuff that doesn’t taste good to them by choice.  My mother used to say I didn’t like vegetables.  She was wrong.  As an adult, I’ve been able to remind her of just how wrong she was.  I just didn’t like many vegetables.  Ironically, I happened to only like some of the powerhouses in the vegetable world.  I always loved fresh cabbage, roasted sweet potatoes (completely unadorned), fresh string beans, and collard greens.  If that was all I ate now, I would undoubtedly live well pass, I’d say 200 years old with the energy and vigor of a 17 year old kid.

My dislike for a larger number of vegetables sparked a battle of wills even when I was 9. My mother made me sit at the table all day at my Aunt Helen’s house because I hated peas.  Sitting at the table wasn’t that bad because my sister turned the channels and I watched everything from that table including Under Dog, Day of Our Life, The Doctors, Another World, and Super Friends.

Even as an adult, one of the biggest disagreements my husband and I have ever had is over a certain nearby Middle Eastern restaurant where I don’t love the food, like he does.  I’ve always found this one odd because, we don’t eat the same things at that restaurant.  He’s eating animals and I’m not. 

So it is with great joy that I can drop my long running line about one of the kings in the vegetarian diet.  I no longer hate broccoli.   For years, I’ve told people not to tell because the Vegetarian Purist Police would take away my membership if they knew how much I despised broccoli and tofu (yep, there will be a future recipe featuring tofu as well). In fact, I love broccoli, as long as it’s prepared in the manner I describe below.  I could eat it all day.  I could eat it alone, the entire head of broccoli.  Who needs anything else if they can eat broccoli prepared this way.  It also satisfies the requirements of many in being easy and fast (no really, it is).

Oven Roasted Broccoli w/ Preserved Meyer Lemon

Ingredients

1 large head broccoli (about 1 3/4 pounds) 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 wedges of Preserved Meyer Lemon

Place oven rack in its lowest position; place a large rimmed baking sheet, covered with foil, on rack, and pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.

 Cut broccoli at juncture of florets and stems; remove outer peel from stalk (if you don’t do this it will be tough).   Cut stalks into 2 inch pieces that are no more than ½ inch thick (it’s easier for chewing this way)
Place broccoli in large bowl; toss with oil.   Add salt, sugar, and pepper to taste and toss to combine.
Take hot baking sheet out of oven. Place broccoli on baking sheet and place florets and stems flat-side down.   
Roast until stalks are caramelized and florets are browned about 10 minutes. Chop wedges of preserved lemon (rind and all).  Toss with broccoli and serve.   If you have any left it is equally delicious cold or as an addition the next morning to farm eggs for an omelet.