Sunday, October 4, 2009

Merrily We Broil Along...

Ah, roasting. I've found there are very few vegetables that don't benefit from this treatment; a moisturizing toss with oil and spices, a gentle spreadout on a cookie sheet, half an hour toasting in the oven. Everything emerges with crispy, carmelized edges, a fluffy center, and a delicious, deeper flavor. Gotta love how sugar/starches react with heat.

There are few things that don't really work (lettuce? what else?), and some are a true revelation (broccoli, cauliflower, sunchokes). You can make all sorts of interesting combinations (onion, potatoes, parsnips, squash; cauliflower, broccoli, carrots; zucchini, eggplant; tomatoes and garlic) to use as sides or, in the case of the tom.s, puree for sauce. The oil and spices create a theme, too: basil, oregano for Italian; cumin and cinnamon for Middle Eastern; chili powder for Mexican; straight-up chili for a bit of heat.
Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt is a good, all-purpose shake. You can even throw in some non-veg for interest: nuts, bread cubes, raisins.

I've even slipped some potatoes and onions into a roasting pan with a chicken for the last 45 min.s. Mmm, schmaltz (not so healthy, but delish).

Here's the basic gist:
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cut up items to roast to about the same size. Err on the thinner side, because big chunks don't always cook through.
3. Gently toss with a generous drizzle (3 T.?) of oil--olive has a nice flavor, peanut is great with spuds--and whatever spices you are using.
4. Spread this out
on a cookie sheet big enough to hold everything out in a single layer.
5. Put in the oven for about 30 mins., turning everything over after about 15 mins.
(softer veg cook faster, potatoes and squash the longest, so you may want to add quicker-cookers after 5 or 10 mins.).
6. Let sit for 5 mins. or so and serve alone or with an appropriate dipping sauce (ketchup? aioli? chutney? mustard? pesto?).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back in the Saddle to speak. We had our first class for the fall, this afternoon--Saving Summer in Jars. Jenny Hoople of Angelic Organics did a workshop on canning a variety of veggies and demo'ed tomatoes and salsa. We did a batch of salsa last week as party favors for the workshop. It is divine and I have been eating the un-canned leftovers as a sort of gazpacho, Vitamin C load. I haven't even been bothering with chips. (I'll post the recipe as soon as I get it from Jenny--it's closer to the Mexican salsa her in-laws prefer, she sez).

It wasn't as labor-intensive as last year's class, but we covered more ground. I was among unfortunate who lost all tomatoes to Late Blight, so I won't be canning any tom.s, but the process is so easy and so cool, that I'm fishing around for another possibility for my veg stash from the farm.

Home Canned Salsa Found on the internet, this salsa is closest I've found to the Salsa they put out in Mexican restaurants!
8 cups chopped fresh Tomatoes

1 cup Jalapeño Peppers, seeded and minced (I substituted mainly bell peppers for the jalapeños)

1 large White Onion, diced

6 cloves Garlic, minced

½ cup chopped fresh Cilantro

1 TBS Salt

¾ cup Cider Vinegar

¼ cup fresh Lime Juice (I used bottled lime juice)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Pour hot salsa into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving ¼ inch head-space. Seal jars with two piece caps. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

This makes enough for 3 pint jars, doubled makes enough for 7 pints.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In Praise of the Sugar Snap

Consider the sugar snap...nay, consider a handful. It's a sexy little pea pod, plumped full of water; when you bite into it there is a satisfying SNAP as the skin bursts and the juices pour forth. I can think of no other vegetable that is so satisfying to chomp, so refreshing and summery. I've haven't had them any other way than right out of the clear plastic bag, fresh from the farmer's market. They never last long enough, except maybe to be tossed on a salad--if they make it through the pre-dinner Ingredient Graze that often fills me up before meals.

Eat them quickly--after about 5 or 6 days the skin starts to toughen and the SNAP is no longer very snappy. Keep them in the fridge for extra cool refreshment. They're sweet like candy and crisp like chips, except juicier and guilt-free, since they're nothing more than a little green pocket for water and peas.

Act now, for this seasonal delight will only be with us for a few more weeks. Ah, the rewards of summer...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mother-in-Law Potato Salad

My husband's mother was a wonderful cook. Her recipes were the background to most of his favorite childhood memories and, once I met the family, mine as well. When she died in 1994, many of these dishes were lost, as the unmarked recipe had come from one of the many cookbooks that lined the kitchen walls, or was scribbled on a piece of scratch paper and pulled from these books when needed. The file system was all in Barb's head.

My sister-in-law has had an ongoing project to assemble many of these favorites into a cookbook for each of her siblings. If fresh strawberry daquiris are required, Chicken a la Pappa is craved, or Porcupine Meatballs
are needed there is a place to find the ingredients. I am working from a 2005 dog-eared edition, with blank spots for new family favorites or the possible discovery of a long lost treat (Orange Rolls are still m.i.a., I think).

This potato salad is the best...either as a side dish, or on greens as a light meal. Summer perfection!

Mom's Potato Salad
(makes a big bowlful, 4-6 servings)
1 c. mayo
2 t. prepared yellow mustard
1/2 t. celery seed
1/2 c. chopped sweet pickle relish (bro in-law uses sweet pepper relish, which is nice too, and adds some color)
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
4 c. cubed cooked potatoes (use waxy taters, red or yukon gold and undercook them a bit so they don't fall apart in the salad...I don't peel mine, tho peeled is probably more authentic)
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped onions

Put potatoes, eggs, celery, and onions in large serving bowl. Combine mayo, mustard, celery seed, relish, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Gently stir dressing into chopped salad until evenly distributed. Refrigerate overnite (if you don't start the day before, mix the dressing in the morning and let it sit so that the flavors mingle. Try to dress the salad a few hours ahead of time, so the potatoes soak up the juices).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Favorite Summer Salad

It is oh so hot here in the Midwest (for us), and I've been eating a lot of of one of my fave main dish salads. It's a Four-Bean Salad, dressed with a Tarragon Vinaigrette that is refreshing, filling, but not heavy. Plenty of protein to keep you going, but it won't bog you down. I had a bowlful for lunch, on fresh butter lettuce from the farm and a slice of toasted Sourdough Rye (more on that adventure, later) with butter.

Four-Bean Salad
1 14 oz. can each northern beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans (if you are soaking and cooking beans enough to make 1 1/2 c. each type)
1/3c. chopped red onion
1/2c. chopped ham (if you're a meat eater, if not try hard boiled egg or other veggies--green pepper, celery, cucumber)

1. Rinse and drain all beans, if canned.
2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, carefully, so as not to smash up beans.
3. Drizzle with vinaigrette (recipe follows) and allow to sit for about a half an hour.
4. Serve over greens (my favorite is arugula) at room temperature. Store in the fridge.

Tarragon Vinaigrette (adapted from the New York Times Cookbook)
5 T. Olive oil
3 T. White wine vinegar (I've used a tarragon-infused vinegar, which was fine, but I noticed "tarragon flavor" in the ingredients, which grossed me out--what is that?, so I recommend just a straight up white wine vin.)
1 T. fresh tarragon, or 1/2 t. dried
1 large clove garlic
1 T. salt
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper

1. Cut garlic into fourths lengthwise and lightly "bruise" tarragon, if fresh.
2. Combine with rest of ingredients and let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours to develop flavors.
3. Remove garlic before serving (or don't, but keep and eye out for the chunks in the salad...a firey surprise for the unsuspecting!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Green Building and Breakfast!

Saturday was my last full weekend at the store for a bit; May is going to be crazy-busy, so we decided to scale back classes so as not to overlap with all the graduation parties, welcome spring events and the start of the pre-farmers' market. So, I get a bit of a rest (to start planning the summer).

Charles Haynes talked about Green Building--whether as a new structure or, perhaps more importantly, for renovation projects. His thinking is that you are probably doing the environment a bigger solid by working with an standing structure, rather than starting from scratch...less trash, using existing resources, etc. He also said the most important elements to consider when trying to be more sustainable in your home improvement is to focus on the envelope; how do you keep heat in the house during the winter (fix air leaks), how do you keep it cool in the summer (insulation keeps air conditioned air in), and preventing high moisture situations--my problem right now--by making sure water runs away from the structure, whether on the ground level or off the roof. He also suggested making sure your appliances are as energy-efficient as possible, especially when replacing big ticket items, such as furnaces, hot water heaters, dish washers, etc.

Charles is also working on an interesting idea. He'd like to organize some sort of a builder's group, by using the LEED standards for green building to help identify reputable contractors who take these issues in consideration when working. It would also help homeowners find builders who can assure quality work and are well-versed in this kind of construction.

With all that food for thought, I needed some food for the tummy...Paul Dionne was ready to provide
that with a delicious, egg-centric breakfast cooking class. He created a menu that could be executed easily and in a timely manner so everything was done at the same time. Oatmeal pancakes were delicious, with rolled oats soaked in the batter for 20 min.s before cooking so these crepe-like cakes have a little texture to them. Bacon cooked in the oven to get it (and its splatters) out of the way. Scrambled eggs in butter. Omelets with just parsley and parmesan (nothing more needed).

To top it all off, we drank full-sized Bloody Marys and Mimosas to
celebrate b&p's new liquor license (now we can serve). Bottom's up!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How the Bunny Does It...

Well, I can say this for E. Bunny: if he uses natural dyes, I sure hope he gives himself a head start before Easter. These suckers take forever! Still, there are some really pretty and intense colors (also unusual) that you can get using various fruits, veg, and spices. I've been practicing for a couple of weeks now, because I had a class in natural egg dyes at the store on Saturday.

Here's the basic recipe for the dye:
1. Collect enough of your dye source, so you have at least 2 cups worth (this will probably be enough dye for 3-4 eggs).
2. Put it in a pan that has a bit of room, but not so much that the source is floating around loosely.
3. Cover with water so that all the material is submerged, but, again, not so much that stuff is floating.
4. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30 mins.
5. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
6. Let dye sit overnite and then strain out the bits and pieces (you could leave them in, but they might make marks on your eggs).

To color eggs:
1. Have hard-boiled eggs ready. Any color eggs are fine, but brown and green eggs will change the color a bit (altho you can use the starting color for various resist effects).
2. Place eggs into dye gently, so as not to crack them.
3. Let sit 30 mins. to 24 hrs., depending on how dark you want the eggs. If leaving overnite, put them in the fridge.
4. Let them dry completely before handling, or you will get fingerprints and lift off spots of dye. An effect, I suppose, but sort of messy-looking.
5. If you want a bit of shine, wipe the egg with a little bit of vegetable oil (a Latvian website suggested bacon rind--you may find your basket full of bugs, if you choose that greasing option).

I had the best luck with red cabbage (turquoise in basket), red and yellow onion skins (deep orange in basket), grape juice (dark purple-grey), and tumeric (bright orange-yellow). I had less luck with beets and carrot tops (the basically white egg in the basket). I didn't try blueberries, spinach, cherry juice, coffee, tea, or raspberries.

So, that was my experience. You can do some cool things with these dyes and don't have to worry if they get into the egg itself. This is Slow Dye, for sure, but not entirely unsatisfying...