Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nutmeg Feather Cake


My daughter loves to bake and to try new cakes. This is a Nutmeg Feather Cake--truly light and simple and flavorful. I know this because she just came in and offered me a bite. Quality control, you know.

1/4 C butter
1/4 C shortening
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 t vanilla
3 eggs
2 C sifted cake flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
2 t fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 pan.

Cream together butter, shortening and sugar, beat til light. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down the sides and pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 1/2 hour.

Topping--Cream together 1/4 C butter and 1/2 C brown sugar. Add 2 T milk and mix well. Stir in 1 C coconut. Spread this mixture over the warm cake and slide it into the oven. Broil for about 5 minutes until golden.

Happy New Year! Eat well in the New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Turkey Hash--Don't Be A Hater

My mother-in-law was all for throwing away the legs from the Christmas bird and offered them to us for our trip home. I had wrapped them in foil--tidy and fat packages of succulent delight.

We had turkey tetrazini our first night home. Sauteed onion, garlic, tender sweet peas and bits of turkey in a rich cream and Parmesan sauce, tossed into long pasta, more grated Parm on top, liberal use of the black pepper mill.

The second night we had masses of yummy vegetables--greens, zucchini, salad--and lean ham.

The silver turkey legs remained in their ziplock bag, waiting...waiting.

I was booked for a couple of tarot readings this afternoon and our sunny warm day started slanting toward a cooling evening. As I drove home, I started thinking about something hot for supper, doing a mental inventory of what was in the fridge, in the pantry.

Celery, mushrooms, greens, potatoes, turkey legs.

Hash. Delicious turkey hash.

Yeah, I know everyone looks down their noses at this wholesome and homely food. But think about all those ingredients and imagine them sauteed in olive oil and served piping hot.

It was very good--so good I didn't even take time to make a picture to post here.

Maybe it needs a better name or something.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Cheated Today

and bought pre-cleaned collard greens. In a bag.

Honestly, my dead relatives are all probably spinning in their graves.

Or maybe they think I'm pretty darned lucky to not have to chop and clean all those bulky greens.

In any case, I will par-boil them--steam them, really--until almost tender and then saute them in olive oil with minced garlic.

Salt and pepper.

Served with black-eyed peas, corn bread, Boston butt pork roast.

Gosh, I'm already hungry.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Success! A Note About Cheese

The faux ricotta impastata mentioned in the Oct 9 post has passed the sister-in-law test. I made a batch for her to check for texture and was worried it would not pass muster. But she checked it yesterday and the texture was right.

She had been concerned that the lemon juice used to curdle the milk would flavor the cheese, so I used less on this batch, which made it runny. Too runny for cannoli filling.

So I'll mess about with the recipe and I think it will work.

Success!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chockies

My cousin Evie used to make these yummy little bon bons about this time every year. I wanted a quick and easy candy to have available for both gifting and entertaining this season and ran across her recipe in my little recipe box. I have them listed as "Coconut Balls" but her daughter Kathy informed me tonight that Evie called them bon bons.

My cousin also opened a box of her mother's Rum (actually Bourbon) Balls and we tried those. String-flavored and very good, too. Evie is also the one who gave me the Cold Oven Poundcake recipe that I call the Old Coven Poundcake and which is, in fact, the best poundcake recipe in the world. I made two plain ones (plain! ha!) and one lemon one this season.

Back to the coconut balls...when I moved back here after grad school, I sometimes helped Evie get her candies ready this time of year and it was always fun. I remember those afternoons with great fondness every time I eat one of these fat delicious candies.

I tweaked the recipe a bit and here it is--

Cream together--

1 stick of butter
32 oz powdered sugar
1 can of condensed milk
1 ts vanilla

Add in 14 oz grated coconut.

Add in 1/4 finely chopped pecans (if desired)

Rolls into dime-sized balls and let dry out for a couple of hours. Dip them in melted dark chocolate.

I also added some prepared shopped orange rind--simply pressed it into the tops of some of the pre-dipped coconut balls and then dipped them.

My daughter and I are speculating some variations that include white chocolate for dipping.

Are you making seasonal candies or other yummies?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry...Sauce?

Get a big fat orange. Wash it. Peel it carefully, leaving all the white on the sweet sphere. CHop the peel into fine-ish bits. Juice the orange.

In a saucepan--

1 C water
1 C orange juice
1 C sugar (or to taste)
the chopped peel

Bring to a bowl, stir, add 1 pound of crans.

Boil gently, as the crans pop and the whole thing begins to gel up. It'll take 10 minutes of so. Once they start popping, reduce the heat to medium. Stir occasionally.

Immerse 1 C of chopped nuts (I use English walnuts or pecans) in 1/4 C booze (I use bourbon or orange liqueur or something else flavorful).

Once the crans have popped and jelled, remove them from the heat and stir in the nut mixture. Allow to set in the warm pan for about 10 minutes.

Et voila!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sweet Young Carrots



We're having a mild November here in the southern highlands of Appalachia. Violets are blooming in the backyard and chickweed is out and very edible. Dandelions have acquired new fresh growth and it's damp and warmish like middle spring.

I went out late last week to think the winter-over greens--the spinach, lettuces, kale and chard that will be fat and sweet in late February. On a whim--and because it was a lovely day--I wondered back to the big summer garden to check on the strawberry runners and cut the last of the horehound for the season.

And there they were.

I had planted carrots as a companion plant for the cucumbers and hadn't been what you'd call thorough in thinning them out. The cuke vines are long gone and the cold-snap earlier this month fried the last of the heirloom tomatoes. So the beautiful, feathery fronds of the carrot tops were so alive, so fresh.

Who said gardening is a summer-time activity? As we explore old ways of lengthening the seasons, we are finding ourselves eating fresh veg out of the garden for almost 12 months out of the year.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jack Frost, You Beast!



So much to do at the end of the garden season and I often end up, like this year, with odds and ends of produce, culled right before the first hard frost or immediately after.

Last week I did big bunches of herbs--rosemary, oregano, melissa, mountain mint, horehound and catnip.

These gorgeous peppers were picked about the same time.

I also picked most of the green tomatoes and they are ripening in a colander in the laundry room.

Tonight our neighborhood association had its annual meeting and I made a box of that near-instant couscous (tomato lentil) and ringed it with bright tomatoes from the colander. It tasted like summer just as the year is darkening to winter.

The winter-over greens got covered over with leaves a week ago and now they're getting some nice rain. I'll think them out soon and they will be ready to eat in January or February. Do you grow any winter-over crops?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not a Hallowe'en Mystery


We're cleaning off the front porch because the roof has sprung a leak. All the loose canning jars are going into storage but the two partial boxes get to stay close by. Because now it's time to can pumpkin butter.

Yeppers, apple butter, peach butter and pear butter are enough in my buttery world.

Because pumpkin butter is healthy and yummy.

It didn't take you gazing into a crystal ball to know there'd be a little more canning this season, now, did it?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cheese! The quest for cheese!



Here are some pics of cheesemaking--


mixture curdling:




at the end of the first draining:




My sister-in-law is looking for the perfect cheese for the perfect cannoli cream. Apparently that cheese is ricotta impastata and we are having no luck in acquiring this super-smooth cheese.

It became a holy quest.

She lives in a much larger city than I, so I am now leaving it to her. But yesterday I thought I'd try making my own ricotta and compare the texture to some cannoli cream my husband brought back from New York last week. His mother touts it as the best, so it seemed like a good time to compare textures.

Here's the recipe--

1/2 gallon whole milk
1C heavy cream
1 tsp salt (I used fleur de sel)

Bring this to a slow boil, over medium heat, stirring frequently. Set aside and stir in 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes, then pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a deep pot. Let drain two hours. Turn out into a bowl and whip with a mixer until very smooth. Return to cheesecloth and drain 24 hours.

Makes about 2 cups. At least I think it does. It might make more but I had a cheesetaster who kept putting a spoon in.

You know, quality control.










Friday, October 7, 2011

What I Did With Those Wee Tomatoes

I washed them, chopped them up, threw in some onions, jalapenos and crushed pineapple.

Tossed all that with a slotted spoon and tasted it.

Added some big-grained salt.

Tasted again and pronounced it good, though it could use some chopped cilantro, which I don't have. I'll pick some up at the tailgate market tomorrow and add it in.

Very tasty stuff.

I used some Conny's Romas, Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple and a yellowish pear tomato whose name I don't know.

The freshness is almost overwhelming. Fresh food is the best food. And fresh food from your own garden is sublime.

I am filled with grief about this being the end of the tomato season. Truly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Soup, Soup, Soup



Soup of the evening, beautiful soup.

Tonight it was turkey kielbasa, sauteed in olive oil with mustards greens. Into that some summer squash all cooked up and pureed.

It's October now and I have to do something besides apple butter, pear butter or peach butter.

Next, with any luck this week--a batch of hard cider.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Don't Have Time For This--Marzipan


I was in a local funky grocery store called Amazing Savings today. They have returns on interesting products that we don't see in many stores around here and I've found it's a good place to buy interesting teas at very reasonable prices.

They also carry lots of local, mostly organic, produce and an extensive collection of bagged chips.

Go figure.

I wandered through the teas-and-cookies aisle and noticed boxed tubes of marzipan. My daughter and I love to do marzipan at Yuletide--the picture above shows our efforts from a couple of years ago.

But I don't have time right now for this kind of fun, do I? I still have apples to prep and cook, as well as putting down a batch of cider to get hard and delicious for the next vintage of "Sumbitch Groundhog Hard Cider."

Also, I'm writing a book, and I have a couple of articles due rather soon.

What I want to do, however, is get out the food coloring and create tiny apples and oranges, perfect sweet strawberries and even edible babies.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hoover and Cortland

Apples, of course. I can barely think of anything else right now.

Okay, not true. I'm also thinking of pumpkins.

I stopped by a local fruit stand earlier this week to ostensibly pick up cider. No, I will not make apple juice one apple at a time with that lame juicer this year. I have some plans to have a portable cider press made by a friend's little husband but until then I'm buying sweet cider and fermenting it for my own evil pleasure.
(insert evil laugh here)

I got a big bag of Cortlands and Romes and wandered around the corner of the table and saw a big, firm red with some green apple. It had a big good smell and its name is Hoover. I got a bunch of those, too, because they looked like they might be a little tart.

They are.

Hooray!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Will the Butters Ever Be Done?



Yes, probably.

I canned the last of the peach butter tonight and as soon as the jars are labeled, they'll join the pear butter and apple butter on our pantry shelves. I will probably do more apple butter because it is too darned yummy but my next quest is for organic apple cider, from which we will make hard cider.

Yes, that's the good stuff.

Lovely, lovely scrumpy.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why is it cabbage season?

No, I don't have an answer to that. I only know that I started sauteing cabbage earlier in the week and we had that batch with turkey sausage, and a brisk mustard. After tai chi class yesterday, I walked to our neighborhood grocery store and got a perfectly round, perfectly purple red cabbage. I'll chop it up tomorrow and cook it up with some potatoes from the rabbit-hutch potato bed in the back garden.

I will feel very Irish.

And somewhat gassy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Okay, one more thing



Here are the peaches.

A New and Shiny Toy


Isn't it pretty? Now I can do a whole batch of yoghurt at once and not in two batches.

It is shiny and new--not dented or frayed, with bits of metal to jab into my hands.

Sometimes you just need a new tool to do the work you do.

Ah.

That's all really. I'm canning peaches from SC and will lay in fresh apple juice for cider next week. More on those adventures then.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September is Cider and Butter Time

I live in Avalon, you know. Beautiful apples everywhere. And some not-so-beautiful...

It used to be that anyone who had a little garden space in the backyard also had an apple tree. We had three in our back yard when we bought this house in the 1980s and have lost two due to age and disease (we replanted one). We now have two trees but this wasn't a very good year for our apples.

But other people have had good apple crops. I visited a friend on Friday and she has a couple of trees in the back. She gave me a plastic grocery store bag and I filled it up. I'm a gleaner kind of person--I don't at all mind asking people if they're going to use those apples littering their lawns.

And you know what? Lots of people are more than happy to have you get those pesky apples off their nice lawn. I don't care how bumpy and weird they are--I'm going to peel and cut them up. They don't have to be market-perfect produce.

Right this moment--if you were watching me type up this blog post you'd know this--my house smells of apple butter. It's been cooking for a couple of days. Slowly. Stirred infrequently. Some cinnamon and sugar added at intervals, along with a splash of water.

Tonight it is almost dark enough. I'll stir it around for an hour or so in the morning and then can it up.

But I haven't gotten enough apples for cider. So I'll need to ramble over to the farmers' market and pick up several gallons of the yummy stuff, so I can make it even yummier.

Apple season!

Friday, September 2, 2011

First, Green Tomatoes




Those are wide thin slices of green Mortgage Lifters. The cool nights here are playing havoc with my fab tomatoes so that means it's time to do some fry-ups of the greens. I sliced these very thinly, which was easy because they are very firm. Cooked them until they were soft in olive oil, lots of ground sea salt and ground pepper. I served them on a beg of turnip greens with poached eggs on the top.


Now, gugutz. That one over on the right. The latest cucuzzi treat was sauteed in the usual, added garlic, added some pre-cooked chicken, wrapped it in a tortilla with some lettuce and sour cream.

Yes, it was delicious.

I can't show you what's going on at this very minute...apple butter. Fresh apples from a friend's backyard, a bunch o' cinnamon, some white sugar. Stir, simmer, mash with masher, stir some more. Taste, add more sugar. Stir.

Won't be ready for a few more hours and I may need to finish it up in the morning. I also have a big bag of pears from another friend's front yard.

Pear butter? Peace sauce? Pear chutney?

I'll let you know. The young man next door is interested in canning, so I may draft him to help with that project.




Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Drop Peaches, Drop Hearts


I made peach jam today with drop peaches. They were given to me by the orchardist who sells fruit at our local farmers' market. It was my last market of the season as a vendor (I sell baked goods there), because I start teaching next week and my schedule will no longer allow me to do it. But I hope to still be able to stop by there and grab some produce if I can get there before they close some days. The fruit they sell is wonderful: fat juicy peaches, pears, apricots, plums, and many varieties of apples in the fall.

Drop peaches are perfectly good except they tend to have a large bruise on one side. Damaged goods, they are. Can't sell them (well, maybe for a much reduced price). Can't eat them, plump and juicy, over the sink as you would a healthy peach because you never know if a bit of rot or mush lies just beneath the skin. Also, they tend to go moldy quickly so you have to use them immediately. So to make jam or preserves with them, you have to peel them and carve away all the soft, brown, moldy or damaged bits first. The fuzzy skin covering them, nature's firm but permeable jacket, must be cut away to reveal the vulnerable flesh within.

It feels wasteful cutting away all that damage. Like there's hardly any peach left. Like what IS left might not be good for much. And despite having to be somewhat ruthless cutting away those bruises and gashes, you still have to be gentle with the parts of the peach that are unharmed. Determination and compassion must be applied in equal measure. Also, some of the drop peaches may not be fully mature or ripe; so even if you can salvage portions of it that are free of spots or bruises, they may not be as sweet or juicy as a more mature peach. Oddly, the more mature the peach, the less hardy it is and the less resilient to bruising it is.

But if you're willing, and steadfast, you can make something wonderful from all that damaged fruit. Peach jam was always my favorite growing up: even over strawberry. Jam is summer, kept in a jar. It warms the soul, revitalizes winter tastebuds, and tastes lovely on buttered toast. It is worth making, and it is certainly an act of determined utility and creativity. I mean, turning a pile of bruised fruit into bright jars of sunshine? That is an accomplishment. Sure, you could toss them to the chickens and they'd be grateful for a moment. But think how much more jam will be appreciated by humans in the coming months.

After preparing the fruit, having removed its surface damage and exposed the tender flesh beneath (and of course you gnawed on the fruit left on the pit after cutting the useful parts off: why consign those pits to the compost bin when there are several small bites on fruit left clinging to them?), you then have to chop it. And boil it. And seal it in jars. Sugar and lemon juice must also be added. It's a process, making something beautiful and pleasurable from something bruised and unwanted. You will need fire and water. And other opposing forces you may find within you. It will take longer than you think. You will be rewarded. I wish you joy of it.


Another Way to Serve This Very Large Gourd


More gugutz mania!

This time I sliced a gugutz into thick matchsticks and sauteed it in evoo, with garlic, green & banana peppers, fresh roma tomatoes and some basil and oregano. I tossed in a handful of sliced mushrooms and let it all saute until the shrooms and gugutz were soft.

Used this lovely mess on top of a mound of pasta, dressed it with fresh ground pepper, sea salt and a generous grating of Locatelli parmesan.

O, yeah, sisters. It was mighty good.

My only regret was a lack of foresight is securing some great bread.

Next time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Maters




Tomatoes are perfect and plentiful right now in the southern Highlands. I have three or four varieties, all delicious.

We're eating them for almost every meal because what's the point of making them into sauce or pumate when they are so delicious fresh, fresh, fresh.

If we get to the end of the season and I have an overabundance, I will make homemade tomato sauce and can it for the winter.

But until then, I will be eating things like the ones above.

The top image is simple sliced tomato on sliced white bread, with mayo and dressed with sea salt and capers. That was breakfast. Here in the south we used to call sliced bread "light bread".

The one underneath is the traditional tomato salad--slices of tomato and fresh mozz, interspersed with basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and dressed with a little salt and pepper.

That was lunch.

We had them sliced and salted to go with our breaded and fried gugutz, okra and eggplant banquet. Yep, that was supper.

Tomatoes. Maters. Dumadas.

Yummy.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Pagan Drinkies

I wanted to share my drink creation with you. I've been thinking about it for weeks but only got to try it last night. It's called a Brujita (which means "little Witch" in Spanish). Refreshing drink for summer--we had it last night with a crazy Mexican spread of guacamole, stuff-your-own-tacos, mango salsa and chips.

It's like a Bloody Mary, except you use tequila instead of vodka. Over ice. Crushed cilantro in the bottom of the glass.

Extra yummy. Didn't make a photo but will the next time.

What are you drinking this summer--besides water?

Hydration is important, after all.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gugutz!


This is a cucuzzi growing in my kitchen garden. Interesting shape, don't you think?





This is a pan filled with sliced cucuzzi (gugutz).




This is a slim breadkin, smeared with olive oil and minced garlic, covered in gugutz slices, sprinkled with grated parm and baked.

We had them this evening with a big salad. They do taste zucchini-like, but moister, higher water content. They are slightly sweet, too.

As more of them ripen, Ill be finding other ways to prepare them. But I wanted the first thing to be simple, so I could really taste it, determine the texture, etc.

We have begun harvesting the big tomatoes and I had a juicy great one for an evening snack. More green beans have been blanched and put in the freezer. The first batch of elderberries have been picked, cleaned and frozen.

Harvest, my friends!

But we could use a couple of days of good rain and that's the truth.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Really Only Have One Thing to Say...


Okra and yellow crookneck squash in a frying pan = summer.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Problem With Cukes


Seriously, it's not a problem. It's just that--they are all I want to eat right now. My kitchen sink always has peels in it and there is always a wee bowl of slices near my right hand. I've been careful to water the plants during this fantastical hot spell and they have rewarded me with sweet and succulent cucumbers.

The problem--and it isn't a problem--is that I'm always hungry.

Take this scenario: I come in from wherever and I am hungry. I slice up a big bowl of cucumbers and--because it is very hot--I add a big glass of water.

Yummy.

That fills up my tummy pretty quickly, though, and I am satisfied and full.

For about an hour...and then I think: I'm hungry.

And the cycle repeats.

Yes, I could add something else into the mix, like crackers or some cheese (see previous post). But I don't. I am in thrall to these green beauties. Peel, slice, salt, eat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

In fact, right now? I'm a little hungry.


Monday, July 25, 2011

There is Little in Life as Wondrous as Cheese

there, I've said it. These hot days often require your humble food writer to nosh on something cold and fast. Yes, there is always Greek yoghurt but what shall I nibble while I'm finding a bowl and spoon and all that jazz?

A hunk of cheese, that's what.

I've been known to bite hunks out of a block of cheese while on my way to the cutting board to make a dainty slice.

I have been known to eat a pinch of cream cheese while waiting on the bagel to toast.

I have never--to this day--met a cheese I didn't like. O, I love some more than others--double Gloucester, for instance--but I like cheese stinky and mild, crumbly and runny, baked in filo or microwaved on a triscuit.

Years ago, my cholesterol was a little high and the doctor noted it. I asked, somewhat innocently--would brie do that? She looked appalled. Do you eat brie? Why, yes, I said. Rather a lot. Yes, she allowed, looking at me over the top of her spectacles, brie would do that.

The glory, the wonder of cheese.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Funny...and Terribly Prolific...Valentine

For the first time, I'm growing an heirloom haricot called Black Valentine. It grows to a good height--about 3 1/2 feet--and is easily trained to a simple stakes-and-twine support fence. It's a delicious bean! I pick them slim for steaming but also leave some of them to pod up for blanching and freezing.

The original two rows are starting to show their age and some insect damage, but I planted more of them in the kitchen garden with the squash and those are just starting to produce.

The cucumbers have blessed me with with the first time in my life that I can eat as many cucumbers as I want. I eat them every day and I ponder the notion of making pickles of some sort. But we've had some terribly hot weather and I can't bring myself to sterilize the jars and do the pickling.

So I'm eating them instead. I grew Straight 8s and they've been good keepers. They stay crisp no matter how large they grow and the flesh is firm and slightly sweet.

And soon...soon...

fresh tomatoes and okra and...squash.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Too Hot to Eat, Much Less Cook










So I am living on salads (no, the lettuce from the garden is long gone), iced seltzer water and cucumbers.

That is not a problem. because I love cucumbers. For several years, we didn't have good luck with them--in fact, I started beekeeping in a futile attempt to have better cukes.

I went out today and picked another colander full of them. In spite of all the ones we're eating, there are still plenty more. So many that I'm considering making bread-and-butter pickles.

But for now, it's simple. Pick out a fat cuke. Peel it. Slice it in either direction. Salt it lightly.

Eat it up. Yum.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sardines! Pesto! Guinness!

This time of year, it's so nice to go out to the garden and pick a bunch of fresh veg and either eat it simply or make it into something more Cooks Digest-y.

Tonight we had a huge salad with carrots and cukes from the garden (the lettuce is purchase--we're between lettuces in our garden right now). Then I made some butterflied pork chops in the following manner:

In a big cast iron pan, I put a good drizzle of EVOO, some minced garlic and a splash of homemade wine. In went the chops, sliced long ways down the middle. Sizzle, turn, grind some pepper. A big splash of water and keep turning til they're almost cooked. Then add in some ready-made tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of capers. Simmer simmer simmer. When tender, eat them with some freshly steamed asparagus and the afore-mentioned huge salad.

A crusty loaf of bread would also have been most welcome, but, alas! Ive been too busy lately to make any.

Maybe next week.

Next up tomorrow is a big batch of pesto. I've already picked the basil.

And my huge salad? It also had sardines in it. Sardines in mustard, which were very very good.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fixing Beans


This is the new kitchen garden. It's planted now and has the cucuzzi and other squash.



Honeybees pollinating the cukes.


It is one of those ancient rituals of a mountain summer--preparing green beans, fresh from the garden. Even little children can do that and Southern children learn early about breaking both ends off a tiny bit and them snapping the long bean into small pieces. By the time you're my age, you will have done a lot of beans.

I grew a beautiful heirloom bean this year called Black Valentine. It is a prolific producer, strong and healthy plant with long beans. I've picked about half a bushel so far in the first row I planted, and the ones along the fence in the new kitchen garden are just starting to produce beans.

I detested green beans when I was younger, mostly because of the way they're cooked here. Boiled until there is no flavor left, with a big lump of fat back on the top. Nasty. When I got old enough to cook my own food, I found that they could be cooked with a lighter and gentler hand, seasoned with a little EVOO and salt and they were delicious.

This first harvest has been coked and eaten and the majority of it blanched, cooled and frozen. They were be wonderful in the winter, either alone or in soup or stew. Green beans are versatile and nutritious and freeze very easily.

My plan is also to do more canning and less freezing this year but the beans were always destined for freezing. They preserve better that way, I think.

Squash will start coming in soon. I'm also growing an edible Sicilian gourd called cucuzzi. It's beginning to flower now, so I'll report back on that a little later. It seems to be zucchini-ish.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fleur de Sel Marocaine...also, Junior's Cheesecake

I am in the Big Apple for a few days and am enjoying the foodie possibilities in such a diverse place. I hunted through all sorts of salts a couple of days ago and settled on Fleru de Sel Marocaine. I have a brownie recipe that calls for it and can't wait to get home to try it out.

Today, we had a theatre date and the City was humid and damp. So we not only had lunch but we waddled our way back towards the theatre and went by Junior's before curtain time. We had coffee and Junior's Classic cheesecake.

I'll post pictures after I've uploaded them but you'll have to take my word for it that it was just the thing, pre-Jerusalem.

Lunch was at a sweet little place called Bella Napoli. I had an excellent caesar salad with edible croutons. The bread basket was especially good.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer = Tabouli and Gazpacho, also a paean to kamut

It is too hot to cook here in the southern highlands of Appalachian. 90s. Horrible. So we must subsist on a diet of uncooked or semi-cooked things and one thing we love is tabouli. I make it with kamut--more on that later. Here's how it goes--

grab a handful of parsley (and/or mint) from the back garden--chop it up
chop up a medium sized tomato
chop up 4 spring onions

throw in a heaping Tablespoon of minced garlic
add 1/4 cup or thereabouts of good olive oil
grind salt and pepper into the mix

Stir it all up with a spoon. Add the grain of your choice.

Kamut is a beautiful, fat, chewy grain--technically it is khorasan wheat and Kamut is the company that markets it. It is said to be very ancient and it looks like it--lumpy, ungainly.

I cook it in a 2-to-1 ratio, water to grain. I bring it to a boil, then turn off the stove and leave it for 45 minutes or so. It will be tough and chewy, which is how we like it.

I've also used it for Italian Grain Pie. I've used it as a base for all sorts of things-- sauteed veg, meat, oil/salt/pepper, or tomato sauce.

And, now., if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get out the gazpacho recipe. Cold soup--what's not to love?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Can't Write About Food--Too Busy Growing It



But here's a quicky.

And it's about broccoli side shoots.

We've had peculiar weather this spring--too hot, too cold, wet, dry. And we've been clearing out the main garden from a huge pile of not-quite-composted leaf mold. This is all by way of saying that the broccoli didn't do well. The main heads were straggly and bolted fast. And I was ready to pull the tattered plants out and replant the beds.

Then they started sending out side shoots and they are plentiful, tender and delicious. Tonight, I steamed some with a handful of the new peas. Served them both with a tuna steak and the last of yesterday's potato salad.

Very tasty indeed. That's a wee pic of them above.

What are you cooking? Eating? Dreaming of eating?


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Soy Yoghurt is...Yoghurting


little green apples

The soy yoghurt is heated and mixed and in the wee Salton Yoghurt Maker, doing it's slow thing. At 8 in the morning, if all goes well, I'll put it in some cheesecloth to drain. Then I'll give it the old taste test and let you know.

And speaking of the taste test, I was marveling at the tiny green apples on the old Cortland tree yesterday. I rambled over to the MacIntosh tree by way of comparison and all those tiny green apples reminded me that it will be time for the annual making of the hard cider before we know it. Relieved to think we've finally bottled last year's grape wine.

The dregs of which I used on some little pork sirloins the other day. A long, slow, tenderizing simmer produced a lovely little dinner. Chard and kale from the garden were sauteed in with mushrooms to bring up some deep flavors.

And for the third time--which I certainly hope is a charm--I have planted artichoke plants in the Italian garden. These are Globe Imperials and I am hopeful of their eventual flowering, as well as their general survival.



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lettuces, Part the Second

April was a tricky and busy month and the garden shows it. But I spent some cool Beltane afternoon hours weeding, pruning, picking and chasing a groundhog out of the garden. I harvested even more lettuce and looked longingly at the ripening strawberries.

We had some fresh broccoli, onions and lettuces for dinner.

Are you catching the theme here? Lettuces, lettuces...they and the radishes are the monarchs of the spring garden. Here they are now--
I wish I could tell you that I've been doing some delicious cooking but I simply haven't. We've been eating lettuces and the occasional loaf of soda bread and...

Greek yoghurt. I got out the old Salton yoghurt maker and started making Greek yoghurt about a month ago. In fact, I'll probably make another batch some time tomorrow. I've tried all the different fat levels in the milk and 2% seems best. Tomorrow's will be soy milk.

I am hopeful of acquiring local goat milk--doesn't that sound perfect? Greek goat's milk yoghurt.



Friday, April 8, 2011

Lettuces




I will buy no more lettuce--for a few months, anyway. The winter-overs are lovely and rich. I harvest them a leaf at a time and soak them in cold water to plump and crisp.

Yummy.

So, I don't have much to say tonight except--I am eating those wide lettuce leaves, smeared with hummus.

I am drinking a homemade hard apple cider--one of the few left from the fall.

Life, while waiting to see if the gov shuts down, is quite delish.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Soup of the Evening...Again

Do you make your own soup stock? It's easy and the potential for delicious is fairly high.

Tonight I put some schmalz, carrot ends, a baked chicken carcass, the tough greens from spring onions (which wintered-over in the garden) into a big pot and simmered the lot for a couple of hours. I strained all that mess out and added back in some carrots (chopped), lots of onion, fresh kale and spinach. I simmered that another 45 minutes until everything was soft and the flavors had blended a bit.

It's the kind of soup that will age well--if we leave around to age.

We do like soup around here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Getting Me to the Greek

I have a light dairy allergy and so I don't do a lot of dairy, including yoghurt. But a couple of months ago I had to do a run of antobiotics and chose to bring back the eco-system in my gut with some pro-bio Greek yoghurt.

It made me cough a little and gave me a bit of a runny nose but it seemed to get my "personal culture" back into shape quickly.

Plus, delicious!

So we did a yoghurt taste test around here to decide which brand was best. I found that the one with the best taste was 2% rather than 0%--no surprise there. But it was hard to find plain 2%.

Plus, pricey!

So I Goodled Greek yoghurt and found out that it's simply plain yoghurt that is drained of much of the whey, giving it that rich thickness. I dug out the out Salton yoghurt maker, gave it a very good cleaning and decided to try it.

I bought a half gallon of--oh, my goodness--full fat milk. Yes, I know. Crazy, right? I did two batches of yoghurt, draining each batch through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Friends, it is mighty tasty stuff. (cough cough) It works out to be about 35 cents a container, about the same price as commercial yoghurt and much cheaper than commercial Greek yoghurt.

Now, I want to play around with all kinds of milk and see how it works.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Boiled and yet delicious

I don't often eat beef any more but with The Day yesterday, I thought I'd do a pot of corned beef, cabbage and tatties. It's terribly easy. (It's easy if you buy your beef already "corned.")

Cut the beef into big chunks and boil it up in water. No need for salt but you might add some pepper, rosemary, a bay leaf or two.

Simmer the whole pot until the beef is tender, then add in the tatties...maybe some onions and carrots, too. Last thing in is the loosely cut-up cabbage, which doesn't take long to cook. Let it all simmer another 15 minutes or so.

Serve it with some lovely fresh soda bread and a pint of the black stuff. Corned beef and cabbage is not traditionally Irish--I also like to boil up a pot of colcannon--cabbage, tatties, bacon and some butter...maybe a little greens (like kale).

Boiling meat is popular in many rural cultures because you could use older and tougher meat.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Pi Day...but I haven't any

March 14. 3/14. Pi. Get it?

All I know is that I have no pie.

I do, however, have cake.

My daughter--who is the best kid ever--made me a birthday cake while she was home for spring break. She started her cake-making adventures years ago with boxed mixes and canned frosting. Then she moved on to cake mixes and homemade frosting.

This cake is a moist chocolate two-layer--from scratch. And it is iced with a rich cream cheese/butter frosting, with just a hint of nutmeg.

Delicious, not too sweet, very rich and flavorful.

Birthday cake will have to do on Pi Day. We'll have Pie later in the week.

And speaking of later in the week, I've got a nice corned beef to make for Thursday. Some colcannon, a loaf of soda bread and a gallon of the black stuff.

That sounds like a good St. Patrick's Day, I think.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Haggis En Croute

It has been so long since I've posted here that I need to go back a bit and tell you about the whiskey-soaked celebration that was Burns' Night.

I have no idea what inspired me but I determined to celebrate it with some friends this year. We all brought small bottles of whiskey and I made what actually passed for haggis.

Well, sort of. If you squint your eyes and aren't too much of a purist. It had all the unmentionable offal parts--most of them, anyway--but instead of stuffing it all into a stomach, I rolled out a thin and buttery crust.

I baked the whole thing in a cast-iron pan and it came out piping hot and quite edible. Served it with a couple of different kinds of mustard, with chippy sauce and a green salad.

Haggis en croute--it's either a brilliant modern take on a classic cultural mainstay or it's an abomination. Either way, it was awfully tasty.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why Pagans Should Get Busy




This article in TIME suggests that the "foodies" among us are poised to help revitalize and drive the environmental movement. Lately the news has been full of scary stories about Monsanto and genetically-modified alfalfa, and many of us have been feeling kind of helpless. As Michael Pollan has pointed put more than once, food legislation is a rather cloak and dagger affair in this country. That's ironic given how so much media attention is being given to this issue lately, and how passionately many people feel about eating healthy food.

So, news flash: people who enjoy food and care about food safety are often the same people who care about the environment. You can't grow good crops or raise healthy livestock if you destroy the land with pesticides and toxic waste, after all; you can't get safe salon out of polluted oceans. Clearly the best people to help raise awareness about these interconnected issues are foodies, and environmentalists.

Or, ya know, PAGANS.

So I want to suggest that more of us step up and get involved in strengthening this movement. Of course maybe you're already well-informed, and you support your local farm markets and buy organic and maybe you even grow your own vegetables or raise chickens. But are you working to help others and your community gain access to healthy foods and better information about nutrition? Are you researching the laws regarding food safety in your area? Are you finding out how to stop that old orchard from being razed and sold to developers, or how to start a community garden program in your community? The possible ways to engage in this movement are endless.

What are YOU doing? What would you like to see happen? Let us know.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A cool gluten-free blog...

And it has plenty of links to other gluten-free blogs!

I've been wanting to try more gluten-free recipes, especially given a request from the local cafe I bake for.

So, here it is: Life of My Mouth.

The writer is young, sassy, and definitely a foodie.

Monday, January 10, 2011

PS

On second thought, I'd make that 1/3 C of shortening. To be honest, I just plop in a heaped-up wooden spoon of the stuff.

Corn Bread

Dear Peg (but really Todd),

Here is the recipe I use for cornbread.

Preheat oven to 400

Plop 1/4 C or slightly more vegetable shortening into a cast iron frying pan. We use the little one mostly--gives a fatter cake of bread. Heat the pan on top of the stove on very low and let the shortening melt. You can use lard or other animal fat for this part--that's traditional. I don't though.

Meanwhile--
stir together
1 C plain flour
1 C yellow plain cornmeal (did you know it also comes in self-rising?)
4 t baking powder
1 scant t of salt
Some folks add a little sugar to it, but I don't. If you want to try that, add about 1/4 cup.

Make a well in the middle and add in 2 beaten eggs, 1 C buttermilk.

Stir it up.

Pour most of the liquid shortening into the batter and stir it up, but here's the most important part of making good cornbread. Make sure there is a lot of liquid fat left in the pan. It should puddle in the bottom, not just gently grease bottom and sides. This will give you a crispier crust and the satisfying thwack of turning the cake onto a wooden board when it comes out of the oven.

The batter doesn't need to be perfectly smooth--it should be a little lumpy. Pour it into the pan and put it in the fast oven. It will be done in 20-40 minutes depending on the size of the pan.

When you take it out of the oven, turn it out immediately onto a wooden board or counter and then plate it up. Really whack it down and the cake will pop out with an unbroken crust.

Add butter.

Perhaps beer.

Also, a bowl of beans or some soup or...

You get the point it is good with everything.

Love,
Byron

Friday, January 7, 2011

Roast Beast of the week: Elk Meat Loaf!

My husband and I were gifted with some frozen elk meat from his uncle. It's been in the freezer a few months and I was worried it wouldn't be good any more, but it was just perfect. I made meat loaf twice this week; first with roasted potatoes and carrots, then with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach.

Here's some photos I took.
The frozen package; in camouflage packaging!Mixing up my recipe: chopped onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, an egg, thyme, salt and pepper.
Into the oven with bacon it goes!
Mmm, all done and ready to eat!

It was delicious!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Cult of Pie


I love pie, as I may have mentioned here before. The slice above comes from Famous Louise's on 221, a restaurant that sits on three counties of western NC. That piece is Forestberry and the crust is darn-near perfect.

Coffee ain't bad there either.

There was a story on NPR this morning about 2011 being the Year of Pie. That sounds good to me. Pie can be for breakfast or for dinner, it can be meaty and savory or it can be sweet.

Is pie the perfect food?

Possibly not, if you have concerns about your carb intake. But even then, there are modifications that can mitigate that effect somewhat.

So, that's really all I have to say--2011=the Year of Pie. I love pie.

And my friend Shelly created a Cult of Pie page on Facebook.

Now that's a religion I can get behind.

Happy cultural New Year everyone! How about we celebrate with a nice piece of pie?