Saturday, November 24, 2007

thanksgiving, local eating, and my favorite cat

I have to confess that I totally suck at taking photos of food. I'm reading a few articles to improve my technique, but until I get some portable lights I will spare you my attempts. Instead I will post the occasional cat photos, because my cats are awfully cute. They all wish they could dine locally on the birds, squirrels, and occasional mouse that visit our home. (The cat pictured here is named Little Guy.)

I had an unexpected Thanksgiving day at home last Sunday - a party I was going to was canceled, and I had a 10 lb. turkey to cook. So with no advance prep, and having spend the day before making soup and vegetable stock, I dove into a Thanksgiving dinner for two. Curiously, I had all of the ingredients at hand to create a local turkey dinner with all the fixings (except cranberries) so this is what we ate:
-turkey (a little overcooked, sadly.)
-dressing (made from bread on hand plus local onion, non-local celery and herbs from my garden
-gravy made from pan-drippings
-broccoli (local and fresh)
-praline sweet potatoes (local sweet potatoes and walnuts, non-local brown sugar and an orange)
-mashed potatoes with local milk and butter

The only non-local ingredients not mentioned above were salt, pepper, a little oil for the turkey, flour for the gravy, and a bit of cinnamon.

After cooking I had a 10 minute break, then stripped the turkey (freezing 1/2 the breast and a lot of dark meat) and made stock. When the stock was done I pulled more meat off the bones for a turkey soup. I made the soup with non-local celery and local onions and carrots.

Thanksgiving day we went to my mom's house. She got a local turkey from the butcher and I brought butternut squash and the ingredients for a pear galette, along with a few veggies we forgot to cook. We had to use apples instead of the too-hard pears, but it was a wonderful flaky dessert. (My mom asked about my recipe, which made me laugh. I just make things up as I go along. Fortunately my favorite farmers had made the pie crust dough, saving me a lot of work and the need to actually dig out a recipe.)

Today was the first Saturday that we slept in since May! There may have been a few vendors at the market but my fridge was still full. I defrosted raspberries and bacon for a local brunch (served with pancakes) and for dinner went a little crazy with frozen corn and edamame, fresh braising greens with red onion and apple cider vinegar, grass-fed burgers with Gouda on ciabatta bread, and "almost" potato chips (inspired by another Dark Days blogger; I sliced potatoes thin on my mandoline then cooked them in a 1/2 inch of canola oil.) Non-local ingredients were cooking oil, salt and pepper.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

squash mania

I just did a squash inventory in the garage. I have 21 squash! Seven of those fall into the "huge" category, including three marina de chioggia pumpkins, two French pumpkins, a hubbard and an enormous spaghetti squash.

The squash tally was prompted by plummeting temperatures and my newest root cellaring project (which is to wrap apples in newspaper and store them in a cardboard box.) I'll need to move them from the garage when it gets colder.

At dinner today I got my mom and her twin talking about their mother and her food preservation techniques. I definitely learned a few things. Wish I'd thought to ask my grandma about this when she was still alive.

I will blog about thanksgiving craziness later, when I can get some photos out of the camera. I hope you all had a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

dark days meal of the week

We had a lovely local meal tonight. I was feeling a bit under the weather so I defrosted some pumpkin soup (made with a marina de chioggia pumpkin) and doctored it up with a carrot and plenty of garlic, along with some skim milk and grated Gouda cheese. My pot of herbs is still hanging on, so I was able to add some fresh thyme and chives. Non local ingredients were salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. I served it with a salad (probably the last batch of lettuce for the year) with grated carrot and helios radishes and dressed it with a vinaigrette made from local cider vinegar. Again, salt, pepper, and olive oil were the only non-local ingredients. We did have bread from the grocery store bakery, because driving 15 miles to a bakery for local bread seemed kind of silly.

I had a glass of non-local orange juice tonight, in honor of being sick and needing vitamin C. It was the first I've had since... spring, I think? It was good, but I wish I'd had some local cider instead. Next year I'm going to buy extra cider and experiment with freezing it. Wish I'd thought of that when the cider folks were still coming to market - after all, there's still some room in the freezer!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

farmer's market report and local eating in November

It was quite cold at our one remaining farmer's market (at the North Market) on Saturday, but we braved the cold and got fabulous rewards. I bought a ton of greens (lettuce, braising greens, and tatsoi) because I'll most likely not buy them again until they're available locally in the spring. I also got some eggs, onions, spaghetti squash, another marina de chioggia pumpkin, and a large hubbard squash. I have renamed my garage "the home for wayward squash" since we have so many. We also picked up some pepper bacon and pork chops.

Next week we'll have a special thanksgiving market in Clintonville, and one of the North Market folks assures me that they'll have tons of stuff next Saturday - they've been stockpiling for their thanksgiving CSA, and once the boxes are filled there will be extra veggies to sell (most notable leeks - I plan to get there early and buy them all!) I hope I can find plenty of potatoes next week as well; we eat them so often that my stores are dwindling already.

Local meals for today: lunch was fried pullet eggs, pepper bacon, and hash browns? home fries? Shredded potatoes with onions, whatever you call it. Non-local ingredients were salt and bread for toast. Dinner was pork chops cooked with (all local) apples, onions, and apple cider; braising greens with local bacon, local apple cider, and local apple cider vinegar; scalloped potatoes (with local milk and butter) and spaghetti squash. Non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, and a little cream and flour for the potatoes. I almost pulled some green beans from the freezer, but decided that we could have greens and squash as vegetables this week. I just hate to break into my winter stores when there are still fresh veggies to be had.

The local apple cider vinegar is as good as I hoped. I may buy a gallon next week and bottle it for holiday presents.

This week I plan to roast a pumpkin or two (maybe the rouge vif d'etampes and a marina de chioggia) and make some soup (probably potage bonne femme, if I can find a leek or two in the fridge.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

dark day challenge meal for the week

I finally cooked the pork chops, and they weren't too bad for a first attempt! They marinated in apple cider for a couple of days before I cooked this meal. Then I dredged them in flour (non-local, and I will probably skip this step next time)and seared them in a pan. Then I turned down the heat a little and added sliced onions and apples, and I put the lid on it and let them cook down. At the end I deglazed the pan with apple cider, and it was a lovely dish! I was surprised by how well apples and onions went together.

I served this with thinly-sliced fried potatoes (in my eternal quest to find more ways to cook potatoes) and broccoli with butter. I haven't used any of my frozen veggies yet; it seems like a waste to eat them when broccoli is still available fresh.

Tonight will be simple dinner of pasta (locally made) with my marinara sauce and garlic bread. Here's hoping there's still bread in the freezer!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Saturday market update

I had to make an excited post for today. Despite the fact that we are down to one market, we had a nice haul today. Lots of potatoes, an 18-pound marina de chioggia pumpkin, a squash that I'm betting is an ambercup, tons of broccoli (I think this will become cream of broccoli soup), a 1/2 peck of yellow delicious apples and a gallon of cider (I think it was the apple people's last week), and... a half-gallon of locally made apple cider vinegar! I had been hunting for local vinegar with no luck, and then voila. They also had some homemade tempeh, but I am not a huge fan of processed soy. If they are back again I may try it.

The folks from one farm were saying they'd continue until before Thanksgiving (they have to, they're doing the Thanksgiving CSA!) That gives me another two weeks to keep stocking up on their interesting squash (I get the marina de chioggia from them) and strange turnips and radishes.

Weekend local eating will feature broccoli, potatoes, eggs, ham, apples, greens, and pork chops. I have actually not ever cooked pork chops before, having been a vegetarian for a long time. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 2, 2007

local eating in the autumn

Last Saturday was the final week of a few of our markets, so it was a sad day indeed. The North Market farmer's market will hang on for a while (apparently it lasts until the farmers quit coming) and there will be a couple of special pre-Thanksgiving markets as well. We opted not to get a thanksgiving CSA as I didn't have a spare $150 sitting around.

We got a lot of stuff at the markets, as you might expect. Sunflower heads, French pumpkins (rouge vif d'etampes and musque de provence), raspberries (gotta love the late fall raspberries!), walnuts, short ribs (I've never cooked ribs before. This should be interesting), fresh Lima and white kidney beans, shallots (finally!), quince, pears, onions, chard, potatoes, carrots, broccoli... I think we bought 2 of everything. I gave the fridge a thorough rearranging and discovered that we're going to be eating a lot of carrots. (I somehow ended up with a crisper drawer full of them!)

I always cook a special meal for Halloween, focusing on favorite foods of my deceased relatives. This year I roasted a beautiful pasture-raised chicken and served it with honey ginger carrots, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and carnivale squash. The stuffing and seasonings were not local, but everything else was. Tomorrow I plan to turn the chicken into a stew with local carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Other local meals include my favorite weekday breakfast of local oatmeal, grated apple (a grimes golden this time, my grandfather's favorite), and maple syrup; also a lovely potato-leek soup with bacon. The local bacon we get is covered with peppercorns and gives an amazing smokey flavor to everything it touches.

It will be so sad to get up in the morning and only head to the one remaining market! I hope to use this weekend to stock up on more squash (kabocha, mainly) and hopefully find some late broccoli. I'm suddenly craving cream of broccoli soup, and it dawns on me that I've never made it! I don't think I have quite enough of it in the freezer to experiment.

One of the farmers last weekend had a sign up: Only 6 months until asparagus! It seems like forever, but I have a freezer full of summer vegetables, a garage full of winter squash, and stockpiles of soups and jam. I think we'll make it through the winter just fine (but I'll still dream of fresh asparagus in the spring!)