Wednesday, February 27, 2008

dark days challenge post

I completely spaced on posting for the last few weeks, something about crazy work and traveling. We did enjoy some local meals, most notably brunch-food (bacon, eggs, homefries) and other things I have completely forgotten.

Tonight I revisited one of my fall favorites: pork chops with apples and onions. The apples (Granny Smith) cooked up into mush, but the tart flavor was still good. I used boneless pork loin chops from Curly Tail (~49 miles), and onions and apples from H-W Organic Farms (~86 miles.) The dish is much better with apple cider, but I'll have to wait about seven months for that. For side dishes I boiled up some red potatoes from H-W (mixed with butter and milk from Hartzler's Dairy) and dug some of the last corn and green beans from the freezer. Non-local items were olive oil, salt and pepper.

I'm thinking that I actually froze adequate amounts of corn and green beans; they would have held out a little longer if I had a bigger variety of vegetables in the freezer. I've been getting baby spinach and lettuce at the winter market, so I need to focus more on eating those. The regular markets won't start up until late April/early May. Can't wait for asparagus season!

I need to get off my duff and see if there are still openings in any CSA's. I have wavered about joining one again - I enjoy shopping at the markets so much, and being a CSA member would cut down on that. We also have the option of a full-season fruit CSA, and since I am all about the fruit I am considering it (we were members of a short-season fruit CSA last summer/fall.) If I continue to hesitate it won't be an issue!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dark Days Challenge Report

Last week I broke in my new all-clad pan by cooking the chuck roast (actually a chuck blade steak, I think) with some local onions and carrots, along with a couple of non-local celery tops. I shredded the beef into a gravy (made from the cooking liquid) and added the onions and carrots back in. To go along with it I cooked the last of the Brussels sprouts (pan fried with some leeks) and colcannon. Colcannon is an Irish dish which is perfect for the fall/winter larder. It's a combination of a leafy green vegetable with potatoes. My version contains cabbage and leeks. I cubed some red skin potatoes and cooked them in a pot of water. Toward the end of the cooking time I added a couple of tablespoons of chopped leeks (which had been frozen raw) and about a quarter head of green cabbage (which was blanched and frozen.) The cooked veggies were tossed with a bit of butter and a generous helping of something that was almost, but not quite, homemade butter.

I'd read about making homemade butter with the shaker method (you literally shake cream in an oversized jar until it turns into butter and the liquid separates out.) I couldn't find local cream so I made do with organic (which contained carrageenen - all the brands had it.) I don't know if that was the problem, but the liquid never separated. I ended up with a fluffy spread that tasted like butter but was somewhere between whipped cream and butter. It was fantastic in the colcannon and really great on scones (made with 1/2 local wheat flour, local milk and butter.) Next time I try the butter experiment I am using the kitchenaid.

Tonight's dinner (the dark days meal for this week) featured a roast chicken from Speckled Hen farms, white corn and butter, green beans with shallots, acorn squash with maple sugar and butter, and not very local stuffing (from a bag on the shelf.) Of course I made gravy from the drippings, and heated up the last of the colcannon to serve with it. For dessert I ransacked the fridge and cooked up the most pathetic of the apples (bought in the fall) into a very tasty applesauce. I'd be hard pressed to tell you what varieties went into it, but it came out quite well.
Non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, cinnamon, stuffing mix, and celery.

I'm down to my last onion again. I hope I can find some at the market this weekend. I've lost a number of squash to mold (must try freezing some cooked squash next year, and remember to check the squash cupboard every week or two.) The veggies in the root cellar have sprouted like crazy, but they seem to be surviving okay (though the turnips feel a little squishy.) There's still a few apples in the fridge and in storage. There are a few small shallots left, but they are rather dry. There's plenty more corn and a few more packages of green beans, edamame, and cabbage in the freezer. I also have a ton of tomatoes that I froze whole. They become extremely soft when defrosted; I used a few in soup but will probably try to make marina sauce with the rest. I'm down to my last pint of marina sauce in the freezer. There are a TON of frozen strawberries; other than smoothies I'm not sure what to do with them. (Any suggestions?)

Note to self for next market season: please cut and freeze onions during the summer, to avoid the late winter onion panic.