Friday, June 27, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 4

This week I learned that I am terrible at cooking steak. I understand the theory and all (I've read my McGee and watched Top Chef contenders cook steaks in a variety of ways) but I have this deep-seated fear that it (all meat, really) will be underdone, so I tend to overcook it. Too many years as a vegetarian, perhaps. As this was my first attempt at cooking steak I should probably cut myself a little slack. It wasn't too bad, just a little tough.

I seared the steak and finished it in a pan with lots of butter. It is topped with sautéed oyster mushrooms and garlic scapes (cooked in the same pan as the steak so there were plenty of butter and fond) and the sides were English peas (briefly boiled and buttered) and mashed redskin potatoes (with butter and milk.) Dessert was mango lassi frozen yogurt from local artisan ice creamiere Jeni's.

Non-local ingredients were salt and pepper.

Steak from Long Meadows Grass-Fed Beef in Utica, Ohio (44 miles)
(Here's an article about Ed and Nancy and their beef.)
Mushrooms from Toby Run in Bellville, Ohio (~50 miles)
Garlic scapes from Just This Farm in Galloway, Ohio (~24 miles)
Potatoes from H-W Organic Farm in Sullivan, Ohio (~85 miles)
Milk and butter from Hartzler's Dairy in Wooster, Ohio (~88 miles)
Ice cream from Jeni's at the North Market (ingredients weren't local, but Jeni is our local ice cream star (small batch artisanal ice creams, sorbets and frozen yogurts) so we feel no qualms about including all of her works in our local diet. My waistline owes at least an inch to her!)

local shopping GRRRRR!

Why is it that no one carries organic cultured buttermilk? I've given up on local stuff, I just want some that is both organic and cultured. Looks like I have to drive all the way to Whole Foods in Dublin for it. I have struck out at several regular groceries as well as my co-op and Raisin Rack.

Color me frustrated.

What does one do with cultured buttermilk? Well, you can use it to make creme fraiche and sour cream; you can make buttermilk ranch salad dressing; you can make really fabulous pancakes; probably a number of other things I haven't thought of.

Monday, June 16, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 3

It's that time again! No picture this week, as I was hungry and dinner was a little less than lovely. Tonight's OLS meal was a stir-fry of veggies and mushrooms with one breast of chicken (shared between two people.) One of my goals is to reduce our meat consumption, which has gone up a little since we discovered humanely-raised local meat. Being able to stretch one small chicken breast (really a half-breast) into one meal is a good thing (I have managed to make one feed four before, in a stew or curry with plenty of veggies. Grandma would admire my thrift!

Anway, on to the dinner! The stir-fry included snow peas, garlic scapes, early carrots (SO good!), rainbow chard, asparagus tips, green pepper, mushrooms (shitake and yellow oyster) plus the chicken. Only the seasonings were non-local (soy sauce, black bean paste, ginger, sesame oil.) I meant to serve it over (local) soft wheat berries, but it was so hot I couldn't bring myself to boil water. Dessert was a strawberry granita (local strawberries and non-local sugar) which is a wonderful thing on a hot day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

marketing report!

I actually wrote down prices today, so I will include them. I swore I wouldn't buy too much this week, since I am leaving for Chicago on Thursday and will be working 14 hour days until then. But alas, I could not resist!

Snap peas (finally) 2 X $3 (a pint, I think)
snow peas $3/pint
hakurei turnips $2
plum purple radish $2
garlic scapes $2
green onions $2
shitake/oyster mushroom mix $5
strawberries $4.75
strawberries $4
grape tomatoes $4
red thumb fingerling potatoes $3

Chicken ~$5 for boneless split breast
chicken chorizo ~$10 for 6 links
thinly-sliced ham ~$5
baguette $3.95

So that totaled around $61 and some change. This is not counting the coffee, cinnamon roll, donut, cookies, or booze (not local, but a nice bottle of gueuze and a strange ale with hibiscus.)

There were not long lines for strawberries this week! It helped that several vendors at almost every market had them. I am starting to feel a little strawberried-out. There was still asparagus available, but I am actually a little tired of it.

Meal plans: for my OLS meal I plan to do a stir-fry with the garlic scapes, scallions, snow peas, mushrooms, and chard from the garden. If I have time this week I'll roast a chicken and the fingerlings and turnips (if not they will keep until next week.) There will be plenty of ham sandwiches - darn, wish I'd bought some cheese for that. Radishes and butter on baguette, as well as ham sandwiches on baguettes. Ah, if only I had some brie! And salads, of course. Must eat more salads.

What's in season in your area?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The most beautiful lettuce ever

I picked this up Wednesday at the Westerville market. The girl said the variety was red sails, but I think it might be red frills (or so says my google image search.) When I caught sight of it I said, "I don't know what it is but I want it!" Something that colorful has to be good for you, right? :-)

We were going to have it for a dinner salad tonight, but I ran out of steam. Dinner ended up being short ribs (braised in soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, rice wine vinegar, and lime juice) over lime-cilantro rice (hey, at least the cilantro was local!) with mixed braising greens with garlic, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. The greens were quite bitter, so I was sad that it is not the time for leeks (leeks are an instant sweetener for bitter greens! It's almost magical.)

One Local Summer - week 2

This week's challenge meal featured these lovely calypso beans:

Dinner was calypso beans with green garlic and chorizo, braised greens with green garlic, plus a salad of mixed lettuce, snow peas, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and French breakfast radishes. The dressing was a homemade creamy peppercorn with a spice mix from Penzey's. Non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, and most salad dressing components. I forgot to get a picture of the salad, but here are the beans and greens. (The bean dish is not pretty, and as I was eating I realized that I had made a version of beans and franks! Much tastier than the canned stuff, though. Chorizo is my new favorite thing.)

I am slowly learning to cook dried beans. Here is the method I used to cook dinner:

Beans with chorizo
serves two

1 heaping cup of dried beans (mine were calypso beans)
some sort of allium: you can chop a small onion and a clove of garlic, or a small bunch of leeks. I used 4 or 5 stalks of green garlic
2 links of chorizo or similar spicy sausage

Beans: the hot soak method.

Rinse and pick over the beans. I like to spread them out on a cookie sheet to look for rocks and other non-desirables. Place your beans in a pot on the stove with plenty of cold water (I like to have it at least 3 inches above the top of the beans. You do NOT want to run out of water!) Bring the pot to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, then turn the burner off and cover the pot. Forget about it for 2 hours (though more time is fine.) After two hours I like to drain and rinse the beans (especially if they are kidney beans! I am weirdly paranoid about kidney bean poisoning, which comes from kidney bean lecithin or Phytohaemagglutnin. It happens when the beans are soaked and undercooked, so be sure to drain the soaking water and cook them well.) After the beans are drained and rinsed I put them back into the pot with plenty of water (again, you do not want to run out of water!) and my allium-of-choice (you can sweat the onion/garlic/whatever before adding the beans and water, but it is also okay to just toss them in raw.) Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the beans are done. Stir occasionally. But wait, she hasn't mentioned salt! A good rule of thumb is to wait until the beans are soft before you add the salt. Don't be stingy with it, as beans need salt - but also remember that sausage will be joining the party in a little while. It will bring a little saltiness to the mix.

So that's pretty vague, isn't it? Really, the cooking time varies by type of bean, probably age of bean, and possibly what day of the week it is or what phase the moon is in. I plan for at least 1.5 hours but it really can vary. The first time I made calypso beans it took an hour; the second time it was more than 1.5 hours. I usually don't taste-test until the beans have had an hour in the pot. Be sure to stir them, especially if your stove is an electric relic with uneven burners like mine. If the beans have too much liquid in them when they are nearly finished you can use a ladle to remove some of it. They should be a little moist but not too runny. You can always add another dash of water after the sausage goes in, if it ends up being too dry.

When the beans are almost done I add in the chorizo, which has been cooked as I decribe below:

(You may have noticed that whenever I am in doubt about the cooking time of a grain or legume, I tend to cook the major components of the dish separately to have better control over it.) In this case I browned the chorizo in a small skillet then braised it (use water or beer) until it was mostly cooked through. I am squeamish about sausage casings so I peeled them off before slicing the cooked sausage into 1/2 inch rounds. This does make the sausage fall apart, which is actually quite nice for a bean dish.

So we have cooked chorizo and almost-cooked beans. The two are united and cooked on low for about 5 minutes, or for however long it takes for the beans to be cooked through. I like mine to be quite soft, so they do tend to fall apart a little.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thinking out loud

Never mind me, I'm thinking out loud. My fridge is pretty full, and there are a number of fruit, vegetable and dairy issues that must be dealt with ASAP. So pardon me while I do a little thinking out loud (which doubles as a lesson on menu planning for locavores, so I hope it's not too boring.)

Dinner tonight: beans and greens and things (calypso beans, braising greens, chorizo, green garlic), salads (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and cukes from market; arugula and snow peas from garden; penzey's peppercorn dressing). Broccoli as a side dish? Asparagus? Will I ever spell broccoli correctly on the first try?

MUST DEAL WITH WHIPPING CREAM BEFORE IT EXPIRES! Should I get ambitious and make Alice Water's cream biscuits? This will involve turning the oven on, eek. Make Chantilly cream for strawberries, turn the rest into butter? That's a plan.

Strawberries: Must deal with older berries in fridge, either via jam or granita. I think granita will win given the heat. Slice fresh berries for dessert (with Chantilly cream and Jeni's honey vanilla bean ice cream, *swoon*.)

Other meals this week: chicken legs with Penzey's BBQ seasonings. Potatoes, roasted in toaster oven with rosemary? Pan-fried with onions and paprika? Sliced on the mandolin and pan-fried? Use either asparagus or broccoli (I forgot to mention that I got some early broccoli from the Clintonville market, wheee!)

Stir-fry greens: beautiful, and I need to use them before they wilt. Maybe with another bean dish? With carrots? In a weird veggie melange with potatoes and carrots? As a side dish for the chicken? OR, I could defrost the short ribs and do them Asian style (I think I still have scallions) and do the greens in a lime/sesame sort of a way. Remember to look at the new horde of Asian sauces in the cupboard.

Spinach: I keep forgetting that I buy this. I love it in pasta salads with grape tomatoes and pine nuts. Also could do the spinach salad with bacon dressing from Alton Brown.

There's also a small chicken in the freezer to defrost, and tons of ground beef. And a couple of steaks. Maybe steaks with mashed potatoes and asparagus? Save broccoli for this?

Edited to add: Risotto! Totally forgot about that. Save enough asparagus for this. Make stock from mushroom stems and assorted vegetable bits.

EDITED YET AGAIN: So let's see what I've actually cooked. Monday was a whiff as I wasn't feeling well. Tuesday we had bbq chicken legs, boiled potatoes with butter and parsley, and broccoli and asparagus with homemade butter. That cream I mentioned got turned into Chantilly cream and honest-to-goodness butter! We also had strawberries and cream with Jeni's honey vanilla bean ice cream.

Wednesday we had a weird Asian noodle salad with shrimp and local snow peas (back yard), mushrooms (shitake and oyster) and scallions. My noodle sauce fu needs some work - everything I had on hand was salty, so I ended up using just a drizzle of sesame oil, some ginger soy sauce and lime juice. Dessert was some of the fabulous strawberry granita I made the other day.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Marketing report!

I've been a bit lax with the marketing reports!

Strawberry season is in full swing here, and my fridge is packed full. I need to make strawberry granita this weekend. I made yogurt last week and have been eating a nice big bowl of local strawberries, yogurt, and granola for breakfast every morning.

Today's other finds included a mix of shitake and oyster mushrooms (destined for risotto), spinach and lettuce, grape tomatoes, braising greens, asparagus, green garlic, carrots (yay!), and a beautiful bouquet of stir-fry greens (mustard, tatsoi, and a bunch of other ones, including the yellow flowers of the han-something-something green, or something-han-something. I forget.) We also got some chicken legs and grass-fed T-bone steaks (which made me remember why we don't eat steak - quite pricey!) Oh, and a loaf of bread. And some ice cream. And bacon and chorizo (the latter will be in my One Local Summer dish this week.) Oh, and cheese - Gretna Grillin' cheese and some sort of chipotle cheese.

Notable local meals of late: calypso beans and chorizo; grass-fed burgers with raw milk cheddar and arugula microgreens; salads and salads and more salads (complete with baby snow peas from the garden); the odd braised greens with green garlic; grilled cheese and fried cheese.

Speaking of fried cheese, I think I need to go and cook some right now!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

One Local Summer - first meal of the challenge!

Tonight I made a pasta dish, inspired by a recent post from Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery. It is based on a recipe from Nigel Slater, and it involves cooking bacon in butter. It sounded so wonderfully insane that I had to try it. I added in a few extras from the market this week, and produced the best creamy pasta sauce I've ever made.

Creamy pasta with bacon and spring market finds: baby leeks, green garlic, shitake mushrooms, and asparagus
(serves two)

~3 tablespoons butter
5 slices of bacon (or so), as lean as possible*, cut into lardons (I used peppered bacon)
3 baby leeks, roughly chopped
3 stalks of green garlic, sliced thin (I use the whole green stalk but not the leaves)
~1 cup of shitake mushrooms, chopped
~1 cup of thin asparagus spears, in 2-inch pieces
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
Fresh chives for snipping
pasta for two (I used fresh linguine, so the timing below is for fresh pasta)

Get your pasta water ready to go. I use my electric kettle for rapid boiling (then I add it to the pot I'll be using) or at least put a lid on the pot when heating the water (saves energy by bringing it to a boil faster.) Don't put the lid on when cooking the pasta though!

Prep all ingredients beforehand. It will make your life easier, trust me.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon begins to color. Add in the leeks and green garlic, and cook until tender. Once the bacon takes on a bit more color and the leeks/garlic are soft, add the shitake mushrooms to the pan. When they start to lose a bit of their raw look, add the asparagus.

Drop your pasta into the boiling water, and cook for the recommended time. When it is done to taste, drain it, reserving a half cup or so of the cooking water (I like to catch the last bit of water that drains off - it has a lot of starch from the pasta, and makes an excellent thickener for sauces.)

While the pasta is cooking and once the asparagus is tender, add the cream to the bacon/vegetable/mushroom mixture. Stir well, and allow it to bubble briefly. Add a little of the pasta cooking water (I used maybe 1/4 cup) and allow the cream sauce to gently bubble until it thickens a little. Turn off the heat and add the drained pasta to the skillet, tossing to mix. Divvy the pasta into bowls, and top with snipped chives (and maybe a grating of local cheese, or parmigiana reggiano.)

*The bacon I had wasn't very lean, so I cooked the lardons from fattiest section in a separate pan, discarding the fat (or saving it for a spinach salad or other application.) I cooked it until crispy, then sprinkled it on top of the bowls of pasta. The texture contrast was heavenly!

This pasta was served with locally made whole wheat bread and a salad of (local, hothouse) cucumbers and grape tomatoes. Dessert was a bowl of fresh strawberries, no sugar or cream required! Although I have to say that hothouse or hoophouse vegetables make me feel like I'm cheating!

All of these ingredients were locally grown or produced. They were purchased at either the North Market Farmer's Market, the North Market proper, the Clintonville Farmer's Market, the Westerville Farmer's Market, or the Worthington Farmer's Market. The butter was purchased at The Raisin Rack.
Butter: Hartzler's Dairy (Wooster, ~88 miles)
Shitake mushrooms: Toby Run (Bellville, ~50 miles)
Asparagus: Anderson's Orchard (Pickerington, ~26 miles)
Leeks: Comb's Fresh Herbs (Gahanna, ~12 miles)
Green Garlic: Just This Farm (Galloway, ~24 miles)
Cream: Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio (They sell it in 1/2 gallon cartons! What a fabulous idea!) They are about 95 miles away, and the only local dairy to sell whipping cream.
Pasta: Pastaria in the North Market
Bacon: Blues Creek (Marysville, ~30 miles)
Cucumbers: Bird's Haven Farms (Granville, ~25 miles)
Grape tomatoes: H-W Organic Farms (Sullivan, ~85 miles)
Strawberries: Rhoad's Farm (Circleville, ~40 miles)
Bread: Der Bake Oven (Fredericktown, ~45 miles)
Chives: pot of herbs (my back yard, 5 feet)