Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 11

This week's dinner featured spiced ground lamb with pine nuts from this recipe by my friend Lisa at Kitchen Chick. I use about a pound of lamb in the recipe, and I adjust the spices to taste. Allspice and lamb are fantastic together! This recipe has become a standard in my house, usually served over a little bit of (non-local) rice. The lamb I used is from Northridge Farm in Johnstown, Ohio. Onions were from H-W Farm, butter from Hartzler's Dairy, non-local pine nuts (because nothing can really replace pine nuts.)

The side dish was my first attempt at a cauliflower puree. It came out a little runnier than I would have liked, but it tasted very good and the texture was interesting and grainy, which I happen to adore. Next time I make it I will try adding a potato to the mix to thicken it up and make it a little creamier. The cauliflower was also from H-W Organic Farm, the butter from Harztler's, and the milk from Snowville Creamery.

In other news, we visited the Worthington winter farmer's market today and stocked up. We spent $15 at H-W Organic farm: grape tomatoes (that are actually red, not pale orange!), spinach, parsley, curly kale, carrots, and onions; $2.50 on hydroponic lettuce; $17 on a chuck roast and stew meat from Long Meadows Grass Fed Beef (and had a nice chat with our friend Ed); ~$6 on pork chops from Curly Tail Organic Farm; plus we bought some cookies and a croque-monsieur croissant for lunch (and it was really good!)

Friday, January 30, 2009


My partner and I attended a "meet the farmers" night at the incredibly lovely TehKu Tea Company in Dublin, Ohio. We were able to chat with some local farmers, including our friends Adam and Jamie of Wayward Seed Farm. There were food samples from the farmers as well, including the most delicious squash soup I have ever tasted (made with seminole squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and some sort of tea in the stock.)

More importantly, we signed up for both the fruit and vegetable CSA programs at Wayward Seed. We were members of their fruit CSA in 2007 and greatly enjoyed the experience; plus we buy their lovely heirloom vegetables every week throughout the market season. We had a nice long talk with Adam about their farming plans and visions of the future, and we are completely enamored of both their projects and enthusiasm.

I am looking forward to cooking from my CSA shares and plan to blog it fairly extensively. We have really come to a good place with our local eating, and we've had great fun exploring local markets and finding locally grown and produced foods. That isn't going to stop, of course, but we're going to try a CSA focus and see how we come out, both financially and food-wise. I am certainly eager for the cooking challenge that a CSA box will provide!

We have toyed with the idea of getting a meat CSA share as well, but since I am a little particular about how my meat is raised we are not doing that. We don't eat that much meat anyway, and it will be easier to stick to our "less is more" plan by buying it a little at a time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 10

Week 10! Only three months until asparagus! (I hope - spring can be fickle in the Midwest.)

This week's meal was one of my attempts at keeping meat portions small and vegetable portions high. The starch portions were a little high as well, but homemade stuffing is one of the great joys in life.

The meat portion was one boneless chicken thigh (I pan-fried it with the skin on for flavor then removed it for waistline issues.) It was just okay; I am so used to using fresh chicken that I found the frozen stuff a little weird. (Next time it will go in a stew.) It was from Speckled Hen Farm in Cardington, Ohio.

Next up was the pan gravy. I had some of the gnarliest chicken stock imaginable (from North Market Poultry; it was made from chicken feet and came from their own kitchen, as they were out of the usual stock in the butcher case.) It made a tasty and delightful gravy, as you might imagine.

Vegetable dishes were corn with butter and adobo seasoning (I am currently crazy about the combination of corn and adobo!) and green beans with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Starches were mashed green mountain potatoes (skins on of course!) with butter and milk from Hartzler's Dairy, and homemade stuffing (the bread was baked at the grocery store, but the celery was from my garden and the onions from H-W Organic Farms.

I wouldn't want to cook a meal like this every day, but it's nice to eat like this every once in a while. Especially if someone else does the dishes!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 9

Is it week 9 already? I still have a freezer full of food and a pile of squash, so things must be going okay.

This week's meal was the grumpiest brunch ever, as I learned that people who are feeling poorly after surgery shouldn't try to cook brunch before taking their pain medicine. Duh.

The stars of the show were blueberry pancakes with a blueberry/maple syrup that I made with the extras (I cooked them down a bit in a sauce pan, mushing some of them for juice and adding maple syrup toward the end. It's a great way to use the juice left over from frozen fruit!) There was a very nice blueberry farmer at one of the markets this summer (in Westerville, Ohio), and I managed to put a fair bit up in the freezer. The pancake mix was from Quiver Full farm (who grow and mill corn and soft wheat) and the syrup from Pleiades Maple farm. On the side was our usual pepper bacon from Blue's Creek.

I expect to repeat this same brunch with raspberries, blackberries, and more blueberries. I've been making pancakes with apples (I still have a fridge full!) so the berries have remained in hiding until now.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 8

I'm blogging in a bit of a post-surgical fog this week; I had a lymph node in my neck excised for a biopsy on Wednesday, and I didn't anticipate how much recovering from it would, well, suck. Fortunately I made my dark days meal on the night before surgery!

This week I have returned to last year's favorite meal of spaghetti and meatballs. I've made it a dozen times at least and the darn things still aren't round, but I can live with that. The ground beef is grass-fed (which is the only beef we buy) from Long Meadows; the marinara sauce is from my freezer (tomatoes from Honeyrun Farm); the pasta is from Pastaria at the North Market.

This particular marinara sauce was very rich and red; it was a batch I made with my Foley food mill this past August. I nearly cried when I realized that the output from the food mill was more like tomato juice than sauce, but after it cooked down all day it made a respectable sauce.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 7 (vegetarian)

Since the new camera I got for Giftmas is having some issues (why on earth would it require Windows XP?!) I have chosen a meal from the old camera. This one was a vegetarian delight with candied curried squash, bean ragout, and spinach sauteed with garlic.

The curried, candied squash idea came from my friend over at Hungry Woolf, who conveniently blogged her recipe so I was able to borrow it. I modified it a bit as I had already roasted the squash, so I cooked it for a shorter time and I also used regular curry powder (although I think something a bit hotter would be wonderful in this dish, as sweet and hot are a wonderful combination.) I look forward to making this dish again, since my squash population is still quite large. The combination of brown sugar and curry and apple cider was completely ace. The squash I used was an orange-striped cushaw from Wayward Seed Farm, and it was quite enormous - probably 6-8 inches wide and a good foot and a half long.

The spinach was a random bag from one of the last farmer's markets of the season, and it survived in the fridge for who knows how many weeks. I was surprised and delighted to see that it was still good, so I sauteed it with some sliced garlic and olive oil.

I completely forget what variety the beans were. We purchased a good 8 or nine varieties from Pop and Judy, a delightful couple of farmers in their 80's. Pop enjoys the challenge of growing shelling beans (although he says you'd never make any money off of them) and brought a small amount of dried beans to market in both the spring and fall of this year. I *think* these were Peregion beans, a lovely little heirloom bean in mottled shades of browns. I based the recipe off of the fresh shelling bean ragout (ragoût de haricots à égrener) in A Provençal Kitchen by Suzanne McLucas. I pre-cooked the beans, because I never know when the darn things are going to be ready. I always do a quick soak during the day - bring the beans to boil in plenty of water, then turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, and let sit for a couple of hours - then drain them and refill the water before actual cooking, allow about 2 hours for them to cook. You can also par-cook the beans the day before, or soak over night. I always discard the soaking water and rinse the beans before actual cooking, at least since I learned about red kidney bean poisoning.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the dish, which of course involves wine. I am a big fan of this style of sauce.

Shelling bean ragout, Provençal-style

For the beans:
1 cup of dried beans, more or less
1 large bay leaf
1 large garlic clove, smashed
a couple of fresh thyme twigs of 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
more water than you'll think they'll need

Cook them until they are done using whatever dried bean cooking method you prefer. (There are many!) Be absolutely sure that they never run out of water; you may need to add more throughout the cooking time. Add an extra hour to however long you think they'll take to get done, because dried beans can be cantankerous. Drain the beans and set aside.

For the sauce:
2 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 t flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup bouillon or broth
2 teaspoons tomato paste
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy skillet or saucepan; add onion and saute over medium heat until golden. Sprinkle with flour and stir; add wine slowly and stir to blend; add bouillon and tomato paste and stir. Cook over medium-low heat for a good 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. It should be fairly thick. Add beans back in and stir until heated through, and there you have it! The original recipe suggests a puree can be made by running the dish through a food mill (most specifically not a blender.) I may try that with the leftovers next time.