Monday, February 15, 2010

Dark Days Challenge week 13 - Vegetarian chili

Chili is one of those things that is always vegetarian in my house. Even though I am no longer a vegetarian, the veggie version is just so good that I see no reason to make it with meat. This is the first time I've ever made it from scratch (I confess I love the Fantastic Foods box mix!) and it came out quite well.

For a base I used onions, green pepper (frozen from last year's farmers market) and carrots. For tomato goodness I used the last of the stewed tomatoes from the freezer - boy, do I wish I'd put up more of those! For beans I used 5 different dried varieties from local growers Pop and Judy (these were Pink Floyd light red kidneys, Red Ryder dark red kidneys, calypso, black turtle, and appaloosa beans.) I added corn (frozen) for taste and texture. I topped the chili with shredded raw milk cheddar cheese from Meadow Maid.

Everything was local, except for salt, pepper, and chili powder. Making this chili was an all-day venture, but it yielded 3+ quarts, so there was plenty left over to freeze for a snowy day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dark Days Challenge week 12 - Chicken barley soup

We are both having colds here Chez Green Leanings, and we've just had a blizzard... so clearly, dinner is soup! Soup is one of those things I cannot in good conscience buy (unless it is at a favorite restaurant, of course!) It is just too easy to make, and really requires very few ingredients.

This week's soup was chicken barley, and it contained local chicken thighs, chicken stock, hulled barley*, celery, carrots and parsley. Non-local ingredients were shallots and poultry seasoning. As a side dish I served toasted semolina bread doused in butter, garlic, and Ludlow (a semi-hard aged cheese.)

I cooked the barley in chicken stock and a little water (it took about an hour.) I could have just throw everything into the pot together, but since the chicken thighs were bone-in/skin on I cooked them separately in a skillet. I set them aside to cool slightly as I sauteed the chopped carrots, shallot, and celery in the remaining chicken fat. Cooking things in chicken fat makes them extra-tasty! I left them a bit crunchy, as they were going into the pot with the barley. They joined the barley about 15 minutes before the barley was done. Once the chicken breasts had cooled I skinned them, shredded the meat and added it to the barley. I added the bones to the pot as well, since it seemed a shame to waste all that potential flavor. (I could have added them to my bag o' bones in the freezer that I save for making stock, but that was a little too ambitious for me today.) I added the chopped parsley at the very end, and it was the perfect finishing touch.

The chicken and stock came from North Market Poultry and Game at the North Market. Carrots are from Persinger Farms (and were purchased in the fall and stored in my crisper drawer.) Celery is from last year's garden, and was found squirreled away in the corner of my freezer. Bread was from Omega Artisan Baking at the North Market. Butter is from Hartzler's Dairy. Garlic is from H-W Organic farms. Cheese is from Blue Jacket Dairy.

*The barley came from a local Amish farm called Stutzman Farms. I *think* they grew it (my area of Ohio is in the range for commercial barley farming) but I'm not 100% sure. They do mill some non-local grains in addition to the wide range of grains that they grow. So I will describe this barley as "local as possible," because if anyone grows it in Ohio, it's Stutzman.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dark Days Challenge week 11 - tired of potatoes!

This is the time of year when I get really tired of mashed potatoes. I've tried hard to avoid the meat-starch-veggie pattern of meals this winter, but sometimes it's just the easiest thing to fall back on. A recent episode of a cooking show by Nigella Lawson got me thinking about mashed beans instead of potatoes, and that brought me to this week's meal.

Dinner was a pan-fried pork chop, green beans with garlic and shallots, and mashed beans (stueben yellow variety) and cauliflower with garlic and shallots.

I used about twice as much beans as cauliflower, and I cooked the beans low and slow during the day. (Out of all the methods I've tried, low and slow seems to give the best results. I think these cooked for almost 4 hours on low.) When the beans were almost done I added the cauliflower (which had been blanched, frozen, and defrosted) and continued cooking until the cauliflower was soft. In another pan I sauteed the garlic and shallots in olive oil, then tossed the well-drained beans (reserving some of the cooking liquid) and cauliflower in the pan. I had this idea that I could just use a potato masher, but the cauliflower was a little too fibrous for that. So I ended up using the immersion blender, which resulted in a slightly chunky mash. I added a small amount of the cooking liquid to get the right texture (in the same way that you'd add milk or cream to mashed potatoes, but I didn't want to add dairy to this side dish.)

Everything but the seasonings and olive oil were local in this meal.