Posts filed under ‘eating locally’

Of cabbages and …

Color SlawThanks to the recent increase in great local winter produce here, combined with my inability to resist it, I found myself staring at the vegetable bin this weekend and thinking, ” You know, I really need to eat this stuff up before I make another order – or worse, before it goes bad.”

So there I was with a big, beautiful head of purple cabbage, bunches of beets and carrots, and a half-dozen radishes left from the clutch I’d been nibbling at all week. Plus four lovely little boneless Red Wattle pork chops from Heritage Farms Northwest. And a couple of Liberty apples.

Apples, pork and cabbage are naturals together, and a rummage through my recipe collection turned up some traditional German dishes that provided the inspiration for a sweet and sour cabbage with pork that, while delicious, wasn’t terribly photogenic.

That still left me with half a cabbage, and I’ve been craving crunch, so: slaw, with beets and carrots and a fistful of parsley thrown in for vitamins. Talk about color!

My errant sense of smell (and thus taste) is mending, but slowly, so I decided to give all that crunchy color a horseradish kick. The result is absolutely delicious.

Spicy Winter Slaw with Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large head red cabbage (or 1 small head), cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium beet, shredded
  • 6 large  radishes, shredded (that’s a lot of shredding – thank goodness for my Benriner Japanese mandoline!)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup commercial cole slaw dressing (I like Marie’s)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp prepared hot horseradish (or more, or less, to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

In a large, lidded bowl, combine all the vegetables and parsley. Blend remaining ingredients well, pour over vegetables and toss well (or, as I did, close the bowl and shake it for a while). Taste, correct seasoning. Cover and chill for at least a few hours to let the flavors blend. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are and the size of your vegetables.

Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage with Apples and Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, coarsely sliced
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless pork chops (do not trim off fat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut bacon into 1/2 pieces; in a large skillet, fry over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered off. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of bacon fat; return skillet to heat and add onions. Saute until onions start to go limp, then stir in the sugar, balsamic vinegar and wine. Add cabbage and apples and stir well to coat. Cover skillet and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add water and cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, until cabbage begins to soften and a good deal of the liquid has evaporated. Taste to correct the seasoning.

Transfer cabbage mixture to a 9×13 ovenproof baking dish. Add oil to the skillet and turn up the heat. Using oven tongs, hold the pork chops on edge to brown the fat, then lay them down and sear for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

Lay the pork chops on the bed of cabbage. Place pan in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until chops reach an internal temperature of 160F (or are just barely pink in the center).  Serve immediately.

Serves four, generously (or in my case, one, four times). Goes great with mashed potatoes.

January 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm 1 comment

Local stew

There’s a big pot of lamb stew simmering away on the stove, and without any real effort at all, it turns out to be an almost entirely locally sourced meal. Ingredients include:

  • Lamb from the freezer , part of last season’s farm share from Wood Family Farm in Turner.
  • Potatoes, carrots, leeks and shallots purchased through the Corvallis Local Foods online market from Matt-Cyn Farm in Albany and Cinco Estrellas Organic Farm in Junction City.
  • Flavorings: A fistful of Italian parsley from Elemental Alchemy Farm and a couple of big, spicy/sweet, dried Bulldog/Boldog Hungarian Spice peppers from Matt-Cyn Farm, pulsed to a powder in an old coffee grinder.
  • Stock from my freezer (provenance mixed, but including lots of farmers’ market vegetable trimmings, since I always save them in freezer bags till I’m ready to make stock).
  • A hefty dose of Pinot Noir from Cubanismo Vineyards in Salem

The only ingredients that don’t come from around here: Olive oil, salt, black peppercorns.

I don’t have a recipe*, and I have no photo; brown food tends not to be very photogenic. But I’m still marveling over the fact that eating locally gets easier every year, even in what used to be thought of as the off season.

My stomach’s growling.

* I don’t use a recipe for stew, I use a method: brown the meat, sweat the onions and garlic, add vegetables, flavorings and liquid to the pot and simmer over low heat for a couple of hours until stew results. Taste, correct the seasoning, eat. It’s hard to go wrong unless you forget it’s on the stove. Which reminds me – time to go check the stew.

January 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Dinner is late tonight …

Winter Squash and Garlic Soup… but only because I decided last night to throw together a loaf of my favorite home-made bread, and it needed a couple hours resting time between shaping and baking.

Dinner itself, on the other hand, was a practically fast food, even though it was made from scratch.

Winter squash and roasted garlic were made for each other, and this easy winter soup (a simpler variation on one that was the subject of my very first post on this blog) combines the two in a bowl of delicious, creamy, savory-sweet goodness .

The original recipe calls for whole squash – butternut, acorn or even a small pie pumpkin – peeled, seeded, cut in chunks and roasted until tender and then pureed before combining with stock and roasted garlic. Which I don’t mind doing … but last summer I was smart enough to pick up a few cans of gorgeous, canned organic squash puree from Stahlbush Island Farms. I almost passed it by – after all, it was summer, and the farmers’ market was full of fresh produce; the thought of buying canned seemed almost redundant.

But I’m very glad I stopped at their booth, because the purees are terrific, besides being incredible time-savers. If they return to our market next season, I plan to stock up.

So while the bread dough rested, I put the garlic on to roast and caught up on my blog-reading. When the loaf went in the oven, I put the soup on to simmer. When the bread was done and cooling enough to handle, I threw together a simple salad of beautiful baby greens from Cinco Estrellas Farm in Junction City, topped with a bit of goat cheese from Fraga Farm in Sweet Home, two of the vendors taking part in the wonderful new Corvallis Local Foods online market that’s been supplying probably 75 percent of my food for the last few weeks.

The result: A dinner both simple and sophisticated, and utterly satisfying.

Easy Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed winter squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin, whatever you prefer)
  • 1-2 cups good stock (depending on how thick you like your soup). I used rich homemade stock from my Christmas duck, but chicken or vegetable stock is fine.
  • 1 tsp curry powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • Sour cream, creme fraiche or plain yogurt to garnish (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Rub the outer papery husk off the garlic without separating the cloves. Using a sharp knife, cut off just the tips of the pointy end to expose the garlic. Place in an ovenproof ramekin or very small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until garlic is soft and caramelized. Allow to cool.

In a large saucepan, combine squash puree and stock. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves into the soup. Add curry powder and/or cayenne, if you like it. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Taste; add salt and pepper if you want it. Ladle into bowls and swirl a spoonful of sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt onto the surface (unless you prefer a vegan soup).

Makes about a quart of soup; the number of servings depends on whether you’re using it as a starter or the whole meal. Serve with crusty bread, a green salad and a nice glass of wine. Count your blessings.

January 12, 2010 at 11:04 pm 1 comment

Christmas menu for one

Salted caramelsI’m spending Christmas the way I generally prefer to: By myself. Least I sound like a latter-day Scrooge or some sad shut-in, let me state for the record that I love the winter holidays, every single one of them, that I spend most of December in the company of friends, and that I always wind up with multiple invitations to other people’s Christmas dinners.

But my own family – down to just us four siblings now – has never made a Big Family Deal out of getting together for the holidays. Since we’re scattered all over the Western US, that spares us foul-weather travel at the busiest time of year. And because I have a play in production that closes the Sunday after Christmas, my sweetheart and I decided to do our celebrating together at New Year’s, when I’ll take the train north to Seattle for a long weekend together.

So really, at the cost of protesting too much, I love having Christmas to myself. It’s a chance to wind down a bit from the madcap seasonal socializing. I can sleep in, turn on some rock-and-roll, and indulge myself in the pleasures of cooking for one, which are quite different from the pleasures of cooking for a crowd (for one thing, there’s a lot less worry about getting everything to the table at once. For another, I can dine in my jammies if I want.)

This year’s menu is still coming together in my head, but it’s bound to be full of locally sourced goodness, thanks to the new Corvallis Local Foods online market and my own freezer, which is full of good things I put up all summer and fall.

Here’s what I’m planning, although it could change on a whim.

  • Roasted duck, probably spatchcocked and roasted at high heat with a glaze of apple cider* syrup (a simple reduction of apple cider in a wide pan until it’s thick and syrupy). I’m pondering the notion of adding either ground chipotles* or smoked paprika* to the glaze for some smokey heat.
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes* (or perhaps roasted pumpkin* – or both!) and leeks*
  • Something green. Probably just a simple salad of Romaine dressed lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a lot of pepper.
  • Pie. Because (a) there must be pie and (b) I have in the freezer five pounds of beautiful white lard* from ethically grown pigs, bought for the entire purpose of making the best pie crusts ever. I’m pondering a hazelnut pie, built on my canonical pecan pie recipe, since I also have a pound of lovely roasted filberts*. Maybe with the addition of chocolate and bourbon?
  • And, no doubt, I’ll sustain myself through the day  on more than a few of the buttery-sweet-and-salty sea-salt caramels I made this week for gift-giving.  Because what’s Christmas without a sugar buzz?

* Local ingredients (which, among other things, means I don’t have to throw out my filberts for fear of  salmonella, yay!)

And then on Saturday I’ll render off all that good duck fat for future cooking use** and use the leftover duck and the last of the chanterelles* to make a decidedly nonvegetarian version of my friend Whit’s amazingly good wild mushroom pie, with some chopped dried apples* and pears* in addition to the cranberries and sour cherries*.  That hearty, savory main-dish pie has become my post-Christmas staple, and it’ll feed me for a week. (If you’re meat-averse or feeding those who are tomorrow, consider the original version of this recipe. It’s a terrific vegetarian main course – even vegan if you use an oil-based crust.)

** New readers of this blog may be blinking at all this talk of animal fat. Isn’t that supposed to be bad for us? But I’m anything but a fat-o-phobe, and my primary motivation for eating close to the ground is neither health nor politics – it’s because I find locally grown, seasonal foods taste a whole lot better than most of what I can buy in the supermarket. And, as it turns out, the whole animal-fat-is-evil message is yet another of those overblown nutrition myths.  As in all things, moderation is a grand idea, but a slice of pie on a heavenly lard-based crust isn’t going to send you to the emergency room.

December 24, 2009 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Winter food: Local resources

Word comes through Rebecca Landis, coordinator of the farmers’ markets in Albany and Corvallis, of a nifty new food resource that ought to do a lot toward getting us through the dark, wet months when the outdoor markets don’t operate.

It’s Corvallis Local Foods, an on-line ordering service for produce, meat and locally made packaged foods based on (and hosted by) the Local Food Marketplace, a Eugene group set up to help farmers sell directly to consumers in a sort of virtual farmers’ market.

The way it works is simple: Sign up, browse what’s available in a given week, place your order online before Wednesday morning – and pick up your food on Thursday. The Corvallis pickup location, at Brooklane Orchards, happens to be a short drive from my workplace, so you can bet I’ll be taking advantage of the opportunity next week (I just missed this week’s ordering deadline, but I am all over it tomorrow…)

A bunch of local farms are selling their goods through the new site, most of them folks who work the Corvallis Saturday market in the summer and the Winter market (which just isn’t conveniently timed for me) in the winter.

Among them are Fraga Farm, with their wonderful certified goat cheese, my old friends Matt Borg and Cyndee Ross of Mat-Cyn Farms, whose many varieties of garlic and dried beans are among my kitchen staples, and growers offering everything from bison to honey to wild mushrooms.

The product list from their first week in operation  is drool-worthy:  Five varieties of apples, seven varieties of potato and eleven of squash; shallots and onions,  broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, fresh herbs and dried peppers, an amazing array of meat (beef, bison, chicken, heritage pork products), eggs, honey, walnuts and hazelnuts, cider, prepared mustard…) Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Kudos to Eugene food activists food activists  Doug Frazier, Mazzi Ernandes, and Amy McCann, who came up with the idea, ground-tested it in Lane County and are now offering other communities a chance to set up their own online marketplaces.

December 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm 2 comments

End-of-the-season stews

Autumn harvest still-lifeOur farmers’ market is … diminished. With just three weekends left this season, the number of vendors was down sharply this weekend, filling just half the municipal parking lot where the thing is held. It always makes me a little sad, and fills me with “hurry up and buy stuff before it’s all gone” fervor.

On the bright side, lots of the produce available now keeps well, with a little care. Apples, garlic, hard-skinned winter squash can last for a month or more, unrefrigerated, if you keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place. I’m reminded of the tornado shelter at my grandfather’s north Texas home – I’m not sure he ever used it to shelter from the weather, but his wife called it the root cellar, and stored vegetables and home-canned goods there year-round, because it was dark and cool and dry.

Root cellars have gone out of fashion, but I’ve kept apples for months by wrapping them individually in newsprint and setting them in a big, shallow cardboard box, not too closely crowded and unlidded, down in the garage that occupies half the daylight basement under my 1908 home. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a winter squash go bad on me, even sitting for 5-6 weeks in the basket on my kitchen counter. They’re pretty much built for storage.

This weekend, though, I’m focused on the short term, not the winter ahead. I’m in rehearsals through December, which means I leave the house for work at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home till after 10 at night. If I don’t spend my Sundays cooking, I’ll spend a whole lot more money than I want to eating during the week. So I’m getting back in the habit of preparing good, hearty dishes that reheat well and lend themselves to portioning into containers I can carry to work for lunch and dinner. I try to come up with strong-flavored dishes, packed with nutrition and taste, so I don’t get bored before the week is over.

Stews serve the purpose – and also lend themselves to slow simmering while I go about my other weekend domestic maintenance.

Here’s what’s on the stove today: A rich autumn stew of pork, winter squash and apples, and a spicy vegetarian chili that’s quick to make and wonderful served over brown basmati rice or homemade cornbread. The first is almost entirely made with food I bought at the market yesterday; the second uses local turtle beans I put on to soak before bed last night, but could just as easily be made with canned black beans. These are both nutritionally dense, low-fat dishes, and easy to adjust to suit your own tastes.

The number of servings depends on how hungry people are and whether you’re serving the stew as a one-pot meal or a dinner course.  It looks like I’ll get 6-7 meal-sized servings from of each pot of autumn goodness. With cornbread and rice, I’m set for the week.

End-of-the-Season Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash of your choice
  • 1 lb lean pork, cut in cubes. Most stew recipes call for pork shoulder; I tend to buy tenderloins (because they’re small enough for one person). But you could just as easily use the meat off a few thick-sliced pork chops. Just trim off most of the fat so you don’t wind up with greasy soup.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2-10 cloves of garlic, minced (I’m using a whole head’s worth, but I love garlic and got a lot of it at the market).
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups good chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled (if you want) and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into discs
  • 2 tart apples, cored and cubed

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half; use a spoon to scoop out the seeds surrounding fiber. Oil the cut halves and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the skin can be pierced by a fork. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle; peel off the rind (it will come off easily with your fingers) and cut squash into cubes. This can be done the day before.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubed pork in flour and cook in small batches until browned on all sides. Add the garlic and onion, lower the heat if needed to keep it from scorching, and continue cooking until the onion has softened. Add stock and stir to free any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add salt, rosemary and sage, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add apples and squash. Return to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, until potatoes and apples are tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste, correct seasoning, and serve.

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup applesauce (mine’s homemade)
  • Spices: This is where you get to shine. I like a lot of cumin in my chili, and I like heat; I still have fresh herbs in the garden. You know what you like. If your spice cabinet is modest, a couple of tablespoons of commercial chili powder would work. Here’s (approximately) what I used:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tsp fresh oregano (1 /2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups black beans, soaked overnight (or two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (I’m using my oven-roasted tomato goo)
  • 2 -6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (optional, but they add a nice heartiness to the dish. I’m using chanterelles)
  • Vegetable stock or water to cover.

Method:

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the applesauce with all the herbs and spices. Stir until well-blended. Stir in remaining ingredients, adding just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s not thick enough for your taste, stir in a handful of cornmeal late in the cooking. Serve with cornbread and your favorite chili toppings (chopped onions, grated cheese, sour cream, etc.)

As with most chilis, this is better the second day – and I’ve found the heat doesn’t fully develop until then, so don’t get carried away if it doesn’t seem spicy enough to suit your tastes.

 

November 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

Down from the trees

Plum tartEven though I didn’t get a vegetable garden in this year, I still have some tasty things in my own back yard: Herbs, mostly done for the season; the raspberries I ate half the summer – and now, a good crop of Italian prune plums from the ancient (and, alas, ivy-infested) tree by the back fence.

I’ve eaten my fill of plums straight from the tree, and now it’s time to do some baking. Plum tarts are easy as can be, and pretty to boot. This is a variation on an ongoing theme, using what I had on hand, and absolutely delicious. You could easily substitute your favorite custard for the simple yogurt preparation – or use more plums and pack them into the crust without a custard base at all for a densely fruity tart.

Backyard Plum Tart

Ingredients

  • Pie crust to fill a tart pan. Paté sucree is lovely, but refrigerator-case pie crusts work just fine, too.
  • 6-8 plums, washed, pitted and cut in slices
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 6 Tbps sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt, drained*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond flavoring (or vanilla, if you prefer)
  • 2 Tbps butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves (optional, for glaze)

Method

Preheat oven to 400F Roll out pie crust to fit in 13″ tart pan. Prick with a fork and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

While the pie crust is baking, mix 6 Tbsp sugar, ground spices and flour; toss the plum slices in this mixture to coat.

In a bowl, mix drained yogurt, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, egg and flavoring until well blended. Spread on the baked crust. Arrange the spiced plums in concentric circles on top of the yogurt mixture. Drizzle melted butter over the fruit.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until custard is set and the plums are browned and bubbling.

Melt preserves in a small pan and brush over the fruit while still warm.

Serve warm or at room temperature (with or without ice cream!)

* Drained yogurt: Fold a length of cheesecloth and fit inside a strainer, with the excess fabric hanging off the edges. Set strainer over a bowl. Spoon plain yogurt (I like Nancy’s) into the cheese, fold the cheesecloth over the top and put the bowl in the refrigerator to drain for several hours until the yogurt is nice and thick. I often do this with an entire container of yogurt and use the resulting “yogurt cheese” as a tangy substitute for cream cheese.

September 20, 2009 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

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