Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen


Eating Locally Project 2015: May 0

Posted on June 09, 2015 by Sahar

In case you haven’t heard, May was wet in Texas.  Very wet.  Here in Austin, we had a combined rainfall of almost 18 inches – about 14 inches more than normal.

After almost 5 years of drought, we’re all, no doubt, grateful for the rain. However, if you’ve seen the news, some places south and west of Austin got the brunt of what can happen when too much rain falls in too short a time.

Around here, it’s pretty much feast or famine rain-wise.

I know the local farmers are happy for the rain. Up to a point, anyway.  Some crops, like potatoes, have rotted and the crop yields are lower than they normally would be.  Tomatoes are taking longer than usual to ripen.  In short, the farmers are ready for a respite and for the fields to dry a bit.

But, now, the summer high-pressure system is beginning to move to its usual summer home, so we should be in a dry spell for a while.

Just as a side note, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m now volunteering at Boggy Creek Farm.  I help out once a week in the fields.  I’ve done this because I want to learn first-hand about growing my own food organically. I can read books about it all day long, but there’s nothing like hands-on experience.  Reason #2 – I need the exercise.

 

Wednesday, May 5:

My first stop, as per my usual, was Boggy Creek Farm.  I like to get there early so I can get to the salad mixes and baby greens before they’re all gone.

Baby Lamb's Quarter.  It has a slight peppery flavor to it.

Baby Lamb’s Quarter. To me, it tastes like a cross between spinach and arugula. When it’s young like this, raw is the best way to eat it.  If it’s grown to full maturity, the leaves are better cooked.

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Dandelion Greens. I think they’re my new favorite.

As always, I've got to have some arugula.

As always, I’ve got to have some arugula.

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Parsnips. I didn’t buy any, but I’m thinking of the possibilities later this summer.

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New Potatoes. Because of all the rain, Carol Ann & Larry weren’t sure what kind of crop they would have since, sadly, so many rotted in the fields. The potatoes they are bringing in are constantly under fans to help them to stay dry.

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Just so you know, carrot tops are delicious in salads.

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Baby Beets. I’m guessing these were pulled early to keep them from drowning in the field.

After talking with Carol Ann about volunteering, I did a quick wander around the farm.

I have no idea what this flower is. But I'm starting to see it everywhere.

I have no idea what this flower is. But I’m starting to see it everywhere.

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A better view of said unknown flower.

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CORN!!!

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Ladybug on corn.

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Shallots drying.

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The view from the back of the farmstand. It relaxes me.

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I can’t wait until the figs are ready. Carol Ann’s trees are thick with them.

A pecan tree that didn't survive the storms in early spring.

A pecan tree that didn’t survive the storms in early spring.

Playing with the camera filter app. This photo just begged to be antiqued

Playing with the camera filter app. This photo just begged to be antiqued.

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Wednesday night’s dinner. This ended up being essentially a small pork rib roast. It was amazing.

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My other Boggy Creek Purchases: New Potatoes, Beets, Dandelion Greens, Arugula, Baby Lambs Quarters

 

Stop #2: Springdale Farm

By the time I finally made my way to Springdale, the farmstand was pretty picked over. Good for Paula & Glenn. Bad for me.

I still managed to pick up a few things, though.

The tomatoes and roses at Springdale.

The tomatoes and roses at Springdale.

I really need to learn my flowers.

I really need to learn my flowers.

I got there kind of late, so there weren't too many tomatoes left.

I got there a little late, so there weren’t too many tomatoes left.

Not my favorite vegetable, but I bought some artichokes anyway. I thought, what the hell.

Not my favorite vegetable, but I bought some artichokes anyway. I thought, what the hell.

More beets. I didn't buy any; I just like the way they were all laid out.

More beets. I didn’t buy any; I just like the way they were all laid out.

After my shopping, I took advantage of the continuing break in the rain to walk around the farm. Like Boggy Creek, it’s such a lovely space to go and just get away from the concrete for a few minutes.

Springdale's chickens. Happily scratching away .

Springdale’s chickens. Happily scratching away.

It's like she actually wanted me to take her picture.

It’s like she actually wanted me to take her picture.

The ducks were having none of me.

The ducks were having none of me.

The Ghost Peppers are in the ground.

The Ghost Peppers are in the ground.

Sage.

Sage.

Juliet tomatoes.

Juliet tomatoes.

The Prudens Purple tomatoes ripening.

The Prudens Purple tomatoes ripening.

Looking over the tops of the tomato field.

Looking over the tops of the tomato field.

I'm guessing this caterpillar was up to no good, but it sure was cute.

I’m guessing this caterpillar was up to no good, but it sure was cute.

The farm house.

The farm house.

Larkspur

Larkspur

I want to say this is a sunflower...

I want to say this is a sunflower…

Looking forward from the back of the farm.

Looking forward from the back of the farm.

Springdale purchases: Tomatoes, Parsley, Artichokes.

Springdale purchases: Tomatoes, Parsley, Artichokes.

 

Saturday, May 9:

Back to Boggy Creek first thing. I wanted to get there early so I could finally get my hands on one specific item: Squash Blossoms.  I learned if one arrives much after the first 30 minutes, one is out of luck.

I was successful. Joy.

The reason I came here first thing - squash blossoms.

The reason I came here first thing – squash blossoms.

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The glorious salad table.

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The summer squash is making its first appearance.

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Luckily, despite the weather and the loss of a lot of the potato crop, they were still coming in.

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Dewberries. Awesome.

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Curly mustard greens. After the dandelion greens, these are another new favorite.

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The kale is still hanging in.

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Kohlrabi. I’d like to figure out what else to do with it before I buy more.

My Boggy Creek Purchases: squash blossoms, new potatoes, Maria's Mix, curly mustard greens, cucumbers, dewberries

My Boggy Creek Purchases: squash blossoms, new potatoes, Maria’s Mix, curly mustard greens, cucumbers, dewberries

Whole chicken from Taylor Farm

Whole chicken from Taylor Farm

I didn’t really hang around that day since I’d been at the farm just a few days before. Plus, it looked like more rain was coming.

 

Next, I decided to try a new (to me) farmers market, Barton Creek.  It’s located in the parking lot at Barton Creek Mall in south Austin. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.

I will say, I like it.  Very much. It’s a much less formal vibe than the downtown market. In addition to the usual farm stands, they have artist booths selling clothing, jewelry, and other accessories, as well as a gentleman who’ll sharpen your knives while you shop.

They have a market on Sundays, too, that I still need to check out. Maybe I could even drag Husband Steve along.

As soon as I walked in, a lovely gentleman, David,  walked right up to me and asked if I wanted to try his blackberries.  He said he’d picked them the day before and still had some of the small thorns in his hands (he did).

I have to honestly say, those were some of the best blackberries I ever tasted. Just sweet enough and very juicy.  I think I ended up buying 5 baskets.

Some of the best blackberries I've ever eaten. Picked just the day before.

Some of the best blackberries I’ve ever eaten. Picked just the day before.

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And here is the gentleman who picked them. The irresistible and effervescent David.

One of the stands I stopped at was Engel Farms.  They are a third generation, family-run farm based in Fredericksburg, Texas.

When I got to the stand, they had already sold out of a few things. However, I did to buy a couple of strawberry baskets.

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Beautiful strawberries from Engel Farms.

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The peaches were lovely, too. However, I decided to pass on them this time around.

A quick pass by Baguette et Chocolat for some chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat) and sourdough for Husband Steve & I. I’ve been to their storefront many times for their breads, sandwiches, pastries, and their “Special Hot Chocolate”. If you ever get a chance, go. Depending on where you’re coming from, it can be a trek. But, the reward is worth it.

I took my mom there for breakfast one morning when she came down for a visit.  It is now “our place” for breakfast.

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c’est bon.

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Quite honestly, some of the absolute best European-style bread I’ve ever eaten. Just the right amount of texture in both the crust and the crumb. You can just taste the sourdough without it being overwhelming.

A long view of the market. It was much more populated than this suggests.

A long view of the market. It was much more populated than this suggests.

In my quest to shop for seafood (hopefully) more responsibly, I like to seek out smaller seafood vendors who (again, hopefully) harvest seafood in a safe, responsible, and sustainable way.

I stopped by a small stand called  The Shrimp Connection.  According to their Facebook page, they sell chemical-free, wild-caught Texas Gulf Shrimp.

I bought 2 pounds of the large. It was fat, fresh, great-looking shrimp.

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Price board from The Shrimp Connection.

Winfield Farms made it into the grocery bag this time around. It’s a small, family-run farm in Bastrop County which is wonderful in and of itself. For me? They had sprouts.

Finally, I find sprouts.

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Artichokes at Winfield Farms. I didn’t buy any, but they are a great photographic opportunity.

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Beautiful scallions.

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Sage. Always excellent to have on hand.

My final stop was at Johnson’s Backyard Garden. I didn’t really see too much that moved me there this time around, but I did buy a few items.

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Green tomatoes. No, I didn’t ultimately end up frying them.

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Lovely grapefruit. These eventually went in to salad.

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Red onions.

Finally, after another walk-through, I decided I was ready to go.  But first, lunch.

Heidi Garbo started the food truck (and, later, her restaurant) in 2013.  she grew up in Key West Florida, by way of Connecticut, where her father and uncle were in the seafood business. After she moved to Austin with her husband, she missed the lobster rolls back home. Hence, Garbo’s.

Garbo’s food truck has a much smaller menu than the restaurant and is just as good.  However, the price may shock some people. But, that should be somewhat mitigated by the fact that Garbo’s doesn’t scrimp on the lobster.

 

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Basically, Garbo’s entire menu at the market.

Another view of the market. Well, the other row, anyway.

While waiting for lunch, another view of the market. Well, the other row, anyway.

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So, yeah, this was lunch. Pricy. But really, really good. They certainly don’t skimp on the lobster, as you can see.

Back home. And on to the purchases. I did pretty well, I thought.

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Chocolate Croissants from Baguette et Chocolat

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Sourdough Bread from Baguette et Chocolat; Blackberries from David; Sage and Alfalfa Sprouts from Winfield Farms; Mint, Green Tomatoes, and Grapefruit from Johnson’s Backyard Garden; Strawberries from Engel Farms

Dinner that night:

Artichoke Hearts and Squash Blossoms fried in an egg white batter

Artichoke Hearts and Squash Blossoms fried in an egg white batter

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The artichokes and squash blossoms with the sourdough bread, a selection of cheeses, salami, extra virgin olive oil, local honey, and 50 year old balsamic.

 

Thursday, May 21

My first day of volunteering at Boggy Creek Farm. Not sure what to say other than it was hard and rewarding work. I can say that it was overcast, a little drizzly, and cool. So, at least that helped make the weed pulling a little easier.

My first day, I met Dana (the lead volunteer), Siri (who’s been volunteering for about 8 months), and Sarah (who started the week before I did), along with Finnegan and Aden, two of the full-time employees of the farm.  I also formally met Tina, who works part-time at the stand.

The volunteers were tasked with pulling up the romaine lettuce stalks that had flowered out along with the weeds that seemed to be growing before our eyes.  Since the ground has had so much rain, the weeds and romaine were fairly easy to pull up. The Johnson Grass, however – ugh. The best part of all this is the chickens got to feast out on the romaine stalks. We all took turns tossing them into the coop and watching the chickens do their chicken thing.

After the pulling, we moved on to composting. While Dana and Siri spread the compost (made up of old vegetation, leaves, and chicken droppings), Sarah and I cut it into the soil with hoes and smoothed it out. I’ll tell you, that’s a great upper body workout.

After the break, we finished composting and then moved on to planting Purslane. Carol Ann had grown it from seed in her greenhouse and now it was ready to put in the ground.

I honestly can’t wait until it’s ready for harvesting. I’ve never eaten purslane before, at least not knowingly, so I’m excited to try it.

It was a tough on me, being out of shape and middle-aged. But, I’m going to keep going.

The planted purslane.

The planted purslane.

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A sunflower on a cloudy day

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Again, I really need to educate myself on flowers.

As part of our “pay” for volunteering, we get $30 worth of free produce. Fair offer, I would say. Done judiciously, $30 can go a long way at the stand.

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Luckily, the potato crop wasn’t totally wiped out. But, the fans were still running.

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Some beautiful “flying saucer” and pattypan squash. I’ve always called them sunburst, myself.

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I’m going out on a limb and saying this is a variety of hibiscus.

During the course of my day at the farm, I happened to notice an old hen in the tool shed not really moving much, even for a roosting hen.  I saw her later in the same spot and she didn’t look well at all.  In fact, she looked like she’d shuffled off her mortal coil. I mentioned this to Carol Ann.  She said that she had quite a few old hens and this one was probably just sleeping. But, she’d check it out.

Later, after I’d finished my shopping, Carol Ann walked up to me and basically said I was right. The old hen was no more. So, I helped her bury the hen. Well, Carol Ann buried the hen. I just talked. As Carol Ann put the old hen into her hole and was ready to cover her with dirt, Carol Ann simply said, “Thank you for your service.”

Kinda says it all.

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Carol Ann burying the old hen. “She stopped laying years ago. But, she gave good poop”.

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My after work shopping: Tenderized steak from Dear Run Longhorns; Whole chicken from Taylor Farms

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My vegetable shopping: Maria’s Zesty Mix; Kennebunk Potatoes; Summer Squash

 

Thursday, May 28:

Back at Boggy Creek and volunteering. It was another day of weeding the rows. This time, it was the peppers and tomatoes. By the end of the day, my knees were rebelling.

I didn’t take too many photos that day after I was finished. I had a class to teach that evening and I simply wanted to go home, clean up, eat, and rest before I had to leave again.

Weeding to tomato plants

Weeding to tomato plants

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Honestly, I hated pulling weeds as a kid. Now, I find a strange sort of satisfaction in it.

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My Pay for the day: cucumbers, dandelion greens, carrots, Maria’s Zesty Mix, and eggs. I paid for the squash blossoms because I bought the entire day’s haul for my cooking class that evening.

 

Saturday, May 30:

I  headed to Springdale Farm on the first non-rainy day in what seemed recent memory. I thought I had arrived pretty early and before the crowds. But, as per usual with me, I was mistaken. It was like as soon as the skies cleared up, people decided to relieve their cabin fever and rejoin society.

Spingdale's tomato plants are about my height now. I feel short.

Springdale’s tomato plants are about my height now. I feel short.

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Rose on the fence.

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Beets, carrots, and celery

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Tomatoes!

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White and red potatoes.

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Duck eggs. I was so excited that I finally managed to buy some. I’ve never (knowingly) had a duck egg, so I’m anxious to try them.

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Leeks.

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A cacophony of tomatoes. The photo really doesn’t do the table justice.

After braving the crowd, I headed out to the relative peace of the farm.

Off to visit the chickens.

Off to visit the chickens.

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Some ducklings in the warm room.

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The social hour.

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I think these are a type of marigold.

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Again, the ducks will have nothing to do with me.

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Color.

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King of the hill.

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A Pruden’s Purple tomato on the vine.

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Looking down to tomato rows. I felt very short.

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Dill flowers.

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Eden East getting ready for the evening.

My purchases from Springdale: blackberries, baby Romas (or Juliettes), and leeks.

My purchases from Springdale: blackberries, baby Romas (or Juliettes), and leeks.

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My duck eggs. So happy.

 

After finishing up at Springdale, I headed once again to Barton Creek.  The sun was out and people were smiling.

I stopped at a stand I’d not noticed before, Two Happy Children Farm.  They had lettuces, squash peppers, and, best of all, corn. I bought 4 ears.

One thing hit me the wrong way as I was standing there. The lady running the stand was Asian and (I think) related to the young boy who was also manning the stand. A couple nearby was asking the lady some questions, which she was cheerfully answering. Then, the man piped up and said, “Was that corn grown by an American?”. I was personally disgusted by the question. The lady simply said with a smile, “And American and an Asian”.

I paid for my corn and walked away.

This was a new stand for me: Two Happy Children Farm.

This was a new stand for me: Two Happy Children Farm.

I wandered over to Engel Farms a few stands down. I had bought produce from them the last time I was at the market and really enjoyed the produce I bought.

This time, not so much. The fruit was beautiful, but that was all.  It may have been the rain, but who knows.

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The peaches. They were rock-hard when I bought them. Once they ripened, they had no flavor.

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The strawberries were packed so the pretty ones were on top, bad on the bottom. I was really disappointed. I think I composted away 2/3 of what I bought.

After this, I decided it was time to buy some protein and starch to round out my day.

I stopped at a vendor I’ve bought from before, K & S Seafood. I had bought some Black Drum from them back in March at Mueller Farmers Market. Through no fault of their own, I didn’t like it.

However, the lobster tails and salmon I bought were both delicious.

The price board for K & S Seafood.

The price board for K & S Seafood.

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Finally. Blue skies.

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It’s not the prettiest of pictures, but you can at least see where the chickens come from. Smith and Smith Farms

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And, now, for the starch.

After my stop at Baguette et Chocolat, I decided it was time to go home. I was shopping on an empty stomach. And we all know what kind of trouble one can get into doing that.

I think I showed remarkable restraint under the circumstances, though.

My purchases #1: Baguette et Chocolat - chocolate croissants, 6-grain sourdough.

My purchases: Baguette et Chocolat – chocolate croissants, 6-grain sourdough.

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Engel Farms: strawberries and peaches

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2 Happy Children Farm: Corn.

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K & S Seafood: King Salmon Filets, Lobster Tails

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Smith and Smith Farms: whole chicken

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That evening’s dinner: Pan seared scallops and lobster tail with mixed green salad and tomatoes and fried corn with bacon.

 

Another month down. 7 more to go.

This has been fun so far.

 

 

 

Arlene’s Chicken Salad 0

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Sahar

My late, great, Great Aunt Arlene Becker Peoples (“Auntie”) was a force of nature. She was born in Georgetown, Texas on July 11, 1930.  She grew up in Kyle, married a man who founded his own meat packing company, raised two girls (my cousins Phyllis & Stacy), divorced, and then proceeded to live life by her own set of rules. She flirted with the men, traveled extensively (Bali was her favorite), played Bridge, gave a helping hand to anyone who asked for it, and made Backgammon a contact sport.  I really looked up to her in many ways.

She was a huge part of my life growing up.  And, when I moved to Austin, she took me under her wing and made sure I was properly fed and clothed (she was a free laundromat).  We also had epic Yahtzee battles that would go on for hours.  I still use the microwave she gave Husband Steve & I as a housewarming gift.

She passed away December 24, 1999.  Too soon.  Way too soon.  I still miss her every day. I could never thank her enough for all she did for me.

Above all, to me, she was a great home cook.  Nothing too fancy, but wonderful, honest cooking.  It wasn’t unusual for us to share a ham steak with German potato salad or buttered cabbage. And, of course, she always had Blue Bell Vanilla Bean in the freezer.

She did have three specialties that always stood out:  Angel Biscuits (basically, a cross between a biscuit and a roll), Seafood Crepes, and Chicken Salad.  She would always fix Angel Biscuits for special occasions and breakfasts when my family would visit when my sisters & I were kids.  Her crepes were amazing.  So amazing in fact that they became all anyone wanted her to bring to the bridge club luncheons.  Needless to say, she got tired of them.  My favorite was her Chicken Salad.

I’ve always called this dish Arlene’s Chicken Salad.  It’s in the great tradition of Southern chicken salads in that it contains dressing, a sweet component, and a lot of chicken.  Unlike most traditional Southern recipes, however, she never added eggs.  She felt, as my mom does, and I do, there is egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad; they are all meant to be separate entities standing on their own never to mix.  In other words, as great as eggs are, they don’t need to go in chicken salad.

Also, I’ve always loved her secret ingredient – Cool Whip®.  I never knew if she came up with it on her own or learned it from someone or somewhere.  But, it really doesn’t matter. It’s pretty awesome.

I have deviated from her original recipe in one major way – I use dark meat.  In a true Southern chicken salad, you never use dark meat.  Always poached chicken breast meat only.  It’s more refined, I guess.

She was also very precise in how she chopped her pecans.  She would cut it into 1/3rd’s lengthwise along the grooves, then tun it and cut it into 1/3rd’s again, making exactly 9 pieces. I asked her once why she did it that way.  I can’t remember exactly what she said, but I’m sure it was something about appearances.  It was all very German Efficient of her.  While I am half German, I don’t have the efficiency or the patience genes, I guess.

Auntie would cut these into precisely 9 pieces. I don't.

Auntie would cut these into precisely 9 pieces. I don’t.

 

This dish, of course, comes together pretty fast.  Just pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store, cut up a few ingredients, mix, and voila!, dinner.  And, you didn’t even need to turn on the stove.

A few notes:

1.  I’ve never had this with anything other than red grapes.  You can substitute another fruit such as apples, pears, or dried fruit if you like.  Experiment.

2.  If you don’t toast the pecans, it’s fine.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  If you do, place the pecans on a baking sheet and place in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Then, take the baking sheet out of the oven, spread the pecans out on a cool surface and allow them to cool before you chop them and add to the salad.

3.  Speaking of #2 – pecans.  Only pecans.

4.  If you don’t have or don’t want to use Cool Whip®, you can use all mayonnaise.  It just won’t be the same. DO NOT use Miracle Whip®. Gross.

 

Oh, and by the way.  Auntie would never use low-fat or fat-free versions of anything.  Her mantra in the kitchen was always “I don’t cook skinny”.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

1 whole cooked chicken, skinned, boned, and meat chopped

-or-

3-4 cooked whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped

2 c. seedless red grapes, cut into 1/4’s

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2 stalks celery, finely diced

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1 c. toasted pecans, chopped

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1 c. mayonnaise, more if needed

1 c. Cool Whip ®, more if needed

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Salad greens, optional

 

1.  In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, grapes, celery, and pecans until well mixed.

Stuff in a bowl ready to mix.

Stuff in a bowl ready to mix.

2.  Stir in the mayonnaise and Cool Whip ®.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add more mayonnaise and/or Cool Whip® if needed.

3.  If you are using salad greens, place them on a serving plate and spread out slightly. Then, place a serving of the chicken on top.  Serve with bread or crackers.

In memory of Auntie.

In memory of Auntie.

 

Enjoy!

Simple All-Purpose Marinara Sauce 1

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Sahar

When I was younger – much younger – I was an avid Nancy Drew Mysteries reader.  I think I had 20 or so of the books.  My goal at the time was to read through all of them (I think there were 55 at the time).  I never made that goal, but I did get one thing so much cooler – The Nancy Drew Cookbook.

One of my first and most treasured cookbooks.

One of my first and most treasured cookbooks.

It’s one of three cookbooks I received from my mom that I absolutely treasure.  The other two are The Little House Cookbook (based on recipes from the Little House books) and Mom’s first cookbook, Wendy’s Kitchen Debut. I may give away or sell my other cookbooks, but I’ll be buried with these.

There was a recipe in Nancy Drew that I really wanted to try. In Chapter 6 –  Album of International Recipes – I came across a recipe called “Italian Salsa di Pomodoro”.  Not knowing what the Italian meant, I read the recipe anyway and figured out it was spaghetti sauce. It was so different from the sauce that Mom made (hers is a wonderful amalgamation of sauce and lots of vegetables; sometimes, she would make meatballs, too). This was just a simple unadorned sauce.

The first time I made it, I think I burned the onions.  I still finished the sauce and the family gamely ate it.  I’ve since gotten better.

This book was also responsible for the infamous “A Keene Soup”, or, as my family called it, Peanut Butter Soup.  It was not a success. In fact, it was really gross. They’ve never let me live it down. I don’t blame them.

However, the “Old Attic Stuffed Tomato” and “Flag Cake Symbol” from Chapter 5 – “Nancy Tells Her Holiday Secrets” were pretty successful. I liked the stuffing so much that I was nibbling on it while I was making the recipe. That’s when Mom had to point out to me that eating raw sausage wasn’t a good idea.

Back to the sauce: as I progressed as a cook, I set aside this little book, but I always remembered the base of this recipe – onion, tomato, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar – and decided to make my own sauce recipe that would be simple, quick, and versatile.  I think this sauce is it.  I’ve used it as a base for Red Clam Sauce, added Italian Sausage, added shrimp, made Chicken Parmesan, Lasagna, as a pizza sauce, etc. The list is extensive.

 

A few notes:

1.  If you can’t find or don’t want to use fresh basil, you can use any other fresh herb you prefer.  Just be judicious with the amount. For example, if you use too much oregano, your sauce will taste like soap.  Always begin with less than you think you need.  You can always add, but you can’t take out.

2.  You can also use dried herbs in this recipe.  Begin with 1 teaspoon and add it when you add the red pepper flakes to the onion & garlic.

3.  You can add any protein to this sauce.  Just add it when you add the fresh basil at the end.  If it’s something like sausage, be sure to cook it before adding to the sauce.  If it’s fish or shellfish, you can add it raw, but just make sure it’s cut into small enough pieces that the heat of the sauce will cook it through.

4.  This recipe makes a lot of sauce.  It freezes well and can be frozen for 3-4 months.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

From top left:

From top left: red pepper flakes, kosher salt, ground black pepper, sugar, garlic cloves

 

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, minced

4 cl. garlic, minced

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1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 15-oz. can tomato sauce

1 28-oz. can whole or chopped tomatoes, with their juice

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Sugar to taste

Water or vegetable broth, as needed

1 bunch fresh basil, torn into small pieces or cut into julienne

1 lb. pasta of your choice, cooked according to the package directions

 

1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic

Sautéing the onion and garlic

2.  Add the red pepper flakes (and dried herbs, if using) and saute for another 1 – 2 minutes.

Adding the pepper flakes

Adding the pepper flakes

Lower heat to medium and add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste begins to take on a burnt-orange color. (If the paste begins to stick to the bottom or becomes too brown, add a little water or broth.)

The tomato paste turns burnt orange as you cook it because you're cooking the sugars in to tomato.

The tomato paste turns burnt orange as you cook it because you’re cooking the sugars in the tomato.  It adds a little sweetness to the sauce and helps smooth out some of the heavy flavor of the paste.

3.  Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes (with their juice), 1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, and sugar.  If the sauce is very thick, add some water or broth to thin it a bit. (Be careful, there will be some spatter as the sauce begins to bubble.)

Adding everything else.

Adding everything else.

Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Cooking the sauce.

Cooking the sauce. I know I said partially cover. So, do as I say, not as I do.

4.  Meanwhile, make the pasta.  Cook until al dente, drain, and set aside.

5.  After the first 30 minutes, take the sauce off the heat. If you like, mash down any whole tomatoes left with a potato masher and taste for seasoning.

After 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes.

I like to use whole tomatoes in my sauce, so I'll take the potato masher when the sauce has cooked and break them down.

I like to use whole tomatoes in my sauce, so I’ll take the potato masher when the sauce has cooked and break them down.

Stir in the basil and let it simply infuse into the sauce for at least 15 minutes.  If you are adding any protein, add it when you stir in the basil.  Taste for seasoning again.

The basil stirred in and infusing.  Now is also the time you would add any additional protein.  The residual heat from the sauce will cook most small shellfish and heat through any already cooked meat.

The basil stirred in and infusing. Now is also the time you would add any additional protein. The residual heat from the sauce will cook most small shellfish and heat through any already cooked meat.

In general, you can serve this with any cheese you prefer (unless you’re making this into a seafood sauce; in that case, cheese is verboten), but I usually just use Parmesan.

Without Parmesan. In this example, I added meatballs to the sauce at Husband Steve's request.

Without Parmesan. In this example, I added meatballs to the sauce at Husband Steve’s request.

Dressed with Parmesan.

Dressed with Parmesan.

 

Buon Appetito!

 

Addendum: A quick julienne primer

In this recipe, you can most certainly simply tear the basil leaves and add them to the sauce.  However, I like to cut them into a julienne.  Basically cutting the basil into very thin strips.

You can use this technique for many different herbs and vegetables.

First, stack some basil leaves together

First: Stack some basil leaves together

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Second: Roll the basil into a tight roll.

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Third: With a very sharp knife, cut the roll lengthwise into very this strips.

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Forth: Separate the strips by basically working the roll apart with your fingers.

Now, it’s ready to add to your recipe.

 

 

My Eating Locally Project 2015: April 0

Posted on May 05, 2015 by Sahar
Eggs at Springdale Farm

Eggs at Springdale Farm

 

April was another kinda weird month for me.  Revolving door visitors (whom I thoroughly enjoyed) and the ‘flu both played major roles in last month’s shopping.  I still managed three shopping trips, had some lovely conversations, learned some things, and began to truly enjoy the start of the spring and summer produce seasons.

 

Wednesday, April 15: Springdale Farm & Boggy Creek Farm

As most of us do, I try to do things to distract myself from Tax Day.  I mean, my taxes were filed a month prior, but it’s still the visceral reaction to the day that gives me shudders. At least internally.

My first stop that day was Springdale Farm.  I felt like I’d hit the jackpot with the fava beans for sale.  I’m guessing I bought 3 pounds. There was lots of fennel for sale, too. But, since fennel is part of my torture meal, I skipped it.

Fennel seed? Fine. A few Fennel fronds? Excellent with shellfish.

Fennel Bulb? Licorice. Yuk.

Seemingly the most prolific of spring vegetables, fennel.

Seemingly the most prolific of spring vegetables, fennel.

My purchases at Springdale this time around were: carrots, garlic chives, green garlic, escarole, and fava beans.

Carrots

Carrots, Cabbage, Spring Onions, Beets

oranges and grapefruit

oranges and grapefruit

Springdale Farm

Springdale Farm

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My purchases: Carrots, Garlic Chives, Green Garlic, Escarole, Fava Beans

My purchases: Carrots, Garlic Chives, Green Garlic, Escarole, Fava Beans

I didn’t really wander around the farm as I usually do. The gate to the chicken coops and the fields were closed, so I didn’t want to be presumptuous and just walk in. But, I did have a lovely conversation with Glenn Foore about the role of fava beans in Middle Eastern cuisine.

 

Boggy Creek Farm was my next stop.  In fact, the two farms are less than a mile apart from each other. Very convenient.

Larkspur and Poppies. Boggy Creek.

Larkspur and Poppies. Boggy Creek.

Bee in a poppy.

Bee in a poppy.

I was talking with Carol Ann about the strawberries.  She said that if she got any more rain, her plants would die out. (I think a day or two after we talked, it happened.)  Her husband, Larry Butler, has a second farm about 80 miles outside of town, she said, where the soil is sandier.  Because strawberries like sandier soil, any future strawberries would come from his farm instead of the one in town.

Makes sense.

I just got the last of the strawberries for the day.

I just got the last of the strawberries for the day.

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Yup. More fennel.

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So excited about the dandelion greens.

Arugula and Curly Mustard Greens. Peppery, bitter delights.

Arugula and Curly Mustard Greens. Peppery, bitter delights.

After I made my purchases (eggs, strawberries, dandelion greens, arugula, curly mustard greens, pork chops), as is my wont, I wandered around the farm for a few minutes.

Chickens on the loose again.

Chickens on the loose again.

I have no idea what these flowers are, but I'm starting to see them everywhere.

I have no idea what these flowers are, but I’m starting to see them everywhere.

Call me weird, but I like a little sun glare in my photos from time to time.

Call me weird, but I like a little sun glare in my photos from time to time.

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Pink roses

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Down the primrose path

My purchases: eggs, strawberries, dandelion greens, arugula, curly mustard greens

My purchases: eggs, strawberries, dandelion greens, arugula, curly mustard greens

My purchases, part 2: pork chops. These were sliced thin, so they fried up really well in the skillet. They were unctuous.

My purchases, part 2: pork chops. These were sliced thin, so they fried up quite well in the skillet. They were unctuous.

Wednesday Night's Dinner: Salad with curly mustard greens and pine nuts; pork chops.

Wednesday Night’s Dinner: Salad with curly mustard greens, escarole, dandelion greens, and arugula with pine nuts; pork chops. Simple, but delicious.

 

Friday, April 24:  Boggy Creek Farm

This was the day that I learned what breeds of chickens laid what color of eggs.

I was having a lengthy conversation with Carol Ann Sayle about the farm, getting advice on the best way to start a garden (clean the area, cover with soil & compost, let sit for a couple of months, then begin planting in the fall), talking flowers, and, finally, the chickens.

With all the rain we’ve had here in Austin (few are complaining about this), she lets the chickens run loose so that they can scratch and roost in drier areas.  By doing this, the coop can dry out and be cleaned. When the chickens are out, they’re extremely entertaining to watch do their chicken thing in their chicken way.

When I showed her the eggs I bought, she explained to me that different breeds laid different colored eggs.  Well, the shells, anyway.  It makes sense. I honestly thought the color of the shell always depended on the diet.

So, here are the breeds:

Leghorn: white eggs

Leghorn: white eggs

Ameraucana: Green

Ameraucana: green eggs

Black Australorp: Brown

Black Australorp: brown eggs

A rainbow of eggs.

A rainbow of eggs.

I've called you all here...

I’ve called you all here…

soon... tomatoes. Many, many tomatoes.

soon… Tomatoes. Many, many tomatoes.

Butter lettuce in the field

Butter lettuce in the field

During my shopping, I saw that the artichokes are starting to come out in profusion, too.  It’s not a vegetable that I use much because of the time it takes to prep them, but, I figure if I go all Italian and give them a good fry-up, they just might be worth the trouble.

Quite possibly the last of one of my favorite salad mixes for the season - Maria's Brassica.

Quite possibly the last of one of my favorite salad mixes for the season – Maria’s Brassica.

IMG_5526_2

Beautiful purple artichokes and dill.

IMG_5527_2

Frisee and a full head of radicchio. All you usually see of radicchio in the stores is the red core.

IMG_5528_2

A few winter greens still hanging in there.

IMG_5599_2

Beautiful oyster mushrooms from Cedar Creek Farms.

IMG_5530

Glorious cut flowers from the farm.

The path out

The path out

IMG_5537_2

Carol Ann’s tea roses. The smell exactly like roses should smell.

My purchases: radicchio, frisee, oyster mushrooms, brassica salad, eggs

My purchases: radicchio, frisee, oyster mushrooms, brassica salad, eggs

IMG_5553_2

My purchases, part 2: tenderized round steak. I see Chicken Fried Steak in the near future. Very near future.

IMG_5555_2

Friday night dinner: New York Strip, Mixed Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, sauteed Oyster Mushrooms.

 

Saturday, April 25: SFC Farmers Market Downtown

Once again, I found myself downtown. This time, I decided that because of all of the construction, I was going to make this my last time at this market for now.  Too bad, really.  I enjoy this market.

But, it will be good for me to check out other markets, too.  Silver linings and all.

However, once I finally arrived, I was quite happy with what I saw.  The spring and early summer produce is coming into its own for the year. Plus, breakfast.

Glimpse of the Downtown Farmers Market

Glimpse of the Downtown Farmers Market

I came across a stand I’ve never noticed before: Animal Farm Organic Market Garden.

They had the most lovely cut flowers and something I’ve never tried before: kohlrabi.  I bought 2 bunches along with a large bag of arugula.

Cut flowers at Animal Farm Organic Market Garden

Cut flowers at Animal Farm Organic Market Garden

IMG_5560_2

More cut flowers. I wish I knew their names.

IMG_5561_2

Not a huge stand, but what he had was great.

IMG_5562_2

Something I’ve never used before: Kohlrabi. I bought 2 bunches. The outer rind is tough, so you have to peel them. And, the leaves are edible.

I read up on how to prepare kohlrabi and saw that most of the preparations use it raw.  So, I just grated it with some carrots, tossed them both some thinly sliced red onion and a lemon vinaigrette, let everything sit for about an hour and came up with slaw. Delicious.

 

My next stop was at one of my favorites: Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

I only bought 3 things this time: elephant garlic, mint, and romaine.  They still have quite a bit of winter produce, but I just couldn’t.  As much as I love my beets and kale, I’m done until the fall.

IMG_5564_2

Last of the purple cauliflower.

IMG_5565_2

Elephant garlic.

Generally, with elephant garlic, it’s best to roast the cloves.  It generally has a milder flavor than other types of garlic; so, while you can use it raw, you’ll have to use more to get the same flavor in the dish.  I like to take the peeled cloves and slowly poach/roast them over low heat on the stove in a combination of grapeseed and olive oils.  This way, not only are the cloves roasted, you also get garlic-flavored oil.

IMG_5567_2

Mint, cilantro, two types of parsley, and red leaf lettuce.

IMG_5568_2

Artichokes. I opted out this week.

IMG_5571_2

Spring onions.

IMG_5572_2

The beets are still hanging in there.

IMG_5595_2

Garlic. Maybe next time.

The next stand to catch my eye was B5 Farms.

For me, here were the first heirloom tomatoes of the summer. They had three varieties available: Valencia, Cherokee Purple, and German Johnson. I love heirlooms because they all have their own very distinct flavor, are in general drier (fewer seeds), and while they are a bit pricier, they have more yield than the usual grocery store tomato. They’re not perfectly round, blemish-free specimens, but, heirloom tomatoes have their own knobbly beauty.

IMG_5576_2

Valencia Tomatoes.

IMG_5580_2

German Johnson Tomatoes.

IMG_5584_2

Purple Cherokee Tomatoes.

B5 had a few peppers, too. I didn’t buy any because I didn’t have a need for them, but they looked bright and fresh. It looked like they had a variety of bell, jalapeno, and poblano peppers.

IMG_5585_2

Peppers at B5 Farms.

After buying the produce, I headed to Tamale Addiction to buy breakfast for Husband Steve & I. Their tamales are very good and hefty.  Two will set you up for quite a while.

Breakfast: Chicken Mole and Pork al Pastor tamales

Breakfast: Chicken Mole and Pork al Pastor tamales

From JBG: elephant garlic, mint, romaine

From JBG: elephant garlic, mint, romaine

IMG_5588_2

From B5 Farms: Heirloom Tomatoes

IMG_5590_2

From Animal Farm Organic: kohlrabi and arugula

 

So… On to May. I hope to be visiting some new places and seeing some new vendors.

 

Now, for a quick recipe:

“Tossed” Caprese Salad

As we all know, traditional Caprese Salad is a layered salad of sliced of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  Occasionally, a little salt may be sprinkled over the top.

I like to use heirlooms for this salad because they are at their best here. It’s a simple salad that’s perfect for summer.

Now, my version is more of a tossed salad. So, purists beware.

 

1 1/2  – 2 lbs. tomatoes (heirloom, if you can), cut into roughly 1″ pieces

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. fresh mozzarella (I used perla size in this example), cut into roughly 1″ pieces depending on the size you buy

1 small bunch basil, torn or cut into julienne (thin strips)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as needed

Flaked Sea Salt (i.e. Maldon), to taste

 

Basically, toss the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil together.  Add as much olive oil as you like (I just eyeball it).  Add a little of the salt, mix the salad, and taste.  A lot of mozzarellas available have salt already, so you want to be judicious when adding it.

I like to serve this with some crusty bread.

"Tossed" Caprese Salad.

“Tossed” Caprese Salad.

 

See you in May!

 

 

 

 

 

Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) 0

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Sahar

Years ago, as I was rifling through my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I came across 2 cans of black beans and a jar of pickled jalapeños (that I figured I needed do something else with besides make nachos).  Of course, these are pantry staples every Texan should have.

Hmm… I thought. What can I do with these?  After looking through my fridge and finding some cilantro, I stumbled upon it.  “Tart these beans up, Sahar”, I said to myself.

A no brainer, really.

At the time I came up with this recipe, Husband Steve was a vegetarian. And, honestly, me being a dedicated omnivore, there were times I struggled with figuring out what to feed him other than the same old dozen or so meals.  Thankfully, he liked this new concoction so much it became a semi-regular in the rotation.  I liked it because I was working a full-time job at the time and this was a quick & easy meal to make for dinner.  Cheap, too.  And, let’s not forget the most important part here – delicious.

I’m not even going to call this anything remotely like authentic Mexican cuisine.  I mean, I honestly don’t know of any interior Mexican recipe that uses pickled jalapeños.  However, I like to think I’ve at least kept to the flavor profile somewhat and honored the spirit, if not the authenticity.

 

A few notes:

1.  I really designed this recipe around black beans.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, pinto will do in a pinch.

2.  If you don’t have a jar of pickled jalapeños, you can use fresh. Use one, and, depending on the heat level you want, remove the seeds or not.  Also, in place of the jalapeño brine, use lime juice.

3.  I generally serve this dish with brown rice. It just seems to work.  However, white rice or even your favorite Spanish or Mexican rice recipe will be fine, too.

4.  Occasionally, I’ll dice up a tomato (after I remove the seeds) and add it to the beans when I add the second half of the cilantro.  I’ll let the tomatoes sit in the beans just long enough to warm through before serving.

5.  When I serve the beans with cheese, I’ll use Jack cheese or Queso Fresco as a general rule.  The rule being that I usually have one or both of those in my fridge pretty much all the time.  Honestly, they just seem to work.  However, if you decide to go the pinto bean route, cheddar will work, too.

6.  To make this dish vegan, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese.

7. If you’re feeling decadent and carnivorous, a small piece or two of salt pork or bacon cooking with the beans wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just watch the amount of additional salt you put into the beans.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 cans black beans (frijoles negros), drained

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 c. onion, fine dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño, chopped

2 tsp. jalapeño brine

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

3/4 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano

1 bunch cilantro, chopped and divided

IMG_3104

1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, or water; more as needed

Rice, cheese, lime wedges, and tortillas or cornbread

 

 

1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and let heat up.

2.  Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is soft, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic. It's important to allow the saucepan to become hot before adding the oil. This helps even a non-stick saucepan or skillet to become more non-stick. Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Sautéing the onion and garlic. It’s important to allow the saucepan to heat up before adding the oil. This helps the surface to become more non-stick than it otherwise would be (especially in a non-teflon pan or saucepan).  Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute.

Adding the jalapeños.

Adding the jalapeños.

3.  Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sauté another minute or just until the spices begin to have a fragrance. Be sure not to let them burn.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

4.  Add the beans, jalapeño brine, half of the cilantro, and the broth or water.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeno brine.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeño brine.

 

Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Be sure to taste for seasoning.  Add more broth or water if the beans become too dry.

After 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes.

5.  When the beans are soft and the broth has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cilantro and taste for seasoning.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you're using tomato, add it now.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you’re using tomato, add it now.

6.  Serve the beans with rice, cheese, a lime wedge, and cornbread or tortillas on the side.

Without cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.

With cheese.

¡Buen Apetito!

My Eating Locally Project 2015: March 0

Posted on April 01, 2015 by Sahar

Like the old saying goes, “March came in like a lion but left like a lamb”.  The beginning of the month was still in the grip of Old Man Winter, but the weather, especially this last weekend, was what Spring is all about: Sunny, warm, breezy, and not a little colorful.

Here in Austin, the middle of March is taken up with the annual craziness that is SXSW.  While I normally don’t participate (I remember the good old days when it was just about the local music), this year was different.  I participated in a panel on food & heritage long with Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, Kay Marley-Dilworth of ATX Food News, and Annette Priest, founder of Revel Insight. (Here is the Storify link).

As well as doing the SXSW panel, I also recorded a podcast with Cecilia Nasti of Field & Feast on Croissants.

After my SXSW was over, however, Husband Steve’s was just beginning; he’s the music guy.  So, since he wasn’t home much during most of the festival, I didn’t do too much cooking this month.  Hence, I didn’t do my usual amount of shopping.

So, sadly, I have no new recipes to share this month.  Just some really lovely photos.

 

Sunday, March 1.  Mueller Farmers Market

It was cold. Very cold. Also cloudy and damp.

As my friend Kelly Ann and I watched the ducks swim on the pond at Mueller, I wondered how they could stand it.

Ducks on the pond on a very cold day.

Ducks on the pond on a very cold day.

We had to park a ways out from the market stands because not only was the market open, but the Thinkery (the new Austin Children’s Museum) was in full swing.

The dragon at The Thinkery. His eyes glowed.

The dragon at The Thinkery. His eyes glowed.

While I normally enjoy the walk from the further lots (it is very pretty), that day was an exception.

A tiny bit of Spring peeking through the gray.

A tiny bit of Spring peeking through the gray.

Normally, the market is outside in the open. This day, it was under the dome. It helped a little.

Normally, the market is outside in the open. This day, it was under the dome. It helped a little.

The crowd was lighter than I've seen at previous market days. Of course, the cold no doubt kept many away. Others were huddled closer into the stands near the space heaters.

The crowd was lighter than I’ve seen at previous market days. Of course, the cold no doubt kept many away. Others were huddled closer into the stands near the space heaters.

As is my usual routine, I sought out my favorite produce vendor, Johnson’s Backyard Garden.  I may not always buy the bulk, or any, of my produce from them on a given visit (I like to try others, too), I simply like to go and take a look anyway. Their displays are beautiful and their produce, most of the time, is fantastic.

Parsnips at Johnson's Backyard Garden

Parsnips at Johnson’s Backyard Garden

Turnips at JBG.

Turnips at JBG.

First sign of Spring. Artichokes. JBG.

First sign of Spring produce. Artichokes. JBG.

Cabbage and rainbow chard. JBG.

Cabbage and rainbow chard. JBG.

Had to stop by the Austin institution that is Texas French Bread for some sourdough wheat. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out on something great.

Texas French Bread's stand. Simplicity.

Texas French Bread’s stand. Simplicity.

Even though I set myself a limit on how much I’ll spend on any given visit, if I impulsively decide to visit Countryside Farms, I know the limit will be crossed.

Their meats and charcuterie are excellent and unique.  And, one of these days, I’m really going to indulge in some of their rillettes, pates, and mousses. But for now, I’m going to stick with the old stand-bys: chicken, sausage, and bacon. And, occasionally, lard and marrow.

Countryside Farms. European-style, unique, and slightly pricy, meats and charcuterie.

Countryside Farms. European-style, unique, and slightly pricy, meats and charcuterie.

K & S Seafood was a vendor that hadn’t seen before.  They generally sell at Cedar Park and Barton Creek Farmers Markets according to their Facebook Page.

I decided to try some Black Drum, a fish neither Steve nor I had ever tried before (at least not knowingly). The fish that I bought had been caught the previous Thursday, cleaned, filleted, and kept on ice. So, even though by this point it was 3 days old, it still had a nice oceany smell to it.  However, the lady working the stand did tell me that I needed to cook it within the next 24-48 hours.

I’m not sure if it’s the way I cooked the fish (simple pan searing) or what, but we decided we didn’t care for it.  There was really no flavor and the texture was almost plastic-like.

I can see using the drum bones to make stock, though. The flavor would be mild enough to take seasonings well and not overpower.

K & S Seafood. I felt bad for the girl working the stand. She had a space heater, but having to constantly plunger her hands into ice to pull out the seafood had to have been torture on a day where the wind chill was in the 30's.

K & S Seafood. I felt bad for the lady working the stand. She had a space heater, but having to constantly plunge her hands into ice to pull out the seafood had to have been torture on a day where the wind chill was in the 30’s.

Now, I know that all sorts of studies have warned against drinking alcohol to keep warm. But, when you’re confronted with a cold, damp, and windy day, and you’re presented with a table full of mead that you’re encouraged to sample for free, I’d like to see you say “no” and walk away.

Meridian Hive Meadery‘s samplings were the highlight of the trip. I tried 4 excellent samples and finally landed on the Huajilla as my choice. Not too sweet and a little dry, I think it will be lovely in the late spring, early summer, or mid autumn.

The meadery opened in Austin in 2012 and is open for tours and tastings (check the website for details).

Mead tasting? Yes, please.

Mead tasting? Yes, please.

From the lovely folks at Meridian Hive Meadery.

From the lovely folks at Meridian Hive Meadery.

Now, on to my purchases for the day:

Huajilla Mead from Meridian Hive Meadery. Slightly sweet and dry. It's going to excellent in the summer.

Huajilla Mead from Meridian Hive Meadery. Slightly sweet and dry. It’s going to excellent in the summer.

My haul:

Sourdough Wheat from Texas French Bread; Black Drum from K & S Seafood; Turnips from JBG; Chicken and Bacon from Countryside Farms

 

Thursday, March 12:  Boggy Creek Farm

With Steve’s SXSW already starting and me getting ready for a crazy few days that included a much-anticipated visit from my oldest (long-term) friend Michelle, I took it easy at my monthly visit to Boggy Creek Farm.

Compared to my visit to Mueller, the day at Boggy Creek was almost balmy. By that I mean, the sun was actually out. At least a little. It had been raining for several days prior to my visit, so things were a little messy at the farm.  Nothing terrible – just puddles and mud.

Spring again trying to peek through.

Spring again trying to peek through.

Peeking around the corner at the farmhouse.

Peeking around the corner at the farmhouse.

 

Larry Butler's creations. As I've said before, his Smoked Dried Tomatoes are legendary.

Larry Butler’s creations. As I’ve said before, his Smoked Dried Tomatoes are legendary.

Farm eggs, and wares from other local producers.

Farm eggs, and wares from other local producers.

Lovely eggs from Boggy Creek's resident chickens.

Lovely eggs from Boggy Creek’s resident chickens.

The big wood box of sweet potatoes.

The big wood box of sweet potatoes.

First of the Spring head lettuces: Frisee.

First of the Spring head lettuces: Frisee.

Baby celery. I bought it mostly for the leaves.

Baby celery. I bought it mostly for the leaves.

After I bought my produce and sausage, I did what I always do, take a little stroll around the farm.

I think this is cabbage. I really need to ask next time.

I think this is cabbage. I really need to ask next time.

Looking over the last of the winter produce. Carol Ann told me the early spring produce was starting to come in, too.

Looking over the last of the winter produce. Carol Ann told me the early spring produce was starting to come in, too.

And, of course, there were the grande dames and lords of the farm, the chickens and roosters.

I noticed that they were all running around loose and I wondered what was going on.  Carol Ann told me that because of the rains, the coop was muddy, so they let the chickens and roosters out so the coop could be cleaned and dried.  She said that they all normally get to run loose after the farmstand is closed for the day, but and exception was made and they were let out early.

Needless to say, I stayed longer than I had originally planned.

The nesting boxes were dry, so the chickens could at least escape from prying eyes there.

The nesting boxes were dry, so the chickens could at least escape from prying eyes there.

This one was very determined to get into that pecan.

This one was very determined to get into the pecan she was pecking at.

Looks like the king and his court.

Looks like the king and his court.

Struttin'.

Struttin’.

So, my purchases for the day:

Pork Chorizo from Peaceful Pork

Pork Chorizo from Peaceful Pork

Frisee; Baby Celery; Brassica Salad; Sweet Potatoes

Frisee; Baby Celery; Brassica Salad; Sweet Potatoes

 

Sunday, March 22: Hope Farmer’s Market.

 

This was the best day yet. Spring warm, sunny, and SXSW was finally over.

 

A lovely day to be at the market.

A lovely day to be at the market.

The wisteria starting to bloom.

The wisteria starting to bloom.

The fountain at Plaza Saltillo. Hopefully, the city will get it working again.

The fountain at Plaza Saltillo. Hopefully, the city will get it working again.

A little sidewalk art.

A little sidewalk art.

Hope isn’t a large market, so I generally see a lot of the same vendors I see at other markets. Some seem to be exclusive to this one.

Of course, Johnson’s Backyard Garden was there. And, as usual, their stand was glorious. The only sour note was their romaine lettuce. While I did end up buying a bag, I really had to search for one that wasn’t already beginning to brown.

Dandelion Greens at JBG.

Dandelion Greens at JBG.

Rainbow Chard at JBG.

Rainbow Chard at JBG.

Early harvest Romain Lettuce. JBG.

Early harvest Romaine Lettuce. JBG.

Herbs. JBG.

Herbs. JBG.

Beets. I didn't buy any; I just like the way they look in photographs. JBG.

Beets. I didn’t buy any; I just like the way they look in photographs. JBG.

Oranges. So much better than grocery-store bought. JBG.

Oranges. So much better than grocery-store bought. JBG.

Yard to Market Co-Op was a vendor I’ve not seen or noticed before. I just took a quick look at their website and it looks like Hope is the only farmers market they attend.

I will say their produce looked amazing (especially the dino-sized rutabaga) and the eggs were so fresh they looked like they came out of the hens that morning.

I’ll most definitely need to seek them out first next time I head to Hope Market.

Yard to Market Co-Op. This is the first time I've seen them.

Yard to Market Co-Op. This is the first time I’ve seen them.

The largest rutabaga I'd ever seen. I bought it.

The largest rutabaga I’d ever seen. I bought it.

The greens at the Co-Op stand.

The greens at the Co-Op stand.

Collards. Co-Op.

Collards. Co-Op.

More kale. Co-Op.

More kale. Co-Op.

And, yes. I stopped by Countryside Farms again. I was hoping for another chicken. They were sold out; so, I settled for some Merguez.

Charcuterie at Countryside Farms.

Charcuterie at Countryside Farms.

As I was leaving, I decided to take the long way back to the car and admire some of the East Austin mural art. It seems to be one of the few signs left that this area was a thriving Hispanic & African American community.  Sadly, like most other medium-to-large cities, people from the older neighborhoods are being priced out in the name of progress.

Zoot Suiter immortalized.

Zoot Suiter immortalized.

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I’m not sure if the name on the gas tank is the rider or the artist. Or both.

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Mary’s face here kinda reminds me of the “restoration” of the Ecce Homo Fresco in Spain.

Once again, I headed home with my purchases.

Purchases, Part 1: Eggs and Rutabaga from Yard to Market Co-Op; Merguez from Countryside Farms

Purchases, Part 1: Eggs and Rutabaga from Yard to Market Co-Op; Merguez from Countryside Farms

Purchases, Part 2: Rainbow Chard; Dandelion Greens; Flat Leaf Parsley; Romaine Lettuce; Oranges. JBG.

Purchases, Part 2: Rainbow Chard; Dandelion Greens; Flat Leaf Parsley; Romaine Lettuce; Oranges. JBG.

 

Since I don’t have any recipes this month, I thought I’d give you a tutorial on how to wash and store your fresh greens. This can apply whether you buy your greens organic at the farmers market, farmstands, or the conventional produce from the grocery store.

All produce has the same thing: dirt. Dirt you have to wash off. Whether it comes from the ground or other people, it has to be washed off.  This is especially true with leafy greens.  Dirt tends to get into the nooks and crannys of the stems and leaves, and, if you don’t wash them properly, at best, you’ll end up with grit in your food.

And sometimes, bugs.  Yes, bugs happen.

So, here is the tutorial in pictorial form:

Begin by trimming the greens. I just generally cut off the woody parts of the stems. You can eat, compost, or toss these out. It's up to you.

Begin by trimming the greens. I just generally cut off the woody parts of the stems. You can eat, compost, or toss these out. It’s up to you.

The trimmed greens, Rainbow Chard in this instance, in a (clean) sink full of cold water. It needs to be cold. If you want to refresh older greens, you can fill the sink with cold water and ice.

The trimmed greens, Rainbow Chard in this instance, in a (clean) sink full of cold water. It needs to be cold. Gently agitate the greens to wash off the dirt. If necessary, pick up the leaves individually and rub off the dirt, pick our bad leaves or tear out bad spots on the leaves. If you want to refresh older greens, you can fill the sink with cold water and ice.

After taking the greens out of the water, shake off some of the excess and place it the basket of a salad spinner.

After taking the greens out of the water, shake off some of the excess and place it the basket of a salad spinner. As you take the greens out of the water, try not to stir up any of the dirt that sinks to the bottom.

Now, spin.

Now, spin.

After the excess water has been removed, lay the greens in a single layer (a little overlap is OK) on paper towels. (I buy the thicker "shop towels" from the hardware store).

After the excess water has been removed, lay the greens in a single layer (a little overlap is OK) on paper towels. (I buy the thicker “shop towels” from the hardware store). Now, carefully roll the leaves up in the towel and place the roll in a large zip bag, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. This will help keep the greens simultaneously dry yet still keep them from drying out.

I hope this was useful.

See you in April.

Well, at the end of the month.

 

 

 

 

Thom Yum Gai 0

Posted on March 27, 2015 by Sahar

It’s hard to believe even 15 – 20 years ago most Americans had never even heard of Thai food outside of cities that had a large Asian population.  Now, Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Massaman Curry, Green Papaya Salad, and Green Chicken Curry seem to be everywhere.

As much as I like those dishes, and many others, one stands out for me: Thom Yum Gai – Chicken Coconut Soup.  The words “thom yum” basically mean “hot and sour soup”. “Gai” is the chicken version of this soup. Other styles of thom yum include – “Pla”: a fish soup eaten with rice; “Kha Mu”: a slower cooked soup made with pork knuckles.  There are several other variations of this soup.

This is not only a refreshing soup to eat any time of year, but it’s one on my go-to’s when Husband Steve and I aren’t feeling well.  Something about the alchemy of Asian soups in general that just make us feel better.

I like to make my Thom Yum Gai heavily seasoned.  So, my soup has a pronounced, but not overbearing flavor, of ginger, lime, and chiles.  I wanted to keep the flavor in line with what I’ve eaten at some of my favorite Thai restaurants. Of course, if you want to go lighter, adjust the seasonings as you like.

Besides the taste, the next best thing about this soup is the quickness and ease in which it comes together.  From start to finish, less than an hour.

I will say that my inspiration for this recipe comes from James Peterson. His award-nominated book, Splendid Soups, is arguably the best book on soups ever published. While this is my recipe, he was definitely an influence on the direction I took.

 

A few notes:

1.  Kaffir lime leaves are an authentic ingredient in this recipe.  However, even with the plethora of Asian markets now in Austin, I still have a very difficult time finding them. So, I now use lime peel.  However, if you can find Kaffir leaves, by all means, use them.  4 – 6 leaves, cut into julienne (thin) strips will work well.

2.  If you can’t find lemongrass, you can use the peel of 1 lemon.  Alternately, if can find it, there is a lemongrass paste that is available in some supermarkets; however, once you open the tube, it must be used within a finite amount of time.  If you decide to use the paste, check the measurements on the container to see how much you need.  DO NOT use dried lemongrass; all of the oils that give it its flavor will have dissolved leaving you with basically grass clippings.

3.  You can peel the ginger or not.  I generally don’t. If you do prefer to leave the skin on, be sure to wash the ginger thoroughly.

4.  Shiitake mushrooms are really best for this dish.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, you can use straw mushrooms (you can usually find them canned. Be sure to drain them first).  In a pinch, criminis will do.

5.  Chicken is the most common way to make this soup.  However, you can also make it with shrimp, mixed fish and/or shellfish, pork, or tofu.  Just use the same amount as you would the chicken.  Be sure to use the corresponding broth as well.  I’ve seen some restaurants serve thom yum with beef, but I don’t know how authentic that is or if it’s just to satisfy American palates.

6.  By the way, fish sauce is essential to making this dish. There’s really no omitting it.

7.  If you are making this dish with tofu and want to make it vegan, here is a recipe for vegan fish sauce.

8.  If you can’t find Thai (also known as bird) chiles, you can substitute 3 – 4 serrano chiles. If you don’t want that much heat, be sure to remove the seeds and membranes. You can also cut back on the number of chiles.

9.  To help stretch the soup and/or help mitigate the heat, you can serve some Jasmin rice alongside the soup.  Alternately, have some cooked rice noodles in the bottom of the serving bowl and pour the soup on top.  Just have the noodles or rice on the side, not in the actual soup pot.

10.  Even though leaving all of the seasonings in the soup is more authentic, if you want to, after the soup has cooked, you can strain the broth, pick the chicken and mushrooms out of the seasonings. and place them back into the broth before serving. This is especially helpful if all you really want to do is drink the broth from a mug.

(I know you’re asking the question – “Why not strain the broth before you add the mushrooms and chicken?” Because, the longer the seasonings cook in the broth, the more flavor you will have. Besides, it’s not really that much extra work.)

11.  If you do decide to go full authentic, serve the soup with a pair of chopsticks and a small bowl on the side so your guests can place their pieces of lemongrass, ginger, etc., aside as they eat.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

3 c. chicken broth

peel of 1 lime, cut into 1″ pieces

IMG_3100

2 ea. 4-inch stalks lemongrass, either sliced or minced (depending on your preference and patience)

IMG_3099

1/2 c. ginger, cleaned and cut into 1/8″ slices (estimating is fine)

IMG_3098

4 Thai chiles, thinly sliced

IMG_3096

1/3 c. Thai fish sauce

1/2 c. lime juice

4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and sliced 1/4″ thick

IMG_3102

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced thin (approx. 1 lb. to 1-1/4 lbs.)

IMG_3105

1 can (15-1/2 oz.) coconut milk

1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

IMG_3104

 

 

 

1.  In a large saucepan, add the chicken broth, lime peel, lemongrass, ginger, chiles, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

The broth, lime juice, lime peel, ginger, lemongrass, and chiles in the saucepan.

The broth, lime juice, lime peel, ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce, and chiles in the saucepan.

2.  Add the shiitakes, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes.

Adding the shiitakes. I like to use this mushroom because it adds a wonderful flavor and stands up to the cooking.

Adding the shiitakes. I like to use this mushroom because it adds a wonderful flavor and stands up to the cooking.

 

3.  Add the chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro.  Continue cooking until the chicken is just done; about 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro. Cook just until the chicken is done.

Adding the chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro. Cook just until the chicken is done. You want to be sure not to overcook it.

4.  When the chicken is done, remove the saucepan from the heat and taste for seasoning.

I like to serve this with either fried won ton skins or crispy noodles (Remember those? The ones in the bag?)

I like to serve this with either fried won ton skins or crispy noodles (Remember those? La Choy?)

 

Enjoy!

Pasta alla Puttanesca 0

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Sahar

 

I have to admit, sometimes, in this wanna-be low-carb world, I just want to enjoy a big bowl of pasta. It’s quick, easy, satisfying, and filling. But, of course, as always and most importantly, delicious.

So, I’m going to introduce you to one of my & Husband Steve’s favorite pasta dishes. Pasta alla Puttanesca.

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca literally translates into “Whores’ Pasta”.  Its origin myths are a bit murky, but by most accounts, it’s a dish that dates back only about 50 – 60 years and was most likely created in southern Italy.

Some say the dish was invented by an Italian restaurateur who had an influx of customers near closing time one evening and threw together what he had left over – some olives, tomatoes, and peppers. Another origin story is that is was named “puttanesca” because it was easy and everything went into it. A third story is “decent” Italian housewives made this sauce with whatever they had laying around and threw it at ladies of the night while screaming “puttana!”.

I’m not so sure about the third one. But, who knows?

 

This is an easy dish.  From prep to eating, it takes no more than 45 minutes.

A few notes:

1.  Since there are no true hard and fast rules for this dish – except that it must have the tomatoes, olives, and peppers – you can add or remove ingredients as you like.  That being said, I like to think I’ve at least stayed with the spirit of the original recipe.

2.  Some recipes have anchovies, some don’t. If you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, certainly omit the anchovies.

3.  It’s also very important to at least roughly chop the olives.  Even if you do buy olives that say “pitted”, pits will happen.  The chopping will help you find any before your guests or family do.

4.  Be sure to taste the finished sauce before adding any additional salt. The olives are in brine, the anchovies are salted, and the capers are either in brine or salt.  While you can rinse the excess saltiness off the olives and capers, some salt will still be there.

5.  Occasionally, I like to use some of the oil from the anchovy jar with the olive oil. I really like anchovies.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

It's important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they're pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It's better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

It’s important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they’re pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It’s better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

 

 

1 lb. spaghetti

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 – 10 anchovy filets, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes (with their juice)

1 1/2 c. pitted black or mixed black and green olives, roughly chopped

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed

Salt to taste

 

Parmesan, fresh grated

 

 

1.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and anchovies.  Saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

3.  Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want some of the liquid from the tomatoes to evaporate and the sauce to thicken slightly.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

 

4.  Take the skillet off the heat and toss the spaghetti in the sauce.  Taste for salt (you’ll very likely not need it).

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

 

Serve with a generous helping of Parmesan.

IMG_3085

 

Buon Appetito!

 

Oyster Stew 0

Posted on March 09, 2015 by Sahar

 

IMG_3035

It’s been a seemingly unending winter here in Central Texas. At least our version of it. Damp & chilly with the occasional freeze and subsequent public freak-out.

So, seeking out “hearty” comfort foods to try to ignore Winter’s lingering visit is simply human nature. In that spirit, I decided on Oyster Stew for dinner last week.

I suppose one could call this a chowder.  It certainly has some milk (my preferred chowder base) in the broth. However, this recipe only uses 1 cup of milk, is thickened with a roux, and doesn’t have any bacon or salt pork in the recipe as traditional chowders do.

I do serve it with oyster crackers, though.

 

Note: In this example, I did use clam juice.  It has a fairly neutral flavor and is readily available.

If you do use a commercial seafood-based stock, be careful of how much salt you add.  Commercial stocks, especially seafood, can be salty.  Some of it is simply from the natural saltiness of the seafood and some is from the addition of salt during manufacturing.

 

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

2 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

1 stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)

1 small onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste

4 c. fish stock, shellfish stock, or clam juice (or, in a pinch, chicken broth or water)

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 pt. oysters (keep any oyster liquor [juice] – it will be added with the milk)

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering - not Red Tide.

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood Market. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering – not Red Tide. It’s too cold for Red Tide in this hemisphere right now, anyway.

I generally remove the connective muscle from the oyster because I don't like the texture.  It's easy to remove; just pull it out. However, you can keep it in if you like.

The oyster with its connective muscle removed. I generally remove this from the oyster because I don’t like the texture. It’s easy to remove; just pull it out (try not to take too much of the oyster meat with it). However, you can keep it in if the texture doesn’t bother you. To see the muscle in the oyster, look at the above photo. It’s opaque and plastic-looking.

Juice of 1 lemon

1 c. milk or half-and-half

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter or heat the oil.  Add the celery and onion and saute until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

2.  Add the potatoes and continue sauteing just until the potatoes begin to warm up, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don't like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It's their starchy quality.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don’t like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It’s their starchy quality that just works for these dishes.

Add the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the Old Bay Seasoning.  Stir until the vegetables are coated with the seasonings.

The spices and thyme added.

The spices and thyme added.

3.  Add the stock or broth.  Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, uncover the saucepan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

Adding the clam juice

Adding the clam juice

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potaoes are just about done.

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potatoes are just about done and the broth has thickened slightly.

4.  Meanwhile, make the roux.  In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir until it is mixed thoroughly with the butter.  Stir over the heat for an additional 2 minutes.  Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

5.  When the potatoes are done, add the roux, lemon juice, milk, and oysters (along with their liquor).  Continue cooking until the milk is heated through, the stew is thickened a bit more, and the oysters are cooked, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

Taste for seasoning and serve with crackers.

Nothing like a nice stew on a cold night.

Nothing like a nice warm stew on a cold night.

 

Enjoy!

My Eating Locally Project 2015: February 0

Posted on February 28, 2015 by Sahar

Well, life kinda got in the way this month with illness and travel playing rather large parts.  So, my shopping month was a bit more truncated than I would’ve liked. But, one must roll with the (figurative) punches.

 

I really stayed with three places in February: Springdale FarmBoggy Creek Farm, and SFC Downtown Farmers Market.

There wasn’t a whole lot new this month. The winter produce is still coming in: root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, lettuces, and citrus. I’m certainly not complaining; I love my winter produce. But, I will say, I am looking forward to what the spring will be bringing.

I did expand a bit beyond just produce and bought some amazing meats and eggs. The meats were definitely splurge items. But, given the flavor and quality, the occasional outlay is worth it.

 

Wed., Feb 4.

For my first forays into the new month, I decided on two old familiars, Boggy Creek and Springdale Farms. I not only love both these places for the obvious reasons – fresh organic produce, fresh eggs & dairy, locally made products, homemade treats  – but also for the quiet they offer in a city growing way too fast.

My first stop was Boggy Creek Farm. Along with the produce, I stretched myself this time and splurged on some excellent lamb chops and eggs.

My haul from Boggy Creek: Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm, Lamb Chops from Loncitos, Maria's Brassica Salad, Baby Lettuce Mix, Romanesco

My haul from Boggy Creek: Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm, Lamb Chops from Loncito Cartwright, Maria’s Brassica Salad, Baby Lettuce Mix, Romanesco (Italian cauliflower)

Nothing like farm-fresh eggs.

Nothing like farm-fresh eggs. It said “large” on the carton. But, I swear some were jumbos.

Personally, I think Romanesco is one of the most beautiful vegetables .

Personally, I think Romanesco is one of the most beautiful vegetables .

More Romanesco. It grows thick and fast this time of year.

More Romanesco. It grows thick and fast this time of year.

The broccoli table.

The broccoli and cabbage table.

Jeweled carrots.

Jeweled carrots.

Boggy Creek's salad mixes.

Boggy Creek’s salad mixes.

Collards and Kale.

Collards and Kale.

FYI

FYI

Spring trying to sneak in.

Spring trying to sneak in.

Lettuces in the one of the fields at Boggy Creek.

Lettuces in the one of the fields at Boggy Creek.

 

My next destination was Springdale Farm. I didn’t buy quite as much there. They did have garlic chives again, though. Yea!

Even if I don’t buy much, I love to simply go to the farm and look around. It’s a great place to simply look at the farm, the chickens, and the yard art and meditate a little.

My haul from Springdale Farm: Beets, Savoy Cabbage, Garlic Chives

My haul from Springdale Farm: Beets, Savoy Cabbage, Garlic Chives

Radishes

Radishes, Savoy Cabbage, Frisee, Turnips, and flowers in jars.

Carrots galore.

Carrots galore.

Some of the fields and yard art at the farm.

Some of the fields and yard art at the farm.

Field of dill.

Rows of dill.

baby broccoli in the field.

baby broccoli in the field.

Looking to the back of the farmstand.

Looking to the back of the farm stand.

One of the other delights at Springdale is Eden East Restaurant. It’s a reservation-only, weekend-only restaurant. They use only locally sourced ingredients in their dishes.  As a result, no menu is the same week-to-week.

Admittedly, I haven’t eaten there yet. I’ve promised myself that I’ll make reservations for Husband & me soon. I know people who have eaten there and they all say the same thing – it’s an incredible experience.

By the way, it’s BYOB.

The kitchen and seating at Eden East.

The kitchen and seating at Eden East.

Love the stove.

Love the stove.

 

Sat., Feb. 14

In anticipation of Husband Steve coming home from a business trip, I headed out to the Downtown Farmers Market to stock up on a few groceries for the weekend.

It was still chilly, but certainly warmer than my last visit in January.  At least none of the vendors looked like they were going to freeze.

Starting to list my haul from SFC Market: Chicken from Smith & Smith Farms.

Chicken from Smith & Smith Farms. I hit a week where they didn’t have fresh chickens available. Still, this one was no more than a few days from the yard,

Phoenix Farms. I bought some gorgeous Brussels Sprouts here.

Phoenix Farms. I bought some gorgeous Brussels Sprouts here. Their produce was lovely.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts. They comprised part of Saturday Night’s dinner.

The cruciferous vegetables at Phoenix Farms.

The broccoli, cauliflower, and Romanesco at Phoenix Farms.

Red Lettuce at Phoenix Farms.

Red Lettuce at Phoenix Farms.

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms. A brand many of us are familiar with.

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms. A brand many of us are familiar with.

Criminis. Always good.

Criminis. Always good.

One of my favorite stands - Johnson's Backyard Garden.

One of my favorite stands – Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

My haul from JBG: Collard Greens, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Celery Root

My haul from JBG: Collard Greens, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Celery Root. I was so happy; I rarely see celery root.

White and Gold Cauliflower. JBG.

White and Gold Cauliflower. JBG.

Rainbow of beets. JBG.

Rainbow of beets. JBG.

Wall of radishes. Try them roasted. JBG.

Wall of radishes. Try them roasted. JBG.

Rutabagas and Celery Root. Very underappreciated vegetables. JBG.

Rutabagas and Celery Root. Very underappreciated and underutilized vegetables. JBG.

Collards and sweet potatoes. A symbiotic relationship. JBG.

Collards and sweet potatoes. A symbiotic relationship. JBG.

This is quickly becoming another one of my favorite vendors - Countryside Farm.

This is quickly becoming another one of my favorite vendors – Countryside Farm. They specialize in pork and poultry and have some amazing artisan products.

Countryside Farm's stand. Beautiful artisan products.

Countryside Farm’s stand. Beautiful artisan products. They’re definitely a splurge.

Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage. Countryside Farm.

Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage. Countryside Farm. It was delicious.

Fresh Lard. Just because. Countryside Farm.

Fresh Lard. Just because. Countryside Farm.

Breakfast at Tamale Addiction.

Breakfast at Tamale Addiction.

Pork Pastor with Pineapple Tamales. They were delicious.

Pork Pastor with Pineapple Tamales. They were delicious. And big. Two was more than enough.

And, dinner that night…

Valentine's Dinner, if you will:

Valentine’s Dinner, if you will: Roast Chicken; Roasted Radishes, Rutabaga, Celery Root, and Brussels Sprouts; Simple White Rice

 

Wed., Feb, 25

For my final shopping trip, I went back to the old reliables, Boggy Creek and Springdale.  A lovely day, weather-wise, it was not. Every time I stepped out of the car it seemed to be colder.

My first stop this time was Springdale. They were bringing everything back into the farm stand from under a tent in the yard. I guess they just finished a cooking demo or a photo shoot.

Spring is trying to make an appearance.

Spring is trying to make an appearance. I promise, those flowers are purple.

Rose in the foreground, kale in the garden.

Rose in the foreground, kale in the garden.

Fennel,

Fennel, lettuce, oranges, carrots, beets

Green Garlic. I never used it before. I bought some anyway.

Green Garlic. I never used it before. I bought some anyway.

A big bin of green onions.

A big bin of green onions.

Some very pretty posies. Paula said what farm they were from, but I forgot the name.

Some very pretty posies. Paula said what farm they were from, but I forgot the name. I think she said the farm would be selling this vendor’s flowers come spring. So, there’s that.

One of Springdale Farm's chickens. The speckled hen is lovely in her own way.

One of Springdale Farm’s chickens. The speckled hen is lovely in her own way.

Some new additions to the henhouse. Paula told me these chicks are 2 weeks old. She had them in a warm room.

Some new additions to the hen house. Paula told me these chicks are 2 weeks old. She had them in a warm room next to the coop.

As Paula and I were talking about the chickens, I told her that I could watch them for hours. She replied, “We have them for three reasons: eggs, fertilizer, and as the entertainment committee.”

Excellent.

My Springdale haul: Green Garlic, Garlic Chives, Grapefruit, Chard, Mixed Baby Lettuce

My Springdale haul: Green Garlic, Garlic Chives, Grapefruit, Chard, Baby Lettuce Mix

After Springdale, I headed the roughly half mile over the Boggy Creek. While I didn’t take any photos in the farm stand that day, I did do some wandering around the grounds and took some there.

Red Lettuce growing next to the parking lot. I have to say, Carol Ann & Larry have a lot of faith in their customers not driving into the field.

Red Lettuce growing next to the parking lot. I have to say, Carol Ann & Larry have a lot of faith in their customers not driving into the field.

Frisee in a row.

Green puffs of frisee in a row.

Some lovely red lettuce.

Some lovely red lettuce. Ignore the hose.

One of my favorite spots at Boggy Creek. The bench looking at the fields. When the vines are flowering, it's gorgeous.

One of my favorite spots at Boggy Creek. The bench looking at the fields. When the vines are flowering, it’s gorgeous.

Fields of

Fields of broccoli (I think)

Some of Boggy Creek's chickens.

Some of Boggy Creek’s always busy chickens.

Boggy Creek haul, part one: Dine Kale, Brassica Salad, Sweet Poataoes

Boggy Creek haul, part one: Dino Kale, Brassica Salad, Sweet Potatoes

New York Strip from Deer Run Longhorns and ground lamb from Loncinto's Lamb

Boggy Creek haul, part two: New York Strip from Deer Run Longhorns and ground lamb from Loncinto’s Lamb

Cocao Hull Cocoa Powder from Organicare Farms.

Cocao Hull Cocoa Powder from Organicare Farms. I’ve never used this before, so I’m interested to see how it works and tastes. It smells divine, just like good chocolate should.

And, so… On to March.

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As promised in January, here are two recipes using ingredients that I bought at the markets and stands this month.

 

Shrimp, cauliflower, ginger, garlic, and lime all have a natural flavor affinity with each other. So, I came up with this dish.  If you don’t have garlic chives, just substitute 2 – 3 cloves of minced garlic and add it to the skillet when you saute the ginger and shallot.

 

Apologies for the lack of pictures with this recipe. The taking of photos was pretty much an afterthought that night.  Not sure why.

 

Shrimp & Romanesco

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 head Romanesco, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 c. water or broth

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 lb. large shrimp, peeled & deveined

2 tbsp. garlic chives

Lime juice to taste

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, saute the Romanesco for 5 minutes.  Add the water or broth, cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and steam the Romanesco until it is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2.  Take the cover off the skillet and continue cooking until the Romanesco has started to brown in spots.  Take it out of the skillet and set aside.

Cooking the Romanesco

Cooking the Romanesco

3.  Turn the heat back up to medium-high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the skillet and heat.  Saute the ginger and shallot until the shallot is soft, 2 – 3 minutes.

4.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are opaque and pink, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking the shrimp.

Cooking the shrimp. Be sure not to let it overcook.

Add back in the Romanesco, chives, lime juice, and salt & pepper.  Cook another 2 – 3 minutes. taste for seasoning.

Everything back in the skillet.

Everything back in the skillet.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

 

 

 

This is a recipe that is a nod to my German half.

Again, looking at flavor affinities, apples, carrots, and cabbage all work well together. The anise of the caraway and tang of the vinegar are what gives this dish its German pedigree.

Plus, this slaw is great with pork.  Very German.

 

Warm Cabbage & Apple Slaw

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

4 tbsp. butter or grapeseed oil

1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

1 small Savoy cabbage, about 1 lb., shredded (in this example, I have 2 heads. They were very small and added up to 1 lb. together)

The shredded cabbage. It's easy to do: just cut the cabbage in half, and, with the cut side down, thinly slice the cabbage. Instant shreds.

The shredded cabbage. It’s easy to do: just cut the cabbage in half, and, with the cut side down, thinly slice the cabbage. Instant shreds.

2 tsp. brown sugar

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4’s, and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices

1 lg. carrot, grated

Apples and cabbage ready for the skillet.

Apples and cabbage ready for the skillet.

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

 

 

1.  In a large skillet, either melt the butter or heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the caraway seeds and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Cooking the caraway seeds in the butter.

Cooking the caraway seeds in the butter.

2.  Add the cabbage, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking down the cabbage.  I like to use Savoy cabbage in this recipe because it cooks down fairly quickly and has a lighter flavor than regular green cabbage. I love green cabbage, but not for this dish.

Cooking down the cabbage. I like to use Savoy cabbage in this recipe because it cooks down fairly quickly and has a lighter flavor than regular green cabbage. I love green cabbage, but not for this dish.  I find it a little too bitter. I’ve not tried Napa Cabbage.

3.  Add the apples, carrot, apple cider vinegar, and a good pinch of pepper.  Cook until the cabbage and apples are soft but still has some bite.  Taste for seasoning.

Everything in the skillet. This is after about 10 minutes of cooking. The apples and cabbage are soft, but still with some bite.

Everything in the skillet. This is after about 10 minutes of cooking. The apples and cabbage are soft, but still with some bite.

 

I served this with the Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage from

I served this with the Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage from Countryside Farms. Husband Steve was a very happy man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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