Saturday, July 31, 2010

Corn Country

Greetings from South Dakota. What a BIG state!!! We decided to go out for a good steak dinner tonight in Sioux Falls. I guess a week of seeing corn and cattle made us hungry for a good hunk of beef. We went to a really great restaurant and had an enjoyable meal, but one thing on the menu jumped out at me. It said something to the effect of "we only serve midwest, corn-fed, premium beef." I didn't particularly expect the beef to be entirely grass-fed, but I was surprised to see corn feeding touted as a prized quality in the beef. This isn't the first time I've seen this either, so the question is...what am I missing? While many of us are seeking out beef that is not fed a grain cattle were never meant to eat, others are touting corn feeding as benefit.

I think this one will require some more reading.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I am an only child. Well, I'm an only child with four brothers, which makes me the only, the oldest and the token girl....I'm a total pain in the ass. It's complicated. But really, I spent my formative years as a full-fledged only child and I have the personality to show for it. I nee dmy alone time, I need to be entertained when I don't feel like alone time and I hate to share. Sure, I like sharing in the sense of bringing a dish somewhere so I can eat it too, but to full-on share something I really like in an way that causes me to sacrifice? No thanks.

I say this because we are leaving for our road trip tomorrow and I have an actively-producing garden. THIS is when I should be home, reaping the benefits of my blood, sweat, tears and farmers market purchases. My tomato plants are heavy with green tomatoes - I'm begging them to just hold on for a week and a half. I think they might. My blueberries, however, are another story. Thankfully, the harvest is close to over and I'm not leaving too many to be consumed by the birds or our house sitter (I know, I know, it's very nice that someone is checking in on the house and cats, but I can hardly share the berries with Western One). I've assiduously picked and frozen what I can't consume, and we will have pancakes and scones well into winter, but there is just something sad about the end of my blueberry season, especially when I won't be saving every last berry for myself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ideas anyone?

It's T minus one week until we set out on our great road trip. On the way to Wyoming we will be trying to drive as close to straight through as is possible with a pup and a spoiled brat (read: me) in the car. So lots of breaks, but rest stop breaks and I am determined to find a way to eat like a normal human being as I'm driving past all that corn that ends up in our processed food.

Impossible, you say? I'm up for the challenge.

I stopped at the co-op today and stocked up on car compatible munchies such as trail mix, dried apple slices and bottles of fruit smoothies. And these... not just because I love Macaroons (although I'm skeptical of a canned version) but because I couldn't resist a snack with some creepy guy staring back at me.

Any ideas for good roadtrip snacks?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not just for breakfast anymore

What kind of crazy person decides to bake at 5:30pm in an A/C-free kitchen? This girl. I was picking my daily blueberry harvest and suddenly felt the urge to bake muffins. At 5:30. I've never been particularly committed to "time of day appropriate" foods and have justified pie for breakfast on multiple occasions (really, is it any different than a danish?) so why not muffins for dessert?

I think it was the fact that while I was picking, I got thinking about making muffins as a kid. This was back in my Betty Crocker days (I've already professed my love for King Arthur). I've always been a "just enough muffin to hold the blueberries together" kind of person, and my grandmother and I would ALWAYS use fresh blueberries when they were in season. Instead of wasting the preserved Maine blueberries in a can, they were stored in the cabinet so that out of blueberry season I could maintain that critical blueberry to cake ratio and use multiple cans for one box of mix. The thought of blueberry muffins as comfort food made me smile and I just had to have them. Maybe it's because there's nothing I can do for my poor injured puppy dog and his cone of shame.
Today's harvest only yielded a bit more than a cup of berries (I know I shouldn't say "only" when I'm picking almost every day) so I dug into my frozen stash to beef up the berry content a bit. I felt like I was on a winning streak at a slot machine, pushing it just a bit farther ("that's plenty" "no, it's not, just a few more" "wait, wait, no, one more handful...") The muffins aren't what I'd call pretty - lots of berries makes for a crumbly consistency but it's so worth it for the juicy, tarty goodness.


Chow blogs always offer some fun tidbits, but this one floored me. Gross.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fungi with a Fun Guy

(Western One is the king of bad puns...I couldn't help myself) Despite the staggering heat of late, I am here to inform you that Hell has indeed frozen over. I ate a mushroom last night. I ate two. And I'm not talking about the kind of mushroom eating where they're buried in a sauce and I don't discover them until it's too late, resulting in the kind of behavior exhibited by a four-year-old forcibly fed vegetables.

We went to NWBB for the birthday dinner last night and my summer pasta (which was out of this world) contained the day's fresh veggies. You can imagine my horror when, there mixed among the squash, tomato and fresh peas, were chunks of portobello and some other terrifying fungi. I was met with a look of disdain from Western One when I started sharing his seafood shell disposal bowl as a receptacle for the 'shrooms. "You're really going to pick those out?" - to which I responded "hell yes I am." But then I decided that at this stage in my life I should stop being such a big fat baby. I ate a small chunk of each mushroom in the dish, did not spit it out or otherwise embarrass myself and can proudly say I tolerated it. I'm not running off to order a beef stroganoff or anything, but I did it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Today is Western One's birthday. I won't tell you how old he is, it could disrupt our co-habitational bliss. Anyway, we have a tradition of celebrating birthdays with happy hour drinks at the Gingerman. This tradition predates Western One in my life, but he's been happy to adopt it. There is just something nice about having friends on both sides of the bar, and over years of regular patronage, this has become the case.

While we are also regulars at the biergarten and have a similar friendly rapport, especially with Mark and the folks that are there for the mid-day weekend soccer games, I do not believe a boot is in our future tonight. Last year was boot enough for the decade. Instead, some good drinks with good friends, good tunes courtesy of Tern Rounders later, and hopefully, some good food along the way.

It's still entirely too hot to cook and I think I might turn into a mozzarella ball if I eat one more capri salad, so out and about seems the way to go.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cherries and tomatoes, but not cherry tomatoes

Please pardon yesterday's pensive reflection - I'd had some tequila. I met some friends at the Gingerman for a beer, but beer just wasn't going to cut it in that heat.

Anyway, there are some exciting developments in the garden. First are my ground cherries. I've never had, nor really even heard of ground cherries before, but I saw them when I was pursuing the Hudson Valley Seed Library and decided to give them a whirl. Only one of my plants survived, but it seems to be doing well and I'm intrigued to try the fruit.

Has anyone ever had these cherries before?

And, per my last post, my most recent goal is well on its way toward completion. Hooray for tomatoes!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stop whining and do something

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was about to record a MyExit hour, and today was the day. It's a silly little thing, but intricately tied to my efforts to have a better outlook on the world. See, I spend too many hours behind a desk and sometimes feel like the good stuff in life is playing second fiddle. Before I started this blog, I found myself in a nasty cycle - oh, I'd rather be doing this or that, so and so has a great life, I just want to hang out and read Gourmet (so sad....) and play in my kitchen, blah blah blah. I started writing here not because I really believed anyone would be captivated by what I had to say but because it was a more positive outlet for my energy. It was the "stop whining and do something" approach. This MyExit hour is similar, as silly as it may sound. I've always been a frustrated music junkie. When I was a kid, I grew up a few houses down from the family that ran the local summer musical theatre troop. I was good friends with their youngest daughter and I grew up surrounded by talented people as a result. I still remember hearing countless teens auditioning in the house while we played outside and I thought, someday, when I'm old enough, I'll do that. It was one of the first dreams I really remember having.

Sadly, I am profoundly tone deaf. I couldn't sing my way out of a paper bag if it would save my life. I took some acting classes and loved being on stage, and tried my hand at singing lessons, but it just didn't work. I gave up and I never did try out for the theatre group - I just knew it wasn't in the cards. I still sing my head off in the car though, and I grew to really love a wide variety of music. At one point in my life I wanted to be in the record business until one of my band guy friends (I was an impressionable 17, he was totally cool in his 20s) said "oh, you want to work for the man?" So then I just hung out and drank beer with band guys.

I won't ever be a DJ at a cool radio station, spending my days listening to great music and hanging with bands. I chose a different path and I'm really ok with that, but that kid who gave up on a dream still nags me sometimes. (I recognize that musical theatre and radio DJ are potentially very disparate paths, but to me, being a part of something musical is a logical connection) So I decided I would participate in this really cool project my local public radio station runs - I picked an hour of music that means something to me and got to record the show. It was hard as hell. If you wonder if stage fright is possible in a room with a microphone and one other person, I can now tell you it is. I've gained even more respect for my friends that perform live on a regular basis and I truly know that I won't be giving up the sometimes ho hum desk job for the fantasy gig as some really cool DJ. That's perfectly fine because I can now say I experienced it, if only in a minute, semi-artificial way.

Now onto the goal of a productive garden.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lesson one: When stealing yet another dish idea from a friend, it helps to discuss technique with said friend before going forth all willy-nilly.

Up at the lake this weekend, my friend made delicious eggplant burgers. I saw bits
and pieces of the process, and tasted the final product, so I thought I would give them a try. I'm still looking for more creative veggie dishes to help me in my quest to decrease my meat intake a bit. My friend had created small patties and we'd discussed approaches to making them stick a bit better.

I peeled, chopped and sauteed eggplant with some turmeric, cumin and garlic. Chopped kalamatas joined the party a bit later. I let the eggplant cook until much of it was soft, but there was still some chunks to provide
texture and took a masher to it in order to get the consistency just right. I added an egg and bread crumbs for binding purposes, popped the mixture in the fridge and headed off to a haircut.

Lesson two: Don't be afraid to improvise.

At the grocery store today, they were out of the rolls I like to use for burger buns, but I picked up some small hoagie rolls. So, I could argue that messy burgers were in my plan all along as I really just wanted to cook them and cut them in half to stuff the rolls. I didn't even get that far. My binding technique failed - I'll have to ask what step/ingredient I missed (see lesson one).

But I was suddenly inspired by a flashback to the kebob stands I often frequented in Oxford and Ireland and a new vision for the meal appeared.

I gave up on burgers, dumped the remaining eggplant onto my griddle and let it brown up nice. Then I just scooped into sliced hoagie rolls, topped with a feta sauce (with lemon, dill and greek yogurt - also lifted from said friend...she really needs to contribute to the blog)

Farmshare Frittata

A great trick for using up CSA veggies - and one I blatantly stole from a friend - is a veggie frittata. I very much enjoy the challenge of assessing what I have in the house and coming up with something tasty. I never manage to make the same dish twice, but I've certainly learned how to closely replicate favorites. This morning I decided to make my first frittata of the season. I had some zucchini and spinach left from this week's share, as well as some mozzarella and tomato (purchased to compliment my basil harvest). While my favorite frittata compliment is goat cheese, some nice fresh mozz wasn't too shabby. I went for an earthy, rustic flavor - helped along by oregano and rosemary from my garden.

The how to, you ask? I start with a good, shallow sauce pan (ahh...all-clad) that will both work on the stovetop and in the oven. With the oven preheating, I coat the pan in olive oil, saute onion, garlic, then whatever veggies I'm using. Today I started the zucchini first then threw the spinach in right before the egg. Be careful with tomato, the liquid can cause your eggs to not set properly. I typically just slice tomatoes and float them on top when the egg is almost set. I whipped up four eggs, a splash of milk, salt, pepper and a good tablespoon or so of finely chopped oregano and rosemary.

Drop the pan to medium heat and dump the eggs over the veggies and allow to cook most of the way. Don't mess with it too much!

You can run a knife around the edge to loosen but it's best to just leave it alone. When it's close to set - especially around the edges - I pop the whole pan into the oven (350, 400 ish) to finish...about 10 min but each time seems different. Just watch for the eggs to set. If I'm really feeling ambitious (I was today) I quickly finish it off with a visit to the broiler to crust up the top a bit.

See, there's a reason I don't really write recipes here - I don't use them. I peek at some to get a basic idea of what to do, and then experiment.
Once you have the basic concept down, it's so easy to be creative with frittatas. And they make a fantastic holiday brunch.