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I read Plenty about a month ago and casually asked Keifel if he would be interested in an experiment to see if we could eat locally for a year. To my surprise, he said yes. So, the adventure will begun in earnest May 1. We were planning to start the first day of spring, as in the book, but after a week of realizing we would be eating eggs for two months, we postponed. We did decide we would start mostly sourcing locally and that we should eat anything already in the house because it would be wasteful otherwise. I am all about having a pantry, so we have quite a bit of non-local stuff to play with.

I started out that first spring week by foraging at the Produce Place on Murphy Road because I had seen local produce there from Mennonite farms in the past. They had produce from everywhere but here, but they did have some local biodynamic sweet potatoes. I bought four pounds. They were very dirty, not a problem, and spindly enough to poke a hole right through my bag. They also had some local cheese. I got a chunk of smoked cheddar but it looked a little plasticky through the plastic and is still in the fridge, untouched. My last two things there were local, raw sourwood honey (which is amazing, I can’t even describe the flavor) and local sorghum. We went to Whole Foods that Tuesday because they also carry local produce occasionally. All they had was local eggs, local milk and a teeny bit of local lamb and local beef. We then had not very many vegetables and a lot of animal parts or products.

We had a crazy week but mostly ate stuff from the pantry including local eggs and such as we went. Another stipulation was that if we ate out it had to be a locally owned restaurant preferably one that sourced locally. Fido is really the only one in our current budget. We also had dinner with friends at Rose Pepper. Another rule was that we not be assholes in turning down hospitality, gifts or invitations because of this. Trading the goodwill and fellowship of our friends and family for our experiment seems, well, like being assholes.

That Friday, we went to the Turnip Truck in East Nashville and scored some much better local goat cheese and local buttermilk. Jules and I hit up the Nashville Farmers Market on Saturday and got greenhouse lettuce, turnip greens, local chicken and more local milk, non-homogenized, so I could take a stab at making yogurt. (Still hasn’t happened.) All told, our foraging that week was successful. Also, somewhere along the way I bought coffee beans from Bongo Java Roasting Company. I chose not to give up coffee but to switch to locally roasted by a local business that uses organic and fair trade beans. I had been drinking fair trade organic, but not local.

The high point of our first week of eating local was a cottage pie with local beef, local sweet potatoes, local milk, and local herbs. The carrots and celery and garlic were leftover from the larder. The celery is now done and I really wished I’d had onions. We also ate the local lettuce with a honey mustard vinaigrette. Olive oil is also on my list of things I can continue to buy if it is organic and preferably Californian (as that is the closest olive production, we think). Julian and Keifel loved both the pie and the salad. Jules said if eating local is like this all year, he is totally in.

Things have continued. The new Saturday ritual is dropping Keifel to work, did I mention we also down-sized to one car?, and then having coffee and a pastry at Provence (and buying bread from them if we need it). Then heading to the farmer’s market. We are converts to JD Farms milk. We have tried whole (cream comes to the top!), skim and 2%. Jules has settled on the 2% and since he drinks it straight, he gets the deciding vote. They also have a wicked good chocolate milk. We get eggs from several vendors but the ones I got this morning are a lovely mix of pink and blue with a couple extra jumbo-sized and a teeny bantam egg as well. I got the eggs, some beautiful arugula, and sweet little white turnips with full, lusty tops from Common Grounds. There are two cheese vendors now. One for locally made goats milk cheeses and one that deals in American artisanal cheeses. I picked up an aged farmhouse cheese from N. Alabama. I am thinking a salad with a little of that crumbled over. I also got a pound of bacon from Emerald Glen Farms. The chicken we got from them last week was amazing. I also got a pork roast from Walnut Hills Farm. I got goat stew meat from them last week that Keifel curried in the Trinidadian manner with a little local lamb from Whole Foods. Another local dinner winner.

So, after a almost three weeks of dabbling, things are getting ready to head for the big time. I know that we are really going to have to carve out some time to do more ahead-of-time prep for breakfasts and lunches because we are crazy busy with so many jobs and one car scheduling. Our volunteer schedule calms down that second week of May and I am hoping to get stuck in to working on one or both of the books in progress. Our first CSA delivery from Avalon Acres is also that first week of May, so we will at least have something to eat even if I can’t make it to the Farmer’s Market.

We are preparing some herb beds around the house with some free bricks from Cajun Scorpio Girl and Mark the Carpenter. Julian and I dug one of them out last weekend but this weekend has been too hectic, as will next… We are planning to get a raised bed and get some tomato plants, pepper plants and, if possible, some pickling cucumbers (I love gherkins!). Julian and I started some herbs from seed and some of them actually lived and have sprouted which of course means we need to get on those herb beds.

I thought long and hard about this and I really think that local food is the best way forward for the planet, for the people and for food security. I don’t want to get too involved in being a screamy evangelist about it but I am hoping that with this blog, the supper club, twitter and facebook, I can talk about it to those who are interested in listening in on and seeing pictures from our adventure.

To have some guidelines we came up with a list of allowable indulgences (necessities, more like it!) and some ground rules. Our lives are pretty hectic and we didn’t want this to make it worse. It’s hard to make it look appealing if you are having a nervous breakdown in the process. Here’s our starting point:

Ground Rules:
1. Try for as much of our diet as possible to come from within 100 miles.
2. When travelling or receiving hospitality we will eat what is offered. (The “Don’t Be Assholes*” rule.)
3. We will accept food gifts graciously, even those from far outside the 100 mile limit. (*)
4. It is impractical to put the 100 mile restraint on catering gigs and the supper club, though we will make every effort to continue to source sustainable produce for those functions, especially the supper club.
5. We will make every effort to investigate local wild foods, fish and game. (I am trying to set a date for some trout fishing and have a line on a free -yay!- smoker).
6. We will acquire a small, energy efficient freezer; can as much as we can; and use the dehydrator (that has been in the attic for three years) to preserve as much as we can for the winter and early spring next year when we know fresh, local produce is in short supply.
7. We will plant a small garden this year, focusing on easily preserved items and herbs.
8. We will continue composting.
9. We will avoid food waste by creatively using up leftovers as soon as possible.

Exempt Items:
(the list was supposed to be 10 but we forgot a couple things on the first one and hope to delete some if we find local sources)
1. coffee, must be fair trade and organic and roasted locally
2. tea, organic and fair trade and only if we run out of our current supply
3. olive oil, organic and preferably Californian
4. citrus fruit, but not juice (I have to be honest and say that a life without lemons seems horribly bleak to me)
5. spices, but herbs must be local if not home grown
6. salt, preferably sea salt
7. American grown rice
8. Beer, but must be brewed locally even if the raw ingredients come from somewhere else
9. chocolate, must be fair trade and made locally
10. kefir, until I get my own yogurt set up going (my belly would otherwise not be the same)
11. steel cut oats
12. peanut butter, all natural and organic, unless we can find a 100-mile source (to prevent Jules from starvation)

Happy T-day!

victoria  —  November 25, 2009 — Leave a comment

Gobble gobble.

Gobble gobble.

Yes. I am lame and have fallen sadly, woefully behind in posting. Life is, well, life is good but many other things bid for my time. I wish you and yours the warmest Thanksgiving wishes with friends and family (the birthed into kind and the chosen) around a big table laden with all your holiday favorites prepared most traditionally down to the Durkee crisp onions or with the wildest gourmet flights of fancy, whatever floats your gravy boat.

So working three jobs and trying, sometimes failing, to meet previously agreed upon social and volunteer obligations makes one’s family adjust to leftovers that go on and on, sometimes for a full week. I think Keifel may never eat white chili again. But, bless them, my husband and boychild have been troopers and as they are both pretty handy in the kitchen themselves, we haven’t survived on toast and Cheerios or warmed-over Chinese takeout. Well, not for weeks at a time at least.

Today, Keifel and I managed to team up for a slam dunk of a dinner. Now I don’t know that any Trini worth their salt would proclaim the delicious leftovers in our fridge authentic in any way other than a Trini was involved in the making. But, damn, if Keifel and I didn’t make some good chow.

The shopping was done almost two weeks ago, as canned and frozen bits stay that way. I made an auxiliary trip earlier in the week to get the things that don’t cotton to canning and freezing so much. Over the course of the last three days, Keifel saw to it that the chicken thighs went from freezer to fridge to thaw and then seasoned them in his special kitchen cabinet/fridge door kind of way. I’ll leave that to your imagination or to a comment in Keifel’s own realm to get to the bottom of that.

This morning, while driving back from collecting Julian from his Spring Break adventures, Keifel called to see if I would put together the green seasoning to speed along his cooking this afternoon. I pulled out the NAPS girls’ cookbook, one of the bibles of Trini cooking for the uninitiated, and turned to page 255 and the recipe for green seasoning. Now understand that this is an exercise fraught with pitfalls. A large one being that we have seen chadon beni all of one time in Nashville. A wilted pile of it was given to me by one of the produce guys at Whole Foods. Apparently, I can order it but who has time to remember to do that. Again, for those not familiar with this particular Caribbean/Latin American staple herb, it’s also called culantro or shadow beni. It looks kind of like arugula but not so curvy and tastes like cilantro on steroids. Okay, so that is issue one. Dealt with by purchasing a huge hunk of cilantro and using the tender leaves and the fragrant stems. Issue two is less easily surmounted.

Some time ago this bottle arrived at our house in the arms of a friend of Keifel’s. It was a repurposed plastic bottle (formerly home to fruit juice, perhaps) lovingly filled with what looked like blended grass clippings and smelled of cilantro, garlic and vinegar but was in fact her mother’s Green Seasoning. It lasted some time, as vinegar-preserved items will and Keifel was exuberant every time he opened it to liberally bathe some chicken thighs or pork chops. I remember that look on his face and I remember the smell. I am a good cook, but I am not awash in the teachings bestowed range-side in a Port-of-Spain kitchen. This makes me a little nervous.

I use the NAPS girls instructions as a jumping off point. The herbs in my possession are a little less than perfect with the passage of time in the crisper drawer but they are fine. The grocery did not have fresh thyme and the herb garden here is still in the planning stages. Before me on the counter I have a huge bunch of parsley, an equally large chunk of a row of cilantro, a clam-shell box of chives (the worst for the wear of the lot), a head of garlic, three limes, a bottle of vinegar and some dried (I know, cooks of a Trini persuasion–or any, persuasion for that matter– look away now) thyme. I get out the mezzaluna and its board and start murdering the herbs. All of the them and the diced up garlic, too, go for a spin in the food processor with some white wine vinegar, the juice of two of the limes and a little bit of water. The kitchen smells suspiciously of that fruit juice bottle. I carefully scrape as much as humanly possible into a mason jar, secure a lid tightly and place it in the fridge. It looks like a jar of very fresh grass clippings or a wheat grass smoothie, heavy on the wheat grass.

Keifel returns and pronounces it a triumph. He suggests that it hasn’t had time to mellow so it isn’t as good as N’s mom’s. I know he is lying but I appreciate the fib. He adds that to the marinating chicken, burns some sugar in oil and browns the chicken, adding canned black-eyed peas (’cause you can’t get canned pigeon peas at Whole Foods) and lets that stew. We discovered early on that cooking the rice and peas together made for mushy peas (and not in that cute English way) and hard bullets of rice. Rice was made separately with some coconut milk and a little ginger. Together they were amazing. And I get to eat it for lunch tomorrow, too.

I’m not sure what happened to the January thaw, though we may be getting it now. I will say that being under the weather when the weather involves single digits and windchill factors is no fun at all. I am on the mend now despite the fog horn cough and still feeling like standing up long enough to do the dishes is enough exercise for the day. It has given me time to ponder what constitutes comfort food for me. Given the dearth of groceries and the fact that everyone was sick over the course of the week and therefore grocery shopping wasn’t happening so much, what I was craving and what I was actually cooking and eating weren’t entirely in sync.

I have long established that when I am sick, I tend to want gruel. I know that sounds terribly Dickensian but it’s absolutely true. Though if by gruel you mean watery gray ick with chunks in, we are probably not talking about the same think. What I really want to eat might more appropriately be called porridge. For lunch this week I had polenta made with milk so it is kind of like corn pudding with a little butter and salt and later in the week steel cut oats made an appearance, also made with milk to the same effect but I added some cinnamon and a little raw sugar. I also really craved eggdrop soup which my faithful and dear husband supplied via China Dragon. The proprietress swears by hot and sour soup which Keifel said made him feel better but when it was my turn, not so much. I find it bitter rather than sour and it had something oddly textured in it which did not appeal. When you can’t actually taste anything, texture is pretty important.

The thing I really wanted was my mom’s potato soup, which has, of this I am certain, Herculean healing powers. It is a fairly simple milky broth with herbs and a little butter, onions and potato chunks cooked until the edges are soft and sloughing off to thicken the soup. Sometimes she adds some cheese to make it a little richer, but really the peasanty version is the real deal and what I would prefer when I am on the couch under three layers of blankets and shivering. When I was little (and sick all the damn time), I don’t really remember much about what Mom or Dad made. I do remember orange sherbet or lime if the store had it and lots of Gatorade, because that was before the days of Pedialyte and its ilk. I also remember chicken noodle soup, but I think it might have been Campbell’s. The potato soup doesn’t enter my memory bank until later. College maybe? When I had my wisdom teeth out. Another thing I am also certain of is that Mom’s potato soup also has the power to make even the deep ache of heartbreak lessen, if even for a brief moment or two. I think I may have lived on potato soup for a week or two during at least two of my most trying times. There really isn’t a recipe so much as a talk through:

Mom’s Potato Soup, as I recall:

1 pound floury potatoes
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced pole to pole or julienned
About a tablespoon of butter
1 quart of liquid, about half milk and half chicken stock or water
Fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of grated cheese, Parm or Gruyere being the better choices (optional, of course)

Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/4″ thick, cutting the bigger slices in half if necessary. Set aside in a bowl of cold water, while you do everything else. In a soup pot that will hold about 2 quarts, melt the butter over medium heat until foamy. When the foam subsides, add the sliced onions and saute until softened and translucent. You really want to cook them just about as done as you want them here as they won’t soften much after you add the liquid.

Once the onions are to your liking, add the liquid (milk and broth) and the drained potatoes, the thyme and about a teaspoon of salt. Cook until the potatoes are soft and the edges have started to round off. You can make a choice here to leave as is or take out about a third of the soup and puree in a blender to add back as a further thickening agent or you can hit it a couple times with a stick blender (which is safer and less messy–if you are using a blender remember to take the little cup out of the lid and loosely hold a towel over the hole while you puree the soup portion. This will keep you from scalding and painting yourself with exploding potato soup. Trust me.) When you are happy with the body of the soup, taste for seasoning and add more salt and the pepper as you desire. If you are going to add the cheese, take the soup off the heat and add a small amount at a time, stirring until it melts before adding more. If you add the cheese it is very important that you do not allow the soup to boil. Serve immediately.

I can almost guarantee that you will never be served this soup in a four star restaurant, but sometimes that just isn’t what I’m looking for.

Hope your winter holiday is the loveliest of lovelies, whatever you are celebrating.

Smiling, even though I will be eaten.

Smiling, even though I will be eaten.

Feeling neglected?

victoria  —  September 21, 2008 — Leave a comment

I have been, neglecting the blog, that is. Life intervenes all the damn time. The best laid plans of mice and men… (can’t help but think of Eddie Izzard there), etc. and so on. All the excuses don’t really get at the fact that I haven’t felt like I had much to offer. It’s been a hard year with one thing happening at the heels of another and, honestly, I have always loved that this is place where I can be snappy and light and talk about non-heavy things. And well, there hasn’t been much that was non-heavy that I wanted to talk about. So, in the spirit of the Law of Attraction or whatever you might want to call it, I am going to talk about light things and about my new obsession. I actually have two but the other one, redecorating and purging clutter, doesn’t really have anything to do with food either

About four months ago, I bought a book, Harumi’s Japanese Cooking, to be precise, and you know how I love to be precise (ha). It has honestly changed the way I think about food and cooking at home. So much so that I bought a second book.

The thing about both of Harumi’s books is that they present food in that uniquely Japanese way. The idea that several different flavors in one meal is more satisfying that one gigantic portion of one or two foods. The other big idea I have taken from these is serving small. Over the years I have collected a number of small dishes: Asian bowls, a set of dice plates (yes I saw them on Good Eats and had to have them), chopstick rests, tiny dipping bowls shaped like lotus flowers. I’ve always loved these but didn’t find myself using them very much. With my new big idea in the forefront of how I am cooking and we are eating at home I am serving everything this way, whether it is Asian or not. For example, for dinner tonight we had a filet of mahi mahi seasoned with salt and pepper and seared and a more elaborate pasta salad with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, zucchini, cannellini beans and fresh basil. Pretty simple overall, and definitely not Asian. In the past, I would have served it on a big dinner plate with a big portion of the salad to make up for the smaller portion of fish or we would have just eaten a large portion of the pasta in a pasta bowl. Tonight I served the fish all by itself on a small square plate and served the pasta in a 1 cup side bowl. No one had seconds.

As part of the presentation, we have all been sitting down together at a set table (napkins, placemats and candles) and enjoying some music in the background where previously we would have pushed whatever one of us was working on to the far end of the table and left the news on TV (bad habit, I know, and one that was fairly easily broken). This has been a truly amazing thing. I know that sounds funny and every third article about the degeneration of American family life harps on and on about families not sitting down to eat together any more, but it has been become an oasis of sorts. We have each other and we feel a little more special with candlelight and cloth napkins. It’s an event in the day for our family, not a fuel stop.

The added benefit is we are all eating less and enjoying it more. This has also helped with lunches as there are more leftovers and it is easy to take something with to work the next day. That has lead to a sub obsession: the hunt for bento boxes or thermal lunch jars to take to work. I’ve been cruising bento box lunch sites. I don’t think I have the time or, frankly, the patience to do anything nearly as involved as hard core art bento, but it is inspiring and lovely to look at. So my obsession has really been an eye opener and I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about the Japanese approach to nutrition and the culinary arts. We are looking at slowly replacing our Western-style dishes all together. That 11″ dinner plate looks empty with a sensible portion on it and that psychological empty space makes us want more food. A shocking thought is that today’s contemporary place setting plates are the same size as platters were previously. And when you start talking about restaurant portions and china, things turn to the ridiculous.

Surely there must be a downside?, you ask. Well, that depends. To really eat more in the Japanese-style requires a few more dishes than most of us have time to get to on Tuesday night. But it is working for us with two or three dishes. It does help that I am a trained cook and can take short cuts with some knowledge as to what they will produce. Most people who cook at all can come up with an extra veg or two on the fly and the added colors and textures get at that Asian ideal, especially if you just serve one that is cut beautifully and cold and nearly naked in its dressing, like cucumbers. Then you are getting at color, texture, taste and temperature. There are a few more dishes to wash, but they take up less space in the dishwasher. Yes, my chopsticks are bamboo and wooden so they have to be hand washed, but I wash my knives and pots and pans by hand anyway. And, yes, there are leftovers unless you are super precise about recipe amounts. Some people, I know, are adamant about not eating leftovers. I accept that, though I’ve never understood it. If you don’t take a lunch, you might be eating slaw for a few days for dinner or throwing things out after they get chucked in the fridge to moulder in the back. It gets easier to judge amounts after you do it for while (though, admittedly, I have what seems like a metric tonne of leftovers to get through this week). Aside from a few glitches initially, I haven’t run into a real negative. I’ll keep you posted.

In other happy news, Trader Joe’s is opening in Nashville next month. I love me some Whole Foods, but people don’t make fun of it being Whole Paycheck for nothing.

The European tour class is going like a house afire though my numbers have dwindled, unfortunately that means my budget has as well. You can imagine the pouty chef here as you choose. Still, it is fun, though more work with the brain-twisty, food-budget maneuvering. We were in Russia, Belarus, Georgia and the Ukraine last week. The menu is marked to help decipher which dish is from where.

A Western Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Georgian Menu

Yaitsa po-minsk
Beet puree
Kartoshka po-moskovsky
Lokshen kugel

Yaitsa po-minsk
Eggs Minsk – Belarus

10 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup soft butter
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated cheese
anchovy filets, soaked and halved

Peel the eggs and cut each in half, carefully preserving the white to be stuffed. Remove the yolks and set the whites aside on a tray or plate. Place the yolks in medium-sized mixing bowl and add the butter, mayonnaise, cream, herbs and paprika. Mix and then taste for seasoning, adding the salt and pepper according to your personal taste.

Chop four of the egg whites very finely and fold them into the yolk mixture. Fill the remaining whites with the yolk mixture, mounding the mixture attractively.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese together. Lay the anchovies in a crisscross across the yolk mixture on each egg half and sprinkle with the crumb and cheese mixture. Brown for ten minutes in the oven and serve hot.

Beet Puree – Georgia

1 pound raw beets
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ cup shelled walnuts
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425°F and wrap the beets in foil making a lose parcel so air can circulate but seal the edges well so stem can build up in packet and soften the beets. Roast the beets until soft, this can take up to 2 hours depending on the beets. Check after an hour to see where they are on the road to tenderness. Carefully open the packet and pierce with the tip of a sharp paring knife. There should be little to no resistance. Allow the beets to cool completely in their parcel before you proceed to the next step.

Peel and chop the garlic and add to a food processor and pulse to mince. Add the walnuts and salt and pepper and process again until everything is a fairly fine rubble but not pasty. Peel and roughly chop the beets (wearing gloved to avoid being dyed beet purple) and add the chopped beats to the processor with the herbs and the ground coriander. Continue processing until you have a fine paste. Add the red wine vinegar, pulse to mix and taste. You may need more vinegar if the beets are very sweet. You want something that approaches a relish with a balance of sweet and sour. Decant the puree to a glass bowl (to avoid pinking any plastic containers, but avoid metal because of the vinegar) and refrigerate for at least to hours up to overnight to allow all the flavors to marry.

Kartoshka po-moskovsky
Moscow Potatoes – Russia

2 ¼ pounds medium-sized potatoes
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 small onion, very finely chopped
5 tablespoon sour cream
salt, to taste
2 oz. red caviar (salmon roe) (we used yellow North American lumpfish roe)

Peel the potatoes, though if you have well-washed new potatoes you can leave the skins on. Bake in the oven at 350°F until they are almost soft. While the potatoes are baking, sauté the onions in a small amount of additional butter until meltingly soft. Set aside. When the potatoes are ready, cut a “lid” off the top of each potato and hollow out the centers using a melonballer or small teaspoon. Mash the lids and centers with the melted butter, the sautéed onions and the sour cream. Season the mashed potatoes to your taste with salt and pepper. Place the mashed potatoes in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and fill the potatoes hollowed out potatoes mounding the filling just slightly. Place the filled potatoes shoulder to shoulder in a baking dish and place under a hot broiler just until the ridges of the mashed filling begins to brown. Remove the potatoes from the oven, sprinkle with the caviar and serve immediately.

Beef stroganoff – Russia

1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
2 pounds of beef filet (or other tender cut), cut across the grain into thin slices
1 pound mushrooms
1 pound of onions
16 ounces of sour cream (full fat, to avoid splitting the cream)

Mix the mustard, sugar, a pinch each of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of water together into a thick paste and set aside. Give the mushrooms a good rinse and slice them about ¼” thick. Peel and julienne the onion into ¼ inch strips. In a skillet large enough to hold all the final ingredients, heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and sear the strips of beef in batches, setting aside on a clean plate.

After the beef has all been seared, add a small amount of additional oil and brown the onions and mushrooms, cover them and cook gently for about twenty minutes. Uncover and allow any accumulated liquid to evaporate. Add the meat back to the pan with the mushroom and onion mixture. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add the mustard mixture. Cook until mustard mixture has coated all the ingredients in the pan and seems to have slightly thickened. Turn the heat to a bare simmer and add the sour cream. Stir gently until the cream has warmed through. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the cream will break and become grainy. If this happens the stroganov will still taste wonderful, it just won’t be quite as attractive. Serve immediately with hot, buttered egg noodles or boiled potatoes.

Lokshen kugel
Noodle bake – Jewish Ukrainian

Generous 1 pound of ribbon noodles made with egg
Salt to taste
4 eggs
7 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey
7 tablespoons butter
1 ¼ cups raisins, soaked in hot water for 15-30 minutes
1 cup walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped
butter for the baking dish

Boil the noodles in lightly salted water according to the package directions. Drain them and rinse under warm water. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and the softened butter. Mix well. Fold the noodles into the egg mixture with the raisins and walnuts. Place in a greased ovenproof dish and bake in a 350°F oven for 45-60 minutes. Can be served either warm or cold according to personal preference.

Variation: The bake tastes even better (I know it’s hard to believe) with a finely chopped cooking apple added to the mixture with the raisins and nuts.

Having nothing to say and no words.

Classes at the Pannery and Swedish Chefs have been going apace. I’m relatively happy but confused by my restlessness. I got an adjunct position for the fall (Yay!). But I don’t have much to say. It seems like the more I cook for others out in the big world the less I want to do anything at home involving food, which seems to include the blog of late.

Franka at Can Cook Must Cook seems to be having the same problem and as she gets paid to write, it is somewhat comforting. I thought I would have all manner of exciting things to talk about in our farm share CSA box but it has been so hot and dry this summer the pickings have been very slim and even I can’t eat two gallon bags of bitter greens a week or find something to make them interesting enough for me to eat by myself. Although the pie I made was tasty, Keifel and the Julian didn’t like it because they don’t like greens. I did make a Caprese salad with some of our tomatoes that was amazing. Love, love, love the fresh mozzarella and not having to actually cook anything when it is 100+ outside.

Victoria’s Greens, Lotsa Greens Pie
1 recipe for a double crust pie (especially the one made with oil from the 1940s Good Housekeeping)
a good glug of olive oil
1 small onion chopped fine
3 or 4 smashed cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 leftover raw bison burger pattie
Salt and pepper to taste
2 gallon bags of mixed bitter greens, washed and thick stems removed
1 tablespoon flour
a good glug of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup left over white wine, chicken stock or water
Handful of grated Parmesan, Grana Padano, Feta or what have you
1 large very ripe tomato
1 egg

Make the pie crust and line a round stone baker (mine came from Pampered Chef) with a little more than half the pie crust. You could also use a relatively deep pie plate.

In a very large sauté heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent, add the red pepper and sauté another 20 seconds. Crumble in the bison burger and season the mixture with salt and pepper; cook until browned. Add the greens and sauté down until all is wilted but still fairly green. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring to mix in. Add the vinegar and wine or chicken stock or water and cook just until the juices thicken a little.

Allow mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and fill the pastry-lined baker with the greens mixture. Seed and slice the tomato fairly thinly and lay over the filling. Top with remaining pastry and crimp the edges together and make three or four slits in the top for steam. Make an egg wash with the egg and 1 tablespoon of water whisked together. Brush over the top crust to help it brown. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers and eat cold or reheat for 25-45 seconds in the microwave (though the crust will go a little soft).

CSA box goodies, part 1

victoria  —  May 24, 2007 — 1 Comment

It has taken me until Thursday, I know, but well. We were in Atlanta over the weekend and then I had the flu, or some brief horrible thing that acted as if it might be the flu and, well, it is difficult to cook when one feels as though one’s large muscle groups are be wrung out like a wet dishrag. So, tonight we really got down to the goodies in the box.

Our share for the week consisted of one dozen free-range eggs varying in size from teeny to Jumbo, a dozen radishes, a dozen large spring onions, a gallon bag of mesclun, a gallon bag of collards, and a gallon bag of kale. I nibbled on the mesclun all week. But tonight was the first night we cooked anything from the box. We had two pork tenderloins we’d cooked earlier that Keifel sliced up and stewed briefly just to reheat. I’d rubbed it with a mix of smoked paprika, coriander and cumin before roasting it.

While he worked on the protein, I frenched (doesn’t that sound salacious?) an onion and sautéed it in some olive oil with three fat cloves of garlic, chopped fine, until the onions were translucent. I sprinkled over about a half teaspoon of salt and deglazed the small bit of browned goodness with some white wine. I put the kale in first and let it wilt down enough to add the collards and let both wilt down enough to stir. Then just let it cook until it was still a pretty, bright green and tender. I hate bitter greens cooked to mush, but I also hate chewy collards. These were young and tender enough that you could almost eat them pleasantly raw, but not quite.

Sautéed onions and kale waiting for their close up before the collards join the party

I will be better next week about actually taking a picture of what comes in the box. Or at least I’ll try.

In order to thoroughly warm our new casa, we had a Cinco de Mayo housewarming/Vic’s culinary school graduation party. We knew we wanted to have the party about a month after we moved and we wanted it to be on Saturday, and it turned out May 5th was the first Saturday in May. My love of themed menus took over and ta da, Cinco de Mayo housewarming party. We were very lucky that my mom stayed on a week after the move. Unpacking in such a short time would definitely not have happened without her and without CSG and J helping me unpack the kitchen that first night.

To celebrate our new digs and the fabulous friends we have, I planned a vegetarian-friendly with carnivorous option menu:

Sugar and spice peanuts
Jícama salad
Green, white and red salsas (tomatillo, chayote with honeydew, and pico)
A giant corn pudding with roasted pablano peppers and serrano ham
Saffron and black bean tamales
BBQ chicken tamales with chipotle crema
Roasted squash salad with green beans
Goat cheese and chorizo quesadillas with carmelized onions
Chocolate and pepita shortbread
Almond cinnamon cookies
Dulce de leche cake
A store-bought case of Jarritos sodas in various flavors like tamarind, mango and guava
Friends also brought lots of Mexican beer and lawn chairs to warm up our back yard

Friends from culinary school came and brought goodies as well. M brought a slow cooked pork shoulder and spicy cornbread, both of which were amazing and disappeared quickly. I know Keifel and The Carpenter were really happy to see the pork shoulder.

It appeared a good time was had by all, our house felt absolutely toasty after being warmed by friends near and far. And though I was feeling all over protective of my shiny new floors, clean up was a snap the next day, even outside. We still have two bags of tamales in the freezer and I keep finding little bits of leftovers in the fridge. I haven’t quite perfected the art of not over cooking. In fact, I was still worrying there wouldn’t be enough food right up until people were arriving. Silly me.

Chayote Salsa (adapted from Mark Miller’s Great Salsa Book)
1 chayote squash, peeled and diced
3/4 cup, about 1/4 of a large, honeydew melon, diced
3/4 cup fennel bulb, diced
2 teaspoons fennel frond, chopped
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
juice of two limes
pinch of sugar
salt to taste

Combine everything in a non-reactive bowl and chill until ready to serve. This is especially good as an accompaniment for fish but was interesting just with chips. The original recipe also called for some heat in the form of green habanero chile sauce. That or a fresh pepper of your preferred heat would be good. I needed a mild to nothing salsa to go with medium and scorcher salsas.

Goat cheese and chorizo quesdillas waiting for the corn pudding to appear on the hot pad next door

Jicama salad with spicy peanuts in the background

Roasted squash salad with a corner of the salsas peeking in

Guacamole in my molcajete (say that three times fast)

Blurry green, white and red salsas… I need to work on this photography thing

Blurry cookies as well, erm. Hrmph.