Friday, May 24, 2013
I wish this were my recipe. I wish I had come up with some thing this terrific, but this perfect loaf, farmhouse white, is from Susan the farmer, cook, and blogger behind the delightful rural blog Farmgirl Fare.
Kneading the dough, by hand, for the full ten minutes the recipe requires I felt frugal and smart, and strong, and capable. Now that is a great recipe.
Don't wait until your milk is sour to whip up these easy loaves.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Tonight I turned those early (and I must say delicious) zucchini into James' spaghetti dinner. For our simple sauce I sautéed sliced zucchini, red onion and garlic for a couple minutes and then covered the pan to let the vegetables cook down to a soft purée. I stirred in some thinly sliced salami and finished with a bit of diced mint from our garden. After a quick toss in the pot with the drained pasta, a bit of the cooking water and parmesan cheese James' greenhouse garden fresh dinner was ready to serve.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Staring into a nearly empty fridge (I mean we are out of cheese -- when are we ever out of cheese?). A carton of milk well past it's expiration date stared back.
I could pour it down the commode hoping to revitalize our septic as I've read online. But, it's still food. I hate to throw food away, especially when a little creativity can make what some consider trash into a homemade meal. Food from nothing is my favorite game.
I think that's what I love so much about Southern cooking. The traditional cuisine of the American South is frugality at it's best. True nose to tail cooking born as much of scarcity as it is of a reverence for ingredients.
Staring at that milk I suddenly saw sour milk cornbread. A quick google search will bring up pages and pages of debate on baking with sour milk -- pasteurized vs raw, homogenized vs separated. Ignoring the warnings I pressed on.
I whisked two eggs and 2 cups of that sour milk, along with a teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder -- for insurance sake. A pinch of salt, 1/4 cup of flour, 1 1/2 cups corn meal and 4 TB of melted butter finished my quick mixed batter. I placed my iron skillet with 1 TB of bacon grease (that's why I save it -- cornbread and french fries -- in a 400º oven long enough for the fat to melt and start to sizzle -- about 5 minutes. I gave the grease a swirl in the pan to spread it across the cooking surface and poured in my batter. After 20 minutes my cornbread was light and fluffy and not the least bit sour.
A nod to the South but not quite authentic. Here in California the grocery stores don't stock the finely ground white cornmeal treasured in the Southeast. Next time I travel I'll bring back a bag and try again -- I'm sure milk will be waiting.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Cover crops are "green manure" that help manage soil fertility. Though there are many other benefits (and types) basically these members of the pea family return nitrogen to the soil and by containing erosion and controlling water usage prepare the soil for your next crop.
The greens from cover crops can be cut into the soil for extra nutrients and many are excellent animal feed treats. Every year I plant a hefty crop of bright green fava beans, the darlings of Mediterranean style spring salads, fresh crostini and pastas.
Now in my little raised bed with heavily amended soil I can't say I really need a cover crop. My beds could sit idle through the winter waiting for spring's frost date and my hearty summer tomato crop. But, I love fava beans.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Years later I spied a recipe for sticky ribs that despite my reaction to that chicken seemed worth trying. The recipe, from Mogridder's BBQ truck in the Bronx (hardly a BBQ hotspot), glazes oven baked spare ribs with a coating of peach (or apricot) jam combined with ketchup, pan drippings, and lemon juice. James loves it. But because we grow apples and always have more than I know what to do with (not to mention our generous neighbors with the apple orchard) and because I enter my preserves in the county fair (we also have more jellies and jams than I know what to do with) . . . when I make these sticky ribs I use one of my many varieties of apple jelly.
First I season the whole racks with salt, pepper and granulated garlic and lay the ribs out on a baking tray. I sprinkle in about a dozen whole cloves and pour over one bottle of lager. Wrapped tightly in aluminum foil the ribs bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees until super tender. When the ribs are cooked I pour the pan drippings, 1 cup of ketchup, about 3 TB lemon juice and 1 cup of apple jelly into a saucepan along with -- when I am feeling sassy -- a dollop of siracha or hot sauce. I let the glaze cook down for about 20 minutes until thick. First I brush glaze on the boney side of the ribs and pop the tray under the broiler for 7 minutes. Then I flip the ribs to the meaty side and paint with half of the remaining glaze. After 10 minutes under the broiler (until just beginning to char) I brush on the rest of the glaze and let the ribs broil for another ten minutes, just until browned. Let the ribs rest a good ten minutes or so before serving.
A great summer recipe for guests the ribs can be baked off and the glaze prepared early in the day leaving a quick finish (and your jelly secret safe) for dinnertime.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Drat these sunshiney long days. I lost track of time and was facing the clock.
Eggs! A perfect night for eggs.
Having just made a trip to the farmers market I started tossing chopped vegetables into a pan with olive oil and garlic and chunks of Italian sausage. When the vegetables were soft and the sausage cooked through I poured in a bowl of eggs beaten with S&P, shreds of parmesan cheese, and cubes of fresh mozzarella I happened to have in the fridge. I left the pan on the stove just long enough for the eggs to set around the edges and then popped the skillet into the oven to quickly broil the top.
No idea at 7:30, dinner on the table by 8 thanks to (as the commercial says) the incredible, edible egg.