Wednesday, July 23, 2008

OLS Week 8: Two meals in one day

I had two local meals yesterday for the One Local Summer challenge.

At lunch, I enjoyed Mexican Purslane Stuffing stuffed into half of a giant zucchini from our CSA box. The recipe isn't that great. Am I right to suspect the authenticity of a Mexican dish seasoned with soy sauce? And, it never says when to put the purslane in -- I chopped it and dumped in after the tomatoes. I'm not an experienced enough cook to know how to cook an egg without scrambling it. Since I knew I was going to put it under the broiler after stuffing the zucchini and I trust my source for eggs, I erred on the undercooked side and it seemed to work.

I'll make it again the next time we have a giant zucchini with these changes: sautee the purslane in the skillet with the onions and garlic just before adding the tomato instead of steaming it, skip the soy sauce (the dish was plenty wet from the Cherokee Purple tomato), use the chili pepper as suggested (I didn't have a local -- and safe -- pepper so I just used black pepper yesterday), and put a little cheese on top.

We fixed supper entirely on the grill, which is one of my favorite ways since I do very little of the work. This was our first sweet corn of the season! A lot of seasonal eating is new to us since this is our first year of One Local Summer, but we both have enough of a rural background to know that you only eat sweet corn in season. It was worth the 10 month wait -- especially since we ate it nearly every day during the season last year!

The squash is another Less is More recipe (explained in yesterday's post, hosted by One Hot Stove for the Monthly Blog Patrol originated by The Spice Cafe). Grilled Marinated Summer Squash is easy and the lemon juice is a surprisingly nice touch (if not local -- I'm considering that a spice for this dish). I've made it twice now and both times I started marinating it in the morning to cook in the evening -- overnight seems like overkill. The recipe is from the Kitchen Gardeners International blog, a blog I've been really enjoying even while my kitchen garden this year is mostly failing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Less is More -- Blackberry Sauce

I bought blackberries at the Farmers Market last week. My single memory of fresh blackberries is picking one off a bush in my Grandma's yard and popping it in my mouth. It tasted like dirt. So, I didn't really no what to expect.

These blackberries are mouth-pucker tart but wonderful -- more of a candy experience than a fruit one. I've been eating them one berry at a time, but I was worried that I wouldn't get through them fast enough.

So, along comes a blackberry sauce recipe from Alanna at Kitchen Parade. In the picture, I'm adding the second half of the blackberries to the macerated mix. Alanna served it over vanilla frozen yogurt. It's delicious over chocolate frozen yogurt, as well.

This qualifies me for the Less is More challenge issued by Nupur (who makes amazing spring rolls) at One Hot Stove to make a dish from another blog that has five or fewer ingredients. "Less is More" is Nupur's theme for the monthly blog event, Monthly Blog Patrol started by The Spice Cafe blog -- the idea being that there's a new reason every month to go look at food blogs.

I may have to buy some more blackberries to try this blackberry sorbet from another food blogger, Kelly at SOUNDING MY BARBARIC GULP!

Friday, July 18, 2008

OLS Week 7: Simple Sandwich Supper

Our One Local Summer challenge meal this week was last night's supper, at the end of a long day that included picking up our CSA box (this week's contents: zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, broccoli, onions, green beans, green peppers, Oriental eggplant, and carrots).

We marinated the skinned chicken breasts that I de-boned on Wednesday in some oil with garlic and onion--all but the oil from Farmers Markets.

Meanwhile, I made a cabbage salad. The cabbage was from last week's CSA box and the carrots from this week's. The home-made Asian style dressing had no local ingredients, but I've figured out that with that dressing R will eat more than his share of cabbage. I composted part of our first cabbage, so I consider that a good trade if it means we eat more of our cabbage.

R grilled the chicken and I served it on toast made from the Sourdough Honey Whole Wheat Bread that I baked on Wednesday. This was my first 100% whole wheat loaf made with homeground flour and it turned out fine. The sandwich also had heirloom tomato and a "special sauce" made with mayo (lightened with yogurt cheese), mustard, and local honey.

Dessert was my first all-local concoction made in the ice cream machine -- a cantaloupe sorbet that was simply pureed cantaloupe and honey.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Virtual Summer Vacation

My brother is blogging!

We're not planning any trips until the old house is sold, or at least, ready to go on the market. In the meantime, I'm enjoying my brother's Fly Fishing Adventure through his blog. Stories, pictures, and the kind of ponderings that seem to only happen on vacation. He's traveling in the American West and the scenery is beautiful.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

CSA Box, Week 4

This week's box has:
  • one head of cabbage
  • two zucchini
  • two yellow squash
  • one cucumber
  • one onion
  • one bell pepper
  • two broccoli stalks

We should do all right with that. When I left to get this week's box, our produce drawer was nearly empty! We're getting better at this. It helped that we had company for lunch today and I had an excuse to fix Beet Roesti with Rosemary and Summer Squash Slaw.

A vital CSA coping technique seems to be to have a couple of dishes in our repertoire that don't really need a recipe and can be fixed with any number of vegetables. For us right now, those two dishes are fried rice and pasta.

For fried rice, we marinate a chicken breast cut in small slices in soy sauce, about a half teaspoon of tapioca starch, and whatever else sounds good for at least ten minutes. In the meantime, I chop up the vegetables we're using into small pieces, loosen leftover rice with a fork, and make up a sauce from the various bottles of Chinese sauces we have in the refrigerator (soy, hoisin, hot sesame oil, sweet chili, etc) . The cooking process may vary a bit with the vegetables but it usually goes like this:

  1. Stir fry the chicken until opaque, then remove it from the wok and reserve.
  2. Stir fry the vegetables, starting with the toughest and ending with the most tender.
  3. Stir the reserved chicken and sauce into the vegetables.
  4. Stir the rice into everything else and heat until the rice is warm.

The pasta dish varies even more. It usually starts with a half package of the fresh pasta that I buy at Tower Grove Farmers Market from Mangia Italiano and an 8-oz can of tomato sauce I buy at the supermarket (although I just bought some at Whole Foods that had a better ingredient list). While the pasta cooks, I saute any aromatics (chopped) I have on hand, then any vegetables (chopped or sliced) I want to use up, and add lots of fresh basil from the garden. Then the tomato sauce goes in and I stir it up and simmer it on low heat, maybe adding some dry herbs and spices or some honey. If the pasta takes too long and the sauce starts to dry up, I'll add some low sodium V8 juice to keep things saucy.

With those two dishes in our repertoire, often served on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I can make a big dent in what's left in the produce drawer before our new weekly box arrives on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Home-Ground Flour and Sourdough

A more prudent person would have separated these into two separate adventures, but home-ground flour and active doubling-itself sourdough arrived in my kitchen on the same day, so what's an excited baker to do? Bake no-yeast bread with home-ground flour, of course.

Home-Ground Flour

Alanna Kellogg, of A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade, offered me a "real flour experience." That turned out to mean a large tin of wheat and a grinder. We made the exchange over a lovely lunch in downtown Kirkwood yesterday afternoon and I came home with a new toy for the kitchen.

Grinding a cup or so of flour turned out to be easy and quick. The flour texture is varied which makes beautiful flecks in the dough.
Sourdough Starter
For a couple of days, I'd been maintaining some of my starter (also originally from Alanna) using the directions at the Sourdough Home website. By yesterday afternoon, I had gobs of the stuff growing and bubbling in a bowl on the counter. The Sourdough Home site is all about making bread without yeast--all the rise comes from the sourdough starter. That's been my goal since this spring when I started thinking about how one would make an entirely local loaf of bread -- it would have to be sourdough to avoid the use of commercial yeast. The ultimate bread for that purpose would be A 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread, but I used some discretion and didn't go for that as my first no-yeast and first home-ground flour loaf.
Black Canyon Sourdough Bread
Instead, I started with a loaf that would use a high percentage of non-local bread flour and only a little of the home-ground whole wheat flour: Black Canyon Sourdough Bread. I made just half a recipe because of my other challenge. Besides all the new tools and techniques, "fix the oven" has not yet made it to the top of the priority list. So, I needed to do the final rise and bake in the bread machine, which will only bake one loaf at a time. The photo is of the dough going in for its final rise.

It turned out surprisingly well. The bread has a nice texture and that distinguishing sourdough flavor. The only problem was from the bread machine. The loaf was small so only the side and bottom crusts were browned. The top of the loaf is pale. Next time, I might try using a 3/4 recipe instead of a half one to see if that improves the baking.

...and some English Muffins, too

That bread only used a tiny amount of the sourdough starter, so I mixed up some Sourdough English Muffins last night, too. The recipe calls for all white flour, but I snuck in a cup of my home-ground flour. I didn't have an English Muffin cutter so I cut my dough into twelve large squares with a knife. They still look and taste like an English Muffin.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

OLS: Accidentally Local

I realized as I was fixing my first meal of the week, Sunday morning breakfast, that it was all local even though I hadn't planned it that way. I'd just been thinking "What's for breakfast?" The answer turned out to be a scrambled egg (Farrar Out Farm--they are currently at Maplewood Farmers Market on Wednesday and are moving around on Saturday to figure out where the best place is for them, but this week they will be at Clayton Farmers Market) with purslane (my garden), garlic scape (Centennial Farms selling at Tower Grover Farmers Market), and zucchini (CSA box) plus strawberries (Clayton Farmers Market -- there's a booth there with a patch planted in everbearing strawberries) and toast (the Sourdough Honey Bread I made for the Fourth) spread with Coeur de Creme goat cheese (Baetje Farms selling at Kirkwood Farmers Market).

This is the beauty of the One Local Summer challenge. By committing to one local meal a week, I've found sources and developed habits leading to the result that much of what we eat, right now, for every meal is local. We're reaching the height of our local growing season and it feels great to be eating the fruits of the earth in my region. It was a yummy breakfast, too!

Friday, July 4, 2008

OLS: Happy Fourth potluck

This is cheating in the One Local Summer challenge slightly since it's not an entire meal. But, it's my entire contribution to a family potluck and it's the first time that I've aimed to make an entirely local contribution, so I want to honor that accomplishment.

First up, Sourdough Honey Whole Wheat Bread. I made some changes to the recipe based on hazy recollections of a loaf I made a couple of weeks ago, but I had to return that cookbook to the library and didn't copy the recipe so I couldn't repeat it exactly. So, I increased the sourdough starter to 1 cup, decreased the honey to a 1/4 cup, and decreased the yeast to 1 1/2 teaspoons. I also swapped out vegetable oil for butter to get another local ingredient in the bread. The only non-local ingredients were the salt and yeast. My starter, by the way, came from Alanna Kellogg of A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade. She got it from a woman (edit: Margie Kahn--see Alanna's comment for more details) who used to bake bread everyday when her eight children were growing up. My goal is to make an entirely local bread using no yeast, but I wasn't going to try that for the first time on a loaf destined to go to a party.

Contribution two, Cucumber Salad. I doubled the recipe using two of the cucumbers from our CSA box (one from last week!), a handful of the tiny onions we got in our box yesterday, and a large whole tomato from CJ's Produce at the Kirkwood Farmers Market. He's getting his tomatoes right now from an Amish farmer in Illinois who grows them hydroponically. I did not double the dressing because it seemed like plenty. I swapped out the sugar for honey to get in one more local ingredient. The only non-local ingredient was some of the vinegar -- I used one tablespoon of Blue Heron Orchard Habanero Apple Cider Vinegar and three tablespoons of non-local rice vinegar.

Unfortunately, we didn't coordinate our potluck very well and there ended up being three loaves of bread on the buffet. The other two were the kind that were buttered then re-heated in the oven and my more boring loaf didn't compete well. Oh well, it will make a fine bread for us this weekend. The cucumber salad was so popular that I brought home an empty container--that's always a mark of success!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gratuitous celebrity sighting and CSA box

There's an old joke that you know you're from the Midwest if you're on a first-name basis with your mayor but you've never met a celebrity. Art, our mayor, and I had our last meaningful conversation last month at Chautauqua the night he was our emcee. But celebrities have definitely been a rare occurence in my life.

We were visiting our friend B, who just started dialysis this week, at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital today when Joss Stone came by. She's singing downtown tomorrow night. In this photo, she's just signed a shirt for B, after apologizing that it's pink, but that's her favorite color. I think she wasn't fully prepared to be meeting any 18-year old boys at the hospital, but she didn't have any problem being appropriately gracious and breezy.

Okay, back to one of the normal topics for this blog. The CSA box this week had more cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, and beets. New for this week were a sack of tiny onions and broccoli. I'm experiencing what most newbie CSA users experience -- being overwhelmed by produce. We're doing pretty well. I've already cheated some by freezing grated zucchini and yellow squash to use in bread later, but I don't have enough freezer space to do that much more and peak season for summer squash hasn't even started yet. I'm hoping that the holiday weekend helps -- I'll bring a big salad to our gathering tomorrow!