Friday, September 30, 2011

Preparing for the Apocalypse

Ha ha! Not really.  But I was busy for a couple of weeks, and one of the things I was doing was canning.

I canned the romas that ripened--not a great crop this year, but enough for a few quarts of tomatoes, at least.  I made spicy pickled green tomatoes, rosemary dilled cherry tomatoes, pickled green beans with lemon, black beans, red beans, and some beets.  I may be all set here.

I like making the pickles because they're a nice side to have with dinner sometimes, and they also make for fun gifts to give to people.

As far as the beans go, I make a lot of chili in the winter--it's my go-to dish when I'm shoveling my car out from a few feet of snow (seriously--you'd think I was back in upstate New York the past few years).  I pull out the slow cooker, throw in the beans, tomatoes, a can of stewed tomatoes, chili pepper, maybe a chopped jalepeno, garlic, cumin, maybe some ground meat, onion, and a teaspoon of cocoa powder (never more).  I also make burritos and quesedillas with them, and dips.  And with white beans, I make chicken cassoulet.  It's not a proper cassoulet, which uses several different meats and requires a bunch of different steps, but it's nice.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Color me. . .meh.

Well, I can't have all triumphs all the time, but this wasn't horrible, either.  It was just too cabbagey.  (NO, it's not a word, so sue me.)

Today was my CSA pickup day, and I got a good haul, as per usual.  Collard greens, spinach, arugula, radishes, beets, cauliflower, cilantro, carrots, purple cabbage, fennel, hot peppers, delicata squash and acorn squash.   

I wasn't really hungry, so I figured I'd make something light with some of the ingredients I had.  I took some of the collard greens, a little of the purple cabbage, a few radishes (chopped) and some of the fennel fronds, and sauteed them in olive oil.

The result wasn't horrible, but it wasn't exciting.  The flavors of most of the ingredients were far too similar--radishes get quite mild when you cook them, collards blended too much with the actual cabbage.  In hindsight, I should have swapped out the collards for either the spinach or the arugula, added some onion and garlic, and maybe one of the seeded and finely chopped hot peppers. 

However, I do like the color and I will try it with ingredients that will give it a bigger kick next time. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tomatoes, I will eat you even if you refuse to ripen up

The tomato crop this year was, in a word, lousy.  They smelled musty after a couple of days, they just didn't taste as good as they do in most years, and they fell prey to things like rot.  It was a frustrating year for tomato lovers.

(Just as a ranty aside, this is why I roll my eyes and bark at people who lecture others that they should just garden because it's good for the earth or because it will save them money or whatever.  You do not just throw seeds into the ground and harvest truckloads of delicious produce.  You have critters that get to them.  You have blight.  You have cool wet summers that the vegetables don't like so much, or hot dry summers that make them wither on the stalks.  You have weeds--especially if you don't use a tarp or have enough mulch.  It is hard, back breaking work.  Though I immensely enjoy it--even when the crops aren't great--not everyone does.  And sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just won't get a good crop of something.  Not to mention the fact that you can get carried away and end up spending way more on gardening than you would have just buying your produce if you're not careful.  One thing about gardening: it makes me realize that if I had to rely strictly on my own abilities to get food, I'd either be dead or dangerously skinny.)

But I did not let this stop me.  At the end of the season, there were a lot of green tomatoes to be had.  My mother urged me to come over and take whatever was left in my parents' garden--I got a lot of cherry tomatoes and green tomatoes, and the remaining ripe romas, which I canned.  I made pickles out of the cherry and green tomatoes, but that's another post for another day.

I did want to try fried green tomatoes.  I figured it had to be similar to fried zucchini.  At any rate, I did this myself and didn't follow an established recipe--I just sliced the green tomatoes, dipped them in flour, dipped them in egg, and coated them in bread crumbs (I put salt and pepper in the flour and the bread crumbs had Italian seasoning in them).  I fried them until they were brown on both sides.  I brought these to church for coffee hour and also brought some salsa in case people thought they were a bit bland.  Everyone liked them--they didn't need the salsa for them.  I liked them as well; they were good even cold.

That is the thing about gardening and eating a little more locally--sometimes, you have to try new ways of eating things.  I'd never had a green tomato before (unless it was an heirloom and it was green when it was ripe).  Not fried, not pickled, not in any way.  But I was not getting truckloads of succulent, tasty and bright red tomatoes, and I was determined to get something out of these.  We had a cool and rainy June and I think that just made the plants cranky.  Or I have a cyanide thumb.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Curried lentils and just-picked potatoes

I wanted to do something simple but tasty with some of my CSA take, and I wanted to go less-meat (not completely meatless; I have a lot of chicken stock onhand).  I like curry, my friend who was over on Saturday likes curry (the spicer the food, the better, actually), and I like lentils (really).

I had seen a lot of versions of a curried lentil and potato dish--some with spinach added, some not; some with tomatoes, some not; some with flavored stocks and others with water.  A lot of people liked the recipe that Mark Bittman has in his book, and that recipe looked pretty good to me as well.  (I might get that book, it's pretty straightforward and doesn't seem to require the expensive ingredients other vegetarian cookbooks call for.)  However, I didn't want to follow a straight recipe, and I had perused through enough of them that I figured out what I'd need to do the basic dish.  I just added the spices I wanted in amounts that I thought would work.  I was quite happy with the dish (which is tasty as leftovers), and my friend seemed to like it. So hurrah!

This is the recipe:

1 cup of brown lentils
3 cups of stock (I used chicken, you can use vegetable, beef, or even just plain water)
5-6 small to medium new potatoes (or two russets), washed and chopped into small pieces (don't peel them; the skin is good for you)
1 can of diced tomatoes with jalepeno pepper (or one can of diced tomatoes and one seeded and chopped jalepeno, but I was feeling lazy)
1 cup chopped onion (I used the frozen chopped onion)
1 cup of frozen peas
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 tsp of garam masala
1 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of ground corriander seed (cilantro seed)
A dash to 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger root, peeled and finely minced or grated
1-2 tbsp of olive oil

In a stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and sautee the garlic, ginger, and onion until the garlic and onion are translucent, about 10 minutes.  (Take a deep breath and smell the deliciousness--ahhh!)  Add the stock, the lentils, the potatoes, and the tomatoes and jalepeno.  Add the garam masala, curry, cumin, corriander, and chili, and stir well, and bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the liquid is almost gone.  Add the peas, allow to heat through.  Add chopped cilantro and stir in right before serving.

You can eat this with rice, with naan bread, or another kind of flat bread.  I used whole wheat pita bread.  I also had some plain yogurt on the side in case the spice got to be a little much for me. 

If you don't want it very spicy, use only one teaspon of garam masala or skip that altogether and stick with curry and cumin. And maybe lay off the jalepenos.  But I did like the kick.

This was very filling and satisfying.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bare Essentials?

Judy's been decluttering.  It got me thinking: what would I keep if I had to pare down the absolute essentials?

It was tricky.  In the kitchen, it's easy--my skillet, my enameled cast-iron casserole, a saucepan, my paring knife and a larger knife, and my slow cooker (that is non-negotiable).

If I had to, I'd get rid of all of my books (libraries are wonderful things). There are a bunch of tea sets and tea cups that I could get rid of (they take up space in one small cabinet in the kitchen), but I'd cry--the cups are my late nana's, and the tea sets are from Japan, where I used to live.  There is some glassware that I could get rid of (again, I'd cry--it was my nana's), some wine glasses and a wine rack I could get rid of--there's actually a lot I could do without. I've pared down a lot of my clothing, but I still have some things that I could get rid of if I had to.  And I've got a box of sewing/knitting supplies that I can't bear to part with because, yes, I will get back to it one day.  But if I had to, I could get rid of that stuff.

I already went on a decluttering tear--took out a grody old rug, planters that I wasn't using, a couple of boxes that I had just in case I needed them, etc.  My second bedroom had become an unofficial storage center, and it looks a lot better now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuna steaks with apple and radish chutney

It's a shame I didn't photograph this!  I was happy with the way it came out.  I did find a new blog in my search for a photo of a watermelon radish (which I had for the first time yesterday), so I'll be linking there and you need to check Healthy. Happy. Life. out. (HHL is a vegan cooking blog.  Now, I'm a happy omnivore, but being an omnivore, I eat vegetables [cue my mother fainting] and am always happy to find new recipes of any sort to use.)

If you want to see some really fantastic ways to prepare the CSA take, you should check out Food Is Beautiful.  There are some gorgeous meals and snacks--from the CSA take--on that blog. Also, I am acquainted with the blogger, and she is super nice.

If you haven't already guessed, yesterday was my CSA pickup day, and I got some wonderful produce.  Acorn squash, broccoli, watermelon radish, pink radish, rainbow chard, spinach, arugula, cilantro, and potatoes.  Yum.  I've been craving a nice winter squash--I love winter squashes--and was thinking about dinner all day.  My neighbor and her boyfriend came up for dinner, and this is what I made.

I took two of the watermelon radishes, chopped them up, chopped up two pink radishes, and chopped a grannysmith apple.  I added some minced, fresh garlic and sauteed all of it in olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes, and added a dash of soy sauce for the last few minutes.  (The radishes get very mellow after you cook them.)  I coated the tuna steaks with generous amounts of powdered ginger and garlic granules, and pan fried them in olive oil and a splash of lemon juice over medium heat (until it reached the desired level of doneness).

Meanwhile, I sliced and baked the acorn squash (and roasted the seeds) and steamed the chard in the microwave.  I spooned the chutney over each tuna steak, and voila! Dinner was served.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hey, strangers!

It's been a really eventful couple of weeks.  Let's just say that I have the best parents in the world, and the most understanding neighbor ever, and leave it at that.

I am currently reading the book Packing for Mars.  It's a fun read, but I found that it's best not read it while you're eating.  Think about the every day snafaus of space travel, and then get even more obscure (and gross).  It only served to confirm the fact that unlike many other people, I will never go into a glorified can in orbit.  Even if it wasn't dangerous, living in a cramped, hot space station with no real ability to take a proper shower, etc. is kind of gross.  Also, I think weightlessness would irritate me after the first five minutes.

I did make a fantastic dinner tonight for my neighbor and her very kind boyfriend, and I will tell you all about it tomorrow.  I took no pictures, however, as I was busy cooking and cleaning as I went. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I have been a bad, bad blogger

So the four people who have been reading this thing regularly have probably dwindled down to one, thanks to my inattention over the past couple of weeks.  But fear not! I will start posting again.

I had my parents over for breakfast this morning, and I made a spinach and mushroom strata.  It was pretty tasty.  I changed some things--I used Italian bread, kept the crusts on, and cubed it, and I used only about half the cheese it called for.  It was still quite good.