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Preview: strength from the soil

strength from the soil

Updated: 2015-09-16T17:16:22.798-06:00


Tonight, Tonight


Smitten Plus


(image) Butternut squash and caramelized onion galette, a la Smitten Kitchen. What's not to love? Squash, sage (one point for me!), pastry dough. And I got to use the goat's cheese that Shawn made last week. Yea, it's a time commitment, but for a dish that reliably dazzles? Why not? Sumptuously photographed at the link above, the directions were also as detailed as they needed to be. I would just add two things about the dough. The butter doesn't need to be perfectly cut into the flour--the second time I made this I was sans pastry cutter, and try as I migh(image) t with a fork it stayed pretty chunky, but worked just fine. The other is when you mix in the water to form a the dough into a ball--i always had a lot of flour and flour/butter scraps left in the bowl that wouldn't stick to the ball. It always looked like way too much, and I'd fret, but it was always fine. If it doesn't stick, don't add more water (and don't try to knead it in!), there will be enough dough.

Italian Peasant Soup


(image) I found this recipe in an old edition of the MACSAC cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini. It's a great resource, listing probably every veggie you'll find in a (temperate climate) CSA box with tips for general handling and preparation as well as specific recipes for each.

I like stews, but I'm trying to like soups. They're trickier, though. Brothy soups are like salads to me, easy to do badly, but a really nice one can be, well, really nice. This one didn't quite live up to expectations. But it would make a nice base to riff off of if you're looking for a vegetarian way to fill that chicken soup niche.

Why Do You Build Me Up, Ambercup?


(image) It's not unusual that a dish will taste better than it photographs, especially the stews and gruel-like consistencies that I favor. This dinner attempt sadly proved the reverse. Maybe I strayed from the original recipe, I can't remember. But it was way too sweet and the texture didn't make up for anything (should I have fluffed the grains more?). I'm still determined to use millet and stuff squash, perhaps just not together. Recipe from The Gluten-Free Hippie.


Which Apple Variety Are You?


(image) That may be one of the last potential personality test questions that isn't already an internet quiz (really? which smurf am i? i did succumb to the supervillian quiz, though: Poison Ivy, with Mr. Freeze in second (who is that?)).

These photos are from our last visit to the orchard (sad). One of the many great things about these trips was the chance to try the different varieties of apples--I've got to start making up for all the time I lost on Red Delicious! Here are some sites I dug up on apple varieties:

(image) This one's great for the sheer number of varieties it mentions. Try this one for deciding which apples will suit your purpose, this one for which varieties to plant in your backyard (US only), and this one's probably redundant but I liked it. Oooh, this one has photos.

I was pretty proud of myself for breaking free of the Gala mold and adding tarter varieties like Macoun and Empire to my favorites list, but one of those sites lists them both as "sweet". Guess I'll have to try harder.


Squash for Soup


(image) I love this soup. And by this soup I mean the platonic ideal of all of the soups that Emma's made these past few weeks. They are all squash soups, with some potatoes thrown in for thickener, and they all share the distinction of lacking a recipe. I made a few honest attempts at recording the process, but deep down I was worried that my involvement would somehow throw the soup off course.

If you're not in the mood for soup, these two squash glossaries list different types of squash and suggested usages:

I just think that soup is the best way to use squash that you're not as comfortable with (like the Carnival pictured here, the first I'd ever seen). Here's my attempt at recreating Emma's kitchen witchery.


Herb Crackers


(image) Don't have the time to bake bread but need something to go with that soup? Crackers! These were really quick and simple--just flour, water, and olive oil, with salt and dried herbs. I got the recipe from Straight From the Farm. She used dill, pepper and oregano on hers, I did basil, cumin, and pepper. You could use anything--rosemary, coriander, cayenne, ooh, even sage.

Breaking apart the baked squares is the fun part

Spaghetti Squash


This winter squash has qualities that remind me of a lot of different things--spaghetti, yes, and pumpkin, but also cantaloupe, bean sprouts, and rice noodles. In fact, I think the final product is a lot more like rice noodles than it is like spaghetti. Its stringy strands retain a little crunch, and have little kinks in them.

(image) Spaghetti squash is a native of China, where it's called sharkfin melon; this one came from Rose's family's garden in Chico. I quartered the squash and steamed it--it took only slightly longer than actual spaghetti. It can also be baked. You have to clear out the seeds when you cut it open, like a pumpkin or a cantaloupe. Then you scoop out the insides. I used an ice cream scoop. Whee! Even a small squash will yield a huge pile of 'spaghetti,' since the inedible rind is so thin.

(image) The normal thing to do is just treat it as pasta by adding sauce. Wikipedia recommends making mac and cheese out of it, which I'm going to try next. But there have to be lots of other fun things to do beyond the 1:1 pasta replacement concept.

My favorite alternate name is "squaghetti."

Brussels Sprouts


(image) To pluralize or not to pluralize, that is the question with Brussels Sprouts. Cultivated in large quantities for the first time in the 1200s in Belgium, this Brassica family black sheep was named for their capital. The Netherlands quickly took over production--today they produce three times as many Brussels sprouts as the US does. So if that elided "s" gives you pause when you go to write out this veggie's name, take comfort that in Dutch, the Belgium capital is called "Brussel".

I think Brussels sprouts get a bad name because over 80% of US production is for the frozen food market. But they're really good and surprisingly simple to prepare.

(image) Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 T olive oil
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Peel or cut off any gross bits, then rinse and dry the sprouts. Cut in half lengthwise, then toss with the other ingredients. Lay out on foil lined cookie sheet or pan, roast for 30-40 minutes. Recipe originally from The Adventures of Kitchen Girl.

Garlic Ghosts


(image) The garlic got planted this week, so I'm reminiscing about the rainy day I spent in the steer shed cleaning it, for sale and seed. Some combination of the dreary light from outside and the shimmery colors of the cloves gave them a translucent glow--I was bummed that most of my shots came out blurry. To speed away sniffles and colds ('tis the season...) I like to eat slices of raw garlic smothered in honey.

Check out the Barefoot Kitchen Witch's photo affair with garlic, too.

People Playing with Food, First Frost Edition


(image) First frost! The whole garden was ice-kissed and sparkly...

Here the PPWF part: I think this guy takes his "playing" a bit seriously-- A Youtube video for everything, they say, and here's one of a new and improved way to peel a hard-boiled egg.

The Long Absence


(image) noticed by few, cared about by less, but i do hear about it when i call home, so i'm going to attempt to catch up...before the celeriac gets harvested (and way before i figure out what you do with celeriac). New posts below!

Raspberry Curd


(image) Breakfast for dinner! We're trialing new pancake recipes all the time (serious research), but this sauce only needed one taste test. The original recipe was from Tea & Cookies. Besides being too lazy to strain out the seeds, we didn't make any changes. Perfect for when those pancakes just aren't sweet enough.

Chickpea Cilantro Mash


(image) I loved this dish. It got me away from the soup pot, gave me another opportunity to use our cilantro, and got spicier the next day. It also utilized an interesting cooking technique: you stir in uncooked pasta with the rest of the ingredients, and bake with extra water. I was skeptical, but it worked!

Here's the link to the original recipe, from Notes From The Vegan Feast Kitchen.

Biggest. Mushroom. Ever.


(image) I just walked in the house for a quick snack and there it was. The biggest mushroom ever. At least, that I've ever met in person. The mystery of its sheer size combined with the mystery of how it got into our kitchen made for a speculation filled break. Turns out it was a gift from Les, and that puffballs enjoy getting really big to surprise foragers (in my book any fungi that's too large to fit in my sink deserves to be anthropomorphisized)). Shawn wants to slice it up (cooked or uncooked I'm not sure) and freeze it between sheets of parchment paper to make faux veggie burgers.

In my searc(image) h for other things to do with puffballs (full disclosure: I'm still a little freaked out by fungi, and prefer to only it them fresh/same day), I came across Fergus the Forager, who seems like a crazy guy. His adventures include trying to go a whole month on only wild foods.

I'm a big fan of the head-as-scale-indicator; here's Emma doing the honors.

Prince's Farewell Dins


Prince heads back to Ghana tomorrow, so this was our last chance to serve him our "interesting" food, hopefully with a hint of the more familiar, from Shawn's recipe collection. Prince, we'll miss you!

(image) If you feel guilty about the long cook time, you could steam veggies for freezing over the pot while you wait--just be sure to stir once in a while.

Sukuma wiki, vegetarian style

1 large onion
2-3 bunches of kale, stems removed and chopped finely
1 bunch collards, dittoed (or use extra kale)
1-2 bunches cilantro, chopped finely
2-4 medium tomatoes, chopped
salt, pepper

Saute onion in a small amount of oil. When translucent, add kale and collards with a small amount of water to prevent burning. Chop cilantro and add to kale. Cook for roughly 2 hours on low heat--the greens will release water as they cook, but early on be sure to stir to keep it from sticking/burning. Cook until all the water is evaporated, then add chopped tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 45 minutes, or until most of the new tomato liquid has evaporated.

Recipe for the Groundnut Stew here.

Bread & Butter Pickles: Take One


(image) Alright, I'm off the Dr. Seuss kick, but didn't you think that this was a pickle tree? Just for a second? It's where we've been tossing overgrown pickling cucumbers, I like to fancy that they're windfalls. We planted the "National" variety, and they were a wee too prolific for our canning pace. But we tried to catch up with CanningUSA's take on Bread and Butter Pickles. Pretty good.

PPWF September Style


(image) A little behind on skimming out the crock with this batch of sauerkraut. But it's kinda pretty, right? Not as pretty as the colors on these corn leaves...

To support my habit for non-recipe related (barely food related, even) photos, here's some more weird Food Art for y'all. I liked the computer and the watermelon face...


Raspberry Cupcakes


(image) I wasn't going to repeat my berry mistake of earlier this season and try to go savory with raspberries. Nope. Sticking with sweet.

The recipe was based on Jamie from My Baking Addiction's chocolate cupcake with raspberry white chocolate cream cheese frosting. We (er, Emma, mostly) made just a few changes. We added some raspberries to the body of the cupcakes, and we used smashed raspberries(image) instead of raspberry extract to flavor the frosting. I'm guessing about a pint's worth of raspberries, and we didn't bother deseeding (did i ever tell you the story of the crazy guy who came to our booth at the MREA fair and told me that it was a sign of the apocalypse that people were eating seedless grapes and such because in the bible it says that seeded fruits shall be our food? He tied this in nicely with current Monsanto happenings, and it ended up being one of his saner arguments).

Anyway, the first time we made this recipe, I couldn't get over how fluffy the cupcakes were. The second time I liked them less. Just a warning.


Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This...


(image) The gardens look so serene from above. From below?

(image) (image) at least these guys are gone...

Need a hit of Shirelles? I do...

Mil Town Markets


(image) Had the chance to accompany Tim Huth of Lotfotl Community Farm fame** to his weekend farmer's market in Milwaukee. Just wanted to post some pics of his pretty produce and throw up some links.

Milwaukee has a happening local food, community garden, urban ag, and food justice scene. Home to Growing Power and Fondy Food Center, this year it was the site of the Growing Food and Justice for All Intiative's first gathering. And that's just off the top of my head.
If you're looking to join up with a CSA, the Urban Ecology Center holds a CSA open house in March where you can get details and meet growers.

**not exaggerating. Check these articles in Midwest Airlines magazine and on Midwest Renaissance.

Does Honey Rot Your Teeth?


(image) Sadly, the answer is yea. But maybe not! I tend to
ascribe mystical properties to honey--most of it deserved--and thinking of it as a simple sugar just never quite fit with that. Not that a little tooth rot is enough to unbalance all the wonderful things that honey does do. And the answer may be "depends on the honey", according to this admittedly somewhat crazy site.

(image) With beeman Dan we extracted over 60 supers of honey, for a whopping total of nearly 2800 pounds of the stuff. And I saw the white foam for the first time.

I'm not sure how to explain it--think melted marshmallow, maybe? Or marshmallow fluff, if you've had that stuff. If you open a jar of honey and there's a thin layer of the stuff you can be sure that it wasn't pasteurized. I'm not sure what it is--scraps of propolis? Air bubbles caused by the extraction process? All I know is that I love the foam. Sweet and light in flavor, puffy in consistency, mmmm. I filled a jar of just foam when it reached the bottom of the tank.

PPWF, repetitive version


Some of these are repeats, but some are new: Youtube Stills of Food Art


Eggplant for Haters?


(image) Yea, I basically hate eggplant. Have I admitted this already? I had a bad experience once and it blocked out any good times I'd had previously with this nightshade fruit. I'm fine with excluding it from my diet, it was never a big part. But I liked these photos--pretty amazing how similar the colors are, between this Rosa Bianca and red garlic, right? So I typed "eggplant haters support group" into Google (no joke), and found Eggplant for Haters, a recipe by Nonlinear Girl.

I'm intrigued (though not that down with the racism-food aversion analogy). Haven't had a chance to try it, it requires somew(image) hat fancy ingredients (dark sesame oil, rice wine), but I'm determined to give it a go. Well, maybe next eggplant season. Her tip is that Chinese eggplant, the one that looks like a purple zucchini, is a more likeable version than the rounded, dark purple American or Globe eggplant.

Kale Soup, Kale Soup for Dr. Seuss


(image) Alright, level with me: are these whimsical blog post titles making you lose your appetite? Because I swear this one was totally deserved--the brassica garden looked like it jumped off the lovable Dr.'s page, and I took a break from weeding to imagine being miniature and wandering around under these knobby, slightly goofy-looking trees. Then I took another break to photograph them (no wonder there are so many weeds!).

(image) Above: Brussels Sprout Palms (lower leaves removed to allow sprouts to get nice and big). Left: Kale "trees" within the asparagus forest--don't mind the weeds!