Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas baking

I think I'm almost done (pant, pant). So far I've churned out:

10 pounds of apricot cherry granola (for teachers)

2 of these amazing boozy fruit cakes (no nasty fluorescence in them--more like really good trail mix, soaked in rum and bound together with a minimal amount of flour/sugar/eggs and some spices. I swapped out dried blueberries for dates and added lots more pecans.)

a batch of espresso chocolate chunk (substituted dark brown sugar for the light and hand-chopped 70% chocolate which makes for nice non-uniform bits and blobs)

a batch of currant ginger shortbread

a batch of almond orange biscotti

and a batch of slightly altered Italian wedding cookies (recipe below) (pecans instead of almonds, some orange zest and orange flower water mixed in).

You would never know from this list that I don't really have much of a sweet tooth...

Italian Wedding Cookies
(sort of)

2/3 C of pecans
1 C unsalted butter
1/4 C powdered sugar (plus 1/2 - 1 C more for rolling and dusting the cookies with after baking)
1 t vanilla extract
3 t orange blossom water
zest of two oranges
2 C all purpose-flour
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Toast nuts: toss nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes. They should smell good and, you know, nutty. Cool completely.

Take half the cooled nuts and put them in a food processor with 2 T of flour. Pulse until they are finely ground. Add the rest of the nuts and pulse a couple of times to just chop them.

In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract, orange blossom water and orange zest. Add the rest of the four and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate dough until firm (about an hour).

Form dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are brown around the edges. Remove and cool.

Put about 1/4 C of powdered sugar in a plate then put the cooled cookies on top of the sugar. You can then roll them around or (as I prefer) sift the rest of the sugar over the tops.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

books books books books

It's getting close to the time of year when I start to think about gifting books so I was perusing my 2011 books read list and trying to decide which were the clear winners.  I came up with 6 total.

For YA readers (particularly girls because the main characters are so terrific) and adults who like YA:
Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Blood Red Road by Moira Young

For adult readers (who won't/don't read YA):
Percival's Planet by Michael Beyers
A State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Some of these are no surprise. A State of Wonder is already showing up on lots of people's/publications' best of lists and Chime was nominated for the National Book Award.

Any clear winners on your lists? I'm always on the look-out for the next wonderful book.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 20

Top row: bag of baby lettuce, bag of spinach, three onions, two sweet potatoes, garlic, carrots, broccoli rabe
Middle row: melon, dumpling squash, delicata squash, red potatoes, hot peppers
Bottom row: arugula, shitake mushrooms, broccoli florets, sorrel, green beans, turnips and greens

Brian just left town for a week which is crummy timing for the last share. So some of this will get blanched and frozen and some of the stuff that will last like potatoes and squash will be set aside until my dinner (and life) partner returns.  I eat a lot of vegetable, but even so, I think I'd have to be eating round the clock to consume all this myself before it starts to spoil.

Menu plan:
  • peanut sauce with brown rice, tofu and steamed vegetables: broccoli, beans, carrots, sweet potato and spinach
  • salad w/arugula, lettuce, and carrots for lunch through the week 
  • scrambled eggs with shitake and sorrel, whole grain toast
  • broccoli rabe, turnip greens and some of the green beans will be blanched and frozen
  • sweet dumpling squash will be stuffed and baked with quinoa, feta, walnuts, scallions and dried cranberries, served with either steamed broccoli or green beans
  • spinach will be blanched then sauteed with plenty of garlic and used to top cheese ravioli

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 19

Top row: spaghetti squash, bag of baby lettuces, kale, beet greens, turnips and greens
Middle row: delicata squash, hot peppers, onion, sweet potatoes
Bottom row: fingerling potatoes, tatsoi, carrots, green and yellow beans, eggplan, radishes

Menu plan:
  • roasted chicken thighs with roasted delicata squash, braised turnips and salad with lettuce, radishes and carrots
  • calzones with blanched kale, turkey sausage, ricotta
  • Spaghetti squash with Indian Spices, daal, rice, and turnip and radish greens cooked up saag style.
  • sweet potato coconut soup (recipe below)
  • there will probably be a stir fry in there somewhere to use the tatsoi, green and yellow beans and hot peppers.
  • no plans yet for the eggplant or beet greens; the fingerlings won't spoil so I'll wait for a chilly day to roast them. It's too beautiful outside right now to crave roasted potatoes.

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

Relish (This is not an extra, but a must)
1 T oil (use coconut oil if you have it)
1 T butter (or more coconut oil)
1/8 t red pepper flakes
1 or 2 sweet potatoes (med to large), peeled and diced small
¼ fresh chopped cilantro

1.5 T oil
1 small red or yellow onion chopped
2 t grated fresh ginger
1/8 t red pepper flakes
3.5 cups vegetable broth
1.5 sweet potatoes (med to large), peeled and diced large
1 can coconut milk
2 T honey
¼ t cinnamon

For relish: Heat oil and butter over medium heat, add red pepper flakes heat for 10 seconds. Add the
diced sweet potato, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, COVERED, stirring occasionally until softened, about 15 minutes. Uncover, increase heat and cook until potatoes are golden brown, another 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mix with cilantro.

For soup: Heat oil over medium heat, add ginger and onion, cook until soft (about five minutes), and
add red pepper flakes. Add broth, bring to a boil and then add sweet potatoes, bring to a simmer
and cook until soft (20 to 30 minutes). Blend soup until smooth. Simmer over low heat.
Whisk in coconut milk, honey and cinnamon. Cook until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup with a large spoonful of the relish on top.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 17

Top row: Basil, radishes, onions, broccoli rabe?, Italian kale
Bottom row: purple potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, purple and yellow beans, salad mix, tomatoes, sorrel

Maybe I'm just feeling curmudgeonly but for this time of year, this week and last week's shares have seemed smaller than I'd expect. Two tomatoes? That's it? Isn't September tomato bounty time in Michigan? It's a good thing I'm not trying to provide vegetables for 4 humans since my kids remain ridiculously picky and will just nibble the occasional carrot or cucumber slice. But even so, there isn't enough there to last a week.

Here's the (grumpy) menu plan:

  • That's supposed to be  broccoli rabe (according to the Tantre share email) but it looks a lot more like turnip greens to me... I haven't made spanikopita since spring so I'll probably use the rabe/turnip greens, radish greens and maybe the kale too to make one.
  • Roasted vegetables: butternut squash, purple potatoes, onion and garlic. Maybe topped with feta and maybe accompanied by a roast chicken (if I'm up to wrestling a raw chicken into submission).
  • Salad with salad mix, tomatoes, carrots and radishes, hard cooked eggs, blanched purple and yellow beans and some tuna.
  • Thai chicken with basil (from this general recipe) with lots of purple and yellow beans added to the mix. Rice on the side.
And that about does it for the week...really, only four meals? 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 15

Top row: basil bush, broccoli crowns, curly kale, eggplant, 2 heads garlic, thyme bunch, watermelon, potatoes
Bottom row: tomatoes, hot peppers, cabbage, red peppers, lettuce, purple beans, purple onions, cucumber
(Sorry for the crummy exposure--it's a gloomy day here so no daylight to help illuminated the right side of the photo.)

Menu plan:
  • Potatoes, some of the purple beans and garlic will go into this potato green bean salad with lemon miso dressing.
  • A little bit of the thyme and some more garlic will go into this Magic Sauce recipe which sounds like it can boost up any number of dishes.
  • I'll make some pizza dough and top it with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, thymered onions and some eggplant that I'll thin slice and pre-cooked a little. Serve it with lettuce/shredded cabbage/red pepper salad.
  • Some more of the purple beans, cabbage, red pepper, garlic, a hot pepper and basil will go into the old standby Thai-style noodles, with cucumber and red onion salad on the side.
  • There isn't quite enough broccoli to make the garlic sesame cured broccoli salad so I'll stretch out the recipe with some shredded cabbage and red pepper, maybe some kale too. Sounds like that would go well with a dinner of roast chicken.
I also bought a peck of peach seconds and plan to make a big old peach pie and freeze the rest for peach pie in the depths of winter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thai noodles and cucumber salad

I'm finally getting around to posting this thai noodle recipe, which I have adapted from a recipe that Ruth Reichl posted on her blog. The version shown in the photos below is from a couple of weeks ago. 

First soak your noodles:

You need 8 oz of rice noodles. I usually make them with this width, but sometimes go with wider ones. I cover them with hot tap water and let them soften (usually for about 1/2 hour) while I'm prepping the other ingredients.

Might as well make your side dish now too. Use a mandoline to thin slice a cucumber (peel and seed if necessary). Then thin slice about 1/2 of a small or a 1/4 of a large onion (red is pretty, but white or yellow onions work fine.) Chop up a little cilantro and toss it all together in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of rice vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and sugar. After it has sat for a while, taste a slice and adjust seasoning. Pop in the fridge to chill while you're cooking.

Next comes noodle ingredient prep. I usually start with the sauce:
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 c of white or brown sugar, 1/4 c of fish sauce, 1/4 c rice (or white) vinegar and 2 T of black soy sauce (you can skip this if you want--black soy sauce is almost like a salty molasses so it gives and extra sweet/salty kick). Set aside.

Next prep your first round of add ins: these are the vegetables and stuff you want to have cooked, not merely warmed up. This is also where you get to add lots of variation. I also like to make this with green beans, scallions (the white part here, the greens added at the end), red peppers, sweet potato leaves, kale, etc.  If you are ok with shell fish you can add some fresh shrimp instead of the tofu.
1/4-1/2 lb tofu cubed, green peppers, shredded cabbage, thin sliced carrots, sliced onion. There are probably around 3 cups of vegetables plus the tofu here.

Next prep your other stuff. Again, there are a few standards (1/4 c chopped peanuts, 2 limes, 2 cloves of pressed garlic) and room for additions. This week I was just chucking in some basil leaves at the end, but other weeks I've added spinach, bean sprouts, scallion greens, cilantro etc. to this phase.

Put a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok, heat it up and add your garlic and 1/2 lb ground meat--I use pork or turkey and both turn out well.
When the meant is no longer pink, add the onions (or white parts of the scallions) and the tofu. Continue to stir fry until the meat starts to brown a little. This is also a good time to add dried red pepper flakes if you want it spicy (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon).
Drain your noodles and dump them in the wok, use a spatula to scrape your sauce ingredients over the noodles and toss while they cook so that the noodles absorb the sauce.
When the sauce is about 1/2 way absorbed, add the vegetables that need some cooking. If you want egg in your noodles (I didn't use egg this week), this is also a good time to make a little space in the wok and crack in an egg or two. Let them cook a little, then scramble with your tongs and toss with the rest when they are firm.

When the sauce has been absorbed and the vegetables sufficiently cooked, add your final ingredients: chopped peanuts, fresh herbs, scallion greens and bean sprouts, if you are using them, and squeeze the two limes over the top.
Give it all a good toss and serve in bowls with a portion of cucumber salad on the side and some sriracha sauce if you like it spicy.

Tantre Farm Share, week 13

Top zone: pint of cherry tomatoes, quart of red potatoes, 4 heirloom tomatoes, leaf lettuce, parsley, melon
Bottom zone: green and wax beans, 4 red peppers, sweet potato leaves, red and yellow onions, hot peppers, kale, 3 cucumbers, two ears of corn, 2 huge shitake mushrooms 
(not pictured: a basil bush)

We're heading out of town for a week so the following will come with us to be prepared very simply in a cabin kitchen: kale, onions, melon, red potatoes, one or two of the firmer tomatoes

Here's the plan for the other stuff:
  • red and hot peppers will get roasted and jarred in a garlic/vinegar/olive oil mixture. 
  • green beans, sweet potato leaves, shitakes and some basil will get made into thai noodles (recipe in the next post, really!) with cucumber salad
  • lettuce, tomatoes, parsley and remaining cucumbers will make a simple salad, and corn will just be enjoyed on the cob with a nob of butter, as sides with something basic like turkey burgers or grilled chicken thighs.
  • cherry tomatoes just for snacking!
  • more pesto for freezing to get us through the dark winter months.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 12

Gaps and delays: we were out of town for week 11 and this week picked up our share on Saturday rather than Wednesday. Gotta get eating since our next share pick up is this coming Wednesday!

I present to you, the star of the show:
Shitake and oyster mushrooms

Also in the share: Collards, sweet potato leaves, red and yellow onions, red potatoes, garlic, green beans, 2 red peppers, eggplant, poblano, jalapeno and shishito peppers, summer squash, 4 cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes (2 huge, one more normal sized), cherry tomatoes, basil bush, sorrel

Menu plan:
  • Fish in a packet with some sweet potato leaves, summer squash, onion, red pepper, cherry tomatoes and feta
  • sauteed mushrooms with garlic for breakfast, served with soft scrambled eggs with sorrel and Ed's Bread multigrain toast
  • green beans (and basil and jalapeno) with tofu and nuoc cham
  • some pesto for freezing
  • roasted eggplant salad with red and poblano pepper, basil, garlic and feta
  • baked potatoes, chicken thighs on the grill, collard greens braised with garlic, onion and apple cider vinegar, and tomato salad
  • sesame cucumber salad, to be combined with tofu and brown rice (and maybe a few stir fried sweet potato leaves if there are any left) for a quick rice bowl lunch or just snacked on when the urge hits

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 10

Top row: 1 quart yukon gold potatoes, swiss chard, green pepper, carrots, lettuce, garlic, eggplant, two (huge) stems of basil
Bottom row: sumer squash, red russian kale, beets, cucumbers, onion, shishito peppers
not pictured: 1 quart red new potatoes 

Menu plan:

  • Tonight I'm going to make a vegetable stew (sort of like a ratatouille but without tomatoes) with eggplant, basil, onion, garlic, a couple of shishito peppers and the big summer squash, maybe a couple of potatoes too if I feel like making it thicker. I'll grate some pecorino over it at the end and serve with baguette. I wish I had some good marinated olives to go with it, but I'm too lazy to go out to the store today.
  • Pasta with a kale/fresh rosemary/garlic/walnut/feta sauce
  • One cucumber will be diced and mixed into drained plain yogurt with some crushed garlic, salt and pepper. I can eat this by the bowlful on its own but will probably make some of Fiona's favorite lamb patties to go with it, make a simple beet vinaigrette salad and serve it all with fresh pita.
  • Some of the potatoes, the three small summer squash and some basil will go into this gratin. I made a half-sized recipe of this with some of the extra squash last week and Brian and I almost licked the pan out. I'll probably just saute up the chard with garlic as a side dish and make some sort of simple meat protein (chicken breasts or pork tenderloin) to serve with it.
  • Brian is off on a work trip for most of the week so that calls for one cucumber to go into a single girl's rice bowl (while I make something bland and boring for the critters).
  • Lettuce, carrotscucumber and green pepper will become basic salad. If we're in need of a main course I might boil up some potatoes, hard cook and egg or two and open a can of tuna in olive oil and make it into a big main course salad.
  • I haven't decided what to do with the other shishito peppers yet. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 9

Whoo hoo! I found the camera again. It was not, as suspected, buried in the boy-critter's sty of a room (though I am ardently hoping that his missing iPod is in there somewhere). I found it at the bottom of my purse, having been dislodged from its case due to the girl-critter's energetic scrounging for gum, so I can still blame my kids for its disappearance.

Top row: cabbage, lettuce, kale, sorrel, leeks, basil
Middle row: garlic, summer squash and zucchini
Bottom row: green beans, carrots, onion, 8 more cucumbers, tongues of fire shelling beans, 2 quarts of new potatoes

Menu plan:
  • Tongues of fire shelling beans will be cooked up with some garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Then the kale will get added in. When ready to serve, I'll put them in deep bowls, squeeze in some lemon, shred a lot of parmesan on top, drizzle with good olive oil and serve with crusty bread and a glass of red wine. This is a meal I look forward to all year.
  • It's another week of crazy cucumber bounty and I have a couple of new recipes to share that I tried out last week and loved (linked to below this menu plan). One is for a crazy refreshing cucumber-lime-mint agua fresca and the other is for sichuan cucumber salad. That'll use up about 3 or 4 of the 8. I'm sure one will get sliced up in salads, another will get sliced thin and put on my favorite sandwich (tuna and mayo with cucumber on a baguette) and another one or two will get consumed in the beer snack. And I might gift one if I'm feeling overwhelmed at the end of all that.
  • I have a poblano pepper in the house that I'll roast and add to the summer squash, zucchini and onion for calabacitas. I'm thinking I'll add some corn, cooked and cut off the cob, at the end to make it a little more exciting. I'll probably serve it with some sort of tacos, maybe pinto beans and pork, since the kids will eat tacos without a fuss and that is not something I can say about most of the food I make.
  • Green beans, carrots, cabbage, garlic, onion and some basil will go into thai noodles, which I just realized I've been blabbing about repeatedly (since I make it almost once a week) and have yet to post the recipe. I'll take a picture and rectify that here soon.
  • I doubt that Brian will ever taste the sorrel that comes from our share because, yep, I've already eaten it in an omelet. I think a sorrel, feta or goat cheese and chive omelet might be my favorite of all time. Maybe sometime I'll be generous and share one with him...or maybe not!
  • Not sure what to do with all the potatoes, but at least they don't rot right away so I have a little time to figure it out. Last week I boiled some as a dinner side and just drizzled olive oil, snipped fresh chives over the top and sprinkled them with fleur de sel and they were pretty delicious that way. Of course the leeks and potatoes obviously call for vichyssoise but for some reason I love it when other people make this for me, but have never appreciated it as much when I make it myself... 

And now, two things to do with all those cucumbers:

It looks green and frothy and a lot like a pitcher of pond scum. But it isn't.

This stuff is pretty intense, but amazingly good after you've been out working in the yard in the hot sun. Rather than add the ice cubes to the pitcher as they recommend in the recipe, I fill up a glass with ice and consume the stuff a glass at a time. Ice is essential to dilute the intensity.

I don't have a photo of the sichuan cucumbers, but there's a picture here where I got the recipe. I love the lip and tongue tingling effect of sichuan peppercorns and served this with dan dan noodles so it was a double dose of numb. And very tasty too!

(The following has nothing to do with cucumbers.)
 Paddy's favorite mode of transport. I think he might be part kangaroo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 8

Grrrrr....the camera is missing again! Probably buried in the sty that is my boy-critter's room.

So I can't (yet) show you the pile of 8, yes 8, cucumbers that were a part of this week's share. Question: what enjoyes the 105 degree heat index days we're having? Answer: cucumbers.

Today's day of summer fun with the critters will involve the three of us cleaning all the horizontal surfaces in the house. In most rooms this involves desks/tables/shelves. But in the boy critter's it involves the entire damn floor. Good thing he has a small room.

Isn't summer fun? (Yesterday I took the critters and two of their friends to the water park for the whole day so you know what? They owe me. I am not a nice enough mom to do that without considering the future targeted use of guilt in the negotiation process when they inevitably gripe about cleaning the house all day today. But wait! We'll take a couple of fun breaks to go get their annual physicals from the pediatrician and to get the boy critter a hair cut! Whoopee!)


If I unearth the camera from the crap I'll post a picture here. Meanwhile, here's a list of what was in the box: beets and greens, rainbow chard, new potatoes, basil, green and wax beans, two heads of lettuce, a big onion, head of garlic, cilantro, cabbage, 4 summer squash and yes, 8 cucumbers.

And here's my plan:

  • summer squash, beans, garlic and basil will go into one of my favorite dishes: (pretty much any vegetable) topped with sauce vert.
  • cabbage, onion and cilantro will go into Alice Water's coleslaw.
  • some more of the beans (there are a lot of beans) and some basil will go into one of my favorite stinking-hot-day lunchtime salads: green beans and tofu with nuoc cham.
  • All those cukes call for regular evening consumption of the Vietnamese beer snack with an ice cold homebrew.
  • If we don't eat all the cucumbers that way, I'll make a batch of tarragon bread and butter refrigerator pickles (unlike the kind of bread and butter pickles that I make and can, these are good with regular rather than kirby cukes). Excellent with a turkey burger and some corn on the cob.
  • I'll make some lemon-dill potato salad with the new potatoes and some of the sweet onion. (No real recipe for that: lots of lemon juice and dill, sliced raw onion, salt and pepper and olive oil tossed with the cooked and cooled new potatoes.)
  • I'm looking for something new and interesting to do with the chard and beet greens.  I'm not turning on the oven with the weather being what it is, so baked gratin and quiche-like preparations are out. Simply Recipes has a stove top preparations that sounds promising: Sauteed Swiss Chard with mustard seeds that also uses some shallots. I just so happen to have harvested a load of shallots from my garden and was looking for something to do with them other than my regular use of mincing one small shallot to put in a bottle of vinaigrette. So I'm thinking the chard dish will trigger an Indian dinner with raita (using another of those bountiful cukes), some daal and rice. So far that's my plan but drop me a line if you have a great chard recipe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 7

Top row: baby oak-leaf lettuce, beets and greens, head of lettuce, onion, garlic, rainbow chard
Bottom row: sorrel, cabbage, zucchini and summer squash, green and yellow beans, cucumber, new potatoes

Menu plan:
  • The sorrel is already gone, having disappeared into a wonderful omelet with feta cheese shortly after coming through my door.
  • Tonight we'll have a Nicoise-ish salade compose with new potatoes, beans, beetscucumber, lettuce, radishes, hard boiled egg and tuna.
  • The chard and beet greens will get sauteed and drizzled with some of the leftover chili vinaigrette that I still have in the fridge from a couple of weeks ago, and topped with either goat cheese or feta.
  • The cabbage will become coleslaw. The rest of the potatoes and and some of the (huge) onion will become potato salad and we'll serve them with some grilled chicken thighs and corn on the cob. Sometimes it's fun to have traditional summer picnic fare.
  • The zucchini and summer squash, along with more of the beans, some onion, any cabbage that might be left from the cole slaw and tofu will get steamed, put on a bed of rice and topped with peanut sauce.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 5

Sorry no photo (again). A certain newly minted 11-year-old borrowed my camera to make a stop motion video with his friend and now we can't find the thing...he's upstairs cleaning his room right now so there is hope it will be excavated soon.

This weeks share:
small bunch of bok choi, head of garlic, summer onions, bag of fava beans, bag of small lettuces, one big head of lettuce, big bunch of beets and greens, haruki turnips and greens, collard greens, chives

Menu plan:
We're going out of town next week so I'm kind of relieved that the share is a bit small this week.

  • bok choi, garlic, and onions will go into Asain noodles (with some ground turkey, tofu, shredded carrot, peanuts, etc.)
  • turnip greens and collards will get braised together with some more garlic. Since my kids are out of school and not at camp this week and keep asking for homemade mac and cheese for lunch--guess what they are going to learn out to make? I love homemade mac and cheese with braised greens and lots of hot pepper vinegar.
  • Salad (duh). Even after eating salad twice a day because of last week's lettuce bounty, I'm still happy to have more salad, though I don't know if we'll finish all the lettuce before leaving.  I'll probably make a chive and sherry vinegar dressing.
  • favas and beet greens will get sauteed with a few summer onions and tossed with hot pasta and goat cheese. If there are any chives left, they'll go in there too.
  • Not sure of any plan for the beets (once I cut off their greens though, they can stay good for a few weeks so I might save them for later) or turnips, yet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 4

I think this is the week to try making lettuce soup.

You're going to have to trust me on the bounty because blogger is being persnickity about uploading my photo of this week's share. You can see it here on flickr if you're really interested. About a quarter of my dining room table is taken up with lettuce: three HUGE heads, two green, one red, of leaf lettuce and a big bag of more young green leaf lettuces. Seriously, one of the green heads weighed in at 1 lb 5 oz...

Also included in the share:
a little bunch of cilantro, a quart of strawberries, a bunch of rainbow chard, a bunch of haruki turnips and greens, a small bunch of asparagus, a large bunch of summer onions (sort of like scallions on steroids), large quantity of garlic scapes and a bag of snap peas.

Menu plan:

  • Lettuce soup. There are a ton of recipes for this on the web. I'll probably go with a version that uses a lot of scallions and chicken broth and a little bit of potato to give it some heft. Then some creme fraiche and sauteed garlic scapes to top it. Maybe a little cilantro too if it fits the flavor profile, other wise I have some tarragon out back that I think would be good.
  • Speaking of sauteed garlic scapes: most mornings I'm sautéing up a couple in a little olive oil and then making an omelet with them and feta and a couple of dashes of Clancy's Fancy
  • Any remaining garlic scapes will be processed into pesto and frozen for the winter.
  • I love snap pea's sauteed in a little butter and finished with chopped mint, black pepper and a little sea salt. Brian will have to fight me for them.
  • Yea! Chard! I've been hankering to make the beet/chard/chile/goat cheese combo again, though I'm craving chard as the star of the show and fewer beets (since I only have a couple in the fridge). If there's any cilantro left by then, I'll probably chop up a little as a garnish.
  • Turnips, greens and asparagus sound like a good combo for a sauteed side dish for something meaty--pork tenderloin maybe?
  • And, of course, salad. Lots and lots of salad. And if we eat all the salad we can and still have lettuce left, I might try this lettuce sauce which sounds like it would be good with poached salmon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 3

Top row: Red Russian kale, big head of lettuce, bag of small lettuces
Bottom row: scallions, lots of garlic scapes, strawberries, black stemmed peppermint, English peas, haruki turnips

It's kind of a small share this week--good thing I only have to feed two people since my critters still only tentatively nibble the occasional piece of lettuce or a few peas. I was hoping for another load of spinach because I have a hankering to make Indian food and saag is one of my favorite dishes. Ah well, it'll have to wait until another week!

  • The kale will get cooked up with garlic and olive oil and combined with cannelini beans, rosemary and parmesan, served with baguette. Beans n' greens Italian style.
  • I'll make a big batch of garlic scape pesto to freeze.
  • Scallions, lettuce and peas will go into another round of Larb Mu (recipe below).
  • The rest of the scallions will probably go into a korean pancake and I'll simmer the turnips with some mirin and soy sauce to serve with them. If I get really motivated I'll stir fry the turnip greens with some tofu and kim chi we'll have a multi course feast!
  • It's been cool in the evenings so I'll have the peppermint tea hot--good post dinner beverage.
  • No reason to do anything with the strawberries but rinse and eat!

Larb Mu (Thai pork salad)
Traditionally this is served with whole lettuce leaves that you use to wrap up a portion of the seasoned meat. My lazy version has you make a big salad for each person and top it with the meat. It makes it a fast week-night meal instead of something I would only take the time to do occasionally.

1 lb ground pork (or turkey)
1 T peanut oil
3 T uncooked jasmine rice
1 T fish sauce
1-2 t sriracha sauce
1 t sugar
juice from 1 lime
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 scallions, chopped
1 head of lettuce, washed and torn
1 C of shredded cabbage
1/2 cucumber, sliced thin
3 or 4 radishes, sliced thin (optional)
fresh peas or pea pods (optional)
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thing (optional)
small bunch of cilantro, chopped
small bunch of mint, chopped
small bunch of thai (or regular) basil, (optional), chopped

In a small skillet, toast the uncooked rice, stirring so it doesn't burn. It should turn golden brown and have a nutty smell. Grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice or coffee grinder. (If this step sounds like too much of a pain, I've made this salad without the toasted rice powder and thought it was still pretty terrific though I'm sure some people think that it is essential to the dish.)

In a big bowl mix together the fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, lime juice, shallot, and scallions and set aside.

In a big skillet or wok heat the peanut oil and cook the pork (or turkey) until it isn't pink. Crumble it while cooking so it doesn't clump up. Dump the cooked meat into the bowl with the sauce and toss it around a little. Sprinkle in the rice powder.

On plates make a pile of lettuce, top with the chopped/shredded vegetables of your choice. Then place a generous portion of the meat mixture on top. Sprinkle with plenty of the herbs and serve.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tantre Farm Share, week 2

Top row: Red Russian kale, radishes, garlic scapes, spinach, asparagus, komatsuna (spinach mustard)
Bottom row: haruki turnips, 4 heads of lettuce, black stemmed peppermint, scallions

Menu plan:
  • The garlic scapes will go into garlic scape pesto which has become far and away my favorite pesto. I'll toss it with some pasta and the asparagus and the turnip greens which get chucked into the pasta water for the last minute or so of cooking.
  • I'm thinking of using the kale in this kale salad with toasted coconut, probably with quinoa instead of farro since my better half has requested that we go gluten-free for a while.
  • The radishes will get turned into quick ginger radish pickles.
  • I love the haruki turnips so much but will try and not be a selfish cow. I'm tempted to eat them all for lunch today, but Brian loves them too. They'll probably get braised with a little butter and some poppy seeds. 
  • The komatsuna and spinach will be stir fried with ground turkey, shallots, fish sauce, lime and scallions and then plopped on top of a bed of lettuce to make a bastardized version of Thai pork salad (Larb Mu).
  • Any remaining lettuce and scallions will go into green salads for lunches for the week.
  • The black stemmed peppermint will be made into the most refreshing iced tea ever which will be good for these crazy 90 degree days we're having now.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Well hello there! (aka Tantre Farm Share, week 1)

After blogging for 5+ years, I needed a little break.  For the last few months when I thought of blogging I felt tired. And frankly my life was going relatively smoothly, but there weren't a whole lot of interesting things to write about. We all were just plugging along, getting stuff done without a whole lot of drama.

I thought about shutting down the blog, I thought about starting a new one with a more accurate name since the things I was obsessed with 5+ years ago have shifted and changed but coming up with a blog name that encompassed cooking, reading and writing YA fiction, house renovation, and the occasional parenting fiasco was too high a hurdle. Something like "Ephemera" sounded a little too snooty. "Aggle Flaggle" would be accurate for the mental nonsense realm, but hard to spell. So here we are! Back in the same old place.

This morning I picked up my farm share this morning and there is nothing like a big box of beautiful organic produce to reinvigorate my urge to share.  If you were wondering what would possibly grow in the crazy amount of rain we've been getting, I have the answer: spinach! Lots and lots of spinach.

Top row: 4 huge bunches of spinach, tatsoi, scallions, asparagus
Bottom row: chives and blossoms, spicy greens mix, red russian kale, 2 green leaf lettuces, radishes and some over-wintered fingerling potatoes.

And here's the plan:

  • The asparagus is already gone. I couldn't resist; before I even finished unpacking the box I had a pot of water on to boil so I could make this for my lunch:

asparagus topped with a poached egg, olive oil, shards of parmesan, chive flowers, fleur de sel, black pepper and lemon juice.  Oh my was it tasty!
  • With all that spinach (and some of the scallions) how could I not make spanikopita? Besides I have some left-over grilled leg of lamb and yogurt cucumber salad that will be so good with it.
  • The tatsoi and some more scallions will get the thai noodle treatment with a little ground pork and tofu.
  • I'm going to make some homemade blue cheese dressing for a salad with the lettuce, radishes and chives. It'll probably go with something simple like turkey burgers.
  • That leaves me with kale, spicy greens mix and potatoes so I might try to combine them into some sort of gratin with gruyere, if the weather is conducive to turning on the oven. If it is hot and  that sounds dopey then the greens will just get the classic garlic, olive oil and lemon treatment.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Villain Work

I'm within three chapters of finishing my first draft (and they aren't even big chapters) but I've been fighting and fighting with them and recently realized that I can't write them without believing in my present bad guy more than I do.

So I'm backing off from the chapters and doing some villain work.

The villain is the main problem I'm facing, but working on him also made me realize that I need to make some other characters in the book less pleasant--there are too many nice people right now. I think this is a result of me being in my winter mode and wishfully writing what I'd like to be surrounded by, as though crafting nasty characters is just too hard for my brain in the midst of the dark and cold days.  I can imagine a sunny, warm day, sitting out on the deck and having a great time writing a really despicable character. But right now, when I feel the world is not an overly easy place to live in I'm doing a much better job crafting the kind characters--I've developed a sibling relationship that was a little thin and have filled in some of the (pleasant) background characters. But if I want to finish the draft, I'm going to have to get over the niceness hump* and write the meanies.

So I went out and bought a bag full of out-of-season non-local fruit: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and kiwis. Maybe I can trick my brain into summer mode for a short while, just long enough for me to crank out some really nasty characters to make my book more interesting.

And if you have any great villains you think I should keep in mind, please let me know!

*The niceness thing does not apply to me. I am not nice to be around now. In fact the best I can do is resolve not to be as unpleasant this February as I was last year. That's hard enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting weepy on the stairmaster

I was at the gym the other night stomping away on the stairmaster when all of a sudden everything got sort of blurry. No, I wasn't going so fast that the machine was smoking (ha!), nor was my vision deteriorating more than its already crappy state; I was reading the final chapters of the wonderful book Plain Kate by Erin Bow and my eyes were responding appropriately.

This is a wonderful book. The story is about a young girl and is set in a vaguely Russian-ish land with prominent characters who are members of a traveling Roma family. The story has elements of magic and mystery, but primarily it is about loneliness and belonging.

None of the characters are simple--almost all of them have been deeply hurt by the world--and none of their feelings are simple. The best example is the villain of the piece, who I absolutely hated for preying on Kate at times, and for whom I felt a deep sympathy for his suffering at others. Kate is also unsure what to feel or think about him: fear? pity? friend? enemy?  There's no simple way to render a character who steals from Kate but also saves her, and I loved this complexity.

You'd think that with such layered characters the book would be long and it would take a lot of text to convey such complicated feelings and characters. But there is a remarkable economy to the language--it is lyrical, yet spare. It didn't feel like there were any extraneous words in the book. By comparison, most other books (many of which I also enjoy) seem downright sloppy.

And I challenge anyone to read this book and not be thoroughly in love with character of Taggle the cat. Bow has captured the most perfect "cat-ness" of Taggle:

Taggle was absorbed in the meat pie. "It's covered in bread," he huffed. "What fool has covered meat with bread?" He batted at the crust, then sprang back as it broke, and began licking gravy off his paw. "Ooooo," he purred. "Ooooo, good."
"Taggle," gulped Kate, again.
The cat looked up from his licking. "Oh. Well. I could share." He arched his whiskers forward and, like a lord, demonstrated his beneficence by giving away what he didn't want. "There is bread you might like."

The only other fictional animal I can think of that is this perfect, that absolutely captures the appeal of the particular species, is Manchee the dog in Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go (which I mentioned here) whose love for the boy Todd made me cry.

For the writers out there, it was really nice for the author to include the information in the acknowledgments* that it took her six years to write this book. That seems like a perfectly reasonable amount of time in which to create something so perfect and precise. I checked out the author's web site and it looks like her next book will be out in 2012 so (yeah!) we don't have to wait another six years to read it.

And now a word about the cover art: Very pretty but it just doesn't fit. Take a look at the picture at the start of this post. It looks like the girl on the cover is having a lovely time, balancing on the ridgepole of a roof, looking out over a magical town, a gentle breeze making her hair and scarf float out behind her and her cat is prancing in front of her! This lighthearted depiction is the absolute opposite of the one incident in the book when the main character (and the cat) are on a roof. They are in a city that is about to be destroyed and the inhabitants of the city are known to pick scapegoats (like Kate), accuse them of witchcraft and burn them at the stake (so not a friendly, happy place). And by this point in the story Kate has had her hair cut off and been badly burned. She is hunched and tense and clinging to the slates. For example: "The downpour slowed to a cold soaking rain. The steep roofs were slippery, but they didn't dare go into the streets. Men in the dark garb of the city watch roamed in packs and harried the refugees from doorways and alleys. So Drina and Kate stuck to the roofs, inching, sliding, scraping, keeping out of sight. It was slow and exhausting." This cover just doesn't fit this wonderful book.

*Thank you, editor, for putting the acknowledgments at the end! One of my big pet peeves is when they are at the beginning.