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Posts Tagged ‘Eat Local’

This is my last Dark Days post.  I think a few die hards might be going one more week but this will be it for me.  So, I wanted to go out with a bang.  On Saturday at the farmers market I picked up some gorgeous asparagus.

and I got some of these…chanterelles.

I decided to make a savory bread pudding.  There’s a few of these recipes floating around and all winter I had in my head that I’d make a butternut squash one.  That never happened, so this is the spring version.  Because I blew all my cash on those chanterelles, I wasn’t able to get my cheese at the farmers market.  So I stopped by the grocery store on the way home in search of local cheese.  They had an aged, nutty goat cheese from Cypress Grove, which is in Northern California.  I  thought would be lovely.  Except now, I just went to their site to get the name of the cheese, only to learn that this particular cheese is made in Europe for Cypress Grove.  Gahhhh.  If I had known that, I would have just gone for gruyere.  Oh well, it was just four ounces.

This all came together really easily.  Nothing here is too precise and I think it’s fairly hard to screw up.  Just stale bread, a custard batter, cheese, and vegetables.  Simple and hearty.

Asparagus and Mushroom Bread Pudding
Recipe inspired by Epicurious and 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
1 1-pound loaf  bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces.  I used Acme’s pain au levain, an earthy sourdough type of bread.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 shallot, leek, or spring onion, thinly sliced
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk (I used one cup skim and one cup half and half because that’s what was in my fridge)
1-2 cups finely grated cheese, idealy gruyere or some aged, nutty cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

 So warm and hearty and satisfying.  We drank a lovely Sonoma chardonnay with it.  Perfect early spring dinner. 

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Last night was a late night.  We were out celebrating friends’ engagement and I woke up this morning starving.  Granola and yogurt didn’t really cut it, so when I was at the farmers’ market, I went a little crazy.  In my mad frenzy to find things to make the hunger go away, I grabbed some tortillas from Primavera and some raw milk cheddar from Spring Hill Farms.  Primavera makes these amazing white cheddar and pumpkin tamales, so I wanted to try to recreate that flavor.  And I knew from my chorizo and sweet potato tacos that their tortillas were delicious. I had  half a butternut squash in the fridge left over from the coleslaw, so my lunch was sounding pretty good in my head.  Some good looking avocados and citrus fruit were out, so those went into my backpack as well.

To make the quesadillas, I just roasted some 1 inch cubes of butternut squash, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, at 425 for about 25 minutes.  Mashed that up and spread it on a tortilla.  Topped it with some grated cheese and another tortilla and cooked it up in a skillet for a few minutes on each side.

For the salad, I diced an avocado and segmented a pink grapefruit and a blood orange.  Toss those up with a bit of salt and pepper, and lunch was ready.

 

When I was finally able to eat it, I was a happy, happy girl.

 

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This week was unusually hectic and I’ve been feeling uninspired. I’m sure the Dark Days bloggers in more snowy areas are probably rolling their eyes at me right now, but the farmers’ markets right now seem to be having a bit of a seasonal identity crisis.  There’s still a lot of winter squash, apples, and chard, which are starting to bore me.  There’s asparagus and avocados, but there’s no peas or strawberries or rhubarb or other things that signify spring.   I did buy some asparagus last weekend and roasted that to eat with my leftover pork on Monday night.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, very little cooking happened.  There were a couple omelettes and some reheated frozen leftovers.  So, rather than write a post about an omelet, I’m going to write about my delicious restaurant visit on Friday night.

Gather is a new restaurant in Berkeley.   Their vision is very consistent with the values the Dark Days challenge.  The feature local, sustainably grown ingredients and have an entirely local wine list.  According to this piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, even a lot of other locavore-type restaurants eschew local wines for whatever reason, which strikes me as odd, particularly in Northern California, where the local wine is so good.  And they stock an entirely organic bar.

The food was amazing.   I wanted everything on the menu.  My husband and I ended up split three dishes – a “small plate” of squid with black rice, the vegan charcuterie plate, and a  pizza.  It was a ton of food and every bite was delicious.  The vegan charcuterie plate was probably one of the most interesting things I’ve ever eaten – five little creative vegetable spreads, and each was excellent.  My favorites were the celeriac-potato-olive salad and the trio of beets with horseradish.  I liked the latter so much I’d love to track down some fresh horseradish to try to recreate it.  

I was taking pictures on my iPhone and they weren’t coming out, so I gave up with attempts to capture the food.  The rest of the meal was just as great though.  The squid dish was my husband’s favorite – spicy and rich, and it was nice to see squid on a menu and not have it be deep fried.  Finally, the pizza.  It was topped with goat meat, something I had never had before.  It was really good, and I particularly enjoyed the little bit of fresh mint that was sprinkled across it, which really brightened up an otherwise earthy dish.   All and all, a pretty spectacular meal. 

And, I feel inspired to do more local cooking now and finish out the last few weeks of the challenge.

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This week, I prepared another piece of meat from my meat CSA through Marin Sun Farms – a boneless leg of pork.  Not something I’ve ever eaten before, as apparently the vast majority of this cut goes to making hams.    There wasn’t even any useful instructions in the Joy of Cooking.  The series of tubes to the rescue! I discovered that it’s about 30 minutes at 350 for every pound, until it hits around 160.  Easy peasy.

I marinated it in this marinade from the December 2008 Food and Wine, using local citrus, rosemary, and bay, and not local fennel seeds and juniper berries.  I’ve made this marinade it a few times for pork roasts and rarely have every single ingredient and it doesn’t really matter.   Zest a couple oranges and a couple lemons, juice them and whisk in some olive oil.  For herbs, crush some fennel seed and juniper berries in a mortar and pestle, add in a few springs of rosemary and some bay leaves, and you are good to go.  If you don’t have a few of these things – no worries.  It’s still going to be amazing.  Let it marinate overnight, flip it over a couple times, and wipe the meat dry just before cooking.  

The leg needed to be covered for the first half hour or so, so it didn’t dry out.  All and all, the 2.5 pound roast took about an hour and 10 minutes to hit 155, then I let it rest under some tin foil for about 5-10 minutes, which got it just perfect.
 

I picked up some cute little potatoes at the farmers market, so I tossed them in some olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and put them in the pan with the pork to roast.  I made a quick pan sauce with the drippings, a pat of butter, and a bit of white wine.  And along side of it, a salad of radicchio, walnuts, and blood orange infused olive oil from Stonehouse here in Berkeley.  My walnuts were not local , or maybe they were, as the bag from Trader Joe’s says “California Walnuts” on it.  Not bad.

While prepping everything, it was all starting to look pretty delicious and seemed like a good time to open up something good.  My “Hello Vino” app for my iPhone suggested viognier, gerwurztraminer, or zinfandel to go with fruity pork dishes.  No viognier or gerwurtz were on hand, but this is Northern California, so zins are plentiful chez arugulove.  Hello Vino even suggested a zin from Mazzocco, a lovely little vineyard in Healdsburg which we visited in November with friends.  So, we happened to have a bottle of their zin on hand, making the choice very easy.  What luck!

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A couple weeks ago, I signed up for a meat CSA program through Marin Sun Farms.  Once a month, we’ll get a random assortment of braising and roasting cuts and ground meat from grass fed, pasture raised, humanely treated animals.   Our first shipment arrived February 11 and the meat looked amazing.  We celebrated Valentine’s day by cooking up these beef back ribs, which were included in our first shipment.

To go with it,  I decided to try my hand at homemade pasta.  This was the first time I’ve made homemade pasta and it was much, much simpler than I ever imagined.  I’ve got a Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment, bought ages ago with a William Sonoma gift card.  It had languished unused in the box for over a year, but I’m happy to report that its maiden voyage was a smooth one.  I used the recipe that came with the roller and I had no problems whatsoever.   I bought some beautiful mushrooms at the farmers market, but unfortunately, the name of them escapes me.  I sauted those with kale and served that with the beef over the pasta.  Fantastic, especially with a nice bottle of cabernet from Jessup Cellars in Napa.

I didn’t have time this week to prepare a completely local meal, so I’m counting this as my Dark Days contribution for the week.  Everything here is local, except for the flour I used in my pasta.  I realize that’s a pretty substantial exception, so this isn’t the my best work.  But, it is what it is.  For next year’s challenge, I’ll hopefully own a car and I can drive around in search of local flour.  Until then, I’ll just count my local blood, sweat and tears in making it myself.

Braised Beef Back Ribs with Mushrooms and Kale
Recipe by me

Ingredients
1.5-3 pounds of beef back ribs
4 cups of red wine
3 or 4 carrots, sliced in three inch chunks
One onion, cut into large chunks
A few sprigs of thyme
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of Tuscan kale, thick stems removed, and chopped into 1 inch ribbons
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon of butter
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
1 pound of pasta, preferably a wide, flat noodle such as pappardelle

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a dutch oven or oven safe pan, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Place the rack of ribs in and brown all over, about 5 minutes.  Add about 3 cups of wine, the carrots, onions, and a few sprigs of thyme.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and put in the oven for about 1.5 hours, checking after an hour or so to see if more liquid is needed, and if so, add a bit more wine or some water. 

When the meat seems tender, take the pot out of the oven, remove the meat, cover, and set aside.  Remove the thyme springs.  Transfer the vegetables and cooking liquid to a blender or food processor, pureeing until smooth.  Add a little more wine if the mixture seems too thick. 

Pour the liquid back in the dutch oven and put the meat on top.  Cover again and put it back in the oven.  If the meat is done enough for you, just set it on warm.  Otherwise, keep it at 325 or so until you are ready to eat.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter.  When the butter melts, add the diced shallot, and slowly cook until it begins to carmelize.  Add the kale, tossing to coat.  Add one cup of wine and cover.  Simmer over medium low for about 10 minutes, until kale starts to soften.  Add the sliced mushrooms, cover again, and continue to cook another five minutes or so.  Add salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta.  When draining, reserve a cup or so of the water. 

To put everything together, take the meat out of the oven and slice the ribs.  Add a bit of the pasta water to the vegetable puree if needed.  Toss the pasta with the kale and mushrooms, adding a bit of pasta water if needed.  Serve the pasta in bowls, with a rib and some vegetable puree spooned over it.

We cooked a pound of pasta because that’s what the recipe called for, but we only had three beef ribs.  So we just tossed the vegetable puree in with the rest of the pasta and ate it without the meat for leftovers.  But doubling the amount of meat would probably result in 6 hearty portions.

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A slightly more sophisticated looking dinner than last week, using very similar ingredients.

And, this soup rocked.  Butternut squash, pear, and turnip?  Yes, please.  I already had one standard butternut squash soup recipe, but now it has competition in the rotation.  You can definitely taste the pear in it, though the spicy turnip balances everything out, keeping it from being too sweet.  The recipe looks simple, and I was tempted to add some leeks or garlic or something.  I didn’t, and I found I didn’t need to.  It works perfectly just as it is.

The fancy floating pear was pretty easy to do, so try it out and impress your guests with your oh-so-Martha presentation.

On the side, a mix of mustard greens and salad greens.  I dressed it with olive oil and cider vinegar (not local), with a tiny splash of maple syrup (a local-to-them gift from family in Massachusetts).  The maple dressing was really good on the bitter, spicy mustard greens.

All and all, a delicious winter meal.

Pear and Autumn Vegetable Soup
Recipe by Martha Stewart

Ingredients
4 small Bartlett pears (about 6 ounces each), plus an additional larger pear to use for the garnish
1 sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 turnip (about 3 ounces), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sprig fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, white if you have it

Directions
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Cut the larger pear into paper thin pieces, using a mandoline or sharp knife.  Pick out the seeds and stem.  Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut 2 medium pears lengthwise into paper-thin slices.  Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake about 1 hour, or until the pears are dry.  Cool completely on a wire rack. 

Peal the remaining pears.  Halve lengthwise and core.  Add the pears, squash or pumpkin, and the turnip to a 4 quart stockpot with the sage and a teaspoon of salt.  Cover with water (at least 4 cups) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard the sage.  Carefully transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and puree in batches.   Return the soup to the pot and bring up to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the cream, salt, and pepper.   Serve with the dried pears as a garnish.

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I am embarrassed to be putting this picture up because it just is not an attractive meal.  But, this was my local meal for the week, and I’ve committed to talking about it.  So, let’s just get the ugly photo out of the way.

Yeah.  Sorry about that. 

It’s a butternut squash pancake with smoked cheddar cheese and braised dandelion greens with garlic and lemon.  All local ingredients. Other than that, I’ll spare you the details.  Let’s just say the pancake tasted a lot better than it looked.  The dandelion greens did not.

Finally, I must add that my wonderful husband is a trooper.  I felt so horrible putting such a hideous looking plate down before him, and he graciously ate it up with compliments, not complaints.  I don’t know if many people could be so supportive of my weird cooking attempts, so I’ll just say that he rocks.

I promise something more appetizing looking very soon.

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