Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday 21 August 2009

I taught a cooking class last night and was late coming home. So this AM I got to the farm a little late. No worry. Jenny met me with the news that her sister-in-law, Jon's sister Sarah and her friend Kyle, Old Mission native living now in the San Franciso Bay Area, were coming to help me along with my trusty friend Maureen. I felt buoyed up by their obvious enjoyment and willingness to do the grunt work. Thanks Women.

I visiting the farm earlier this week to show it off to a childhood friend. I learned that Robert had severed a tendon in his index finger harvesting our cauliflower. He had to have surgery to repair it. Bummer for such an active, athletic man--Robert rock climbs and swims, neither of which he can do for awhile. I hoped maybe I could make some healing voodoo with our food.

When I asked what vegetable was abundant and what they might like to eat, Sigh popped out with "Baba Ganouji". So we made lots of it. Yum. And M'jedderah, lentils and rice cooked separately and tossed with lots of onions brown-fried in olive oil.

Sarah made a tomato salad/salsa with basil, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. We made a cucumber salad with finely sliced cucumbers, olive oil and red wine vinegar. And lastly we steamed broccoli and tossed it with lemon zest (organic) and lots of crispy garlic chips. Kyle made those. She'd never made them before but they turned out fabulously. She sliced the garlic with my evil mandoline then browned it, stirring constantly, in olive oil, to make crispy golden garlic chips. I always say that I'd take an untrained person who Pays Attention over a trained cook who doesn't. It's elementary: Pay Attention to what you're cooking and it will, most of the time, be a success.

Garlic chips are understandably Eli's favorite. Robert said that he doesn't really care for broccoli, but with garlic chips it tasted great. That, and happy thanks from the rest of the crew, keeps me coming back.

My Modern M'jedderah

2 cups brown basmati
1 cup French green lentils
1 medium onion
olive oil

Rinse, drain and pour rice into saucepan. Cover with 3 1/2 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lower heat and cover pot. Cook rice till tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set rice aside.

Meanwhile, rinse and drain lentils. Pour them into a saucepan and cover by several inches with cold water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until lentils are tender, but not falling apart, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and set lentils aside.

Slice stem end of onion off and slice onion in half through root end. Lay onion on flat cut side and remove root end. Finely sliver onion by slicing from stem end to root end.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a heavy sauté or cast-iron pan. When hot, pour in onion and cook over high heat until browned, 10 minutes or so. Too many onions in a pan too small will create too much moisture. So use a pan that is large enough to accommodate onions in one layer. Season with salt.

Toss rice, lentils and onions together 10 minutes before serving. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

11 August 2009, Tuesday Lunch

This week's lunch was based on pie dough. Yep. The old butter crust. Nothing beats it. I had many admirers after this lunch.

I wrote a piece on rustic tarts or galettes for Edible Grande Traverse and Barb and Charlie, the editor-owners wanted a photo to see what they looked like. So I made my basic pate brisée and brought it to the farm. Ella rolled out the dough into 15 or 16 small rounds and we filled them with a mixture of cooked, chopped kale, flat leaf parsley, sautéed onions, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Dee-lightful.

Perfect Pie Crust

1/2 pound cold, unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
Ice water

Cut butter into flour and salt. I use a food processor. Leave butter pieces pea-sized. Dump into bowl and smear butter into flour into flakes the size of cornflakes. Slowly, tossing and pressing flour-butter all the while, pour in ice water. Be careful. Too much will make dough soft. Drizzle in just enough water for dough to hold together, no more.

Bring dough together into a ball, flatten into a thick log and slip it into a plastic baggie. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

For rustic tarts:
Cut thick log into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Roll each out on flour dusted surface to about 7 or 8 inches diameter. Fill with whatever filling you desire, sweet or savory, leaving an inch or inch and half border. Wet this lightly. Bring it up and pleat it around. Then cup your hands around it and press lightly to seal the pleats.

Chill 30 minutes in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake tart until golden, 30 to 45 minutes.

We also had carrot salad with almond mayonnaise and lots of fresh dill and two cold zucchini soups: one was yogurt thickened, the other was walnut thickened, in the spirit of the first gazpacho--white gazpacho--which is white grapes, bread, almonds, garlic and water puréed together. The almond mayonnaise is from Marilyn Diamond and has long been a vegan favorite.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jane the Salad Lady

This is Jane Watts. She is a busy, active person--I always see a swimsuit hanging from her car mirror--young for her years. Plus she is active at Unitarian Universalists. Jane is also Jon's mother and she helps to wash, spin-dry and bag the salad mix. It's a huge job. Since the C.S.A. serves around 200 shares and sells wholesale to markets and restaurants, Jane is a busy salad lady. The salad people are the last ones to trickle in and eat. Here is Jane with her washing-machine-turned-salad-spinner. I wish I had one of them, don't you?

7 August Friday 2009

This Friday was squash blossom Friday. Robert picked a lot of them--45 I think. We pick only the male plants--without zucchini. When you pick them and use right away they don't close up and are easy to stuff. I take out the stamen inside, pull off the tiny spiky green leaves on the outside, chop off the stem and shake out bugs, maybe lightly rinse, though I hate to.

I made a stuffing with cooked quinoa, olive oil sautéed onions, thyme, currant, toasted pine nuts and Italian Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Then I baked them for 45 minutes, covered, with a little broth and olive oil poured over to steam them. Breadcrumb, herb and cheese stuffings or ones with meat are common in Italy. We all loved the lightness of the quinoa.

I also made White Bean Soup (yep we have lots of white beans and Robert especially likes them) with potatoes and kale. I started with a sofrito of onions, leeks, carrots and sliced garlic cooked in lots of olive oil. I added the cooked beans, their cooking water, rosemary and salt and simmered it for 30 minutes. When I was ready to serve the soup, I brought it to boil and add chopped kale. That I cooked for 4 minutes. A dollop of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper finished it off.

I also made a traditional Dijon mustard emulsified vinaigrette. It went over green salad--and I tossed it with raw chopped vegetables--Swiss chard and chard stems, carrots and green beans with minced garlic for the salad.

Jenny gave me 3 of her prized heirloom tomatoes, which I sliced and set out next to the vinaigrette.

Here's a recipe for the vinaigrette. I made it in a blender.

Mustard Vinaigrette

1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 ounces oil: half olive half sunflower or canola
salt and pepper

Whisk together mustard and vinegar in bowl. In a SLOW and THIN stream, SLOWLY add the oil, whisking constantly. The vinaigrette will thicken as you add oil. If it "breaks" or separates, place more mustard into a clean bowl and slowly this time, whisk broken vinaigrette into it.

This is great on vegetables or fish. Purée herbs into it or add chopped things. I added minced garlic. Yum.

7 August Friday 2009

Maureen came to help me again this week. After the stuffed kitchen of last week I was a little worried she wouldn't. Maureen is a huge help--together we can actually get the meal on by 12.30. She faithfully, and without complaint, scrubs mud encrusted potatoes, sweet, but dirt dusted carrots, peels shallots, does dishes and chops a dance of vegetables. Here she is working in the kitchen. I love having her lilt of a Brit accent surrounding me as I work.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thai Veg Curry Day 28 July

The Meadowlark Farm kitchen was packed with help on Tuesday 28 July. Meg Staley of Fake Rock Farm, her step daughter Nelle from Brooklyn, Nelle's daughter Violet and her friend Sultana from Brooklyn came to aid me and Maureen.

We had a lot of vegetable chopping to do. We made Thai Coconut Vegetable Curry, Fluffy Brown Basmati Rice, Steamed Vegetable Medley with Sesame Oil, Ginger and Soy Sauce and my favorite bean dish--I vary it constantly--Cold Bean Salad. This time I made it with cooked white beans, cooked onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, lots of cilantro or parsley--olive oil and rice or red wine vinegar.

Although everyone loves Thai coconut curry--the flavors of cilantro, shallot, lemongrass and lime leaf infused into luscious coconut milk--the recipe everyone wanted was this simple bean salad. I make it over and over again. It's my stock dish for potlucks. I never make it with canned beans--the beans need to be sweet and freshly cooked. If you forget to soak beans, quick soak them for one hour in boiled water, drain and cook as usual.

Any Bean Salad

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely sliced or slivered
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more to taste
2 cups dry white, kidney or pinto beans, soaked or quick soaked, drained and cooked till tender
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, large stems removed, 1 or more cups chopped

Heat oil in large pot. Cook onion over medium heat until soft. Add vinegar and remove pan from heat. Pour in drained, cooked beans, oregano and season with salt and pepper. When beans have cooled to warm, fold in parsley. Allow dish to sit for 30 minutes. Come back and taste again: season with more oil, vinegar, salt and pepper until you can't stop at one bite.