Friday, August 20, 2010

20 August 2010 Rain and Sun

This morning the rumbling in the West caused dogs to bolt and cats to shiver. Then, as a blessed summer day should, the pouring rain stopped and the sun came out. By the time we ate lunch at 1.15PM, it was almost hot, and very much August.

The menu today reflected the changing weather--warming, heating and cooling.

French green lentil soup
(with lots of garlic for flavor, kale and carrots, sauteed onions and tomatoes, which melted into it and a little "tempering" of minced garlic, lemon zest and oregano simmered in hot olive oil poured in at the last)

Indonesian chicken and Roma bean sambal with coconut and tomato
Brown basmati rice

Watermelon, tomato, feta and mint salad (more like a fresh chutney)
We poured in a little olive oil. The feta came from Mary Buschell's goats. YUM.

Kale falafel
These are delightful. I made beet falafel from the wonderful Silvena Rowe's book Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume (available from, but I revised it this week for the kale falafel and they came out very well.

Butternut squash hummus
The squash were a couple old fall ones from my cellar--they were dry and sprouted inside but not rotty. Peeled, cubed and roasted them--good flavor. Mashed 'em with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, sumac and za'atar.

Recipe today is for falafel. I can, with conscience, give it to you because I redid it in my own way and like it better.

Kale Falafel
15 to 16 2" to 2 1/2" cakes, 4 to 6 servings
This is a great recipe to improvise with your favorite vegetables and herbs. Change the seasonings--add oregano or parsley--or change the vegetable--substitute 1/2 pound beets or carrots, peeled, steamed lightly, drained and finely grated. For more texture, stir 1/4 cup mashed chickpeas into the falafel mixture.

1/2 pound stemmed kale (weigh after stemming)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely diced red or sweet onion
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 level cup chickpea flour (available at Oryana or Indian markets)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water or milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
Olive oil for frying
Unbleached white flour for dipping patties
Tahini (mix with water and fresh lemon if it isn't loose
Sumac powder

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Immerse kale in it and boil 1 minute. Drain and cool. Squeeze out all the moisture you can. Chop kale finely. You should have 1 cup packed. Set it aside in large mixing bowl.

Heat oil in large skillet and cook onion until soft, 5 minutes. Add cumin and coriander and cook 1 minute more. Scrape into bowl with kale.

Whisk chickpea flour and water or milk into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer the mixture, stirring constantly, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Mix chickpea paste with kale and onions. Taste mixture and season with more salt and freshly ground pepper if desired.

Oil your hands and a sheet pan. Form small flattened patties and set on oiled pan. Refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes.

Set a plate with flour next to the stove.

Heat 1/4 inch olive oil in 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. When oil becomes wavy, fry the patties on each side until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel and arrange on platter.

Drizzle falafel with tahini, or tahini mixed with fresh lemon, and sumac.

Abby, Jon's niece, and a very good cook already, helped today--she's mixing the watermelon, tomato salad that she and Ella put together.

Mary is in the blue apron frying falafel. She did a lot too. It was great to have her and Abby because I didn't have my faithful friend and colleague Maureen this week.

Missed you Maureen!

We had company from Japan: Conrad and Alison Heins' daughter Roo (Roux?) came to work. They all weeded the hoop houses, which deserves a medal.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

13 August Friday the 13th 2010

Although it was Friday the 13th the day was blessed with hot weather, lots of friendly folks, a birthday or two and good food.
It was Liz's birthday. Abby, Ella and Olivia collaborated on Liz's peach and blackberry birthday pie. It was everything a good pie should be. The crust was flaky and buttery and the filling was juicy without being watery. Thickened just right. The chef-instructor in me gave it an A plus. No lurking thoughts that this or that could have been tweaked. And it was just the right balance of sweet and tangy. Sugar can only get you so far.

Today our menu was Mediterranean inspired, as that is the area in which I'm working just now for my textbook.

Homemade phyllo filled with onion, tomato and nuts (no photo!)
Coca, a Spanish flatbread topped with vegetables and olives
Improvised lentil vegetable soup with mint (I just can't stop using it this summer)
Arugula salad with lemon and olive oil (the farm crew loves this)
Roma beans simmered with garlic
Assorted goat cheeses (courtesy of Mary Buschell and Dick Flowers)

Mary and Dick brought two friends from Ann Arbor, Houda and Jeff, so they joined our lunch group. Mary and Dick live in Maple City and raise goats. Mary makes fantastic and various cheeses from the milk. Robert called her lavender and honey goat's cheese "ethereal". She and Jenny talked about offering shares of cheese to the members.

Although there isn't a picture of the homemade phyllo made into a pie, it was the hands down favorite this time--besides the cheeses, of course.

Here is a recipe for it adapted from Diane Kochilas' amazing cookbook The Glorious Foods of Greece. Make it with greens, garlic and herbs.

Phyllo Dough for 15 to 18-inch round pan

4 cups unbleached white flour
1 scant tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup warm water
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Mix flour and salt together in large bowl. Mix liquid ingredients together and pour into flour. Mix together to a moist dough. Knead 10 minutes in bowl until dough is tender and resilient, dusting with flour as necessary. Cover dough with towel and rest 1 hour in warm place.

Onion, Tomato and Nut Filling

1/3 cup olive oil
5 large red or white onions, finely slivered or sliced
4 medium tomatoes
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts (traditional) or pecans (very tasty), lightly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil for brushing between phyllo layers

Heat olive oil in large, wide skillet (12 to 14 inches). Cook onions over medium heat until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, slice tomatoes around their equators. On a box grater, grate tomatoes on cut side until the skin is all that's left in your hand. You should have about 3 1/2 to 4 cups. Pour tomato into the soft onions and simmer over medium to medium low heat until moist, but no longer wet, 10 to 15 minutes. Don't let them burn.

Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cool mixture to lukewarm. Stir in nuts.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Divide dough into 5 balls and cover. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 dough ball thinly until it's 2 inches larger in diameter than your 18 to 20 inch round pan. Oil the pan and set dough on it. Brush with olive oil. Repeat with two more balls of dough, oiling each layer.

Spread filling evenly over dough. Roll out remaining two dough balls and, as before, brush with olive oil each time.

Roll up edges of dough. Brush top with remaining olive oil. Place pie in oven and bake until golden, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool pie slightly before cutting.

Friday, August 6, 2010

6 August 2010 Eastern Mediterranean Day

Had lots of people helping today. It was great and I was in such a tizzy (I even ran over Augustus' plastic cart, which you see him on in the photo. It is history. I'll have to go out and find another.)

Our menu:
Kurdish spicy pink lentil, rice and chickpea soup with farm onions, celery, carrots and long green peppers plus mint and basil and some chili. It was good and rib sticking.
Za'atar bread--thin and crispy. Lovely.
Sweet and sour Greek zucchini and celery--raisins, honey, red wine vinegar and cinnamon with olive oil of course.
Beet and chickpea falafel patties with sumac, za'atar, lemon and tahini sauce
The beet falafel is from a very new British cookbook from a Bulgarian born Brit named Silvena Rowe. She's 6 feet tall, bleached blond and very very cool.

Madeleine Vedel and her mother Emita Hill helped Maureen and me. It was such fun to have them. Madeleine brought a large loaf of bread. She lives in Avignon in the south of France. If you need a savvy tour guide she's great--owned and ran a cooking school in Arles for many years and now runs private tours--she knows everyone in the area associated with food and wine--and speaks fluent French of course.

Here's a photo of Augustus with Liz, who will be heading off to Ann Arbor for law school in just a few weeks. We'll miss her terribly.

Recipe today is for Greek Sweet and Sour Zucchini (you can add celery if you like)
Adapted from Flavors of Greece by Rosemary Barron

2 pounds zucchini or yellow squash, washed and trimmed
(5 to 6 stalks Meadowlark celery, washed and sliced into 2 inch lengths)
1/3 cup dark raisins
1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey mixed with 4 tablespoon hot water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, optional

Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. Toss with salt.

Mix raisins and 1/4 cup vinegar together.

Heat olive oil in 10-inch deep sauté pan over medium-high heat and add vegetables. When they sizzle, lower heat to low and partially cover. Simmer vegetables until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Sprinkle vegetables with cinnamon, raisins and vinegar, honey and water, and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat, shake pan to mix, and cook vegetables uncovered until sauce is syrupy, 3 to 6 minutes. Toss in parsley and oregano. Taste and reseason, adding more salt, pepper and vinegar until the dish sings to you like the siren call: come back come back come back.

If anyone wants the beet falafel recipe I will give it to Jenny. It can be made with Swiss chard, kale, carrots, turnips or rutabaga.