Saturday, November 15, 2014

Slow Simmered Heirloom Beans

Thank you Ivy Creek Farm for the absolutely gorgeous bag of dried beans offered at market over the weekend, and for keeping heirlooms in the field and on the table.

Pictured here we have Kenearly Yellow Eye, Tiger Eye, and Speckled Cranberry.
After an overnight soak with a pinch of sea salt and a splash of cider vinegar they slow simmered for the better half of the day with sauteed sweet onion, garlic and chopped celery.
Creamy, buttery, sweet, pretty to look at, and completely different from canned beans in every single way possible. With a wedge of buttered skillet cornbread, this is food you could live on, everyday.
I did kick myself the whole way home from market for not searching out a ham bone.......but surprisingly, it wasn't missed (too much), and it's rare to say such a thing around here.

Viva genetic diversity!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Preserving Apples

Heating with wood has its pros and cons. When you wake up to cold floors and a thermostat needle just shy of 58 degrees and have to go outside to gather wood (before your coffee), it's hard to enjoy. But the pros are hard to beat, like sitting next to a crackly fire when the weather is nasty or warming your hands directly over the rising heat.

I have been using the wood stove more and more each year to dry things, from herbs to stale bread for making crumbs, and now apples. After seeing sliced apples strung on a piece of twine for drying on The Lovely Life, it seemed so obvious. Stringing takes up little space and looks so sweet.

The post translation didn't include any details, but I figured it would be pretty straight forward. And it is. . .

Rinse apples and slice into 1/2'' rounds. You can core them, but the natural star center is gorgeous. 

Transfer sliced apples to a bowl and arrange a place to thread onto twine. 

Once strung, I opted to bathe slices in lemon juice in hopes of keeping some nice color. 

Hang in well ventilated spot, preferably near a wood stove or fire place. Strings will be heavy, so secure well. 

Allow to dry 2-4 days. 

Apples are ready when fully dehydrated and leathery. The chewy consistency and concentrated sugars makes them fairly addictive. 


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wait...Don't Throw It Away

This could begin by discussing the problems with our throw-away society, or how much food waste goes to the landfill annually while one in five children struggle with hunger. But I like approaching the topic of food thrift on a positive tip, because positivity can be more mobilizing.

Stretching ingredients is no longer a remnant of the depression-era. Being careful with ingredients does not specifically represent poverty, or tough times, or war. In fact, keeping scraps from the trash is in line with today's haute cuisine trend, which some may find kind of ironic.

Watching chef Sean Brock on Mind Of A Chef (a worthwhile production, thanks PBS) fry chicken skins and glaze pig tail to serve to his guests at HUSK in Charleston, SC, I was reminded of this. Being savvy in the kitchen is once again represented by wasting little, thanks to some chefs, home cooks and cookbook authors who are promoting creative ways to serve up the underserved.

I personally remember how much my mom loved pan-fried liver and onions, and I would gag as she ate them, but now blend up a pate with some regularity. I adore chicken feet for a good broth, especially at $3 a bag at farmers market. And often a good loaf of market bread doesn't get eaten fast enough and quickly becomes hard as stone. These are opportunities. Because regardless of what political group we subscribe to, (or refuse to subscribe to), or where we grew up on whatever side of the tracks, or whether we are part of the majority or the 1%, the bottom line remains the same: our resources are not limitless. Waste is u.g.l.y.

Often I feature very pretty, quality food here on this blog, but this may be giving the wrong impression. Yes, our household spends a big piece of its financial pie on food, but this does not mean our pie is big. It's realistically more of a hand pie.

Food is a personal priority, but understandably not the priority of all. Regardless, our income is precious, and much of this is represented on the chopping block. I'll be damned if I have to throw any of it away.
In fact, as I type, eggs and cream are staging a serious Cinderella story on some leftover stale boule in the oven.

So here is the recipe for this post, if there ever was one (measurements are approximate):

*If you buy the best ingredients you are able without compromising other living essentials, don't throw away the scraps, put them in the next meal.
*Underdogs are hidden, affordable treasures.
*Fillet Mignon is overplayed.
*Dogmas are too.
*Carbs are beautiful, and so is butter.
*If you move your body and cook at home, you can relax a bit about a meal's glycemic load. And everything else.
*If you sit down grateful, your food will fully feed you.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Does Your Broth Jiggle?

If it wobbles, jiggles bounces or shakes, your in good shape.

I've posted a fair amount on broth; how to make it, and why it's important, but haven't gone into too much detail on gelatin. If you make broth and chill it, and it cools to a aspic or jello consistency, this means you've gotten the gold.

Not only is gelatin good for the skin and joints, it soothes digestion and has been proven to help digest the proteins in wheat, oats, barley and dairy. By promoting gastric juices, gelatin is an overall digestive aid, perhaps why we crave it when we are sick. As the body is compromised fighting colds or other infections, gelatin is already broken down into easily absorbed amino acids, containing essential trace minerals while offering the digestive tract a break.

I prefer making broth with chicken or duck feet, which are very high in gelatin. But you can also get plenty of gelatin from bones.

Lately I have been slow cooking whole chickens or a couple pounds of chicken legs in a dry crock pot with a chopped onion, garlic, a lemon, sea salt and black pepper. The meat tenderizes beautifully over the course of a full day, and the liquid produced during the process is chock full of gelatin. I strain and chill it, then skim away most of the fat. The result is a concentrated jiggly bounty (pictured). It freezes well and serves as an excellent base for soups and sauces.

With cold season upon us, this stuff will keep you from running to the drugstore the next time you're laid-up on the couch. Make it now, throw it in the freezer, then warm it up and sip when you need a boost.