Saturday, April 28, 2012

If Everyone Was Fed This Way?

Springtime in the Western North Carolina mountains delivers not only trillium blooms and a symphony of birdsong, it is home to a special patchwork of farmland. In tandem with the back-breaking efforts of its keepers, the WNC soil breeds some of the finest food I've ever known, early in the season.
Unpacking my bags from market this morning, a bouquet materialized. Fresh chicken, livers, and ground lamb from East Fork Farm. Grass-fed steak, sausage, and charcuterie from Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Bok choy and zucchini grown on Mountain Harvest Organic Farm, and free range eggs, kale, and strawberries from Gaining Ground Farm.
When I prepare these ingredients, I can't help but wonder- if everyone was fed with this type of food, would the prisons be less crowded? What would happen if we all spent a little more of our precious income on the food we eat verses the amount of cable channels we receive? After eating this food, would it be easier to get through the day without Starbucks and Ronald McDonald riding on our backs? Could we send our children to school without Ritalin? Sleep without drugs? Wake up without drugs? Make love without drugs? See our doctors less? Feel contentment more often?
What would happen if we all ate from the soil upon which we dwell? Bought ingredients for tonight's supper from our neighbor verses Big Oil? Would the birds flying overhead view a different scape below? Hear a different chorus rising from our homes?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Something for Your Ancestral Sweet Tooth

No beating around the bush, there are times when all you need is a spoonful of something wicked to satisfy an obsession. Most modern humans, (I would wager 99.9%) are obsessed with the sensation of sweet. This is no mistake, as we are programmed to seek such flavor; sweet representing instant energy and the absence of potential bitter toxins to early humans. The modern dilemma is not finding it however, but avoiding it since it is laced in everything from pasta sauce to juice drinks to sell more of a product. And since most of us are not running around spearing fish and hunting buffalo to burn up the extra fuel, we don't have an urgent need for the incidental sweet morsel.
We are drenched in refined sugar these days (in all shapes and forms), and it really is a serious dilemma. My friend Jane is an expert on insulin resistance, teaching regularly on the dangers of the Standard American Diet (SAD) in it's relation to our long term health. She is also the one who introduced me to her homemade dark chocolate sauce. She recognizes, that despite overwhelming science-based evidence on the dangers of sugar and degenerative health, one can still occasionally enjoy a treat if we do so with less frequency and with quality in mind.
She likes to keep a small jar of this sauce in her fridge, rewarming it to drizzle over plain Greek yogurt or for dipping a slice of apple into. I like to do the same, though my favorite way to indulge is on a little spoon, paired with cashew or almond butter, like a deconstructed Reese's cup. It's great to have such a pleasurable go-to treat that won't make you need a confessional afterward.
So until evolution catches up to our ancient code, causing sweet to taste more like road-kill, here is something to enjoy in the meantime.

Jane's Dark Chocolate Sauce:
*1/2 cup very high quality cocoa powder
*1/4 cup high quality raw cane sugar
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 tablespoon butter
*1/4 cup boiling water

Whisk all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Transfer to a small jar with a fitted lid. Store in fridge.

*Note: Warm, this sauce can be drizzled easily, chilled it will preform more like fudge. Simply add a pinch of hot water to chilled sauce to reconstitute.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Flat Iron Steak with Garlic Rosemary Rub

Fresh steaks were available this morning at market. So I grabbed a flat iron (aka top blade) and a dog bone for the mutt. Needless to say, everyone was thrilled with the purchase (furry friends included).
This cut truly couldn't be improved upon, smothered in fresh rosemary, black pepper, course sea salt and crushed garlic. Plus, flat iron steaks haven't really been popularized yet, making them relatively inexpensive. As long as cooking time doesn't exceed medium-rare, maintaining tenderness is a non-issue.
Served alongside Anne's fresh spinach adorned with the first strawberries of the season, we officially welcomed the market season to our home with broad smiles, clinking wine glasses, and quite satisfied bellies.

Flat Iron Steak with Garlic Rosemary Rub:
*1 grass-fed flat iron steak (or top blade steak)
*3 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
*3-4 heaping tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
*1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
*1 heaping teaspoon course sea salt
*1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
*1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Place a cast iron grill griddle over medium heat or prepare charcoal grill.
Rinse and dry steak with paper towels. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl combine remaining ingredients. Slather onto both sides of steak.
Sear steak until rare to medium-rare, turing only once during cooking time. Time will vary depending on thickness of cut. Make sure not to over cook.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stuffed Chicken Thighs

If you are a regular reader (bless you), you may have picked up on a bit of snobbery around the subject of chicken. It was only a few posts ago I voiced my borderline boredom with poultry. But this may be unfair, because I really do enjoy chicken quite regularly, I just don't care for the unimaginative white-bread preparations.
Alas, I did not get to the opening day of farmer's market last week (where freshly harvested birds were on offer) and was thus subject to using the boneless chicken thighs I had in the freezer.
First off, thighs and drumsticks are dark meat, which instantly lends a hand in the flavor category. Breast meat may be the most classic and prolific part of the bird, but I personally prefer the portions formally mentioned. If you purchase thighs already boned and skinned, they make a great canvas for stuffing. In keeping with using up extras, I removed the crust from half a stale sourdough boule for a simple stuffing. With some leftover broth in the fridge, and a prized block of blue cheese, a memorable chicken dinner was under way.

Stuffed Chicken Thighs: (amounts are approximate)
*4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
*2 cups crustless sourdough, finely cubed
*1/4 cup chicken broth
*2 Tablespoons butter, melted
*1 celery stalk including leaves, minced
*3 Tablespoons sweet onion, minced
*sea salt and pepper
*1/8 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
*2-3 Tablespoons high quality blue cheese, crumbled
*1/2 cup bread crumbs
*olive oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Coat with olive oil. Preheat oven to 375.
Rinse and pat dry chicken thighs. Arrange on a work surface and cover with a sheet of parchment of butcher paper. Using a meat mallet or alternative kitchen tool with adequate heft, pound thighs until tender and slightly thin being careful not to over do.
Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, add sourdough cubes, broth, butter, celery and onion. Season with sea salt and pepper. Mix in the parsley and blue cheese. Allow bread to soak up broth. Add more broth if needed to create a slightly damp mixture.
Working with one thigh at a time, place a small handful of stuffing in the center of each piece. Roll the thigh meat around stuffing and secure shut with a few toothpicks (as if stitching up a button hole). Repeat with remaining thighs. Gently coat each stuffed thigh with bread crumbs and transfer to baking sheet. Note: These do not need to look perfect, or be perfectly secured. It will all work itself out in the oven.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake on center rack of oven until fully cooked and golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to rest before removing toothpicks and slicing each thigh into 1/2 inch thick slices. Sprinkle with any remaining chopped parsley.
Serve with seasonal greens and roasted sweet potatoes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lately. . .

Using up the last frozen blueberries to make room for new dwellers.

Playing in the yard.

Lust for asparagus, satiated.