Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Strawberry Honeycrisp Salad with Balsamic and Feta

My husband has been sporting the chef hat of late. Since I usually assume this position, he never ceases to surprise me when given the opportunity to man the helm. This ensemble graced the table over the weekend (on a whim it appeared): sliced honeycrip, feta, and market strawberries showered in balsamic syrup. I don't even know how he found the balsamic syrup, since it was buried behind a brigade of obtrusive pantry items.
Just when you think you know a person all the way through, they do things like this; the surprise of which had a relaxing effect on the muscles in my neck, causing my head to tilt sideways, casting new light on a familiar profile.
Let us pause and give thanks for the blessings of the unforeseen.

Strawberry Honeycrip Salad with Balsamic and Feta:
*1 honeycrip apple, cored and sliced thin
*1/4 cup feta, crumbled
*handfull fresh strawberries, sliced
*1 tablespoon balsamic syrup

Arrange slices of honeycrisp onto a serving plate. Top with strawberries and feta. Drizzle with balsamic syrup.
Serve and enjoy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Braised Lamb Ribs with Apricots

Having sampled and posted
recipes for ribs of all sorts, I stood staring at East Fork Farm's chalkboard of listed cuts and realized I'd never tried lamb. I brought some home, but being somewhat of an ordeal to prepare (or so I assumed), it took a long weekend and friends coming over for a cookout to coax them from the freezer.
I had just under 2 pounds which I figured perfect for an appetizer, yet I wanted to try something different than my usual barbecue route. Borrowing Chichi Wang's recipe from Serious Eats, I was thrilled to discover such a hassle free preparation yielding such welcome results.
The extra fat characteristic of lamb ribs rendered the apricots and onions into a gorgeous chutney. Wang suggests saving the extra fat for future recipes, including one for skillet biscuits in her original post. I like the way she thinks.
This rib recipe is a keeper. If you are able to source pastured lamb ribs, I highly suggest giving them a try. Evidently they have somewhat of a cult following, which I now understand why.

Braised Lamb Ribs with Apricots
  • 1 half-rack lamb ribs, about 4 pounds
  • Spice rub:
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili pepper, or to taste
  • 2 cups dried apricots
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • A few tablespoons of oil for sautéing, or some trimmed off pieces of lamb fat
  1. 1

    In a small bowl, mix the ingredients for the spice rub and set aside.

  2. 2

    Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil or lamb fat. Sauté the onions until they're softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. 3

    To assemble the braise: Cover the bottom of your pan with the sautéed onions and the apricots. Nestle the rack of ribs into the onions and apricots. Pour in enough water so that the ribs are 1/3 of the way submerged, about 2 cups. Cover the pan with foil.

  4. 4

    In the meantime, preheat the oven to 275°F. Braise the ribs in the oven until very tender, about 3 hours. Uncover the pan and turn the heat to 375°F. Continue braising until the fat on the surface is browned and the onions are very brown, about 30 minutes longer. Pour off the rendered lamb fat in the pan, setting it aside for another use.

    Serve hot or warm. Leftovers may be reheated in a 250°F oven until warm, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homemade Yogurt and Rye Crackers

A desire to offer my growing (and ravenous) daughter the best foods possible, I am continually resisting the urge to purchase convenience items. The equation is simple: an extra person(s) in the household equals extra pressures on time, yet this extra person is literally making large developmental leaps. . .daily. No arguing, babies and children need the best of what we can offer when it comes to mealtime, meanwhile mealtime often arrives without warning.
Recognizing the likely-hood of my daughter befriending someone in grade school who goes home to a pantry stocked with Little Debbies, she will at some point be given the opportunity to partake (I did my fare share of this after all). For now, I do what I can within my scope of control. When I hand her one of these crackers, it is satisfying to know it contains only local rye, local whole wheat, full-fat yogurt, sea salt and butter.
The end.
Ha! I wish. I could stop here and let you hold onto the image of me- happily baking off batches of homemade crackers in my neat little apron, and handing them one-by-one to my grateful child. But I will keep going.
Here is the reality behind offering my child this cracker certifiable by purists: it took the majority of my evening in addition to some prep the morning prior.
I blended the dough in the wee hours of the day, covered it and let is sit until after dinner that night. Then bath time, jammies, kitchen clean-up, and intermittent story book reading.
Preheat oven. Divide dough into quarters. Roll out first batch.
Sleepy, cranky, teething baby is ready for bed. Put her down. Place crackers in oven. Roll out second batch. Baby wakes up. Pull crackers from oven. Run to the bedroom. Teething baby soothed and back to sleep. The third batch waits. Why haven't I poured a glass of wine yet?
In the end, the four divided fistfuls of beautifully soured dough were rolled, cut and baked into flaky, tender crackers. Was I ready for a massage and my book afterward? Yes. Will the dog be permitted to scavenge cracker scraps from the floor? Over my dead body. We will be eating every single morsel, regardless of where the renegade pieces land? Yes. Even if a mud puddle claims a mishandled bite, it will be rinsed and enjoyed, that's a promise.
Why would I share this if I am also encouraging the recipe on you? Because it's the truth, and nothing is more sacred than the truth.
Looking over the gorgeous food photography and blogs flooding the web these days, one may think only special people are able to make real cooking effortless. This is bull.
Who wouldn't like to skip hours of food prep for the glass of wine with your feet propped up instead (regardless of how much you love to cook)?
I believe it is becoming more important than ever to unveil the realities behind cooking and preparing wholesome food from scratch. Food shows get edited, and so do food magazines, and so does any food blog (ahem). Ever flip through your food magazine and notice a picture of a sweating line cook swearing profanities to high heaven, or a pile of dirty pots and pans as the backdrop to a perfectly styled plate of paella? It's easy to freeze reality momentarily to pose for an image, in turn, creating an image which is lovely, but false.
It takes time, very precious time, effort, and forethought to prepare wholesome food. Oh and then all those dishes.
My question is, what are we looking to save time for? And is time really savable anyway? It doesn't fit into a lock box nor has The Bank recognized its value. Either way, if "saving" time equals sacrificing our health is it worth it?
Undoubtedly this question has to be weighed against the circumstances. Some evenings will require rest and relaxation (or other priorities) over being in the kitchen to preserve not only sanity but other aspects of our health. But our nation will be unable to transform its colossal health crisis until each of us spends more time in the kitchen.
This said, homemade crackers will not secure a place in foodie heaven either, but I aim to go to the grave making a mess out of my kitchen and devouring the wreckage; dragging my family along for the ride. If only you wanted to see pictures of such, I would have plenty to share. Until then, enjoy the serenity of well styled food, give in to the realities (and fruits) of labor, and make sure to celebrate the chaos behind-the-scenes. Your time spent is not in vain.

Homemade Yogurt and Rye Crackers ~Recipe adapted gently from Nourished Kitchen~
  • 2 high quality rye cups flour (I used Wren's Abruzzi Rye available here), plus extra for flouring the counter
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • 1 cup full fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Stir three cups whole grain spelt flour and one teaspoon unrefined sea salt with one cup full fat yogurt in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook. Continue to process until the dough forms a smooth ball.
  2. Place the dough in a mixing bowl and cover it with a tea cloth. Leave the dough to rest at room temperature overnight and up to twenty-four hours.
  3. Once the dough has rested overnight or up to a full day, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Knead one-half cup softened butter into the dough, then divide the it into four separate balls to make rolling it more manageable.
  5. Flour your working surface and your rolling pin, place one ball of dough into the center of your work surface and roll it to 1/8-inch. Cut the dough into rounds with a biscuit cutter, or into triangles or squares with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
  6. Brush each unbaked cracker with melted butter, prick with the tines of a fork to prevent puffing and bake in an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and crispy, about six or seven minutes.
~Thanks to Jenny at Nourished Kitchen for the original recipe! Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Local Wheat Sunflower Seed Flapjacks

Local flour has been a missing piece to my pantry. Sacks of big name organic flour have instead stocked my shelves until I bit into the homemade whole-wheat yeast rolls (lovingly made by Dawn during my stay on East Fork Farm). These rolls were different. The flour was different; flecks of bran scattered throughout each pillowy bite. After inquiring, I learned how to improve my personal stash.
Local wood fired craft bakery- Farm and Sparrow, recently began milling their own flours, offering locals a chance at freshly milled heritage grains (including spelt flour, rye flour, stone cut oats, and corn grits). This is a pretty big deal. Up until now, flour purchases symbolized dependence on large machinery and painfully industrialized varieties of wheat containing little nutritional and flavor diversity.
Reading owner and baker David Bauer's blog, I have learned a great deal on the complexities of working with ancient wheat varieties. It would perhaps take a pro baker to recognize all the nuances of using such flours, yet this morning's flapjacks proved special.
A combination of whole wheat and finely sifted Turkey Red flour, blended with yogurt, grass-fed milk, fresh eggs from the hen-house and crunchy sunflower seeds, yielded the loveliest batch of flapjacks. Topped with yogurt and local honey, I may never go back to industrial flours. Crackers and bread are next on the list.
Aside from the newly discovered depth of flavor now lending a hand to my baking, Farm and Sparrow is playing a big part in reclaiming food independence while extending the opportunity to others. I urge you to partake.

Local Wheat Flapjacks:
*2/3 cup fine sifted Turkey Red wheat flour
*1/3 whole wheat Turkey Red flour
*pinch sea salt
*1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
*1/2 cup raw milk
*2/3 cup high quality plain whole yogurt
*2 Tablespoons melted butter
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1 ripe banana, mashed
*3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Coat with butter.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Add the milk, yogurt, melted butter and cinnamon. Gently blend. Stir in the mashed banana and sunflower seeds.
Ladle approximately 3 Tablespoons of batter into skillet to create each pancake. When bubbles appear on edges of each cake, flip. Cook until batter is cooked through.
Serve hot topped with whole plain yogurt, honey or maple syrup and an extra dusting of cinnamon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spinach Cheddar Grit Cakes

Behold the grit:
Southern comfort.
Spouse to shrimp,
Creamy spoonfuls
bringing forth the sun;
closing the day.
Blackened catfish muse.
Soother of wounds.
Giver of life.
Humble hero.
Social salve.
Historical cement.
Sacred grain.
Culinary keystone.
Facilitator of peace.
Secret crush.
Love of my life.

Spinach Cheddar Grit Cakes:
*1 cup stone ground grits
*2 cups water
*1 cup high quality whole milk or cream
*4 Tablespoons high quality unsalted butter
*sea salt
*black pepper
*1 cup sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
*1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2 sweet onion, chopped
*1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
*1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium saucepan, combine water and milk over medium high heat. Add a generous pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Bring to a boil. Whisk in grits and butter. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until all liquid is absorbed, whisking occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Make cakes by spooning 2 Tablespoons of grit mixture onto baking sheet allowing at least one inch between each cake. Slightly flatten with back of spoon.
Bake until barely golden, about 25 minutes.
Cool briefly before enjoying. Can be stored in an airtight container in fridge for up to one week. Enjoy warm or cold.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pea Shoot Pesto with Spring Garlic

Here's the truth: we planted our peas before setting trellises (always a mistake) and let other gardening/life projects block our view to this particular area of the garden. As the poor dears stretched up looking for a safe hold, only to find nothing, they turned to the left. Nothing. To the right. Panic. Before we could save them, they were back down where they started like silent, fallen heroes.
Taking up prime real estate in our rows, yet unable to compost their endearing efforts, pea shoot pesto seemed the only reasonable option.
This death shall not be in vain I thought as I whirled the tender shoots into the blade of my Cuisinart. Toss in a little Parmesan and lemon zest with the fresh bite of spring garlic, and my mishap neatly blossomed into fortune.
If you were on top of your game and have peas twirling up a lovely trellis by now, top shoots can still be spared for this dish.
Excellent spread on crostini, tossed with pasta, slathered onto roasted chicken or grilled steak, or used as a dip for roasted veggies and such.
When life gives you lemons (or pea shoots), throw them in the next batch of pesto.

Pea Shoot Pesto with Spring Garlic (amounts are approximate)
*3 cups loosely packed green pea shoots
*1/2 bulb spring garlic
*3 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds or toasted pine nuts
*1/4 cup grated Parmesan
*sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper
*zest of 1/2 lemon
*olive oil for blending

Pulse pea shoots in food processor with garlic and nuts/seeds. Add Parmesan, sea salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Blend. With blade running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until pesto takes on desired consistency. Use immediately or store transfer to a glass jar fitted with a lid and store in fridge.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Taking a brief detour into the sometimes frightening and often low-brow world of DIY. This homemade wrapping paper may qualify as both, but in the event it saves you from a last minute trip to the drugstore before a birthday party or baby shower, sharing it may be worth the risk.
Buying wrapping paper is difficult for me. The dilemma is, I love wrapping gifts. I really like it. In fact, I often have to stop myself from adding just one more peacock feather or string of beads. But buying a roll of prefab paper only to be torn off by the recipient seems like a strange purchase. This, combined with a bit of cheesy craftiness held onto since grade school (and an obsession with gawking at Pinerest) turned into the perfect recipe for homemade gift wrap. Oh yes, and needing something spur-of-the-moment to wrap my godson's birthday gift helped execute the plan.
Why, ask you, am I featuring this nonsense on my food blog? Well, because the end result was food inspired of course, (and I am trying to keep the posting fresh). So, for you underground craft-heads, this is for you.

DIY Food Inspired Wrapping Paper:
Fillet a paper grocery bag and press flat. Place blank side up.
Slice an apple in half lengthwise.
Dip the apple half in paint of your choosing (tempera works well).
Use the dipped apple half as a stamp to decorate the paper.
Cut a section from remaining half of apple to resemble a apple stem, (a small triangle works well).
Pierce this piece of apple onto the tip of a fork. Dip in paint and stamp to create stem.
Allow to dry.
Wrap gift and tie with a ribbon.

The end.