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Archive for the ‘Tales of Cooking’ Category

And that means I’m drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with the neighbors, not writing exciting blog posts to keep you all entertained. Today (Thursday) was a banner day for hits, and I appreciate all those who have stopped by to read. Welcome! If you’re not familiar, the blog is a combo of rants on food politics, thoughts on life and my journey towards owning a farm, and tales of cooking and eating. Since the past week has been mostly rants, for Friday, I’m giving you an entirely non-controversial blog post (unless you don’t think humans should eat wheat, in which case you will disagree with me violently).

So last weekend for a holiday party, I decided to make crackers. I was inspired by Miss Zumba, who had made them for my holiday party. I typically buy a lot of crackers, because I love eating them with cheese, and so the idea that I could make them and eat them that way rather than buying them was terribly appealing.

And so it began. You can find the recipe over at Fit for Life. The dough was rolled out:

Early in the process:

More crackers:

And finished, sprinkled with sea salt and baked:

These are actually super easy to make. I thought they’d be something like sugar cookies, which are a pain in the butt to roll and cut out. But this dough rolls out super easily, and I just cut out the shapes with the pastry wheel my mom bought me like a year ago that I’ve never used. It makes those cute scalloped edges. And I just sprinkled a little sea salt (because I love sea salt), and there you go. 7 minutes in the oven and you have crackers.

Now I used whole wheat flour, Miss Zumba used regular all purpose. Hers were a little softer (maybe she didn’t leave them in the oven as long either), and I thought mine where a little crunchier and a little closer to what I think of as a cracker texture (but I also buy whole wheat crackers from the store). They went over very well, and were almost entirely gone by the end of the night.

But then again, maybe that was the cheese. I also put together a cheese plate of Eve’s Cheese:

Jalepeno colby, garlic and chive colby (?), and cheddar. Yum.

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Well, last Saturday I had a holiday party, which kept me busy all day and from posting too many exciting pictures. This Saturday you get the make up for that: pictures of all the amazing desserts I made with raw dairy products! Bwahahaha!

So it started with an apple cake. Apples were from Lockbriar. The recipe was from my brand new local food cookbook, Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. Beautiful photos, and everything I’ve made from it has been delicious so far. It has a brown sugar icing made with, you guessed it: raw cream! Before hand:

And after:

Mmmm. Delicious, really sweet icing.

Next up was a pumpkin pie, of course made with a little local pumpkin (from Redman Farm). It also included some raw cream, and plenty of local eggs, and flour. Recipe was from Joy of Cooking, and it was served with delightful raw whipped cream! Yay!

The spread from afar:

The spread up close:

It included the pie and cake, of course, but also some fermented veggies (also farm fresh and unpasteurized), crackers made by my friend Ms. Zumba (can you believe she MADE crackers? I’m still amazed), raw cheeses, bread from Against the Grain bakery, and the whipped cream plus some chocolate mousse, which didn’t make it into the picture as I believe they were still in the fridge. The arrangement is by Ms. Native Daughter Nursery, who you can also find at the farmers’ market.

The chocolate mousse actually turned out to be the hardest thing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I am flat out terrible at making anything that involves beating eggs for long periods of time. I get bored about halfway through, or I decide I’ve been going for too long and get afraid I’m going to over beat them or something. As a result, they weren’t as fluffy as they were probably supposed to be. But let me tell you about this mousse. I hadn’t really realized mousse is mostly eggs. I think I was thinking of ganache, which is just cream and chocolate. Mousse is butter or cream, chocolate, and eggs. Julia (whose recipe I was using) called for coffee and orange liquer, neither of which I had at the time. So I just added a dash of Kahlua.

And boy, was this stuff amazing. A-fing-mazing. So amazing that I didn’t mind that I accidentally spilled egg literally all across my kitchen (the floor, the wall, and on into the bathroom). I mean, I’ve always loved chocolate mousse, but this was on par with the best chocolate mousse I have ever tasted in my entire life. Just flat out mind blowing. It disappeared faster than anything else on the table (except the raw cheese and Ms. Zumba’s crackers).

Especially when paired with the whipped cream.

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I have been referring regularly to my copy of the Joy of Cooking, a birthday gift from my dear uncle, owner extraordinaire of Normals bookstore in Baltimore. It is a 1970s reprinting of the original 1931 book. It is, unlike many other used cookbooks, surprisingly lacking in stains and bits of 40 year old food. It also is the container of hundreds upon hundreds of recipes.

One of my favorite things about the Joy of Cooking is certainly the key feature it is known for, which is explaining what things are in general before diving into recipes. So if I need explicit instructions on cutting up chicken parts, they are right there (with illustrations), followed by a brief overview of all the ways to cook a chicken. And then a few variations, or what constitutes the recipe portion of that chapter. The same if you need to make a pie crust, or a custard, or chop up a cabbage. Clear, concise instructions. On, as far as I can tell, literally every aspect of cooking.

The one place she is not so clear is on what some of the items she describes are. For example, when perusing the book last week with the HF, we were rather perplexed by the series of recipes for Charlottes. The first was a Charlotte Russe, which I know to be a clothing store aimed at teenage girls who desire to look a little sexy. After perusing the various recipes, I realized Charlottes are apparently those things you get when you soak ladyfingers (a kind of cookie thing) in alcohol. Will be making some of those promptly.

Presumably the people of 1931 knew what Charlottes were. People in 1931 apparently knew a lot of things modern cooking audiences would be very perplexed by. And that, I think, is my favorite part of the Joy of Cooking. She writes for an audience who would see “milk” in a recipe and assume whole, unpasteurized milk. In several recipes she actually makes a note that if you are using pasteurized milk you need to alter the recipe. Hmm, I say, how intriguing- you mean, there is a difference between whole, unpasteurized (raw) milk and pasteurized milk? Funny, that’s what the FDA has been claiming there’s no difference at all, except that all the pathogens have supposedly been killed in the pasteurized version. I wonder how that could be…

Needless to say, any book that suggests using unpasteurized milk might work better for a recipe gets a big thumbs up from my direction. She in general seems to assume you are going to be using ingredients, as in, flour, sugar, whole butter, not “buy a box of cake mix.” I HATE, and by hate I really mean HATE HATE HATE recipes that for an ingredient ask you to buy a box or can of something already prepared. For example, when perusing stuffing recipes for Thanksgiving, half of them had you buy stuffing mix at the store and then doctor it up. Are you kidding? No. When I make bread stuffing, I want to make it from BREAD. I wouldn’t think that would be so hard to understand, but then again, most people shop at the grocery store, so who am I to say.

The Joy of Cooking literally has everything (or so I’m convinced). You can’t just sit down and look through it page by page, because it’s got about 500. And one page might have ten or more recipes on it, if the recipes are variations on a basic concept. But if I have a large quantity of something or another and no idea what to do with it, I am now turning first to Mrs. Joy, because chances are there at least fifteen recipes for it. I’ve already demonstrated this method with cabbage. As HF and I were glancing through it the other night, with me looking for recipes for chicken, we discovered just how extensive the book really is. Not only are there recipes for chicken, and turkey, and lots of them, there are also recipes for: quail, pheasant, mudhen, grouse, etc etc. A few pages on you come across the chapter for small game, which includes recipes for not only rabbits, but squirrels, opossums, raccoons, beavers, armadillos and that standby Eastern Shore favorite, muskrat. According to the Joy of Cooking, beaver tail is actually quite a delicacy, highly prized by Native Americans. The thing I love about this chapter is that the master recipe not only talks about how to cook small game, but includes directions (and diagrams) for skinning, gutting, and otherwise chopping into pieces various small game. There is a special diagram for squirrels, as they are so small. And very special instructions for removing the musk glands from muskrats and beavers. Apparently the key to any small game is to hang it in the cold for several days (HF says this is to remove most of the stink).

For my part, I have told the HF that if he brings me a beaver, I will do my best to cook it up for him. This caused me to picture an image of a pioneer household, with the wife at home baking, when the husband, muddy and cold, suddenly comes in the door with a beaver. He hands it over to the wife, but before doing anything she reaches up for her handy copy of the Joy of Cooking. HA! I do figure that when civilization collapses, if we haven’t quite puzzled out sustainable farming with animals, the book to have is not some crazy survival manual, but the Joy of Cooking. Because if all else fails, at least you will know how to properly cook a beaver.

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I have all these grand intentions of taking pictures of things I make, and then I get caught up in the cooking and completely forget. For example, last Sunday I made brussel sprouts au gratin, and they were delicious. I took a very blurry picture of the stalk of brussel sprouts:

And that’s all we’ve got. The actual dish itself I took over my neighbors’ to cook in their oven, and then we just ate, so no photos were taken.

Thursday night I made a ton of food- butternut squash and carrot soup, spinach risotto, and parmesan chicken. And I was in such a rush, because I was running so behind (thanks to stupidly putting the chicken in last even though it takes the longest to cook) that I again completely forgot to take pictures. Even though I was thinking about it as I was assembling everything to again carry it over to the neighbors’.

Instead you only get pictures of leftovers:
(if there is nothing here it’s because I forgot again)

All the recipes (except the chicken) were from Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. The soup was actually supposed to be pumpkin soup, but I decided to make butternut squash soup instead. And then I realized I didn’t prepare enough squash. And that I probably should have used some of the ten pounds of delicatta squash I still have sitting around my kitchen. So instead I just used carrots… but it seemed to turn out all right. I also used a cup of milk and a very large dollop of cream, rather than two cups of milk. I have to say it was quite a good consistency.

The risotto tasted a little funny to me, but maybe that was just the wine I was using. I’ve never cooked risotto in wine, and I imagine it takes a lot of the flavor of whatever wine you use. And I had no idea what to select, as far as the wine, so I just grabbed something and hoped for the best. Will definitely have to work on that concept.

And I have to remember that chicken takes a long time to cook. Right. Still haven’t really gotten over being vegetarian…

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And now… our Thanksgiving dinner, in photos! My cousin and I spent most of the afternoon cooking- she did the rolls and cupcakes for dessert, I did stuffing, squash, and mashed potatoes.

First, we made rolls from a recipe in Food Network magazine.

Ingredients…

Our lunch:

Homemade mac and cheese with local cheese and raw milk. Yay!

Potatoes from Colchester:


ooooo.

aaaaa.

Delicatta squash:

Apple stuffing with scallions and fresh bread from Against the Grain bakery (apples from Lockbriar farm, scallions from Colchester, and homemade chicken stock):

Stuffing before being baked, with plenty of raw butter on the top:

Devil’s food and pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate ganache topping:

Rolls, before baking:

A full plate:

Stuffed delicatta squash, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed carnival squash, and of course, a roll! The rolls were amazing- they tasted kind of like really good soft pretzel dough. They will definitely be making another appearance at dinner.


Yum.

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So, this week there’s going to be a lot of posts on food. It is, after all, Thanksgiving week. And as I cook for four different Thanksgiving dinners, there will of course be lots of pictures of food.

Last night, however, I was not cooking for Thanksgiving. I also had to use up all the vegetables in the fridge, because this week is our last CSA pickup (until next year!!). And last week’s pick up included a whole head of cabbage. I can’t recall the variety at the moment, but it’s possible I’ll be able to find out from the farmers it came from. And a whole cabbage can only mean one thing: sauerkraut. To the cabbage I also added some grated carrot and a bit of jalepeno from my friend’s garden. In theory you can make sauerkraut with just cabbage, but, well, it looks prettier with all the other things. Don’t you think?

So I’m not sure about all this sauerkraut making. I’ve only done it once, and that was in a class. So I’m not at all sure this will turn out right. And considering I’m not even a fan of sauerkraut (despite being Polish by descent), I’m not sure how I’m going to taste it to make sure it’s all right. The handsome fella (for whom I am in actuality making the sauerkraut) will have to be the judge. Well, I should admit, it’s not just for him- he’ll probably end up eating most of it, but a big part of my decision to make sauerkraut was to a) use up the cabbage and b) experiment with fermentation. I love fermentation. It’s one of the most magical processes in the world, and apparently, sauerkraut is one of the most magical foods in the world. Ms. Sally Fallon Morrell credits it with all kinds of amazing properties. I’m not so sure about that.

The trick of this sauerkraut making is that, according to Wild Fermentation and according to the person who taught me in the first place, all you have to do is add salt. This is supposed to draw out the water in the cabbage to make a brine in which the cabbage can ferment. And all of this is supposed to keep the cabbage from spoiling. Trouble is, no veteran sauerkraut maker actually measures the salt they add to the cabbage. And while Wild Fermentation does suggest a quantity, the quantity is for five pounds of cabbage and I haven’t the faintest how many pounds the rather enormous head I have weighs. So I just kind of liberally salted it, and figured if it ends up too salty I’ll just have to wash it. Though as of this morning, there doesn’t seem to be any brine in the jars, so maybe I didn’t add enough? Or maybe I didn’t pack them down enough? Wild Fermentation says to weight the sauerkraut, but it also says to use a crock and since I can’t find one…

But it does look pretty, doesn’t it?

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It’s cold. Well, it’s not that cold, we still have a high of 60 on most days. But yesterday was windy and drizzly and even if the high was 60, it was depressing outside. And that means one thing. Soup.

Oddly enough I used to not like soup. I still don’t really like soup, at least soup that I haven’t made myself. People at restaurants usually put weird stuff in soup. But last year, for some reason (possibly due to the purchase of my wonderful, wonderful immersion blender), I got on a kick and started making soup. Lots of it. And it looks like this year will be no different.

The thing I love about making soup is that it doesn’t require a lot of effort. I can roughly chop the ingredients, throw them in a pot, and sit and do some sewing while they cook. Then, five minutes with the immersion blender and presto, SOUP! And it’s warm and delicious, and I can put backerbsen (wonderful German soup crackers) in it.

So last night at our CSA pickup I spotted leeks. I’ve never really used leeks for anything, because the only recipes I ever see that call for leeks are soup recipes. And so I decided to finally make the famous leek and potato soup. Interestingly enough this is the first recipe in my Julia Child cookbook. She calls it the primal soup: the soup that all other soups are based on. And so it is fitting that it is the first soup of the season (ok not counting that chicken noodle). It starts with the ingredients:

My work surface is always limited by the space my computer takes up, but I’m listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on tape, again, in preparation for Friday (when the movie comes out, for you non-nerds). I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts while cooking, as this keeps my brain busy while my hands are working. Anyway, ingredients included potatoes (including four varieties of potatoes), leeks, onions and garlic. The recipe didn’t call for garlic, but I can’t understand soup without garlic, so. And the addition of onion was actually one of the variations, so it’s not the original primal soup recipe, but.

So all of these ingredients go into the pot. I wasn’t sure if you were actually supposed to use the leaves of the leeks, so I used about half of them and decided to see how it would go. Julia seemed to imply that you used the leaves, but she’s not always clear- she said to use the tender green parts, but then also had you washing the leaves, presumably to use them. You don’t have to chop things beautifully for soup, which is one of the features I love. They’re just going to get mashed up anyway. I think I might have added too much water, but I was thinking I was using more leeks than Julia called for, so I added an extra cup or so. But then the soup seemed kind of watery. I don’t know.

Here it is in the pot, post immersion blender:

The green color I think is from the leek leaves. This is also my brand new soup pot (thanks mom!), to replace my old one, which was kind of thin bottomed and usually resulted in the soup burning. I am so excited to finally have a decent pot, which is even bigger than the old one. The little flecks you see are probably from the potato skins. I don’t believe in peeling potatoes before you use them. One, this is a waste of time. Two, this is a waste of nutrients. Most of the nutrients in potatoes are in the skin. The only other ingredients were a bit of salt and pepper, and some cream, though I just used my wonderful whole, fresh, raw milk.


And there’s the soup in the bowl. It has a kind of creamy texture, which I guess is the potatoes. And the taste is kind of oniony. I didn’t realize leeks were so similar to onions, but I guess it makes sense as they are in the same family. My eyes were streaming like mad while I was cutting them up, that’s for sure. I actually had to run into the bathroom and rinse my face to get it to stop. The smell is so strong! My whole house smelled like leeks. I’m sure they’re even better since they were so fresh. The thing I love about Julia Child recipes is that they really are simple, if not for technique, then for ingredients. Two or three ingredients, and no more seasoning than salt and pepper. It let’s you taste the actual vegetables, rather than being overwhelmed by the spices. And now I’ve got about a gallon of soup in the fridge, which I will be eating for the rest of the week. Sigh. Anyone hungry?

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