Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Link - Fat of the Land

New link going up: Fat of the Land

Yay NW foraging. I am so excited to get a shellfish permit, pull up some dungees, oysters, etc. And I know exactly where to pick all the fiddleheads I could ever want.

First I've got to get moved out of Miami...back to work.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

CSA WEEK 20 - Final Week

It's the final week for the season and perhaps time for some reflection.

First up, this week's newsletter had a link to the blog, so hopefully some more CSA members will check it out. I feel that I should perhaps apologize for not sending in a link earlier. Honestly, it's a case of stupid forgetfulness. It seemed that I always thought about emailing the CSA at 10 PM on a Friday, or on my way to pick up the box on Saturday... Then *poof* - right out of my mind. So I'm sorry for that. Hopefully next season people will look back on this year for ideas and inspiration.

To that end I'm going to go back and re-tag all the Redland Organics posts (currently tagged as 'local/organic' and 'recipe') as 'South Florida CSA'. That way a single click will bring them all up. I am also planning on going through them soon and posting a 'Best Of' of my favorite things we've cooked up over the season.

The other reason for relabeling the posts is that we will not be renewing our CSA membership. This has nothing to do with the experience, costs, or quality of the produce provided by Redland Organics. In fact the CSA is by far one of the most worthwhile experiences we have had during our time in Florida. My thanks go out to whole Redland Organics crew, the interns, volunteers and associated farms for making this all work and providing this wonderful opportunity.

But the fact is we will both be graduating soon. I have registered to take the Washington State Bar Exam, and we'll be moving back to Seattle in a few weeks' time. We hope to either sign up for a new CSA there, or at least make frequent trips to the various farmers' markets, so the CSA posts will hopefully continue, just with very different ingredients and growing season... We also hope to get some chickens and maybe pygmy goats!

So without further ado, here's Week 20:

Pretty big haul this week.
  • Red Potatoes
  • Green Onions
  • Two Cucumbers
  • A Turnip
  • Cilantro
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • A GBP
  • Honey
  • Two ears of corn
  • And some Caimitos (Star Apples)
We had a party last night so I was hoping to put a dent in things. Didn't work out as planned. So tonight I'm going to grill up the corn with some roasted garlic compound butter. I love grilled corn! We'll grill the rest of last week's spring onions, the GBP, and a red poblano from the yard and make sortof grilled southwest veggie Rajas. I threw some of my Roasted Poblano Sausages on the smoker yesterday, so I'll just heat them up on the grill too. That's tonight's dinner. Maybe served in a grilled pita?

I see some serious salads in our near future. And I'm thinking something with the turnip and potatoes. Maybe a gratin? Maybe the fritter recipe? We've got the red cabbage still, maybe Goat Stew Mk. II?

Probably just eat the caimitos straight up. Never had them before, don't know what to expect.


Went out to the store to see what I could score post-Easter, came back seriously disappointed and empty handed. So the big meals of last week were a Braised Veal Breast with a Gratin of White Beet. I cut, peeled and mandolined half of Turnipus, then boiled the beet slices in milk for about 10 minutes, then into a pan with some Parmesan grated over the top. Into the oven where the veal breast was already braising in a mix of pinot noir, mirepoix, tomato paste, beef stock and demi-glace de veau. The breast came out like a good pot roast. Not what I was looking for, but still reasonably tasty. And it made three meals. The gratin was good but not great, too much liquid was released from the beets and it could have used some sour cream or more cheese or something to give it body. The beet was actually pretty good though. Which gave me hope for the next dish of the week:

Beef And Veal Stew With Whatever Veggies I Had Around At The Time. I didn't actually measure a single thing for this recipe, just shot from the hip. I took the mangled veal chunks from my earlier attempt at deboning the breast, as well as some very frozen stew beef I had, dredged in flour, salt and pepper. Chopped some guanciale into batons and fried them up. Used the oil from that to brown the beef well, then removed. Into the pot went:
  • The other half of Turnipus, peeled and chopped
  • Some big spring onions and two leeks I had. Chopped, then washed really well in a big bowl of water. Leeks are a pain that way.
  • A random red potato, chopped
  • And a good handful of green beans, top and tailed and chopped in thirds.
After these sweated for a while I deglazed with half a bottle of Stone Smoked Porter. (The other half went to the cook!) Then I added the meat back in, and added the leftover braising sauce from the Braised Veal Breast earlier in the week.

The two final ingredients are definitely serious secrets for awesome beef stew. The first is pickled green peppercorns. You can find them in a jar next to the capers. I use about half a tablespoon to a tablespoon, loosely chopped. They have a pepper taste to them, but also this weird pickled sourness that really helps perk up the flavors in a stew like this.

The second is our old friend Trotter Gear. I scooped a good maybe half cup into the stew to give it some "unctuous potential".

This put the waterline at about the right level, so I brought it up to a simmer, where it would stay for about two hours. The first night we just ate the stew straight, the second I put it in a pie dish and covered it with a spare pie crust we had and baked it till golden brown and delicious. Really, really delicious.
  • Baba Ghanoush and Roasted Garlic Tzatziki
Yesterday I had some people coming over and the smoker was going, so I figured what the heck and put last week's eggplant on the smoke for two hours. Usually I directly grill it until soft all over, and the smoke time wasn't enough. It had to go into the oven for a bit before we could make baba ghanoush with it. Still good though!

Since we got two more cucumbers and I hadn't used last week's yet, I decided to make another round of tzatziki too. Only this time instead of labneh I used our own homemade yogurt. Put it into a doubled over cheesecloth and hung it from the faucet over the sink for a few hours. Also, I'd roasted a head of garlic for no particular reason (other than to make the house smell great!) so I put a clove or two of that in with the cucumber and some dill. Pretty decent over all, but my yogurt isn't as good as good labneh... Not sure I like roasted garlic over raw in my tzatziki either.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

CSA Week 19

Only one more week! Here's this week:

  • Kale
  • Lots of Spring Onions
  • An Eggplant
  • A GBP
  • Some Green Beans
  • A big Red Cabbage
  • A Cucumber
  • A small bouquet of Italian Parsley
  • Strawberries
Plan for this week:

The first plan is to run out to the store today and see what's for sale cheap after Easter. Ducks? Lamb? The results may change the plans somewhat. Here's how it stands right now though.
  • Roast Veal Breast with Beet
I picked up two veal breasts on wicked sale (buy one get one). I set out to debone them today, with the intention of making a braised veal roulade stuffed with some of the Italian sausage I made last week and some matzos that a friend left over here (bleh, matzos. But waste not want not...) The remaining bones would make some veal stock. Unfortunately I soon discovered that:
  1. I'd put them in the freezer and I didn't defrost them all the way first. This led to the knife digging a little too much into the meat.
  2. My boning knife is a 7" Opinel fillet folder that I keep monstrously sharp. It actually cut straight through some of the fairly cartilaginous veal bones...d'oh!
  3. A (presumably well-meaning) butcher had slashed huge gashes across the breast, effectively destroying any chance of stuffing it.
In short I butchered the butchery.

So I trimmed the remaining breast and left it at that. Tonight it will be braised with about half the giant white beet (roasted separately?) in some wine, beef stock, rosemary and demiglace. Half the green beans will probably be a side, with whatever herbs I can scrounge. The bones of the one mauled breast went in a bag, and the chopped meat in another. Which leads to the next meal of the week:
  • Beef and Trotter Gear Pot Pie
Meredith and I were talking about a restaurant we used to go to, a cute neighborhood place in Seattle called Pies and Pints. You would walk in on a cold rainy day, and order a beer and a pie-float: one of several different crusty mini-meat pies set in the middle of a bowl of pea soup. Cheap and awesome.

So I've got a spare pie crust, my hacked up veal and some very frozen stew beef, half a giant beet, some red potatoes, leeks, green beans, spring onions, and assorted herbs. Beef pie time. Also still have some trotter gear and guanciale, so I'm thinking it's time to try out this recipe. No peas for split pea soup though. Might pick some up...
  • Red Cabbage
It'll keep. I'd like to make sauerkraut but I don't think I have time. Grilled? Maybe a coleslaw, or cooked up with some of the ridiculous amount of sausages I have in the freezer.
  • Eggplant
Who knows. Baba Ghanoush again? Nom nom nom.

  • Pizza
As posted earlier last week there was Gardenpocalypse. I ended up with about 6 big red tomatoes and RBPs that had to be eaten soon. So I made pizza! Using everything I could get my hands on...

The dough was a simple pizza dough. Only difference was that I had some dried Chantrelle mushrooms around that I rehydrated. I used the mushroom-rehydration water in the dough, which was pretty tasty.

Pizza sauce is easy. Took two big tomatoes, chopped, cooked in a tablespoon or two of olive oil with a clove of garlic and a dash of salt, pepper and oregano for about 45 minutes until it was sauce.

On the left is a veggie pizza, with yellow squash, fresh basil, Chantrelle mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, garlic and fresh mozzarella. Very good. The squash was better than I expected.

On the right is the meat pizza. There was fresh hot Italian sausage, dry Spanish/Miami chorizo, red bell pepper, red onion, garlic, and fresh mozzarella. Amazing.
  • Hot Italian Sausage and Poblano Sausage
I had all these RBPs and Poblanos around, so I picked up some pork and made 10 lbs of sausage. Both recipes were basically the ones out of Charcuterie, but I tweaked them a bit. I added roasted red bell peppers to the hot Italian sausage (lessening the liquid amount) and I used homemade chili powder and some vinegar and tequila in the Poblano sausages. Both were good, but the Italian is really great.
  • Moroccan
Saturday we had 14 people for a Moroccan dinner that Meredith had donated for an auction a while back. Sadly we were too busy cooking ( to take photos. But we used a lot of the CSA veggies. Often I see food blogs with lots of studio quality photos of every step and I'm like: seriously? Wtf. How did you possibly have time for that. Do you have a prehensile tail? A well trained dog or kitchen gnome who waits patiently to snap photos for you? Anyway, here's the courses:
  1. Bisteya - an awesome 13"x9" chicken, egg, almond, cinnamon and sugar phyllo-dough pie.
  2. The Lemon and Olive course. A chicken tagine with kalamata olives and preserved lemons. Side was an herb salad of beet tops, carrot tops, Italian parsley, kale, cilantro, kalamatas, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, steamed and then cooked to death (and deliciousness). Served with a dollop of Harissa.
  3. Lamb and Veggie Couscous. A big couscous with lamb, CSA zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots, and chickpeas. Topped with fried almonds and spiced caramelized onions and raisins. Served with a harissa sauce made with the lamb stock. Here's the couscous steaming on the couscousiere. The idea is that you make a stew in the bottom and use the steam to cook the couscous just right. It just barely fits on the stove. I got it at Daily Bread for about $ is huge and makes a minimum of couscous for 6, but I have no doubt it would easily do couscous for 30.
  4. Harissa. Not really a 'course', but I needed to use a bunch of ripe chiles. So I took about 20 red ripe serranos and jalapenos from the yard, halved and seeded them, and steamed them for about 5 minutes. (You could also use rehydrated dried chiles). Into the cuisinart they went with a roasted red bell pepper, a clove of garlic, and about 2 t each of caraway and coriander (toasted). Blitz to paste. Adjust with salt and pepper, then strain through a sieve to get a fiery hot neon orange paste. It'll keep a little while. You can use it like you'd use any garlic/chile paste (like Sambal Oelek).
Dinner was a raging success. People were pretty cool with sitting on pillows and eating with their fingers. It was a frightening amount of work, but everything was cooked perfectly and there were hardly any leftovers.

Now let us never speak of it again.
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Monday, April 06, 2009

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Update

...he'll eat your whole garden.

So we had a gardenpocalypse last night. Rodents got at the poblano chiles, taking little nippy bites out of the tops of the fruits. On top of that the Tobacco Horn Worms returned with a fourfold vengeance and went to town on our lovely ripe red heirloom tomatoes. On top of that, thanks to the heat and humidity we've had of late those tomatoes that weren't chewed on have either moulded or begun to. And a lot of the red serrano chiles are now past their prime, but the humidity is too high to dry them adequately. On top of that, it's supposed to be 93 today, but drop to the low 50's by Tuesday night. Not sure what that will do to the remaining plants.

So anything that is ripe is going to be picked and frozen. I'm thinking the salvageable tomatoes might go into a tomato sauce, which I can then freeze. Any poblanos that can be saved will be roasted and put in some sausages.

Guess I can see why the CSA season ends when it ends! South Florida's growing season is crazy.


Here's some photos. On closer inspection I think I may have been too quick to blame the mouse. Found four more horn worms on the tomato plants...camouflage little bastards. They were only about 2" long, so I'm thinking they're only a few days old. Not like this fat bastard.

The leaves of the poblanos had been eaten as well, so I'm guessing it was horn worms not rodents. I've read that they will occasionally jump over to chile plants. Didn't find the actual culprit but there were some casings around.

Finally here's the red ripe refugees...

Ugh what a pain. Maybe I planted the tomatoes too close together? Or didn't trim them back enough to contain the worms to one plant? Oh well, have to be more watchful in the future. I'm sure there's more where that came from. Going to redistribute the pots in a more loose formation today. Hooray for container gardening!
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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Foie Gras Ethics

I came across an excellent essay from Mark Pastore at San Francisco's Incanto, entitled Shock and Foie. Despite being a renowned Italian restaurant dedicated to local, sustainable, and underused cuts of meat, the owners received threatening letters, videos and calls from Foie Gras protesters. Executive Chef Chris Constantino described this as "their Alamo" and they have refused to stop serving it. Foie Gras protesters have become an active and extremely vocal minority in recent years, frequently picketing restaurants, pressing state governments, and even threatening chefs in an effort to ban the process. For example, last month Seattle's local artisanal Lark restaurant was targeted by NALN, a vegan animal rights organization.

Pastore's essay pretty neatly encapsulates my feelings on the subject, and it is interesting how he frames the debate to be about personal choice, rather than based on any kind of food-chain argument or addressing the protesters on their own Animal Rights ground.
We respect the right to oppose the production and consumption of foie gras. We relate to many of the reasons that some choose to do so. However, we no more cede control over our morality than we would presume to compel someone else to conform to our notions of how they ought to live their life. We do not grant permission to someone who has no legal, moral, or spiritual authority to impose their beliefs upon us, whether that person is demanding we adopt their point of view regarding foie gras, abortion, or what books we should read. These are all personal choices and should remain so.
While I agree with most of what Pastore says and his conclusions, his juxtaposition of the problems of automobile accidents and foie gras production is simply a red herring. Though we may be unable or unwilling to address a large problem does not mean that we are unable or unwilling to address a smaller one, if it is indeed a problem as the activists claim. There are millions of problems in the world, and we as a country are capable of multitasking. And just because a solution may not solve the whole problem does not mean the solution should be scrapped. This pops up in Administrative Law all the time, where opponents to a regulatory scheme claim that it doesn't fix the whole problem. Time and again the Supreme Court has upheld those regulations.

The debate over the regulation of foie gras is a moral one. The safety of the end product is not in question, it is the treatment of the ducks during the process that causes concern. At its heart this debate addresses how we as a society wish to treat animals, and whether this should be up to the state or informed individuals to decide.

What I think is interesting about the Foie Gras debate is how the sides seem to be talking past each other. It comes down to a difference in world views, and the basis for their assumptions. To argue that Foie Gras is wrong an opponent must ground the basis of his argument in some form of Animal Rights theory, generally coupled with an appeal to empathy. "Ducks feel pain/can think/are alive/are also one of God's creatures and deserve the same rights as you do! Look at those poor ducks, you wouldn't want to have a tube down your throat would you?"

This of course brings up the physiology debate about duck esophagi, and a false anthropomorphic conception of their experience, etc. etc. but I am not a fowl physiologist or, indeed, phenomenologist. (How can we really know what it's like to be a duck?)

On the other end you get a sort of libertarian foodie freedom of choice mindset. "If it can be eaten, I should be able to eat it if I chose to." What is interesting is that there is an implied assumption that the choice to eat or not eat includes a self-derived moral component regarding what is right for me, the individual. The people who take this debate seriously, on both sides, have thought hard about the kinds of food that it is safe, sustainable, and indeed moral for them to eat. They live their lives by the results of those decisions. The difference lies in prostelyzation. On the foie gras opponent's end it is "It is wrong to eat, therefore you should not eat it" versus the proponent's "It is right/wrong to eat, therefore I will/will not eat it."

Ultimately I side with the foie gras fans because I trust myself to make a moral decision about my consumption habits more than I trust someone else. This is also why I still eat meat, even after knowing all that I now know. I trust my own food morality compass more than Congress, PETA, Monsanto and the McDonalds. Of course compasses need orientation, and that is where the government and PETA should be focusing their efforts. Information, not intimidation. And of course it doesn't hurt that I'm still a poor grad-student and Foie is well out of my price range, relegating it to a rare and wonderful treat.

Which most really good things should be.

Finally here's a great video of Anthony Bourdain talking about Foie Gras for
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New Link: Charcuterie Sundays

Adding another new link, Charcuterie Sundays, written by a French-Canadian chef out in Toronto doing some really cool things with meat.

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

New Link: Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

I've added a new link on the right to the excellent blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Check it out, it's just been nominated for a James Beard Award.
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CSA Week 18

Only two more weeks left!

  • Spring Onions
  • Italian Parsley
  • Carrots w/ Tops
  • Three Yellow Squashes
  • One GBP
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • And a massive White Beet that I am henceforth naming Turnipus
From the extras bin: one big zucchini, one wilted head of Romaine, some wilty dill.

Also into this week's calculations go the facts that we're going to be making some yogurt this week, and it seems that everything is ripening in the garden at once. We have about two dozen ripe red serrano chiles, some pasillas, about six RBPs, two huge flowering bok choi, and soon we'll have about eight ripe huge heirloom tomatoes. Plus the mint patches, basil, rosemary, chives, and cilantro are all doing well.

Turnipus is a beast, weighing in at 3lbs 4oz with tops. Also, the only thing I have ever used beets for is raining some root-vegetable doom down on the doomed heads of my doomed enemies in Super Mario Brothers 2. Oh 1988...salad days indeed.

Suffice to say Beets are not really my forte. I hate the pickled ones in a can. Roasted they're ok I guess. But there's no chance of roasting it like smaller red beets, it's enormous (could probably chunk it though). I'm thinking it could be soup, or some kind of gratin, mash or pancake?

My first thoughts for this week are use yogurt and use herbs. I'm thinking we'll go Greek and Indian this week. Maybe some grilled lamb and squashes, with dilled yogurt on the side. We've got a lot of parsley, maybe a quinoa taboule? I'm thinking the carrots would go well in a cold curry-yogurt sauce. Chicken Tikka?

Or I'm thinking this Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Harissa Yogurt would solve all of my problems at once: carrots, turnip, green onions, parsley, yogurt, chiles! Only problem is there is a large chance that we will be cooking a multi-course Moroccan feast for eight next Saturday, can there be too much of a good thing?

Last Week Roundup

We had a leftover/garden night with Chinese Stuffed Red Bell Peppers and Steamed Bok Choi. I took two ripe RBPs from the garden, cut the tops off about half an inch down and removed the seeds and veins. Into a saute pan went some oil, onion, ginger, garlic, two small diced lop chong sausages, diced carrot, green onions. Sauted all that till done, then mixed it with an egg and some leftover rice. Stuffed RBPs. Placed tops back on, stood them upright in a pan, poured a couple T's of the daikon dipping sauce from earlier in the week around them and some Shaoxing Rice Wine. Threw a lid on and into the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, I made a bok choi recipe based on one from Tom Douglas' Tom's Big Dinners. One of the big flowering bok choi from the garden was cleaned and chopped into 4" lengths. Into the bottom of the wok went about 3 cups of water, four coins of ginger, and half one of the oranges from that week. On went the bamboo steamer, in went the bok choi, steamed for about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, fried some garlic chips in some veggie and sesame oil. This went on the bok choi along with a tablespoon of the daikon dipping sauce.

Once the peppers were ready, I took them out, put them on plates. Put the pan back on the stove and added a teaspoon of cornstarch to the soy/ricewine/pepper drippings in the bottom of the pan and made a tasty sauce for the peppers.

All in all not an outstanding meal but a good use of stuff we had leftover and around. The bok choi was good but not as ginger/orangy as I'd hoped.
  • Caesar Salad with Dandelion Greens
We had the head of romaine and the dandelion greens left, and the last two rice-batards were going stale. So I made a Caesar salad with it all.

Diced the bread, rolled it around in a couple cloves of chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, and a little olive oil. Baked at 350 till golden crispy.

Made the dressing. Here's the recipe I use for two people, based on one that feeds six from Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe.
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 anchovies
  • 1 t Dijon
  • 2 t lemon juice (or less if you prefer)
  • 2 t sherry vinegar
  • black pepper to taste
  • an egg yolk
Blitz the oil and garlic in a Cuisinart. Strain into your salad bowl, pressing garlic to get maximum goodness. Mince the anchovies, in they go with the Dijon, lemon juice and vinegar. Add black pepper to taste. Right before serving whisk in the egg yolk.

A note about Food Safety. Yes it's a raw egg yolk. No you won't die. The CDC says about 30-40 people die a year from salmonella, mostly the young or elderly. In 2006, 46 people were killed by lightening. In 2005, 20,000 people died from accidental falls. You're more likely to die from slipping and falling on a broken egg. Does this mean you should lick that raw chicken cutting board you've left festering in the sink for a couple days? No. But a raw egg yolk once in a while won't kill you. Particularly when it's in a vinegar solution like this dressing.

I'm no more happy with the current state of U.S. factory chicken production than you are (or should be). And I'm skeptical about the cleanliness and safety of any of it. Buy local, buy organic, and know where your food comes from. For an eye opening look, you can check out Michael Pollan and others, but for a really in your face statement of the problem check out Jamie Oliver's Fowl Dinners (here's the first episode. Warning, many dead chickens.) Brutal but it's the truth, and it needs to be told, which is why this series cemented Jamie's place as one of my Food Heroes.

A raw egg now and then in your salad, egg nog, or cookie dough won't kill you. Still, no meal is appetizing if you spend the dinner worrying. So if you're still freaked by the idea, you can either coddle the egg first, or use a pasteurized egg. Or omit the egg altogether. Same goes for the anchovies. (But you really should leave them in, otherwise it's not really a Caesar!)

Ok, sorry for the food safety rant...back to the recipe.

Washed and chopped the lettuce and dandelion greens. Into the salad bowl with the croutons, and about a quarter cup grated Parmesan cheese. Mixed around, top with some more Parmesan and cracked black pepper. Delicious.
  • Bucatini All'amatriciana
By the end of the week I'd pretty much cleaned out our veggies (yay!) so I made this recipe using a big heirloom tomato from out back and some of the guanciale I've still got. It was very good, and very easy.
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