Posts tagged ‘local produce’

July 9, 2011

After the Preserves | Fruit and Herb Vinegars

I’ve got three different bottles of fruit and herbs steeping in vinegar in the dark recesses of my basement spice shelves.  Birthed out of a craving for something savory out of all the pounds and pounds of fruit Cherub and I have been picking with friends lately.  I’ve made cobblers, pies, and grunts.  I’ve made syrups, jams and jellies (albeit almost accidentally, but that’s another post).  What to do with the dregs from the blueberry syrup?  The excess from 20 pounds of cherries?  Toss them in vinegar along with some herbs.  Let it steep for a few weeks in a dark spot, shaking the jars every once in a while when you walk by.  It’s as easy as that, and the flavors are only limited by your imagination.  And honestly, can you think of a nicer hostess gift?  Just strain into a vintage bottle, and cork.  Present with a handwritten tag noting the contents or perhaps a recipe for a simple vinaigrette.  You’re most certain to be invited back.

From left to right: Blueberry Tarragon, Cherry Shiso, and Cherry Balsamic

A few guidelines: for deepest flavor use

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June 13, 2011

Backyard Foraging | Juneberry Muffins

It is a great pleasure to identify edible plants, trees and flowers to include in my culinary endeavors.  Most recently I rang my neighbor’s doorbell to ask if he wouldn’t mind if I picked a few bowls of berries from his Juneberry tree (a.k.a., saskatoon, shadbush, sugar plum, service berry, et al) in return for some baked goods and perhaps a cocktail, some jam and maybe some ice cream, or a cobbler.  The possibilities are endless.  He didn’t say no.

This recipe is not for a sugary sweet cupcake that masquerades as a muffin.  No, these are delicate-crumbed cakes – almost savory –  plump with jammy berries and a whisper of almond, echoing the notes of the berries’ seeds.

Old Fashioned Juneberry Muffins, makes 10, adapted from James Beard

2 c. sifted flour (I used unbleached all purpose)

1/2 c sugar

1 T baking powder

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June 4, 2011

Persephone’s Drinks Cabinet | Sage Flower Sangria

Get some food people together and you can come up with some pretty tasty ideas.

At dinner recently, my friend Bethia pointed out how flowery Kate‘s sage plant was and plucked a few of the purple blossoms for us to pop in our mouths.  Our eyes widened and we were immediately smitten with the surprisingly honeysuckle-y sage-iness of the teensy lavender-colored blooms.  Enterprising Kate made up a quick batch of sage flower syrup and kindly gifted me a batch.  I love that girl.

I used some this afternoon in some red wine sangria.

My sage plant in the background with the last of the flowers on it. Note the syrup and the triple sec in the bottom of the pitcher. Make sure to give it a good stir.

Sage Flower Sangria, serves me and Hades…

1 bottle of red wine (inexpensive Rioja, Beaujolais and Lambrusco are all good kinds)

Small handful of strawberries, halved (Worthington farmer’s market has them in now)

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April 18, 2011

Persephone’s Drinks Cabinet | The Rhubarb Middleton

Playing in the backyard with Cherub this afternoon, I couldn’t help but admire the rhubarb plant that’s seriously taken off.

I’ve watched it daily from my kitchen window, but from that vantage point, I had no idea just how much was ready for harvesting.  Cherub and I picked four large stalks (for a total of about 3/4 of a pound) this afternoon.  There must be another 40, at least.

My favorite way to use rhubarb is in cocktails.   I simmered the rhubarb down to a syrup (straining and reserving the remaining pulp for a dessert to be determined).  It’s a perfect early-spring combination of rhubarb, orange, vanilla and vodka.  It’s creamy, tart and appropriate for any get together.

I thank Jamie Oliver for the original inspiration, but cheekily name this version after Kate who will be bidding farewell to her “common” life.  And if you’re NFI, this cocktail might be the perfect thing to toast the newly married couple.

The Rhubarb Middleton, Makes 2

For the syrup:

3/4 pound rhubarb stalks, sliced

Juice from 1/2 orange

1/2 c sugar

1/2 vanilla bean sliced lengthwise (or add in a 1/2 t vanilla extract after the syrup has cooled if you haven’t the bean)

Simmer together over medium low heat for eight to ten minutes or until it becomes a pulp.  Strain, reserving the solids for another purpose if desired.  Allow syrup to cool.

For the cocktail:

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice:

2 shots rhubarb syrup

2 shots vodka

1 shot Grand Marnier

1 shot half and half, Snowville, of course

Playlist included Common People, by Pulp.

When it was just a wee sprout a few weeks ago.The four stalks harvested this afternoon.

December 21, 2010

Locavore Dessert | Caramelized Apple Cranachan

It’s snowy and cold here in Ohio.   Perfect Christmas weather.

But don’t let that weather preclude you from making something deliciously local and in season.  At the Greener Grocer in North Market, you can pick up the three or four ingredients you need for this simple, luscious dessert.  In fact, it makes a fantastic Christmas pudding because it’s dead simple.

This is a Scottish dessert.  And Scots know that when it’s cold, a wee bit of whisky will warm you up.  This cranachan is essentially whipped Snowville Cream mixed with local honey and a bit of good bourbon whiskey.  Do your level best not to eat the whole bowl straight.  Instead, this time of year, top with a sliced local apple  that’s been caramelized in a bit of butter and a sprinkling of toasted rolled oats or spelt.

Ohio River Valley Cranachan, Serves 4

2 apples, cored and thinly sliced (I used ones from Hirsch Farm)

2 T butter (you can make your own with Snowville)

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December 16, 2010

South Texas Locavore | Mushrooms on Toast, Poached Backyard Egg

I am so happy to have a friend who is raising beautiful chickens.  Her name is Mylene, and her urban “farm” in a North San Antonio neighborhood produces all manner of vegetables and flowers, and as of November, the little jewels that star in this dish.  Upon arrival, I found her chickens happily pecking around Mackey Farms, softly clucking their pleasure.  Cherub had a fantastic time following them around and tempting them with deep green leaves of kale, like chicken catnip.  I had fun holding them and watching them.  It’s like an avian version of an aquarium.  But make no mistake, these birds aren’t a quirky diversion.  Just like the vegetables in her beds, they’re there to put food on her family’s table.

I will never, ever turn down a few fresh eggs.  I will honor every ounce of the effort that chicken gave to produce that egg and eat it with all the reverence of a holy meal.  So when she offered me five, including one that was laid while I visited, I knew exactly how I would use them – mushrooms on toast.  It’s a true bistro classic, elevated here by earthy Texas mushrooms and, of course, those transcendent eggs.  It’s a simple, humble dish – you can have it for lunch, you can have it with your tea.  Please, I urge you, try it.

Mushrooms on Toast with Poached Backyard Egg, Serves 2

4 cups of fresh, local mushrooms, diced.  I used 2 cups of crimini and 2 cups of shiitake.

1 shallot, finely diced

2 thick slices of the crusty bread of your choosing.  I used a buttermilk sourdough.

Vermouth, a splash

1 leaf of Texas sorrel, cut into ribbons, for garnish

1/2 t butter

olive oil, salt, pepper

2 beautiful Mackey Farms eggs

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan very generously with olive oil, and heat until shimmering.  Add the mushrooms, allowing them to sear, about 3 minutes.  Deglaze with the vermouth.  Then add the chopped shallots and turn the heat to medium-low.  Season well with salt and pepper, and stir regularly for another 3-4 minutes.  This is a good time to make your toast.

Now poach the eggs for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes in simmering water – long enough from the white to be firm, but without cooking the yolk through.

Add the butter to your mushrooms and give it a stir to incorporate

Spoon the mushrooms onto your toast, and top it with the egg and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt.  Garnish with the sorrel ribbons.  There is no doubt you will enjoy this.

Playlist included Maybe Sparrow, by Neko Case.

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December 13, 2010

Dining Out | Lunch at Lüke

South Texas has a long growing season, plentiful meats, feathered and furred game, and lots of space to grow and roam.  Why has it been so hard to find it?  I had an opportunity to meet CIA-trained  Chef Steve McHugh after a demo at the Pearl Farmer’s Market.  He may be planting the flag for San Antonio’s late- blooming local-food movement.  Having grown up on a Wisconsin farm, Chef McHugh knows a thing or two about how great local, fresh-from-the-farm produce can taste.  He sources many of his ingredients for Lüke from vendors at Pearl, all of whom are within 150 miles of San Antonio.  The salad he made at the market, which is on the menu, included Humble House baby blue cheese – some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen – snuggled up next to chili-spiced pistachios and candied beets.  I looked over the menus and decided we would cancel our lunch reservations to eat at the three-week-old bistro, Lüke. 

Lüke, on the Riverwalk, is the new sister to the original in New Orleans.  As a John Besh restaurant, Lüke has definite French Quarter flavor.  But there are menu touches here and there that make you remember you are in South Texas.

We started with cocktails, a French “75” for me and a Sazerac for Hades.

To start, I couldn’t resist the pâté de campagne of wild boar.  Served with watermelon pickles, mustard and a gelee, the pâté was luscious spread on crispy olive oil toasts.  Equally intriguing in terms of a first course would have been the fried Texas quail, which I will be sure to try next visit.

Hades ordered from the express lunch menu, which included a cup of soup.  He wisely chose the shrimp and sausage gumbo.

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