Saturday, October 31, 2009

Three for Three

With family in town, who like to eat, today has been a frenzy of cooking. Three dishes in three hours.

  • Leek and Potato Soup
  • Boeuf Bourguinon (ala Julia Child)
  • Stuffed pork shoulder (ala moi)

We'll deal with the second and third dishes in later posts.

The Method (Leek and Potato Soup)

With an hour's notice, I was asked to make soup for lunch. This is a simple recipe for that yields a creamy, fresh soup.

  1. Chop four slices of bacon into 1# pieces.
  2. In a soup pot, brown the bacon in 2 TBs of butter.
  3. To the pot, chop and add:
    • 3 large leeks
    • 1 large onion
    • 2 stalks celery
  4. Saute the vegetables - without browning - until tender.preleek0
  5. Add 2 quarts chicken stock.
  6. Add 5-6 potatoes, roughly chopped. (I used yellow potatoes, which resulted in a light green color to the soup.)
  7. Bring soup to a boil then simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).preleek
  8. Blend or mash the veggies to create a smooth soup. (I used a potato masher, leaving the pot on the stove.)
  9. Optional: add 1-2 C heavy cream at the end. If you do, however, the soup will not freeze well.

The Result

leeksoupEveryone enjoyed this light (we omitted cream), flavorful soup. I like mine with a heavy grind of black pepper. There's plenty for another meal.

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CSA Week 9

Look very closely. Can you see my source of joy? No OKRA! Yay!

Plenty of other goodies this week.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • A few red potatoes
  • Salad greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Baby turnips 
  • and...courtesy of Red Bridge Farm, a grass-fed ribeye and 1# ground beef

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Bratwurst, baked pasta, and lima beans?

As week seven draws to a close, we had only a few things remaining to make from the CSA. Primarily, there were several handfuls of salad greens, but also a single moderately spicy chili pepper.

With family coming into town, I added the pepper to a pot of bratwurst and onions. This is a favorite method of cooking these.
The Method (Bratwurst)
  1. Slice 2-3 onions
  2. In a deep pot, add:
    • onions
    • 2 bottles of dark-ish beer (Sam Adams works well)
    • 1 TBs whole mustard seed
    • 1/2 TB whole black peppercorns
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 fresh red chili pepper, whole or cut in half
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes
  4. Add 5-10 bratwurst to the pot.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes. (You may wish to move the top brats to the bottom of the "pile" occasionally.)
  6. Grill the brats as you like. They will be completely cooked already through the simmering, so you can grill for color.
  7. While the brats are grilling, continue cooking the onion mixture over high heat until most the liquid has boiled off. (You can add a splash of oil at this stage, too, if you'd like.)
The Method (Baked Pasta and Lima Beans)
First, disabuse yourself of the notion that you have to buy specialty pasta made for baking. Several brands market a "no boil" noodle - usually lasagne - that costs more. You can achieve perfectly good results with regular pasta.

I decided to use locally grown lima beans in this dish. These weren't from our CSA, but were hand-picked and -shelled by a family who has a regular stand at the farmer's market. We love limas, and they pair well with tomatoes as a rule. I thought it was worth a shot to add them here.
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Parboil 2 C fresh lima beans in water or chicken broth, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add 1# pasta to a 9x13 baking dish. (I used corkscrew-shaped pasta.)
  4. Drain and add the lima beans.
  5. Add slices of Italian sausage. (I used sweet sausage. Spicy would work, as would bulk Italian sausage.)
  6. Add 1 jar of prepared pasta sauce. (You can certainly use homemade sauce. Publix had these 2-for-1. Easy.)
  7. Mix the ingredients gently.
  8. Add enough water to cover the pasta completely.
  9. Top with mozzarella cheese.
  10. Bake for approximately 45 minutes (until the cheese is well-browned).
The Results
What's not to love about bratwurst? The onions make a rich garnish - sweet with just a hint of spice from the pepper.

Baked pasta is a comfort food. The lima beans held up well - they retained some bite and mixed nicely with the chewy pasta.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And then there was none...

Okra. (Oh-crah). A single letter change in the phonetic spelling might better express my reaction in finding yet another helping of these pods in our CSA share this week.

The challenge lies in finding a new way to prepare repeated veggies.

Tonight I was committed to cooking off TWO week's of pent up pods - both red and green. Fortuntately, other items also remained behind and contributed to the cause: Curried Okra.

The Method

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the okra didn't CHOOSE to reappear this week. Experience a twinge of disappointment that last week's haul hadn't yet turned bad, so it must be included. Call this the ZEN approach to okra control.

  1. Chop 2# of red and green OPO okra into bite-sized pieces.

  2. Roughly chop 1 onion

  3. Heat 2-3 TBs of oil in a deep pot.

  4. Add the onion and a pinch of asafoetida (a spice used in Indian cuisine that smells of onion and garlic when cooked).

  5. Saute until the onion softens.

  6. Add 2 TBs garlic, minced and 2 TBs of ginger, grated.

  7. Add 2 TBs sweet curry powder and 1 TB of hot curry.

  8. Add 4 whole green cardamon pods and 2 whole black cardamon pods.

  9. Add 1 C eggplant, roughly chopped (This was the supposed "turnip" in this week's CSA share. Whoops.)

  10. Saute while stirring for 2-3 minutes to allow the spices to meld with the vegetables.

  11. Add okra, 1 C carrots (sliced), a few slivers of red chile pepper, and 4-5 tomatoes (chopped).

  12. Add a sprinkle of sugar, if necessary to cut the acid and/or spice.

  13. Bring to a boil and simmer on med-low for 15-20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.

  14. Serve over rice.

The Results
We served this with hard boiled eggs, which were cooked according to the evidence-based procedure developed by Junior Chef #2 during last year's Science Fair project. (Start eggs in cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for six minutes. Remove from water and peel under cold water.) The salad was comprised of 5-6 varieties of OPO salad greens and dressed with a simple vinaigarette.

This was an acceptable dish. (Okra fatigue has set in. But there is none left...for now.) The okra was tender and not overly "slimy" when mixed with the other ingredients. I would have added even more garlic and perhaps a bit more salt. Black cardamon is very smokey, so take care to use it sparingly.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Homemayo and a secret ingredient

Everyone has a "life list" - a lifelong to-do agenda. Then there is the short term list of impulse-type items - let's call this the "near list". You probably have a very different list than I do. Mine includes making mayonnaise from scratch - call it, "Homemayo."

After a day of building a clubhouse for the Junior Chefs (weekend three of the project), I didn't have the energy for a major cooking session. A ready-made meal seemed just right...and something easy to dress up with a few homemade additions.

The Method (Mayonnaise)

  1. Bring two egg yolks to room temperature.
  2. Add these to a food processor (you can do this by hand, too)
  3. Add 1/2 tsp ground mustard and 1/2 tsp salt
  4. Blend on med-high for 1 minute
  5. Add 2 TBs lemon juice, blend 10 seconds
  6. Very slowly add 1 C oil (I used Smart Balance oil blend - olive, soy, and canola).
  7. Very slowly.
  8. After you add about 1/2 of the oil, it will begin to thicken.
  9. Continue blending and add the remainder of the oil. You can add more if you like - up to 1 1/2 C total - but there is a point at which the mayo will "break."
The Method (Ginger Greens)
  1. Bring 2 C of chicken broth to a boil.
  2. Add the secret "ingreenient" - a 1-inch square piece of fresh ginger.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1# greens, roughly chopped (I used turnip greens).
  5. Simmer until the greens wilt (2-3 minutes).
  6. Add 1 C carrots, penny-sliced.
  7. Add 3 white radishes, penny-sliced.
  8. Sprinkle with garlic powder.
  9. Simmer another 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  10. Drain the greens, return to the pot, add 1-2 TBs of butter and saute for 3-4 minutes.
The Result

We had a low-key dinner of chicken strips, french fries and baked beans. We mixed some of the mayo with fresh basil and some with horseradish. Both were tasty as dips. Homemade mayo has a very different consistency and flavor than store-bought.  I've made it before, and was again reminded that this is a super-simple recipe; there's little or no reason to buy mayo at the supermarket - especially if you have locally-raised organic eggs.

Everyone agreed the greens were delicious. The ginger was understated but effective - so subtle in fact that it stumped the very experienced panel of diners we assembled for tonight's meal (and for nearly all meals at our house). The ginger and radishes were off-set by the sweetness of the carrots. Two members of the panel asked for seconds...alas, the greens were no more.

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Meggsican Breakfast Magic

We haven't yet gone grocery shopping for the week, so our supplies are running a bit low. (If I was completely honest, I would tell you that we have a pantry stocked so full it could support us for several weeks if need be.) Last week was very hectic with the Senior Chefs both traveling for work...

Wow! Without ruining the surprise...I have to admit that I just checked on breakfast in the oven...very, very exciting! (More about that in a moment).

Consequently, we didn't make very many meals at home. That left us with a surplus of OPO produce and other farmer's market goodies. In reviewing the situation, I pulled a bag of chili peppers from the vegetable drawer along with a carton of eggs. This sparked an idea for a breakfast casserole.

The Method
First, bear in mind that this is a dish intended to use up items in the fridge and pantry. I began with the basics. An egg-based casserole benefits from a starch of some variety as an ingredient (i.e., frittata) or base (think quiche). I opted for oatbran bread. Also, I wanted to use the bag o'peppers, and remembered our recent success with roasted green chiles. So, I flipped on the broiler.
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Place several green chiles (including one anaheim pepper) on a baking sheet and roast. Turn as the peppers blacken. Total roasting time was about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Remove chiles to a ziploc and place in the fridge. (Thanks, Ellen, for this suggestion.)
  4. Meanwhile, cook 5-6 slices of bacon. (Okay, we cooked an entire pound...ate a few slices in the process; but only 5-6 made it into the casserole.)
  5. Grate a stick of "seriously" sharp cheddar cheese - about 2 C
  6. Butter 5-6 slices of good bread and place butter-side down in a 9x13 baking dish.
  7. Prepare an egg mixture:
    • 6-7 eggs beaten
    • 1 C skim milk
    • 1/2 C half-and-half (because you ran out of milk)
    • 1/2 C water (because you didn't have enough milk or cream)
    • 1/2 C ricotta (leftover and lonely in the fridge)
    • 1 TB oregano
    • 1/2 onion chopped
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp garlic powder (because you ran out of fresh garlic)
    • Salt and pepper
  8. Peel and chop the chiles. Spread onto the bread.
  9. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the chiles.
  10. Add a layer of bacon slices and tomatoes.
  11. Pour the egg mixture into the pan.
  12. Cover with a final layer of cheese.
  13. Allow to rest in the fridge. (Optimally, you would leave this overnight, but it was already 9:30 a.m. so we decided 15 minutes was sufficient.)
  14. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.
The Result
Clearly, this is BRUNCH, in that a) it contains all of the food groups, including bacon, b) it didn't come out of the oven until 10:30, and c) it contains more calories per cubic inch than most naturally-occuring or synthetic food products.

It is gorgeous! Fortunately, we don't have guests here for the weekend, so there's no obligation to share this with anyone else. (I considered grabbing the casserole and making a break for the car, but Junior Chef #2 is patroling to ensure that she doesn't miss the opportunity to eat.)

It smells wonderful! We use a good deal of oregano in our cooking, and it plays a prominent role here.

Off to eat...taste report forthcoming...

This is a very intense, savory dish. Everything melded together well. The chiles produced a little background heat and deep, roasted flavor. Junior Chef #1 was very happy with how the tomatoes turned out - given we included them at his suggestion.

Everyone enjoyed it thoroughly. That said, I would make a few adjustments next time.
  • Grease the pan for easier serving.
  • Reduce the oregano by half to 1/2 TB. There are a lot of flavors involved. The oregano was too pronounced.
  • Add little or no salt to the egg mixture. The bacon and cheese are salty enough by themselves.
  • Use heartier bread. The store-bought variety lost most of its texture. French-bread or another type would retain more "bite." I also think it would be worth trying this with corn bread. That would produce a very different end result - probably much sweeter and creamier.
  • Bacon alternatives. I would chopped the cooked bacon next time. The strips made this difficult to cut. It would also be interesting to try alternative meats, including roast pork, grilled chicken, or ground turkey. The dish is substantial enough to incorporate these. It would then serve well as a dinner entree. (This could easily be a meatless dish, too.)

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Five-minute Salad

One of our favorite lunches is a salad of fresh lettuces topped with tuna. Quick, easy, and healthy, we enjoy using it as an excuse to clear out our veggie drawer when needed. Today's salad was very simple. Large helpings of OPO salad greens, shredded carrots from the farmers market (these were especially large and sweet), and sunflower seeds. Senior Chef #2 made a tuna salad with a little mayo, mustard, onion, and Grandma's bread-and-butter pickles. We added a splash of balsamic and a few grinds of black pepper to complete the dish.

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CSA Week 8

The heat has continued to take a toll on Orchard Pond. Nonetheless, we received a large share. Two new items, white radishes and salad greens, appeared.
  • Okra (last week was so busy we didn't cook the red okra; I'll combine both in a curry)
  • Salad greens (lunch today?)
  • Turnip greens
  • Basil
  • Mustard greens (stuffed pork shoulder, along with the turnip greens?)
  • White radishes
  • Baby arugula
Requisite Chuck shot (she ate the salad greens):

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Balsamic-Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens

Mustard greens. We've found a number of tasty ways to use them. This approach comes from a vegan recipe blog that we stumbled upon. Good thing, because we had two week's worth of mustard greens to cook. Here's our approach to a double batch - prepared by Senior Chef #2.

The Method

  1. Chop 1-2# of mustard greens
  2. Slice a medium red onion.
  3. In a deep pot, saute the onion with a couple of TBs vegetable broth.
  4. Add 8 cloves garlic, chopped with another 2 TBs of broth and 1/4 cayenne pepper.
  5. Cook until the garlic softens.
  6. Add the mustard greens along with several TBs of broth.
  7. Cook until the greens are wilted but still colorful (a few minutes).
  8. Remove greens to a dish leaving liquid in pot.
  9. Add 4-5 TBs balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp soy sauce, and 1/2 tsp sugar to the liquid.
  10. Bring to a boil and add 2 cans of cooked garbanzo beans.
  11. Return to boil and simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens.
  12. Serve over brown rice.

The Result
We garnished this with crumbled feta cheese, which added a nice saltiness. The greens were nicely done, not too strong, but a bit gritty. (Junior Chef #1 and chief veggie washer was unhappy with this. We discussed ways to improve the grit removal next time.) Glazed chickpeas were tart and creamy. They paired well with the greens and chewy rice. 

Overall, a solid vegetarian entree...but another lousy example of blogtography, sorry.

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Who needs C, D, E, and F?

When you have ... or at least can make... B & G? This classic takes me back to my first restaurant job. We served biscuits and gravy by the potful, but never made it truly from scratch. I tend to order a single biscuit with gravy as a side when I eat breakfast out. Recently, I had developed a craving to make the real-deal at home. 

Sunday proved to be the perfect, cool fall morning to satisfy this urge. The biscuit recipe is Paula Dean (I was looking for a shortening-based version instead of my usual approach using butter.) The gravy is impromptu.

The Method (Biscuits)
This is an excellent recipe for teaching Junior Chefs.

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Combine: 3 C all-purpose flour, 2 TBs sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.
  3. Cut into the dry mix 1/2 C vegetable shortening. (Paula says to use a fork, but this is slow going initially. We used our pastry blender instead - see below.)
  4. Continue cutting the shortening in until the mixture assumes a grainy texture (like cornmeal).
  5. Add 1 C buttermilk slowly until the dough just holds together. (Paula says, "well mixed" but we Yankees know better than to overmix biscuit dough.)
  6. Turn the dough on to a floured surface. Press to form a soft but cohesive pile.
  7. Knead very lightly 2-3 times (We accomplished 3 folds.)
  8. Roll out the dough gently until 1/2" thick.
  9. Cut out biscuits. (We used a 1 cup measuring cup without a handle.)
  10. Place on a cookie sheet. (Paula says greased. We left it ungreased without problems.)
  11. Brush biscuits with melted butter.
  12. Bake 14 minutes, or until golden brown.

The Method (Gravy)

You can make sawmill or milk gravy very simply. Browned meat, flour plus the drippings, and milk. I took a slightly more seasoned direction.
  1. Brown 1/4# salt pork/fat back in a deep pot. (You could use several strips of good bacon.)
  2. Add 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  3. As the onion softens, add 3 cloves of garlic, chopped. Stir.
  4. Add 1# pork sausage. (You could use ground pork and season to your own taste. We defaulted to a prepared breakfast sausage.)
  5. Cook the sausage until done. 
  6. Sprinkle 1/3 C flour over the sausage and mix well.
  7. Cook floured sausage another 2-3 minutes until all juices are absorbed and the flour begins to lightly brown.
  8. Slowly add 2-3 C skim milk. (Why skim? It's what we had in the fridge. Frankly, given the calories and fat in this dish, whole milk would have had little effect on the final result - especially because...)
  9. Add 1/4 C leftover heavy cream.
  10. Season liberally with salt & pepper, 2-3 solid shakes of cayenne pepper (could have used more), and 1 tsp of dried thyme. (Sage may have worked well, too.)
  11. Cook gravy until it thickens - about 5-6 minutes.
The Results
There is little need for an extended discussion of the results. Pictures will suffice.

For those who would like the before shot...

I could eat this every least until the cardiovascular disease set in.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sarma and Remains of the Days

The cooking ceased for the last few days. We have a refrigerator filled with leftovers. This makes evening meals a snap, and allows for interesting combinations.

Two nights ago we had beer can chicken, boiled red potatoes with a little gumbo as gravy (yes, it was excellent gravy), and spicy greens.
 Gumbo reappeared as a stand-alone meal, too. Another night was spent re-enjoying the bratgers and potato, greens, and ham casserole

Yet, I had planned to make sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves) in the crockpot. I had already frozen a head of cabbage from the farmer's market, so I was committed to this dish. Yesterday, as we finished off the remains of the past several days, I prepared my sarma.

The Method

  1. Place a head of cabbage in the freezer until frozen solid (a couple of days). Transfer to the refrigerator two days before making the dish. 
  2. Using a sharp knife, remove the stem of the cabbage. Gently peel off several large leaves.
  3. Prepare the filling. Combine well:
    • 1# ground beef
    • 1/2# ground pork
    • 1/2# ground ham (using your new Kitchen Aid food grinder)
    • 1 C uncooked white rice
    • 1 onion, minced
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  4. Place a good portion of the filling in the middle of each cabbage leaf.
  5. Tucking in the sides, roll each leaf around the filling until it forms an oval packet.
  6. Spread 1# sauerkraut in the bottom of the crockpot
  7. Place the sarma rolls on the sauerkraut.
  8. Cover the rolls with a 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.
  9. Set crockpot to low and cook for 8-10 hours.
The Results

After a great Saturday filled with fun, a few errands, and friends, it was nice to have dinner ready when we were. The sarma were complemented by a steamer filled with brown rice (good enough to eat for breakfast, I might add) and a quick pot of lima beans cooked with a few onions sauteed in a piece of rendered bacon.

I'll open with the closing remark of Senior Chef #2 - "this might be my favorite meal you've made so far [since blogging, I'd like to think]." Sarma is comfort food at its best: easy to prepare, delicious, filling and - yet - only a small helping of guilt. The filling is light and savory. It absorbs the flavors of the tomatoes and sauerkraut. Amazingly, the cabbage retains some firmness despite the many hours of freezing and cooking. It is a straight-forward dish without a great deal of complexity.

We only ate 1/3, thus raising the possibility of another 1-2 meals this week.  This doubles or triples the overall rating for the dish. 

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

CSA Week 7

The chilly weather today was accompanied by a change in our CSA share items this week. Joining our weekly array of greens of various sorts, the color red makes a dramatic appearance along with a vegetable I associate with holiday dinners at my grandparents: the turnip (or is it rutabaga?).

  • Mustard greens
  • Basil
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • RED okra
  • red, hot peppers
  • eggs
I'm tempted to try another solo okra dish this week, as I've heard the red variety is less "slimy" than the green. The turnip may also receive individual treatment. I will add the mustard greens to the dish I intended to make this past week, chickpeas and mustard greens with balsamic glaze. 

Chuck is somewhere playing with Ticho. The haul smells delicious, so she must be having fun because she didn't undertake her weekly inspection.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Roux the day

Yet another repeat appearance by OPO okra in this week's CSA share had me scratching my head for novel ways to prepare this southern slimy favorite. Fried, stewed, and casseroled versions have already been employed. I decided to try my hand at Gumbo.

Let me begin by suggesting this is a dish you probably will want to make in private. In at least one critical junction in the preparation, you will probably feel a) very guilty, b) very hungry, and c) uncertain whether you can actually proceed according to the recipe. The result will not be as good if you lose your willpower at that moment and decide to safeguard your health rather than following the directions. Proceed at your own risk.

The Method
This is an amalgamation of several different approaches I've seen to gumbo. I am emboldened to try this or any other single pot recipe after having purchased a 9 quart Le Creuset enameled cast iron French oven a few years back (to support a successful Christmas cassoulet). The better the pot, the more confidence you can bring to dishes like gumbo.

  1. Heat 1/2 C oil in a deep pot.
  2. Brown a pieces of a whole cut-up chicken (salted and peppered) in the oil and remove to a plate.
  3. LEAVE the oil and chicken drippings in the pot. (Yes, this is the point-of-no-return. There should be about 1C of fats.)
  4. Incorporate 1 C flour into the hot grease. This is your roux
  5. Continue to cook -stirring regularly - the roux over fairly high heat for several minutes. It will brown. The intensity of the browning will affect the flavor and color of the final dish.
  6. To the roux, add: 1 roughly chopped onion, 1 roughly chopped green pepper, 2 roughly chopped stalks of celery, one head of garlic (minced), 8 bay leaves (yes, 8).
  7. Cook the veggies with the roux for 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add 2 quarts of chicken stock.
  9. Return the chicken to the pot.
  10. Add 1# of sliced andouille sausage, a chopped (real) tomato, and smoked pork neckbones (remaining from spicy greens).
  11. Add 1# chopped okra
  12. Season to taste with: salt and pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and paprika
  13. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours.
  14. Serve over rice.
  15. Freeze the leftovers.
The Result
Heaven. Well, if the idea of eating a pot of chicken and sausage gravy with the occasional vegetable poking out sounds like a dinner worth having, this was heaven! The sausage gave the dish just a hint of spice, but wasn't distracting. The okra dissolved, thickening the stew. Perhaps some would add it much later so that it would retain its independence, but we enjoyed it in this way. We have plenty to put in the freezer, and still more for a second meal later this week. (Given the high fat-to-other-things ratio, this is probably a wise choice.)

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French Toast - Good enough to adopt

We again found ourselves with a few over-ripe bananas. This was a great opportunity to explore recipes in which to use them. Having had Bananas Foster on pancakes or french toast on several occasions at Another Broken Egg, I was excited to try this at home. However, I was interested in toning down the sweetness, because this dish can be cloying.

Again, DDD offered a wonderful version from a restaurant in New Orleans.

The Method
You are making this dish in three parts: filling, batter, and sauce. I reduced the filling and sauce recipes considerably from the original recipes. There were still leftovers for each.


  1. Combine and cream together: 2 bananas, 2 C dark brown sugar, vanilla, and 4 oz. cream cheese.

  1. Combine 2 eggs, 2 TBs sugar, and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Stir in 1 C half-and-half

  1. Melt one stick of butter in a sauce pan.
  2. Add ~ 1/2 C dark brown sugar.
  3. Take pan from heat and add 1/4 C bourbon (the recipe calls for rum, which is always delicious with bananas; but - alas - we are out...and out of Diet Coke, too. Coincidence?)
  4. Return the pan to the heat and set aflame. (You can do this with a match, but I simply tip the pan slightly over the gas flame.)
  5. Once the alcohol has burned off, add 1/2 C of heavy cream.
  6. Simmer and stir until the sauce turns creamy.
Creating Fostered French Toast
  1. Slice an entire baguette of french bread into four "hinged" segments.
  2. Lay open a segment and cover with a layer of filling. (Mine soaked into the bread, so I tried not to use too much.)
  3. Next, place a layer of sliced bananas. (I would be generous, but try to keep in a single, flat layer.)
  4. Cover the bananas with more filling.
  5. Gently press the "sandwich" closed.
  6. Cut into 1 1/2" - 2" thick slices. (You'll be soaking these in the batter and cooking the cut faces.
  7. Soak both sides of each slice in the batter.
  8. Cook on a non-stick griddle or oil pan until golden brown on each side.
  9. Drizzle with the Foster Sauce.

The Result
This easily could have been sufficiently decadent to call "brunch." By reducing the amount of filling and sauce, it was less sugary and stuffing. Still you are eating a whole baguette, several bananas, sugar, and a good deal of butter - so this is probably not an every day or even every weekend breakfast. 

I just realized that I forgot to take pictures. Sorry.

We still had more than half of the filling and sauce remaining, and a good portion of the batter. I've frozen all three and will try to reuse them some future weekend. (I'll let you know how that turns out.)

I would also use better french bread (i.e., not supermarket varieties) in the future. This would give the toast more body.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009


Zucchini falls into a family of veggies that can be adapted to a variety of culinary services, along with eggplant and tofu (soybeans in secondary form). I'm not a particular fan of squashes, but do enjoy zucchini. Looking forward to dinner tonight - with strong seasonings in the burgers and greens, I knew a dessert would be appreciated. I've had zucchini bread many times, but never have made (or had to my knowledge) zucchini cake.

I found this recipe for Zucchini Orange Chocolate Cake amid several dozen similar versions online. 

The Method

2 1/2 C regular all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 C cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 C soft butter
2 C sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp grated orange peel
2 C coarsely shredded zucchini
1/2 C milk
1 C chopped walnuts or pecans

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
  3. With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended.
  4. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.
  6. Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.
  7. Pour the batter into a greased and flour-dusted 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes!) or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly.
  10. GLAZE: Mix together 2 C powdered sugar, 3 TBs milk, and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  11. Drizzle over cake.
  12. Cut in thin slices to serve.
The Result

The cake was - as promised - not very sweet, extremely delicate, and moist. We ate it warm with a fresh glaze. Absolutely wonderful! (Is it wrong to feel like your eating your veggies while you're eating cake? We didn't feel the least bit guilty.)

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Sausages. Despite my many day dreams to the contrary, sausages have not been designated a food group by the FDA. My mom likes to tell stories of how I would devour numerous bratwurst at a single sitting. So, it's little wonder that this recipe for Bratwursts in Burger Form led me to: 1) put it on tonight's menu immediately, 2) buy a meat grinder for my Kitchen Aid mixer, and 3) spend more time tonight than is sane grilling in 90 degree heat.

The Method
Brat Spice Mix
2 TBs ground white pepper (this was TOO much; cut it in half)
2 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp ground mace (we used fresh grated nutmeg instead)
1 tsp ground celery seed
1 3/4 pounds pork shoulder, diced
1/4 pound fat back, diced (we used salt pork, which I should have parboiled to desalt)
2 TBs kosher salt
1 tablespoon brat spice mix
(Okay, this step is confusing. First, it seemed there was a commercial spice mix to be added. Then I figured it was a reference to the ingredients above. This latter interpretation is probably correct. However, I then failed to remember the portion size when making the dish. We used the entire batch of spice mix instead of 1 TB. After a little thought and before grinding the meat, we washed 2/3 of the meat to remove the seasoning. The end result was not too heavily seasoned. I think 1-2 TBs total for the dish would be adequate.)

  1. Combine all the spice mix ingredients.
  2. Toss the pork shoulder and fat back with the salt and the spice mix and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  3. Grind through the coarse die of a grinder and form into 4 (8-ounce) patties. (I ran into problems here. The connective tissue in the meat clogged the grinder plate a couple of times. It probably would have helped to have chilled the meat - even to freezing - and to press smaller amounts through the grinder.)
Spicy Sauerkraut
1 C store-bought sauerkraut (Publix had Hebrew National brand on sale today. YAY!)
  • 1 TB diced bacon (We like bacon. We used 2-3 slices.)
  • 1/4 C onion, sliced (No gum chewing, but the small portion presented no difficulties.)
  • 2 TBs white wine
  • 2 juniper berries, crushed (Yes, we have these in the pantry and use them every so often.)
  • 1/4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 TB garlic-chili paste (Found this in the Asian food section at Publix. Very, very tasty.)
  1. Soak the store-bought kraut in water for 20 minutes, drain excess water. 
  2. Render the bacon; add the onion and saute until translucent. 
  3. Add white wine and cook off the alcohol. 
  4. Add sauerkraut and spices and enough water to cover. 
  5. Simmer for 1 hour. Cool. Mix in garlic-chili paste.
  • slices gruyere cheese
  • slices bacon, cooked
  • Large hamburger buns, toasted

  1. Cook burger patties until medium-well. 
  2. Melt 2 slices of cheeses on top of each patty. 
  3. Place on toasted bun and top with spicy kraut.
The Method (Spicy Greens)
Another DDD recipe. We have eaten so many greens recently, in many forms, that I wasn't sure that a straightforward greens-only dish would be interesting...but this seemed worth a shot.

6 C water
2 1/2 pounds collard greens, cleaned (We used OPO collards and rutabaga leaves
2 pieces smoked neck bones
1/2 C beef base
1/4 C seasoning salt
1/4 C black pepper (Yes, it calls for a 1/4 C. I would reduce this considerably next time.)
1/4 C garlic chopped
1/2 C chopped onions
1/2 C chopped bell peppers
2 pieces fresh basil leaves

1/4 C sugar

  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the water to pot, and all the remaining ingredients. 
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. 
  3. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl to serve.
The Results
Spicy! The burger was tremendous. Just like eating a fresh brat, but TOO much white pepper (IMHO). Gruyere was a perfect topping. It was creamy and tangy enough not to be lost. We added mustard. The spicy sauerkraut paled in comparison to the heat of the greens, which were delicious but very, very spicy. We discovered how spicy everything was before we ate, so we heated some baked beans as a side. This was a smart - and sweet - choice. (Speaking of sweet...we then had our cake.)

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CSA Week 6

One of the benefits to being a member of a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm is that you know more about your food. And you know more about what did not become your food. Picking up our share today from the Orchard Pond Organics stand at the farmers' market, I learned from Lydia that the entire new crops of broccoli and carrots were killed by the unusually high heat. When your produce is grown around the country and hemisphere, local weather and climate conditions have less influence on what is available at the supermarket. When your food is local, the impact is more discernible. 

Our week six share includes:

  • Okra (Hmmm. I'm running out of ideas. Gumbo may be in order.)
  • Mustard greens (Found a fascinating recipe we'll try.)
  • Rutabaga and turnip leaves
  • Collard greens
  • Baby arugula (We'll likely revisit fresh salads.)
Chuck conducted her weekly appraisal. Everything passed with flying colors either as edible

or as a potential toy. (Yes, that's okra.)

These action shots are intended to cause my younger sister (read: not a cat person) further distress that we allow Chuck to investigate the produce. 

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Just a quick note about lunch today. I picked the meat from one of the ham hocks, heated it through, and served it with the remaining components of the fish taco meal. Delicious!

I had to post this just to take credit for coining the term "Tacovers."

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Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009