Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jobs I think should be invented...

I went out for dinner last night with my husband and a friend, and we ate at Honeypie - a restaurant not that far from our house that focuses on using local food.  Their specialty - pie.  And it is GOOD pie.  As we were contemplating the plethora of pie choices before us, it was suggested that the restaurant should have a pie sommelier.  Someone who could try all the pies, and pair them with a perfect beverage.  Sign me up!

Another job that I would like to have is Williams-Sonoma tester.  They could just send me their products, and I could test them and make sure they work right.  That way, I could have all their fancy things and NOT spend my entire paycheck at Williams-Sonoma.

One thing that I would like to test first is their fancy outdoor oven.  I do live in WI, so 11.5 months out of the year I would prefer to have my indoor oven running, but occasionally it gets really, really, REALLY hot here.  (really).  This past week has been one of those times.  And I would have used the crap out of that oven.

One of the main problems with me wanting things from Williams-Sonoma, is that most of them are things that I could easily use something else for - something that I could get for cheap.  Or free.  For example, the Chicken Roaster for the grill.  They call it Beer Butt Chicken for a reason here, people.  You stick a beer can up the chicken's butt.  Why am I paying $24.95 for a beer can with no beer in it!  But do I want it?  You bet I do!  Why?  Because William-Sonoma has cast a spell on me and I want to buy everything they sell regardless of it's functional use and/or whether or not I can get the same thing at World Market for 1/10th the price.

Same thing is true of the oven.  I have an outdoor oven.  It's called a grill.  And, what I learned in my last post, is that indirect heat basically turns my grill into an oven. 

So I decided to be adventurous.  But not too adventurous, because I don't want to burn my new grill down too...

My first thought was a pie.  But pies are hard enough normally.  I have had a lot of problem with pies in the past.  So, I decided to go with the poor man's pie: A crisp!

Grilled Rhubarb Crisp:

  • 4 cups Rhubarb, chopped about 1/2 inch thick (L*)
  • 1 tbsp flour (L)
  • 1/2 cup honey (L)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt 
  • 1 tbsp water (L I guess...)
  • 6 tbsp butter (L)
  • 6 tbsp flour (L)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • Butter for greasing pan (L)
Pre-heat your grill to 350 degrees.  If at all possible, use indirect heat.  I have a four burner grill, and had to turn the outside burners to high and the inside burners to low.  Place a pizza stone on the grill over the area that isn't receiving direct heat. 

Lightly grease the inside of a 10x6x2 inch glass baking dish.  In the baking dish, combine the first 6 ingredients.  Cream butter, flour, and brown sugar, then stir in oats.  Sprinkle over the top of the rhubarb.

Place baking dish on pizza stone and cook for approximately 40 minutes.  Make sure you keep an eye on the grill, as it may not maintain an even temperature like an oven would.  This is especially true if it starts to rain... like it did for me.

I served this over strawberry rhubarb ice cream.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hey, I learned something!

One thing that I would really like to do is go to culinary school.  Right now, that's not an option.  But I'm working on it, so maybe someday (spoiler alert) soon.

But for now, no culinary school.  So I have started amusing myself by going to cooking classes at the Milwaukee Public Market.  And by "started" I mean I went to one.  But I'm supposed to go to another one tonight!

The class that I went to was on cooking ribs.  And, as we know from previous posts such as this one, this one, and this one, I love me some ribs.  But I've only ever made them in the crock pot.  Ribs take a long-ass time, and I just have too much to do.  I know that "grilling" is not "barbecuing," and since I have a grill I assumed I did not have a barbecue.  What I learned from this cooking class is that I am wrong.  I CAN barbecue.  Go team me!

Of course, now I need cooking toys for my newly found BBQ abilities.  I'm thinking about a wood chip box, and a stand that I can put a chicken on to make beer can chicken.  Like a beer can, only from Williams-Sonoma.  This may be why I never have any extra money...

Anyway, I made ribs.  They were delicious, but a little chewy.  I think that I cooked them too hot at first, because they started to char a little and then I turned the heat even further down.  On top of that, I think I might not have cooked them quite long enough.  I'm not a BBQ expert, though, so I will have to keep trying.  What a pity.

Much of this recipe was taken from the class, with a few changes to make it a little more local:

Honey Ribs
  • 2 racks pork spare ribs
  • Juice of 1 orange
Spice Rub:
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • 2 tbsp honey (L)
  • 1 chopped garlic scape (2-3 tbsp) (L)
  • 1/2 minced dried Thai chili (L* from last year), or any hot chili
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • 1 sprig rosemary, minced (L*)
  • 2 sprigs thyme, minced (L*)
Mop Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup honey (L)
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinigar
  • 1 bottle (12 oz) beer (L) - I used Leinenkugel's Summer Shanty
Rub orange juice into ribs.  Allow to sit for about 30 minutes.  Because I was moving slowly (it was crazy hot and I had danced the four days previous in the hot, hot sun) it took me 30 minutes to put together the rub.

Combine all rub ingredients and rub into ribs.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

Grill ribs over indirect heat, about 200-250 degrees.  I accomplished this by putting the ribs over the middle two burners of my four burner grill and turning on the outside burners.  I was told that you should also put a pan underneath the ribs to catch any drippings, but I couldn't figure out how to get the grill rack out.  Baste the ribs with the mop sauce every 30 minutes, and cook until ribs are "done."  They should be tender, but not quite falling off the bone.  I don't think 3 hours was enough, but you might have better luck depending on your particular ribs.

I served this with a tomato mozzarella salad and coleslaw.

Green Coleslaw:

  • 1/4 green cabbage head, sliced thinly (L)
  • 1 kohlrabi bulb, julianned (L*)
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced thinly (L)
  • 4 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tea. mustard powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced (L)
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbl. sugar
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  •   mayonnaise to taste
Combine cabbage, kohlrabi, and onion.  In a second bowl, combine all additional ingredients except mayonnaise.  Add to cabbage/onion and stir to combine.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Just before serving, add mayonnaise until the whole thing starts to just be a little creamy.  Frankly, I don't enjoy over mayonnaised coleslaw.  I think I used about 1/4 cup.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A quick, Not that Locavore-ish Dinner

For those of you who tell me that, not only do you not have time to cook dinner, you literally do not have a functioning kitchen (it baffles my mind), this one is for you:

Salmon for One

  • One salmon fillet, skin on.
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 small zucchini (L*)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 sprig rosemary (L*)

Squeeze half a lime over the piece of salmon.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cut the zucchini into quarters.  Season with salt and pepper.  Lay the sprig of rosemary over the top of the salmon.  Grill salmon, rosemary side down, over high heat for about 1 minute, just until the rosemary heats up and the grill gives the top of the salmon marks.  Flip the salmon over and continue to cook, over medium heat, until it is just opaque in the center - timing will depend on how thick your salmon is.  When the salmon is almost done, throw the zucchini on the grill and cook until tender but not soft.   I like a thick piece of salmon, and I probably grilled it for 4 minutes, then threw on the zucchini, then grilled for 4 minutes more.  Don't over cook it; salmon should be medium to medium rare.  Any more than that and it gets dry.

Special thanks to the St. Paul Fish Company for AWESOME King Salmon, and to Phil at Thief for the perfect Rose to go with it.  My heros.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Leftovers, anyone?

Like most people, I'm busy.  I do a lot.  So leftovers become a big part of my weekly meals.  I try to cook "real" meals on the days I can - usually Friday or Saturday, Sunday, sometimes Monday, and Thursday, and I try to cook enough that we can eat the leftovers the rest of the week.  Sometimes this means literally just a reprise of what we had the night before, but personally I would rather have something different.  Lots of times, this means pasta.

One of my personal cooking specialties is "Pasta Ala Whatever the Heck I Have in the Fridge."  This is very similar to my Super Top Secret Mac & Cheese recipe, in the fact that it doesn't really matter what you put in it.  Pasta is good like that.  Basically every time I'm watching "Chopped" I think: "Oh, I would make a pasta with that basket."  Got a bit of meat?  Throw it in a pasta.  Even better, got two different kinds of meat, neither of which is enough to make a meal?  Don't eat them as a midnight snack!  Throw them in some pasta.  Some random, kind of old vegetables?  Cook them down, add some butter and cream... like magic you have pasta sauce.  Rock hard cheese that you're not sure what it used to be?  You got it, grate it over your pasta.

Pasta is cheap.  It's filling.  It can take a lot of additional, random ingredients if you have them, or it can be eaten basically on its own.  It's a good meal.  The below recipe is just a possible example.  Basically anything can be substituted for any of the items.

This recipe is technically out of order.  I recently graduated from my MBA program, and in celebration had a crawfish boil.  The crawfish was not, as you might expect, local.  But it was good, and it did include many local ingredients - including local sausage which I have used in the below recipe.  More on my boil later...

Spinach Pasta with Chicken, Sausage, Mushrooms, and Zucchini

  • 2 servings (approx. 8 oz each) fresh spinach pasta (L/L*), or use dried pasta from a box
  • Leftover chicken - about 1 breast worth (L)
  • Leftover sausage (In this case, spicy andouille sausage) - about 1 link (L)
  • 5 or six large cremini mushrooms, sliced (L)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced (L*)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided (L)
  • 1/4 cup half and half (L)
 Cook pasta in a medium pot with well salted water, and cook until pasta is just under al dente.  Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter in a large frying pan.  Add chicken, sausage, mushrooms, and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and saute until meat is warmed through and veggies just start to get tender.  Add half and half and remaining butter, and cook, stirring, until butter melts and small bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan.  And pasta, stir, and allow to cook a 2-3 more minutes, until pasta finishes cooking and all ingredients are well combined.

Another choice for using leftovers is to make something that's almost a recipe.  For example, many quick weeknight recipes call for boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.  Generally when Jeff and I have a whole chicken, we end up with 1 breast and 1 thigh leftover.  By carefully slicing the meat off of these two pieces, I can get pieces of chicken that serve the same function as a chicken breast - even if they are a little smaller.  From there, I just follow the recipe, substituting my pieces of chicken for the chicken breasts, and cooking for less time since the meat is already cooked through.  This would work for chicken marsala, or you could cut the pieces smaller and use them in tacos.  In this case, I made chicken saltimbocca... sort of.  I made this a while ago, while there was still asparagus at the market.  You could substitute any veggies you want, or not use the vegetables at all.  If you are not using vegetables, reduce the wine to 1/4 cup, and the butter to 1 tbsp.

Chicken Saltambocca (ish) with Asparagus and Turnips 
  • 3-4 slices bacon (L), or use prosciutto to be more traditional
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, or one breast and one thigh, sliced into tenders about 1/2 inch thick. (L)
  • 1/4 cup flour (L)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped sage, plus whole leaves (L*)
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided (L)
  • 1/4 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (L)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • approx. 10 stalks asparagus (L)
  • 2-3 small turnips, sliced (L)
In a large frying pan, cook bacon until it is done, but not crispy.   Remove from pan and drain on paper towels, but leave bacon drippings in pan.  Season flour to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in chopped sage.  Dredge chicken tenders in flour, and fry briefly in bacon fat over high heat (you want to create a crust on the chicken here, but you don't want to leave it in too long as the chicken will dry out due to being already cooked.)  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Add 1 tbsp butter to pan and allow to melt.  Add vegetables and saute for about 3 minutes.  The veggies should not be cooked through.

Meanwhile, assemble chicken by layering 1 piece of bacon on top of each chicken breast, followed by sage leaf, followed by mozzarella cheese.  Trim bacon, sage, and cheese so all items are the same size as the chicken tender.

Add remaining tablespoon butter and wine to pan, and cook just until butter melts.  Add chicken to pan, turn heat to very low, and cover tightly.  Cook just until chicken is heated through and cheese is melted.

My point, I guess, is that food is not a science.  Most of us learn to bake before we learn to cook.  I can remember helping to mix up cookies and brownies well before I was cooking anything.  This makes sense, I guess, because baking rarely requires sharp knives, and the hot part can easily be handled by mom or dad or grandma without the kids feeling left out.  But, in reality, that's backwards.  Baking is a science.  It requires following precise directions, or things don't turn out well.  I think we learn, at an early age, that cooking also has to be precise.  But it doesn't.  There are no rules.  Your pasta won't fall like a cake or a souffle.   It doesn't really matter what you put into your food, as long as it tastes good.  And the only way to learn what tastes good is to try different combinations.  I've found, if I can eat my leftovers in a meal that isn't an exact replica of what the leftovers originally were, I'm more likely to eat them, and less likely to throw food away.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Many times I write at least part of my blog posts in advance of actually making the food.  This is especially true when I'm making something big, or that I'm not really familiar with.  I write my recipe, along with any (in theory funny) stories I might have in advance of actually doing the cooking.  Then, when I'm cooking, I don't have to take extensive notes.  I can just make any quick changes to the recipe, type up my reactions, and I'm done!

I'm very nervous to do that with this post.

The last time I did that, I had a glorious post planned and partially written about chicken.  I was just getting home from San Francisco, and I hadn't eaten really anything good the whole time I was there.  I was stressed, I wanted comfort food, and I wanted it now.  Chicken, in it's many forms, is my comfort food, and is an important staple at our house.  I was going to include several different recipes.

That post ended badly.

But, I have a brand new grill and all is well in the world!

I like chicken in all of it's varieties, but fried chicken is one of my favorites.  It's not something I make very often.  I would like to say that I don't make it because it's bad for you, but really I don't make it because it's hard - and it never tastes as good as it does from a restaurant.  There's this place by my house called Gold Rush Chicken, and they have the best fried chicken ever.  If you don't get it home fast enough, the grease will literally melt through the bottom of the bucket.  It's awesome.  I can feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it.  You can't duplicate that effect using any ingredients I'm willing to buy.

Plus I want to use my new grill.  Can fried chicken be grilled?  Can grilled chicken be fried?  Google says it can!  And, if there's one thing writing a blog has taught me, it's that EVERYTHING ON THE INTERNET IS TRUE.  Honest.  You need to be a credible source to post on the internet.  No lies allowed. 

After checking out and combining a few recipes, here is the one I came up with.  This was AMAZING.  Per Jeff, it was the best chicken I have made yet, and I have made a LOT of chicken:

Grilled Fried Chicken

1 4(ish) pound chicken (L)
1 can or bottle beer (L) (Oh the joys of living in Milwaukee!!)

Egg Wash:
1/2 cup milk (L)
1 egg (L)


1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup Tapioca flour (L)
1 cup stale bread, crushed into fine crumbs (L)
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika 
1 tsp minced thyme (L*)
1 tbsp minced oregano (L*)

Cut chicken into serving sized pieces, and place into a gallon size freezer bag.  Pour in beer, and allow chicken to soak several hours, or overnight.

In two separate bowls, mix together egg wash and breading ingredients.  Dip chicken into egg wash, then into breading, then grill as you would grill normal chicken.

I served it with grilled mushrooms (L) and zucchini (L*), tomatoes (L) and cucumbers (L).

It's zucchini time.  You've been warned.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yay! New Grill!

Over the 4th of July Weekend, Jeff went out and got us a new grill.  It wasn't the grill that I wanted (click here!), but it fit a little better into our budget.

 I was very impressed at Jeff's ability to go out, purchase a new grill, tear down the old grill, and assemble the new grill in just a few hours.  Putting things together in our house tends to be an adventure, and usually ends with me angry and yelling.  I guess I am the problem.  Solution: no more me putting things together!!

So, time to try out the new grill, while still trying to get rid of the garden/dairy excess...

I've been visiting the Menomonee Falls farmer's market on Wednesdays.  It's close to my work, and, in theory, I should be able to store whatever I buy in the fridge at work for a few hours after I buy it.  I say in theory, because one time someone stole my eggs.  Seriously.  Someone stole a dozen, raw eggs.  There was some suggestion that someone took them on mistake, thinking that they were their eggs, but frankly I don't believe that for a minute.  ("Oh, sorry.  I thought I brought a dozen raw eggs for lunch.  Must have remembered incorrectly.  My mistake!")  I made a big stink about it, and threatened to anyone who would listen that I was going to leave a dozen eggs in my car for a week and then put them in the fridge, and it hasn't happened again, so I guess I'm okay.

Anyway, at the Menomonee Falls Farmer's Market, there's a woman who sells goat meat.  I had goat meat on my honeymoon in Jamaica, but not since.  From what I remember, it was pretty good... although I think it mostly tasted like curry.  I know that it's a tougher meat, so when I bought the goat chops it was my intention to braise them.  But, it is the middle of summer, and I do have a new grill, so why not give that a try.  My solution for making it tender?

A marinade.  But not just any marinade: a dairy marinade.  Because I learned on Food Network (see, I'm not just wasting my whole Sunday.  I'm LEARNING) that dairy marinades activate enzymes in meat that break down proteins, and they don't contain the acid in traditional marinades that can cause your meat to be mushy and gross. (Have you ever soaked your tequila lime chicken in the tequila lime marinade for too long?)

Most dairy marinade recipes call  for yogurt, but I found a few that call for milk or buttermilk, which leads me to believe that it isn't the bacteria in the  yogurt that is important.  This is what I came up with:

Sour Cream Marinated Goat Chops with Wilted Bitter Lettuce:

4-6 small goat chops (L)

For the Marinade:
  • 1 cup sour cream (L)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled (L)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp garlic skapes, minced (L)
  • 2 small green onions, including tender green parts, minced (L*)
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (L*)
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced (L*)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced (L*)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh mint, minced (L*)
Combine all ingredients, and spread generously over the goat chops.  Allow to sit, refrigerated, for a few hours.  I did this before going to work, and they sat all day (about 11 hours).

Grill goat chops over medium high heat for about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness and desired doneness.  Ours were medium, and they were delicious!  The meat was not gamy at all, and the sour cream made them a little tangy in a good way.  The only thing I would have done differently was cook more!  The chops were tiny and had a lot of bones, so you didn't get a lot of meat.  The husband and I easily could have eaten 4 chops a piece (he probably could have eaten 6), and they marinade could have covered that many.

Wilted bitter lettuce:
  • 1 large bunch bitter lettuce, washed well (L*)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (L)
  • 1 tbsp garlic scapes (L)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a hot frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute until lightly golden.  Turn heat to low and add lettuce.  Add vinegar, salt, and pepper, and stir until lettuce is wilted.

The first bite of this was surprisingly good.  The second bite was okay, and the third bite was barely palatable.  It was just too bitter, and the bitterness overwhelmed all of the other flavors.  I read online that bitter lettuce can be used in the same way as any other bitter green (like kale or spinach), but obviously that was not the case here.  We threw most of this away, and supplemented our dinner with popcorn.  I will keep trying, though.  There's got to be a recipe out there for me!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spinach Pasta

As promised yesterday, we will be using up some of the ridiculous surplus in my garden.  I feel bad being upset but an excess of produce, as only two months ago I was struggling to find anything green to eat at all and was extolling the virtues of dandelions as a food source.  I feel ungrateful to my garden for all it's providing, but at the same time I've got nothing to do with it and it's going bad.  Note to self, less lettuce next year!

I'm looking for ways to prepare bitter lettuce - especially ways to prepare it that can be frozen and eaten later on.  I'm not having crazy amounts of success, but I'm looking and I'm sure I'll find something.  Until then, I'm going to move forward with the things I do know what to do with.  It is my goal to have a freezer packed to the brim at the end of fall, and to have real food to eat all winter long.  Hopefully I can also do some canning, which I have no experience with, because I'm sure the freezer isn't big enough to fit a Wisconsin winter's worth of meals...
Massive pile of spinach.  This ended up being
eight cups of leaves total.

I'm starting off with what I know.  At least, then, I know that won't go to waste.

I looked at a lot of recipes for spinach pasta in the process of creating this one.  Most of them had you start with a package of frozen spinach.   The ones that included fresh spinach had you blanching it and then squeezing out and throwing away all the water.  That water is where all the nutrients go, so I didn't want to lose it.  In the below recipe, I'm basically steaming the spinach to get it soft and to get the water out of it, and then incorporating the water back into the dough.  If you want to try this using frozen spinach, it looks like you want about a 10 oz bag.  You'll also probably need another egg or 2, because you're not going to have the cooking water.

Spinach Pasta

Spinach wilting in the pot

  • 4 cups lightly packed fresh spinach leaves (L*)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 cups flour (L)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs (L)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • additional water if necessary
 Pour water into a large pot with spinach, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until spinach is well wilted.  Remove spinach and thoroughly squeeze out all the water.  I started with 1/4 cup of water, and ended with just over 1/2 a cup.  Reserve water!  Once the spinach is all squeezed out, you should have a ball about the size of a Jumbo size egg.

Two large eggs of spinach
Combine spinach, one cup flour, and salt in a food processor, and process until spinach is well broken down and combined with the flour - about 3 minutes.  I did this originally with just the spinach, and I found that it I got better results when I added a little bit of the flour as well.

Transfer spinach/flour mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add remaining flour, and eggs, and mix on low speed.  Once the flour, eggs, and spinach are well combined (the mixture should look like wet cornmeal or sand), drizzle in the oil.  Then, slowly add the spinach cooking water, allowing the dough to mix in between additions.  Once the dough starts to stick together, stop adding water and allow to mix until all the dough sticks together.  If you need to add more water to get this to happen, do so.

Once the dough is in one big ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed until well combined.  Allow to rest for about 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, before rolling out depending on your pasta maker's instructions.

Pasta can be frozen easily, by allowing it to dry (please see my picture: pasta drying racks are for wimps!) for about 10 minutes, and then placing into a freezer bag with as little air as possible.

My pasta drying rack is cookie cooling racks, balanced on top of
boxes of cereal.

 I haven't actually eaten any of this pasta yet.  Notes on how good it is when I try some!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Necessity may be the Mother of Invention, but Surplus is it's Father.

My mother taught me plenty of good things:  Be nice to people, always try your best, and don't take candy (or possibly Roofied drinks) from strangers.

My father taught me plenty of good things too:  Don't Panic (and carry a towel), TANSTAAFL, and non-interference is the prime directive.

Okay, I learned those things from Science Fiction, but my dad introduced me to Science Fiction, so it counts.

I guess what I'm saying is, at least for me, moms teach us to be good.  Dads teach us to be good at being ridiculous. And I mean ridiculous in the best way possible.  I mean ridiculous in terms of trying new things, being okay with failing, and making the most out of unexpected situations.

Up to this point, I have been cooking out of necessity.  I Googled the growing season for San Francisco, where the locavore movement originated, and learned it is more or less "year round," depending on what you are growing.  Do the same search for WI, and the growing season is approximately 175 days.  That's less than half of the year, people!  And, while it's been 90 degrees here the past few days, the pickings have still been slim.  I have been cooking with whatever I can get my hands on, creating my menu out of what I have, and the necessity of eating something and feeding my husband.

However, I am starting to get some very odd surpluses.  Rhubarb, which you have seen and which is very easily frozen for future use.  Also lettuce, which is not easily saved for future use, and which I've been trying to eat in salads - unfortunately not much else for salads is available yet.  And, since the days are getting hotter, the lettuce is getting bitter much faster than I can eat all of it.  Finally, sour cream and cottage cheese.  I recently started getting Oberweis delivery of my dairy products, and I have to fix the order every Monday night if I don't want something.  I haven't totally gotten the hang of what I need to get yet, or remembering to fix my "standing order" for the items I don't need, so I had three 1-pound containers of both cottage cheese and sour cream - three containers of each kind!  I like dairy, but that's a lot!
That is a lot of lettuce...
So, it's time to stop being "good," and start being ridiculous. Also, hopefully, through being ridiculous I can find ways to save some of this surplus for future use.  I remember a trivia question I heard once:

What is the only vegetable that cannot be preserved?

Answer: Lettuce.  Not a a good sign...

Today was the fourth of July, and that means our annual party at the Ward's house.  Bring a side dish to pass.  I am generally in charge of a salad, but I thought I would use up some of my surplus as well:

Kohlrabi Salad
So pretty... I think it kind of looks like fireworks!
One thing I hate about salad recipes specifically is that all vegetables are different sizes.  I could easily write "two kohlrabi bulbs" but what size bulb?  One bulb could easily yield anywhere from less than one to three cups or more.  And if I say "four servings," what does that mean?  Is it four full size servings?  Or for side dish servings?  So, for this recipe, I am using parts.  Figure out how much you want, and start with the kohlrabi.  Your final product will be four times bigger than how much kohlrabi you start with.  If you like something more, add more of it.  If you don't like an ingredient, or can't find it, substitute something else or omit it entirely.  This recipe is very flexible - I just made it up based on what I have.  I used two medium sized kohlrabi bulbs and this full recipe made enough to fill a 1/2 gallon container. 
  • 2 parts kohlrabi (L)
  • 1 part cucumber (L)
  • 1/2 part radishes (L)
  • 1/2 part carrots (L)
  • Crumbled Feta Cheese, to taste (L)
  • 1 tbsp garlic skapes (the green shoot of a garlic plant in spring.  If you have not tried these, get to the farmer's market now!) (L)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp minced hot Thai pepper (L*)
  • 1 tbsp Oregano (L*)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinigar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
Julianne vegetables and combine.

For dressing, combine first seven ingredients.  While whisking vigorously, slowly pour in the vinegar and sesame oil. Pour enough dressing on salad to lightly coat the vegetables, and stir to combine.  Do not add so much that the salad becomes soggy or greasy.  You likely will have some dressing left over for a future use.

Crumble feta cheese over salad, and serve cold.

Cottage Cheese Cupcakes with Sour Cream Frosting

Makes almost 4 dozen cupcakes:

  • 4 2/3 cups flour (L)
    1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs (L)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (L)
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (L)
  • 4 cups fruit, such as rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, etc (I used a combo of all 3 (L*)
If you are using rhubarb, you will want to cook it slightly first, to get the water out.  The 4 cups of fruit should be total, after the rhubarb is cooked.  I used 2 cups rhubarb, 1 cup strawberries, and one cup raspberries.  In order to get two cups of cooked rhubarb, I placed 6 cups raw rhubarb, 2 tbsp honey, and a splash of vodka into a large stock pot.  Cook over low heat until the rhubarb has released most of its liquid, about 5 minutes.  The point is not to cook the rhubarb until it falls apart, just to get most of the water out.  Drain the rhubarb and, if desired, save the liquid for a future use (it's great mixed with lemonade as a drink!)

Preheat oven to 350, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl (preferably a stand mixer) combine eggs, oil, milk, and cottage cheese, and beat until smooth.  Add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Add fruit, and stir gently.  Scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.

Sour Cream Frosting:

8 tbsp butter, softened (L)
2 cups sour cream (L)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar

In a large bowl (preferring a stand mixer), beat together all ingredients except sugar.  Add sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

I have an over productive rhubarb plant.

You may have noticed by the abundance of recipes featuring rhubarb such as this one, and this one.  I don't know for sure, but I would guess I have about 20 cups of rhubarb in my freezer right now.  I'm not complaining, mind you.  It freezes well, and it's always a nice treat in the middle of winter.

I had intended to make a pie.  I kept planning to make a pie "that night," and then something would come up.  It doesn't take a lot to distract me from making a pie, though.  I fear pie.  Too much can, and usually does, go wrong.  I've gotten a lot better over the past year or so, but there was a long string of pies that came out wrong.  Really, really wrong.  It's a crust problem.  The crust is either too thick and stays raw, or too thin and gets soggy.  Sometimes it all breaks off of the edges.  Once all the top crust sunk to the bottom of the pie.  I'm not sure exactly how this happened, as it was a fruit pie and it seems impossible that the crust would travel THROUGH the fruit to get to the bottom.  Perhaps there was a tiny wormhole in my oven.

Anyway, I'm a little tentative, and I've gotten really good at coming up with reasons why I can't make a pie.

The thing that prevented me from making the pie most recently was ice cream.  Specifically, we didn't have any!  And what's the point of rhubarb pie without vanilla ice cream?

Ice cream, at least the way I make it, takes about three days, so this was a very good stall technique.  I was personally quite proud of myself.

So I started making the ice cream.  Cooking of non-dinner items always gets the husband's attention:

Husband: What'cha making?
Me: Ice Cream.
Husband: Strawberry Ice Cream?

I paused.  We don't have an abundance of strawberries, but I have been picking about a cup or two a day.  Plus, I don't really like strawberry ice cream.  I mean, I'm not opposed to it, I just wouldn't ever pick it.  It seems dull to me, and I associate it with a fake strawberry flavor.  PLUS, I don't know if I want to admit to my master plan of making a pie.   The husband likes pie, and, as mentioned above, I don't make them very often...

Me: I wasn't planning on making strawberry ice cream.  Do you want strawberry ice cream?
Husband: It's my favorite.

I take the plunge.

Me: I was planning on making vanilla ice cream, and then making a rhubarb pie.  But I can make strawberry ice cream instead if you want.
Husband: Either sounds good.

HA!  Now I don't have to make a pie!!  YAY!!!!

I ended up not having quite enough strawberries to make strawberry ice cream, so I decided instead to make strawberry rhubarb ice cream.  It is SO good.  Not at all fake tasting (why would it be?  I didn't use anything fake) and not too sweet.  I may have to re-evaluate my stance on fruit ice cream.  I guess there are desserts that aren't chocolate that have value...

If you have lots and lots of free time, and don't fear pie crust the way I do, I think this would make an amazing ice-cream pie.  Just bake out a pie crust and fill it with the ice cream.  If anyone (mom) wants to make me an empty pie crust, I will make more and turn it into a pie!  In fact, I bet it would be good with a gram cracker crust too...

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream:
Total Time: about 1 to 3
Active time: 30 minutes
  • Two Cups Strawberries (L*)
  • 2 Cups Rhubarb, sliced into about 1/4 inch pieces (L*) (make sure they're not too big or they get weird when frozen)
  • 1/3 C + 4 tbsp honey (L)
  • Splash vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream (L)
  • 1 cup half and half (L)
  • 4 large egg yolks (L)
  • Pinch salt
Hull strawberries and slice in half.  Place in a medium bowl and mash with a fork or a potato masher.  I like chunks in my ice cream, but if you don't you could also use a food processor.  Mix with 2 tbsp honey and allow to sit for about 1 hour.

Place rhubarb into a medium sauce pan with 2 tbsp honey and a splash of vodka.  Cook on low for about an hour, until rhubarb is well broken down.  Again, if you want no chunks, you could put it into the food processor.  Allow rhubarb to cool.

Place rhubarb and strawberries into a large, heat proof bowl.  Rest bowl in an ice bath, and place a wire strainer on top of the bowl (this will get you all prepped for when your custard is done and you have no time!)

In a medium sauce pan, combine cream and half and half, and heat over medium low heat until bubbles just form around the edges.  Do not allow to boil.  Meanwhile, combine egg yolks, remaining honey, and salt in a large bowl and beat on high until yolks are pale yellow and double in size.  I recommend using a stand mixer for this, as you can do other things while the yolks are being beaten.  If you don't have a stand mixer, go buy one!  Or use a hand mixer.

Once eggs are whipped and milk is hot, slowly pour a small amount (1/4 to 1/2 a cup) of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly as you add it.  Then, slowly add the resulting egg/milk mixture back into the hot milk in the pan, again whisking constantly as you pour.  Cook this mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until it just thickens enough to coat the back of your spoon.  Remove the custard immediately, and pour through the strainer into the bowl with the fruit in the ice bath.  Stir constantly until cooled.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on to the top of the custard and refrigerate for several hours, up to overnight.  The colder the custard is, the better it will freeze up.

Freeze the ice cream using your specific ice cream maker's directions.  At this point, I like to freeze the ice cream for another 24 hours before eating, because it's always so soft right after being made.

Ice cream is not hard.  I know it sounds like a lot of work, and for about 10 minutes it is, but mostly it's just waiting and not overcooking the custard.  Maybe I'll make a video on that, too.  Right after my omelet video...