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.

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