Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Set...

There are two steps required to eat locally. The first is be prepared.  The second is be flexible.  You've got to be prepared, because it's just not as easy to get food.  If I'm in the middle of a recipe and I notice that it calls for tomato paste, and I don't have any tomato paste, you can't just run to your neighborhood Pick n' Save and get a container of local tomato paste.  I am very much a meal planner, especially this summer since I got my CSA.  Now it's a battle of not only knowing what I need so I have it all, but also knowing what I have and how I can use it all!  But that's a different post for a different day.

The second step is to be flexible.  Dietitians tell you to figure out what you need, make a list, and then go to the store and buy it.  That makes sense when you are trying not to over purchase food, and you know that everything you could ever want will be at your local Mega Mart.  Eating seasonally requires a little more finesse.   I generally figure out the main meals I'm going to make, and get an idea of how many vegetables and what kinds I'm going to need, and then figure out the rest when I get there.  I'd love to be able to give you a beautiful shopping list of what to by at your local farmer's market tomorrow, but I don't know what's going to be there for you to pick from.

So, here is the menu that I have planned for myself this week, based on my CSA box.  If you want to give this a shot you can feel free to follow along.  Get yourself to your local farmer's market tomorrow and get what you can get.  If you can't find something, pick up something you think would be a good substitute, leave me a message here or on Facebook, and we'll figure something out.  These are all things I can find locally produced - feel free to let me know if I can help you (especially if you're in the area.)

If you get your butt out of bed early tomorrow morning, head down to the South Shore Farmer's Market.  My dance troupe, Tamarind, will be performing at 9:00 am (cross promotion!)

If you don't get up early, or don't see this until later, the West Allis Farmer's Market opens at 1:00pm and runs until 6.  If you get this even later than that, do not be concerned!  Tuesday and Thursdays you can visit the West Allis Farmer's Market from 12:00 to 5:00, and the Westtown Farmer's Market at Ziedler Union Square (Downtown Milwaukee) on Wedensdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm.  If you end up there, make sure you find the Rhine Center Vegetable Club booth and let them know that I sent you.  I'm always looking for brownie points!

If you plan on doing any canning this weekend, I would recommend tomatoes and, if you can get your hands on them, peaches.  Most farmers have large quantities of tomato seconds (less pretty tomatoes) available at a discount price for canning.

Saturday September 1st: BBQ ribs
It's the kick off of the Eat Local Challenge, and it's also the start of Labor Day Weekend.  I'm Celebrating!  This is by far the most complicated recipe on the menu, so if it's overwhelming you, just skip ahead to Sunday!  I will serve this with some grilled potatoes, and whatever good veggies I can find at the market.

This recipe is from Epicurious.  I am drastically reducing the recipe for myself and using less than one pound of baby back ribs, because I am poor and will supplement the recipe with veggies.  You could also use spare ribs, which I am a big fan of and which cost a lot less than baby back.  I am including the recipe as originally written, which serves 8.  Notice you will want to bake these first thing in the morning, to allow them to cool to be grilled for dinner:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 pounds baby back pork ribs (8 racks) or St. Louis-style spareribs (4 racks)
  • Low-salt chicken broth (optional) (or use home made chicken stock if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 cups peach bbq sauce (recipe coming soon!) or your favorite bbq sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Place each rack of ribs on a double layer of foil; sprinkle rub all over ribs. Wrap racks individually and divide between 2 baking sheets.
Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours for baby backs and 3 hours for spareribs. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour any juices from foil into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup; reserve juices. Let ribs cool completely. DO AHEAD: Ribs can be baked up to 3 days ahead (the flavor will be more developed, and the cold ribs will hold together better on the grill as they heat through). Cover and chill juices. Rewrap ribs in foil and chill.
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Add broth or water to rib juices, if needed, to measure 1 1/2 cups. Whisk in barbecue sauce to blend.
Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce mixture and turning frequently, until lacquered and charred in places and heated through, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce.

For the Peach BBQ sauce you will need:
  • 4 lb peaches
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup organic canola oil (organic is especially important for canola oil. If it's not organic, it's a GMO.)
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup buckwheat honey
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup whiskey (why not use some local Great Lakes Distillery whiskey.  Have you taken all the steps possible to win your free bottle?  So far you could have had up to 4 entries.  Click HERE to see what I'm talking about.)
  • 1 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (you can find a lot of varieties of local ketchup at your farmer's market if you're lucky.  I always get mine from the mushroom guys.)
  • 2 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp chili power
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Blanch and peel the peaches (just like you would a tomato), then halve and pit.  Slice the peach halves.  Pour the lemon juice into a large nonreactive bowl.  Add the peaches and toss to coat with the lemon juice.  Warm the oil in a large nonreactive sauce pan over medium low heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender - about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.   Stir in the peaches, sugar, vinegar, and whiskey.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the peaches and onion are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Blend, either using an immersion blender (best choice) or working in batches in a traditional blender until smooth.  Pour back into sauce pan.  Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, ginger, and chili powder.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce to medium low heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often until hot, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

This recipe makes 4 pint jars, which can be processed in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  It would also freeze well.  The BBQ sauce lasts in the fridge for up to two weeks in theory, if you don't eat it before then!

Sunday September 2nd: Mozzarella and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts
This recipe serves 2.  Adjust as needed.  I will serve this with whatever veggies at the market suit my fancy, and a salad with lemon tarragon dressing.  This recipe is a standby favorite of mine, and I first printed the recipe here in June of 2011.

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 6 large sage leaves
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat grill to Medium-High heat.

Make sure chicken breasts are 100% thawed, or this will be harder.  Carefully, butterfly the chicken breasts: Slice chicken breasts down the length of the side of the breast, almost to the end but not all the way through, so the breast opens up like a book.  Season the chicken breast inside and out with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.

Open up the chicken breasts so the two "insides" are showing, and what originally was the "outside" of the chicken breast is facing down.  On one half (what will become the "bottom" half) lay 4-5 sage leaves per breast, depending on the size of the chicken breast and the sage leaves.  Thinly slice the Mozzarella, and lay that on top of the sage leaves, trimming to match the bottom half of the chicken breasts.  Fold the top half over the mozzarella, and use a tooth pick to hold the breasts closed (it should now look like the original chicken breast, except with sage and mozzarella stuffed in the middle!)

Monday September 3rd: LABOR DAY!

Why not swing by the Usingers store on Old World Third and pick up some brats!  Or you could get some beef brats at the South Shore Farmer's Market from Ney's Big Sky.  The Dill Pickle Brat is my new absolute favorite.  If you're looking for a refreshing salad to bring, try a tomato, watermelon and mint salad:

Take equal parts watermelon and tomato (get a yellow tomato for some color variety) and cut into bite sized chunks.  Combine in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with feta and mint.  Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzle with a champagne vinegar.  Toss gently to combine.

Tuesday September 4th: Date Night!
Labor day was exhausting, and then you had to go back to work?  No cooking tonight.  Visit one of the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge affiliate restaurants.

Wednesday September 5th: Tacos
Tacos are a great way to use up some vegetables in the fridge.  Really, you can put anything in a tortilla and call it a taco.   I'm willing to bet that SOMEONE made some sort of pulled meat product for Labor Day.  When it's time to leave, make sure you get a to-go container to use in your tacos tonight.  Or, if that doesn't work, make yourself an extra (unstuffed) chicken breast on Sunday.  If you're feeling extra healthy, use lettuce in place of the tortillas.

Thursday September 6th: Potato and Corn Chowder
This is my vegetarian version of my Fish Chowder.  If you want, pick up some Rushing Rivers Smoked Trout from Outpost and throw it in.

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped (celery saves in the freezer well for purposes like this.  So plan ahead for the winter!)
  • 1 lb potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2/3 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tsp minced tarragon
  • 1 cup corn kernels  
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
In a large frying pan over medium heat (or using the browning feature on your slow cooker if it has one), melt the butter.  Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, about 6 minutes.  Transfer the contents of pans to a slow cooker (if not already there!)

Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the slow cooker.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Top with stock, wine, tarragon, mushrooms and corn.  Cover and cook on the low setting for 6-8 hours.  The potatoes should be very tender.

Stir in the vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
Friday September 7th: Fritatta 

I am a Wisconsinite, so my Friday meal of choice should be fish fry.  But it's not.  It never has been.  It has recently become fritatta.  There are, I suspect, two reasons for this: One - I love eggs for dinner (with a big glass of red wine).  Two -  Fritattas are, like pasta, a great vessel for whatever you've got.  Have you got some leftover meat or potatoes?  Not enough to make a meal but too much to throw out?  Are there some vegetables that will not make it into next week?  Chop them all up, add some cheese and or herbs, throw them in a well buttered pan, and cover them with about 6-8 eggs beaten with about 1/4 cup of cream or milk.  Bake at 350 degrees until set in the center - about 30 minutes.

Serve with potatoes if there aren't any in the fritatta (or even if there are!  Who am I to judge?  The only thing I love more than eggs is carbs.  And pork.)

 I don't have any pictures to show you this week, because I haven't made any of these things yet, so here is a picture of a giant cantaloupe I pulled out of my garden:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Get Ready...

The Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge starts on Saturday; are you ready? What can you to to incorporate more local food into your diet?

If you are ready to go all in, but want a little guidance, check back here tomorrow. I will be posting a shopping list of thinks you can find at your local market, as well as a meal plan for the week. And it won't be overwhelming, I promise. I work a real job, and am there until 8:00pm Tuesday through Thursday, so I understand the importance of a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

Send me a message: here, or on Facebook, or on Twitter. Let me know how you plan on participating in the eat local challenge. If you have any questions or concerns let me know your thoughts. I am happy to help if I can!! Either way, we can all support each other through this process, and make this the best Eat Local challenge yet.

If you haven't done so already, make sure you enter into the drawing to win a bottle of Great Lakes Distillery Vodka or Whiskey. You've got the opportunity to earn three entries by following the directions listed HERE. You can get one more entry by letting me know how you will be participating in the Eat Local Challenge, and there will be more opportunities to enter coming up.

A winner will be selected on Sunday September 16th.

Happy Locavoring!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Put Up or Shut Up Episode 4 - Booze!

Here is what this post is about:

**This post contains my very first give away.  You're going to want to read the whole thing!**

In anticipation of The Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge (which you will be hearing about for the next three weeks - prepare yourself!) I thought I would give you a few "outside the box" ideas for working more local goodness into your diet.  I know you've heard me rant on about visiting your farmer's market or growing your own, so you're probably ready for a post on something new.  So, with that in mind, here are a few local suggestions we can all get on board for with minimal effort.

  1. Eat at a restaurant serving locally grown food, such as Braise, Honeypie, Roots, or Pastiche (some of my favorites.  For a list of 2012 Eat Local Milwaukee Restaurant Affiliates, click HERE.)  Or, if you don't live in Milwaukee, do your own Google search!  What do you think I did to find this?
  2. Get some local cheese or ice cream.  Visit the Clock Shadow Creamery and try some of the cheese and ice cream made in your own back yard.  I personally recommend the quark (a kind of soft cheese.  I'm a sucker for soft cheese!)  You can find Wisconsin made cheese at basically every grocery store in the area, too.  Carr Valley has some of my personal favorites. But, this is eat local MILWAUKEE, not eat local WISCONSIN, so you should probably get your butt down to the Clock Shadow Creamery. 
  3. Have a local beverage!  (And I don't mean milk here, people.)  This is Milwaukee, after all, and I think the background behind The Brewers is far more obvious than the background behind The Packers (meat packers).  
Okay, sure, Miller is now SABMiller and is headquartered in the United Kingdom.  But, come on, you didn't want a Miler Light anyway!  Milwaukee has a lot better to offer.  Lakefront Brewery, Big Bay Brewing Company, Buffalo Water Beer Company, Electrorock Brewing, Horny Goat Brewing Company, Milwaukee Brewing Company... or you could always have a Schlitz!

But what if you're some sort of terrible Wisconsinite who doesn't like beer? (What!?! Unacceptable!  Kick her out!  Make her move to Illinois!  She probably doesn't like football either!

Whoa, calm down now.  There's no need to get all crazy!

It's okay.  Really.  You can still be a local drinker even if you don't like beer.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Great Lakes Distillery.  I took the tour in the hopes of being able to give you lots of interesting information.  Unfortunately, the tour ends with a tasting, and the tasting is at  least five shots.  I think more.  The fact that I don't remember should help you see what the problem is.  I did try to record the audio of the tour on my phone, but it was in my pocket and it didn't really record very clearly.  The audio of me and my friends being drunk and obnoxious recorded fine, though.

So I hope you weren't expecting a book report

Here is what I remember/stole from their website:

The Great Lakes Distillery is a small batch producer located in Milwaukee WI.  They have only one still.  They want a bigger one.  On 75 gallon still, filled, makes (if I remember right) 7 gallons of booze.  That can't be right, can it?  Meh.  Fact check yourself!  They are growing a garden to make their own infusions.  Vodka good.  Whiskey bad.  Absinth doesn't really make you go crazy, but it will make you need to sit down on the floor.

I listening to the recording, I can clearly hear myself say, to strangers, during the tasting "I will post on my blog: 'Overheard at the distillery tour: 'Oh F**k.'"  Her response, "Yeah.  My friends expect that from me."  Sorry new friend.  I didn't catch your name.

Actually, the recording of us during the tasting is possibly the best thing ever.  Lots of cheers.  Lots of cursing.  You can tell when we are totally unwilling to let good booze go to waste, and just shoot it back.

I would recommend that you go check the tour out yourself.  Make friends with the people at your table.  The tour is free, and the tasting is only $5.  The bar is beautiful (if you want to sit and drink more, or, you know, wait for your taxi to pick you up.)

One nice thing happening at the Great Lakes Distillery bar is that they are also using local ingredients in their cocktails.  Vodka and Whiskey (their main products) are both excellent choices for infusions.  Why not head down, have some locally made, locally infused cocktails, made with local ingredients, and Toast the Eat Local Milwaukee Challenge.

And this brings us to the "Put Up" part.  No, we're not talking about preserving food to sustain you through the long winter.   We're talking about putting up the flavors of spring and summer to sustain your soul through the long winter.

So far, I have made strawberry, rhubarb mint, beet, tomato-garlic-basil, cucumber, and peach vodka.  I have also made peach and cherry whiskey.  All with local ingredients.  The beet, by the way, is nasty.  Don't do it.  Don't drink it.  If you know me, and you come over to my house and I offer it to you and tell you that it's really good, I'm lying.  It's a trap to see if your read this post!

The rest, however, are delicious.  The two peaches, and the rhubarb mint vodka are my favorite so far.  The tomato-garlic-basil is also impressive.  You could use it in a Bloody Mary, if you wanted, but I feel like that would be a waste because the taste would be hidden.  Also, I don't like Bloody Marys.  I do, however, like this, and I think I might make a Bloody Mary Martini with all the fixins!  Because I love the Bloody Mary fixings!  I plan to make a few more, too, with some of the fall products: sweet potato vodka, anyone?

Okay, now the part you've been waiting for!  The "Shut Up" part.  Would you like to make your own infusion?  Okay, here's the deal.  You can have your very own bottle of Great Lakes Distillery Vodka or Whiskey.  Your choice.  Here's how:

  1. Follow Home Grown Homemade either with Google Friend Connect, or through NetworkedBlogs.  You can subscribe to the posts, but I won't know because it doesn't tell me, so that would be a very poor way to enter!  If you already follow the blog, leave a comment on any post you want EXCEPT this one!  Really I just like comments.
  2. Like Home Grown, Homemade on Facebook.  If you already like Home Grown, Homemade on Facebook, post a comment, tag Home Grown, Homemade, and tell your friends to like us!  Then, if they win, make them share the bottle with you!  **EDITED** Make sure you send Home Grown, Homemade a message as well, letting me know you did this, because apparently Facebook is a jerk and won't tell me.
  3. Follow Home Grown, Homemade on Twitter (@wilocavore).  If you already follow Home Grown Homemade on Twitter, write a post there tagging me in it and telling your friends to follow @wilocavore.  Then, if they win, make them share the bottle with you!
Okay, so you have three ways to enter, and you can enter a total of three times (once each way!).  I will be choosing a winner on Sunday, September 16th, or there about.  Unfortunately, you do need to be a US Resident to win, because I can't ship booze outside of the country.  The exception to that rule is if going to come visit me and I can hand you the bottle in person.  Then it's your business to get it back to your country.  Sorry Canadians, Erica, and whoever is reading this in Germany and Russia.

Enjoy some pictures from my trip to the Great Lakes Distillery, and start planning your own trip!  Remember to bring along a designated driver.  (For more pictures, check out the Facebook page!)
I do not know the man in this picture.  He decided to attack Officer Friendly.  I warned him it was going on my blog.  I make good on my word.
The still.
The still from a different angle.

Our tour guide.
Cindy showing off the glass during our tasting.

Pouring the absinth.

Fence protecting the booze.

This is the whole place.  Not that big.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Eat Local Challenge

This blog has been a lot of things.  A recipe blog.  A gardening blog.  My place to rant.  My place to be silent (for the past few weeks!)  But one thing it has never been is a restaurant review blog.  There are a few reasons for that.  Most specifically, I like to eat, and I don't like to wait to eat.  I don't want to have to be one of those people taking pictures of their food before they can eat it.

And by "don't want to" I mean "not capable of."  I've tried.  When we went on our cheese tour, for example, we had this super fancy dinner and then the next day a super fancy brunch that everyone was snapping photos of.  Except me.  I was always three or four bites in before thinking, "damn, I should have taken a picture of this.  It was pretty."

But, if you have spent any time reading my blog, you surely have noticed that I am not a food photographer.  Nor, I might add, am I a food artist.  My food is not pretty.  It's delicious, but it's not pretty.  I would not win Iron Chef because (a) I would not get any points in the plating category, (b) I would challenge Michal Simon and he would totally kick my ass, and (c) I would spend all my time cooking food for Alton because I love him and he is too skinny.

Oh, and because they are all better than me in every way possible, but we won't dwell on that.

My point is, I would make a very poor restaurant reviewer, unless maybe you sent someone else to take the pictures and didn't leave that in my hands.  And even then, I'm not sure I could be get fancy enough in my words.  I mean, how many times can you read "OMG THIS WAS SO GOOD!!" before that starts to lose some credibility.  So, for everyone's sake, I will  leave the restaurant reviews to the experts.

Except today.

I have been to Braise twice now.  The first was with my best friend Shana, who grew up here and then moved to New York City like a big fancy punk.  The second was last night for the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge.  Both of these meals are in contention for the second best meal I've ever eaten in my life.  (The best meal I've ever eaten in my entire life was, no challenge, lunch at La Bernardin in New York.  It also was the most expensive meal I've eaten in my entire life.  I am certain it will hold both titles until I eat at the French Laundry or die, whichever comes first.)

For those of you who don't know, Braise is a restaurant in Milwaukee which utilizes exclusively local ingredients.  It's the kind of place that I would want to open if I had any desire to open a restaurant.  Which I don't.  They also have a culinary school and an RSA (Restaurant Supported Agriculture.  It's like a CSA, except the C for community is replaced with an R for restaurant.  They work with multiple farms, and you can order your produce directly from them - getting more of what you want than the randomness you might get in your CSA box. )

This is what I like to see when walking into a restaurant.

Last night at Braise was the "kick off" dinner for 2012's Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge.  The Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge is a pretty big deal to me.  It is the first two weeks of September, and it is the reason that I am currently a locavore.  In 2010, I participated in the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge, and it wasn't that hard.  I learned some new things, I cooked some good food, and it wasn't really a challenge.  Of course, the first two weeks of September are basically the peak of harvest season in Wisconsin, but I didn't have this in mind when, six months later, I began my year long locavore challenge.  And the rest, as they say, is poorly documented, ranty history. 

I encourage you to set your own challenge.  You don't need to be a locavore to participate.  You don't need to go all in.  According to the Eat Local Milwaukee Website:

The Rules

The rules are that there are no rules. Create your own. We encourage you to set a goal that includes eating more local food than you do now. For some people that might look like “I will eat 100% locally, with the exception of salt & pepper.” And for others it will be more like “I will try one local vegetable from my farmer’s market each week.” More is a step in the right direction. Let us know what you’re doing! Send us a message

Why not give it a try?  Set a realistic goal and surprise yourself!  If you're worried that you don't know how to make this work, check out the Eat Local Resource Fair at the Urban Ecology Center tomorrow (Saturday 8/25) from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.  They will have tips on buying local food, cooking and preserving the food, and fun activities for kids.  Having been at previous Urban Ecology Center activities, I can pretty much promise that it will be a good time.  Sadly, I will not be able to be there, as I have to work like a chump.

I will be taking the challenge.  My challenge, in the hopes of overcoming some of the time management issues I have been experiencing over the past two months, is to provide you with at least one good, local, seasonal recipe each day during the challenge.  So you don't even have to do any work!  Just come here every day, I will tell you exactly what to do, and you too can eat local!  Success is guaranteed - unless of course I don't meet my challenge, in which case if you are relying on me you are basically screwed.


My meals at Braise were both fantastic.  As I said at my farmer's market demo, it's pretty hard to fail when you have amazing ingredients.  But they do an excellent job of elevating those ingredients to something spectacular.  Really, as an aspiring foodie I found this to be one of those transcendent meals.  Meals at a restaurant can be good... or average... or poor.  This was beyond words.  My general rule at a restaurant is that I don't order anything I couldn't make.  Here, there's really nothing on the menu that I couldn't make (based on the ingredients and description), but in tasting it is truly everything I aspire to be.  Plus, unlike every meal I would put on an equal quality level, the prices at Braise are extremely reasonable. On my first trip, we sat at the bar and ordered the entire Braise Bites menu.  Plus a dessert apiece.  Plus several local beverages.  There were three of us, and we left stuffed having spent less than $50 each.  Which I think is a great price for a great meal!  Especially considering we all drink like Wisconsinites.

A note on beverages.  The New Glarus Raspberry Tart is not highly overpriced.  It is the whole big bottle.  Be careful ordering it, because if your friends are real beer drinkers they may not help you finish it, and you will be stuck drinking the whole thing by yourself to not let it go to waste... which is what I do at home anyway so... I guess it's all good.

mmm... delicious.
This is where the cheese plate was when I remembered to take a picture.  I enjoy the cheese.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart with basil pesto and tomato jam.  This was basically a tomato mozzarella salad, but better.  I remembered to take a picture before we devoured it!

Pickled Watermelon Salad with Jalapeno and Clove Honey: this was not a favorite at our table, but it was my favorite dish overall.  You've got two kinds of watermelon here: the pickled watermelon rind, and then a sort of watermelon jelly.  The pieces that, in this picture, look like watermelon slices, were more of a watermelon flavored gelatinous thing.  The texture was different, and the other two in my party were not keen.  Despite the jalapenos in the description, this also had a very mild flavor.  I personally found the whole thing amazing.  It was light, and refreshing, and on a hot night I could eat a pound of this. 

Tomato Bruschetta with Whipped Lardo.  Whipped Lardo.  I'm pretty sure that's all I have to say about this!

Duck Sausage with Kohlrabi Salad: This was another dish that we were divided on.  Specifically, the Kohlrabi Salad.  I love kohlrabi, but it was too cabbage-y for the third member of our party.

Swiss Chard Tortilla with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette and Crispy Ham:  This was the undisputed champion of our dinner.  First off "Crispy Ham" = Bacon.  This was actually a big surprise for me (not the crispy ham = bacon part, but the whole dish), because when I hear "Tortilla" I think taco shell.  But, according to wikipedia: "Tortilla (English /tɔrˈt.ə/, Spanish: [torˈtiʎa]) means "little torta" or "little cake" in Spanish; the Spanish word applies to several different foods eaten in various Spanish-speaking countries. The Spanish word is used in English for a more restricted range of foods, mainly a potato-based omelette originating in Spain, and for a flatbread made from corn or wheat originally made by Mesoamerican peoples."
This would then be the first definition, not the second.

Crispy Chicken Wings with Cilantro Chimichurri:  Yeah, we basically demolished these before I could take a picture.
 So that was my first meal.  You'll note, no dessert.  That is because we all dug in immediately and they were gone before I thought to take the picture.  So I guess the one thing I eat faster than cheese is chocolate.

My second meal, for the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge, hosted by Slow Foods Wisconsin South East was served family style.  No ordering, we were given what they were serving.  I don't, as a general rule, order the chicken when I go out to eat, because we eat a lot of chicken in our house and I feel like it's one thing I've mastered.  Wrong again.  Everything on the menu was something that I "could" make, and yet I've never made anything at this level.  (Maybe that's why I need to go to culinary school...)

Panzanella with herbed quark:  The quark (from the clock shadow creamery) is a soft cheese and is about to replace cream cheese in my diet.  Compare to my panzanella here.  The bread was firmer, which I'm not sure how they did.  It seemed to not get soggy, even though it was soaked in the flavorful panzanella liquid.  I'm actually not sure how I feel about this, since there is something about the liquid soaked panzanella bread that appeals to me.

Roasted Chicken Breast with Potatoes and Eggplant Caviar: I'm not sure what made the eggplant "caviar," but I do know it was delicious and I've never liked eggplant prior to this.  Even when breaded and deep fried!  Shocking, I know. 

Peach Tart with Whipped Cream and Honey: Clearly there are only two bites left of this.  It was amazing.  I made a peach pie about a week ago, and it was nothing like this.  I suck at pie crust.

So, you've got a week to prepare.  Why not try the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge?  Set a goal for yourself.  Please, contact me with questions!  Reach out to me here, or on Facebook ( , or on Twitter (@wilocavore).  If you don't live in Milwaukee, why not try your own local challenge?  If your city doesn't offer one, make your own!  Honestly, for two weeks in a bounty season, it's not that hard.  You'll probably even save money.  Don't even worry about it!  Just jump in!  You can do it!!!

***Side note about needing to go to Culinary School; I start on Monday.  I don't want to be a chef, but I do want to learn and I want to continue that learning past an Associate's Degree at MATC.  I want to be an expert.  I believe in setting goals and publicizing them, so I am putting it out there.  I'm giving you my goal, and I'm putting it out into the Universe.  I want to be an expert (THE expert?) on food preservation.  This is my goal.  And now I have all of you to hold me to it.***

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Put Up or Shut Up: Episode 3 - Zucchini

Looking up articles on the internet for preserving zucchini, I found they all started something like this:

The main downside to zucchini is just how much zucchini you can wind up getting off of one plant. If you've ever grown zucchini (or you've lived next door to someone who grew zucchini), you know that you can quickly find yourself leaving bags of zucchini on your friends' front porches just to keep up with what's growing in your garden.


In the late summer when I was growing up, brown paper bags filled with zucchini used to magically appear on our front stoop. Backyard gardeners in my neighborhood would have such a large crop of zucchini that anonymous zucchini drop-offs were the only solution to getting rid of it.


The season of zucchini overabundance will soon be here. Before you resort to unloading your surplus in unlocked cars and empty mailboxes...


It's not as serious as all that, people.

And yet, when my CSA sent an email stating that vine boring beetles had demolished their zucchini crop, I found myself wondering if I could just sneak a courgette into each of the member's boxes without anyone noticing.

Okay, I don't have quite that much.

Like rhubarb, I actually feel the best way to preserve zucchini is to freeze it.  Grate it up, and stick it in one cup balls into the freezer.  When I grate it, I also like to throw it into a colander and let it's own weight press out some of the water.  I don't go out of my way to squeeze all the water out, because the water is going to help it in the freezer anyway, but there is a lot of water so it's nice to get some of it out.

In the winter, then, you can use the zucchini in anything that you would bake with zucchini - bread, muffins, cookies, etc.  You can also throw it into a stew.  One of my personal favorites uses is in a zucchini fritter, which I discovered in March.  I was just looking for a way to use up the zucchini I had frozen the previous summer, and I found a recipe that is going to become a winter staple for me.  In the winter, when it's almost impossible to get a fresh vegetable, this is something that really tastes like zucchini.  And it's deep fried, which is always a bonus.
Finished Zucchini Pickles

You can also make zucchini pickles, which I made last year and which are good but not great.  I adore a pickle (you may have noticed) and these were not something I would have just eaten on their own.  They tasted to much like a regular cucumber pickle, but weren't as good as a regular cucumber pickle.  They were a nice addition to a picked item plate, so I am including a recipe for both regular and spicy zucchini pickles. I'd recommend a jar or two, but don't overdo it.

A big success from the canning last year was the zucchini relish.  It's like pickle relish, but with zucchini.  Pickle relish is a little scary when you buy it from the store - what with the bright green, not found in nature color, and I found this to be much tastier.  To be fair, I have not tried to make my own pickle relish, so I'm not really comparing apples to apples.  This was again a spicier version, which I appreciate.  It's a nice addition to a sausage in the middle of the winter - especially a richer sausage (like one with cheese!) because the sweet and spicy notes cut through the heaviness nicely.

This year, I will be making the same pickle relish, probably in a larger quantity than last year.  I also am currently in the process of making the same relish but with yellow squash instead of zucchini.  I feel like it should taste about exactly the same, just a different color.  Maybe a little sweeter, too.  We will see, and I will report back.
The yellow squash relish needs to sit for a day. 
Go ahead and click on the link to get the recipe.
For this version, I just substituted yellow squash
for the zucchini, and used green peppers instead
of red.
Finished zucchini relish from last season

Along the lines of yellow summer squash, I had a new addition to the canning repertoire this summer.  I made summer squash and onions.  While I haven't busted it open and tried any yet, I feel like it should be a good winter side dish - maybe with a baked chicken.

The summer squashes can be overwhelming, but there's no need to abandon them on neighbors doorsteps. 

*Quick Side Note: There is some drama on the safety of canning summer squash and zucchini.  According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Why is canning summer squash or zucchini not recommended?
Recommendations for canning summer squashes, including zucchini, that appeared in former editions of So Easy to Preserve or USDA bulletins have been withdrawn due to uncertainty about the determination of processing times. Squashes are low-acid vegetables and require pressure canning for a known period of time that will destroy the bacteria that cause botulism. Documentation for the previous processing times cannot be found, and reports that are available do not support the old process. Slices or cubes of cooked summer squash will get quite soft and pack tightly into the jars. The amount of squash filled into a jar will affect the heating pattern in that jar. It is best to freeze summer squashes or pickle them for canning, but they may also be dried.

 Here's what I took away from that: "OR PICKLED THEM FOR CANNING."  That would make me think pickling is okay.  Other internet sources say no canning no way!  So, use your best judgement.  If you pop open any canned good and it smells weird, has discolored spots, or is growing the mold, don't eat it.  Botulism may be a funny word, but it is not a funny illness. 

Pretty, yes.  Delicious?  No.
One note on the passage from the NCHFP - I did try drying the zucchini and I found it to be a huge disappointment.  I made dehydrated zucchini chips and I was not a fan.  Despite being all the way dried and pretty thin, they weren't very crispy and seemed stale immediately upon coming out of the dehydrator.  Also, despite putting them in an airtight jar, they seemed to get a little weird after only one day.  Looking into it further, I found that you were supposed to refrigerate or freeze dried zucchini.  If that's the case, what's the point in dehydrating it?  The only thing that I could see and might do is dehydrating some bigger chunks to rehydrate later in a stew.  But, I don't generally feel the need to put zucchini in a stew - it doesn't have a strong flavor so I don't feel like it adds that much.  So I probably won't do that unless I decide that I have enough grated zucchini to make zucchini bread and zucchini fritters every weekend all winter long.

Before making either of these recipes, please notice that they both have massive quantities of salt (which does get washed off after soaking).  If you don't, you might have a reasonable amount of salt on hand and start making the recipes, only to have to run to the store late at night to buy salt.  Even though you were JUST there to buy vinegar.  And even though you HATE that grocery store, because the check out people insist on judging your food, and that one time you saw a mouse, but it's the only store that's open in the middle of the night.  Or maybe you're not like me, and you prepare prior to cooking.  Good for you.

Zucchini Pickles
(From Put em Up!)
Makes 6 pints
  • 4 pounds summer squash and/or zucchini
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled'
Trim the ends from the squash and cut into spears 1 inch shorter than pint jars.  Toss the squash and onion with the salt in a large bowl.  Cover with cold water and set aside for 2 hours.  Drain, rinse thoroughly, and drain again.

Pack the squash mixture into clean, hot pint jars, and add a clove of garlic to each jar.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, oregano, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf to a boil in a large, nonreactive saucepan.  Pour the hot brine over the vegetables to cover by 1/2 an inch.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.

Release any trapped air from the jars and wipe the rips clean.  Process for 30 minutes using the boiling water method.  After 30 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

For spicy zucchini peppers, cut three Thai chillies in half the long way.  Add 1/2 pepper to each jar with the garlic.  For slightly less spicy pickles, remove the seeds carefully (and don't touch your eyes afterward!) 
Finished yellow squash and onion relish

Squash and Onion Relish
(Also from Put Em Up!)
Makes 4 Pints 

  • 2 pounds yellow squash, ends removed, diced
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, diced
  • 1 1/4 cups salt
  • 3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
Toss squash and onions with the salt in a large bowl.  Cover with cold water and set aside for two hours.  Drain, rinse thoroughly, and drain again.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, and rosemary to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the drained vegetables, return to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Ladle into clean, hot jars, covering the solids by 1/4 inch with liquid.  Leave 1/5 inch of headspace between the top of the lid and the lid.  Release trapped air and wipe the rims clean.  Process for 15 minutes using the boiling water method.  Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

At the Farmer's Market

Thank you to everyone who everyone who showed up at the South Shore Farmer's Market this morning for my cooking demo.  Also, thank you to those people who didn't show up - because I ran out of food near the end!

It was a good morning - which is unusual for me because I do not, as a general rule, enjoy the morning.  I am not one of those people who feels that the morning is this beautiful, amazing, peaceful time of day.  Wait, I retract that.  I believe all those things, I just prefer to enjoy that time under a pile of blankets with my eyes securely closed.  I've enjoyed a few sunrises, but they were all after a night out - on the way home to go to bed!

So, to wake up and get ready to cook at 6:30 is a bit much for me.  And that, considering I had been up late fretting about the whole to-do and how it would go.  Add to that the fact that I'm not supposed to have caffeine (it constricts your blood vessels, and mine are already constricted on their own) and I am on my own to be bright and cheery in the morning!

And so I did.  I dragged my butt out of bed, I prepped my supplies, and I went out to cook.

I feel like it went well.  It was lovely for being early - not too hot, not raining - and I had my farmers around me.  And I got my first opportunity to cook in front of people.  Fortunately, my belly dance classes have prepared me well.  Talking at a volume that will carry over a busy farmers market is about the same as talking over a class of music and ziling, but to be fair then all I have to say is "and a five, and a six, and a seven, and an eight."

My goal was to promote the farmers.  That is, after all, what I am here for most: to promote the farmers, to promote real food, and to promote people being less afraid to cook for themselves.  I feel like I did a good job of that.  Some of my favorite farmers were not there, which was sad because I would have like to share their meals with them.  In the end, they did the work.  How am I possibly to fail, when I am starting with something so good?

Hopefully I also brought a few new readers on board.  If I did, welcome!  I'm here to help you work a little more local into your life.  And also to rant about the food choices I see made around me.  I like bacon.  I like booze (more on that later).  And I like when I try something that surprises me.

As I said at my demo (if you were there) the trick to cooking from the farmer's market is to not be too set on a recipe.  If you find your recipe, write your list, and go to the market looking for exactly what you need, you're not going to be successful.  The market requires a little more flexibility.  I read a lot of recipes online, and I am highly annoyed by the reviews that read like this: "I tried this recipe and it was terrible.  I didn't have any heavy cream, so I substituted Kahlua.  I also didn't have any potatoes, so I substituted marshmallows.  The finished result was far too sweet.  Whoever wrote this recipe doesn't understand how to cook!"  Don't be that guy.  But at the same time, in order to cook from the farmer's market, you kind of need to be that guy.  But smarter.  It's about an understanding of how foods react, and what really can be substituted for what.  Kahlua can be substituted for cream - if it's dessert.  Potatoes can be replaced with, depending on the recipe, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and beets.  Depending on the recipe.  Cooking isn't like baking.  It's an art, not a science, and cooking from the farmer's market, or from a CSA, emphasizes that.  Whatta ya got?  What can you do?  If it doesn't work, keep it to yourself.  If it does, revel in your successes.

Here are my recipes from the farmer's market:

Peach and Basil Salad, with Saxony Cheese
  • 2 lbs peaches, pitted, quartered, and those quarters cut in half
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup cubed Saxony Cheese or something Parmesan-y
  • About 8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Fresh ground pepper
Heat a grill to high heat.

Place the peaches in a large bowl.  Add the maple syrup, and gently stir to combine.  Over high heat, grill the peaches until warmed and slightly caramelized.  You can grill all the peaches, or you can leave a few ungrilled to create a variety of texture.

After about 5 minutes, remove the peaches from the grill and return to the bowl.  Allow to cool slightly.  Add cheese, basil, and a dash of freshly ground pepper.  Enjoy warm.

Zucchini "Pasta" with Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

I consider this recipe kind of a cheat, in that it's a good recipe base to alter.  Really, all you need is the zucchini, and in the summer that's pretty hard to get away from.  Don't have limes?  Use a high quality white wine, champagne, or white balsamic vinegar.  No tomatoes?  No problem!  Extra veggies?  Throw them in!  Top it with cheese or meat!  Looking for something more filling, add equal parts cooked spaghetti to the zucchini pasta.

One thing I meant to bring up at the market is that you do not need fancy tools to make this.  My sous-chef, Denise, has a mandolin, so we used it, but at home (where I don't have one: present idea!) I just use my box grater.  The pasta doesn't look quite as fancy, but it tastes just as good:

Zucchini "Pasta" cut on the mandolin.

Here is the recipe, as I served it at the market:

With the box grater, it's not quite as pretty...
but it's just as tasty!
  • Lime Vinaigrette (This makes a HUGE batch.  While it saves well, you may want to cut it in half, or even quarter it)
    • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
    •  zest of 2 limes (zest before you squeeze the juice!)
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 Thai chili pepper, minced
    • 3/4 cups olive oil
    • 2 tbsp garlic scapes, minced
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into thin pasta like strips
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine vinaigrette ingredients and mix well.  I recommend making in a bottle or jar that you can close tightly, and then just shaking vigorously.   I also recommend making this dressing a few hours to the night before, to allow all the flavors to marry.

On a mandolin or box grater, create long strips of the zucchini and place in a large bowl.  With a sharp knife, cut the corn off of the cob and add to the zucchini.  Add the tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add enough dressing to coat the zucchini, but don't drown it - about 2 tbsp to a quarter cup is probably good, depending on the size of your zucchini.  Toss gently, and allow to sit for at least five minutes.  The acid in the dressing will start to break down the zucchini, and it should develop a texture more like cooked pasta.

Farmer's Market Breakfast Fajitas 

This is another really good cheater recipe.  You can basically take anything, put it on a corn tortilla, and call it a taco, fajita, or burrito.  Yes, these words do mean something, but if you actually get called out on it, just tell them you're taking artistic liberties.  Cooks are artists too!

The main recipe here is actually for the skirt steak itself:

Skirt Steak Fajita Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic scapes
  • 2 tbsp shallots
  • 1 tsp buckwheat honey
  • 1 tsp minced hot pepper (I used Thai Chilli because that's what I had)
Combine ingredients and mix well.  Place 2 lbs skirt steak into a freezer bag and pour in the marinade.  Seal up the bag, and give the whole thing a good massage to work the marinade into the steak.  Allow to marinate at least an hour, up to overnight.

Once you are ready to cook, heat a grill to high.  While you are waiting, prepare a double thickness of aluminum foil large enough to completely contain the steak.  Season the steak with salt and place on the grill.  Cook for about a minute and a half on each side, then transfer to the aluminum foil and wrap up tightly, sealing any ends to prevent heat from escaping.  Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  At this point, the steak is continuing to cook - it's not really resting.

Slice the steak very thinly against the grain, and serve with corn tortillas and whatever else you would like on your fajitas!

Friday, August 10, 2012


This week, my CSA included:


  • Watermelon
  • Beans
  • Basil
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Leeks
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Lots and lots of carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Sun Gold tomatoes
  • Yellow squash
  • Green peppers

Also, I have a huge pumpkin in my garden!  I pulled out an even huger weed, and there it was underneath.

I am about to put some wheels on this and take it to a ball!

Also, also, I have three cantaloupes in my garden.  Unfortunately they are very buried and I couldn't get a good picture of them.

Also, also, also, tomorrow I will be the presenter at the South Shore Farmer's Market.  9:00 am.  Come check me out!

That is all...