I don’t even have any pictures because tonight’s dinner was simply a quick one.  Designed to be put together with minimal effort and enjoyed on the front porch before heading out for the evening.  Oh. My. Word.  It was amazing.  Fresh SC green beans, simply blanched and sprinkled with a little herbed goat cheese. Fresh chanterelle mushrooms picked in the neighboring county and sauteed with a little butter. Carrot souffle – Yes – carrot souffle….and fresh bread. The carrot souffle recipe was given to me by my mom a few days ago. This was my first fearful attempt at making it and it was so good.  Light, fluffy, decadent – everything a souffle should be.  Next week, I promise I will post the recipe.  This one is a keeper.

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Long Bean Salad

Long Bean Salad

Comments: Long beans are here and with them, one of my favorite dishes of the summer.  A couple of years ago, I drove all over town to all of the Asian markets, looking for long beans. What a surprise to find them in my CSA shares for the first time last year! This recipe is from the book “Thai Vegetarian Cooking” by Vatcharin Bhumichitr.  It is a beautiful book with lots of pictures. Thai cooks care a lot about presentation. For this dish,  I find it easier to cut the long beans into 2 or three inch segments and the tomato into rough dices rather than slices and then I usually eat it as a side (or even a main dish) with a fork – no lettuce leaves.  No other beans have quite the same texture and flavor in this dish as long beans.  This is a great dish for a summer picnic or cookout! Warning: If you aren’t used to Thai levels of spiciness, start with one or one and a half chilis, instead of three. It will still be plenty hot! You can then adjust the next time based on your heat tolerance and the type of chili pepper you use.

Ingredientslongbeans

  • 1 garlic glove
  • 3 small red or green chilis
  • 4oz/1bundle long beans
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly sliced
  • 1 tbsp crushed roast peanuts
  • 4 or 5 lettuce leaves

Preparation

1. In a mortar, pound the garlic and the chilis until well crushed.
2. Add the long beans and lightly pound until slightly broken.
3. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice and sugar, stirring well.
4. Add the tomato, stir quickly; add the crushed peanuts, stir quickly.
5. Arrange the salad leaves on a serving dish and turn the yam (salad) mixture on to them.  Eat with fingers using the leaves as scoops.

I’ve been quite remiss at getting this particular blog written and posted. I promised our nephew a week or more ago that this post was imminent. And yet, the camera couldn’t be found, I needed more than one dish for pictures, excuses, excuses.

When our nephew, Espen, visited a few weeks ago, he convinced Kyle to buy me a food processor. I had broken the small one that Kyle had several years before and while I continued to use the chopping blade, it really wasn’t big enough for the dishes I wanted to make with it (like big batches of hummus or baba ganoush). I found myself processing in batches while getting splatters all over the kitchen. I like to research so I had a vague idea what I wanted but was still trying to convince myself that I would use one of these monsters enough to justify the cost. After all, the little one probably only came out once a month and I’ve never been a big fan of using a food processor to slice things – I can do it with a sharp knife almost as fast and there’s a lot less to clean.

We went to lunch at one of our favorite stores in Columbia – The Gourmet Shop and before I knew it, Espen was telling me that I should get a food processor and while I hemmed and haahed and confirmed that it was on my list of “someday” things to buy and “yes” my research says that it is probably one of these. I really don’t remember for sure. I’ll look it up on the Internet and we can come back. While I was going through all of this, Kyle and Espen decided that this must be the right food processor for me and soon Kyle was off to the register with a big box in his arms and reassurances that if this REALLY wasn’t right, I could bring it back.

We got it home and I buried my head in the manual trying to understand the directions. When I looked up to review all of the pieces, Espen had already gotten it together. Now, of course, we needed to make something! The first attempt to shred cheese made me too nervous since cheese was how I’d broken my last food processor so we switched to something more simple – an amazing Watermelon Sorbet inspired by an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats that we had all watched together. It was DELICIOUS – so delicious, that Kyle has stated he could almost give up ice cream if I kept homemade watermelon sorbet in the house instead.

After a few weeks with this food processor, I LOVE it! Since that first evening, I’ve made more melon sorbet, bread dough (turned out OK), pie crust dough (best pie crust dough I’ve ever made!), pesto, peanut butter, and sliced squash and cucumbers for side dishes just to try out the slicer.

Watermelon sorbet

Watermelon sorbet

Comments: This recipe is from Alton Brown’s Good Eats series. The DVD title was ‘The Ripe Stuff”.  Watch it for a very entertaining view on the science behind the sugar.  We do not have an ice cream freezer. Instead, I use Step 3b : I pour the mixture into a small glass dish and put it directly into the freezer.  Every hour for the next three hours, I take it out and whip it to break up all of the ice crystals. This helps to give it a smoother texture. After the first three hours, I let it finish freezing.  Texture-wise, it is best on the first night.  Otherwise, you will probably want to let it sit in the serving bowls  for about 10 minutes to soften up to a more sorbet like consistency.  Also, we’ve been experimenting with different amounts of sugar versus alcohol.  Both the sugar and the alcohol help to keep the sorbet from becoming a solid block of ice.  You don’t want to decrease one without increasing the other.  The first night, the only alcohol we had in the house was dark rum – it made for a nice sorbet if you like rum because you could really taste it! We recently experimented with a combination of midori and vodka – that was quite good! I’ll come back and update when I think I’ve got the proportions just right for our taste!

Ingredients

1 pound, 5 ounces of diced watermelon (or muskmelon, or honeydew)

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp vodka

9 ounces sugar (approximately 1 1/4 cups)

Preparation

1. Place the melon in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

2. Add the lemon, juice, vodka, and sugar and process for another 30 seconds.

3a. If using an ice cream maker, place the mixture into the refrigerator until it reaches 40 degrees F; this could take between 30 minutes and an hour.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers instructions.

3b. If not using an ice cream maker, pout into a freezer safe dish. Stir at least every hour for the first three hours being sure to completely break up all of the ice crystals that are forming. After three hours, just let it freeze until ready to eat.

4. For storage, transfer to an airtight container and  place in the freezer.

Ripening figs

Ripening figs

Fig kabobs

Fig kabobs

Figs and Brie

Figs and Brie

About a week ago, Kyle pulled the first ripe fig of the season off of our tree. Fig season is so fleeting. We relish the sweetness of these figs every year. Figs are best perfectly ripe just off the tree. They don’t last very long once picked. This week, I’ve actually done some cooking with them. Usually, we eat them straight out of the bowl before I ever get a chance to do anything interesting with them! First, I made kabobs. They were supposed to be grilled but I couldn’t get the grill started and Kyle wasn’t home yet so I roasted them instead. The kabobs were made of alternating whole figs and chunks of halloumi cheese on rosemary skewers. I served them over a platter of arugula. Last night, I cooked the figs with some brown sugar and almonds, then placed them on a chunk of brie and baked it for fifteen minutes. That recipe came from here: Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie I’m a little ashamed to admit that while we did use a smaller chunk of brie, we ate it all in one sitting.

(I apologize for the picture quality – the camera flash has started going off when I don’t want it to go off and I need to sit down with the manual and figure out why!)

spritzer_smallThis is a rhubarb lemonade spritzer. I found the recipe in a “Delicious Living” magazine from our local market. I’ve always wondered what you could do with rhubarb! Unfortunately, rhubarb was not in season when I first ran across this recipe but it looked so intriguing that I just had to try it so I searched out a bag of frozen chopped rhubarb. Easy to make, easy to drink! It reminds me of a lemon-lime kind of soda. Perfect if you are craving something “soda-like” but don’t want the caffeine and artificial sweeteners. I used the same technique to make a strawberry lemonade drink a few days later. I used 6 lemons instead of one and regular water instead of sparkling water. (And of course, strawberries instead of rhubarb.)

Ingredients
6 cups water
1 cup natural cane soda
6 cups (about 6 large stalks) coarsely chopped fresh rhubarb
Zest and juice of 1 medium-large lemon (about 1 tbsp zest and 4 scant tablespoons juice)

Instructions
1. In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Add rhubarb. return to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add lemon zest and stir gently. Strain into a bowl, allowing pulp to drain for 10 minutes without pressing. pour liquid into a pitcher and add lemon juice. Refrigerate at least one hour. (This can be made several days in advance.)
2. To serve, mix one portion syrup with an equal portion of unflavored sparkling water or a sparkling wine, such as Italian Prosecco.
Per serving: (1/2 cup syrup mixed with 1/2 cup sparkling water)
46 calories, 2% fat cal, 0g. fat. 0g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 0gprotein, 11 g carb, 1 g fiber, 4 mg sodium

Ben and Kristen hosted an amazing potluck at the farm last weekend. I’ve never seen so much great, local, vegetarian food in one spot! The meat dishes were the minority and everyone had a full plate. I reallywanted to try a little bit of everything..but even allowing myself only one spoonful per dish, I still couldn’t fit it all on my plate. I even tried the layering strategy – just piling complementary dishes on top of each other once I ran out of room. Just so you know – I and several others who tried this all agreed it was counter-productive. Next time we’ll just go back for seconds.

Seeds of Deception

Seeds of Deception

Does anyone remember the ruckus that was raised back in the 1990’s when genetically modified foods were introduced to the consumer? I remember. I remember signing petitions and getting really worked up about the fact that big corporations thought they should be able to use me as a guinea pig by placing foods into supermarkets that weren’t labeled and hadn’t been well-tested on humans.  I also remember a big newspaper article discussing the possible problems of GMO’s (genetically Modified organisms) and that these same corporations had agreed to pull back on the distribution of these foods until further testing had been done to show they were safe for human consumption.

It is now the year 2009. How many of you have ever eaten a GM food? If you live in the United States, you have. Some of the tactics that Monsanto and other large agri-business companies have used to push these foods onto an unsuspecting public are horrifying. A month ago I read the book “Seeds of  Deception” by Jeffrey Smith. In this easily readable book, Mr. Smith outlines many of the lies told to an unsuspecting public. He interviews scientists and journalists who were fired for trying to expose the problems they were finding. In the first case discussed, this was a scientist who was behind GMO food science…until he started testing it for safety.  Eyewitness report after eyewitness report demonstrates that wildlife will leave a GM crop alone while eating the non-GM crop beside it. What do the cows know that we don’t? For anyone who is remotely interested in the safety of the food we are eating, I highly recommend this book.

I originally intended for this post to be nothing more than a book review. However; on May 19, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called for an immediate moratorium on GM food stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk”. How many of you read about this in the paper? I’m betting that none of you did. The position paper is fairly technical. If you want a good overview of the problem, why genetic modification causes problems, specific examples of studies that have shown those problems AND you want to be able to read it using common english words – try “Seeds of Deception“.
Press Release: http://www.aaemonline.org/pressrelease.html
Position Paper: http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html

If you want to start avoiding GM foods now, here are some basics on how to do so.
The primary commercialized GM crops are:

  • Soy
  • Cotton
  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Hawaiian papaya
  • Some squash and zucchini

The obvious way to avoid the GM versions of these foods is to buy organic versions. Organic crops must be non-GMO.
It gets harder when you realize that almost every processed food includes some additive derived from corn. So – minimize processed foods.
For me – this also includes many of the previous soy-based frozen grill treats that I used to keep stashed in the freezer. You know – fake burgers and hot dogs and the like. There are certainly not as many choices now that I require any processed foods I buy to be 100% organic or state on the label that no GM ingredients were used.

Another thing to watch for is dairy products from cows treated with rbGH. Again, I now buy only organic dairy products (including cheese) or products that are labeled that they do not contain rbGH. Kraft has recently started labeling some of their cheeses as coming from cows not treated with rbGH which means you may not even have to go to a specialty store to buy cheese. By the way – labeling is something the big agri-business companies are against.  They do not want us to be able to choose what we eat.

Here’s a link to a shopping guide that you can use to educate yourself on where GM ingredients are likely to lurk.

Educate yourself. Educate yourself on all sides of this issue. In the 90’s, I stopped worrying. I assumed that since consumers had spoken and said they didn’t want these foods and big business had agreed to pull back for further testing that I didn’t need to stay up-to-date anymore. I was wrong. I might also be wrong to be getting so worked up about this again. I’ll admit that I am not a scientist. I do have a very curious, analytical mind though and I’ve been reading a lot about both sides of this issue.  Most corporate studies find that GM food is substantially equivalent to non-GM food and is safe for human consumption.  Most independant studies disagree.  Somebody isn’t telling the truth.  Anyone remember the tobacco companies claiming that smoking is not harmful to your health?  I see some big parallels with potentially far more serious consequences for our health, our environment, and the ultimate safety of our food supply.  I’m personally convinced that GM food has more negatives than positives and I do not want to be forced to eat it, nor do I want it grown in open fields where natural pollination can cause GM crops to cross-breed and contaminate non-GM crops.   You may not agree…but at the very least educate yourself and then stand up for the right to be able to choose what you and your families eat.NoGMO

Baked tofu and sauteed snap peas

Baked tofu and sauteed snap peas

Even though I’m a vegetarian, I haven’t done a lot of cooking with tofu. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with some baked tofu recipes and I think there’s a lot of potential for some good, easy, main dishes.  That picture almost looks too good to be baked tofu, doesn’t it?  I’m getting better at “cooking on the fly”.   I don’t know what made me think about stuffing tofu but this was my brainstorm a few nights ago. I marinated the tofu in a really good smoky tomato sauce.  Right before baking, I sauteed a tomato, sweet red pepper, and sweet onion from the farmer’s market with some basil from my garden. I then stuffed the tofu with the mixture through a slit I’d cut in the center prior to marinating. Then, I baked it for an hour.  Right before serving, I sauteed some sugar snap peas from our CSA with butter and mint.  Excellent!!

Stir-fry

Stir-fry

I used to think that stir-fries required a big trip to the grocery store and involved a huge basket of varied ingredients which wouldn’t all get used and then got lost in the back of the refrigerator.  The recipe was usually fairly complicated, too.  No longer.  One of the many lessons I’ve learned from belonging to a CSA, is that stir-fries are one of the best, quick meals possible that allows you to use whatever you have in a way that tastes good even if if you’d never think the ingredients go together, let alone in a stir fry. Tonight’s dinner was a great example. I made sure that Kyle had eaten some of it and liked it before I told him what was in it. What follows is my psuedo-recipe because I didn’t measure anything.

I started by sauteeing some fresh ginger and garlic in a sesame oil. I then added: an entire bunch of quartered japanese turnips, carrots, two sliced radishes, green onions, sugar snap peas, turnip greens, and a small  handful of lemon balm.  Then I stirred in (about a half-cup dried) the cooked rice,and threw some leftover orange-ginger marinade on top. After mixing it all together, I served it in a bowl topped with fresh basil. It was REALLY good. If I wrote this up as a formal recipe, it would be really intimidating.  I’d never make it! This is the beauty of fresh produce from a CSA box, leftovers, and stir-fries.

If you are interested, the orange-ginger marinade included the following ingredients:

1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons dark sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 green onions, cut into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

The marinade was originally intended for baked tofu and the full recipe can be found at AllRecipes.com. Obviously, I didn’t use all of it because we’d had marinated tofu a few nights ago. This was left-over and I just tossed some of it into the stir-fry at the end.
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Orange-Ginger-Tofu-Triangles/Detail.aspx

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