Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I haven't been taking pictures of what I'm cooking in a long while because most of my cooking seems to take place after sunset. And so my pictures come out looking a little crappy, since I have a little point and shoot and photos look terrible when taken in unnatural lighting. I like to see the texture and the food come to life on screen. While I never reached the goal I had set for myself (silently), I was never as displeased with my photo taking skills as I have been lately.

Nevertheless, I felt that I had to document my endeavors tonight because of the very special gift I received recently. Mr. and Mrs. Yam who live all the way out in Minneapolis, MN sent me and Mr. Beany a little present in the mail. I generally hate all presents unless they're edible, and this present was most certainly edible. It was:

Genuine Minnesota Wild Rice!

Mr. Yam wanted to know what I'd do with it. And for the longest time I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with it. This present was so special, I didn't want to ruin it by...say...cooking it!

But I did. Tonight. I was feeling very Mexican-y. So, first we needed some starter courses. I made tacos. With corn tortillas (store bought) filled with crimson clover sprouts, cooked black beans (seasoned with TVP and "chicken" broth), home made salsa (made with heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, onions, salt), and a mixture of shredded hard goat cheese + blue cheese. Divine, is the only way I can describe the taco.

A very crowded taco.

Then I spent about an hour looking up wild rice recipes...and nothing really appealed to me. So I decided to make up a stir fry dish.

First I cooked the wild rice.

Cooked Minnesota Wild Rice

Then I made the stir fry: onions, lotso garlic, vegan chorizo (from a local latino grocery store), two red Antohi peppers, half a head of purple cabbage all stirred around in some olive oil. Toward the end, I added fresh lemon juice and a palm full of cilantro.

The picture doesn't look like much, but the veggies on top of the wild rice was absolutely delectable.

All veggies are from my Suzie's Farm CSA share: the best CSA in the universe.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Yam for such a wonderful present. I will have a California surprise for you soon.

reposted to The Middle Way.

tomato confit

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tomato confit

Why is that when the temperature and humidity rises, I get the urge to cook and bake. I hate the heat; somehow standing over a hot stove or canning pots of boiling water makes it better.

So, last week’s heat brings me to tomato confit - tomatoes cooked in fat. Simple enough, but the results are amazing. I googled a bunch of tomato confit recipes. Some of them were kind of putsy, blanching the tomatoes first, deseeding the tomatoes. Me, I don’t care so much about it. I want to keep this as simple as possible. Why do tomatoes need to be deseeded? I have not gotten a good answer from everyone I’ve asked. It is a texture thing? Or a visual thing? Do the seeds react with the heat and become toxic?

I got some ripe tomatoes, a good handful of thyme, rosemary and basil from the garden. Turned the oven to 200°. In a sided jelly roll pan, I poured a some olive oil, sprinkled some kosher salt and pepper. Washed and chopped the herbs, sprinkled them into the oil. sliced a couple of garlic cloves, added them to the herb and oil mess in the jelly roll pan. Added a pinch of sugar. Cut the tomatoes into 1 inch chunks. The tomatoes went into the pan, cut side down. Put it all in the preheated oven turned on the oven fan. After an hour, I stirred the tomatoes. Every half hour after that, I opened the oven to let moisture escape. The tomatoes collapse and start to dehydrate. Juice from the tomatoes mingle with the herbs and olive oil. The color of the tomatoes deepen. About two and a half hours later, I pull them out of the oven. And when they are cooled, I jar them up and stick it in the fridge. The confit can last about 2 weeks in the fridge. I’m trying to freeze some, but am a little concerned that the tomatoes will totally disintegrate, which would be ok for sauces.

My house smells so good.

It's hot. It's humid. It's time to boil vinegar.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ok this site has been quiet long enough.

Some know me as Susu. Some know me as Mrs. Yam. One five-year-old I met camping last year knows me as Monster Gramma.

It’s now August and it’s hot and humid. Summer is not my season. I hate being hot. I hate sweating. So, what am I doing today? Pickling, which entails standing over pots of boiling vinegar, water and spices. This is an activity that forces one to be hot and sweaty. It’s 85 degrees and I’m guessing a dew point of 70. Minnesota is just not pleasant this time of year.

The Good Brother Yam is really good about indulging my whims. This morning’s whim was getting up early to go to the farmer‘s market, just to see what vegetables looked good for pickling and then have three or four pots of boiling water going on the stove for a while. We don‘t have air conditioning. The house is going to be hot enough without adding more heat and humidity. Oh well. That‘s life and hopefully, the pickles will make it worth it. Foregoing breakfast and, more importantly, coffee, we head to the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market - the one on North Lyndale at 8 am. That seems to be the sweet spot for Sunday mornings. After the hardcore marketers and before the church people show up.

Maybe it’s not too late for teeny tiny cucumbers. Baby carrots would be good. I’m thinking of the mixed vegetable pickles that are made by just sitting on the counter. However, I do have a quest. I have okra pickles on the brain. I’ve never had a pickled okra before, but I have to make them. I’m not sure why. I was *really* hoping for little tiny okras. That market is pretty big, so I figured I’d find something to pickle. We did find beautiful little okras and long thin purple carrots from some of the Hmong farmers. We also picked up with some heirloom tomatoes (Green Moldovan and Vorlon), sweet corn, and a melon from the Gysland Brothers - Todd and Reid are crazy heirloom tomato growers. I’m guessing 70 or more different varieties. They also do red peppers. Those peppers are another post…

We forgot to get eggs, so we stopped at the Kingsfield Market to pick up some eggs and the Chef Shack was there. Brother Yam had a brisket taco and I had a black bean and sweet potato taco for breakfast. That alone was worth the stop.

We dropped off our goods at home and then wandered through the U of M Arboretum. Brother Yam took pictures of their vegetable gardens (we are already planning next year’s garden). By this time, we are both dripping with sweat and we are getting crabby because of the heat. So, we spent some time checking out the library and bookstore, for the air-conditioning as much as for the books. I need to find the book Self-Sufficient Gardener (or something like it, I’ve already forgotten the name) by John Seymour. Brother Yam found a book to help identify weeds. It’s too bad that isn’t a lending library. When we got home, I checked my canning books for recipes. Since I‘m pretty new to canning, I rely pretty heavily on recipes. My main go-tos are Bell Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine and The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Toff and Margaret Howard. That book is worth getting just for the strawberry jam recipe. I also refer to Stocking Up edited by the editors of Organic Gardening and Farming. I also check out Food In Jars website and more recently Punk Domestics website for ideas and inspiration.

While I was perusing my books for recipes, Brother Yam made us some cocktails. We had some left over cherries from making a cherry liqueur with sour cherries we picked in Door County last year. They were pretty boozy. He put them in a blender with some ice and lime juice and came up with a pretty refreshing beverage. It gave me the strength to face pots of boiling liquid on this horribly hot and humid day.

I found a straight-forward okra pickle recipe in the Home Preserving book.:

3 cups of water
3 cups of white vinegar
1/3 cup pickling salt
2 teaspoons of dill seed
3.5 lbs of small whole okra
4 cloves of garlic
2 hot red peppers - halved and seeded.

Prepare cans and lids. This makes about 4 pints.

In a large stainless steel sauce pan, combine water, vinegar, pickling salt and dill seeds. Bring to a boil until salt is dissolved. Reduce heat to keep hot until ready to use.

Pack okra into hot jars. Add a clove of garlic and ½ seeded pepper. (I did not seed my peppers and I used a whole pepper. I like spicy pickles) ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover okra, leaving 1.2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Add more liquid, if necessary. Wipe rims and place lids on the jars. Screw bands until resistance is met and it is finger-tip tight.

Place filled jars into canner. Make sure they are covered with water. Cover pot and bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove lid and wait 5 minutes, remove jars, cool, listen for the ping (I added this step) and store.

I can hardly wait to try these. I’m thinking Bloody Marys.

I found a fun carrot pickle in the Stocking Up book:

2-3 bunches of carrots
2 cups of vinegar
1.5 cups of water
0.5 Tablespoons of whole cloves
0.5 Tablespoons of allspice
0.5 Tablespoons of mace
0.5 stick of cinnamon
0.5 cups of honey

Pare carrots and cut in strips that are the desired size and length of your canning jars, if possible. (the carrots I used were so small, I did not need to cut them). Boil in water until just heated through ( I didn‘t do this, as my carrots are so young). Pack hot carrots lengthwise in hot sterilized pint jars. Make a syrup of vinegar, water and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add honey. Bring to a boil again. Pour over the carrots. There should be a ¼ inch headspace. Process pint jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I used purple carrots and the color of the raw carrots is spectacular. I hope they retain the color. I wish I had Brother Yam take some pictures of these before I canned them. They’ll probably turn grey as a result of the processing.

While my pickles were boiling away in the water bath, I took a cup of Greek yogurt, added a little milk, some sugar, a splash of orange blossom water and mixed well and threw it in the freezer.

I hate being hot and sweaty. I'm going to take a shower.