Monday, December 22, 2014

Cheddar and Date Biscuits

Ok, so I may have gone a little crazy... I ordered a whole Benton's Country Ham after watching David Chang and Sean Brock rave about it on Mind of a Chef (my current TV obsession). These biscuits are a delightful blend of savory and sweet, the perfect vehicle for a paper-thin slice of country ham. And no refined sugar, just dates!

2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 425F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or a fork, or two knives. Or use my new favorite technique - just squish it lightly with your fingers, a sort of sifting motion. The goal is to have the mixture resemble coarse cornmeal mixed with plenty of bigger flour-coated bits of shortening. For me, this has always been the most frustrating part of biscuits and pie crust, and the reason I don't usually bother making my own pie crust. Another great way to accomplish this step is to grate frozen butter into the flour mixture and then just stir it in with a fork.

Add the milk, cheese, and dates, and stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Drop handfuls onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Serve with country ham, or eggs, or just slather with butter and enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garden Obsession - May 17

I'm so excited about gardening again! It's been a couple of years since my garden really did well - I got so busy with work that I neglected all kinds of things like adding enough compost, weeding, pest control, etc. But this year I got a full load of compost from Soilutions and started early in March with broccoli and cauliflower starts, arugula, radishes, fava beans, and fennel.

Here is the harvest on April 30: radishes, red-veined sorrel, arugula, garlic scapes, parsley, and purple sprouting broccoli.

And a lot has happened since then!

The Good:

Cauliflowers are doing well, not bolting yet.

 Beautiful radishes!

Escarole! My first try growing this - it's definitely a cool season crop.

Fava beans started flowering around April 30, and now have tiny pods. Hopefully we'll be able to harvest some before the end of this month, when it gets too hot.

Irises, parsley, and red-veined sorrel.

Chervil! A classic French herb with a subtle anise flavor like tarragon. I've been adding it to scrambled eggs.

Both rose bushes are doing great!

Mustard greens are doing well, radishes and gladiolus are coming up along the front of the porch.

Tiny fennel! Coming right along.

The artichoke came back after the winter. It seems to be doing ok in this shady spot, and maybe we will actually get a couple of artichokes!

I planted mint and sorrel in the same bed, because I've heard they like the shade. We'll see. This is always one of the most challenging areas - right under a mulberry tree.

We've harvested about four good-sized heads of broccoli. This photo was from earlier, when they were smaller.

I planted eight tomato plants... Sungold, San Marzano, Principe Borghese, Kellogg's Breakfast, Brandywine, and three Black Krims! I love these cages I made from re-mesh (it's for embedding in concrete slabs). Most of them I bought at Hand to Mouth Foods at the Los Ranchos growers' market - they have THE most amazing selection of varieties I've ever seen.


And this ground cherry! I've never tried it before, but I ran into this fabulous woman I met at the Edible Santa Fe food writing workshop, and she convinced me I had to have it.

The pomegranate tree is in full bloom - this is the most flowers it's ever had! Should be a great crop.

The Green Gage plum has tons of baby fruit, so it should be a fantastic crop this year!

And the gooseberry has fruit, not ripe yet, but looking good! It is thriving in the shade of the mulberry tree, with just a little sun at the end of the day.

The Bad:

Stink bug invasion!!! These little guys are sucking the juices of my hollyhocks, which normally never have pest problems, causing the flower heads to droop pathetically. When we saw Eli from Chispas Farms at the growers' market this morning, he suggested we set the chickens loose on them. I was worried they would eat the plants too, but just as Eli predicted, they were far more interested in the bugs! They ate a ton of them, which is why there's only one in this picture. There were dozens congregated on each plant this morning.

Aphids, and cabbage loopers have been at work on the cauliflower, but I think that's an easy fix. Spray them hard with the hose to get the aphids off - they can't crawl back up. And then maybe a little Bacillus thuringensis for the caterpillars.

The other thing that's got me worried is the plague of grasshoppers I've been seeing all over town. But I haven't noticed them doing much damage in the garden yet.

The Weird:

Awww. Like a mama radish snuggling a baby radish!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pear Mincemeat

I can't believe how many people have told me recently that they've never had mincemeat pie! Its name is an artifact of its origin in medieval times, when spiced meat and fruit pies were common. Modern versions usually just contain apples, raisins, and lots of warm spices. I made a lovely pear mincemeat using the tiny, hard pears from our backyard tree. The recipe is adapted from the excellent Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving; it makes enough for two pies, or two quarts for canning.

1 C. dried currants
1 C. golden raisins
1/2 C. chopped dried apricots
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C. lightly packed brown sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
10 C. peeled, cored, chopped pears
1 C. slivered blanched almonds
1/4 C. brandy (optional)

Combine dried fruits, zest, juice, sugar, and spices in a large stainless steel pot. Mix thoroughly, then add the pears, folding them in carefully if they are soft. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 more minutes until thickened but not dry. Add almonds and brandy; simmer for 5 more minutes.

For canning: If you wish to can some or all of the recipe, heat canning jars in a boiling water bath. Remove the jars from the bath and fill, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove as many air bubbles as possible by running a knife down the sides. Dip the lids in boiling water bath using your tongs, or pour boiling water over them in a bowl to heat them. Wipe the jar rims, center the lid on each jar, and screw the band down fingertip-tight. Place the jars in the water bath and boil 20 minutes (30 minutes at 5000 feet, 35 minutes at 7000 feet). Remove jars and set them on a towel until completely cooled, preferably overnight.

For pies: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay bottom crust in pie plate and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon flour (this helps keep the bottom crust from getting soggy). Spread one quart of mincemeat evenly into the bottom crust, cover with the top crust, and crimp edges. Poke holes in the top to make a pretty pattern and allow steam to vent. Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pork Roast Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Mmm, tacos. The perfect food. Do I say that every time I write about tacos? Skarsgard Farms has been getting pineapples from Mexico, and  Majestic Valley Farm has grown such beautiful cabbage this year. This makes great use of both!  I've always wanted to try recreating the barbacoa with pineapple we used to get at taco places in L.A. - this isn't it, but it's pretty delicious.

Pork butt is one of my favorite cuts of meat, because it's cheap and flavorful. I wanted to smoke it, but that's a huge project that takes about 6 hours, and we were low on charcoal. So here's a cheaters' version - we just put what little charcoal we had left into the grill with one small hickory chunk on top, smoked the butt until the charcoal was gone, then finished it off in the crockpot. While waiting for the coals to go ashy, we grilled some pineapple slices, and while we were at it, we smoked a few poblano chiles too.

2 lbs. pork butt
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cup water
1 pineapple, sliced 1/4" thick
1 poblano chile
2 T. cilantro
1 green onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 dozen corn tortillas
1/4 small head of cabbage, sliced

For the pork:  Rub pork butt with sugar and salt and let it stand for a while to come to about room temperature. Light one chimney-load of coals (we use a chimney that you light with newspaper). When they are hot, pile them on one side of the grill. Clean the grate and rub with oil. Grill pineapple slices right over the coals just until they get grill marks on each side. When coals are covered with gray ash, set a hickory chunk on top. Set the pork butt and the poblano on the grill, away from the coals. Cover the grill and cook until the coals are pretty much gone. Place butt in a crockpot or regular pot with just 1 cup of water, and cook until tender and falling apart.

For the salsa:  Chop several pineapple slices, the poblano, and the green onion into small bits. Add lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.

Tacos: Chop some of the pork into bite size bits, mixing with the liquid in the pot. Heat tortillas directly over a stove burner; pile with pork and top with salsa and cabbage.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Whole Orange Cake with Honey

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I hardly ever make cake, but somehow the idea of this cake made with whole oranges got me. The recipe is adapted from one in a recent issue of Sunset magazine, which is similar to one published in the Australian magazine Taste a couple years ago. It was so delicious, not too sweet, but very moist and flavorful. And it came out fine with no modifications for high altitude. Next time I might try adding some cocoa for a chocolate orange cake!

Since I've been interested in baking with honey, I adapted it to use honey in the cake, but I didn't quite go all the way to using honey in the glaze. It didn't rise quite as high, and it came out perhaps a little too moist, but it was still fantastic! Next time I'll add maybe 1/4 cup more flour.

1 lb. oranges, ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeded
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325° and butter a 10-cup Bundt pan. Cut a thick slice off each end of the oranges, and cut into about 1-inch chunks. Pick out as many seeds as you can. Grind orange chunks in a food processor until the mixture has the consistency of relish (not puree).
Cream together softened butter and honey, and beat in eggs one at a time. Beat 1 1/2 cups of the orange mixture into the batter. In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add this gradually to the batter and mix until smooth.
Spread batter in prepared pan (it's pretty thick). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, about 55 minutes. Cool pan on a rack 10 minutes, then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely.
Whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and any remaining orange puree in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and let it set before slicing. Although I have to admit, I couldn't wait! So I put the glaze on the hot cake and just let it soak in/drip off, and it was still delicious.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lamb Meatballs with Rosehips and Rosemary

For the Eat Local Challenge this month, I'm seeking out a variety of local meats. Northern New Mexico lamb is available at the Los Ranchos Growers' Market from MaƱanica Farm, or at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market from Shepherd's Lamb. At the Downtown Growers' Market, Ranchline All-Natural Meats sells lamb raised at Felix River Ranch in southern New Mexico. This year, I'm thinking of buying a whole lamb!

These rich, savory meatballs are a warming meal for a cold fall evening. The flavors of rosemary and rosehips mingle beautifully with a sauce of red wine and figs. Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta to keep it local.

6 oz. fresh rosehips
1 lb lamb
1 large onion
2 T. rosemary
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 egg
1 T. oil
6 shallots
1 bay leaf
2 C. red wine
2 C. beef stock
4 oz. dried figs

Cut rosehips in half and use a small spoon to scoop out all the seeds and fine hairs. Chop coarsely. Thoroughly mix rosehips, lamb, onion, rosemary, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and egg. Form into meatballs about the size of a golf ball.

Heat oil over medium flame. Brown meatballs on all sides, working in batches, and set aside. Add shallots to the pan and cook until soft. Add wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme. Arrange the meatballs in the pan with the figs in a single layer, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tumbleweed Greens with Creamy Garlic Grits

Yep, that's right - tumbleweeds are edible!

Long before they become the dried-up ball of thorns you see rolling across an empty highway, they are tender little green things that are actually pretty tasty.

We were walking near the river last weekend and came across these little guys (the one at the bottom of the photo is what you're looking for).
According to my favorite Texan, Mary, they are delicious fried up with bacon and onions atop a mess of grits. So I tried it, and I concur. I'd eat it again any day.

1/3 cup cream
1 2/3 cup water
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup stone-ground grits
1/2 tsp salt
A big bunch of baby tumbleweeds
A little piece of bacon
A small onion
A splash of cider vinegar

Bring the water and cream to a boil, toss in the garlic clove, then whisk in the grits and salt. Cover and simmer until the grits are thick and creamy, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes.

Wash the tumbleweed greens very thoroughly and tear into small pieces, removing any tough stems. Chop the bacon into tiny bits, and fry in a wide skillet on medium heat, adding a little oil if necessary. Mince the onion and add it to the skillet, and cook until just softened. Add tumbleweeds and cook until thoroughly wilted. Add the splash of vinegar and a little salt if needed. Serve over bowls of hot grits.