Thursday, October 27, 2011
The end is near, I saw my breath when I stepped outside this morning and although we haven't seen any, Meteorologist Hutch Johnson has been throwing the s-word around for a few days now. I noticed they had a blizzard in Denver yesterday.
At least my 'lil one will have her witch costume covered only by a coat and not a snowsuit this Halloween. The smartest costume I saw last year was the neighbor girl dressed as a snowmobiler... practical... although it would've been much more clever if she had thought to tell people she was Todd Palin.
Anyhoo, I think my gardening days are doneskies.
I pulled up all my glorious tomato plants and gathered what green tomatoes were left, turns out quite a few. There is probably a reason no one else grows heirloom tomatoes up here, they grow too slow or need many more hot days than is possible this far north.
I'm not going to start admitting now that my all organic, sustainable, urban gardener ways may have been slightly misguided. I did too much scoffing at everyone else's puny tomato plants this summer to acknowledge the fact that their tomatoes actually ripened, while most of mine did not.
Nonetheless, I've got buckets of green tomatoes on my hands and am rapidly thinking of ways to use them. I've deduced that anywhere a tomatillo would work, so would a green tomato. They have a similar texture and tartness. What better to cut through the spice and beefy-richness of chili than some sharp green tomatoes?
Oh yeah, add some aged sharp cheddar on top. Washing this down with a Fanta never hurt either.
Green Tomato Chili
Makes 8-10 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 jalapeños, seeded and diced (you can leave seeds in if you like things spicy)
1 pound ground beef
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound dry pinto beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
3 large green tomatoes, diced
6 cups chicken broth, stock or water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems chopped
1. Heat oil in a large stock pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add garlic, celery, bell peppers, and jalapeños and continue cooking until browned, about 10 minutes.
2. Add ground beef, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and coriander and stir, breaking meat up with the back of your spoon. Cook until beef is browned, about 5 minutes more.
3. Add beans, tomatoes, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Add salt and cook another hour. Taste and add more salt as needed; stir in cilantro right before serving.
Monday, October 24, 2011
What does one do with a plethora of apples?
Gallons of apple cider? Check.
Turns out apple cider and apple juice are really the same thing. First you juice the apples, then comes the tricky part. Do you strain the hell out of it? I'm talkin' cheesecloth people. Or do you run it through the colander you use for pasta? That's the difference, thoroughly strained: apple juice, lottsa pulp: cider.
So what do you do next, when everyone's tired of apple cider and you still have 2 gigantic boxes of apples taking up space in your already cramped back porch?
Make moist, delicious nut-filled apple bread is what. Eat it, then make it again. Repeat until you are tired or feel a little disgusted with yourself.
My problem is I can't say no to fresh-picked produce.
Bob, my landlord, (you know Bob, the one who ding-dong ditches boxes of beets and cucumbers at my back door) well this time its apples. He came by with a box of apples from his mother-in-law's tree. I saw him two days later at the library, and he asked if I wanted more? What any sane person would've said was, "No thank you, I haven't done anything with the hundred-or-so apples you already gave me."
But of course I said, "Sure, I'll take some more!" Before we'd even returned from the library, there were two more boxes sitting at my doorstep. Man he's fast!
My 'lil one couldn't have been happier. For the next week I was finding half-eaten apples laying all over the house—on the couch, on the floor, in my bed, in her bed. Apparently when she had tired of the one she was working on, it seemed completely logical to just drop it where she happened to be standing and go grab another. Why not? There were at least a million more on the porch.
Of all the things I did with those apples, this bread was by far my favorite. It is especially delicious warm straight out of the oven, or toasted with butter.
I used hazelnut flour because it was in my freezer and I thought it would give this bread moisture and complexity, but you could substitute whole-wheat flour or just use all-purpose flour. Speaking of substitutions you can also use whatever nut suits your fancy. I used pecans, because that's what I had, but walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds would also be good.
Nutty Apple Bread
Adapted from Joy The Baker
Makes one 9x5-inch loaf
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup hazelnut flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup soy milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup grated apples
1/ 2 cup coarsely chopped apples
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Coarse sugar for dusting
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together soy milk, vinegar, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and add apples and half of the pecans. Fold to mix thoroughly.
4. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle a little more cinnamon, some coarse sugar and the remaining pecans on top.
5. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This summer I increased my gardening two-fold. That is to say last year I had no garden and this year I have two. I guess I'm making up for lost time.
While I increased my gardening by two I did not increase my knowledge of gardening. Research? Planning? Why would I do that? Don't you just plant a seed, water it, and voilá? More or less.
It wasn't that I was unsuccessful, more like unaware that if you plant 3 watermelon plants and 3 cantaloupe plants they will take over your entire garden in a creepy, crawly, sort of way and kill off your basil, cauliflower, and chives.
I did however manage to have an overwhelming crop of swiss chard as you may have noticed from this recipe, and this one. Luckily, chard makes me feel like I'm being healthy and nice to myself so I don't mind cooking it up for dinner.
Pasta with Swiss Chard, Sausage, and Yellow Wax Beans
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
12 ounces hot Italian sausage, casing removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound yellow wax beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chicken stock or water
3 cups packed, chopped swiss chard
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 pound pasta
Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking up with the back of the spoon while cooking. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Add beans and stock and scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until beans are just tender, about 3 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and return pasta to the pot.
3. When beans are barely tender, add chard and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and pour sausage mixture over pasta, add parsley and more pasta water if it seems dry. Toss together to combine and serve, drizzling each bowl with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if desired.
Friday, October 14, 2011
I had a bit of a scare this week. While trying to update some software on my computer I somehow inadvertently lost the ability of view any of my photos. At first it was a minor issue, a mere annoyance that I had written this blog post and now I wouldn't be able to post it because I couldn't attach the photos I had taken.
But then reality set in. I realized that every photo I had taken in the last five years was on my computer and I had quite possibly lost them all. There were very few that I had actually made into prints. That means practically every photo and video I have taken since my child was born was gone.
I very rapidly went from annoyed to absolutely panicked. It took all of my willpower not to rush to the college, pull my husband out of class to come home immediately and fix what I had done. By the time he got home that evening I was a wreck. He assured me that it was a fixable problem and I had not flushed every photo of our child down the drain.
A week later with some help from my new best friend Joseph, the university's tech guru, and the foresight of my brilliant husband to back everything up on an external hard drive, we are back in business.
As the photos were downloading back onto the computer from the hard drive last night we sat there and watched as the last five years of our lives flew by. There's our wedding, me pregnant, Louisa's birth, when we moved, that vacation we took, her first steps, Christmas, at the beach, with Grandma, all happening in warp speed. Literally our life flashing before our eyes.
Photos capture details about your life that memories tend to leave out. They let you relive the past, peek into lives lived a week ago or ten years ago, remember who you were and how far you've come. To loose all that is something I never imagined would happen, until for a week, it did.
Roasted Red Flannel Hash
Adapted from CHOW.com
Makes 6 servings
8 ounces bacon, diced
6 medium red potatoes, about 2 pounds, large diced
5 large beets, about 2 1/2 pounds, peeled and large diced
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
6 large eggs
1. Heat oven to 450°F and arrange rack in the middle. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat and add bacon. Cook until browned and crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Combine potatoes, beets, onion, and garlic in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add browned bacon and any bacon grease to vegetables and toss to combine. Transfer to a large roasting pan and roast in oven until vegetables are tender and browned, about 50 minutes, stirring halfway through.
3. Remove from oven and make 6 indentations in the vegetable mixture. Crack an egg into each indentation, season eggs with salt and pepper and return pan to oven. Cook eggs to desired doneness (the ones in the photo above took about 5 minutes) and serve.