Friday, July 31, 2009

The End of Eating Local

Well kids, I’m done with the Eat Local challenge, and celebrated with a blackberry milkshake. (For those of you who don’t know how to make milkshakes, plop a scoop of ice cream, a splash of milk, and some fruit or chocolate or both into a blender and turn on)
For those of you reading this for the benefit of my anthropology class, what have I learned:

Eating local is hard, but definitely doable given a little creativity
Denying myself chocolate is not a good idea
It is ridiculous how so much of what we eat not only comes from far away, but isn’t even marked by where it came from
Eating local isn’t super accessible, and also more expensive. The process has yet to be democratized.
Food is important to me in more than just nutritional value, but also in terms of shared cultural experiences that a lack of food caused me to deny several times.

On that note there is a really interesting (but really long, if you’re looking for the meaty stuff the deep anthropology side is on page 6, and health on page 7, but to be honest the whole build up of the argument has a lot of merit) article on how we’re not interested in cooking but eating. Sort of, its also a critique of the Food Network.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Latkes in July

So I am not the most observant Jew, having gone to Shabbat a handful of times this past year and mostly for the free meals. But even I know that latkes are eaten for Hanukah, a holiday whose whole ideal is things covered in oil. But, as family tradition goes we’ve always been able to pick whatever we want for our birthday dinner and my younger brother always picked latkes for his July birthday. So it isn’t so strange to me to be cooking them on the hottest day Seattle may have ever had.

Having already had to cancel two cooking with friends dates, I was determined to make the third and prove that I could feed myself and others locally. Potatoes are local, onions are local, eggs and flour are local, and thank God oil is my exemption. My friend Brenna and I try to cook once a week to improve ourselves, and it was also Lindsey’s first time eating latkes.

Adapted from my Mother’s distracted advice

5 larger potatoes (local)
1 onion (local)
3 eggs (local)
½ cup flour (local)
2 ½ inches zucchini (local)

Brenna grew up grating everything by hand, but if you have a food processor I’d highly recommend busting it out. Essentially you want to grate the potatoes, onions, and zucchini and put them in a large bowl. Beat the eggs separately before adding them in, and then also in the flour. Mix it all together, pour a significant amount of oil into a skillet and turn it on medium high. When its hot enough that you can drop in a potato scrap and it will sizzle, than you scoop thin patties (think medium pancake size) into the oil until they’re browned on one side. Flip, and cook through, stacking on a pan lined with paper towels. Place paper towels between layers of stacking your latkes, this makes quite a lot. We ate maybe 1/6 the batter between the three of us, and divided up the rest to take home.

All in all, you couldn’t really taste the zucchini (for those non-Jews of you, not a traditional component of this potato pancake), but it made me feel healthier. Sour cream and applesauce is the traditional (and very tasty) condiments, but I abstained from both for the eat local challenge. Which made me sad.


Yesterday I had a lovely meal of something that was like a tasty and not chemically conceived version of rice-a-roni. I finally pulled out my potlatch pilaf mix of grains which I had visions of filling roasted bell peppers with until I realized bell peppers were spendy, and cooked it up. Easy, yes. Tasty, yes. Would have been better with some ingredients I don’t have like mushrooms and chicken and tomato, yes.

Adapted from Bluebird Farms
Potlatch Pilaf

½ cup of rice/grain mix (if you aren’t shopping local you’re best bet would be a wild or long grained rice)
1 small onion
½ tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 ¼ cup water
Basil, oregano, and salt to preference

Brown diced onion and rice in skillet with some olive oil, for 3 to 5 minutes. Then add in garlic clove finely diced and water. Simmer for 45 minutes. Take off heat and add basil, oregano, and salt. Let stand 10 minutes and eat.

As a side note, the anthropology of food class I’m doing this for had the excellent taste to feed us a delightful meal that I have no memory of most of the ingredients.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Honey, Thyme, and Blackberry Granita

I miss dessert also. Besides my cravings for butter and chocolate, I miss that right now? I’m not eating one of those five desserts I had last week. Tonight I had my friend Eunice, who is leaving sadly for law school in a whole different state for away next week, over. I haven’t been able to bake for her before because she doesn’t do dairy products, and granite seemed like just the thing on this hot summer day. Only I don’t have sugar, so I was pretty nervous about how this would taste.
Having been inspired by Fat of the Land, we went out and foraged some blackberries. Most aren’t ripe, but we picked the handful that were.

Adapted from Food Down Under, just barely
Blackberry and thyme granita

2 cups fresh picked blackberries (local)
¼ cup honey (local)
3 cups water (local)
2 sprigs thyme (local)

Wash the blackberries thoroughly, put them in a saucepan and pour honey over them. Then cover with the water and start to boil, add the thyme and keep boiling for a couple of minutes. Then pour into a glass pan so that the mixture is half an inch thick. Wait for it to cool down and then place in the freezer. Every half hour mix with a fork to keep the ice crystals coarse, granite is a sort of ice shaved creation.

Just a few more weeks and these will all be ripe!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I miss butter

Those blueberry muffins I made yesterday that I was kind of meh about? So damn good on day 2. Maybe the flavors just needed time to meet each other, but the two I had with breakfast next to my peach and blueberries were excellent, and filling enough to sustain me on my 18 mile bike ride I took this morning.

By the end of last night I was in desperation for the rest of the week. I had tried to make pasta, but something went wrong and my dough was just not going to make pasta. Frustrated I threw it into the oven and made plain scrambled eggs instead. The ‘bread’ obviously didn’t turn out that well, for to dense and hard to really eat as bread. So this afternoon I cut it into chunks and roasted it alongside some awesome varieties of potatoes and a clove of garlic. The ‘bread’ (nothing like what I made a couple of days ago that was splendid) was still pretty bad but at this point I’m much more wary about just throwing away food.

One of the fun benefits of the Eat Local Challenge is that I get to try a lot more different varieties of produce then is normally sold. These potatoes were just dug up the morning before I bought them, and the men assured me that there would be more variety of them next week.

Adapted from my Father’s advice
Roasted potatoes

5 potatoes (local)
Olive oil
1 clove garlic

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub potatoes with olive oil and salt, then put in oven for about an hour along with unpeeled garlic clove. Poke potatoes with fork to make sure they are tender, then take out and eat.

Obviously you can adapt this however you want, I put in a clove of garlic to use to flavor them since I’m not eating butter right now.

I miss butter. A lot. When I made brinner tonight (breakfast for dinner), I looked at these gorgeous pancakes and you know what I wanted? Butter, and syrup. I’m starting to feel like I’m on a diet which is not what I wanted.

But these pancakes? Still good stuff, made me wish I bought the bomb looking sausage at the farmer’s market, maybe next trip. I added in blueberries because that’s what I’ve been eating nonstop, but these would be excellent with chocolate chips as well. These pancakes were so thick that it was hard to cook, so maybe lessening the baking powder. Of course, this flour is a whole different beast to work with.

Adapted from
Blueberry pancakes
Serves four

2 cups whole grain flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 ½ cups milk
2 tablespoons warm water
Blueberries (optional)

Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, except the water. Then stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Add water as needed to thin out batter.
Heat up skillet, grease with olive oil. Put batter down with a three inch or so diameter. Place blueberries on top of pancake, then flip and cook. And eat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

These are the rules: All parts of the food must be grown within 150 miles of where I’m out. My exemptions are olive oil, baking soda and powder, salt, and yeast.

The morning started out with some blueberries (Olympia) drizzled with clover honey (within 150, but not sure where, they were a gift) for breakfast. I need to make sure to buy milk, because just drinking water is a little sad for me right now. Obviously this needs no recipe.
After a shopping spree at the farmer’s market (flour! I have flour, thank God for Bluebird farms), I headed back home to start cooking.

Adapted from
Blueberry Muffins

1 ½ cups whole grain flour (local)
¾ cup honey (local)
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg (local)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup milk (local)
1 cup fresh blueberries (local)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together honey and flour, then add salt and baking powder. Add in egg, oil, and milk, and finally fold in blueberries. Grease the muffin pans (I used olive oil spray), and fill about halfway. Put into the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
Since I substituted honey for sugar, I changed the recipe to cut down on the olive oil and milk, if you’re going to use sugar the original recipe would probably be better to follow. These are good, but not the best muffins I’ve had. They taste and look pretty healthy though.

For lunch, I chopped up a sweet onion and part of a giant zucchini from the farmer’s market, and threw it in the sauce pan with a little olive oil, basil and oregano (both fresh from my garden). Not really worth a whole recipe, but pretty tasty. It’d have been good with some salt too, but I was trying to use the less non local ingredients that I could.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Last Supper, pt 3

Right? A part three? Halfway through the cooking of the soup I was starting to question if I was really up for a part three. And then I remember that because the only mushrooms I can find at the farmers market are so damn expensive, this might be my last note.
A general disclaimer here: The only other time I’ve ever had chicken marsala was at the dorms. And lets be real, dorm food isn’t exactly real food. As my first attempt at marsala chicken, I felt it could have gone better. This wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t super amazing.

Still adapting from Smitten Kitchen
Chicken Marsala and Mushrooms

3 chicken breasts
1 cup marsala wine
3.5 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons minced parsley
¾ pound mushrooms
Salt and black pepper

Season the chicken breasts with salt and black pepper, and then cook in the pan with butter (use olive oil for a healthier alternative). Take out, and cook mushrooms with wine until mushrooms are cooked through. Add in chicken to get the marsala flavor, then serve, adding the parsley on top.
This would have been better with the onion I forgot, and maybe some garlic, or at least not on its own. It wasn’t bad, but if you have a better recipe send it my way. Part of it may have been I took some shortcuts in the cooking by this point.

Well, tomorrow starts my eating local, we’ll see how that goes. Also, in very exciting news I got a new roommate tonight, and lets just say that she is pretty adorable and the best thing to happen to my kitchen floor.

The Last Supper, pt 2

Until very recently I have never really made soup. Besides the kind that comes in cans, and even then I was never a huge fan. So it is with more than a little trepidation that I started making this squash soup, but it just seemed so colorful and fun that how could I not?
While the bread was resting, I began to chop up all my ingredients to prepare.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Summer Squash Soup

½ onion, diced
2 sticks of carrots, thinly sliced
2 pounds of yellow squash (I used sunburst), halved and thinly sliced
1 potato (it was supposed to be yellow fleshed, but I just used russet), thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups chicken broth

Brown the onions by sautéing them with the butter and salt, about 8 minutes. Onions, by the way, are super tasty but make me cry and I spent the vegetable part of this evening by the window before returning for only a couple of chops, before going back to the window. (Side note, these squash are perhaps the most adorable ingredients I have ever worked with)

Once the onions are ready add everything else, and bring to a boil. Then simmer for 20 minutes covered. Remove from heat and uncover, and then take out your blender. In batches, puree the soup, use caution. Return to pot, thin with water and/or season with salt, then simmer for another three minutes. And there you go, soup!

On top of this soup, of course, is something else very tasty. Which I’m glad for, because by itself the soup is a little bland for me.

Still adapting from Smitten Kitchen

¾ cup loosely packed basil leaves
½ cup loosely packed parsley sprigs
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ tablespoon salt
1 dash paprika
1 clove garlic (finely diced)

The original recipe called for mint leaves, not basil, but I wanted to work with what I already had in my garden. Add the basil and parsley, puree in a blender, add everything else. Spoon a little in a swirl over each bowl of soup, pretty and tasty. And, according to my family, it was unbelievable that the soup did not contain cream.

Seen here with the homemade bread

The Last Supper, pt 1

Tomorrow I embark on something a little scary. I’m going to eat local for an entire week, local being a 150 mile radius from my location in pretty urban Seattle. I’ll be documenting and doing this for my anthropology of food class, and while part of me is really excited because being a locavore is something I believe in, I’m also scared that I won’t have anything to eat. I am, after all, a pasta addict, and if I can’t find flour there goes my standby meal.

So tonight was a last supper of sorts (although a lot of the ingredients here are local too, so it isn’t like I binge on Twinkies normally) and also a pseudo birthday celebration. Because my birthday may have been a week ago, but as long as I keep getting baked goods, I’m going to keep celebrating. Initially I thought to make pasta (the thought of going without it for a week terrifies me), but as this will be a family affair and my eldest sister is gluten intolerant, something else was in order. That did not of course stop me from making bread.

Or trying to make bread. Because although I decided on a Smitten Kitchen based feast for tonight, and picked out my recipes I may not have read them. You know, the refrigerate overnight part. Which is where we come to part 1 of this recipe (yes, there are parts).

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Biga is apparently a starter for bread, and as right now I know next to nothing about making bread I highly suggest you click the link to Smitten Kitchen where there is a far more useful explanation.

2 ½ cups flour (the recipe calls for bread flour, but I just used all-purpose)
½ teaspoon yeast
1 cup water

Mix dry ingredients, then add the water to form a ball. Then knead either by hand or in your mixer for a couple of minutes. Lightly oil a bowl (I used canola), and place the dough in this. Cover with plastic, let ferment on counter for about 2 hours.
At this point, you’re supposed to degass it (just knead some more) and place in the fridge for overnight. Due to my poor planning skills, it was only in the fridge for about two more hours. But right now, I am not a good bread role model. It can keep in the fridge for three days, and you should take it out an hour before it is bread making time.

At this point, I took a break, took out some store bought sandwich bread, and made a grilled cheese with herbed cheese curds and mozzarella. It was excellent, and mostly I spent lunch feeling like I was cheating on my bread. But now we get to the bread making part.

Still adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Italian Bread

3 1/2 cups biga
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 2/3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup to
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, lukewarm

Stir together dry ingredients before adding in olive, oil, water, and the biga (I just added all the biga I previously made. Once again, this probably is better when you follow the recipe). Adjust water or flour and once again make a ball. Then knead (or use your mixer on a medium-low speed with the dough hook) for ten minutes.

Oil a bowl (I reused the one I made biga in) and roll the dough to coat in oil before placing some plastic over and let it rest for two hours. At this point, realize that making bread is hard even if you have about five minute spurts of activity followed by hours of letting the bread rest. The dough should have doubled in size at the end of the two hours, and you want to be super careful to not degass it when you’re making it into a loaf shape. Also, you should put it in a large bowl, because with about 20 minutes to go I realized that my bowl of dough had developed a muffin top to say the least.

As we should have learned from the tortilla making escapade, I fail at shaping dough. These are supposed to be folded like a letter (I write postcards, okay?), and one of them the rectangle was too narrow to really succeed, but my second half of the dough (you should divide the dough into two, by the way) which started out still a rectangle but more squareish seems to look better.
Now that you have loaves, place them on a baking pan dusted with flour and…cover and let rest another hour. Bet you never saw that coming.

Start heating the oven to 500 degrees. One of my loaves I sprinkled with rosemary, and then I put both in the oven, along with a steamer pan on the bottom rack filled with about a cup of hot water. After thirty seconds in the oven I opened it up and sprayed the walls with water (which creates such a cool effect. If I had a cooking show I’d do it for this very reason), waited thirty seconds and re-sprayed, then turned the temp down to 450 and the time on or 20 minutes.

Then it has to, you guessed it, rest for an hour. But after all your resting you’ve surely worked up an appetite and now you get to dig in. And despite all my worries about fermentation and not using bread flour this turned out super delicious, the rosemary didn’t add much, but didn’t detract either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Food Porn Today

No new recipe today, as due to my poor time management skills I ate cereal and top ramen for the most part. Excluding a really awesome dessert potsticker at Tiger Tail, which was cookie dough wrapped in a potsticker wrapper, drizzled with strawberry sauce, dulche de leche, and powder sugar.

A couple of days ago I had the chance to volunteer as a server for the Strengthening Local Economies Everywhere dinner. Besides extra credit, I also learned about this great organization. If you’re in Seattle, and like food and volunteering, this is awesome: Community Alliance for Global Justice. They tackle all sorts of food sovereignty issues, and for those of you looking beyond how tasty something is they're awesome to check out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The best kind of family heirloom

Remember in elementary school when everyone got a chance to bring in cupcakes on their birthdays? I never did, because no matter how many times teachers promised an end of the year party for all summer birthdays it never happened. So maybe I’m overcompensating in that now even though I’m in college I’m still bringing baked goods to class. At least this time it was for a potluck.

I love my Mom for many reasons, and while most of those are unconditional support, love, etc, another is these bars. These bars are like crack to me, and an instant hit anywhere (proof, they were completely gone less than six hours after cutting into them), and so easy that its almost embarrassing. Because everyone wants to know what’s in them, and when you reveal that it only has 5 ingredients it just doesn’t seem so impressive. But that doesn’t matter because it is still damn tasty.

Adapted from my Mother who adapted it from her mother, etc

ChocoCoco Bars

8 oz of coconut flakes
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
10 graham crackers
8 teaspoons butter
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Crush the graham crackers. I do this using a fork in a bowl, but I’m sure there are easier less labor intensive ways. Melt the butter (and the more you use the more these will stick together, their major flaw is being so crumbly) and mix it in before pressing the crackers into the bottom of an 13 by 9.5 pan (though this is pretty easily interchangeable).
Spread coconut flakes over graham cracker crust. Spread chocolate chips over this. Open the can of condensed milk, and dump it evenly over the entire creation. Bake for 20 minutes.

Cautionary tale: These are so crumbly that you will just help yourself to little morsels until you realize you’ve eaten half the pan. So I highly recommend that you wait until you’re at a place filled with people before starting to eat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tortillas purposely not storebought

In trying to convince my sister (and roommate) to switch grocery stores, her primary protest was that they didn’t sell tortillas. Which is of course a downside, but nothing that a quick search through the Homesick Texan’s blog couldn’t remedy. The recipe seemed simple enough, I already had all the ingredients and everything. Until of course, I realized that even after having my own kitchen for an entire year, I still don’t own a rolling pin.

I thought about using my pasta maker to roll it out, and have rectangle tortillas, but fortunately my friend Ilana was stopping by to deliver my third(!!!) birthday cake of the week, and I convinced to come over for dinner and bring by her rolling pin.

I thought about using my pasta maker to roll it out, and have rectangle tortillas, but fortunately my friend Ilana was stopping by to deliver my third(!!!) birthday cake of the wake, and I convinced to come over for dinner and bring by her rolling pin.
Adapted from the Homesick Texan
Whole Wheat Tortillas
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of canola oil
3/4 and 1 tablespoon cups of warm milk
Makes 8 tortillas on the small side
Mix everything but milk together, and then slowly mix in warm milk (it was never thin enough to really whisk so I just used my hands). Knead for two minutes, dough should be pretty firm and pliable. Place in bowl and cover with damp cloth for twenty minutes.
Break dough into eight balls, and then cover those for an additional ten minutes. Roll out each ball and cook it on a skillet heated to high for about 30 seconds on each side. As you can see, my first try I forgot to constantly stand over it and it got pretty burnt, but was still awesome.

These were pretty irregularly shaped, but that is much more my inability to roll out dough than any fault on the recipe. On the whole, wonderful. I made myself a sort of quesadilla with mozzarella and sprinkled basil, oregano, rosemary, and parsley on it. My sister Alli and Ilana made traditional tacos.