Sunday, November 29, 2009

December Book Giveaway

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I am finishing off the last of the sweet potato pie here as I write. Tomorrow, five mile run. And salad.

Congrats to November's winner, Mindy, for her copy of The Spice Kitchen. There are a few recipes in there that should come in handy for December. Mindy, please leave your mailing address for me at farmerfare AT gmail DOT com.

With winter fast upon us, I find myself craving comfort food often. This month's free book is The Berghoff Cafe Cookbook. Book provided by the nice folks at Andrews McMeel Publishing.

The book features familiar German foods with a twist, making for some unique recipes such as Brat, Kraut and Onion Pizza with Swiss Cheese and Caraway Crust as well as classics like Lyonnaise Potatoes. What I like about it is that it shows how to use leftovers creatively so you minimize food waste and save money while making family meals. Very practical.

Just leave your comment below to be entered into the random drawing. Good luck!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pecan-Pumpkin Seed Brittle

I was reviewing my Thanksgiving menu and thought, hey, that's all a lot of heavy food. Maybe a salad would be good here?

Thing is, to stand up next to all that goodness on the table, it can't just be any salad. Fortunately, this one can be made ahead and just assembled day of.

The first step is the brittle. You can eat this plain, too. And you can make it several days ahead — just hide it so you have some for the salads.

Pecan-Pumpkin Seed Brittle
8 oz. raw pumpkin seeds, pepitas
8 oz. pecan pieces
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
2 tbs. molasses
1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder or pumpkin pie spice

You'll need a silicon mat positioned on a baking sheet. Spread the pecans and pumpkin seeds out in a thin layer over the silicon mat. Thin is best for the brittle to harden well. Sprinkle the pecans and seeds with the salt.

Put the sugar and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat. Only stir enough to prevent burning, otherwise, as the Beatles sing, let it be. When it becomes a deep brown liquid, stir in the spice powder. Then, pour it in a thin layer over the top of the pecans and pumpkin seeds. It should cool rapidly and harden. Carefully break it into pieces (sharp edges!) when it is hard.

For the rest of the salad, you'll need:
6 cups of peppery greens, some arugula in the mix is good, toss this with:
2 tbs. olive oil
couple grinds of black pepper

For the garnish:
4 oz. Gorgonzola crumbles
4-6 pears peeled, prepared for poaching, see below

Poaching liquid:
1/2 bottle muscadet wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 white cardamom pod
4 whole cloves

After poaching, you will need 1/4 cup honey.

Poach the pears in the wine for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the liquid and cool. Halve, core when cooled, then slice each half into four lengthwise. Strain the poaching liquid back into the a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup honey. Return to heat and then reduce this liquid to a syrup consistency.

If you are making ahead, store the pear slices in the wine and honey syrup in the refrigerator.

Before service, divide the greens among plates, top each with equal amounts of pear slices. Drizzle the syrup on each plate. Top with the gorgonzola and brittle pieces.

Making a List ...

Just got done playing bumper carts at the grocery store. Wow. I try to get as many local ingredients as I can for Thanksgiving, but there is still a trip to the store involved. And a grocery bill that reads more like a mortgage payment.

There is also a slightly obscene feeling to buying two pints of heavy cream and eight sticks of butter for one meal. Thanksgiving is that annual time of year to pay homage to butterfat. It is also the time of year when I make more lists than Santa Claus.

First list Menu, next list, Grocery store, check. Grocery store and local produce sources both for that list. I have just enough OCD that I even organize this list by aisle at the store. Basically, its what we are all doing right this moment. Well, that and cleaning house and wondering, "How am I going to get all this done?"

Couple tips:
  1. Clean out the fridge to make as much space as possible for the incoming.
  2. Put all your recipes together and scan them, compiling the amounts of the same items into one list, so three recipes call for 1/2 cup of cream means you need add pint to list. A great tip on recipes is to think about making items that require the same oven temperature for your sides, or don't require the oven. Makes life SO much easier.
  3. Check your pantry against the list, crossing off what you have. It's cheaper to use what you have on hand — just make sure you have enough!
  4. Remember the bulk aisle to save money on the nuts and other items.
  5. Don't forget the items you need to make the leftovers into soup or casserole.
Next steps for me now are to make a few more lists.
  1. Chop list, list all the quantities of produce you need prepped and measured into one list. You can do this work a day ahead, even two days for some items. Plus, the prepped items take far less space in the fridge — leaving room for the turkey.
  2. Errand list, things for us like pick up the turkey from the farm (already butchered, thankfully), liquor store, and items that need to be purchased day before like fresh bread or ice.
  3. House list, vacuum, set table, anything on the to-do's that can be divided and conquered. Share the wealth, I say!
Last on the list, is the Timing List. This is the one where I write down all the items that need to be done day before and day of, and put them in order of timing. It's easy to get sidetracked and forget. Doing this one list in advance is mandatory for making it to the table on time. This list will keep you sane.

Now, I better go work on those lists!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon-Shallot Vinaigrette

I promised Ruthy I would post this recipe.

Brussels sprouts are in season right now and if you never liked them before, (and I was right there with you), you should try them again. Plus, they are just a crazy looking vegetable on the stalk, like a club you can eat.

I use nitrate-free bacon and recommend you do as well. You can reduce the amount of bacon used here, use prosciutto, or skip it if you do not eat meat.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 tbs. olive oil
1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1 large shallot, minced
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. red wine or cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. honey
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. Pecorino Romano or Parmesean shavings (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, roast setting, if you have convection oven, or 400 degrees for a regular oven.

Toss the sprouts with olive oil and coarse sea salt. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until they start to show some golden brown. Go for lots of golden brown, you may have to stir once during roasting. Remove from oven and place on a platter.

While the sprouts are getting crispy, cook the bacon in a skillet until almost done. Pour off all but one tbs. of the grease. Add the shallot and finish cooking the bacon and shallot until browned and done. Remove from stove, whisk in olive oil and red vinegar, honey and Dijon. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over the sprouts. Top with the shavings of Pecorino.

Recommended Reading

If you have not read this article in the New York Times about commercially raised and slaughtered beef, you need to. Thank you, Costco, for testing your beef independent of the suppliers — even when suppliers like Tyson will no longer sell to you because you care about your customers.

And, Cargill, what's with treating meat with ammonia during processing, and still having it contaminated? Not just with E. coli now, but ammonia, too? This meat was used for school lunches. Your meat patties were also the source of the E. coli that sickened the article subject.

Favorite quote in the article, Dr. Kenneth Peterson on why the department could mandate testing, but that it needed to consider the impact on companies as well as consumers.
“I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health,” Dr. Petersen said.
Dr. Kenneth Petersen, is an assistant administrator with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. I see FOOD SAFETY in his title which kind of means public health, right? I did not see, CORPORATE PROFITS AND BEST INTEREST in his title. The man is a doctor. Did he take the hippocratic oath or the hypocritic oath?

Wow. I quit posting as much on these issues because I got overwhelmed by it. But, when I read things like this, I can't not post on it. We consumers need to know. If our own government agencies won't protect our interests over corporate interests, then maybe its time for justifiable lawsuits directly against these companies by the consumers who have been sickened. This needs to end.

Monday, November 02, 2009

November Book Giveaway

First, congratulations to GiGi as the random drawing winner of October's book, Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

GiGi, please give me some directions on where to mail your book at farmerfare (at) gmail (dot) com.

Just as stores everywhere are cramming the shelves full of red and green, here is a warm, earthy book perfect for fall and Thanksgiving. the spice kitchen, everyday cooking with organic spices by Katie Luber and Sara Engram is 192 pages, hardcover and full color, and a new release provided to me for review by publisher Andrews McMeel. I'll be posting the review at Eat Drink Better this month.

For those of you who read this blog, you know how much I love spices, so I can't wait to share this one with you. You can leave a comment to get your name in the drawing to be the lucky winner of this book.

Just my way of saying "THANKS" in time for Thanksgiving. I'll post the winner's name at the beginning of December and announce the book for giveaway that month as well.