All American Thanksgiving

OK, I can’t help but go on a little rant here…

Were you shocked/disgusted by the recent U.S. presidential election? If so, you share that feeling with over half of the American public. I went to bed on November 8th extremely depressed, and woke up the next morning feeling nauseous. How could (almost) half of U.S. voters – people that had twice elected Obama – elect this disaster? It is mind-boggling and frightening that so many are so gullible, self-centered, and easily manipulated. The last eight years will be remembered as a golden era. I hope this country can survive the next four.

This Thanksgiving most of my multi-heritage and multi-racial family* is gathering in Nashville. Featured prominently on the menu will be butternut squash, which I’ve just started growing the last two years. For some reason I thought that winter squash wouldn’t grow very well in my Oklahoma garden, but boy, was I wrong! Tomorrow butternut will make an appearance in a dip, a roasted vegetable medley, and in a pie with chai whipped cream. Of course we are having some accompaniments to the squash – turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, arugula salad, Waldorf salad, and these rolls.

butternut squashSo, if you are overwhelmed by your winter squash harvest – as I am – you should try Butternut Squash Queso. I made this for a gathering two weeks ago, and got requests for the recipe. My inspiration came from here, but I used fresh butternut, roasted with onion, garlic and olive oil. I also added 4 oz of cream cheese, some diced jalapeno, and used pepper jack cheese.I saw some other recipes online that called for sour cream, which I would substitute for the cream cheese, if that’s what I had in my fridge. Here’s my recipe:

  •  3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
Roast on a cookie sheet in a 400 F oven until squash is cooked through slightly brown – about 30 minutes. Add to a food processor along with:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chili
  • 1 minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican seasoning mix (chili powder, cumin, coriander)
Heat in microwave with
  • 1 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese.

Top with chopped cilantro, and serve with tortilla chips.

And if we still have squash to get rid of consume, I’m going to make this butternut hummus.
Butternut hummus
*Some of my ancestors came over from England in the 1600’s. Others came to America a bit later. I’m also pretty sure I have Native American and Negro/Creole mixed in there too. My husband has Slovenian, North African (10%, according to a DNA analysis), and British ancestors. There’s no Hispanic, as far as we know, but our daughter has always been mistaken as Latina. Our granddaughters are mixed Caucasian-Asian. In other words, we are a typical American family.

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Roasted summer vegetables

Daily harvests of tomatoes, eggplant, butternut squash, and peppers are piling up in my kitchen. So I’ve been roasting them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a liberal dose of minced garlic. (I put parchment paper on a cookies sheet for easy clean up.) After a good roast at about 400 F, some of it goes into freezer bags, some goes directly into our mouths (LOL), and the rest gets used throughout the week in pasta, curries, stews, rice pilafs, pizzas, quesadillas, tacos, omelets, etc.

Recently I made “Russian caviar” or ikra from a combination of roasted veggies. I often buy jars of this at Cao Nguyen grocery, and it’s a bit pricey. Here is a pretty standard NY Times recipe for ikra. Last night I made two pizzas – one with roasted eggplant and tomatoes, another with roasted butternut and onions. For lunch today I made homemade pasta (we’ve also got a surplus of  eggs right now), and topped it with the roasted veggies and an light Alfredo sauce. Here’s my recipe:

Homemade pasta noodles

I have an Atlas pasta roller machine, but you can roll it out with a rolling pin, especially if  you’re young and energetic. This makes enough noodles for two people.

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • extra flour for “dusting”

Beat the egg and water in a large bowl, then add the flour and salt. (I start with a fork, but then use my hands.) Shape into a ball and knead, adding extra flour bit by bit until the dough feels satiny.  Divide the dough into two balls. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. At this point you can stop, and resume making the noodles later, or continue on.

Using a pasta machine: Flatten out one ball and feed through the pasta machine, starting at the thickest level and then gradually moving the dial until it reaches noodle density. I always do several passes at the thickest level, folding the dough and re-rolling it until it looks really smooth. Each time you pass it through the rollers you should dust/dredge it with flour so it doesn’t stick or tear in the roller. My Atlas has 6 thickness settings, and for noodles I like setting #4. I’ve had problems with #6 being too delicate, but it might be good for angel hair pasta. I like #5 thickness for lasagna and ravioli. Pass the dough through the noodle cutter, then place into a bowl and dust with flour while you make the second batch.

Rolling by hand: Put down a smooth dishcloth and dust very liberally with flour. Flatten out the dough, sprinkle with flour, and have the strongest/youngest/hungriest person in the house roll the dough as thin as possible with a rolling pin. (Or don’t worry about getting it that thin, and just go with an udon or dumpling-type noodle.) Dust the dough again, then roll up jelly roll fashion, and slice into noodles. Repeat with the other batch of dough.

Cook the noodles in a large amount of salted water. Since these are fresh noodles they don’t take very long to cook, so plan accordingly.

Warm up your roasted vegetables in the microwave. I highly recommend the roasted butternut. It adds a little sweetness that goes well with the Alfredo.

Alfredo sauce

  • Equal parts olive oil and butter (about 1 Tbsp of each)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Lightly sauté the garlic in the olive oil and butter. Add the basil and sauté just a wee bit. Right before serving add the heavy cream and heat up until it starts to simmer. DO NOT BOIL.

Toss all together, and grate some Parmesan, Romano, Pecorino, or other hard cheese on top. A grind of pepper is also advised.

 

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Mid-summer 2016 inventory

July 10th

  • The peppers are in full swing, especially the Anaheim, Gypsy, and jalapeño. Same for the oriental eggplants.
  • Cherry and Roma tomatoes are starting to make guest appearances in salads, bruschetta, and on nachos. Larger tomatoes are still green.
  • Thai and Italian basil are almost a nuisance.
  • Cucumbers and Butternut squash are threatening to take over the garden (they remind me of kudzu).
  • After a first heavy flush the bush green beans are giving it another go.
  • Volunteer mustard, kale, chard, and lettuce are popping up in unexpected places.
  • I harvested enough garlic for a year’s supply for four families.

And the sturdy and dependable chard is still keeping us in greens. At the height of summer it can get bitter, so I blanch it first, rinse, squeeze out the water, chop and then sauté with olive oil, garlic, and onion. Last night we had chard and black bean enchiladas with green sauce. Tuesday we’ll be having curried creamed chard with basmati rice and this curried eggplant. I’ll make another chard and green chili strata for Thursday’s dinner.

Mike and I discussed what we want to do for our winter garden. We’ve decided to let half of it (one of the two hoop houses) go fallow. But not really fallow, because we are going to grow some cover crops and let the chickens visit it on the weekends. For cover crops I plan on using some of my excess saved seed – kale, Chinese cabbage, mustard, arugula, and lettuce. Such lucky chickens – to be feasting on organic microgreens in January!

new fenceLast week Mike built this fence to replace a section that was about to fall down. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

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Okie beer is here

Beer brew equip 2- Aric

Photo credit: Aric Nelson, 2012

Mike and Eleanor and I attended the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival last Friday night at the Cox Center in OKC. Although I am a lightweight when it comes to beer*, it was fun and satisfying to see so many good Oklahoma beers being brewed. Coop had a huge selection, as did Norman’s own 405 Brewing Company. Prairie Artisan had a five brews, including their Bomb! There were also out-of-state breweries like Left Hand, Tallgrass, Founders, Great Divide etc. Mike had a grand ole time, especially talking to the new startups. Just last week the Oklahoma legislature passed a law that will really help Oklahoma craft breweries, and encourage even more to stake their claim. Cost of living is cheap in Oklahoma  y’all, and the OKC metro is booming. Get on over here!

*I’m not a fan of IPAs and other hoppy beers. I love the smell of these beers, but not the bitterness. And I do not like Belgians and sours. (I tried a sip of farmhouse ale and immediately spit it out – what the hell was that?!)  To each his own. I prefer unfiltered wheats, blondes, and mild brown ales. My picks from Friday night were:

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Every year is different…

sweet cherries …in our garden. This year we got a great crop of sweet cherries (first time ever!) but not a single apricot. We had a decent batch of early Santa Rosa type plums, but only a few early peaches. Last year we were drowning in plums and peaches. This year the pear and apple trees bloomed forever, and are loaded down (another first). Our strawberry crop has been about average, but lasting a long time. And here it is the middle of June, and some of my dependable volunteers have yet to make an appearance – Thai basil, hyacinth bean – probably because of the cool spring we’ve had. So this is why it is a good thing to plant a variety of fruits and vegetables, because you never know what is going to boom/bloom or bust. (Except for kale, mustard, and arugula. You can’t seem to stop them, no matter what.)

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The chard before the storm

Swiss chardEarly June is a relatively quiet time in my vegetable garden. The spring greens, spinach and lettuce are all done, and the summer crops aren’t ready. There are a few plums each day, and we will have a deluge of peaches to deal with soon. But pretty much the only big producer right now is Swiss chard. Here in Oklahoma Swiss chard is a much better bet than spinach. It will produce  year round if you give it enough room, pick it frequently, and cover it in the winter (in a cold frame or hoop house). This week I’m cooking the following:

Curried Chard and Lentils: Cook 1/2 cup of green lentils in 1 cup of water. Sauté 4 cups of chopped chard in a little olive oil until limp. Combine the (hot) lentils and chard with 1 large minced clove of garlic, 2 tsp of Madras curry powder, and 2 oz of cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese is melted throughout. Serve with brown rice.

Chard and green chili breakfast strata: Butter, oil, or spray a casserole dish. Cover bottom with crushed/broken/stale tortilla chips. Sprinkle with chopped green chilis or other hot peppers. Cover with shredded cheese (Monterrey Jack is good), then cover with chopped and sautéed chard. Top with cubed white bread. Beat up eggs with milk, as you would for French toast, and pour over the top (it doesn’t need to cover the bread). Let it sit for a while – overnight also works – then cook at 350 until the eggs are just set and the bread is golden toasty. You don’t need to add salt because the bread, cheese, and tortilla chips all have salt.

Massaged chard salad: Use the smaller and more tender leaves for this. Chop or tear the chard leaves into large pieces. (I also like to add chopped Italian parsley or mint.) Massage with olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and a bit of sea salt. Top with chopped walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and grated hard cheese. NOTE: The raw garlic can sometimes be hot/aggressive, so you might want to sauté it a wee bit in olive oil first. Also, this massaged chard is also really good as a pizza topping. Put it on last, and watch to see that it doesn’t burn too much.

 

 

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Volunteer appreciation month

I love, love, love autumn – it’s definitely my favorite season! This year I would like to celebrate my garden volunteers, those serendipitous, happy random accidents (I’m talking about plants, not my children ;-)) that keep me in veggies and flowers until frost.

volunteer okra plantPictured here are two of this year’s volunteers – okra and cosmos. The cosmos are not a big surprise, they reseed every year and bloom from July to November, attracting monarchs, butterflies, honeybees and bumble bees. The okra though, is unexpected. I’m not sure where the seed came from – I didn’t plant okra in the garden this year – but I noticed it coming up in my pebble/stone/chat patio at the end of July. Sometime I wonder why I even bother to make compost, when so many things seem to grow just fine in this pebble patio.

Other volunteers coming into production are several tomato plants, red mustard, and arugula. With volunteer tomatoes you never know what you will get. Sometimes they are productive, and sometimes they are just not worth keeping around (Hmmm… sort of like some human volunteers I’ve worked with.) I guess I got lucky this year, ’cause it seems all my volunteer tomatoes have done well.

The fall/winter garden is coming along nicely, although I’ve had to replant my lettuce several times (probably too hot and dry when I planted). That’s not a problem, since i have oodles of saved seed from this last June.  Arugula, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, and mustard greens are doing well. I’ve transplanted lots of garlic, and the Lacinato kale should be up in the next day or two. And now i think the temperatures have fallen enough that I can start planting spinach.

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