Category Archives: Eat

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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February 2013

Not a very exciting title for this post, huh?

NWS Oklahoma Snowfall totals Feb 25, 2013

Click for a larger view.

I could have titled it The Snowstorm That Wasn’t. Twice in the last three weeks people have gotten all excited, closed down universities, cancelled events, and prompted a rush on groceries, based on winter weather advisories. I’m glad I’m not a meteorologist, because the general public doesn’t seem to understand probabilities. Parts of Oklahoma did get quite a bit of snow, but not here, even though it looked like we were going to get slammed big time. Oh well…we did get a nice rain, which we needed desperately.

Yes, we are still in a serious drought, and we’ve been on mandatory water rationing since January. This is the first time I remember water rationing in the winter. Two weekends ago Mike installed our graywater system, which is now legal in our municipality. Since then we’ve been shocked at  how much water two people can use every day.  We definitely need to replace our 20 year-old washing machine with something more efficient.

besan ka cheela and curry ketchup

besan ka cheela and curry ketchup

leeks

A bushel of leeks

Saturday and Sunday the weather was wonderful, and I spent a good amount of time in the hoop houses spreading compost, planting peas, and harvesting leeks.  This next weekend I’ll need to slice, blanch and freeze some of these leeks, but in the meantime I’ve been putting a leek into every meal I can – pasta dishes, chowders, beans, and besan ka cheela. By-the-way, if you can’t find curry ketchup for your pakoras and besan pancakes at your local international market, it’s easy to make. The yumminess of the ketchup is highly dependent upon your curry powder – I like mine with a lot of ground coriander.

Kate at Companion Bakery

Breakfast with Kate at Companion Bakery in Clayton

I visited KTM (Kate, Tuan, Mira) in St. Louis over President’s weekend to get my dose of adorable baby love. Kate and I hit Global Foods Market, Seafood City, and Trader Joe’s (because I just don’t have enough varieties of noodles and rice…ha ha ha ha). I really am going to miss STL if they move away for graduate school.

UPDATE February 28 – I made leek, green chili, and cheese pupusas for dinner tonight.

  • 2 cups masa flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups hot water

Mix in large bowl, first with a fork and then with your hands, and knead until dough is no longer sticky. Cover with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

  • 1 medium leek,  white and light green part, diced
  • 1 Tsp olive oil
  • 2 Tsp green diced green chili
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Leek, green chili, and cheese pupusa

Leek, green chili, and cheese pupusa

Saute leek in olive oil, add green chili and seasoning (cumin, garlic, red chili powder). Let it cool, then add the grated cheese.

Divide masa into 5 or 6 balls of dough. One at a time, pat the ball into a disk, about 4 to 5″ in diameter. Place heaping tablespoon of the leek and cheese mixture on the center of the disk. Pull/mold the sides of the disk around the filling so that it is enclosed in dough. Gently flatten the dough until it is about 1″ thick.

Place each pupusa on a very lightly oiled griddle or cast iron skillet and cook over a low heat. If some of the cheese oozes out, that’s fine. Cook until lightly toasted on one side, then flip over.

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Scones and biscuits

Since Mike and I became “empty nesters” we’ve almost stopped making biscuits. The two of us couldn’t (and shouldn’t!) eat a whole batch ourselves, so whenever I made them a large number went to the chickens. However, I recently discovered that you can freeze uncooked biscuits and scones. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize you could do this, but then again, until recently there was no such thing as “too many biscuits.”

Inspired by our son Aric – a big fan of biscuits and an excellent cook – I have been making drop biscuits and scones, and then freezing them in zip lock bags. This way Mike and I can pop just a few in our convection toaster oven whenever we want. Drop biscuits and scones are super easy to make, and they seem to cook better in the toaster oven than regular rolled-out biscuits.

Cinnamon-Almond Drop Scones Cinnamon-almond scone

Makes 6 – 8 scones. These can be frozen (uncooked) and cooked as needed in a convection toaster oven. I freeze them on a small tray and then store them in zip lock freezer bags.

  • 1.5 cups unbleached white flour
  • .25 cup almond meal (can substitute flour)
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • .5 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • .5 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1 egg
  • .3 to .5 cup sour milk*
  • 1 egg
  • .5 tsp almond extract
  • .25 cup melted butter (half a stick)
  • flaked or chopped almonds for topping
  • 2 Tbsp sugar for topping
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon for topping

*If you don’t happen to have sour milk just sitting around, you can add a tsp of lemon juice or vinegar to your milk to “sour” it. Let it sit for a few minutes  to clabber.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (including cinnamon chips), combine  sour milk, egg, and butter in another bowl and beat up, then add the wet to the dry ingredients. Don’t stir or beat too much – you do not want to develop the gluten in a quick bread like biscuits. I use a fork and it only takes about 5 seconds.

Drop onto a greased cookie sheet. Carefully place almonds on top, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 425 F for 10-12 minutes.

Peach-ginger scones: Use the same recipe above, except leave out the cinnamon chips and ground cinnamon. Add 2 Tbsp minced candied ginger and 1/2 cup chopped fresh peach.

Cheddar & herb drop biscuits: Adapt recipe above by leaving out the almonds, cinnamon, and sweet stuff, and instead add 1/4 cup cornmeal, 2 tsp crushed dried herbs, 1 tsp minced garlic, and 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

More scone and biscuit variations

  • Lemon & poppy seed
  • Green chili & bacon
  • Coconut, date, & sesame
  • Orange & walnut
  • “Everything” biscuit

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Figs!

Brown Turkey figsI was going to complain about the heat, but then I spotted ripe figs on our tree! You can’t buy fresh figs at the grocery in Oklahoma, only at specialty markets. Few people know that you can even grow figs here (I’ve even seen them growing in St. Louis). When Mike was growing up his family had a fig tree on the south side of the house. They don’t really look like fig trees – they’re more like very large bushes. We have two Brown Turkey fig trees/bushes in our backyard, and around November Mike prunes, puts a wire cage around them, and fills the cage with leaves.  This last year we had such a mild winter that we didn’t have any die back, and Mike actually picked a couple of ripe figs in early May. Some of the figs pictured on the left went into a Greek salad for my lunch; figs seem to have a particular affinity for goat or feta cheese.

I’ve been picking about three very large and delicious tomatoes every day for the last two weeks. Last year, due to the horrific hail storm and 100+ weather, we only harvested two (that’s right, two!) tomatoes. This year we had a mild June, no hail, and Mike put up shade cloth. And even though it’s really hot right now, the night time temperatures are still falling into the 70’s, which means that the tomato blossoms can set fruit. These same conditions have also resulted in a good green bean and cucumber crop. Peppers and okra, of course, don’t mind the heat.

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Combining business and pleasure

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

This photo was taken from the Empire Landmark Hotel (no, we stayed at the Hyatt).

Mike and I attended the AERA conference in Vancouver this past week, and wow – what a gorgeous city! The weather was perfect four of the the six days we were there. Everyone kept talking about how expensive Vancouver was, but Mike and I thought the dining, at least, was quite reasonable. We ate at several good places, but the best by far was our dinner at the Centre Culturel Francophone De Vancouver. This meal ranks up there with my all-time top 10 (and I’m pretty old, ya know). What was especially impressive is that the dinner was part of a SIG banquet of about 50 people. Mike and I both had the salad with tomatoes and goat cheese, and the apple pie. For our entrees Mike had the mussels (a huge pot of ’em, cooked in garlic and cream) and frites, while I had the local heritage chicken with farmer mushroom sauce. The apple pie was – I think – close to this recipe, but there was the most faint essence of a rosewater glaze on the top. Our best lunch was at Takis Taverna on Davie Street, where we had very tender lamb, a large serving of rice pilaf, potato, carrot, Greek salad, tzaziki, and pita. Mike’s plate with three lamb chops was $11.00. And right across the street from Takis is the Transylvania Traditions Bakery, which should not be missed.

While we were in Vancouver our own fair city was once again hit by a smallish tornado, if there is such a thing. It was in the F1 – F2 range, and capriciously skipped through the center of town, destroying a lot of trees and only a few buildings. Here at the home of the National Weather Center we usually get plenty of warning about these things, but this one formed quickly and was rain-wrapped. We are very lucky that it didn’t do more damage and no one died. I guess the events of the last two years can put those old wives’ tales to rest: “Norman is protected from tornadoes because of the river ” (no basis in science), or “Norman won’t get hit because of the Indian burial grounds.” (If tornadoes were sentient and had a consciousness, why would they avoid burial grounds but not schools and hospitals?)  People can be so silly.

Oh, and here is a cool web site that shows current wind patterns in the US that my friend Brian sent me.

This next weekend I need to get the rest of the summer garden in – beans, okra, and cucumbers. To the right is something we are trying this year – potatoes planted in compost-filled feed sacks.

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Hot pepper sauces

Three weeks ago we picked all our peppers before a hard freeze, and we’ve been trying to pickle and dry them in our “free” time. Since Mike got all his grades in yesterday, today he made pickled peppers with the remaining jalapenos, and ground up the red chilis (mixed hot varieties) to  make a fermented sriracha-style chili sauce. He left me a large bowl of the ground chilis to make a batch of Thai sweet chili sauce. I took a taste of my sweet chili sauce as it was cooking a few minutes ago, and I’m thinking that it could be too hot, even for Mike. We may have to gift it to Tuan’s parents, as we did with our excessive harvest of  Habanero peppers several years ago!

P.S. Christmas morning, and Mike canned our sauces. The sweet chili is the darker color, and the fermented chili is the bright red.

Mixed hot red peppers  Cooking up sweet chili sauce

As this is likely my last post of 2011, I created a Best of 2011 slide show.

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Poblano molotes

Poblano molotes

Poblano molotes

Inspired by our recent harvest of peppers, I made a batch of chili relleno molotes this afternoon. Molotes are basically fried empanadas, made with a corn dough and (traditionally) formed into a cigar shape. I used my tortilla press and then my  2.5 inch empanada/pasty dough press to make these. At our favorite Mexican restaurant, Pepe Delgado’s, vegetable or chicken molotes are the Monday special.

The recipe below makes about eight 2.5 X 4″ molotes:

Dough

  • 1 cup instant masa harina
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Sift above ingredient together and then add in 1/2 cup warm water. Knead for about 1 minute and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap.

FillingPress dough

  • 1 roasted poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 oz Monterrey Jack cheese or other soft Mexican cheese
  • 2 Tbsp minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantroFill molote

Pull off a lump of dough the size of a large egg and form into a ball. Place between plastic wrap and roll into a circle (or use a tortilla press). You want your dough to be about twice as thick as a store-bought corn tortilla. Place about 2 teaspoons of filling slightly off-center of your circle, fold to enclose, and press edges together with Press molotea fork. If you use a dough press as I did, it’s a good idea to leave the plastic wrap underneath the dough so that it doesn’t stick to the press. Trim off any excess dough and use it in the next molote.

Fry the molotes in 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a deep skillet until they are golden brown. Remove from the skillet and place in a 300 oven or toaster oven to make sure the cheese is melted and to keep them warm until all are cooked.

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