Ferment Friday, no. 1: beets

These days my life seems to revolve around finding various items at the farmer’s market, sticking them in a brine, and watching to see what happens.

You know, when it’s not revolving around sleeping, or finding highly-educational and physically-beneficial activities for my summered children to do all day, or feeding painfully-nourishing foods to those worn-out children, or eating bon-bons.

Because what could be more fun than fermenting random things? And sharing those things on Fridays?

So a mini-series it will be. Ferment Fridays. Not likely to happen every Friday, but you know, when it happens.

What’s with fermentation, anyway? Well, it was the original method of pickling — vegetables were dry-salted or brined, and therefore preserved for longer storage (through winter, in some cases). Meanwhile, as often happens, that preservation made vitamins and minerals more readily available, and increased the levels of lactic acid bacteria (bugs that are good for your gut). While the process doesn’t leave the veggies with the same intense punch of a vinegar (or “fresh”) pickle, they are still sour, sometimes quite pungent.

It took me a while to transition from a taste for fresh pickles to fermented pickles. But I’m there now, and loving it.

Today’s feature: fermented beets.

This is my second attempt at fermenting beets (not to be confused with pickling beets) — the first involved shredding the roots, making a relish. But these slices are crunchier, with the ultra-clean flavors of orange and ginger (see recipe note). I love these on salads, with eggs, or eating straight from the jar.

Only slightly more labor-intensive than other pickles because you shock them in boiling water first. But totally worth that extra five minutes.

Because, really. What’s five minutes in a world where ferments are happening?

 

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Fermented Beets with Ginger & Orange on Punk Domestics

Garlic scape pesto

One of my favorite things to do is go to the farmer’s market, stand at the table of one of the vendors, pick something up, and have to say, “What’s this?”

My agricultural ignorance continues, and I hope it never stops.

Last weekend it happened with these beauties:

Garlic scapes.

The stalk of the garlic bulb — I’d heard the name but never seen them. The farmer* sold a bunch to me for a buck, and told me to use them in stir-fry, that they needed to be cooked a little.

But for some reason when he said the name, “garlic scape,” the next word that came to mind was “pesto.”

So I came home, googled it, whipped up a batch, and proceeded to eat almost all of it (alone) in just three days. I bought five more bunches at yesterday’s market — I’ve no plans to be without a jar of this in my fridge anytime soon.

Fiercely pungent, with a solid kick. Performs a small miracle on a plate of scrambled eggs, and if I were a bread-eating girl right now, I’d for sure be spreading it on a tomato sandwich. For now I’ll settle with a carrier of grain-free crackers, looking forward to more adventures next summer when I’m back on the grain wagon.

*These scapes came from Wild’s Apple Farm, which sells chemical-free produce at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market.

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Recipe: Garlic Scape Pesto

: makes about 3/4 cup

very closely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 8-10 garlic scapes, trimmed of small bulbs at end of stalk
  • 1/2 cup almonds (could sub walnuts)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash scapes, and chop into 1″ pieces. Place in bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add almonds, and process until a paste forms (scrape down bowl as necessary).
  2. With machine running, slowly pour in 1/2 cup olive oil.
  3. Add parmesan, pulse to combine.
  4. Thin with additional 1/4 cup olive oil if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Can be served immediately, but flavor mellows a bit with time.
  6. Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a week.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.

 

Brown bag lunch: quinoa salad with tasso & citrus vinaigrette

tasso-salad

I’m not a huge fan of the sandwich. I used to be a fan, eating them almost daily at lunch for decades — but it was during one of my pregnancies that I must have crossed a line of sandwich-eating, consuming one too many, saturating my tolerance for the American lunch favorite named for an Earl.

What I am a fan of for lunch is the grain salad. Granted, I’m not personally eating them right now for obvious reasons — but plan to someday reintroduce them to my midday repertoire. They are convenient — you can make a big bowl and eat from it for days, serving it hot or cold. They are inexpensive — grains, even organic ones, are a lot of bang for your buck. And they are infinitely variable, using up leftover bits and pieces of things in your refrigerator that might otherwise go bad. What’s not to love about the grain salad?

So when the folks at the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market asked me to come up with some under-$5 lunch ideas using market-sourced ingredients, this was the first thing that came to mind.

I love quinoa — a seed-grain that contains not only lots of protein, but all of the amino acids, and is lower-carb than most other grains. It has a stronger flavor than rice, which for some takes a while to get used to — and while I’m not a fan of eating it plain, I do love using it in salads.

Today’s recipe is Cajun-inspired, with its star ingredient being Smoking Goose’s spicy, smoky cured pork tasso. The strong, salty flavor of the pork is tempered by roasted bell peppers, celery, and the subtle sweetness of an orange vinaigrette. The perfect salad to carry to lunch, as it does well at room-temperature — and it comes in at about $2.50 for a lunch serving. Mission accomplished.

tasso

If you’re interested, I’ll be showcasing this and a couple other lunches (with at least one sandwich) at tomorrow’s market. Sonja of A Couple Cooks will be there with her vegetarian lunches, and a raw food chef will showcase options as well. I think the party starts at 10 am — so if you’ve not made it to the market, come tomorrow and say hello! I’ll be the one with the southern drawl, breaking out into hives if I have to speak publicly.

Thanks to the IWFM for supplying ingredients for this and the other lunches on display tomorrow. You can find the tasso, quinoa, honey, olive oil, and perhaps the parsley & scallions at tomorrow’s market, all from local vendors.

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Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Tasso and Citrus Vinaigrette

: Feel free to substitute leftover cooked quinoa (use about 4 cups cooked instead of 1 cup dry) or another grain such as cooked rice, barley, etc. You can use any smoked ham or other cured meat instead of tasso.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water or stock
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 pound tasso (or other smoked meat), cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced (most of a 7-oz jar)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey

Instructions

  1. In a fine-meshed colander, rinse the quinoa well, and drain thoroughly.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil or butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa and stir to coat with oil and separate grains.
  3. Add the water and 1/2 tsp salt, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and let cool to room temperature.
  5. In a small bowl or jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, honey, and olive oil. Whisk or shake well to combine.
  6. Once quinoa is just barely warm, combine with the tasso, peppers, scallions, celery, and parsley. Pour vinaigrette over the top, and toss to combine.
  7. Taste for seasoning, adding additional splash of vinegar or salt if necessary.
  8. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store in a refrigerated airtight container for up to 5 days.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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Creamed Corn

Homemade Creamed Corn -- so simple, the essence of summer.

How have I never made this?

Seriously, it makes no sense. Straight-up fresh sweet corn, a little butter, cream, salt & pepper. As easy as it gets. Probably the easiest thing to do with corn, aside from just boiling it. But if you’re doing that, you’re eating it off the cob, and then you have to brush your teeth after, so that counts for energy expended, right?

So I was at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, because it’s what I do. I try to have a plan in mind when I go, an idea of what I might make that week, so as not to spend more money than is wise. But I walked up to one of my regular stands — Homestead Growers (good prices, chemical-free, and shitake mushrooms every week) — and they had one end of their table piled high with sweet corn. Pesticide free. I don’t know much about corn farming, but I know that I never see signs claiming pesticide-free on corn at the farmer’s market. My interest was piqued.

I bought a half-dozen ears with no plan (never say I can’t throw caution to the wind).

But the deal with sweet corn (not supersweet, mind you) is that you need to cook it as soon as possible — the sugars start a downward spiral toward starches the minute it’s picked. At last tired of our beloved corn salad, and with no hot grill to throw them on, creamed came to mind.

corn-shucked

And one of my very favorite cookbooks came to the rescue. The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook had directions for creamed corn, which I modified very slightly, adding a little more butter and cream, since I don’t think my corn was as fresh as it needed to be to get enough milk from the kernels (I cooked it the day after I bought it, probably 2 days after it was picked).

I stood at the stove and ate it straight from the cast-iron pan, unable to stop while my kids sat hungry in their bar chairs, begging to be fed (of course, none of them were so hungry as to actually eat the corn I served, so don’t go feelin’ sorry for them).

Unfortunately, creamed corn loses its charm when re-heated. But fortunately, creamed corn is fantastic when used the next day to top a pizza, along with crisp bacon and caramelized onions.

Fantastic enough for a second showing. So this Saturday, it’s part of The Plan to buy another half-dozen ears, which will likely be cooked the moment I return home from the market.

corn-husks

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Recipe: Creamed Corn

: serves 4 as a side dish
adapted slightly from a recipe in The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 6 ears freshly-picked corn, husked
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Standing a corn cob on end in a large bowl, and using a large, sharp chef’s knife, cut the kernels off each cob into the bowl. After removing kernels, “milk” the corn by using a spoon to scrape the remaining liquid from the cob into the bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and its liquid, and the cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn thickens and no longer tastes raw, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Tomatillo-braised Lamb Shanks

braised-lamb-shanks

Sometimes I freak out about money.

Actually, it’s more like a lot of the time. Until a couple months ago, I was by default the person in our marriage who kept track of day-to-day financial goings-on in our household. Meaning: I made sure the bills got paid, I balanced the checkbook, and I tweaked the budget to fit my liking best meet the current needs of our family.

The problem was, my accounting skills never made it out of the year 1994. I still wrote every single transaction down in our checkbook ledger, and had devised a mind-boggling series of monthly bank transfers between checking and savings accounts that Tim likened to the US Tax Code — my system was so broken and stuck in a mire of paperwork that every bandaid just perpetuated the misery and confusion that enveloped me once or twice a month when I sat down to tackle it.

So we’re in transition. My husband, to save our marriage, has taken over the budget and bank account ledger, and doing it all online, which he swears is a safe and acceptable practice (I’ll believe it when we don’t overdraft our account and our identity is not stolen anytime in the next 25 years — this coming from a woman who uses a smartphone, so some guy at Verizon could know anything about me at any time, right?) But while we’re in transition, I feel like all these dollars, they just fly out of my wallet, and how much is left in my grocery budget, and wasn’t this whole thing supposed to make my life less stressful? Make me less likely to end up in the Target parking lot with a calculator and wad of old receipts clutched to my chest, sucking my thumb in the fetal position?

So this week I decided to bypass the whole spending-money thing, and try and cook only what we had at home.

What I had: lamb shanks, in the deep freezer, from the lamb I split with Emily. I also had tomatillos, from last weekend’s farmer’s market (meaning, I needed to use them fast, or they would rot on my counter). Having no idea whether or not lamb is a meat that shows itself often in Mexican cuisine, I dove in, with my beloved slow-cooker as accomplice.

The result? We found it excellent — a keeper, even — and I put off my shopping meltdown for one more day.

This is a two-step recipe, but in a pinch you could bypass the homemade salsa and just use a jar of your favorite salsa verde (but only if you promise to try your hand at the roasted tomatillo recipe at some point in the future, it’s very different from its jarred counterpart). If you haven’t made the leap to lamb, this is a great cut to try — inexpensive because it’s one of the toughest cuts, it becomes fall-off-the-bone tender when slow-cooked.

We ate this on soft-shell tacos with extra salsa, but it would be delicious over Spanish rice with the sauce spooned over top.

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Recipe: Slow-Cooker Tomatillo-Braised Lamb Shanks

: serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • (2) 1-pound lamb shanks, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups roasted tomatillo salsa (recipe follows)

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the lamb shanks all over with cumin, salt and pepper, and rub to coat. Dredge in flour and shake off excess.
  2. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. When the oil is shimmering, add the lamb. Cook, turning, until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow-cooker, and turn on high.
  3. Add water to the skillet, scraping with a wooden spoon, to loosen any browned bits. Let simmer down for a minute, then pour liquid over shanks in slow-cooker.
  4. Pour tomatillo salsa on top of lamb. Cover slow-cooker.
  5. Cook on high for an hour, then reduce to low and cook another 6 hours, or until meat falls off the bone.

 

Recipe: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

: makes 2 cups / adapted slightly from The Joy of Cooking, p. 62-63

Ingredients

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked & rinsed
  • 2-3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded & chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the tomatillos in a single layer on top. Broil until darkened and softened on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn tomatillos over and broil another 5-6 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. Place tomatillos and accumulated juices in a food processor along with the jalapenos and garlic. Pulse until coarsely pureed with a few chunks remaining. Remove to a medium bowl.
  3. Stir in the water, onion, herbs, salt, and sugar. If necessary, thin with a little more water.
  4. Let salsa stand for about 20 minutes before serving.

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This recipe was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.

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Out with the old, in with the new

tomato_basil_butternut

It’s not New Year’s, I know. But in some ways, I feel like my own personal year begins in autumn — how long I await the crisp, clear sky and long, sharp shadows. I want to fill my house with winter squash and apples, and honor the season by toasting it with the only flavored coffee that ever touches my lips: Pumpkin Spice (I’m sipping the year’s first, as I type).

Today’s photo represents a metaphorical turning point: these were the partial contents of our CSA box this week. For the last month, we’ve been opening the box to a welcome bounty of tomatoes. Heirlooms, of widely varied colors and shapes. I’ve made two tomato pies, a few batches of fresh salsa, and our favorite quick-dinner of late, Pasta with Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes (a post and recipe are coming). We’ve had enough basil in the past two boxes for me to make several cups of pesto, now nicely put up in the freezer for winter pizzas and pastas. But I was surprised when yesterday’s box had a single tomato, and only a handful of basil. What replaced the void in summer fare was a beautiful butternut squash.

Please don’t mistake surprise for disappointment: while I love good garden tomatoes, I love autumn more. It’s more just changing 30-something (ahem) years of a seasonal clock. My Georgia friends are probably still neck-deep in ripe tomatoes, giving them away to whomever will take them, with enough leftover to make 3 more pies by the end of the month. Here in Indy, it’s a different story; it is unabashedly autumn here, complete with pumpkin-laden porch steps. I love it; I made a kabocha squash soup this week, and it was seasonally appropriate. In September. That’s new to me.

The other thing that’s new: I’m so close to switching to my new blog site.  The good news is that I didn’t end up changing the name after all; the bad news is that well, I’m still not done. But the change is imminent, and while you are probably not nearly as excited as I am, I do hope that the new site will offer better usability and more features (and it will be so… so… SO much easier to update and backup). Hold me to an October launch, won’t you?

Twenty-six bucks

That’s what I paid this morning, at the Farmer’s Market, for all of this:

farmersmarketfare

Does that seem crazy, to anyone else but me? The apples are the only thing that weren’t either certified organic or pesticide-free (after much searching, I still haven’t found an apple farmer who doesn’t have to spray at least once). Is this all a hoax? I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one morning to headlines telling me of the Great Farce discovered at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market. How do they sell this stuff so cheap?

The priciest item was the half-peck of apples, straight from the orchard outside Indianapolis. Those totaled $7 (one bag is for eating — the Golden Delicious and Galas, and one is for applesauce — the Cortlands). The acorn squash was $1, purchased from the same farmer who sells me $1 yukon gold potatoes (I am feeling safer with each passing Saturday that the price remains the same — I even refrained from running away after my purchase this morning).

Seriously. Where am I?

And you must understand that I’m not complaining — I’m just nervous. Waiting for this mirage to disappear before my hungry yet unwaveringly frugal eyes.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Indiana.