Monday, March 19, 2012

Make Your Own Barbeque Sauce

Let's put that homemade ketchup and mustard to work...

¾ cup ketchup
3 fluid ounces molasses
2½ tablespoon mustard
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or hot sauce (or more to your taste)

Mix ingredients together until well combined.  Voila; my favorite bbq sauce!  Tangy, very sweet, just a little bit spicy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shepard's Pie (for the vegetarians)

Seems like an appropriate dish on this rainy Saint Patrick's Day.  This is a variation on a couple recipes: winter root vegetable stew and garlic smashed potatoes. I was lucky today and hit the Mercato early enough to miss the rain and brought home lovely ingredients from Schaner Farm, Suzie's Farm, JR Organics Farm & Spring Hill.

For Mashed Potato Topping:
4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peels left on, well scrubbed, cut into 1” pieces
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

In a large pot, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. After draining away the water (save potato water for stock), add butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash with a potato masher, ricer, or whip gently with an electric mixer.  Set aside...

2 tablespoons butter
¼ pound fresh mushrooms, quartered (I like cremini)
2 cups (about ½ pound) leeks, julienned
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup parsnips, chopped
1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 cup (or more as needed) vegetable stock
1 tsp fresh parsley, stemmed & minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, stemmed & minced
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Prep the veggies and make your stock.

In a deep, wide, oven safe skillet, melt butter on high, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they give up their liquid and start to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the leeks, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme, and cook until the leeks soften, stirring frequently.  Add the parsnips, Brussels sprouts and stock and season with a bit of salt.  Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and season with pepper.  Cover with mashed potatoes and bake at 375ยบ until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes (switch over to broil towards the end for browning).  Or for a prettier presentation, before topping, transfer the veggies into individual ramekins, then top with potatoes and bake.

Serves 6

And if you find the flavor needs a little zing, it is surprisingly awesome served with homemade bbq sauce. 

Use fennel instead of celery.
Substitute or add in other vegetables as the seasons change: peas, turnips, squash, corn...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Khorasan Wheat Assignment: Part 1 - Grain Salad

A friend of mine gave me some khorasan wheat (an ancient large wheat variety, less tampered with by society than traditional wheat; so much so that they say some people with a wheat allergy might be able to eat this grain; you may know it by the brand name Kamut) and tasked me with cooking with it and coming up with some recipes.  The ultimate goal is dish (probably a grain salad) to be served to the masses at Cultivating Food Justice 2012 (a week of events April 28-May 5; more details coming soon).  No problem!  Sounds like fun!  I love being exposed to new whole, healthy foods.

This requires overnight soaking before cooking and a higher water to grain ratio (3-4:1) and longer cook time (like 40-60 minutes) so it needs some planning ahead.

I just made my first batch (I soaked about 1/3 cup of grains in about 1 cup water over night, brought it to a boil this morning and cooked it on a simmer with a pinch of sea salt for about 45 minutes. My intention was to make oatmeal-type hot breakfast cereal.

After cooking, the grains were still quite firm and chewy, which I liked but not for breakfast cereal. So I let them cool and turned them into a grain salad for lunch instead.  They cooked up to about a cup.  To this I added:

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley from Suzie's Farm
1/3 cup chopped tomato (tomatoes are just starting to show up at the farmers markets and I actually have some ripe on a volunteer plant that I've mostly ignored)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced red onion from Schaner Farm
1 garlic clove, minced, also from the Schaner's
drizzled with Balsamic vinegar & Ensenada olive oil
a few pinches of sea salt
a crank of freshly ground pepper

...and tossed the ingredients together
...and enjoyed it quite a lot.

This grain is nutty and chewy, similar to a wheat berry.  Others might prefer it cooked with more water for a little longer so it is softer and less toothsome.  (I tend to like my food more al dente, less cooked, than others)

Stay tuned for more adventures in cooking with khorasan wheat...

Mix the cooked grain with your favorite salad ingredient combos.
Instead of tomato, try roasted winter squash.
Use the cooked grain instead of pasta in pasta salad or other grain salad recipes.

Or instead of khorasan wheat, try another cooked grain (wheat berries, bulgur, quinoa, millet, cous cous, rice...), chopped kale or lettuce for a green salad, pasta for a pasta salad, or croutons for a panzanella salad.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

San Diego has Seasons? YES, We Do

Spring is my favorite season; it is a time of awakening, rebirth, renewal, and while the crocuses do not emerge from the snowy ground in San Diego (they did when I lived in Pennsylvania), we still have seasonality of the foods we grow.  San Diego berries are mostly absent for a few months in fall/winter, San Diego heirloom tomatoes are at their glorious peak in the end of summer, beautiful ranunculus and anemones have recently bloomed, and good San Diego corn, especially organic, is a rarity, even when it's "in season."  But we are very fortunate: our local farmers manage to grow an abundance of beautiful, flavorful fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers year round.  If you want to learn about San Diego's seasons, the farmers markets offer an excellent education.

Why Bother Eating Local and with the Season?
I buy foods locally and in season because I want to support the people that are tirelessly building a sustainable local food shed in San Diego with their blood, sweat and tears, often without much financial profit.  These folks are my champions, heroes and rock stars.

And yes, of course, there are some challenges to supporting our local seasons:

Everything is not always available (many things cannot be grown year-round, crops fail, weather effects how fast things grow, some items are more popular than anticipated and sell out, etc) – but this can be a beautiful thing!  We can anticipate and appreciate the beautiful foods that are in season!  We increase our creativity in kitchen.  We increase our health by increasing the diversity of foods we include in our diet, instead of sticking to the same routine of meals regardless of the season.

Also, small scale, locally grown produce may look less uniform, less consistent, or less “perfect” (but, to quote Joni Mitchell, give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees, please!).  This is not to say they are less beautiful, by no means, usually quite the opposite (think purple carrots & romanesco cauliflower).  But each carrot is going to have a more unique size and shape, which makes them harder to transport and neatly stack in vast quantity on a grocery store shelf...And it may be a less familiar type of carrot.   
I relish and celebrate the diversity! But this is also a challenge for large scale prepped food operations (real world example: school cafeteria staff needed to be trained on how to prep a locally grown variety of broccoli).

Sometimes the locally grown is more expensive because small scale farming has higher labor costs (they use less mechanized harvesting, pay their workers a decent wage, less mono crops, use practices that are better for the land in the long run instead of making it easier to make a quick buck, grow varieties chosen for flavor instead of for ease of harvest, etc.).  I find it helpful to think that this is what good food SHOULD cost; think about why other food is so "cheap" (for starters - tax subsides and at the expense of our environmental and personal health).  And our country has, like, the cheapest food supply in the world (as a nation, we spend less than 10% of our disposable income on food).  Our bodies are literally made out of the food we eat.  Shouldn't it be a financial priority to build our bodies out of the best materials we can afford? (At the risk of sounding radical:) Maybe skip the cable tv and daily Starbucks?  I don't mean that as a criticism of those with cable and coffee (but you bought fair trade, right?), just to illustrate that we have a choice of where to spend our hard earned dollars.

Think of all the good we do when we spend our dollars supporting local organic produce: we help our environment by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and preserving our natural resources; we help create jobs for others; we keep our dollars circulating in our local community; we support a sustainable food system; we cultivate personal relationships with the people that grow our food – all while we eat the freshest, most beautiful foods available!

Think of the alternative: we buy a cheaper product that decreases our physical and spiritual health; we support businesses that poison our environment with toxic byproducts; we encourage businesses that consolidate wealth and power, pay their workers less than livable wages, use slaves, and have dangerous and toxic working conditions – we financially profit from the misery and suffering of others.

In this society we vote with every dollar we earn and every dollar we spend.  What world will you vote for?

(Or grow your own)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Arugula Salad with Seasonal Fruit & Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad has very similar ingredients to very popular farmers market Roots wraps...

Arrange on a plate:
a handful of arugula from Suzie's Farm (or spinach or spring mix or mizuna...)
a few pieces of thinly sliced red onion from Schaner Farm
in spring or summer: a couple of strawberries from Suzie's or JR Organics Farm, sliced
in fall or winter: several slices of apple from Smit Orchards
a tablespoon of walnut from Terra Bella Farm, halves or pieces, toasted
a tablespoon of Point Reyes blue cheese (or feta), crumbled
drizzle with...

Balsamic Vinaigrette
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (try Ensenada olive oil for something very special!)
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Wisk or blend ingredients together with an immersion blender.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Avo Chocolate Mousse

or ganache, or pudding...this vegan dessert is rich and intense, and you'd never guess it was avocado based! Another Roots favorite:

2 cups avocados, skinned, pitted, slightly mashed (about 3) from Schaner Farm or Heritage Farm
2 tablespoons organic, fair trade coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons organic, fair trade, pure vanilla extract (I make my own)
1 cup organic, fair trade cocoa powder, sifted
1 pinch sea salt
7 fluid ounces raw organic agave
Add avocado, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cocoa powder and salt to a food processor. Start the food processor and slowly pour in the agave. Blend until very smooth.

Makes about 4 cups. Keep refrigerated for a week or freeze for a month.

Serve with local organic fruit (blackberries or strawberries are my favorite when in season) and sprinkle with chopped & toasted local organic walnuts from Terra Bella Farm.

add a pinch of ground cinnamon and/or cayenne while blending

Friday, March 2, 2012

Strawberry Horchata

There are some amazing strawberries to be had at the farmers market, especially from Suzie's Farm and JR Organics Farm.

I first had strawberry horchata with a friend at El Mercado in East LA. She swore it would be awesome and ordered me a licuado de medio horchata y medio agua fresca de fresa. And I was hooked. I would then order it wherever I happened upon a licuado shop or fruteria. But I would always get funny looks - this was apparently a strange request. So I started making it at home. And it was very popular when I sold it as Roots.

3&1/2 cups brown rice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
about 12 cups hot water (or milk or a mix of the 2), not boiling
1 cup agave
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 pints strawberries

Put the rice and cinnamon in a gallon pitcher and fill the pitcher with the hot water.  Allow it to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Blend the mixture for several minutes until the rice is a gritty, oatmeal texture.  Stain through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to remove the liquid.  Return the liquid to the pitcher and compost the rice solids.

Remove the green top from the strawberries.  Add the agave, vanilla, and enough strawberries to mostly fill up the pitcher.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

Makes about a gallon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simple Cream of Cauliflower Soup

...or broccoli, or a mix of the 2, whatever you picked up at the North Park farmers market today...

3 tablespoons Spring Hill butter
1 onion, chopped
2-3 pounds of Romanesco cauliflower from Suzie's Farm, chopped
1/2 - 1 cup of Strauss whole milk (cream on the top preferred)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add a large handful of chopped florets and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes.  Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the pot.  Add the onion and the rest of the cauliflower and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and soft.  Add water until the veggies are barely covered, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Blend until smooth with an immersion blender.  Add milk, salt & pepper to taste.  Garnish with the cooked florets.