Sunday, August 26, 2007

OLS 9: the last of the deer

A quickie post this week, because I'm working on my syllabus at the last minute (as always). Don't I tell my students not to do this? Why don't I listen to myself??
We had the last of the deer D got the last time he went hunting--a little amazing, since there seemed to be so much of it at first. We had to reorganize the freezer so it would all fit, and even then, we gave away parcels to D's father and anyone else who expressed an interest in venison.
We thought we'd eaten the last of it in July, but there was one more package hidden in the bottom drawer which I found when I was checking to see if there was anymore ice cream (there wasn't, darn it).
End of August Menu
Deer burgers with crispy bacon (courtesy of the Sausage Shoppe)
A salad of zucchini and cherry tomatoes (farmers market and garden, respectively), with a nonlocal vinaigrette
Corn from the market that's next to the multiplex theater (a nice double feature: a movie and a dozen ears of corn)
No photo of the burgers because they came out looking fuzzy and sinister.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

OLS 8: pizza!

Last night we had pizza, in celebration of being able to comfortably turn on the oven. Not only was it comfortable, it was welcome--I think it got down in the high 40s last night.
The pizza crust was half of a batch I made a few weeks ago and froze--it's from a recipe I got from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver's book on local eating, and it's very good--crispy, chewily toothsome. Plus, it's online!
The sauce was a local affair, mainly, as were the mushrooms and cheese (farmers' market, both); the pepperoni was not. The salad--totally local, and in fact, totally garden (mine), except for the olive oil and vinegar dressing.
One of the best things about this sauce was how it made the house smell--tomato-y and rich and spicy--as if someone Italian lived here, someone Italian who was a brilliant cook.
Heavenly Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce

several tomatoes; as many as you want to get rid of, if you're trying to use them up. I used 6 medium to large tomatoes, Brandywine and Beefsteak
2 cloves garlic
a double handful of fresh basil
a small handful of fresh oregano
several sprigs of fresh thyme
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Because I was using very juicy tomatoes, I chopped them, put them in a colander over a bowl, salted them a bit, and let them sit there for a while so they'd lose some liquid. Then I spread them out on a cookie sheet which I lined with foil (to make clean up easier). I chopped the herbs and the garlic and distributed them more or less evenly, then drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I'd guess 2-3 tablespoons each).
I roasted them in a 325 oven for about an hour--but the time would definitely depend on how juicy your tomatoes are, so you have to keep an eye on it. I was waiting for the point where the juices were on the verging of burning (another reason to use the foil). When that happened, I took them out and put the tomatoes and remaining juices in the food processor to mix them up a little. What I got was a nice, thickened, heavenly smelling (and tasting) sauce somewhere between tomato sauce and paste in thickness--perfect for spreading on pizza. I used about half on a 9x13 pizza and froze the rest for a future dinner.
A very pleasing dinner for a summer day that feels a little bit like fall.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Julia Child Birthday Event

I'm late for this, but I had to do it anyway. Last year Lisa at Champaign Taste invited bloggers to post about Julia, and inspired by this, I made mayonnaise for the first time. (It was easy; did you know that Julia says it's OK to do it in the blender?)
This year I made Nicoise Salad. Here is Julia's recipe. I followed it as to ingredients, but altered quantities freely, on the grounds of availability and personal taste (less tuna, more tomato). It was one of the best I've had, probably because so many of the vegetables were fresh, just picked from the garden--the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the beans, the basil I put in the vinaigrette, the shallots.
When I was thinking about Julia and what to make, I tried to remember when and what I first knew about her. I couldn't pin it down, but an early Julia connection was her appearance in Desperately Seeking Susan, an '80s Madonna movie. Rosanna Arquette is a frustrated, ignored wife of a swimming pool salesman--can I be remembering that correctly? Her husband comes home and wants to know what his girls have been up to--he means Rosanna and Julia, who is cooking on the television in their kitchen, as Rosanna tries to keep up with her furious whisking. The idea of it was that Rosanna didn't have a life or any friends, so she had to look to Julia for companionship (I guess)--and of course, she goes out and meets Madonna and has adventures (does she become a stripper?) and finds love, etc.
But that scene also had this cozy friendly feeling--Julia cooking on the tv, and Rosanna in her own kitchen, that I liked. When I came across Julia again, I wanted to get in on that (without having to meet Madonna, etc.) and our culinary relationship was born.
This Nicoise Salad was also good in the way that something can be when you make one serving, just for yourself, on the spur of the moment. I read the word "Nicoise" (which is a lovely word), I let the ingredients drift through my mind--olives, tomatoes, beans. I found myself going to the refrigerator as if in a dream, and dreaming, brought it all together: lunch!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

OLS 7: food as medicine

The gardens (mine and D's father's) are producing beans, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, kale (pictured), radishes, tomatoes and pears--so there has been a lot of local eating going on this week.
But the best local meal was made for me by D when I was sick--a medicinal soup made from chicken broth (from our last farmers market chicken), various garden vegetables and herbs, and a lot of garlic and cayenne pepper. It was a soup that made your eyes water a little and your nose run (wait--it was already running!), and it made me feel as if I might be on the road to recovery.
No pictures. As D said, just eat it for once, why don't you? so I did.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

OLS 6: the garden in a salad bowl

This week's One Local Summer meal: another omelet and a salad. But to call it a salad is to reduce it, to flatten it out. There should be another word for a salad like this that doesn't put it into the same category as a bowl of iceberg lettuce with a few carrot shavings and a stiffly crimped slice of cucumber.

Salad Gathered from the Garden

a handful of cherry tomatoes (I used Sweet 100s and the volunteer yellow pear tomatoes from last year)

a handful of grean beans

the kernels off 1 ear of corn (leftover from last night's dinner)

a handful of basil (I used purple)

2-3 stalks of lemon thyme

a few fronds of dill, and another few of chives

sea salt

olive oil

cider vinegar

I steamed the green beans a little, until they were cooked a bit but still crisp. Then sliced the corn off the cob, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and tore the herbs by hand--mixed altogether in the yellow bowl I inherited from my mother. A sprinkle of sea salt, a glug-glug of oil and a glug of vinegar, a few tosses, and it was ready. I didn't measure the oil or vinegar, but it was probably about 3 tbs of oil and 2 of vinegar. Everything local except for the last 3 ingredients, and from the garden except for the corn, which was from the local bins at Giant Eagle. Yes, Giant Eagle Supermarkets have gone local, in a small way, which I like to think I've contributed to by constantly annoying them with questions about local products. I buy some of it every time I go, so as to encourage their efforts.

The omelet was excellent, too (Amish eggs and potatoes and onions from the farmers market) but it failed to keep its integrity when folded over and so couldn't make it as a cover girl (cover omelet?).

The best thing about this meal was the 10 minutes I spent in the garden with my basket (oh yes, I have a basket!), gathering up what looked ripe and imagining the salad into being--a bit of this, a pinch of that. The essence of local.

Friday, August 03, 2007

eating local in NYC

A report from the Alternate Parker:
I went to that restaurant, Borough Food and Drink, [12 E. 22 St.; near Broadway] and it was great. They say everything on the menu is "sourced" from the 5 boroughs, which means only that they use the best ethnic butchers, not that they make burgers from local cows. I had rigatoni with sausage and peas, and I can't remember the last time I had fresh peas that were not overcooked. MMMmmmm.
And lots of local beers from Long Island and upstate. The beer I drank at Borough was called War of 1812, and it was from Saratoga. I think it was an amber beer. I'd have it again. Tonight, if possible.
New York wines I would leave alone. And did.

I shared a memorable dinner with the AP in NYC, which was decidedly not local. I think I was there for the MLA conference (big English and mod. language professors thingie), and D was along for the fun of being in New York. The AP took us to a French restaurant--nothing fancy, but with amazing food of an old-fashioned sort. I only remember the salad, which was mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette, and goat cheese--a salad the like of which I'd never had before (this was in the '80s). One of those taste memories that reminds you what goodness there is in simple, well prepared ingredients.
The AP's capable hands, working on a probaby nonlocal wine last summer.