Monday, August 06, 2007
The garlic I harvested out of my garden a few weeks ago has been drying on my back porch. Last night I took it off the hook and trimmed away the stalks and roots, and wiped away the excess dirt. Success! I now have more garlic than I know what to do with!
These pretty purple-streaked cloves are the Purple Glazer garlic - it’s a mid-season, hardneck variety. Originally from the Republic of Georgia, the garlic is supposed to be great for baking. The cloves are not supposed to be hot, but you could have fooled me - I accidentally cut a garlic bulb in half with my shovel while I was digging up the bed, so I popped a clove in my mouth. Uh, yeah, the garlic is super spicy fresh out of the ground.
This was my first attempt at growing garlic, and I must admit that it was a little thrill to discover the cloves did actually grow into bulbs. Our soil is pretty clay-ish, so you just never know what’ll happen. The bulbs didn’t get huge - my guess is the clay soil kept them from getting too big. I do plan to grow garlic again, so the plan is to build a raised bed so I can get the soil just right.
Do you grow garlic in the Philadelphia area? What are your favorite varieties? While I love the look of Purple Glazer, I think I might try something else next year - perhaps Music, Ontario Purple Trillium, Chinese Pink, or Chet’s Italian.
So now I’ve got all this garlic - what to do with it all? I dried the garlic, so I can at least rely on it to last for a little while. But in thinking of longer term storage, what then? There are several different preserving methods that work for garlic -
- Freezing - freezing garlic will produce a slightly mushy clove, but retains the flavor really well. Place peeled whole or chopped cloves in a freezer bag and, well, freeze it.
- Drying - You can dry cloves that have been cut in half in a dehydrator or your oven (140 degrees for two hours and then 130 degrees until the garlic is totally dry and crisp).
- Oil and vinegar - cloves of garlic (both whole and chopped) can be preserved in both oil and vinegar. In refrigerated vinegar, the cloves will keep for about four months. For oil, it’s best to freeze it - otherwise, you run the risk of botulism. The oil will keep for a few months.
- Salt - dry a few cloves and then give a whirl in a blender until the cloves are a fine powder. Add four parts sea salt for each one part garlic powder and process for just a second or two to combine the two ingredients. Do not process the garlic salt too long because it will cake. Store the garlic salt in an airtight glass jar.
- Pickling - Loosely fill a glass jar with peeled garlic cloves. Add enough red or white wine vinegar to cover the garlic and then add about one tablespoon of sea salt per cup of vinegar. Dried (not fresh) herbs such as red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and oregano may be added to taste. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to distribute the salt and herbs. Refrigerator garlic pickles will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator, as long as the garlic remains submerged in the vinegar.
I wondered, though, whether garlic could be preserved in other ways. What about roasted garlic? The answer is yes: it can be frozen! Just roast the heads, squeeze out the garlic and mash - spread thinly onto sheets of wax paper and freeze it. I also found a great recipe for garlic and basil pesto that can be frozen for a few months.
However I end up preserving my garlic, one thing is for certain: I’m going to have garlic breath for months!
Give me the kraut and no one gets hurt
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I love sauerkraut. Love it! Growing up, we always had sauerkraut, pork, and mashed potatoes on New Year’s Day (for luck), a tradition I still continue as an adult. And in college I admit that my breakfast of champions was a daily hot dog with mustard and kraut from Dave’s Dogs in front of Temple University’s library.
My family never served homemade sauerkraut, though, and I’m relatively certain that Dave’s Dogs didn’t exactly use the finest sauerkraut. I’ve sort of wondered about the logistics of making sauerkraut at home, but it never really went beyond the wondering stage…until about a month ago. I ended up with two rather large heads of cabbage through the CSA share. Not knowing what I wanted to do with two heads of cabbage, it seemed like a good idea to try my hand at sauerkraut-making.
The first obstacle was finding a vessel in which to let the cabbage ferment. Stoneware crocks are popular - the Harsch Fermentation Crock, for instance. But I wanted something less expensive for my first time out. I settled on a five gallon food grade plastic bucket with an airlock in the lid, one meant for homebrewing (which ensures that I try homebrewing at some point, as well!).
After that, it was super easy. Using a mandoline, I sliced up the cabbage as thin as I could and tossed it in the bucket. I sprinkled four Tablespoons of pickling salt over the cabbage, and used my hands to mix the salt in and squeeze the cabbage until liquid was released. I poured some water over the cabbage until it was all just covered with water, put on the lid, and let it ferment in my kitchen for just over three weeks.
Most recipes I ran across for sauerkraut called for kosher salt instead of pickling salt, but sometimes you have to improvise. The pickling salt worked just great, although I think it makes the sauerkraut slightly sweeter than kosher would have. Regular old table salt, by the way, will not work. Don’t even try it. The ratio of salt to cabbage, by the way, is five pounds of shredded cabbage to four Tablespoons of salt.
If you use a crock that isn’t air tight, there’s this whole rigamarole involving cheesecloth and pressing and skimming scum off the top. I’m not one for scum, so I took the easy route. Also, the temperature of your kitchen (or wherever you might choose to ferment the sauerkraut) has a direct bearing on the length of time it may take to ferment properly. The ideal temp is around 75 degrees, which takes approximately three weeks. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take to ferment.
All of that to get to the final product: last night I uncorked my fermenting vessel and checked it out - perfect, tangy sauerkraut! I didn’t relish the idea of dragging out my pressure canner last night, so I packed it into freezer bags and threw it in my chest freezer. Frozen sauerkraut will last just about a year. Of course, my annual New Year’s Day krautfest is only about six months away. Hooray!
When Fresh Truly Counts
Friday, July 27, 2007
I suddenly feel so accomplished! I made something I thought only restaurants serve. After all, how many times have any of us come to the call of “Dinner’s ready!” to find fried squash blossoms stuffed with fresh herbed goat cheese? I certainly haven’t had the pleasure before. Readers extraordinaire, you must give this recipe a try if you can get your hands on some fresh squash blossoms. It wasn’t nearly as hard as one might think to make these delicate and tasty beauties.
Indeed, the beauty and the flaw of this dish are the squash blossoms themselves. First, they are not a common supermarket find. Second, if you do find them but you don’t get them very very fresh and take good care to keep them cool and moist, they get rather difficult (read: rubbery) to handle (although you can still make it work). That being said, I know there are some of you out there dutifully growing squash plants up the side of the fence in your tiny Philly rowhouse backyard, in urban plots/pots or, for those luckier ducks, in your large suburban kitchen gardens. You, my friends, have no excuse not to give this one a go. In fact, I think you owe it to those that don’t have easy squash blossom access to put your good fortune to use.
How, pray tell, does one harvest a squash blossom? Since squash develop from the blossoms, you don’t want to pick the “female” blossoms that are found low and in the center of the plant. Rather, pick the “male” blossoms that are on long slender stems higher up in the plant. You’ll easily be able to tell the difference once you’re actually looking at a squash plant.
For those of you without your own squash plants, check out the Headhouse Farmers Market on Sunday’s in Philly. This new and unusually lively market is located in the historic “shambles” on 2nd and South Streets. There you’ll find loads of local produce, including a few vendors, such as Weavers Way Farm, selling squash blossoms picked that morning. You really must get them as fresh as possible!
Once you’ve aquired your delicate blossoms by hook or by crook, store them in a ziplock bag filled with air (to cushion them) and with a damp paper towel. Keep in the fridge for up to a day.
Let us know if you try this recipe and how they turn out. Also, what other uses do you know of for squash blossoms. According to my trusty kitchen garden reference book, they are suppose to be good in salads and stir frys. I’m so fixated on the fried stuffed version that I haven’t gotten around to trying either just yet…
FRIED SQUASH BLOSSOMS STUFFED WITH HERB CHEESE
Adapted from Chez Panisse menu
12 large squash blossoms
8 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. finely minced fresh herbs (thyme, basil, chives, sage, or others)
1 large shallot, finely minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. corn meal mix (look for one that includes salt and baking powder) or masa harina (available in some larger stores)
Freshly ground pepper
1 c. vegetable oil
Place the goat cheese in a small bowl. Mix in the minced herbs, shallots and salt. Mixture will come together easier if the cheese is at room temperature. Once mixed, cover and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes or until firm again.
Prepare your “assembly line” by beating the eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl. Place corn meal mix or masa harina in another shallow bowl and mix in the freshly ground pepper. If blossoms have not already been prepped, gently remove all but a small tip of the stem and look closely for any dirt or insects. If you find anything, gently wipe clean with a damp towel.
When cheese mixture is firm, take teaspoon size amounts and roll into small balls with your hands the way you would chilled cookie dough. Place a cheese ball into the center of each blossom and twist the ends of the petals together to fully enclose the cheese.
Dip each blossom into the egg mixture. Let excess drip off. Quickly and gently roll blossom in dry mixture, shaking excess off. Set blossoms in refrigerator until ready to fry.
Place vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to approximately 350 degrees or until a tiny pinch of corn meal dropped in produces a good sizzle. Carefully place half the blossoms into the hot oil. Turn them over to brown evenly on all sides. When golden brown, remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Bring oil back up to temperature and fry the remaining blossoms.
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve immediately with any leftover cheese as a garnish in the center of the plate.
(makes 12, serves 4)
Thursday, July 26, 2007
It is that time of year.. where you are up to your eyeballs in zucchini. Today I was just too full of summer squash to know what to do with myself. So I pulled myself together and found this recipe online. I’ve tinkered a bit, but here is a summer squash soup recipe to enjoy. (based on the June 2002 Oprah Mag recipe.)
Summer Squash Soup
-2 tbl olive oil
-2 onions chopped (local!)
-2 celery stalks chopped
-6 garlic cloves (local!)
-summer squash, about 3 lbs chopped. (I used patty pan, yellow and zukes, local!)
-4 sprigs of thyme
-2 strips of lemon peel
-5 cups of vegetable stock (you could substitute chicken stock)
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 tbl fresh lemon juice
-hot pepper sauce
-parmesan chese for garnish.
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or until onions are soft. Add squash, thyme, and lemon peel. Cook for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and add stock and salt. Simmer until squash is soft. Discard thyme.
Puree the soup in batches and return to the soup pot. Heat through. Add lemon juice and hot pepper to taste.
Garnish it shaved parmesan.
***Last tidbit. I roasted my squash to give it extra flavor. This made the whole cooking time go much faster for an already speedy dinner course.
CSA Weekly Report: Lancaster Farm Fresh
Here’s the haul:
- 1 bunch Chiogga beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
1 head red leaf lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
3 candy onions grown by Back Forty Ranch
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
6 tomatoes grown by Green Valley Organics and Countryside Organics
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Countryside Organics
2 green cucumbers grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green zucchini grown by Meadow Valley Organics
4 patty pan squash grown by Green Valley Organics
1 pint grape tomatoes grown by Farmdale Organics
I fully admit that I’ve been giving my lettuce away to the first available person. I am officially off salads, possibly for life. Early on the shares were chock full of lettuce. My husband and I have a full share for ourselves and you can only eat so much lettuce, right? We have eaten enough lettuce this Summer that neither one of us can look at a head without getting a little queasy. At one point I had six heads of lettuce in my kitchen and feeling panicked. The idea of wasting food makes me sick, but it’s not like you can freeze or otherwise preserve lettuce.
Well, except you can…sort of.
I ran into a recipe for Cream of Lettuce Soup that I really ended up liking. The potatoes give it a nice body. So I used every single head of lettuce in the house and made a few batches of soup, minus the cream and egg yolks, and froze it. In the dead of Winter, the soup will be wonderful!
So far it’s the only way I’ve found to preserve lettuce. I’d love to hear it if anyone has some alternative ideas.
A Local Ratatouille
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I just saw the movie Ratatouille this weekend—I enjoyed every delicious minute of it. Completely coincidentally, I also had an abundance of tomatoes and eggplant from my CSA as well as some from a gardening friend of mine. So heck, I thought—why not make ratatouille?
I’m particularly fond of thin Asian eggplants—they tend to be meatier and less bitter than their larger counterparts. I like to cook them so that they’re caramelized. The secret ingredient in the making of this dish? Fennel bulbs.
Here’s the recipe, adapted from The Joy of Cooking (1997). The bold items were locally grown.
1 lb. eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 lb. zucchini, cubed (I omitted this because I didn’t have any on hand)
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
2 small bulbs fennel
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
a couple sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper
Saute the eggplant (and zucchini) in oil in a large skillet until golden. Remove from skillet, and add onions and a little more oil and cook until tender. Then add fennel and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add eggplant (and zucchini) and cook until everything is tender. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Finish with the basil, serve over rice or pasta.
Feed me, Seymour
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I can’t believe the One Local Summer challenge is already in its fourth week! Where does the time go? Liz decided to make the challenge good for ten weeks this year and it seems insane that it’s almost the halfway point already.
This week’s OLS meal was a simple one - grilled Delmonico steaks, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Simple, but delicious!
The steaks were from Natural Acres, who has a stand at the Lansdowne Farmer’s Market every Saturday. I’ve also purchased their beef at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. I grilled them up pretty rare, which was just yummy.
Speaking of Natural Acres, when I visited their stand at the Lansdowne Farmer’s Market last weeked I asked about goat milk [they sell raw milk and pastured eggs at the stand, as well as meat]. They plan to start offering up goat milk at that location very soon. This is exciting news, especially for the cheese makers amongst us!
I feel weird raving about mashed potatoes, but the batch I made last night for the OLS dinner was…well, amazing! I know, I know - they’re just mashed potatoes. Two weeks ago we received a bag of potatoes from Elm Tree Organics in the CSA share, with an email promising that the taste would be unique and fantastic. I was skeptical - I mean, potatoes are potatoes. These somehow had a much fresher, potato-ier taste to them, though - and they made perfect mashed potatoes [along with some local milk and butter].
Not to leave the green beans for last - they were from my garden and perfectly wonderful! You just can’t beat lightly steamed green beans straight off the vine.
The only things not local in this meal were the salt, pepper, and olive oil [brushed on the steak].