Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! I hope that all of you are happy and warm, celebrating whatever holiday you like in whatever way makes you happy, even if it’s just a big party to keep December from getting too dark and cold.

Black Dog Farm Christmas Dinner Menu

Baked Crab Dip

__________

Roast Ham with peach jam & mustard glaze

Scalloped Rainbow Potatoes

Baby lettuces with blue cheese and walnuts

_________

Pumpkin Pie

Cookies & Candy

Peanut Brittle

Chocolate Jam Thumbprints

Almond-Scented Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Pecan Toffee

UPDATE 12/26:

The scalloped potatoes were so epic and delicious yesterday that I had to come back here and share the recipe.  When I was making them, I was thinking to myself, “this much heavy cream? should i really do this? and cheese and butter too? um…. gross” but then when I ate a bite of that brown, bubbly potato masterpiece…. the stars aligned and I had a revelation.  The clouds parted, and  Paula Deen came and spoke to me and told me to spread the gospel of saturated fats.

Make this right now, before New Year’s Resolutions, because it is definitely not low fat or anything along those lines.  The potatoes will not cleanse out your system and you will not feel recharged.

If you have a bunch of friends and family with you, though, maybe for a really special occasion, you’re guaranteed to have a table full of grinning, happy people reaching for more potatoes.

The Best Scalloped Potatoes In The Whole Entire Universe

Serves: 10

Cook Time: 2 hrs., add 1/2 an hour if you’re drinking wine with friends in the kitchen while you cook

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. of assorted potatoes: russets, red-skinned, yukon gold, etc.
  • 4 large shallots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • optional: 1 slice of bacon
  • 4 big sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. swiss cheese, grated or cut into very thin slices
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the potatoes into very thin rounds.  Cut the shallots and the red onion in half, then cut each half into very thin slices. Mince the rosemary and sage leaves.

Heat 2 tbs. butter in a saute pan on medium heat, and add in the shallots, onion, rosemary, sage, and nutmeg.*  Saute the onions and shallots for about 10 minutes, or until they’re nicely softened and starting to caramelize.  Season the onion mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grease a casserole dish with the remaining butter.  Make one layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping each other.  On top of this first layer, sprinkle some sea salt, black pepper, swiss cheese, fresh thyme leaves (removed from the stems), and shaved parmesan.  Spread about 1/3 of the onion mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Continue this process, alternating the layer of potato slices with the herbs, cheese, onions, salt and pepper, to make two more layers of potatoes.  Make sure that the very top of the casserole has a layer of the herbs and cheese.  Pour the heavy cream over the top of the casserole.  Wrap the dish in tin foil and put it in the oven for about 1 hours and 15 minutes.  After about 50 minutes, lift the foil and check the casserole: once the cream is mostly absorbed, remove the foil and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbly and golden brown on top.

Note:  My cooking times are vague because, well, my oven is a piece of junk and I’m bad at checking a clock.  The casserole is done when it’s bubbly, you’ll know when you look at it.

*At this point, if you really want to have a heart attack, you could add in some chopped up raw bacon. You don’t necessarily have to, though.

Instead of a picture of the finished scalloped potatoes, here’s a picture of our friend’s dog looking all sweet by the fire, because we ate the casserole long before I could think about photographing it.

Baked Curried Crab Dip

It’s dungeness crab season in Northern California. Out of all of the options, this is one of my favorite ways to prepare crab; it’s an adaptation of a recipe that my parents got from one of their friends, who probably got it from a cookbook somewhere down the line, but I don’t even have my parents version written down anywhere.

(Even though I kind of wanted to call my folks and get the real recipe that I remembered, I was baking apple pie at the same time I was getting the crab dip ready.  I was way too covered in flour and crab juice to want to touch my phone.  Sometimes you get sucked into The Projects so far that texting someone for help is just hopeless, you know? Deep in the flour jungle, there’s no cell reception, you gotta just use your wits and fend for yourself.  No turning back.)Is it weird to work on these two projects at the same time? Yes.  Is apple pie delicious with no cinnamon, extra nutmeg, less sugar, and 1/2 c. of maple syrup? Also yes.  Anyway, the lack of recipe didn’t matter at all: the dip was delicious.  It being the holidays and all, if you were wanting to make some kind of festive party appetizer, this would be a strong candidate. Crab seems really high end, expensive ingredient, but it’s only $4.99/lb. for a whole steamed crab at the grocery store right now, so it’s really completely reasonable.

A note on breaking down whole crabs:

You don’t need a fancy seafood cracker.  I used a rolling pin.  Start with the claws and just give them a good smack and they’ll crack really easily. If you don’t have a rolling pin, you can also use the non-sharp side of a big chef knife or cleaver, though this is slightly less effective.  You could also use a rock or something.  No need for special tools.  If you’ve never done this before,  I found this post here with good instructions for cleaning and cooking crab. 

So, you may notice that there’s no picture of the finished dip.

We ate it, really really fast.  Out of the oven and poof it was gone before I could think about my camera.  Don’t let the lack of an image fool you, though, you should still make this.

Baked Curried Crab Dip

Serves: about 6 people as an appetizer

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. cooked lump crabmeat*
  • 1 block of softened low-fat cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs. low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tbs. whole grain mustard
  • 1/8 c. minced onion
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric**
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. grated fresh horseradish (or you can use prepared in a jar, if you don’t have access to fresh)
  • 2 tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. shaved parmesan cheese plus another 1/4 c. to put on top of the dip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, gently fold together all of the ingredients (except 1/4 c. of the shaved parmesan cheese).  Lightly grease a small baking dish.  Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish and top with 1/4 c. shaved parmesan.  Bake for 15 min., or until the cheese on top has melted and the dip looks very lightly browned around the edges.   Serve hot, with crackers or baguette.  You can also make this dip a day ahead, store it in the fridge covered with saran, and pop it in the oven right before you want to serve it.

Oh, I’m 99% sure that my oven isn’t cooking at accurate temperatures right now, so I have to give a disclaimer and say that the times may be off.  Use yer eyeballs, you’ll know when it’s done.

 

*This was about half of the meat from a whole dungeness crab for me.  I’m saving the shells and the other half of the meat to make crab bisque.

**Curry powder works fine, though I don’t usually keep it in my spice cabinet.  Even garam masala would work if you don’t have turmeric. The point it for it to taste vaguely curried, not for you to go spend money. 

Osso Bucco, or A Beginner’s Guide To Braising

I absolutely love osso bucco.  Luxuriously rich-tasting lamb or veal shanks simmered in liberal amounts of wine wine can make our whole ranch smell amazing.  And the bones, the bones: the best osso bucco has big, rustic cross sections of marrow-filled bones that cook with all of the vegetables, imparting the most wonderful flavors.  Working with meat like this makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.  There’s something so beautiful and primitive about it, the polar opposite of the styrofoam packages of chicken breasts in the grocery store.  I got this meat from from Owen Family Farms.  They have really gorgeous lamb, pastured veal and acorn-finished pork, and I’ve always been very happy with the quality of their products.  The meat is most certainly on the pricey side, but I’d much rather have one lovingly prepared dish a week using ethically raised local meats than seven days of the cheaper stuff from the grocery store.  If you treat this kind of meat properly, a little also goes a long way.  My osso bucco recipe has a different ratio of meat to vegetables than most other recipes; I think that if you can flavor a whole pot of vegetables with one pound of lamb, than you absolutely should. My mom used to make this when we were growing up, and my favorite part wasn’t even the actual meat , it was the luscious sauce and the vegetables spooned over my dad’s saffron risotto. I used to find cooking techniques like this intimidating,  so I didn’t start tackling braises until a few years ago.  I’ve realized now that they’re really very simple, and I hope that anyone out in the internet universe that may read this will see that it’s possible to make a dish worthy of being served in the fanciest restaurant without much cooking experience at all.  When I make a braise or a roast, I get it started in the morning, right when I’m drinking coffee and eating breakfast, because time is really the secret ingredient.  Cooking meat very slowly on low heat for a whole day will ensure that it’s completely fork-tender and that the sauce is rich and delicious.  Every few hours I’ll give it a stir or add some stock, but there’s very little work involved other than the first 20 minutes or so of cooking.

Osso Bucco

Cook Time: 30 minutes active cooking, and then 4-8 hours of sitting around while it simmers

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs. lamb or veal shanks*
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 pieces of bacon, diced
  • 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 c. diced carrots
  • 4 c. diced celery ribs
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 c. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bottle of white wine (nothing too sweet)
  • 4-8 c. of chicken/lamb/vegetable stock or some combination of stock and water
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • lemon zest, for serving
  • 1/2 c. shaved parmesan cheese, for serving

Dredge the lamb shanks in flour.  In a large soup pot set on medium heat, saute the bacon and the fresh herbs until the bacon is crispy but not burnt.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces from the pot and set them aside.  Brown the lamb shanks in the bacon fat.  When they’re nicely seared, remove the lamb shanks from the pot and set them aside.  Put the chopped carrots, onions and celery in the pot and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato sauce turns a darker shades of red and starts to caramelize (but not burn!).  Turn the heat to high.  Pour in the bottle of wine.  Pour in 4 c. stock.  Put the lamb shanks and the bacon back in the pot.  Let everything come up to a simmer and then turn the heat to very low.  Cook for atleast 2 hours but up to 8 hours.  You’ll need to add more stock occasionally and give everything a stir to make sure nothing sticks.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over risotto or pasta, sprinkled with a touch of lemon zest, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

For anyone that hasn’t tackled something like this before, here a few pictures to make it more clear:

“Dredging” just means putting a light coating of flour on the meat.  This helps get a really nice sear on the outside, which in turn helps develop rich, delicious meat flavors in the braise. You can sauté the bacon in some olive oil if it makes it easier, but if you let it sit in the pan for a moment, the fat will start to render out, and you can have bacon fat as the only oil used to cook everything,  (which is almost always a good thing.)  Truthfully, I mainly used bacon because I’m out of olive oil and butter, and you could skip this step and just use olive oil if you want the recipe to be a bit lower in fat.It was only after I photographed all of this that I realized just how dirty my stove looks.  When you’re searing the lamb shanks, you’ll notice that the pan will be starting to get all brown and crusty.  Don’t worry- that mean’s you’re doing it right.  If it starts to smoke, turn the heat down to very low.  Add your carrots, celery and onions next, the mirepoix. Add the crushed tomatoes and keep cooking everything.  The goal is to get the tomatoes to caramelize and turn a darker shade of reddish-brown because of the wonderful flavors that will happen.I’m not sure if the difference between these two pictures is that obvious; it’s kind of tricky to get good photos and not ruin dinner at the same time.Now turn the heat up really high just to make sure the pot is nice and hot for this part.  The next step is my favorite, when you deglaze the pan with white wine.  The wine pulls up all of that caramelized tomato stuff and brown lamb bits from the bottom of the pot and turns it into the beginning of a really killer sauce.Now just add the stock and meats, turn the heat down to very low, and wait.  Here’s what it will look like when it’s finished:If you’re in love with someone and want them to love you back, make this for them.  Trust me, it’s amazing.

*For people who aren’t so fond of gamey meats, chicken thighs will also work quite well (even though it’s not as traditional).  If you have a freezer full of wild game could substitute duck or venison.  And, shockingly, these recipe is easily made vegan.  Instead of using meat, I substitute shiitake mushrooms and sliced parsnips or rutabagas.  I think the unique flavor of these root vegetables and mushrooms kind of mimics the rich taste of lamb.  If you’re using vegetables, no need to dredge them in flour.  You can make a roux and thicken the sauce with flour if you want, but it’s not really necessary.

Menu Planning

I am super excited.

Black Dog Farm Thanksgiving Dinner Menu:

 Mendocino Organics Pastured Turkey- brined with bay leaves and roasted on the grill with lump charcoal and hickory chips

Olive Oil Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes & Turkey Gravy

Cornbread Stuffing with homemade sage pork sausage

Roasted Winter Squash with blue cheese and pecans

Creamed Alliums and Winter Greens

Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon and Brown Sugar

Cranberry-Orange Marmalade & Cranberry Jam

________

Marlborough Pie

Pecan Pie

Poached Seckel Pears in Red Wine Syrup

Oh, and you can talk all you want about wine pairing with turkey, but you may have noticed that it’s going on the grill.   That means that we’re probably going to drink about 3,000 beers as the day goes on since it will technically be a barbeque, and that’s what you’re supposed to do for those.

Roasted Pumpkin, Cranberry and Polenta Casserole

This recipe is a complete revelation and a long story.  This is hands down my absolute favorite casserole right now, combining fresh cranberries, the rich flavors of roasted winter squash, sweet potatoes and brown sugar, and a topping of salty warm polenta and a liberal amount of melted parmesan cheese. The cranberries burst in the oven and have this wonderful jammy thing that they do with the brown sugar, and seriously, nothing says festive like fresh cranberries. It’s epic.  Vegetarians and carnivores alike will devour it happily, and it would make a main dish just as show-stopping as a Thanksgiving roast turkey.   Plus, it’s really simple and easily adapted to different vegetables. The basic formula is just to roast some winter squash, leeks and cranberries, top with brown sugar, and then top that with a really cheesy batch of polenta. Done. With me so far? At this point of the story, this is the second time I’ve made the casserole (the first time had no pictures), so the sun sets, I finish cooking the casserole, and I set aside a nice photogenic serving to take a picture of when the sun comes back up.Then tragedy struck. Well, not really tragedy, but a major roadblock in taking nice pictures and doing much of anything other than sitting around and watching tv.Damn.

So I was in the garden, just walking around, not doing anything exciting at all, and then *poof* my brain shut off and i forgot how to use my feet or something. My toe caught on something, my ankle twisted, made a really glorious popping noise, and then I ate it face first in the dirt.  I did my best damsel-in-distress voice and called for J. to come help me, and while I waited that long minute or so, I had plenty of time to think about how completely annoying this was going to be. I’m a workaholic, since my job is to do fun things like make jam and plant flowers.  If you saw my to-do list right now you might throw up, it’s huge. I have kale that needs planting, jam to make, tomato sauce to can, lavender to transplant, seeds to start…  All of which usually require the use of my feet.  Our farm is really not handicapped-accessible, which this is experience has made me feel very guilty about, and think about changing.

Turns out I ruptured a ligament in my ankle, an injury that’s supposedly just as serious as a break but with a much faster recovery time.  So for at least another few days, I’m holed up in a cheap motel room so I can have some creature comforts that we don’t have at the farm (like flat, crutch-friendly floors, indoor plumbing, and tv). Nothing like some Dr. Drew and trashy magazines. So I wish I had a beautiful picture of the finished casserole, but I don’t, and since I’m really bored right now, I want to spend my free time convincing the internet universe to roast some cranberries. I promise that when I’m back on my feet I’ll update this post with that one last picture, of the caramelized vegetables and cranberries topped with oozy gooey cheesy warm polenta, steaming hot and delicious out of the oven.  It’s coming, I swear. Until then, take my word for it! Bookmark this page for your holiday recipes– you won’t be disappointed.

Roasted Pumpkin, Cranberry and Polenta Casserole

Serves: around 10, depending on portion sizes. You could decide to serve this as a vegetable side dish as well, in which case the smaller portions would serve closer to 15 or even 20.

Cook Time: about 3 hours, a lot of which is just roasting time in the oven

Ingredients:

For the Vegetable Filling:

  • 1/2 a large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 medium pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 leek, rinsed and cut into thin rings
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2″ cubes (skin on)
  • 3 c. fresh cranberries
  • 2 tbs. chopped fresh herbs (what do you have in the garden? parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary would all be fine. I used thyme and sage)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (this is the time to use the high quality stuff if you have it, but it won’t make or break the recipe)
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar

For the Polenta Topping:**

  • 2 quarts of vegetable stock
  • 2 c. coarse ground cornmeal
  • 8 tablespoons of butter, or earth balance if you want to make it vegan (shush, I know it’s a lot. If you’re on a low-fat diet, just reduce it to 2 tbs.)
  • 6 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c. mascarpone (if you have access to it, or just leave it out)
  • 1 tbs. freshly cracked black pepper
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large casserole dish* with 2 tbs. of butter.  In a large mixing bowl, combing the prepared butternut squash, cranberries, pumpkin, sweet potato and leeks. Liberally season with freshly cracked black pepper, the chopped fresh herbs and sea salt. Pour the olive oil over everything and mix it together well, making sure all the surfaces of the vegetables are covered with oil and evenly seasoned.  Pour the seasoned vegetables and cranberries into the prepared dish and bake, uncovered, in the oven for 1 1/2 hrs. Pull the tray back out, give everything a stir to make sure it’s all cooking evenly, and sprinkle the brown sugar across the top. Put it back in the oven and cook for another half and hour. 

After the vegetables have been roasting for an hour, start your polenta. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil.  Gradually whisk in the cornmeal a little bit at a time.  Turn the flame down to low and keep whisking the cornmeal and stock. The cornmeal will take 35-40 minutes to cook through, and you’ll need to whisk it pretty constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn (very similar to the process of making a risotto).  When it first starts cooking, you don’t really need to whisk it constantly, but you’ll need to whisk it atleast every few minutes.  The thicker it gets, though, the more you need to stand right there and keep whisking.  I’ve noticed that some brands of cornmeal cook much faster than others, so if it’s very thick after 20 minutes, turn off the heat and taste it.  When it’s done it will be thick and the individual grains of corn will kind of disappear into a more consistent, creamy texture.  If the polenta is thick but still tastes crunchy, just add a little stock and keep cooking it until it tastes smooth and creamy.

Once the cornmeal is cooked thoroughly and the mixture is creamy and thick, turn off the heat and stir in the butter, mascarpone, 3/4 of the grated parmesan cheese, black pepper and sea salt.  Taste it. It should taste cheesy and wonderful.  If it doesn’t, add some salt and pepper and taste it again.
Pour the hot polenta over the roasted vegetables and smooth the top out with a spatula.  Sprinkle the whole casserole with the flat leaf parsley and remaining shredded parmesan cheese, and put back in the oven for 20 minutes to melt the cheese and bring all of the flavors together.

Now, you can either serve this casserole right away, while the cheese is still runny and the polenta is soft, or you can make it a day in advance and heat it back up in the oven with great results.  If you make it in advance, the polenta will set and you’ll be able to cut out perfect little rectangles of casserole, but the various people that have tried this casserole have said that it’s better while the polenta is still soft.  Either way will work though- if you have a busy Thanksgiving cooking schedule planned, this might be something to make the day before and just heat up right before dinner. 

Pretend this is a picture of the finished casserole. If you squint hard enough, you can see cranberries, right? Squint hard for a week or so and I bet it will really come true. 

 

*Sitting in the motel room, I can’t remember what the exact dimensions of my casserole dish. I think it’s 9×14″? It’s one of those glass dishes perfect for making lasagna for a crowd….  Again, I’ll have to update this when I get back to the farm.

**This casserole can easily be made vegan by simply omitting the cheese and using Earth Balance instead of butter. When I do something like this I’ll make sure to add some extra fresh herbs and black pepper for lots of flavor.

P.S. Everyone seems to think making polenta is really hard and annoying. It’s not.  Just boil some stock and pour in cornmeal and stand there and whisk it til it’s thick.  Don’t be scared.

 

 

Freezer Space: Venison Spiedies

I’ve never been hunting in my life, not ever. (Once, I had my shotgun out to clean it and a turkey pretty much walked right by me into the woods, so I went after it. He got away before I could get near him again-  I’m pretty sure he got spooked by my pink hoodie and big silver earrings.)  My lack of experience isn’t out of reluctance to go, but rather that I know so many hunters already that we have a fully stocked freezer of overflow meat from other people’s freezers. It seems ridiculous to kill anything else when we already have plenty of meat to eat.

This post is going to be the first in a series called Freezer Space, designed to get that meat out of the freezer and onto plates.  Both wild and farm-raised meats can sometimes be intimidating to cook with since they may look and taste so much different from their shrink-wrapped grocery store counterparts. With the right cooking techniques, however, they are much more delicious and rewarding to cook.  My other goal is to win over the picky eaters  (mom, I mean you here) who see a frozen package of venison and squirm with disgust, opting instead for a bland looking, shrink-wrapped package of chicken breasts from the grocery store.

If you don’t have wild game in your freezer and want to get some, try bartering. (“Hey, I know you go hunting all the time, is there any way I could trade you a jar of marmalade for some stew meat?”)

Marinade It: Venison Backstrap Spiedies

Cooking wild game is never the time to be lazy with your cooking techniques. The different flavors and textures may taste unusual, but if you take extra care to treat the meat really well, these flavors will elevate your dish instead of detract from it. If you’ve never tried it before, venison is quite lean and tastes similar to beef.   Since the animals run wild, though, it can be hard to predict exactly what the meat will be like before you cook it.  Take the extra time to marinade your venison and it will be moist, juicy, tender and packed with flavor.

Spiedies are kebabs made with lamb, pork, and less often beef or venison.  It’s one of those strange regional foods that most people have never heard of, but if you’ve spent time anywhere around Binghamton, NY, you know how delicious they are.  The tangy vinegar marinade makes the meat explode with this wonderful addictive bright flavor, the perfect counterpart to richer meats like lamb or venison.  Usually the meat is cubed, cooked on skewers and served on soft Italian bread, but I left sliced the venison into steaks and left them whole.

There are two different possible options for making spiedies.  Saveur has a great recipe for the marinade here.  If you want to splurge and be lazy, this is one of the few times I would actually recommend buying the pre-made marinade right from the famous Lupo’s Spiedies website since they’re the people that do it the best.  If you have a freezer full of venison, I would highly recommend ordering a few bottles to keep in your pantry. The spiedies are delicious hot off the grill and also make amazing leftovers for sandwiches, and will win over pretty much everyone.  One of my friends tried these when J. and I made them, and the conversation went like this:

“This is really venison?”

“Yup.”

“Is it farm-raised?”

“Nope, a dude down the road shot it.”

“Really?”

“Yup.”

“Venison?”

“Yup.”

“Not farm-raised?”

Etc., etc.

Venison Spiedies

Cook Time: to marinade: between 4 hours and 4 days, to grill: around an hour, including preheating the grill

Serves: 4-6 depending on portion sizes

  • 1 1/2 lbs. venison (I used backstrap, a high quality cut similar to filet mignon, but really any venison would be fine)
  • 1 16-oz bottle of spiedie marinade, (or from scratch)

Trim any excess fat or gristle off your meat.  Cut into the desired size steaks or cubes.  If you’re using really tender cuts of venison such as backstrap, you can get away with marinading  the meat for just a few hours.  For tougher cuts, I would recommend cutting the meat into cubes and leaving it to marinate in the fridge for 3-4 days, then cooking it on skewers. 

Preheat a weber grill to medium-high heat and add few pieces of hickory wood to the charcoal briquettes for a mild smoky flavor.  Grill the venison steaks until they’re cooked to around medium, just a few minutes on each side (the cooking time depends on the thickness, obviously).

Serve with italian bread and whichever bbq sides make you happy: corn on the cob, pasta salad, greens, baked beans…

Grow It

Late Season Corn

Planting corn at the end of July turned out to be smart (even though I worried it was stupid).

Vegetables this precious should only be cooked briefly, a quick 7-8 minutes in the boiling water.  Slather the corn with butter, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and serve to happy family and friends.

 

Curried Cauliflower Pie

I’m kind of obsessed with this pie right now- I’ve actually made four this week for various cooking things I’ve been doing.

Right away, totally off-topic: I think we have a wasp nest in the roof, and there are seriously wasps swarming around me right now.

I have nothing for you wasps. No food here. Just a computer and a person. Go mess with the dogs or something. You guys are assholes.

Trying to concentrate back on the cauliflower pie:

This recipe is an adaptation of Mollie Katzen’s Cauliflower Pie in a Potato Crust from The Moosewood Cookbook.  I’ve increased the recipe to make a larger batch and added a bunch of curry spices, which I personally think is brilliant. I know cheddar cheese and curry might seem like a questionable combination, but it’s really unique and delicious.  My inspiration was actually the Indian Pizza from Zante’s Pizza that I used to order when I lived in San Francisco, a super-addictive take-out meal that I would be happy eating every single day. (Picture pizza crust topped with a mixed vegetable curry and tons of cheese and cilantro, baked until bubbly and golden brown.)

This dish is a warm, filling vegetarian entrée, and the leftovers hold up really well in the fridge for a few days.

Curried Cauliflower Pie In A Potato Crust

Serves: 10

Cook Time: about 2 hours, including baking time

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 4 c. grated raw potato
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. grated onion
  • olive oil for greasing the pan

For the filling:

  • 6 tbs. butter
  • 2 cauliflowers, broken into small flowerets
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp.  paprika
  • 2 1/2 c. grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish with butter (I believe mine was a deep 10″ dish, but the actual shape doesn’t matter all that much. Find a dish that will fit two cauliflowers and a bunch of filling in it). Put the grated potato in a bowl and sprinkle it with the sea salt. Let it sit for ten minutes, and then squeeze out the excess water. Combine the potatoes with the grated onion and beaten egg. Press the potato filling into the dish and work it up the sides to make the crust. Put the potato crust in the oven for 40-45 minutes to lightly brown it. After 30 minutes, brush the crust with a little olive oil.  Remove the crust from the oven and turn the temperature down to 375.

While the crust is cooking, saute the cauliflower for the filling.  In a large saute pan, heat up the butter on medium high heat. Saute the onions, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper, and dried spices until the onions are slightly translucent and the spices start to smell really good. Add the cauliflower and basil and saute on low heat, covered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cauliflower is mostly cooked through. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and the milk.

Top the crust with half the cheese, then spread the cooked cauliflower over the cheese, and then layer on the other half of the cheese. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the top of everything and top with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of paprika. Bake for one hour, or until set.

 

By the way, if you happen to be in San Francisco, you should make this pie but also go to Zante’s and try the Indian Pizza. Zante’s is located at 3489 Mission Street in the Mission District of San Francisco.

 


 

 

 

Heirloom Pumpkin Soup with Grapefruit Marmalade

This bowl of soup has a distinct sense of time and place for me, as is often the case with the thrown-together meals I make from the garden.  The pumpkin is an heirloom rouge vif d’etampes, from Baker Creek Seeds. I’ve been growing their seeds for around six years now, every since I first had a space to grow my own vegetables.

For many years now, I’ve read their catalogue during the dark winter months and put together wonderful assortments of flower and vegetable seeds for my spring order.  I’m sure I’ll continue the ritual again this year, curling up next to the wood stove after dinner, wrapped in my favorite blankets, pouring over the latest seed catalogue and dreaming about pumpkins and zinnias. After so many of these quiet moments shared with that catalogue, it was almost surreal to work at the National Heirloom Exposition this September, put on by Baker Creek Seeds.  I was amazed to see the transformation of this tiny seed company in Missouri into an earth-moving force, a movement that brought together ten thousand people to celebrate the joy in growing your own food.  At the same time, realizing I’ve also come such long way from my first 10×10 raised bed with a few tomato and cucumber plants.  It’s quite inspiring what you can achieve with some hard work.

Heirloom Pumpkin Soup with Grapefruit Marmalade

I’ve never been one for traditionally written out recipes. It’s so much easier to cook using a basic formula – you’ll basically want to start the soup with alliums (onions, leeks, shallots, etc.) and fresh herbs sauteed in whatever kind of fat you like.  Add in whatever roots or winter squash you have lying around in the pantry. I had turnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and some leftover mashed potatoes, but if you match the amounts listed below with whatever you have on hand (butternut squash, rutabagas, new potatoes, etc.) the soup should still work.

Then, the really charming part of this dish, the ingredient that makes it different from all of the other squash soups out there, is the addition of some orange zest and grapefruit marmalade. At the Heirloom Expo, Shae from Hitchking to Heaven gave me a beautiful jar of her award winning Meyer Lemon and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade, and I’ve been putting it on everything since then.  So in case you need reminding, citrus season is just a few short months away, and if you have a jar that needs using, it’s time to get to it.  Marmalade is so delicious on buttered english muffins, but the brightness of the grapefruit also adds a vibrant burst of citrus to any kind of type of winter squash or root vegetable.

For this recipe, simmer your winter squash and a tablespoon of marmalade together in some stock for awhile, puree, and stir in a liberal amount of chevre or heavy cream.  We ate this soup for a basic week night dinner with BLTs, but a dish like this can be as fancy as you’d like and would make a wonderful first course for Thanksgiving Dinner.

a written out recipe…

 Serves: 6

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 1/2 c. assorted alliums (I used 4 cloves of garlic, 2 small onions, and 1 large shallot)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 smallish pumpkin, roasted and seeded (see instructions below)*  I ended up with around 2 1/2 c. of prepared pumpkin
  • 1 sweet potato, diced (about 3 c.)
  • 3/4 c. roughly chopped turnips
  • 1/2 c. leftover mashed potatoes, or 1 medium potato
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs. grapefruit marmalade (any citrus is really fine…)
  • 1/2 c. grumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream (completely optional, I didn’t use it but I would have if I’d had it in the fridge)
  • 1 tbs. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • for serving: thinly sliced scallions, a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt or creme fraiche, and some crumbled bacon

In a large soup pot, saute the alliums, orange zest and sage leaves in the olive oil on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add in the sweet potato, turnips, mashed potatoes, and the prepared flesh from the roasted pumpkin. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Pour in stock and bring to a simmer. Add in salt, pepper and marmalade.  Simmer on low heat for an hour or so.

Puree the soup using whatever kitchen appliance you like (blender, immersion blender, food processor).  Return the soup to low heat and stir in the chevre. Whisk gently to melt the chevre into the soup.  Add a splash of heavy cream if you want to make it really rich. Check the seasonings.

Top with scallions, plain yogurt or creme fraiche, and some crumbled up bacon.

*NOTE: The easiest way to cook with pumpkin is to roast it first. Brush off any dirt and put the whole pumpkin on a cookie sheet. Cook at 350 degrees until a paring knife slides easily into the flesh, like checking a baked potato. The cooking times will greatly vary depending on the size of the pumpkin, but a small one will take about 45 minutes to cook all the way through.

Now, out to garden. I’m planting seeds for sweet peas and carrots today. I try to find time each day to grow something beautiful, cook something delicious from the garden, and put something into jars.

Mexican Fish and Potato Stew with Green Rice

I have a pile of bills to pay and a million errands to run. (Actually 11. I have 11 separate stops I need to make this afternoon).  There are cases and cases of fruit that need prepping for jam and about 40 dozen eggs I need to sell. We had a really tasty dinner the other night, though, and before I get too swept up in the usual nonsense of Monday, I want to share this recipe with the internet universe.

One of my egg customers is an avid hunter and fisherman, and I end up doing a lot of bartering for beautiful fresh meats and seafood. This last week I ended up with a big piece of fresh cod.  Sure, I could have grilled it with lemon, or made a fish fry, but you gotta go big or go home, right?

Hence, a spicy fish and new-potato stew with rich spices, brightness from lime juice, chilis, cilantro and avocado, and tangy green rice cooked in tomatillo sauce and chicken broth.

One of the ingredients I’ve used is this canned spicy tomato sauce.  The only reason I buy it is the pretty picture on the label, since I could easily make it myself.  If you don’t want to buy it, just put in a can of plain old tomato purée or some diced tomatoes fresh from the garden.  The brand I used has some kick to it, so you can add a pinch of cayenne if you want to replicate the flavor.

Can I just say, totally off-topic here: It is REALLY amazing how expensive the cell phone bill can get if you just go a teeny little bit over your minutes.  I actually kind of feel like someone punched me in the face right now.

There are so many beautiful, well-written food blogs out there.  What the world is really lacking is more writing like this:

I hate Verizon.

Make this stew.

Spicy Mexican Fish and Potato Stew 

Serves: 4-6, depending on how hungry everyone is

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece of fresh cod, about 3/4 lb.
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 serrano chili, seeded and minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 7.75 oz. can of El Pato Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • 1 16 oz. can vegetable stock (or homemade)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 avocado, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Season the raw cod with the coriander, cumin, garlic powder and oregano.

2 Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add shallots, garlic and serrano chili and saute for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat or until the shallots are translucent.  Add the fish to the skillet and saute for 3 minutes on each side. Add potatoes, vegetable broth, spicy tomato sauce, and half of the chopped cilantro. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. (Maybe more, maybe less: the cooking time for a stew depends on how hungry and how patient you are).

3. When the potatoes are cooked through and the broth has turned from a bright red liquid to a more caramelized reddish-brown thick sauce, the stew is ready to eat. Serve it over green rice with diced avocado, cilantro and lime juice. (The lime juice is vital.  Make sure to give each serving a liberal squeeze of juice right before digging in; the brightness of the lime and cilantro will balance out the richness of the spices).

Green Rice

Serves: 4-6

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 7  oz. can of Embasa brand salsa verde (or homemade)
  • 1 small dried thai chili pepper
  • 3 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat up the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Saute the garlic and chili pepper for 2 minutes. Add in the salsa verde and bring to a simmer. Add in the chicken broth and rice and bring everything to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro and season with sea salt. Fluff the cooked rice with a fork and serve with the fish stew.