I Love Tomatoes

Here at Black Dog Farm, the tomatoes are officially in. It took forever because the beginning of the season was so cold and rainy, but the time has finally come when I can walk up to the garden with an empty basket and return with a whole assortment of multi-colored beauties.

Which makes me happy, because this is my favorite breakfast:

over-easy egg, warm tortilla, summer salsa

Nothing quite like the taste of ripe tomatoes and a freshly laid egg.

Summer Salsa

I like to make up a batch of this salsa and keep it in a glass quart jar in the fridge.  I’m not sure how long it lasts because I always eat it within a few days, but I would guess five or six days.

Makes: about a quart

Cooking Time: 10 minutes or so

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium to large heirloom tomatoes of assorted colors (these are my favorite varieties: Ananas Noire, Hillbilly, Copia, TigerellaOld German, Pineapple, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple)
  • about 1/2 pint. of cherry tomatoes, but really just a big handful.  Sungold and Chocolate Cherry are my favorite cherry types, and their orange and dark red-brown colors are quite pleasing to the eye as well)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 c. of roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice from 1/3 of a lime
  • a splash of white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Toss everything together in a big bowl.  Mash it up with a potato masher to get the juices all flowing together.  Taste it. If it tastes bland, add lime juice and salt. 


P.S. To get really crazy, add a cubed up avocado, a can of rinsed black beans, and a splash of olive oil to make a really nice entree salad. Serve it on a bed of baby greens with blue corn tortilla chips and it will blow your mind!

Boysenberry Basil Jam … and Pancakes

For the last two weeks, I’ve had a case of boysenberries in my freezer. People with big freezers might leave them in there for the winter, but space in my propane-off-the-grid-style freezer is precious, and I realized that I had to get those babies into jars.

This started a pretty straightforward berry jam recipe, until I went out in the garden and saw the basil:

My thought process was simple. This jam is for me. I am going to put it on big slices of sourdough bread with my friend Anna’s amazing garlic chevre, and it will be sweet and savory and perfect. I am getting hungry thinking about it right now.

Boysenberry Basil Jam

Makes: about 8 1/2 pint jars

Cooking Time: about an hour

Ingredients: 

  • 5 cups of crushed boysenberries
  • 4 cups of whole boysenberries, not crushed (to make a chunky jam where you can still see big pieces of berries)
  • 6 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. minced basil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash and sterilize jars and lids (I process them for 10 minutes at the end, so technically you don’t need to sterilize them, but I am OCD about this and do it anyway). 

2. In a large reactive pot, combine berries (both crushed and whole) and sugar. Gently stir together the sugar and the berries. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (or passes whatever gel test you’re using). Right at the end, when the jam is at about 210 or 215 degrees, stir in the lemon juice and the basil. If you put it in earlier you’ll completely lose the flavor.

3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

So, if at some point in the jam-making process, a loved one walks in the kitchen and says “WOAH. It smells REALLY good in here” and you want to do something nice for them, you can whip up a quick batch of boysenberry pancakes and spoon some of the warm jam over the top.

(Don’t judge me for using Bisquick, I bought it at Costco two years ago when I was lured in by the promise of buying in bulk. I’m proud to say I only have one cup left in the box, though.)

Boysenberry Pancakes

Makes: 2 large-ish pancakes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Biquick
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • a handful of boysenberries
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • for serving: 1 tbs. butter and a few tablespoons of warm jam

Mix the bisquick, egg, milk and berries together in a bowl. 

Heat the butter in a large nonstick pan on medium heat. Once it’s melted, ladle the batter onto the pan to make whatever size pancakes you’re in the mood for.  Cook them for about 3 minutes, or until you see bubbles coming up in the batter. Flip them over to cook the other side. Cook for another 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a plate. Top with butter and jam. 

May Charcutepalooza: Grinding… Honey Biscuits and For Real Homemade Sausage Gravy

My Charcutepalooza project is late. I don’t really care, though, because I was just eating biscuits and sausage gravy, and that’s all that really matters in life.

honey biscuits and sausage gravy

This month’s challenge was a saga, which seems to be the story of the Charcutepalooza in general. I have doubts…  I think I lack the intense love of meat that some of the participants seem to have.  I have an intense love of projects, like canning peaches or growing tomatoes or building my own bookshelves.  Because of this DIY fixation, I gladly jumped on board for the meat adventures. Honestly though, I am a wimpy meat eater and waver between being a vegetarian all the time. I  love love love biscuits and gravy though, so somehow right when I’m about to quit, I get pulled back in.

Before I start in on a speech about how pork fat is the most delicious flavor in the universe, I want to mention a few reasons as to why I barely ever eat it.  First of all, I am a farmer and a gardener. I spend almost every moment of my life keeping things alive, and I have a fundamental feeling of guilt when I contribute to an animal’s death. The chickens that I raise for meat are pastured and lead very happy chicken lives; their eggs are an incredible source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and healthy omega fats, as well as a pleasure to cook with.  And no animals are dying to feed me.

the cookbooks out on my counter right now seem to sum up everything

The next big issue is price and availability.  It’s taken years of work to get where we are, but the farm is finally a place of abundance, with fruit trees, vegetables all year round, a fully stocked pantry with both canned and dry goods, chicken eggs, and wild plants. During the summer I make beautiful curries, soups, stews, salads, and more, and I never really miss having meat around. I hate spending money, and if I have to spend money to get meat, I often go without it. Plus, buying a humanely-raised, organic, free-range piece of meat is often incredibly expensive.   Small farms can’t take advantage of economy of scale (meaning that it’s more cost effective to butcher 1000 pigs than 2), so the meat at the farmers market, while it is high quality, humanely raised, and delicious, has a huge price tag. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about the prices- you absolutely get what you pay for. I simply use the prices to justify cutting way back on how much meat I eat.  If I really cared about it, I would start raising a few pigs and turkeys on the farm. I’ve thought about it, but somehow it always takes the back burner to more pressing things, like getting my new blueberry bushes planted.

garlic and sage from our garden, and a bone-in pork shoulder roast from Lover's Lane Farm
garlic and sage from our garden, and a bone-in pork shoulder roast from Lover's Lane Farm

Enough talk, though. I still haven’t decided what I want to do about meat eating, but I know thatLover’s Lane Farm raises tasty happy pigs and we will definitely eat the hell out of the sausage I made for this months challenge. If meat starts going to waste or sitting endlessly in the freezer, I vow to quit doing charcuterie projects.

I knew that out of all the sausages I could make, a simple, no frills breakfast sausage would be the best for our household.  I used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for sage breakfast sausage from Charcuterie, omitting the ginger (we had none) and adding more garlic (we had a lot).

The process of grinding meat was definitely kind of gruesome, but I’m really happy that I know how to do it now. No more Jimmy Dean; breakfast sausage has joined the ranks of bacon which we will only be making ourselves from here on out.

gross gross gross

Things started looking a little more normal after that…  more like sausage.

That brings us to the recipes. Since Lover’s Lane also sells honey, it seemed appropriate to bring honey into the mix here. I bring you… Honey Biscuits with Country Pork Sausage Gravy!

Honey Biscuits

This is an adaptation of Deborah Madison’s Angel Biscuit recipe in Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. I’ve changed a few things around, but her concept of using yeast, baking soda, baking powder and salt results in quite the lovely biscuit.

Makes: 12 very large biscuits

Cooking Time: about 30 minutes (I put them in the oven and made the gravy while they were baking)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 4 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lb. cold butter
  • 1 c. almond milk
  • 1/8 c. honey

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, stir the yeast and 1 tsp. of sugar into 1/4 c. of warm water. Set aside.  

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the cold butter into the the flour mixture with whatever your preferred method (hands, stand mixer, a fork, two knives… it all works) until coarse, pea-sized crumbs are formed. Gently stir in the almond milk, honey, and the yeast mixture, being careful not to overwork the dough. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for a few minutes to make sure it’s nice and smooth. If you care about pretty biscuits, you can use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about 3/4″ thick. I use a cup as a biscuit cutter; pick out one from your cabinet that is the size of the biscuit you’d like to make. After cutting out the biscuits, transfer them to a greased cookie sheet to rise for 15-20 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Caroline’s Country Sausage Gravy

The guy in this commercial isn’t talking about Direct TV, he’s talking about my sausage gravy. Go to 0:32 to see how you will feel if you make it and understand what I am talking about. (I just linked to a commercial, how messed up is that??)

Makes: 2 servings

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. breakfast sausage, preferably homemade
  • 2 tbs. flour
  • 1 c. pork stock (see note*)
  • 1 c. creamy beverage of your choice- milk, skim milk, almond milk, soy milk – it all works fine. (I used rice milk this time because I’m going through a strange bout of paranoia about radiation in California cow milk… I should be over it soon though).

In a saute pan, brown the sausage. (If you’re using crappy sausage from the store, add in a few cloves of minced garlic and some freshly cracked black pepper at this step to fix the seasonings). When the sausage is fully cooked, stir in the flour.  It will coat the sausage and soak up the fat in the pan. If everything looks brown and kind of burned, it means you’re doing it right.

With the heat on medium high, pour in the pork stock, stirring as you go. It will get really bubbly and hot and should thicken up really quickly.

Now stir in your milk product. (Most people will probably use cow milk for a recipe like this – just don’t use half and half or heavy cream or the gravy will be too heavy).  Keep cooking the gravy on medium high heat, stirring continuously, until it has thickened to whatever consistency you like.

Now pour the gravy over your biscuits. If you don’t want to bake, it’s also delicious over mashed potatoes with a side of braised greens.

*Note: The cut of pork that I bought came with a bone, which was a blessing. Instead of using chicken broth, I kept the bone and made a small batch of stock with it while I was grinding the sausage. You could certainly substitute chicken broth if you don’t have pork bones around though.

Enjoy!