25 January 2012

Dark Days: Soup Challenge Fail

This week we (the participants of the Dark Days Challenge) were challenged to create a soup or one-pot-meal. I just didn't really feel like making soup. No soup will be had. If you want to make a one-pot meal in the form of baked beans, please see my post about mapley baked beans, and have a nice day.

02 January 2012

Dark Days: An Oven Warmed Home

Happy New Year! I keep wondering if I'll back out of the Dark Days Challenge, even though it's still just the beginning. It's funny that at solstice, we celebrate the days gradually becoming brighter once again, but in fact it's these next few months that will be the toughest to get through in terms of cold, and anticipation for the growing season that is still a ways off. I thought about that, and then I read this recent recap post by the East group on Not Dabbling In Normal and realized that coming up with blog posts is a struggle for many of the folks taking part in this challenge. So maybe I'll keep posting. One post at a time. Maybe it will help me to better appreciate January-March.

This recipe on Food52 for Boston Baked Beans is really good, I made it last summer. Then a couple of weeks ago, I saw this recipe for Maple Baked Beans on the Serious Eats site and knew it was time to make some mapley baked beans of my own. Almost completely local, and while not an entire meal, a substantial dish that is somewhat of a feast on its own.

I decided to use more of the methodology from the Food52 recipe, but went with some of the quantities from the Serious Eats recipe.

First I set the oven to 250F, cleaned about 2 cups of Cayuga Pure Organics Yellow Eye beans, and then chopped up a local sweet onion. I decided to keep the recipe as simple as possible and kept my ingredient list way down. As soon as all of my ingredients were prepped I melted a nice hunk of Ronnybrook butter in the pot (you need a pot or dutch/french oven that is both stove top and oven safe, as well as a lid).

Once everything was nice and hot I threw in the onions and let them cook until they started to soften a bit, then I tossed in a few spices: about a quarter teaspoon of cumin, and half teaspoon each of chili powder and Spanish paprika, plus a good helping of salt. Oh and then I poured in a HALF CUP OF DELICIOUS MAPLE SYRUP from Cronin's Maple Farm down the road (please excuse the obligatory emphasis, I'm a huge fan of maple syrup, especially maple syrup that comes from 13 minutes away). I stirred that a bit, then added the dry beans and mixed it well so that the beans were well coated. I poured in about 5 cups of water, added some slices of leftover ham from the holidays and stirred it all together. I then covered the pot and put the whole thing in the oven, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours, or until the beans became plump and tender. The last step is to take the lid off the pot, and raise the oven temperature to 400F and let the liquid boil down to whatever thickness you like.

Enjoying a cup of baked beans by the fire

If you grew up eating baked beans from a can, like I did, you'll really love fresh baked beans out of the oven, plus having the oven on for so long really helps to keep the house warm!

I'm going to cheat now and leave you with a photo of the thumbprint cookies I made last week using Marisa's recipe from Food in Jars. They're far from local, I mean, I used the fancy new Thomas Keller backed C4C gluten free flour mix, organic sugar, and almond extract from very far away, but the butter is 100% local, and the fillings consist of my blubapricot jam and my dark chocolate raspberry jam, which are both local aside from the sugar, lemon, and chocolate...yeah.

18 December 2011

Dark Days: Keepin it Simple

Some of my favorite meals are also the simplest. I love preparations that bring out the biggest brightest flavors in vegetables, with merely a bit of fat and salt. The photo above are the ingredients that went into a quick and easy brunch that a friend and I prepared last week: some leftover roasted sweet potato and cabbage thrown into scrambled eggs. It made a filling and delicious breakfast.

Add a bit of this cheese and something so simple becomes kinda decadent. That oozing deliciousness is 3-Corner Field Farm's Shushan Snow cheese, it is their version of a Camembert and it is ridiculously good.

Right now I've got some cabbage and fennel bulb roasting in the oven, yet another simple meal that I can't wait to eat. Seems like the Dark Days Challenge is only challenging for me in terms of actually writing about the local meals that I prepare. The meals themselves are just what I eat. It seems as though I will only be contributing bi-weekly posts for the Challenge, unless something interesting happens that I feel a need to blog about. I'm hoping to make some meals in the coming weeks that will be worthy of recipe-sharing. Perhaps a gluten free gnocchi is in order, that's one I definitely hope to share one day soon.

04 December 2011

Dark Days Challenge Begins

Today's Harvest: Kale, Parsley, and Oregano

Anyone who has taken a moment to browse this site will notice that I rarely post to it. Looks like that is about to change as the Dark Days Challenge has begun, and I did indeed sign up for it. For those not participating, the challenge runs from November 27th through March 31st and the idea is to eat local meals and post about them every week or every other week.

For this challenge I will obtain all food from local farms, farmer's markets, my garden, and my pantry (I put up a great deal of fruit preserves and frozen items during the growing season). Most local eating challenges adhere to a 100 mile radius, but most people in this challenge, since it's a winter challenge, seem to be going with a 150 mile limit. That said, there will be a few exceptions; readily available to me are the grains, beans, and cooking oil from Cayuga Pure Organics, which happens to be located about 200 miles away from me, so that is one exception I plan to make. Other exceptions to the 150 mile limit are things like salt, some spices, sugar, a limited amount of citrus (there is lemon and/or sugar in almost all of the jams that I make), as well as chocolate, coffee, and tea.

I'd like to acknowledge right now the fact that I've accepted this challenge well aware of the fact that I approach it from a place of privilege. I can afford to buy most of these foods, and I do just that. If my family relied on me to grow food that would sustain us in the wintertime, we'd be very hungry right now. That picture above? That's all there was to harvest from my garden today, I didn't plan things out very well for a winter garden, so I'm lucky that I can splurge on all of the produce I need from local farms. I've learned from this, and next year I hope to extend my garden's life much longer.

Since I'm a little slow getting things started around here, this post is about a day's worth of local meals. Future posts are not likely to be as winded.

I started simple today with a plain drinkable yogurt. I try to avoid these because they're made of plastic, but they're really good. I like to drink a little of the yogurt plain, then sometimes I'll spoon in some jam. Today I decided I'd open one of my jars of Blueberry Apricot jam. I don't usually say this, and I sometimes find it annoying when others do, but it seriously tasted like summer. I'll also say that I was suddenly transported to a sunny day in late July, standing under an apricot tree, the apricots hot from the sun. But that's all I'll say about it.

On Sundays, I often like to have something small and simple when I first get up, and then eat a big filling meal in the afternoon. That way I have something small in the evening instead of a big over-filling meal. Today my filling afternoon meal made plenty for leftovers. I've been wanting polenta but don't have any at the moment, so I made a porridge out of some corn meal I had from Cayuga.

I added a diced poblano pepper that I had briefly sauteed, some herbs from my garden, some pecorino cheese from Valley Shepard Creamery and some slow roasted tomatoes that I defrosted earlier in the day.

Then I cracked two eggs on top, grated a tiny bit more pecorino over it, and put the whole thing in the oven for 15 minutes.

Here's what I got

Afterwards I had a snack of some apple butter that was overflow from the jars I'd put up earlier in the morning.

By the time dinner time rolled around a little while ago, a small snack would do. I fell hard for this beautiful cabbage the other day.

If cabbages were a measure of luxury...

It's already been two meals, and there is still plenty left. It's spicy, sweet, and the texture is like endless lacinato kale, but firmer. Tonight, I sliced some up, brushed on some of Cayuga's sunflower oil, sprinkled on some salt, and roasted it the way Melissa Clark suggests in her new book.

I very much look forward to seeing what other participants in this challenge come up with, especially other folks in my region!

11 November 2011

Make a Wish

Because it's 11-11-11

Scoff all you want, but I still believe in luck, and luck I've got.

It's a typical, blustery autumn day (typical days being oh so rare in our time). This weekend, aside from attending a gem sweater potluck, I'll be putting-up preserves with the last of the season's ground cherries, cooking-up an Italian plum jam, liqeur-izing my elderberry vodka, and checking-in on the fermentation of my 2 gallons of hard cider (photos coming soon).

I'm seriously considering signing up for this years Dark Days Challenge, which will mean weekly posts about the local meals I'm eating during the slimmest months for fresh, local produce. The meals I can handle, but the weekly posts???

Stay tuned, might be worth it!