Thursday, July 27, 2006
Morning at the Farm
Here in Northern Colorado brilliant lightning, rolling thunder, and rain sounded for a good portion of the early morning hours. It was one of those magical storms where you can hear a collective sigh of relief after a long period of hot dry weather. Today I had volunteered to help with the milking at the farm. One of the famers had hurt his hand jumping from the tractor that he thought was going to tip. I rose at 4am to watch the last of the storm standing at the window drinking tea. By the time I got to the farm the milking had been in progress for an hour. My hand was not nearly as dexterous as the more experienced milker, and in truth most of the work was done before I got there, but the help was appreciated and we got the job done. Not a bad way to start the day.Today’s LunchGinger Spice Cake
Cream 1/2 cup butter with 1/2 cup sucanat and 1/2 cup dark molasses. Beat in 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Mix dry ingredients separately: 2 1/2 cups spelt flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger. Fold dry ingredients into the wet until fully incorporated, but be careful not to over mix. Doing so will make the cake tough. Pour into a greesed 9 x 9 pan and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a knife can be inserted into the cake and come out clean. Serve in small bowls with 1/2 cup of butter milk poured over the top.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
A Moveable Feast
Every six weeks or so I gather with a group of four women to discuss literature. We are usually on topic for about ten minutes before the conversation veers toward other matters such as children, pets, husbands, boyfriends, politics, and religion. Occasionally we get a really juicy controversy going, but that is rare. The club meets because we enjoy each other’s company and it motivates us to read. To date, I have picked the only truly awful book, Shut Up He Explained
by Kate Lader (Ring Lader's stepdaughter). I thought it would be an inside peek into the effect of MacCarthism in Hollywood. It turned out to be a name-dropping memoir and most of the names were lost on us.
Although it is not a requirement the host usual cooks food related to the book. For that awful memoir I fixed food appropriate for a cocktail party: Parmesan wafers, curried pecans, chipolte cream cheese dip and crackers. Tomorrow we are meeting at my house to discuss The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by my favorite author Carson McClullers. This book still leaves me as as breathless as it did when I was seventeen. In celebration of the Southern Gothic, I’m frying chicken, snapping beans, and baking cornbread.Today’s LunchBlack Bean Salad
Wash a half a dozen lettuce leaves and spin dry in a salad spinning. Drain one can of black beans. Combine 1/4 of the can of beans with lettuce and top with 1/4 cup mozzarella and parmesan mixed (1/8 cup of each). Top with salsa.
Note: I’m in a bit of a rut, but with the farm producing copious amounts of lettuce at the moment, I’m not complaining!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Last week my husband made roast chicken for dinner. He stored the bones in the fridge for a few days before he dumped them in a pot with a bay leaf and some black pepper just before leaving for the day. I tended the pot for most the morning, which meant reminding myself not to leave the house with the cooking stock on the stove. Making stock is that simple. You simply simmer bones in water for a good part of the day. The rewards of homemade stock are many. Chicken soup was used to cure the flu because the gelatin from the bones repair damage to our digestive track. Gelatin is a form of protein that is made when the collagen in the bones, skins, and cartilage of animal bones is broken down. This is the same stuff from which gummy bears and Jell-O are made. Most commercially available stock is devoid of gelatin and very high in sodium. It is the gelatin in the stock that traditionally made soups thick.
I love the culinary evolution of one meal leading to another. A chicken dinner produces stock for cooking barley. The barley water is saved to cook a pot of pinto beans. That chicken did not die in vain.Today’s LunchTaco Salad
Beans: Soak 1 cup of beans in water overnight. Drain the next morning and place in a pressure cooker with enough stock to cover the beans. Cook under pressure for 30 minutes. Remove from head and allow the pressure to disipate before removing the lid.
Toss chopped lettuce, kohlrabi, carrot, celery, steamed beets, avocado, and 1/2 cup of beans. Sprinkle 1 tsp cumin over salad and add your favorite dressing.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Some days are just harder than others. When life gets big my typical response is to break it down into small steps. Get up (check), make tea (check), feed cats (check), bring in paper (check), and so on. I was in the middle of step eighteen (make breakfast) when a friend showed up on my doorstep with an armful of food—chicken rice salad, steamed broccoli, bread, two beers, and a bag of oatmeal cookies—and a willing ear. As the saying goes, “I know what I’ve done to deserve my enemies, but I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve my friends.” Suddenly I didn’t need to break life down into steps anymore. I just hit cruise control. Food does have the power to heal, particularly if it is served with a side of compassion. I’ll have nothing to blog about for the next few days because of all the leftovers.
Monday, July 10, 2006
One for the Road
Neither to sound like Jane and Michael Stern (http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/whereweeat) nor to contradict my last post traveling provides you with an excellent opportunity to explore the culinary highways and byways. Traveling for work means eating for survival. Traveling for adventure means that the worlds kitchen cupboards are flung wide open. My recommendations: If it says “a local favorite” on the menu order it. With a nod to Blue Highways the more calendars, trophies, and animal heads on the wall the better. If in Virginia order Peanut Butter Pie always, if in New Mexico seek out Posole, if in Seattle don’t eat crab near the docks, and if in Wisconsin drink the local beer.Today’s LunchPeach salad
Chop one ripe peach, one avocado, and 1 stalk celery and combind with 1/2 cup toasted walnuts. Add a pinch of salt.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
On the Road Again
Periodically work takes me away from my desk and sends me out into the wider world. Conferences are a fact of working life. Eating while traveling is both adventurous and torturous. On a recent trip I was relieved to find the catering service served a hot meal in the lobby of the convention hall that included fresh vegetables. Sadly, I was only about to eat there one day out of five because I was running to and fro during their abbreviated hours. That one small dish of chicken and vegetables that I did manage to eat made me extremely happy, as did the one great apple I found after three days of mealy, tasteless orbs.
The tapas bar down the street (recommended by my hair dresser) was superb,and although I don’t really want to think about the mechanics of it, there was sangria on tap. We gobbled down bits of duck, spinach salad, marinated cucumbers, and various dips and spreads topped off with Tres Leche and fried plantains.
I found my ubiquitous Greek salad—an impossible dish to screw up--in a steak house across the street from our hotel and enjoyed a brandy afterwards in the swanky hotel lobby with friends I only see in conference halls. Mostly I lived off of endless cups of tea, bottled water and turkey bagels. When I got home to my kitchen I happily ate steamed rice and broccoli for lunch for the rest of the week.