Thursday, July 14, 2011


I have this motto: "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing to the point of excess and near annoyance." Okay, that's not really my motto, but I am kind of feeling like I may have taken a simple comment from The Captain ("I really like it when you make pickles") and run a little to far with it. I just did the math and it appears that I planted 48 cucumber plants. For 2 people. Now add that to the cucumbers that I am getting in a farm share and we have a downright cucumber situation on our hands.

Here's one of my cute little cucumber trellises. The cucumber plants are so thick on it that it's like going into the jungle when I go in to search for cukes.

The trellises are loaded with cucumber flowers and cucumbers in various stages of development.

The crisper in the fridge with some of the cucumbers I picked yesterday (and a couple of farm share cukes.) Every day I attempt to find a way to use these thing up. Here's what I have been doing.

Of course, I have been making batches of the old standby: the cucumber salad. I'm getting lazy in my old age and have been using bottled dressing instead of making my own.

Pickles! The only good way I know to preserve cucumbers. So far I am at 7 quarts and 14 pints. I'm getting pretty good at knocking out a batch of pickles in record time.

Cucumber-mint water. Oh so hydrating.

Cucumber soda. I pureed 3 cucumbers, 2 limes (with peel and pith removed), a couple sprigs of mint and some honey in the food processor. After straining it overnight, I mixed it with some ice and seltzer water. Surprisingly good. (Based on a recipe out of Everyday Food. I don't remember which month. I'm totally behind in my magazines.)

And ta da: batches of cucumber infused tequila and gin. Based on the advice from the guys at work, I let the cut up cucumbers sit in the spirits for 36 hours, strained and rebottled them.

What to do with cucumber infused tequila? I made Matt Seiter's recipe for Summer's Blush which was Imbibe Magazine's Drink of the Week last summer. A little bit of tequila, St. Germain, some lime juice, rose water and Peychaud's bitters. It's sublime.

I also threw some of that cucumber booze in some watermelon juice (from a pureed and strained watermelon) and some lemonade and made boozy rocket pops. Lemon on the outside with a watermelon center.

It's worth noting that I gave a neighbor a couple of cucumbers and he ended up dropping off a four pack of home brewed stout. Yay for cucumbers!

My goal is to not let any of these babies go to waste. Anybody out there have any must try cucumber recipes?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Caramel Popcorn with Lots of Peanuts

You know what sucks about Cracker Jacks? Ha, see that was a trick question. Nothing sucks about Cracker Jacks. They are a nearly perfect food with their mix of sweet-salty-buttery crunch. If they weren't nearly perfect, we wouldn't sing about them while watching our national pastime. That said, what I have always wished for my Cracker Jacks was that they had more peanuts. I came upon a chance to make that wish a reality with the Fine Cooking Tailgating magazine I got over the weekend. Here's the recipe:
I used some of the popcorn that I get from Scott that I absolutely love. I think it's grown in Hillsboro.

Heat the oil with one kernel in there and once that pops, drop the rest.

After a couple minutes, I had a lovely bowl of popped corn.

Then I added a bunch of nuts. Actually more than were called for in the recipe.

Here's me pretending I am a pastry chef, brushing down the walls of the pan so that I don't get sugar crystals in my caramel.

This is what it looked like when I started.

And here's where I dropped in the baking soda.

Dump and mix.

Then spread on a foil lined baking sheet. When cool, break into bite sized pieces.

I was gonna say that the hardest part of making caramel corn is not eating the popcorn while waiting for the caramel to cook, but that was what I thought before I saw the hardened caramel on my pan and bowls. Yikes. But totally worth it.

The Egg Recall

This is not normally a blog where I talk about food politics, but I find this story on so offensive (I think I am past the point where I am disturbed by this stuff) that I thought I would share a couple of my thoughts on it.

First: (well, this really isn't my thought, I stole it from Michael Ruhlman and he stole if from someone else.) If you are worried about the egg recall, you are buying your eggs from the wrong place. I didn't need a recall to tell me something was wrong with grocery store eggs. Their yolks are a really pale, sickly yellow color. Even if you buy the more expensive organic or the vegetarian fed or the free range varieties, they still look wrong when you crack them open.

Second: The article calls the guy who owns the companies responsible for the eggs "Businessman Austin 'Jack' DeCoster. I guess salmonella is what happens when the bulk of the eggs consumed in this country come from businessmen instead of farmers.

So this evening, to celebrate the fact that I know where my eggs come from, and I know the folks who raise the chickens who make them, I will be eating some nearly raw eggs in the form of a carbonara.

If you don't know a farmer, here's where you can get some locally raised farm eggs:
Family Harvest Mercantile (Kirkwood, members only)
City Greens (Forest Park Southeast, members only)
Tower Grove Farmers Market (Tower Grove Park, everyone)
Maplewood Farmers Market (Bottleworks parking lot, everyone)
Local Harvest Grocery Store (Morgan Ford, everyone)
Soulard Farmers Market (Soulard, everyone)

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Learn Something New Every Day

You'll never guess where I got this bowl full of exciting and sexy summer squash. Grocery store? Nope. My garden? Not this year. Farmers Market? Not my typical spots.

I picked these guys up at City Greens, a market in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood (I call the neighborhood The Grove). Catholic Charities operates a market at their Midtown Center. You've got to be a member to shop, but memberships are free to those who make less than $30,000 a year and around $5 a week to those who make more. What's great about this place is that it offers locally grown products, at discounted prices, to a community that is under served by the grocery stores. (And by under served, I mean totally ignored.)

I hung out there for a bit on Thursday and met some really interesting people. The place is staffed by some cool ladies who live in the neighborhood and volunteer their time. We chatted a little bit about cooking. When the talk turned to turnip greens, I made the mistake of saying that I usually just throw mine in the compost pile. Upon hearing this, a volunteer named Bobbi told me that if I kept coming back, they'd eventually teach me how to cook. She wasn't just talking either. The ladies there take what's on hand and show you how to use it. Yesterday it was a lasagna that used sliced zucchini in place of the noodles. The week before it was peach pie. They won't let you turn down a sample. (And by sample I mean plateful.) I love it!

Anyway, the produce available there is absolutely gorgeous. I saw peaches, tomatoes, carrots, corn, squash, cucumbers, and melons. And not just your run of the mill produce. Interesting varieties: the stuff you'd find at a good farmers market. Also available: eggs, bread, jams/jellies/honey and flour (who knew they were making flour in Ste Genevieve?)

City Greens is open Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 6 and the first Saturday of every month from 8:30 to 11:30

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Popcorn Ice Cream with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

Nope, this isn't my recipe. I found it here:
And it is amazing.
I didn't really think I was a huge fan of popcorn. The thought of it sends me back a few years to back to when I worked in an office and at least once a week someone would burn a bag of microwave popcorn and the stink of scorched corn would linger in the air for the rest of the day. Recently, I've taken to making it on the stove, with old fashioned loose corn. I'd forgotten how good it can be.
The recipe is good enough that making conversions from metric to whatever our system is called that isn't metric, in hindsight, wasn't all that annoying. Also, the recipes aren't exactly matched. I ended up with WAY too much sauce. But if my biggest problem in my life right now is that I have too much salted butter caramel sauce, I'm not gonna feel TOO bad for myself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Smothered Pork Chops

I picked up some of the huge pork chops from Family Harvest. I wanted to try to recreate the smothered pork chops that The Captain and I had at Farmhaus earlier in the spring, except with thicker, meatier chops. Here's what I came up with:

Smothered Pork Chops
1/2 cup flour (I used a white whole wheat)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
medium onion, diced
10 mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken stock (I used a home made roasted chicken stock)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the flour and spices together.

Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the flour/spice mixture.

Prep the vegetables.

Put a saute pan on medium heat. Pat the pork chops with paper towels and place them in flour mixture. Get them coated and shake off excess.

Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and cook chops on the first side for about 5 minutes or until the crust is nice and crispy and releases from the bottom of the pan without leaving its crusty deliciousness behind. Cook for 5 minutes on the second side and remove chops to a paper towel lined plate.

Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to the chop pan and cook for a couple of minutes. If you need additional oil, add some. Add 1 tablespoon plain flour and 2 tablespoons of the reserved seasoned flour to the pan. Cook until the flour browns and forms a crust on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in chicken stock.

Put chops back in the pan and cover with the mushrooms, onions and gravy. Cover pan and place in heated oven for 30 minutes.

I served it with mashed potatoes and asparagus. I realize asparagus season ended long ago here in MO, but I was craving a green veg. My green beans don't seem to want to produce in the 100 degree weather, and the green beans at the store didn't look too hot, so yes, I bought some asparagus that has probably travelled more extensively than I have this year, but DON'T JUDGE ME. :)
Look at the size of the chop on my plate!

A glamour shot:

The meat was incredibly tender. You would think that me and The Captain would have had some leftovers because of the size of these things, but they were so good we ate it all. Mmmm gravy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Martin Rice

I'm not trying to push an agenda here. I honestly don't care what you buy or who you buy it from. (You will notice there are no google ads on the side of this blog.) But every once in a while I come across a product that is so ridiculously good that I feel the need to share the name brand with you. I cooked Martin rice for the first time last week and thought to myself "damn, that is good rice", then all of a sudden, it seems like everyone is talking about Martin rice. Local Harvest tweeted that they had it. My boss came in and was telling me about this amazing rice that she drove into the middle of nowhere to get. (She was like "yeah that's it!" when I showed her a picture of my bag.) The cooks in the kitchen were talking about it being the best rice they ever had. Josh Galliano (of Monarch) was tweeting today about MO (Martin) rice.

If you find yourself with access to Martin rice, by all means - buy it. It's fantastic.

God, it's gorgeous. Funny thing is, I have a hard time with white rice. I make it gloopy or burn it. This is the easiest thing going.

Made a little pilaf type thing with it tonight and The Captain was like, "this rice is amazing!" No kidding. Try it if you can. So yummy.