Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Million Little Yeastes

Is probably how my mother and sister are going to refer to my previous entry. There has been some confusion regarding my yeast related memoirs.

As a matter of clarification, I would like to acknowledge that in elementary school I also had a yeast themed science fair project. My mother and sister helped me with it. And by helped, I mean that they did the project for me after I threw a tantrum and went to the movies with Tricia L. That yeast project was an award winner. Upon prompting, I vividly remember the delightful little rolls they made.

The previous entry refers to my 7th grade attempt to recreate that award winning project. I am deeply sorry if any feelings were hurt by my memory lapse.

Now come over and make some rolls for me.


Pizza From Scratch aka My Adventures in Yeast

I have always had a complicated relationship with yeast. Well, maybe not always. But at least since 1985, the year my Science Fair projected I called "Yeast The Helpful Fungi" scored me a grade of a solid C. The idea was great. Bake two mini loaves of bread. One with yeast and the other without and compare the results. Write a nice little report about yeast. Collect high marks. It didn't work out that way though. My parents were out of town the weekend before the project was due. So my Grandma Nancy - who by the way is a WONDERFUL cook and baker - embarked on this project together. We tried all day and all night and we could not get the batch after batch of dough we made to rise. So my wonderful display for the furthering of sciences ended up being a couple of hard lumps of cooked dough that resemembled uncolored play-dough. It was probably the worst, yet most deserved grade I got in junior high. My project sucked.

Fast forward to around Christmas time last year. Everyday Foods magazine (LOVE IT) had an easy recipe for yeast rolls. So I tried it and the rolls were really good and cute as all get out. I declared myself free of the yeast curse that I had been carrying for the last 20+ years and proudly announced to my mother that I would be bring the bread from Christmas. Thank goodness my mother had the sense to buy some backup rolls because the second batch turned out nothing like the first, and no one wanted to eat the little unleavened, heavy knots I ended up bringing to the celebration. (Thanks, Mom!)
Today, I hope I won't jinx myself when I say that I have finally found a yeast recipe that I can make. Consistantly. We eat pizzas around here about once a week now, and I have been making the dough myself, for like a month now, without any failures. I found the recipe on and they attribute it to Giada DiLaurentis. Its about the easiest thing ever to make.
Dissolve 1/4 ounce of yeast in 3/4 cup of warm water. (I add 1tsp sugar here instead of later to give the yeast something to eat.) Wait 5 minutes. Then add 3 tbs oil, 2 cups of flour and 2 1/4 tsp salt. Mix until dough ball forms. (Add more flour if necessary.) Pour a little more oil on the dough and flip it around until oil is coating the boil. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot and.....

After an hour, the dough has risen!

While waiting for the yeasty magic to happen. I make sauce. Lets see. Onions, garlic, chiles, a sweet red pepper (not a huge fan of the veg, but get it in the farm share so I hide it in my soups and sauces), some tomatoes that I froze earlier in the year, and some oregano, parsley, and basil. Cook root vegetables and peppers til tender, add tomatoes, then at the last minute add herbs. Blend it up with immersion blender. (I have a tendency to fling hot sauce around the kitchen in this step.)

Here's a picture of some pretty cheese.

The Captain was in charge of pizza #1. He did some sauce, mozzerella, kalamata olives, basil, black pepper, and a dried chile.

Pizza #2 was my baby and I went for my new favorite. Sliced red potatoes, rosemary, parmigianno regianno, cracked black pepper, a dried chile, olive oil and some French grey salt.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven on the top and bottom racks for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

Here's pizza #1 out of the oven.

And pizza #2.

Serve with beer or wine. :)

I like these pizzas because they are a good way to use up some vegetables, and its a nice way to go meatless for a night, but it doesn't really FEEL like a meatless night. Plus, they are kind of fun to make together.
As a side, I would like to note that apparently my battle with yeast rages on. I went to start the crust not 5 minutes after the kitchen floor that I had JUST cleaned had dried. When I opened the jar of yeast, I somehow managed to spill a bunch of it all over the counter and newly cleaned floor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

At This Point It Ceases to Be Informative and Takes on More of a "Look At My Stuff and Be Jealous" Vibe

This is what was in my CSA box this week.
Sometimes I wonder how much stuff is in the full share. I don't really poke around those boxes because I think its in poor form to mess with another man's produce.
In case you are interested, this is what was included this week:

 Sweet Potatoes
 Green Beans
 Kennebec Potatoes
 Candy Yellow Onion
 Pepper
 Swiss Chard
 Butternut Winter Squash
 Summer Squash (half share)
 Green Tomato
 Radishes
 Turnips
 Lettuce/Arugula Mix

No Cream - Cream of "Choose Your Own Vegetable" Soup

I make soup all the time. It’s a great way to use up vegetables from the garden or the farmshare (especially when they hit all at once – tomatoes, I’m looking at you.) Anyway, I use pretty much the same recipe for every soup I make. The only thing that changes is that I swap out the vegetable for whatever is in season.* And maybe change the spices around a little bit. I make asparagus soup in the spring, a curried zucchini soup in the summer, and a corn bisque in the fall. Soup is also a good way to use up vegetables from the farmshare that aren’t necessarily my favorites. I’m not a huge fan of sweet peppers. I’ll throw some red sweets in with the tomatoes when I am making tomato soup and I don’t even realize I am eating them.

So I call this “Cream of Choose Your Own Vegetable Soup”. Today its corn.

I find it easiest to prep all my ingredients before I make the soup. So I have chopped up an onion, garlic and some chiles. I also chopped up some celery because I had a lot of celery and figured I should use some up.

And I removed the kernels from 4 ears of corn.

Saute one diced onion with four chopped cloves of garlic and a couple diced chiles in a little bit of olive oil (and maybe a little bit of butter if I am feeling decadent.) When the onions turn transluscent, I add half of the kernels from the 3 – 4 ears of corn that I have removed from the cob. I throw in some thyme (thyme is ALWAYS good in a vegetable soup) and saute for a few more minutes. Then I add a little wine (boxed Pinot Grigio is perfect), cover the vegetables in chicken stock and allow them to simmer until tender. It doesn’t take very long with the corn; 10 minutes is plenty of time. I remove the soup from the stove, and puree with an immersion blender. Then I put it back on the heat, add the remaining corn, a bay leaf and enough stock to bring it to a consistency that I like. Then I taste, salt and pepper. Simmer again until corn is tender. Its ready. (You might have noticed that I don’t add cream to my “Cream of Choose Your Own Vegetable Soup”. I don’t like the guilt I feel the extra calories. And it really doesn’t need it. But, in a perfect world where fat didn’t exist, I might find occasion to enrich the soup with a little heavy cream right at the end.)

This soup is fool proof. I like to garnish with something crunchy like fried tortilla or wonton strips. As I am not a huge fan of frying things in my kitchen, I usually buy these thing already prepared. The grocery stores sell them in resealable bags over by the croutons and salad dressings.

I always make extra and freeze it for quick lunches. The Schnucks Olive Bar containers are the PERFECT size for freezing as they hold two servings of soup.

*How do I know if a vegetable is in season if I don’t have a garden or shop at the farmers market? The cheapest vegetables are usually the ones that are in season. Corn that’s on sale at the grocery store 4 ears for $1? That’s in season.

Here Are Some Pictures of My Trash for You to Enjoy

Do you garden? Do you compost? I do both. Between the garden plants and the fruits and vegetables we eat around here, we have a lot of plant matter that would normally go into the trash. So last Spring, I finally went out and bought a counter top compost holder (seen above) and a big compost bin (where I can empty the counter top compost) for outside.

But in reality, I started composting last Fall. A la Rachel Ray, I had a large plastic bowl that I kept on the countertop. Whenever I cooked, I would throw any leftover plant materials in the bowl. Then, after dinner, I would go out, dig a hole in the garden, and bury it. Seriously. Kind of goofy, but I kid you not, when it came time to start working the soil in the garden this spring, the little compost holes had turned in to black patches of rich organic material. I will admit that some things didn’t breakdown very well using this method, mostly onion skins, corn cobs and corn husks. AND it was a little harder to bury things when the ground froze. AND we had some plants pop up in the garden of unknown origin (we called them “volunteers” most likely plants that sprung up from the seeds I discarded.) Still, I think it was worth it and a great way to generate less trash and benefit the garden.

Anyway, here’s a list of things that I compost now:
Ø Coffee grinds (and filters)
Ø Vegetable and fruit peels/seeds/stems
Ø Egg Shells
Ø Paper towels
Ø Newspaper sheets (on the occasion we end up with some)
Ø Leaves from the yard
Ø Garden clippings

Hmm, here's whats in my counter top composter right now. The lid has some kind of charcoal filter that makes it not stink while its sitting there on your counter.
No meat products or oily things ( I don’t want to attract any critters) and no garden plants that had suffered an untimely death (don’t want to infect the compost with disease or pests.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Brown Sugar Mojito

As I am marinating some chicken in lime juice, rum, soy sauce, fresh parsley, chiles, garlic and brown sugar, I think "what would be a good cocktail with dinner?" The answer seemed to jump right out at me. Mojitos. With brown sugar instead of simple syrup. I think that I am inspired and have come up with the greatest idea on the planet. And then I google it. All right, there's nothing new under the sun. That doesn't take away from the fact that this was a downright delicious piece of cocktail.

Step 1 (above): Place mint leaves and half of a lime (cut into festive sections) in a glass.

Step 2 (below): Muddle.

Step 3: Add some brown sugar and rum (my friend in Miami suggested Mount Gay as a great baseline rum - and he was right - thanks Carl!) and stir.

Step 4: Add crushed ice. I crush mine by placing ice in a bag, covering it with a towel, and wacking it with a rolling pin. I'm high tech!

Step 5: Top with Club Soda. Garnish with a lime, some mint leaves, and a festive stir.

What I love most about this cocktail is that it reminds me of myself. Unrefined and sweet. (Hee hee.)

My Super Exact Recipe for Pesto

Well, my basil plants are not long for this world, so I am picking whats left and whipping up some pesto to freeze. Its pretty easy but this recipe calls for exact amounts and if you screw up the proportions surely you will be left with something that is disgusting and inedible.

In a pyrex measuring cup, place a handful of basil, a handful of pinenuts, a handful of parmigiano reggiano, several grinds of black pepper and some olive oil. Whirl it up with an immersion blender. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Or a little lemon juice and garlic. Stir. Stick in a ziplock bag, press all the air out and freeze. Come the cold of winter, remove from freezer and enjoy its summery goodness on pasta (with grilled chicken) or slathered on some rustic bread.
(Green goodness. You know how children lick the beaters for cookie dough? After I bag up the pesto, I totally use my fingers to scrape the inside of the pyrex and lick it off my fingers. Gross, right? My love for pesto knows no shame.)

Because I Apparently LOVE to Do Laundry

The September issue of Body+Soul Magazine (a Martha Stewart Publication, natch) says that "If just one family of four switched to cloth napkins at each meal for one year, this green step would prevent 4,380 paper napkins from ending up in the trash."

Well, I do love Martha, so I did go out and buy some cloth napkins at Target about a month ago when I read that. And, I'm gonna say, as a person who has pretty much ALWAYS used paper napkins, I LOVE USING CLOTH NAPKINS. And it has nothing to do with the earth or nature or animals or our children. They just feel better than paper napkins. And they make everything I cook seem that much nicer. I don't know why this didn't occur to me before.

My Trip to Pikes Place Market

The Famous Pikes Place Market in Seattle. All the brochures say that at 102 years old, it is the longest continuously operating farmers market in the country. The people in Soulard might have something to say about that though...

Anyway, this market has a pretty cool history. Apparently between 1906 and 1907, the price of onions in Seattle skyrocketed. The citizens were angry about paying fees to middlemen who brokered the produce. A councilman at the time suggested a public street market where consumers could deal directly with the farmers. On August 17, 1907, the market opened to 10,000 customers and sold out before noon. Today, the market has 120 farmers and another 190 craftspeople.

This is where they throw the fish. Unfortunately, no fish were being flung as I snapped some photos on Wednesday.

Monster sized wild King Salmon.

Shrimp as big as your head.

And lobster tails.

The market had more than just fish though.

There were all kinds of locally produced honey and chocolates and preserves and salsas.
Where are the farmers? The sign says "farmers market" too!
Oh how I love chiles. I should have brought an empty suitcase with me.

It was "Organic Wednesday" so all of these blackberries, raspberries and grapes were organic. Heaven.

Some brightly colored veggies.

And flowers everywhere. Bouquet after bouquet of $5 arrangements. If I lived in Seattle, my home would have fresh flowers everyday.

Here's a vegetable that I have never seen in real life. Its romanesco, a type of broccoli. I was stunned when I saw it. Its like the unicorn of vegetables.

Pastries of Seattle aka Food Porn

Today, I shamelessly bring you a content free post. All I've got for you here are some pictures of some tasty little pastries I ate while I was in Seattle. I can guarantee that you will not enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the treats!

Above is the Lemon Curd Tart with Toasted Marshmallow and Candied Grapefruit.

Here we have an Espresso Eclair. Yum...breakfast.

This was my favorite of all things tasty Seattle. A Coconut Cream Pie Bite. Yowza it was delicious.

And finally as promised earlier, a Buttermilk Lemon Thyme Cupcake with Huckleberry Buttercream. It was phenomenal. (Hopefully you can't see that the other side was smooshed. I ran into the bakery door with cupcake in hand and smooshed one side of it into my boob. Which was a nice little icing souvenir on my sweater all day.)

I am seriously going to miss being in a place with a bakery on every corner.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What’s the Perfect Snack to Eat on Top of Hurricane Ridge?

Olympic Mountain Dark Chocolate Trail Mix of course. That’s peanuts, fake dark chocolate m&m’s, almonds, and raisins that we picked up at the Safeway. It got me thinking. What would I put in my trail mix if I made it myself? Dried strawberries, candied walnuts, REAL peanut m&m’s….maybe dried cranberries or cherries or blueberries? Ah, who am I kidding, this entry is just an excuse to post a picture of me at the top of the ridge and some of the cute animals I saw along the way.

This is somewhere along the way on Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park in Washington. Incredible.

Look Sans! No hands!
This is me, some people I don't know, and Canada behind us all.

The Captain made some fast friends while he was snacking on some trail mix. (Seriously, they swarmed him while he ate trail mix and I took multiple self portraits on top of the ridge.)

I call them "mountain birds". They made the most soothing sound as they nibbled on whatever was in the grass.

This deer seemed to pose for me right outside the parking lot.
Oh this seems as good as a time as any to mention that Ken Burns' series on National Parks is currently running on PBS. All I can say is that you don't want to watch it at our house. :)

Friday, September 25, 2009


Last night, I was invited to one of the Captain's work dinners. The host had picked a nice restaurant on the water that had sweeping views of the bay, the skyline, and (due to a clear night in Seattle) a gorgeous view of Mt. Ranier. The place was Anthony's Pier 66 (for those familiar with Seattle). They specialize in fresh seafood and locally farmed produce.

So, after we are seated, everyone starts looking at their menus. I, of course, grab the wine list. Now, the wine list wasn't a list, per se, it was a book. Several pages of wines, some beers, and specialty cocktails. I am trying to find a "by the glass" Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, when another guest places two bottles of wine, that he had brought from home, on the table. The restaurant is kind of fancy, well, fancy enough that they already have red and white wine glasses on the table, and they remove glasses according to what you order.

Those of you who know me, know that I am a wine drinker. But not an educated or snobbish one. I rarely spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine and, honestly, I usually buy my Pinot Grigio (the Bud Light of wines) in a box. But I do know some rules regarding dining. So, I make a few assumptions based on the fact that this man has brought in a couple of bottles of wine to a nicer restaurant.

  1. I assume there will be a corkage fee. (I was correct, there is a $25 corkage fee per bottle at Anthony's Pier 66.)
  2. I assume that there is something special about the wine. Its either rare, or unusual, or the restaurant carries nothing like it.
  3. I assume its expensive.

So, the waiter decants the first bottle of wine and offers some to everyone at the table. Now, I'm not normally a red wine drinker, but I am also not one to pass up a special, rare, unusual, or expensive glass of wine either. I accept a glass. I swirl it around the glass a little bit in an effort to make it look like I know what I doing. I stick my nose in the glass and breathe in as I take a sip. And...

It was okay I guess. But, like I said, I'm not an educated wine drinker. I chalk my indifference up to my lack of knowledge.

Around this time, someone passes the bottle to me, so that I might admire it. It was a bottle of 2005 Chateau Ste Michelle Orphelin Red. I like Chateau Ste Michelle, but I wasn't aware that Chateau Ste Michelle made wines so fine that anyone would decant it, or pay a $25 corkage fee per bottle (actually have your host pay a corkage fee) for the privilege of bringing it in and drinking it at a restaurant.

I'll save you the trouble of googling it, cause I already did. The Orphelin Red is a $15 bottle of wine.

I wonder what the waiters thought of us.

Huckleberry Heaven

The people of the Pacific Northwest apparently LOVE some huckleberries. Now, coming from the land of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, I am kind of ashamed to admit that I thought that huckleberry was just a goofy sounding fictional nickmame until I was in Hannibal a few year ago and I bought some huckleberry honey. The ingredients were: honey and huckleberry. Hmm. Who knew? (Well, maybe everyone but me.)

Anyway, I still have that unopened huckleberry honey. I finally tried this unfortunately named berry for the first time yesterday. Borrowing a description of it from one of our dining companions, the huckleberry is "like a poor man's blueberry".

Huckleberry things I had tried since losing my huckleberry virginity:

  • A spinach salad with chanterelles, chevre, pecans, huckleberries, and a poppyseed vinaigrette
  • Huckleberry ice cream with huckleberry syrup
  • Huckleberry burnt cream (serve as part of a trio of creme brulees:vanilla with a pineapple garnish, huckleberry with a strawberry garnish, and some absolutely KILLER ginger creme brulee with crystalized ginger garnish-to die for)

The bakery across the street from the hotel has a (get this) Lemon Thyme BUTTERMILK cupcake with Huckleberry Buttercream that I think I will try today. At the very least they are adorable cupcakes.

Now if I could just find a region where they honor the farkleberry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hey That Corn Looks Familiar

Well, it looks like the Post Dispatch is following my blog and using me as a source of inspiration.

Well, maybe not exactly. But that's my farmer. I'm excited for the folks of North St. Louis as there really is no source for anything remotely fresh around those parts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday is My Favorite Day of the Week

So every Tuesday, for 20 weeks during the summer, I stop by a house over by Tower Grove Park and pick up a box of vegetables that are earmarked for me. I belong to a Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA).
This is what the box looks like when I get it.

I am absolutely in love with my weekly box of vegetables.
Here's how a CSA program works:
We bought a share of a farm's production for the year. Well, actually, in our case, we got a half share because there are only two of us. We paid the farmers upfront, so they have needed money at the beginning of the season. Then, when fruits and vegetables start producing, the farmers divide up what they have among shareholders. If its a good season, everybody reaps the benefits. If its a more difficult season, the farmers don't go out of business. I never know whats going to show up in the box from week to week. Which is awesome because it forces me to try things like beets, or (my new fave) delicata squash.
The top picture is what was in the box today.

• Dark Red Norland Potatoes
• Yellow Onions
• Tomato
• Green and Hungarian Bell Pepper
• Banana Pepper
• Butternut Squash
• Sweet Corn
• French Radish
• Lettuce and Arugula salad mix
• Sweet Potato
• Green Beans
Our CSA is actual a co-op of two farms - Lee Farms in Truxton, MO and Yellow Wood Farms in Hermann, MO. We get weekly emails where they let us know what to expect and what happening on the farm. They also invite everyone down for an open house so we can see where our food is being made. Awesome.
I love Tuesdays.

I Gave Him My Heart...He Gave Me a Turkey Sandwich

But it was a turkey sandwich from Pappy's, so it was a pretty good trade. And really it couldn't have come at a better time. The Captain was out at a business lunch and I was out in the garden, picking dead branches off my tomato plants, thinking about how starting a "seasonal" food blog on the first day of fall was not such a brilliant idea, and thinking about how my garden was dying before my eyes and how I don't have a job and how in a couple weeks I am going to have absolutely NOTHING to do with myself.
And then he appeared, paper bag in hand. He brought me a turkey sandwich. Now that, is love.
If you've never been to Pappy's, its a ridiculously good bbq joint in midtown, right by SLU. They smoke the meat all night and when they sell out the next day, they close up. Leftovers are not served at Pappy's. I find it a particularly nice touch that if you get a sandwich to go, they pack the meat and the bun separately so that the bread doesn't get ooky.

A Squash You Should Know

This is my new favorite squash. Its called a Delicata Squash. I first met him through my farm share. He has a sweet potato-y flavor, but a really, well, delicate flesh. I much prefer its texture to acorn or butternut squash.

A little history for you:
This squash was popular through the 1920's and then fell into obscurity. It has a thin, tender skin that doesn't travel well or store for periods of time, so its not well suited for supermarkets. If you see some at a farmers market, do yourself a favor and get one.

I typically cut them in half, seed them and steam in the microwave. Then I scoop out the flesh, and mash with a little butter, salt and pepper. I finish with a drizzle with maple syrup and throw a few walnuts on top. Good stuff.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Great Cuban Experiment

I went to Providence, RI this summer and absolutely fell in love with Cuban food. I decided to recreate this excellence at home.

Step one: Cut pork tenderloin into bite sized pieces. Marinate in garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, onion and green pepper.

Step two: Soak black beans in water.

Wait overnight. Dream of delicious Cuban food.

Step Three: Boil beans in soaking water for 45 minutes to an hour (I added some chicken base cause I am crazy like that.) Prepare sofrito. Sofrito is onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Fry OGS&P in some olive oil until onion is transluscent. Take some of the beans, mash them up and add them to the sofrito pan. Fry it all up for about 5 minutes. Dump sofrito into bean pot and add oregano, sugar and bay leaf. Boil for a couple more hours.

Step Four: Cuban Bread. Take 1 packet of yeast, mix with one tablespoon of sugar and two cups of water. Let proof. After 5 minutes it should be bubbly and stinky. If you don't have the bubbles or the yeast stink, scrap the project and start over. Bad yeast will kill this project. Take the bubbly, stinky funk, and put it on the KitchenAid (with the dough hook) and knead it, adding 1 cup of sifted flour at a time. At about 7 cups you should be done. You want a firm dough. Grease the bowl and the dough, cover with a cloth, and let sit, in a warm place until it doubles.

Punch it down, and put it on a floured surface. Divide in half, form into rounds, and place it on pans that have been liberally sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise for a few minutes. Place in 400 degree oven (that has not been preheated) for 45 minutes. Brush with butter at about 40 minutes.

Oh this bread is soooooo delicious.

At some point, if you had been thinking about it, you would have started some rice. At the same time you would have heated up some oil in a non stick skillet on the stove. In small batches, fry up the pork (and onions and peppers) in small batches until brown. It was really good, although beans and stuff don't photograph that well.