Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ugly Carrots

This now counts as my Halloween post.  More than a month after my first carrot harvest, I pulled a few more to use in a crab salad.  The one that had the bushiest tops went first.  It was at least an inch in diameter, but quickly devolved into a misshapen gnarl of carrot that usually happens only in compact or rocky soil.  The next one wasn't much better.  The third one was carrot-shaped, but very thin.  And the last was a lumpy mess of carroty tumors.

I cleaned them up and ran the veggie peeler over them to get rid of stray roots.  In the grocery store, they don't tell you that they've scrubbed off all kinds of stuff from the carrots.  There was also a lot of dirt in the ridges and between the stringy roots.  When you pick a fruit or leafy veggie, you don't have to deal with all that dirt.

This did not discourage me from planting a winter garden of mostly root vegetables in the pond.  The 20 or 30 gallons it took to rehydrate the soil almost made me wait for El Niño, but by then it will not be warm enough to give the sprouts a good start.  I'm also gambling that it will not climb above 85º again in two weeks, when everything starts to take root.  I planted a mesculun assortment, beets, and yet more carrots.  Eventually, I will figure out how to grow them properly.

The neighborhood skunk rooted through the pond a few days later.  All the dirt was tossed into random piles, meaning my neat rows are useless.  Adding to that, all sorts of things started sprouting way too early to be what I planted.  I pulled many of the weeds, but a few may be the lettuce assortment.  I'll wait for a few more leaves before pulling those.  The problem is the only thing I will recognize when it first comes up is the carrots.  Wish me luck.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Crepes Foster

I had a couple of galettes left over from the Greques and a banana a couple of days past its prime.  Thus comes the inspiration for the fastest fancy dessert I ever made.

If you're making the crepes as well, this is not fast.  But there are pre-packaged ones in the market, usually near the little spongecake cups or the berries.  If you do want to make them on your own, I have a basic sweet crepe recipe here.

8 crepes
2 slightly over-ripe bananas
2 Tb butter
2 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb light rum
vanilla ice cream to garnish (I didn't have any)

1.  Slice bananas thinly.  Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add brown sugar and let it melt into the butter.  Add banana slices and continue to cook until they are glazed and the butter makes a sauce, 3 or 4 minutes.  Add rum and either let the alcohol boil off or just stir it into the sauce.

2.  Divide the bananas among the 8 crepes and fold them into quarters.  Use two per serving with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Or you could do a single one in a small dish with a scoop to make it serve 8 if you had a big meal.

Difficulty rating  π (store-bought crepes)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Galettes a la Greque

So the thing about writing posts is remembering to finish and publish them.  I was going through the photos in the camera and went oops.

Once again, I'm spending a lot of grocery money to use one ingredient I've grown.  I did use the rest of the package of spinach I'd bought for the pizzas, the lettuce I had gotten last week for salad, and all of the crepe ingredients were pantry.  So I bought a lamb chop, a container of yogurt, a cucumber, and hit the olive bar to pick out only pitted kalamatas and marinated feta cubes.

So far, I have roasted or fried all of my eggplants.  It was nearly 100º on Sunday last week (look at the date of this post) and I couldn't bear to turn on the oven.  So I decided to find out how they tasted stewed, then pan-fried the lamb chop after.  I think I prefer roasted, but they weren't bad.

Oh, and for the lamb chop, I decided to get cute.  You know on cooking shows how they rain down spices from about a foot above the pan, pinching them from a cute little portion cup?  I did that.  Aside from making me feel stupid, I don't think it made any difference.   The meat was seasoned just the same  as if I had rubbed it on.

Once again, this produced way too many dishes.  I made the time to do a round before things got out of hand, and only had the soaking lamb skillet to finish in the morning.

1 batch galettes
1 C tzatziki sauce
8 large leaves red or green leaf lettuce
1 medium eggplant
4 oz spinach leaves
4 oz pitted kalamata olives
4 oz cubed or crumbled feta
1/2 lb lamb chop
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp black pepper
olive oil

1.  Prepare galettes and sauce and set aside until ready to use.

2.  Dice eggplant into 1" cubes.  Drizzle about 1 Tb olive oil into a medium skillet and heat on medium.  Add eggplant and cook, covered, until eggplant is completely softened, at least half an hour.  Stir periodically.  Drop in spinach leaves and allow to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove veggies to a holding container.

3.  Add a little more oil to the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high.  Combine the four spices and rub all over the lamb chop.  Pan-fry until medium done, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove meat from pan and chop into bite-sized pieces, getting as much meat off the bone as possible if you bought a bone-in.
4.  Start layering the ingredients in the crepes.  First the lettuce, then the cooked veggies, then the meat, olives, and feta.  Close the crepes and drizzle generously with tzatziki sauce.  Serve two galettes per person.

Difficulty rating :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Crazy-Pizza Night

Lately, it has been all about what I can make with eggplant.  At one point, there were 10 eggplants on the bush of various sizes.  This is why I rarely plant the same thing twice.  By the time the plant runs its course, I am thoroughly over whatever it was for the next several months.
So I decided to make pizzas that incorporated roasted eggplant.  I was originally going to do a Greek theme with ground lamb, like a moussaka pizza, but wasn't impressed by the quality or price of the ground lamb at the market.  So I went with Italian sausage and your basic red sauce/mozzarella kind of pizza with a bit of spinach to round things out.  The dough is the same one I used for the prosciutto & brie pizza.

I usually clean as I go, especially when rise time for dough is involved.  This time, I just got busy and didn't have time to do dishes until the pizzas were in the oven.  That's when I found out just how many pots, pans, bowls, etc I had been using.  And it doesn't count the two baking sheets in the oven.
Yeah, that took a while.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hearty Pumpkin Soup

It's going to be cool-ish for a couple of days, so I'm making soup.  Hot Santa Ana winds won't be here until the weekend and I'm pretending it's Fall.

There are two ways to make this, the way I did it and the easy way.  I made my own stock and soaked and pre-cooked the beans.  The chicken was from a leftover carcass in the freezer.  Something close to 24 hours for a pot of soup.  On the other hand, you could buy broth, canned beans, and canned chicken and be done with this in about half an hour, so I'm going to post that.  The biggest difference with my version is the salt content.  I've been eating way too much salt.  I did an experiment recently where I only ate food I had prepared and drank plenty of water for a day.  Woke up the next day a pound lighter, and that's including snacks and ice cream.  All salt.

1 qt low-salt chicken broth
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped bite-sized
4 stalks celery, chopped bite-sized
1/2 onion, diced
1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can chunk chicken
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin purée
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1.  Bring broth and bay leaf to a simmer in a large pot.  Add carrots, celery, and onion and simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.

2.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring back up to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No-Plan French Toast

When you look up French Toast recipes online, what you're going to find requires a trip to the grocery store and several days of preparation.  What if you just wake up and decide you want it for breakfast?  That requires all the skill and ingenuity of the average home cook.  It's called dropping bread into an omelet mix.

Any bread will do, even the cheap stuff from the market.  I happen to have some raisin challah in the freezer.  That's as fancy as this gets.

I'm giving the single-serving, one-egg recipe.  (Or 2 small children.)  That makes it easiest to scale up.

1 egg
1/4 C milk
2 slices bread
1 Tb margarine (so you don't have to salt the egg)

1.  Beat the egg in a shallow pan.  I use a pie tin.  Add the milk and beat to combine.  If you want to get creative, you can add spices directly to the egg like cinnamon or nutmeg.
2.  Set bread slices in egg mix.  Go make coffee, or sausage, or something.  In five minutes, flip the bread to let the other side soak up the mix.  Preheat a skillet over medium-low and melt the margarine, even if you're using a non-stick.  It will be creating the browned look on the bread.

3.  Place the bread slices in the skillet and allow them to cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes.  You're cooking this over a lower heat so the outside doesn't burn before the egg on the inside is done.  It's also how I make grilled cheese, so the bread is browned around the time the cheese melts.  I used to throw out any egg that didn't absorb, but they're expensive nowadays, so I just pour it on top of the bread in the skillet.

4.  Turn the bread and cook until browned, about 3 minutes.  Serve hot with powdered sugar and/or syrup.

Serves 1

Difficulty rating  π