Archive for the 'food' Category

01
Feb
08

My Green Heaven

P1020990

I love greens. They are fine sauteed in olive oil with a little garlic and served over warm cannellini beans, but they speak most eloquently to me when they are stewed in pork stock.

In the interest of preserving present friendships and laying the groundwork for new ones, I will assume that the thought of me using pork as a seasoning does not makes you glow with a feeling of superiority.

Buying greens, preparing them, and cooking them makes me almost as happy as eating them. You can buy decent ones prepackaged in stores now, but fondling a gigantic pile of bright and tender leaves is an awesome way to ward of the vampirish gray of Indiana’s winter, so why not buy fresh? I found this outstanding mix of collards, turnip greens, and lacinato kale at Sunflower Market (closing soon, by the way). Aren’t they beautiful?

P1020994

Six pounds will make plenty for sharing.

Washing (got to get the grit off) and then trimming the yellowed areas, stems and the thicker ribs from the middle of leaves takes awhile, so I prefer to prepare greens for cooking a day in advance. Wait any longer and they start to lose their punch. I wrap the clean leaves loosely in paper towels and put them in plastic bags in the refrigerator where they keep just fine.

While I’m groping the greens, I put a pound of slab bacon, unsliced if you can find it (Goose the Market has the prettiest I’ve ever seen) in two quarts of water to boil. Score the hunk-o-meat deeply before putting it in. Let the bacon boil for about 45 minutes. If it’s good bacon, the smoky awesome smell will kick even more winter booty!

Don’t you worry about all that fat going into your greens. Once you cook the flavor out of the bacon, discard it or give some of it to a favorite animal in your life (See, now your even making the pets happy!). Store the stock in a cold place over night. The fat will congeal and you can just skim most of it off before putting even one beautiful leaf in the pot. Since I like mine to have a bit of a sheen, I leave in a little of the fat.

When you’re ready to cook the greens, get the skinny pork broth good and hot, a low boil is fine. Cut the collard greens into one inch wide strips. Lay them in the hot water and put the lid on so they can start cooking down. I put the collards (the bigger leaves in the picture above) in before the other greens because they are typically less tender and take a little longer to cook.

While the collards are cooking down, tear the other more tender leaves into similar sized shapes by hand, stirring the cooking collards occasionally. Then put the other greens in and put the lid back on. Once all of the leaves are all coated and turned in the stock, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the greens slowly, covered, for 30 more minutes or a little longer if they started out tough. Stir them every once in awhile. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of sugar in there some where along the way.

I like my greens to taste like greens, but season them with salt if needed (probably won’t be) or other herbs and spices. Adding a dash of tangy heat is traditional in the south. When I have it, I sprinkle some pepper flavored cider vinegar on them. Tabasco will do in a pinch.

Serve those babies warm with just about anything. Greens get along with all kinds of food. I would be just as happy to eat them with Kung Pao Pork as I was when we had them with our fried chicken last week. They can easily be a main course, too, if you have good cornbread, biscuits or the crusty bread John has been making lately.

25
Jan
08

In Search Of– White Stone Ground Grits in Indy

I want to make grits with shrimp paste as an appetizer (Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis recipe here) this weekend, but I can’t find any stone ground white grits around here, only yellow ones, which are polenta. I’m sure the yellow grits would be fine, but I think the white grits would make a smooth textural and more neutral backdrop for the shrimp. Not sure that the yellow kind would work as well. Plus, and I know it sounds provincial, I never ate yellow grits growing up.

I should probably give Wild Oats a call, and I welcome advice from Hoosiers. I tried O’Malia’s downtown and Sunflower Market in Broad Ripple. If I can’t find the white ones, should I go ahead and make the yellow ones? I already bought the shrimp.

Update: This story has a very happy ending. Chris at Goose – The Market on Delaware was able to hook me up with some white stone ground grits. They were the creamiest, smoothest grits I’ve ever had. A little butter and a little cream – a lot of stirring, like 1 hour and 20 minutes- and a spoonful of a buttery shrimp mixture (see recipe link above) made those grits supreme. Totally worth the trouble. Thanks Chris!

21
Jan
08

Edna Lewis and My Future Fortune

Edna Lewis

My grandparents were Arkansas farmers from Center Hill who raised supreme examples of everything – tomatoes, corn, peas and greens of all kinds, okra, watermelons, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and apricots, even peanuts. You get the picture. And this doesn’t even begin to describe my Mamaw’s flower garden, an acre of texture and color that might have illustrated the lushest of seed catalogues.

My grandparents’ garden at Center Hill was special, but it wasn’t an uncommon sight in that part of the world. A lot of my friends had similar garden experiences when they visited their families. At the time I never thought about what it would be like not to have a family farm. I was too busy moaning as I sat on an overturned milk crate beneath the blazing sun to anyone within earshot about having to pick what seemed like enough strawberries to fill a box car (as my great-grandmother would happily pick row after row while standing bent at the waist).

I also didn’t realize that my Missionary Baptist grandparents and their place were part of a budding organic movement back in the 1970s that had at least a philosophical connection to Alice Waters and her seminal Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, where the mantra, now more powerful than ever, was that food should be locally grown, seasonal, organic and beautiful.

On the other side of the continent in 1973, by then living in New York and calling Richard Avedon and Truman Capote long-time friends, Virginia-born Edna Lewis was writing a book I’m now reading called A Taste of Country Cooking, a memoir/ cookbook of Southern food that unconsciously extolled the virtues of, you guessed it, locally grown, seasonal, organic and beautiful food; oh, and lard.

As I read Lewis’s book I feel a nagging sense of having been cheated out of my organic food birthright. Somehow, from their outpost in White County, AR, my grandparents were swept up by the early winds of that movement–composting (God help us if we tried to throw a way a tomato peel in the presence of my grandmother), minimally invasive pest treatments, and award-winning produce to show for it. Like a Mughal prince, I was rich beyond my wildest dreams but had no idea because it was all I’d ever known.

For me, calling Lewis’s Taste a cookbook sort of misses the point, since much of my fascination with it comes from glimpsing a year in the life of a Virginia farmer’s daughter, the grand-daughter of a freed slave. Why not make the focus of a book about a day in the life from that time and place about food, since sustaining a family essentially revolved around growing it, preparing it and eating it.

Edna Lewis died last year. She left this world very well. In her later years she met a young chef from Alabama named Scott Peacock, now the beloved head chef at Atlanta’s Watershed restaurant. I say young. Like me, he’s in his 40s, and since I still feel young I declare that he is, too. For her final seven years Miss Lewis, as he called her, lived with Scott in Atlanta, deepening what sounds like a profound friendship and cooking up a storm.

Together they wrote one of my favorite books, The Gift of Southern Cooking, in which wonderful things result from the intermingling of generations and the respect Miss Lewis and Scott show for people, place and the best quality seasonal ingredients. I know from experience that folks who love people and cooking that much typically also create incredibly tasty food.

I am keenly aware that I have much more in this life than I will ever deserve, but I must confess that reading about Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s work and life together gives me a hopeful and greedy sense that someday I will be rich again, the way I used to be.

15
Jan
08

New Years Eve and a 1K Week

I checked my stats yesterday and noticed that Good Home had over 1,000 hits in a week for the first time ever (that’s a lot for my blog). It was the week of New Years, so to celebrate I thought I’d share a pic or two from our New Years celebration.

New Years Eve Dinner

We stayed home New Years Eve. Linda and Jim, and John’s brother Ben and our sister-in-law, Lise came over and we cooked non-stop from 6:00 to 9:00 when we finally ate. We had the best time. Lise and Ben brought divinity and pecan rolls they’d made with Lise’s mom. Linda and Jim brought steaks as thick as your arm for us to cook. John and Ben made Steak Au Poivre, which is steak coated with cracked peppercorns; seared, then laced with a flaming cream sauce. I think its either a Jacque or Julia recipe. If enough people say that want it (I don’t know how many meat lovers I have reading), I’ll see if he will write it down for me to post. Steak lovers can die without regret once they’ve eaten it.

I love this picture of Ben and John stoking up the cream sauce. We love fire in the kitchen.

Heh, Heh, Fire

Linda recreated a salad from a description Ben and Lise gave her of one they ate a restaurant in Dallas. Ben, what was that place called? It had candied pecans and blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. I think apples, too. We improvised the candied pecans, which were tasty as snacks. I keep thinking one day I’ll make a huge batch and give bags of them out as Christmas gifts.

Since we were eating hunks of meat the size of dinosaurs, and pan fried potatoes, too, I roasted pears for dessert, a simple and light recipe I adapted from one we heard on NPR’s Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetta Kasper (She doesn’t know it, but I claim Lynne as my radio girlfriend. I love her.). The recipe is below. It’s easy and pretty, too. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures.

Everyone left by 11:30 p.m. and we were snug in bed by 12:00. A perfect New Years Eve!

Roasted Pears

Adapted from Sally Schneider’s book The Improvisational Cook. Sally recommends using lemon juice (instead of orange juice), and didn’t include the orange zest, but oranges were what I had. I’m sure the lemon version is very good, too, but the orange wasn’t bad if I say so myself. And the zest is pretty.

Serves 6

6 not-quite-ripe pears such as Comice, Seckel or Bartlett, halved (with stems left), peeled
and cored, except for stem (The stem looks nice and I think helps hold things
together.)
Juice from one fresh orange
Zest from one fresh orange
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Butter
Balsamic vinegar (Optional, but I highly recommend it, especially if you use orange juice. The tanginess will spice things up a little.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F
2. Arrange pears, cut side down, in a baking dish. Drizzle with fresh orange juice. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp knife or a small spoon then mix the seeds with some granulated sugar and the orange zest. Sprinkle lots of the orange-vanilla sugar on the pears. Dot with butter.
3. Roast the pears until caramelized, for about 40 to 50 minutes turning them over half way through baking. (I actually guessed on this time, the recipe doesn’t really say how long to bake them.) Baste pears with liquefied sugar mixture before returning them to the oven. If desired, just before serving, drizzle a few drops of fine aged balsamic vinegar on the pears.

Serve one or two pear halves with a scoop or two of good vanilla ice cream. Drizzle the sugar mixture from the pan onto the ice cream and pears. Orange peel makes a pretty garnish.

14
Jan
08

Good Lard! A Better Biscuit

Okay, since November I’ve continued to play with my biscuit recipe and process. So here is a better and more convenient version of my earlier recipe.

After reading some historic cookbooks I decided to try lard as the fat instead of butter and shortening, and I must admit, it made a big difference in texture and form (rose higher and was easier to handle). Tasted just as good, too.

To make things easier I pre-measured my own “self-rising” biscuit mix, which basically means I stir together 2 cups flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 scant tsp. salt together and put the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator until I am ready to bake. The refrigerator keeps the ingredients cool, which is a plus when baking biscuits. I’m also keeping my lard there, too.

So here is what biscuit making looks like for me now.

What you’ll need (plus you’ll need a biscuit cutter, which I forgot to put in the picture):

What You Need for Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450.Dump pre-measured dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a couple of times just to mix them. Then scoop out 5 tbs. of lard and put those into with the dry mix.

Adding Lard</

Pulse the dry ingredients and lard until it looks like this, more or less no lard lumps bigger than a pea.

Texture with Lard Cut In

Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and pour a scant cup of plain yogurt on top (you can also use buttermilk, but this is what I had). Then mix it with a fork or spoon until the mixture comes together to make a shaggy dough that looks like this:

Shaggy Dough

If the mix is too dry to come together, add a tablespoon or two more yogurt.Dusting

Dust flour onto your kneading surface (John bought this handy skimmer that works really well for dusting). Dump your dough onto the surface and knead it no more than 10 times. To avoid handling the dough too much (and sticky fingers), you can use a bench scraper to fold the dough onto itself.

Layering Dough

I love the bench scraper. It also helps with cleaning the flour off of the counter later. Add a little more flour to the surface and your hands if the dough is too sticky.

Roll or flatten dough with your hands until it is about ¾ inch thick. The marble pastry roller stays cool (thanks for the tip, Beth!) and because it is heavy only requires a few strokes to get to the dough to the right thickness.

If you want biscuits that rise in the oven, cut them with a sharp, stiff, straight-sided biscuit cutter. Dip the cutter in flour and then push straight down on the dough with no twisting. I finally broke down and bought some good biscuit cutters at William Sonoma. Oh, and once a biscuit is cut, gently place it on the ungreased baking sheet – no shaping the biscuit to make it more round, or whatever, since that will gum up the sides and keep it from rising evenly. (I had a few biscuits that rose on one side and not other because I was too handsy.)

Brush the tops of the unbaked biscuits with milk or melted butter. I used melted butter this time. (John got me this silicone brush for Christmas and I love it – no more bristles on my food and MUCH easier to clean).

Brushing with butter

Pop those babies in the oven (middle rack) and don’t open the door until the tops are good and brown (ovens are different, so times are different). 8-10 minutes? While biscuits are baking, put together a mix of the dry ingredients and put them back in the refrigerator so they’ll be ready for next time.The finished biscuits should look something like this:

Biscuits

Nothing healthy about lard, but it sure made for some flake-tastic biscuits. Oh, and if you can, buy lard where people buy lard frequently so you know you are getting fresh stuff. Our nearby Hispanic grocery replenishes its stock often. My friends in Indy and in Arkansas shouldn’t have to worry too much about whether the lard at their stores is fresh. If you live in New England, you may want to check the date.

17
Dec
07

Claire’s Big Day

It was a big day for Claire.

She sat for her Christmas picture.
Cliche Pet with Santa Hat Photo

She went to her friend Barney’s to play.

Ready for Action

And play.

Claire and Barney

And play.

Claire and Barney

She wondered why were weren’t playing.Claire

Then she came home and ate a third of the birthday cake I made to give Karen at work (sorry, Karen). Evidently Claire’s tongue doubles as a surgical knife.

Claire's Leftovers

She had a nice rest in her crate while I yelled at her. She told herself over and over again, “it was worth it, it was worth it, it was worth it” and “man, that was a good day!”

Hiding Out

She’s fine by the way, no “chocolate poisoning” or whatever dogs are supposed to get when they eat chocolate. Though she may be coming down with a case of “owner’s foot up dog’s ass” soon.

13
Dec
07

Booze and Cookies 2007

Linda (John’s mom) said she thought the cookies this year were the best ever, which is high praise. It wasn’t the largest number of cookies we’ve ever made at Booze and Cookies* (I think about 32 dozen came out of the oven), but having fun is probably a better measure of success. As long as we have enough to munch on during the party and a few left over to have with coffee for the next week, I think most people are happy.

It was fun walking around seeing the random acts associated with baking – like Jennie putting the boxes together.

Shellin' Snicker Bars

Lori, a first-timer brought a peanut butter dough to wrap around small pieces of Snicker bars (what Jennifer and Jennie are doing here. Jennie prides herself on making perfect spheres). The final result was a warm, soft, chewy wonder. To prep them, the candy bars had to be unwrapped and cut. We referred to the process as “shelling the Snickers.” It was a porch activity.

Team Kifle was full of brave, new folks this year, but Lora, Scott (can’t see him here), and Katie were naturals. Rob (aka Titanium) added his cool to the dough from a distance.

Team Kiefle 2007

BTW, we tried using a tortilla press to flatten the Kiefle dough, and it worked pretty well until we broke the press and had to go back to smashing by hand (more fun anyway, imo).

The Arkansas and Ohio contingency changed into Griswald-ish Christmas clothes mid-party and ducked outside for a surprise caroling at the door. When someone came to get me for the show I was so overwhelmed by kitsch my knees buckled and I nearly swallowed my tongue. Look at how ‘neck J.’s leather hat is, especially nice with his beard.

Ugly Sweater Carolers

Red Shoes

I have to say Felley’s festive bell choir vest (above) is a close style second though. Even funnier to me is that the vest actually belongs to Jennie. She has to wear it during bell choir performances at her church (You know some sweet woman made a whole set of them.)

Normally the party starts around 12:30 and winds down around 5:00. But this year Tommy snuck back into the kitchen around 5:30 and started Date Cookies and Kolaski, two cookies that haven’t worked out too well for us in the past. Clever Tommy figured out a key ingredient was missing from the recipe (butter), and this time they turned out great!

Beating Kolaski Dough

John and J. pitched in to help Tommy, along with Jennie and David in the kitchen. We ended up with two great bonus batches. In the picture above it looks like Tommy is gold-bricking, but I can testify that the man was baking up a storm, especially once he got his second wind. We may not have made the most cookies this year, but I think we can safely say that we baked as long as we ever have.

My favorite action shot of the day:Happy Baker

*B and C is actually its unofficial name. John’s mom refers to it as “The cookie bake.” It started with John’s mom as she baked cookies for her family. Her three sons were home from college one year. As they helped her in the kitchen, the boys mixed a few cocktails to liven things up a little and, voila! The cookies got even better.