Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Saveur on the Lamb October 12, 2009

Filed under: meat,rice — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:28 pm
luscious layers

luscious layers

browned beauty

browned beauty

The current issue of Saveur magazine (October 2009, #123) offers a paean to luscious lamb flesh.  Given my long-standing love of lamb, I had to whip up a sheepy treat to show off Loncito’s grass-fed Texas lamb.  Available at both Sunset Valley Farmers Market and the Austin Farmers Market for $6.50 a pound (ground).

Unabashedly eggplanty, this dish won’t fool any aubergine-loathers.  But if, like me, you can’t get enough of those glossy globes, you’ll enjoy the unctuousity they bring to this casserole.

MOUSSAKA-ESQUE makes a 9″ X 13″ panful    I’d say that’s about a dozen servings

  • 3 good sized local globe eggplants—about 2 pounds.  Hairston Creek Farm is still selling the shiny, inky beauties.
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • plenty of olive oil, organic or local (Texas Olive Ranch)
  • 1/2 pound Kitchen Pride Texas-grown mushrooms, button or cremini cut in half and sliced.  You can find these at local grocery stores and at our farmers markets.
  • 1 pound ground local lamb.  Loncito’s and Premium Lamb will both work.
  • about 1 cup finely chopped onions.  You might be able to find local specimens right now.  I buy organic when my local sources dry up.
  • 1 big red bell pepper or a couple of ripe Anaheims.  I’ve been buying golden Anaheims from Flint Rock Hill lately and they’re sweetly good.
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced. This past Saturday, Morning Glory Farm was still offering local stinking roses.  Otherwise, I buy domestic organic.
  • 1/4 teaspoon or so red pepper flakes, according to your diners’ tolerance
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice—I like to crush this up fresh in a tiny mortar & pestle.
  • 1 cup dry red wine.  Colosi, a delicious red from Sicily, is a good value.  I buy it at Central Market for $11.99 a bottle.
  • 1 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes.  Sprouts is selling Muir Glen for only $2 a can.
  • 1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans.  Westbrae has been on sale at several stores lately, and both CM and WF sell their own brands for a good price.
  • 1/3 cup organic raisins, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 Tablespoons organic butter
  • 6 Tablespoons organic all-purpose flour.  I buy WF 365 organic for the best price.
  • 2 ¼ cups milk.  I buy local goat juice from either Swede Farm Dairy (available at Sunset Valley Farmers Market) or Wateroak Farms (available at SVFM and Whole Foods).
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup yogurt.  I use homemade goat’s milk yogurt.
  • 2 local eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Cut your eggplants into lengthwise 1/3″ slices, cut the slices into strips and cut the strips in half, crosswise, into “batons”.  Toss the eggplant pieces with the turmeric and kosher salt and let sit, re-tossing now and then, while you get the mushrooms prepped.

In a very large—6-quart if you have one—saute pan (non-stick is helpful here) heat up about ¼ ” of olive oil on high heat until the oil starts to shimmer.  If your pan in smaller, fry the eggplant in two batches.  Make the second batch a little smaller than the first because you’ll be adding your mushrooms to it.  Add your eggplant batons to the oil and stir and fry until fairly browned.  Add your mushrooms and continue to stir and cook until the eggplant is tender.  Drain the whole mass in a fine sieve (I use a splatter screen) over a bowl, reserving the oil.

In the same pan, fry the ground lamb over medium-high heat, breaking up the clumps, until browned a bit.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a colander set over a plate or a bowl.  Remove all but a couple of Tablespoons of lamb fat from the pan.  I save this sheep grease in the freezer, to use in flatbreads.  Add the onions and peppers to the pan and saute on medium heat until softened.  Add the garlic and spices, through the allspice, and saute a minute.  Pour in the wine and simmer for a couple minutes.  Chop up the eggplant and mushroom mixture and add to the pan.  Add the next three ingredients, plus salt and pepper to taste (at least 1½ teaspoons salt) and cook on medium-low until thickened.  The timing will vary depending on the size of your pan, but expect at least 15 minutes of simmering.

In a 2-quart saucepan or saute pan (I like the larger surface area of the latter), melt the butter on medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook a couple minutes, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Pour in the milk gradually but steadily, whisking all the while.  Add your bay leaf and simmer, whisking frequently, until well-thickened and smooth, a few minutes.  Remove from heat, and let cool a few minutes.  Meanwhile, stir together the eggs and yogurt with a fork.  Season your white sauce with salt and pepper and the nutmeg, discard the bay leaf and whisk in the yogurt mixture.

Preheat your oven to 400º.  Brush some of the reserved olive oil (I save the rest, refrigerated, to saute veggies and lube up quesadillas) all over the inside and top edges of a 9″ X 13″ baking pan.  Spread the cooked rice on the bottom and top with the lamb mixture, spreading it evenly to the sides.  Depending on the depth and exact dimensions of your pan, you may find it quite full.  If you can’t safely pour in the bechamel (white sauce) without an overflow, remove a portion of the rice and meat.  You can feed the excess to the baby or the cook, whoever’s hungriest.  Carefully pour the white sauce all over the lamb mixture.  It’s OK if your bechamel brushes the top edge of the pan.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the sauce, place the pan on a baking sheet (to catch any possible overflow) and bake for 30 -50 minutes, until browned and bubbling all the way into the center.  Cooking time will vary depending on the temperature of your components.

Let the casserole cool for at least 20 minutes, to allow the layers to coalesce, before serving.



Caked Crusader

Filed under: cake,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:17 pm
sweetly sprinkled with sugar dust

sweetly sprinkled with sugar dust

I recently ordered Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s brand new Heavenly Cakes book.  Although it’s yet to arrive, I’m already excitedly caking.  Here’s my newest cake recipe.  A full two-thirds whole grain, this formula nevertheless yields a soft and light layer, perfect with a touch of spice, or a blanket of buttercream.

LIGHT OATY LAYER CAKE makes one 9″ round

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) organic butter, softened but cool.  I like Organic Valley.
  • 200 grams (1 cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand costs $2.99 for a two-pound bag.  If you do Costco, Wholesome Sweeteners 10# bag sells there for only $7.79.
  • rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 local eggs. Crack ’em, blend them a little with a fork and bring ’em to room temperature for a while.
  • 56 grams (about ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon) organic oat flour.  I use Arrowhead Mills.  I don’t recommend grinding your own from oats for this recipe.
  • 56 grams (½ cup) organic whole wheat flour
  • 56 grams (about ½ cup minus 2 teaspoons) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods usually offers the best price on their 365 brand.
  • 1 teaspoon plus a heaping ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup local milk–I love Swede Farm Dairy and Wateroak Farm goat milks, both available at Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  Whole Foods sells Wateroak Farm as well.  Take the milk out ahead to take the chill off.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional spicing (whisk into dry ingredients):  ¾  teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/16 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat your oven to 350º and grease up your 9″ round pan–you’ll need at least a 2″ deep vessel for this batter.  Lately I’ve just been oiling my pans with organic virgin coconut oil (use a brush or even your fingertips).  Makes ’em smell like a bakery.  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of waxed paper, parchment or a reusable non-stick liner and dust the pan with flour.  I like the non-stick liners.  I bought two pair of rounds (8″ and 9″) at Big Lots years ago and I just throw them into the (clothes) washing machine to clean them.  Air dry them, of course!

Using a stand mixer (my recommendation), hand mixer or wooden spoon if you’re up for a workout, cream the sugar gradually into the butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy.  For the lightest texture in your finished cake, don’t undermix.  With your mixing apparatus running, gradually beat in the eggs, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary to homogenize the ingredients.  Whip for half a minute to blend up the batter light and smooth.  Using a lower mixing  speed, add the flour mixture in three parts alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl and blend the mixture together with your flexible spatula before turning out into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick or bamboo skewer (washable and reusable!) inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, but not raw, wet batter.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes before carefully running a metal spatula around the edge to loosen the sides, and unmolding the cake.  If I’m not frosting the layer, I usually prefer to re-right the cake and serve it top side up.  When I’m frosting or glazing a cake, I often choose to show off the flatly perfect bottom.  You choose!


Whole Foods Coupons October 8, 2009

Filed under: coupons,whole foods — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:08 am

Picked up the Whole Foods whole deal coupon newsletter recently (it’s available at the store).  Coupons I’ll be redeeming include: 75¢ OFF any Dagoba or Scharffenberger product, 75¢ OFF any Thai Kitchen product (I frequently use their fish sauce), $1 OFF any Green & Black’s product—I LOVE their 70% dark chocolate bar, $1 OFF any Organic Valley butter, $1 OFF any two Organic Valley cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, ricotta or whipped butter, 75¢ OFF Organic Valley whipping cream or ½-n-½, and possibly $2 OFF Spectrum organic olive oil.  Get more green for your green!


Focaccia in the Rye October 6, 2009

Filed under: bread,bread machine — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:45 pm
baking wryly

baking wryly

Craving a heartier rendition of that Italian flatbread?  I’m crazy for the taste of rye.  Some folks claim they don’t like rye bread, but usually they just don’t care for caraway (which I think is yummy, too!).  For all you rye lovers, here’s a focacci’er fer ya.

FOCACCIA IN THE RYE makes one 12″ round

  • generous 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.  I buy this in bulk at WF.
  • 1 teaspoon local honey.  Central Market sells Good Flow in bulk.  I always bring my own jar.  The staff can tare the weight for you.
  • 1 teaspoon organic or local (Texas Olive Ranch) olive oil, plus more for tossing your onions and shaping your dough.  For cooking and baking, I like the price of CM’s organic oil.
  • 130 grams (about 1 cup plus a scant ¼ cup) organic whole grain rye flour.  I use Arrowhead Mills.
  • 70 grams ( about 2/3 cup) organic white whole wheat flour.  Whole Foods sells the 5# bag of King Arthur brand.
  • 100 grams(about ¾ cup plus 1 ½ Tablespoons) organic all-purpose flour.  WF 365 organic brand is usually the best buy.
  • 1 teaspoon bread machine yeast.  Also labeled rapid rise or instant.
  • 2/3 cup chopped mixed olives.
  • 1 quarter of a large red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano.  Right now, through tomorrow, Sprouts (in Sunset Valley on Brodie Lane) is offering reggiano for only $11.99 a pound.  Stock up!  Other cheeses will work here.  Try gruyere, pecorino romano, and aged goudas or goat goudas.  Venture to your favorite cheese counter and try some new quesos.

I use the bread machine to mix this dough and give it the first rise.  For my machine the wet ingredients go in first, then the flours, and finally, the yeast is poured in last.  I make sure the yeast isn’t touching any wet ingredients.  Set the machine to the “DOUGH” cycle and go about your business.  Usually, on most machines, a beeper will sound about 20 minutes after the mixing begins.  You can add chunky ingredients, such as your olives, at this time.  Or you can  wait until you form the dough and poke your olives into the top, where they’ll cook up more discernibly.

If you’re not using a bread machine, you can mix and knead the dough by hand.  Rye flour yields a heavy, sticky, mortar-like dough (but bakes up crisp and springy!) that’s not exactly a pleasure to work by hand.  You won’t achieve a smooth and bouncy ball, just aim for getting it all mixed and worked together very well.  Let rise 1½ hours to 2 hours.  It’ll look messy.

When your dough has risen, grease up a 12″ wide and 1″ or so deep, parchment-lined pan with olive oil.  Make sure your baking stone is on the bottom rack of your oven and start heating it up to 400º.

Using olive oil, grease up your hands very well and place the dough into the pan.  Lacking elastic cohesion, the sticky mass will resist your efforts to relocate it in one piece.  Use a spatula or a dough scraper and persist.  Once in the pan, the dough will settle down more cooperatively.  Re-lube your hands with about a Tablespoon of olive oil and pat the dough out flat, pressing up on the edges to make a bit of a lip around the perimeter.  The putty-like dough should give in easily at this point.

Poke your olives into the dough, if adding them now.  Oil up your onion slices and arrange them on top—children might like to help out and create a flower design or silly face on the surface.  Sprinkle the whole thing with however much freshly cracked black pepper your young’uns can take, and top it off with the cheese.  Let rise for 45 minutes.

Place the pan of dough on the baking stone and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and raise heat to 425º.  Using potholders and a large spatula, carefully lift the focaccia out of the pan, sans parchment, and place it directly on the baking stone.  Bake for another 4 or 5 minutes, until well-browned and crisp-bottomed.  Place on a cooling rack and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.  This bread doesn’t last long enough at our house to cool off too much!


Living in the Lima Light October 5, 2009

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:53 pm
love those limas

love those limas

All this talk of Tarka has got me itchin’ for Indian food.  Not that I ever need an excuse.  The new down south Clay Pit outpost serves casual sub-continent cuisine close to my home.  Hopefully our family will dine there soon.  Until then, seeing as how I discovered a bag of Whole Foods 365 organic lima beans way in the back  of the freezer, we’ll make do with this adaptation of Yamuna Devi‘s recipe from Lord Krishna’s Cuisine (The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking). If you’re into Indian cooking, this incredible tome, despite its meatlessness, instructs indispensably on the incredible variety and breadth of that diverse and ancient country’s gastronomy.

This recipe is quick and easy.  Don’t let all my notes scare you off!

INDIAN STYLE LIMA BEANS serves a couple of me, maybe several of you

  • 1 pound bag of frozen organic lima beans.  WF 365 brand is a good value.
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt.  I use Diamond Brand.
  • 2 generous Tablespoons very good butter such as Texas’ own Lucky Layla (best price usually at WF) or Organic Valley Pasture butter.
  • a few shallots—YES!  I found some this weekend at the Austin Farmers Market—sliced into thin rings or crescents, depending on size.
  • 3 teaspoons turbinado sugar or 1 largish lump of jaggery (about the size of a smallish, in-shell pecan).  If using jaggery, carefully cut it up a bit.
  • 3/8 teaspoon paprika—use a little cayenne if the kids aren’t around.
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/8 teaspoon yellow mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.  I buy Real Salt in bulk at WF.  Don’t forget to bring your own container.  They’ll tare the weight at the info desk.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic lemon juice.  You can also use lime juice.  I have yet to find organic limes “out of stock” at Newflower Market.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic raisins, chopped up a bit.  I buy my plump and tasty dried grapes from Central Market’s bulk section.  Bring your own bag.  Don’t forget that you can run most of your plastic food bags right through the clothes washing machine—but not the dryer—for easy reusing.
  • a handful of chopped, compatible local fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill, or parsley, if available

Bring your water and kosher salt to a boil in a large saucepan.  Dump in the frozen beans, bring back to a boil and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes.  Drain the beans, reserving the liquid.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and saute the shallots for just a minute.  Add the beans back with about a half cup of the cooking water, plus the remaining ingredients except the herbs.  Cook, uncovered, over medium to medium low heat until beans are glazed and tender enough for you.  Stir in the herbs, if you have some, and serve soon for the plushest presentation.  The beans glow their glossiest immediately after preparation, although they’ll still taste great later.

Save the rest of the cooking liquid for your next batch of home cooked beans or soup.  It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple days.  Freeze for longer storage.


Quick Coffee Cake and bonus

Filed under: cake,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:46 am

a few sliced almonds never hurt a coffee cake

a few sliced almonds never hurt a coffee cake

dainty dessert

Dainty Dessert—see below

Maybe you don’t have small children running underfoot and you had the time and energy to capture our summer (and spring!) by putting up some sweet and/or savory preserves.  What with all our strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and peaches and melons, figs, and dates—and now apples and pears, you can stock your pantry with jars of the joys of seasons past.  Or you can just purchase your jams and jellies.  That’s what I do these days.  Hairston Creek Farm reliably  offers a consistent inventory of seasonally canned condiments.  Vendors at both farmers markets make preserves, so you can enjoy numerous jarred options.   When I retire from parenting (does that happen?), I’ll be puttin’ up my own.

Whether you cooked it up yourself or purchased it, a jar of spreadable sweetness in the cupboard can help deliver dessert in a jiffy.

QUICK COFFEE CAKE makes one 9″ round cake

  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) organic butter, softened.  Sprouts (on Brodie in Sunset Valley) is selling Organic Valley for $4.99 a pound right now.
  • 116 grams (about 1 cup) organic white whole wheat flour.  I use King Arthur brand.  Whole Foods usually has the best flour prices.
  • 35 grams (about 1/4 cup ) organic cornmeal.  Fine ground white cornmeal lends a delicate taste.
  • 50 grams (about 1/2 cup minus 2 teaspoons) organic all-purpose flour.  I like the price on WF 365 brand 5# bag.
  • 200 grams (1 cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s organic brand sells for $2.99 for a 2# bag.
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 160 grams (2/3 cup) homemade 1/2-n-1/2 yogurt or light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or homemade vanilla brandy
  • 2 eggs, preferably local
  • 1/2 cup local preserves.  Peach is especially tasty here.
  • 1/2 cup chopped lightly toasted Texas pecans.  For the cake pictured, I threw on a few toasted sliced almonds, too.

Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease and flour a 9″ X 3″ round pan.  I prefer a loose-bottomed pan for this cake.  Lining  the bottom with a round of waxed paper is a good idea here.

Combine dry ingredients, through salt, in a bowl with a whisk.  Stir about 3 Tablespoons (don’t bother to measure) yogurt or sour cream and extract into the eggs.  Combine flour mixture, butter, and remaining yogurt in a mixer bowl and beat on medium speed for 90 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add egg mixture to batter in three parts, beating for 20 seconds after each addition and scraping the bowl in between.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the preserves evenly over the batter.  It’s OK if your marmalade marbles into the batter a bit.  Top with the pecans.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until the cake tests done.  Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes before loosening the sides and unmolding (or carefully inverting onto a plate or rack and then re-righting the cake). Let cool as long as you can stand it.  Dig in!


I recently baked this cake, sans topping (it will cook quicker,btw) and filled and frosted it.  I split the cooled cake into two slim layers and filled it with a jar (6 ounces) of fragrant French violet and lavender jelly that I had purchased in a previous lifetime.  Then I covered the cake with a thin coating of leftover vanilla buttercream I had stashed in the freezer (where it keeps quite well, wrapped up in plastic wrap and plopped into an airtight container).  You could use almost any sweet preserves you have on hand, and top your torte with a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze (powdered sugar mixed with lemon juice, milk, cream or water plus vanilla to taste).  A lovely dessert.


Fastest Pizza Sauce and Pizza 1.5—Equals Three October 2, 2009

Filed under: bread machine,pizza — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:07 am


Thursday is Pizza Day at our house.  As I usually don’t work on Thursdays, I frequently make our pizzas.  I like to concoct “sauces” based on whatever ingredients we have on hand, so that could mean anything from spinach and toasted pecan or almond pesto, Texas mushroom duxelles, or simply sauteed seasonal veggies, minced or pureed.  Roasted tomatoes, if discovered hiding in the fridge, will also make their way onto the pizzas, but typically topically, and not as a spread.  Though the family always seems to relish our pies, I do wonder if my 5-year-old wishes sometimes for pizza with a “normal” sauce!

Necessity’s sister, expediency, being the mother of slap-dashery (what kind of family is this?), led to a recent Thursday’s time-crunched pizza sauce.

FASTEST PIZZA SAUCE makes enough to slather three 12″ pies

  • one 6-ounce can organic tomato paste.  I use Muir Glen.  If you sign up for their “Connoisseurs Club,” you will receive a coupon offer immediately.
  • one 14.5 ounce can organic diced tomatoes, well drained (use a sieve).  Muir Glen’s Fire-Roasted are my favorite, but right now  Sprouts is selling 28-ounce cans of Muir Glen organic love apples, assorted varieties (but not fire-roasted) for $1.99.  Use half a can’s worth.
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
  • a couple teaspoons of olive oil, Texas Olive Ranch or organic.
  • a teaspoon or so of dried oregano.  If you’ve got the time and resources for fresh herbs, go right ahead and triple the quantities.
  • a teaspoon or so of dried basil.
  • a 1/4 teaspoon or so dried thyme.
  • 1, 2, 3, 4 or more cloves of garlic, minced or pressed.  Use local if you have some.  Organic domestic is my next choice.

Stir everything together.  That’s it.  Now you’ve got a “regular” pizza sauce.  If you have a spare minute or two, you can warm up the olive oil in a very small skillet and bloom the seasonings (don’t do this to fresh basil) to bring out their fragrance.

Because I send my kindergartner to school every Friday with leftover pizza slices, and because the baby is growing and eating more, AND I’m still fully lactating, two pizzas no longer suffice.  Now I must pizz’er in triplicate.  I offer here the new formula for three crusts.  See my pizza post for complete directions.

PIZZA DOUGH makes enough for three 12″ crusts

  • generous 1 1/3 cups water
  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano or Italian herb blend
  • ¾  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turbinado sugar or local honey
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil, Texas Olive Ranch or organic
  • 450 grams flour–I use about 225 grams organic white whole wheat and 225 grams organic bread flour or all-purpose flour.  This is approximately 3¾ cups total flour.
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons instant (bread machine or rapid-rise) yeast

Of course you’ll be dividing the dough into three pieces, instead of two.  Now there’s enough.