Savor The Earth

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Texas Cookie Cookin’ February 28, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert,easy,locavore — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:47 pm

Texas cookies

Now that I’ve discovered the technique of sifting most of the bran out of Richardson Farms locally grown, fresh-ground whole wheat flour (see Texas Bread) I’m really on a roll.  Or a cookie.  Here’s a crunchy, buttery Texas cookie filled with local pecans.  Easier than pie, a batch bakes up ’bout as fast as you can eat ’em.  Tell your sweet tooth to go local!

TEXAS WHEAT AND PECAN COOKIES makes about 3 dozen

  • 8 ounces (about 1 2/3 cup) sifted Richardson Farms flour (most of the bran removed)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder, sieved.  I use Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda, sieved
  • 6 ounces local or organic butter, cut up.  Organic Valley‘s my standard.  Click for a coupon. Look for Lucky Layla (that’ll make a very rich cookie!) at Central Market or Way Back When at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and Elevated Artisanal at the Austin Farmers Market.
  • zest of one well-scrubbed Texas orange (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 152 grams (¾ cup) organic brown sugar.  CM’s brand sells for $2.99 for a 1½ pound bag.
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) organic sugar.  Costco has cornered the market on Wholesome Sweeteners 10-pound bag for only $7.77.  Otherwise, CM’s 2-pound bag still sells for $2.99.
  • 1 local egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  I like Nielsen-Massey.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand usually sells for the best price.  I buy the big ole quart bottle.
  • 2 2/3 cups Texas pecan pieces.  At the downtown farmers market, Star J Farms sells a 3-pound bag of sweet nuts for $22.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cream the butter with the next four ingredients (including optional zest) until well blended.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and vinegar.  Stir in the flour mixture and pecans until well-mixed.

Drop dough by 2-Tablespoonfuls (a spring-loaded scoop works great here) onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet (I use If You Care brand), spacing cookies about 3″ apart.  Bake for about 14 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking, until browning around the edges.  Cool on pans on cooling rack for 5 minutes.  Place cookies on racks to finish cooling.

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Cabbages! February 26, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:11 pm

eat your veggies!

The kindergartner’s basketball schedule keeps interfering with our farmers market visits.  The little hotshot’s worth it though, and luckily we can pick up Texas produce at the grocery store.  Central Market is still selling Cora Lamar’s triple-washed spinach, Kitchen Pride mushrooms, and Texas greens, herbs, sweet potatoes, citrus and the occasional leek bunch.  Just this afternoon we purchased Texas-grown broccoli (not always widely available, even in season) from Whole Foods.

Here’s an easy, exotic but accessible, inexpensive and quick stir fry to take advantage of Texas cabbage, readily found right now.

INDIAN-INFLUENCED CABBAGE STIR-FRY

  • one quarter of a medium (’bout 3-pound) Texas green cabbage.  You can find these at our local grocery stores as well as farmers markets.
  • ½ teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons high smoke point oil.  I like Spectrum‘s organic peanut oil.
  • about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste.  I use Diamond Crystal.

Cut the cabbage wedge in half (so you have two eighths!) and slice each wedge into ¼” or finer shreds.  Place the spices in a large (12″) skillet (NOT nonstick) and get it going over high heat.  You’re dry toasting the spices here.  The mustard seeds will lighten color, wiggle and pop as they roast and the cumin seeds will darken and develop a toasted aroma.  When the spices are as roasty as you like—you can take them all the way to black if you dig that bitter edge—add the oil, followed quickly by the cabbage.  Stir fry until the cabbage picks up some brown spots.  You’ll smell the Maillard and the tantalizing caramelization taking place.  Add the salt and continue to stir fry until the cabbage is as wilted as you please.  Serve.

 

Texas Bread February 25, 2010

Filed under: bread,bread machine,locavore,rice — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:25 pm

100% wild-cultured sourdough leavened

local loaf

Texas slice

I recently read about Carla Crownover‘s “No Grocery Store Challenge for a Year” on the Austin Farm to Table blog.  Inspired by her quest for bread, I began developing a 100% wild cultured sourdough starter with Richardson Farms locally-grown, fresh-ground whole wheat flour.  I succeeded in baking up two small, but well-risen loaves, sweet(!) and tasting nuttily of fresh wheat.  I strengthened the dough with organic white flour for my wild starter’s virgin attempt at leavening, intending to advance to a 100% naturally leavened, 100% whole wheat loaf next.

Despite the confidence-building rise of these initial breads, however, the light bulb part of my brain flickered and I thought, why not just sift out most of the bran from my whole wheat flour?  The sharp edges of the bran particles slice into the dough’s gluten strands, reducing volume and creating a denser texture.  Less bran=lighter loaf (not factoring in additives ).  Plus, according to BBC’s TV program Gardener’s World, bran is the best slug deterrent.  You needn’t throw it away.  Apparently the gooey pests eat it up and expire.  And then your chickens gobble the slugs.  Gotta love that food chain!

Here’s a not-necessarily-but-possibly totally local sandwich loaf (except for the salt—only Tuscans can get away with saltless yet edible pane, and yeast). Light-textured and wheaty, this bread makes fine sandwiches, fluffy/crisp toast and of course, an accommodating base for a thick swath of butter.

TEXAS BREAD

I used the bread machine to mix and knead the ingredients.  Place the ingredients into your bread machine in the order indicated by your instruction manual.  In my machine, that would be the order listed.   When the machine stops, take the pan out, cover it with plastic and let the dough rise.  A cooler first rise promotes flavor development, so I banished the dough to the cold laundry room for a couple hours.

With buttered hands, press the dough down and shape it into a loaf.  Cradle your bread baby into a buttered 9″ X 5″ loaf pan, cover the pan with a very large upturned bowl and let rise until the dough feels puffy when you poke it.  It should be risen to 1″ over the edge of the pan in the center.

Slash the top of the loaf and bake in a 350º oven for about 40 minutes, until well-browned.  Remove the loaf from the baking pan and let it cool on a cooling rack before slicing.

Keep it local!

 

Pepper in Your Pot: Dai Due Kielbasa and Rice with Cabbage February 19, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,Indian,meat,rice,slow cooker,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:56 pm

sausage and rice is nice

The house smells great right now.  I’m brewin’ up some pepper broth (finally!) with the frozen bag of pepper trimmings that has rested undisturbed since the last local bell graced our kitchen—some weeks ago, at least.  Before a friend enlightened me about her family’s practice of distilling sweet peppers’ essence from the stems, seeds and ribs, I had always tossed the remains into the compost.  What a waste!  Now the pepper parts warrant their own freezer bag.  Augmented by the occasional onion end (not too many, please), the bag broths up savory and deeply aromatic, with nary a meat scrap or bay leaf.

Taking it easy on myself (somebody has to), I just dump the capsicum contents into the crock and slow cook ’em on HIGH for a couple hours or so.  The mouthwatering fragrance fills the air with a delectable scent that promises a delicious dish ahead:  Dai Due sausage and rice.  Again?  Yes.  Thankfully, again!  And an easy Indian-style cabbage side for a bonus.

You’ll be using 2 separate large skillets for this two-pot meal.  Remember you can purchase most spices in small amounts from your grocery store’s bulk department.  I bring in my own containers.

SAUSAGE AND RICE serves the family plus leftovers

  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well (3 times!) soaked in water and/or pepper broth for 10 minutes, drained (save the soaking liquid) and rested for at least 10 minutes
  • 4 Tablespoons ghee.  I make my own ghee from Organic Valley butter.  Click for instructions.
  • 1 Tablespoon high smoke point oil, preferably organic.  I like Spectrum‘s oils.
  • 1 pound excellent local sausage links, such as Dai Due’s kielbasa (which blends seamlessly with these seasonings)
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and thinly sliced pole to pole.  Hillside Farms, at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, was still selling reds and yellows the last time I checked.
  • a couple of thin quarter-sized slices of organic ginger root.  I almost never peel fresh ginger.  Handle your own root as you please.
  • 1″ piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 3 or 4 green, but I prefer the large smoky pods of black cardamom for this dish.)
  • 1 bay leaf.  Get growin’!
  • 1 star anise
  • pinch of turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.

Heat 2 Tablespoons ghee in a large (12″) skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt (I like Real Salt) and stir and fry until the slices are well browned.  Remove pan from burner and replace with another large skillet (not nonstick here).  Heat it up on HIGH and add the tablespoon of oil followed quickly by the sausage linksBrown the sausages on both sides .  Place the links on a plate and set aside (they shouldn’t be cooked through).  Set the pan aside, as well.

Transfer the onions to a separate plate and put the onion pan back on the burner over medium heat.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee and the spices and toast them until they smell good and roasty to you.  Add back the onions plus the ginger slices and drained (and rested) rice and stir and saute until the rice grains glisten and separate.

Pour in the soaking liquid (use 1 2/3 cups) and sugar plus another ¼ teaspoon salt, turn the heat to HIGH and bring to a boil.  Place a tight-fitting lid on top, lower the heat to lowest and cook for 10 minutes.  Quickly remove the lid, slide the sausages on top of the rice and replace the lid.  Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes before fluffing the rice and removing the whole spices.  Serve with the cabbage.

This easy cabbage preparation, revelatory in its combination of caraway and cardamom, plays cross-cultural ambassador with the Indo-European flavors of the  kielbasa and rice.

NORTHWEST INDIAN STYLE CABBAGE serves the family, with leftovers a possibility depending on their love of kohl

  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and sliced pole to pole
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods).  You can buys these already popped out of the pods (decorticated) but I just crack the pods and pick them out myself.
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika or cayenne—I have to keep this dish rated G for the young ‘uns
  • 1 cup organic canned whole tomatoes, crushed.  I use a potato masher for this.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen when it was on special recently, you can find Whole Foods 365 brand and Central Market brand organic canned tomatoes at reasonable prices.
  • 1 clove organic domestic garlic, pressed or minced
  • half a 3-pound local cabbage, outermost leaves removed if tough, cored, quartered and sliced into shreds.  You’ll find plenty of affordable Texas-grown cabbage at our farmers markets and local grocery stores.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • several Tablespoons fresh chopped local cilantro, easy to find right now.  Try growing your own.  Tis the season, before it gets too hot.

Heat the ghee in the sausage skillet on medium heat.  Add the whole spices and fry until toasted to your taste.  Add the onion and saute until softened.  It’s quite alright (and deliciouser) for the onion to pick up some brown patches.  Dump in the ground spices (except garam masala), give ’em a stir and then add the tomatoes and garlic.  Cook and stir until thickened, then add the cabbage and salt.  The pan will be very full.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is wilted to your liking.  If the sauce sticks to the pan and browns a bit, that’s fine.  Just add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze.  The tomato fond will enrich the dish, deepening the flavors.

When your cabbage is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.  Correct the salt if necessary and serve.


 

Fast, Cheap and Out of the Pantry February 17, 2010

Filed under: beans,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:58 pm

western spaghetti

brittley at attention

There’s a reason why kale chips are trendy:  addictive taste!  Lumpy-leafed lacinato kale, purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, positively supplicated for the treatment.  Carefully rinsed and dried, soothingly smoothed with olive oil, lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and heedfully arranged in a single layer on baking sheets, the softly crinkled slips yielded to gentle roasting at low heat (275º), vacuoles dessicated to a crisp after about 20 minutes.

Frilly flatterings for what is actually a fun food!  Wispily crackling and boasting deep green flavor, the nori-esque (Hmm.  That gives me an idea!) kale chips provided a contrapuntal alternative to salad for a recent code red pantry dinner.

Which was

SPAGHETTI WITH QUICK PASTA SAUCE AND BEANS serves 4

  • ¾ pound organic dried spaghetti.  I find Central Market’s brand to be a consistently good value.
  • 2 cloves organic domestic garlic
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons  plus 1 Tablespoon organic olive oil.  I mostly use CM’s organic olive oil for cooking.
  • pinch or so crushed red pepper, optional
  • 1 to 3 anchovies, mashed
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, Whole Foods 365 brand and CM’s brand sell for reasonable prices.
  • ½ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • ½ bay leaf. You can find bay leaf plants at our local nurseries and farmers markets.  This bush is easy.  Get growin’!
  • ¼ teaspoon turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at CM.  Remember to bring your own container and have the staff tare the weight.
  • 25-ounce can of organic beans, well drained.  I used kidney beans this time around.  Cannellini and great northerns also work well.  By the way, I don’t bother to rinse canned beans before cooking further and neither does Jacques Pépin.
  • generous teaspoon dried basil

Get a pot of salted water going for the pasta.  Some folks agonize and debate over when to add the salt.  I put the salt in right away and then I don’t have to remember it later.

Combine the garlic and 2 teaspoons water.  Heat up the 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a 3 -quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add the anchovies and smash around for a few seconds.  Stir in the oregano and then dump in the tomatoes.  Add the salt and bay leaf and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, until thickened some.

Remove the bay leaf.  Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce into a coarse puree.  Add the sugar and beans and simmer a little while the pasta finishes up.  (Oh yeah.  When the pasta water comes to a boil, go ahead and add the spaghetti.  Let the pasta cook while you work on the sauce.  You probably know how to cook your noodles already.)

Finish the sauce with the basil and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  I like to embellish with my better oil—the still reasonably priced organic Villa Blanca from Spain.  I buy it at Central Market for $9.49 for a 17-ounce bottle.  Correct the salt if necessary.  Mix together your (cooked and drained) spaghetti and sauce, adding a little pasta cooking water if you wish to thin the sauce some.

Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly cracked black pepper.


 

(Ground) Peas Be My Sweetheart February 14, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:15 pm

nutty hearts

Chunky heart-shaped brownie-style peanut butter (ground ground peas) cookies—studded with chocolate bits if you wish (who doesn’t wish for chocolate on Valentine’s Day?)—sweeten the deal.  Easy and satisfying, these substantial cookies contain no chemical leavening.  If you prefer all your desserts sans sodium bicarbonate, check out Pamella Asquith’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake Book.  Asquith eschews chemical leaveners and provides plenty of gateau goodness in her compendium of cocoa cakes.

Back to the brownies.  Have a heart and bake up a batch of these cupidly cute cookies.

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE COOKIES makes 8 hearts

  • 4 Tablespoons organic butter, softened.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 200 grams (1 cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand in the two-pound bag usually sells for the lowest price.
  • 104 grams (½ cup) organic light brown sugar.  Central Market again.
  • ½ cup organic natural peanut butter, crunchy or creamy.  Whole Foods 365 brand is a good value.
  • 1 Tablespoon local honey.  I like Good Flow.  We enjoy many local options fer hunny ’round here.
  • 2 local eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 323 grams (2 2/3 cups) organic all purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5# bag is generally the best buy.
  • 2 ½ ounces chopped chocolate, milk or dark.  Green & Black’s wonderful 3.5 ounce organic chocolate bars are on sale right now for 2 for $5 at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Sun Harvest and Newflower Market.  About 2/3 of the bar cacaos your ca-cookies.  Use more if you can resist nibbling the rest of the bar away!

I use two four-cavity Wilton mini heart pans.  Wilton currently makes only the six-cavity model.  I bought my pans at the thrift store and both styles are easy to find at resale shops and of course on ebay.  Grease and flour the cavities.

Cream together the butter, sugars and salt.  Beat in the peanut butter and honey.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Mix in the flour and chocolate until thoroughly incorporated.

Fill the pans evenly, pressing the firm dough into each cavity.  Young sweethearts can help here.  Bake at 350º for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time, until the edges are browned and the centers appear set.

Let cool to just warm before unmolding.

Be mine!



 

Dai Due Salt Pork Hams Up Your Baked Beans February 12, 2010

Filed under: beans,easy,slow cooker — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:27 am

beany

Our half-pound hunk of Dai Due‘s savory salt pork, hacked into slim slabs and rendered crisp, didn’t even reach the bean pot.  We munched every last baconey strip.  Herbal and meaty, sumptuously marbled, Richardson Farms pork belly is spun into gastronomical gold by alchemist Chef Jesse Griffiths.  As the crunchy distillation yielded about ½ cup of luscious pig fat, the crème de la gras, plenty of bean-enhancing magic remained.  Sign up for the Dai Due weekly e-newsletter so you can pre-order locally sourced creations from their imaginatively compiled offerings.  Then pick up your goods at the Saturday Austin Farmers Market, or try your luck and just show up at their booth to see what’s still available.  Impeccably seasoned, with no MSG or nitrates added, and sustainably produced, these meats will righteously fortify your cooking.

AUSTIN BAKED BEANS makes a potful

  • 1 package (½-pound) Dai Due salt pork,  cut up as you please.
  • 1 pound organic navy beans or great northern beans, soaked 8 hours (or overnight) and drained. You can do this a couple days ahead and store the beans, well sealed, in the refrigerator.  I buy these bean varieties in bulk at Whole Foods.  Remember to bring your own container and get the weight tared at the front desk.
  • 2 medium local or organic onions, chopped.  Hillside Farms at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market is still selling red and yellow onions.
  • 2 bay leaves.  Try growing this easy bush.
  • small pinch dried thyme
  • ¾ cup organic tomato puree or sauce.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, check Whole Foods and Central Market’s store brands for a good value.  In this last batch of beans I used the leftover puree from draining canned chopped tomatoes for pizza.  Some folks use ketchup.  People that put tomato products into their baked beans are not from Boston.  It’s up to you!
  • ½ cup organic maple syrup, cane syrup (such as Steen’s or Fain’s) or sorghum (Fain’s)
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar or organic brown sugar. Central Market’s own brand is usually the best buy.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic coarse grain mustard.  Ditto on the CM brand.
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked is quite complementary,
  • ½ teaspoon quatre épices, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 3 cups very hot water
  • 2 teaspoons organic apple cider vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand sells for less.

Render the salt pork.  Start the pieces out in a cold pan and fry over medium heat to cook them evenly .  Drain, saving the fat, and return several tablespoons of grease back to the pan to saute your onions.  Cook your onions until translucent, adding the bay leaves and thyme about halfway through.

Dump the onions, drained beans and the remaining ingredients into a Dutch oven (’bout 6- or 7-quart size) or your slow cooker crock.  You can add the cooked salt pork, too.  We devoured ours, though!  Either place your Dutch oven into a preheated 300º oven and bake, covered, for about 4 hours (stirring halfway through) or set your slow cooker on LOW and cook for 4 to 6 hours.  Either way, check for adequate liquid and add more (very hot) water if necessary to avoid scorching your frijoles.

When the beans have cooked and tenderized sufficiently, stir in the vinegar.  If the sauce needs further thickening, remove the cover (for either cooking method) and continue to cook until as thick as you like.

Taste for salt, sweetness and tang and adjust as required to please your palate.  We like to serve our baked beans with plenty of fresh cracked black pepper.

Enjoy Sunday’s marathon!