Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Re-in(Chili con)Carne-tion January 13, 2010

Filed under: beans,easy,leftovers,meat,rice,spice blends — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:13 pm

Had I enough cooked rice on hand, I'd have stratified that in as well.

To use up the last couple quarts of game night chili, I recently casseroled my cache and topped the whole thing with a bag of crushed Central Market organic corn chips (otherwise known as “fritos” around here).  Melded with middle layers of mashed baked Texas sweet potatoes seasoned with salsa and a generous mop of Organic Valley pepper jack, I served up steamy scoops atop Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice, to rave reviews.  Let’s hear it for luscious leftovers!

I won’t attempt to taunt Texans with my chili recipe, but I will admit to a 3:1 ratio of Richardson Farms’ beef and pork.  Plus my homemade chili powder, a can of Lone Star (the national beer of Texas) and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll fess up to adding organic canned tomatoes and slow-cooked organic black beans (I swear I’m not trying to be irreverent). Chili how you choose, and resurrect the remainder.


Quinoa is the New Black November 19, 2009

I recently brought home a box of Alter Eco‘s organic black quinoa to play around with (work perk!).  The folks at AE work with small scale farmers and producers to maintain artisanal methods and ecological balance.  Alter Eco’s Mission Statement proclaims:

We believe that Fair Trade is a viable and successful alternative to conventional commerce. This business model will gradually close the gap between rich and poor, so-called developing countries and industrialized countries.

Sounds good and green.

My family eats quinoa regularly and I usually keep a cooked pot of this “super grain” in the fridge for quick nourishment (see Queen Quinoa).  Reheated with cheese (or not), and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper (or not—as for the minors), quinoa makes a fast, tasty and nutritious light meal.  The black variety, with its exotic color, piqued my palate so I gave it a whirl.  Plus the Quechuas of Bolivia believe black quinoa supports kidney health.

I found that this quinoa cooked up more quickly—a fast 15 minutes—and absorbed less water (less than 2 cups as opposed to a little more than 2 cups) than my usual brands of regular quinoa.  The family wasn’t pleased with the texture, however.  The black bran seems much thicker and heartier than the pale seed coat of standard quinoa.  Too chewy!  Fanciers of substantial grains, however, might like a simple breakfast pilaf of black quinoa with quality butter, good maple syrup and perhaps a splash of cream.

At my house, the black quinoa was relegated to more of a supporting role in which it could show off its striking color against contrasting backgrounds, lighter in taste as well as color.  We enjoyed this quinoa’s black speckles in both an easy, light bread machine bread and an otherwise standard pot o’ jasmine rice.

P B J & Q

Dalmatian Bread (Black Quinoa Bread)

  • ½ cup local milk plus enough water to equal 1 generous cup.  I use either Swede Farm Dairy or Wateroak Farm goat milk.
  • 1 local  egg
  • 130 grams (1 cup) cooked organic black quinoa
  • ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt
  • 1 teaspoon local honey.  I buy Good Flow in bulk at Central Market.  Bring your own container and ask an employee to tare the weight for you.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic butter.  Organic Valley‘s my choice here.  Look for the $1 OFF coupon in Whole Foods Whole Deal newsletter, available at their stores.  Or click here.
  • 200 grams organic all-purpose flour.  WF’s 365 brand 5# bag is usually the best buy.
  • 163 grams organic white whole wheat flour.  WF generally has the lowest price per pound on King Arthur’s 5# bag.
  • 1 teaspoon bread machine yeast (rapid rise or instant)

Place the ingredients into your bread machine in the order indicated by your instruction manual.  In my machine, that would be the order listed.  Program the machine on the regular cycle (not whole wheat).  If you’re not heading out to work on bread day, you can use just your machine’s dough cycle, then form a loaf (use a 9″ X 5″ pan), give it a second rise and bake it off at 350º in your oven.  The weather’s perfect for crankin’ it up!


Appaloosa Rice (Black Quinoa Rice)

  • 1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice
  • 1 Tablespoon organic black quinoa, well rinsed
  • 1 2/3 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt–Real Salt.  See above.
  • dab of butter. Organic Valley, see above.
  • 1 fresh bay leaf if you’re growin’ or knowin’ somebody who is.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan, place a lid on it and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to LOW and continue to cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes before serving.


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.



Greening Risotto (a la Apron Adventures) August 28, 2009

Filed under: easy,green makeovers,rice — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 7:48 pm

Austin’s Apron Adventurer recently posted a scrumptious sounding recipe for Mushroom Risotto.  If you wanna green it up, try it out with:   Hairston Creek Farm organic onions in place of the shallots, organic arborio rice (check out RiceSelect for coupons), homemade chicken stock, Kitchen Pride portobellos (available at our farmers markets and Whole Foods and Central Market), and local zucchini and tomato.  For the goat cheese, we Texans can choose from numerous local options:  Pure Luck Farm and Dairy, Swede Farm Dairy, Wateroak Farms, and more!  I use either WF365 or CM Organics organic balsamic vinegars for cooking.  They’re both tasty and good values.

A great dish, a green dish!


Jasmine Rice and Using Your Nước Chấm August 13, 2009

Filed under: easy,eggs,grains,rice,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:10 pm

nice rice, lady

My all time favorite rice is Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice.  Previously I have always purchased this treasure in 2-pound bags from Central Market and sometimes HEB.  The escalating price ($3.79 now) finally drove me to the internet, where I secured a 25-pound bag for about $35, including delivery.  I don’t know if that’s the greenest way to get it but we’re almost never without a pot of this white gold in the fridge, and I’m saving about 40¢ per pound.  I adore this rice and the intoxicating aroma that fills the house while it’s cooking.  Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Daguid recommend this brand in their wonderful cookbook, Seductions of Rice (great book, btw).  Lowell Farms sells a brown jasmine rice, as well.  I’m not that into brown rice but I welcome your suggestions.

I’ve never had a hard time cooking rice.  Or if I did, it was so long ago in my culinary journey that I don’t remember any particular frustrations.  I find rice preparation to be pretty easy and straightforward (that is, for a straightforward preparation).  You can use a rice cooker, I s’pose, but I’ve never tried one.  Here’s my rice routine.  Be brave.


  • 1 cup Lowell Farms white jasmine rice
  • 1 2/3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fresh bay leaf–Yes, I have my own bay leaf bush.  So I put bay leaves into most everything.  Don’t go out and buy fresh bay leaves just for your pot of rice, though.  This magic leaf is optional here.
  • a dab of butter

Put everything into a solid 1 1/2 quart (or so) saucepan.  As one of my very favorite cookbook authors, Yamuna Devi, advises in her magnum opus, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, “thin walled pans are useless.”  Cover the pot with a compatible lid–a dedicated marriage between top and bottom is important here–and bring it all to a big boil on high heat.  Give it a brief stir, turn the heat down to low (lowest on my electric range) and cook for 20 minutes.  Set your timer!  If you put your ear close to the pot–careful! don’t burn yourself!–you’ll still hear the simmering.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest 10 minutes.  Freshly cooked jasmine rice is indeed seductive.  Around here we have to try not to eat it all up plain on the spot.

This is the rice that we eat with whatever needs rice:  beans, stir-fries of all nationalities and fusions thereof, puddin’, even Indian food when I can’t get a batch of basmati rice going for some reason.  A small bowl of hot rice adorned with a spoonful of chutney or Indian pickle (around here, we favor Patak’s Garlic Relish and Brinjal Eggplant Relish and Laxmi Carrot Pickle) makes a satisfying snack.  If you’ve got cooked rice you can even dress it as for bún, utilizing the same accompaniment concept.  And if you’re looking for yet another way to use up your nước chấm, try this variation of the Thai/Laotian  stir-fry known as


  • 1 bundle of bean thread noodles, also known as cellophane or glass noodles
  • 2 to 4 eggs, local of course, beaten
  • 1 to4 kermit (Thai) eggplants.
  • about 1 quarter of a large red onion, sliced
  • 3-6 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • fresh red or green chiles, halved lengthwise if plump, sliced thin
  • nước chấm

Soak the bean thread noodles in hot water for 20 minutes.  I put a quart of water in a Pyrex measuring cup and nuke it for 222 seconds.  Then I place the noodles into the cup and go about my prepping.  After the soak, drain the noodles (I use a sieve), place in a wide bowl and douse with a couple Tablespoons of nước chấm.  Distribute the dressing with a fork and cut the noodles into manageable lengths with scissors.  I just go at it in the bowl somewhat haphazardly.

Behead your eggplants (I’m still buying my beauties from Ringger Family Farm), halve them from top to bottom and cut each half into 4-6 wedges, depending on size.  Toss the wedges with about 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, plenty of freshly ground black or white pepper and a pinch of kosher salt.

Heat up a well-seasoned wok or skillet you can trust with your huevos, add a couple of Tablespoons of your choice of fat, and toss in the eggplant wedges.  Stir-fry until you get some browning, it’ll smell great, and add your shallots, then your onion slices.  Give the mix a few stirs, then pour in your eggs and scramble them around.  When the eggs are nearly set dump in your noodles and stir the whole thing around to finish everything off.  Quickly plate it up so you don’t overcook your eggs.

Sprinkle with chile slices and add more nước chấm to taste, if necessary.  Babies like these noodles, too!

Nước chấm

Eggplant Chickpea Pilaf July 21, 2009

Filed under: Indian,rice,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:11 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Down at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, my usual foraging turf, I find a number of local gems.  Ringger Family Farm, located in Bastrop County, makes soap with milk from their own herd of sustainably raised goats and grows beautiful jewel-like little eggplants.  I can’t get enough of their lavender and white striated, friendly-flavored finger-length delights.  And the cute, round, green and white-striped Thai orbs are a crunchy sweet treat when quickly stir-fried.  These folks also grow “tame” jalapenos for those of us whose capsaicin tolerance has been weakened by the proscriptions of our brood.

I could probably eat diced eggplant fried in olive oil almost every day in season.  Thankfully they are not available locally year round—although I anxiously await the first harvest at the beginning of every summer.  Before frying, I toss eggplant cubes with a little salt and some turmeric and let them sit for a few minutes.  After cooking, I refrigerate the used oil for sauteing veggies or brushing onto tortillas for quesadillas.

Here’s a vegetarian meal in a skillet that takes advantage of our local bounty of eggplants:


  • 1 cup basmati rice–I like the Indian and Pakistani brands in the large fabric bags.

Rinse the rice well in three changes of water, then drain and soak in about 1 1/2 cups fresh water for 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve, reserving soaking water and adding enough to measure 1 3/4 cups water.

  • 8 small, slim, gorgeously young and fresh eggplants, beheaded and and quartered lengthwise.

Toss the eggplant pieces with about 1 teaspoon turmeric and a generous pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, preferably organic (Whole Foods and Central Market offer their own brands at good prices), drained.  Don’t bother to rinse the beans.  Jacques Pépin doesn’t.
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons oil or ghee.  I like organic coconut oil, of course.
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 4 green), slightly crushed with the handle of your kitchen knife
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 0r 2 whole dried red chiles
  • 1/4 teaspoon kalonji (nigella), optional
  • 1/2 teasoon asafetida, optional
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 whole green jalapeno, optional
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled or ground in a mortar with a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (seeds)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt

Heat oil and whole spices (through kalonji) in a 12″ skillet on medium-high heat.  Fry spices until browning and fragrant, then add asafetida and quickly dump in the onions.  Cook the onions, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary, until browning agreeably.  Add the eggplant pieces and the whole jalapeno and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is browned.  Add the drained rice and garlic.  Continue cooking and stirring until the rice grains separate and lose their translucency.  Add the drained beans and the remaining ingredients plus the reserved water and turn the heat to high to quickly bring the mixture to a boil.  Give it a final stir, turn the heat to low, and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.  Don’t eat the whole spices.  Remove them from the pan if you have the opportunity–otherwise just warn your diners.