Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Potato Bake April 8, 2010

Filed under: easy,Indian,locavore,potatoes,spice blends,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:19 pm

spinach 'n' taters

come 'n' git it casserole

If you didn’t get a chance to grab a bag of organic russets on sale recently at Newflower Market, Texas farmers have granted you a reprieve.  You can find Texas-grown new red potatoes right now at Central Market for $1.99 a pound.  No small potatoes for small potatoes, but sometimes you gotta have your spud fix.  Either way, boil up some ‘taters for this comforting casserole and store any extra boiled potatoes in the fridge for quick breakfasts.

This dish used up my leftover cottage cheese (from Mackin’ Cheese) and incorporates fresh Texas cool weather produce, still available for a little while longer.  Serve as is or gild with your favorite salsa or a tangy tamarind chutney.


  • 4 medium-sized cooked potatoes, or 9-10 new potatoes.  I boil up a few and keep ’em in the fridge for quick starching.
  • 1 good-sized Texas leek, trimmed, washed, quartered and sliced thin
  • 1 (or more) good-sized local green garlic bulb, or 1 (or more) clove  of organic or local garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika, smoked is good
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala.  You can use your favorite recipe, or try this basic blend.  Or you can buy it ready made in bulk spice departments.
  • 4 Tablespoons plus ½ Tablespoon ghee or organic butter (click for a coupon on Organic Valley), plus more for greasing you baking dish.  Click for my instructions on making your own ghee.
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon asafetida,  optional but yummy.
  • 1 10-ounce bag of Cora Lamar’s triple-washed Texas-grown spinach (ready to cook) or other local spinach, trimmed and cleaned.
  • ½ teaspoon plus ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.  Plus some kosher salt for the potatoes—I like Diamond Crystal.
  • 1 cup organic or local cottage cheese.  I used Organic ValleyFull Quiver Farm sometimes makes cottage cheese.  Ask at their booth the next time you’re shopping Austin Farmers Market or Barton Creek Farmers Market.
  • 1 local egg
  • a few sprigs of local cilantro

Combine the ground spices, paprika through the garam masala, and stir in 3 Tablespoons water.  Heat up a large saute pan with the 4 Tbls. ghee or butter.  Add the asafetida and give it a quick stir before stirring in the spice mixture.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the spices begin to look dryish and separate from the butterfat.  Stir in the leeks to get them well covered with the spices and add about 3 Tablespoons more water.  Saute, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent scorching, until the leeks have softened.  Stir in the garlic to release its fragrance.

Break each potato into two halves (unless they’re small) and smash each spud into coarse chunks with the heel of your hand.  Add the ‘taters to the cooking pan as you go.  Stir the mixture well to get all the potatoes covered with the seasonings, sprinkle them with a good pinch of kosher salt and let them sit and brown for a couple minutes.  Stir and salt again and let brown some more. Turn the potato mixture into a bowl.

Heat up the ½ Tablespoon ghee or butter in the same pan over high heat and wilt the spinach.  Place spinach on a plate to cool for a minute before chopping it up and pressing most of the liquid out.  You don’t have to squeeze it totally dry.  Mix the spinach into the potatoes.

Meanwhile, combine the cottage cheese, egg, ¾ teaspoon salt and cilantro in a small food processor bowl and process until smooth.   Stir the cottage cheese into the potato mixture.  Scrape into a large buttered casserole dish (I used my 3½ quart Le Creuset “buffet casserole”) and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, until piping hot and steaming in the middle when stabbed with a butter knife.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to serve this with some juicy grilled local sausages, such as Dai Due‘s fat and juicy spicy wild boar sausage.


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.


Dilly Dal December 4, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,Indian,spice blends,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:16 pm

Dilly Dalling--not to be confused with dilly-dallying

Cooked dal is not so photogenic. Check out chana dal in the raw.

I’m cold and I have a cold so I want soup.  Fresh local dill is easy to find right now and I bought a large, lush frondly bunch from Finca Pura Vida at the fledgling HOPE market on Sunday.  If it snows today, and it might, I’ll transport myself to Shangri-la via Kashmir with a warming bowl of hot dal and rice.  Keeping things simple and utilizing the pressure cooker to speedy up my fantasy.

Potentially exotic ingredients are called for here: chana dal, garam masala (you can make this yourself—see bonus below), and asafetida. Down south (Austin), you’ll score the best buys on harder-to-find Indian staples at Fiesta (Stassney and I-35).  Up on the north side, I patronize MGM.  Those folks are nice and the selection is great.  Sometimes you can even find little potted curry bushes.  You can keep them in a (bigger) pot to bring inside for the winter, or you can transplant them outside.  They’ll freeze to the ground, even covered up (although we haven’t tried Christmas lighting them for warmth).  But when the weather heats up again, and you know how it will, your curry bush will greenly resurrect and once again you’ll be wondering when you’ll ever get a chance to make up a large batch of curry leaf-based curry powder to share with your friends.  Happens every year.

DILLY DAL makes a big potful

  • heaping 1 cup of chana dal, picked through, soaked for 5 hours and rinsed.
  • 6 ½ cups water
  • 1 bay leaf–We’ve been growing for years, so we use ’em fresh.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1 or more cloves of garlic, smashed.  Local garlic not synchronizing with local dill this time of year, you can omit this ingredient.  Or use domestic organic.
  • 1  heaping teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup chopped fresh locally-grown dill.  Easy to find right now.  Maybe in your own yard!  I save the stems for stock.
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala.  See Bonus recipe below.
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (divided use), preferably homemade from organic butter.  See my simple instructions.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 to 6 dried whole red chiles.  You can crush these up a bit if you want to feel the burn.
  • ¼ to ½ teapsoon powdered asafetida.  Click the link to read about this odiferous spice’s potential for combatting H1N1 as well as other respiratory afflictions.  I wouldn’t omit this unless you use plenty of garlic.  Then I still wouldn’t leave it out.  I love that stank!
  • ½ a small to medium local or organic onion, chopped
  • 3 whole organic canned tomatoes  (use fresh when in season), crushed with your fingers or chopped with a knife
  • fresh lemon, if desired—Local Meyers or regulars are great—otherwise go for organic.
  • cooked basmati or Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice, optional but complementary
  • toasted Margarita’s (outta Manchaca) organic whole wheat flour tortillas or chapatis, optional but appreciated

If using a pressure cooker, place dal and the next seven ingredients, plus the 1 Tablespoon of ghee in the pot.  Lock the lid on and bring to high pressure over high heat.  Turn the heat down to maintain consistent pressure and cook for about 20 minutes.  The cooking time for softening your dal will depend on the age of the beans.  If the chana dal has been sitting in your pantry for a while, or languished at the store for too long (less likely at an Indian foods market), expect a lengthier cooking time.  At any rate, check the dal after 20 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes.  Release the rest of the pressure by flipping the quick-pressure release switch (however that works on your appliance).  Be sure to open the lid AWAY from your face and arms to avoid steam burns.  The dal should be soft and broken down.  If it’s undercooked, give it another five minutes or so.  If you’re not in a hurry you can finish cooking the dal without pressure.  If you’re really trying to kill some time, you can do all the bean boiling in your regular soup pot.  It’ll probably take at least an hour.

Using an old-fashioned egg beater or a whisk, agitate the dal into a rough puree and correct the salt, if necessary.  Now for the chaunk (or tarka or bagar or a number of other similar terms).  Heat the 2 Tablespoons ghee in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  As soon as it melts add the cumin seeds and chiles.  Monitor the spices as they fry and toast and when they look and smell just right to you—as browned and roasty as you please—quickly dump in the asafetida and give the pan a swirl before adding the onions.  Get ’em browned a bit then add the tomatoes and fry the mixture until the tomatoes break down and glisten with ghee.  Pour the chaunk into the dal pot and let the flavors get acquainted for a couple minutes before serving.

Ladle over rice, or not, and brighten with a little lemon juice if you think it needs it.  No one minds a flatbread on the side, either.

BONUS RECIPE:  GARAM MASALA makes about ½ cup

  • 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 9 cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 ½ to 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place all the spices in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Toast, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the coriander seeds have browned a shade or two darker and the spices smell righteously roasty to you.  This is YOUR garam masala, so trust your senses, especially your smeller.  When the spices have finished blooming, transfer them to a shallow baking pan, preferably aluminum or other thinner metal, to cool.  When fully cooled, decorticate (remove the pods from) the cardamom and grind all the spices together in a spice grinder.  I use a Krups coffee grinder from the thrift store (of course).  Stir the ground mixture to blend well and store in a jar in the refrigerator for greatest shelf life.


Slow Ranch–Take it Easy (Beans!) November 12, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,slow cooker,spice blends,thrift,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,


We love beans.  Inexpensive, nutritious and filling, legumes also take top honors for tastiness. Most every culture boasts a beloved bean dish or two.  And many plant-centric cuisines offer multitudinous manifestations of leguminous medleys, from India’s diverse dals and China’s breadth of ingeniously transformed pulse products, to the frijoles (of Three Sisters agricultural and numismatic fame) of the original Americans.

While I certainly appreciate an elaborate cassoulet or feijoada, and have amused my family’s palates with various homemade incarnations of Indian treats such as dosas, idlis, badas and badis, I usually keep my bean cookery fairly simple, as in straightforward brews of Texas field peas (see “Hoppin’ Jean“), Indian dal purees (I particularly enjoy mung dal), or often just adding a can of cooked garbanzos, kidney beans, or white beans to sautés and stews.  Here’s an easy seasonal bean dish to put your slow cooker to good use.

SLOW COOKER RANCHY BEANS makes a more than a half-gallon

  • 2 ½ cups organic dried pinto beans, picked through for pebbles.  I buy these in bulk at either Central Market or Whole Foods.
  • 3 Tablespoon tasty fat.  Bacon grease is perfect, of course, but any good animal fat will work, as will olive oil for a vegetarian version.
  • 1 large or 2 small or 1 ½ medium (you get the idea) local and/or organic onions, chopped.
  • 1 good-sized local bell pepper, whatever color’s at hand, chopped.  I just bought some shiny organic red/green marbled beauties from Milagro Farm at the Austin Farmers Market.  Or use an equivalent amount of other local sweet peppers.
  • 1 spicy chile, such as a jalapeno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed if kids will be partaking.  Use more chiles and leave the innards in for the NC-17 crowd.
  • 1 bay leaf—try growing your own.  The plant will survive cozily in a pot if necessary.  Ours has thrived organically outdoors for years.
  • 2 or more cloves of garlic, minced.  I prefer more but garlic tolerance is very personal.  When I can’t find local (it’s mostly, if not all, gone for now), I purchase domestic organic.
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teapoons good quality chili powder.  I mix my own.  See recipe.
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (dried)
  • 1 28-ounce can organic crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted.  You can briefly whirl canned diced or whole tomatoes in your food processor for an interchangeable texture.
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon cane syrup, sorghum syrup or molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.  WF sells it in bulk.

Soak the beans overnight (at least 8 hours) in cold water.  Drain and rinse them.  If you can’t cook them right away, they’ll keep, covered, in the fridge for up to four days.  Don’t oversoak them (24 hours or more), however.  The skins will toughen and the insides will fall apart.

Heat your fat in a Dutch oven or other very large (6-quart is good), wide pot.  Saute the onions and peppers with the bay leaf until softened.  Add the drained beans and continue to saute until your ingredients pick up some brown spots.  Stir in the garlic and let the fragrance bloom.  Add your dried seasonings and stir a bit.  Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat off while you get your slow cooker ready.

Plug in a large (6-quart) slow cooker and set it to HIGH heat.  Carefully pour your bean mixture into the crock and add enough water to cover the beans by about one inch.  Give it stir, put a lid on it and cook it all day.  If you’re passing throught the kitchen at about half-time, go ahead and stir it again, quickly replacing the lid.

These beans can take up to 9 hours to cook through, as the acidity of the tomatoes slows softening.  Later in the cooking, if the beans appear threateningly dry, add a little more water (hot water, please!).

When your beans are tender and cooked, correct the salt if needed.  Serve with fresh-cracked black pepper and spicy chiles.  Roll ’em up in a corn tortilla or swipe at ’em with a homemade roll.


Texas Tamale Skillet Pie September 22, 2009

Filed under: easy,fast,meat,spice blends — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:47 am
Supper's On!

Supper's On!

Aerial view

Aerial view

Well, my Moist ‘n’ Corny Cornbread recipe yields enough for leftovers, and what meatier way to use up a third of it than to make tamale pie.  Any variety of locally raised ground meat will work in this skillet classic.  This week I chose Thunder Heart Bison—very lean.  Richardson Farms pastured pork or grassfed beef, Premium Lamb‘s goat, and Loncito’s Lamb will each give great results.  You can find all of these producers at both the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and the  Austin Farmers Market.  Being a quick and easy dish, you may find you have time to relax (who gets to do that?) after dinner.

You can even make this meal using leftover chili, about a quart, in place of the ground meat mixture.  Just heat the chili in the skillet, top it with the cornbread and cheese and bake it up.


  • 12 ounces (about 3 ½ cups) crumbled cornbread.  About 1/3 of the pan of Moist ‘n’ Corny Cornbread.
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) shredded cheese.  I like about 5 ounces pepper jack and 3 ounces cheddar from Full Quiver Farm.
  • 1 pound ground meat—see above.
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil.  Texas Olive Ranch‘s arbequina varietal is smooth and buttery.
  • about 1 cup coarsely shredded butternut squash.  I like Flintrock Hill’s selection.
  • about 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
  • about 1 cup medium-fine chopped sweet peppers.  If all your diners are of age, you may include a hot pepper or two.
  • a couple of medium-sized tomatoes, chopped.  If your local sources have dried up, use 1 cup canned diced organic tomatoes.  I use Muir Glen or Central Market or Whole Foods brand.  Whichever is on sale.
  • a couple or so cloves of garlic, minced.  Local, if you or Morning Glory Farm have any left. Domestic organic otherwise.
  • 2 Tablespoons best quality chili powder.  I make my own.
  • 2 or more teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 1 25-ounce can organic pinto beans, drained.  Don’t bother to rinse.  Canned beans have been on special lately at our area stores.  You can use 2 15-ounce cans.  This recipe obviously leaves room for flexibility and creativity.  So an extra 5 ounces of beans won’t do any harm.  Just be sure to taste for adequate seasoning and correct if necessary.

Toss cornbread and cheese together in a bowl.  Set aside.  Preheat your oven to 450º.

Heat up the olive oil in a large (11″ or 12″) ovenproof skillet.  Add the onion, cook for a minute, then add the squash.  Stir everything around for a bit and add the peppers.  After a couple minutes of occasional stirring, add the tomatoes.  When your veggies have softened, mix in the chili powder and garlic.  Add the ground meat.  Cook, breaking up the clumps.  When the meat is cooked through, add your beans and salt.  Cook and stir until hot.  Adjust seasoning.

Top the whole mess with the cornbread mixture.  Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Serve hot with salsa on the side, if desired.


CHILI POWDER makes a scant 3/4 cup

  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder—natural, not Dutch-processed.  I use Dagoba organic.
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 6 Tablespoons various ground chile powders.  I like a blend of smoked paprika, ancho and New Mexico.  Central Market’s bulk department carries many types.  You can smell, ponder and choose to your taste.  I store my chile powders in the freezer.
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper.

Mix everything together and transfer to an airtight container—I use a glass jar.  Depending on how frequently you use this blend, you may want to store it in the freezer.


Dai Due—Whatever Floats Your Goat Boats September 9, 2009

Filed under: bread,meat,spice blends — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:35 pm
goat boats

goat boats

In honor of Dai Due Supper Club’s upcoming goat gathering (Goat Head-to-Tail September 13th at Hotel Saint Cecilia), I’m posting great goat recipes.  Be sure to check out Kebabin‘.

We’ve been enjoying Premium Lamb’s recent presence at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  For an easy-to-eat goat meat treat, try these Caribbean-inspired meat patties.  Even the kids can help.

GOAT BOATS yields about a dozen

  • a Tablespoon or so of olive oil, local if you can afford it.  Texas Olive Ranch‘s arbequina varietal is smooth and buttery.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • a couple of green onions, chopped, if you have some.  I’m not bumping into local bunches right now, so I left them out.  I threw in some chopped garlic chives (which we grow, effortlessly) at the end instead.
  • some chopped, colorful varieties of sweet and/or hot peppers, a half cup or so.  Use what you have.  Lately Flintrock Hill has been selling lovely little bright orange sweet peppers as well as golden Anaheims (mild).  Scotch Bonnet is traditional, but we have children around here.
  • 1 medium green apple, peeled and shredded.  We sure are enjoying Love Creek Orchard’s fresh and crispy harvest of assorted varieties.  You can vary this addition seasonally by substituting pear, summer or winter squash, radishes, cabbage or leafy greens.  Be flexible!
  • a couple cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons curry powder.  I use a Caribbean style blend that I make.
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, lightly chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground goat meat
  • 1/2 to a whole egg, beaten.  Local eggs, please.
  • salt and pepper to taste—I use about 1 teaspoon salt.

In a large (12″) skillet, heat up your olive oil on medium to medium-high heat.  Saute the onions and peppers until softened, then add your apple and garlic.  Stir for a minute, releasing the garlic’s aroma, then add the curry powder and thyme.  Stir around for another short minute before adding the meat.  Continue sauteing, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until it’s cooked through.  Adjust your heat as necessary.  When the goat looks done (no pink), stir in the beaten egg and cook the mixture up for a minute before seasoning with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely (to room temperature) before either refrigerating for later assembling, or moving right along into production.


  • 2 sticks butter, softened but cool.  Organic Valley.
  • 4 ounces (1/2 an 8 oz. package) cream cheese, softened but cool.  Organic Valley’s my choice here again.  Click for coupons.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar.  Central Market and Whole Foods sell organic granulated sugar in bulk for $1.49 a pound.
  • 362 grams (3 cups) organic  flour.  I like a mix of all-purpose flour and as much as half (181 grams) whole wheat (white or regular) —I find WF offers the best everyday deals on flour.
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh and aromatic ground allspice, optional

Combine butter and next 3 ingredients in a mixer bowl.  I use my stand mixer.  Beat mixture with the paddle until well blended and creamy.  Beat in flour (and allspice, if using) just until combined.

Lay out a piece of foil on your work surface. Helpful children can get involved at this point. Scoop up 1/4 cup of dough and use the heel of your hand to press and form it into a 5″ circle.  Grab about 2 heaping Tablespoons of filling and squeeze it in your fist to form a log shape.  It should hold together.  Lay your log on one side of your dough round (a little off-center).  Using the foil, fold the other half of the dough evenly on top of the filling to enclose it.  Still using the foil, press the edges together to seal the pocket. Carefully peel the foil away from the patty.  If your dough misbehaves, clinging truculently to the foil, give it a bit of a cool rest in the fridge.  That’ll show it who’s in charge!  Tidy up the edges with your fingertips, making sure they’re well-sealed.

As you form the your goat boats, lay them on a cookie sheet.  I use 2 sheets if I’m baking the full batch. Bake in a preheated 400º oven for about 19 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool until handleable.  I like that word.

You can form all the boats and bake only what you’d like to eat now (3 or 4 may fit in your toaster oven—saves energy).  I haven’t tried freezing them (baked or unbaked) ’cause we eat them up.  You can bake the whole batch and store your patties in the fridge for a couple days.  Reheat in the toaster oven—you may want to use foil to guard the edges against overbrowning.  But folks around here just eat ’em cold!


This blend does not contain cumin.  If you crave the comino, by all means include up to 4 teaspoons cumin seeds in the roasting pan.

  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 4 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • about 18 green cardamom pods, a heaping teaspoonful
  • 1 ” piece of stick cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 4 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 4 teapsoons ground ginger

Place the first four spices in a small skillet and roast over medium to medium-low heat until they become fragrant and are beginning to brown.  Add the fenugreek and toast another quick minute or so, just until you can smell the mapley aroma of the fenugreek.  Dump the spices into a dish or an aluminum cake pan—for quickest cooling—and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Remove the cardamom seeds from their casings—this is tedious business—and grind up your blend in a spice grinder/coffee mill.  Whisk together well with the turmeric and ginger.  Jar it up.  I store mine in the fridge.  Ya mon.