Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Quickaccia—The Bread of Redemption July 5, 2010

Filed under: bread,easy,locavore,Texas produce,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 8:13 pm

Everybody makes mistakes.  We learn this the hard way, as we commit our own follies, and we may suffer this lesson the even harder way when someone else blunders.  But wise new-agers and seasoned old-timers alike assure us that life isn’t what happens to us, it’s what we do with it.  So we not only learn from our bungling and our disappointments, but we grow and improve, when we open up to take advantage of new insights and explore new paths.  Often life’s missteps serve to remind us what is important, what we need and what we love.

slice o' life

That’s enough preambling for one post.  What’s this lapsed loaf about?  Recently I prepared a round of my Irish Style Brown Bread and noticed as I mixed the batter-y dough that it didn’t seem quite right.  Even as I poured (rather than plopped) the mixture into the pan, I knew I had erred.  But I forged ahead, placing the loose mass into the oven, hoping something edible would emerge.  I rechecked my recipe and realized I had left out the whole wheat pastry flour.  Weighing in at more than one-third of the flour called for, surely this omission spelled mealtime failure!  To my surprise and my family’s delight, the bread was delicious, if slightly imperfect, and then of course the light bulb lit up—a quick focaccia!

Little local cherry tomatoes, abundant and sweet, top this easy round with pop and zing.  This season we’ve been enjoying Sungolds from Hairston Creek Farm, Finca Pura Vida and Flint Rock Hill at the SFC farmers market at Sunset Valley.  Local red onions, local cheese and backyard herbs flavor your flatbread in a flash.

So turn that trip-up around and get back on track with this easy round of manna.

life in the round

QUICKACCIA makes one 9″ loaf

  • 182 grams (1½ cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5-pound bag is usually the best value.
  • 3 5/8 (1 cup minus 1½ Tablespoons) ounces Richardson Farms whole wheat flour (available at their Barton Creek farmers market location) or organic whole wheat flour.
  • 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar, sieved
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda, sieved
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1½ Tablespoons organic sugar.  Buy this in bulk or look for Central Market’s brand in the 2-pound bag.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic butter, softened.  Organic Valley is my favorite all-purpose butter.  If you didn’t stock up when Natural Grocers offered their near-clearance-priced sale, click for a coupon.
  • 1½ cups organic or local buttermilk or yogurt.  I make my own yogurt from local goat milk.  Click to see howSwede Farm Dairy is back from babymaking (SFC market at Sunset Valley).  Wateroak Farms is taking a market break but will still be available at Wheatsville Co-op and Whole Foods.
  • shredded local or organic cheese of your choice.  For local queso check out Full Quiver Farms at the Barton Creek Farmers Market or  Brazos Valley Cheese Co. at the Austin and Sunset Valley Farmers Markets.
  • local cherry tomatoes, halved if round and halved or quartered if oblong.
  • local red onion, sliced thin.  We’ve been buying these up from Jackie at Flint Rock Hill (Sunset Valley) for $1.25 a pound.  She’s got potatoes—red or brown—for the same price, too.
  • fresh backyard herbs, chopped.  Oregano pairs perfectly.  Sage and rosemary remind us of fall and work well also.
  • coarse salt, preferably flaky—we love Murray River Pink.  Check out the bulk salts at either Central Market or Whole Foods and find your favorite!
  • local or organic olive oil.  Check out Texas Olive Ranch for the Lone Star State lube.  I like Central Market’s value-priced organic brand for cooking.

Preheat the oven to 400°.  If you bake your loaf in a handleless pan, you can use the toaster oven.  A heavy 9″ round pan works best and cast iron is ideal.  Lube the pan with the olive oil and sprinkle the bottom with wheat bran or cornmeal.  I sift the bran out of Richardson Farms flour for certain recipes and have amassed a stash in the freezer.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flours through the sugar) or just dump them into the food processor and let ‘er rip.  Add the butter and process to blend or rub the fat in with your fingertips.  Pour the flour mixture back into a bowl and add the buttermilk or yogurt.  Stir quickly with a fork to evenly moisten the dough, then use a flexible dough scraper to fold the dough over itself just a few times to bring it all together and develop a bit of structure.  Using the scraper, place the dough mound in the pan.  Spread and flatten the dough with a small offset spatula, or use the back of a spoon.

Toss the onions and herbs with some olive oil.  Top the dough with cheese, tomatoes and the onion mixture.  Sprinkle with the coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, plus red pepper flakes if the kids are out on a sleepover (lucky you!).  Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until well browned.

Loosen the sides of the quickaccia with a metal spatula or butter knife before turning the bread out of the pan.  Re-invert onto a cooling rack and let cool a few minutes so y’all don’t go scalding your tongues!

Enjoy this bread, the fruit of my flub.  Be happy and carry on!


 

Can’t Beat Beet Greens May 11, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,locavore,thrift,Uncategorized,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:04 pm

good greens: good and green!

Local beets be ’bout gone, but big ruby beauties beckoned this past Saturday, all coyly coiffed with scarlet-striped greens atop scarlet stalks.  Who would dream of throwing away those leafy lagniappes?  I save the edible greens from most of my produce:  all the root veggies plus kohlrabi, and leek tops go straight into the freezer to await the stockpot.  Carrot tops I utilize the least, but I try to get to them as well.

Easy for creamin’, beet greens quickly cook up tenderly toothsome without disintegrating.  For my last batch I  wilted the rinsed leaves in hot olive oil (Central Market’s organic brand offers a great value or try Texas Olive Ranch for local), added a splash of organic cream (Organic Valley’s my top choice) and a small chunk of organic cream cheese (CM’s own brand is usually cheapest).  Seasoned with a dash of garam masala and salt to taste, these greens didn’t even need a squeeze of fresh lemon for brightening at the table, but it’s up to you!

 

Cheap Tricks—Maximizing Micronutrients on a Budget April 27, 2010

Filed under: capital area food bank,hunger awareness project,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:03 pm

For folks in direst need, the main food goal is obtaining sufficient calories.

We Texans face another frustrating dichotomy in that our citizenry ranks 14th nationally in obesity rates for adults despite our next-to-the-bottom food security standing.  Again, problems with resource distribution and food quality (to oversimplify the situation, mind you) pave the path to an underfed/undernourished population.  Coupled with a pandemic lack of knowledge of nutrition and health, often compounded by inexperience in good food preparation and lack of time to cook, these features of the modern Western world lead to both an unhealthy, overfed burden on our health care system as well as the unacceptable hunger accompanying poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, education or income, an empty belly begs for fullness, without any bargaining power to negotiate macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), let alone micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytochemicicals.  The USDA’s MyPyramid Food Guidance System may as well be in Egypt, as far as the hungriest Texans are concerned.

spaghetti special supper

Fortunately for the hungry in central Texas, a respectable 80% of the Capital Area Food Bank’s provisions place in the top 1 or 2 nutritional scoring categories (out of 5).  But for fresh produce, the sample food pantry distribution for our Hunger Awareness Project offered only a five-pound bag of potatoes.  Fairly full of nutrients, and certainly belly-filling and high in energy value, spuds have nearly single-handedly sustained entire populations.  We humans derive maximum health benefits, however, from a polychromatic plate—taste the rainbow.  (Skittles® was right!)  A typical food bank allotment provides deep red in the spaghetti sauce, the sunny yellow of canned corn, and even a bit of green from canned green beans (and jalapeño slices for those who can take the heat).  The canned fruit, with its diluted pastels, certainly seems to promise less nutrition than peak of season local glories such as strawberries, peaches, melons, apples and citrus, but current theory (and the gastric growlings of empty bellies) behooves us to accept its comparability to fresh.

But what’s for dinner?

Spaghetti and “spaghetti sauce” of course.  There’s our scarlet, loaded with lycopene, actually rendered more bioavailable by the cooking and canning process.  Tonight there’s no meat on the table (remember the food pantry allowance must be stretched for an entire month), but we’ve got our brown in the form of meaty Texas-grown portobello mushrooms, purchased on sale (today’s the last day!) at Central Market for $3.99 a pound.  That comes out to about a dollar per large ‘shroom, each one sufficient for an adult.  Quickly sauteed with a spot of olive oil plus a pinch of thyme and antioxidant champ oregano (bought dried in bulk for just pennies), the seared chunks lend textural and nutritional heft to our simple pasta meal at minimal cost.

these roots were made for plantin'

We’re fresh out of canned green beans around here, and in the spirit of the challenge I’m shopping minimally.  So broccoli stems it is!  Hastily trimmed and coarsely shredded from a $2 locally grown (and chemical-free) head, this throwaway vegetable contributes good green while bulking up our sauce.  Brown it a bit in a hot pan, the same one you just used to cook your mushrooms, with a restrained drizzle of olive oil.  Add a little more verdigris to the mix by topping each portion with fresh basil chiffonade.  Basil grows easily in our long season here, even in a pot.  For our garden we never purchase a plant or even seeds.  We buy fresh local basil from the produce department (located with the other herbs) for a dollar or so and root the fecund fronds in a glass of water at home.  Pluck leaves as you need them, and the readily rooting cuttings will be primed for transplanting in three weeks or so.  Fancy and nearly free!

Buon appetito!

 

Whole Foods Recipe: Cabbage and Cheddar Gratin April 18, 2010

Filed under: easy,locavore,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian,whole foods — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:16 am

cabbage casserole

Last night I baked up a recipe from the Whole Foods website for a cabbage and cheddar gratin.  Using Texas-grown cabbage (only 69¢ a pound at Central Market), Full Quiver Farm’s medium-sharp cheddar, Arrowhead Mills organic yellow cornmeal and Central Market organic Dijon mustard ($2.09 for the 9-ounce jar), plus a dash (about 1/3 teaspoon, actually) of homemade garam masala, I baked up this easy, hearty and tasty vegetarian dish.  Nearly vegetarian in my kitchen, anyways.  I used my homemade turkey broth instead of the vegetable broth called for.

For the herbs I snipped backyard sage, rosemary and thyme and just for funsies threw in a minced large basil leaf—’cause we’re growin’!  A scant teaspoon of salt (Real Salt) seasoned the lot just right.

We enjoyed this mustardy, filling main course and the preparation was simple.  I forgot to take a photo of the whole completed dish (sorry!) but you can get a gander on the link.  I did use a bigger baking pan than the recipe suggested.  I don’t know how they fit all that into an 8″ square dish.  I buttered up my 2.5-quart Le Creuset buffet casserole, over 10″ wide, and baked the gratin in the toaster oven.  For the initial baking, I put the lid on it, instead of using foil.  I raised the oven temperature to 400° for the last 15 uncovered minutes to promote browning.

Texas cabbage won’t be around much longer.  So get your hands on a head—it’s cheap!—and enjoy a cool afternoon of carefree baking.  You’ll be glad you did at dinnertime.

 

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.

INDIAN SEASONED SPINACH AND POTATO BAKE serves several

  • 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.

 

Chokin’ Under Pressure April 6, 2010

Filed under: easy,locavore,pressure cooker,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:59 pm

getting to the heart of the matter

whistle for your thistle

This past Saturday was advertised as the last market day for Texas artichokes.  I’ve got my fingers crossed, however, that Miguel Ortiz’ artichoke farm in Brownsville may show up this coming weekend with some stragglers.  We’ve already enjoyed a few ‘chokes (kinky!) but of course we crave more, more, more!

Just in case you get your little paws on a few thistley globes, here’s my pressure cooker method for cookin’ em up.  I season the cooking water and the finished artichokes need no further enhancement.  They’re even great cold.

I’m chokin’ bigtime on springtime!

PRESSURE COOKER ARTICHOKES makes 3 or 4

  • 3 or 4 good-sized artichokes
  • ½ cup organic white vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the quart bottle is usually the best value.
  • 2 quarts water
  • splash of organic or local olive oil.  I love Spanish Villa Blanca organic and remember to check out Texas Olive Ranch at our farmers markets.
  • 1 Tablepoon kosher salt.  I prefer Diamond Crystal.
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed or 1 stalk of local green garlic, cut into several lengths
  • a few small pieces of celery.  I bought my little bunch from Ringger Family Farm at Barton Creek farmers market.
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1 or two strips of local or organic lemon peel
  • 1 bay leaf—grow it!

Put all the ingredients except the artichokes into a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Prep the artichokes by first cutting a slice off the stem end with a sharp chef’s knife.  Next cut off about an inch off the top.  Then take your kitchen shears and snip the remaining tips off the leaves.  As you trim each artichoke, drop it into the pot.  When all your ‘chokes are ready, lock the lid ono the cooker and bring it to high pressure over high heat.  Lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook the artichokes for 15 minutes.  If you’re cooking 3 rather large globes they may need a few more minutes to tenderize.

When the time’s up, remove the cooker from the stove and place it outside for 10 minutes to let the pressure drop.  If the weather’s chilly, which it ain’t right now, you can get away with leaving the cooker in the house.  Otherwise, I like to put that extra heat outdoors.

Remove the artichokes from the water and give ’em a little shake upside down to remove excess liquid.  Serve as soon as they’ve cooled enough to handle.

 

Turnin’ Turnips into Radishes March 30, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,locavore,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:26 pm

look what turnip'd up

Sporting precocious pompadours of perfect jade, darling baby turnips from Ringger Family Farm (Barton Creek Farmers Market) tastily replaced the usual radishes in my “Ravishing Radishes” recipe.  I love those greens, of course, and the young turnips’ softer coiffures rendered a gentler verdant cloak for the tender roots.

With spring debutantes asparagus and artichokes exerting their presence, humble cool weather crops, nearing their adjournment, still satisfy.