Savor The Earth

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Tangy Texas Tangerine Chicken November 19, 2009

Texas Tangerine, she is all they claim...

We lucky Austinites can purchase Orange Blossom Farms fragrant organic tangerines at both the Austin Farmers Market and Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  Texas citrus season is NOW (although my own mandarin tree, laden in its fourth year with at least 50 fruits, is still transforming green globes into the orange of winter’s gold) and I’m sure you’ve already been enjoying Texas ruby red grapefruit (Rio Star) and the Lone Star state’s sweet juicing oranges.  Grab yourself a $5 bag of Texas tangerines and a pack of chicken legs from one of our local and sustainable operations and whip up some Chinese-style comfort food.

TANGY TEXAS TANGERINE CHICKEN serves several

  • about 1½ pounds chicken leg quarters, separated, or thighs, from local producers at our farmers markets
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral flavored high smoke point oil.  I like Spectrum‘s organic peanut oil available at Whole Foods.
  • 1 large local green onion, finely chopped, white and light green parts separated from the dark green parts.  Hairston Creek Farm has been selling lovely long-leafed scallions.
  • 3 strips of organic Texas tangerine peel, about 3″ long, white pith removed (use a sharp paring knife held parallel to the counter), minced
  • 3 or more dried red Chinese chile peppers
  • ½ teaspoon ground, roasted Szechuan peppercorns.  You can buy these, whole and untoasted, in bulk at Central Market.  Substitute fresh cracked black pepper if necessary.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground dried ginger
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed organic Texas tangerine juice
  • ½ cup broth, preferably homemade unsalted.  See Stock Tips.
  • ¼ cup bitter (Seville) orange marmalade
  • 2 Tablespoons organic white wine vinegar.  I use Spectrum.
  • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons organic soy sauce.  I like Eden or San-J.
  • 1 teaspoon organic toasted sesame oil (Spectrum again) or a generous teaspoon of best-quality butter–Organic Valley or Lucky Layla (from Texas)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon cold broth

Heat up a large heavy skillet over highest heat.  When it’s good and pipin’ hot, add your oil, swirl it around and lay in your chicken pieces, skin side down.  Brown well on both sides, then remove chicken to a plate and set aside.  Pour off all but a Tablespoon or so of the fat in the pan (reserve this flavorful grease for stir-frying tofu or veggies) and put the pan back on the stove at medium-high heat.  Bloom your aromatics—scallion whites, tangerine peel and chiles—in the hot fat for a minute then stir in the powdered spices.  Add the next six ingredients (through the soy sauce), bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add back the chicken, skin side down, cover and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over once, until the meat tests done.  Remove chicken from the sauce and raise the heat to medium-high.  Stir up a slurry of the cornstarch and cold broth and stir it and the scallion greens into the simmering sauce.  It will thicken right away.  Stir in the sesame oil or butter.

Serve the chicken and sauce with hot Lowell Farms jasmine rice.  You can either set a chicken piece atop a mound of rice and nap it with the sauce or, as is my family’s preference, debone the chicken and mix it into the sauce, to be ladled over the rice.  Don’t forget to save the skin and bones for the stock pot!

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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
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Frijoles!

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.

 

kebabin’ July 24, 2009

Filed under: Indian,meat — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:18 pm
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I love the convenience of ground meat and find a number of local options at our farmers markets.  From Loncito’s Lamb and Thunderheart Bison at both Sunset Valley Farmers Market and Austin Farmers Market, goat and lamb from Premium Lamb at Austin FM, to pork, beef and longhorn beef vendors at both markets, you’ll enjoy plenty of choices.

Here’s an Indian-inspired kebab recipe. You can use lamb (my first choice), goat (very mild), or beef.   The ingredient list is long, but these juicy, aromatic  morsels will transport you, if not to India itself, then to your favorite Indian grocery store.  Mine’s MGM in Rich Creek Plaza at 7429 Burnet Road.  I don’t get north much so I buy what I can at Fiesta, but I relish the occasional foray into this friendly resource.  Sometimes they’re selling curry bush transplants.  I bought one at least 8 years ago and it grows great here.  It’ll die down in our “winter,” even with a sheet over it. Each spring I worriedly inspect the branches, searching for green signs of survival, and to my relief the plant always comes through.  Sometimes it blooms sweet smelling blossoms and one year it even fruited.  I had no idea what to do with those firm, dark, round berries.  Let me know if you do!

Although these kebabs are moist enough not to require condimenting, they taste extra yummy with some blueberry chutney.

KAKORI-STYLE KEBABS yields 10 finger length chubbies

  • 2 Tablespoons white poppy seeds–If you don’t have these, sesame seeds would probably taste good.  Black poppy seeds probably wouldn’t.
  • 3 Tablespoons besan (garbanzo bean flour)
  • 2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil, ghee, or neutral oil
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons organic oatmeal (Whole Foods bulk sells for $1.79 a pound) soaked in 2 Tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala–I always make my own and I’m always experimenting, but you can purchase some from WF or Central Market Bulk departments.
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, precious and optional, crushed with a little salt
  • 3/4 of a hard Texas pear, peeled, cored and finely shredded.  Go ahead and munch the other quarter or put it in your stock scrap bag in the freezer.
  • 1 pound ground meat, preferably local grassfed good stuff

In a small skillet, dry-toast the poppy seeds over medium or so heat until fragrant and darkening.  Add the besan and continue to toast until besan is roasty-fragrant and darkens a bit.  Dump out onto a plate or cake pan (cools faster), let cool and grind up in your spice grinder or mortar.  In your still hot pan, add the oil and onions and cook, adjusting heat as necessary, til they’re goodly browned.  You know what I’m talkin’ about.

Mix all your dry seasonings, including besan mixture, together in a small bowl.  Put the meat, browned onion, oatmeal and shredded pear into a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer.  I prefer to use a mixer because not only do my delicate hands get chilly but I can always count on a baby pooping on the carpet or some such disaster befalling my offspring when I’m up to my elbows in raw meat (or bread dough or whatever).  Praise be to KitchenAid®!  Dump in the spices and thoroughly combine all the ingredients however you dare.

Let the kebab mixture rest in the fridge for a while, all day or overnight.  Form the meat with your hands into 10 plump sausages.  An ice cream-style scoop works well to portion it out.  Grill over hot coals til cooked through and crusty brown.  Watch ’em disappear cuz even the youngest guy around here loves these.

 

Eggplant Chickpea Pilaf July 21, 2009

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

EGGPLANT CHICKPEA PILAF

  • 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.

 

blueberry chutney

Filed under: blueberries,Indian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:15 pm
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I can’t think of a snappy title this time.  But here’s a great chutney that shows off Texas ingredients in season right now.  Our local  farmers markets are offering plenty of organic options for onions, garlic and blueberries.  And those Texas pears!  If you steer clear of these rather rustic fruits on account of their tough hides or occasionally granular insides, I urge you to give ’em a try.  Let them ripen up to a yielding texture–they may still feel surprisingly firm–and peel that thick skin off.  These pears can be really luscious, and may even surprise your palate with a hint of walnut!  This recipe is very customizable.  It’s like a choose your own texture adventure.

BLUEBERRY CHUTNEY

  • 2 1/2 to 3 Tablespoons oil–organic virgin coconut is good.  Whole Foods brand is usually the best buy.  Most nut oils and any neutral oil would be fine.
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds.  If you have only yellow, that will do.
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 whole dried red chiles–crush them if you want the heat.
  • 2 small or 1 medium-ish onion,  sliced thin or chopped medium fine, you decide.  Choose your color, too.  Mix it up if you want.  Pairing a red and a sweet yellow worked great for me.
  • 1 large clove of garlic, prepped as you please.  From whole or whole smashed to pressed or any form in between.
  • a pecan shell-size finger of ginger, preferably organic and domestic.  You can fine shred, microplane or mince this.  By the way, I almost never peel ginger.  Don’t tell anyone.  On second thought, tell everybody!
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium-sized Texas pear (about 5 ounces), hard or ripe, peeled, cored and diced medium or fine or shredded thick or thin.
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins–I love the Central Market Bulk raisins.
  • 1/4-1/3 cup organic apple cider vinegar
  • 80 grams (about 3/8 cup plus a scant teaspoon) turbinado sugar
  • 1 pint organic Texas blueberries–about $4 still at our farmers markets and Central Market–rinsed and drained.  Don’t bother to dry them.

Heat your oil and whole spices in 10″ to 12″ skillet on medium high heat.  Let the spices toast and the mustard seeds pop. Add the onions.  Stir and cook the onions to brown them nicely.  Adjust the heat as necessaryStir in your garlic and lightly brown it if you like.  Stir in the ginger.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium-low to medium heat about 20 minutes,  until the chutney has thickened well and the blueberries are as popped as you please.  Add a dash of water if it’s thickening up too soon.  Don’t eat the whole spices if you can help it!

You’ll love the royal hue of this sweet condiment.  Eat it with the usual kebabs and pilafs or try some on a tangy cheese.  Enjoy the Texas bounty!

 

that’s a crock…of potatoes July 13, 2009

Filed under: potatoes,slow cooker,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:35 pm
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Fresh and flavorful local potatoes are all over our markets lately.  If you’ve yet to taste a spud not long out of the ground, you’re in for a savory treat.  Our area farmers are offering mostly reds and yellows.  Get yourself some smallish taters, two inches or so across, and roast ’em outside in your slow cooker.

SLOW COOKER-ROASTED POTATOES around our house this barely serves 3

  • 1 1/2 pounds small (about 2 inches across) red or yellow potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil,  preferably organic, plus just a little more
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt–I like Diamond brand
  • up to a whole head of garlic cloves, peeled (use at least 1/2 dozen)
  • 3 good-sized (about 6″–that’s a good size) sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 good-sized sprig of fresh thyme

Wash and dry your potatoes.  Put them in the crock, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt.  Mix them up.  Rub your garlic cloves with olive oil and nestle them amongst the potatoes.  Some of the garlic might sneak down to the bottom but try not to let the cloves touch the crock.  Rub your herb sprigs with olive oil and lay them on top of the potatoes and garlic.  Roast on high for about 3 hours.  The potatoes are done when you can poke right through them with a pointy implement.  If they roast a little longer you’ll get crispier skins.

 

from “can’t”aloupe to “can”aloupe July 12, 2009

Filed under: cantaloupe,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:35 am
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molding my 'sicles

pop-a-sicle!

I recently bought a small, quite fragrant cantaloupe at Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  Entranced by the heady aroma, I ignored the unfortunate fact that I actually don’t like melons (watermelons being the irresistibly refreshing exception).  This unabashedly ripe orb seemed to promise new possibilities of edibility.  At the very least the baby could try it.

Baby liked the new fruit just fine but my older son quickly decided he didn’t enjoy melon after all.  And despite that honeyed scent I couldn’t put a piece into my mouth and my husband wouldn’t even feign temptation.

What to do?  Popsicles, of course!  Now the whole family can dig these melons!

CANTALOUPE POPSICLES yield depends on mold size

  • a generous pound of ripe cantaloupe, cut into small chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto–I spose this is optional.  You could add a small splash of almond extract instead.
  • fresh lemon and/or lime juice to taste–I used 1 small lemon and half of 1 small lime for my batch.
  • local honey, to taste–I put in about 2 Tablespoons.

Dump everything into your blender.  Pulse to get it going then blend til smooth (or a little chunky, your choice).  Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze for 1 hour before inserting sticks.  Freeze until hard and unmold at eatin’ time.

Astoundingly (to me) I do not own popsicle molds.  I see such cute ones in stores and magazines.  I probably own most every other kitchen doodad so I used some heart-shaped JELL-O® brand Jigglers® molds that I bought years ago at the (surprise, surprise) thrift store.  You can use waxed paper cups but that’s not so green.  If you don’t mind small ‘sicles ice cube trays will work and faster, too.

Take advantage of a luscious local fruit, in abundant supply right now at good prices.