Monday, March 29, 2010

canning lids!

These were as a Facebook ad and I'm so glad to have seen them!

They are Tattler reusable canning lids. I can be a bit of a canning fiend, but I get annoyed that I have to buy new lids each time. Sure, they're less than 10 cents a piece, but one of the benefits of canning is that you save money by reusing containers. So, I'm super excited to see that I have options!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

collards with ham hock

When I moved to the South, I took to okra immediately - it grows like crazy in my backyard and I cook it in various wonderful iterations, then pickle, freeze, and dry it and enjoy it. I am not in the least bit self-conscious of my okra affinity.

But collards? Truth be told, they're more complicated. Oftentimes when I would have them, they were too fatty for me and too doctored up. I wanted collards without the fancy dressing up, darn it.

But shortly after I moved here, I tried cooking my own collards to my own specifications. And honey child, they were atrocious. Bitter and tough (perhaps from the supermarket and not really fresh) and BLECH! And I gave up for the time being.

Now though, I feel more sure about my southern cooking repertoire, and so I tried again when I picked up some beautiful greens from the Farmers Market. And they're so good I think I might eat the whole darn pot today! Fortunately they're darn good for me - and here is an interesting article on their history & nutrition.

Put one smoked ham hock in a large pot of liquid. (The liquid can be broth or water or whey from yogurt making, which is what I used.) Boil it to get the flavor of the ham hock in the liquid. (I boiled it about two hours, and truthfully this was too long because that flavor is too dominant. Next time I'll boil it maybe 1/2 hour, then pull out the ham hock and set it aside to use for something else later.)

While that is simmering, clean your greens. Generally for cleaning greens such as collards, you need to do a fair amount of dunking in a big tub of water and rinsing. They do trap dirt. Then chop the greens. I keep almost all the stem (just trimming off the bottom bit). I take a big bunch of collards and roll them together and chop through all the stems then on up to the leaves.

When the ham hock is falling apart, add the collards to the broth and stir well. (If they won't all fit, add what you can then let it wilt down a bit and then add the rest.)

Simmer for about 45 minutes. The collards are a tough bunch, and they need the time to break down the bitterness and fiber. The long cooking (usually I lightly cook vegetables so this goes against my intuition) is actually important to release nutrients as well.

Flavor to taste. Definitely taste before salting! The smoked ham hock was super salty to me. I had just finished a jar of pickled okra and tossed in the garlic & peppers from that jar, as well as a bit of the vinegar.

Enjoy! I ate on "Jazzmen" rice (also super good with cornbread) with a good dash of Crystal hot sauce on top. And oh soul, so good!

The liquid left from cooking greens is called "pot likker" and is super tasty and nutritious. You can sop it up with cornbread or rice, or you can save it and use as a soup base.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

strawberry honey jam

(originally posted on other blog March, 2009)

Pre-work: prepare the jars & lids. Wash them well, then put them in separate pans. You want to boil the jars to get them very sterile, but do not boil the lids because that can destroy the sealing rubber gasket part. Get the lids to a simmer then turn off the heat; boil the jars about 10 minutes and then keep them in the pot. You'll use the same pot to boil them in later when they're full of jam, so don't dump the water out. [I have a problem with a film developing on the jars when they boil - my guess is from minerals in the water. Will need to figure it out.]

Then, wash the strawberries. Be gentle. Get organic strawberries, or at least unsprayed, so you're only washing to get off dirt, leaves, etc. Dry on a clean tea towel. Let them get to room temperature so that their flavor is very full.

Then, hull them. I take the stem off with my fingers, then use a huller for the tough attachment part. (Can also use a knife, but I find that seems to take off too much of the good berry.)

Slice until you think you'll have about 4 cups mashed (my best guess is about 2 1/2 pints). (You probably don't have to slice before mashing, but I think it makes the mashing easier.)

Then mash, leaving some yummy big chunks but getting out the juice. Measure into a pan to be sure you have 4 cups. {*I do multiple batches as well - see below.}

Get out your other supplies. I use Pomona's Universal Pomona because it doesn't require table sugar and has fantastic customer service (yeah, I've called twice). I use local honey because it tastes like ambrosia. I've never been all that into honey before, but this Westwego (on the West Bank) honey from Mynick's farm pushes me into paroxysms of pleasure. And the combination of local strawberries and honey is so wonderful!

The directions are clear for Universal Pectin, which I appreciate. You have to make "calcium water" (just adding some liquid to water to keep in a jar). You add 2 tsp of that to your 4 c of mashed berries, and then add 2 tsp from the other packet (pectin) to however much honey you want to use (I use 1/2 c to 3/4 c of honey per 4 cups of strawberries.)

Bring the fruit to boil while stirring so the bottom doesn't burn. Then add the honey mixture, stirring well to dissolve the pectin. Return to a boil and then remove from heat.

Fill the jars to 1/4" of top (it really helps to have a canning funnel). Wipe the rims clean, screw on the two piece lids, and put the jars in the boiling water to cover. Boil five minutes if you're at (or below, in my case) sea level, longer at higher altitude. Remove with the special tool for that (jar handler tool) and set on a towel on the counter to cool. For four cups of mashed berries, I filled three 1/2 pint jelly jars and then a larger jar that isn't for canning to use as fridge jam (I sterilized the jar & lid and will keep in fridge and use up right away).

And then you have jam! Yum! It's fantastic to eat throughout the year, and I especially like it in homemade yogurt.

It is definitely possible to quadruple batches with this pectin (as long as you have enough pots, etc.).

3/24/09 - A whole flat of strawberries yielded about 18 1/2 c mashed strawberries (probably more but I measured generously). I put in about 2 1/2 c honey and 10 teaspoons each of calcium water and pectin.

It made 7 pints plus an applesauce jar, a jam jar, and another glass container I use for food leftovers.

3/23/10 - A whole flat yielded about 17 c mashed berries (yeah, I nibbled on quite a few), which yielded 9 pint jars of jam plus a little bit.

Monday, March 22, 2010

super simple apple dip

I am not much for sauces, but I'm a fiend for a good dip. I can eat bushels of raw vegetables with a fresh ranch dip (OK, now I'm craving ...). For Thanksgiving the hostess served (amongst 3,000 other things) sliced apples with caramel dip, and I could not stop gorging myself. If I had any shame, I would be embarrassed, but it had probably been years since I'd had caramel.

On my recent monster roadtrip, I munched apples and carrots along the way, and when I replenished I bought a big bag of Trader Joe's already-sliced apples, which was a LOT of apples. It got me craving caramel but all the recipes I saw were rather elaborate and for huge quantities.

But then I thought of dulce de leche and OH SNAP was that ever easy. All you need is a can of sweetened condensed milk (which I happened to have on hand for Vietnamese coffee) and a large pot!

Place the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a large pot, covered with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a bubbling simmer for about 90 minutes. (Many people said 3 hours or so, but 90 minutes was a perfect consistency and who wants to boil for three hours??)

Be sure to keep the can covered with water (or it could explode). Mine didn't need water replenishment, but if you boil longer or harder it could.

Remove can from water and let cool. Open can, pour in to container and serve. I liked it warm and also chilled.

Note: This is a lot of sugar and fat and calories. Share!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

revolution, shmevolution

Jamie Oliver, eff you.

I just watched two minutes of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" and I am revolted. I agree with this person. But let me up the discontent.

Do not call grown women "girls." Don't call the head cook a "lunch lady" and say you "love these girls." They're old enough to be your mother or more, and you need to show them respect.

Learn to show respect in general, asshat. Stop the self-righteous crap. Stop saying things like "Pizza for breakfast and chicken nuggets for lunch. Welcome to America."

Here are the problems with that statement. First, all Americans do not eat that way so stop being an ignorant bigot - Alice Waters is very American as well, thanks. Second, Brits don't eat any better, and their food tastes worse. Third, England has an obesity epidemic as well, so why not preach where people don't think you sound like a moron, with your pretentiously mussed hair? Fourth, you are portly, Jamie Oliver. If Eva Longoria wants to give nutrition advice, I would listen to her because she's lean. You have a belly that would turn Jenny on. Fifth, our entire food system is on its head because of whackadoo subsidies that make fast food and crap considerably cheaper than healthier food. Poor people don't have arugula cash (says the woman who just ate rice and beans, again).

Oh, I can go on and on, and maybe I just caught an awful couple of minutes. But anybody who comes in and disrespects Head Cook Alice - well, off with his head. Asshat.

I know that I'm a food elitist. Absolutely. I choose local, organic foods because I know they make me feel better, and I break down for "junk" only rarely. I am obsessive about my nutritional choices. But I don't expect or demand that of others. No revolution can be crammed down other people's throats.

We need a food revolution, but this? THIS is not how to do it, Jamie Oliver. You will just divide our country further, and I hope they tar and feather you.

We do need a food revolution in our country, but THIS is most certainly not it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

goat and collards

Seeking to clear my refrigerator and freezer, I shall assemble a West African-style "soup." Sorry for the lack of measurements - I just empty up what I have.

*onion, chopped
*goat meat, chopped
*peppers - bell or chili (in Liberia, they mash the garlic & chili peppers in a mortar/pestle - not chop. Makes the flavor richer)
*collards, one bunch, cleaned thoroughly and chopped; and/or other greens (such as mustard greens, cabbage, etc.)
*okra (frozen is fine)
*diced tomatoes (a can; or some tomato paste, juice, sauce, etc. - the acid helps tenderize the goat and adds a great flavor)
*other vegetables as desired including carrots, potatoes, yams, etc.
*stock (I use whey from yogurt making and homemade stock)
*seasonings to taste (salt, pepper - in Liberia they use a lot of MSG, which I do not; can also blend in a couple tablespoons of peanut butter toward the end of cooking)

Saute onion, garlic, peppers, and celery (if desired) over medium-low heat in peanut oil. (High heat will burn garlic and make it bitter.)

Add in goat meat and brown it. (Or remove the first ingredients and brown the goat alone)

Put that in a crock pot with the rest of the ingredients, add stock to cover, and let cook for several hours. The goat needs a long time to cook in order to tenderize, and that won't hurt the collards (I would use a tough green like collards rather than spinach for that reason, and any other vegetables added should be hearty as well to avoid turning to mush) - and the long time will help the flavors meld and the okra adds a great body.

Goes great on rice!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

gumbo z'herbes

Gumbo is a wonderful medley of cultures and flavors which thrives in the melting pot of New Orleans. I never turn down a gumbo, and have been told I make a damn fine roux especially for a girl from Alaska.

A special gumbo is gumbo z'herbes, which is made with a variety of different greens. In true New Orleans fashion, you cook 'em down with some meat and serve it up on rice. But that description does not do it justice.

I've only had it once, served up by Leah Chase. And if I were not atheist, I have no doubt there would be angels singing. It was one of those transcendent moments and took my breath away. It is that amazing.

The thing is, it's not a common dish. Traditionally it's only made for Good Friday and without meat. Being in New Orleans though, meat got added back in, and now it's more of a Lenten dish in general.

Know what time it is now? It's LENT! And I want me some gumbo z'herbes! And I want to see my friends. So I thought I'd invite Eve over to help me make it and we'd have a few friends over ... but then I thought, "Hm. Why not invite a whole bunch of people!" And suddenly I'm thinking of needing more bowls and bigger pots.

The thing about gumbo z'herbes is that you need like 15 types of greens - so it sure seems easy to me to make up a whole lot. And on rice, with some French bread - not too expensive to make. I'm always buying all kinds of greens anyway. Sure wish I'd grown more ... oh well. That's why we have farmers markets.

So, here's a recipe that's an amalgamation of a whole bunch of different types, and I will likely do something quite similar (though I want to get to 15 greens! They say however many types of greens in is how many new friends you'll make that year):

11 types greens

1 small bunch arugula
1 small bunch kale
1 bunch kohlrabi
1 bunch beet greens
1 bag spinach
1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch swiss chard
1 bunch bok choi
1/2 head cabbage
1/2 head iceberg lettuce

(other types greens one can use: carrot greens, chicory, watercress, pepper grass, turnip greens, radish greens, nasturtiums, etc.)


1 1/2 pounds andouille
1 pound cooked beef brisket
1/2 pound tasso
(can also use ham, stew meat, pickle pork)
1 pound bacon, cooked and drippings saved to make roux
1 cup flour for roux


1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
4 stalks chopped celery
1 large bunch chopped shallots
1 bunch chopped parsley
1 bunch fennel
4 minced jalapenos
3 tablespoons vinegar
salt, pepper, hot sauce

How to make it

Strip the leaves off all the greens, removing the woody stems. Soak in large bowl in cold water, drain, soak again until the water runs clear. Stuff all the greens (omit the shallots) in a large stock pot and add 2 quarts water. Cover and steam until wilted, about 30 minutes. Drain greens and reserve the liquid (pot likker!) and chop greens fine or use a blender (blender is the preferred method). Fry off the bacon, remove then add about a cup of flour to the bacon drippings and make a roux. Once roux is ready add the chopped seasonings (celery, bell pepper, onion, shallots, jalapenos, garlic). Cut the meats (andouille, bacon, tasso, brisket) into small pieces and place in stock pot. After the seasonings are translucent, add to the stock pot with pot likker, and meats, and bring to a boil. Add the greens, parsley, fennel, salt pepper, vinegar and hot sauce, bring to a boil then simmer until thick. Serve over rice or grits, with some cornbread on the side.

Moroccan oranges

I saw these on the blog of a friend of a friend, and couldn't pass them up. I'll just copy it word for word and someday for a special occasion make them (because now, this is more sugar than I eat in six months!): (and yes, see labels, I know that Morocco is not in the Middle East - but this seems something that would be served there ...)

Chantal's Mother Moroccan oranges

This is what you need

4 oranges
1 cup of honey
1cup of sugar
whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks (1 for the syrup and the other broken in half for the jars)
2 1-pint jars
and what I have added over the years which is of course, optional

A couple of fresh orange or lemon leaves, washed and dried
and a dash of Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Wash the oranges well with hot water to make sure they are completely clean. Remember, you will be eating the whole orange here. Slice the oranges into 1/3 inch slices. I normally use medium size oranges so they will fit nicely into a wide mouth pint jar. In a large frying pan for instance, place the sliced oranges and cover with water. Simmer at the lowest heat for about 20 minutes or until you can pierce the skin easily. Don't let them get too soft or the effect won't be the same. Firm but tender is the operative word here.

Drain them and then lay them flat on a cooling rack. I leave them out overnight covered with a piece of saran wrap. The following morning stick a whole clove in each slice and set aside. Now mix the honey and sugar to make a syrup. Bring the syrup to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Add 1 cinnamon stick and reserve the other. Carefully add the orange slices into the pan and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Now comes the fun part. I cook with tongs and I would be completely useless without them, but I am sure a slotted spoon or even a fork, providing you use it horizontally as you would a spatula, would make your job easy; You have to be careful as they break easily at this point, arrange them into layers into the 2 pint jars. Divide the syrup among the jars and add the cinnamon sticks. Wipe the edge of the jar clean and either add a citrus leaf to each, or a dash of liqueur. They are perfect without either but they are superb with both.

Serve with creme fraiche, or some of Trader Joe's French Village vanilla yoghurt. And then come back to tell me where your unicorn took you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

needing protein

So, I'm kind of over meat.

I was a vegetarian a long time and then when I moved to an Eskimo village and my dietary choices limited significantly (dry fish with seal oil? or corned caribou?), so I started eating meat and never looked back. I realized I function best with a good deal of protein.

And so I became a meat eater. But, I'm kind of over it now. Being in touch with my inner Asian, I've been putting little bits in vegetable dishes for flavor, but the texture and feel of meat itself as a star of a dish? Rarely excites me. And i thought it was just a problem with my cooking, but now I don't think so.

So, I'm needing new and exciting ways to get enough protein.

Eggs I will eat sometimes, but I tire of them pretty quickly.
Yogurt is a staple but not a satisfying food (better as a dessert).
Legumes are a frequent part of my diet, often with a little bit of meat.
I would eat fish but I don't like the local fish and good wild Pacific salmon and halibut is way too expensive. And the shellfish here always makes me ill. I do eat tuna in moderation (ah, the mercury fears).
I do eat nuts and seeds, but they're way high in calories for the protein they provide.
I also take the whey from yogurt making and use it in soups and breads - I'm hoping that ups their protein content.

Other ideas?? I'm the queen of variety and cannot stand food routines ...

Monday, March 1, 2010

roasted asparagus

Honestly I've never been a big fan of asparagus. I make myself eat it because I think I should like it and it's very healthy, but steamed? Ick. There's a particular taste component that repulses me. I'll eat it when prepared as an appetizer wrapped in goat cheese, bacon, and dates ... but not regularly!

But roasted? Oh, baby. THAT is another story. I discovered roasting vegetables last year, and there has been no turning back. So I thought, why not? Oh, yum. Oh, yum, yum, yum. The roasting kills that icky taste and I'm a happy asparagus-muncher.

olive oil
salt (I used Himalayan pink freshly ground) - go light on the salt - I find the roasting really emphasizes the saltiness
pepper (freshly ground - I used lemon pepper)
dried red chili pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and dry the asparagus. Snap off the woody ends as necessary.

Spread out on a baking sheet single layer and spray with olive oil. (If you have no spray oil, you can roll it around in a plastic bag or bowl with about 1 T to 1 bunch asparagus - to lightly coat t.)

Sprinkle salt, pepper, and pepper flakes on top.

Bake 10-20 minutes, depending on size and how you like them. (I like 'em crispy, so I go full time.) Stir every 5 minutes or so.