As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

I cook. I garden. I travel. I rant about food politics.
  • Sauteing veggies for the soup
  • Sweet corn and poblano soup! This picture doesn't due it justice.
  • They were too busy munching to pose for the picture
  • Fresh spring onions from Greengate Farms!
  • Franci Mallmann's Chimicurri Sauce I made
  • Lemon Dill Carrots
  • Leftover rice, sauteed kale from garden w/Braggs and two of my hens eggs
  • Hotel picnic lunch from Zabars: caper berries, cheese, crackers, potato kinish, white beans, broccoli rabe, Jewish sweet treat (don't recall the name) Zabars lunch

Latest

Getting the Most out of Your Corn for you (and Your Chickens)

Back in June, I bought copious amounts of fresh sweet corn from Two Happy Children Farm at the SFC Farmers’ Market downtown. I used most of it to make Sweet Corn and Roasted Poblano Soup. Lucky for me, I saved the corncobs and placed them in a ziplock back in the freezer, knowing they would come in handy for a vegetable broth later on.  Corn was known to be the lifeblood of many Native American groups and these recipes proves that point!

This weekend at the market I bought some lovely golden summer squash and decided to make a pureed soup with my bounty. I wanted to make something healthy and delicious that I could prepare over the weekend and pop into the freezer for later in the week. It was time to use those corncobs I had so carefully saved and make a delicious, sweet broth that would form the base of the squash soup. Once again, I relied on Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone to inspire this soup.

Ingredients for Sweet Corn Broth

  • 8 corn cobs
  • 6 C water
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions for the broth

  1. Place all ingredients in large stock pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Remove onions and corn cobs and place them in the compost -OR- if you have chickens, let them cool off and serve them to your chicks; they will love pecking at them.

Ingredients for Golden Summer Squash Soup with Basil

  • 1/2 C fresh basil, chopped
  •  4 golden summer squash, sliced in 1/2 in. rounds
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp white rice (I ended up using arborio rice as it was the only white rice I had)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 C sweet corn broth

Directions for Soup

  1. In a large stockpot, warm 2 tbsp of olive oil
  2. Add diced onions, garlic, basil and squash. Saute for 5 minutes.
  3. Add salt, rice and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  4. If you have an immersion blender, you can just stick it into the stock pot and blend. If you do not have an immersion blender, use a ladle or measuring cup to place half of the contents into a blender.
  5. Blend until pureed and set aside. Repeat process with rest of soup ingredients.

I have not yet served my soup, as I planned ahead and will be freezing the soup for later in the week. I recommend serving it with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt in the middle. Enjoy!

Sauteing veggies for the soup

Ms. Chicken pecking at the corn cob

Soup is cooling; ready to store in the freezer for a quick meal!

Sweet Corn and Roasted Poblano Soup

Ever since sweet corn showed up at the farmers’ mkt a month ago, I have been making cream of corn-potato soup non-stop (thank you Deborah Madison for the recipe!). Yes it’s that good—and super easy! And freezes wonderfully! Now I usually shop at the SFC Farmers’ Mkts and corn may be done for our farmers. But chances are you’ll see a lot of corn continuing at the grocery stores.

This recipe is so simple, but so delicious. I have only made it with fresh sweet corn and don’t know if it would be as good with frozen or canned corn. The sweetness of the corn is intoxicating and steals the show. Should you want to avoid dairy, you can just use broth and/or water. Keep in mind, the more broth you use (instead of water), the more flavorful it will be.

Ingredients

  • 6 ears of corn, corn cut off the cob
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1.5 cups of cubed potatoes (I’ve been using small potatoes, so I don’t even bother to peel them)
  • 2 – 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium
  • 4 – 6 cups of water
  • Handful of fresh herbs (I’ve been grabbing thyme and Italian oregano from the garden), chopped
  • 1 – 2 cups of milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional: Roasted poblano peppers to garnish

Directions

  1. Heat oil in stock pot. Add onions and cook until translucent over medium heat, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add herbs and cook a few minutes more minutes.
  3. Add broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add water and corn and cook for an additional 15 – 20 minutes or until corn and potatoes are soft.
  5. Meanwhile, if you are using poblano peppers, roast them directly over the gas burner, turning so that the entire pepper becomes charred. Once charred on all sides, place into a paper bag. Close paper bag by rolling up the opening. Keep in the bag for 5 – 10 minutes. Not only will the peppers cool, but the steam trapped in the bag will help you peel off the charred skin. Over the sink (but not under running water), carefully peel off the charred skin. Discard the stem, membranes and seeds if desired. Cut into strips or cut into strips and dice. (The reason you don’t want to peel away the charred skin under running water is that it can wash a lot of the natural oils and flavor off of the peppers.)
  6. Note: The amount of liquid you add will determine how thick your soup will be (hence the ranges of each liquid).
  7. Let ingredients cool (or if you are impatient like me, make sure to hold down blender top with kitchen towel).
  8. Put half of ingredients into blender and add half of milk. Blend until pureed. Place in another bowl.
  9. Put the rest of the ingredients into the blender and add the rest of the milk. Place back into stock pot with the rest of the pureed mixture.
  10. Bring soup to a very low simmer for the flavors to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve warm garnished with roasted poblanos.

Note: if you have an immersion blender, you can use that in the place of a regular blender. This soup freezes wonderfully! In fact, I made this soup for the 4th time this past week and froze the majority of it right before going out of town; when I arrived late on Sunday night I put it in the fridge and had lunch for Monday ready!

Roasting poblanos

 

Rajas (strips of roasted poblanos)

 

Sweet corn and poblano soup! This picture doesn’t due it justice.

Chefs, I Encourage You to Step out of Your Semifreddo Igloo

Hello Friends! Well, that is hello if there are any of you out there. I realize it’s been a LONG time since I last wrote in the blog. To make the story short, SXSW happened, things in my personal life happened, I ate sandwiches for about a month straight (no cooking) and then I wasn’t really inspired to start writing when I started cooking again. I explained to my mom tonight over dinner that I hadn’t felt the passion in a while to write, but what did make me passionate was all the articles I read daily (for work mainly) and opinions I make from the world around me, primarily focusing on food/health/politics/inequality.

One such article I read today in the NY Times struck a chord in me–“For Them a Great Meal Tops Good Intentions”. Basically the premise of the article is that famous chefs, Thomas Keller and Andoni Luis Aduriz, argue that they don’t have an obligation to the greater human good to promote certain agendas other than pushing the artistic/culinary envelope with a tantalizing meal. And you can bet this didn’t sit well with yours truly. Why? Let me explain–

There is something I coined “The big brother syndrome.” No, not the Orwellian Big Brother, but rather the typical big brother or sister in a family. No first-borns were asked to be first born, they just were. And they certainly didn’t ask to be a role model for their younger sibling(s); it just happened that way. And often times they don’t want to be the role model. But, inherently, they are. That’s just life.

I think this is a common argument made by celebrities, whether they are athletes or actors or chefs.  Many celebrities rationalize their behavior with the same argument that they “didn’t ask to be famous” or “didn’t ask to be a role model.” But no matter if they asked–they are! That is what fame brings you. But with that fame brings you the power to do something positive. And not just positive in the fact that you blow everyone’s starry Michelin eyes off with your “desserts that evoke dustings of pollen or skeins of frogs’ eggs.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I love that people are combining food and artistic expression. Chefs Keller and Arduriz are famous because they make some of the BEST friggin’ food on the planet.

BUT–

 While their restaurants may be accessible only to the world’s 0.1 percent, chefs at top restaurants influence the entire global food community with the way they think, write, tweet and talk about food — not just the way they cook it.

This line of the article hits the nail on the head–

I believe that if you are famous for doing good in a specific vein such as sports or culinary arts or theatre, why not use your fame and power to do true good for the rest of world? After all, none of us lives in a vacuum. And less now than any other time in history. Furthermore, there is a growing division between the haves and the have-nots–especially in this country–we haven’t seen this sort of division since well–since I have been a live. As I write this, HBO debuts it’s Weight of the Nation series telling the obesity epidemic story. Americans are sick. Because of our food.The climate is changing. The world is warming.

And maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I am so hell-bent on being socially and environmentally conscience that I expect everyone to do so, especially celebrities. But is that so bad? So chefs out there, I challenge you to wander out of your strawberry semifreddo igloo and do good that will reach more of the masses for a better tomorrow.

Chickens = lawn mower = good eggs

With all this rain lately (which I am SOOOO thankful for), the grass has been growing. I have a few very small patches in the backyard (among the native grasses) that are not worth mowing. But it is good for chicken snacking! Chickens love to eat grass and scratch around in the dirt. The grass and grubs provide extra vitamins and minerals, apparent in their much deeper colored eggs. I’d say it’s a win-win!

They were too busy munching to pose for the picture

Irish Champ–Live!

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to go on Good Day Austin again for work. I was so inspired by the champ I had at New York’s Spotted Pig in February, that I decided to make it myself and share it.  And St. Patties Day is only a week away!

The recipe is based on Irish Champ from Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson. (One of my favorite books, by the way!)

Here is the link to watch the video clip.

Dirt--the sign of freshness! (spring onions from Greengate Farms)

Ingredients
5-6 large russet or baking-type potatoes
2-3 small leeks or medium spring onions OR 6 large scallions, cleaned and trimmed; include an inch or two of the green part (more for scallions)
2 cups whole milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4-8 tablespoons of butter, cut into chunks

Directions
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. While they are cooking, cut the leeks/scallions in thin slices. Put them in a small saucepan, pour in milk, and bring to simmer. Cook, uncovered, until tender 10 – 15 minutes (a little less for scallions). Strain off milk, return it to pan, and keep it warm, reserving the leeks/scallions separately.
Drain cooked potatoes and put them in a large, deep bowl and start mashing with a wooden spoon or potato masher.
Mash in drained leeks/scallions while adding as much of the hot seasoned milk as the potatoes will absorb without getting soupy (the amount will vary depending on the starchiness of the potatoes). Some lumps are good. Mix in butter.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve as hot as possible.

Can Vegan Barbecue Exist?

Traditional TX BBQ @ Salt Like, Driftwood, TX

This whole notion started when a conversation surfaced on a food blogging Facebook group I am a part of. The complaint was that there was no good vegan barbecue in town [Austin, TX]. Upon reading it, I thought to myself, “Well, honestly, vegan barbecue is an oxymoron, is it not?” The entire concept behind barbecue is smoking and cooking a large piece of animal flesh for hours over a wood-based fire to make it tender and then mix it with region-specific flavors. This is different from grilling which often uses charcoal or gas to cook meat or vegetables in a relatively short amount of time.

The more I thought about it, the more I became perturbed by the idea of vegan barbecue. I know there are many vegan and vegetarian takes on food with meat. But is there a point at which the food created to serve a vegan/vegetarian audience no longer qualifies it to be in that category? I think barbecue is an excellent example because the technique used to make barbecue—smoke, heat, wood and time—would do something completely different, to say, a piece of tempeh or a mushroom. So can vegan barbecue exist?

Francis Mallmann's Chimicurri Sauce I made (garlic, flat-leaf parsley, fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt)

I argue that no, it cannot exist because the main ingredient (and therefore the tradition) would not be present. Famous Argentine/Uruguayan Chef, Francis Mallmann, hits the nail on the head in his book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. He writes the following in reference to chimichurri sauce:

“At a Latin American themed James Beard Award evening in NYC, I couldn’t believe what some of the chefs had done with it: mango, strawberries, mint! I was so sad, I wanted to crawl inside my oven. Invention is fine, but you have to stay true to the original idea.”

Grilling a piece of tofu or smothering store-bought barbecue sauce over soy crumbles is not staying true to the original idea of slow-cooked-animal-flesh-over-burning-wood. It’s simply not barbeque. Do we ever think that maybe not all dishes should be made to fit a certain perimeter or culture?

Cellar with Parmigiano Reggiano, Italy

So beyond technique, this is really getting at semantics. What does barbecue mean? Does it just mean throwing sauce on something? I’m definitely not the only person who has debated these “semantics.” Food labeling is incredibly strict around the world in order to protect certain varieties of products and food.  Take, for example, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Per Italian law, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese can only be made in defined northern regions in Italy. Furthermore, the government dictates the types of inputs and the methods used to make the cheese. What this does is protect the intellectual and cultural property of traditional foods. I personally am a fan of this as more and more of our food supply becomes monopolized and homogenized.

I am not aware of a government-sanctioned definition for barbeque. And I am not about to create a campaign for one. But, I do find it fascinating to think about the context in which our food is marketed and even created. Does it exist as we know it? Should it?

Lemon Dill Carrots real link

Looks like the video from the Lemon Dill Carrots segment didn’t link properly, so let’s try this again. Click here.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers