Friday, October 30, 2009

Turkey Hunting

It is time to start planning and prepping for Thanksgiving. Barbara convinced me in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that I should start eating heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving. I was horrified that conventional turkeys are unable to breed without human assistance. I was also shocked that 99% of the turkeys in the US are this Broad Breasted White Variety, and that all other varieties of North American turkeys are becoming increasingly rare. So, last year around this time, I started my search for the perfect local, organic, heritage turkey. Since I spend Thanksgiving with my family in New Jersey, I have to plan for a bird and pickup there. This has complicated the situation further. Last year, after discussion with a member of Slow Food Northern NJ, and debate with my mother, I opted against the heritage bird (because of price) but ordered a local, organic bird from South Jersey and picked it up at The Health Shoppes Local and Organic Market in Morristown, NJ. The bird was fabulous.

This year, I am confronted with the same challenges: Heritage bird, or not. Certified organic, or not. Really local, or "local". And, how long should I really drive for "local"?

I found myself researching on some of the same sites:

I also have a romantic ideal of buying my Thanksgiving bird directly from the farm. This year, it seems that my urge to connect to the farm trumps all the other concerns. After some Internet searching, I came up with two alternatives:

With both these options, my turkey will be farm fresh, processed the week before Thanksgiving. I will also be able to pick up the bird from the farm directly, or from a farmer's market nearby. Both are free range and and "natural", but neither claim to be "organic". The difference, Griggstown has Red Bourbons! The downside with the Red Bourbon in the $8 a pound price tag and 2 hour drive to get it. With the $2 price and location in Bergen County (close to my mom), Goffle Road Poultry has an appeal of its own.

I have posed the question to my mother and we will continue to debate for a few days. My hope is to place an order on one of these birds in the next week. Then, we begin menu and recipe planning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Back into the Kitchen

Great news! I finally have a working oven. I can go into the kitchen without wanting to cry. Hopefully that means a lot more cooking and blog posting. I'm going to be making Red Beans and Rice this evening, adapted from a food network recipe by Robert Irvine (found here):

Red Beans and Rice

What You Need:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced (I love garlic and always use more)
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 3 stalk celery, diced
- 2 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 (1-pound) cans red kidney beans
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce (more or less depending on your taste, I've also done 1-2 tablespoons chili powder instead)
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock (water will do)
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 tablespoon butter

What You Do:
1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan.
2. Saute garlic, onion, celery, and bell pepper until tender.
3. Stir in kidney beans, onion powder, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
4. Reduce heat to low and let mixture simmer slowly while you cook the rice.
5. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and stir in rice and butter.
6. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes without removing the lid. 7. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
8. Fold rice and beans gently together and transfer to a serving dish.

Yay! Look at the new stove!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mac and Cheese

I'm getting ready for a fall cook out tomorrow with co-workers and preparing baked mac and cheese. I was really looking forward to a Sunday of cooking but, this is going to be a challenge because my oven is broken.

Yesterday at 5:30 in the morning I started to hear a constant clicking sound. I was very confused by this and thought it was coming from my window. An hour later, I realized it was coming from the kitchen. My stove was acting like it was trying to light all four burners at one time. Since this had never happened to me before, I panicked-- worried that my oven was going to explode into a ball of fire. Thankfully, I talked to my mom and consulted the-google and found that it was not life threatening, just incredibly annoying. Maintenance in my building came first thing in the morning and unplugged the over (the clicking is caused by an electrical malfunction), I was also promised a new oven next week.

So, I can use the stove top by lighting it manually. But no such luck with the oven. I'm supposed to be bringing apple pie and mac and cheese to the cook out tomorrow. I'm going to have to be resourceful and do all the prep here, and then steal an oven from someone for an hour or so. We'll see how it goes.

Recipe for the best mac and cheese I've ever had:

Adaptation of Alton Brown's Baked Mac and Cheese

What You Need (I always double it):
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 large egg
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
- 6 ounces monterey jack, shredded
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh black pepper

What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps.
4. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf. 5. Temper in the egg. This involves putting the end in a separate bowl and then mixing in a little of the cream sauce mixture bit by bit. This gets the egg hot without getting a poached egg in the middle of your mac and cheese mix.
6. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese.
7. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.
9. Top with remaining cheese.
10. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

I have had great success with this recipe and love making it! Now, off to find an oven.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ratatouille Alternative

As promised, the Ratatouille alternative (heavier on the tomato flavor) from the Silver Palate Cookbook:

What You Need:
- 2 cups best-quality olive oil
- 4 small eggplants, about 4 pounds in all, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 pounds white onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 7 medium-size zucchini, washed, trimmed, sliced
- 2 medium-size sweet red peppers, stemmed, seeded, chopped
- 2 medium-size green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 cans (16 ounces) tomatoes
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- freshly ground black pepper to taste

What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Line a large roasting pan with foil and pour in 1 cup of the olive oil. Add the eggplant, sprinkle it with the salt, and toss well. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until eggplant is done but not mushy. Uncover and set aside.
3. In a large skillet or in 2 smaller skillets, heat remaining oil. Saute onions, zucchini, red and green peppers and garlic over medium heat until wilted and lightly colored, about 20 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, dill, basil, oregano and black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add eggplant mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste and correct seasonings.
6. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Apples Apples Everywhere

I made the first pie out of the apples I picked last week. It turned out well, but I will be trying it again with my own crust this weekend and will post again at that time. I thought I'd share the success on this one though:

It smells amazing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ratatouille: The Last of the Season

My second ratatouille of the season was not quite as nice as the first, but turned out pretty well. I adapted the recipe from Joy of Cooking. I was thrilled to still see all these delicious veggies at the market, given how late we are in the season (particularly the tomatoes). I'll describe what I did here, but also provide the alternative recipe (which I thought was better) for you to choose from.

Ratatouille (Heavy on the eggplant, less on the tomato)

What You Need:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 small eggplants, chopped in 1 inch cubes
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced
- 2 onions, sliced
- 2 red peppers, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (less of this or replace with basil depending on how you feel about parsley)
- Salt and pepper to taste

What You Do:
1. Chop the eggplant into 1 inch cubes.
2. Saute eggplant, on high heat, in a dutch oven with 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil for 10-12 minutes.
3. Chop onions and mince garlic while eggplant cooks.
4. Remove eggplant from dutch oven and set aside.
5. Reduce heat to medium high and cook onions and garlic until onions are soft.
6. While onions are cooking, slice and chop the remainder of the veggies.
7. When onions are soft, add in the bell peppers and zucchini and cook for 8-12 minutes.
8. Season veggies with salt and pepper as they cook.
9. Add in the tomatoes and the tomato paste with additional seasoning.
10. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
11. Add in the eggplant, stir, and cook another 20 minutes.
12. Serve with some bread and Parmesan cheese.
13. Enjoy!

Ratatouille makes a great left over, and you will have a lot of left overs if you follow the recipe above. I like to eat it on pasta or on its own in a bowl with some cheese and bread. I've heard that it makes a great topping for a pizza, but I haven't tried this yet. The recipe above, like I mentioned, disappointed me a little bit at first. However, the next day, it tasted great. I would still say that the first attempt this season was a greater success but I hope following the steps above will not disappoint those looking for a great way to end the veggie-fest of the season.

Homemade Applesauce

This past weekend was perfect for apple picking. The weather was glorious and sky was clear. I was interested in trying my own applesauce. It was fun and smelled amazing!

I combined two recipes I found online: Sarah's Applesauce and Homemade Applesauce.


What You Need:

- 12 apples - peeled, cored and quartered
- 2-1/4 cups water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4 strips of lemon peel
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar (or more, depending on your sweet tooth)
- up to 1/4 cup of white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
What You Do:
1. Put all ingredients into a large pot and bring to boil.
2. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and remove lemon peels.
4. Mash with spoon or potato masher (if you should have one, I do not).
5. Enjoy and share with friends this fall!

I shared this post with Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday. Please check out all the posts there for lots of SOLE, real food!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Photo of celeriac for those who don't know what it is after reading the last post: Ugly but delicious.

Brisket: Sweet and Sour

Another great holiday meal is brisket. As we get into the fall, this sweet and sour brisket recipe is a great one to keep warm, full, and happy! Below you can see my sister and I getting ready to dig in before the holiday fast last week:

Sweet and Sour Brisket
What You Need:
- 1 3 pound brisket (most fat trimmed off)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 large sweet onions sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons honey (or a bit more!)
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 4 sprigs parsley
- 4 celery stalks chopped
- 4 carrots chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Optional: potatoes or celeriac cut up into perfect sized pieces

What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Dust roast with salt, pepper, nutmeg and flour.
3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil, brown the roast and remove.
4. Brown onions, garlic, and celery in remaining oil.
5. Return meat to pot and add remaining ingredients.
6. Cover and place in oven and bake for approximately 2 hours.
7. Remove bay leaf and serve. (Or cool dish and remove bay leaf. Refrigerate for several hours, then remove grease on top. Slice meat and cover with sauce. Reheat and serve.)

Remember that brisket shrinks a lot in the cooking. My mother (who gave me the recipe) reminds me to make sure to start with enough meat. She orders a 5 -6 lb brisket for parties of 8 and always has a perfect amount for left overs!