Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Big Bean Soup Served with Little Nibbles is a great all-purpose recipe. I've probably written about it before on the blog. But, this is the early autumn, end of summer reprise. I was specifically looking for a soup to make that would use some of the abundance of vegetables we are getting currently from the garden and our CSA. So, I turned to this old fav.

It comes from Sally Schneider via Lynne Rosetto Kasper's "The Splendid Table" NPR program. What I like is that it comes in three parts:
Basic Bean Soup - onion, carrot, garlic, beans, broth, chili pepper, and some basic seasonings
Flavorings that are optional- including peppery greens, fresh herbs and garlic puree
Embellishments - which is a list of various vegetables that can be added at the end, like slow-roasted tomatoes, roasted mushrooms or fennel, plus things like cheese and other fresh herbs

So, there are almost endless variations of the options in the three categories. I used cranberry beans, turnip greens for the flavoring, and roasted some of our cherry tomatoes. Plus, I added some fresh zucchini, peppers from our garden, leeks, and green beans.
When using the leftovers a couple days later, I also threw in the leftover Zucchini Rinehart and some roasted local shittake mushrooms.

We had two good meals with this soup and another left that I put in the freezer.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the news and blogs and wondering whether our debate-watching party Friday night will be some other kind of party. This business of evading the debate is a new low - even for that campaign that seem to be lurching from one goofy idea to another. Now, it looks like he's not only trying to get out of his own debate, but setting the groundwork to get Suzie out of having to do hers as well. What a gentleman!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Zucchini Rinehart

Officially, it is "Southwestern Stir-Fried Zucchini Rinehart". No connection to the famous and much beloved Rinehart dynasty of Michigan (as far as I can tell). This is a great way to use the zucchini that is so plentiful this time of year. Grady didn't even plant any in our garden this year, but we are getting a few each week in our CSA. I've had this recipe for a while and can't remember if one of those famous Rinehart chefs sent it to me. But, it has Epicurious at the top, so I think that's where I got it.

I made the zucchini to serve with a pork chop and cabbage recipe. I would not suggest this was an ideal combination for a meal, but it was OK. The main goal was using some of the many vegetables we have on hand from garden and CSA share. Earlier today, I went through the fridge and made a list of all the vegetables we have on hand. Then, went on a hunt for things to use them that might be different from some of our stand-by dishes. The pork chop recipe's purpose was to use up cabbage. And it turned out to be, not only low fat, but also delicious. I think the key was the balsamic vinegar. You can find it at the Epicurious site: Pork Chops with Red Cabbage

Southwestern Stir-Fried Zucchini Rinehart
2 poblano chiles
1 large red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
6 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice, or to taste

Roast and peel poblano and bell pepper. Mince garlic cloves and cut zucchini into 2-inch-long spears. Chop cilantro. Cut poblanos and bell pepper into 2- by 1/4-inch strips.

Heat a dry small skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and toast cumin seeds, stirring constantly, until fragrant and several shades darker, being careful not to burn them. With a mortar and pestle coarsely grind cumin seeds.

In a 12-inch skillet heat oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook garlic, stirring, until softened, about a few seconds. Add zucchini and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add poblano and bell pepper strips and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until zucchini is crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add lime or lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve zucchini sprinkled with cilantro. Gourmet. June, 1998

Note: I did not roast the peppers, so, when cooking, I put them in the pan first and gave them a little extra time in the stir-fry process and it was just fine. I also added some sliced local onions just because I have a bunch of them.

The pork chops are grown in Oregon. Everything else, except for poblano, oil and spices, came from garden and our farm share. It was a very tasty dinner and got us one step closer to using up our wealth of local produce. Not altogether a totally nugatory effort.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


In my ongoing pursuit of ways to preserve some of the seasonal foods without having to resort to canning, I discovered refrigerator pickles. I have made freezer jam, have frozen green beans, made pesto and put in the freezer. And, I have a bottle of raspberry liqueur doing its thing on the counter. So, today I made just 4 quarts of pickles that sit out for 24 hours and then go into the refrigerator.

"Back in the day" Grady and I used to can all kinds of things, including pickles. And I'm not completely averse to doing more canning. But, I just want to be really sure. And, one thing I remembered about the pickles is that some turned out great and some were a lot less desirable. So, I guess I'm not interested in putting tons of work into canning pickles until I try out some recipes. So, this seemed like an easy way to try it out with a minimal investment of time and resources. They're beautiful looking. We'll find out in somewhere from 3 days to 2 weeks if they taste as good as they look. The recipes vary quite a bit in their opinions of how long they take to become pickles and then how long they last in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where's the Beef?!

(Yes, I know - I'm dating myself with that reference.)
But, here is where the beef is:

in our handy new freezer, that is. I can't remember if I told this story. We had had a freezer in the basement for many years. Finally, about a year and a half ago, we decided to give it away. Someone at my church needed one and we just weren't using it. In fact, had unplugged it for the past few years. Just taking up space. So, of course, a short time later, I get involved in this local food eating business. And, a short time later I see the value of saving stuff up from the growing season so you can still eat local during the winter. freezer. So, a month or so ago, we went to a scratch and dent sale and got a new one. Sigh. On the other hand, the upside is that someone else, who couldn't afford it, got a freezer; and now we have one that is much more efficient in terms of energy usage.

So, I have been putting in freezer jam, green beans, pesto, chicken broth and other small amounts of things as they've come along. Then, recently I read about buying a small share of beef from Kookoolan Farms. I signed up for a 1/8 share of some that were going to be ready in August and Grady picked it up today. This gives us a supply of meat for quite a while that is raised the way we would prefer and that is locally grown - Yamhill, Oregon. According to their newsletter:

"All our large animals are pasture-raised and pasture-killed. They are never in a feedlot, never trucked live to slaughter, and never in contact with any herd other than the small herd they're raised in. Lambs and goats are 100% exclusively grass-fed (no grain in their lifetime). Beef cows are finished with some corn in the last four weeks."

So, that's one less thing to spend time hunting for as we try to increase the percentage of locally grown food on our table.

By the way, not only did I give away the freezer, but, some time ago actually, I also gave away our water bath canner. And, of course, now I wish I had that back as well. Grady has reminded me of both these things numerous times lately. Sigh.

Sunday, September 7, 2008



I had that basket of vegetables from our garden, our CSA share and a Saturday morning trip to one of the farmer's markets. I felt like I was running out of ideas for things to fix. So, I consulted my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Since Barbara Kingsolver so kindly organized the book by seasons, it was easy to find the end of summer chapter and then check the end of the chapter where she includes their menus from a typical week in that season. As soon as I saw ratatouille listed, I knew I had a winner. Uses most of the things in the picture plus basil from our backyard. Hooray!

We had it last night as a side dish with some grilled chicken. We'll have the leftovers on another night over rice or pasta. I used the recipe in Alice Waters' cookbook with a few looks at an Epicurious version as well. It was a real treat. Those very fresh vegetables had cooked long enough together to make a delicious broth. We're looking forward to the leftovers.

Then, feeling ambitious, I used some of our local peaches to make an upside down cake. This was one of the things on the menu when Jeff and I took our recent cooking class. Our chef used nectarines, but my peaches were more ripe than my nectarines. Very simple, but very nice. An old idea (remember the pineapple upside down cakes of the past?) brought back and improved. I thought it was so pretty, I had to include a look at its upside down top.

Family of Many Opinions

I am the oldest of seven (1 boy) and we are a group who tend to be strong in our opinions and we don't hold them back. Recently, our Alaska sister got a good email conversation going by offering her view of Suzie Palin. (Yes, I know they call her Sarah, but to me, she's not a Sarah - she's a Suzie so I've renamed her for my own use.) Maureen told us about how many of the folks in Alaska view her - how she helped the town of Wasilla grow when other towns around them have not, how she was an improvement over the previous governor, and that she is generally viewed as a politician they like up there. Well, that stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest among the "flaming liberals" of the family, myself included. Most of the responses had more to do with Suzie's social and political views. I wouldn't say we came to any meeting of the minds, but we all had a good airing of our opinions (among the family and a few friends, that is). So, hats off to Maureen for giving us that excuse!

Having vented on the issue of Suzie Palin in the family venue, I'm not really interested in going back into it all - at least for the moment. (And all the blog readers heave a sigh of relief.) But, instead, I will recommend you read another opinion that I thought was particularly well written. Laura has a blog primarily focused on local eating, gardening and raising chickens. She has organized, or helped to organize, the eat-local challenges I've participated in and written about. In this post about Ms. Suzie, her focus is mainly on the complicated issue of the desire of many to see a woman in high office and how this nomination comes up short. If this sounds of interest to you, you will find that post at: (not so) Urban Hennery

And I'm back to food reporting in the next post because the garden and CSA have been good to us lately.

Monday, September 1, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 13

We've just returned from four days in Manzanita for the holiday weekend with friends and lots of local foods on the menu. So, I'll give a brief write up of what we had there. But, also, for my official Week 13 report, I want to refer you to an earlier post this week:
Curly Kale and Potato Soup
That one at least has a picture, although the soup was not particularly photogenic.

There were three families on our trip to the coast. We all have gardens and all three belong to CSA's. In addition, Jeff stopped at a farm stand on the way down and I went to the Manzanita Farmer's Market. So, there was a refrigerator full of wonderful local foods for us to choose from. At various times, we enjoyed:
red new potatoes with wilted chard
a saute of zucchini, onion and fresh corn
green salads with garden lettuce, cherry tomatoes, scallions, cucumbers
chicken ( from "Lance's Beef", a farm in Bay City)
pork chops (unknown origin - purchased at the little grocery store there)
frittata with peppers (some local, some not), cherry tomatoes, cilantro and Rogue River cheddar with jalapenos
french toast with local eggs and milk that I'm not sure about, made with challah made by a nearby bakery

We have been going to the coast for Labor Day weekend with these friends for many years. It has always been that last blast before school starts for three teachers, their kids and one guy who always has to put up with a lot of "school talk".

Although I don't have any picture of the food, I do have this showing a gorgeous bouquet that Grace (Jeff's neice) got for me at the Manzanita Farm Market:

Clearly a young woman of quality and taste. Grace is a soon-to-be sixth grader who will live here in Portland for the school year with Jeff and keep him honest by being a student in his class for his last year of teaching.