What is a Dark Days Challenge?

The Dark Days Challenge was started by Laura McCrea at the Urban Hennery.
Unfortunately I couldn't get into her challenge, so I started my own blog.
The challenge is to try to eat one meal per week consisting of 100% locally produced food. I'm choosing to define "locally produced" as Washington State.
In my recipes I tell you the origin of the ingredients I use.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Farro & Kale Salad

Today is Mother's Day. I spend the day with husband, sister, mom & dad. We toured art galleries on Camano Island, and were surprised to run into friends! There is some wonderful art on Camano Island! We had a great lunch at the Skandia Coffee House in Stanwood, and when we got home we weren't very hungry. So I whipped up this Farro & Kale salad with some farro I had cooked yesterday for a light dinner. I'll have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

This is almost all local. I note after the local ingredients where I got mine.

Farro & Kale Salad

1 cup cooked farro (Bluebird Farms, eastern Washington)
4 cups or 1 bunch kale, thick stems cut out, sliced into strips (from my garden, see note below)
1 shallot, sliced and separated (Klesick Family Farms CSA)
1 cup chopped apple & pear mixed, your choice (mine were from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (mine weren't local, but you could use local walnuts or hazelnuts)
1/4-1/3 cup chopped chives (from my garden)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (from Organic Valley, which always uses local farms)
2-3 tablespoons vinegar, such as rice vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

I mix the chopped apple & pear with the oil and vinegar thoroughly to keep them from browning. Then I tossed everything else together in a large bowl, stirring thoroughly.
Variations: you could use cooked brown rice in place of the farro.
Note: fresh kale is tender. If you are using store bought kale which has been in storage for a while, you can "massage" it, using the technique from the PCC Markets recipe for "Massaged Kale Salad." How you do this is place the kale alone in a large bowl and sprinkle on the salt. "Massage" it with your fingers, rubbing it for 1-2 minutes. This breaks the toughness down and it is more tender. You do not need to do this with freshly picked kale.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Week Thirteen of Dark Days Challenge

OK, I have to be honest here. That's the point of a blog, isn't it? I did sign on to create one meal per week of 100% local ingredients. But I didn't promise to create a totally new menu, did I? Frankly, I am getting just a little tired of potatoes and portobello mushrooms. But here is our menu for last night, with an additional dish from dinner tonight:

Roasted Potatoes with Carrots, Garlic and Rosemary
Brussels Sprout Salad
Bonus recipe from another dinner: Braised Brussels Sprouts and Portobello Mushroom

Roasted Potatoes with Carrots, Garlic and Rosemary
This is a simple dish
2-3 cups of potatoes (I used tiny delicious marble potatoes from the Klesick Family CSA box)
1 big fat carrot, trimmed and cut into fat matchstick shapes (this came from our garden)
1-10 cloves garlic (we're working on the last of the garlic from our fall harvest)
1 Tablespoon dried or fresh rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Note: if you are using larger potatoes, cut into small chunks.
Prepare all the vegetables and place in a large flat baking dish. Pour about 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil on them, sprinkle on the rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir well to coat everything.
Roast in oven 10 minutes, then take out and stir. Repeat until they are done.

I LOVE this brussels sprout salad.

The first time I made it I sliced the brussels sprouts by hand. I made a small amount because it took a long time. When I made it yesterday, I used my food processor and zipped through 2 cups of sprouts in no time at all. They recommend a mandolin but I don't have one.

Additional recipe
I'm calling this additional because we didn't have it with our 100% local meal, but we had it for dinner tonight and it was very delicious.

Braised Brussels Sprouts and Portobello Mushrooms
2 cups Brussels Sprouts (these came from our garden)
2 large Portobello Mushrooms (these came from the Klesick Family CSA)
1 cup sliced leeks, trim and clean well (these came from our garden)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or your preference of oil for cooking)
1 Tablespoon Tamari soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add all the vegetables and stir fry 1-2 minutes. Add the Tamari or Bragg's and the vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week Twelve and 1/2 of Dark Days Challenge

Here are two recipes I just made up based on ingredients at hand. They both turned out so fantastic I have to record them so I remember and can repeat.

Blue Cheese, Portabello Mushroom, Kale and Shallot Stuffed Baked Potatoes

1 cup finely chopped kale, with stem cut out (from our garden)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup sliced shallots (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
1 cup portabello mushroom, cut in 1/2 inch dice (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
1-4 cloves garlic, chopped (from our garden)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 baked potatoes, sliced in half (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)

While potatoes are baking (oven or microwave), cook kale in large cast iron skillet with about 1/2 cup of water about 5-8 minutes over medium heat, uncovered, stirring frequently. By this time the water should be mostly evaporated. Move kale to edges of pan, and heat the olive oil in the middle. Add shallots, mushroom and garlic and cook about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the shallots and garlic brown (but it's not a disaster if you do). You can add more water if it seems dry. Add salt & pepper and stir in the blue cheese.
Place the potatoes on an oven proof flat dish close together. Pile the filling on top of the potatoes and place under a hot broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.
Now, I figured this would be about two servings - two potatoes and some vegetables, right? But we could only eat 1/2 potato each. So the leftovers came out for breakfast the next morning. They were chopped and heated in a cast iron frying pan, and then 4 beaten eggs were added. Wow! Fantastic breakfast also! There is something about the flavors of shallots and kale together that is complimentary!

Not local: blue cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper

Carrots and Pears with Rosemary

The flavor combinations in this are amazing!
Serves 4 or 2 with big appetites!
Scrub and trim carrots and slice into quarters lengthwise, enough to make about 4 cups, about 5 carrots, (freshly dug in February from our garden)
1-4 Tablespoons butter (local dairy)
1-4 cloves garlic, chopped (from our garden)
1/3-1/2 cup sliced shallots (from Klesic Family Farms CSA)
1-2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped (from a neighbor's yard)
2 bosc pears, peeled, cored, and sliced into pieces about the same size as the carrots (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the carrots with about 1/3 cup water in microwave until barely tender. Or steam them on the stove. Retain the cooking water. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over medium low heat, add butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallots, garlic and rosemary. You don't want these to brown, so keep the heat low. Cook about 7 minutes until soft, stirring frequently.
Add the carrots and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring often. Cook about 6 more minutes. Move the carrots to the edges of the pan and add the pears in the middle. Gradually stir together while heating up the pears. Add the carrot cooking water if the mixture looks dry. Season with salt and pepper.
Amazingly good!
Don't skimp on the rosemary, it pulls this all together.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week Twelve of Dark Days Challenge

It's a sunny but cold day. Threats of snow in the mountains. We're picking brussels sprouts from the garden, and boy are they delicious! The spinach is starting to come up in the greenhouse, but it will be a while before it's big enough to eat. Today we helped a friend dig up an asparagus bed, transplant rhubarb and put three posts in concrete for kiwi vines. The fuel for this hard work was local food: Breakfast burritos. Lunch was potluck, so I brought an apple crisp that was about 90% local: local apples, pears, butter, flour (from Bluebird Farms in Eastern Washington), and local honey. Some oatmeal and the cinnamon were not local. You don't need a recipe for that - just google apple crisp and you'll get many recipes.

Breakfast Burritos
Makes two burritos

1/2-3/4 cup kale, trim the stem and chop fine (from our garden)
1 large shallot, sliced (Klesick Family Farms CSA box)
1 Tablespoon oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten (local, organic)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
grated cheese (Greenbank Farms, organic cheddar)
1 whole wheat tortillas, see note

Heat oil in a medium cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Saute the kale about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is starting to wilt. Add the shallots and cook about 2-3 more minutes. Pour in the eggs and stir gently but constantly until eggs are done. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle cheese over each tortilla, and heat in microwave or under broiler until melted. Divide the eggs between the tortilla, and roll up around the filling. The combination of the kale and shallots is a very good flavor compliment.
You could top with salsa and or sour cream if you wish. Especially if you have homemade salsa. Yum!

Note: I found "Guerrero" brand whole wheat tortilla. The package says they are "baked in your local bakery." Now, I don't really believe that, but at least they are trying. Being strictly local would probably mean putting the eggs between two slices of local toasted bread. Unless someone knows of a local tortilla factory?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week Eleven of Dark Days Challenge

Creamy Root Vegetable Stew
And homemade soup stock

I made this for the Transition Port Gardner Potlucks With A Purpose, today at Everett United Church of Christ. We had a great movie called "Garbage: the Revolution Starts At Home." It was part of a mini film festival developed by Gary Sell. Gary does a great job of entertaining people while getting the message across that we are creating too much garbage in our country! We try to make our Potlucks With A Purpose a Zero Waste Event, so I think we're at least moving in the right direction.
The stew turned out to be popular, with hardly any left. It is an unfortunate gray-brown color, but the flavor is really good. I would attribute that to the Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchokes. I think they give it the earthy, nutty flavor.
Because this was served at a potluck, it's not technically a totally local meal. However, it embodies the values of sharing local food together, and talking about how we can change our behavior to better treat our planet.

Serves a crowd!
About 1 gallon of prepared (washed, peeled, chopped into cubes) root vegetables. I'm giving you what I used but take this as a guideline, not an absolute. Turnips and rutabagas would be good in here as well.
4 potatoes (organic, local from Klesick Family Farms)
3 parships (organic, local from Klesick Family Farms)
Jerusalem Artichokes about 2 cups chopped (also called sunchokes, organic, local from Klesick Family Farms)
3 carrots (organic, from our garden dug up yesterday)
1 onion, chopped (organic from Klesick Family Farms)
1 cup chopped leeks (from our garden, dug up yesterday; if you slice leeks lengthwise they are easier to clean the dirt out of, then slice into 1/2 circles)
2-6 garlic cloves, chopped (from our garden, dug up last fall)
Olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground corriander
2 teaspoons dried thyme (maybe next year I'll have it together enough to have my own home dried herbs for flavoring; this year I rely on Sno Isle Food Coop)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable stock to barely cover (see note below)
4 cups whole milk (local dairy)

Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook slowly about 6 minutes. Add the leeks and cook another 6-10 minutes (you don't want any of this to brown).
While these are cooking, prepare all the root vegetables you are going to use and place into a slow cooker. Add the onion/garlic/leek mixture and all the spices. Barely cover with vegetable stock and put on high 4-6 hours or until vegetables are soft. Using an immersion blender or a blender, blend about 1/3 until smooth. You want to leave chunks but have a thick broth.
Add the milk and heat until it's all hot (if you're in a hurry, you can heat the milk in the microwave. Adding hot milk to the slow cooker of hot food will make it all ready to serve immediately.

Not local: olive oil (you could substitute butter), salt, pepper & spices

Something For Nothing
Homemade Soup Stock

The one thing I remember from my UW Economics class (too many years ago to remember) is that you can not get something for nothing. It's true that your labor is not nothing, but other than your labor, homemade vegetable stock is virtually something for nothing. And you don't end up with empty cartons that have to go into the land fill!
The only trick to this is planning and organizing your cooking.
Dump all the vegetables you are going to use into the sink and scrub them thoroughly. While you are doing this, get the biggest soup pot you have and start heating water (buy a big one if you don't have one, and get the best quality you can afford. You'll never regret it).
As you are trimming and peeling the vegetables, trim out the dirt and the really bad spots, but everything else can go into your soup pot of water. For instance, the green tops you trimmed from the leeks, the onion peeling, carrot fronds, the ends you chopped off the parsnips, the core of a cabbage, potato peelings, (potato water from other dishes), the carrot that is too puny to chop up, the misshapen vegetables that are too tedious to peel, the vegetables in the refrigerator that are too old to eat but not moldy, leftover vegetables from last nights dinner etc. You can toss these into the pot as you prepare them - timing is not critical. Don't put in potato vines or rhubarb leaves, they're poisonous. You can add flavorings if you wish and if you are inspired, for instance dried herbs, whole garlic cloves (crushed) pepper corns, etc. Recipes for vegetable stock will have you tossing in whole quartered onions and carrots, but if you're like me and buying organic onions you don't want to spend that much money on just stock. If you have a garden you'll have plenty of ingredients for stock. You can add salt if you wish, but its probably better to salt your final dish, not the stock.
By now your pot is probably boiling, turn the temperature down to a simmer, put the lid on and let it simmer away 1-3 hours, adding water if needed. It's not too picky!
Strain this into a large bowl, and toss the cooked vegetables into your compost or chicken pen. You were going to do that anyway, weren't you? So why not squeeze a little more flavor out of those vegies before you toss them? Use this right way if you can, or freeze into blocks amounts that you are likely to use.
You can also do this with fish bones, but that's another recipe.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Potluck Black Bean Soup

Our all day planning meeting for Transition Port Gardner called for some hearty soup for lunch. The black beans and spices aren't local, sorry, but everything else is. I got requests for the recipe, so here it is TPGers!

Potluck Black Bean & Corn Soup

2 cups dried black beans, rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped (Washington)
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped (our garden), unless you've got someone in the crowd who is allergic to garlic (you know who you are, Mimi!), in which case you can omit this
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large can (28 ounces) Muir Glen tomato puree (Sedro Woolley)
2 cups corn (frozen, local)

Drain the beans from the soaking water, put into a large pot and add fresh water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour or until done. (Or put into a slow cooker and cook overnight; refrigerate until you are ready to finish the soup.) In a large cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic (if you are using it) and spices, and cook until the onions are soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the onion mixture, tomatoes and corn to the cooked beans, cook about 8 hours in a slow cooker, or 1 hour on the stove. Take out about 1/3 of the soup and blend in a blender until smooth and return to the pot; or use your immersion blender for a short couple bursts. This will thicken the soup.
Put into bowls for people to top off their soup: salsa, sour cream, grated cheddar (all local, of course!)
Note: I like to grind my cumin and coriander fresh each time from seed. I have a small mortar & pestle, and it doesn't really take that long to grind up a teaspoon of each. There is so much more flavor this way than in that very old bottle of ground cumin you have in the back of your cupboard!

Week Ten of Dark Days Challenge

So, what happened to week nine? A head cold, that's what. I didn't have any energy, and instead relied on Sno Isle Food Coop deli for our food. Yum. What delicious salads and enchiladas (black bean-sweet potato).

So tonight I had a little more energy finally. I hope you're not getting bored with my corn recipes. It's been 3 weeks since we had a corn casserole, so I'm ready to try out another version of one. Below is one I found on-line, from Women's Day. It's in the oven right now, so I'll let you know how it turns out.

The corn (3 cups frozen instead of 2 cans) and leeks are from our garden. I substituted Greenbank Farms cheddar for the Guyere called for. The spices and corn starch aren't local but I substituted local honey (1 Tablespoon) for the sugar. The butter, eggs and milk (I used whole milk, not cream) are local.

With this, we're having some Snohomish Bakery Artisan bread (and more Golden Glen Creamery butter, of course!), and steamed cauliflower (local, from the Klesick Family Farm CSA.

By the way, this recipe is definitely a keeper. It is the winner of the Which Recipe Will We Use For Our Local Dinner contest. Seriously, the flavors are an excellent combination - nutmeg, vanilla and a little honey - a perfect marriage with the corn.

Oh, and I almost forgot dessert. I don't often make it (because I eat too much!) but I had Washington apples and walnuts, and the Eastern Washington grown Emmer flour.

Corn and Leek Pudding Recipe
From Woman's Day | December 6, 2005

* Active Time: 15 minutes
* Total Time: 1 hour

Recipe Ingredients

o 2 Tbsp stick butter
o 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup), rinsed well and drained
o 4 large eggs (local)
o ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream (I used local whole milk)
o 3 Tbsp cornstarch
o 2 Tbsp sugar (or 1 tablespoon honey)
o 1 tsp vanilla extract
o ½ tsp salt
o ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
o ⅛ tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
o 1 can (15.25 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
o 1 can (14.75 oz) cream-style corn (or substitute 3 cups thawed frozen corn)
o ¼ cup (1 oz) shredded Gruyère cheese (I used Greenbank Farms cheddar)

Recipe Preparation

1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Coat a shallow 1½-qt baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. Melt butter in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add leeks; sauté 3 minutes, or until soft.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, cream, cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and red pepper until blended. Stir in leeks, whole and cream-style corn. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

4. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes, or until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Planning Tip: Can be baked up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before reheating in microwave or a 350°F oven.

I like to make Apple Pie Cake - it's not as much work as making a pie crust, and has more apples than a typical cake. It's really a lot of apples with a little batter surrounding them.

I used Washington apples (Gala) and didn't peel them; I used local honey and egg and butter. It's shown here with a dollop of Grace Harbor Farms yogurt.

Apple Pie Cake

* 1/2 cup margarine (I used Golden Glen Creamery butter)
* 3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup local honey)
* 1 egg -- slightly beaten
* 1 cup flour (I used Eastern Washington Emmer flour)
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
* 2 cups apples, peeled -- chopped
* 1/2 cup pecans -- chopped (I used walnuts)

Thoroughly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Melt margarine, remove from heat, and blend with sugar and egg. Mix in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, apples, and pecans. Spread into pan.
Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.
Serves 8 Recipe from "The Lymes' Heritage Cookbook"

Not local: the usual baking powder, olive oil, salt, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves -no wonder the spice trade was so important!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week Eight of Dark Days Challenge

It's January and cold. I keep reminding myself that winter doesn't last forever, and that many people have much more difficult winters than we do in Western Washington. 43 degrees and gray sky. Drizzle, and damp.
This dinner turned out to be a lot more complicated than I would have chosen. It's in the oven right now, and I'll let you know if the taste was worth the time. While it's cooking, I'll tell you how I did it.
In search of local grains:
Just what is local is a very good question.
Someone told me that PCC Markets had a larger variety of local products, so I drove the 20 miles to Edmonds from Everett to see if that was the case. I didn't find that to be the case But, anyway, as long as I was at PCC I had to buy something - right?
I bought some flour that was milled at Fairhaven Mills in Bellingham. They grow a lot of grains in Eastern Washington - why can't we get a product that is labeled as grown in Washington? I suspect that grains are mixed together randomly and their origin is not something that is noted. I also tried Manna Mills in Mountlake Terrace - I was sure that they would have some local grains since they mill flour there - but they told me they get their grains from Montana.
I think our local Sno-Isle Food Coop has at least as many local products as PCC, if not more - and they are getting better all the time at labeling them prominently on the shelves. Sno-Isle Food Coop is carrying an organic Emmer Flour that was actually grown in Eastern Washington. It's pretty expensive, though.
We just signed up for a grain CSA - Bluebird Farms grows organic grains in Eastern Washington. They have whole grains, cereals, flours and mixes like pancake mix. It sems to be a solution to obtaining locally grown grains. If you've found another source, please let me know!

So here is tonight's menu:

Vegetable pie with biscuit topping
Sprouts (a simple side garnish, grown in our kitchen from organic seeds)

Doesn't sound like much, but think of it as a "one pot dinner." Here is the recipe I started from:

I changed a lot about this recipe. What we basically have is a filling of cooked vegetables in a thickened white sauce, with biscuits topping it as a kind of crust. If there was more broth and we were cooking this on the stove, we would have dumplings.

Here is my variation of the recipe:

2 potatoes, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (from Klesick Farms Organic NW CSA Box)
2 Jerusalem Artichokes, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (also from the CSA box)
2 carrots, washed, trimmed, and cut into chunks (from our garden)
2-8 garlic cloves (from our garden, I used all 8, roasted)
olive oil
salt, freshly ground pepper
3-6 cups kale, thick stem trimmed out, leaves chopped into 2 inch pieces (from the CSA box)
2 cups vegetable broth or water (I made some from the vegetable trimmings)
1 onion, chopped (local to Washington)
3 Tablespoons butter (Golden Glen Creamery, Bow)
herbs, such as fresh parsley, dried oregano, rosemary (from my garden)
1/2 cup flour (I used organic whole wheat pastry flour, milled in Bellingham, Fairhaven Mills)
1 cup milk (Jackie's Jersey Raw Milk, Bellingham)
1 teaspoon salt

Biscuit topping
2 1/4 cups flour (I used the same organic whole wheat pastry flour from Bellingham)
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried herbs such as dill, thyme, oregano etc (optional)
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks (Golden Glen Creamery, Bow)
1 3/4 cups buttermilk (I used a combination of Jersery Farms whole milk yogurt and more of Jackie's Jersey Raw Milk, Bellingham)

The recipe says to cook the vegetables in the broth or water in a large pot until they are done. Then put them aside in a different container and use the same pot to cook the onions in the butter on medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Then add the flour and stirring constantly about 1 minute. Dump in the cooked vegetables with broth and the herbs, and add the milk (the recipe calls for cream but I just used whole milk), and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.

Here's how I changed it: I tossed the potato, Jerusalem Artichokes, carrots and garlic with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them in a 400 degree oven until they were done, stirring every 5 minutes (approximately 15-20 minutes). Then I cooked just the kale in the broth, and followed the rest of the recipe. You combine all the cooked vegetables, the flour, herbs, milk and salt, and cook about 10 minutes until the broth thickens, and everything simmers nicely. Then pour into a buttered 9x13 inch baking pan, and top the hot filling immediately with the biscuit topping, see below.

Biscuit topping:
While the vegetables are cooking, mix the flour together very well with the baking powder, herbs and salt. Mix in the butter with finger tips, rubbing them in until it resembles course corn meal. Stir in the buttermilk, or milk and yogurt and mix lightly with your hands. Drop by spoonfuls onto the hot filling, and pop into the oven at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until the biscuits are done.

I think oven roasting the potatoes, Jerusalem Artichokes, carrots and garlic improves the flavor a lot however, it is a lot of work. I'm not sure I would go to that much trouble next time. You can see that you can substitute a lot of different vegetables, depending on what you have on hand - just get them cooked, and hot in the white sauce with some herbs for flavor and top with biscuits dough. You may have a favorite biscuit recipe which would work just fine here.

Now the evaluation: was it worth the 2+ hours of work? (OK, I'm minimizing. I really spent about 3 hours, but I'm reluctant to tell you because I don't think you'll try this!) YES! It's worth it! The Jerusalem Artichokes are sweet and earthy and lend a new flavor to this would-be ordinary potato-carrot filling. The biscuits are crunchy and mix well with the filling. I'll bet the leftovers are going to be great tomorrow, and I won't have to spend any time on dinner! Of course, this dish is a little unusual for me because it's not low fat, and maybe that's why I think it turned out so good!

Not local: olive oil, salt, pepper, baking powder

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week Seven of Dark Days Challenge

Tonight I’m doing more than just making dinner. I’m practicing for a local dinner on 2/19 and also trying to use up some of the produce in the fridge in preparation for our next CSA box. I’m sure a lot of you have gotten the hang of this CSA thing, but it’s new to me, so I really want to utilize all the produce that comes in the Klesick Family Farms Northwest Box, http://www.klesickfamilyfarm.com/main/.
We get our second box in two days and I think it’s more interesting than Christmas!

To use up our vegetables on hand, I made up a recipe for carrot, leek, mushroom soup. The carrots are from our garden, but the rest of the vegetables were from the Klesick box. I’m also practicing for a fund raising auction dinner, featuring local food. I think I’m going to bring a crustless corn quiche and an Irish Soda Bread, and I want to be sure I know how to make the recipes. I made the Irish Soda bread on 12/31/10 to go with a Moroccan vegetable soup. I’m going to re-name it Northwest Soda Bread because I changed most of the ingredients, and I got the recipe from this website, which is trying to preserve genuine Irish Soda Bread. Out of deference to their authentic bread, I’m going to change the name of what I made. http://www.sodabread.us/Recipes/sodabreadrecipes.htm

If this seems like a lot of food, it is! We should be able to eat leftovers in various combinations for several days for lunch and dinner. This spread took me about 3 ½ hours. But last night we got to hear Michael Pollen speak at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. He was inspiring – and cooking from scratch using fresh local ingredients has to be the healthiest way to eat. I know it sure tastes good!

Menu (recipes follow)
Salad: Spinach (Monroe) with Holmquist Hazelnuts, leeks and Cameo Apples (Eastern Washington)
With an olive oil vinaigrette
Northwest Soda Bread
With Golden Glen Butter (Bow), and local honey
Carrot-leek-mushroom soup
Crustless Corn Quiche
Dessert: frozen strawberries (from our garden last summer)

Northwest Soda Bread
2 cups Emmer flour, or Farro flour, (Eastern Washington)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
7/8th cup whole yogurt (Jensen Family Farms, Bow)

Mix the dry ingredients very well together. Add the yogurt and toss lightly. When it is mostly mixed, pick it up in your hands and knead it lightly into a smooth ball. Place it into a deep pan that has been greased and floured; use a knife to cut an “x” on the top. (I use my cast iron dutch oven, and it’s lid). Cover it with another pan, which helps it steam and bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes until the back sounds hollow when you tap on it.
Note: this is actually ½ recipe.

Carrot-Leek-Mushroom Soup
2 cups carrots, washed, trimmed and cut into chunks (our garden)
1 potato, peeled (unless it is thin skinned), cut into chunks (Klesick Farms)
1 tablespoon olive oil, or butter
1 large or 2 small leeks, washed, trim off the dark green and slice into thin circles (Klesick Farm)
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (our garden)
1-2 cups mushrooms, chopped (Klesick Farms)
1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
½ teaspoon brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seed
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1-2 cups vegetable broth

First cook the carrots and potato in a sauce pan with just enough water to cover. Cook over medium heat until very soft. While these are cooking, prepare the rest of the vegetables, and heat the olive oil in a pan. Cook the leeks and mushrooms with the garlic and spices over low heat about 20 minutes. You don’t want them to brown, just be soft.

Puree the carrots and potato with the water they cooked in. I use my immersion blender, but you can also use a blender or food processor. Add the cooked leeks and mushroom mixture and 1-2 cups broth to the thinness you prefer.

Crustless Corn Quiche
4 tablespoons melted butter (from an organic local dairy)
1 cup milk (organic local dairy)
3 eggs (organic local farm)
Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt
2 cups corn (organic from our garden, frozen, thawed)
1 ½ cups grated cheese (Greenbank Farms organic)
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Crack the eggs into a blender and blend thoroughly. Add the milk then the melted butter and blend. Add salt and pepper.
Butter a baking dish. Squeeze most of the excess water out of the corn (save for soup stock), and place ½ of the corn in the baking dish. Sprinkle the 1 ½ cups of cheese over the corn and pour ½ of the milk and egg mixture on to the corn. Layer the remaining corn and pour the rest of the milk and egg mixture into the dish. Top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake 45 minutes until set.

Not local: baking soda, salt, pepper, olive oil, mustard seed, ginger root, Parmesan cheese

Week Six of Dark Days Challenge

It’s January. Not much left in the garden. Each year I set a goal to increase my winter gardening – but I have a long way to go before I would consider myself a successful winter gardener. This year I do have a few carrots and leeks and occasionally I can pick enough brussel sprouts for dinner for two. The chard and greens I put into our new greenhouse haven’t made it. It’s been very cold this winter. I am more hopeful for next winter. Last year 6 kale plants supplied all the kale I wanted all winter long. But this winter my few plants are only supplying a little kale, and I’m disappointed! I know I can buy it, but when you have had the experience of fresh tender kale, it’s hard to imagine it could be as good when purchased.

Last week we decided to order the NW Box (organic and local) from Klesick Farms http://www.klesickfamilyfarm.com/main/. This is a CSA, community supported agriculture. We got our first box this past week and I’m pleased! Great cabbage, leeks, potatoes and mushrooms. They also included a recipe for Potato Leek Cabbage Colcannon soup which I made for our weekly local dinner. I used homemade vegetable stock (instead of the chicken stock called for in the recipe) – after I washed the vegetables I trimmed them, and added some garlic, herbs and freshly ground pepper, and simmered them in water for about an hour while I fixed the rest of the dinner. To finish out the Colcannon, I didn’t use the bacon because I don’t eat pork, and I forgot to add the milk – and it was still great.

Steamed brussels sprouts (from our garden)
Potato Leek Cabbage Colcannon (from Klesick CSA NW box)
Bread (also included in Klesicks box)
Golden Glen Creamery butter (Bow)
Wild salmon roast, baked

Colcannon Soup with Potatoes, Leeks and Cabbage
Makes six 1 cup servings
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups cabbage, cored and shredded
1 pound red or Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut in ¾ inch chunks
2 small leeks, white parts only, cleaned and sliced in thin disks 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
¼ teaspoon nutmeg or to taste
¾ cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
4 strips bacon, cooked nad crumbled for garnish (optional)

1. Place the butter in a 3-quart saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Add olive oil, and ¼ cup of water then the potatoes, cabbage and leeks. Cook over low heat, covered, about 10 minutes. The potatoes should be firm but almost cooked.
2. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, covered, about 15 minutes. The potatoes should be fully cooked but not falling apart.
3. Grate the nutmeg and correct the seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the milk and parsley.
4. Serve immediately, garnished with the bacon if desired, or refrigerate, covered, up to a day.
Note: like most soups, this one seems to improve if made up to a day ahead. To reheat, place over medium heat and warm, stirring gently, to serving temperature. Be careful not to allow the potatoes to start to break down when reheating.
From www.stephencooks.com

Not local: salt, pepper, olive oil,

Week Five of Dark Days Challenge

Last day of the year; time for a local feast! I found Emmer flour at the Sno-Isle Coop, organic and grown in Eastern Washington. According to the package, it can be used like rye flour. So I found a recipe for Irish Soda Bread and tried it – delicious. My guess is that this is probably more like the original Irish Soda Bread than what we make with refined white flour. A friend had brought Moroccan Vegetable soup to a potluck and we liked it so much I begged for the recipe. I love the combination of squash and parsnips, although I would not have guessed they would be compatible. I may make a variation next time with curry spices (freshly ground cumin and coriander, and curry powder) and perhaps some ginger. I also added chopped garlic in with the onions because I can’t resist.

Morocan Vegetable Soup (see recipe below)
Irish Soda Bread (see recipe below)
Slathered with Golden Glen Creamery butter and local honey
Cabbage & kale slaw

OK, I admit, I also added a nice chunk of halibut, which we buy from Troller Point Fisheries right off the boat at the Everett port. It’s so fresh and good it needs nothing on it, just microwaved until just barely done.

Morocan Vegetable Soup

I actually made some homemade vegetable stock because I really wanted to be local with this. For the soup, I used Washington parsnips (unfortunately none of the parsnips I planted came up, maybe they will next year), Washington onion, and a Washington golden beet I had on hand, our own garden carrots, squash and garlic.

Irish Soda Bread
This site is actually called Society For the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, I used their recipe for “Brown Bread.” As I mentioned, I used Emmer flour instead of the wheat flour called for. Instead of buttermilk, I used Grace Harbor Farms Guernsey yogurt. It comes with cream on the top, and I scrapped it off and included it in the bread. This made an excellent fresh bread, which I ate entirely too much of!

Cabbage and kale slaw
Use your favorite recipe for cole slaw with local cabbage, and add about 1 cup of chopped very fresh kale into it. Fresh kale is tender and sweet. If you buy it in the store, make sure to use it immediately. Better yet, grow it, pick it and eat it right away. You’ll be amazed at the difference in flavor and tenderness.

Not local:
Oil (I used coconut oil and olive oil), salt, pepper, mayonnaise, baking soda

Week Four of Dark Days Challenge

This was a mid-week meal, so I enlisted Dean’s help with it. He loves oysters, so I convinced him to go to the Waterfront Fish Market (where I have never purchased anything that was anything but excellent!) and get a jar of Washington oysters – we’re too lazy to shuck them, and it’s so convenient to get them in the jar. He even cooked them for me!

Fried oysters (Willapa Bay, by way of the Waterfront Fish Market, Everett)
Baked potato (Washington), topped with butter (Golden Glen Creamery, Bow)
Corn (organic, our garden by way of the freezer)
Green Beans (organic, our garden by way of the freezer)

Fried Oysters
Serves 2
Make bread crumbs from local whole wheat bread by pulverizing 2 pieces toasted bread in the food processor or blender, place in a small bowl
1 egg, beaten, in a small bowl
1 jar oysters, drained and patted dry
oil for frying

Dip oyster into beaten egg and then roll in bread crumbs, set aside on a plate until you have breaded all of them. Heat oil over medium heat, and fry oysters about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Not local:
Oil, salt, pepper

Week Three of Dark Days Challenge

What I like the very best about this meal is that I did not do it intentionally! It was Saturday morning and I was planning my weekend. In my mind I inventoried what we had on hand and tried to think of a dinner featuring local food. I looked down at my plate and said to Dean, “THIS is a local meal! And I didn’t even try!”

Scrambled eggs (from local chickens)
Toast (bread made in Arlington)
Golden Glen Creamery butter (Bow)
Blackberry jam (made by a friend)
Salad sprouts (a seed mixture from the Sno-Isle Food Coop, grown in my kitchen)

Eating Locally

Second week of the Dark Days Challenge. I’m rationing my beans – I grew shell beans as an experiment this year, and was pretty successful. I have 3 quart jars, each ½ full of colorful beans – that’s why I’m rationing them: there’s only a precious few. Next year I’ll plant more for sure! California Etna beans are white with pink spots – beautiful in the jar. They cook up to be a light pink, and taste substantial. I was able to pull a couple carrots which are still surviving in the soil, even after our week of snow and freezing weather. Many of the potatoes froze and we turned them into compost, but there are a few left.

Bean soup (recipe below)
Grilled cheese sandwich with Old Mill 100% whole wheat bread (Arlington), and Creamery Farmstad cheese (Bow)
Salad sprouts (grown at home)

Bean Soup
1 ½ cups dried beans, soaked overnight in water to cover
1 Tablespoon oil
½ onion, chopped (Washington st.)
3-4 cloves garlic (our garden)
1-2 carrots, chopped into ½ inch dice, about 1 cup (our garden)
1 large, 2 medium potatoes, chopped into ½ inch dice, about 1 cup (our garden)
1 28 oz can fire roasted whole tomatoes (Muir Glen, Sedro Woolley)
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, from my yard)
salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot on medium heat, and add the onion and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and carrots, cook about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Drain the beans from the soaking water and add them, the can of tomatoes and the herbs to the pot. Add water until everything is just covered. Increase the temperature to medium high, and bring to a boil. Turn the temperature down to low, put the lid on, and simmer 1 to 1 ½ hours. The length of time will depend on how old and dry your beans are. You’ll have to just keep testing until they are done. You can test them by smashing them with the back of a spoon against the side of the pot. When they are very soft they are done.