Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crisper Frittata

So, you got your CSA box a few days ago and have a pile of interesting vegetables in your crisper and none of them are getting any younger...so what do you do? Crisper frittata! That is, if you have an extra dozen eggs around and a big pile of cheese. Because, my friends, cheese is what we are about these days.

However, if you are dairy free, then absolutely no worries. Just leave off the cheese and enjoy the eggs without! This recipe is absolutely delicious without any dairy at all. It is entirely possible to add a few more tablespoons of your chosen non-dairy creamy goodness to the eggs if you choose to go cheese-less. (See below for suggestions - our own choice for this when we were dairy-free was coconut milk or coconut milk kefir, but we recently had some absolutely amazing savory cashew cream as part of a beautiful scramble at Harlow in Portland and I'd be really curious as to how that might work.) Another option for topping is to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds or even za'atar on top to serve, of course, depending on what flavorings you've chosen.

Other thoughts: While I indicate in the recipe to use oregano, it is also terrific with about 3-4 chopped fresh basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or tarragon. If you are not an herb fan, feel free to cut back to 1/4 teaspoon or to leave it out entirely.  The flavor combination is quite improvisational, so make it yours!

Lastly, this frittata does well with yesterday's vegetable dish instead of a new sauté.

Crisper Frittata 
(otherwise known as a crustless quiche with lots and lots of veggies)
This is about 2 meals for a family of 3.
  • 12 eggs
  • 8-12 oz jack and/or cheddar cheese, shredded (adding mozzerella is good here, too)
  • 3 tablespoons organic whole milk yogurt OR the unsweetened creamy goodness of your choice: coconut milk, nut yogurt, cashew cream, etc
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about 1 tablespoon of butter or similar fat (tallow, drippings, grapeseed oil, lard) for frying
  • optional: more butter, cubed into small pieces 
  • One medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano OR a sprig of fresh leaves, chopped

A combination of chopped veggies that equals

  • ...about 2 heads of greens, de-ribbed and chopped.
  • ...2-3 heads of broccoli, chopped (about what you'd find in a grocery store bound up in a rubber band).
  • ...1 lb mushrooms either sliced or chopped with a few well-washed sliced leeks instead of onion.
  • ...4 chopped summer squash (cut these up first, then mix them up with about a teaspoon of sea salt and let them sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse well before cooking).
  • ...or some tasty combination that just about fills a large fry pan, whatever is in season: peppers, zucchini and tomatoes in the summer, roots or cabbage in the winter...it's all good!
Here we go:

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Gently sauté the onions (or leeks) in the fat in a large, oven-safe frying pan or iron skillet about 12 minutes or until soft.

While the onions are cooking, whisk the eggs with the salt, herbs and the yogurt. Add about 3/4 of the cheese, reserving enough to cover the top. Set aside.

Add your veggies to the pan in order of hardness - the hardest first, the softest last. Cook until the vegetables are soft, but hold their shapes.

Pour the egg/cheese mixture on top and fold into the veggies. Spread the last of the cheese and/or cubed butter or fat to the top. Let cook on the burner a few minutes, then put the whole pan, uncovered, into the oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Slice and serve with avocado slices, a green salad or a cup of soup.




Saturday, January 3, 2015

...and another one: Hearty Mushroom Soup!

I'd have taken a picture, but we pretty much decimated it before I could document. (I have to get better about grabbing a bowl for the camera.)

Maybe when we pull out the last bit tomorrow for dinner I can get a shot. Besides, I had the clear feeling that it will be so much yummier after it blends overnight.

There are a LOT of mushrooms in this! It is a good, solid meal in itself, although I have to say, a few spoonfuls of beef stew are very nice mixed in or on the side. 

As for the type...go for it. I managed to find some really nice mushrooms at the market. We're on a budget, so I used half crimini and half button with one big chantarelle added in for flavor, but this would also be nice with shitake, trumpet, morel...whatever strikes your fancy.

Lastly, I used a lot of fat in this. You could, conceivably use less, especially if you have good drippings in there. 

Hearty Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

2 large onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup of chicken drippings if you have them
3 cups whole mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 cups whole mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cups good chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less - to taste)
pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter and olive oil for about 10-12 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook gently until aromatic. Add the thyme, vinegar and drippings. When the thyme and vinegar are fragrant, add the chopped and sliced mushrooms, blend well, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquids in the mushrooms are visible and simmering and the mushrooms are cooked through. Add the stock, bring to a boil and cook away the liquid until the soup is rich and thick (not so thick that it's gloppy, but just enough so that it's a good mouthful). Add the salt and pepper, check the seasoning, then simmer a bit more to blend them.

Serve with a dollop of homemade (preferably raw) sour cream.

Although we didn't try this, a tasty dairy-free alternative could be a squirt of lemon instead of the cream.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Healthy Hot Cocoa

It's not that I don't have time to cook anymore, it's that I don't have time to both cook AND blog. But I have promised more than one person that I will try to post regularly.

I have also almost finished rereading Lierre Keith's The Myth of Vegetarianism, and after a holiday week full of sweet treats, I have again vowed to cut back on my and my family's sugar intake, including fruit. 

So here is the first recipe for the new year. It's easy, quick and it will be super-popular with the small set.

Hot cocoa!

...and not just any hot cocoa. With good chocolate, very gently heated so as not to ruin the vitamins and enzymes in the raw, whole milk or, better yet, raw cream. (Yum!) Raw, local honey is added after heating, again, to preserve its nutrients. Technically you can make it with raw cacao, although, to be honest I have often found that the raw stuff has a musty smell that seems like it would be problematic for me, personally, with my sensitivity to molds and yeasts.

Hot Cocoa

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons water (enough to make a paste)
1/4 teaspoon organic vanilla extract or 1/8-1/4 of a vanilla bean pod
1 cup raw whole milk or cream
Raw honey or stevia to taste

In a small saucepan on low heat, blend the cocoa, vanilla extract and water into a creamy paste. If you are using a vanilla bean, cut open and scrape the beans into the chocolate and water mixture.

Add a few tablespoons of milk to the paste and whisk well. When it's entirely blended, add the rest of the milk and heat only until it's just a little warmer than body temperature, so that it feels just barely warm on a finger. Turn off the burner and add honey to taste.

This is absolutely delicious with a few tablespoons of unsweetened whipped cream.

Variations:

Using unsweetened baking chocolate.. .melt 1-2 ounces gently with the vanilla, whisk in the milk bit by bit and heat to just over body temperature. (I haven't entirely perfected the concentration of chocolate here and tend to add too much, so let me know what you find.)

It can also be made with coconut milk, almond milk or any other non-dairy milk (although do yourself a favor and skip the soy). It can even be made with water for a more coffee-like experience, especially if you skip the sweetener. Just substitute one cup for one cup of milk.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Buttery herbed roasted chestnuts...

See? I lied. Here's another post before 2015!
Because these are really, really good and you have to try them. It's even worth the worn spot on my index finger that I got from about half an hour of scoring "x"s on the chestnuts with a somewhat dull kitchen knife...

I'm sure that it is entirely possible to slow roast them at 200 or 250 for a long while and use a more delicate, non-dairy oil like coconut or one of the hardier nut oils...

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Dan-Romans-Buttery-Roasted-Chestnuts-in-Foil-51135080

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's been so long since I've posted here for so many reasons. Our dance company has been busy. Our daughter is super-busy with school and everything else. (How did that happen?)

I admit, this blog is where I write things that can get me a bit in trouble. I have some strong opinions about food. If you've read this blog at all, you will know why. I have some good reasons.

So here is the first and probably last entry for 2014. I will try to write more in 2015!

I am listening to another program that is promoting veganism as a beneficial diet for everyone and the planet (at one point the speaker egged on a caller/cheerleader with “preach! preach!”) - and I can feel my blood pressure rising....So here it goes. I realize that so many of my friends are vegetarian or vegan, so I apologize for upsetting anyone out there. I love you all and respect your choices. I feel as if I regularly hear the vegan/vegetarian side of this discussion, and I feel as if I get a constant proselytizing media barrage in the Bay Area. I invite you to please take a look at this post. It is not fashionable (although I am happy to say that this argument for an omnivorous diet is becoming more recognized these days) but neither am I.



Food is compassion. It is home. It is where we come from. If we eat what our great-great grandmothers recognized as food, then we are probably doing well. For *most* of us, this is probably not a plant-based diet. Lierre Keith was a veteran of veganism for over 20 years and moved to an omnivorous diet when her health declined to the point at which she simply had to change. She also realized that widespread intensive agriculture is worse for the planet than the raising of pastured animals on a farm that does not rely on monocultures.  Check out her book The Vegetarian Myth for her entire set of arguments. She comes on strong, but knows her stuff. 



It is as much an economic argument as it is a nutritional and ecological one. Our economic system relies on monocultures, even for organic plant crops. Imagine if everyone was vegetarian - a huge amount of the planet’s surface would have to be co-opted into intensive plant crops. It’s not that I don’t think that intensive ranching isn’t bad. There is a huge problem with feedlots and big-box stores - I love that CostCo carries organics, but I worry about their sourcing. (At the same time, there is the expense of that good stuff from the farmers’ markets - it’s hard for us, too!) Keith, who was a proselytizer of veganism for most of her adult life, is now just as preachy for the Weston A. Price Foundation, which makes me slap my head, but that’s her. Meanwhile, she describes the massive clearing of agricultural land for organic plant crops as a form of ecological genocide in which the natural balance of life is enormously disturbed in favor of plant-based monocultures. While California’s big organic ag is maybe not so bad as the acres of Monsanto-tainted corn in the Midwest, it still rips up acres of plant and animal community that is necessary to environmental balance. 



At the same time, Salatin’s Polyface Farm, and others who are increasingly following his lead, raise many different animals as well as multiple crops in a careful dance that results in a thriving farm that uses its waste resources. Its soil stays rich and its ecosystem is self-renewing. 



There are new studies that say that plants may feel pain, which then makes the cruelty-free argument more complex than simply leaving out animal products from our diets. 
http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/sc/web/video/titles/12151/do-plants-respond-to-pain


Preparing food has some very yucky, messy stages. Raw ingredients for an excellent meal remind us that our bodies do require the death of some other organism. We should never take that lightly. At the same time, we can’t simply skip out on the responsibility of feeding our families and ourselves well. Withdrawing is a child’s response to a very large and thoughtful question. Adults need to take that on. Whenever I handle raw meat it is my job to think of how best to honor that animal, whether that is to use as much of it as I can, or to talk to our daughter about where this food came from and about how her grandmother used to cook it, how not to waste the food, to use compost, to live as waste-free as possible. How to not just cook but to eat with family, building many lives from that death, in order to give it respect. 


Then there is the sugar question. Vegetarianism is, by its nature, high in sugars, whether you are eating carrots and kohlrabi in your salads or apple honey cake. The western diet is too high in sugars. Period. Check out Peter Attia’s TED talk. He is a doctor who switched to an extremely high-fat and animal-based diet when he realized that his plant-based eating was actually causing his diabetes. Again, this is very individual and probably refers back to what a person’s ancestors ate. I can say from personal experience, and a family that tends towards insulin intolerance that I can’t live on a diet weighted towards plants. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who can. I haven’t met too many.



This leads to the argument that I do see all the time on the web, which also annoys me to no end because it fuels our cultural obsession with skinny bodies. Yes, a high carbohydrate diet, even if it’s “healthy”, will generate excess fat. Eating meat and whole, saturated fats do not make you fat. People who eat a higher sugar diet and have high triglycerides are at greater risk for heart disease than people with above average overall cholesterol count and low triglycerides. In other words, eating cholesterol does not give you high cholesterol. 



The part of the vegan/vegetarian argument that gets me the most upset, however, is a statement that I hear all the time, even from well-educated, sophisticated people. I also hear and read this constantly in medical research, which is disturbing. This is the assumption that all meat eating is inherently a feedlot-based diet and relies western menu staples, such as “meat and potatoes.” Even worse is the assumption that the hamburgers that come out of my kitchen are, by virtue of their meat content, equivalent to what comes out of a fast food restaurant. That may sound really silly, and it is, but many medical studies (I will insert one here when I can - there are dozens) simply record that a person ate a “hamburger” with no interest in its sourcing as a factor. Believe me, my hamburgers are nothing like the thing you’d get at a drive-through window.



The call to eat more vegetables is probably a good one. We have forgotten how to eat them. We have also forgotten that for many indigenous communities who do have a high plant to meat ratio in their diets, that grain porridge and roasted potatoes were NOT preferable to roasted meat, but was what they ate in lean times or between good hunts. We are not meant to eat meat only all day. We are also not meant to eat plants only all day. Every person, each dietary heritage is somewhat different as far as that balance goes, but it is extremely rare to find a truly vegan community, unless they are following the diet for specific religious reasons. (On the other hand, the Masai’s diet of meat and blood does exist.) Veganism can also be used for detox for a period of time, or, according to Sally Fallon, near the end of life when the human body simply needs less animal-based food.

I invite everyone to please ignore fashion, whether that is to eat vegetarian or to follow the trendyarianism of the moment and please check in with your ancestors to see what's good. (If there are tiny marshmallows in it, then look farther back.) If history has been lost, please read up on where your family came from and find some clues, then maybe surprise your relatives at the holiday table this season!






Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blueberry Pie - Happy 4th of July!

This is a recipe based on Bruce Fife's, which is terribly inaccurate, so I referred to Joy of Cooking for the stuff that made no sense (and I'm discovering that there's an awful lot missing from Fife's recipes, at least in regards to his pie fillings.)

Basically, make a jam from your blueberries, but not too mushy since they cook quickly. Add sweetener as needed, enough to make it a little syrupy, but not so much that they get too sweet. Both vanilla and lemon juice are nice flavors for blueberries, so those go in, as well.

We're transitioning off of GAPS at the moment, so I did make a base of arrowroot starch and water to start.

Make a top and bottom crust of your choice (Fife uses a nut topping, but that's not a possibility for us, so we went with a regular crust).

It was super-yummy topped with unsweetened yogurt.

Here it is (I have, as yet, to be able to get photos of any pie that hits our table before it gets eaten!).



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Epic Seder 2012!

We just finished an enormous Seder at our apartment  - 25 people crowded into our dining room. Our apartment isn't exactly tiny, but it's still an apartment, so there was definitely a similar feeling to the 20-clowns-in-a-volksy trick. It was warm and lovely and people sang. At least three people had never been to a Seder. Quite a few hadn't been to one in years. 

There was an enormous amount of food, and amazingly, much of it disappeared, which I suppose it does with 25 guests!

I made an unusual brisket - marinaded overnight in red wine with the first spring tomatoes, paprika, onions and garlic. I blended the vegetables into a nice thick sauce. I roasted two chickens, which all but disappeared, and one of our guests who is a terrific cook made salmon with agave-lime sauce. There was asparagus, greens, and, courtesy of other guests, roasted herbed vegetables and salad. I served my chicken broth and one of the grandmothers brought her homemade chicken soup with vegetables and matzo balls.

I also made about 36 hard boiled eggs, a baked apple dish, brown rice, three Seder plates with real horseradish, and carrot tsimmes. People brought all kinds of desserts, including macaroons which disappeared immediately. They were nearly GAPS-friendly, so I will see if I can get the recipe and pass it on here. 

 When I have recovered I will post the recipe for the brisket and tsimmes.

Here are some of the dishes in progress. I was too tired to get the finished images, so please bear with me.


The baked apple dish before baking

Half of the 36 hard boiled eggs.

Carrot tsimmes in progress. This one was a winner. Only two small jars left!

The beginnings of the brisket - meat after marinating and browning. We just started to get tomatoes in our CSA box. Very exciting!

When you're on GAPS, it's sort of like Passover all year, but for those of us who do eat gluten, I got some matzo.