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The Tagine Less Traveled 1

Posted on November 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’m so excited that tomorrow is ECHO’s Food Less Traveled event.  And in celebration of this contest that will be judged not only on taste, presentation and overall experience but also the “food miles” that ingredients have traveled, I offer this fabulous recipe for the aromatic Moroccan stew.  The starring ingredients were from my BFF-ish food sources: beef from Applecheek Farm, a stubbornly alive cardoon plant from Red Wagon Plants, and garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and potatoes from the Intervale.  The lemons, olives, olive oil, ginger and spices made this a lovely celebration of sultry Mediterranean flavors to spice up that good and local stuff.

Of course this would never be able to win a localvore contest, with so much food from afar on the ingredient list.  But it was a pretty darned delightful dinner for these delightful friends:

Plus it was a chance to get to the bottom of the age-old question, “What the heck is a cardoon?,” which is a question you yourself might want to answer if you like that anise-y flavor that artichokes have, or are interested in good, new easy-to-grow things.

Tagine with Beef, Potato & Cardoons
6 servings

1.  Clean 1 or 2 large bunches of cardoon, using these instructions.  Keep in lemon juice until ready to use, marveling at how the enormous pile of leaves resulted in this tiny bit of stems.

2.  Prepare these quick prepared lemons and keep aside.

3.  Heat in a Dutch oven until rippling:

  • 3 T. olive oil

Then add and brown well:

  • 1 lb. grass-fed beef, cut into 3- or 4-inch pieces

4. Add:

  • reserved cardoons
  • 1 onion, chopped medium
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 c. chopped potatoes, peels removed or left on, as you prefer.
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Stir very well, bring to a slow boil, then cover and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours.  Check once or twice to make sure it’s not completely dry.

5.  Towards the end of the tagine’s cooking time, chop and combine:

  • 1 preserved lemon, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 c. pitted kalamata or other pungent dark olives
  • 2 T. cilantro leaves
  • 1 T. flat leaf parsley

6.  Remove stew from heat, then stir in lemon mixture.  Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with couscous or crunchy bread.  Good!

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Raspberry Rewards 3

Posted on November 06, 2010 by crankycheryl

One hesitates to mention alcohol consumption in consecutive posts.

But the last of the fall raspberries are around, and maybe you too are having days like the one I had this week.  It was a beaut that included such gems as knocking the brother to the floor, the stealing and breaking of beloved toys to the point of tears, the delightful dinner comment, “What are these carrots made of – garbage?” and a sniffling, sobbing, “Well I can tell you don’t want me any more,”  after spilling purple latex paint all over the floor and I found myself sputtering strange syllables.

Friends, by the time bedtime came I was ready for a drink.

And there on the counter were the berries I had found still clinging to the vines when I had gone out to start putting the garden to bed.  Maybe you’ve got some still hanging around too, and here’s a nice little gift you can give yourself at the end of a rough day.

CrankyCheryl’s Raspberry Rewards
Yield:  4

1.  Place in a bowl and press firmly but gently with the back of a wooden spoon:

  • 1 c. fresh raspberries (organic)

2.  Add:

  • 1/4 c. vodka
  • 2 T. whiskey or bourbon
  • 3 T. maple syrup

Stir well and let sit for 30 min. – 1 hour.

3.  Put 2 ounces in the bottom of a small glass with ice cubes, top with seltzer, spoon in some berries, and serve.

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Brazilian Dinner 0

Posted on October 24, 2010 by crankycheryl

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Smoky Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes 1

Posted on October 22, 2010 by crankycheryl

Insert something here about the beautiful fall day.

Something here about the alchemy of a blue sky, brilliant yellow leaves, the first snowflakes to fall on upturned faces.

Something here about the sadness of a bright sun in October.

Something about the funny/sad persistence of children acting like children, like fast-flying meteors, like light.

And still there are the green tomatoes plucked before the first frost threatened, still green and hard and needing to be cooked.

Something about how nothing can be wasted.

Oven-Fried Smoky Green Tomatoes
Serves: maybe 4 as a side dish?

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Coat a baking sheet with cooking oil.

2.  Slice thickly:

  • 6 green tomatoes

3.  Place in a wide, flat bowl:

  • 1/2 cup soy milk, rice milk, or cow milk

4.  Place in a second wide, flat bowl:

  • 1 cup cornmeal (organic, unless you like your food to be genetically modified)
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t. ground thyme
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • few grinds fresh peppercorn

5.  Dip both sides of each tomato slice in the milk, then in the cornmeal mixture.  Place on the baking sheet, then bake for 15 minutes.  Flip the slices over, spray with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil and bake 15 minutes more or until golden brown.  Serve immediately or at room temperature.

They can also be frozen by cooling completely on a rack, then placing on the largest plate or baking sheet you can fit in your freezer.  Place them in the freezer for 2-3 hours or overnight, then put in a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container.  They can then be heated up to eat as-is, or layered with cheese and tomato sauce for green tomato parmigiana.

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Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes 1

Posted on October 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I was late, late, late to go to our neighbors’ house to watch their kids the other night, but I had a chicken all defrosted and a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be eaten before our next CSA pick-up.

Thank goodness, Molly Stevens’s The Art of Braising has become part of my cooking lexicon, and I knew what I had to do to make a successful braise come together.

So with very little thought, and a great deal of luck that I didn’t lose a fingertip in the chopping, this came together and got into the oven in a little less than half an hour.

Lazy Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot that can go both on the range and into the oven, melt together until nicely bubbling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil (not extra virgin, which isn’t for cooking)

2.  Generously sprinkle:

  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper – all over
  • 1 5 – 6 lb. chicken

Add to pan, and brown on all sides by leaving the chicken in place for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat.  Don’t wiggle it around too much or you’ll tear the skin and also not get the bronzing that you want.

3.  While the chicken is cooking, prep your vegetables.

Coarsely chop:

  • 1 head fennel  (I use what I call “the cleaver test” to see what’s tender enough to eat.  If my cleaver slices easily through the stalks, I’ll cook with them.  Otherwise save them for stock or compost them.)
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 4 potatoes (I had a mix of white and purple)
  • 1 medium eggplant (I happened to have some around – the dish will be fine without it)

4.  Here’s one of my new favorite time savers for a braise.  Take:

  • 3 cloves of garlic

and leave their skins on and don’t chop.   Put them aside.  You’ll see why in a minute.

5.  When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate.  Add a little oil if necessary to get a good covering for the bottom of the pan.  Add the vegetables, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.   Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are getting nice and fragrant and starting to wilt.  Add the garlic cloves whole, just tucking them into the vegetables.  The peels have lots of flavor, which they’ll transfer to your braise.  And when you uncover the cloves when you eat, you can just squeeze out the garlic itself, which will have been mellowed by cooking and absorbed all those great flavors.

6.  Add:

  • 1/2 c. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

Then bring to a boil and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Place the chicken on top, cover with a lid, and place in the middle of the oven.

7.  Cook for about 2 hours, until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh when pierced.   Let the chicken sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then carve and serve with scoops of vegetables.

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Chickpea, Corn & Smoked Cheddar Wraps 0

Posted on September 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

There’s a part of me that loves this time of year as the height of the harvest draws to a close.  The wild ride of summer is a fun romp, sure, but I like the slowdown, how there’s time to stop and appreciate the things that are coming ripe more slowly.  The apples, now.  The tomatoes that have stopped stampeding in from the garden or farmer’s market.  I feel a little less desperate to ENJOY EVERYTHING AT ITS PEAK RIGHT NOW WITH AS LITTLE ADORNMENT AS POSSIBLE!

Phew.

In this very seemly spirit, here’s a yummy vegetarian dinner that makes use of what’s in season in a completely reasonable way.  And you can make it the rest of the year too, with frozen corn and the best tomatoes you can get your hands on.

Around these parts, wraps are one of the few foods that I can make that E. and Z. will both eat in one form or another, and that the grown-ups can actually enjoy.  These were especially successful for Z., who shredded his wrap and made careful little petit fours with avocado slices, caramelized onion, avocado and cheese.

Chickpea, Corn & Smoked Cheddar Wraps
Makes 8 wraps

1.  Have 8 wraps or tortillas warmed and ready, wrapped in a tea towel that’s very slightly damp and in a very low oven.

2.  In a large skillet, heat until rippling:

  • 2 T. olive oil

3.  Add:

  • 1 c. chopped onion (I cut mine fairly fine, you can do yours as you like)
  • 1 c. chopped red pepper
  • 4 purple tomatillos, cut into quarters (optional)

Cook until very soft.

4.  While onion mix is cooking, prepare other ingredients for wraps.  I like to put them all on one large plate for the middle of the table where everyone can help themselves to what they like.

  • 4 oz. smoked cheddar, sliced thinly
  • 1 juicy tomato, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 2 cups of lettuce, cleaned and torn into small pieces if large
  • 1/2 c. cilantro, cleaned and coarsely chopped

5.  When onion mix is well-cooked, stir in:

  • 2 cups drained cooked or canned chick peas
  • kernels from 4 ears fresh corn

Cook until heated through, then place mix in serving bowl.

6.  Put together wraps with a couple tablespoons of the chickpea mix, and whatever other ingredients you like.

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Children of the Corn 4

Posted on August 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

Is it just me?

Wouldn’t you expect that your children and their two friends could stay at the petting zoo and playground for two minutes while you ran to get them a bottle of water since the poor little darlings were thirsty?

And if they had to run wild in the minutes you were gone, surely you’d think they could continue on with the petting zoo animals, or climbing the wooden tractor, or running across the wide, safe, open field.  What child of reading age would cross an acre, pass the “CLOSED” signs, and enter the corn maze?

This place, by the way, is a big old actual maze with paths that swirl around in traditionally confusing and re-doubling ways.  It wasn’t terrifying at 3:00 p.m., but I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be there after sundown.   I’ve seen the horror movies and I know what goes on.

Still, you and your younger child yourselves entered the forbidden rows, yelling for the trespassers and were at last reunited, after telling the offending three children that they were in TROUBLE and had ONE MINUTE to find their way to where you were (because if you tell people to do something impossible while YELLING, the laws of physics will change to accommodate your wishes), and then the farmer showed up to yell at them too.

So there we were with glaring adults and big-eyed children.  I was waiting for the finger-pointing and the meltdown and I was ready to dish out some Very Serious Consequences.  But that was when E. said, “Listen.  It’s my fault.  I went in and they came in to get me out.  I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed.”  The farmer looked at me and I think realized they were in much more trouble on the homefront than they were with the farm.  He asked, “So now you know you did something wrong?  And if I had a cable across that row you wouldn’t have gone in?  We want to make sure you’re safe, you know.”

I don’t know what you would have done but for me it was to give the children a hug.  And then we shared our first cider donuts of the season sitting around a picnic table talking about how to decide what’s allowed and what’s safe, about how smart it was to stay together and keep each other okay.

In the end it was one of those golden moments when our children show us the beautiful people they’re becoming, even if there’s plenty of crazy along the way.

And then we went home to make a dinner of our first 2010 local apples, some good Cabot cheddar, and a pile of crackers, since I had no energy left for cooking.  On the way, E. said, “Mommy, you know it’s not really my fault.  They should have signs showing how to get out of that place!  Can you believe there was only one picture of the whole thing?!”

Indeed.

And now that we’ve recovered I want to share with you this pure summer harvest celebration of a recipe that we enjoyed last week after a much less adventurous visit to our CSA farm.  It was Z.’s idea to mix, “corn … and cheese … and broccoli and water … and I’ll stir it all up!”  I’m sure he was thinking something more mudpie-ish, but to me it sounded like chowder, and that’s what we made.

Cheesy Corn Potato Chowder
About 6 servings

1.  Remove the kernels from:

  • 3 ears fresh corn

and set aside.

2.  Heat until rippling in a large sauce pan:

  • 2 T. butter or olive oil

3.  Adjust heat to medium-low, and add:

  • 2 cups diced potatoes, with peels unless you really hate them
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until carrots are softened, and onions are starting to brown gently.

4.  Stir in and mix very well:

  • 1/2 t. salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour (substitute your usual thickener if you’re going for gluten-free)

Then pour in, 1/2 cup at a time, and bring to a simmer while stirring.

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water

5.  Stir in and cook at a low simmer just until broccoli turns bright green, about 3 minutes:

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I use Cabot 50% reduced fat cheddar)
  • 1 cup finely chopped broccoli (or substitute spinach or chopped chard)
  • the reserved corn

Heat through, and serve.

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Czech Plum Dumplings 4

Posted on August 15, 2010 by crankycheryl

The Vermont plums are in, and they are damned good.   So good that I find myself leaving the farmer’s market each week of their short season with far more than I really need or have plans for.  Which was what was happening a couple of weeks ago when I ran into a friend who told me about her old neighbor who made dumplings with the plums that grew in her yard.

Of course the word, “dumplings” piqued my interest.  So with quarts of plums at the ready, I went home to find a recipe.  Here’s what I found, and have so far made two batches – one to freeze for winter, and one we ate fresh with grilled sausage and a great deal of delight.

Plum Dumplings
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
The original recipe’s yield says 25, but 20 seems to be closer to the truth

1.  Peel, quarter, boil until tender and then mash:

  • 2 large or 4 small potatoes

2.  While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the plums.  Slice in half:

  • 25 prune plums (Who knows?  Maybe you’ll get 25 out of the recipe and will actually need each one.  If not, you’ve got sugary sweet plums as a snack, so it’s a low-risk situation.)

Remove each pit, and sprinkle a bit of sugar into the spot where it was.  Place plums in a bowl while you prepare the dough.

3.  Make the dough by sifting together:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 t. powdered lemon peel
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Make a well in the center and add:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 cup mashed potato

Mix together with a wooden spoon until too hard to stir, and then knead until very smooth.

4.  Flour a cutting board well, and roll out half of the dough to 1/4″ thick.  Use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut out 3″ or 4″ rounds.  (Work fairly quickly so the circles don’t dry out.)  Place one round on the palm of one hand, rub the circle’s outside with a sugared plum to moisten the dough.

Stretch and seal the dough around the plum, trying your best to avoid any holes in the dough.  (If you do end up with a hole, just grab a scrap from the board and patch it.)

Repeat until all dough is used up, gathering and re-rolling as many scraps as you can.  (To freeze at this point, place in a single layer on a well-floured cookie sheet and stick in the freezer until hard, and then put in a container or bag.)

5.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and gently place dumplings in the water and boil for about 10 minutes. (Add about 4 minutes if you cook from frozen.)

6.  In a large sauce pan, melt together over medium-low heat and stir until warm and thick:

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1  c. brown sugar or your favorite jam or marmalade (we were lucky to have some peach butter bubbling away on the stove and so used that)
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs to thicken if you like.

I’d like to come up with some brilliant summation here, but I’m a bit distracted as I’m here with a 5-year old here who insists it’s my birthday (it’s not) and that I have to go off to a party with Batman, a plastic dinosaur and some wooden milk.  You, on the other hand, should get yourself some plums and eat them in any way you can think of.

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Insalata Caprese – Vegan 0

Posted on August 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

The vegan minister at our church retired recently, and we sent him off in fine Unitarian style with a big potluck picnic, music, bounce castle, and all manner of wholesome fun and well-wishing.

Though I knew most people in attendance are happy omnivores, I couldn’t bring myself to make something that the guest of honor wouldn’t eat.  And a quick review of what was in the fridge turned into this take on the summer classic, which seemed like one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before sorts of dishes once it occurred to me.   There was something especially fab about having it on the church picnic table right next to the genuine orange carrot-Jello mold, which I did indeed help myself to a big day-glo scoop of.

Vegan Insalata Caprese
Serves 8

Prepare tofu:

  • 1 lb. package extra firm (not silken) tofu, pressed, then sliced fairly thickly, and marinated for 1 hour in 1 cup of water with 1/2 t. kosher salt and 2 cloves chopped garlic

While the tofu’s marinating, reduce to 1/3 cup over low simmer:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar (don’t waste super-high quality stuff on this – run of the mill stuff will be fine)

Pat the tofu dry, then layer it in whatever shape suits you and your serving dish with:

  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced into pieces about the size of the tofu
  • 1 cup large basil leaves

Drizzle the vinegar over the top, then top with:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to tastev

Voila.  Now you’ve made the vegans happy.

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The Chickens 4

Posted on July 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’ve been meaning to take a minute to write about the chickens.

It’s just that I don’t exactly know what to say.

In the winter, my amazing friend Paula wondered if we might want to invest in a small flock of meat-birds she was preparing to raise on her family’s farm.  The plan was that we’d come out and help with some of the care and feeding, and then eventually help with the slaughter.   We wanted in.  Of course I was nervous about the slaughter part.

So then spring came and her little peeps arrived.  She moved them out to her barn, and Z. & I went out to visit.  We met the meat-birds, who Paula got me in the habit of calling “lummoxes” as they’re bred for quick growth, big size, and not especially for smarts.  (You chicken-knowers may detect some ornamentals in the bunch.  Don’t worry – they’re being raised to show at the fair this year, not for meat.)

We helped fill their water and mix in the oyster shell with grain, helped shoo the layers where they were supposed to go.

And then I went out one more time and did some more of the same; of course Paula’s been going out every day.  And now all of a sudden tomorrow is chicken slaughter day.  We’re not doing it ourselves, but are instead packing up the birds and caravaning to Morrisville where there’s a butcher who will slaughter, dress and pack the birds for us.  We go back a few hours later and pick them up, all ready to go into the freezer.

I’ve talked to the boys extensively about this venture, about how animals should be treated well even if they’re going to be eaten.  How we as a family try to make sure that the animals we eat had good lives and were treated well, and that getting to know our food is part of that.

I would have thought that Z., who is younger and so very sweet, would have been especially traumatized.  But it’s his brother who’s taking it hard, refusing to go along for the trip.  And who has announced that he won’t even look at the birds if he has to be in the car with them.  I think Z. is okay because he knows we’ll be going to Applecheek Farm and Bee’s Knees and he probably suspects there will be juice boxes and treats involved.  He’s definitely right.

I’m looking at that picture of the bird in the grass, thinking about how right now as I’m listening to the crickets chirp it’s having its last night as a living being.  If I’m going to keep eating animals, I have to be okay with that.  Am I?  It’s hard to say for sure.  I’d like to be able to smugly congratulate myself, knowing that my freezer’s about to be filled with animals who lived a good and dignified life, and weren’t treated horribly and then stuck in a warehouse freezer.  I know this is better.  And I know that this ambiguity is appropriate.

And now I just hope we get through tomorrow.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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