May 2008 Archives

 


This summer I am taking the One Local Summer challenge. Participants cook and blog one meal a week consisting of all local ingredients.

Returning back from vacation, the pantry was a little low, but I managed a nice little breakfast for the first week of the challenge: an omelet with goat cheese and radish greens, with some bacon on the side.

The great thing about this dish is that every element really stood out on its own. The bacon was a nice thick cut with great flavor, the eggs had excellent body and texture and were a dream to cook with as well as to eat, and the goat cheese was fresh, creamy and tart. The radish greens were a little wilted (my fault), but I gave them a quick sauté in a little of the bacon grease for extra savoriness, and it perked them all up. Simple preparation + great quality ingredients = very tasty!

Ingredients:
Milk from Oake Knoll Ayreshires in Foxboro, MA
Eggs from Rocky Hollow Farm, Bellingham, MA
Radishes from Blue Heron Farms, Lincoln, MA
Goat Cheese from Crystal Brook Farm, Sterling, MA
Bacon from Houde Family Farm, St. Johnsbury, VT and smoked by Green Mountain Smokehouse, Windsor, VT

 

We're back from ten days of hiking, boating, snorkeling and sunning on glorious Kauai, and luckily, my skin isn't the only thing that was seared. While we ate out a fair amount, our group was staying in a house with a fully equipped kitchen and a grill, so we also stocked up on groceries and did some cooking. One friend grilled up his delicious burgers, another made tasty breakfast sandwiches, and I hit the farmers market for some fresh veggies and pineapples for the grill.


Of course, we had to get some fresh fish in there somewhere, so we picked up a nice slice of ahi, and I gave it an unpracticed pan-searing. The real star of the dish was the relish of tomato, honey tangerine, lime and grilled pineapple, which was cobbled together out of the handful of things we happened to have. It was a little bit "Iron Chef: Vacation."


And nothing follows a nice island meal like an icy cold drink, like these strawberry pina coladas.

 

Calf's liver with red wine and onions is a quick and hearty dish. The red wine complements the rich, nutty flavor of the liver, and the onion adds a nice bright contrasting flavor. Good liver is velvety in texture and not at all bitter, although its flavor is distinctive.



Making this dish is so easy it doesn't deserve the word 'recipe.' Just chop an onion, sauté in a dash of oil or butter, add the liver, brown a little, and then add a splash of red wine. Cook until the meat is how you like it, salt and pepper to taste, and kiss your iron deficiencies goodbye!

 

Once you've decided to raise composting worms, the container to keep them in is the next issue. Worms need good drainage, a little fresh air, and whether you are keeping them inside or out, they need containment. The worms used for composting are not native in all areas, and if they get out in the wild they can disrupt local worm populations, so it is best not to let the little guys roam free.

There are two basic choices, homemade or premade. A homemade box is cheap, but it can be harder to maintain and harvest dirt from. A commercially produced box looks good and is easy to use, but is also remarkably spendy. The more time and effort put into the construction of a homemade bin, the more it will mimic the ease of use of the commercial bin.



While the simplest homemade boxes generally have one large area for the worms and compost, commercial bins have several layers, allowing the worms to move up and down. You can change the order of the layers, making worms travel through the compost material several times, processing it as they go, and creating much better soil (or so the marketing people tell me). Removing finished dirt is also much easier, as you can convince the worms to migrate to another layer, leaving the worms in your bin while the dirt goes in your garden. In single-layer bins, you can encourage the worms to migrate to one end of the box instead. (Note, because red wrigglers are not native in all areas, all dirt should be spread in the sun to dry and kill any worms or worm eggs before use.)

There are many plans for multi-layer worm bins available online. They are not hard to make, and as long as they provide containment, drainage and ventilation, the worms will be happy.

However, I knew that my bin would not be in a private yard or shed - it would either be in my kitchen or in the basement or patio that we share with our house's other occupants. I already subject people who share my living space to curing meat and fermenting pickles, I think a scrappy rubbermaid tub full of worms might cross some sort of line. When it comes to worms, appearances matter - worms in a fancy box look cleaner and more contained. So, I went with the commercial box, and I am glad I did. It looks at home in my kitchen, keeps everything tidy, and so far seems to suit the worms needs as well as mine.

 


About a month ago, I started making my own yogurt. I usually eat yogurt every day, on granola or fruit for breakfast or dessert, and since making yogurt is not terribly labor-intensive, it seemed like something I could do on a regular basis.

To make yogurt, you need milk and live yogurt cultures. Yogurt cultures include Streptococcus salivarius; Lactobacillales (that's plural for Lactobacillus!) delbrueckii, acidophilus, and casei; and Bifidobacterium. Live, active, probiotic cultures are not the exclusive corporate property of Danon, thank goodness, and can be found in any non-pasteurized yogurt. To start yogurt at home, you can buy dry mixes of cultures, or just use plain, unsweetened yogurt with live cultures and no additives.

Heat your milk to just below boiling, in the neighborhood of 180 - 200 degrees, and then let is cool down to 110 degrees. The cultures, particularly Streptococcus, do best around this temperature, so the goal is to add the cultures and then keep everything at 110 degrees until it becomes yogurt. This is an annoying process that my mom used to do using the oven, a thermometer, and a lot of patience. Luckily, today you can buy an electric device that is both inexpensive and a lot more energy-efficient than your oven. You can also use an insulated container or water-bath, but considering that yogurt can take upwards of six hours to become firm, I recommend the appliance!

My yogurt maker holds four cups, and I use about a quarter-cup of yogurt as a starter. To add the starter, I gently mix about a half cup of the warm milk with it, and then combine it with the rest of the milk. Then I pour it all into the yogurt maker, and have fresh, tart yogurt ready for my breakfast the next day. I do this about once a week, and so far it's been great, except for one batch that turned out a little more like curds than yogurt, which I have since learned was probably from too much time in the yogurt-maker. Perfecting the process to be sure of not repeating that might take a little more practice, but the stakes for experimentation are not terribly high.

Practical Considerations

  • How much space does it need?
    A yogurt-maker is quite small, but doing this in a cooler could take quite a lot of space.
  • How much time does it take?
    About 30 minutes to heat and cool the milk and add the cultures, then 4-8 hours of inactive time.
  • Does it smell?
    No.
  • Does it look grody?
    It's lumpier than commercial yogurt, but otherwise, no.
  • Does it need special equipment?
    No, but it helps a lot. Luckily, the equipment is small and cheap.
  • Is it worth it to do this by hand?
    Maybe. It is easy and delicious, but it is not necessarily cheaper than grocery-store yogurt.
 


Today I put the guanciale to its first test. While guanciale's rich flavor is generally best-suited to a foundational role in a dish like pasta all'amatriciana or carbonara, I decided to sauté the guanciale alone and serve it over polenta, just to take its measure.



The guanciale was so overwhelming, so rich and flavorful, there was a distinct limit to how much I could eat at one sitting - but tasting it on its own was definitely worth it. It is sweeter, rounder, and has a much stronger pork flavor than either bacon or pancetta. There is a depth to the flavor that is akin to a long-simmered stock, and the richness of the pinkly translucent fat is like that of bacon times a thousand. Sliced into lardons and fried, it became crisp, but with a smooth, firm chew behind it. The smell of it cooking is simply heavenly.



Over the next couple weeks, I'll be putting its rich flavor to use in some traditional guanciale dishes, and I can't wait.

 

One of the downsides of urban living is the consignment of organic waste to the landfill. It's particularly frustrating if you also have a small patio or container garden, and have to turn around and buy potting soil and fertilizer for it. On the other hand, compost heaps are big, smelly, lots of work, and around here they freeze for half the year anyways.



Vermiculture is really the only viable solution that I've come across, aside from curbside compost pick-up (and by the way, how cool is that?!). Vermiculture means raising worms, cute little wriggling worms, in your very own home. They (and their occasional roommates) eat your compost and turn it into rich, delicious soil. Worms speed up the composting process, meaning much quicker conversion of your banana peels into dirt, and less space needed for the composting container. I've been vermicomposting for a couple months now, which hardly makes me an expert, but so far it has been more than manageable, in fact, it's been super-awesome.

So, how do you know if worms are for you? The main consideration is environmental. Worms are sensitive to temperature, particularly heat, and since the decomposition of compost can create a lot of heat itself, an un-air-conditioned apartment or sunny patio is not a great place for these little guys.

Last month, we had a few freak days with temperatures in the high 80's, which meant well into the 90's or higher inside the bin, and I noticed a significant die-off in the worm population. So I moved the bin outside, where it gets a nice breeze, and soon everything was back to normal. I am planning to move the bin into the basement when summer really kicks in, to protect it from higher temperatures.



The second-largest consideration, in my mind, is maintenance. While collecting the compost and feeding the worms is no more time consuming than taking out the trash, in the case that your worm bin does develop a problem, such as a red-mite infestation, high acidity, or die-off due to high temperatures, it may need some attention. The earthworm population is self-regulating, so small die-offs are not a problem - assuming you correct whatever was causing the problem, which might take a little investigative work. The best thing is that unlike a dog, pet worms can be left at home when you travel. Worms can amuse themselves with re-eating everything in the bin for a pretty long time (experts say 3 weeks), so, unless you are backpacking Europe, they'll be fine.

It is also worthwhile to consider the kinds of waste a worm bin can handle. Worms are sensitive to acidic conditions (and probably also to a chemical compound found in citrus peel), so citrus peels are no good unless you add an alkaline, such as calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate can also aid with other acidic food wastes. I haven't tried the calcium carbonate yet, but I've been eating grapefruits at a rate of two a day, so I plan on picking some up soon! Protein-based waste, including dairy and meat products, can spoil and stink up everything before the worms are able to digest it, so it's no good for an indoor bin. Outdoor bins with protein wastes in them may attract neighborhood raccoons and the like. Since advice is mixed on this point, when I move my bin into the basement, I'll try experimenting with some meat wastes and see how bad this really is. Crushed eggshells are fine and do not cause any odor in my experience. All compost needs to be alternated with layers of bedding material, like shredded newsprint or dried leaves; the carbon-rich bedding material balances out the nitrogen-rich food waste, creating the right conditions for decomposition and soil creation.



You may be thinking, what about smells? Isn't that a pretty major consideration for raising wrigglers in your kitchen? Luckily, not so much. Worms don't eat the organic material directly; they wait for bacteria to break it down a little first. It's that same decomposition process that causes unpleasant smells, but since the worms jump on it as soon as the decomposition gets going, the smell doesn't have a chance. Since your bin will be covered, smell is even less of an issue. Inside the bin can smell a little earthy, and a little like whatever is waiting to decay. Unfortunately, when there is a small die-off, the bin can also smell like dead worms, but that, too, is not perceptible when the bin is shut. Since I collect my compost in a covered bowl and feed it to the worms weekly, sometimes the smell of over-ripe fruit waste in the collection bowl is noticeable in the kitchen.

So, if you think that vermiculture might be for you, stay tuned! Conatainers are considered next week. In the meantime, if you're thinking about it, here's a recap of the

Practical Considerations

  • How much space does it need?
    A few cubic feet - works well in basements, under tables, and on porches.
  • How much time does it take?
    Just a few minutes a week.
  • Does it smell?
    Not generally. Inside the container, it can be a little earthy, but that's about it, unless there is a problem.
  • Does it look grody?
    Sure, but that's why you put a cover on the box!
  • Does it need special equipment?
    Yes, but really just the container. And the worms themselves, of course.
  • Is it worth it to do this by hand?
    If you'd like to compost, but don't have the space, this is the way to go.
 
Friday, Greg and I will be taking off for ten glorious days in Kauai. I've never been to Hawai'i before, but I am familiar with some of their more famous culinary delicacies, like poi, chicken long rice, and kalua pig, mostly thanks to Aloha Café in Monterey Park. I've got plenty of posts lined up for my absence, but I may not be around to prune the spam and whatnot, so try to ignore the viarga hawkers, and when I get back, I'll tell you all about cooking fresh fish over a fire on the beach.
 


I am a card-carrying offal-lover. If there is tripe or tongue on your menu, I will be ordering it. Often to my husband Greg's dismay. At home, however, I haven't cooked much with organ meats, excepting chicken giblets, because of the difficulty finding them from antibiotic-free, sustainably-raised sources. And then there is also Greg's dismay to consider. However, since joining our meat CSA, I've been putting in orders for offal cuts whenever they're available. And Greg has been very indulgent.

Sweetbreads are the pancreas and thymus glands, usually from veal or lamb. The texture is smooth but firm and the flavor is like a delicate, sweet chicken liver. They have a distinctive, slightly sweet smell. They are on the fiddly side to cook, due to the membrane that surrounds and connects the lobes of the organ. Generally, sweetbreads are poached for a couple minutes in water with lemon, wine or vinegar, and then the membrane is tediously peeled off. There is an outer, thicker membrane, and also connective tissues between the lobes - you can remove just the outer layer, or all of it, if you'd like the lobes separate. Then the meat can be sautéed, grilled, or otherwise cooked.

For my first attempt at cooking sweetbreads, I followed Fergus Henderson's advice in The Whole Beast. I decided to keep it simple and went for a sauté in just butter. Cooked until they were a nice golden brown, they were tender, yet firm, with a smooth texture. The taste was delicate enough that I wouldn't want to overwhelm them with anything very strongly flavored, but next time I will try a more complicated dish. In fact, for inspiration, last week at a Greek restaurant, I had them with fried garlic and artichokes, a very successful combination.

 

About five years ago, I had a conversation about the difference between sauerkraut and pickles. I thought sauerkraut was pickled cabbage. A friend thought that it was fermented, but was unsure how that was done. We were all lost on how it compared to kim chee. So when I picked up Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, a little glowing pickle appeared over my head as I belatedly realized that pickling IS fermenting! Even though pickles are now often produced with vinegar, traditional pickles are the product of lactobacillus bacteria in brined vegetables producing lactic acid, a process essentially the same as the one that creates cured meat.

The process of making sauerkraut is actually quite simple: chopped cabbage is layered with salt, packed tightly and left to age. Salt inhibits the growth of spoilage bacteria and Lactobacillus thrives, creating the lactic acid that preserves the sauerkraut and gives it its tang. After a few days, the distinctive flavor of sauerkraut begins to emerge.

To make it at home, you need a wide-mouthed non-metal container and a plate or smaller container that will fit inside it, plus cabbage and salt. Spices, such as caraway, dill, or juniper berries, are optional, but delicious. Just cut the cabbage however you would like it (I used my mandoline to get 1/3" strips.) and place a few handfuls in your container. Sprinkle this layer with some salt (Katz recommends 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage) and spices if you would like. I used a roughly equal amount of salt and a spice mix, composed of caraway, coriander and juniper berries. Don't worry too much about distributing the salt evenly. You want it throughout the container, but the whole thing will fill with water, so you don't need to be precise.

After you have filled the container with all of your cabbage and salt, pound the whole thing down. I used my fist to do this, which resulted in red, cold, salty knuckles, but otherwise worked very well. If you have a kitchen mallet, I would recommend that. You want the cabbage to be pretty tightly packed, so be persistent. When your knuckles can't take it anymore, place your plate or container on top of the packed cabbage and weight it. I used a set of glass jars, with the smaller one, full of water, as the weight. Press down on the weight to get it settled in there, and then cover the whole shebang with a cloth or plate to keep mold and debris out. Then give the cabbage some time to give off its water. Press down on the weight firmly a few times over the next day. Within 24 hours, the water released should cover the cabbage, but if it doesn't, add water to cover.



The cabbage will begin to become sauerkraut within the next couple days. You can taste it as it goes along, and it will continue to improve, the speed of the fermentation depending on the conditions in your location. When it tastes as you like it, you can refrigerate or can it.


Practical Considerations

  • How much space does it need?
    Variable. You could probably do this in a quart or half-gallon jar, but a sizeable crock or food-grade bucket is probably better. You can keep it anywhere, however, as long as it isn't sweltering hot, like under a table or in a cabinet.
  • How much time does it take?
    About 20-40 minutes to cut, layer, and pound down the cabbage, depending on how much cabbage you use. In the first 24 hours, it needs a little attention, maybe another 10 minutes, total. Then you're home-free.
  • Does it smell?
    Only when taking the sauerkraut out of the crock, when it can smell pretty strongly of, well, sauerkraut.
  • Does it look grody?
    A little. Scum and bubbles can form on the surface of the water. This is not dangerous, and you can clean it off, but it still looks like a big jar of bubbly sauerkraut with a cloth over it.
  • Does it need special equipment?
    No
  • Is it worth it to do this by hand?
    If you love sauerkraut, it is more than worth it.
 

About a month ago, I headed down into our basement and strung two pieces of salted pork from the ceiling. I jerry-rigged a cardboard canopy to protect them from ceiling dirt and paint chips, and tilted the dehumidifier to provide a cool, dry breeze.

At the time, our landlords were on vacation, and had rented out their upstairs apartment to a nice visiting scholar to whom I had spoken all of two words. I left a friendly note on the pork jowls, and crossed my fingers, hoping that I wouldn't hear her screaming from the top of the stairs when she flipped on the light to see hunks of flesh dangling from the rafters.



Guanciale is a type of dry cured pork, much like pancetta or prosciutto. While prosciutto is ham, and pancetta is pork belly, guanciale is made from pork jowls. The jowls, or guancia, are the cheeks of the pig, which are thickly striped with fat, much like the belly. Guanciale is reputed to have a much richer, porkier, meatier flavor than pancetta, and luckily for impatient me, it has a much shorter hanging time as well.

Inspired by this article, and the timely arrival of pork jowls on my CSA add-on list, I decided to give it a go. I also followed Batali's simple recipe. The basic dry-curing process calls for coating the jowls in a salt, sugar and spice mixture and keeping them in the fridge for a week before hanging for another three weeks or more. The salt forces the liquid out of the meat through osmosis, inhibiting the growth of the bacteria that causes spoilage. Meanwhile, the sugar feeds the friendly Lactobacillus bacteria, which create an acidic environment that further discourages spoilage.



I was surprised to see how much water the jowls gave off over the week: over two cups. I drained it off a few times, and found that in the last two days, no additional liquid was released. At this point I patted the meat off and strung it up with cotton twine and a little sprig of rosemary. It dripped very occasionally for the first day, so I placed a plastic bag underneath. After a few days, the meat was dry and firm, and had a noticeable porky smell, a little like a wet dog, if that dog were a pig. As the days went by, the meat darkened slightly and the smell faded, becoming the more appetizing scent of cured pork. And today I cut it down and tasted it.

So how was it? Stay tuned!

Interested in trying it yourself? Here are some

Practical Considerations

  • How much space does it need?
    Very little, but it needs to be cool, dark, and preferably fairly drafty.

  • How much time does it take?
    10-20 minutes of active time, 4-5 weeks total.
  • Will it smell up the house?
    No.
  • Does it look grody?
    Well, that depends on how you feel about meat hanging from your ceiling.
  • Does it need special equipment?
    No.
  • Is it worth it to do by hand?
    Considering that you can't pick this up in the grocery store, totally.
 

This week in the produce section, I found myself face-to-face with the mysterious banana flower. Not having any clue how one might eat such a thing, I put my faith in google, and the banana flower in my basket.



The most common preparation I found for banana flowers is in a dish similar to a green papaya salad, although they are also used in stir-frys, curries and fritters. The banana flower itself looks like a over-sized purple bud, about a foot in length. What appear at first to be petals are really bracts, or modified leaves, that shelter the actual banana flowers. Under each leaf is a row of the tiny tube-like flowers, each with the beginning of a banana at their base. Towards the interior of the bloom, the leaves and undeveloped flowers pack together into a tender heart.



To prepare the banana flower, the tough outer leaves are discarded, while the inner ones are chopped and soaked in water with lemon or vinegar to remove some of the starchy, bitter sap. When slicing the flower's heart, the sap forms thick, sticky strands, clings to your knife and fingers, and turns rubbery and black with exposure to the air. It is pungent, with an intense starchiness that sucks all the feeling of moisture from the mouth. Closer to the base, the leaves share this biting dryness, further out, they are sweet and herbal, without a hint of banana flavor.



The bright flavors of the leaves join perfectly with spicy chili, sweet sugar, bitter citrus and umami fish sauce to make a crisp, refreshing salad.

Banana Flower Salad

  • 1 banana flower
  • 1 medium daikon radish
  • basil (mint, cilanto or all three would also be great)
  • 1" ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • fish sauce
  • soy sauce or salt
  • sugar
  • lime or lemon
  • 1 chili (Thai bird chili would be best, I settled on a jalepeno pepper)
  • rice vinegar

Other possible additions include peanuts, cooked meat, dried shrimp, bean sprouts or other vegetables.

I discarded the baby bananas inside the flower and sliced the inner leaves and heart, placing them in water with lemon juice for about 20 minutes. In the mean time, I grated up a medium daikon radish, minced a small handful of basil, chopped the jalapeño pepper, and put the ginger and garlic through a press. I added a generous splash of fish sauce - probably a couple tablespoons - and dashes of sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar, stirring, tasting, and adjusting the flavors until I was happy with it. The goal is to achieve a balance between the sweet, salty, sour and hot flavors so that no single note overwhelms the dish. Then I tossed in the banana flowers and tested the flavor again. Finally, I used a wooden spatula to give the salad a good pounding, softening the fibers of the tougher banana flower slices, and melding together the flavors.



While this salad has the perfect spark and bite for a hot summer (or spring!) day, I don't think I would bother splurging on the banana flower again - a green papaya salad packs the same fresh punch without the price tag. But I would certainly seek it out while traveling in Asia!

 


Patatas Bravas, which means brave, or fierce, potatoes, are crispy fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato-based sauce. The sauce varies regionally, sometimes it's a thick, rustic-style sauce, sometimes a smooth, creamy one. The creamy version, which is created by the addition of aioli or mayonnaise, seems to be more common in America.

In addition to being this blog's namesake, patatas bravas are my measuring stick for tapas restaurants. It is often the first thing out of the kitchen after ordering, and it gives a preview of what's to come: if the place doesn't care enough to make a decent version of this common, easy-to-prepare dish, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the meal! And although it is a simple dish, it can be really spectacular - crisp oily potatoes are the perfect vehicle for the spicy but nuanced sauce.



For my first try at replicating this dish at home, I read just about every recipe Google served up. The common denominators were tomatoes, garlic, onions, chilies (or tabasco, or red pepper flakes, or cayenne). Other popular additions included thyme, paprika, cumin, flour, vinegar and ketchup.

Patatas Bravas

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 small dried red chilies
  • 1 14oz can stewed tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes)
  • A dash each of paprika and dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk (or jarred mayonnaise)
  • Yellow potatoes (any kind of potato will do)

I sautéed the onions, garlic and chilies in a splash of olive oil, until soft, then added the tomatoes, paprika and thyme and simmered for about 15-20 minutes - fresh tomatoes would need additional cooking time. While it was simmering, I made the mayonnaise with the egg yolk and olive oil. When the tomato sauce had reduced, so that there was no excess liquid and I had a nice thick mixture, I took it off the heat and, using and immersion blender, blended it until it was roughly uniform. Then I mixed the mayonnaise and tomato sauce together - you can vary the ratio to taste, although I found that 1 yolk's worth of mayonnaise to 14 oz of tomatoes is about right.

Meanwhile, I cut the potatoes into bite-sized cubes and parboiled them. After draining and drying them, I fried them in a shallow layer or oil. You can also deep-fry them, of course, and I would really like to try this sauce over oven-fries as well.


I can't say that this topped any of my favorite tapas restaurants, but as a dish to add to my weeknight dinner repertoire, I was quite happy with it.

 

For a produce-lover in Boston, May is the cruelest month. Spring has arrived, the weather is warm and the plants are growing. But the farmers markets are still a distant dream. Unless you really stocked up on the root vegetables in the fall or canned like crazy last summer, you're stuck with imported produce. And if you did stock up last year, you're certainly sick of parsnips and canned tomatoes.

While I'm a strong believer in sustainable eating, unfortunately local food is not always a reasonable option in Massachusetts. It may be great in California, but I am not ready to give up citrus fruit or bananas! However, nothing tastes like food fresh from the farm, and it really makes me feel more in touch with where I live. So I am eager for the markets to start popping up again.

For most of the year, a large percentage of the food in our household comes from local farms, primarily through farms offering CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, programs. When you buy a share in a CSA system, you pay a flat rate for a certain period (around here it's generally June-October for produce) and get a batch of whatever the farm produces each week. You usually go to some central distribution point to pick up your share, or to the farm itself. The food varies by the season, and when the crop is good, so is your share, but you also suffer with the farm in bad weather. If you are interested in finding CSA farms near you, Local Harvest is a great resource.

Last year we did a wonderful winter CSA, October through December, which generally consisted of kale, squash and root veggies. We also recently subscribed to a meat CSA, which consistently provides the best-tasting meat I've ever had. Now we are impatiently awaiting the beginning of our summer produce share. This year I hope to can, freeze and dry more of the bounty for the winter months, and make May a little less frustrating next year.

 

In most of the developed world today, food preparation takes place largely outside the home. This is not a bad thing, in of itself: not everyone wants to or should have to bake their own bread and make their own cheese. However, with the movement of food preparation from the kitchen to the factory, we have lost a great deal of understanding about where our food comes from, what is safe to eat, and what really good food is. This understanding can empower us to make better decisions about what we eat, whether that means foie gras and young raw-milk cheeses, or commodity corn. My interest is in rediscovering this understanding, not just academically, but in my own kitchen...

So, welcome to The Brave Potato, my new food blog. I'm a food hobbyist with no formal culinary training, just a desire to jump in and really get my fingers in the dough, so to speak. Anything is fair game. I'll be exploring traditional foodways and methods, sustainable practices, and the limits of my small urban kitchen. Can it make cheese? Can it cure meat? Can it survive without commodity corn and Monsanto?

My style of cooking is rather haphazard, involving a lot of research, but as much improvisation. So rather than detailed recipes, my goal will be to provide guides and resources for the activities I take on. So far I've found that many more things are open to the home cook, even the apartment-with-a-shoebox-kitchen cook, than I might have thought. Here we go!

This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.