Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers, January

After a year of photographing the garden every Saturday  I wanted something else that would reflect the seasonality of our lives. What better idea than Sunday night suppers? Whatever we are having, there it is. Bold faced type indicates locally sourced -- within 100 miles of home-- food.

Squash soup, blueberry muffins, salad

Whole wheat pasta with sauteed chantrelle mushrooms, salad

Potato Leek soup, soda bread, coleslaw with apples, cabbage, and carrots

Squash gnocchi, sauteed mustard greens and cabbage

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

            It was a banner year for winter squash in the valley this summer, even if my crop was underwhelming. I purchased five or six delicata from the co-op and two beautiful Winter Luxury pumpkins from Crooked Furrow Farm, saved a very yummy Sunshine squash from the CSA, and hauled home some Butternut and Blue Hubbard from Sunbow. They have been resting peacefully in the larder, lined up on the shelves to the left, for the past three months while I hunt down recipes in all of my cookbooks.

We have eaten:

1.      Squash bread (add 1-1.5 cups of squash to basic bread dough)
2.      Pumpkin quick bread with chocolate chips
3.      Pumpkin muffins
4.      pumpkin pie
5.      cream of squash soup
6.      Soup with squash, beans, and tomatoes
7.      roast delicata with sage
8.      roast delicata with almonds and dried tomatoes
9.      Squash with red pepper, corn, and cheddar cheese (Moosewood)
10.  Squash gnocchi
11.  baked squash with curried lentils (Recipes from the Root Cellar)
12.  Braised squash with apples (same)
13.  Risotto with squash
14.  Pumpkin Shepard’s pie (Sunset)
15.  Lasagna with squash and kale, tomato sauce (twice!)

And it is only January. There are still seven squash on the shelf. Squash pizza, anyone?

Cream of Squash Soup:

Bake a squash. Peel it and puree.

Sautee a chopped onion in butter and oil until well done and lightly browned. No sharp onions here!

Add the squash—about 2/3 of a cup per person. You can always use the extra in bread or muffins or gnocchi, or….

Add milk until the desired thickness—I like a pretty heavily squashed soup, myself. A little cream is nice…

Season with salt, pepper and allspice—a light pinch.

Warm slowly. Eat with muffins and salad.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Local Beans and other food

            If you are serious about eating locally and reducing the number of miles your food travels, Corvallis Oregon is an excellent place to live. Not only do we have several large organic farms and a variety of smaller operations which run a Winter Market from January until April, a farm which wild crafts and grows an amazing variety of mushrooms, and a young man who apprenticed with Joel Salatin and now raises meat animals using his principles, but we also have the Bean and Grain project, which has been looking at returning grass seed acreage in the Willamette Valley to growing staple crops—oats, wheat, and beans. For the last three years, they have organized a Fill Your Pantry event, where people can stock up, direct from farmers, for the winter. We buy oatmeal, wheat, and beans every year. Add that to the potatoes, onions, winter squash, canned tomatoes and dried fruit we stash away in September, and you have the basis for our winter meals.
            Oatmeal is the backbone of winter breakfast. I rotate hot oatmeal with dried fruits and walnuts or hazelnuts with home made yogurt, compote, and granola made from local oats. Even with some exotic brown sugar and barley flakes thrown in, we have drastically reduced our breakfast mileage, especially compared to cold cereal, which is coming from Canada. And it lasts longer in our tummies. On the weekends, we’ll eat oatmeal waffles or our own chicken eggs with toast, made with home ground wheat—although, right now, we’re eating duck eggs from Sunbow. Why do chickens molt in the coldest times of the year?
            Local beans are the most remarkable food we have. Black, Pinto, Indian Woman, garbanzo beans AND lentils—they are beautiful, poured into old fashioned canning jars and sitting on the pantry shelf. The first year I had locally grown beans, we never did eat them; they were too lovely to look at. Beans are not easy to grow in the valley. The season is tricky; spring rains keep the ground cool into late May some years and an early fall rain may mess with the drying in the field. Harry at Sunbow has been experimenting both with varieties and planting times for years, trying to push open the spring window. Garbanzos can be planted in March—but they don’t grow well for the first month. One year, the pintos were harvested in the rain, and they take three washings to come clean; our soil is clearly gray clay. But, every year, there are more varieties. I pour them into the crockpot every Sunday morning, add garlic, onions, and whatever vegetables are around and slow cook our weekday lunches. Before dinner, we ladle the soup into pint sized canning jars.  With a slice or two of fresh bread, we’re styling. Fast food.
            We’ve been eating like this for several years now. It is normal to make bread dough and yogurt while cooking dinner, to plan around what is available in the fields and pantry rather than what we can buy in the grocery store, even at our local co-op, which really focuses on purchasing and promoting food from the five counties that touch ours. I don’t think it costs anymore than my old way of doing things. I am, after all, a Master Forager all summer long. And we support people we know when we buy their food, rather than some faceless corporation. But, most importantly, it tastes better.

Curried Lentils and Winter  Squash— altered from Recipes from the Root Cellar

The original recipe calls for stuffing the squash with the lentils, but that takes longer and we were hungry.

Cook 1 cup of lentils until nice and soft

While the lentils cook, back a winter squash, cut in half, face down, in the oven

While the lentils and squash cook, sauté a chopped onion and 2 garlic cloves in olive oil until lovely and soft.  About half way through, add 1 T of cumin, 1 T of curry powder, some salt and pepper. When they are done, slowly pour in ½ cup of buttermilk. It may break down and look ugly, but it’s ok. Just stir it in. If you can, add the lentils to the pan and cook together slowly until the squash is done.

Serve on a purple plate with some pickled beets on the side.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

English Muffins and a walk

            One of the best things about Yule—better known as Winter Break—is hot tea, without interruption or rushing.  A large yellow mug of Ceylon Silver Striped tea from the Tao of Tea in Portland can take all morning, and that’s ok. I was considering this fact this morning, while Mark wandered around, considering his layers for the Assault on McCulloch Peak (a 2000 foot rise in the OSU research forest). We had climbed the hill a few years ago—also in January, and seen nothing but some scruffy snow, a lot of clouds, and logged over patches at the top. He had high hopes this morning, even though clouds had clearly moved in last night—low clouds.
            There is nothing happening in the yard. Nothing growing. Nothing to be harvested or seeded out. No eggs being laid.  Even the mud is under control, thanks to the new hog fuel pathway.   We could prune a bit out of the hazelnut tree, or cut back the laurel hedge, but that can wait. There are seed catalogs to peruse, deep questions about growing winter squash to answer—is it really worth the space and effort, or should I just shift the patch over to more edamane? How should the beds be rotated this year? In a few weeks, a snowdrop or two will poke out of the beds around the rabbit hutch or under the fig tree, the cole crops seeded out and under lights in my classroom, the first cold frame set up over the early spring bed to dry out the soil a bit before planting, the bees poking their noses out to consider the pollen from the hazelnut trees hanging above their hive. Right now, all is still, balanced on the turn of the year. It’s a good day for a long walk.
            Corvallis is surrounded by hills, mostly covered in second growth forest, managed by the university. There are miles on miles of logging roads, winding through the woods, following the ridges. The trailheads start a mile or so out of town, within biking distance if you are feeling energetic. In the winter, we hike them all in rotation—gravel roads are not covered in mud and, sometimes, high up, the sun comes out. That was our hope today as we began the steady climb out of Oak Creek valley, through the clouds (literally). Thirty eight degrees and damp. Weather only a furry dog could love.  Half way up, we reconsidered the map. “We’re not going to see anything,” Mark observed. “Nope.” “We could try this loop instead,” he pointed out, studying how another logging road curved around and headed back down the other side of the valley. “It’s still a good walk and we’ve never been there.” “Looks good.”  We shifted direction, headed down the hill. “Hot tea,” I thought, “And, maybe, some English Muffins.”

English Muffins:

Proof 1 T of yeast in 1 cup of warm milk—I used dried milk—with 1 t of honey.

Add 1 t of salt and a T of oil or melted better, ix

Add 2.5 cups of flour—mixed what and white and knead for five minutes.

Set aside to rise for two hours.
Roll out about a half inch thick, cut in circles, place on a cornmeal covered tray, and let rise again.

Cook lightly in a cast iron frying pan. 2-3 minutes per side.

Toast when ready to eat.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012-- Year in the Garden

These photos were taken almost every Sat. morning from the same spot in the cherry tree, looking over the vegetable garden.