Posts Tagged ‘maple syrup’

Weeks 46-47: April 8 – 21

April 22, 2009

As I typed the title, I noticed we’re closing in on the final stretch, only five more weeks to go!  We’ve learned a lot this year about where and how to get local foods.  When we started the year, we were planning on eating only local vegetables.  Then it became local fruits, too, over the summer, when they were readily available at the farmers market.  By the time apple season hit, we were determined to store apples to get us through as much of the year as possible.  Then the Eat Local Challenge in October pushed us to the next level.  For the month, we were pushed to not eat it if it’s not local.  Going forward, that segued into don’t buy non-local if we can buy a local alternative instead.  That means we now buy only local eggs and most dairy.  We also buy local maple syrup and honey.  Trying to keep eating well through the winter, we signed up for a winter CSA, but it was regional.  We backpedalled a bit, but only a bit, and  I enjoyed every bite of those organic, tree-ripened Florida grapefruits.

Passover was last week, and hosting a seder (cooking for 10) was a bit challenging given the season.  We still had a few butternut squash, so two of them got mashed with maple syrup and fresh ginger (from a jar), and got rave reviews.  Potatoes, celeriac, carrots, and cheddar cheese became a casserole, something like scalloped potatoes but much harder to cut into squares.  Unfortunately, our potato supplies were running low enough (especially bu the time the eyes all get cut out) that I actually bought a 5 pound bag of Prince Edward Island organic potatoes at the supermarket.

Salad was a fun challenge.  We boiled whole beets for about ten minutes to get the texture right, then sliced them.  Luckily, our winter CSA had provided us with both red and yellow beets.  Some of the red and Chioggia (striped) beets may have been left from our summer CSA.  We don’t segregate in our refrigerator.  The salad started with winter CSA Florida lettuce, topped by slices of red beetsyellow beets, Florida cucumbers, and feta cheese, and served with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  It was very pretty and very tasty.

For haroses, a traditional Passover food made of chopped apples (local of course), nuts, wine, honey, and cinnamon, I needed more honey than I had.  I went to Harvest Co-op hoping to find some local honey.  Sure enough, there was honey from Reseska Apiaries in Holliston, MA.  And it had a bright yellow “local honey” sticker on it!

Week 42: March 11-18, Signs of Spring

March 18, 2009

This week was full of signs of spring.  Today (not technically part of the week I’m writing about) my crocuses were only green shoots when I left for work in the morning, but one of them was fully open when I cam home from work this afternoon!

Other signs of spring:

1) Most of our potatoes are sprouting in a very serious way.  We’ve got two-inch-long potatoes with four-inch-long sprouts.  We’re cutting out the area around the base of the sprouts and rushing what’ s left of the potatoes  onto the menu.  Microwave “baked” potatoes with melted cheddar cheese make an excellent breakfast.  They make an excellent snack, too.

2)  Lots of crocuses in a neighbor’s south-facing yard, photographed Saturday March 15.  They were much more purple in person.  This photo is disappointingly washed-out.

crocuses1

3)  Long Trail Hefeweizen hit store shelves.  It’s my favorite beer, and is made in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, a little under 150 miles away.  Definitely in my foodshed.  Not as local as the next item, though…

4)  It was time for the annual Maple Syrup Boil-Off in urban Somerville, Massachusetts.  It’s at a public space called the Community Growing Center.  Sap is collected from some street trees, some trees on the campus of Tufts University.  Sap from Silver Maples and Norway Maples, which are common in urban areas, is lower in sugar than Sugar Maple sap.  That means it will still make syrup, but a lot more sap and a lot more boiling time is needed to get the same amount of syrup.

The boiler, built by Somerville High School metal fabrication shop students, holds a wood fire under a tray of boiling sap.

maple_boiler

So as not to stop the syrup already boiling, when more sap is added, it is poured into a warming tray above (and connected by a valve to) the main boiler.

maple_warmingpan

Surrounding the boiler are  are buckets that were all full of sap, piles of wood for the fire, and a lot of curious visitors savoring some beautiful weather.

maple_boiler_buckets

In case you’re wondering, the syrup is never made available for sale.  Some of it gets donated to a local soup kitchen, and some of it gets served at a pancake breakfast fundraiser.  Also in case you’re wondering, neither my husband nor I show up in any of these photos.

maple_thescene2

I tried a couple of recipes this week that I wanted to post here, mostly so I can find them again later.  I hope they’re helpful to someone else, too.  They have nothing to do with spring.  They have nothing to do with vegetables.  They do use only relatively unprocessed ingredients that you’re likely to have around home, and they’re easy.

Something made me realize that oatmeal is only 1/4 or even 1/6 the cost of cold cereal, the sort we usually consume with milk for breakfast.  I already knew that, unlike rolled oats, steel-cut oats make an oatmeal with so much texture that it will reheat just fine in the microwave.  I like it with maple syrup.  I like it with brown sugar.  I like it with homemade applesauce.  For some reason, I decided to try making chocolate oatmeal, and it worked!

Chocolate Oatmeal:  Put one serving of leftover steel-cut oatmeal in a bowl.  Sprinkle the top with 1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar, and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.  Microwave for 45 seconds, then stir, then microwave another 45 seconds and stir again.  It will be very brown, chocolaty, and delicious.

On St. Patrick’s Day I refused to go out of my way to do anything Irish.  I think it’s because I’m bothered by the Irish-for-a-day attitude so many Bostonians have.  We have potatoes and cabbage that need to become colcannon (and will do so tonight) but I wouldn’t make it on St. Patrick’s Day.  This is only worth mention because I was decisively foiled.  I finished a library book set half in Ireland, with old home-cooking recipes scattered throughout, as cooked by the main characters.  They were so folksy that I thought the author might have invented them for the story.  When I finished the novel, there was a section at the end about where she had collected each recipe from.  Since we needed to make bread anyway, rather than run our bread machine, I decided to try the “everyday bread” sodabread recipe in the book.  It said that every housewife would have her own recipe, refined from making it literally every day of her life except Sundays, so there was a lot of detail missing.  Here’s the recipe paraphrased from Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty, with some of my own edits.

Irish Sodabread:  Mix 1 lb flour with 1 tsp baking soda and enough buttermilk to make a dough.  Add a spoonful of sugar if you like, and fruit or butter if you have it on hand.  Bake in a hot oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  When it comes out of the oven, wrap the loaf in a clean dishtowel to keep it from getting hard.   Translation:  1 pound of flour is about 2 cups.  The flour can be white or whole wheat. I made a loaf of each as long as I was running the oven anyway.  I used a mix of milk and plain yogurt because I don’t have buttermilk in the house.  I think that either one alone could work just fine, as long as you add some and mix some so you can stop when the dough is wet enough.  The quantity of liquid really doesn’t much matter either – one of my loaves was much wetter than the other and only the shape was much affected.  With white flour I made a fancy loaf, with a tablespoon of white sugar and some currants and caraway seeds, and I think I should have used 2 tablespoons of sugar instead, and also 1 teaspoon of salt.  It was perfect for buttering for breakfast.  With whole wheat flour I made the most basic loaf (which also would have benefited from 1 teaspoon of salt), nice for a lunch sandwich.

Weeks 40-41: February 25 – March 10

March 10, 2009

Our winter CSA has continued to bring us the lushness of Florida.  And it’s the same thing week after week after week.  I hadn’t realized how much I enjoy the way foods come into season, are abundant for a while, and then go out of season again.  I really, really do.  I’m looking forward to summer.  We will not be joining this same CSA next winter.  Our goal is to buy what we need over the summer when we can get it from local producers, supplementing our summer CSA with  local farmers markets.

It was very exciting to get some bok choy for variety this week!  The green vegetable I was most interested in, though was dino kale, I think because it goes happily into foods that feel seasonal.  I just can’t eat much salad in the winter, so lettuce and grape tomatoes week after week doesn’t work for me at all.  At least tomatoes cook into lots of things.  I’ve heard of cooked lettuce but it’s not my type of adventurous eating.

roots_dishes

We did manage a pair of very local meals last week.  The first, as seen in the photo above, was rather involved.  One of the dishes was colcannon.  Instead of my typical white potatoes and purple cabbage, it used green cabbage and got a bit of color from some red-skinned potatoes as well as the caraway seeds.  (Recipe in week 13.)  The color in the meal came from carrots and parsnips in a mustard-maple syrup glaze from a Vegetarian Times recipe.  (We “fleshed” out the meal, pun intended, with vegetarian bratwurst.)  All of those vegetables could be local.  Because our winter CSA produce has gotten intermingled with our local storage vegetables, I honestly don’t know how much of it was local.  But it could have been, and next winter it will be.

The steaming water from the carrots and parsnips along with the boiling water from the potatoes and cabbage became the broth for a wintry soup.  In went dried beans, seasonings, and a lot of  root vegetables cut to bite-sized:  carrots, celeriac, and rutabaga.  The vegetables could have been local.  I think the celeriac and some of the carrots were local, and the rutabagas and other carrots were not.  Dried beans are a winter storage food, but mine came from the supermarket.  I’d like to find a local source.  On the other hand, if I had a local source then I’d feel compelled to get all of my beans that way and we go through an awful lot of beans.

We finally made applesauce from a 10-pound bag of Northern Spy apples that had been sitting around since fall.  A half dozen of them were completely rotten and had to go straight to compost.  Another half dozen had siginificant bad spots that had to be cut out.  We still ended up with a whole lot of applesauce.

Since our winter CSA seems to know no seasons, I don’t know when the photo below is from.  I found it when I downloaded the colcannon and carrots-parsnips photos.  We’ve made this sweet potato salad a few times this winter.  It’s vegan (well, it would be totally vegan if you replaced the honey in the honey-mustard dressing with some other sweetner) and the recipe is in Moosewood Cooks at Home.  To make a version this colorful, first find a kitchen with orange counters.  Then mix cooked orange sweet potatoes, raw green bell peppers and parsley, and raw red bell peppers, and toss with dressing.

sweetpotatosalad

Vegetarian Tourtiere

January 25, 2009

While my family has many ethnic food traditions, my husband’s family has only one that I know about: tourtiere, a meat pie traditional to Quebec.

I’m not sure how, but I’d never even seen it until Christmas this year.  Of course, because the pie was meat, I didn’t taste it.  Then it came out that the recipe used was essentially my husband’s grandmother’s recipe. At that point, I knew I had to try  making a vegetarian version.

According to my father-in-law, the written recipe wasn’t as heavy on the cloves as the pies his mother baked.  The recipe also didn’t mention that it gets served with maple syrup, which each eater pours over his or her slice.  For our recipe, we replaced the meat with lentils and mushrooms, added more cloves, and put maple syrup inside the pie.  We also switched to a whole wheat crust.  It could easily be made vegan, but we like to put butter into the “meat” mixture and also use butter in the crust.  Because it’s a lot of work and makes a lot of food, tourtiere is most worth making for a large gathering, either sit-down or potluck, where lots of people can appreciate it.

Okay, enough background.  Here’s the recipe.  It’s very forgiving, if your quantities are a bit different from ours.  We’ve made it three times and it hasn’t been quite the same twice.  As you can see in the photos below, it is very much a team effort.

Ingredients for crust:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • scant 1/2 cup water

Ingredients for filling:

  • 3 oz lentils, soaked overnight, water reserved
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 lb potatoes (3 medium potatoes)
  • 1/3 lb bread (2 slices from a bread machine, probably 4 slices from a sandwich loaf)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning blend (Bell’s or competitor)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt

The crust recipe was not handed down through the family.  It’s my own, based on standard cookbook recipes.  I’m sure my grandmother-in-law used white flour and that she, or at least her grandmother, would have used pork lard in her crust.

To make the crust, first cut 2/3 cup butter into 2 cups whole wheat flour until the butter is really, really little bits.  This is a pain.  There are lots of things you can do with 2 knives to get the butter smaller.

1crust

2crust3

3crust

I decided it was done enough when it looked like this:

4crust

Then it was time to add the 1/2 cup of cold water, mixing first with a spoon and then by hand.  When it formed a ball it was done enough to roll.  Of course, because this is a two-crust pie, only a little more than half of the dough gets rolled out for the bottom crust.  And folded over and rolled again.  And…

5crust

6crust

7crust

Finally, it’s ready to go into the pie plate.  The trimmings will get added to the dough for the top crust.

08crust

09crust

Meanwhile, making the filling starts with washing, cutting, and boiling potatoes until they’re soft enough to mash easily.  We used 4 potatoes and realized later that we should have used only 3, so the ingredients list above says 3 potatoes (1 pound).  We leave the skins on the potatoes, although I’m pretty sure my husband’s grandmother would have peeled hers.  I really should have put something into that photo for scale!

10potatoes

11potatoes

In the original recipe, stale bread cubes are called for, in equal quantity to the potatoes.  “Add water and mash until mushy.”  I was given strict instructions by my husband that “mash until mushy” not be lost from the recipe, as I was  writing the updated version.

We freeze our bread so it doesn’t get stale.  That also means it doesn’t so much tear as break. Using frozen bread also means the bread has to thaw before it will “mash until mushy.”  We thought that pouring hot water from the potatoes over the bread would do the trick.  It only sort of did.  We put the bread and a bit of water into the microwave for a minute, added more water from the potatoes, and then used a potato masher to mush up the bread.  After enough water has been added to the bread, then the rest of the potato water can be drained off.

12bread

13bread

14bread

That looks mushy enough to me!

Apparently, my grandmother-in-law always  made up huge batches of filling, making about 4 pies at a time.  She’d know that she had the quantities for one pie right by mounding potatoes in 1/4 of a pie plate, bread cube mush in another 1/4, and the meat mixture in the other 1/2.  Thus reassured that proportions were right, she would mix them all together.

We’re only making one pie, so the proportions had better be correct.  Assuming that they are, we add the potatoes to the bread mush bowl and continue mashing.

15potatoes

Meanwhile, the “meat” had to get prepared.  That started with cleaning and chopping the mushrooms.

16mushrooms

17mushrooms1

The mushrooms went into the skillet with the lentils, butter, and just a bit of water from soaking the lentils.  The rest of the lentil water should be saved after it’s drained off, so that any time the skillet looks too dry, reserved lentil water is the liquid that gets added.  Between the melting butter and juices from the mushrooms, not much water is needed.

My grandmother-in-law’s recipe called for dried onion flakes.  Fresh onion is probably better.  I’m guessing that half an onion would be about right.  Because onions don’t like me, we didn’t put in any onions at all.  If you’re putting in onions, chop them finely and add them to the skillet with everything else.  Maybe even brown them in the butter before adding the mushrooms and lentils.

18meat

19meat1

20meat

When the lentils are soft enough to eat easily, add the spices:  poultry seasoning, cloves, cinnamon, and salt.  The original recipe called for allspice, too, but we don’t have any so we just used more cloves and cinnamon.

There has to be enough liquid in the pan for the spices to mix in easily.  Then the liquid has to simmer off.  That means the lentils might break down more than I want and not leave enough texture.  This recipe is still a work in progress.

When the “meat” is done, it goes into the bowl with the mashed bread and potatoes.  Everything gets stirred together.

The maple syrup gets added at this step, too.  Unless you’re serving the tourtiere to people who will pour maple syrup over their slices.  In that case, do not put syrup into the filling.

21filling

Finally, it goes into the crust.  Make sure that the top crust is ready and the oven is preheated to 400 degrees Farenheit, because the filling is moist enough to get the bottom crust so soggy that there might as well not be one.

22filling

The top crust needs steam vents, so why not make the pie pretty?

23pie

Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then at 350 for 20 minutes longer, for a total baking time of 1/2 hour.  Serve hot.  If you’re making the pie ahead of time, it will stand up just fine to being baked a second time to reheat it.

24pie

Recap:

1.  Make crust.

2.  Boil potato chunks until soft.

3.  Mash bread chunks in potato water until they form mush.

4.  Mash the potatoes into the bread mush.

5.  Make meat substitute from lentils, diced mushrooms, butter, and spices.

6.  Mix lentil-mushroom mixture into potato-bread mixture.

7.  Mix in maple syrup.

8.  Pour filling into crust.

9.  Bake.

Bon appetit!

25pie

Week 12: August 10 – 17, Vacation

August 18, 2008

We spent last week on a lovely vacation in Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks.  I did my homework ahead of time, and found farmers market listings for New York State.

We brought a large cooler with us that contained, among other things, the corn salad and what was left of the Costa Rican slaw that I made in Week 11, along with chicory, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, red cabbage, green bell pepper, potatoes, and two tiny yellow squash, all left over from the previous week (or even earlier). We ate some of the salads for lunch on the Lake Champlain ferry.

Our first night in Lake Placid, my mother-in-law made the chicory, mushroom, and roasted pepper pasta dish from Greens, Glorious Greens and it was colorful and delicious. (Yes, we brought the cook book with us. If you’re looking for it, look under escarole, not chicory.) While she cooked that, I made a colorful if odd salad of lettuce, radishes, yellow squash, green pepper, the largest cucumber, and some knife-shredded red cabbage leaves. It was a lot of food, even for four adults.

We went to the Keene Farmers Market on Sunday.   The highlight was a local dog-and-owner square dance troupe.    The dog and its owner were a couple, and the dogs had to be very, very good at accepting “stay” commands from each of the owners in the square, while lots of other interesting activity was going on, both human and canine. 

We were at the market with my in-laws, who were with us for the entire weekend.  Between all of us, we bought a dozen ears of corn, two zuchini and two yellow squash large enough to make burger-size slices to grill without falling through the slats, one incredible tomato, one bunch of beautiful rainbow chard, two pints of raspberries, a quart of mixed plums and Saturn peaches, and a dozen free-range eggs.

Everything about a free-range egg is sturdier than in a conventional store-bought egg – the shell is harder, the yolk is brighter and stands taller in the pan, even the whites are better, although I can’t describe how.  It was $3 for the dozen and worth every penny!

We hadn’t intended to buy peaches, because we get those around home (Boston area) often enough. Plums were more interesting, and we couldn’t decide between the two varieties being sold. When we asked for a mixed quart, the farmer looked around for an empty quart container to fill for us. Not finding one, he picked up one that already had peaches in it. Instead of completely emptying it out before putting in plums, he left some peaches explaining that they’re very sought-after, costing half again as much closer to New York City. (He lives much closer to New York City than to Lake Placid, but comes up to the Adirondacks to fish, and pays for gas by selling at the farmers market.) They’re strange looking fruit, because the flesh makes a doughnut around the pit, with dimples on the top and bottom where the pit is shorter than the fruit. They were, in fact, tasty, but we liked the plums better.

We grilled the squash and zucchini, and ate leftovers all week. Leftover corn we cut off the cob and diluted the overly spicy corn salad that I’d made the week before. Leftover wine and mushrooms inspired a yummy chard side dish: we cooked the mushrooms in some olive oil until they started to release juices, then added minced garlic, then red wine. It all cooked together for a bit while the rest of supper heated. When everything else was nearly ready, coarsely chopped chard went in, and was pushed around until it all wilted. The mushrooms were purple from simmering in wine so long, but the colors of the chard stems still showed through.

We visited the Cornell Maple Research Station where we learned about the many ways they’ve found to increase yield and reduce energy needed. We bought a half gallon of dark (grade B) maple syrup while we were there.

We had picked 8 blackberries before going away. When we got home again, we harvested a relatively-whopping 19 blackberries. More had ripened and then gone past during the week, so we left those for the birds.