Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Use Up Your CSA, part two.

Before giving this recipe for my random whatever's on hand pesto, I should mention that all measurements are approximations. I've tried to estimate what I actually use, but if you're like me, you'll just keep adding until you've got a taste you like.


1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
3 cloves raw garlic

Blend until smooth and emulsified.

1-2 handfuls basil
3-4 handfuls arugula
1/2 zucchini, chopped into chunks

Add a handful at a time, alternating zucchini with greens until fully blended. Take a taste at this point. Do you need more garlic? More basil? I tend to add more arugula/basil than I originally thought I would use... Once you're satisfied, transfer to a microwave-proof bowl.

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Incorporate cheese. Cover and microwave on half power for about three minutes, until warmed and garlic has cooked. Serve with my new favorite thing, quinoa pasta!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How to Use Up Your CSA, part one.

So let's say that your roommates go in on a CSA, but they can't possibly eat all the beets. What's a girl to do?

Delicious Pickled Beets!
(recipe taken from Sept. 2010 Food and Wine Magazine)

1 cup cider vinegar plus 1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 garlic cloves, quartered
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 pounds medium red beets, peeled and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks

(I used a sprig of fresh oregano in place of both the oregano and thyme.)

Bring all ingredients but beets to a boil. Simultaneously, boil the beets for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and return to the cooking pot. Pour hot pickling liquid over the beets and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours. Drain and serve!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This is (sort of) growing on me.

Get it? Oh, garden-themed blog pun, you are hilarious.

My craftiness has had to take a back seat lately to busy season at my wedding/event floral "dayjob". Dayjob is in quotes there because we've been so busy it was a few 50+ hour weeks in a row, but since I've only got three weeks of work left, things (for me, anyway) have been slowing down a bit. Why only three weeks left, you ask? More on that later.

For now, here's some glamour shots of my meager garden plot:

That last photo is in memorium of my former bean plants and their delicious bounty. The plants succumbed to some sort of unidentified problem (bacterial, I suspect) that caused the leaves to turn red and splotchy and the beans to wither and yellow on the vine. It is also a picture of a cat that I like.

Being such an amateur, I lack the experience to sort out what disease is wilting the beans and what bug might be eating the chard and why the lettuce won't produce the same amount each week. This is my first attempt at a garden that isn't a collection of oversized terra cotta pots, and despite how "rustic" everything looks, it's been producing pretty well. Last night I made a big batch of arugula pesto and could probably do the same tonight if there wasn't so much left over. Last week I recruited my roommates to eat a salad of arugula and baby chard, along with a bowl of green beans and a side of chard cooked with garlic, and just yesterday I got my first of many yellow cherry tomatoes and handful of basil. Still waiting on the neglected cilantro to turn into coriander, but there's no hurry. I'm hoping to leave my roomates with some kale and cabbage to harvest in the winter, now that the beans have vacated their precious space.

Leave kale for my roomates...what does that mean? It means that in a mere 29 days I will be on my way to California in an all-American-road-trip-to-a-new-life-out-west kind of way. The boyfriend is in San Francisco as I write this, searching for an apartment for us in the East Bay. The thought of smelling salt water again fills me with joy, as does the idea of visiting an artichoke farm. Funny what things you fixate on. I've mananged to convince some unsuspecting friends that they really do want my house plants and cat and some odd furniture bits and artwork. Donut and I divided up our cell-phone family plane today (so sad!) and soon I guess I'll have to start packing. Not quite sure how I'll fit into the Wood Street Blog without actually living on Wood Street, but I look forward to, at the least, guest blogging from time to time! Heaven knows there will be plenty of DIY, foodie, crafty awesomeness going on in the Bay Area to report on.

Here's another picture I like and a recipe to go with it, because this is my blog post and I can do that.

Steph's Keep-Me-Full-At-Work Granola

3 cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/4 cup Flax Seeds
1/3 cup Dark Brown Sugar, dissolved to a thick syrup with water
1/3 cup Light Oil (vegetable, canola, safflower, etc.)
1/2 cup Raw Walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Dried Fruit (strawberries, raisins, dates, etc.)
1/4 cup Pumpkins Seeds, raw

This recipe is something I always toss together, depending on what bulk leftovers I have from my last Whole Foods run. The basic idea is to mix the oats, nuts, seeds, etc. in a large bowl, then drizzle the oil and sugar water over it. It gets a quick toss before being spread on a cookie sheet and placed in an oven set to 350. There's no real "done", but once things get a bit more golden and the oats become crunchy, I call it done. It usually takes about 20 minutes. After cooling, the fruit is tossed in and a handful of raw sesame seeds are sprinked over the top before I scoop it into one of the storage jars I can't stop buying at thrift stores. Easy! And seriously, if I eat this for breakfast I won't need food for 6 hours or so.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Mighty Cardoon and Other Wild Edibles

A few days ago, Chrysteena asked me what these are:

(I really wish I could find my digital camera battery, because every empty lot in Chicago seems to have at least 5 of these plants in it right now. But for the time being, this Googled image will have to do.)

"They're some kind of thistle. I think you can eat them...?" was my answer. Not totally uninformative, but still. After a bit more research, I've discovered how wonderful the Cardoon really is!

Yes, folks, the cardoon! Step right up to learn all about this versatile little wildflower. Obviously it's botany/foodie 101 level knowledge that the artichoke as we know it, that spiky ball of deliciousness that I would walk over my own mother to eat, is a flower head. Here's some in bloom, the way we see them at the floral wholesaler for work.

See the resemblance?

Apparently these are quite good steamed or fried or eaten like a regular artichoke, although I can attest from the few times I've tried to nab some for cut flowers that they are prickly as can be. I'm not entirely sure how one deals with that, I guess a stealthy peeling is all it would take.

I suspect that I'm so excited about these because not only is the cardoon a locavore's alternative to the artichoke, but because of the time my father would spend on camping trips enticing us to learn our wild edibles. In some sort of Tom Brown-induced fit of modern naturalism, I dutifully memorized the edible (and otherwise useful) parts of the cattail, water lily, sumac berry, indian cucumber root and puffball mushroom. And I have to say, this knowledge has come in handy every now and then. Why pay top dollar for wild mushrooms when you can find them walking home from work?

Maybe not at it's tastiest this way, but takes like gourmet gnome food (ie: earthy and delicious) in homemade ravioli!

I'm getting a little side tracked, I know. Back to the cardoon. My last exciting tidbit of information is that the heads and stems of this versatile and (from what I've heard) tasty flower can be used as a vegetarian rennet in the curdling of homemade cheese!

WHAAAT? But it's true! It's even in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, so it's got to be true. The Portugese, it would seem, rely on the milk-curdling properties of this particular thistle in the production of Torta Serena and other soft, fondue-like cheeses, which I will be sure to buy from Cowgirl Creamery as soon as I settle in Oakland this September. (!!!!) I'd love to try this myself, but all recipes I find online advise against the use of cow's milk, as it becomes bitter with the addition of the cardoon "rennet". So unless I can find a sheep to milk in the next few months, I'll have to content myself with trolling through the local Whole Foods in the hopes of finding it there.

In the meantime, I'll just have to don some gloves and figure out how to cook these things!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled Pizza

The pizza blogging continues. The girl can't help it.

Perhaps, like myself, you never would have thought to put a pizza on your grill. I admit to initial skepticism myself. Despite several delicious campfire flatbreads, somehow I never made the connection. You can cook dough over a fire? Surely the ancients used a pizza stone.

In any case, thanks to a quickly googled pretty awesome pizza blogand a boyfriend who watches Top Chef (go Tony!), I recently found myself eating probably the best pizza I've ever made. Here's the basic how-to:

1) Make your favorite pizza dough. For this particular attempt, I used sourdough starter and let it rise with the addition of some vaguely Italian dried herbs. I'm not usually a dried herb user, but letting them "marinate" in the dough for a while brought more flavor out that you might think.

2) Figure out what's going on your pizza, and prepare it. (This is a highly sensitive recipe which requires you follow it to the letter.) We used garlic, chopped as finely as I could, raw tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and zucchini.

3) When the coals were almost-but-not-quite-ready, we tossed the zucchini slices on, brushing them with some olive oil to keep them from sticking/drying out. Once these were done, both the grill and the top of the pizza were brushed with out as well.

4) Then your pizza dough goes on the grill! I had mine already stretched out on a floured board and kind of flipped it off. Good or bad, it had dried out a bit and didn't flop around and get stuck to itself. After only a few minutes, I had a lovely, bubbly crust ready to flip. I didn't take a picture at this point, but it turned pretty nicely. I didn't bother oiling the other side, but it wasn't a problem. Raw garlic went on, then cheese, tomatoes and zucchini, plus a scattering of fresh oregano leaves. By the time the cheese had melted, the garlic had cooked itself and both sides of my crust were deliciously finished.

WHAT? That's awesome. And it tasted awesome. There was a lovely play between the crunch of the outer layer and the someone doughier insides. The only failing was that I made my dough a bit too large for the heat area of the coals and it cooked slightly unevenly; I would have liked to blacken the edges a bit, but I probably would have had to really burn the center to do so. But who's complaining? Time spent outside with a grill and a glass of whiskey and ginger is time well spent, especially if it results in snacks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greetings Multitude of Blog Readers!

Wood Street Blog is trying to be more user (and author) friendly these days! I know we don't have much of a following yet, but let us know what's missing! Do you want more pictures of your lovely blog ladies? Less food and more crafty? Do you want to be able to search our fabulous blog? Well, good, because I beat you to the punch on that last one. We now have a lovely google-powered search widget and tag cloud, so it'll be easier to find what you're looking for! Also, we now have new and improved slightly less ugly colors. You know you love it.

Keep reading! And leave us a note once in a while so we know you're out there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making pizza, the New York Times way.

I am, I have to say, a pretty accomplished maker of pizzas. I make my own sauce (using my home-grown herbs, of course). I make my own cipolline in agrodolce, thanks to the fabulous Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie. I roast bell peppers, slice potatoes paper-thin, and generally kick ass in the toppings department. I've even been known to make my own cheese. So it goes without saying that I make my own crust. But I'm woman enough to admit that I don't do it especially well. I've never been satisfied with the texture of the crust, always too much like bread. When I try stretching it out a bit more, thinking maybe a thinner crust will be less dense, it turns out almost like a flatbread pizza, uniformly crunchy. What, oh, what am I doing wrong?

According to Oliver Strand's article in the New York Times, I'm not letting my dough rise enough!
"...most recipes for the home cook specify a three-hour rise at room temperature. That might be enough to let activated yeast produce carbon dioxide that inflates the dough. But the prolonged fermentation of an overnight rise not only develops the dough’s structure, it also enables starches to transform into flavorful sugars. The dough becomes complex and nuanced. It’s a crust you want to eat.

It’s also a crust you want to admire. While a three-hour rise yields a crust that has the pasty pallor of raw flour, the caramelized sugars from an overnight rise give the cornicione, or edge, a color that goes from golden brown to the deep bronze of a ’70s tan."

Are you drooling yet? I am. Don't even get me started on the photos of the radicchio pizza. I can't wait to try this out for myself. It's the perfect project for someone who's recently come into possession of a sourdough starter!

One final plug: If you don't already own Cooking the Roman Way, do yourself a favor and GET IT RIGHT NOW! Seriously.