Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sausage Fest!!

... In the dietary sense.

We picked up these brats from the charming Iowan at the farmer's market - the one who, every week, without fail, manages to talk me into spending an extra $20 on some incredibly expensive pork product I hadn't previously anticipated even wanting.

But MAN, it is some good meat:

The brats were ours, the littler hot dogs Mara's.  We kept things pretty simple, grilling them in a little olive oil with some sliced peppers and onions, then layering it all on toasted ciabatta rolls and drizzling with organic ketchup and mustard...


But very hard to eat.

Mara had less trouble with her hot dogs.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Killing Chickens

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Matt had helped out slaughtering chickens on Katie and Greg's farm, and I think he'd like to post about the experience.  So you may find out about that in about seven months, after he's collected his thoughts and arranged and rearranged the words into the precise order he'd like them.

He's making this face right now as he reads that:

So you'll have to wait a little for Matt's thoughts on the act of killing something you intend to eat.  In the meantime, though, I can tell you the second half of the story...

In the interests of perfect honesty, Matt didn't kill this particular bird.  But it did spend its years on Katie and Greg's farm, enjoying the chickeny good life.  Katie doesn't eat "unhappy" meat, so you'd better believe that anyone she's involved in raising is living a humane, comfortable, natural life.

And I can assure you, first-hand, that a humane, comfortable, natural life translates into a pretty incredible meal.

Matt tweaked our favorite roast chicken recipe a little, stuffing this guy with a whole head of garlic and a lemon, surrounding it with chopped zucchini, carrots, and red onions.  He also poured a lemony beer over the top (Leinenkugel's "Summer Shandy") for added moisture and richness.

We then simply baked it, as per usual, at 350.  This one was a little bigger than our usual, so I think we left it in for almost two hours while we prepped everything else.  And when it came out, OH HOLY GOD:

Did you want another photo of that?  Maybe from another angle?

One more?

I know.  That's how we all felt.

Mom had also made a cheesy casserole with some green vegetable that I can't remember off the top of my head (asparagus?  more zucchini?) that came in her CSA bag.  We heated a loaf of take-n-bake that contains just flour, yeast, water, salt. And after the red wine you see above, we popped a celebratory bottle of Summers Vineyard un-oaked chardonnay.

(No relation that we know of.  But the wine is great! )

The bird was, needless to say, flawless.  The meat fell off the bone, to the point that Matt had to give up on trying to carve it; it was simply too juicy and tender to hold up in large slices.  Each bite -- even the white meat, usually too dry for me -- was dripping with lemony, garlicky, fatty, chickeny goodness.  I've had some happy birds before who were a little too tough and stringy (often animals raised the right way are leaner than their feedlot-stuffed counterparts), but this was absolutely perfect.  Exactly what a chicken ought to be.

The vegetables that roasted with the chicken were phenomenal: perfectly tender and completely infused with the lemon, garlic, and chicken jus that filled the bottom of the pan as the chicken cooked.

Our friend Karen had come over for the feast, and Matt said a grace he'd composed for the occasion.  I can't completely remember, but it called on us to be thoughtful about and grateful for the food on our plates, and the way it reached our table.  As we ate, I think we were very aware of every piece of the meal, where it came from, and how eating it tied us into that chain.

Better yet, eating it together tied us to one another.  Every time you share a meal, I think you're making connections with your fellow diners in a fundamentally human way.  With friends and family around a table spread with thoughtfully raised and prepared food, we were engaging in a daily ritual that people have enjoyed, and which has set us apart from other animals, for centuries.

The following photo is a terrible one of everyone involved, but I like it because you can see how happy we are to be enjoying each other's company:

Slash how happy we are that Karen brought a pie.

Strawberry rhubarb (rhubarb from her garden, I think): the perfect end to the perfect meal.

I don't think I'm thoughtful enough about my food on a daily basis as I would like to be, and meals like this one provide a terrific reminder of all I have to be grateful for.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peach Pie Poll: Lick the Plate?

Since discovering the crisco-less crust that I can eat, Mom has baked a number of fresh fruit pies this summer.  The above was an absolutely delectable peach cream pie, courtesy of our friend Debbie.  The inside is just fresh peaches, a little sugar, cinnamon, and fresh cream poured over the top to thicken and bubble.  Served with more cream, in the iced form, on side, it has to be something like heaven.

Matt caught me actually licking my plate, and I think you can tell from the crazed intensity in my eyes JUST HOW GOOD it really was...

... I was like, 100% focused on getting EVERY. LAST. DROP. of flavor from that plate...

So looking at this photo, I'm a little embarrassed, but I have to ask: when something is just that good, do you ever actually lick the plate?  Am I the only one?  Or am I just the only one who does it in front of other people?

Another Dog Post With No Food Involved

... But I came across this photo from the French dip night, and had to share it:

That's my mom's dog, Desi.

Isn't she cute?

Dipping Foods

Approximately one month ago today (I know, I know), Matt and Mom and Mara and I made French dip sandwiches on toasted baguettes with oven-melted provolone:

The meat was left over from a beef brisket we'd had the night before, and was salty and garlicky, tearing off in juicy shreds; in true French dip fashion, we sopped up the jus, letting it soak into the bread until the crisp from the oven became this dense, melt in your mouth experience.

We paired it with not one, not two, but three styles of zucchini: battered and fried blossoms, battered and fried slices, and a small handful of oven grilled for those watching their waistlines.

The zucchini blossoms had come in Mom's CSA bag, inspiring the fry-fest; the tender petals and stems are a perfect match to the crispy batter shell.  I threw together the batter: an egg, milk, salt, and enough flour to get the desired sticky consistency.

We dipped the blossoms and slices in the batter, then dipped them again into a pan of hot canola oil for a few minutes, turning occasionally until they became a dark golden.

We pulled them out and patted dry with a paper towel, then served them with a simple bruschetta Mara had created: two tomatoes, a clove of garlic, a few sprigs of garden-fresh basil, a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  

She was very proud.

She had every right to be; it was delicious. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Simple Shrimp Scampi

Wow, I am so behind.  The following meal occurred on or about Thursday, July 8th ... which makes this post belated, to say the least.

Anyways... SHRIMP!

Shrimp, as a concept, kind of gross me out.  Like, if someone showed me a pool of live shrimp, with all their little legs wiggling around and their little white muscley bodies bouncing off one another, and asked me to eat one, I would say HECK. TO THE. NO.

This is where processing helps us; it divorces the animal from the eating, so that we don't think about how what is now lying so temptingly on our plate was once a creature struggling to get from this day to the next.  This is why I have such respect for those who farm and slaughter their own animals (see forthcoming post re: Matt killing chickens with Katie and Greg).

Shrimp are different, though.  I wouldn't not want to eat a shrimp because of a deep moral dilemma about the value of its life and the selfishness of my killing it.  Live shrimp are just creepy.

But I digress.

We melted a couple tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, then popped a pound of shrimp in with a couple cloves of crushed garlic, letting the shrimpies cook for just one minute before flipping them over.  One minute on the other side, and we took the shrimp out into a bowl to wait for the juice. (This way, they didn't get all rubbery and overcooked while the sauce heated.)

We deglazed the pan with the juice of a lemon and a couple cups dry white wine (we used a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc, the rest of which we drank with the meal).  Once the sauce was simmering again, we added back in the shrimp, tossed in a couple handfuls of fresh parsley, and immediately poured it all over a big pot of fresh linguine.

We served it with a hearty bakery bread -- great for mopping up the runny, lemony sauce that pooled in the bottom of our bowls -- and some slow-roasted vegetables Matt made in the oven.  The result was a summer feast:

I loved this sauce, because scampis are delicious (especially in summer) but often too rich for me.  Because we used such little butter, relying on the parsley, lemon, and wine for taste, this one was light and refreshing.

This meal happened too long ago to remember, but I think it's a safe bet that I licked that bowl clean.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cookie Fail

I consider myself a chocolate cookie expert, so when the following disaster struck, it was something of a shock.

Not sure exactly what went wrong (too much butter?  too little baking powder?) but they went MAJORLY FLAT in the oven.

And then we had to literally peel them off the pan, like so:

... But no worries, we still ate them, down to the very last crumble.