Knowing My Food

For the last two years, a local friend of ours has raised pigs. Last year, we bought and Matt butchered Big Brown. He was a delicious specimen. This year, we bought two. Matt butchered them in our garage which means I avoided our garage for a good couple weeks.

Here’s the thing. I can’t “know” my food. I just can’t. As an example, a few years ago we bought a bunch of baby black ducks to raise and butcher. As soon as those adorable little devils were let out of the cage, I knew there was no way I could eat them. Matt, with a deep sigh, also knew.  When we have discussed the possibility of raising chickens, or a cow, pig, or lamb to butcher and eat…it’s the same thing. I just can’t “know” them.

As a kid, I helped every spring when we butchered chickens. I would grab their legs and swiftly chop off their heads, allowing us to actually see the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

But now, I can’t even fathom the thought.

I fully appreciate our friends who are able to mentally separate pets from animals for food consumption. I’m very thankful for them because I want to eat local food and although we eat a heavy non-meat diet, we both enjoy meat. I just can’t be a part of it. It’s ridiculous, I know. And, I am gradually trying. BUT, I’m not there yet.

I met our pigs a couple times, when we dropped off buckets of apricots and apples. Man, they are messy creatures. I know these pigs lived happy and healthy lives up until the very end. They were loved during their lives and dispatched quickly. Yet, I avoided the carcasses suspended from our garage rafters.

I need to get there, though, because eating local is a target goal for us. Just like the vegetables we grow, we know what these pigs ate and we know they weren’t pumped full of antibiotics and who knows what else. They weren’t kept in tiny pens. They played in their water hole and soaked in the summer sun.

We don’t eat a large quantity of meat, but what we do eat has extraordinary flavor…a result of being raised locally on good food and love. These two furry beasts have filled our freezer as well as my parents’ freezer with so much food. We have pork chops, ribs, roasts, tenderloins, pork cheeks, bacon, ham, ground pork, brats, various sausages, and breakfast sausage.

This year, in an attempt to respect the life they gave and use as much of each animal as possible, we made lard. My Grandma Bouchie always used lard. Sometimes, maybe she shouldn’t have. When she fried up apple fritters, for example. That little background piggy flavor sort of detracted from the yummy fritters, made using apples from their orchard just down the road.

It was fun to render lard, though. And, it turned out so nicely. We’ve been using it for everything from frying eggs to sauteing vegetables. No apple fritters, though. I know better.

The process is really easy. Add a little water, 1/4 cup should work, to a crock pot. Fill with cold, ground pig fat. Turn on low, cover, and cook for an hour. Stir and then cook for another hour or so. At this point, the lard will have separated from the remaining pork bits. Strain through cheesecloth into clean jars and refrigerate. Don’t toss the leftover porky bits. Those tasty bits fried until crisp are excellent in tacos, on top of salads, or scrambled with eggs. Enjoy.

lard_start

Top: cold pig fat Bottom: after 1 hour on low

lard_03

Remaining pork bits after straining through cheesecloth.

Left: warm lard Right: cooled lard

Left: warm lard
Right: cooled lard

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The First Trip – Last Day in Malaga, Spain

Click here, if you’d like to read from the beginning of this trip.

When you get down to the last couple days, in this case day and a half, you want to squeeze everything in to the remaining time. We arrived back in Malaga for a short stay before flying back to the States. We loved El Riad so much, we reserved a room before we left the week prior.

Back in the, now familiar, city of Malaga we wandered to our favorite spots. A final stroll through the Mercado Central to pick up some marcona almonds and dried apricots to savor once back home. A walk to the base of Castillo de Gibralfaro. The hike back up would be reserved for a future visit. Wandering around the base, we saw some leisurely feral cats. They are loved by the locals and visitors alike, and fed by some of the more generous fishermen.

catonsteps

cats

An enjoyable lunch of beer, jamón, mahón cheese, and a superb dish of warm shrimp with fresh artichoke hearts. A standout amid a sea of remarkable food we devoured throughout the trip.

victoria_beer

victoria_jamon

victoria_artichokes

That evening, we visited El Tapeo de Cervantes again for dinner. Our selection for the evening included: 1) Melted provolone topped with tomato confit and arugula, 2) Flamenquin, 3) Grilled chipirones (squid) with sauteed spinach, 4) Carrillada (braised pork cheek), 5) Empanadas (these are damn delicious, every time), 6) Smoked salmon and cream cheese atop potato slices, and 7) Sliced sweet potatoes topped with blood sausage, quail eggs, and tomato relish. Amazing food.

Our last day ended up being decidedly lax, and we loved every moment. Most of the day focused around the beach. Dipping our toes in the cool water, searching for shells in the sand, sipping chilled cava while listening to the gently crashing waves, and watching the sun slowly set as we sat together near the shore.

Spain. We adore you. We’ll be back as soon as possible.

nightphotos

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The First Trip – Cadiz, Spain

Click here, if you’d like to read from the beginning of this trip.

From Sevilla we traveled by train to the beautiful coastal city of Cadiz. Some believe Cadiz to be the oldest European city, established by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. We adore it not only for its history, but also because it has a laid back beachy vibe.

We checked into a top floor room of the Hotel Patagonia Sur. A bit more than we’d spent on other lodging, but very worth it for the lovely room, amazing shower AND full-size tub, large terrace, and wonderful view of the cathedral. (On our trip back to Cadiz in 2016, we rented an AirBnB and I would HIGHLY recommend that apartment to anyone going.)

cadiz_cathedralnight

Staying in the “old city” allowed us to walk everywhere we wanted. So, after watching the jaw dropping sunset, we meandered to Mesón Cumbres Mayores for dinner. While sitting at the marble bar sipping some local crianza, we gazed around the restaurant taking in the dozens of hanging jamón.

We enjoyed some classic Spanish tapas including Carrillada (braised pork cheeks…pictured below), Albondigas (meatballs) in a pepper sauce, Flamenquin (pork, jamón, & cheese wrapped together and fried…also pictured below), Iberico pork, and mini Chorizo.

cadiz_carrillada

cadiz_flamenquin

The next morning we woke up ready to explore the city and its food. First things first…coffee. We leisurely sipped our coffee at a table across from the cathedral while a tiny little dog watched over us from his terrace above.

cadiz_bazarcoffee

cadiz_bazardog

We strolled over to Mercado Central de Abastos, the popular open air market. This delightful spot is filled with meat, fish, and vegetable vendors and dotted with a few food vendors. (As a side note, we visited again in 2016 and the number of food vendors had increased exponentially. It is now the place to be on Saturday afternoon. Filled with people, amazing smells, and even better drink and food!)

cadiz_marketmatt

cadiz_marketfishcadiz_marketveg

We stopped for some cheese and wine at 360 Queso. Our two glasses of wine and cheese set us back a super reasonable 5,50 Euro.

cadiz_marketcheeseshop

cadiz_marketcheese

Our bellies happy for the moment, we sauntered toward the coast. The beach is empty during winter months, so us being there in January meant we had it entirely to ourselves. Too cold to swim, but ideal for scouring the sand for shells and sea glass while also taking in a little sand art. Christmas is a really important holiday in Spain, so sand art celebrating the season is fairly common. Each sand creation generally has a “tip” jar located near the front where you can toss in a euro or two.

cadiz_sandart

cadiz_beach

Ready for lunch, we headed back into the heart of the old city to La Nueva del Puerto. We didn’t know it at the time, but this meal would include two items we covet to this day. Along with our beer and complimentary olives, we ordered  shrimp and octopus ceviche and their daily feature, Carrillada con Garbanzos. It was a bright, old school bar of sorts. While we devoured the citrus soaked ceviche, we watched fishermen sell their daily catch to the bartender through a little pass-through window. The carrillada was incredible. Unbelievably tender pork cheeks stewed with garbanzo beans to create a thick, rich sauce. Out of this world. (Another side note…we went back in 2016. I was a little nervous, wondering if it could be as good as the first time. We’ll never know because in 2015 it was sold and reopened by another person. The food is still darn good, just different.)

cadiz_ceviche_carrillada

To get us through the day, we took a little siesta after lunch. By early evening we were ready for our last stroll along the ocean and final dinner in Cadiz.

cadiz_bay

Our last dinner in Cadiz was spent at Meson de Las Americas, a darkly lit space with brick walls and a large wooden bar. My favorite was the grilled provolone cheese, but we also enjoyed Mollejas (calf sweetbreads), duck, empanadas, hake salsa verde, and grilled squid. After a bottle of 2006 Ribera, we drifted slowly back to our hotel for a short night’s sleep before catching an early train back to Malaga. Don’t worry, Cadiz, we will be back.

cadiz_provolone

The First Trip – Last Day in Malaga, Spain

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In Season: What we’re doing with Beets

Beet

Beets. They’re like cilantro. You either love them or hate them. Matt loves them. Until fairly recently, probably 5 years ago, I was in the other category. The dish that changed my opinion was Matt’s beet salad, probably because it included one of my favorite things, goat cheese. I have personally witnessed a handful of people who have become beet converts because of this salad.

After that salad, I was on board. Beet and beet green risotto? Yes please. Raw beets in salads? Of course. Beet chips? Definitely!

Don’t just think beets have to be the dark red basic you grew up with. Golden beets are absolutely gorgeous and Chioggia beets are red and white striped! Also, play around with various sizes. Tiny beets mixed with chunks of larger beets add fun diversity.

And don’t you dare toss those greens! We would have used greens in the salad below, but we had already cooked them earlier this week with some Swiss chard and kale when we made a beef roast on Sunday.

RoastedBeets

Roasting beets is super easy. Simply wash and cut off the greens. Wrap large beets individually in foil. If you have tiny beets, they can share a foil packet. I add a few drops of water to allow them to steam a little bit. Put them in a 375 degree oven and start checking after 30-40 minutes. A knife should very easily slide into the beet. Let them cool completely and then, wearing gloves if you’d like, rub off the skin. Do this on Sunday and eat the beets throughout the week.

BeetSalad_Salmon

Beet & Goat Cheese Salad
* serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 large roasted beets and a handful of tiny roasted beets
  • 1 orange, segmented – membrane squeezed, reserve juice
  • 6 leaves escarole, chopped (you can use beet greens or spinach if you wish)
  • 2 handfuls toasted walnuts
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Place orange segments, orange juice, escarole, walnuts, and goat cheese in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and white wine vinegar. Taste and adjust to your liking.
  2. Stir in beets and serve. – We served our salad with pan-seared salmon and it was amazing!
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Farmegeddon

A few weeks ago…It’s around 8:30am on Saturday. Matt and I are busy setting up our tables for market, which is quickly approaching at 9am. My dad had just gone to park the truck and trailer down the street.

A couple minutes pass and Crayton comes running around the corner. “I’ve got to go! Debby just called. There are coyotes at the house, chasing the cats!” He turns and runs. I have enough time to tell “Unhook the trailer and drive careful!”

Matt and I look at each other, both with horror-stricken faces. “Should we go?” Matt, the even-thinking gent he is, suggested we finish setting up and then he would head out with his shotgun.

I’m sick to my stomach. Just a couple days earlier, a coyote had killed a peahen in the middle of the night. She was nesting near the garden. A few months ago, when the guinea fowl and peacocks were acting funny, my mom found a coyote climbing up the stack of hay bales trying to get to the birds. And, last winter, we lost a lot of farm cats to coyotes. It seemed strange, though, that they would have come up so early in the morning.

It’s 8:45am. My phone rings. It’s my mom. I barely get a “hello” in before I hear her frantic and screaming “Who’s coming?! I am getting the cats in as fast as I can!!” I respond that dad is on his way and then I say “Mom”, but she has already hung up.

Again, my stomach cramps. I picture all the sweet kitties at the farm and the terror of coyotes running around snatching up whichever cat or cats they want. Ugghh, I think I might get sick.

We start market and it’s busy. Matt couldn’t leave. Not just yet. About 9:30am my phone rings again. It’s my mom. “Two foot rattle snake! Six rattles!” Me, in complete disbelief, “There are coyotes AND rattle snakes?!” What the hell is going on out there? I have a brief vision of coyotes circling the house picking off cats as they run, random rattle snakes, and I’m wondering when the birds of prey are going to appear. “No”, she says, “just a rattle snake”. But what about the coyotes? Dad said there were coyotes. “I could shoot at the coyotes”, she says. I should clarify…she could shoot at or near the coyotes. The thought of Debby running around the farm with a gun is terrifying in itself.

Snake

And my visions of Farmegeddon fade away. I imagine when my mom called, she was yelling incomprehensible sentences. It’s been years since we’ve had a rattle snake at the house, so my dad assumed it must be coyotes. My mom also called their neighbors, the Wilkens, in Canning during the chaos. According to Jesse, he had no idea what he was going into when he headed toward my parents’ house that morning.

Luckily, only one cat was bitten by the snake. That cat, is now safely back at home being groomed by his friend, Bijou.

Cats

 

 

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In Season: What we’re doing with Basil Kale Pesto

RoastedTomatoCrostini

Ok, I know…it’s not produce straight from the garden. But, the Basil Kale Pesto we are selling at market is made with our basil and kale. Plus, it’s super tasty!

So, what to make with it? First, the photo above…yum! This is a really easy appetizer or light meal when paired with a salad and nice pinot noir.

Roasted Tomato Appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 slices of B&G Produce Rustic Wheat, cut into thirds or 12 slices baguette
  • Goat cheese
  • B&G Produce Basil Kale Pesto

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place halved cherry tomatoes on an oiled or lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  3. Place sliced bread on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Put both cookies sheets in the oven. Flip bread after about 7-8 minutes.
  5. Check tomatoes and bread after another 5 minutes. Bread should be crisp to touch. Tomatoes should be very soft to touch. Continue baking until they reach this point. Let both cool completely.
  6. Spread each piece of crostini (bread) with goat cheese. Top with some pesto and finish with roasted tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Some other ideas suggested by our customers:

  • Eileen added the pesto to a cream sauce and then served it with shrimp and fettuccine pasta.
  • Lance stirred our pesto into a cool summer pasta salad.
  • Tammy and her family grilled chicken and then tossed it with the pesto.

Yesterday my mom created some exciting Juicy Lucy burgers by stuffing them with pesto and fresh mozzarella!

I saw this recipe in my most recent Cooking Light and thought it might be fun to try.

Another idea is this amazing grilled cheese I made the other night!

SandwichFinished

Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Pesto Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices bread per person (we used B&G Produce Blue Cheese Walnut)
  • 3 pieces prosciutto per sandwich
  • 3 slices fresh mozzarella per sandwich (place slices between pieces of paper towel so it’s not too moist)
  • B&G Produce Basil Kale Pesto
  • Salt & pepper
  • Butter
  • Marinara Sauce (we took homemade tomato sauce, reduced it until thickened and added our dried oregano and rosemary plus a couple tablespoons of sugar)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375.
  2. Place prosciutto on a cookie sheet and bake until crisp, about 10-12 minutes
  3. Heat a grill pan to medium-high
  4. Spread basil kale pesto on both pieces of bread. Top one slice with mozzarella and season with a little salt and pepper. Top other slice with 3 pieces prosciutto. Sandwich together.
  5. Butter both sides of sandwich and grill until bread is crispy and mozzarella is nice and gooey.
  6. Serve with marinara for dipping.

BreadPesto

SandwichOpen

Sandwich

 

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In Season: What we’re doing with Barese Swiss Chard

Barese Swiss chard is chard bred to grow and look like bok choy. If you’re a gardener know that flea beetles love bok choy. Holes in produce does not bother us, but the holes don’t settle as well with everyone else. So, what’s nice about Barese is that bugs don’t like Swiss chard. We can grow something very similar to bok choy, but not have to worry about flea beetles.

But what does it taste like and how should I cook it? Fair question. I think the leaves taste like bok choy and the stems like Swiss chard. As for cooking, you can cook it any way you would Swiss chard or bok choy.

The first meal that comes to mind is stir fry. Stir fry is one of those meals which will clear out your refrigerator and I love those meals. I don’t let myself get too concerned about stir fry. I look at what we have, chop it up, and then throw together a sauce.

We are getting to that point of the year where our fridge is overloaded with vegetables. Sometimes, I don’t even want to open it because we just have piles of produce. But today, I decided to throw together a stir fry and was excited when a couple friends and their kids stopped by. I could make a bigger stir fry!

The recipe below is based on today’s lunch. Don’t be held to this! Use what you have in your refrigerator. You have bell peppers? Use them! Also, be sure to taste and adjust your sauce. You may not want it as spicy as this one or you may want to add a squeeze of lime juice. Go for it!

StirFry

Easy Stir Fry
* serves 4-6 adults

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot, cut on the bias
  • 1 portobello mushroom, sliced
  • 1 bunch mini broccoli, including leaves, cut into large pieces
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 garlic scapes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 scallion, white ends cut on the bias – reserve and chop greens to top the finished stir fry
  • Handful of snow peas
  • 1 head barese Swiss chard, rough chopped
  • 4 leaves from a large Napa cabbage, rough chopped
  • 2-4 Tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Sambal Eolek (chili paste)
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 package soba noodles

Directions

  1. Cook soba noodles according to directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Prepare all vegetables.
  3. Mix together soy sauce through grated ginger. Taste and adjust to your liking. Stir in corn starch making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.
  4. Heat a wok or large stock pot over high heat. Add 2 Tablespoons oil and swirl to coat wok/pan.
  5. Add carrot and stir fry for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir fry for another minute. Add broccoli, zucchini, garlic scapes, and scallions. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add peas, barese Swiss chard, and Napa cabbage. Stir fry until greens wilt. Add oil at any point when pan gets dry.
  6. Add soy sauce mixture and stir fry until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Place soba noodles in a bowl and spoon vegetable stir fry on top. Finish with scallions.

StirFryDone

This was such an excellent lunch and I can now look in my refrigerator again!

Another idea for barese Swiss chard is to make the filling below. This filling can go into fresh pasta as we did below, but it can also be used a number of other ways. Spread it on some bread and make an amazing grilled sandwich. Toss it with hot penne pasta for a tasty dinner. Warm it in a small ramekin dish to make a savory dip for crispy crostini.

Filling

Barese Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup potato, cooked and rough smashed
  • 1 cup barese Swiss chard, blanched, water squeezed out, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Spanish chorizo, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoon onion, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Add onion and saute for a couple minutes until softened. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add parsley, chorizo, Swiss chard, and potato. Cook through. Set aside to cool.
  3. Once cooled completely, stir in goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. At this point, you can stuff your ravioli, make your grilled sandwich, or whatever you plan to do with the filling and enjoy!

RawPasta

CookedPasta

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