Showing posts from March, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

Despite how much Wisconsin is absorbed by local politics these days (the academic freedom of one of my mentors on the chopping block, childish GOP taunts of a local judge are on all sides, and there are upcoming State Supreme Court elections to worry about, and all the rest), our weekly Monday Night Dinner crew decided to take a culinary trip to Japan, in order to reflect on those who continue to struggle with the effects of March's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. (Donate through the Red Cross here).

Ingredients for miso soup:

Sushi rolls, with quinoa (so delicious!), roasted sweet potato, scallions, avocado, cucumber, and a toasted sesame oil-soy sauce combo.

And DU's homemade botamochi, or sweet rice balls, made somewhat in accordance with this recipe:

But since I didn't manage to capture a photo of my favorite dish of all, I thought I'd share the recipe in its place. This dish is warm and soothing, almost velvety in its consistency. It somehow managed to be…

Beer Brewing and Gluten-Free Apple Bread Pudding

While I've been making my own seitan and my own cheese and planning to cater a wedding, Justin's been thinking about trying his hand at a DIY project of his own: Beer Brewing.

The perfect opportunity arose recently when our friends HS and AS invited us over to their place for some conversation and brewing of beer.  Justin got just the right tutorial, so that now he's rarin' to go (stay tuned for a guest post from him on his first beer-brewing adventures?)

The batch we worked on for this particular incarnation was the Sven's Oatmeal Stout recipe. You can see the basic ingredients here, all from the Wine & Hop Shop in Madison:

Some malt, oats, barley, hops, and water later, HS poured in the final ingredient--yeast--before leaving the whole mixture to ferment and get all yeasty and delicious:

The other important parts of the afternoon were eating this chili that AS made, with all the trimmings:

And eating this Gluten-Free Apple-Rhubarb Bread Pudding, which I made …

What to do with those winter vegetables?!

Celeriac? Burdock Root? Turnips? Parsnips?  What are these crazy things, how do we tell them apart, and what do we do with them?!

I've written before about the particular challenges, and pleasures, of seasonal winter cooking, but this time around, I armed myself with this knowledge and took it to the GreenHouse Make-Your-Own (MYO) Meal Night: Winter Vegetables Edition. Along with the knowledge, I took the following vegetables:
onionskabocha squashacorn squashbeetssunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes)beauty heart radishessweet potatoespotatoesparsnipsturnipsceleriacburdock root So, the task was to take this mighty list and turn it, along with a few spices and complementary ingredients, into a full meal.

Here are the results, with recipes below. One of the good things about these recipes is that they can be modified for pretty much any winter root vegetables. Most of them are delicious grated with a vinaigrette as a salad, pureed into a soup, or roasted with or without cheese. Cel…

Self-Catering Supplies

Deciding the menu when catering is only half the battle (and definitely the fun half!). Now I have to figure out how to present all the food, how to get it all to the venue before the ceremony and reception, and how to keep it warm while it's there.

Oh yeah, and then there are those pesky issues of food safety.  Although I like to think that a lot of people in the U.S. worry way more about food safety than they need to--keeping all kinds of things in the fridge that don't really need to be there, using anti-bacterial sprays obsessively, using wasteful paper towels instead of re-using rags, etc.--there's definitely room for concern when it comes to serving lots of people food that is made in large quantities and served buffet style.  This one terrible article relays the experience of a couple (who got married the day before us) who got food poisoning at their own wedding reception, from a "tainted beef and noodle salad."  A quote from the article: “They won’t talk…

Wedding Menu, Revealed!

After lots of recipe-gathering and food-combination-discussing (and input from some of you), the bride and groom and I have narrowed the menu down to what is a more or less final version!

Deviled eggsPortable caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil on a toothpick, with oil, salt & pepper)Bruschetta—some with tomato/basil, some with white beanAnd the main course:
Farmer’s market green saladRoasted asparagus--hopefully available at the farmer's market the morning of the weddingMexican Rice with Cilantro DressingCorn and Black Bean Salad (or, if I get nervous about the number of dishes and decide to consolidate beans and rice into one:  Mexican Bean and Rice Salad)And the winning entree...
Rick Bayless's Enchiladas with Swiss Chard, Onion and Monterey Jack in a Tomatillo Salsa! (with one vegan tray with refried beans instead of cheese)
I can see the menu cards now...

[Insert noise of record scratching to a halt]...except this isn't really that kind of wedding.

So, th…

Catering Menu Ideas and Recipes

Ok, just two more days of catering talk this week... Hopefully this isn't totally un-interesting for those of you who have no plans to ever do this.

So, because the space we're working with doesn't have any sort of kitchen or even running water, really, the menu we feel mostly settled on includes lots of dishes that can be made in advance and that are good at room temperature.  I'm in charge of appetizers, salad, sides, and entrees, while the desserts are being made by the bride's family members (assorted make-ahead desserts like cookies and truffles and rugelech).

Here are the various options I came up with from which to choose our menu (some with links to recipes, but most out of my head):

Vegetarian sushi, with avocado, roasted sweet potatoes, tofu, wasabi-tamari-riceDeviled eggsMedjool dates stuffed with almond and fresh goat cheese Salted EdamameMini pizzas with roasted vegetable toppings Vegetarian meatballsRoasted maple pecansPortable caprese (mozz…

No (wo)man is an island

So, I have to admit that this desire to cater a wedding didn't come from nowhere. I've been thinking about weddings A LOT for the past couple of years. Sometimes, when I tell people that I've gotten really in to weddings and wedding blogs in the last two years since our own nuptials, they look at me with serious skepticism, not being able to reconcile my feminism and non-girly-ness with their image of the wider wedding world. But the thing is, there are lots of really wise, really impressive wedding blogs out there where strong women are writing about how to make a wedding meaningful, personal, and genuine without the frills and flowers and forced expectations. Where analyzing the relationship itself and thinking about gender equality and building community are way more important than princess dresses and invitation fonts and coordinating colors. Two of my favorite "wedding" blogs, which I continue to read because of the thoughtful and inspiring women who write t…

Catering for Eighty!

So, I've recently taken on a big project that I hope to write more about in this space, with two goals: to solicit advice from you wise readers out there, and to share my experience in case others are going to be taking on a similar task at some point.

Big Project: Two of our closest Madison friends are getting married in about five weeks, and I've agreed to do most of the catering for their wedding, with 80 guests! Whew.

I have lots of cooking experience, but no experience preparing for a group of this size, so I think there will be a lot to figure out.  We have a tentative menu set, so in the next few days, I'll be reviewing the resources I found and the thought processes I went through in order to come to this menu. But I'll also be trying to figure out things like delegating tasks, buying produce, keeping the entrees hot, transporting the supplies to the venue, and more!

The basics of the situation are thus:
All-vegetarian menuSome vegan and gluten-free options nee…

Phoenix and Big Red

For the past week, in omelettes and egg sandwiches and baked goods, we've been enjoying these beauties, in shades of warm brown and soft blue-ish white:

And while enjoying our food, we've also thought about the beauties (both human and galline) who provided these eggs for our pleasure:
Meet Phoenix (on the left in the photo above) and Big Red (in the middle). They're a couple of fine birds, who live just a mile away from us, in a surprisingly cushy coop, where they bed down in warm straw and are fed delicious sprouts:

It's been really exciting for us to find a source for eggs that are produced by chickens tended by two of our good friends, whose chicken-raising practices are impeccable.  Finding food producers we trust so deeply is high on our list of priorities, and this has been a really welcome start on the egg front, though Phoenix and Big Red aren't quite producing enough to carry us all the way through (we'll have to wait for their family's expansion…

Butter, Mozzarella, Paneer, Oh My!

So, it turns out that making delicious mozzarella cheese is easy. And making butter is really, really easy.

Of course, it's especially easy if you have Linda Conroy, of Moonwise Herbs, and the excellent backing of F. H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture to guide you, as I did. But either way, totally do-able.

At this homemade cheese-making workshop, I learned so many things about how cheese is made--things I probably could have learned if I had paid better attention to my Mama's own cheese-making during all those years growing up (but somehow, doing things yourself seems to be way cooler now that it's part of a DIY culture than when it was just part of immigrant frugality, eh?).*

Cheesemaker Linda provided us with some incredibly high quality materials to start with: raw milk from a grassfed dairy  near her home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. This, I think, is the key to why all the results turned out so well (and the only reason I felt comfortable taking in so many an…

Where are the tomatoes?

Nearly every Saturday night, Justin plays guitar and sings folk and indie songs for two hours at a sandwich chain on State Street, Potbelly Sandwich Shop. And nearly every Saturday night, we split a Big Pizza Sandwich on Wheat with no pepperoni, but with mushrooms, cheese, tomato sauce, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, and Italian seasoning. It's the standard--the thing we always get, unchanging from week to week.

And yet, last week, I approached the Potbelly to find this sign on the front door:

And although the Potbelly was apologizing, I was jumping up and down with excitement and clapping my hands, saying yeah! Finally an acknowledgment by a chain restaurant that foods change from season to season! That there's no reason that we should expect to have the same toppings on our sandwiches, day in, day out! That our food comes from a place where it is grown in the ground (usually)! And that the ground in which this food is grown is part of a larger ecosystem, a larger environment…

Make-Your-Own Burrito Night

If there's anything I've learned as a new-ish member of the H.* family's younger generation**  is that burritos are delicious.

And so I decided to convey this knowledge to the residents of the GreenHouse in the first of a series of Make-Your-Own-Meal nights that will be taking place this semester.

The full line-up looks something like this: MYO-Burritos (I'm coining a new term--let's see if it sticks), MYO-Winter-Vegetable-Dishes, MYO-Pizza, MYO-Sushi, MYO-Quiche. I'm planning on reporting back here on how all of them go.

So, for burritos, I tried to cater the ingredients as much to a winter diet as possible, choosing jarred salsas in favor of "fresh" tomatoes, thinly shredded cabbage (in the form of Mexican slaw) in favor of lettuce, and so on.

Here I am mixing up the cabbage and grated carrot and lemon juice and salt to make the slaw:

And the full spread, complete with tortillas, mexican rice (brown rice cooked with canned tomatoes and chipotle pe…

Rooted in Solidarity!

This Saturday, in what was the largest rally of this protest yet (and the largest in Wisconsin history!), some of the state's farmers took to the streets, bringing their tractors to the Capitol Square in the Wisconsin Tractorcade, planned by Family Farm Defenders.

Our own Community GroundWorks (keep voting for youth gardens!) made an appearance: 

Even though farmers themselves aren't unionized, these farmers from across the dairyland brought tractors and solidarity to the Capitol to fight for labor rights and a just state budget. Rural communities will be disproportionately hurt by the cuts to education and badgercare, and farmers in Wisconsin stand with state workers, and all working and middle class families in the state. As their facebook event page said, "All farmers and eaters welcome and encouraged to come!"

And here's a video of the Family Farm Defenders vice president, Joel Greeno, on why he organized the tractorcade: 

Hooray for Wisconsin Fam…

Carbonated fruit!

A small story of innovative food wizardry:

A few weeks ago, we took a break from the capitol to join a friend, EH, (actually a friend from high school who now lives in Madison), and his girlfriend who was visiting from Germany, for dinner.  They whipped us up a delicious dinner of arugula-topped pizzas, but EH told us that the best was yet to come, and that he had made a dessert for us that he was sure we'd never had before.

How could he be so sure, I wondered?  Did he know how widely I'd sampled the foods of this diverse culinary landscape of ours? Surely this dessert couldn't be *so* unusual.

And then he brought out this:

A bowl of fruit?! He thought we'd never had pineapple and grapes and kiwi?!

I decided not to say anything, to be polite, and not break his heart by telling him that I'd eaten grapes by the barrel-full in my day and that this was nothing new.

But then, I bit into a piece of pineapple explosion of tingly, bubbly sweetness like nothing …

Building a Stew: Stew!

A few days ago [in blog time, that is], I began with the idea for a hearty winter stew, but not many ingredients with which to produce it. But a little seitan-making and chickpea-cooking later, I had the perfect building blocks for this pot of rich, warming stew:

Plated (bowled?), with a little grated Parmesan cheese from Farmer John on top:

My best approximation of a recipe (have you ever tried to write one of these things? It ain't easy...)

Seitan, Chickpea and Cabbage Stew  (anyone have a better name for it?)
1 onion, peeled and diced  2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1 quart jarred, diced tomatoes (about 28 oz.) 1 large broccoli stem, peeled and chopped 1 small cabbage, chopped 4 seitan cutlets, chopped into small 1/2" cubes 2 cups cooked chickpeas 3-4 cups vegetable broth and/or water 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp dried dill 1-2 Tbsp ketchup 1-2 Tbsp soy sauce 1-2 Tbsp hot sauce salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste In a large pot, saute onion and gar…

Building a Stew: Pressure Cooking Chickpeas

Day 2 of Building a Stew (see Day 1 on Homemade Seitan):

In addition to seitan, I decided some chickpeas would work well with the hearty stew I had in mind. And so, I turned to our nicely-organized pantry and to my trusty pressure cooker to get the job done.  Pressure cooking is an adventure we only added to our kitchen repertoire in the last year or two, and I admit that  I've made limited use of the method so far (I'm itching to dive into this book that's been sitting on our cookbook shelf, without the attention it deserves, for the last year or so). But the one way in which it has changed our cooking life is the ability to quickly and efficiently cook dried beans, instead of buying them canned.

Even as I spend my days writing a dissertation about canned food, we've been trying to reduce actual commercially-canned food consumption in our house because it produces a lot of metal waste, it is more expensive than buying dried beans in bulk, and because of concerns about…

Building a Stew: Homemade Seitan

Last week, while I was in the market for winter meals that could be made with the last bits of hardy vegetables we still had in the fridge, I decided to keep channeling the Eastern European in me (as my mom wisely pointed out in her comment on this post), and create some sort of hearty stew with what we had on hand: cabbage, carrots, a bit of broccoli stem, some jarred tomatoes.

But I realized it would be nice to have a bit of protein and something with some chewiness to it in this stew, and so I turned to two methods, one new and one old. Today, I'll be profiling the new method (making my own seitan!); tomorrow, the old method (pressure cooking chickpeas); and then on Friday, I'll show how it all come together to make this pot of satisfying stew:

So, for those of you who haven't heard of seitan, it's basically a protein-rich food made from the gluten of wheat.  Wheat gluten is just the protein-rific part of wheat flour that provides that pleasing stretchiness to doug…

Youth Grow Local Conference

This past weekend, I was able to participate in the Community GroundWorks (CGW) Youth Grow Local Conference. I've written about CGW before (and yes, the online voting is still going on, through April 3!), and although they provide an amazing array of agricultural and community-building services to Madison, this Youth Grow Local conference is always among the most inspiring for me. This conference brings together people from all across Southeastern Wisconsin to talk about growing food with young people.  The conference website (a quick little google site that I built) lists the following as the highlights of the event:
Learn how to start and maintain a school or community youth gardenNetwork with others who are involved in the youth gardening movementAttend expert panels designed to assist both beginning and experienced gardenersLearn a variety of lesson plans and hands-on activities to use in your gardenMeet public health professionals involved in researching and promoting youth ga…

Birthday Hot Pot

Last week, one of Madison's finest turned 30, and so to celebrate her day, we took her on an outing for authentic Chinese food, which began with a campus walk that included collage puzzle pieces* and surprise encounters with friends.

Once we reached Fugu, the restaurant, we were disappointed to discover that our favorite dish, the mushroom hot pot, was unavailable. But, thanks to some expert ordering by our favorite union organizer, KG, we ended up with way more than we [collectively] bargained for.

Within a short time, the waiters had brought over big beautiful steaming pots, two for our table, that they set on burners. Both pots were divided in two, with a deep red chili-infused broth, and a lighter broth with tomatoes and scallions and some sort of red fruits floating in it.

Soon, the central pots were also joined by a variety of delicious additions: fried tofu, long skinny white mushrooms, fresh spinach (all seen below), plus fresh tofu blocks, daikon radishes, bean leaves, an…