Friday, May 20, 2011

Produce productivity

Things have been just bustin' out all over at Mansion Farms, where I have a share and get to pick up freshly harvested veggies every week.

I am learning a lot about locavorism.  What I am learning is that you have to put what is on hand to use now, or find a way to preserve it for later.  This week's haul included broccoli, radishes, beets, and lots of onions.

The broccoli was steamed and enjoyed with dinner.  That is a no-brainer.

However, owing to a busy week last week, I still hadn't done anything with last week's radishes, beets and onions and I had a lot on hand.

I spent about three or four hours on my feet in the kitchen, but this is what I accomplished:
  • Topped all the beets - the freshest I washed and dried, to be sauteed later in the week
  • The beets all got cleaned and roasted for an hour, then peeled
  • Some of the beets went into a light vinaigrette, to be enjoyed with lunches this week
  • Some of the beets were saved to be re-warmed for dinners
  • The last of the beets, I pickled with a few of the red onions
  • Some of the radishes were cleaned and saved to be eaten raw in salads
  • Some of the radishes were cleaned and saved to be roasted - yummy, if you've never tried it
  • Some of the radishes were pickled with garlic and fennel.  The jury is still out on this
  • The onions were chopped and sauteed in butter and sherry
  • Once the onions were cooled, they were spread onto pastry and two rustic tarts were made and frozen for later
Gorgeous and delicious onions!

Radishes ready for pickling

 Golden and regular beets - ready for pickling

Left:  pickled beets and red onions, right: pickled radishes

Two frozen onion tarts, ready for impromptu cocktail gatherings!

It seems like a lot of work, but I think it's worth it.  I'm learning more and more about food.  I believe our bodies were meant to eat things in cycles.  I believe in supporting small farmers.  I believe in not eating food that has traveled thousands of miles.

But I have to be a realist - for now, I don't live this creed every day of the week.  I hope to gradually get to the point where more and more of my food is grown by myself, or those that I know personally.  But for now, I do the best I can.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chicken Chronicles

Yes, it's been a while and I know y'all have been just craving another post about my chickens.

Lots has happened with the chickens, but we all sort of got side tracked.  We lost a dear friend suddenly a few weeks ago, and it's kind of hard to want to write about any thing trivial.  Jim was an awesome man, and he and his family were among those that encouraged us to get chickens, and they have about the cutest chicken coop you've ever seen.

We decided our last two nameless birds would both be named to honor Jim in some way.  So, the Cuckoo Marans are now named Tweetie Pie and Ginkball.  Not exactly a timeless memorial, but it does make me smile and that is important.

So.  The girls have grown up a lot.  We finished the coop and moved them in.  One got injured (long story), and I was afraid we'd have to break out the axe again, but she seems to be improving steadily.

This is how the coop looks as you approach it from the woods.  It's far enough from the house that you can't see it from the house or the yard, so it's kind of nice to walk down the path and see it there under the clubhouse like that.

This is the back of the coop - those cupboard doors open into the back of the laying boxes so I can sneakily gather the eggs.

Here is the front of the hen house, with the ramp and the door. 

We physically placed the hens in at dusk and closed the door the first couple of nights, but they've got the routine down and  now we don't do anything.  Except for those few days when I had to go out after dark and lift Bossy up into the hen house because her injury prevented her from going up the ramp.  The night I went out and found her in the house with the rest of the girls gave me such a feeling of relief - I knew she was on the mend!

Happy chickens, with lots of room to roam now.

 This is Ginkball, heading up the roost.  She and her sister Cuckoo Maran (Tweetie Pie) are the largest in the flock right now.

These are Lacy and Big Bird (Aidan's chicken).  Loving the "top hat" that is growing on Big Bird.  S/he is a gorgeous chicken, and the only "unsexed" one we have.  We are anxiously awaiting further growth and hoping that it is not a rooster!

This one is Queenie.  Developing into a very pretty chicken, but she isn't growing as fast as the rest.  I am assuming it is a trait of her breed, as she definitely is one of the more dominant hens in the flock and gets her fair share of the food.

Several of the girls enjoying their outdoor roost.  There are also roosts in the henhouse.

I can't tell you how much we are all enjoying the chickens.  I love seeing a note from Bridget posted on the back door, "Gone to visit the chickens" and we as a family often wander out there together to see what they are up to.  I've been known to head out with food for them and just sit and relax for a half an hour, watching their antics.

Anxiously awaiting the eggs......

Stay tuned...  we have new residents moving into the coop with The Girls!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grilled Artichokes

A few people have asked for this recipe, and I thought I would put it here.

Having grown up in California , where most artichokes are grown, I’ve been eating them all my life.  Having recently left California , I am astounded at how many people are intimidated by artichokes! 

Preparation is not hard, and good prep makes for a more edible result! Artichokes can be cut, steamed and marinated several hours before you are ready to grill.

  • 4 artichokes – find the ones that are heaviest for their size. This means they’ve retained plenty of moisture in their trip from CA to your state!
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2T salt
  • 1t ground pepper
  • 1/4c chopped herbs of choice

  • Have ready a large pot with an inch or so of well-salted water. Put your lemon discards into this to acidulate the water which will keep the cut parts of your artichokes from turning brown as you work. 
  • Strip off 2-3 layers of outer leaves 
  • Using a sharp knife, slice of 1 inch of the top, and trim the end of the stem 
  • Using kitchen shears, snip any prickly tips that remain on lower leaves 
  • Slice the artichoke in ½ lengthwise 
  • Using a basic kitchen teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out the “choke” or the fuzzy stuff in the middle. 
  • Drop both halves into the water, making sure that the cut surfaces are well coated w/ the water to prevent browning while you prep the remaining artichokes.

 To cook: 
  • Cover the pot and place on stove and bring to a simmer. 
  • Simmer artichokes until they are barely fork tender at the stem – about 15 minutes, depending on size and freshness. Check frequently! 
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

 To marinate: 
  • Place remaining ingredients (oil, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper & herbs) in a zip top bag and mix well. 
  • Add artichokes to bag, turning to make sure well coated. 
  • Marinate for 1 hour or all day. 

To grill: 
  • Handle artichokes carefully at this point. Since they are nearly completely cooked, they will be fragile. 
  • Using tongs, place artichokes on a medium-high grill with the cut side facing up. 
  • If there is any marinade left, spoon or drizzle this into the cavity of the artichoke. 
  • Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until char marks appear on the leaves. 
  • Carefully turn over (watch out! The excess marinade may cause flare up!), and grill on cut side for another 5 minutes.

 Serve immediately or at room temperature. Prepared like this, they generally need no dipping sauce.