Thursday, August 20, 2009

Second verse, same as the first

We had rather a repeat tonight. There was still some tilapia in need of cooking before it went off, so we had that. We just broke up some beans, sliced some new potatoes, tossed 'em with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and threw 'em in the oven along with the fish. That, and some fresh bread with dried tomato and garlic butter.

We didn't make any sauce for the fish, just put a dollop of the butter on there. O. M. G. Some of the best fish I've ever had.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Totally veggie and totally local tonight

Jonathan was home after all, so I tried out some recipes from a new garlic cookbook we got Sunday. I believe it's going to rapidly become my favorite book in our whole culinary library. Garlic is pretty much a food group at our house anyway, but the recipes we've tried so far have been really amazing.

We had Freddy's Fabled Fried Green Tomatoes (basic fried green maters with a lot of garlic in the egg wash and some parmesan in the breading), Hearty Corn Cakes (fried cornbread with roasted garlic, onion, basil, and fresh corn in the batter), and Tangy Glazed Chard (swiss chard braised with some garlic and raspberry blush vinegar). I ate till I nearly foundered myself, but it was just so good.

All the major ingredients for dinner were local, and a lot of it was sustainably/organically grown. The tomatoes, chard, and basil were from our garden, the corn meal and flour were the Weisenberger's stuff we got last week, and the garlic was some we picked up from Blue Moon when we went to Lexington Sunday.

Some time over the weekend I'll start putting together recipes for what we've made so far, and tally up our grocery receipts so far. We appear to be well within our budget, but it's hard to always tell because we're preserving a lot of stuff for the winter.

Roasted Tilapia with Garden Sauce

Jonathan here, Tamara's husband and biggest fan. Since she was a little too out of it to remember the tilapia I made on Monday, and I thought it was pretty good, I figured I'd post the recipe.

Sauces like this are great ways to use up little bits of produce out of the garden, which is what I did with the tomatoes and green beans. Pretty much anything would have worked. No reason you have to have fish with this, either.


4 tilapia filets, about 1 pound
2 cups or so cherry tomatoes, halved (mine were mostly yellow pear--any kind will work)
1 handful green beans, strung and trimmed
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper

Preheat the hotbox to 425. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Toss together the tomatoes, beans, and garlic with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour out onto the sheet pan. Put in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the lemon zest with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and brush both sides of the tilapia filets generously. Take the sheet pan out of the oven, scrape the sauce out to the edges of the pan to make room for the fish, and arrange the filets on the pan. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the filets are done. If you like, switch over to the broiler for the last minute or two to brown it up a little.

Spoon the sauce over the filets and serve. Have plenty of crusty bread available to mop the rest of the sauce out of the pan while standing over the stove.

Wow, we're really not cooking much here lately

This has been a really atypical couple of weeks for us. We normally have a home-cooked dinner together five or six nights a week. But about half the time since we've started this project, we haven't cooked for various reasons. It's weird; we're not normally gadabouts, but every few months there comes a burst of many things all happening at once and we spend a couple weeks with one or the other of us always gone.

This has been one of those bursts. We've had my niece's birthday and Mom's surgery, the cat's little sabbatical, work-related meetings, a couple of concerts, and me covering a vacation for someone at work, all since the first of the month. Plus this week Jonathan's had some sort of transient virus and I've had a cat bite abscess.

He cooked dinner Monday night, tilapia with some sort of very tasty sauce, wilted cherry tomatoes and green beans, and roasted potatoes. It was all very good, but I really don't remember a whole lot about it. Not that it wasn't a memorable meal, I'd just had a perfectly beastly day at work on top of having the abscess drained and was too exhausted and aching and whiny too notice much of anything.

Last night I was still sore and cranky, and he had some kind of bug. Neither of us was especially hungry or felt especially like going to any real effort, so we had bruschetta (him) and popcorn (me). The bruschetta was almost all local--homemade bread, tomatoes and garlic from the market, basil from the garden. The cheese and olive oil were the only non-local parts of it. My dinner, however, was a total wash from a SOLE standpoint. The popcorn, the parmesan, the dried cherries, the cashews--all from who knows where and produced who knows how.

The rest of the week will be much better, though. We both feel a lot better, and I've got today to sort of get things organized so we're not sitting on the couch having the "I don't know, what do you want?" conversation again while we both more tired, hungry, apathetic and petulant.

Tonight he won't be home again, so I'm just going to make some bean burritos. There aren't any local dried beans, except for shuck beans, so I had to look for organic stuff at the grocery. The selection was pretty slim, especially for dried beans. After some looking around, though, I found the store's organic brand of canned black beans on a bogof (buy one, get one free) sale, which made them almost the same price as the conventional canned beans. As for local or organic tortillas, it is to laugh. Unless, I suppose, I learn to make my own.

I think for tomorrow I'll thaw out one of the hens I got while I was at home and roast it, then cut up the leftover meat for...something on Friday. Or if the chicken is especially stubborn about thawing, we'll have a Spanish tortilla or some eggplant curry tomorrow and roast the chicken Friday. I guess we'll see.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

End of week one, weekend roundup

I haven't updated in a few days, but then again we haven't really cooked much the last few days.

Jonathan was out of town Friday and I wasn't especially hungry, so I just ate leftovers from Thursday. The tomato butter only gets better with time.

Saturday was our monthly supper club night--a group of us take turns hosting a themed potluck. This month was non-Italian Mediterranean (we did Italian last month), so we made a lamb roast with tzatziki, and some yeast bread with cornmeal. And more tomato butter. It got inhaled. We were lucky to get out with the bone for soup.

Today we went to Lexington. It's our last mutual day off for almost 2 weeks, so we decided to go do something fun together. We hit the little farmer's market by the co-op and the fabric store, then spent a couple hours at the Woodland Art Fair, then hit the restaurant supply store and had dinner at Ramsey's. I always forget how much I like that place, even though we ate there pretty much every week when we lived in Lexington. They're really big on using local ingredients as much as possible, and right now they have local corn and maters. Nommmmm.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 4: A totally local supper

Tonight we had a 100% local supper. We thawed out some of the ground beef I bought while I was at home and had hamburger steaks, along with grilled onions, corn on the cob, green beans leftover from last night, and fresh Cuban bread made with the Weisenberger flour we got the other night.

It was all good, but by far the star of the dinner was the butter we had for the bread. We've been drying tomatoes in the oven, some from the farmers market and some from the garden. Dried tomatoes are somehow even less work than no-knead bread. You just slice 'em up, lay 'em out on sheet pans, and toss 'em in a low oven. Dried tomatoes are delicious just to nom, or on a pizza, but where they really shine is in a compound butter.

Soften some butter (I also got a pound of butter when I got the meat last week), and add in some dried tomatoes, some salt if your butter is unsalted, and pulse it all in the food processor. It was...well, I'm really not the sort of person to use the word "divine" except when discussing higher powers. But the Barefoot Contessa would call it that. Of course, then I would slap her for being pretentious. Also for touching my tomato butter. It's really not safe to get between me and the tomato butter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 3: Spanish tortilla and no-knead bread

I'm becoming quite fond of Spanish tortilla as a weeknight dinner. The name is sort of misleading to American ears--we're used to the word meaning a corn flatbread. A Spanish tortilla, however, is an egg and potato dish. Basically, you dice or slice potatoes and fry 'em up. Then you add in whatever fillings you want and some beaten eggs. Stir it around a little and then let your egg set. Slide it out onto a plate and use that to flip it to cook the other side. Slice like a quiche and nom.

It's what we had tonight, mostly because it was either that or burgers and I wanted to try a streamlined version of no-knead bread. It came out...ugly as hell, frankly. Our non-stick skillet isn't really so non-stick these days, so the whole sliding and flipping thing was a total failure. It was less a tortilla and more what Jonathan called a "rustic scramble." It tasted way better than it looked, though.

I threw some green beans (though some were pink, the seller called them "goose beans") in the pressure cooker with a slice of ham Jonathan brought home from his company picnic. Some of them went in, some garlic, an ear of corn, some of the sweet banana peppers we pickled a couple weeks ago. The potatoes, corn, and beans were all from the farmer's market, the peppers were from a friend's garden, and the eggs were more of those free-rangers from the supermarket. If I left the ham out of the beans, maybe used some bacon salt instead, dinner would have been totally veggie, but that was totally by accident.

My bread, however, came out great. I was twiddling around yesterday and found a streamlined version of the no-knead bread dough that people have been going nuts over for a while. The original recipe is great, but it calls for you to come home, punch it down, shape it, and let it rise for 2 freaking hours before baking. If you don't get home till 6, it would be almost 9 before you had it ready, and that's just not going to work for most folks. But what some people have been playing with is eliminating the second rise--just punching it down, shaping it, and throwing it into a cold oven. Fresh hot bread in just over an hour. No kneading, no fancy equipment. It was a little spongy, which is partly due to eliminating the second rise and partly due to my using all purpose flour instead of bread flour, but I've paid $3 for far worse loaves of bread.