Verbless VVednesdays

July 24, 2013

My little friends!

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Little Fried Things

July 22, 2013

– Nothing warms the cockles like little fried things. -

I’m no snob when it comes to fried stuff; I like it all. The crispy bits at the bottom of a barrel of KFC. The browned edges of a pancake that’s been cooked in too much oil (Oops, how did that happen?). A chunk of golden bread on the end of a skewer fresh from the bubbling fondue pot. The fact that I’ve misspelled “fried” as “friend” a dozen times while writing this post is a telling slip-up. There isn’t one molecule in my body that knows how to say no to that glorious, oily crunch.

The garden is a perfect place to find things to fry up in a cauldron of oil. The trick is to fry things that are equally light and frilly in a batter that barely exists. While I’m content to use my cheapest olive oil for frying, salt is an ingredient you shouldn’t skimp on here – something that tastes bright with a flaky texture completes the mouthful. (Maine Sea Salt is my recent obsession after swooning over it at ABC Kitchen.)

– Off on another garden hunt. -

– If I can bear to kick the bees out, squash blossoms are the prettiest thing in the garden to fry. -

– The batter should look like chalky (not gloppy) water. -

“LITTLE FRIED THINGS” – GARDEN FRITURE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of cold water

1 tbsp of flour

1/2 cup of crushed ice at the ready

2 cups of olive oil (or more depending on the size of your pan) for frying

3-4 big handfuls of little things to fry (see below for ideas)

Flaky salt to taste

1. Mix the flour and the cold water together with your fingers in a shallow baking dish (like a pie dish). The batter should be no thicker than chalky water. As you work, you may need to add a bit of the crushed ice to keep the batter thin and cold.

2. If frying larger things like carrots, slice them extremely thin with a mandoline, about 1/32″, so they flash fry instead of “cook” in the oil.

3. Heat the oil in a small pan (preferably cast iron) on a medium high flame until the oil sizzles when you flick a drop of batter into it.

4. Working with tongs in very small batches, add a few pieces of your “things” into the sizzling oil and poke around until each bit is golden and crisp. Be careful because the oil will spatter, especially if too much of the watery batter is clinging to the piece you put it. Don’t crowd the pan or the oil will cool down too much during the process. Remove one piece at a time and place gently onto a few layers of paper towel. Add a few chips of ice to your batter if it gets to thick.

5. Once all your bits are fried up, transfer them to a pretty platter and sprinkle with flaky salt.

– Herbs deserve respect. Make them the star of the show. -

Some ideas of little things to fry:

  • Parsley stems
  • Sage leaves
  • Carrots or beets sliced thinly
  • Squash blossoms
  • Elderflower blossom stems
  • Shiso leaf
  • Basil leaf
  • Spinach leaf
  • Fresh chickpeas in the shell
  • Baby chard leaf
  • Thinly slivered onion
  • Mushroom sliced thinly
  • Borage blossoms
  • Thyme flowers
  • Kale leaf
  • Thai basil
  • Beet greens

– Better than chips? Maybe. -

– Little fried things and a glass of yummy vino. A perfect summer lunch. -

Take your boots off before you come in here!

 

 

 

 

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From Juice to Jowl

July 18, 2013

You’ve heard of ‘head-to-tail’ eating…

Every morning I make and drink juice. Not the O.J. sweet-as-sunshine brunch-y sort, but the kale-cucumber-apple-beet-parsley-mint sort (K.C.A.B.P.M.J.). Green juices are super trendy and juice drinkers are fanatics about the health benefits of its live enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, biophotons and cornucopia of nutrients that increase the mirco-electric potential of the cells yada yada, but I just like it.

All this (plus bacon) for breakfast? Pourquoi pas?

Making juice uses all the junk from my garden that I don’t, can’t, or won’t use: the ugly carrots, the misshapen beets, the kale leaves that I have graciously shared with the flea beetles, the stems that don’t make it into my Caldo Verde.

When a garden is as ridiculously over-sized for your personal needs as mine is, and when you also belong to a CSA just for the fun of it, and when you also buy stuff at the Co-op or at Hawthorne Valley just because it looks yummy, then you should juice too.

The junk that doesn’t go into my dinner, goes into my juice the next morning.

Neighbor Kelli finds it disgusting but I think it’s perfecto!

Hands down the best all around juicer is the Omega Vert. It’s the single auger style and juices both fruits and vegetable equally well (wheat grass is a separate machine if you’re into it that deeply).

But even if you never buy a juicer yet pine for something mesmerizing to watch during the wee hours, check out John Kohler’s videos. Everything you ever wanted to know about juicers (including what to do if the thing gets completely stuck – the video I had to watch this morning!). Late night stuff!

Your biophoton count will increase just from watching this guy!

Juice provides the fuel to get on with the rest.

BUT, lest you think I have migrated over to the dark side, only caring for the vegetal things in life, after my juice, I eat bacon, bacon, and…

…bacon.

Sliced paper-thin and served raw, the pork jowl Guanciale I made earlier in the year is heavenly, but cut thick it fries up to be the naughtiest, most delicious ‘bacon’ you’ll ever have.

Guanciale rests and waits for the cook to get a hankering for it.

You can eat Guanciale raw just like this.

Or fry it up for something insanely naughty.

The jowl and the belly are completely two different piggy parts, each deliriously fatty.

But while I had my smoker going July 4th smoking up a healthy batch of ribs, ducks and chickens, I decided to try smoking up a pork belly and turning it into, yes, My Very Own Bacon.

I was inspired by the recipe from my friends at Putney Farm, who in-turn were inspired by the recipe at Ruhlman and his nasty-great book, Charcuterie.

You do not have to use a smoker, and finding a pork belly and making My Very Own Bacon is way easier than it sounds. Back in the days when Tom Colicchio was just a dude with a restaurant and my life revolved around finding some pork belly to make his recipe for fresh pork belly, the fatty slab was near impossible to find. But now, like green juice (or totally unlike green juice) pork belly is super-trendy so finding it at your local market isn’t as hard as it used to be.

A gorgeous, albeit modest slab of belly.

MY VERY OWN BACON

You will need to find a 5-pound pork belly (skin off) for this recipe. My pork belly was only about 3 pounds so I had to do some math – not my forte – to adjust the recipe for a smaller slab.

Ingredients:

2 ounces (1/4 cup) kosher salt

2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1 (I cheated and didn’t use curing salt because, yeah, okay, I didn’t have any. I was warned that this is a terrible idea both for taste and safety reasons, so I will warn you too: USE PINK CURING SALT #1! For criminy sake! Please!)

4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

4 bay leaves, crumbled

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar or maple syrup

5 sprigs of garden herbs like fresh thyme (optional)

1. Combine the above ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Put your hunk of pork belly into a large Ziplock Baggie or a Food Saver bag. Toss in the salt mixture and rub around to coat the entire slab. Close or seal the bag loosely and let it rest in an out-of-the-way spot in the fridge for as little as 3 or as many as 7 days.

Even the bad stuff should get a dose of the good stuff.

It’s so QVC of me, but the FoodSaver IS my favorite kitchen tool!

3. After a few days, you’ll notice that your pork belly will begin to firm up. This is similar to the process of making your own Gravlax. When you (and it) are ready, take it out and rinse off the meat in cool water and pat it dry.

4. I smoked my bacon in my badass smoker, but if you don’t have a badass smoker, preheat the plain-old-oven to 200 degrees. Put the belly on a cookie sheet, push it into the plain-old-oven and leave it in there for at least 2 hours or until the internal temperature is 150 degrees. There’s a lot of wiggle room with fatty meats like this and leaving it for even 4 hours won’t kill it. I smoked mine for about 3 hours.

Busting out the badass smoker screams summer at The Muddy Kitchen.

Looks like ribs. Taste like…

5. Let it cool in the fridge overnight then fry some up in the morning. After your green juice!

Bacon!

Hey, isn’t Rose a vegetarian?

Take your boots off before you come in here!

 

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 17, 2013

On the go.

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 10, 2013

Barn swallow egg omelet?

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Elderflowers – Make Your Own St~Germain

July 7, 2013

By the side of the road is my favorite place to find food. Why? Because I’m a sucker for free stuff. A natural swag hag. And an Elderberry bush is especially swaggish because it has two seasons: the Flower Season and the Berry Season. Two projects. One bush. I look forward to the appearance of [...]

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Steaks & Boys

July 5, 2013

This summer I have agreed to host my 16 1/2-year-old-son, The Big Lebowski, and his two cohorts, also 16 1/2. I made sure the downstairs bathroom-slash-laundry room renovations were finished before the crew descended on the house so that the whole downstairs floor could be boy-land: smells, dirty socks, wet towels, skanky bathing sits, half-eaten [...]

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 3, 2013

Hello, Gorgeous.

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A U-Pick Cherry Extravaganza!

July 1, 2013

So Keith comes up to the house on his machine, glint in his eye, and says to me, “I’m taking some wood down to Fix Farm tomorrow morning; do you want me to set you up?” Now I have absolutely no idea what Keith means today by ‘set me up’, but in the past ‘setting [...]

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For Which Norman Braved the Storm

June 26, 2013

The weather itself is a character in this book. It doesn’t tiptoe in quietly and then back out of the room without anyone noticing. A storm is a storm here. You feel its mythic presence approach from the north then loom overhead like some cruel God releasing its outpouring from giant buckets, complete with stunning [...]

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