My Food Journey

Garden Produce

I’ve been displaying my non-refrigerated produce items on our dining room table like this for a while now. It’s turned into a seasonal food altar that I sit and contemplate while I eat dinner. I love the way it changes with the season: in the beginning of September I had plums, peaches and tomatoes; now it’s winter squash, onions, apples, and garlic. The limes are the only thing that aren’t grown regionally, but I just can’t seem to live without them! I think someday I’ll have to move to Mexico just so I can have local limes and mangos……

We had the perfect week-long leftover experience this week. I’m really getting into using leftovers throughout the week in new and exciting ways. It’s a way to use the time I have on the weekend to make quick delicious meals all week.

Last Saturday we had a friend over for tacos. Earlier in the day I started black beans soaking and made tomatillo salsa (the details of which are in the last post.) Towards dinner time I turned the beans on to cook. While Johnny cooked and seasoned the ground beef to perfection, I made fresh corn tortillas. We added grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, fresh lime, chopped tomato, and avocado to make one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. Fresh tortillas really make all the difference – The tequila we drank with it didn’t hurt either!

The next night it was just the two of us and I made another very delicious time consuming meal. I had two thick steaks and I wanted to try a Tuscan Style Braised Beef recipe that’s in The Big Book of Italian Cooking. I’ve never cooked beef this way, and it seemed the perfect thing for a chilly rainy Sunday. I had to bastardize it a bit since I didn’t have all the right ingredients, but it still worked well. First I made incisions in the steaks, filled them with chopped rosemary and salt, and tied them closed with string. It called for “kitchen string” which I didn’t have, so I used hemp twine that I have for jewelry making. Then I browned the steaks on both sides and added potatoes, a carrot, an onion, and some sage and cooked that for a while with the meat. I then added a lot of wine (more than the recipe called for since I had a bottle I wanted to use up) and canned plain tomato sauce and let the whole thing cook for about 2 hours. the recipe said 2.5 hours, but we were just too hungry and couldn’t wait. Here’s what it looked like when it was done – the beef was so tender and delicious!

Now for the leftovers part. We had quite a bit of food left over from both of our weekend meals: black beans, a little cilantro, ground beef, and a lot of the cooked vegetables and sauce from the braised beef. On Monday we combined all of these things with the right spices to make some of the best chili I’ve ever had. I was a little concerned that the wine and herbs in the braised beef sauce would make it weird, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. We made some cornbread to finish the meal. We had enough chili and cornbread to feed us on Monday night and again for two lunches during the week. Genius! And we didn’t even plan it that way!

Now back to the items on my dining room table. Right now I’m totally enamored with apples. At other times of the year I go for months without eating any, but this October I’ve probably eaten an average of 3 or 4 a day. We have over 25 varieties at the co-op, so trying them all keeps me busy!

This is my current line up. On the left are two Spigolds, a beautiful crunchy variety that’s grown locally in Blue Lake. The next two are Hudson’s Golden Gem – an heirloom from Oregon. It’s a little soft, but the flavor is great, and I love the russetting. Last year we all swore these tasted just like buttered popcorn jelly bellies, but this year it’s not as intense. They’re grown in Mendocino County, not too far away. The next two are Blushing Goldens from Fortuna. I don’t know much about this variety, other than that I was surprised that they’re so much crisper and tangier than a gold delicious that I had to buy some! The last two are Ashmead Kernals which is a very old English variety. They’ve got a great flavor and the same russetting that I like so much. They’re grown at the same heirloom orchard in Mendocino as the Hudson’s Golden Gem.

The other item of interest on my table right now is my turban squash:

This will probably sit for a while by the Marina di Chioggia while I contemplate its beauty and what to do with it. I’ve heard that it makes a good soup that you serve in the shell. We’ll see if I have the time or energy to get that fancy! Johnny’s been calling it a “Spaceship Squash” which it certainly looks like when stood up with it’s stem on top:

Lastly for my garden update. It’s been raining all week and it’s stayed relatively warm, so my seeds have germinated beautifully. Still no sign of the carrots or garlic yet, but I’m not worried. Here are some of the salad greens. I plan to harvest most of them as babies, so it’s OK that they’re so close together.

Our project for the weekend is to make apple butter. We made our last batch in early September and it’s almost gone. We have apples on the tree by our front door that aren’t that great for eating but will be perfect for the occasion. They’re at the peak of ripeness right now.

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