Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kids in Our Hearts

Lisa is really picking up the slack for my lazy posting. Here's another post from her, reflecting on her past, and future, living with goats.

My two sisters and I grew up on a small hobby goat farm in upstate NY, drinking the milk, eating my mom's simple homeade goat cheese, and milking, birthing, and playing with a bunch of does and kids (mothers and babies). Each was named by my mother or one of us from a list of our favorite flowers: there was Petunia, Iris, Daisy, Edelweiss, Magnolia, Lilac, and then Sparky when I got to name one. As we all got older, the goats somehow phased out of our lives. Pictured above is the lone remaining goat, Aurora, who is just a pet who looks pretty by the barn, and isn't milked.

Yesterday, while searching webrings for local cow and goat farms, sentimentality hit me hard, and I realized how much I missed that life and how jealous I felt every time I'd arrive at the next website of a cute, small goat farm somewhere in Florida.

For some ineffable reason, I've been feeling incredibly driven to this sort of farming - I've thought about working at produce farms and worked at a cow dairy farm, but never really felt any strong feelings for them. So this is the plan for my life: that I will someday in the future have a goat farm (although definitely not in Florida), give them all flower names (unless it's my mischeivous daughter's turn) and (probably illegally) sell the small amount of milk and cheese just to my friends and family and to Julia if she owns a bar in Brooklyn or upstate somewhere someday. Working towards this today, I hope to spend get back to Brazil (where I studied abroad in college) for some time WWOOFing on a goat dairy in Brazil during my upcoming grad school years.

Additional commentary from Julia
Hmm, I'm not sure I can sell "illegal" goat cheese at a bar. I think that might violate health codes somehow. And yes, one of my dreams to open a bar. More on that another day.

Triumph in the Quest for Local Meat

And another guest post from my sister Lisa in Florida, where finding locally sourced food is much more difficult than the Greenmarket-haven that is New York City.

After asking around at the Sarasota farmer's market about local beef, and only hearing of one farm (that sells only wholesale and incidentally, the restaurant I manage is strictly vegetarian), I asked the guys behind the meat counter at Whole Foods if they knew of any farms in the area. The older, wiser-looking fellow told me sort of discreetly about a buffalo farm in Bradenton. After much google searching, I found the phone number and gave them (Gap Creek Buffalo) an inquiring call.

Yesterday I undertook the trafficy 25 minute drive north to their house where they sell just from two small coolers. The variety was impressive for the size of the operation. 4 or 5 different cuts of steak, ground, burger patties, ground sausage, link sausage, and of course - a cooler full of hearts, lungs, tongues and other delicacies. After buying almost $50 of meat (wanted to stock up because I hate driving in Florida!), I asked them if they knew of any other farms that sell small-scale like they do, and they just told me plain and simple - Nope. There really aren't any. Unless they're only selling by word of mouth and to very few people.

All this was disconcerting, but my mood was quickly elevated back to a state of meaty bliss after grilling the buffalo burgers with some beer and friends over a charcoal grill. I only seasoned them with a little salt, pepper and garlic and found the flavor slightly milder than beef but distinctive and delicious. The extremely low fat content makes them cook faster than beef burgers so there was less waiting, which I appreciated after preparing the patties and the grill and getting my house ready for guests.

Overall, I (and we) loved it... so even though there may not be any local beef, chicken or eggs on the local horizon, at least we can still cook buffalo over the fire any time we want. Next time I'll remember marshmallows.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Best News Ever

Sixpoint is going to start making bottled beer! It says so in this fascinating article in the New York Times today about a resurgence in beer brewing in Brooklyn, which once produced one fifth of the nation's beer and is now home to only three breweries. Most importantly it announces that Sixpoint Craft Ales is going to open a new facility in Williamsburg that will allow them to produce bottled beer!

I'm so excited. I looove Sixpoint, and have been eagerly awaiting the day I could enjoy bottles of it in our home, instead of having to trek to a bar or all the way to Bierkraft in Park Slope for a pricey growler. Their beers, which are all characterized by the same fast-acting yeast that lends a distinctive hoppy flavor, have been growing ever more popular over the past couple years, and it's about time. I'll be sure to let you know when the bottles hit stores so y'all can go out and try it too. In the meantime, you can use Beer Menus to find the bar nearest you with Sixpoint on tap.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Richardson

via yelp

Now that I'm feeling well enough to do more than just plop into bed after work, I went to check out a new bar in the hood, The Richardson. It's known for being a classy speakeasy joint with excellent specialty cocktails, but I didn't know if they had much of a beer selection. Well, I was pleasantly surprised that they have several great beers on tap, all from Northeast microwbreweries (except for Guinness and Old Speckled Hen from across the pond). I enjoyed Southern Tier's excellent IPA, which I'd never seen on draft before, and Sixpoint's Righteous Rye for a hearty winter beer. Beer prices aren't bad either, mostly $5 a beer, with a few $6 glasses.

The Richardson's cocktails looked good, especially the Old Fashioned, which intrigued me with its mix of bitters, sugar cube, and bourbon, but at $9 a pop and a month of spending that's left me feeling poor, I decided to try it another time. Oh and they also serve small plates - olives, nuts, toasts, and sandwiches - but sadly, nothing looked particularly appealing to me.

Since The Richardson is only three blocks from my apartment, this might be another new standby for a nice romantic drink. I think I might even have my birthday there, since the interior is spacious, with a few nooks. They did a great job with the simple and sophisticated decor, which features beautiful wallpaper, a long bar, and smooth dark wood tables, chairs, and stools.

The Richardson
451 Graham Ave at Richardson Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Graham Ave stop

Guest post: Finding local meat in Florida

Another guest post from my sister Lisa, who's currently living in Sarasota, Florida, and managing a college campus cafe. The other night she made this delicious looking whole wheat pasta with chicken sausage, and local garlic, onion and arugula. Here's her story:

Celebrating the first week of Worden Farm (the only local, organic farm that sells at the Sarasota farmer's market), I had a Saturday night feast of sauteed garlic, onions and arugula that had the perfect balanced peppery, but mild, taste. Add some non-local chicken sausage from Whole Foods (the quest for local meat in the Sarasota area is still ongoing) and the result was spicy garlic and sausage, sweet vidalia onions and tomato sauce, and filling whole wheat al dente pasta. This was miles better than the pasta dishes I grew up on, which were usually bland and unsatisfying.

Today I will be going to pick up some buffalo meat from a small local farmer, so there may be a new, even more delicous Floridian post awaiting on the horizon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Save Your Parmesan Rinds!

The good news is that I got the internet working on my computer again. The bad news is that I'm sick. I stayed home from work today, lounging on my bed with my napping dog to keep me company. Somehow, earlier in the week before I came down with this cold, I had the foresight to make a big batch of soup, which is interesting because I'm usually not much of a soup person. Must be the chilly fall weather.

Well I'm glad I had this tasy lentil vegetable soup to warm my aching bones for lunch this week. Paired with hearty whole wheat toast, it was just what I needed. That, plus hot toddies and lots of sleep and bundling up in warm clothes and episodes of Mad Men and a leisurely walk in the autumn air, have me feeling a lot better this evening.

I had a couple rinds of old parmesan in the freezer, because I'd heard that throwing a parmesan rind in soup is a great way to add flavor. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was true - the rind melted and added much needed salt and richness to what would otherwise be a somewhat bland soup. I will definitely continue to freeze parmesan rinds once they're too stale to grate, and use them in future soups and stocks. It's the thrify way to go!

Lentil soup doesn't require an exact recipe. Here are some guidelines:
Soak a cup of lentils in water for an hour. Meanwhile, dice and sautee vegetables in a big pot until softened - I used 3 carrots, 3 leeks, and a bag full of banana peppers, becase that's what I had in the fridge from the farmers market. Add lentils and parmesan rind to the pot, along with enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover it all by an inch or two, add desired spices such as salt, pepper, oregano, sage, crushed red pepper, and then simmer for about an hour until lentils have softened. Remove parmesan rind, and ta da!

As for the bread I paired this with, it was a whole wheat loaf from the farmers market, because the bread I made myself last weekend was inedible. A sad waste of flour. I had no idea what went wrong, since the two loaves of dough felt perfect in my hands until they headed into the oven. As you can see, the crust puffed up , while the bottom layer of dough remained gummy, with a huge pocket of air in between. I had never seen anything like it, and I thought I did something wrong, but it turns out that our oven is broken! This also explains the undercooked eggplant in the eggplant parmesan I made last week, and our inability to bake potatoes into fries in the oven this week. We're getting a new oven this weekend, and I cannot wait to bake some cookies or pumpkin bread or some other tasty fall treat. It's fall, it's cold, and our landlord doesn't like to turn on the heat, so I'm dying to do some baking to warm/cozy up the apartment!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pickled Peppers

As we move deeper into fall and away from the bounty of summer's harvest, I've made some efforts to preserve some summery foods recently, knowing full well what long months of potatoes, kale, and root vegetables lie ahead after last winter. But it's been a kind of half-hearted effort because there's not much you can fit into this freezer. I could have tried to can stuff, but that scares me and I was too lazy to do enough research to figure out how to get over my fear of botulism.

You can't see it all very well because it's hidden by more usual freezer goods such as tupperwared lunches and various flours and coffee, but my freezer now contains: five ears of corn; six quarts of raspberries; two quarts of oven-dried grape tomatoes,; about 8 oven-dried red pepper strips; and three small bags of quartered tomatoes. I can't imagine that will last me very long this coming winter, but it will at least be good for some casseroles, flavored dips and breads, soups and pastas. I let the berries freeze spread out on a flat tray at first, before combining them in a tupperware, so that I'll be able to scoop them out for smoothies, baked goods, and pancakes as needed.

My mom grew an overabundance of cubanelle and banana peppers in her vegetable garden this year, so I've happily taken a bunch off her hands to make pickled peppers, similar to hot peperoncinis. The recipe is based loosely off Jen's recipe for pickling cucumbers at Last Night's Dinner, adapted for making just one pint jar at a time and based on what I have on hand. My first batch didn't have enough heat, so I also added some jalapenos from the Greenmarket into my most recent batch, and hopefully they'll turn out hotter and spicier. I also must say that I think I like pickled peppers better than my homemade pickled cucumbers (that's why you never even heard about them on here). And I think these peppers would be great on a turkey and cheese fact I might just make that for a picnic this weekend.

Pickled Banana Peppers

3/4 cup hot tap water
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic
1 tsbp pickling spice
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
Several (about a quart) of banana or cubanelle peppers
A few jalapeno or other hot peppers

Combine brine ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup (this will make it easier to pour into the jar later than if you were using a bowl) and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Chop peppers into desired size - strips, chunks, or (my favorite) round crossections.

Place one third of the peppers into a clean glass pint jar, and pour a third of the brine over the peppers. Repeat until jar is full, compressing peppers as needed (a lot more will fit in one jar than you might expect!), and make sure to scoop any straggler spices out of the measuring cup and into the jar.

Refrigerate for a week before eating; pickles will stay good in the fridge for up to a month.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Operation Homestyle: Sneak Peak

I've been away for too long. This week my excuse is that the internet's been spotty. Last week it was because I was busy with "operation homestyle," which involved multiple trips to ikea and a lot of making lists of future improvements while the resident handyman assembled the ikea furniture.

So there's a sneak peak, for now, at the kitchen. The microwave and toaster have been relegated to the living room (so New York City-cramped-apartment-style of us!) and now, look at that pretty shiny new dish drying rack, and glorious counter space with a wondeful big wooden cutting board that allows me to chop and knead bread right there in the actual kitchen next to the stove, instead of ferrying ingredients back and forth from the living room (I never use that darn microwave anyway).

Also in this little nook of a kitchen is this red sweetheart chair, which doubles as a stool for hard-to-reach cabinets, and is one of a set that have "sweetened" with age as layers of multicolored paint have chipped away.

I'm really happy with this cute red tray I picked up at a garage sale in Brooklyn. It's a nice decorative item that enhances the red accents in the room, but it's also handy for serving up one of my greatest loves that is also my greatest downfall - aka whiskey, along with other drinks. Yes, that measuring cup is what suffices for measuring out shots until I find a new shot glass. Like I said, more improvements to come.