Sunday, June 29, 2008
I'm guessing most people will bring pies and breads and maybe a couple jellies. And I'm guessing a picture-perfect rhubarb pie will win the blue ribbon. If I were competing, I'd bring a classic rhubarb-strawberry pie, lattice crust or maybe even cut-out star crust. With fresh vanilla bean whipped cream. And maybe a scoop of that scrambled egg ice cream on the side. Or not.
However, if I were entering just for fun, I'd bring rhubarb lemonade. It wouldn't win the contest, but I think it would be a hit with the attendees to wash down all those rhubarb bread samples.
3 cups chopped rhubarb, mostly pink part of stems
1 cup white sugar
1 cup sweet wine (riesling or white zin work well)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups water
In a medium saucepan, mix rhubarb, sugar, and wine; bring to a boil and simmer until rhubarb is soft. Strain mixture to obtain rhubarb syrup. Add the syrup to pitcher along with lemon juice and water. Stir and serve over ice.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I decided to make standard old-fashioned vanilla ice cream, recipe straight from the manual. I even got a little fancy and added vanilla bean, ooh la la. I heated the milk but made the mistake of leaving the egg in the hot milk too long and it started to cook the eggs. So now we have scrambled egg ice cream. It's still good, there are just tiny frozen bits of scrambled egg every now and then. Not appetizing? I hear bacon ice cream is a big thing right now, so maybe I'm just starting a new trend.
And I must mention, kudos to Cass-Clay for announcing they do not use rBGH/rBST milk in their cream (not sure if this applies to all their products...). Corporate chemical giant Monsanto says it is safe; the rest of the world says it is not. This bovine hormone is legal in the US (and ONLY in the US), but I'm not taking any chances. Supporting "No rBGH/rBST" dairy is not hard; even Wal-Mart has joined the no-hormone milk club.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Dan's Supermarket is carrying Bessie's Best whole milk by the gallon jug, straight from Sterling, ND. I'm not typically a whole milk gal, but after talking to the earnest guy giving out samples by the dairy case and seeing "no synthetic hormones" on the label, I picked up a gallon.
And if Bessie is reading, I'm waiting for the lowfat moo juice, honey.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Yes, this is what we live for. Blue skies, sunny days, chirping birds...and ribs.
Welcome to Ribfest. This is the first time Ribfest has pulled into our humble little town. And from the looks of it, us small town folk love us some ribs.
My honey considers himself a bit of a rib connoisseur. He's eaten a lot of ribs in his day, proclaiming Space Aliens to be the best in town. Well, except my own, of course, right hon? Right...?
So being a rib expert, we had to check out Ribfest. It's a fundraiser for the Downtowners, bringing Bismarckians together for food and inflatable fun. $3 gets you in the door, and then you see this:
The end of the line to purchase $20 ribs. Awesome.
There were three rib vendors, none local. They all proclaim themselves to be the best, and you are supposed to vote for the best one. They all have their trophies stacked up in front with long lists of awards...but it looks like they just compete amongst themselves. It's not really competition, it's just a marketing schtick to sell ribs. But hey, if you can get rib grilling to pay the bills, keep on grilling...
We went to the shortest line, the Rib King. While standing in line, I watched the kid in front of us play with his balloon and listened to the local band Betty Does tune up. I love it when bands take a long time to tune. "Test. Test. Test 1. Test 1."
We finally got to the front of the line. We ordered #7 - the Royal Flush, with ribs, chicken, sausage, brisket, potato salad, beans, and cornbread, all served in your very own Styrofoam container. I thought, 'Royal Flush, how appropriate, since that's probably what we'll be doing a couple hours from now.'
Sorry if that was gross.
The food was ok, the ribs were decent, and our rib connoisseur declared them to be edible, but certainly not the best he's ever eaten. We didn't bother voting, since we really didn't want to stand in line again to try the others, and part of me just didn't want to play along with the competitive rib game.
So suggestions for next year? Let Famous Dave's and Space Aliens enter the "contest" as well (with their own pricing) and add more seating.
If Ribfest comes back, we might go next year, but right now, I'm going outside to enjoy every last bit of the longest day of the year.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
It sounded like Farmer Jay had a problem securing the farm land, which messed up his planting schedule. It was all worked out, but due to the lack of produce this week from the plot, he distributed veggies out of his backyard garden! I'm already impressed. I can't wait to meet this guy.
In one of his soliloquies on North Dakota, Clay Jenkinson (who I have a not-so-secret crush on) said that one of the most Jeffersonian aspects of this great state is the backyard garden. For the past few decades, I feel that there has been a general trend away from gardening in the Midwest, but get the tiller ready, because the comeback is here and now. Much like the victory gardens of WWII, Americans are finding the garden again. Why?
Because the garden helps us reclaim our independence from the economic forces that have made us all feel vulnerable lately.
Because the garden is health and vitality. It doesn't get any fresher than the backyard. Period.
Because the garden is tradition, recalling our memories of eating garden peas straight out of the pod at grandma's house.
Because the garden is connection to the earth with all its abundance and beauty.
Because there is no better scent than freshly tilled dirt, new tomato and basil plants, and the promise of rain in the air.
Because it just feels right.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Everyone seems surprised that I already have radishes popping up, and I give almost every single one away as I just don't really like radishes. They are a little too spicy, a little too raw oniony for me. I just grow them because they are easy to grow and pop up so early.
Easy and early. Yup, that's how I like 'em.
However, I'll admit that there is one way I'll eat radishes con gusto.
1 piece bread (preferably white bread)
1 pat of butter
Thinly sliced radish
Schmear butter on bread and top with sliced radishes. Enjoy. Repeat.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Foodies get obsessed with pie crust. Crisco vs. butter vs. lard, flour/fat ratios, flour protein levels. No wonder pie crust intimidates people! Throw all that out the window along with the measuring cups - this is an unscientific, unmeasured, a-dab-of-this-and-that basic pie crust. Hopefully, by taking away all the frou-frou fussiness from pie crust, we'll all realize that it's really as easy as...well, you know.
First, add flour to a bowl (approx. 1-1/2 cups) along with a dash of salt. Don't worry about it, just eyeball it. Add a COLD stick of butter.
Ever seen Last Tango in Paris? You'll never look at a stick of butter the same way again.
Now take off your rings, wash your hands, and dig in, crunching up the butter until you have crumbles.
When you press the crumbles together in your fist, they should stick together. Like flocks of geese. Or penguins. Or Mama bears and Baby bears.
Now add icy cold water, a spoonful at a time, and mix it in until you can form a ball. Some people swear by adding a splash of cider vinegar, too; go ahead if that floats your boat. Flatten the ball a bit, cover with that butter wrapper, and throw in the freezer for a few mins to chill. The dough needs to be cold before you roll it out. (If you're not using the dough right away, use plastic wrap and keep in the fridge.)
Now we're ready to roll. Grab two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, place one on the table and sprinkle with flour. Take out the chilled dough, place on top of floured surface, and then sprinkle top of dough with flour. Top it off with the other sheet and roll out the dough.
My hubby gave me this rolling pin for Christmas after watching me hurt myself rolling out sugar cookies with a Smurf glass. Long story.
Flip the dough onto your pie plate, fix any holes, and then let your creativity take care of the rest.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
This is the one and only time I've shot a gun. Before my husband has a heart attack at the idea of me wielding a gun again, let me clarify: we're going morel hunting!
My bud Jenny called me up with the delicious proposal of walking along the river bottoms looking for morel mushrooms. I was surprised to find out that morel mushrooms (yes, $25/lb morel mushrooms) grow wild in our area and they are out there for the picking.
As a kid, mushrooms were one of the many foods I refused to eat, thinking they simply ruined a perfectly decent pizza, but now I have seen the light! Mushrooms in pasta, mushrooms in stirfry, mushrooms in omelets, stuffed, sauteed, grilled...I'll admit we enjoy the occasional 'shroom, in the most legal sense of the word.
However, in our house, mushroom tastes vary from button to portabello...and then back to button. We don't get too exotic with our fungi, so I was cautious with the idea of eating mushrooms I happened to find in the trees. Then I quickly removed that thought from my mind, since morel mushrooms are easy to identify, and foraging for food (especially gourmet delicacies) is always a win in my book.
We hopped in the car with a couple of empty ice cream buckets and Jenny's dog Jack, trusting that his morel-sniffing instincts would provide us with buckets of fungi. It was a gorgeous afternoon with sights like this:
And this (Hi, Jack!):
And, yes, sad to say, this:
We only found one morel.
I'm not quite sure what to do with my single mushroom yet. Nonetheless, it was a lovely walk in beautiful surroundings with great company, so even if morel hunting didn't feed my stomach, it certainly fed my soul.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Oh, and if you are wondering 'Where's the beef?', check this article out to calm your anxiety.
Curried Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
Adapted from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
2 T. canola oil
1 minced garlic clove
1 t. minced fresh ginger
1/2 t. salt
A few cracks of black pepper
Small pinch of cayenne
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1/3 cup water
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned is fine, use the juice)
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 cup frozen peas
Cilantro and golden raisins for garnish
Add oil to large pot and turn heat to medium. Add garlic and ginger. When garlic starts to color, add the rest of the spices to release their aromas, then add cauliflower, water, and tomatoes. Stir, cover, turn down heat, and simmer until cauliflower is almost tender (5-10 mins). Add chickpeas and peas, cook until cauliflower is tender, garnish and serve with couscous.
Monday, June 9, 2008
I blame Rachel Ray with her annoying EVOO thing. I think she started using "EVOO" just so she wouldn't have to say the word "virgin" and make all those stay-at-home moms sweat something unnatural. And now look: our fear of a little v-word has increased our dependence on foreign (olive) oil.
More discussion on socially challenging v-words some other day. Maybe.
Ok, I kid, I kid. Regardless, I do believe that olive oil has become the basic cooking oil in lots of American kitchens, and the kicker is that no one can really tell the difference when cooking with olive oil or a basic vegetable oil. I've never sat down to a tater tot hotdish dinner at my mom's house and asked, "Mom, did you use triple-processed extra virgin olive oil to saute the onion and hamburger hidden underneath these tots? It's delicious!" Nope, never happens. However, US demand for the stuff has been growing by 20% every year, and out of all the olive oil consumed in the US, less than 1% is produced domestically.
Please pardon the statistics. I'm an economics nerd at heart.
Wait, there's a happy ending to this one. Being lucky Dakotans, we live in a sea of plentiful, healthy, homegrown oil: Welcome to Canola Country. Out of the 1 million canola acres planted in the US, 90% of them are in good 'ol ND and MN.
Hey, I'm not an olive oil hater; in fact, I really like it in salads, pasta dishes, and the occasional bread-and-balsamic soak, but for your everyday swirl-in-the-pan, kick Rachel (bless her heart) in the teeth and bring on the all-American canola oil!
Or Canadian. Close enough.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I've been wanting to try making rhubarb syrup for awhile now, thanks to a suggestion in The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider. In the spirit of improvisation, I didn't quite follow her recipe. I just tossed chopped rhubarb in a saucepan, poured in the last glugs from a bottle of strawberry riesling, added a dash of sugar, let it simmer until softened...and ended up with mushy green-pink-grey slop that even my dog would think looked gross.
But it tasted good.
So I pulled out the strainer, pushed the slop through, and ah ha! Beautiful rosy pink liquid nectar emerged. Treasure. All I could think was - ice cream!
I don't typically like anything fruity in my ice cream. I'll go for chopped nuts any day, but keep the strawberry corn syrup goo away, thanks. So I was a bit surprised that I absolutely adored this fruity syrup on my Haagen Dazs.
After a couple of bowls of ice cream and a pancake breakfast, the rhubarb nectar is now gone, but more rhubarb experiments to come...
Saturday, June 7, 2008
We North Dakotans (all 635,00 of us) sometimes forget how lucky we are to live up here. We forget that sightings of bison, antelope, and geese are unique experiences for others. Being occupied with the business of life, we forget that our livelihood is tied to the land, whether it is farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, or mining energy resources from our earth and sky. We forget that conservation is key to ensuring that our great-great-grandkids will be able to fish the same waters, hike the same lands, and breathe the same fresh air as we do.
If you have a moment, take a look at the article, if only for the majestic picture at the top. It's a reminder why we call this land The Great Plains.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
But I didn't tell you about the rest of my fruit trees.