barilla and bigotry: not in my home

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Why would a heterosexual woman who plays the “central role” in her family and someone who deeply respects agricultural labor and good products and disgusted by waste throw away an entire unopened box of Barilla pasta?

Because it makes her sick to her stomach to support bigots who judge what kinds of relationships are appropriate and inappropriate.  So, from now on “where there’s not Barilla, there’s home.”  Join me and thousands of consumers around the world in cutting Barilla‘s revenue stream dead.

red and green tomato pizza sauce

IMG_5326I’ve been eating homemade pizza, and my waistline has everything to show for it.  lt’s made all the better by peppers and basil from the garden and homemade pizza sauce.  If you’ve made and frozen my tomato paste already, it’s easy to pizzasaucify it when you defrost it by adding some fresh oregano, black pepper, and olive oil.  I usually use two ice-cube-tray cubes per pizza.

But I discovered another way as I was experimenting with roasted green tomatoes: red and green tomato sauce.  The green tomatoes are fantastic!  They give the sauce a slight green-peppery edge, and roasting onions and garlic along with the tomatoes adds great depth of flavor.  Just add a little spice mix and you’re good to go.

Need more green tomato recipes?  Click the link or, if you would, check out my very first column in Eugene Magazine, in which I discuss the pleasures of green tomato molé.  It’s on the shelves now, Fall 2013. Planning to try some fermentation experiments next.

Red and Green Tomato Pizza Sauce

  • 2 roasting pans full of paste tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 roasting pan full of green tomatoes, cut in large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large white onions, chopped coarsely
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Seasoning to taste with celery salt, black pepper, fennel seed, oregano, smoked paprika, and/or Penzey’s or another company’s pizza seasoning blend.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prep tomatoes, onions, garlic, and carrot, then place in three roasting pans.  Exact amounts can vary, but try to make one relatively even layer in each pan.  Sprinkle with a little olive oil and celery salt (or regular salt) and toss. Roast vegetables slowly overnight until shrunken but still soft, 6-8 hours.

Grind roasted vegetables in a food mill, taking care to squeeze the onions and remove fibers when the mill is getting too clogged.  If the purée that results is still too wet to be a proper paste, cook down in a saucepan at very low heat to remove more water.  Add seasonings and freeze sauce in an ice cube tray.  For a standard pizza using store-bought pizza dough, defrost 2 cubes, about 3-4 tablespoons of sauce.

full soft shift into fall

IMG_4074IMG_5340IMG_4068IMG_4070Achingly gorgeous moment in the year, the arch of the back of the season, where we slip from the fullness of late summer into fall.  The faintest whiff of mildew and fire in the dawn, the tired air refreshed by rain, the thirsty ground and the changing waves, spiders hanging big in their webs, big shelves of chicken-of-the-woods, overripe tomatoes, piles of juicy peppers, sweet taut winter squash curing and waiting in the wings, and still an abundance of melons.  It’s hard not to be in love with you, Oregon, when you provide us with so many delicious yeses.

IMG_5352IMG_4072I’ve been so surprised lately by people who would rather eat piles of subpar grocery store fruit than a single, musky, almost obscene ripe melon just hours off the vine.  To me, it’s not worth all the change in China to give up that pleasure.

IMG_5339 IMG_4073Images of fields are Open Oak Farm/Adaptive Seeds; other images taken at the Lane County Farmers Market — chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms are The Gourd Patch; all heirloom melon shots except one are McKenzie River Farm; the Collective Farm Woman melons are Turnip the Beet Farm, new tiny farm specializing in rare varieties.

fermented salsa party

IMG_4080IMG_4077Salsa is one of the preservationist’s most difficult challenges.  In terms of flavor, at least.  Canned salsa always tastes cooked and too lemony to me.  And there’s this odd insistence in adding cumin and garlic, two flavors that I just don’t like in salsa.  Or oregano, of all things.  Perhaps I’m being too fussy.  But I really want something like pico de gallo but all year round and without compromises.  Is that too much to ask?  Well, I suppose so.

I couldn’t find a trustworthy and delicious salsa recipe online, so I had to make one.  And to you, dear reader, I present it as my latest gift.  It’s superior to canned salsa in all ways but one: you need space in your refrigerator to hold two half-gallon jars.  I realize that’s sometimes difficult.  But if you can’t swing that, do try a half recipe.  This one really should be part of your repertoire.

If you want to add garlic, you can, but just a few cloves.

The flavor of the salsa changes over the course of months in your refrigerator, becoming more and more sour.  It will still taste lively and fresh, regardless.  I find the extra sour flavor really refreshing on winter tacos and quesadillas, or stirred into beans.

Lacto-fermented Salsa

Yield: 1 gallon + another small jar for eating now.

  • 2 pounds white onions
  • 1 cup mixed fresh red frying peppers, green bell or long peppers, and/or hot peppers
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 6 pounds Roma or other paste tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • For each cup of finished salsa: 1 tablespoon whey drained from live-culture yogurt or another fermented juice (I used tomato kvass and green bean ferment juice, but I doubt you’ll have that!) and 1 teaspoon kosher salt (approximately 2 cups of whey and about 3/4 cups of salt).

Wash two half-gallon jars or four quart jars.  Pour boiling water in jars to top and let sit in sink while you are prepping vegetables.

Clean, trim, and quarter tomatoes.

Coarsely chop onion, peppers, garlic, and cilantro to ease their way into the food processor.  Working in small batches, pulse all vegetables except the tomatoes three to five times, and set aside in bowl large enough to mix 1 gallon salsa.  If there are any large pieces remaining, hand chop so everything is roughly even.

Pulse the tomatoes in batches in a similar fashion.  Do not blend so much they become paste-like.  There should be pieces of tomato left.  Hand chop any large pieces remaining.

Mix the vegetables together in the bowl with the lime juice.  Set aside whey or other fermented juice and salt.

Ladle the salsa into jars using a liquid measuring cup and a wide-mouth funnel.  For every cup of salsa poured into the jar, add one tablespoon whey/other fermented juice and one teaspoon sea salt.  Important:  leave about 3 inches of head space to account for bubbling.  Do not (trust me) overfill the jars.  Any salsa left over can be enjoyed fresh.  Last time I had about a pint.

Mix well, screw on lids, and place each jar on a plate or tray for any leaks.  Leave at room temperature for 1-4 days until bubbly and fizzy and sour.

There will be separation issues (see above picture).  Stir every day to push down vegetables and more evenly ferment. I find it impossible to keep the salsa pieces submerged under liquid and the salsa has a tendency to pack itself up near the top, so I am more vigilant about stirring and examining for mold.  It’s a quick, already acidic ferment, so I have been 100% successful so far in fermenting, but I do want to issue a caution that this part should be monitored.  I also wipe down the rim of the jar to discourage mold growth each time I stir.

When is it done?  Taste it.  It should be sour and lively.  I find it is best around 3 days, and the longer you let it ferment and get sour and fizzy, the longer it will keep in the refrigerator.  Mine lasts for many months.

Once it tastes good to you, refrigerate.

fermented sichuan green beans or long beans

IMG_4042 IMG_5314Even the most stalwart food tinkerer can fixate on a single dish; indeed, it’s our calling card to cooking.  For me, it was fermented green beans.  I couldn’t resist the soured, greenbeany niblets of long beans in a Sichuan dish I had in Cambridge’s Kendall Square (the now sadly defunct Thailand Café) last spring.  Long beans are what string beans fantasize of being.  Sometimes called yard-long beans, they are good in Thai and Chinese stirfries.  I often use them in curries.

So sour grapes, er, rather, sour fermented beans were definitely a goal.  Minced pork with sour beans is a well known Sichuan dish, so as soon as I returned home, I made quicklike for my Fuchsia Dunlop library and immediately put up a quart of the beans in the manner she suggested: full of warm spices and punchiness like rice wine, ginger, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, etc.

Complete failure.

The alcohol inhibited the fermentation, so it turned olive grey and salty, but never achieved the sourness I was seeking. The ginger tasted weird.  The other spices were a distraction, but I wasn’t sure if they were the problem.

So I tried again without alcohol and ginger.  Still bad.

So I tried yet again, but this time sticking with the pure flavors of beans and salt.  Much better, but I had been keeping the beans whole, which created an odd, rubbery texture.  I had thought that it would help them stay intact and not quite so salty, but the tradeoff was not worth it.  And since Germans slice and pound beans in the fermentation process for sour string beans (and when have the Germans done anything wrong?), I thought I’d give it a try.

In the final batch, I chopped the beans into small pieces.  I added quite a bit of garlic, and there they were: delicious, sour, flavorful beans.  They were indeed a bit salty, so rinsing or soaking them before stirfrying them and declining any more salt or soy sauce in the dish is a good idea. The longer they sit in the refrigerator, the saltier they will get.  I ended up quickpickling more beans in the remaining brine, and they were good, too.

The soured beans were stirfried with some fresh green beans, ripe red pepper, and a beautiful variety of burgundy leafy greens sourced from Good Food Easy and Adaptive Seeds along with the minced pork.  No other seasonings needed except for a cube of frozen chicken stock for sauciness. Delicious.

Fermented Green Beans

  • Enough beans to fill a quart jar half to 2/3 full when chopped into small pieces
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of whey, sauerkraut juice, kimchi juice, or any other similiar live ferment to help along the process (optional)

Chop beans and peel and smash garlic.  Add to jar.  Mix up a brine with one quart of hot water and sea salt, stirring to dissolve salt.  Pour brine over beans, add optional fermented juice, weigh down beans with a weight or similar so they are submerged in brine, and let sit on the counter for 5-7 days.  Taste for sourness.  When they are sour enough for you (I probably went for 9-10 days, in all honesty), refrigerate and let cure for a week before enjoying.  Rinse or soak beans to remove some of the salt before using in a stirfry.

need probiotics? like kombucha? try easier, tastier blackberry kvass

IMG_5417Yes, I’m a little obsessed with a fermented fruit beverage called kvass. I’ll admit it.  I just put up another gallon, this time with odds and ends I found in my freezer and crisper bin.  In my case, that’s tayberries, gooseberries, Gravensteins, and rose geranium. Surely the nectar of the gods.

I make no apologies for despising the nutritionist, food-measured-in-dietary-units national neurosis approach to dining, but since I’m clearly in the minority here and actually got some health benefit from my new hobby of making kvass, I’ll stagger on to the bandwagon and flop down, flabby and winded and horrifying, next to your favorite athlete for a moment.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention pleeeeease!

Last week I was feeling pretty punky and went through a course of strong antibiotics, a maneuver that would have guaranteed me a yeast infection in the days of yore.  Take acidophilous pills, cried the medical establishment.  Instead, I went red: a Russian drink so delicious, so sour and refreshing, that the Avenging Angels of the Grumpy sing, I only had a bit of nausea and marched back to health.

With this. Blackberry kvass. Behold.

IMG_5317IMG_3922IMG_5324IMG_5316If you can get your hands on wild blackberries and your neighbor has an apple tree, this drink will be even better, because it will be just about free.  Compare that to a paltry, precious glass bottle of fancy kombucha at Market of Choice!

The recipe is simple. Chop apples, add berries and everything else, add water and let bubble on counter for 2-3 days, or until sour and bubbly.  The last photo is the fruit strained from the jar after a couple of weeks.  It can be used for a second batch, which will be a bit weaker in flavor but still palatable.

You don’t need to add honey or a kickstarter for the fermentation like whey or a little leftover kvass from an earlier batch, but I think it really helps with the quality of the ferment.  I don’t do the double fermentation method, but if you want a fizzier, slightly more alcoholic drink (for kvass does contain very low amounts of alcohol thanks to the fermentation), place your finished batch in a couple of 2-liter plastic bottles, cap tightly, and leave for a few days on the counter until the bottle is very firm if you squeeze it gently, then refrigerate.

If you don’t have a gallon jar or want less, use this principle: fill jar 1/3 full with fruit, add kickstarter if you can, fill within a couple of inches of top with cold water.  More ideas of fruit and veg choices here.

Quick and Easy Wild Blackberry Kvass

Makes a gallon.

  • 1 large organic apple, quartered
  • 6 cups wild blackberries or frozen
  • handful of raisins
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup whey or leftover kvass to start fermentation

Add all ingredients to very clean gallon jar with lid.  Fill within a couple of inches to the top of the jar with cold water.  If you overfill, the bubbly fermentation action will make your jar overflow (take it from one who can’t seem to learn this lesson).  Screw on lid tightly. Check after 24 hours to make sure brew is bubbling; skim off any scum; and taste.  When it’s sour enough for you (for me, that’s about 3 days), refrigerate and let flavor develop for a few more days, then drink either straight or with more honey to sweeten.