Tag Archives: Other People’s Blogs

Pinned recipe: green tomato and apple chutney.

4 Oct
Pot of green tomatoes

The end of the tomato season.

The onset of cold weather brought the end of the tomatoes. Some had a blush of color—they’ll finish ripening off-vine—but most were decidedly hard and green. I was bummed. And I hated the idea of throwing them out. The only thing I knew to do with green tomatoes came from watching a movie, and breading and frying has never been my thing, so I went online to find a way to make use of the final harvest. Bingo: I found a recipe for green tomato and apple chutney on The Slow Cook and immediately pinned it. It was described as “powerfully good stuff,” how could I resist?

As recipes go, it’s pretty easy. Chop a few things, cook in a pot, add some flavorings, cook it some more, process in jars. And chopping green tomatoes is a breeze, they’re firm and don’t fall apart into wet mush. My favorites were the unripe black cherry tomatoes… they had beautiful emerald green insides, and only needed to be halved or quartered to get to the right size.

green cherry tomatoes

Unripe black cherry tomatoes taste like tiny tart apples with liquid centers.

I was a little nervous about knowing when it was done. I tend to want things to be precise: cook exactly X minutes, or let it reach a certain temp, that sort of thing. The directions here were to cook “until it holds a mounded shape when lifted in a spoon.” Errrrr… ok? I compulsively scooped it up every minute while internally debating what made a mound a mound. For posterity, and as a reference for others who want a visual, here is when I decided the chutney held a mounded shape:

spoonful of chutney

Is it mounded? I say yes.

And, that’s it. Process, and… PING!… you’re done. I halved the recipe and filled one pint jar (for eating now) and five half-pints (for storing/gifts). The chutney is supposed to get better over the next few weeks as the flavors incorporate, but what I sampled before canning was already pretty tasty. How perfect that the end of tomato season overlaps the beginning of apple season here in the Capital District. Don’t be sad when the end of summer leaves you with green tomatoes… make green tomato and apple chutney!

jars of chutney

Mindful eating: October Unprocessed.

3 Oct

October Unprocessed 2011 Logo

I consider myself to have a fairly healthful diet. I’m not overly fussy about every thing I eat, but most of the time I’m actively trying to make good food choices. And I enjoy eating things that are horrible for me in the remainder. And I’m ok with that. Still, for some reason Eating Rules’s October Unprocessed challenge caught my eye, and I decided to make the pledge to eat only “unprocessed” food for the month of October.

The term “unprocessed” is pretty tricky to definitively pin down. Andrew Wilder—the man behind the challenge—says, “Obviously there’s a wide range of implications in that word, and we will probably each define it slightly differently for ourselves.” He personally defines unprocessed with something he calls “The Kitchen Test.” Specifically: “Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” Well, I’m down with that.

So, here we go. I think this will be a rewarding exercise in mindful eating. I’ve had no problems so far, aside from the very first morning when I was puttering around the kitchen with my morning coffee and sleepily bit into a leftover ginger snap then suddenly remembered the date, checked the label and spit it out. Because those  “traditional” cookies also included a few ingredients like refined sugar, palm oil with TBHQ, and soy lecithin.

If you want to learn more about October Unprocessed, or take the challenge yourself, click the logo at the top of this post.

My first FSC Albany swap.

19 Sep

Yesterday was my first time participating in the From Scratch Club Albany Swap, held at All Good Bakers. I brought 6 pints of whiskey’d pears (pears from Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, NY) and came home with a basket full of things I’m excited to eat.

food swappings

Top row: Becky’s tomato olive tapenade, Kimmy’s spicy apple chutney, Stephen’s spicy ketchup. Middle: Farmie Market potato salad, Alex’s butternut squash soup. Bottom: Christine’s mini-quiche, harvest muffins by Nomi (I think?) Yes, this is 7 items. My post-swap swapping among friends was fast and loose, and I came away with an extra that I’ll repay with a future item (thanks, Jenna!)

I’m so happy I went. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and even though I couldn’t take everything home with me it was great inspiration to see the variety of things people whipped up. Like: now I have an idea for another use for my rampant backyard mint… hello, mojito body scrub!

If you’d like to try participating in an FSC swap, here are a few tips:

  • Arrive promptly. It takes time to say hello, sign in, set up your swap items and check out what other people brought. You don’t want to be rushed. I arrived 5 minutes early and lingered in my car until a few minutes after 4 to make sure I didn’t show up too soon, but there were plenty of people already there and setting up by the time I got inside.
  • Bring extra for samples. The best way to promote what you’re offering is by letting people try for themselves. I brought an extra bowl of pears cut in bite-sized pieces with toothpicks for easy tasting.
  • Mingle after you set up! Put a face with the food! I regret letting my shyness take control and not being bolder about mingling. If you’re not sure how to start a conversation, ask people what they made. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. And, when swap time comes, you’ll know who you need to speak with to nab that awesome _______ you spotted.
  • Take notes. Especially if, like me, you don’t know the majority of the people in the swap. Write down what you’re interested in and the name of the person who made it. Write down the number of the table, too, so when it’s time you can make a beeline to your most-wanted trade.
  • Dont limit yourself to six offers. You have six items to swap, but not every offer to trade you make is going to be accepted. It’s not personal, maybe they just don’t like spicy foods or have a food allergy or already have a freezer full of whatever it is you brought. So, offer away on anything you’d be willing to bring home with you.
  • Be quick during the swap portion! I’m a bit on the timid side when it comes to bartering and hung back a bit. FSC’s Christina urged me to jump in, warning people run out of things quickly… and it’s true! Though I had 7 people interested enough to sign my swap card, by the time I tracked them down many had already swapped away what they were offering. Before swapping starts, scan your card and see what people are offering you. If there’s something on there that was high on your wish list, grab one of your offerings, find where that person is, and get ready to gently hustle over and offer your trade as soon as swapping starts.
  • There’s always post-swap swapping. After it was over some friends and I were reviewing our trades, and one bemoaned not getting a certain item. It turns out I had said item, and in exchange he offered something I had sadly missed out on. Everyone wins!

Pinned recipe: Pear slices preserved in a light syrup… and whiskey.

14 Sep

The original post I bookmarked from Well Preserved.

Followed the instructions, but added a couple cloves, a wee dash of vanilla, and 1/2 Tbsp Bärenjäger honey liqueur. I also added an ‘e’ to ‘whiskey’ in the recipe title because that’s what is on the Jameson’s bottle; don’t mistake me for an expert in whisk(e)y semantics.

jarred pears

Whiskey'd pears! In a jar!

Edit: So, the original recipe as made provides a very simple sweet pear flavor. My first batch additions (honey, vanilla, a couple cloves cooked in the syrup) added a little depth but still ended up staying pretty close to sweet pear. I made another 6 pints for a local swap  following the original recipe, but adding 1T of the honey liqueur, 2-3 cloves and 1 star anise per pint to attempt to really spice it up. Hoping it’s not overkill. We’ll see when I crack one of the extras open this winter!

A “green” alternative for seasoning wood.

9 Sep
ikea GROLAND

Ikea GROLAND: Seasoned v. Unseasoned

I’m adamant about keeping the wood in my kitchen cared for, and I’ve long relied on mineral oil to season and protect. Thursday’s post about “herbal oil” on Re-Nest was the first time I’d considered the possibility of greener alternatives.

The product mentioned, BioShield Herbal Oil #2, comes in at a much higher unit price for household sizes: $7.50 for 3.4 oz (!) or $17.50 for 25.4 oz, compared to $5.29 for 16 oz of CVS branded mineral oil. Is this just capitalizing on the “green” movement? Or is this fancy version of linseed oil significantly better for the environment and/or oneself? I’d be willing to sacrifice some performance and some pennies if there’s a major difference. My amateur sleuthing (i.e. scanning wikipedia) isn’t helping to clarify much.

Until I learn more I doubt I’ll throw out the bottle of mineral oil I’m using now, but maybe when the container’s empty I’ll experiment with something new.

National Soup Swap!

23 Jan
Peanut & Tomato soup

Yay, soup! 6 quarts, ready to swap.

Soup soup soup soup soup soup! Once the thermometer dips I pretty much live on soup and hot toddies. So, an event like the fifth annual National Soup Swap is right up my alley! The lovely lady behind almost foodies hosts a swap here in the 518. This was my first year joining in the fun, and I was really excited to participate.

I immediately knew I wanted to make a peanut soup. In December a group of friends and I were leaving our rented cabin in Merck Forest–a great winter adventure, by the way–and hiked 2.5 miles out on a rather exposed ridge, in bracing wind and a combination of hail and sleet. Once we got back to our cars we drove immediately to the Blue Benn diner to unthaw and fill our empty bellies. I got the soup of the day, African Peanut, and it was exactly what I wanted: savory, spicy, hearty. It was the first time I’d had a peanut soup, and I was hooked.

Google provided many many interpretations of peanut soups, but in the end I went with a variation of this Curried Peanut and Tomato recipe from the February 2006 issue of Gourmet. I liked its simplicity, low number of ingredients and the oddly tasty combo of peanuts and tomatoes. My tweaks:

  • Olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • Madras curry paste instead of curry powder.
  • Fire-roasted whole tomatoes–I prefer the sweeter flavor of roasted tomatoes–and if this were summer I’d suggest roasting fresh tomatoes and skipping the can.
  • Unsalted peanut butter from the Albany Co-op (sole ingredient: roasted peanuts).
  • Vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.
  • A last-minute light sprinkle of brown sugar (note: this is the only ingredient potentially keeping this soup from being vegan, another sweetener could be used for those avoiding refined sugars).
  • Immersion blender at the end to smooth things out.

A splash of coconut milk would be another nice tweak if you wanted to tone down the curry spices. Gourmet suggests topping this soup with fresh cilantro. I like it served with a dollop of plain yogurt.

souper delicious

So fragrant, I wish you could smell this!

I can’t wait to try all of the delicious-sounding soups I walked away with: Albany Jane’s Black Bean-Tomatillo, Spicy Curried Lentil with Roasted Eggplant (with a Parivar Spices business card attached), Black-Eyed Peas & Collard Greens (love love love collard greens), Tomato, Fig & Beefalo with Fig & Goat Milk Yogurt Quenelle, Silvia’s Sea Shanty Spicy Clam Chowder and Renée’s Cream of Tomato, which I’m breaking into today with some grilled cheese!

I’d recommend Soup Swap to everyone. And if you missed it this year, don’t wait until 2012; why not host your own swap sometime soon?

Guest blogging.

1 May

Blogger Matt has been cooking his way through a 1970s avocado-colored Betty Crocker recipe box and had his arm twisted was kind enough to let me in on the Green Box-y fun! On a recent Saturday evening after a few drinks I stoleborrowed a card from him and stuffed it in my back pocket before dancing the night away. I managed to hang onto it the entire evening, and although the card ended up a little worse for the wear from the night’s shenanigans, no major damage was done. I was ready to take on the challenge of preparing the very fancy-sounding Salmon Noodles Romanoff.

recipe card

A bit banged up, but ok to go.

The recipe turned out to be quite simple: noodles are parboiled, then all ingredients (except cheese) are stirred together. The cheese is reserved for topping the casserole.

ingredients

Are you hungry yet?

Included in the ingredients list was the puzzling “dairy sour cream.” Dairy sour cream? I didn’t realize sour cream came in a non-dairy option. I opted to ignore the seeming redundancy. Yes, I used reduced-fat sour cream. Even with the substitution each serving of Salmon Noodles Romanoff still contains over half of one’s daily recommended fat intake. Thanks, Betty!

Then came “creamed cottage cheese.” What makes it creamed? Was it blended to be curd-free? I started to Google, then decided it wouldn’t be in the 1970s spirit to find the answer online. I tried my aged copy of Joy of Cooking instead. Lo and behold, right there on page 536 Mrs. Rombauer advised that creamed cottage cheese is regular cottage cheese with cream added back in to make the fat content equivalent to whole milk. Well, I keep light cream in my fridge; no problem. I started making an attempt to calculate the amount needed to bring my low-fat cottage cheese to the proper fat levels, then said, “whatever” and just added in a couple T.

After that there were no more snags. I mixed it all up and got the following:

mixed

Leftover from a previous adventure with french onion soup.

Now, if you’ve read previous Green Box adventures you may remember the brownest meal ever. I am certain Salmon Noodles Romanoff is right up there in monochromaticity. It was a giant bowl of beige. BK‘s reaction to the mix: “Betty doesn’t like vegetables, does she?” No, not really. Not unless it’s garnish or encased in gelatine, I’d imagine. Sorry, buddy.

The card suggested I divvy up the mix into individual cup-sized casserole dishes. I assume this is considered a fancier presentation than dishing out from one big rectangular slab of casserole. I wasn’t concerned about the fanciness factor, but couldn’t deny the advantage of using smaller, shallow ramekins: the resultant higher ratio of cheesy topping to noodle casserole. Luckily, I had just the thing(s).

ramekin

Left over from a previous adventure with french onion soup.

The little guys all lined up:

ready to bake

All ready!

Into the oven they went, and the apartment began to fill with the bewitching aroma of hot fish. 25 minutes later I popped those suckers under the broiler to finish, et voila! Salmon Noodles Romanoff!

final product

Mmmmmtasty?

Sorry the focus is off. I was so hungry at this point everything in the viewfinder was a blur.

Thank goodness the browning added a little more eye-appeal. As did the suggested lemon garnish. Betty also suggested a side of broccoli spears sprinked with slices of pimento-stuffed olives (PASS) and lime sherbet for dessert (PASS).

How did it taste? Well… it’s tuna noodle casserole. Except with salmon. Do I like tuna noodle casserole? Actually, I do. Especially when the weather is chilly and damp, as it’s been this past week. Sure, in a few hours my stomach would start rumbling and my dinner partner would complain his mouth tasted of evil, but in the moment it was kind of perfect and very comforting… as long as I didn’t dwell too much on our nutritional value estimates. In the end we each finished our cup, and went back to split a second.

I officially rate this dish: Not That Bad For A Bowl of Beige.