In the Living Kitchen

Musings, memories, meals in the making.


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Cabbage and Kale

We live in a world where anything we could ever want or crave is just right at our fingertips.  I know this.  And not only could I write one million pages on the subject of the effects of capitalism and globalization on the human soul but I also know that I am a participating member of this system.  I know I make cookies when I want something sweet, I eat nuts and olives, I drink black black tea.  I even bought bread last week.  (Well, my sourdough starter is long dead, that’s my excuse.)  The real kickers are dates and oranges, because, well, dates and oranges are produce.  Not to mention all the “things” I buy for myself and for my home.  I know these things, and I judge myself for these things.

I am also aware of all the books that have come out in the last five or so years, the I-spent-one-year-living-off-the-land books.  The eco-conscious-lifestyle-experiment books that inevitably end with the end of the experiment.  I know that most of these books contain a chapter on the excitement of seasonal produce.  (Oh, asparagus is here!  Oh tomatoes!)  Which seems ironic when all these foods exist year-round, less than ten miles away.

I am not knocking on the local food way of life, I am just pointing out the fact that this way of life is a choice, and it seems a sort of fabrication.  I feel like I am living proof of that fabrication, struggling daily with the pressures of my vain desires versus the pressures of my chosen way of life.  I live in a self made bubble, that exists only in my ideals and in my freezer.  Seriously, how can I ignore the fact that Sam works in a health food store?

I would love to live in a world where I could not buy tomatoes unless it was tomato season.  And everything else for that matter.  But instead, I live by a rule.  A rule that I break OFTEN for foods that I cannot grow myself or obtain locally.  Which sometimes means capers, which I do not actually need, just want, a lot.

So what is this all about?  It is so exciting to me that I dug three cabbages out from under the snow last week.  Three cabbages that were small, but delicious and fresh.  It is so exciting that I have 100 kale plants that are currently outside, tolerating the 10-degree temperatures and staying sweet and delicious.  My excitement over having these cold hearty vegetables this winter season made me think of all the things I buy at Sam’s store, all the food I consume that I didn’t grow, all the enormous cabbages and kale from California I am practically purchasing by purchasing oranges, the irony of my accomplishment.

If I let these feelings overcome me, I might just give up.  I have always known myself to be extremely self critical.  Despite the strong arm of self criticism, it is, at a certain point, just weakness.  Which is why I will continue to value my bubble, my ideals.  I will continue grow food and to eat it, to spend less at the store, and to experiment in my kitchen.


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Giant White Bean and Kale Calzones

I came up with this dish because of giant white beans I purchased in Santa Fe, NM.  They are imported from Spain, which is totally against my principles.  It is for that reason (and the $9/pound price!) that I am reluctantly saving a cup of beans to grow at the farm next season.

I realize that there are a lot of steps for these calzones.  First, you have to make the dough and let it rise, then you have to prepare the toppings, and finally assemble and bake.  Oh yes, and don’t forget to heat your baking stone in the oven for about an hour.  The first time can be a real ordeal.  Don’t expect to eat before 10:30 PM, as many a dinner guest has found out at my house.  However, once you get the knack of it, can be quite simple to create all the necessary parts of a calzone throughout a busy day.  Also, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I do a lot of food preservation, so I usually have ready made pesto, pizza dough and beans on hand.  I highly recommend preserving locally grown foods for the winter, as well as extra portions of pizza dough and quantities of cooked beans.

Do not be intimidated by pizza dough.  It is the easiest, most forgiving dough, once you figure out what it should look and feel like.  Besides, I have done the difficult work of finding a stellar recipe and tweaking it to perfection.  I use half bread flour and half spelt flour.  The spelt flour lends an incredible flavor to the crust.  Use high quality olive oil; you can really taste it here.  I have only made this dough using a standing mixer.  It is extremely wet, yet, after several minutes of mixing at high speeds, it changes form completely.  Bread flour has a high gluten content.  The long mixing time and high water content allows the gluten strands to form and strengthen the dough so you end up with an elastic dough that turns into a crunchy, chewy crust.

I use the back of a sheet pan, heavily floured, as my pizza peel.  Make sure to use the back, so the rim doesn’t get in the way!

Giant White Bean and Kale Calzones

FOR THE DOUGH

Adapted from Sam Sifton.

1-1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur brand)

1-1/2 cups whole spelt flour (I use a locally grown and milled flour, Wild Hive brand)

1-1/2 cups cool water, with about 1 TBS removed

1 tsp active dry yeast (use 3/4 tsp if you are making this the day before baking)

2 tsp sea salt

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

In the bowl of a heavy duty standing mixer, whisk the flours, yeast and salt together.  Add the water and olive oil.  Using the paddle attachment (not the dough hook) mix the dough on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium-high for about 8 minutes.  The dough will be wet.  Stop the mixer when the dough forms a ball and pulls completely away from the sides.  This should take at least 5 minutes.  If it happens before 5 minutes, the dough is not wet enough, if it never happens, you need to add more flour.  Always add flour 1-2 TBS at a time.

Let dough rest 10 minutes.  Lightly oil a large bowl.  Turn dough into bowl and turn it over so it is coated with oil.  Cover the bowl tightly with a damp towel.  Let rise for about 2 hours.  If using the next day, transfer into the refrigerator after 1-1/2 hours.  Bring to room temperature 1 hour before using.

Preheat baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven at 500 degrees one hour ahead of time.

THE TOPPINGS (some instructions to follow recipe)

4 handfuls steamed, chopped kale

12 roasted cloves of garlic

4 TBS pesto

1 cup caramelized onions with rosemary

1-1/2 cups cooked giant white beans, sauteed until crispy

TO ASSEMBLE

Clear off a large work surface.  Heavily flour the counter top.  Heavily flour the back side of a sheet pan.  (I use a sheet pan as a pizza peel.  If you own a pizza peel, you can use that.)  Split the dough into 4 pieces.  Handling one piece at a time, flatten dough into a circle, about 10 inches in diameter.  If the dough sticks to your hands or the counter, use more flour.  Once you have achieved a good size circle, place dough onto the floured back side of the sheet pan.  Move it around a bit to make sure it isn’t sticking anywhere.  (Repeat this several times as you form the calzone.)  Spread 3 cloves of roasted garlic on half the dough, then 1 TBS  pesto on top, then a small handful of kale, then 1/4 cup caramelized onions.  Fold the other half of the dough over the mound of fillings.  (This dough is very stretchy, so you can gently stretch it to fit if you need to.) Press the edge together all around and fold it in on itself.  Make three small slash marks across the top to let the stream out as it bakes.  Shake the pan back and forth to make sure the calzone is completely free.  Open the oven and slide the calzone onto one side of the the hot stone.  Close oven and repeat.  I can bake two calzones at a time on my stone.  They take 15-20 minutes each.

Notes on toppings:

Roasted Garlic: Take head of garlic (or two or three or more), remove all dirt, and slather with olive oil.  Place it in a square of (recycled) foil (or one of those fancy enameled cast iron garlic roasters so you don’t have to waste foil!) and bring the sides up to cover it completely.  Roast in a hot oven for 30 minutes to an hour.  NEVER turn the oven on simply to roast one head of garlic!  I often throw on it when I am baking something else, just to have it around.

Giant White Beans: http://www.spanishtable.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=TST&Product_Code=8423964003092&Category_Code=alubias

Soak beans in water over night.  Cook in plenty of water for about two hours, or until the beans are soft throughout.  Drain desired quantity of beans and saute in a bit of olive oil and salt until toasted on each side.  These beans are amazing.  They really get crispy on the outside and stay soft on the inside.

Caramelized Onions: Use about 6 onions.  Slice ends off and peel.  Slice into strips from the center, like you would slice an apple.  Cook over low heat in enough oil to coat the pan for about 30 minutes.  Towards the end, add fresh or dried rosemary.  Turn off heat.  Add balsamic vinegar if desired.


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Spicy Potato Latkes

This begins a week full of recipes.  I was going to post two today when I decided I should just try to post one everyday this week. 

Most latkes recipes use eggs.  However, since our hens are taking the winter off, Sam and I have not been eating eggs.  This recipe uses ground flax seed paste.  I served these with applesauce.  I have usually had latkes with applesauce and sour cream, which has always been wonderful.  But we have also cut back on dairy in our household, so I served these will homemade applesauce.  Make no mistake, we did not miss either the eggs or the sour cream while munching these latkes!

Spicy Potato Latkes

I had latkes laced with minced jalapenos this week that were divine.  We grow our own food, and make a special effort not to purchase produce in the store.  In this recipe I used our own dried chilies instead of fresh ones.  I think they turned out wonderfully.

There are two key steps to making great latkes that one simply can’t ignore: squeezing the liquid out of the shredded potatoes and using a lot of oil for frying.  DO NOT skip these steps, believe me.  I have neglected these two precious steps in the past, only to be stuck with a burned, mushy scramble of potatoes.

INGREDIENTS

About 2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed

3 small white onions, peeled

1-4 dried chilies, of varying heat, minced

1/4 ground flax seed paste (ground flax seeds mixed with enough water to form a paste)

1 TBS salt

pepper to taste

high heat vegetable oil (safflower, grape seed or canola)

METHOD

Grate potatoes and onions with a box grater or with the grated attachment of a food processor.  Place in colander and sprinkle generously with the salt.  Place in sink and set aside for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, squeeze out all excess liquid, until potato mixture is just slightly moist.  Place potato mixture into medium-sized bowl.  Add minced peppers, ground pepper, and flax seed paste and combine well into the potato mixture with your hands.  If the mixture does not hold together when pressed, use more flax seed paste.

Heat 1-inch of oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  This will take at least 10 minutes.  Test the oil with a small bit of potato before proceeding.  It should sizzle and jump around in the oil.  Using your fingers, form small, flat patties, about 2-inches in diameter, and drop them into the oil.  Leave about 1-inch of room between the latkes as they cook.  They take between 2-5 minutes to cook on each side.   Place finished latkes on a towel-covered plate to absorb excess oil.  They are best served warm.

Makes 20 latkes.


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Seasonal Eggs

I have been doing a lot of cooking lately sans animal products.  Aside from the fact that I enjoy divergence from the mainstream, I am also slowly moving towards becoming a vegan.  People close to me know that I talk about this issue all the time, and I believe it is totally relevant to the farming and lifestyle practices that I like to share in this blog.  I  was a vegetarian for eight years and I was a vegan for part of that period.  I now raise animals and I feel like I have a better understanding of them and my relationship with them as food.   Which is to say that I find eating animal flesh and dairy to be more difficult than ever.  Along with that comes the fact that I raised chickens and turkeys for consumption this year and I have egg layers in my care, which I can’t simply ignore.  So I am at an impasse, one of many in my life right now.

Though I have not quite made the major lifestyle change I am moving towards, I feel like I can still come down hard on the use of fresh animal products in the winter.  Like I said, I have egg laying chickens.  I have about 70 birds in my care and they are not laying eggs.  Why?  Because chickens lay eggs according to the length of the day and there are only 9 hours of daylight right now.  The peak laying period for chickens is when the days are about 14 hours long.  Some people use lights for their birds during the winter so that the birds lay lots of eggs all year long.  I did this last year and I feel like it was a mistake, so these birds are just going to lay what they lay and that’s that.   Grass-fed cows produce less milk in the winter because hay has less nutrition than fresh grass and it takes a lot of energy for the cows to stay warm and nurture the calves that they will birth in the spring.  After all, in order to produce milk all year long dairy cows get pregnant and birth every year.

Someone told me the other day that a friend of theirs who owns egg layers purchased eggs from the store because their birds weren’t laying many eggs.  This made me wonder, why are people willing to accept produce as seasonal but not milk and eggs?  Okay, so maybe most people buy produce from the store in the wintertime, but I do not, and a lot of people in “local food” world do not either; at least I know a lot of people who won’t buy tomatoes or cucumbers at the store.  I say, buy produce from the store ten million times before you buy eggs or milk or meat from the store.  Organic, free-range, cage-free and terms such as these really have nothing to do with animal welfare.  As I recently found out you can’t even trust the word “local” when it come to the treatment of animals.  The animals raised  for “local” eggs, milk and meat could be raised just like they are any where else, in confinement, fed conventional grain, never let out to see the light of day.

Of course I will keep writing about this issue and I have some great recipes to share this week that are hearty and winter friendly and contain no dairy or eggs for any one else who wants to eat seasonally.