Fire Roasted Chilies

Every year my mom would order 25-50lbs of green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch Green Chilies are some of the best you can find and trust me, they earn their reputation. We couldn’t go through the large produce boxes of chilies without them going bad before we even made a dent so we would spend a weekend roasting them on the grill and then freezing them. Freezing really is the best way because they defrost fast under some running water and the skins help protect them a bit from freezer burn.

This year we are growing the standard Anaheim pepper. It’s not a particular spicy pepper (some of the Hatch varieties were incredibly hot) but they are perfect for my green chili stew. I harvested about 3lbs and since we were already going to have the grill going it was a perfect time to roast them.

When I was younger we would just roast them on a gas grill, but our gas grill here no longer is used with gas so we’re going to actually hardwood fire roast them. It leaves a bit more of a smokey flavor to the peppers, which is nice. The trick with fire roasting peppers is that you want to cook them slow and you do not want to place the peppers directly over the flame or else they will burn, which isn’t exactly what you want.

What you are looking for is blistering of the skin. You can get it a little charred but you don’t want to cook it so fast that the skin and pulp burn together and render the pepper useless for cooking. Don’t leave your peppers either because you’ll want to be constantly rotating them to keep them from burning while also evenly blistering.

When they are completely roasted the skins will separate all the way around the pepper. The green won’t be as bright and the skin will feel and look like paper. Sometimes they puff up but will deflate quickly when you take them off the heat. I have a cookie sheet ready that I will then place the peppers on to cool off before bagging them up and freezing them.

Fire roasting helps separate the the thick skin from the pulp which can then easily be peeled off. This actually depends greatly on the type of pepper you roast. Anaheim-type peppers are the best because the skins are thick while other peppers, like Anchos/Poblanos have thinner skin. Those are much harder to peel after roasting but they are really tasty to roast and can be a bit spicier.

Spicy Refrigerator Pickled Fennel

I didn’t think I over planted fennel. I only planted 10 plants but time got away from us and I only had used a couple of them. They were starting to bolt and I didn’t want to waste them so I decided on the hottest day of the year so far that I needed to pickle them as soon as possible.

Because it was so hot I decided that your standard pickles with the hot water bath just wasn’t going to happen. Our Wedgewood throws off some serious heat and we were out of propane for the outdoor burner. Refrigerator pickles, however, have minimal heat use so it really was going to be the best option. As long as we ate them up withing 3 months we wouldn’t have to worry about them spoiling.

Most people are turned off by the smell of fennel with is similar to black licorice. However I find when I cook it that taste and smell go away rather rapidly. The brine I made from this is very spicy so feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes. It’s also a bit sweet but not as sweet as bread and butter pickles.

  • 16 cups trimmed and sliced fennel bulbs (a mandolin works best for this)
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs pickling spice
  • 2 Tbs red pepper flakes

Pack the sliced fennel into sterile quart jars (makes about 3 quarts). Combine the rest of the ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Ladle hot brine over the fennel in the jars and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for 24 hours but best after 2 weeks. Enjoy!


Fried Green Tomatoes

I always wanted to make these after watching that movie, but I never got around to it until I had them at a friend’s house last year. This is a good way to use up all those green tomatoes that are left over when it gets too cold to turn them red. There are several different versions I have tried, with varying results, so feel free to experiment and see what works best for your taste buds!

Fried Green Tomatoes – Fried
5 large green tomatoes, or about 2-3 lbs worth
2-3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup (maybe a little more) bread crumbs
(I use Italian bread crumbs, but that is up to you)
1 tsp salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder (or garlic salt and eliminate the salt) Or you can use your favorite spice mixture.
(optional) about 4 cups water and 1/2 cup vinegar
Enough oil in a pan to be about 1/2 inch deep

Slice tomatoes evenly (1/2 inch to 1/4 inch think) and either set aside, or let soak in the water-vinegar mixture for about an hour. Put oil in pan and heat up to frying temperature (med-hi) Don’t let it smoke! Mix spices into flour and set aside in a bowl or on a deep plate. Beat the eggs and milk together and set aside. Put bread crumbs in a bowl or on a deep plate. Coat tomato slices in flour mixture, then dip in egg mixture, and coat with bread crumbs. Then place in hot oil for about 3 minutes, then flip slices over so that each side is a nice golden brown. Once golden brown, take out with tongs and place on paper towels or a drainer to drain off oil. Serve hot, and either plain, or with a sauce of your choice.

Fried Green Tomatoes – Sauteed
Same ingredients as above, but instead of frying, cook in a saute pan with a little bit of oil or butter or bacon fat.

Green Pesto Bruschetta

For as long as I could remember I’ve hated tomatoes. Raw tomatoes to be exact. We harvest hundreds of pounds of tomatoes every year and I can’t stand them. I like salsa fresca but it has to be blended almost smooth for me to eat it. If it’s got chunks of tomatoes I avoid them. So one would assume that I never was a fan of bruschetta. You’d be right – I never ate it because of the chunky tomatoes.

But I’m trying to change that. They still aren’t my favorite things but I’m being more adventurous. Some tomatoes still have this funky metallic taste to me but I’ve found that some varieties are OK and with the right accompanying ingredients they can be downright tasty.

Two Fridays ago we went over to Esperanza’s house for dinner. She served tomato, basil and mozzarella on crostinis and I really like them. Heidi and Ute also joined us and she made bruschetta with pesto and balsamic dressing. She made a similar appetizer with roasted peppers. These dishes were the inspiration for this one.

This past week we were visiting my mom in Ohio. It was both Tom and I’s first time visiting her there and we really enjoyed ourselves. The first full day we were there my mom hosted a big BBQ with her friends and neighbors. I wanted to make something for it and with her fabulous vegetable garden (hot weather plants just explode there!) I wanted to make something that featured some of her fresh garden produce.

Her tomatoes were perfectly ripe and she had some enormous bell peppers and the biggest plants of basil I’d ever seen. I saw her Green Zebra tomatoes and knew I was going to start there. At first I started picking red peppers and then thought that if I was going to do a pesto it would be neat to stick with all green bruschetta.
They were a hit and didn’t last long. There was even a group of women standing around them guarding them from any stray husband that might want to try them.
Most of this recipe is not measured out because it really depends on how much you want. The proportions are all by taste.

Green Pesto Bruschetta

In a sauce pan add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar and half a cup of red wine. Bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until mixture has thickened. Stir occasionally to keep from scorching.

Take 1-2 loaves of baguette, sliced, brush with olive oil and then toast lightly
Finely chop 3 bell peppers and a couple of pounds of tomatoes and mix together. 

For the pesto
In a food processor add 2 or 3 handfuls of basil leaves, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 garlic cloves and 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts. Start processing and add olive oil until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Add salt to taste.

Smear pesto onto toasted baguette slices

Mound tomato, pepper mixture onto baguettes. Drizzle some of the vinegar and wine reduction and then sprinkle each one with course salt. 

Serve immediately.

A quick how-to: Refried Beans

Sometimes life is busy.

Sometimes life is so busy that you don’t have time to do the things you said you would do for other people (let alone anything for you) and you forget to feed yourself for long periods of time. This, if you are anything like me, makes you do one of two things:

a) get cranky and stop doing ANYTHING and make some sort of ridiculous confection-y cake or tart or canned good, then don’t eat THAT, and become more cranky (about all the things you flaked on doing to tweak out on snobby French pastry technique, of course).

b) eat terrible, terrible processed/fast food that makes you feel nauseous (after a short burst of guilty pleasure, of course), resulting in complete body shut-down and avoidance-napping.

It shouldn’t take much to see that neither of these outcomes are anywhere near ideal (or even effective). I don’t have time to slip into these sort of patterns.

Sadly, though, I often don’t have time to make a decent meal for myself, either. What to do, then? How can I make sure I get the nutrition and calories I need to keep myself at my best when I hardly have time to EAT the food, let alone prepare it? How can I ever give up microwaveable snacks and boxed mac and cheese?

The answer was more simple than I thought: I learned to make refried beans. Now I can have chips/dip or a burrito or a taco at the drop of a hat, without sacrificing quality OR breaking the bank.

This recipe was sent to me by a friend (thank you, Natalee!). I pestered her repeatedly after reading her post on facebook that she was making a batch of refried beans from scratch. She says SHE got the recipe from The Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook (which I have not read…but Natalee speaks very highly of the range of recipes, as well as of their simplicity and quality).

I love that this recipe can be prepped overnight, and that the actual cooking time is very short. I love that it is adaptable to any number of flavor variations, and that it could easily be made lactose-free, vegan, or chock-full of meat and still be tasty. I love that when I have a batch of refried beans on hand, I do not feel the need to gorge myself on Kettle Chips (OK, well maybe *sometimes* I do, still. But that’s different). With a deep, complex mix of flavors and textures, these refried beans will make you wonder why you EVER bought that scary cat-food-lookin’ stuff from a can.

I know *I* will never go back.

Mostly, though, I love that making this recipe once a week affords me time to feed myself well without feeling guilty or like I am missing out on anything. My life might be busy, but it can still be delicious.

**a quick note: I have not yet reached a point where I am making my own cheese or tortillas. Rachel has posted recipes to make your own flour and corn tortillas, which I plan on making very soon. For now, I buy flour tortillas and cheese from my local Coop Market.**

Refried Beans
1 1/2 c dry pinto beans (I sometimes add black or kidney beans; whatever is around the house)
2-3 c water
1 tbsp olive oil (I actually use 1-2 Tbsp of bacon grease, which I always save when making BLTs).
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped green chilies (optional depending on how much heat you want)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp plain yogurt or sour cream
2 tbsp shredded cheese (cheddar/pepperjack/swiss are all nice)
1 tsp mild
vinegar (apple cider or red wine)
Salt to taste

Before making this recipe, you’ll need to start the beans (picked through for rocks and debris) soaking in 2-3 c of water – enough to cover them by at least an inch. I tend to do this in a big mason jar, but you can also do it in the pan you’ll later use to cook them. Once they have soaked for at least 4 hours (during which time they will double in volume – I usually just leave them overnight), put them into a pan on the stove and bring them to a simmer.

Cook the beans until they are tender (usually mine start to split their skins, at which point I know they’re getting close to done), and then strain them out of the cooking water (reserve 1/2 c of the bean juice for later).

In a large skillet, heat the oil/grease on medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and hot peppers and cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to be translucent. Add the minced garlic, and dry spices, and stir to combine. Continue cooking for another minute or so.

Add the beans to the skillet and mash them with a potato masher (or mash them beforehand and then add them). Some people like their refried beans nearly pureed: no lumps at all. I tend to like them more rustic, and I cut the onions and peppers accordingly. Do it however you like it best!

If the beans are too dry to mash into a paste, which is likely, add some of the bean cooking liquid until the texture is thick and creamy. Let the mashed mixture cook for another few minutes over medium heat until warm (it’s good to keep the beans moving so they don’t burn. I use a rubber spatula or a bamboo/wooden spoon for this). Stir in the yogurt/sour cream, cheese, and vinegar. Remove from the heat and taste. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust any seasonings (I find I *always* want more cumin and salt than I originally put in).

These beans will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or up to six months in the freezer.

My favorite thing to do with them? Quick and crunchy bean and cheese burritos:

Put some beans and shredded cheese into a flour tortilla and microwave it for a minute or two to get the beans warm and melt the cheese. Then roll it into a burrito, making sure to tuck the ends in so the cheese can’t run out.

Then fry them in a dry frying pan until they are toasty and browned on the outside.

Try it, and tell me it doesn’t beat out ANY other healthy snack you know of. Seriously. it doesn’t even taste like “I don’t have time to eat real food” food. And for me right now, that counts for a LOT. They are especially good with some guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on the side. You know, if you have the time.

Sunchoke Chowder

The recent nice weather has me dreaming big dreams of garden-overhaul: what plants to take out, what new plants to put in…how to put the greenhouse together, what seeds need to be started, whether or not it’s a good idea to get MORE chickens…

Spring Cleaning, it seems, is not restricted to the indoors this year. There have been some major changes taking place in the yard.
One of the goals for this year is to bring in more natives, more groundcover/mulching/nitrogen-fixing/soil amending plants, and try to plant only things that we will actually USE. Yes, there are many amazing, inspiring, and beautiful plants out there that I would love to grow, but some of them just aren’t right for this climate (hot peppers, pomegranates). Some are prohibitively high-maintenance (brussels sprouts, cabbages) and some I just never get around to eating (radishes).
I am also being more honest with myself about our limitations in this space: we are never going to be able to grow enough tomatoes to keep us in pasta sauce, salsa, and ketchup all year. Maybe those beds are better used for growing salad greens and root veggies and squash…especially since, in season, I can get organic heirlooms for $1/lb at the farmer’s market down the street.
Being more conscious with our garden plan will give us enough room to expand the crops we DO like, so that we can actually grow enough of them (garlic, onions, snap peas, beans, kabocha squash, mustard greens, beets, carrots, etc) to be completely self-sufficient and not have to buy them.

One plant that I have always been fascinated with is the sunchoke, or Jerusalem Artichoke. These plants are common in our area (though technically not native to this side of the US), and are a relative of the sunflower. You’ve likely seen them on the side of the road with their yellow daisy-like heads bobbing in the breeze. They’re everywhere; filling ditches and empty lots with their green leaves and vibrant blossoms.
In the back area of the yard, we have a lot of space where the chickens and ducks run around. I’ve been looking for ways to fill that space with plants that don’t need a lot of coddling. Hearty plants that can withstand dry spells and months of neglect.

Enter the sunchoke.
I figured if I was going to plant it, I ought to know what it was all about. I’ve had my share of sunchoke puree, and have had them roasted in a medley of other tubers, but didn’t really know much more about them, and had NEVER cooked with them. So last week at the farmer’s market, we picked some up. A quick glance at the internet said there’s much more that you can do with a sunchoke than just mashing it up and calling it a day. Gratins and casseroles, crisp raw salads, and many different sorts of soups called out to me. But one recipe really caught my attention: a cheesy, creamy sunchoke chowder with a garnish of quickly blanched fresh veggies and some chervil leaves on top – divine.

We didn’t want to go out to the store, so we used what was on-hand. Mostly, this was pretty easy to do (one of the great things about having a garden is there’s pretty much always SOMETHING to cook with). We subbed out the milk for some half and half and veggie stock. and because the turkey stock was frozen, we made a roux to add to it after it had melted, instead of putting the flour directly into the pan with the veggies.
I’ll admit, Rick actually did all the cooking here, and my main contribution was getting-in-the-way-to-take-pictures, and stealing bits of grated cheese off the cutting board. But he graciously wrote out the recipe for me, and here it is: a soup guaranteed to be filling and sweet and creamy and decadent. A perfect starter for a salty roast and a crisp green salad or a perfect meal all on its own, this soup is guaranteed to satisfy.
…especially when the sunchokes we kept start to sprout, and we can plant them in the back yard. Soup, anyone?
Sunchoke Chowder
makes 12-14c soup; serves 6-10

4 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 lbs sunchokes, cleaned thoroughly (but not peeled), and cut into pieces
3 large carrots, cut into rounds
2 c turkey stock
1 c vegetable stock
3/4 cups half + half
1 1/2 c shredded cheese (sharp cheddar and smoked gouda)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 sunchoke, peeled and julienned
1 carrot, matchsticked
1/2 large leek (I used the green parts and kept the blanched heart for a quiche tomorrow), julienned
chervil leaves (or flat leaf parsley), chopped
Thoroughly clean the sunchokes to make sure there is no grit or dirt in the crevices. Cut out any bad buts, and slice them into rounds about 1/2 inch rounds. If you are not going to cook with them right away, keep them in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.
Peel and dice the onion, and sweat it until translucent in 2 tbs of butter in a large stock pot or deep sautee pan (I used my paella pan). Add the carrots and sunchokes, and 2c of stock (any kind). Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the sunchokes are soft, but not disintegrating.

In a separate pan, make a roux with 5 Tbsp of flour and 2 Tbsp of butter. Cook until the flour is barely beginning to brown, and then whisk in the other cup of stock. Keep whisking until all of the lumps are dissolved. Mix this into the pan with the stock and veggies until combined, and bring to a low simmer to thicken.
In the meantime, julienne the garnish ingredients (leek, carrot, sunchoke – you should have about 2 c of mass all together when they’re chopped). Blanch these for about a minute in boiling water and then immediately transfer them into a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain, and set aside. Rinse and chop the chervil/parsley, and set that aside too.

In small batches, run the (now tender) veggies and stock through a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender. Process until the soup is completely smooth (you may see little flecks of skin from the sunchokes – that’s OK), and transfer it all back into the pan. Add the cream and cheese, and mustard powder, and stir to combine. Bring the soup back to heat, but do not let it boil. Once the cheese is fully melted, taste for salt/pepper, and serve hot.

Garnish each bowl with a small bunch of julienned veggies and a dusting of chopped chervil, and serve with a few toasty pieces of whole grain baguette.

Orange Braised Fennel

The rains have come again, bringing with them all sorts of delicious spring greens. I’ve spent the past few weeks starting lettuce and spinach (to be moved into the garden beds once this cold snap blows through), and am starting to notice all the delicious edibles popping up around empty lots and fields around the city. Miner’s lettuce and three-cornered leeks and lamb’s quarters and SO MUCH FENNEL.

One of my favorite forage-ables is fennel. It has so many culinary uses, and is so versatile. Yes, the bulbs don’t get as big as the ones in the grocery store, but to me that makes it even better. The seeds are fabulous fresh or dried in Italian foods (I put ridiculous amounts of it into my tomato sauce). The greens are delicious in salads. Eaten young, the bulbs are sweet and crisp, and don’t get tough and stringy like the big, older bulbs can. They are also SO EASY TO FIND, what with being EVERYWHERE.
I found this recipe a while back and knew I had to try it. I’ll tell you, Helene’s recipes are pretty spot-on and I tried to follow her directions as closely as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not the sort to have fancy liqueurs around the house, so I had to improvise with a little vodka.
So now I’ll let you in on an embarrassing little secret: I couldn’t wait for the neighborhood (or backyard) fennel to get big enough for this recipe. I bought the pictured fennel bulbs at the farmer’s market because I was impatient. The good news? Now I know the recipe is wonderful, and when the local fennel catches up, I will be ready.

Orange Braised Fennel
2-3 Tbsp sunflower oil
6-8 small bulbs fennel, greens removed
1/2 c fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice
1 tsp orange zest
1-2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, leaves picked off the stems
1 c water
1/4 c vodka
2 pods star anise
salt and pepper to taste
Cut off the ends of the fennel bulbs to remove any of the root, but leave enough that the pieces will not fall apart when they are cooking. Trim off the stems. Depending on the size of the bulbs, cut them into halves or quarters, again making sure to leave enough of the base on each piece that they hold together.
Juice an orange and reserve the zest. You’ll want to have at least 1/2 cup of juice. Let the zest soak in 1/4 cup of vodka, along with two pods of star anise, the thyme, and some fresh-cracked pepper. Add in the orange juice (and try not to drink it, even though it smells AMAZING).

Heat a large cast-iron (or other non-stick) pan with a few tablespoons of oil and sautee the fennel until it it is beginning to brown on all sides. Once it is golden, deglaze the pan with the vodka/zest/juice mixture, gently tossing the fennel pieces to coat them. Let this cook over medium heat for a few minutes to cook off the booze, then add about 1/2 cup of water and turn the heat down to low. Let this simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the fennel is fork-tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated and formed a glaze. Season with salt, and more pepper if needed.
If the fennel is still a little raw, add more water (or orange juice) and let it cook down a bit more until it is soft.

Serve this as a side dish with duck or pork, or as a topping for baguette slices spread with cream cheese or brie. Delicious.

Stuffed Mushrooms

I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions. Somehow nothing I promise myself in the dark cold of December/January ever sticks. Winter, for me, is a time of peaceful reflection. It’s a withdrawal, a hibernation of sorts. It’s a gathering-in and a taking-stock, but it is rarely an effective time to make any real changes. It’s too dark, too cold, too quiet.

Spring has always been my chosen time to implement any lifestyle changes: the sun comes out, the sap starts flowing, and all of a sudden I start feeling the urge to clean ALL THE THINGS. This spring I find myself particularly inspired to pare down to the essentials. It’s kind of an ideal time – I am currently moving rooms in my house, so everything needs to be sorted and relocated anyway – and I am enjoying the opportunity to make some alterations.
Aside from some new household rules (I am trying to subscribe to the “if it is not useful or beautiful, it is not necessary” school of housecleaning while chanting a constant mantra of “sparse, sparse, sparse”), Rick and I are trying to take some of this same organization into the kitchen. We will no longer buy more food than fits in the fridge. We will use produce before it rots. We will be intentional with our meal planning. We will go to the farmer’s market for most (if not all) of our produce.

Yesterday, we hit the farmer’s market early with a small list of items we were going to buy. We promised ourselves that we would not splurge on what we have come to call “very expensive chicken food/compost” (read: things that we will wind up stuffing into the fridge and finding later, WAY past their prime, and either feed to the birds or throw out).

We DID wind up getting some late-season fuyu persimmons because we were so surprised that someone still had them (they were still crisp!), and I grabbed a bag of Far West Fungi’s “open cap” mushrooms, which are the cheap ones that are starting to open beyond “button” status.

I love fancy wild mushrooms, and am a committed forager, but sometimes cheap and convenient is still going to win out. Especially because I had a plan for these ones: cheese and herb stuffed mushrooms to bring as an appetizer to our band rehearsal that night. Extra bonus? I could use the organic Sierra Nevada cream cheese I bought last week that was in danger of being forgotten about in the fridge.
Extra-extra bonus? They’re gluten-free, so everyone in the band can eat them!
It is a long, hard road to order, cleanliness, and a house that is not full of junk, but at least the food’s good. That’s gotta count for something, right? It will be an exciting adventure to see what other recipes are born out of my newfound commitment to use EVERYTHING IN THE FRIDGE.
Wish me luck.
Cheese and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms
(serves 4-6 people)

20-30 white button or crimini mushrooms, wiped clean (about 2″-3″ caps)
1 c cream cheese
1/2 c parmesan or asiago, shredded
1 large green onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp chopped tarragon (fresh or dried is fine)
1 pinch paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (for drizzling)

Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and set them aside. Make sure all dirt and debris is cleaned from the caps, and place them gills-up on a parchment-lined baking sheet (make sure that the baking sheet has high sides, as the mushrooms will weep a lot of moisture during the baking process).

Wash and finely chop the mushroom stems. Sautee the stems with the garlic and onion in a skillet over medium heat. You may need a bit of oil or butter to prevent sticking, depending on the type of pan you use. Once the stems are soft and most of the moisture has evaporated out of the pan, season with salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and tarragon. Stir to combine fully.

Remove the mixture from the heat (you don’t need to wait for it to cool, though), and put it in a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and parmesan. Stir to fully incorporate. This mixture should be thick and clumpy, but spreadable.

Stuff the cream cheese mixture into the mushroom caps, heaping the cheese about 1 cm higher than the top of the mushroom, and making sure to pack it into the cup where the stems were removed. Drizzle the stuffed caps with a bit of olive oil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the caps are soft and the cheese is just beginning to brown.

You can eat the mushrooms just like this, or you can then place them on a rack (so air can circulate under them) under a broiler for 10 minutes to dry them out a bit and brown their tops (recommended).
If you have extra filling that doesn’t fit in the caps, you can spread it on rounds of baguette and broil them just as you would the mushrooms (keep a pan underneath – the cheese is messy!) – this made a pretty spectacular lunch…and thankfully, it kept me from eating all the mushrooms before we got to rehearsal.

German Cabbage

note: Rick went hunting on Wednesday. He got 5 ducks! We have been quite enjoying cooking with and eating them, and I have a post planned for next week about what-to-do-with-organ-meat and a wonderful no-brainer roasted whole duck recipe.

I have some things I need to figure out how to say about hunting and meat eating that I’m not sure how to say yet. Still working on the finer points of why I believe hunting is so important, and I want to get it right before I post it. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I bring you a (totally non-threatening) recipe for delicious German Cabbage. Come to think of it, this would go great with duck, too…
I love my winter CSA box.
Yep I do. I might even love it more than its summer counterpart. Something about the delivery of a big box of leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, roots, apples, and citrus that’s fresh and in-season and healthy and ALIVE is incredibly satisfying.

Especially when it shows up unexpectedly at noon on a Tuesday while I’m scouring the pantry for edibles (and loathing the weather for making grocery shopping sans-car such an ordeal). Yes! Score! I can put down the box of easy-mac! There’s REAL FOOD again.
The downside to the winter CSA? It’s a lot of the same things every week. Onions, carrots, lettuce, greens…those I can handle. Oranges? Oh man, I can’t get enough. But somehow every year about this same time I look in the fridge and discover that we have a whole shelf of cabbages. This is OK. Cabbages last forever. But…cabbages? What to COOK with them?
So I get to work. I have an amazing Thai-style sesame soba noodle salad recipe which I got from my friend Alanna – we eat that a lot. I steam big wedges of cabbage up with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and celery seed – delicious.
But still the cabbages keep coming. They are incessant. I am tiring of coleslaw.
But deep in the recesses of my mind lurks this gem of a recipe. It is so simple. A side dish, really, nothing to be excited about. But once it’s simmering on the stove and the house is filled with the smells of onions, apples, bay, clove, and cider vinegar I always wonder why it takes me so long to remember to make it.

The recipe is originally designed for red cabbage, but is just as tasty (though possibly less pretty) with green. This time I actually chopped up some napa cabbage to add in, which gave it an unexpected kick that I quite liked.
German Cabbage
1 large head of cabbage, roughly sliced (enough to loosely fill your stock pot)
2 tart apples, cored and diced (I used granny smith here)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced into rounds or strips (red or yellow)
3 Tbsp butter
1-2 c water
1 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c evaporated cane juice (sugar)
salt, to taste
wrap the following in a tea ball or a twist of cheesecloth for easy removal after cooking:
1 bay leaf
7 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
5 whole cloves
Melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a large stock pot with a lid over medium heat. Put all the cabbage into the pot. Add the apples and onions, and about a cup of water. Let this wilt down over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until the cabbage has released much of its moisture and has decreased to about half its volume (this doesn’t take too long). Pour in 1 c apple cider vinegar, as well as the sugar and the spice ball and allow everything to simmer until the apples and cabbage are soft (at least a half hour). Add more water if the mixture starts to dry out.
Season with salt, and serve warm.

This cabbage is an excellent side dish to some beer-poached or fried bratwurst, a thin breaded cutlet of pork or chicken, some fried potatoes with dill (or some leek and potato pancakes with a side of sour cream), or pretty much anything German-inspired. It is also pretty darn good served up in a bowl on its own (as I have done more than a few times).

Chantarelle and Onion Dip

(This recipe’s gonna be short. Which is good, since it’s great for those last-minute parties where you still want to be a snobby foodie, but don’t have the time to make something complicated.)
It’s winter. It’s raining, and I feel like I haven’t been sufficiently warm or dry in weeks. Generally, I am not a fan of the rain and the wet. I would rather be sweating in immense heat than wrapped in a million blankets and considering baking cookies just so I can turn the oven on and heat up the house a little. It is grey and dark outside. I am trying not to be cranky (cookies help here, too).
That said, rain makes the mushrooms grow. A LOT of rain makes the mushrooms grow A LOT.
For this I am glad. I can look out at the storm and think of the chantarelles poking their little orange caps out of the duff and unfurling into beautiful flower-like plumage, and be grateful.
NOTE: Always be sure of your foraged foods. There are many dangerous look-alike mushrooms/plants/berries/etc out there, and it is better to throw them away than to eat something you are unsure of. Bring an expert with you when you are learning, ALWAYS check for identifying factors even when you’re pretty certain you know what you’ve picked, and with any new food, check for allergies and sensitivities by going easy/light the first time eating something. If you are not comfortable foraging, you can buy wild mushrooms at many grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or even online.
Rick and I went out to our secret chantarelle spot on Wednesday hoping that the recent downpours (coupled with the holiday festivities) might have given the mushrooms a little bit of time to grow without being immediately snatched up by some enterprising forager. It’s a tricky game, foraging so close to home – there are more people looking than there is food to go around, and timing is EVERYTHING. We were either going to get completely skunked, or we were going to find a patch that no one had been to in a while, and hit it big.
This time, it seems events had conspired to send us scrambling through the mud right after a professional harvester had gone through (many people pick chantarelles and other “gourmet” mushrooms for profit, selling them to nearby restaurants and specialty stores). This means a few things:
First, it meant we had our work cut out for us. Many areas had been cleaned pretty thoroughly and we found the marks of where chantarelles HAD been more often than we found the chanties themselves.
Second, it meant that we had a great advantage – professional foragers who are selling their harvest will not keep mushrooms that are not pretty. If they are too hard to clean or are slightly past their prime, they will often be discarded. These are left to rot (and inoculate the ground with their spores for future generations of mushrooms to grow).
Third, it meant we were going to have to go a little farther out than we normally do, finding where the other guys DIDN’T go because it was inconvenient or inefficient from a large-scale business standpoint.
The first sign that we were going to have a good haul was finding several already-cleaned mushrooms sitting by the side of the path. Not the most beautiful specimens – some had holes from slugs and other insects, others were torn or getting a little soft around the edges, but I’m not so picky about these things, and gladly scooped them up.
A good hint: when foraging, keep at least two separate places to store your mushrooms. One for the clean ones (which can be brushed off in the field and the stem cut to remove all external dirt), and one for the ones that will need to be thoroughly washed due to mud, etc. This way the clean ones STAY clean. Also bring a few baggies for taking samples of unknown mushrooms that you want to identify later (but may not be edible) , or for separating different kinds. These practices will save you hours of work in the long run.
High up over the first hill (and through a thicket of berry bushes and poison oak – thank god for Tecnu!), we found where the pros had left off. BINGO.
A few hours later we emerged from the underbrush triumphant: ten pounds of chantarelles! Our hard work and willingness to get *ridiculously* muddy had paid off, and our packs were loaded to the point of overflow.

One of the best secrets in making use of foraged edibles: The ugly-but-still-tasty ones should be cooked first, and cooked small. After a thorough wash and a pat dry, the salvageable bits were chopped and dry-sauteed , mixed with caramelized onions and sour cream, and left for the flavors to meld overnight.

This dip is perfect served on rounds of baguette (I baked some whole wheat/oat baguettes that were pretty spectacular), or with breadsticks, chips, or even veggies! The floral sweetness of the chantarelles mixed with the deep pungency of the onions and the tang of sour cream combine to make a delectable and earthy dip that is a winner on any table.

Chantarelle and Onion Dip
1-2 lbs chantarelles (this is a wet weight, if your mushrooms are dry, you can scale back this amount a bit). It was about 4 cups, raw and chopped, but we made a LOT of dip.
1 large yellow onion
2 Tbsp butter
6-8 c sour cream (you can substitute non-fat yogurt or even yogurt cheese for part or all of this, but it is tastier with more fat in it)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Chop the chantarelles into small pieces (roughly 1 cm cubes) and put them in a dry skillet over medium heat. They will weep out a lot of water, which should be cooked off until it is nearly all evaporated from the pan. Remove these from the pan and set aside. Melt the butter in the hot pan, and sweat the onion (diced medium-to-fine) until brown and caramelized, adding in the mushrooms at the end of the cooking time. Stir to combine, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the sour cream with any yogurt or other milk product of choice until completely incorporated and smooth. Mix in the mushrooms and onions as well as a bit of salt and black pepper (go lightly here – you’ll want to re-season after the dip has had time to age and meld).
Let this dip sit for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator (overnight is better) to let the flavors combine and mature. Re-season with salt and pepper if necessary before serving.

(this dip can also be made with frozen chantarelles, as prepped in this post. Just thaw and mix with the sour cream as written above.)