Archive for ‘recipes’

November 17, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Cashew Butter

A little bit dangerous. That’s how all good recipes should be.

It starts with cashew butter. You know, like peanut butter, but with cashews, a nut which happens to come from a deadly fruit. But more on that later.

When I’m feeling ambitious I use my cuisinart food processor to make my own nut butter. The process itself is not difficult, but may cause hearing loss. When I think of the horrendous noise created in the first five seconds of grinding nuts,  I usually find myself at the bulk section of the co-op, using their machines to quietly place whatever quantity of peanut or almond butter I desire into my very own jar.

However, my partner Hannah and I just moved into a new apartment in Ashland, and the previous tenant (who we kind of knew) happened to leave some food items behind for us. The jar of kombucha I swiftly passed on to a more appreciative owner – I once consumed a bad kombucha and I don’t care to recount the experience, thank you.

The giant bag of cashews in the freezer was a happier discovery. First, I made a nice batch of cashew butter using just the cashews and a little salt. Like I said, easy in the cuisinart – just plug your ears until the ground nuts slowly begin to release their oils and turn into a paste. The longer you let it run, the creamier it becomes.

Hannah and I have a rule in the house – if someone cooks, the other person has to do the dishes. Exceptions are my special cooking projects, which have been known to dirty every dish in the kitchen without producing anything edible – like when I try to make bread.

Unfortunately, my dear sweetheart doesn’t have a particular fondness for cashews, buttered or not. Since the food processor is notoriously time-consuming and annoying to wash, I knew I had to make something more exciting in it to be able to convince Hannah to wash it for me.

Enter the eggplant. When the late-summer abundance of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes hits, and the daytime temperatures start dropping, I love tossing everything in olive oil and roasting it in the oven. Roasting is to vegetables what grinding in the food processor is to nuts!

This recipe happened when I threw roasted eggplant and some other veggies in with a new batch of cashew butter to make a sweet, spicy, creamy and delicious spread. Although the recipe is not exact, I have attempted to record what I did!

Roasted Eggplant Cashew Butter

for roasting:
1 eggplant
1 sweet pepper
1 spicy pepper
1 bulb garlic
olive oil

for the butter part:
1/2 c cashews1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced
1 T Spike (seasoning available at health food stores, or salt)
1 T cumin
3 branches of fresh oregano
1/2 bunch of parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Halve the eggplant and rub with olive oil. Place cut side down in a baking sheet or pan. Leave the peppers whole, rub with olive oil and add them to the pan. Remove the outer skin of the garlic bulb and chop off the very tips of the cloves. Roast the whole garlic bulbs in the pan or them wrap in foil.
Throw the roasting pan in the oven. Turn the peppers when blackened on the top side. Once all the skin is black, the cooled peppers can be easily skinned. Roast the eggplant until the insides are very soft – at least 20 minutes. The garlic will be ready after about 30 minutes.

When cooled, remove the skin and the seeds from the peppers. Remove the top from the eggplant. Squeeze the uncut end of the garlic to release the roasted garlic “meat”. Set the roasted veggies aside.

Put the cashews in the food processor and let ‘er rip. When the butter is creamy, stop. Add the lemon juice, Spike, herbs and cumin. Add the roasted vegetables.

Enjoy on crackers, as a sandwich spread, as a pasta sauce or by itself.

Cashew tree picture from somewhere on the internet

Cashew fruits on a cashew tree. The nuts are in the cashew-shaped appendage below the red fruits.

Sidebar: Cashews are a pretty weird nut. They grow on trees like walnuts or almonds, but the tree is actually considered a fruit tree. It grows in the tropics only – which is why all the cashews you can buy at the grocery store come from Brazil, India, Africa or Southeast Asia.

The stem of the cashew fruit grows to be larger than the fruit itself, and is actually edible. People in the tropics grow them for this part of the fruit and leave the nut part alone. In fact, they avoid it at all costs. Why?
The cashew-shaped fruit, which contains the seed which is the cashew nut we eat, is filled with a caustic liquid that can actually burn holes in your skin and – if you manage to eat it – your gut. Workers have to wear goggles, protective gloves and clothing to harvest the fruit and roast it, which must be done outdoors because the smoke created is also damaging to the lungs.
I can see why Hannah doesn’t like them. She did, however, love the eggplant-cashew butter. And the food processor was washed without protest.

March 2, 2012

Kale & Roasted Potato Salad: Seasonable Satisfaction

Kale Some of us here in the abundant Pacific Northwest attempt to eat locally year-round. A friend from California recently scoffed at this notion. “Kale and potato” diet, she called it, due to the difficulty of finding much else that is local during the long span of winter months.

A recent surge in demand for local produce has enabled many farmers to offer much more than kale and potatoes year round. Still, if you’re on a budget and not a good food horder (in other words, you didn’t spend half your summer sweating over the stove to preserve the bounty), there are a few weeks when the local diet is limited to those hardy winter greens and the tubers that hide out in warm soil.

This is by no means a punishment. Kale and potatoes happen to be culinary compliments any way you slice ‘em – roasted, mashed, cooked in a soup or grated into pancakes. With a little creativity, there is no end to the possibilities, and before you know it, it’s April and you’re feasting on baby asparagus and homegrown arugula.

This is a variation of German potato salad as my mother taught me. Its fans are many and rabid, forcing me to publish the recipe to quiet their clamoring. Roasting the potatoes brings out their fullest flavor, and the yams add unexpected sweetness. It’s the raw kale, of course, that really gives this dish substance and a satisfying chewiness.

Kale and Roasted Potato Salad
serves 8-10

1 T stoneground mustard
¼ c mayo
¼ c sour cream
3 T sugar
1 T capers
juice of half a lemon
Spike or salt
pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste

6 small Yukon Gold potatoes
2 medium yams
1-2 cups kale, chopped to ¼-inch pieces
1/2  c parsley, chopped finely
1 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, diced
¼ c minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pickles, finely chopped

Roast the potatoes and yams at 400 F for 30-45 minutes, until soft. Allow 15 minutes to cool, then dice.

Meanwhile, combine the first nine ingredients for the dressing. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients with the potatoes and yams. Toss with dressing and serve. Better when refrigerated and served the next day, just be sure to bring to room temperature before serving.

October 8, 2009

>Blight Fright: Wheat’s precarious position in the food supply

>Your average aspiring self-sufficient, food-conscious home or community will likely contain a few staple ingredients or food sources that are local and sustainably produced (or at least as close to sustainable as mere mortals can achieve). You’ve got your farmers-market veggies, free-range eggs, organic dairy products, perhaps even some meat from a local grower if you’re so (gastronomically and financially) inclined.
But there’s one key ingredient missing from this happy pie of wholesome foodery. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to make any sort of pie without it. It’s grain – more specifically, wheat. In most parts of the world, its production is still stuck in the industrial, grossly unsustainable way of doing things, which is unfortunate because it’s such a central part of the Western diet. Had any bread, shredded wheat, crackers, pasta, or doughnuts today? Then you’ll see my point – wheat is everywhere. And while it may not seem to be in short supply, any person on a low income will tell you that the price of all of the above items has risen sharply in the last year or so. That’s because wheat is facing some serious global problems – disease, drought and heightened demand – that is causing the price to skyrocket on the global commodity market.
Clearly, wheat is another example of a food staple that is vitally important to re-localize. Having grains nearby, in the hands of hundreds of small farmers (or better yet, individual consumers with backyard gardens), instead of under the lock and key of four or five global conglomerates, makes their availability a surer bet. Only problem is, if you’re trying to be a locavore, bread and wheat products are one area in which you’re likely to break the local-food diet on a regular basis. Farmers growing for a local market tend to stick to vegetables, meat and eggs. Because of the processing (grinding into flour and other products) needed, wheat and other grains have managed to stay centralized, distributed from regional mills.
Let’s follow a typical pound of flour from the field to your morning pancakes. Once the grain is harvested (whether that farm is organic or conventional) it goes to a regional collection point. In Oregon, for example, all the wheat grown by farmers in the Willamette Valley (the main agricultural part of the state) gets trucked up to temporary storage somewhere near Portland. From there, it goes onto containers headed for Asia. That’s right. For all the millions of acres of grain produced close to home, only a tiny percentage of it makes it to the state’s only commercial grain milling facility in Eugene, and an even smaller percentage is actually consumed in the state. So those pancakes you ate this morning were more likely to be made from grain from the Midwest than from close to home. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure, thanks to centralized distribution.
Sounds crazy, you say? Sorry, it’s all economics. The lowest price can only be obtained by controlling the supply through a limited number of processing facilities and shipping it out to retailers as needed. Do you like your cheap box of pancake mix? Do you? Well, then don’t ask so many questions.

In the meantime, local-food advocates keep harping on the need to circumvent this consolidated system – which applies not only to wheat but also just about any food product you can think of – and reestablish direct producer-to-consumer relationships. But why? Put simply, it’s a matter of food security. This means two things: the safety of the food we actually consume, and our ability to obtain it in the first place.
Let’s go back to the bag of mix you used to make your pancakes. Contamination in centralized processing plants (which is what recently compromised the safety of peanuts), isn’t the only problem. Black stem rust, a fungus that attacks wheat plants, is a looming but under-reported threat to wheat harvests around the world. It’s been around a long time – probably as long as wheat has been domesticated – but modern-day strains have been bred to resist the fungus. Now, as if it’s starring in its own terrible sci-fi flick, it’s back – with a vengeance. The fungus has finally evolved the genetic upper hand to destroy previously immune plants. Scientists are calling the new strain Ug99, for the country, Uganda, where it has hit the hardest, leaving behind acre upon acre of ashen, inedible wheat. It seems to be getting more virulent as it progresses, and is so immediately devastating to crops that the US (who else?) once bred it as a biological weapon.
We shouldn’t have bothered – Ug99 is wreaking havoc all on its own, causing famine and strife all over Africa and the Middle East. We’re not hearing much about it now, but as soon as it spreads to developed countries, I imagine that we will hear more.
Ironically, even Norman Bourlag, the much-lauded father of the “green revolution” and industrial agriculture, had to admit that the Ug99 problem is an unintended side-effect of the way conventional agriculture seeks to extract the most production out of a given piece of land. According to this article in NewScientist:

Ug99 will find agriculture has changed to its liking in the decades stem rust has been away. “Forty years ago most wheat wasn’t irrigated and heavily fertilised,” says Borlaug. Now, thanks to the Green Revolution he helped bring about, it is. That means modern wheat fields are a damper, denser thicket of stems, where dew can linger till noon – just right for fungus.

What Borlaug fails to mention is that not only do wheat plants grow closer together now than ever before, those plants are genetically identical thanks to hybridization. Farmers don’t save their own wheat for replanting, they buy it from a seed company (ie, Monsanto), which has developed wheat genetically programmed to produce the highest yield possible. So when a disease or fungus like Ug99 hits the genetic jackpot that allows it to destroy a wheat plant, it can destroy virtually all wheat plants, because there are only a few varieties grown in the world.
Ug99 isn’t the only threat to the world’s food supply, either. Since the beginning of the year, farmers in Canada and the Midwest have noticed a sharp increase in cases of Fusarium head blight, another fungus that affects wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn and grasses used to feed livestock. This one is sneakier: it doesn’t destroy plants right away but makes their grain toxic to consume. That means any slip-up in our notoriously shaky food-safety inspection system could poison hundreds or thousands of innocent pancake-eaters.
The most frustrating part about all of this is that there’s not much the average consumer can do to voice his or her protest against the way wheat is grown and distributed. Sure, we can buy organic, but organic grain is no more resistant to the diseases bred by conventional agriculture than its chemically nurtured counterparts. And “big organic” uses centralized distribution systems that, like any centralized system, erase the connections between producer and consumer until it’s impossible to tell where any given bag of flour was grown.
Still, one thing organic growers can’t do is spray their fields down with fungicide at the slightest hint of black stem rust, which is what conventional growers will surely do. And there is one way to ensure both the supply and safety of your wheat: grow and mill it yourself. I’m not being facetious. It takes surprisingly little grain to feed a family (ten families can live off one measly acre, according to an anonymous informational signboard at the Port Alberni fair last month), and there are actually super-compact mills built today that you can squeeze under your kitchen sink. Unless you live next door to a giant commercial wheat farm, there’s little chance of any global wheat pandemics affecting your plants.
Unfortunately, I have no personal experience with wheat cultivation, so I won’t instruct you on it here (perhaps in a future blog!) Instead, I’ll post yet another recipe, one that I’ve become quite familiar with since becoming the designated baker of Collins Farm. I’ve been making bread practically since I could reach the kitchen counter, but only started making yeast-free bread this summer. It has a unique flavor and texture but a dedicated fan base at our farm market. I’m a bit conflicted about selling it since bread is so deliciously simple to make, so I’m hoping making the recipe public will make kitchen revolutionaries out of a few of you.
The most important step is to find some local flour. If you live in Oregon, the local grain I discussed above is sold under the name Bob’s Red Mill. You can probably also find local farmers that grow grains if you ask around (try Willamette Farm and Food Coalition’s directory) If you live in Port Alberni, find Wayne Smith at the Farmer’s Market at the Harbor Quay – he sources his own organic grain and grinds it up fresh. It’s incredible stuff.

Tuula’s Whole Grain Bread
Makes 2 loaves

To make from starter:
Starter takes about 48 hours to ferment, but it makes awesome bread and eliminates the need for yeast. I start in the morning two days before I want to make bread. Combine a cup of water and a cup of whole wheat flour in an airtight container. Keep it in a warm place where it won’t be disturbed (in the oven with the light on is good). The next morning, “feed” it by adding another cup of flour and another cup of water. It should be bubbly and smell “yeasty”. Set it aside again until you make your bread (that evening or the next morning). You can keep the starter going for as long as you like but it will turn into sourdough starter after about a week (you can find lots of instructionals online for making sourdough bread this way).

To make from yeast:
Use active dry yeast (not instant) or fresh yeast, which is available from bakeries.
In a large bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons molasses or honey* in 2 cups lukewarm water (no hotter than 115 degrees). Sprinkle in 1 ½ tablespoons yeast and allow to sit for ten minutes, or until it looks bubbly.

*Molasses gives a nice dark color to the bread but some prefer the flavor of honey, so use both if you like.

Bread recipe
2 cups starter or 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 ½ cups water (in addition to water used in yeast method)
2 tablespoons molasses or honey*
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or olive work fine)
½ teaspoon salt
7 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup dry 7-grain cereal
½ cup cooked brown rice (or substitute more cereal)
½ cup any combination flax seeds, sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds

1. Add 1 cup hot water to the 7-grain cereal, set aside to soak.
2. Prepare yeast mixture as above or pour starter into a large bowl. Add molasses (if using starter), oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Mix well (lumps are ok) and add soaked cereal, rice and seeds.
3. Continue adding flour until a dough forms. Turn onto a floured counter and knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.
4. Place dough in a clean and oiled bowl, flip to coat both sides. Allow to rise two hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
5. When dough has risen (it will not double in volume but perhaps get close depending on the strength of your yeast/starter), punch it down. Divide it into two loaves and place in bread pans or on baking sheets. Brush the loaves with a beaten egg and sprinkle on some extra seeds (this is optional but makes the loaves look prettier). Make a ½ inch deep cut lengthwise along the top of the loaf.
6. If dough was refrigerated, allow to rise an additional hour in the pans. If not, half an hour or so should do the trick. Again, the dough will not rise significantly but should grow a bit.
7. Bake at 375 for about an hour. Bread will brown on top and sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn onto racks to cool. Do not bag until completely cooled.

September 28, 2009

>Milk of the Gods

>My adventures in goat milking on Collins Farm, in five parts.

I. Inspiration

Food is delicious. We all know this. But there are some foods that are extra delicious, foods that make you drool at the very thought, foods that one would go through great lengths to obtain. These foods, of course, are different for each person. For me, chèvre, or goat milk cheese, is quite high up on the list.
Most people know goat cheese as feta, the tangy, crumbly stuff usually thrown on Greek salads and pizzas. Chèvre can also be made like cream cheese, a flavorful spread that’s excellent on toast, crackers, salad, apples and right off the knife. This substance is one of the things I would take onto a desert island; I would marry it if only it had a better personality; I would sell my own grandmother if it came right down to it (not really, but you get the picture). Actually, that’s the only downfall of chèvre: it’s darned expensive. At Safeway, a potato-sized log of low-quality goat cheese runs around five bucks. For a really good, locally made kind, you can pay three times that much. In fact, in my college days, my monthly grocery budget looked a little like this:
Fruits and vegetables (organic, of course): $60
Dry beans, rice, flour, tofu and yogurt: $50
Coffee: $20
Chèvre: $50
Well, something like that, anyway. Anyway, the point is, I like chèvre. Since coming to the farm, however, I’ve adopted a mostly local diet (my new motto is, “Will work for vegetables”), which meant no goat cheese. Until now.

II. The Goats

I have to admit that the goats have played a sadly minor role in my life on the farm so far. I don’t think I’ve even mentioned them on this blog before, and seeing as how everyone’s online these days, they’ve probably noticed that. So I’ll offer a formal apology and waste no more time in introducing them.

Miss G (left). This old goat belongs to Andrea, the fiercely independent mother of four who works with me at Arrowvale. In her prime, Miss G produced a gallon of milk a day, effectively nurturing Andrea’s kids through their formative years in addition to her own. When Andrea moved into a house without a yard, Miss G shacked up here, where she seems pretty happy. She’s fourteen, which is older than goats are even supposed to live, but though she’s a gummy, graying, rack-of-bones old granny (probably a granny several times over, in fact), she is the indisputable matriarch of the goat pen. Miss G loves kale, sunflowers and banana peels, and will head-butt anyone who gets in the way of her eating her fill. She’s too old to be milked, so I’ll move on to the stars of this story.

Spotty (center). Surprisingly enough, Spotty is white with black and brown spots. This spring, she gave birth to two little white goats, who we recently weaned along with Dotty’s single offspring. (Among goats, giving birth to twins or even triplets is the norm.) Spotty is a friendly goat who keeps her beard clean and would never dream of stooping to the shenanagins of her younger pen-mate. She loves just about anything, especially squash, banana peels and carrots.

Dotty (right). True to her name, Dotty is black with white spots and crazy, but more like a motorcycle racer than an eccentric aunt. She wears a blue dog collar, which helps when you’re trying to catch her, but getting close enough in the first place is the real challenge. Dotty has simple tastes, preferring goat feed (grain) to most other foods, but likes to try what the other goats are eating so she can spit it on the ground and crush it under her hooves. She smokes Marlboros and has a tattoo of a snake on her left shoulder.

III. The Milk
A few fun facts about goats and their milk:
Goat milk is consumed by more people worldwide than cows’ milk.
Goats are the earliest known domesticated farm animal.
Goat milk takes on the flavor of whatever the goat eats. If the goat has lots of sweet clover, the milk will be sweet. If she gets into something really bitter, watch out.
The ancient Greeks and pagans worshiped a god named Pan, who had the legs and feet of a goat and played the original pan flute. He was notorious for his lustfulness, going around making love to nymphs and instigating orgies. It is said that in order to remove this clearly dangerous being from the cultural lexicon, early Christians modeled the devil after the goat.
In Hindu mythology, the god Shiva also appears with the horns of a goat or bull, an incarnation known as “Pashupati”.
Male goats (“bucks”) smell foul. I’ve never smelled one, but numerous sources have told me they are fond of rubbing urine in their beards and generally being disgusting. If you keep a buck around the doe goats, their milk will also start to smell this way.
Goat milk can be consumed by people with an intolerance to cow milk, but scientists aren’t really sure why.

IV. The (not so) Tragic Departure of the Little Goats
All summer long, Andrea and I have been eying the udders of Dotty and Spotty wistfully. Their three young ones, given the opportunity to nurse long past the time they might have otherwise been weaned, got all the milk. There wasn’t anything we could do about it but laugh at the overgrown kids when they crawled on their knees to get under their short mothers. Really though, these little goats were a pain in the neck. They crawled through the manger where we would feed them and stand in everyone’s food, pooping on it and causing Miss G to roll her eyes in disgust. They dug a hole under their little barn so they could escape. And they cried whenever they thought they could trick somebody into feeding them.
Finally, last week, the little goats found a new home (a relative who needed them to give her bored border collie something to herd), so we undertook the difficult task of separation. The three little ones went down to a pen by the barn, and the moms stayed in their pen at the top of the campground. They cried for a day straight and Spotty escaped several times to go see her little ones. It was all very heartbreaking and would have made a very good Disney film where the baby goats are sold to a cruel circus master and embark on a long journey back home. In reality, all that happened was that Spotty and Dotty seemed to get over it pretty quickly, and the little ones started to get hoarse, sounding like squawking seagulls by the end of the second day. In the meantime, I closed in on our milky bounty at last.

V. The Milking

The day of the first milking was also Andrea’s day off, which put the duty of training me on Ann’s shoulders. I was desperately in need of instruction, considering I’d never gotten milk out of anything but a plastic bottle and my interaction with the goats has been limited to giving them their grain, filling their water bucket, and poking kitchen scraps to them through the fence. In preparation for milking, I found a four-gallon bucket and scrubbed it clean, then reported back to Ann. She eyed my bucket doubtfully. “Don’t you think that’s a little large?” she asked, politely. I shrugged my shoulders, so without another word we headed over to the goat pen.
Spotty and Dotty are pygmy goats, which means their heads reach no higher than four feet, and their udders dangle a scant eight inches or so above the ground. In fact, pygmies aren’t even bred to be dairy goats; they’re supposed to serve as petting zoo animals or as companions for lonely elephants in captivity. I observed their unfortunate lack of height when the first goat was on the milking bench in front of us, and immediately realized why Ann had had doubts about my optimistically sized bucket. I went to the kitchen for a smaller plastic pail and returned.
Spotty was the first one to come through the gate, so we started on her. Luring her onto the stand with grain, we placed a halter around her head. I tried to hold her still while Ann, who grew up on a dairy farm and ran one here for fifteen years, bent over behind the goat and began pumping out white jets of liquid like she was brushing her teeth. Good, I thought. This isn’t so hard after all. After a bit, she gave me a turn, so we switched positions. I placed my hands on the two fleshy teats and squeezed.
Nothing happened. I tried again, putting a little bit more muscle into it this time. Still nothing. Ann tried to explain how the trick was in closing your fingers one at a time, starting with the top one. I couldn’t seem to relay this information to my fingers, which simply pressed the teat uselessly into my palm. I had a the sudden, draining feeling that this was one of those skills bred into farmers, like knowing when the rains are coming or how to grow a pumpkin to the size of a wheelbarrow, and I would never get it.
In the meantime, the good-natured Spotty was putting up a heck of a fight. She and Dotty hadn’t been milked before, and I imagine the feeling of it was pretty weird. She kicked, she squirmed, she shook her head. I stayed stubbornly in place, my hands between her back legs, trying to gain in thirty seconds a skill that I knew would serve me well for the rest of my life. All I could manage, though, was to avoid her hooves when they came flying at me.
At that point, Ian, a friendly Australian from the Yukon who is on an extended camping stay here with his family, strolled up. “Want me to hold a leg for you?” he inquired. “Sure,” Ann and I said, and he grabbed one of her back legs. That put an end to the kicking. I applied myself with renewed determination, squeezing and pulling and muttering under my breath. Then, suddenly, I saw a white mist erupt from one of her teats. I tried to duplicate this result on the other side. After a few tries, a small stream of milk sprayed sideways into the air. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
When Dotty got on the stand, the project turned into a group effort. Reinforcements were called; Bob stood at Dotty’s head with Ann while John, Ann’s brother, and another fellow he works with joined Ian in holding various moving parts of the goat. A few other campers strolled up to watch this diversion. Farmer Bill, a neighbor who cuts our hay, rolled by in his tractor and threw in a few pieces of sage advice. I could feel sweat tricking down my hairline, fueled by frustration and the bright early September sun. After I’d gotten about half a cup, I handed it off to Ann. She milked most of it out, then gave me one last turn. I gripped her udder more confidently this time, observing that it was significantly less full-feeling now. We were nearly there. I squeezed out a couple of jets of milk, and Dotty kicked the pail over on me.

The next day, Andrea instructed me in the fine art of milk storage before we got to milking. In essence, always use a cloth to filter your milk, and use it up within a couple of days or it starts to get, as she put it, “goaty”. This factor may explain why goat’s milk isn’t popular in developed countries like the US and Canada, where milk travels long distances and sits on shelves before being consumed in a deteriorated, super-goaty state.
After we had gathered our clean containers, our udder-cleaning cloth and the all-important grain bait for the goats, Andrea and I went out to the pen. Spotty volunteered first again, hopping up onto the new milking bench that Bob had constructed the night before. Rather than hunching behind the goat to milk, Andrea showed me a different technique – sitting next to the goat, facing the rear, one shoulder into her side. I gave it a shot and slowly but steadily began coaxing milk into the pail. With my ear to her belly, I could hear the food gurgling down to her stomach and smell that clean barn-y smell that is one of the best parts of being on a farm. Gradually, I developed a rhythm, which worked for about ten seconds until my hands started to cramp up. Andrea expertly finished the job and we moved on to rebel Dotty.
Goats are smart, and Dotty figured out this game fast. At the sound of grain hitting the feed bucket, all three goats rush to the gate like cats after a can of tuna. Since Spotty is the boldest, she usually gets there first and slips out before the others when we open the gate. Dotty, though, hangs back, looking at me with wild eyes that seem to say “Come on in here and catch me. I dare you.” So I slip in, shutting the gate behind me, and face off with the little black goat. We size each other up, locking eyes and planting our feet firmly on the ground. Dotty makes a feint to the left. I charge directly forward, putting the rock pile in the center of their pen between us. She gallops joyously around it and to the other side of the pen. I follow slowly, keeping low to the ground, arms outstretched. Cornered, she makes a desperate lunge to sail by me. I grab her collar on the fly and stumble sideways for a few feet as she continues her trajectory. Andrea cheers and opens the gate, and I drag her to it. Before long, she’s on the milking bench. The fight isn’t over, but it’s certainly less intense than yesterday’s. Half an hour – and a few sore fingers – later, I’m in the kitchen following Andrea’s recipe for home made chocolate pudding.
This pudding is deliciously rich and not a bit goaty, but my craving for chèvre has not yet been satisfied (it takes at least a gallon of milk to make cheese, and we get about six cups a day). The adventure, in other words, is not over yet. But my fridge is now stocked with jars of milk and the time of the cheesemaking is near. In the meantime, go make some chocolate pudding – just be sure to use whole milk for maximum fatty goodness.

Andrea’s Fabulous Chocolate Pudding

1 c sugar
1/4 c flour
½ c cocoa powder
4 c whole milk

Whisk together dry ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Add enough milk to make a paste (about 1 ½ cups) and whisk until lump-free. Add the rest of the milk and whisk smooth. Heat over a medium-high flame until mixture boils, stirring constantly. This will take about 20 minutes. (We recommend doing your pudding exercises in this time: squats, leg stretches, curls with heavy objects lying around the kitchen. You can then enjoy pudding guilt-free. Alternatively, grab your internet access device of choice and watch this video repeatedly.) Once boiled, remove from heat and cover, stirring occasionally until cool. Eat warm or refrigerate and consume within three days.

August 2, 2009

>Stuffed Zucchini or Summer Squash

>It’s the age-old summer “problem” of gardeners: too much zucchini. We have them in droves, along with patty pans, which are a neat UFO-shaped squash. It’s probably the only thing a vegetarian might take one look at and think “Boy, that would look beautiful stuffed”.
This is a very flexible recipe, and I’ve changed it to accommodate various diets over the years. A vegan version would probably be possible by either substituting the eggs and cheese with some replacement product, or simply leaving them out and having a more crumbly final product.

Stuffed Zucchini or Summer Squash

4 medium zucchini, summer squash or patty pan (or one giant one)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 egg
½ cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil and/or sage)
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup bread crumbs (can also use part cooked rice or quick oats)
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss or mozzarella)
Olive oil

2 cups tomato sauce (to top)

1. Prepare the squash. Halve zucchinis lengthwise after cutting off ends; slice the tops off patty pan squash. Scrape out the insides and set aside. Arrange the shells in an oiled baking pan or cookie sheet with edges.
2. Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil a large frying pan until onion just begins to brown. Grate or finely chop the insides of the squash and add to onions. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the pan from heat.
3. Meanwhile, precook the squash shells. Add about a half inch of water to the baking pan and bake in a 375° oven for about 10 minutes, until shells are tender but not soggy. Drain the pan before filling the shells.
4. To the cooked vegetables add herbs, chopped tomato, bread crumbs, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Fill the squash shells with the mixture.
5. Bake the squash at 375° for 20-30 minutes, until tops are golden brown and filling sizzles. Serve with heated tomato sauce and enjoy.

No-cheese (low fat?) version:
Add one more egg, and increase the bread crumbs (or rice or quick oats) to 2 cups.

Carnivore version:
Omit bread crumbs, decrease cheese to ½ cup. Add 1 lb cooked hamburger or turkey burger to filling.

July 7, 2009

>Penne with Kale and Lentils

>Today we are a food blog.
One of my projects over the past week has been figuring out new ways to use the abundance of kale the Collins Farm garden has provided us with. This recipe was adapted from one I found on (awesome site), but I changed it enough to warrant calling it my own. My plan is to come up with a few more kale tricks before the farmer’s market on Saturday so I can hand recipes out to puzzled customers who seem to regard kale as some sort of alien lettuce.
So, with on further ado, I present:

Penne Pasta with Kale and Lentils

Kale is a highly nutritious and sweet-tasting green that is complimented well by the earthy taste of lentils, which add protein and fibre to this dish. The cheese is optional but gives it a bit of delicious creaminess. Add fresh garden herbs like oregano, basil or parsley for your own twist.

1 lb (fresh!) kale, cut into strips
2 lbs penne pasta, or any other short pasta (regular or multigrain)
1 cup lentils (any type)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (use more as you desire, of course)
4 T olive oil
3 oz (85 g) parmesan or other hard cheese like asiago, grated
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional, for added spice)

Cook lentils in 2 cups water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, steam kale for 7-8 minutes, or until tender. Set kale aside and keep the water boiling. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir, and cook until al dente (10-12 minutes). Drain and return pasta to the pot. Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add to pasta along with the lentils, kale and grated cheese. Stir and season to taste.