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Polenta from Home-grown Corn

7 Nov

(from July when fresh beans were in season) Once you have jars of colorful flint corn on the counter, you look for things to do with them… what about fresh red-and-blue polenta, with slow-cooked dragon tongue beans and boiled fresh shelling beans (both also from the garden), a fried egg, and a fresh corn and tomato salad?

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Even if my favorite use of dry corn has been cornmeal pancakes, soft polenta is a nice part of a low-effort but several-hour dinner, and something I make a few times a year.

I started with 3/4 cup of dry kernels and ground them into a medium-fine cornmeal (about 1 cup). I boiled 4 cups of water with a little salt, whisked in the cornmeal, brought it briefly to a boil, then reduced it to a low simmer (adding water once when it seemed to be drying out). About an hour later, it was ready to eat, and I melted in a pat of butter.

The dragon tongue beans fresh from our garden are honestly nice just blanched and very briefly sauteed in oil with a torpedo onion or shallot, even if this time I took the more time-consuming slow-cooked vegetable approach.

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Winter Squash with Cardamom, Tahini, and Lime

31 Oct

My recent favorite way to eat winter squash is from the recipe in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and a recent harvest of kabocha squash from our garden was a good excuse to make it again. The unexpected combination of roasted squash, fresh limes, tahini, and cardamom is remarkable:

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Preheat the oven to 400.

Start by peeling two limes (removing the pith and skin as well), slicing into rounds, and quartering (see the size in the photo above). Set them aside with a few pinches of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Peel the squash, remove the seeds, and slice it into thin slices. I used half of a kabocha as part of a hearty dinner for two. Grind 1 Tbsp (!) of cardamom seeds, a few allspice berries (or 1 tsp of allspice), a pinch of salt, and mix with 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil. Toss the squash in this, lay it out on parchment paper on a baking tray, and roast for 15-20 minutes until soft.

Mix 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 Tbsp of tahini, 1 Tbsp lime juice, a pinch of salt, and a few Tbsp water (enough to thin the sauce out until it’s thick but you can pour it).

Lay out the squash, the lime sections, drizzle with the yogurt sauce, and garnish with cilantro and a thin-sliced serrano pepper.

Corn Muffins 5 Ways (from Backyard Corn)

23 Jun

(from last winter) What do you do when you grow five different varieties of colorful heirloom corn in the back yard?

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Grind them into cornmeal and make individual corn muffins, of course:

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Some day I’ll type up some notes on the corn growing itself– it was very fulfilling and an interesting challenge (especially the hand-pollinating due to the small area under cultivation and desire to keep separate varieties from cross-pollinating).

We couldn’t really taste a difference between muffins made with different corn (as expected, I suppose), though in a blind taste test H and I did both pick out the muffin made with Oaxacan Green corn as our favorite and a bit “nuttier” than the others… and we tasted a big difference between our freshly-ground dried corn (any variety) and cornmeal-from-a-box.

Vin d’Orange

15 Jun

I’ve had Vin d’Orange in restaurants as an apertif a handful of times, and only really knew that it was a tart, slightly bitter, orange-flavored wine (citrus + bitter: right up my alley).

Then earlier this year I read Samin’s description of making it and was inspired, during the brief window with sour Seville oranges were available at Monterey Market:

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After 40 days soaking a mix of rose wine, a little vodka, sugar, a whole vanilla bean, and sour oranges (tasting every few days), it was nicely bitter, and I strained and bottled almost 12 bottles of it.

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This gave me an excuse to buy a wine bottle corker, heat-shrinkable capsules to cover the corks, and with H design a label:

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I even made a small pint-size batch with the three Chinotto sour oranges we harvested from a container-bound backyard tree:

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After another 4 months aging in bottles it’s starting to develop– the initial bitterness has mellowed and it’s nice to sip / feels like it wakes up the taste buds. There is still a bit of bitter aftertaste a minute after you stop drinking it– but I’ve read I may want to let it age a full year or more to really come in to its own. I can be patient… I’m drinking some two-year-aged pluot cordial now…

 

Garden Frittata

10 Jun

Frittatas are my current go-to for an easy, satisfying dinner incorporating a lot of greens and whatever else is in the garden (it also makes great next-day leftovers, cold):

This particular evening I caramelized onions and fresh garlic (low heat, 15+ minutes?), sauteed morels in butter, and wilted chard and kale (cutting out the stems first and cooking them for a bit longer so they would soften). If I’m not in a hurry (e.g. already very hungry) I usually cook the components separately even though it dirties another pan or takes some extra time–  everything takes a different amount of time to cook well.

I pre-heated the oven to 375, and layered the (aliums, morels, greens) in the same cast iron skillet I used for the onions.

I whisked 8 eggs with salt and pepper and a little milk for several minutes / until very frothy and poured them into the skillet, then cooked this stovetop for 5 minutes or so to help brown and set the bottom (it’s not clear this is even needed– it’s just a force of habit).

Finally, I laid some big chunks of a soft cheese like goat chevre across the top and popped the whole thing in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the eggs puffed up and set.

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Artichokes (Grown, Blanched, Grilled)

4 Apr

Last spring I started some Colorado Star purple artichokes from seed and transplanted them into a strip of soil along a driveway. They started slow and didn’t produce any fruit last year, but here I am a year later:

While I’ve simply-boiled some later harvests (three rounds so far this spring) I cooked a first harvest of baby-size artichokes with an “oil and water” hybrid blanching method inspired by This Is Camino— simmering them in batches in a single-layer half-covered in water (with garlic, bay leaves, herbs, and olive oil) until mostly done, then finishing them on the grill while straining the liquid and reducing it to a sauce that reinforced the artichoke flavor:

Stir Fry w/ Rattail Radish + Snow Peas

12 Feb

A simple stir-fry– cooking a series of ingredients individually in a hot pan with peanut oil (some very briefly– just a minute or two), in this case:

  • onions + sliced garlic + minced ginger
  • rattail radish pods from the garden (incredibly prolific plants crank out the long slender pods– no much flavor but a nice juicy/crunchy component when harvested before the individual seeds start to bulge in the pods)
  • snow peas also from the yard (planted in the late fall, harvesting in February)
  • a bell pepper
  • pre-made mapo tofu (includes miso and chili flake)

I just mix them at the end with a little soy sauce and serve over rice (I sometimes add black vinegar, miso, and/or chili flake, but not this time as the tofu was already seasoned).

They teed up good fried rice the next day, too (with some scrambled egg and kimchi).