Saturday, March 31, 2012

Veal Scallopini.... Wait, let me explain.

It's been awhile since I posted, so I thought I would post something about this evening's dinner. Tonight I made veal scallopini, one of my favorite quick meals. Before you exclaim "you eat veal?!?!" and get on the animal rights rant in the comments section, let me explain. I was a vegetarian for over ten years. A few years ago, I read Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food, and I started to think more about meat. I had become a vegetarian for two reasons. First, I thought that the way meat was produced in this country was horrible for the animals and horrible for the consumer. Second, I came to believe that eating meat everyday was unhealthy. After reading Pollan's book and looking into local, natural meat farms, I suggested to my husband that we try eating meat now and then. If the meat was properly raised and we ate it once a week, I could stick to my original reasons for becoming a vegetarian and still get to eat bacon, something I did truly miss. A few months later we signed up for a meat CSA through Houde Family Farm in Vermont. At first I considered opting out of the veal, but I read on their website that the veal comes from grass-fed bulls from their dairy operation, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that veal in the context of farming makes practical sense. A farmer generally needs many more adult cows than bulls.

So, here is my general procedure for veal scallopini. I'm leaving out quantities, because it really does depend on how many people you're feeding and how much meat you have. My meat comes frozen in packages, so I had almost a whole pound of veal to cook, which means there are leftovers, and since the sauce is light, I made three ounces of pasta per person.


Veal cutlets



Sliced mushrooms


Grated cheese pecorino and/or parmigiano

Pepper (optional)

Pasta - rotini was this evening's choice


Put water on to boil. Heat butter and oil in a frying pan on medium high. Brown the cutlets and remove from the pan. Saute the mushrooms. Add cream and simmer on low until reduced by about half. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the grated cheese in a serving bowl.

When the water is boiling, salt it, and cook the pasta. Drain the pasta and put it in the bowl with the cheese. Add the mushrooms and most of the cream to the pasta and mix thoroughly. Add pepper, if desired.

Add the cutlets back to the pan and finish cooking. Take care not to overook them. They get tough if cooked beyond medium.

Sometimes I make this with thin slices of red pepper cooked along with the mushrooms. Another option is to add peas to the cream sauce once the mushrooms are cooked. Tonight we had peas as a side dish. Buon appetito.


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Edible Spring Garden

The forsythia are in bloom and the daffodils are bobbing their pretty little yellow heads. I love spring flowers. What I love even more though are spring edibles. When I first started veg gardening, I thought there was nothing I could plant until Memorial Day, which meant nothing fresh to eat until practically July. Then I started reading about three season gardening, and I learned about all the delicious things that can be grown and eaten in the spring before the tomato plants are even ready to go in the ground. So this year, for the first time, I am growing spring peas, arugula, a fancy lettuce mix, radishes, scallions, spinach, and tatsoi. I put the seeds into my two front raised beds last weekend, and now we wait. This is the part of vegetable gardening that has to do with faith. It doesn't matter how much biology I understand. I still feel it is an act of faith to go outside every day and water dirt. The neighborhood kids also find it very amusing.




Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Notes for Next Summer

As I watch my stock pile of summer veg and fruit dwindle, I'm trying to make a few mental notes for next summer. First, let me say that freezing local produce is something that I hope to always find the time to do. It was such a pleasure to eat local long after the CSA shares had finished and the summer farmers' markets had closed up. It also made cooking incredibly easy. Since preparing vegetables to be frozen involves much of the prep work associated with cooking (particularly the slicing and dicing), it was very easy to throw together week-day meals. So, to sum up:

Focus on the vegetables that are easiest to freeze and most likely to be eaten. A few vegetables do not need to be blanched. Sweet peppers can be diced and thrown straight into the freezer. I cook peppers in many dishes, so these are top of my list to freeze. Tomatoes are definitely easier to use if you take the time to process them, but they can be put whole into freezer bags. Greens are easy to blanch, and another very popular veg in my house. Many fruits (strawberries, blueberries, and peaches for example) can be frozen whole.

Work in quantity. There is something to freezing several pounds of something all at once. When red peppers are at their height and prices are cheapest, buy several pounds and take an hour to do them all at once.

Incorporate freezing into your cooking routine. This is really the opposite of freezing in quantity. If you are making green beans, put twice as many as you need in the steamer. Take out half at the recommended blanching point, leaving the rest to cook fully for dinner.

Freeze it before it goes bad. Some weeks with a CSA share, you may get more of something than you can possible eat before it goes bad. If you can foresee that, freeze it before it happens. This photo is from my late fall CSA share. Note the two, two-pound bags of spinach on the right. There was no way we were going to eat that before it went bad.

Freeze for specific recipes. If you like butternut squash soup, for example, cook and puree it. Then freeze it in the quantities you most use. Along the same lines, zucchini can be grated, packed into half cup measuring cups, and then frozen in individual mounds on a cookie sheet. Whether the recipe calls for a half cup or two cups you can pull out what you need. Loose vegetables (like green beans and carrots) can be frozen on a cookie sheet and then put in a freezer bag. This keeps them from freezing into one big lump.

Freeze "value-added" foods. There are recipes for sweet dill pickles and relishes that can be thrown together very quickly and thrown in the freezer. Salsa freezes very nicely if you find yourself with a glut of corn and tomatoes. These types of foods are often best canned, but if you are either not interested in canning or find yourself with five pounds of cucumbers and no time to get out the canner, there are some very good recipes intended for the freezer. Jam freezes very well and tastes exactly the same as the canned versions.

So those are my lessons learned from last year's freezing. If you have any other tips, please leave a comment.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No-knead Whole Wheat Bread

Yes, you read that correctly. With the no-knead method I have been praising to anyone who will listen (or read), it is possible to make whole wheat sandwich bread at home. This recipe uses the method developed by the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but the recipe itself comes from King Arthur Flour. It is definitely denser than what you get at the grocery store, but it is light enough to make sandwiches and delicious slices of buttered toast.

Many whole wheat bread recipes depend on a long list of ingredients. This recipe is very straight forward. White whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, honey, salt, yeast, and water are all it takes. The white whole wheat flour provides a lighter taste than regular whole wheat without losing any of the nutritional benefits. The vital wheat gluten gives the bread a boost resulting in a higher rise than many other whole wheat bread recipes, and there is absolutely no kneading involved!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Homemade Pizza

As much as I love having a reliable pizza joint that delivers, I really love homemade pizza. No pizza joint ever leaves the pizza in the oven long enough (especially on a busy Friday night when I am most likely to order a pizza), and I much prefer making my own sauce and topping combinations.

Lately I've been making pizza using the dough recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. They recommend prepping the pizza on a proper peel and then sliding it onto a preheated pizza stone. I don't have a peel or a pizza stone, and honestly I don't think I want to give up precious kitchen storage space to two such large items (plus there's the whole fact that I am trying to declutter the kitchen). So it has taken me a few tries to come up with a technique that results in an evenly baked and crispy crust.

I roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper and put all the toppings on. I slide the dough and paper onto a cookie sheet (I have a sheet that is open on two sides), and then slide the dough and paper directly onto the oven rack. When the pizza is done, I slide the pizza and paper onto my cooling rack. Once cool, I cut it on the counter.

When I first started using this dough recipe, I was putting the dough and parchment paper onto the cookie sheet, baking for the first five minutes, then sliding the piza and paper onto the oven rack, and then sliding it back onto the cookie sheet to get it out of the oven and let it cool. It finally occured to me that if I can put dough directly onto a grill rack, the parchment paper should be enough to support the pizza from the beginning on an oven rack. This has resulted in a crust that bakes crisper and faster, since I don't have to open the oven part way through the baking. I read the trick of cooling the pizza on a baking sheet on the King Arthur Flour website, and it really does prevent the nice crispy crust from softening up again as it cools.

Here's tonight's pizza. This one has a tomato sauce with basil, garlic, and hot pepper, as well as mushrooms, cheese, and bits of oil-cured black olives.