Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Click here to go to recipe database.How did you do with the Padron peppers last week? I
finally fried up three as a test. After frying and sprinkling with salt, I
cautiously cut a tiny piece off the tip of each, and touched them to my tongue
to assess heat level before eating. The smallest one was tasty with only a bit
of heat - ate the whole thing (well, not the seeds, but all the flesh!), the
next was hotter; ate it in tiny bites mixed with other things. But the third
was screaming hot when I just barely touched the cut piece to my tongue...
yowza! I saved it in the fridge, wondering what to do with it; maybe I'll roast
some of the sweet peppers and blend it with them and some seasonings to make a
hot sauce! Tom says he's going to give us more in the share... just not this
Great news: the eggplants and tomatoes have arrived!
Hooray!! They'll be in alternating shares this week (tomatoes in one, eggplant
in the other), but once the tomatoes get going, we'll all be getting them in
quantity, so hang in there! With this recent heat, we should be there soon.
Now I could just launch into eggplant and tomato recipes,
but what I really want to talk more about is cooking... especially after
reading Michael Pollan's article, above. He pegged it: what I've been trying to
do with 'Debbie's Kitchen' all these years is simply help people reestablish
'everyday cooking' in their lives. That's been my goal all along, it just took
Pollan to put it into the right words! Especially in this day and age of
food-borne illnesses from anonymous food sources: I find no satisfaction in
eating out anymore; I prefer my own cooking, 'cause I know where my food came
from! So until I find restaurants that can reliably name the farms that grew
their ingredients, I'd rather cook at home thank you. Anyway, I'm digressing a
bit, but it's all related, in that enabling an ethic of 'everyday cooking' in
our lives, elevating it to the level it deserves, will go a long way towards
getting us through until that magical time in the future where all farmers,
food establishments and eaters work together to restore ethical, sustainable
agriculture. - Debbie
Recipes are a tool
Recipes are great. They're fun, instructive, and a wonderful
way to begin learning the ropes of cooking. Two weeks ago I talked about
'playing with your recipes'; this week I want to show you another trick:
looking for trends and patterns, and then extrapolating them. This is the sort
of thing that (for me) generates those 'aha' moments. Let me show you what I
mean (this is just one example).
Go to the recipe database, to 'green beans
'. Consider these recipes:
Green Beans with Pecans, Lemon & Parsley
Lemon Sage Green Beans
Lemon Green Beans with Cashews
Green beans with Mustard and Thyme
Lemon-Garlic Green Beans
Green Beans with Toasted Hazelnuts
What do they have in common? What's the trend? Nuts and or
herbs and or lemon (juice, zest). If you look at the individual recipes,
they're very simple, yet each brings it's own variation of flavor. One is not
necessarily better than the other, they're just different. But I see more...
what this really tells me is: I could
probably make my own combination of green beans, nuts and/or herbs and maybe
lemon, and it'll probably be good! So let's try it: gonna make this one up
right here, right now:
Green Beans with Walnuts (multiple ways)
- and lemon
- and parsley
- and lemon
zest and parsley
- and lemon and
- and... what
do you have?
Wash and trim as many green beans as you want to eat.
Figure a small handful of walnuts per serving.
Zest a lemon and mince up the zest.
Chop up the fresh herbs.
Steam the green beans a few minutes; brown the nuts in
butter in a skillet, throw in the zest for a minute, add the lightly-steamed
beans and stir-fry toss a little; add the herbs, sprinkle with salt to taste
and stir-fry toss a little more, until everything looks and smells good. If you
like, squeeze some of the lemon juice over all at the end. That's it! If you
don't have one of the ingredients, leave it out (except the green beans, of
course!) ;-) If you think of something else you'd like to add or do
differently... go for it! See how easy?
Oh, and one last twist: I made the Beans with Pecans Lemon and Parsley
last night, only I embellished it by
cutting up a potato into sticks of a similar diameter to the green beans,
steaming the potato with the beans, then adding both to the pan with the
butter, nuts, etc. And I almost forgot the parsley - started eating, actually
(it was fine!), then remembered, and added it. Good both ways.
Okay, that's enough o' that for today! Now for some
recipes that you can enjoy all on their own, or compare with others in the
database (or your own cookbooks or whatever you find on the internet) and
modify to work with what you have in your kitchen!
This is a recipe I dug out of my old 3x5 card file (which
I've had since I was a teenager). I was reminded of it last week, when talking
to a member about 'could you cook cucumbers?' Yes, as a matter of fact, you
can. It's so funny to gaze upon my own childish handwriting... and to see how
dated the recipe is. Of course I immediately see how I'd modernize it now. I'll
give you the original, with my 'mods' in brackets .
source: I'm pretty sure this was a recipe I made in
'Home-Ec' class in Jr. High (that's "Home Economics", for those of you born
more recently; it was a popular class in the '70s, anyway!).
1 lb. round or rump steak, cut into quarter-inch thick
strips [any similar beef cut will do; use your Morris Grassfed if you have it!]
1/4 C salad oil [I'd use olive oil now]
1 tbsp. finely chopped spring onion [substitute regular
onion if you don't have scallions, but scallions would be better]
2 1/4 tsp. salt [I love this exact measurement! More-or-less
two is fine.]
1/2 tsp. pepper [again, more or less... to taste]
1 tbsp. shortening [I'd use butter or olive oil or even
3 C sliced cucumbers
1/4 C beef stock
2 tsp. cornstarch
Marinate steak strips in the salad oil, onion, salt and
black pepper for 1 hr. Melt shortening in a 9 or 10" skillet. Add beef and
onion. Cook until browned. Add cucumbers and stock mixed with cornstarch. Cover
and cook 5 minutes. Serve with rice.
Oh, you know what I'd readily add to the above recipe?? Sliced radishes. Add them with the cucumber step. It'd be great! Trust me on this.
People are always asking me for other ways to use radishes, so this is a
Last week member Jennifer Gonzales emailed me with these
great ideas. Thanks Jennifer... you're making me hungry!
Fun with peppers
from Jennifer Gonzales
Every week, my family has enjoyed the delicious variety of
produce. This week, we had had fun with the peppers. Last night's dinner had
one of the white onions, thinly sliced and sauteed with all of the dark green
mild peppers, with 1/2 lb. of lean beef chorizo, and one of the round squash,
thinly sliced. I cooked it all cooked together and served in whole wheat
tortillas. It was amazingly
This morning, I took all of the very hot green peppers from
the box [the Padrons] -- seeds and membrane removed -- chopped them into small
pieces, then added them with whole corn kernels to whole wheat corn bread
muffins. Delicious muffins. Thank you again for growing such a wonderful
variety of healthy produce.
Okay, so here's something with eggplant!
Eggplant Rice Pilaf with Lamb Brochette
from an old SJ Mercury News clipping, recipe by Pierre
Franey. His original focus was on the lamb, of course; I'm focused on the
eggplant, so I reversed the order of their importance. ;-)
Eggplant Rice Pilaf
1 small eggplant, about half a pound
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 C rice [original recipe called for 'converted rice'; I'd
just use something like Basmati]
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley [Note: if you ever see "fresh
coriander" in an older recipe - that's cilantro! This recipe called for it.]
Trim off the end of the eggplant. Do not peel it. Cut it
into half-inch cubes.
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the eggplant, salt and pepper
and cook over medium heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and
cook, stirring, until wilted. Add the rice and stir [to coat with the oil]. Add
the chicken broth, cumin, turmeric, Tabasco and bay leaf. Bring to a boil,
stirring. Cover and simmer 17 minutes or until rice is tender and all the
liquid is absorbed.
Remove the bay leaf. Add the butter and parsley [or
cilantro] and fluff rice with a fork. Serve hot.
Lamb Brochette, Middle-Eastern Style
I wasn't originally going to include this part, 'cause it
didn't really have any farm veggies (other than onion and garlic), but it just
sounded so good as something to have with the eggplant pilaf!
1 1/2 lbs. lean lamb, cut into cubes (approximately 24
1/3 C grated onion
1 C plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. loosely packed stem saffron
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp. dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the broiler to high or heat an outdoor grill.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cover and let
stand until ready to cook. This can be left overnight in the refrigerator.
Arrange the pieces of meat on 4 skewers. If wooden skewers
are used, it is best if they are soaked in water for an hour before using them.
Cover the tips of the skewers with foil to prevent burning. Reserve the
marinade for basting.
If broiling, arrange the brochette on a rack under the broiler
about 2 to 3 inches from the source of heat. Broil to desired degree of
doneness with the door partly open. Baste with the reserved marinade and turn
the skewers as the meat cooks.
If grilling, cook the meat over a hot fire to the desired
degree of doneness. Baste with the marinade, turning the skewers as the meat
cooks. Serve piping hot and brush with the remaining marinade.
This is from yet another old clipping... but the source
is completely missing. You can tell I was noodling around in my old 3x5 recipe
card file today!
Zucchini Cornmeal Crust/Tomato-Herb-Topped Pizza
Serves 6 generously
1 3/4 lbs. zucchini or crookneck squash [or any summer
squash!] (comes to around 2 cups, blended)
2 1/4 C cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. honey
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin seed
1 tsp. ground coriander seed
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped small
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 1/2 C grated jack or jalapeno jack cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut squash in large chunks and steam until tender. Blend in
blender until smooth.
Combine cornmeal with salt and baking powder. Mix honey,
eggs, and olive oil with the blended squash. Add dry ingredients to wet,
stirring just until smooth. Turn into a greased 12 1/2-inch by 18-inch baking
pan or a large pizza pan (spread mixture to about 3/4-inch depth), and bake 12
to 15 minutes - just until cornbread starts to pull in from the sides of the
While cornbread is baking, saute onion in olive oil along
with chili powder, oregano, cumin and coriander. Spread onion mixture across
top of cornbread, then scatter tomatoes atop that. Sprinkle with basil, then
scatter cheese all over it and return to oven for 10 minutes.