Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lots and Lots of Stock

As I mentioned before, I was inspired by the book An Everlasting Meal to start saving vegetable scraps for stock.  Well, finally my freezer was full and I had time to spend the day in the kitchen.  I made two batches:  vegetable and chicken.

The vegetable stock was a combination of:  onion, carrots, celery, tomato, potato, parsnip, kale, asparagus, mushrooms, parsley, leftover salad, peppercorns, bay and salt.  This simmered for about an hour and a half and I ended up with 7 pints of vegetable stock.  These were processed in the pressure canner for 30 minutes at 10 pounds.

For the chicken stock, I used up the bones of two chickens I'd roasted last weekend.  The bones and a little meat had been frozen, along with the necks and organ meats, and I combined these with carrot, onion, celery, parsley, kale, and broccoli scraps and then salt, peppercorns, bay and thyme.  I let it simmer while the vegetable stock was in the canner, and now I am canning the chicken stock in 2 batches.  There are 14 pint jars in the canner currently and I think maybe there is enough for 5 or 6 more jars.  That should last me a while!

As an added bonus, I'm taking out whatever usable meat there was in the stockpot and setting it aside to make a little something.  Not sure what, just yet... maybe just a bowl or two of soup.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Birthday Cake

The 6 year old is now 7.  Happy Birthday!  The only request as far as a cake went was that it should look like Toothless, the dragon.  How in the world was I going to do that?

Enter the soccer ball cake pan.  That thing has been:  a ladybug, a jack o'lantern, a golden snitch, and now a dragon.  I have never actually made a soccer ball cake.  But I also used a heart shaped springform pan and took a little of the cake batter to fill that.  That's the head.  I cut the point off the chin and used bamboo skewers to join it to the body.  Then I struggled with the wings and tail.  I had come up with the idea that fruit leather could be used to make the wings.  It used to be the case that you could find fruit leather in the store that could be unrolled and cut but, now that I needed it, I couldn't find any.  I decided to make some.

I bought 2 pints of blackberries and pureed them, added water (almost 2 cups), sugar (1 cup) and lemon juice (1 Tbsp., I think), and some black food coloring and then cooked it on the stove for a little while to thicken.  Then I spread it on saran on a cookie sheet (the kind with edges) and kept it in the oven, set to warm, for about half a day.  Maybe longer.  When it was ready I chilled it so I could work with it.

The frosting is a chocolate buttercream with black food coloring.  Not sure what happened here; in the past I'd been able to get a deeper black by starting with chocolate frosting.  Maybe I needed it to be more chocolatey?  Not sure.  Anyhow, here's Toothless:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Salad of Garden Treasures

A little while back, I made a salad entirely of bittercress and goat cheese.  It was pretty sharp, and I wondered if maybe there was a happy medium.  Well, I may have found it.
I was cleaning up the yard yesterday and brought in a large bundle of: dandelions, chickweed, bittercress, wood sorrel, a few mint leaves, and violets for garnish.  I added the last of that Robiola Due Latti and, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, it was very good!  The title of this post came from when my husband asked what was for dinner...

Incidentally, I tried eating the dandelion buds and flowers and...blegh.  Not raw, anyway.  Maybe they can be braised?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cooking with Weeds

Since I read the recipe on the 3 Foragers' blog, I've been wanting to make Japanese Knotweed bread.  Basically it's the same recipe as for the muffins on their site, but doubled.  After gathering some knotweed shoots at the stables yesterday I washed them and chopped them today and had only one cup.  To double the recipe, I needed a total of 4 cups.  So I went out to the bike path and found a spot where there is a lot of knotweed and started cutting.

What no one really mentions is that foraged food seems to take more effort to prepare.  Either you have to blanch it, or peel it, or cook it in several exchanges of water.  It's a lot of work!  So while this is fun and still a novelty I will continue to do it, but if there ever reaches a time when the work outweighs the fun I might pass.  Today, with the knotweed, I came close.  I spent an awful lot of time standing at the sink, peeling knotweed shoots.  But I do think the effort is worth it, the batter tasted good and the bread smells terrific.  I am waiting for it to cool to try a piece.  Strangely enough it made 2 loaves, not one.  Not sure why, but I'm fine with that.

While the bread was baking I made stuffed shells using some goat cheese I made a few days ago and some of my frozen nettles.  I mixed the goat cheese with parmesan, shredded mozzarella, 3 eggs, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley and stuffed 5 shells with this mixture.  Then I added chopped nettles to the rest, just a half a cup, and stuffed the other 15 shells.  I am expecting that the 6 year old will not be interested in the nettles.  This will be baked with a tomato-meat sauce and more cheese on top - 400 degrees for half an hour.  The reason I used the goat cheese is that it came out runny (again) and I don't really know why.  I think I will need to get some cheese starter and use that instead of the lemon juice.  But I couldn't spread it on anything so it seemed like I needed to use it in something.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wild Greens Risotto

A few days ago I peered out a window at the hospital and found, in a courtyard, some very large greens.  I thought they might be curly dock but when I got a closer look, they weren't.  But, what were they?  I spent a bunch of time with my iPhone app and also various pictures on the web, and wikipedia, and finally felt confident that they were a form of wild lettuce, Lactuca canadensis.  I picked a huge amount and also some large dandelion leaves.  When I got home, 12 hours later, I washed it all, separated the dandelions, and blanched everything.  The dandelions were frozen, as were some of the wild lettuce, and I saved a cup of them for tonight, when I had time to make a risotto.

The recipe comes from Hunt, Gather, Cook and originally called for nettles, but the author (Hank Shaw) said any kind of wild green would do.  I bought some oyster mushrooms to add in.  To make the risotto I sauteed the mushrooms, some shallots and garlic in butter and then added a cup of Arborio rice and a teaspoon of salt.  When everything was coated in butter, I added a cup of stock and brought it to a boil, then let it simmer and absorb.  I gradually added a total of 4 cups of stock (2 turkey and 2 chicken) plus the greens.  When all the liquid was absorbed I added some more butter and about half a cup of grated parmesan and let everything meld together.  This was served with a pot roast.  My husband declared this risotto on par with anything he's ever had in a restaurant.  And he loves risotto!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


You can see the tiny chickweed flowers in the salad.
Lately I've been spending a lot of time looking at the ground.  I find that there are more edible weeds around than I knew!  The other day I discovered I had chickweed growing in the front of the house and that it does, indeed, taste like corn.  Works for me!

Today I made a quick salad with chickweed, bittercress, some carrots and violets for garnish.  Served with a side of Robiola Due Latti cheese, it makes a refreshing lunch.