Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THIS is Summer

Friends, tomatoes, family, panting dogs, swimming, time to balance rocks and listen to the cicadas buzzing....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Little Bitty Lambburger

My brother Kelsey raises the best lamb I've ever eaten.  The (heritage) breed is Katahdin and it is bred to withstand our hot and humid climate.  The sheep shed their wool instead of having it sheared and are much more resistant to the pests of some wool sheep (of which I'll just not mention as they are only interesting to shepherds).  Kelsey's sheep are shepherded merrily around the farm with rotational grazing so they are always munching on some good green grass under the hot sun, which, as I said, they tolerate.  The result  is tender, mildly flavorful, and completely delicious.  I always tell people who think they don't like lamb that they've just never eaten this lamb before.  The cuts are smaller so it is eaten more delicately and I always feel so healthy and vibrant after consuming it.  It seems to dance lighter on my pallet than heavier meats like beef or pork and is a wonderful summer time meat.

Here are two lamb chop recipes I have posted before: a simpler version from this past spring including now out-of-season asparagus and some of my thoughts on meat eating;  and the longer version written about the same time, but the spring before.

And here's the other fast-food lamb favorite:

Itty Bitty Lamb Burger

These are amazing on Niedlov's brochen.  Those are the little rolls that are in the basket by the cookies at the cash register.  I like them because they are small and the crust is ever so chewy and crunchy and wonderful.  They certainly aren't for the faint-of-teeth, but they are fabulous teeny burger buns for the rest of us.  

The nice thing about burgers is that they are always in season and can be topped with whatever else is in season and never get boring because the seasons always shift.  Of course the summertime is rich with tomatoes and those are a given when it comes to burgers (or any other aspect of summer).  I used quick cucumber pickles (cukes sliced thin and marinated with some onions, vinegar, and honey for several hours) this time as well as some yogurt cheese for tanginess.  On top of the burger I melted a little slice of Coppinger cheese as well (can't have too much cheese when you're an assistant cheesemaker!).  I also threw on some of my hot pink kraut made with red cabbage.  

How I make my burgers in an oven:

for 3 or four people- depending on what side dishes are on hand
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • a pinch of cumin 
  • a pinch of salt
  • a touch of prepared mustard
Mix the meat with the rest of the ingredients.  They can be changed or omitted at your taste.  Meat is usually just fine the way it is- if you bought the right stuff- so if you don't feel like gathering up seasoning just add a dash of salt and leave it at that.  Divide the meat three or four ways, depending on how hungry you are.  I usually do it four ways if I'm feeding two people, that way you can have seconds if you want but don't have to eat too much if you don't.  I am always satisfied completely by a quarter pound, but some fellas out there might need more.  

Pat the meat out into patties that are larger than your bun by about an inch.  Try to make the middle of the disk a little thinner than the edges- this helps keep an even thickness while cooking.  They will shrink up a lot and lose moisture and a little fat as they cook so you want them both thinner and wider than you think you do.  

Preheat the oven to broil and set a rack close to the broiler.  Put the patties on a grate over a roasting pan.  Broil them til they are browning, beginning to shrink up, and sizzling (about 5-7 minutes), take them from the oven if you need to while flipping them.  Broil for a little less time than the first side, add the cheese, and cook til melted.  Drain on a paper towel or bag (such as the Harvested Here bag my cucumbers came in at the market, pictured below under draining burgers) if needed.  Serve with toasted buns and seasonal accompaniments of your choice.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eggplant "Involtini" and Pimento Cheese

This recipe was taken from this really great cookbook Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.  Tartine is a wonderful bakery and cafe in San Francisco that we visited while in that very city.  The cookbook is worth having, if just for the recipes towards the back.  Most of the book involves very detailed recipes for wonderful professional tasting bread.  The back end of the book shows creative and tasty ways to use up leftover professional tasting bread.  This one is called "Involtini" which is an Italian word for "little bundles" of something yummy.  The Italians are very good at using up old bread, as it is very important to not waste a crumb of anything that was made with love.  Ask Carlo Petrini about his grandmother's dish of stale bread and tomato sauce....

The recipe called for a few things I didn't have, or weren't in season so here's what I did:

for the tomato sauce:                                                                 

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped                                                                           
  • about 10 roma tomatoes, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a little olive oil 
  • salt to taste
Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until transparent.  Add the garlic, saute for a minute, and then throw in the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring every now and then about 20 minutes, crushing the tomatoes as they soften.  You want it to be a little chunky and also a little runny- a lot of liquid will evaporate when you bake it.

for the stuffing:
  • Bread crumbs from 4 slices of ciabatta (make croutons by tearing the bread into pieces, tossing them in oil and a little salt, and then toasting them at 400 til browned.  Then crush them under a rolling pin to make bread crumbs)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Sequatchie Cove's Cumberland cheese
  • 1/2 cup homemade "kefir cheese"  (Tartine calls for 2 cups ricotta and the grated zest and juice of one lemon.  I had neither so those were my substitutes)
  • 1 t thyme leaves
  • 1/4 t salt
Combine all and set aside while you prepare the fun part:

Slice 2-3 medium sized globe eggplants lengthwise into roughly 1/4 inch slices.  I actually used some asian-style eggplant, which worked, I just had very teeny little bundles.  If you own a mandoline use that.  If you don't, like me, practice your handy dandy knife skills.  I am lucky enough to own a small Shun, which has a very thin blade and is perfect for delicate slices.  Soak the eggplant in salt water for about an hour to draw out the bitterness.  Then blot the slices dry with a clean kitchen towel and heat some olive oil in a large skillet or wok til hot- about 360 degrees F if you have a thermometer (which I don't). Fry each slice for a few minutes, a few at a time, until they take on a little color and then set aside to drain on paper towels or bags while you fry the rest.  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Pour tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish.  Put a small spoonful of filling on the end of each slice and roll it up.  Place seam down in the dish.  Repeat with all the rest.  Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top and bake about 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is dark and bubbling and the rolls are nice and brown.  Tartine spoons cream over the rolls before baking and then sprinkles with Asiago after.  I didn't have those either so I just reserved some Cumberland and used that before baking.  Serve warm.


Kinda Sorta Frank Stitt's Pimento Cheese

My grandmother sends me clipping from the Wall Street Journal's food pages when she sees something I might find interesting.  I drool and muse over them and then stick them in a drawer after recreating and embellishing a few of the recipes.  Padgett had just traded me a wheel of Cumberland when a whole page about pimento cheese arrived in the mail.   I found it to be fate when I saw Frank Stitt's own recipe on the menu.  Frank is a chef and restaurateur from the great city of Birmingham, Alabama.  He and his wife Pardis are doing some wonderful stuff down there, as well as making fabulous pimento cheese...  Frank uses sharp cheddar and adds white pepper, a teeny touch of sugar, some Worcestershire sauce, cream cheese, and some hot sauce.  I did none of those but the rest I followed...

  • 1 pound sharp cheese, shredded and let come fully to room temp.  (Cumberland is wonderful but you could cut it with some less pricey cheddar if you wish. 
  • 3 sweet red peppers, roasted, skinned and deseeded, chopped small
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I bought it only for this purpose, but it's easy to make if'n you wanna)
  • very teeny piece diced fresh cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1 t paprika powder
Blend everything but the peppers until just about smooth in a food processor.  Fold in peppers and serve at room temp with crackers, cucumber strips, sungold cherry tomatoes, toasted bread,  fresh pepper slices, or whatever you most desire.  Its creamy saltiness does go well with raw vegetables though, so at least try it.  I like to put a dab on a basil leaf, wrap the leaf around a sungold cherry tomato and eat the whole thing just like that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

* Recipes soon to come (especially for the eggplant).  I promise!

Summertime Celebration Menu
     July 30th, Laurie’s house 

To Start
Link 41 Bratwurst on Niedlov’s dinner rolls
With Handmade sauerkraut from Signal Mtn. Farm red cabbage

Sequatchie Cove Cumberland “Pimento” Cheese
With Crabtree sweet peppers and Pocket Farm anaheim pepper

Served with: William’s Island sungolds, Crabtree cucumbers, tiny Tant Hill tomatoes
                                                             and toasted Niedlov’s Italian loaf

Melon Touched Gazpacho
    With Riverview melon, TiRoc, Circle S, and Sequatchie Cove tomatoes, Dan’s cucumbers,
and Pocket and Crabtree peppers

The Feast

Heirloom Yellow Indian Woman and Tiger’s Eye Bean Salad *
With William’s Island patty pan and sungolds and TiRoc basil and tomatoes

Riverview Farm Grits
With Alexzanna oregano and parsley and Riverview garlic

Iced Crabtree Cucumbers
With Circle S onions, Sale Creek honey and Sequatchie Cove muscadine vinegar

Eggplant Involtini
With William’s Island Eggplant, Niedlov’s ciabatta, Cumberland cheese, Pocket tomatoes, and Riverview garlic

To Finish

Velo Coffee Pudding and Fruits
With Sequatchie Cove Farm milk, eggs and blueberries, and Alexzanna figs

*I bought the heirloom beans at a farmer’s market in California this spring and have been trying to find someone special to serve them to.  They are not local now, but they once were.

Featuring (and Many Thanks to)…. 

All beautiful and colorful wine and water glasses are made by Prentice Hicks and donated for use during this dinner.  They can be taken home to drink out of forever.  They are 2nds and specially priced for this dinner.  Please ask for prices

Various bowls (big and small), cups, small casserole dishes, and vases (small and big) are made by Anderson Bailey, and are also donated for use during this dinner.  They may be taken home as well, please ask for prices (many are also 2nds).  

Gorgeous hand-screen-printed and sewn tea towels scattered about are lovingly made from recycled fabric by Elspeth Schultze, and can also be obtained to brighten your kitchen and home for $12.  

All flowers are lovingly grown and arranged by Padgett Arnold  

Of course this dinner would have been nothing but empty plates and stomachs without our dedicated and hardworking farmers- William’s Island Farm, Sequatchie Cove Farm and Creamery, Circle S Farm, Signal Mountain Farm, Alexzanna Farm, TiRoc Farm, Riverview Farm, Pocket Farm, Tant Hill Farm, Sale Creek Honey, and Crabtree Farm were all extremely important in the making of this dinner.  They are all at Main Street Farmer’s Market- along with many other farms producing equally delicious produce and meat.

Thanks to our gracious hostess Laurie Vaughen for opening the doors of her beautiful home and letting us enjoy it for the evening.

 And last, but decidedly not least- Many thanks to all of you- the  supporters of local farmers and craftspeople.  You choose to make this community better and more alive every day.  I look forward to seeing you all at the Main Street Farmers Market throughout the season!