Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Summer's Bounty Challenge

Today is World Kitchen Garden Day.  According to the  Kitchen Gardner International's website:

Courtesy Kitchen Gardner's International
"KGI initiated Kitchen Garden Day in 2003 as a healthy response to "Snack Food Month" organized by the International Snack Food Association each February. The thinking was that if the makers of potato chips, pretzels and fluorescent orange cheese doodles could spend 28 days and millions of dollars promoting their foods, the world's kitchen gardeners should be able to have at least a day for celebrating theirs.
 Hallelujah!  For a kitchen gardener, everyday is a celebration and noteworthy.  It also has it's challenges.

At this time of year, everything planted is ready to harvest.  Earlier this year, John and I planted earlier this year thrice the volume of plants than we had in the past.

My challenge, how to use everything up.   The New York Times version of Ratatouille should do the trick.  Click here for the recipe.

Don't let the long ingredient list and considerable length of time detour you from trying this. This one is worth it.

On the surface, Ratatouille is just a medley of summer vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onions and fresh herbs.  All of which I have in my garden.  This dish, if given the lengthy time to slow roast in the oven,  reveals so much of summer's depth when finally eaten.

To start, roast peppers to ultimately peel the skins
A warmed piperade of peppers, onions and garlic is placed on the bottom of the casserole
While the piperade is being warmed, prep the vegis

Layer the vegis over the piperade
Slow roast at 275 degrees for 2 hrs. 30 min.  Top with a thyme vinaigrette.  Eat!

Our bellies have many challenges lying before them with all the desirable packaged goods presented us.  The health ramifications of too much of it are endless.  On this day of celebrating one's labors I'm reminded that these challenges and how we address them have the power to shape our character singularly and collectively.  If we choose to, we can manage our way through anything.

How do you use up your bounty?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Winging it: the Manly Style of Cooking

By Guest Blogger - Barbara Schwartz

There was a guy once who was cooking dinner for me and had purchased very expensive steaks.

He started throwing all kinds of weird ingredients into a bowl – the morning coffee, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and I don’t remember what else. He proceeded to barbecue the steaks with this concoction. I couldn’t believe it. But the result was so amazing, I married the man.

Cooking in the style of my husband Ric and my friend John requires a free spirit and an open mind. And no recipe. After studying several ideas and ingredients of various recipes as well as remembering what I’ve witnessed my husband throw together in the name of barbecue sauce, I braved the unfamiliar territory of winging it with cooking.

Country-style pork ribs are in the crock pot slowly simmering away.

Measuring nothing (one of the rules of cooking in the manly style of John and Ric), a light rub of salt, pepper and garlic powder coated the ribs, then they were flash-browned on the BBQ. Not only does this step make them pretty, it really adds great flavor.

Plus there is something fun about barbecuing in the morning.

Meanwhile, in the crock pot the brewing sauce was created: half water, half beer for liquid, a splash of coffee (about a cup total of liquid), brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, small amount of BBQ sauce, pepper, garlic, sweet paprika. We’ll see how it goes. Then, coating the ribs with the liquid, all was sealed up for a day of slow simmer.

It’s smelling very good two hours in. Five hours in and I want to lift that lid and taste it. Six and a half hours in I get to lift the lid and taste – yum! Need a second taste. So now back onto the grill, on foil this time as they are falling apart, just to firm them up and dry them up a bit.

Served with some Au Jus from the pot and, well, three thumbs up out of three. Such accolades! I could get used to this! Definitely have to do this again. Now what exactly did I do?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Hour Talk

Mural at the Toluca Lake Trader Joe's

Everyone needs a break now and then. Because there is a time and place for everything, this post will not stand in judgement but will merely observe the need in all of us for a bit of fun and relaxation.

A relatively recent invention dating back to the 20's and attributable to the US Navy, the term Happy Hour was slang for scheduled entertainment.  The "entertainment" had nothing to do with alcohol but with relieving a little stress with boxing and wrestling for sailors who had long periods at sea.

"Happy Hour!"  What a great term to use for other purposes.  During the Prohibition era, the idea of drinking before dinner began.  Since alcohol was banned in public establishments, citizens would host "cocktail hours," also known as "happy hours" at Speakeasies before going out to dinner since alcohol couldn't be served.

Inside the Green Mill, Chicago

If getting near a speakeasy is on your bucket list, you must make a pilgrimage to The Green Mill in Chicago.  The actual speakeasy owned by Capone was accessible in underground tunnels under the club.  Today, the club is one of the best jazz clubs around which just happens to sell good old fashioned cocktails. 

Drinking has been around since the dawn of time as have drinking games and reasoned arguments to imbibe.  I particularly like the one my husband's Uncle Doug has quoted,  "The hills are pink, it's time for a drink!" 

Borrego Springs at Sunset

After prohibition, cocktail lounges continued to capitalize on the newly popular custom of pre-dinner cocktails.

A Gramercy Tavern Cocktail

The term, "Happy Hour" took a foot hold around 1960 after it appeared in a 1959 Saturday Evening Post article about military life in the 1920's.   With these two ideas of pre-dinner drinks and jolly times,  people adopted the term to indicate "happy" with "slightly drunk."

What these two historical stories have in common reveals the human need for a transition from work to relaxation.  

If you've had a little too much "happy," you may be offered a Hair of the Dog remedy.

"Hair of the Dog" is a shortened expression for "the hair of the dog that bit you."  Back in Medieval times, doctors advised that if a rabid dog bit you, you had a better chance of recovery if a hair plucked from the dog who bit you and was placed on your wound.   As applied to too much "happy" the "hair of the dog" might be just the right cure of for a hangover.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should
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