I miss you. Between working and taking care of Miss Sally, the garden, the house, and the never-ending loads of laundry and diapers, it's been hard to get here. We've been spending plenty of time planting and cooking, but I haven't had time to tell you about it or snap a picture. Finally, here's an update on what's been going on in the dirt and the kitchen around here:
We harvested the last of the greens planted in the hoophouse last summer. The big haul was 10 small heads of Savoy cabbage and several pounds of Rhubarb chard. Unfortunately, we lost a row of Chinese cabbage to spring temps and a cabbage moth infestation—the flowers and florets are edible, but not when they're covered in insect eggs.
We cleaned out the hoophouse, turned over the soil, and added a layer of compost, and the rows are now housing 16 tiny tomato plants and 6 green pepper seedlings. Fingers crossed for early hot weather fruits!
Outside, arugula, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and carrots are up. The strawberries and peaches are in bloom, the asparagus is up, and I think we're getting very close to a rhubarb pie.
As you can imagine, we've been eating...cabbage! My mom turned me onto this Asian-inspired Martha Rose Shulman recipe for spicy stir-fried cabbage, and the other night, Alex added littlenecks and served it all over pasta—delicious. We've also made several batches of this Rustic Cabbage Soup for lunch, friends, and the freezer. I added ham to one batch—a nice variation.
We did manage to cook a few spears of our asparagus and use up some of the chard with this Balthazar Cookbook recipe for warm lentil salad with asparagus, greens, and grilled fish. I subbed halibut for trout and chard for spinach and we were in business! I think mackerel might make an even better fish switch.
I'm still trying to make all of our own bread in an effort to use up the grains from our grain and bean CSA. If anyone has a recipe for a good all-rye bread please share—this one was a total flop, although that could definitely be related to the fact that I subbed maple syrup for dark corn syrup, which I just couldn't bring myself to use. We've been eating a lot of Darina Allen's brown soda bread, and I've found that if I make it with whole wheat flour from our soft winter wheat as opposed to hard winter wheat (soft is supposed to be better for pastry baking, hard for yeast breads), I can use all whole-wheat flour and it's still very light. Last night I made a loaf of my mother's cornbread to go with a pot of chili inspired by a Melissa Clark recipe.
Sally pulled herself up to standing, and one of these days, I'm going to get her to do it for long enough to take a picture. (Update 4.25.12—success!)
And that, my friends, is the news from here. I'd love to hear what's going on in your neck of the woods if you're in the mood to share.
TWO BEAN CHILI WITH BEEF & BEER
This recipe is adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe for beef, bean, and hominy chili from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. I've been meaning to try making hominy from the dent corn in our grain CSA, but I haven't gotten there yet. In the meantime, I just added more beans—if you try the original, I'd be curious to hear how it is with corn.
2/3 cup dried kidney beans*
scant 2/3 cup dried black beans
3 tablespoons olive oil or beef fat
2 pounds ground beef
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 quart crushed tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) bottle dark beer
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
optional: sour cream & cilantro, for serving
Soak the beans for at least a few hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and put in a medium pot with plenty of cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender—about 45 minutes. Set the pot aside—do not drain the cooking water.
Warm up 2 tablespoons of the olive oil or beef fat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the meat and brown, stirring often. It will take 5-10 minutes to cook through, then season it with salt and pepper and transfer it to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add the remaining olive oil of beef fat to the pot. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beer, the beans and 2 cups of their cooking liquid, oregano, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer for about an hour, or until it reaches the thickness you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot. Sour cream and cilantro make a nice garnish.
*Note: If your beans are already cooked, you want two cups of kidney beans and two cups of black beans. Since you won't be able to use the cooking liquid, add 2 cups of chicken, beef, or vegetable stock to the recipe instead.