Can you believe that Fiddleheads 4th anniversary celebration is less than a week away (Saturday, Feb 4th)? I know I can't. Didn't we just have the 3rd anniversary party maybe a month ago? That was the day I began grilling up samples of Four Mile River Farm's beef and pork for the Saturday markets. All the other vendors had samples every Saturday, why shouldn't FMRF? It looked like a lot more fun than what I had been doing, just sitting at the booth and talking about the products, and a lot more effective. Sure I can sell up the wazoo and talk a blue streak (in case you haven't noticed), but actually getting to taste their grass-fed, hormone-free locally-raised beef and pork is a whole 'nuther matter. (Fact: gross sales on Saturdays easily doubled last year when I started serving the little morsels at the booth.) It's obvious from first bite that this is nothing like the half-rancid, chemical and dye-injected flesh, from animals raised in feedlots, that generally passes for "meat" at the big-box retailers. The taste is what sells it, and in this instance I get to sell both the sizzle (the flavor) and the actual steak (or hamburger, or bacon, or....)
The only problem was - I was starting to get a little bored. Not with the customers and the interactions (can I ever grow tired of the exclamations of surprise and delight? No, I cannot), but with the samples themselves. There is only so many times you can sample hot dogs and top round pork sausages, however excellent they may be, before you begin to wonder *cue Peggy Lee* "Is that all there is?"
So over the last few weeks at the Four Mile River Farm booth on Saturdays (during the Indoor Farmers Market at FH), I've been experimenting with adding vegetables from the produce department to the usual meat samples. This particular dish, for kielbasa with mushroom-vegetable medley, is typical of my M.O. - there's little or no pre-planning involved; I look at what is available and fresh, what will go with the cut of meat I'm cooking, when I arrive at the co-op that morning. Then I walk across the aisle to the Bulk Herbs and Spices section, open the jars and let my nose help me decide what will best compliment the food. No measuring spoons, no exactitudes, just a bit of this or that according to feel. Add a little oil, olive or sesame depending on what's needed, from the general bulk section, and - TAH-DAH! - I'm serving up a tasty, satisfying and delicious snack in no time. It's better than any magician's trick.
Several customers asked me to post the "recipe" so here it is, but once again, it's merely a guideline; the measurements below of all the seasonings and mushrooms are to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Speaking of salt - I put the seasonings into small bowls or dishes, salt and pepper separately from the other herbs; this gives me a bit more control over the seasonings than putting them all in one dish. I use the large traditional size kielbasa, rather than the kellie dogs (hot dog-sized) here. Although kielbasa is the centerpiece, I've made very similar meals of mushrooms and various veggies at home as main dishes without any meat in them, replacing the sausage with sliced portabello mushrooms (see Vegan Version below). You could also add tempeh, seitan, tofu, etc. - any extra protein you like, or none at all.
Kielbasa with Three-Mushroom & Vegetable Medley
finely-ground sea salt, and ground or cracked black pepper
marjoram, dried and sifted, about 1-2 teaspoons
pinch each of ground sage and organo, or about 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon
extra-virgin olive oil
1 large kielbasa (traditional ring or oval-shaped), cut into slices then quartered
1 large red onion, sliced or coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (approx.) white button and/or crimini mushrooms
3/4 -1 cup shiitake mushroom caps, stems removed
1-2 bell pepper, any color , sliced or chopped
Combine salt and pepper into one cup or dish, and the marjoram, oregano and sage into another; combine each well. Set aside.
Heat up electric frypan or skillet on medium with a scant amount of oil, and add the kielbasa chunks and chopped onions. Cook until the meat is golden brown on all sides and the onions likewise golden and limp; do not burn.
In the meantime brush any remaining dirt from the mushrooms and cut the larger button or crimini 'shrooms into halves or quarters as needed. Likewise tear the larger shiitake caps into halves or quarters, leaving the smaller ones whole; be sure to reserve the stems for later use in broth, etc. Put the mushrooms and peppers into a bowl, sprinkle with some of the salt and pepper, then some of the herb mixture to taste. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat, and combine until seasonings and herbs are well-distributed. When meat is nearly (but not quite) done, add vegetables to the pan, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms and peppers are tender, al dente, but not overcooked; the peppers should still retain some of their original color. Serve immediately.
Four-Mushroom Vegan Version: Replace the kielbasa with 2 large portabello mushroom caps, stems removed, cut into chunks or slices.
Last week Elisa Giommi, owner of Mangetout Cafe, suggested that I try a different preparation for the samples of Four Mile River Farm meats I serve up at Fiddleheads every Saturday. "Slice the beef in thin strips and grill it immediately for each customer; like for fajitas..."
I bristled automatically at the word 'fajitas'. I'm indifferent to "Mexican cuisine" in general, thanks to the sloppy offerings of a certain Big-Chain-Purveyor-of-Fake-Mexican-Cuisine during my formative years.
"...or Korean..." she continued, and that seed landed in very fertile soil. *
A bit of googling (is that a verb?) brought me to a recipe for bulgogi on My Korean Kitchen . All of the ingredients I used were from Fiddleheads, including a ripe bosc pear. I made a few small adjustments to the recipe: I substituted freshly-grated organic ginger for the powdered ginger; rapadura sugar and honey stood in for the brown sugar. Most significantly, I used about 2 pounds of FMRF top round rather than the sirloin the recipe calls for. The leanest cut that FMRF sells at the co-op, and therefore one of the cheapest cuts, top round is, in my opinion, a very underrated cut. It has a very silky texture when you cut it into thin strips and can be more flavorful than some of the more expensive cuts. Using top round also allows you to economize without seeming to do so; you can serve this recipe to your guests and no apologies. (Besides, you really do want to save that sirloin for the grill, preferably over hardwood or coals. Trust me.)
But would the recipe work on a practical sense in the busy "theater" of the co-op? For that's really what the FMRF booth at the co-op is, and indeed any kitchen - a theater. I've read a lot and even written about cooking being an act of sharing and an act of love, but it's also a drama being played out. In this case, though, the cook (me) and the customers/eaters on the other side of the table take on the roles of performer and spectator interchangeably. I flung the strips into the hot pan with a flourish, a good bit of fun, then listened to the gratifying and repeated exclamation and moans: "Oh my god! What is the recipe?" And then the freezer was emptied of top round - and sirloin tip, or any cut that would fit the bill.
So yes, it worked very nicely indeed.
Bulgogi (Marinated Korean Beef)
(adapted from My Korean Kitchen)
2 pounds good-quality and VERY fresh top round beefsteak
5 T soy sauce (I used gluten-free)
3-1/2 T rapadura (or other raw) sugar
1-2 tea honey
1-1/2 T rice vinegar (I used white)
2 T grated onion
4 T coarsely grated pear (1/2 average-sized bosc from FH = 4 T)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T freshly grated gingeroot, or to taste
black pepper to taste
dash of cayenne powder
handful of raw white sesame seeds
2 T - 1/4 cup sesame oil (to add at last moment)
canola or other light oil (for pan)
Rinse thawed beef, pat dry, then slice into thin slices across the grain, about 1/4" thick, give or take (no, don't pull out your ruler, just go by feel). Mix together all ingredients for marinade (don't include the oils); tasting and adjusting as you go to your liking. (More soy sauce? More ginger? etc) Add the beef strips, stir to coat thoroughly, and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator).
Heat your wok or non-stick skillet (if you're using an electric skillet and have a temperature adjustment dial on it, turn it to 325-350 degrees F.) Add a little bit of canola, just enough to coat pan surface; while heating add some sesame oil to the beef and marinade and stir again to coat. When the pan is just hot, fling the strips of beef in with a flourish and a smile. (Presentation is most important here; it's all in the wrist.) Sear (browned, not burned), for perhaps 30 seconds or so on the one side; flip and sear on the other for just a few seconds more, until none of the meat looks visibly "raw".
Take out of the pan and serve immediately; it's at it's best when hot. You can wrap it in softened rice paper, or wrap in lettuce leaves for less fuss and bother, with matchsticks of sauteed daikon radish, and/or cucumber or other crisp raw vegetables. You can also serve over rice or noodles, if you like.
The original recipe calls for a dipping sauce. You don't need it and you won't miss it.
*I freely admit never having experience the genuine article when it comes to Mexican cuisine. On the other hand, repeated exposure to cans of fake "chinese" food from the big-box retailers, or bad meals at questionable "oriental" restaurants, has only increased my appreciation for lovingly-prepared shrimp pad thai, it's mound of soft rice noodles topped with crunchy peanuts; vegetables spring rolls in soft wrappers and served with a gingered dipping sauce; hearty beef pho with fresh basil; and I would mainline tom kha gai (Thai coconut soup) straight into my vein except for the pleasures my mouth would be missing out on. No, I don't understand it either; some things in life are simply not to be questioned.
More Variations on a Theme: Stuffed Mushroom Caps with Pork Breakfast Sausage, Spinach and Feta from Linda Phillips
(Photograph by Laura Phillips and used with permission.)
Linda Phillips was inspired by my portabello stack recipe from 12/26 to come up with her own version, this one incorporating Four Mile River Farm's pork breakfast sausage, pre-seasoned with red pepper and sage. with wilted spinach leaves and feta cheese. Use portabellos if you want to make this a main dish, or crimini mushrooms ("baby bellas", the "junior" versions of portabello) to serve this as an appetizer.
If you are a Fiddleheads customer and the FMRF pork breakfast sausage unavailable at the co-op, try their pork sweet italian sausage, which has subtle flavor notes of black pepper and fennel; or use their plain ground pork and add your own seasonings. Of course if you are far beyond the Fiddleheads universe, then use whatever pork sausage is available to you, preferably locally-sourced, hormone and steroid-free, preservative-free, and so forth.
Whatever you use, give it a whiff before you cook it; fresh (or newly-thawed) meat should have little if any odor, or should smell mild and sweet. If it smells "like meat", it is starting to turn rancid. (The same applies to fish; ask to smell it at the fish counter and if it smells "fishy", don't buy it.)
Laura Phillip's Stuffed Mushroom Caps with Pork Breakfast Sausage, Spinach and Feta Cheese
small to medium-size portabello mushroom caps, OR large crimini (baby bellas), cleaned and de-stemmed
pork breakfast sausage, crumbled (Laura used Four Mile River Farm's)
fresh spinach leaves, finely chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange prepared mushroom caps, gills-side up, on lightly oiled nonstick baking tray or dish.
Cook sausage in skillet over medium heat until browned; remove from pan with slotted spoon onto plate or bowl lined with paper towels to drain.
Reduce heat to low and stir spinach into the sausage drippings, stirring occasionally; cook 1-2 minutes or until wilted. Turn off heat, and add feta to pan. Mix spinach and feta with the pork sausage, then spoon evenly into prepared mushroom caps. Bake 12-18 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender but not mushy in the centers.
A) What is the correct pronunciation of the word "Quinoa"?
3) "All I know is that when I tried to say it at the Christmas party,
everyone laughed at me. Since then I prefer to keep to myself."
4) "I have no idea what you're talking about. Is that some Native
American rock band?"
B) Well, what exactly IS quinoa?
1) "A seed of a plant that is a member of the goosefoot family, native
to South America. Humans have cultivated it as a food source for
over 3000 years. Did you know it's a great source of vegetable
protein and that the Aztecs....."
2) "Some sort of fluffy stuff my health-crazy spouse/significant other
keeps foisting on me. *sigh* The things I do for love."
3) "Enya's latest album?"
4) "If it's not a Native American rock band then I still have no idea
what the heck you're talking about."
If you're looking for the answers, go to the bottom of this article - or try Hari Krishna. (Yes, that was a shameless theft.)
Most of the references to quinoa I've seen refer to it as a grain. But according to this article(and if it's on Wikipedia you know it's got to be true, right?), quinoa is "a species of goosefoot...grown for it's edible grain-like seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family." *end horticulture lesson*
I'd never heard of it myself until just a few years ago; now it seems nearly everyone has heard of it, and for good reason. It's a source of vegetable protein (just how much, exactly, is under debate), gluten-free and easily digestible, making it a boon to the veganarian menu, and to anyone suffering celiac's disease (or related allergies). It's also quick and easy to make, ready in about 10-15 minutes on the stovetop compared to 30-45 minutes needed for brown rice or wheatberries. Even though it's not a "true grain" it can take the place of rice, etc at any meal. And it's extremely versatile: it's soft texture and bland flavor let the stronger ingredients shine in any dish. (I've had it for breakfast in place of oatmeal, which is carb-heavy and makes me a bit sleepy by lunchtime.)
If you're new to it and trying to find out how to make the most of it, the recipes available online are literally, countless; the problem is not finding a recipe, but choosing one. A few ideas to get you started:
Lemon Quinoa with Asparagus and Feta from the Cookthink website caught my eye almost immediately because of it's "sunny" quality and balance of flavors. Substitute 1/2 tea. dried in place of the 1 tea. fresh herb called for. Substituting fresh cilantro, flatleaf parsley or basil would give it a different character, I should think, but might be worth a try anyway.
Cooking Quinoa, as you might imagine from the name, has so many recipes I didn't know where to begin - until this recipe for Quinoa Chocolate Bars stopped me dead in my tracks. Yes, chocolate - real chocolate - plus coconut butter, almonds, a bit of salt. Some of the dried cherries or blueberries from our Bulk section would be amazing in these. A very informative website, hundreds of recipes, but lots of images and can be slow to load. (It seems to work better with Safari than Foxfire.)
What Would Cathy Eat? is one of my favorite go-to websites for recipes that are veganarian AND heart-healthy, which are not always the same things, as well as plain delicious. A few that are perfect for what it's in season and available at the co-op right now: Curried Quinoa with Cauliflower and Stuffed Kabocha Squash with Quinoa and Chickpeas. I've seen a lot of recipes online that use quinoa as a stuffing for all varieties of hard squash, so you can really give your imagination free play here.
Quinoa can also be sprouted as a microgreen; here's some instructions from yet another quinoa-dedicated website called (what else?) Quinoa Health Tips. (At this point, quinoa just might be more famous than the Beatles.)
Hopefully that will get you off and running if you're new to quinoa; if you were ahead of the curve and it's already a part of your menu, what are your favorite ways to use it? Share in the comments section here or drop me an email.
Answers To "The Quinoa Quiz":
A) #1. If you answered #2-4, do come to the Bulk Section of Fiddleheads where we will answer all your questions, and then some. And hopefully save you from embarrassment at your next party - just don't attempt to say "tumeric".
B) Also #1. If you said #3 or 4, then see answer to A (above) and get thyself down to the co-op. If you said #2 - we admire your dedication to your partner and your willingness to try new things. (That said, you probably deserve a little payback. Five words: Last Thanksgiving. Your Uncle Jack. 'nuff said.)
That's actually rapadura sugar pictured above, not sand, but fair enough.
The other day on the co-op FB page, Ellen Anthony, our Bulk Dept buyer and a core, founding member of FH (anything she doesn't know about the co-op is a thing not worth knowing) made the observation that the "regular" (ie, white, or white-ish) granulated sugar far outsold all the other sugar varieties she has on offer in her department. My first thought (right after, "More for me!") was "Too bad, people don't realize what they're missing out on." Last year I made a batch of Rosa Jackson's green tomato jam with ginger and vanilla but knew I wanted to use something more complex and flavorful than the white sugar called for in the recipe, or the standard brown sugar. I wanted a sweetener that would lend richness but not be overpowering or "too sweet". I perused the Bulk section and chose the rapadura, which is dried sugarcane juice which has been heated at low temperatures, and from which the molasses component has not been removed. Jo Whitten's article on her blog Quirky Food explains some of the difference between rapadura, sucanant, and so-called "raw sugar" (which really isn't raw); according to her rapadura is the least processed of all the currently marketed "natural" sugars, and contains the most minerals and nutrients. Standard brown sugar, btw, is sugar that has been stripped of its molasses component to make white sugar, to which the molasses has then been added back to make brown sugar. (Got that?) I doubt that either M.C. Escher or Rube Goldberg could top that little mind-bend.
Not that I'm fooling myself that any sort of sugar, no matter how minimally processed, is truly "healthy". But in terms of the jam recipe, rapadura worked more beautifully than I could have imagined, complimenting the other ingredients, and balancing the tartness of the unripe tomatoes and lemon juice with the heat of fresh ginger and the sweetness of the vanilla bean. The result looked like this:
And the taste? Let me go through those ingredients again: green tomatoes from my garden with fresh ginger, whole vanilla bean, a splash of lemon juice, and a complex natural sugar possessing subtle molasses top notes. And still not as good as you're imagining it right now. Better. Ridiculously good on a piece of whole-grain crusty bread (from Fiddleheads, natch), slathered with homemade coconut-milk keifer, which had the consistency of whipped cream cheese and tasted like coconut-infused sour cream:
Although my favorite way to consume it tended to be straight out of the jar. (Heaven forgive my gluttony but...mercy, that was delicious.)
In any case, the moral of the story is that you can get some really wonderful, tasty, beautiful results with stuff that looks like beach sand. I've since used rapadura in a variety of baked goods or any recipe that calls for brown sugar; in cakes, quickbreads, etc it not only lends it's complex flavor but also produces a pleasingly moist crumb. This summer I made my first batch of Regan Burn's recipe for homemade root beer, and I stuck to the recipe's white sugar and molasses, as it was my first time brewing soda; however I have a bag of rapadura in the kitchen at the ready for the next batch.
Other recipes I think rapadura would be perfectly suited include Cathy Elton's vegan chocolate banana muffins, which are also low-fat; and this black sticky gingerbread from 101 Cookbooks, which is definitely NOT vegan or low-fat. (Just sayin'.)
I have not tried all the sugars on offer at the co-op, but am curious about how some of the others compare to the rapadura, or indeed to the wet sweeteners maple syrup, honey, and agave (a whole 'nother discussion by itself) in terms of flavor and characteristics. Has anyone tried coconut sugar, for instance? What's your favorite sweetener, if you still use any? (And if not - how did you wean yourself from the addiction?)
Correction 12/17/11: I had forgotten to put up the hyperlink to the root beer recipe I used (third paragraph from bottom), or credit Regan Burns for it. That has been corrected.
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Text and photos copyright 2011-2013 Janice Janostak unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.