Monday, July 26, 2010

Salmon Tartare with Basil

I had some leftover salmon and put together this dish. It is very simple but packs a great flavor punch. Normally, I make the tartare with pickled ginger and the zest of lime but since I am trying to be very local, that's not an option.

Salmon Tartare with Basil

For the salmon

Chop up any leftover scraps of salmon after cleaning a filet. Or use 6 0z. of very fresh wild salmon. Meat from the belly is normally best for this dish because of its high fat content. Here I am using sockeye salmon. To your liking, add 1 small diced shallot, 1 small clove garlic minced, ground chili or hot sauce like tabasco, salt and pepper; then stuff on a leaf of basil. You can wrap them with a chive to make a little bundle or leave the leaf open to present the tartare.

Stewed zuchini, fava beans and peas in yoghurt whey with basil flowers

This recipe isn't perfect but there is an interesting idea here. I made yogurt, cooked it with aromatics, and then strained it. I saved the whey to make this sauce. It looks rich, but is actually very light, with a beautiful tang. I sauteed a little onion and garlic and then blasted some zucchini. I added the whey and reduced it a bit, then finished it with some cooked favas, peas (last of the season), basil flowers, and the zucchini blossoms.

I put a piece of Sauteed salmon on top, but it would be a good dish without the fish.

Frog legs with scallions, chili clarified butter and yogurt

In the pond are tons of these bullfrogs. Well, there were before Jim killed them all with his 22.

The reason for the slaughter is that they are an invasive species and kill the native green tree frogs. They used to make the biggest racket before the genocide. Being a farmer is all about being practical. They had to go because they were pests. This is not the first time I've had to deal with this kind of problem.

In the goat barn at the dairy, there was something pooing in the water buckets . It was very annoying. I would fill the water and then in the morning there would be huge turds floating in it. I would empty it, scrub it out and fill it up. I was supposed to put a cover on it at night but I always forgot and invariably, there would be a turd island the next day. One evening, I was cleaning the barn when a coon ran across the loft. I had spotted the culprit. I went and found farmer Layne and asked her if she had her gun.
"Not on me. Is that coon in the barn?"
"Yep." She went into the house and got the rifle and I got a pitchfork to protect myself. I went into the loft to try to flush it out. I was pretty scared. I heard a patter of feet on the barn floor, then a shot. I didn't see a thing. "Did you get it?"
"Yeah. Go ahead and throw it in the woods." And that was it. But no it wasn't; a few days later when I walked into the barn, I found a helpless baby raccoon in a plastic bucket. It was growling. Not a sweet noise: like some kind of little Stephen King monster. It's tiny paws were scratching at the air, at me. Layne said, " get rid of it." With a stick, I trapped it in another, smaller pail. "Should I kill it?"

Layne replied kind of gruffly that she didn't care. That something would eat it if I put it in the woods. So that's what I did. I didn't have the same rush I had gotten from killing it's mother. This seemed cruel. This animal had no chance. It just sat were I placed it, whining, it didn't have the wherewithal to even run off and hide. I was abandoning it to the gory reality of nature, hidden back there behind the house in a patch of brambles.
Coons aren't the only pests out here. There are crows eating the tomatoes and and a vole devouring the beets and carrot patch and then, it is hard to believe, but everyone wants to kill the bald eagles. They are beautiful birds, but they eat the chickens. I've gone out to feed them and on more than one occasion there is just a ring of feathers in the pasture. An egg laying, revenue producing part of the business eaten and the damned eagle doesn't even eat the meat, just the eviscera. Oh, and don't forget the foxes, and the bugs, and the stupid deer.

Anyway, I figure if we are going to kill it, we should at least try to eat it. So I made some frog's legs.

Sauteed Frog Legs with Scallions, Chili Seasoned Clarified Butter, and Fresh Yogurt

Take a 1/4 cup of fresh butter and put in a pan with a pinch of chili flakes, a clove of garlic, and the white part of a scallion, and simmer very slowly to season the butter and to clarify. When it tastes like the aromatics, strain and let sit to separate again. Skim the stuff off the top and pour off butter, leaving the the cloudy bits in the bottom of the pan.

Clean the frogs by cutting off feet and slicing the skin all the way around the neck. With a pliers, peel off the skin. Season with salt and pepper and then saute at high heat. When cooked, toss with scallion tops and butter. Serve with some fresh yogurt.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spring's finally here and it's the first days of summer. Fried sweatbreads with beet jam, fava beans, and yoghurt

Smoked goat with chili sauce and cabbage

We had a fundraiser for Heritage Farm last week. We needed to raise money to pay L&I fines for alleged interns that were learning on the farm. The intern/apprenticeship arrangement is deemed wrong by the state because there are no taxes being filed for the intern/apprentice. Here's how the relationship usually works: all over the country there are young and old people alike who want to experience the farm life for a multitude of reason, they are willing to trade their labor for a learning experience or maybe sometimes a plain old experience. There's no degree at the end of the season. But one can come out of the arrangement with bundles of practical experience. that is basically it and everyone enters into the agreement of there own free will; there's no coercion. Big agribusiness is funneled loads of money to destroy our environment and these little farmers are working on a sustainable system with no hand outs and passing on there knowledge for free. And it is not just an "intern" that benefits it's the whole society. There's no value placed on farmers in our popular culture. They're usually deemed rubes, but these small time farmers, in my experience, are soldiers for the most just causes, they protect our food system and provide a healthier citizenry and society. The farmers in this country are aging at a pretty quick clip. the average age of a farmer is over 50 and who's going to replace them as they start to retire? It is important for this knowledge to get passed on. The apprentice system is invaluable.

So, we had a little party. I made a smoked goat, fresh pasta with pea and mint sauce, pickled beef tongue, liver pate, pickles, the best coleslaw ever, potatoes with garlic scape pesto, deviled eggs and lots of fresh bread and farm butter. The party was a pretty good success.

With the leftover goat I made pretty nice stew with chili and cabbage. Cara, you will recognize this. I've made this a few times with pork. But this was the best.

Smoked goat with chili sauce and cabbage

leftover smoked goat
stock made from the goat bones
dried chilis with seeds and stems removed
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic

Prepare the goat as in earlier "cabrito" post. After everyone has had their fill, separate the meat from the bones. Put the bones in a huge pot, cover with water, and simmer for 12 hours. Strain stock and cool. Remove fat and discard. Put one gallon of stock in pot and reduce by half. Then add the dried peppers with the onion and garlic. Puree this mixture and pass through a chinois. Add the goat meat and stew until very tender. You may need to add more stock to adjust proportions and to correct it for being too salty from the cure that the goat was in. Cut the cabbage into rough squares and add to pot and cook until very tender, also. Garnish with radish, cilantro, and mint.

cabbage with cockles

Jared (probably the best farm intern ever) had to leave the farm. I miss him. He was only twenty but he was my peer and buddy and sous chef. I don't think I ever told him, but I really enjoyed cooking with him. We had an easy collaboration. He'd have an idea for dinner, maybe a dish, and I would add elements to make it more of a meal, then we would cook together. He might chop things and watch a simmering pot while I showed him how to clean the clams. It was an easy collaboration as I said because I was teaching but I wasn't bossy or pushy; we talked about the objective and completed it. It worked well. Of course, we bickered the whole time like aged sisters.

Jared worked so hard while he was here. I always felt like an old lazy person next to him. He was up before everyone doing chores and most days the last to quit. Maybe twelve hour days six days a week. And then he had the energy for all his other pet project;painting on drift wood, making beer and the worst dandelion wine ever, hunting bull frogs for me to cook, biking to the beach to collect horsetail for bio-dynamic preps. His motivation was inspirational.

Christina was always saying that he would make a great farmer one day. He has that certain awareness that I see in all the old timers around here. An ability to really see what going on around them. I just hope he stays on this path and doesn't get distracted by all the crap of this life.

Anyways, we collected clams a few weeks back. Jared was a natural and got tons, way more than me. I made asian inspired dish of sauteed green cabbage with them. It was delicious.

Cabbage with Clams and purple Basil
1 small head of green cabbage chopped into squares
10 large clams like cockles or butter clams
2 small mild hot peppers such as anaheims sliced into rings
3 cloves garlic
1 small white onion julienne
2 Tbs bacon or chicken fat
Juice of the clams
1/2 cup puple basil flowers if not available use the leaves

Collect clams from beach and soak them overnight in sea water with corn meal

Use a oyster shucker or a butter knive to open the clams. Do this over a bowl to collect the juice which will be used later. Seperate the clam into its body parts.

Sautee the onion in the bacon fat for about five minutes and then add the garlic and pepper and cook for a minute or two add the cabbage and cook slowly until soft. When mostly cooked add the clam juice

In a separate pan sautee the clams very quickly until just cooked and add to the cabbage

Toss with basil and season with salt

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fried Clams with spinach and sweet and sour red onion puree

Not everything comes from the farm that I am cooking with. of course, I have to succumb and buy some things from the store but what is really neat are all the things that I can forage.
I am picking mushrooms constantly. Well, one variety, which is the only one I can identify for certain. Today I found one lonely asparagus in a field far from any gardens. Was it wild? I am not sure. I ate it right there in the middle of the field surrounded by goats and their poop. I hope I don't get sick because that sure wasn't sanitary. Stupid health department would put me in jail if they had their druthers. Anyways, it was lovely. Then there is the ocean. I have gathered seaweed and clams for these two recipes. I dug cockles and butter clams and picked sea lettuce. the people on the beach said cockles were no good, but I kept saying the French eat them and I thought they were pretty good anyways, despite the French. I prepared them in a beer batter and served them with a sort of spinach pudding, lets say, and a sauce of pureed red onions with butter, honey and vinegar. The seaweed went with mussels (I didn't forage them but they were from a local farm, Westcott Bay) Swiss chard and farm butter.

(Have I mentioned the butter here? We make it from raw cream all you have to do is beat it, pretty simple. We have a special mixer that sits on top of a gallon glass jar but one could use a hand held or stand mixer. The key is raw milk though. Unlike regular store butter this actually tastes like something. I think it cultures as it sits on the counter. It develops some really cheese-like flavors. Everyone around here spreads it like cream cheese.)
Fried Clams with Spinach and Sweet and Sour Red Onion Puree

For the Spinach
½ White onion medium dice
tbs. Butter
1lb Spinach
2 tbs. Apple cider vinegar
2tbs. flour
1 tbs. Honey
¼ - ½ cup Milk
2 Heritage Farm fresh eggs separated and whites beaten to stiff peaks
Sauté onion very slowly in butter so it starts to sweeten. (10 min.). Add vinegar and honey and reduce until completely absorbed by onion. Blanch spinach in boiling water until wilted (15 seconds) and put in ice water to stop the cooking. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible there should be about a cup and 1/2 . Put this mixture in a high speed blender with the part of the milk, onions and egg yolks a
nd flour. Blend until very smooth It should be a somewhat thick consistency which can be adjusted with the milk. Fold in the egg whites and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes in a greased and floured 9" baking dish. Let cool and then cut into rectangles. Reheat to plate up.

Red Onion Puree
1/2 red onion sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
4 tbs butter

Cook the first three ingredients until the onions are tender and then puree in a high speed mixer adding the butter until very smooth. It should have a good balance between sweet and sour. It can be adjusted to your licking

For the clams
Cleaned clams taken out of the shell and separated into foot, lips and body. (To clean the clams let them sit in sea water and cornmeal overnight, open them with an oyster shucker or a butter knife. Separate it into it's major body parts. Slice the foot into along the tube to make one flat piece for frying. Slice out most of the guts from the body and rinse everything to get the last of the dirt out.)1 bottle beer
oil for frying

Mix beer into flour to make a batter about a pancake consistency. Coat clams with plain flour and then into batter and then into hot oil (350) and fry until golden. It should only take 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper assemble like my picture.

Steamed Mussels with Swiss Chard and Seaweed Butter
For the Mussels
One Shallot
!/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tbs. Bacon fat

Saute shallot in bacon fat on high heat with cleaned mussels and vinegar; cover pot. Cook until shells open. Strain cooking liquid and take mussels out of shell.

For the butter:
Collect sea lettuce from the beach. Dry in oven at 200 degrees. Blend in food processor with butter -- 4 parts butter to one part seaweed.

To assemble in restaurant fashion:
Saute diced swiss chart stems in a couple teaspoons of bacon fat. Add cleaned mussels and a few tablespoons fresh cooking liquid, a bit of fresh cream, and then finish by swilling in a few pats of seaweed butter.