Monday, June 17, 2013

Garlic [E]Scapes

After waiting desperately for summer to arrive, I am suddenly ready for September.  Five days into summer vacation with both kids at home, fighting, screaming, and scratching, and I will gladly give up all the sun, surf, and swimming for school to begin again. 

There are ten more weeks of this, though, and in order to survive, I needed to do something that was fun for me.  Time to use my kitchen again for something other than microwaving endless chicken nuggets.  Time to try making a new dish.  A trip to the nearby Asian grocery store to find something unusual would do the trick, with the added bonus of distracting and shocking my kids with the store's selections of live sea snails, gutted sharks, and swimming flounder.

While we were there, we perused their produce section, ripe with all kinds of unfamiliar items, some of which I have experimented with before.  Today, they had garlic scapes, and I couldn't resist their curly, tangled greenery.  Lightly fragrant and with budding heads, they joined the pineapple and short-grain rice in my shopping basket and, after we poked more than our fair share of snail bottoms, we headed for home.

A garlic scape is the green shoot that grows out of a garlic bulb.  (You can see the start of it if you leave your garlic out on the counter for too long.)  When garlic grows in the ground, this curly stem will eventually form a flower.  Sometimes gardeners growing garlic cut off the scape so that nutrients aren't diverted from the underground bulb and so they sometimes show up at farmers markets or farm stands.  Recognizable as long curved stalks resembling scallions but with pointy snake-like heads, garlic scapes taste like garlic cloves, smelling just like them when cooked.

There are a lot of recipes out there for Garlic Scape Pesto, which use garlic scapes in place of basil, and I imagine it is good, but I was looking for something simpler that would highlight the true flavor of the scape. 

I chopped the scapes, and sauteed them in olive oil for about 10 minutes.  When they were slightly browned, I hit them with some salt and crushed red pepper flakes.  After tossing them with some cooked spaghetti, I topped the mixture with large grates of real Parmesan cheese.

When cooked, the garlic scapes were almost fruity, with a slightly sweet garlic flavor.  Soft but chewy, they paired perfectly with the grit and salt of the Parmesan cheese.  Although it was very simple, this dish was bright, comforting, and delicious. 

Like every evening, the children were arguing at the dinner table, hopping up to chase each other around the table, and refusing to finish their dinner.  Their antics were easier to tolerate with this meal in front of me, though, making me feel like I could be eating at an upscale restaurant.  It was a garlic [e]scape to a calmer place. 

And after I put the kids to bed, I snuck back downstairs, chopped up some more scapes, sauteed them, and added another generous amount of Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.  True peace and quiet and a delicious late night snack!

I love scapes.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Farm (and Sea) to Table

As a mother, I am pretty sure I am constantly screwing up.  Each night thinking back on the day, I make a mental list of things that I know I could have done better.  Some days my list is longer than others, but there is a list every day.

While I sweat the small stuff, I am tremendously thankful that I don't have to worry about the big stuff: food, shelter, or clothing for my kids.  There are plenty of families out there struggling with not having enough, and I want my kids to be grateful for what we do have and not take anything for granted. 

It is particularly important to me that my kids understand where their food comes from, especially that it takes effort for to get it to us.  To stock the tidy shelves of our grocery store aisles, food needs to be grown, harvested, butchered, caught, and collected.  My kids are little, so they learn much better through experience, and we had some amazing ones recently.

Eggs come from chickens (that need to also be cared for) 

This past summer, we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Hershey, Pennsylvania where breakfast was made from the eggs laid that morning in their chicken coops.  Here is my son at Airy Hill Farm, collecting our breakfast.

Though my daughter was too nervous to handle the eggs, she tagged along as we woke up early, collected the eggs, brought them back to the kitchen, and cooked them for breakfast.  Farm to table, in the truest, quickest sense.

Crabs come from the ocean, and fishing for them requires patience and luck

Later in the summer, we went to the beach and went crabbing.  With strings, fish-head-bait, and a steady hand, even my four year old pulled up a few crabs.  We brought them home, and after a dip in the "Jacuzzi" (despite the lessons I want them to learn, there are some things that need to be delicately explained to nightmare-suggestive preschoolers), we picked their meat and made a delightful salad of crab meat, corn, and tomatoes.

Apples come from trees, need to be grown, picked, and hauled home
Yesterday, as Fall decidedly arrived with a drop in temperature, we picked our own apples.  It was cold and wet, but we had fun climbing the ladder and picking the best low hanging ones.  After lugging the heavy bags back for weighing, the best part was snacking on a freshly picked apple.  (Stay tuned, I have plans for the remainder of those we picked.)
I know these are only individual instances of eating farm (and sea) to table, rather than a life-style, but while we are strolling through the grocery store, where we usually buy things like turkey, fruit, and vegetables, I can say, "These apples grew on trees, just like the ones we picked, remember?"  Or, "See those crabs, they came out of the ocean too." 
Even if my daughter lies screaming and kicking on the floor in the middle of Aisle 4, and my son takes my distraction as an opportunity to scale the shopping cart and stand atop, arms aloft, as the wheels threaten to slide the cart out from under him, I can hope something is sinking in.  Grocery store days are usually long list days.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Barbecue Melt to End it All

And, I'm done! See?!
I finally finished the last of the turkey. Twenty pounds of bird, five days, one girl.  The basic math is that I ate four pounds of it a day, but turkeys are between 25% and 33% bone (5 to 7lbs), and the thighmeat, wings, and some of the breastmeat went into the soup (maybe another 5lbs).  Accounting for moisture loss, all in all, I may have eaten six pounds of turkey over the past week. 
Last night was a quiet ending to this gluttonous, monotonous little project; I didn't even make a turkey cake to celebrate. 
Here's what I did make: 
Barbecue Melt
1 lb cooked turkey, shredded*
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
sandwich bread
sliced American cheese
* if using raw meat, boil it in water until cooked through and falling apart, about 30 minutes.  Drain and save until step 3.
1. Cook the sliced onion in 1T hot oil until tender.
2. Combine the BBQ sauce, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and liquid smoke in a bowl.  Add to the onions.  Simmer for 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the turkey.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Load meat onto bread, top with cheese.
Thanksgiving (and its leftovers) is only 48 short days away.  Gobble gobble! 
Grumble grumble. 
But for tonight: PIZZA!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Turkey, You Are Jamaican Me Crazy!

Who has two thumbs and is getting pretty tired of eating turkey? 

This gal!

Day 4.  Ugg.

This stubborn little experiment of waste-not-want-not reminds me of this redundant, albeit hilarious, Family Feud game:

As random as it is for this gentleman to take turkey to the beach, it's not a bad idea to bring the beach to my turkey.  Vacations refresh the soul, and, after multiple days of turkey, my palate could use some refreshment.

This is the view from my sister's honeymoon in Jamaica.  I can almost hear the reggae above the soft crash of waves, almost feel the light salty breezes.  I can almost taste the Red Stripe beer, but wait, there is another lingering flavor...oh, right.  It's everlasting turkey. 
It is only a photograph after all.  I am still here, far from the beach, and close to giving up this tiresome venture.  Jamaican Jerk Sauce, take me away! 

Jamaican Jerk Turkey Pasta

1lb cooked turkey, chopped*
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Jamaican Jerk Sauce - my version from Jamaica is really spicy, use your own judgement depending on what your sauce tastes like
1/2 pound fettuccine
*If using raw meat, cook through and then add in step 3.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Saute the onions, green peppers, and grape tomatoes until soft.  Slightly crush the tomatoes so they release their juices.

3. Add Jerk Sauce and meat and heat through.

4. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

5. Siphon off 1 cup of pasta water before draining, and add it to the vegetables and meat. 

6. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot without rinsing.

7.  Toss the pasta with the veggies and meat and serve.

Here is the turkey that is still left.  Fork, too.  Too.  Much.  Turkey. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Once, Twice, Three Times the Turkey

Day 3. 

I had my first taste of curry in my early twenties.  I hated it.  My husband cooked dinner, and because this was romantic (and rare) I grinned and bared it, giving the curry dish lots of insincere compliments. 

Next month he made dinner again.  And can you guess what he made?  My self-proclaimed favorite: Curry! 

Serves me right.

Surprisingly, though, the second time I actually liked it a little bit.  The more often I ate it, the more it grew on me.  And now...well, now I'm borderline obsessed with curry, and below is my favorite recipe.  We usually make it with scallops, but it works with poultry too. 

There are lots of options when it comes to curry powder -- red, yellow, green, sweet etc.  Curry is simply a mix of twenty or so different spices, rather than a spice unto itself like pepper.  The ingredients usually include turmeric, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  They vary in heat, so buy it in small quantities until you find one you like best. 

This recipe also calls for coconut milk, but if you don't like coconut (and are, therefore, against all things good and holy), feel free to use regular milk.

Coconut Curry Turkey

1lb cooked turkey, chopped into bite-sized pieces*
1 T butter
1 T curry powder
1 T all purpose flour
2 scallions, chopped (from last night's bunch, bonus!)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk (shake the can first)
2 tomatoes, chopped

* If using raw meat or fish, cook it in and extra 1 T of butter first and then set aside until step 5.

1. Melt the butter in the pan.

2. Combine the curry powder, flour, and scallions in a small bowl.

3. When the bubbles in the pan subside, stir the spice mixture into the butter. Cook for one minute.

4. Slowly pour in the chicken broth and coconut milk, cook until thick and bubbly.

5. Add the turkey (or other meat) to the pan and heat through.

6. Stir in the tomatoes.  Serve with rice.

So add curry to the list of culinary delights that my husband has introduced me to, including hard shell crabs, raw oysters and clams, and everything Korean. 

Here is how much turkey is left, with the obligatory fork for scale.  Man, that's a lot of bird.  (Have I mentioned that yet??)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Turkey 2.0

With visions of crusty bread and snowy Saturdays dancing in my head, I packed two containers of soup into the freezer.  There was still enough soup leftover to fill a quart container, so my husband ate some late last night when he got home, and my daughter and I will eat some for lunch today. 

I have a lot more turkey to eat. 

For dinner last night I made Lemon Turkey.  This dish is usually prepared with chicken, and tastes just like you ordered it off a Chinese restaurant menu. 

My recipe calls for Lemon Curd, which is like a jelly but creamier.  I can usually find it jarred in the baking aisle of the grocery store, near the canned fruit pie filling.  Last night I made only enough Lemon Turkey for one, but doubled the recipe here.

Lemon Turkey

1lb cooked turkey breast, sliced into strips*
1/4 cup lemon curd
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 scallions, chopped
zest of one lemon

1. Place meat into a pan on medium heat to warm through
*If you are using raw chicken or turkey, slice it into bite-sized pieces, dredge them in flour, and cook them through first

2. Combine curd, vinegar, broth, in a bowl. Pour over meat.

3. Simmer until the sauce thickens.

4. Stir in the scallions.

5. Garnish with lemon zest, serve with broccoli and rice.

And here is how much I have left to eat, with a fork for scale...

Yeah, it's a lot.  I'll let you know tomorrow what I do with it today!

Monday, October 1, 2012

You Turkey! Day One

I have had a frozen turkey in my freezer for, well, too long.  At first I had every intention of donating it, but months went by and I never seemed to find the time to drop it off.  I could desperately use the freezer space, so it is time to put up or shut up.  Yesterday morning I woke up early, set with determination, and roasted it to eat ourselves.

Now, my husband is so busy at the office that he is working through weekends and dinners for the foreseeable future, and the kids don't usually eat poultry unless it is in nugget form.  This leaves 20 pounds of bird just for me. 

That's a lot of bird. 

And so begins my week of turkey dinners for one. 

Hopefully, with a few varied recipes, I can mix it up enough to keep things interesting.

Day 1:
It turns out I'm not actually in this alone.  I remembered one thing  that the kids will actually eat: soup.  By the spoonful, by the bowlful, by the quart, they adore chicken noodle soup.  Turkey is close enough. I can make this work.

After the turkey was finished roasting yesterday, and fragrancing my house with the luscious smells of a happy Thanksgiving, I cut the breast meat and drumsticks off to save for later meals, and threw the carcass into the slow cooker pot.  I had to run out -- according to the kids, it was mandatory that we spend the gorgeous fall afternoon on a hayride leaving promptly at 1:15pm -- so I placed the meat-stuffed crock pot into the fridge. 

This morning, I covered the meaty bones with water, added one chopped onion, two peeled and chopped carrots, two chopped celery stalks, and one bay leaf.  I set the slow cooker to high and will leave it until the the vegetables are tender, the meat falls right off the ribs and thighs, and the bones release their flavor making an authentic and savory broth.

There is sure to be some skimming of fat involved in today's process, and I will have to fish out all the bones, and maybe dice or shred some of the bigger pieces of meat, but basically this turkey meal is making itself.  Later I will cook the noodles and store them separately, since they get mushy if added too soon and heat up easily when added to hot soup right before serving. 

On the menu for the rest of the week:
Lemon Turkey
Coconut Curry
And a few other things up my sleeve.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's recipe!