Friday, April 30, 2010

It's Food Revolution Friday

Who hasn't been inspired by Jamie Oliver? His show, Food Revolution, illustrated poor eating habits of our society with facts, passion and humor. His books are beautiful and each is so different. I get emails from and I "am a fan". The show may be over but the movement isn't. The email today unveiled Food Revolution Friday, get the recipe, make it over the weekend and comment on the community board. I love the concept. The enthusiasm and seemingly unending energy of this guy (team of assistants, or not) amazes me.

Of course, I had to check out The Food Revolution cookbook. In reading through, one of many recipes that struck me was the Broccoli and Pesto Tagliatelle. Not something I would typically be drawn to but....I had broccoli, pesto, a potato and a pound of pappardelle, a reasonable substitute. Dinner was on.

I love how the recipes in this book are presented. Easy to read, concise and written in his unique voice.

The broccoli stalks are used, which I love, since it's a shame to waste them. Thinly sliced stalks are cooked with the pasta and then the florets and potatoes are thrown in for the last two minutes of cooking. A one pan fresh pasta. I am in love.

The addition of one potato, which just happened to be floating around the potato basket, would typically strike me as weird. Starch in a starch usually turns me off but I was so sold on this recipe I chose not to skip it. It gave me a reason to use my mandolin, too! I have lots of pesto left in the freezer from the many batches I made last summer. It's so flavorful, I wasn't too worried about only having a measily half-ish bunch of basil.

To say that I enjoyed this meal is an understatement. It wasn't just that it was on the table in under 30 minutes or that I had all the ingredients for a spur of the moment meal. It was truly a wonderful meal and one I'll definitely make again.

Join the revolution - start with this.

Broccoi and Pesto Tagliatelle
The Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

1 medium potato
1 head of broccoli
1 large bunch of fresh basil
sea salt
1# dried tagliatelle
1/4 cup green pesto
3 oz. parmesan cheese

To prepare your pasta:
Wash and peel the potato and cut it into very thin shavings using a speed peeler. Slice the end off the broccoli stalk. Cut the little broccoli florets off the head and put them to one side. Halve the thick stalk, then slice thinly. (I just sliced mine thinly) Pick the basil leaves and discard the stalks. Grate the parmesan

To cook your pasta:
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the tagliatelle and broccoli stalks and cook according to the tagliatelle package directions. 2 minutes before the tagliatelle is cooked, add the broccoli florets and potato slices. Drain everything in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water, and return to the pan. Roughly chop half your basil leaves and add to the pan with the pesto and half the parmesan. Give it all a good stir and if the sauce is too thick for you, add a splas of the cooking water to thin it out a bit.

To serve your pasta:
Divide the pasta between your serving bowls. Sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan and the remaining basil leaves. Serve with a lovely big bowl of salad.

Serves 4-6

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Things Change

Change. It can really suck. Summer becomes fall and flowers fade. Ovens break, dishwashers won't wash. Our beloved pets pass leaving us aching to see a furry face in all the expected places.

I don't like change. Out of commission kitchen appliances put me over the edge. Losses hit me hard. I have no desire to cook Asian food or a whole artichoke? Why change?

But, like it or not it sneaks in when we least expect it and sometimes it's not all bad. Fall brings brilliant color, new flowers grow. Dishwashers wash. The realization that fur is a package for an incredible soul comes. Hey, maybe I could make a passable bowl of noodles. How hard can it be to prep an artichoke?

Last weekend Trader Joe's had an enormous box, about the size to keep 5 chicks, full to overflowing, with artichokes. I think artichokes are beautiful. In dip, bruschetta, marinated, straight out of the jar or in a bowl as a centerpiece.

I am slightly embarrassed to admit I've never eaten one whole. That said, I've never understood why one would go to the trouble to prepare one. I decided there in TJ's to make a change that I could choose. I would buy artichokes, prepare them for my family and send my brood out into the world having eaten an artichoke whole - before the age of 40.

I turned to Mark Bittman, because Mark Bittman knows how to cook everything. I reviewed this month's Fine Cooking. I followed the directions - trim the bottoms, maybe cut the leaf tips, lemon juice, tarragon, steam. I can do this.

Pulling open the top of the squeaking leaves to reveal the choke was my favorite part. Opening the leaves reminds me of those steam baskets you put in the bottom of a pot. Change is fun.

The variety I bought, I was told, doesn't have a choke that really needs to be removed. I know my family though and that fuzzy thing would never fly. I blindly dug in with my spoon while the leaves slowly closed.

The removal of the choke was a sucky part of change. My fingers turned black. Not complementary to my Pandamonium Pink polish.

They were okay. Easy enough to eat though rather tedious. Not tremendously well received but everyone tried them. (some under duress)

Some things change.

Some don't. My oven still doesn't work. I will always miss my dog. I'll never prepare artichokes again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Where the Wild Things Grow

Late last week, Max and I hit the feed store for yet more chick food - who knew chickens could eat so much? Afterward we stopped and did some foraging. We love to go foraging. It suits my compulsive nature and Max always sees the needle in a hay stack making him and excellent partner. Last year we had great success hunting morels so this year, we attempted asparagus.

In all fairness, it wasn't true foraging. We knew it was there and had previously been part of a farm or incredibly industrious gardener's plot. Now abandoned, the asparagus calls to those who love to hunt for free food. Never having seen asparagus growing, we wandered aimlessly for awhile. Just about the time we figured we'd try again another day - Max found the first spear. Max always finds the first.

In the midst of a field it's not easy to find. After applying our deductive reasoning skills we were on the right track. Of course, finding the first drove us to search and search and search until we realized we'd be out there for hours. Or maybe Max realized I'd have us out there for hours.

When we returned home we were thrilled we had found almost 3# of good quality asparagus. There were some, that in the foraging induced adrenaline rush, should have been left behind. If they had gone to flower - it would help the plant along next season. Chalk it up to beginner enthusiasm.

We left with our hunting urges temporarily appeased but will go back. I remember my mother telling me when I was a kid, one could sit and watch asparagus grow. Can you imagine what may be out there right now?

As with morel hunting, it's never a good idea to divulge your foraging spots. Since I am so stingy about my mushroom spots I figured it would be kind to share my asparagus location....

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Murray

Today I lost my dog.
He was the best dog ever and my constant companion.
We loved each other.
I will miss him forever.

Murray Downing

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Heredity and Pancake Problems

Last week while doing a bit of spring cleaning I came across a magazine I have previously raved about. The December 09/January 10 issue of Fine Cooking provided me with much inspiration through winter and on a chilly spring evening it came in handy again.

Doug doesn't like breakfast for dinner which happens to be a favorite of the kids and I. So when Doug is away over dinner, usually it's breakfast. We had all been craving really great pancakes and I took the opportunity to try FC's Buttermilk Pancakes.

Whisk together buttermilk and eggs. I used some I picked up at the grocery store. If you have access to some really wonderful buttermilk from a small dairy, I think that would make this recipe even better. Commercially produced buttermilk isn't really what buttermilk used to be but wouldn't it be great to find an artisnal one? I wonder if such a thing even exists?

Whisk the dry ingredients well to be sure that leavening is evenly distributed. Pour the buttermilk and well beaten eggs into the dry ingredients and finish with melted butter.

The key to tender, fluffy pancakes is not over stirring the batter. Too much stirring develops the gluten and the result is chewy pancakes ala greasy spoon.

I have a tendency to heat my griddle over medium heat as directed in most recipes. The thing I forget, EVERY TIME, is that medium heat on my stove is too high. Without exception I over heat the griddle and make blackened pancakes with lovely raw centers. In the midst of this problem, yet again, I recalled a story about my Grandma. Grandma was apparently not a great pancake maker. During one particularly trying session the frustration reached it's peak and a pancake flew. The flying pancake, perhaps by luck, hit the top of the swinging "shutters" that separated her tiny kitchen from the dining room. There it hung as and Grandma regrouped. Pancake perfection must skip a generation. I was flinging them into the trash can from across the room.

I pulled a few of last year's blueberries from the freezer and tossed them into a pan with a bit of sugar and a splash of water. A few draws across a fresh lemon with my microplane and an easy blueberry sauce was bubbling away on the stove.

Finally, we had beautiful cakes with sweet butter, blueberry sauce and real maple syrup. They were pancakes I had ever eaten. Henry's squeals of "they're so fluffy" made them that much better.

Buttermilk Pancakes

Fine Cooking December 09/January 10

3 T. melted butter
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 granulated sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
vegetable oil for the griddle
butter and pure maple syrup for serving

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave or small saucepan on the stove and set aside to cool briefly.

IN a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs. P;our the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk gently until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated; stop before the batter is evenly moistened. Add the cooled melted butter and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened (there will be lumps). Let the batter rest while you heat the griddle.

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat (or set an electric skillet to 375 degrees) until drops of water briefly dance on the surface before evaporating. Lightly oil the griddle. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake, spacing them about 1" apart. Let cook, undisturbed until bubbles rise to the surface and the edges look dry, 1-2 minutes. check the underside of each pancake to make sure it's nicely browned; then flip. Cook until the second side is necely browned, about 1 minute more. TGransfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Friday, April 16, 2010

See How They Grow....

We all lament how quickly our children grow. Where does the time go? Wasn't it just yesterday? Didn't I just buy those jeans? Let me just say, I am grateful my children don't grow like our chickens. I took these pictures a few days ago and already our chicks look completely different. The are looking more like chickens - big chickens - everyday.

Martha is a bit skittish and thoroughly loved by her little boy. I hope he doesn't try to feed her vegetable soup to make her talk. We found it didn't work for Murray.

Rita Red. It's been fascinating to watch the pecking order work out. While they are still at it I think she'll rule the roost.

My Milly. A bit bossy but continuing to be worried about her sisters and very willing to roost on an arm and settle in to oversee.

Little Lilly, always bringing up the rear. Definitely our little runt and in truly un-farmer-like fashion, we are so glad she is with us so we can coddle and care for her.

Charlie continues to be constantly looking for the action. She and Rita move toward a friendly hand in their brood box. She is a big one for sitting on the waterer and flying up to the edge of the box. Troublemaker or fun girl?

Things at the yellow house have been busy so blogging has been slow. Hopefully, we are on an upward swing full of lots of fun projects. We'll share the building of The Yellow House Hennery, planting our garden and making THE BEST pancakes in the world.

I can't wait to share!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What's New?

What's new in the yellow house? Nothing - and everything.

Out of commission oven reaches crisis level. It's a Thermidor. I love it but their customer service is awful. That's a kind description.

Our girls are growing. Who knew I would fall head over heels in love with chickens.

6 dozen eggs were boiled in anticipation of hunting.

Hasslman's Farm Pork Shoulder marinated with fennel and citrus. Braised in the slow cooker, (did I mention my oven is broken?) served with potato-fennel puree and fresh asparagus. Delish.

A peek into the hive full of busy, busy bees.

A hand-me-down baby pool becomes a play pen.....and the chicks grow.

The oven saga continues...

A beautiful, blue hyacinth perfumed the house for days.

The chicks learn to perch and grow some more.

An egg dying event of enormous proportion...

...including photo ops with yellow Easter chick.

The chicks grow....

...and enter their gawky teens.

However will I feed Jake and 5 hungry teenage girls?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Besties - Old School

Yesterday in Chicagoland we were blessed with ridiculous weather. I think it topped out somewhere about 80 degrees. Unheard of in April since sometime in the '40s. A fabulous day to be sure but the best part was that April 1st looked like summer. The kids are on spring break so they were able to fully enjoy the day. Shorts, flip flops, scooters and bicycles - everywhere.

The first look through the screen door, Ella and her best friend Laney. Two girlfriends swinging on the porch enjoying playground games. Love it.

Hurry up summer!