Friday, November 20, 2009

Sloppy Joes at Deer Camp

Up at deer camp, my brother and I do the cooking. This year we had moose meat (we got a moose last month). We brought up some steaks, hot sausage and a shoulder roast.
When we were hunting for the moose, our guide always brought moose meat sandwiches. If he hunts deer, he brings venison. We're not quite the hunters he is.
I decided I'd make Sloppy Joes for our first night there. I didn't have a recipe but figured it couldn't be too hard to come up with something ground meaty, tomatoey, with heat and some sweetness. I picked up some ground pork to go with the moose sausage - moose is pretty lean.
I mixed the moose and the pork together in a cast-iron skillet with a bit of olive oil, things complicated a bit by the moose's frozen state. Separately, I cooked up some onion, garlic and bell pepper.
Kev and I had gone shopping at Hannafords in Essex. I'd picked up the pork there as well as Kaiser rolls and Bove's Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce - if it had been July I'd have made the sauce from scratch but given the season and Deer Camp being fairly rustic I went with the sauce. I added the sauce to the meat and then mixed in the peppers, onions and garlic. I then tasted and adjusted - adding a bit of sugar, cumin, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and then, after time for everything to get acquainted, over the rolls it went.

It wasn't exactly what I'd had so many Friday nights in East Charleston but it was g.d. tasty. Dad certainly liked it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Raphanus Sativus

Growing up we only had radishes raw. There was usually a bunch of them in a white bowl in water in the fridge. We ate them mostly with a sprinkle of salt. Sometimes they lent a spot of spicy color to a salad or crunch to a potato salad - a cold, refreshing crunch.

I've tried cooking up radishes and radish greens. No success so far with the greens. I just can't get past the scratchy feel of them which cooking them doesn't completely solve. (More shallots? Duck fat?) So far, the best luck I've had with radish greens is to scatter them about on a serving dish and then to place radish halves slathered with a watered down goat cheese spread on the halves atop them.

Cooking the radishes themselves, they lose their punch and become more like their turnip cousin. So I rarely cook radishes because they lose most of what I like about them. Last night I made a soup. I had decided a cold radish soup would be good. I googled and lo and behold found a recipe. It called for cooking up radishes, a leek and a shallot. I did (and ate several raw with salt while doing so). I added chicken stock, reduced it and then cooled it. Then the food processor for a rough puree. When it was time for supper I garnished it with radish slices and parsley. I'm pretty happy with it. It has taken its place in my limited cold soup repertoire joining gazpacho and cucumber. I need to make more cold soups.

The other thing about radishes I like is the blank stare I usually get when I talk about something having "had the radish." I've heard it has been used to refer to a person's being exhausted; though in my experience it was always about a thing, as in, this shirt has "had the radish," it's time for the rag bin. It's an expression I heard a lot growing up - my Dad's usually good for using it once every couple weeks or so. Not everyone is au courant though. I tried it out on my uncle who grew up in the same area last week. He didn't know what the heck I was talking about and he still lives in the Northeast Kingdom. Language is a funny thing. If you ever figure out where the origins of "had the radish," let me know. In the meantime, happy crunching.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Since quinoa does not come from a grass it is not a grain. Corn comes from a grass so it is a grain though I think of it more as a vegetable that's really good with butter and salt.
Corn and quinoa both pop when you eat them kind of like caviar does. I'm OK with the corn's popping but having caviar and quinoa ricocheting around the inside of my mouth wigs me out.
However, it's supposed to be really good for you so I bought some and cooked it up. Cooking it is easy - like a pasta or like a grain. If you cook it like a grain then you don't have to feel like you're pouring a lot of good nutritious water down the drain.
It's usually used like pasta or rice but I'm thinking its nutty taste would work well with maple syrup or peanut butter - maybe that would put a damper on the popping.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


When I asked the guy at the produce stand at the farmers' market if it was ok for me to take a picture of the garlic scapes he told me it was fine. Actually he said something more to the effect that he wouldn't ask them to sign a waiver. After I took the picture he wanted to take a look and then he asked me what I did with them. I told him I made them into a pesto. He said he used them in mashed potatoes and then we talked pesto. He asked me how the garlic scape pesto was different from regular pesto. I talked about the garlickyness of the scapes so then he asked how it was different than regular garlic.
What? A garlic pesto? Who's this crazy man?
I struggled and said something about how it would be more green a couple of times, more green, a green fluorescent color, as if that said everything about how it would taste. The taste of chlorophyll.
Actually, I had never thought to make a garlic pesto. When you say pesto it's usually taken to mean basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and maybe a clove or two of garlic. Could be something else green but that only if you were cutting edge crazy like I thought I was. I had ventured into arugula, kale and scapes (not a fan of onion scape pesto). And here was this guy suggesting it could be bone white. I considered and decided to give it a go.
Later I found out that the word pesto comes from the Italian for pound, crush. I made pestos with both.
They were both spicy though the garlic pesto was hotter, the bring tears to your eyes kind of spicy, it would be perfect spread onto toasted bread or with a rare steak. It didn't taste quite I like the taste of green so will take the scape route while they're in season.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peel Back the Onion

Been thinking about onions.

I was curious about the layers. How many are there? Are they like tree rings? Is there a ring formed per week? Per month? Where's the logic?

This one had thirteen, counting the outermost paper layers. We don't eat the outermost ones though it seems that the only difference between them and the innermost is the amount of moisture they hold.

Have I missed my calling? Should I have become a food scientist? Or am I completely off base?

When the alphabet loops back around I may have to post something about my future experiments with hydrating onion skin. These outer layers might make a handy tapas delivery device.

Back to the layers - I've read that the number of layers is determined by the number of leaves an onion has. I'm still not satisfied - why thirteen leaves (if that is, indeed the case)? Aren't the leaves part of the ring anyway? And are they really called leaves?

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Spud Solanum climbed the soft hill to where the microphone waited, glinting in the moonlight. He cupped it in his left hand, “Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner…” To Spud’s left, Queen Aubergine, resplendent in lilac and green, the undisputed champion of the hill. Queen had successfully defended her title two weeks running, turning to pulp all comers. She had had a good run but Spud saw a soft spot, a brown bruise upon her shoulder and knew it would come to an end soon.

Spud was no tot himself. Before coming to the ring he had been in his dressing room trying to focus himself in the mirror. He squinted and splashed water upon his eyes but still could not see clearly. He rubbed them, felt the telltale nubs; he had heard of sprouting but never thought it would happen to him. He calmed himself and following some indecision, snapped them off. He could see clearly, so clearly he noticed folds in his earthy skin. He resolved to work more with the cucumbers; he would not go gently to seed.

“…from the next vine over, in the red trunks, weighing 163 grams, The Red Terror!” Except for the ripe blush of her skin, her name hardly seemed to fit her. Spud thought one good left jab from Queen and she’d be ketchup.

“OK, I want a good fight, a fair fight, now go back to your corners.” The fruits went back to their corners to await the bell.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lunch in the Seventies

Soup simmers while Richard Gallagher's mud-with-gravel voice delivers the news in the living room. Tomato soup; either Campbell's or one Mom made using the strainer with the red wooden handle. Mom's tomato soup had golden flecks of butter floating on its milky surface. A few slices of JJ Nissen white bread stacked on a plate, bologna, cheese and Miracle Whip to make sandwiches, potato chips, and milk are on the table. It's noon. It's a cool summer day. We'd been out working in the garden most of the morning.

Sandwiches made, soup poured, we go into the living room to watch Gallagher finish up the news on WCAX-TV and for "Across the Fence" to start. Tony Adams, who also covered sports, hosted the show. What range. In one day he could be out talking to a local 4-H club about their quilts and then later he'd file a report on UVM baseball.

Lunch was always at the same time so Mom could listen to the news, watch "Across the Fence" and then maybe a soap - "Guiding Light" or "The Young & the Restless." During the summer though it was usually back outside to the garden or onto other chores. I remember shelling a lot of beans - the wind from the breezeway would blow the chaff away from the wash tub we'd drop the beans into. The beans were cool and hard. In the winter they'd become baked beans; simmering in the cellar on the wood stove with salt pork and maple syrup (probably other things too since my attempts at baked beans haven't been edible) for hours, softening, the small amount of pork working its magic.

I ate lunch today at my desk while people worked around me here in midtown Manhattan but for a little while I felt like I was in East Charleston.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I was recently introduced to these little guys as a fruity snack. It didn't take long before I started thinking about ways to cook them. So far I've tried roasting and braising - here I've put them into a tagine with chicken, tomatilloes and jicama.

Tasty, small, sweet on the outside, tart on the inside, pop them into your mouth unpeeled. It's up there with eating peanut shells, shrimp tails or lobster tamale for shock value. They're well behaved when traveling, unlike berries with their sensitive skins, prone to rupture and sticky juice before you get to where you're going, the kumquat is going to arrive intact, its sensible orange peel keeping everything inside. Having to peel these grape-sized things would be a pain in the keester though I'm keen to try something made with kumquat zest some time.

The same thick skinned (relative to berries) -ness that makes them good travel companions can cause problems when you cook them. Problems if you don't cut them up a bit first that is. If you're going to cook them I recommend cutting them in halves or quarters, removing obvious seeds. (No need to go crazy removing seeds if you can eat the thing whole in the first place.) This will allow the super tart insides of the kumquats to dissipate. I didn't do that with all my kumquats in the tagine and cold tart is pretty good but hot tart is not so tasty. Hot, tart kumquat juice will make you pucker.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jamaican Hot Peppers

A couple nights ago I was intent on julienning some jicama. But it was not to be. The Fine Fare had all sorts of tubers but no jicama. I was going to make a salad. I decided I'd still make one - without the jicama.

I picked up some cilantro, okra (why is it slimy?), tomatilloes, red onions, a red pepper and a package of Jamaican Hot Peppers - what little I know of Caribbean cooking could fit on a postage stamp and I thought the JHPs were going to be well behaved, something that might go into a jerk seasoning, maybe a little heat but not too much. Plus those pepps were priced to move so I moved them into my basket. What I didn't realize at the time was that Jamaican Hot Peppers go by another name - scotch bonnets. I'd crossed paths with those sb's before and wouldn't have knowlingly done so again.

Salad time. I chopped the goodies, I removed the seeds and ribs of the peppers. We tried a teensy taste. Hot. High pitched screaming hot. But too hot? We had cheese - a cheddar and a farmer's queso and tortillas - all good for dampening the heat of peppers. I thought we were good but what I hadn't counted on was that pepper juice getting on my hands. After a little while it became apparent that I'd gotten some of that pepper lava on the back of two fingers and a thumb. Three pinpricks of heat like three magnifying glasses of sun boring into me. Ow. I cursed myself for thinkng Alton Brown was a sissy when he'd chop peppers with latex gloves. I tried cold water. Soap. I applied cheddar cheese, queso, lotion but the burns burned. I went to bed with those three pinpricks of heat and by morning they were asleep though they stirred when I took this photo - maybe it was just my memory of them.

They say you can build up a tolerance to these things. (They being some web site I can't remember the URL for.) I have to wonder at what price though. If I am able to stand the heat would it mean my pleasure in the taste of something else would be diminished? I like how I taste things now - most things taste good, even beets now. I'm OK with my being a wimp when it comes to hot peppers - I prefer a smoulder over a fire.

The offending peppers are now in the freezer. I'm hoping that will cool them down.