Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dark Days Dinner #12: Back to Basics (and other Randomness)

Last night we experienced what I am going to call another spontaneous Dark Days Meal. It wasn't not fancy, nor was it all local, but we can pretty darn close, and it wasn't even planned!

How local was I / What did I learn?
  • Local foods included: green beans frozen from my parent's garden topped with home made butter from local cream, roasted local potatoes, poor man's shrimp (boiled local perch, eaten as finger food), grill (pan) cooked venison chops from last year's deer, local spinach, lettuce, cabbage and hard boiled eggs in the salad, and Central NY red wine to top it off.
  • Non-local foods included: salt, pepper, olive oil and spices on the potatos, plus all other toppings on the salad (the salad was left over from the night before, so we couldn't just let it sit another day in the 'fridge!).
  • I love love love to play in the kitchen with new foods and new ways of preparing them, but sometimes really simple meals can be just perfect - both in the timing of your day/evening, and in their simple, hearty, satisfying flavors.
  • The wine pictured at right is really really good.
In other local and random news:
  1. The Bug has been spotted eating something green. As in a vegetable. We are so excited.
    It's a terrible picture with both flash and focus issues, but if you look very closely, you'll see a piece of green in his left hand, a bean being put in his mouth. The key here is that it for once, didn't instantly come back out!  The night before he also picked out and ate peas from the pods. They stayed in too! We're so proud!
  3. In this week's Cooks Illustrated newsletter, there was a link to, of all things, a video recipe for Penne alla Vodka.  It looks like I did pretty well with my sort of made up recipe!
  4. I've started reading this great book by Michael Ruhlman called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, and I'm loving it.
    • From it I have for you Cooking Skills Lesson #1:  Do you know why shortening is called shortening?  I didn't, and it's so cool. Take for instance bread - the main two components are flour and water. Compare that to pie crust, whose main ingredients are flour, water and fat (in many cases, this stuff we call shortening). What does the addition of fat to the flour and water do? It shortens the gluten strands. That's why bread is soft and chewey, and pastry is tender and flaky. The gluten strands are cut up by the addition of the fat.  So obvious, but I just never put it together.
  5. Doug's mom is visiting this week from Oregon, and we've all loved having her around. Especially the little guy, who now has a full time play mate and he thinks he's died and gone to heaven.
  6. Today was farmer's market day again, and I finally remembered to take my camera.  Again, my pictures are really poor, but it gives a bit of an idea of what the Ithaca Farmer's market has to offer in the winter! While there I also ran into some friends we met this summer through Warm Showers and some others from Jillian's Drawers - how fun to see them again! It was almost like I knew people in this town or something!!
  7. Doug and my Dad started gathering/prepping/cleaning/setting up supplies this week for making maple syrup. We had a pretty warm spell, with temperatures getting up in the 50's yesterday, which really got us in the mood for spring. Today of course we got another four inches of snow and the wind howled all day, but we should be close to ready to tap once the next batch of warm days hit. We are very excited to learn this and maybe even end up with our very own Maple Syrup!


  1. I love those spontaneous local meals! Glad to see you're still in the challenge.

  2. hi wendy. i too love your bacis meals they are always delicious!!!
    love, mom


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