Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dark Days #17: Ricotta Gnocchi

I'm sneaking in this week's Dark Days Meal in just under my self imposed threshold of the "Wednesday to Wednesday" DDC week ... I can't believe St. Patty's day was already nearly two weeks ago! This is #17, with just two to go to get me to the official "finish line" of April 15th.

Things are getting a little desperate around here in the freshies department, but I did manage to cook local tonight.

It started with another batch of ricotta:

Technique is the same as last time but with no buttermilk. I'm getting faster and faster at it, and this time from one gallon of milk I got one pound, nine ounces of cheese!

I enjoyed our potato gnocchi back in the fall, but as I mentioned before, they were a little on the "fally aparty" side. I would like to try them again to see if I can improve that, but I also found a recipe for gnocchi made with ricotta cheese instead of potato that was supposed to be good (and easy). I decided to try it.

ricotta, olive oil and egg
plus romano cheese and sieved flour
pretty crumbly to knead at first
but it started coming together quickly
cut into pillows
and rolled on the back of a
fork to make nooks and crannies

Has anyone else (with young children) noticed how while the light in the evening is lovely, it sure makes it hard to get dinner on the table in time for a reasonable toddler bed time? I somehow seem to be in a rush to get food out for use each night and this evening was no exception. I topped the gnocchi with a simple sauce of roasted garlic, onion and a can of tomatoes from last years garden, and I steamed up some green beans from the freezer for a little color to go with the meal.

I forgot to take a picture at first, thus the empty spot in the
bottom of my plate!
How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • Local foods from within 50 miles included the milk in the ricotta, the egg and (more or less) the flour in the gnocchi, the garlic, and the tomatos in the sauce and the green beans (from my Dad's garden). The onions were a bit further off, from a farm near Syracuse, about 65 miles north of here.
  • Non-locals were pretty much the usuals: olive oil, salt, dried basil, romano cheese and tomato paste.
  • These gnocchi are said to be lighter and more tender than their potato-based cousins. Perhaps I worked the dough too much or something because though the flavor was delightful, they still made for a pretty darn heavy meal. Delicious, but not really "light". They were, however, MUCH faster than the potato version, so for that they may be more of a go-to gnocchi recipe for me.
I basically used a recipe from I found on Food52, but as usual I didn't do a very good job following directions. Imagine that. Maybe if I'd mixed in the cheese before adding the flour and added the flour slowly as she suggests, they would have been lighter?

In any case, here's the fundamentals:

1 pound ricotta
1 egg
1 Tblsp olive oil
1/4c grated romano (or parm)
fresh ground nutmeg (I didn't use this)
2 cups flour, sifted

Cook in salted water until they float.

I used my full pound and a half and scaled everything else up accordingly, then cooked just over half of that dough.  The two of us ate until we were full, the little Bug had probably a half dozen "noo noos" too, and we still had enough leftover for one big lunch. I froze a tray for a small meal another night as well.
I leave you with a F.P.O.P. and hope to see you back here again soon!

My kitchen aide.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dark Days #16: St. Patty's Day Reubens

What? You've never heard of Saint Patrick's Day Reuben Sandwiches?

It's the lastest German/Jewish/Russian/Polish way to celebrate the Irish holiday!

February 3
Actually, I'd never heard of it either. I decided however, that because corned beef and cabbage just never really did it for me, and because I've never had a Reuben I didn't like, and because the ingredients are nearly the same...
Why not make something I really like to eat on Saint Patrick's Day?

[Are you catching on yet?]

It all started back with the skunked cabbage
March 15
 It doesn't look much different after nearly six weeks, does it? But it sure tasted different - yumm! Perfectly... well... sour.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I did that. I was sure you ate sauerkraut on St. Patty's Day. When I wrote up the post about it and actually typed out the word, it hit me. There was no way that sauerkraut is Irish. It's boiled cabbage that you eat on St Patty's Day. 

For being half German, sometimes my Polish side really shows itself.

In keeping with another great German-Polish trait however, I stubbornly refused to change my plans: we were going to eat that sauerkraut on March 17th, no matter what  the ethnic background! Reubens it was going to have to be.

So next came the corned beef. I bought a frozen brisket from the Lakeview Farm in King Ferry (who's wife also happened to be my first grade teacher - talk about small worlds!) at the Ithaca Winter Farmers Market before they closed for the season. I made up my own version of pickling spices and started curing it back on March 7th. Religiously, I even flipped it every single day.

Then I made the mayonnaise.

And the ketchup.

And used them to make the russian dressing.

Wednesday night I started the sponge for a batch of rye bread. I baked it Thursday afternoon.

By that evening, everything was in place. I even managed to bake up some potatoes for fries, and made a fresh salad to give us some crunch. 

Lest you give up all hope, we did keep attempt some tribute to the Irish by drinking their (very non-local) Guinness brew along with our pub-style sandwiches! Of course, I forgot to photograph that part of the meal!
How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • Local ingredients included: brisket and garlic in the corned beef; cabbage and whey in the sauerkraut; eggs in the mayonnaise; onion, garlic and tomato in the ketchup; rye flour, bread flour and corn meal in the bread; butter for grilling the sandwiches; potatoes; and lettuce, carrots, onion and tomatoes in the salad.
    • Of these local ingredients, only the potatoes were from farther than about 18 miles away and several were from right in our backyard.
    • The salad was dressed with my all time favorite blue cheese salad dressing, grandfathered in as local via a visit from Doug's mom last month.
  • Non-local ingredients included: salt, celery and spices in the corned beef; grapes and salt in the sauerkraut; oil salt and lemon in the mayonnaise; red pepper, celery, brown sugar, spices and cider vinegar in the ketchup; brown sugar, horseradish and Worchestershire sauce in the russian dressing; yeast, sugar salt, vegetable oil, caraway seeds and malt syrup in the rye bread; swiss cheese on the sandwiches; and of course the Guinness.
  • I opted not to buy/use saltpeter (potassium nitrate) in my brine, so the meat turned quite brown rather than the pink color you often see in corned beef. The flavor was fantastic though so I don't see that it was necessarily needed.
  • I did try to trim a bunch of fat off the brisket before I started the brine. I read however that the fat adds flavor (which of course makes sense) so I did keep a bit on there. If I do it again, I'd work to get more off. I think the brisket cut has enough fat inside the cut itself that taking off the extra from the outside will still make for a flavorful final product, without the greasiness I ended up with.
    • That said, the fat did peel off quite easily after cooking, which was probably easier than trying to cut it off before cooking. If you're willing to deal with the greasy water after the boil, maybe it really doesn't matter when the fat comes off?
  • Did I mention that I really like my fresh ketchup? That plate down there? Yes, the one with ketchup on it? Yes... that's mine!! Touching the fries!!

These really were the best Reubens I'd ever had. The fresh rye bread was well well worth the effort, and even with five sandwiches, we have enough beef leftover for some sandwiches this week from it!

If anyone's interested, recipes for the corned beef and the rye bread that I used are at the end of the post.


The Bug, wanting to go "out and 'bout" so badly that he'll
wear anyone's coat available to do so!

Corned Beef
(My own mix-n-match adaptation from Alton Brown and Michael Ruhlman)

2 quarts water
2 c kosher (I use Morten's) salt*
1/2 c brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1/2 tsp mustard powder (I didn't have seeds)
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp powdered cloves (I didn't have whole)
1/2 tsp allspice powder (I didn't have berries)
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

I heated all the above until the salt and sugar dissovled. Then I added 2 pounds of ice, and allowed it to cool further (to about 45°F) before putting it all in a huge ziplock bag along with my 4.5 lb brisket which I had trimmed of much of its fat. I laid this in a big glass pan in the refrigerator (thank goodness for our second frige in the basement!) and turned it daily to keep it submerged and the brine well mixed.

10 days later, after rinsing it in fresh water, I simmered it in a big pot, along with one quartered onion, one chunked up chopped carrot and one chunked up celery stalk. It took about three hours to cook until fork-tender. 

* Ruhlman's site has a good explanation on the concentration of the brine solution and cooking options you have with various concentrations. I opted for slightly on the saltier side since I didn't use the potassium nitrate, and I'd read that it usually won't turn out too salty after boiling anyway.

Rye Bread
(From Rose Levey Berenbaum's The Bread Bible)
I acutally used my cookbook, but an abridged version of the recipe can be found on Smitten Kitchen, here.
I did follow Deb's suggestion and ground the caraway seeds a bit so there wouldn't be big hard pieces of them to bite into.

Russian Dressing
(From Simply Recipes)

1/3 c mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tblsp ketchup
1 1/2 tsp horseradish
1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, March 18, 2011

Foods I Don't Like - Part II

"Three tomatoes are walking down the street- a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Poppa tomato gets angry, goes over to the baby tomato, and smooshes him... and says, Catch up."  -- Uma Thurman as Mia, in Pulp Fiction

That bottle of ketchup up there in the picture? It has a bow on it because it was a gift from my mom to Doug. She knows he loves ketchup and that I hate it. She knows I don't even like to buy it, so when it went on sale she bought extra and gave it to Doug in case he started running low. She's pretty nice that way.

She also knows that's just how much I dislike the stuff. I've always been this way; as a child my poor mother never had that advantage of just being able to hide "good for me" foods in ketchup so I'd eat them. According to some, I'm lucky I survived.

Doug has had to suffer through this part of our relationship. If we go out and order a hamburger to share, it has to be with no ketchup. Wiping ketchup off something will not do. Ketchup for a shared plate of fries must go in a separate bowl on his side of the table, lest it touch any that I might eat. Sometimes I think he might take advantage of this situation to make his serving a little bigger than mine (as in, "Oops - this has ketchup on it, guess I'll have to eat it!").
Doug's gotten used to it over the years. We marry for better or for worse (but not for ketchup), right?

The one exception I make to this rule is if there's a nice big addition of fresh, zesty horseradish sauce added to it, and lovely little pink shrimp (or boiled perch) to dip in it.  Then I can get past the sugary strangeness of the sauce and eat it just as (what seems to be) the rest of the world does.

Needless to say, after mayo, next on my list of things I was convinced I could make better if I did it myself was ketchup. (Are you starting to wonder who is the toddler in this house?) After my failure with the mayo, I'll admit my hopes were not particularly high for this condiment, but I was still willing to try.

With careful consultation of several sources and encouragement from my dad who remembers my Busha making her own ketchup, I went with a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook.

Here's the short of it:

I started by steeping some (old, but still fragrant) pickling spice in cider vinegar.

I chopped up an onion, a red pepper, celery and some garlic.
And sautéed them until the onion was soft.
Then I added some tomato paste and cooked it a bit more
I missed two photos in here where I added about three pounds
of canned tomatoes and simmered it for about an hour, then
added the (sieved) steeped cider and cooked it another hour.
Here, I'm using my beloved immersion blender to soup it up.
And here's what I got.
About a quart and a half of homemade ketchup!
The verdict?

Doug:  "It's definitely not ketchup, but it's sure good!"
Wendy: "If this was what ketchup is supposed to taste like, I'd eat it on ... well... a lot of things!"

Success!!!  Wahoo!!

This summer I'll definately make it again, and even can it to keep it around for long-term use.

F.P.O.P. from a great day spent mostly outside (heaven, in the eyes of the Bug):

Clockwise from upper left:
"See how fast I can run while helping MaMa carry in the neighbor's recycling that blew into our back field?!"
"Wait a minute - what is it that I'm doing with this jug again?"
"Okay - it's THIS one I drink out of."
"MaMa, do you hear that airplane?"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Foods I Don't Like, Part I

There are not a whole lot of foods out there that I don't like.

Beets. Melon (water, musk, cantelope - the whole clan). Waffles. Yams/Sweet Potatos/Squash (zucchini being the exception - yummm!). Whipped Cream. Ketsup (unless mixed with a wholelotta horseradish).

And Mayonnaise.

Which might lead you to ask why in the world I decided today to try to make mayonnaise from scratch. To be quite honest, for quite a while today, I thought I was nuts to do so too.

But here's my rationale: it's made of just a few ingredients, all of which I like individually. As a matter of fact, eggs and lemon are two of my favorites. And oil? I love olive oil, and others that are recommended for mayo are pretty neutral tasting. How could I not like mayonnaise? It must be something in the commercial version that my oh-so-sensitive taste buds disapprove of.

In addition to the idea that I could make it somehow taste better, there's always the "I can do it myself" appeal that I find hard to resist. I also found encouragement in what other respected foodies and food resources had to say about it:
  • "You will have taken a tasteless fluid oil and transformed it into an ethereal sauce through craftsmanship and care.[...] It's magical stuff." -- Michael Ruhlman
  • "You can make mayonnaise by hand, but it is much easier and more fail-safe in the food processor."
    -- Gluten Free Girl
  • "Making mayonnaise in a food procesor or blender is quick and practically foolproof."
    -- The Joy of Cooking
  • "[...] it's really not difficult at all. And when you get it right - which is likely to happen on your first try - you'll have a sauce that's a zillion times better than anything you'll ever eat out of a jar."
    -- Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything
Not only did it sound like I could have this whipped out in five minutes, but if ever there was going to be a mayo that I could like, this would be it, right?

See that pile of dishes up there? I spared you the picture of when they were dirty. Yes, it's both  my food processors and my blender.

That I had to wash.

After three, count them, three, failed attempts at making mayonnaise.

Four eggs, one whole lemon, nearly a cup of (what to me is) expensive olive oil, and a whole lot of cursing and scratching of my head later, and all I had to show for my time was that pile of dishes.

I followed all the directions. Eggs fresh and at room temperature. Check. Mine were quite literally still warm out of my chickens' bottoms. Salt. Lemon. Water. Food processor on. Drip drip dripping the oil in very slowly. Check.

And it stayed liquid.

I switched food processors, thinking maybe the blade wasn't the right size or speed. Or something.

And that batch stayed liquid.

I switched to my blender. It had worked great for the hollandaise (Until it separated, that is. Hhm. Maybe I should have taken that as a sign?).

That batch also never started to emulsify. 

I was done. I did all my greasy oily eggy dishes, cursed a few more times, and decided I didn't want mayonnaise from scratch anyway.

But wait! I couldn't let it beat me! I had to try one more time. With a whisk.

I waited until night and I could get Doug to lend me a hand with the initial slow pouring of the oil, and so he could relieve my forearm as needed.

And I'll be darned. It emulsified. Just like they said it would.

Here's what I ended up doing:

One egg yolk.
1/2 tsp table salt.
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice.
1 tsp water.
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil.
1/3 c grapeseed oil.
1/3 c vegetable oil.

With a bowl set on a wet cloth to hold it in place, whisked yolk, salt, lemon and water. Then started adding oil very slowly - drip by drip at first. Kept going until all oil was added. And that was it.

But you know what?

I still don't like mayonnaise.

Now I know.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dark Days Dinner #15: Sage Pork Chops with Apple Slaw

Back in December, I drove to the other side of Cayuga Lake on some errands, and while over there I added a stop at a farm for some local beef and pork. I cooked with their bacon right away, but the pork chops have sat in the freezer for months now, just waiting for inspiration to strike me.

There are a couple of reasons it was a long time coming, not the least of which is that once when we were first dating, Doug mentioned to me that he didn't like pork chops. I, of course, could not fathom this. Not  like a pork product? That happens? I knew I had to right that wrong. I'd cooked pork tenderloin for him to great reviews, but chops have only been braved a couple of times before, and I'm not sure he was yet convinced.

"Too dry" was the main complaint. This at least I should be able to handle. I knew that bone-in chops would have more of an advantage in this department though, and the ones I had were boneless. Could I come up with something tasty and moist and still keep it a Dark Days meal?

After thumbing through some cook books (taking careful notes on cooking temperatures for pork so I could be sure to not over-do them), I found just the perfect thing. From Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, I would do my own version of her Sage-Rubbed Pork Chops with Warm Apple Slaw.

Here's what I did:
  1. Combined chopped fresh sage, garlic, salt and pepper and rubbed it on the chops.
  2. Browned those chops in a bit of butter, about two minutes on each side.
  3. In the same pan (now empty), sautéed one shredded apple, about six or seven sliced shallots, and some more chopped sage until softened, maybe five or six minutes.
  4. Added about four cups of pac choi , three cups of shredded carrots, some cider vinegar and some salt and cooked it about another two minutes or so.
  5. Nestled the pork chops back into the slaw mixture, added in their juices along with a bit of chicken broth, covered and cooked until the chops were 160°F inside (about five minutes).
Since I know the whole meal will not be a loss in my husband's mind as long as there's mashed potatoes involved, I served these along side a big pile of roased garlic mashed taters and topped the whole thing with pan juices.

Turns out, I needn't have worried: the chops were perfect, the slaw mouth wateringly tasty and the combination of the two along with the sage was out of this world. It was one of those annoying meals where I kept moaning and saying things like "oooh, this is good", "I can't believe how tasty this is", "so many flavors", "mmm" etc etc etc.

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • The chops were from High Point Farms in Trumansburg, about 15 miles from here, including the jag down around the end of the lake.
  • The carrots were from Stick and Stone Farm, again just north of Ithaca on the other side of the lake.
  • The pac choi was from Finger Lakes Fresh right over in Freeville (12 miles).
  • The apple was from down on the storage 'fridge. It really is from a town in Northwestern NY called Lyndonville, about 140 miles from here. I'm sure I could have gotten the same Empire apple right here at the Cornell orchard, but similar to other items in other DDC meals, I could't quite justify getting a new item just to have it be local when I have others on hand.  A cop out? Maybe...
  • The butter was home made from milk from Moravia (13 miles).
  • The garlic and shallots were from Dad's garden.
  • The potatoes were also from western New York (Elba, about 120 miles); my supply of very-local spuds has dried up for the winter, and until the Farmer's Market starts up again next month, this was the most local I could find (easily).
  • I did buy the sage from the grocery, with the source listed only as "USA", and without even thinking, I used standard grocery store milk in the potatoes even though I had local milk on hand.
  • I learned that sage, apples and pork are a really good mix. I grew up eating apple sauce with pork chops and loving it, but somehow in this dish the complimentary flavors were really expressed. Often I don't notice such things, but this whole thing worked together remarkably well.

The best part about it though is that I might, just might, have put pork chops back on the "OK to serve" list!


Other local happenings:

1.  Remember those daffodil sprouts I mentioned last post? Here's a where's waldo for you:

(This is what you're looking for):

2. The sap is still flowing, slow and steady. We're up to over five gallons of finished syrup now, and should be boiling more this afternoon! The Bug and I went down to the creek ("roc in kree") this morning to check. As you can see, he's an excellent helper:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Partial Dark Days (#14.5): Home Made Bagels!

One of many fun "traditions" that has formed in the year that we've lived in this house has been the Sunday morning, post-church visit from my parents. Most weeks they come bearing freshly purchased bagels from Collegetown Bagels in Ithaca. Since the chickens started laying in the fall, we also often fry up a couple eggs and eat and visit over a fresh pot of coffee. It's not typically a long visit with their departure often dictated by the necessity of a nap for The Bug, but we always look forward to the time to chat, and to enjoy fresh bagels.

As I'm sure you'd agree, bagels are by far  best when they're just hours from the oven! Somehow we frequently end up having just one or two too many, and with a twing of remorse I have to toss them into the compost each week (or give them to the birds, depending on mold levels)!

I've often thought that cooking up just a small batch fresh when you wanted them would be the way to go, but despite the opportunity for "Bagel Making Lessons" at Palmer Station years ago, I never have learned how to make them. The Dark Days Challenge pushed me to cross another culinary line this morning, and I made my first-ever batch of home made bagels!

I know that I've written this about nearly all my challenge meals these past few months, but it really was remarkably easy! I found three different recipes that I liked, and rather than my usual "mix-and-match" recipe-following technique, this time, I decided to stick with one and see how it turned out.

I'm calling this a "partial" Dark Days Challenge meal because though my intention was to stay local, I couldn't resist frying up some bacon to accomany things, and it pretty much threw "local" out the window.

But it was sure good. :)

In an case, here's the photo sequence of what I did, following the recipe I found on Michael Ruhlman's website.

Last night before bed I started a sponge of flour, yeast and water:

This morning, it looked like this:

To it, I added, salt, honey, malt syrup and more flour, and kneaded it for a good ten minutes, until it looked like this:

I let it rest for about 20 minutes, then cut it into twelve pieces. Each of those I rolled into a ball and let those rest another couple minutes. Then I flattened each ball to a little three inch wide patty, poked my thumb through the middle and shaped a ring out of it:

These rested again until they started to puff up. Then I flipped them over, and let them puff up again. From there, they went into a pot of simmering water to which I'd added baking soda, and they boiled for a minute on each side:

I lifted them from the pot with a wire-mesh spoon, and put them on parchment-lined baking sheets. I topped some with sesame seeds, some with salt and some I left plain:

They baked at 450° for 12 minutes, until golden brown:

In my mind, they could have used just a little more crispy/cheweyness to the crust, and a little less breadiness to the inside, but they passed the all important toddler test, so I consider it a successful first try at bagels!

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • The bagels were made with about 2/3 parts white bread flour from New Hope Mills here in Auburn (they're the place that replied "we try to get our grains locally" when I inquired about the source of their wheat), and 1/3 all purpose flour from our definately local CPO/FGF source.
  • The bagels also had yeast (source unknown), malt syrup (source unknown), and honey (from my Dad's bees).
  • We topped them with fresh home made local butter and/or cream cheese (not local), aside our own eggs and the already-mentioned bacon.
  • The coffee was not in any way local.
  • I was expecting them to rise more (like bread) when resting on the counter, so I might have let them sit too long there, which may have contributed to my "breadiness" problem? 
  • I learned that the largest "rise" actually happens in the boil. There, they nearly doubled in size in just those two minutes.
  • Because of this, next time I'd make the center holes smaller which I think would make the more "solid" shaed bagel that I like.
Stay tuned - I'm going to attempt those other two bagel recipes soon, and I'll let you know how they turn out!

In other exciting local news, I've seen a few signs that spring might just might be on its way, including:
    1. Daffodils (thank you GrandMaMa for the bulbs!!) just starting to nose up through the grass.
    2. Serious snow-melt flood ponds in our yard.
    3. The maple sap has been flowing (see "Maple 2011" page for more details).
Of course, this does not in any way preclude our getting serious snowfall in the next month or so. You have to love Central NY weather!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dark Days #14: Fresh Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce

Last month I had a flurry of Dark Days Meals and then I kind of petered out for these last two weeks (since the Eggs Benedict adventure). By my count, I'm still working on an average of one per week, and we're now on week #14.  Six to go to take me to the middle of April, which was my original committment.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, our winter farmer's market is taking the month of March "off". This will make fresh greens slightly more challenging, but not impossible (I still have Finger Lakes Fresh for lettuce and basil). Potatoes are also getting hard to find; my source in Moravia has all but dried up, and I didn't stock up at the market before they closed. Still, I think we can finish this out strong!

In my fridge from my last trip(s) to the market though I had a few items hanging about, including fresh spinach and bok choi. I also had some dried shiitake mushrooms from Blue Oyster Cultivation that I wanted to use. Together with some fresh mushrooms that I found at Wegmans, and the cheese I'd just made, I had the fixin's for ravioli with spinach ricotta filling and a mushroom sauce on top.

For the ravioli, I used my usual recipe from Lidia Bastianich, but for the first time I actually made a whole batch not a half, with hopes of freezing leftovers for another meal. For the filling, I mostly followed suggestions from Miss Bastianich, but I left out the parmasean and the egg.  For the sauce, I more or less used a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook, but used a lot more mushrooms than he called for.

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • I certainly broke my 50-mile radius ring this time around, but I tried to make up for it by buying organic and trying some other new local items.  Outside of my usual exceptions of spices and oil, the most frustrating culprit was probably the fresh musrooms (Shiitake and Portabellas). They were organic, but from a place called Phillips Gourmet, in Kendall Square, PA. From what I can tell, it's just outside my 200 mile radius ring. Had I planned better, I might have been able to get fresh mushrooms from our local grower.
  • I did top the sauce with a little freshly grated romano (from Italy), and some chopped parsley (from I don't know where) for color. If you can believe it, I'm still  working on that same buch of parsley from over a month ago. It's kept amazingly well in my produce drawer simply wrapped in a plastic bag!
  • The pasta was made with truly local grains this week though, as I used some "All Purpose" flour grown by CPO and milled by FGF. However, I'm not sure I'll do that again. That AP flour worked and tasted great in my english muffins last weekend, but for some reason it made for very tough, not at all elasticy pasta dough. They do claim that although the protein content is right where AP flour should be, it has more whole grains and germ in it than is typical (which you can see from the brown flecked color).
  • Tough pasta dough is not a good thing when working with ravioli, or so I learned. You can perhaps see in the picture that I had to do a few "polish patches" to keep the filing from leaking out!
  • I used local eggs, fresh butter I made from local milk, my own onions and garlic from my dad's garden.
  • I learned that the greens I normally buy at the grocery store must arrive to me already quite old. At least that's all I can figure based on how quickly they go bad compared to the fresh things I've been getting at the market. My spinach was over two weeks old and I had to toss one, yes one piece that was starting to get a little funky. Fresh food rocks.
  • I learned that like eggs benedict, at least for now, ravioli falls into the category of a "good thing to go out for dinner and have someone else fix for you". It's really delicious, but a lot of work!!

In other, non-Dark Days news, we had major snow here last night! So much for maple sap flow for a while, unfortunately. Here are a few shots from the scene outside my "office" window this morning.  Note the progression, and the item ultimately borrowed (at the "price" of a dozen fresh eggs) from our neighbor!!

Finally, since today is the 7th of March, it was time to start planning for Saint Patrick's day. For the first time ever, I'm making corned beef from (local) scratch!!  I hope to serve it with my own sauerkraut and local potatoes in a couple weeks. I didn't have/use saltpeter (potassium nitrite), but I think there is enough salt in my brine to keep things safe. I can't wait to see how it comes out!