Friday, September 23, 2011

Farm Stand Fresh Ideas (Buckles, Salsas, Etc)

Mango Peach Salsa and Peach Plum Buckles, plus a little story and a little beer review.

I am in a very productive place with produce right now. I am in a zone, as they say in the sports world. I made a second zucchini and eggplant lasagna better than the last one I mentioned last post. I made some spinach and lemon hummus that is so good it nearly drove me mad, which only one hummus ever did to me- and that was one I forgot to mention in my Pacific Northwest Review, somehow. Comic story, which I will save for later. I have made only one mistake in my cooking recently. Just now while simmering up a batch of peach mango salsa from off the top of my head (as in no recipe or even a glance at similar recipes), I stopped at half a peach, and half of my raspberries and tomatoes. I should have used all the peach, and all my other ingredients on stock. Its that good. Mild, but delicious. Here is the recipe, written down for the first time on this earth (you can't beat that deal) and someday to be top secret property of "Ye King's Nostril", my pub that will be named after the Inn in the background of a scene from one of the greatest Looney Tune shorts ever made: "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", starring Daffy Duck.

For a single jar: 6 small or roma tomatoes, 1/2 peach with skin, 1/2 cup rounded of raspberries, 1 anaheim pepper (for mild) or 1 jalapeno (for strong) (I did the mild), 1 clove garlic, 1/3 of a green bell pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp brown sugar, onion powder, several crushed leaves of dry cilantro, 1/8 cup corn kernals, 1/8 cup black beans, a little corn starch at the end for thickening.

Dice it, mash it a bit, boil then reduce to a simmer and let it go for 30 minutes or so on low. Add the corn and black beans near the end. Tinker as you see fit. Serve in any obvious way, with tortilla chips, or make someone's day by serving it in my newest, latest, genius breakfast, Huevos Rancheros Achille.

Its really not such a secret is it? Pretty obvious once you hear the title. The trick is just thinking a bit outside the norm to come up with rare ideas. Is anyone talentless enough to make a truly bad salsa?

Also made my second buckle: an old-fashioned crust-less fruit pie that is easy to make with fruit and basic batter in a skillet (traditionally; cowboys ate them supposedly over their campfires), or a baking pan. My first buckle was made with Cam and was detailed on an old post from several years ago (oh God, I'm so very old...well, not really), a Peach and Blackberry, which was "traditional" in that we; cooked it in a cast-iron frying pan, and used a 1:1 ratio of flour to sugar, with all bleached flour, and used a whole stick of butter for our 1 cup of flour and sugar, making it, very sweet, very evidently a dessert, and not the least bit healthy. This time I decided to do a fake vintage buckle. I coarsened the batter up with whole wheat flour, changed the flour to sugar ratio to 2:1, added an 8 grain gritty cereal mix, ground flaxseeds, wheat germ, oat flakes, and reduced the butter a little by using one stick for 2 cups of flower and 1 of sugar. I also left the skin on the peaches, which Cam was against when we were sharing a kitchen and chef duties. Here is how to try the Peach Plum Buckle:

2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/8 cup Bob's Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal Mix (wheat free version; which is delicious for baking, though I tend not to just cook it up as it is meant to be used, not that there is anything wrong with it, but I prefer standard old style oat flakes with crushed walnuts, craisins, milk, brown sugar, spices and a dollop of honey), 1 cup mixed brown and white sugar, 3 peaches, 8-12 plums (if organic and small "real" sized; if grocery store goliath plums the size of apples then try 3-4), 2 tbsp or so wheat germ, 3-4 tbsp ground flaxseed, 1 tbsp baking powder (you don't want much rise), 1 stick butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp molasses, cinammon, allspice, and nutmeg, 2 whole eggs, 2 tbsp vegetable oil.

Dice the fruit, mix in with your dry ingredients, add your eggs and oil and the rest. Warm your butter and then add that in. Drip in water as you lightly toss. No need to beat, just get everything homogenized. Grease two standard pie tins or a big fry pan or whatever else you feel like using, pour it all in, bake for 30 minutes or so at 350 degrees. Just use the finger pat test to see when its done. Could a "pie" be simpler. Its really a bread pie, and can be served with dinner as a bread, or after dinner as dessert. Unless you add more sugar it is really going to pass with applause as either. A touch more sugar would push it over the edge into a confectionary. Had three "in-laws" try it and all were adamant not to put it more sugar. And they have a "sweet" tooth like the rest of us. Judge it by your produce; if you have good quality fresh fruit, don't add more sugar. If its out of season, then maybe hide that a bit with an extra 1/8 cup of white refined. Or just double the vanilla or the cinammon.

Now for my story: In Oregon one reason I did not try all the food I wanted at "The Mark" was that there were several appetizing restaurants around, and I talked Teresa into "Mediterranean food", which I had to describe to her- a good enough reason right there to make her eat some. This place seemed authentic, so we thought we could not go wrong. Well, one cannot expect the unexpected- that is what makes it the unexpected. Little did I consider when entering a restaurant that the food might, rather than being good, bad, or okay, that it might be, instead, non-existent. We found a table. Going good. We placed an order. And things were fine thus far. We sat and waited. And waited some more. And then a little more. 45 minutes pass. No food. There are other people sitting around. No food for them. People who came in before us did not have food. No one was eating at all. Things began to get awkward. After all, this WAS a restaurant.  I think someone was about to walk out. I think it might have been everyone had one person done it first, but the patience of the crowd cowed us. I was about to start the exodus however. I only stayed out of pure impotent incredulity; a kind of morbid scientific curiosity. That is, I just could not take my eyes off the clock. Here was a complainer's fantasy! Here was a once in a lifetime chance to find out how long people would go with a gag! So we stayed, but at last, I had had enough. After all, "The Mark" was attached to our charming hotel down the street. The wait staff was excellent. The food was unrivaled, at least to my knowledge, in Oregon. The waitress, a cute, but groundhog-like creature hiding in her hole somewhere, must have sensed the danger I represented as a potential leader, and brought T and I some kind of lemon and chicken cream soup, gratis. Very well, we stayed. The soup was excellent. Then came some free hummus, which was, upon the first bite, so good it nearly drove me mad. Teresa had to dip a pita chip at her own risk, because a large platter was half gone and I was in Olympic Diver stance, ready to bathe in the stuff. No one else got these freebies. The descendants of the Romans know a docile mob without a head when they see one...finally after well over an hour, our food came. And we were both full by then. I actually overtipped the adorable little Esmeralda who had avoided eye contact all night. I do not know where the food was. Perhaps they were slaughtering a lamb in the back parking lot, or perhaps their lead cook just sat down, folded his arms, stuck four cigarrettes in his mouth and said, (in a garble) "not tonight: You don't pay me enough, you yell at me, now this is happening." And he had to be replaced or worked around or co-erced with some gypsy potion or tambourine dance. I do not know. This nearly dinner-less dinner ate up our whole evening, but that hummus has had me tinkering like an alchemist over my blender all summer long to try to rediscover it like a culinary Shangri La.

Had one interesting beers recently. Dubbhe is a local to Utah, a beer that should not exist: a black IPA made with hemp, which should not work. I will explain. An IPA is an India Pale Ale, a kind of pale ale made British style, that is to say, bitter. Really it is akin to an English Bitter dulled or made milder with the pale ale. It is a summer drink refreshing in hot weather, that was sent to India during the colonial days. How one can make a black pale ale, I do not know, nor why one would try. As to why one would then adulterate an adulterated IPA further with hemp, well its like starting with an apple pie, but making it an apple crisp instead, and then using peaches instead of apples. I bought this beer out of pre-annoyance, a condition only very advanced individuals like myself can achieve, where one is already annoyed by using powers of prescience. It is a kind of sentiment on credit. One can only verify pre-annoyance, or prenoyance, as it is called in the academic literature. There is only an anti-climactic confirmation, a kind of satisfied, smug, "I knew I would be annoyed by this," when the normal mortal person would just begin to feel their annoyance. However, a strange thing happened. The beer is good. Really good. That is a first for a hemp beer for me, and it disappointed me, in that it did not allow me to superior and annoyed, which is a habit of mine. I can only conclude that the letters IPA were put on the bottle as a sales point. Few beer drinkers know what IPA stands for, and fewer care. They buy an IPA because an IPA tastes good without having too much flavor to offend anybody. It is now merely a buzz word that means nothing at all, except that in this case, it means, "please buy this weird beer we made. Its really good, and you'll see that if you just try it. P.S.: I!P!A!!!!!" Good for them, I think. And who knew a good beer could or would ever be brewed in Utah. Put on your best suit, the judgement day may be on the way.