Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mastering the Art of the 10:30 dinner

So Emily did come over last night and we did make something with rice. We decided on spicy stuffed cabbage, which consists of ground beef (grass-fed), brown rice, onions, raisins, pine nuts, dill, cumin, cinnamon, and clovers stuffed into cabbage leaves, doused in beef stock and baked for an hour. Doesn't sound too difficult.

I started soaking the rice at 11am to get in the requisite 7 hour soak. Check. Then ran some errands and ended at the grocery store. I spent nearly half an hour in the bulk spice section alone! Cardamom pods, arrowroot, dried thyme, cumin seeds, ground was fascinating. I made three circles around the store paying such close attention to the cookbook in my arms that I kept bumping into old people with carts. I finally had it all. Well, all except the fresh dill--I figured I could harvest that from the alley down the street.

I make it home, Emily shows up at 6:30 with ingredients for a roast squash, roast beet, goat cheese and hazelnut salad, and after harvesting the dill, we get started around 7. First mistake-starting around 7. We start chopping and prepping and boiling and roasting, get the rice on the stove and then I realize that after the rice finishes and the cabbage leaves get stuffed, they still need to bake for an hour. Crap. Ok. No problem. The rice will be finished at 8:05, we stuff the cabbage and bake and eat a bit after 9. We finish getting the beet and squash salad ready and steam some sweet corn on the cob (from the Ballard Market!) while we wait for the rice. 8:05. I open the lid to the pot and see brown rice--good--sitting beneath an inch of water--bad. Again, crap. Out comes the rice cooker (which the cookbook makes no mention of, so I tried to avoid it) and get the rice going in that--it'll take another 45 minutes. We eat the salad and corn, start a movie and wait. Rice finally finishes, we brown the beef, rice, onions and spices, awkwardly stuff the cabbage leaves, (more like making cabbage sandwiches) pour on the beef stock and start baking.

After all that, when they finish baking, we still have to pour off the stock and reduce it on the stovetop in order to use it as a sauce for the stuffed cabbage. That takes 15 minutes. But then, we dish up the cabbage sandwiches, pour on the sauce and, voila! Dinner is served. At 10:45.

All things considered, it did taste very good. And as I was reflecting on whether it was actually worth the nearly 4 hour preparation, Micael reminded me that yes, it was. That sometimes, not always, but special sometimes, part of eating is the time you share with people as you're preparing to eat. It may take all day. In fact, if it does, that might just be what makes the meal so good.

Tuesday Night Cooking Experiment

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday highlights

So, I called the butcher at PCC and ordered some bones from grass-fed cows ($2.57/lb) and they should be coming in sometime this week. This is so I can make bone broth. Uses: great for cooking instead of oil because it's full of flavor, make soups or stews, or drink it as-is to warm up. It's great for boosting the immune system and an inexpensive way to get protein. I'm planning to use it when I make stuffed peppers next week (with brown rice, ground beef, pine nuts and spices...), and then will keep the extra broth in the freezer.

Also bought salt-rubbed and smoked bacon for BLTs tomorrow lunch. For dinner, Emily is coming over and we're experimenting, but I'm guessing rice could be involved. So, we'll need to soak the brown rice 7 hours in advance to neutralize the phytic acid (present in whole grains--it inhibits nutrient absorption). That's where the lemons come in. Grains can be soaked with either whey, buttermilk or yoghurt along with warm water in order to make their nutrients accessible. For brown rice, lemon can be used instead.

And...I bought a hand mixer today. Raw butter will be mixed tomorrow.

Ballard Market goods

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Farmer's Market and the leaves are turning

It's Sunday! I love Sunday because it's the day I go to the Ballard Farmer's Market and hold and ogle a bunch of different vegetables, scramble for grass-fed beef, pick which flavor of honey to buy and get pushed out of the way at the heirloom tomato bins. It's wonderful. I haven't been to the market for the last several weeks because we've been out of town, so today was especially anticipated.

I got green beans, purple carrots, yellow cherry tomatoes and sweet corn from the Skagit Valley, red peppers and zebra striped tomatoes from Carnation, pastured eggs from Sedro Woolley, raw honey from I don't remember where, raw goat cheese from Estrella farms and last but not least, mmmmm, raw jersey milk and raw cream from Vashon Island. I'm especially excited about the raw cream because I have been on a relentless search for...raw butter.

Even getting the cream of the crop (no pun intended) from our local co-op, PCC, which runs $3.99 a half pound, it's all pasteurized. This has become a trend, expectation, even law, in the US now--pasteurization. To kill germs and keep us healthy. Unfortunately, it kills most of the nutrients in our milk and dairy products as well. Trying to find raw dairy from pastured (grass-fed) animals is difficult. And expensive. So, the milk runs $8 for a half gallon and the cream $5 for a half pint. Spendy, I know. Here is why I buy it: 1. It tastes so much better than pasteurized milk. 2. Raw dairy has the vitamins we need for healthy immune systems (beat the swine flu!) better brain function, healthier skin and hair and just more happiness (no I really mean this--you eat better food, your body does not get depressed!).

So, I am off to go buy a hand mixer so that I can beat my raw cream into really, really good raw butter. I hear it's easy. However, things are much easier once you've learned how to do them and no longer have to figure it out from a book. So, once I've actually beat the cream into butter and expelled all the buttermilk and then eat it and realize I've been successful, then I will claim victory.