Wednesday, November 19, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Meet Me at the Market

Mueller Farmers' Market

Farmer’s markets are more than places to buy food. They’re important parts of the community. I meet my neighbors there, and I meet farmers. Since most of us are urbanites, we have very little contact with the countryside, but the countryside always supports the cities. Cities cannot survive without rural areas to feed them. At the farmers market, city meets country. People learn about where their food comes from and the people who grow it.-- Michael Pollan

Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery

Engel Farms

Bernhardt Farms

Engel Farms

Bernhardt Farms

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms

Johnson's Backyard Gardens


Hairston Creek Farm

Scenes from the Mueller Farmers' Market, Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Solitude and James Joyce

Padres Island 2014

He was alone.

He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.

James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Farmers Market Favorite: Spicy Squash Bisque

The first seasonal cool breeze blew through the Hill Country last Saturday morning, and thoughts moved quickly from the autumn salad I had planned to prepare to this silky, slightly spicy, soul-warming Squash Bisque.

With long summers, and mild autumns, you'll often find summer and winter squashes peacefully cohabitating, side by side, on Texas farmers' market tables. We've used patty pan squash from Johnson's Backyard Garden for this particular version, prepared at the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers' Markets, but if not available in your area, substitute any seasonal squash such as butternut, or acorn winter squashes, zucchini or yellow summer squashes, peeled or unpeeled, according to the thickness of the skin. Alternatively, use frozen squash, oven roasting as directed, below.

This bisque was strained through a chinois, or china cap, therefore peeling, seeding, and/or prepping squash, ginger, and remaining ingredients is unnecessary. Alternative methods for preparation without straining include pureeing with an immersion blender, or cooling slightly, pureeing in a traditional blender, returning to the pan, and heating gently after adding milk or cream.

Serves 4, for entree

2# patty pan squash, sliced
1 large sweet red bell pepper, sliced
2 large New Mexico green chiles, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 thumb of fresh ginger, grated
1t ground sage
1T white wine vinegar
salt, to taste

1 pint half & half
Chives or Scallions, garnish

Local vendors: Squash, ginger, scallions, and garlic from JBG. Peppers and Chiles from Tecolote Farms. Ground Sage from Organicare Farms. Half & Half from Mill-King.

To get the most flavor from your vegetables, pan or oven roasting are your best bets. Below, find the easiest method for preparation, oven roasting (we prepared our bisque at the market with stovetop only, and a hot, dry, cast iron skillet).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large, silicone pad or spray-lined baking sheet, strew sliced squash, peppers,and garlic cloves. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast in preheated oven until tender, but not browned, about 30 minutes.

In a deep soup pot, add roasted vegetables, ginger, sage, and white wine vinegar. Add water, filling to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium, simmering for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables begin to break apart. Remove from heat.

With a hand-held immersion blender, puree vegetables in soup pot until smooth. (For additional silkiness, press through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois. Return to pot.) Stir in half & half, adjust salt and seasonings, warm gently. Garnish with chopped chives or sliced scallions. Serve.

 Chili? Gumbo? Chowder? Stew?  What is YOUR favorite first cool snap dish to prepare?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Get Lost

Panna Maria, Texas

“...but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise, and stretch in it mystified my longing.” 
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Treat (No Trick, Promise.)
A Sweet, Maybe Salty, Maybe Spicy, Nutty, Fruity, Chocolaty-drizzled Popcorn Treat

Why should the kids have all the fun?!  

Whether handing out treats to the wee ones a'knocking, or hitting the streets for raucous, costumed celebration, the big kids about this 'hood will be munching on something a tad more creative, and less sugar-soaked than what fills the ubiquitous plastic pumpkin. 

Play around with the components to suit your fancy. I like it a bit salty, a bit sweet, a bit spicy, and I prefer my chocolate drizzle as delightfully dark as I can find (Because memory, y'all), but any easy-to-find chocolaty meltable bark will work as well. 

Note: To make it an even healthier snack, eschew the candy bark coating, and toss in some semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips. 

It's addictive, friends! You'll find yourself sneaking in from the doorstep duty for nibbles....then perhaps give in to your cravings and bring the entire batch back to your post. Maybe hide it with a towel. Pretend you just have that cheapo taffy you got ten minutes ago at half price you're handing out. 

It really has no name, so let's just go with what it is--

A Sweet, Maybe Salty, Maybe Spicy, Nutty, Fruity, Chocolaty-drizzled Popcorn Treat.

There. Isn't that catchy? 

Prepare popcorn according to package directions. Try kettle corn, it really is perfect for this.  

Strew on Silpat-lined baking sheet. (Alternatively,  spray sheet pan down with silicone cooking spray.) Let it mingle with whatever treats your heart desires-- we used almonds, pistachios, and dried mixed fruits. 

Season with your favorites-- we used a little cayenne on one batch, a little chat masala, a popular salt-bomb of an Indian snack spice mixture, so goooood, on another, and simply a little sea salt on a third batch.

Melt chocolate candy coating according to package directions.  I found mine to be thicker than would easily drizzle (glop!) so I transferred it to a handy-dandy squeeze bottle, and went to town.  Drizzle chocolate over the top, as shown.  Pop the tray into the fridge for a few minutes (Really. It only takes a few minutes to harden.)

Now, I talk a mean game, but I'll break down and share it with the neighborhood kids-- the ones I know (because strange neighbors with unwrapped candy are s-c-a-r-y). This year, and this neighborhood, well it will likely be University of Texas co-eds that gather, and hey, co-eds need treats, too, right? To soak off all that liquor they consume? To have a nutritious snack?

I'll gently break off chunks to share in baking treat bags, and maybe a few in cupcake liners for the kids who hang around to pet the dog. (Jack loves Halloween, but wonders why he can't go door to door with the others, and for research purposes, only, where are the houses with the doggie treats?)

Really, the sharing-- that's important. If I don't, I'll likely eat the whole batch (or 2 or 3) for dinner.  

And maybe breakfast the next day, stealing the show from my usual healthy, adult, Saturday morning meal of cold pizza.  I may never grow up.

Now spill the beans!  What's YOUR costume going to be this year?  

I want to go as Edie....but I'm afraid I look more like Andy.

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