Cilantro consumed

Originally written May 19th, but I can’t remember why I delayed posting. Maybe something to do with the garden.

Our cilantro, planted back in February was coming to the end of it’s sheltered domestic life, and there are no tomatoes or peppers in sight. So we decided to find another use, and plant more out-doors. I harvested every part of the plants for the following cilantro heavy meal. Although the leaves are the most used, all parts have the fragrance and flavor that I love, so I chopped, cleaned and crushed the stems, stalks and roots and used them for seasoning the carne asada and the rice. I saved the leaves for garnishing the meal itself. It was a great meal.

Carne Asada

Ingredients

2 pounds flank or skirt steak, butterflied

Marinade:
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle chile pepper, seeded and minced (if canned chipotle is used, adobo sauce can be added)
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed (best to lightly toast the seeds first, then grind them)
1 large handful fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped (great flavor in the stems)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Lay the flank steak in a large glass bowl or baking dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the steak. Make sure each piece is well coated. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

Preheat your grill over medium-high flame. Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Remove the steak from the marinade. Season both sides of the steak pieces with salt and pepper. Grill the pieces for a few minutes only, on each side, depending on how thin they are, until medium rare to well done, to your preference. Remove the steak pieces to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.

Adapted from here

Flour Tortillas

2 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons good quality lard or manteca (butter can be used for a richer flavor)

2/3 cup water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Heat the water and lard, or other fat, over low heat, or in a microwave until it has melted. Gradually stir the liquid into the flour and form into a dough by hand. The result should be a dough that is neither wet nor dry and crumbly. If it seems too wet add a little more flour; if it is too dry add a little more water. Knead the dough very briefly, then allow it to rest for 1 hour. Divide it into 14 pieces. Roll the pieces of dough into little balls between the palms of your hands, then cover them with a slightly damp towel, and allow them to rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to an hour and a half. This will allow the gluten to relax and make them easier to shape.

Roll the dough into rounds 6 ½ to 7 ½ inches in diameter using the technique described above. Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the skillet or griddle has preheated, place one of the rolled out dough pieces on it. Within about 30 seconds it should start to bubble and some little brown spots begin to form on the bottom. Flip the tortilla over and cook another 30 seconds. By this time it should start to puff a little more, and the other side will develop light brown spots. Flip the tortilla again at which time it should immediately begin to puff, sometimes into a large, nearly round ball. When the tortilla has fully expanded, remove it from the heat and place it in a tortilla warmer or wrap it in a thick towel. As you proceed, adjust the heat based on the above description. For example, reduce the heat if after about 30 seconds the bottom of the tortilla is beginning to char, or raise it if nothing much has happened. Repeat the process for the remaining tortillas.

Adapted from here

Cilantro Rice

3 cups rice
Juice from one lime or 1/4 cup cider vinegar
Water enough to reach the first knuckle on your middle finger
1/4 cup coarsely chopped and crushed cilantro stalks (about 1 inch long so they can be easily removed)

Place rice in pot (medium sized dutch oven or aluminum cook pot) and rinse twice. Add lime juice or vinegar and fill water to the first knuckle on middle finger. Place on high heat until boiling, and reduce to low. Cook on low for 15 minutes, and then remove from heat.

Black Beans

4 cups cooked black beans (or 2 cans)
1 cup marinade from carne asada

Combine beans and marinade and cook for about 20 minutes, or until you are quite sure the beans are soft and the meat juices are cooked.

Seminal arrival

Our Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds order arrived today. Instead of the 60 seed packets we we expected, there were 78! It looks like we will be flush with tomatoes, green, yellow, orange, pink, and purple ones. Bea is very excited and started going through and taking notes for each variety from the catalog. Now comes the hard part… deciding when and how we will plant them. We will not be able to plant them all, and we still do not have the exact plan for the beds yet. So the next step is to determine which ones need to be started now, and get them in the plugs. I know onions and leeks are on the list, and we will start figuring out which things will be late summer plantings, rather than early spring.

A few of the varieties I am personally excited about:

  • Purple Tomatillos
  • Charentais (European melon)
  • Chichiquelite Huckleberry
  • Tal Jalepeno
  • Cherokee Chocolate tomato
  • White Wonder watermelon
  • Hartman’s Giant amaranth

Spring thoughts

I did finally order seeds. But not from any of the listed companies. I forgot to mention that I also requested a catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and when that catalog arrived, I was no longer interested in any of the others. All the seeds listed are open-pollinated, non-hybrid, heirloom seeds, collected from seed-savers and gardeners from around the world. So, what did we order? Having a very limited experience with gardening and the qualities of any varieties listed, we opted for the Medium Homestead package for northern climates that includes 25 vegetables and 60 varieties (60 seed packets total). So we really have no idea yet what we will be growing, and in a way, that will make our first year of gardening just that much more exciting. There are few, if any, items in the catalog that I would not want (most likely candidates are the summer squash and the beets), so chances are, we will be happy to have whatever pops up. What I don’t care for, Bea will probably love.

I have also brought the grow lights* into the kitchen and we are now waiting to see if the 6 basil plants and 2 cilantro will come up for some early fresh seasoning. At some point we may have to find a window for them, but first things first. I want to know how this grow light thing works, so I am experimenting with the seeds we have. It has only been a week, and not a peep. Other bloggers are reporting sprouts at 10 days for some of their seeds, so maybe we will see some green next week.

Next up is the chicken order. We will be getting 25 chicks, and I have picked out the breeds. It looks like we will mix it up with Rhode Island Reds, Silver/Gold Laced Wyandottes, Black Australorps, and Buff Orpingtons. We are planning on ordering straight runs of the Australorps, Orpingtons, and Wyandottes, but only ordering sexed pullets of the Reds. The reason for this is that we want to have a cock, but don’t want to be stuck with only one to pick from if we order it sexed. So we will order straight runs, cull the cockerels that don’t make the cut, and end up with the favorite cock to watch over the hens. Why no Red rooster? Reds tend to have quite aggressive cocks, and I prefer to keep my spurs at boot level. The next week or so will be spent preparing for the chicks (heat lamp, feeder, waterer, quarters), and plans for the coop and the run will kick into high gear after they arrive (in late March?). Each of the breeds is a good dual-purpose breed, so we should end up with 10-15 good layers, and 10-15 meaty frozen chickens in the freezer. We are hoping to let them run amok (I mean free range), but if it seems like they are getting into things (like the house, or the road), or easy prey for hawks and coyotes, they will be confined to their run.

It sounds like a lot. It is. Still not sure how it will all work out, but it will. Sun is out this weekend, so optimism levels are high.

If you happen to live in a (sub)urban area, the book Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski might be helpful. Many towns allow for small numbers of chickens, and they require so little space, and take care of many table scraps. Oh yeah, and the eggs!

* Bea’s dad did some work for a couple and they asked if he had use for the grow stand and lights. He said he knew some one who did! They are a great couple and have also loaned us an awesome stereoscopic microscope (2 eyepieces = magnification with depth). Frito’s are pretty nasty up close. Anyway, we are very thankful and excited about the grow lights, and will be even more so once we see some sprouts.

Wheel

A while back Bea and I came to the realization that somehow, spending more money on food was more worthwhile than spending more money on non-food. Then we realized that we almost never had better meals when we ate out than we had at home. So, with the fiscal focus on food, and the reduced expenditure on eating out, we have been able to eat a lot better food. But it still seemed that we were getting an awful lot of packaging with this good food, and you know, I would rather not pay for, or have to throw away, packaging. So we started buying more good food in bulk. It started with rice, and then it was beans, lentils, bread, fresh organic fruit. Now it is cheese. It has been frustrating to drive by dairy after dairy, but never be able to find local cheese, let alone organic or raw cheese. I started looking online, and found that there is really only one place that can provide what we were looking for: Steve-n-Sons Grassfields. The price seemed steep at first, but as I thought about it, the cost made perfect sense. These were cows, eating exactly what they should eat, producing milk with all the nutrients that come from nature, without the extra processing that both kills beneficial bacteria, and reduces the nutritive content of the milk. Cheese has been one of the last hold-outs on our consistent march toward food with healthier origins (organic, naturally raised, raw, local). Only one grocery carries organic cheese, but it is $8/lb. and definitely not local or raw, and probably only organic in the loosest USDA sense. So when we found a source of somewhat local (still almost 150 miles away), raw, organic cheese, that would sell us a whole round, without a lot of extra packaging, for the same price, we knew it was time to switch.

Mmmm...  cheese!

The folks at Grassfields are very nice, and our round/wheel of Lamont Cheddar arrived today! We still have some cheese left in the fridge that we will eat before cutting into the wheel, but it is hard to wait! It is 13.5 lbs. total, and we will cut it into chunks to freeze. At $8/lb. + $13 shipping, it comes to just under $9/lb. It means we will eat cheese a little more slowly, but it is also stronger with more flavor, and we will need less of it. Quesadillas will have to wait until I can make my own “farmers” cheese. I do have a cheese kit, compliments of Bea’s brother, so that day may not be too far off…

That's not yo' cheese!

I guess I like dirt

I have never had a beet that I particularly liked. I just don’t eat dirt clods that look like they bleed.

But that was before this winter, and a recipe that came with some beets from a co-workers garden. I think it came from a Campbell’s cookbook (page 18), but I have copied it here in the way that we made it (more or less).

If I am cut, do I not bleed?

Creamy Beet Soup

A twist on traditional borscht. While usually served hot with yogurt, it is also tasty chilled (so I hear).

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 medium potato, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-3 medium beets, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. snipped fresh dill, or 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Yogurt garnish

In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, cook onions in butter until tender. Add potato and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add beets and stock to saucepan; heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes or until potato is tender.

Place one-half beet mixture in blender or food processor. Cover and blend till smooth. Place blended soup aside and repeat with remaining beet mixture. Return soup to saucepan. Add dill, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with yogurt.

Out out damn spot!

This bodes well for Bea’s plans to grow some of these strange veggies in our garden(s) this year.

Alas poor yorkie

She is a good little dog, even if lame. One of my co-workers *drives for the Amish in the area, and heard that one family was getting rid of a female Yorkshire terrier. It turns out that they bought her for breeding, and thought that her limp and strange gait would go away as she grew. When they took her to the vet for her checkup, he told them they should not breed this dog. So they decided to get rid of it. My co-worker asked them to give her 2 weeks to find a new home, rather than just “putting her down”.

I had recently done some research on dogs, to find out which ones were good for livestock protection. I found a nice long list, and noticed that most were large. At the very bottom there was the Yorkshire Terrier, and I thought it was funny to find it there. So when we found that a Yorkie needed a home, we were ready to say yes.

She is a pretty little dog, but seems to have spine or hip trouble and does not use her back right leg most of the time. She does not complain, does not seem to be in pain, and is still very active.

Even so, I think we have decided on a name… Kalooy (ka-loo-oy), which is Bisaya for pitiful (or too be pitied). We find that we spend a lot of time saying or thinking “poor thing”, so I think it will be quite appropriate.

*Sometime the Amish need to get somewhere that it is impractical to use a horse and buggy, so they pay neighbors to drive them, and generally pay them pretty well.

*shuffle*shuffle*

Now that we have the barn available to us, we are shifting things around. I migrated my coffee roasting operation into the barn and setup a worktable that Bea’s parents gave us that her grandfather designed and built. It is all plywood, nails and screws but it is rock-steady, using a platform as a base that puts tension on all the connected parts.

There is plenty of power in there, with a 15, a 20, two 30 (for the 220 outlets) and two 50 amp breakers. What would use two 50 amp breakers? There is also plenty of shelving and a workbench with peg-board. Now I might need some tools…

As the barn was getting cleaned out, we found several nests of mice, so I am now a little worried about the safety of my coffee beans. Do mice like coffee?