Saturday, October 31, 2009

Indian Spiced Turkey Pilaf

In preparation for an upcoming book club/workshop/cooking class based on the book, 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert, that I am co-teaching with Jane Lehr Eckert, Ph.D. of Studio e, I will have the pleasure of experimenting with some Indian recipes. (fyi - workshop starts in February and will be 4 weekly sessions on Thursday evenings across from Summit Mall. Sign up for my newsletter on my website to stay in the loop)

Akronite palates aren't necessarily accustomed to Indian cuisine, and I think there is a misconception that it is all very hot/spicy and curry based. The cookbook '5 Spices, 5 dishes' by Ruta Kahate is a good starting point to understanding, and using some of the spices common to Indian cooking. The premise of the book: 'Using common spices and a few easily available ingredients, you can make fifty superb, well-balanced Indian dishes." The spices are coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground cayenne, and ground turmeric.

My first adaptation is #46: Turkey and Basmati Rice Pilaf. Typically made with ground goat in India, the recipe substitutes ground turkey. I subbed brown basmati rice for the white (both conveniently available in large containers at the larger Marcs stores), and grapeseed oil for the canola. I also got to use the beautiful fresh ginger from the farmer's market.

Indian Spiced Turkey Pilaf (adapted from Turkey and Basmati Rice Pilaf, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes)

Serves 6

1 1/2 c brown basmati rice
2 T grapeseed oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 T unsalted butter
1 t coriander seeds
1 t finely grated fresh ginger (about 2" piece)
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/2 c frozen peas
1/2 t ground turmeric
2 t salt
3 1/2 c hot water
minced mint leaves for garnish

Rinse rice and set aside in strainer.

Make the tadka: Heat oil in large stockpot over high heat. When oil starts to smoke, add 1/2 t of cumin seeds, and slap a lid on it quick. After seeds stop sputtering, add onion and butter, and saute over medium til onion turns golden.

While onion is cooking, heat a small skillet and roast remaining 1 t cumin seeds over low heat 'til dark and fragrant. Remove seeds and set aside to cool. Add coriander and slowly roast to dark brown (Patience, please, you don't want to rush and burn or they will be bitter!). When coriander seeds are cooled, grind w/cumin seeds and set aside.

Add ginger and garlic to onions and saute over low til smells fragrant, 3-4 min. Add turkey, peas, carrots, and turmeric. Turn heat to high and brown turkey, stirring constantly, breaking it up. Add roasted seeds and stir til liquid evaporates.

Add drained rice and salt, stir gently, then add water, stir and bring to boil. Cover and turn to simmer. Cook covered 15-20 min. Let rest with lid covered 'til all liquid is absorbed.

Fluff with fork, garnish with mint, eat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Maybe you will get away with just a warning.....

Spotted yesterday while on Tallmadge Avenue. It made me laugh, so I stopped for a shot on the way back.

I have a lot of captions, but I am going to keep them to myself, lest I attract readers who aren't really looking for a food and gardening blog......

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Got a (Fresh) Date

One of the pleasures of shopping Cleveland's West Side Market is that you never know what foreign fruit or vegetable you might encounter. A few weeks ago, next to their dried counterparts, were fresh dates. So, if you've never seen a fresh date, well here's what they look like.

And here they are in the more familiar form. Before, and after. I didn't buy any (lol), but I did get these nice photos.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

All-Clad Factory Outlet Sale: Dec 2009

All-Clad Factory Sale Alert! Judging from the number of hits this blog gets specifically on this topic, I thought I would share the date of the December 2009 sale. They are 12/4/09 and 12/5/09 at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

I don't know why this is the worst kept secret. They do them the first week of June and December each year, but unless you are on the mailing list and get a postcard, or check the Washington County Fairgrounds website under events, it's easy to forget.

So there you have it. Bring a wingman; once you've accumulated a stash, it's handy to have someone stand watch, while you take turning branching out. Take a wheeled cart if you have one. It beats dragging, pushing, or pulling a large, heavy cardboard box around.

Be polite. Be patient. Bring money (they take credit cards, obviously); these pans are not inexpensive, but they are built to last.

So there you have it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Putting the Gardens to Bed

I'm convinced that beautiful fall colors and a smattering of warm days is the Midwesterner's reward for the long, not so pretty at times, winter. I spent a week in the Finger Lakes region of New York last week enjoying the fall colors (and the wineries), and was greeted with a wet coating of early snow on the return trip. Snow on top of the leaves that hadn't yet fallen from the trees was a bit surreal.

We have yet to have a killing frost here, just a light smattering that rendered the basil useless, and finished off a few of the tender annuals. Apparently we had the same, chilly, unseasonably cold weather last week as New York, so having a few days of high 60s to low 70s, sunny weather, is Indian Summer here, and perfect for cleaning up some of the gardens.

There are several differences between spring and fall garden bed maintenance. First, the smell. The spring gardens smell moist and earthy, rich with the possibility of growth to come. Fall gardens smell like wood smoke, composting leaves, and dried herbs.

In the spring, creaky gardeners who haven't seen sunshine or anything green in many, many months, eagerly trot their rusty winter bodies on chilly, soggy, spring days at the first hint of sunshine for a chance to poke around in the gardens to see signs of new life. Fall gardening is inspired by nice weather; if winter comes to soon and covers the beds before the gardener gets a chance to properly tidy, they will still be there waiting in the spring.

The beds in fall, if properly planted, yield their own kind of beauty in the fall. It pays to plan for some fall color and texture.

The vegetable garden is pretty much spent, save this row of colorful Swiss Chard.

My baby Brussels Sprouts. (America's most hated vegetable: Get over it! If your memories of Brussels Sprouts evoke the smell of Aunt Maude's nursing home on the day after Thanksgiving - they were improperly cooked! Try roasting them with some bacon.)

Usually the zucchini and squash plants have long since been claimed by squash vine borers, a nasty creature that bores a hole in the vine, makes itself at home, and kills the vine. I had two plants still chugging along, and found this baby specimen. I also managed to find a handful of red raspberries.

The birds are definitely feeling the weather change. This noisy flock descended on my neighbor's lawn in an Alfred Hitchcock moment as I was doing my final walk through yesterday.

Another nice day forecasted, which is good, since I am only about half way through the beds. After today they should be in great shape for their winter nap.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Look what I found in New York: Friends and that crazy hairy plant

Well my favorite new plant, Gomphocarpus physocarpus, aka 'hairy balls', appears to be pretty popular in the Finger Lakes area of New York. This fine specimen was growing in the gardens right outside a winery tasting room (I lost track of which winery after about 30...)

And I was pleasantly surprised to spot them at one of the flower stands at the Ithaca Farmers Market (I so wish I had a shot of their beautiful stand). The young lady making custom bouquets gave me a funny look when I declared "You have hairy balls!". I guess they call it something else in New York. But she graciously made me this beautiful arrangement with some for a mere $12.

After our three hour lunch at Dano's Heuriger on Seneca, I asked my personal chef friends if they wanted to see my newly acquired hairy balls. This was my friend Laura Whalen's reaction.

We calmed down a bit in time to capture this shot of me, Laura, Mary Beth Brinkerhoff, and Martha Ulfelder. In addition to being a lot of fun to hang out with, I assure these gals can cook! Look them up if you need a personal chef in Buffalo, Rochester, or the Metrowest MA area!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Finger Lakes Distilling

You might think from the field of grapes still clinging to the vines, plus the large, beautiful white building, that you'd come upon yet another winery along the shores of Seneca Lake. But this particular stop is in fact, Finger Lakes Distilling, featuring a different form of drinkable product from local ingredients.

Surprisingly, the basis of their vodka is in fact grapes, and they are also used in the highly anticipated, soon to be released, grappa - a spirit that can pack up to a 40% alcohol content.

One of the highlights of the beautiful tasting room, is that you can peer through the glass at the inner workings, including this impressive copper pot still they imported from Germany.

I also loved the canoe shaped chandelier, a nice homage, to their place on the lake.

I passed on the tasting since I was driving, but I did take a tiny sip of the delicious Maplejack, an apple brandy finished with local maple syrup, and a bottle of that made it back to Ohio. I'm thinking it will add a nice layer of flavor to some thick pork chops with apples and onions with butternut sage risotto.

Their tasting room also features a nice selection of products, including the clever cocktail infusers from Tea Forte.

There was a little problem when were leaving. The driver of a very large motor home with a car in tow, didn't quite make the turn up the driveway, and was wedged firmly between the road and the drive, blocking approaching traffic. Bet that was fun to get out.

Eating Finger Lakes: Part One

When my sister and I left Ohio, heading towards the Finger Lakes in New York, my SUV was packed like a tick ready to pop a mini-kitchen. I packed my knives, a sturdy pan, the ice cream maker (Pumpkin Gelato!), and enough other supplies it looked like I was going to a client's kitchen for a personal chef session. And moving in.

We made the 5 1/2 hour drive without incident, picked up the keys to the house, had a minor melt down when the GPS clearly routed us to the wrong house, then disgorged the SUV and settled in for the night. My weekly share from White House Gardens also made the trip, including a full stalk of Brussels Sprouts. We grilled some chicken sausages for dinner and boiled some corn on the cob from the Stan Hywet Farmers Market.

Saturday the weather was brisk and a little drizzly as we headed to Ithaca for the Saturday Farmers Market. I love that market. There is so much to eat, drink, smell, and admire, that we managed to spend nearly two hours there, despite the less than stellar weather. There is a shelter, but when it rains sideways, it only helps a little.

We started the market trip with a stop at Fat Boy's Bakery for breakfast. I had a delicious blueberry scone; sis had a different flavor.

It wasn't long before the call of bacon needed to be answered. A stop at The Piggery yielded a pound of bacon, a container of ready-to-eat pulled pork, 2 apple sausages, and 2 of their Griller Sausages. The bacon was some of the best I have ever eaten. The Grillers are in the freezer; looking forward to them.

The Piggery is offering a winter charcuterie CSA - how cool is that? I would quickly abandon my plans to dig out my copy of Ruhlman and Polcyn's 'Charcuterie' and make pancetta with the pork belly I have on order from Curly Tail Farms if The Piggery were closer and would do the work.

Even though it takes a few days to get used to the idea of tasting wine before noon, eventually you realize there are so many wineries, it seems normal. We bought a delicious bottle of Pinot Noir from Bloomer Creek Vineyard and enjoyed with our Sunday steak dinner.

I love how the farmers display their produce so it looks like art. This stand had a nice selection of hot peppers and some mushrooms I wish I had gotten a shot of.

There were plenty of brussels sprouts on the stalk. We picked up celery here, then a chicken, and some giant garlic for soup. (We lucked out, the house had a crockpot - so it all went in one day while we went out and tasted wine).

I wasn't really that hungry, but every time someone walked by me with one of these small samplers from the Macro Mamas stand, I had food envy. Eventually I succumbed. It wasn't as big as it looks, it was a couple of bites of practically everything they had that day. There was a tasty spicy bean dish, a kale and cabbage dish, fresh greens with poppy seed dressing, wax and green beans, a mushroom risotto I wasn't crazy about, a mini squash tartlet, and probably some other vegetation I've now forgotten. I nibbled a little of each, but didn't finish. Which was good because, up next, the three hour lunch.

We met up with some of my personal chef friends at the fun and fabulous Dano's Heuriger on Seneca.

My friend Mary Beth did a much better and more detailed job of blogging lunch here.

We ordered the Chefs Table (normally reserved for 6 or more guests). I think they knew we could handle it. First a selection of spreads and salads, including a delicious one with pumpkin seed. Then the meat started coming. Delicious pork shank, sausages, schnitzel, and a perfectly roasted chicken.

There were plenty of sides too. Creamy mashed potatoes, sauerkraut with bacon, spaetzle, braised cabbage, fresh beans.

The restaurant has a cute little garden right outside the kitchen.

And this beautiful view of the lake. We ate, drank, and laughed for three hours. Then it was time to get ready for dinner.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hitching a Ride on the Grape Harvester

Just returned from a week long vacation in the New York Finger Lakes. If you enjoy wine, it's a must visit. There are over 120 wineries throughout the region, mostly sprinkled along the gentle shores of the lakes. I was fortunate to visit a friend with a lovely home on Seneca Lake this summer for a weekend, and knew it would make a perfect fall get-a-way.

I didn't visit many wineries on my first trip, but I did make a stop at Miles Wine Cellars on Seneca Lake. The winery is in a Greek Revival mansion with a lovely view of the lake, and a history of being haunted.

Due to the unusually cool spring and summer seasons, many of the grapes were still on the vines, the winemakers hoping for a little more time to ripen before harvesting. During the course of the week the temperatures were steadily dropping. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the harvest in action, but I wasn't really prepared for how close I was about to become to the process.

This shot is from approximately the same spot in the vineyards taken in late July.

The grapes were small and green in July.

And they were deeply purple colored with red coloring on the leaves in October.

We'd seen this contraption parked at the edge of the vineyard as we headed to the tasting room. We tasted some of the wineries signature wines, including a Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay/Cayuga blend aptly named 'Ghost', and 'Call Me a Cab", a juicy wine that would be perfect with pizza and pub fare. Included in the $2.50 tasting fee is wine glass that you may keep.

We could hear the machine running in the distance when we left, so we headed to the vineyard to catch a better look and take a few photos. We pulled the car off the side of the road and waited for the machine to get a little closer to the end of the row.

The driver, who turned out to be winery owner, Doug Miles, waved and motioned to us to come closer for a ride. Seriously?

At first we thought he was kidding, but as they dumped the grapes from the machine into waiting bins, we clearly heard "Want to go for a ride?" Despite the nippy temps and wind, who is going to turn down that one of a kind offer?

So up we climbed, onto this $314,000 piece of grape picking machinery. Each of the four wheels can be adjusted to accommodate the terrain of the row being harvested. It goes over the row of vines and vibrates the ripe grapes onto a conveyor belt that drops them into waiting bins on either side of the machine. It leaves the small, unripe grapes on the vines, and shoots any leaves it collects out the back into the field. (It doesn't pull off many leaves, an advantage over earlier machines). Each side hold one and half tons of grapes.

We went up one row and back another an filled the bins on either side. The machine goes about one mile an hour, and despite the vibrating mechanisms, it wasn't that jarring to ride on top. One of the conveyors was sticking a bit, so Doug's nephew rode in the back and helped it along when necessary.

We were literally sitting right in front of this bin as it filled with grapes. And fortunately not with the bunny that narrowly escaped our path. These are Cayuga grapes which go into the 'Ghost' wine. Roughly speaking, the yield from our two row run is about 135 cases of wine.

The filled bins were dumped into wooden crates and hauled away to be processed.

So our thanks to Doug Miles, for providing an unforgettable memory of our trip to Finger Lakes. I can't imagine spending the entire day with a knife, hand harvesting in the chilly weather until my fingers were numb. But Doug could, and he was pretty happy to be driving that fancy grape harvester instead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Turkeys Talking to Me

If your vision of Thanksgiving turkey is the brown construction paper version with the tiny hand outlined, then colored in tail feathers, with a child's name written on it, or worse yet, a gigantic rock hard frozen, injected Butterball, well you are in for a surprise.

Meet the turkeys of Brunty Farms. They were lounging in the sun, hanging out and making lots of funny (non-gobbling FYI) noises when I stopped by to pick up a few of their less fortunate chicken cousins . Less fortunate as in that old farm saying of "They had a great life, except for one really awful day".

As soon as I stepped into the pen, they decided, en masse, they needed to come check me out. It was a little creepy when they started towards me, but unlike wild turkeys, they are pretty gentle and were just curious.

They lost interest in me pretty quickly, and resumed lounging and making a whole host of noises, that were pretty entertaining. I need to go back and take some video. Farmer Jeff Brunty, picked one up (it wasn't too pleased), to show me that they are about 15 pounds now, but will be packing on the pounds in the coming weeks, before they grace Thanksgiving tables.

They didn't look very 'turkey-like" until they start preening and fluffing out the feathers. When I asked Jeff what it meant when they did that, he said "It means they like you". If they only knew I was picturing them cozied up to some stuffing and mashed potatoes and napped in gravy.

I hung out for awhile. Long enough to collect plenty of turkey doo on my shoes. I'll check back in a few weeks and see if I am talented enough to upload some video so you can get the full sound effects of what 100 turkeys hanging around sounds like. It's pretty cool.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Another fall favorite, this one always gets rave reviews. There are many pumpkin dip recipes out there, but I love this one because it's light, and the honey adds a nice layer of flavor. If you take the time to make the pie crust dippers, I swear it tastes like deconstructed pumpkin pie, but it's equally delicious with gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, and apple slices tossed with a little lemon juice.

Pumpkin Pie Dip with Pie Crust Cookie Dippers (Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie)

8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened (I have used low fat; fat free no - that stuff is nasty)
1 c powdered sugar
1 T honey
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1 15 oz can pumpkin (Not pie mix)

1 15 oz pkg pillbury ready pie crusts
1 egg, beaten with 1 T cream or milk
3/4 c sugar
1 t cinnamon

Dip: Whip cream cheese, powdered sugard, honey and pie spice til smooth and well mixed. Add pumpkin and beat til very light. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate til serving.

Pie Crust Dippers: Bring crusts to room temp and carefully unfoll. Cut with fluted cutter into strips 1" wide, then each strip crosswise into 1" pieces. Place on baking sheet and brush with beaten egg mix. Mix cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on pieces.

Bake in 400 degree oven til lightly browned on edges.*Don't go check your e-mail, keep an eye on these, they burn quickly. Remove and cool.