Saturday, February 27, 2010

Noodle Day

With our hens finally increasing their egg production and our pullets starting to lay their first eggs, we are finally getting buried in "chicken seeds" again. We can only eat so many omelets, so celebrate the occasion I declared that today was Noodle Day!

Since my very lucky purchase last year of the $12 pasta maker, and my realization (duh!) that I can make the dough in my KitchenAid, pasta-making isn't quite the major chore that it used to be. However it is still a significant event that generally involves my taking over my parent's cabin so that I have enough surfaces to dry the cut noodles. Mom & Dad are in town for the weekend, so I took advantage of the situation and made a mess.

I sure hope they don't come back early : )
This should mean that we will have Herbed Whole Wheat Noodles to sell at the early farmers market! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rice Cooker Magic

I love my rice cooker. Period.
The rice cooker that we have is a basic PHD (push here dummy) version, just an on/off switch. No fuzzy logic, bells or whistles.

In the past we used it about once a month whenever we made rice, but since last year we use it nearly daily, especially in the winter. That was when I discovered that I could use it to make our breakfast oatmeal. I dump steel cut oats, water, salt and dried cranberries in the night before and when I wake up in the morning I hit the switch and walk away. About 20-30 minutes later we have perfectly cooked oatmeal, ready to dress with maple syrup and eat! Love it!

Then this winter my insightful friend Maggie sent me a recipe for using the rice cooker for making polenta. Ohhhhhh...

I keep medium grind cornmeal for my bread baking, so I tossed it into the cooker and gave it a try. Cornmeal, water and salt, cooked for a little more than a full cycle, dressed with butter and BGF honey, be still my heart! It is my new favorite breakfast. If you have a rice cooker, give it a try!

Edited to add:
Should have included this to start with...

4 cups water
1 cup coarse grain yellow polenta
1/2 tsp salt

Place water in rice cooker bowl, add polenta and salt.
Stir 15 seconds with a wooden spoon or plastic rice paddle. cover and set for porridge or regular cycle. A few times (or once!) during cooking, open the cover, stir 15 seconds, then close cover. At the end of the regular cycle , taste the polenta and make sure the desired consistency has been reached. If not, push the button and let it go a little longer.

For breakfast I just dress with butter and honey. If serving at another meal, you can add in 2/3 c. shredded Parmesan at the end.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

PFI and Trees Afire

Thursday we had to leave the farm shortly after dawn to make it to Ames for the PFI Cooperators meeting. This is an annual outing for us and one last opportunity to visit with a large group of farmers before the season begins. It is also the place where we commit ourselves to various field trials that we want to work on during the upcoming season. In the past we have done trials on tomato trellising systems and high tunnel profitability. It appears that we will continue the recent high tunnel trial, and add one on HT fertility. We also volunteered to do a study on low tunnel technologies in the field, which basically translates to "how do we keep the damn row covers on when its windy?" Details to follow on all of these, I'm sure.

Anyway, as we got ourselves and our chores ready for our departure the sun began to rise and lit up every surface covered with hoarfrost. It was absolutely glorious and looked like the world was ablaze in an icy fire. They aren't the greatest pictures, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Za'atar Flatbread

The bread-baking craze that has been sweeping the nation in the past couple of years has certainly visited here regularly, though mostly during the winter. I am a firmly entrenched acolyte in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (AB5) movement. I own the book, I read the website, I make the recipes. Well true confession: I'd been borrowing the book, but have had it WAY too long and need to return it to its rightful owner (Thanks Mama P!), so I ordered my own copy and it should arrive tomorrow.

Anyway, the flatbread recipes are some of my favorites, mostly because I am completely impatient and I LOVE being able to have fresh bread seven minutes after I decide that I want it. One of the recipes that I had been wanting to try was the Za'atar Flatbread (page 161, for those of you with the book).

My first challenge was a lack of the Za'atar itself. Za'atar is a middle-eastern spice blend with ground sumac berries as its base, its a spicy, tart flavor that I just love. Then a couple of months ago I happened upon a new Middle-Eastern market in Des Moines that had bags of ground sumac and a great price. So a $3 bag of sumac, a little recipe research on the net and I had my very own Za'atar blend. I combined parts I liked out of several recipes, so here's what I used:


¼ c. ground sumac

2 tbs. thyme leaves

1 tbs. sesame seeds, toasted

1 tsp coarse salt (skip if sumac contains salt)

* optional, 2 tbs oregano

Grind together.

Besides the flatbread recipe, Za'atar is great with chicken, lamb or pork. It's also nice on green salads or sprinkled over olive oil as a dip for bread.

The Za'atar Flatbread recipe in the AB5 book makes a foccacia-type bread, that you bake in the oven but I was in a serious hurry, so I made the Naan recipe (page 173) that cooks in s cast iron skillet on the stove top. As soon as the first side cooked, I turned the bread over, brushed with garlic olive oil and sprinkled on the za'atar. Three minutes later it came out of the pan and onto the plate. It was delicious! Seriously, buy the book, make the bread and wont be sorry!