Friday, January 22, 2010

Making Your Own

I have recently made tahini (sesame butter) from organic brown sesame seeds from Texas, and it's so delicious I thought I'd write a post of some things you can make for yourself, better and cheaper than what you can buy.

Homemade Sesame Tahini

2 cups organic brown (unhulled) sesame seeds
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees and spread the seeds smoothly on a pizza pan or cookie sheet with sides. Toast for 8-10 minutes in oven.
Remove and let cool 20 minutes or more. Place seeds in a food processor and add the oil. Run for 2-3 minutes, then stop and push the stray seeds down into the slurry, and run for another 2-3 minutes. Makes a little less than a pint. Keep in frig. Does not separate.

This is Delicious! I find myself eating it with a spoon. You could also spread it on bread or crackers, or put a spoonful in chicken soup. I haven't added it to hummus yet, but I'm sure that would work well too.

Rice Cream

You can buy "rice cream", which is a quick-cooking brown rice hot cereal, for some bucks, but making your own is a cinch. I started with organic brown basmati rice (Lundbergs from California). I ran it through my grain mill, set for a coarse flour. If you grind more than a small quantity, keep it in the frig or freezer.

To cook, mix 1 cup water and 1/3 cup coarse rice flour, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, stirring, and continue to stir as it thickens. Then turn heat very low and put a lid on for a few minutes to finish cooking.

You could lightly toast the raw rice before grinding. You could also try the same trick with wild rice (I plan to do that soon), for a particularly luxurious breakfast cereal.

Homemade Mayonnaise

This is so good I haven't bought commercial mayonnaise for years.

1 organic fresh high-quality egg
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

Preferably make this in a small food processor with a hole in the lid. The blender is OK but it is hard to get it scraped out when done.

Put egg in bowl of processor, and add the lemon juice, salt, and mustard powder. Have oil measured and ready. Start processor. While running, dribble in the olive oil. As it runs, the mayo starts to thicken, and when you are done, it is nice and thick. Scrape out into a widemouth jar and keep in frig. This does not keep FOREVER like commercial mayo; plan to use in a couple of weeks. It is a lovely pale greenish-gold color and has loads of flavor.

Easy Home-ground Flours

Even with an underpowered grain grinder, millet and buckwheat flour are very easy to make. Millet flour turns rancid rather easily, while the grain itself keeps very well, so it makes sense to grind only a couple of weeks of supply at a time.

My favorite quick gluten-free pancake uses equal parts homeground buckwheat and millet flour. For one person, beat one egg, stir in 1/3 cup each of buckwheat and millet flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and milk, buttermilk or yogurt to make the batter thickness that you like. Cook in hot skillet or griddle, with melted butter or home-rendered lard or olive oil to keep it from sticking. (I stopped using Teflon pans two years ago; the smoke is toxic, and eventually bits start coming off in the food.)

I like these pancakes plain or with a little fruit jam, though I suppose you could use maple syrup. Just don't use the cheap high-fructose corn sweetener version of syrup. That stuff is not good for you, promoting insulin resistance.


Make these with backyard apples, farmer's market apples, or good store apples that are unwaxed, if you can find them. Leaving the skins on (for red or reddish apples) makes the sauce a yummy pinkish color instead of gray. Once you've made your own applesauce, commercial doesn't taste that good.

Wash apples, cut into quarters, and core. Cut out any bad parts or bruises. Put in your pan, and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water (depending on size of pan). Bring to boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to lift bottom slices to the top. Let cool a few minutes, then put through a food mill. This is a wonderful non-electric gadget you can get at a kitchen or hardware store. It catches all the skins and seeds.

Depending on how sweet or tart your apples are, and your taste, you could sweeten a little with honey or sugar. You can add a little orange zest, or a little cinnamon or nutmeg.

Applesauce can be frozen in wide-mouth pints, or if you make a big batch you can water-bath can the jars for 15 minutes (see the Ball Blue Book of Canning for details). If you have a fruit dryer that has "fruit leather" trays, two cups of sauce make a nice rollup.

You could make this with some apricot or peach slices too, or your favorite berry, like the commercially-available sauce. I haven't done this, but it's worth the experiment.

Home-Rendered Lard

First, don't use commercial lard which has so many preservatives in it that it keeps out of refrigeration for months.

Start with fat scraps from high-quality pastured pork, preferably organic. Locally, I get mine from Rocky Plains store in Loveland.

Cut fat into small cubes. Place in a kettle, and heat slowly, stirring occasionally. As the fat melts out more and more, slowly turn down the heat. The first few times you go through the process, check the temperature with a kitchen thermometer. You don't want it to get above 220 degrees (230 at a lower elevation).

Eventually there will be loads of very tiny bubbles coming to the top. With a slotted spoon press the scraps against the side of the kettle, to press out more fat and liquid. (Your whole purpose is to drive off the liquid, so that you end up with just the fat which will keep very well.) You'll be done when those little bubbles get fewer, and the temperature gets up. After doing it a few times, you'll get a feel for it.

Pour through a metal sieve into a bowl, then pour that into pint jars. What's left in the sieve are your cracklings. They are Delicious! You can put them in cornbread or bread, decorate scrambled eggs with some bits, or eat them with a spoon (oooh, decadent!). Not a low-fat delicacy, for sure. Keep the cracklings in the frig or freezer. Once the lard cools, put it in the freezer.

You can keep a jar on the counter for weeks with no sign of rancidity or off-taste. It is a good high-temperature cooking oil, and makes wonderful pastry. A well-fed pastured pig's fat is mostly mono-saturated, with a lipid profile pretty close to olive oil. Lard will keep far better than polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower, soy, or corn, which can get rancid shortly after opening the bottle.

Don't do this with industrial pork fat, ugggh! You won't like the taste anyway. As is true for many other foods, when you start with the best-quality ingredients, you get excellent taste and nutrition.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green in the Winter

I have not been keeping up with the incoming cabbage from our CSA. It's about the only locally-produced green thing around, so I need to do something about that. Green is compelling in the winter, surrounded as we are by white (lots of snow this winter in our region) and the browns of winter vegetation. Fortunately, cabbage pretty much waits patiently for me to get around to it.

How local is the following for us? Pretty local, actually.



Green pepper--CSA, home-dried

Lard--home-rendered from pastured Colorado pork

Tomato sauce--home-canned from local tomatoes

Vinegar--made by a friend from our own apples

Salt and pepper--salt from Utah, pepper from somewhere else

Romanian Braised Cabbage

1 head (about one pound) green cabbage, slivered (use a knife or a kraut cutter if you have one)
1 good-sized onion, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil or home-rendered lard
1 green pepper slivered, or use 1/2 cup dried green pepper slices
2 Tbs tomato paste, or 1/4 cup tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 Tbs cider vinegar

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add cabbage, and boil gently for 5 minutes. Drain. In a skillet, saute the onion and green pepper pieces in the oil or lard for 5 minutes. Stir in the drained cabbage. Continue to saute, stirring, for 5 more minutes. Mix tomato with 1/2 cup water, stir in, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the vinegar.

I used the cabbage as part of a dish I "invented" last night, roughly based on 1. what we had on hand, 2. the popular 7-layer Mexican-food appetizer.

Tex-Mex Concentric Platter

Each person gets a plate of their own.

Meat: choose from a wide variety: leftover turkey or chicken, stewed lamb, browned ground beef, browned sausage, ???. The first time we used turkey, the second time beef. Season the beef, if you use it, with a little salt and chili powder.

Beans: here you need to be prepared: sort and soak 1 cup pinto beans overnight, then bring to boil in fresh water and cook 2-3 hours until nice and tender. We always try to keep a dish of cooked beans on hand in the frig. Refry your cooked beans in a little oil or lard, with a little added salt, crushing the beans into a nice slurry. Stir and cook until somewhere between runny and stiff--just thick enough.

Greens: Here is one good thing to do with that Braised Cabbage above. It really adds to the dish. Or you could have finely sliced lettuce or escarole, or mild sauerkraut. I'd suggest the cabbage, especially for winter.

Condiments: Your choice; you could use a wide variety. I used lactofermented salsa I made last summer from local tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro. You could use other chunky salsa if you like. Also a little grated cheese. Other possibilities: guacamole or avocado slices, sour cream, sliced olives, sliced jalapenos (some like it hot), finely sliced onions or scallions.

Assembly: Have everything ready, refried beans, meat, etc. Make a ring of refried beans on the plate, leaving room at the center for the meat, and at the edges for the greens. About 2" wide, roughly. Then spoon meat into the central well, and lightly spoon some cabbage or other greens into a thin ring outside the beans. Sprinkle with cheese if desired, then some salsa, and other condiments as you like.

Other Ways
We're eating low-carb much of the time, and this is a lovely, nourishing low-carb meal. You could dip sturdy corn chips into it, or tear off pieces of flour tortilla, or load up soft warm corn tortillas with the contents of the ring. You could make the beans ring a little narrower and put another ring of cooked brown rice. You could serve it as a dinner (as we did), or put it out for appetizers with appropriate dipping material.

How local is this dish for us? Colorado pintos, beef raised 3 miles away, CSA tomatoes, onions, peppers, cabbage (fixed as above), local turkey or chicken, pork from the neighboring county.

Dessert for this meal was home-canned peaches from last summer.

Here are a couple of other cabbage dishes, from India. Spices, of course, are not local, but have been traded by human societies for millenia. Serve as a substantial dish beside meat, or dal (lentils) for vegetarians.

Cabbage and Potatoes
1 lb cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
3 Tbs cooking oil or ghee
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate, or 1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in large skillet, add mustard seeds and heat until they start to pop, then add onion and saute a few minutes. Add the potato pieces, and cook stirring for 5 minutes. Then add the cabbage and the rest of the spices and salt, stir well to mix, and cook uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasonings; soften the tamarind concentrate in a little hot water, and pour over.

Variation on a theme:

Cabbage with Yogurt

1 3/4 lbs cabbage, cored and sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup vegetable oil or ghee
3 tbs black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 small dried hot pepper, seeded and torn into small pieces
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced 1/4" thick
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
1 cup plain yogurt, gently warmed but NOT brought to boil

Heat oil, add mustard seeds until they pop, add pepper, coriander, cabbage and onion. Stir well, then add salt. Cover and cook over low heat 6-8 minutes. Then stir in grated coconut. Pile the cabbage into a bowl, stir in the warmed yogurt and serve.