Thursday, October 18, 2018

Medicinal Soup (AKA Garlic Soup)

I started feeling sick on Monday, and foolishly attributed this to ragweed making a late season play against my general well-being. Tuesday, I realized how terribly wrong I was, but mostly just tried to suck this up with lots of fluids and broth, as well as various lozenges. By Tuesday night, I was sick enough that I realized I had gotten some kind of upper respiratory infection and couldn't breathe well enough to sleep without treating it properly. So I made some poultices and teas and drowned myself in them, then finally fell out. Wednesday, woke up quite a bit better, but the Pig was coughing. Turns out I'd passed the pestilence onto her. Since at 5, she's never been ill with normal stuff we're all used to, I figured I'd better nip it quickly and started drowning us both in tisanes, broth, elderberry syrup, and other such. Today, she was better, save a slight residual cough. I'm mostly better.

It occurred to me at some point, though, that I lack the mental wherewithal to go through another day of this, even the possibility of another day with a sick kid, and was worried that Ross might also become ill (and as such, unable to go to work). So I spent some time crafting a soup that was basically meant to be good tasting medicine. Literally every ingredient was selected primarily for its medicinal qualities (with some stuff added in to help me out with the arthritis Houston humidity is unkind to), and secondarily with respect to flavor combinations. The only thing I wanted to add that I couldn't justify ruining the flavor of the soup with was elderberries. But there's syrup and jelly for that, and we're swimming in both since this year's harvest was great.

Anyway, I took notes just in case we liked this, and when I told Ross I'd done so, he said, "good. That one deserves to be written down." So I figured I'd share it with y'all. There are ingredients here that you'd likely struggle to find if you aren't the same kind of strange gardener I am or a forager, but please substitute as needed. I've put recommendations for substitutions in the tougher ingredients, and links where another recipe is involved. Hope you enjoy!

1 piece of cross-cut beef shank (about a pound)
1 whole jalapeño (slit open a bit, if desired)
1 piece lemongrass
1/2" fresh ginger
2 stems' worth of purslane (sub: 2 teaspoons marshmallow root or 1 piece of okra; alternately just omit)
1 small sprig basil (I used Genovese, but I can't think of a basil that wouldn't work fine here)
1 small sprig (8 mature leaves) Cuban oregano (I can't find a store that sells this outside whole plants, but you can sub in 1 tablespoon of dried Greek or Mexican oregano, or 2 tablespoons of marjoram)
1 small sprig sage (I used a native species, but use whatever's in your kitchen already)
salt, white and black pepper
1 small (~1.5-2") piece fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon nigella seeds

large knob of butter
1/2 cup or so of ukha kraut (sub: scant half cup of shredded green cabbage plus the rest in fresh or dried leek)
couple tablespoons olive oil
1/2 or so of a roma tomato, chopped
1 large tomatillo (average tomato size), chopped
1/4 of a red bell pepper, minced
1 packed cup of finely chopped mixed greens (I used a mix of broadleaf plantain, hosta, and dandelion)
salt and either/both peppers as needed
juice of a large lime

meat from shank
2 large heads of garlic, peeled but left whole
reserved stock

In a two quart saucepan/pot, combine the first group of ingredients, with water to fill to close to the top. Don't be like me and forget to put all the seeds and such in a teaball or muslin so you don't have to pick them off the meat later when all you actually want to do is die. Simmer or boil until the shank is soft (this will take some time) and the marrow has fallen out. If you have stuff other than being sick to do, do this in a crock pot. Once the meat is breaking up and you can grab the bone with tons to remove, strain the whole mess and throw the garlic cloves in whatever's holding all that stock. Wash out your pot, then stick it on the stove on medium with the butter. While that's going on, pull all the fat and connective tissue off the meat, and set it in the stock.

Once your butter is melted, add the kraut, with salt and (ideally freshly cracked) black pepper.


It's really important to season as you go. Don't withhold the salt until the stock goes in, or put it all in right away. Sprinkle some salt in with each addition, unless the addition is already salty (lookin' at you, kraut). Toss some pepper on that bad boy. Build the flavors in layers instead of letting them do whatever you want.

Fry the kraut in the butter, letting it rest periodically to get some crispy edges. Once it's browned, add some oil, if needed (should be needed), the tomato, tomatillo, and bell pepper. Fry all that up, too. Once the tomatillo starts to dissolve, add greens and lime. Let all of it cook down into mush. Then add bowl of stock and such, plus some salt and pepper.

Simmer until the garlic is soft. Serves 4.

Lastly, this was the most bizarre set of notes I've ever had to transcribe into meaningful words.

Cabbage and Leek Kraut

The Piggy and I developed this recipe specifically to go into ukha, a Russian fish soup. It's also really good in other things, but we mostly use it for soup, unless I'm frying something that needs both cabbage and leeks.

This recipe is very easy to make, requiring only 3 ingredients, but it does need a bit of special equipment. If you don't have a muddler, use either a wine bottle, flat-ended rolling pin, or potato masher. In most of my fermented foods, I use swing-top fermenting jars (I use a mix of Fido, le Parfair, and Kilner, but I've got some odd IKEA jars and other such as well). I mostly use these because they obviate the need for multiple items per Mason jar you'll ferment in, such as weights, fermenting pipes, airlocks, and so forth, but it's also much simpler when you know there's no need to check your ferments to see if they're doing okay. If the seal is good, they're doing okay. Plus, I get to use my Mason jars for other things, like jam and dry storage.

When fermenting, you want to always use non-iodized salt. Many fermenters use various sea salts they've determined to be superior, but I personally use whatever non-iodized is nearest to my hand. This is normally either Himalayan pink salt or standard, $0.43/tub free-flowing (non-iodized) salt. Of the dozen or so salts I've fermented with, I've noticed exactly no difference, so my advice is to use whatever you've already got (so long as it's iodine-free - that messes up the fermentation process, so keep that for your normal salting needs).

Anyway, although we call this "ukha kraut," it's flavorful and can be used in a lot of different ways, including eating it raw. Hope you enjoy!

1 large green cabbage, shredded or cut up (mainly it's just cut up in my house)
2 leeks, trimmed of the harder green parts but with the softer green kept, then sliced into half-moons
3 tablespoons salt

In a big bowl, put a big layer of cabbage, then one of leeks, and add some salt on top. Mash this up until you start seeing liquid coming out. Your goal is to really well break down the cell walls in the veggies so they produce their own brine without added water. Continue to add layers and muddle/mash until you've used up everything and it's swimming in its own brine. If it's not quite swimming, don't sweat it. All will be well. Pack it all down (pack it tightly, using your muddler, which will allow you to continue to sort of knead the veggies and increase the brine) and keep adding until there's basically no air left and jar(s) is full. Close and write the date on the top. This is fine to use at 2 weeks, but is better allowed to mature to one month, and best at 2 months. 2 months is generally where krauts hit their "sweet spot" for me. Once opened (you can leave this on the counter unopened for a fairly long time, though I don't think I've had one go over 4 or 5 months without us getting into it), store in fridge. If you need that jar again, simply transfer to another container and store in fridge, then proceed with your jar. This usually will make about 1-1.5 litres of kraut.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Foraged Foods: Nightshade Tarts

I realized the other day that it's been a very long time since my last post. My life has changed in a lot of ways, one of which is that I've returned to foraging. Since my interests currently lie primarily in foraged foods and ales, my focus will be on that for the foreseeable future.

One favorite foraged food for us is black nightshade. Although commonly perceived as poisonous, this is a food plant if you're treating it properly. The leaves can be cooked and eaten (young ones raw as well), but the primary value to my 5 year old, Piggy, is the berries. Filled with seeds and sugary sweet, they're a lovely treat. I recently dug up some S. americanum plants and transplanted to our container garden, but most of the berries I cooked today came from a plant nearly as tall as me that I noticed while foraging for dock seeds. That bush was huge. And also weighed down with ripe fruits, so I took a lot of fruit. I left about 1/4 of the fruit for the birds, focusing only on fruit heads that were completely ripened. No reason to take berries I can't eat, and the mixed ripeness heads ensured more to munch on for the birds.


Once I got these home, I found myself unable to find time to do anything with them while I finished teaching two summer classes, so I put them in a container and tucked them in the fridge. A week or so later, I came to get them. After the de-stemming process (Pig helped, because she was insanely excited to discover I was making tarts for her), I let them macerate a bit before going into the shells.

Because I only had a bit over a cup (didn't measure) of berries once they were de-stemmed (and I'd taken a few for seeds), I opted to do two small tarts rather than a single pie. I topped my tarts with a sprinkle of almond flour to add some texture, and also because I couldn't remember where I last put my cornstarch. These, of course, don't translate into the same effect in the pie, but almond flour works fine even if you prefer the texture of cornstarch.

What follows is not a recipe, but rather a method. In most instances, I didn't take precise measurements, which means most measurements you'll see below are visual estimates (I am really good at this, but no one can be exact 100% of the time). You could use this method for other fruits as well, and you'd simply want to scale the estimates around the amount of fruit you have and crust you're willing to make.

I am really not a pie person, but it was a challenge for me to share the tart that was for R and I. These came out perfectly, and will be made as often as possible. There was leftover crust, which I've frozen for another day.



1/4 stick (4 ounces) cold butter
pinch of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or other sugar you have and want to use)
1 cup flour (I used all-purpose)
2-3 tablespoons cold milk kefir (you could use milk, yogurt, sour cream, cream, half-and-half, buttermilk, water, vodka, bourbon, or whatever you please)


1 cup ripe black nightshade berries
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or other sugar)
1 teaspoon almond flour (or corn starch) - optional

Cut butter into bits. Mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Dump the butter into the flour mixture and mash it up with your hands until you see what looks like sand and gravel. Add in the kefir/whatever, 1 tablespoon at a time, until handfuls of the mixture stick together when squeezed lightly. Put in saran wrap, a container, or similar, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

As your dough refrigerates, mix together the filling. Leave out almond flour, if using, but go ahead and put corn starch in if you're using that, and let the bowl sit on the counter. If you want to mash it a bit, feel free. It's not necessary, though.

Remove crust from oven and break off a piece. Roll to the size of your tart pan (mine are 3", I think) and put in pan. Cut or press off the excess above the rim of the pan. Do this for as many tarts as you're making (in this case, it will be two 3" tarts; it will be more or fewer, depending on how many berries you're starting off with), then evenly divide the filling into the tarts. Place tarts on tray of some kind and put in the fridge while the oven heats. Turn the oven onto 400F, and when the oven is hot, bake the tarts for 20-22 minutes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fried Cabbage

I made this the other day for breakfast, because there was a quarter cabbage sitting in the fridge looking like it needed to be eaten, a bit of jarred garlic in the fridge when I wanted the jar to go away, and because I still have half a jar of those olives that I sincerely do need to eat up. Plus, I sometimes eat like a toddler. Anyway, this was delicious, I enjoyed it, and I will be making it again this weekend. Scale the quantities directly to feed more than 1 person with this recipe. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cabbage, core removed, then cut up (I like slivers, but you could do cubes or whatever)
1 minced garlic clove (jarred is fine)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nigella or caraway seeds
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice (can use zest instead; can use bottled juice)
3 jalapeno-stuffed olives, chopped (optional; you might want hot sauce if not, though; I rinsed mine because they're old)

Melt butter in pan. Add cabbage, salt, and pepper. Fry until tips of cabbage start to shrivel and/or brown. Add garlic and nigella seeds, and fry another minute. Add in broth, lemon, and olives, and simmer until the bottom of the pan is dry, stirring occasionally (should take about 10-15 minutes or so). Nom.

ETA: You can keep cooking it after everything is absorbed to crisp it up a bit, if you prefer your cabbage that way. I prefer mine that way. Also, you can swap out the olives for a handful of slivered almonds and/or dried cranberries. Things like that to customize it.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Almond, Blueberry, and Maple Granola

Granola is always awesome, but it's very expensive to buy at the store. Making it at home is inexpensive and just takes a few minutes of active prep time, plus 80 minutes in the oven. For the blueberries, I buy fresh blueberries in massive quantities when they're in season and deeply discounted, then dry them. Typically I do this until I've got about a gallon dried total. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can either oven or sun dry them (If you've opted for sun drying, freeze them for 72 hours after they're finished to kill any possible insect eggs that may have been laid anyway and then store in the pantry). If you want some clumps, squeeze the mixture well once you've put it in the half sheet pan. Otherwise, it will be more like loose cereal.

4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup each: wheat germ, wheat bran, flax seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup each: vegetable oil, maple syrup
 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 250. Put together all of the dry ingredients except the berries in a large bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients until well-combined (this takes a couple of minutes), then stir them into the dry until everything is well coated. Spread out on a half-sheet pan and put in the oven. Bake for 1h20m, stirring every 15 minutes (I use a timer b/c I often forget I'm cooking things). Mix in berries when it comes out of the oven. Let cool on a rack in the pan, then transfer to an airtight container. Makes a lot.