Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Farmer's Market Finds

 One of the great perks of living in the Lowcountry is the blessedly long growing season. There's not a lot of places you can find delicious, fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes in mid-October. Lucky for us, the Charleston Farmer's Market is one of those places. The market runs April through December, every Saturday in Marion Square. My favorite meals have been sourced there. I have no problem driving just under an hour for tasty goodness, and we did just that this past Saturday with my husband's visiting parents. It was a nice way of saying "This is who we are, this is how we eat, and it means a lot to us - so we want to share it with you".

Here in this post, you won't find recipes. Why? Because food this fresh doesn't need much done to it - it's already good. So I'll share just pictures and info on how I prepared the meal. It was pretty much a country delight...(Every thing came from the market, unless otherwise noted)

This delicious little salad started out as a massive red tomato, a yellow Roma, and a green onion. They were simply dressed with a few things from the pantry: Salt, Pepper, a splash of white wine vinegar, and a drizzle of good olive oil. I had some parsley and tarragon floating around in my fridge from earlier in the week so I chopped that up and tossed it in as well. I went really easy on all the seasonings though, because the tomatoes were so fresh and yummy. Also of note: Everything was room temperature. I think the flavors come out more that way, and besides, you should NEVER refrigerate a tomato.

This was picked that morning out on Wadmalaw Island, and I'd have been happy eating it raw (I did sneak a few kernels while prepping it). I just shucked it, broke it in half, and dropped it into boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes. That's all corn this fresh needs. At the table, we slathered it with butter and sprinkled it with smoked salt - YUM!

We always, ALWAYS get fingerling potatoes from Owl's Nest Plantation when we go. It's not optional. This time he also had mushrooms and apples, and he has some of the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes I''ve ever seen. For these I put about a tablespoon each butter and oil in a saute pan and cooked them on medium high heat till they just started to brown. Then I put the lid on and lowered the heat to medium-low, shaking them occasionally so they didn't burn on the bottoms, for about 15-20 minutes. The skins have a little resistance to them and the inside is creamy and flavorful. All they needed was a little salt. The peas are purple hull peas from our garden. We let them dry in the pod and then shell them. Because they are fresher than supermarket dried peas, they only took about 30 minutes to cook worth no soaking. They went into some boiling water with a few chunks of Tasso ham we got from the Meat House's stand (pic of that will come with my Red Beans and Rice recipe that I'm cooking tonight). The only other seasoning these got was this:
The other source of my powers
 My fabulous mother-in-law brought us a bottle of this and I did a little happy dance. We've been without it since July, and my cooking just wasn't the same. If you know someone in Alabama have them mail it to you. It will change your life.

Of course we aren't a bunch of vegetarians, so we just stopped at Bi-Lo on the way home and picked up a preseasoned package of turkey tenderloin (it's on price-lock at $5 right now) to satisfy my husbands carnivorous tendencies.

And I had two small homemade french bread boules (round loaves) from earlier in the week that I'd made and frozen. They reheated beautifully and tasted as if they'd been made that day. I didn't get a pic of them, but here's what the loaves looked like from the same afternoon:

I try to make bread at least once a week- I'm working my way through Baking With Julia - it's better than any baking textbook, and really makes artisan bread easy for the home baker.

And there you have it! Our wonderful farmer's market dinner! Head out there this Saturday and create your own- there's still plenty of beautiful produce available!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chilly? Chili!

(Clearly I had writers' block when I came up with that lame title... Lucky for me my unofficial but impartial taste-testers like the recipe)

It is no secret to those who know me that I LOVE Fall. As soon as cool breezes start to blow, my excitement is borderline inappropriate. As much as I love the bounty of a summer garden on my dinner table, there's something immensely satisfying about fall and winter cooking. It is the ultimate comfort food - anything stewed, roasted, or braised warms your kitchen and your heart (OK, OK, cheesy line, but true!). It would be safe to assume that there will be a significant increase in blog posts and recipes shared during this season.

So when It got too chilly to leave the windows open the other night, the only thing that would satisfy me and my apparently psychic husband was, naturally, Chili. I say apparently psychic because I had planned a nice sausage and potato gratin for dinner that night, but threw the idea out while I was wrapped up in a sweater on the porch drinking my coffee that morning and decided to have chili instead (holy run-on sentence, batman). Within moments, he called and asked if we were having chili for dinner. Sometimes I wonder if we share a brain...

So today, I share with you my chili recipe. It's delicious, it's spicy, and it makes enough to share with friends and show off your mad chili skills. Coming up with my own chili recipe was sort of a facepalm moment - I was using the Carroll Shelby mix forever. And one day, I almost bought it and said "why am I doing this? I can cook. I don't need no stinking mix!" And from that moment in the spice aisle of Super Bi-Lo, was born:

Spicy 2-Bean Chili (about 8 servings)

2 lbs Ground Beef
1 sm. white onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (feel free to use less if you don't like it so hot)
1/4 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon Stubbs' brand liquid smoke
1/4 cup masa mixed with 1/4 cup cold water (in a pinch you can use cornmeal- that's what I had on hand this time)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chili beans, drained

And here's how you make it:

Crumble the ground beef into a large pot and add the onion and garlic. Heat over medium high, breaking up the meat and browning well. I drain off the excess fat with a turkey baster. My husband would dump it into a colander. Do what you feel is right here.

Then add the spices- chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and Lawry's

at another point in my life, these little plastic cups would house jello-shots. Now they are prep bowls.

Mix those in really well. It should smell fantastic! Then stir in the crushed tomatoes and water. Bring that to a low boil,
Check me out, I caught the bubbles!
 Then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it dries out too much, feel free to add a little more water.

Can we take a break for a minute? I need to share:
The source of my powers
Everyone should own one. It's a large Le Cruset Dutch oven. Goes from Stove top to oven. Cooks beautifully. Keeps food hot for hours, it seems. In cold weather, it rarely gets put away because I really use it that much. If I were independently wealthy I would give away one a week. They are a worthwhile investment if you cook a lot. I've made soups, roasts, and even bread in this baby. I really should name her...

Back to the Chili! after 30 minutes of simmering, add your masa-water mixture. This will thicken it up nicely and add a little extra flavor. Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, then stir in your beans. Simmer another five minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt to your liking.

I'm actually eating leftovers of this as I write about it. It's even better the next day.
Top it with whatever you like - Frito's, cheese, sour cream, etc. I like cheese and oyster crackers on mine. The leftovers are killer on a baked potato, by the way.

Hope you like!