Monday, August 23, 2010

Visiting Goats in Michigan

Over the last couple of years I have become very fond of goats. I was introduced to them in Albuquerque by Susan Main who spent some time last fall at the South Mountain Dairy (“It’s all about the girls!”) helping the two women who own the place with milking, feeding and cheese-making. She has been making regular trips to the goat exhibit at the state fair for years and is a far more advanced goat fancier than I. But I am on my way.

Little did I know that on my trip to Michigan this year I would have another chance to visit some goats. On our way home from the Farmers Market in Montague, we decided to stop by a farm that our friends said had five goats, all female, ranging in age from a couple of months to several years. One of the little ones is bow-legged.

We were welcomed by the three boys Jake, Silas, and Clay who help to tend the goats and by their mom, Jennifer. For a while we chatted over the electrified fence: boys and goats on one side, me on the other. At last the boys invited me into the pen. I was thrilled.

After plying the boys with questions and snapping a few more pictures, we moved across the road to see the chickens and ducks and bought a 5.4 pound chicken ($2 a pound) they had recently slaughtered--Jennifer was in charge of gutting all 25 chickens, an experience she doesn’t want to repeat--and a dozen eggs, four of which were from the ducks ($2 a dozen).

When I returned to Sonoma, a large box was waiting for me on my front stoop. It contained three goats, two big ones and a little one, fashioned, I think, from recycled oil drums. These adorable creatures look out over our freshly planted front yard. Every morning I check in with them. Most folks walking by smile when they spot them lurking in the shadows. Our next door neighbor's dog sniffs them and barks. Children can't quite believe it. It's fun to watch the reactions. So here where it stands: I hang out with the live ones when I can. The rest of the time the faux goats will do very well indeed, bringing pleasure to one and all.

Menu 19: Summer Supper

A quiche all creamy and full of spinach, a zucchini salad with the tantalizing flavors of Provence, followed by a Lemon Ice (from the market or check out my March 22, 2011 blog). Seems like a pretty perfect summer supper to me.

Spinach Quiche
I love this quiche and I don’t care whether quiches are in or out of fashion. If you are not up for making a pie crust, buy one. If you are not up for a pie crust of any kind, make this quiche without one. I have a friend who actually prefers it that way.

1 partially baked 8-9 inch pie shell (Recipe below) or purchase one from the supermarket.
Note: If the supermarket one comes unbaked, follow the instructions on the wrapper for partial baking or look to the recipe below.

2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, chopped
4 cups finely chopped spinach or 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon smoky sweet paprika
1 cup grated cheese, whatever you like or have on hand cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan or a mix
1¼ cups heavy cream, warmed in the microwave
4 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onion until tender but not browned.
3. Add the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes. If you use fresh, you’ll need to chop again. No need to do that if you use frozen. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika, and ½ cup cheese.
4. Pour the warm cream slowly over the eggs while beating. Gradually beat in the spinach mixture. Taste for seasonings. Ladle into the pie shell. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
5. Bake for 30 minutes or until set. It will take longer for larger pies—45 minutes perhaps. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

For a bigger pie shell, increase the cream to 1¾ cups and the eggs to 5.
If you make this quiche ahead of time (the day or the morning before serving), refrigerate and then reheat at 300ºF. for 20-30 minutes to warm it slightly.

6 servings
Adapted from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Menu Cookbook

Pie Crust

For an 8 or 9-inch pie plate or tin:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut roughly into ½-inch pieces
7 tablespoons ice water or more if necessary

1. Combine the flour and salt in the container of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.
2. Add the ice water to the mixture. Pulse until you see the mixture coming together. If it doesn’t after a couple of additional pulses, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.
3. Dump the contents of the container onto a sheet of plastic wrap and mold it into a ball. Flatten the ballot a disk; bring the plastic up around the dough to cover it completely. Either freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes. (You can also refrigerate the dough for a day or two or freeze it almost indefinitely. If frozen, defrost before rolling.)
 4. Sprinkle a smooth countertop or a large board with flour. Unwrap the dough and place it on the work surface; sprinkle the top with a little flour. If the dough is hard, let it rest a few minutes to warm up just a little.
5. Roll with light pressure, from the center out. Continue to roll, adding a small amount of flour as necessary, rotating the dough occasionally, and turning it over once or twice during the process. When the dough is about 1/8-inch thick, place your plate upside down over it to check the size. You want your circle of dough to be about 2-3 inches bigger than the plate it will go into.
6. If the size is correct, move the dough into the pan by folding the dough in half and placing the fold in the middle of the pan. Carefully unfold the dough and press it gently into the outer edge of the plate.
7. Trim (I use scissors) the extra dough about 1 inch above the rim. Fold the dough above the rim in half (to ½ inch) and crimp with your fingers to make a decorative edge. With the scraps, you can fill in any part of the circle that’s missing.
8. Place the plate in the freezer for 10 minutes or the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Partially Baked Pie Crust

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Prick the dough all over with a fork to help prevent the crust from poufing. (You’ll see what I mean when it happens.)
3. Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil. Press the sheet into the dough, especially on the sides. Weight the foil with a pile of dried beans or rice, pie weights, or a tight-fitting oven-proof skillet or saucepan—anything that will sit flat on the surface and hold the dough in place. Sometimes I just do the foil and don’t weight it with anything and it’s just fine.
4. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven; remove the weights and foil. If it has poufed, wait for a few minutes for it to settle and then prick the bottom, once again, with a fork.
5. Bake for another 4-5 minutes or so until the crust is just starting to turn a light brown and the bottom looks set.
6. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and M.F.K. Fisher’s The Cooking of Provincial France

Green and/or Yellow Zucchini Salad with Feta (also Summer Squash)

1¼ pounds squash of your choosing, roasted (see recipe below)
½ cup drained and chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup dried sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped
½ cup pitted and sliced Kalamata or Nicoise olives
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped shallots or green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or more if you’d like
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or more if you’d like
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons raspberry or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Roasting the squash:
1. Cut into ½ -inch slices.
2. Place on a rimmed baking pan and mix with 2 tablespoons olive oil and some salt and pepper.
3. Roast at 425ºF. for about 30-40 minutes turning them mid-way. They should be nice and brown on both sides. Let cool slightly before continuing with the rest of the salad.

Making the salad:
1. In a medium bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, except the feta. You can do this while the squash is roasting. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
2. In a serving bowl, layer the cooled squash with the other combined ingredients. Sprinkle the top with feta cheese.
3. Serve at room temperature. If you make it ahead, refrigerate until about an hour before serving.

4 servings
Adapted from John Ash’s From the Earth to the Table

Friday, August 13, 2010

Menu 18: Summer at Its Best

This is a really wonderful summertime menu. Spicy Shrimp with Garlic and Oil, a loaf of crusty bread, your favorite salad or the Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella, and Corn Salad on my June 27, 2009 blog, with a delicious Berry Crumble for dessert. If you want to fancy it up a bit, you could add a first course of cold Yogurt and Cucumber Soup from my August 3, 2009 blog. Happy eating.

Spicy Shrimp with Garlic and Oil
I love the ease of cooking shrimp in their shells. Peeling and deveining shrimp is not one of my favorite kitchen activities. But I also love sucking the juices off the shrimp before peeling them at the table. And the peeling them myself slows me down and makes me anticipate and then fully appreciate their luscious flavor.

1 pound large or medium shrimp, in their shells
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic or more if you are a garlic lover, slivered
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon crushed red peppers or ½ teaspoon smoky hot paprika
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry.
2. In a skillet large enough to hold all the shrimp in a single layer, heat the oil over moderately high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the garlic, thyme, crushed red peppers or paprika, salt and shrimp. Toss to coat with oil, cook, stirring occasionally, just until the shrimp are pink, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, and with a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a warmed serving platter or to warmed individual plates. Pour the sauce over the shrimp, sprinkle lightly with the parsley. Serve immediately with paper napkins and plenty of bread to sop up the sauce.

3-4 servings for dinner
Adapted from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria

Individual Blackberry Crumbles
I wanted to include this recipe before berries left the Farmers' Markets around the country. Right now in Sonoma, blackberries from Andrea Davis' stand at the Friday market are at their prime but she's worried that the cold weather we've been having may slow down the ripening and sweetening. You'll remember her from my October 8, 2009 blog about her Quarter Acre Farm. Let's hope we have a spell of hot weather so those berries continue to thrive. And the tomatoes.

3 cups blackberries or comparable amount of blueberries or raspberries or a mix of all three
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour plus 1 tablespoon
½ cup firmly-packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons oats (quick-cooking or regular)
2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Serve with vanilla ice cream, lightly sweetened whipped cream, crème fraiche or mascarpone mixed with a little sugar and milk or cream.

1. Place the berries, sugar and 1 tablespoon flour in a bowl and stir to mix. Divide the berries into four shallow ovenproof bowls.
2. Place the brown sugar, baking powder, salt, oats, and remaining flour in a bowl (you can use the same berry bowl) and mix well. Add the butter, rubbing it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You can also use a pastry cutter.
3. Sprinkle the berries with this mixture. Bake at 400ºF. for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Serve warm with one of the suggested toppings.
You can make this in one larger container, such as a gratin dish, without any changes.

4 servings
Adapted from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food