Archive for July, 2011

Chorizo Refried Beans

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

What do you do when someone gives you a big hunk of chorizo? Seriously, what do YOU do, because I never cook with chorizo, and there is still quite a bit left! I knew I had to do something with the chorizo, so I asked Google what to do, because Google is good at telling you what to do. I found a totally random chorizo recipe collection, and started playing. Below is my adaptation of the refried beans recipe found on said random recipe page. Considering it was a total experiment, I was happy with the result.

If you’re unfamiliar with chorizo, it’s a sausage that is Iberian (Portugal/Spain) in origin, but also produced in Latin America. The sausage is usually made with pork, and though traditionally dry cured, it can also be found fresh. Chorizo’s flavor is characterized by the type of pepper used in preparation. Pepper type varies by geographic region, as does the type of wine and/or vinegar used. What I’m trying to say is that while chorizo has a basic flavor profile you will come to recognize, all chorizo is not made the same.

Add, to a pan over medium heat:
3 oz. Dry-cured Chorizo, small dice
1/2 Cup Diced Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tsp. Vegetable Oil

Saute for 4-5 minutes.
One Can Pinto Beans
3/4 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock*
2 Tsp. Ground Coriander
2 Tsp. Dried Oregano
Pinch of Cumin
Pinch of Sugar

Mix everything together. Smash beans with the back of a spoon or spatula. Don’t stress about smashing every last bean.
1 Cup Frozen Corn (or fresh if it’s in season…)

Cook over medium heat for 7 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed by the beans.

*Chorizo is generally pretty salty, especially the dry-cured kind. So use a low sodium broth so you don’t overwhelm your taste buds with salt!

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Helping Out

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: favorite, hodgepodge, travel | Tags: , , , , , |

A farm is alive. The land and the animals still need attention even if the people that are supposed to attend to it are missing. An entire growing season, a livelihood, can be ruined because of unexpected circumstances. But things can be saved when a community comes together to lend a hand.

The farm is about two hours from Pittsburgh. It’s on a beautiful piece of land in a beautiful piece of the country. There are chickens and goats and dogs roaming land speckled with bundles of hay and rows of corn. It’s the very picture that the massive monoculture agrofarms want to you to think about when you think of farmland, except in this case it’s actually the real deal.

But the farm was in danger of being overrun with weeds. One of the people who owns the farm is ill. Those that were left hadn’t the time or manpower to take care of everything. So a bunch of us took off from Pittsburgh, and drove through the rolling countryside, gloves and weeding tools in hand, ready to help. We spent several hours in the hot July sun pulling unwanted plants from the ground. I was in the cornfield, on hands and knees, clearing land so the late-planted rows of corn had a chance to grow.

I’ll be honest with you: I’ve paid a lot of lip-service to the theory that you have to physically work the land in order to really understand why it’s important to pay higher prices to farmers that choose to grow their crops sustainably. It’s not that I didn’t actually think that true; I respect farmers, I believe they are entitled to be paid a fair price for their work…but, I never physically understood the toil of farm work until last weekend. A farm field is a hot hot place in the middle of July. Weeding is taxing on the body. So is harvesting crops in the heat of a summer day. Anyone who chooses to do this for a living deserves our respect.

But this isn’t a story about me getting out of the kitchen/library and onto a cornfield. This is a story about people coming together to help other people in need. Phrases like “dust yourself off and get back on the horse,” or “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” are often given as advice when someone is down. And it’s true, you do need to get up and get back in the game. But sometimes you have to put the word out, ask for help, and hopefully some friends & strangers will pitch in. It’s a wonderful thing. At the end of the day, the farm’s fields were a bit better off than they were before we arrived. There is still work to be done (the work never ends during growing season), and if they asked, I’m sure we’d all be happy to make the drive again.

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Growing Garlic, Trying Patience

Posted on July 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the first things I did when I moved to Pittsburgh was purchase some garlic to plant. I had a yard of my own for the first time, and I was all sorts of excited to be able to Grow Things. Several days after I moved into my new pad, I attended a local food event called Rachel’s Sustainable Feast. The Rachel Carson Bridge was full of food purveyors and vendors. One of the vendors was a dude selling garlic bulbs, many many garlic bulbs. Well, I cook with a lot of garlic, so it seemed like a logical choice for me to try my hand at growing it. I figured I’d buy some garlic, bury it, and it would be ready by the first snowfall of the winter. First wrong assumption.

Turns out, I wouldn’t even be able to plant the garlic for several months. The festival on the bridge took place at the end of August, but garlic planting wasn’t meant to happen until Columbus Day. So the two brown bags with one head of garlic in each sat on my kitchen counter for two months, slowly pushed out of the way and into a tiny corner. Finally, garlic planting day arrived. I planted the bulbs and promptly made my second wrong assumption. I figured there would be no need to write down which types of garlic I had planted. For sure I’d just remember what went where. I have no idea why I assumed I would remember. Of course I wouldn’t. And of course I didn’t. Lesson: always write down what you’re planting.

Winter comes and goes. (I say that like it was no big deal. Obviously my memory of horrible, cold months with nothing but snowfall and grey sky is about as solid as my memory of what kind of garlic I planted.) Eight tiny stalks pop out of the ground. Garlic sprouts! I planted ten, but I’ll take eight. OK, seven. One died almost immediately. OK, six. Another died shortly after the first one. Then there were five, and frankly, two of them were looking pretty small. But they all kept growing. I was anxious to harvest them. But when should I do that? I assumed garlic that overwinters would be ready early in the spring. No. Garlic is ready late spring/early summer. More waiting.

Here’s how you know it’s ready for harvest:

The garlic plant will grow and grow. And then a shoot will emerge from the center of the plant. This is the scape. It will become a flower eventually, if you let it. But you’re not going to let it. Once it curls, you’re going to snip it. And you’re going to eat it–it has a lovely mild flavor. Now the penultimate test of patience begins. Once again, you’re going to have to wait. How long? About 20 days from the time you cut the scapes. And then…it’s time to pull the garlic.

Loosen the soil around the bulb, and gently pull up. There is is–after months and months of waiting, you finally get to see what your garlic looks like. For me this was…disappointing. Of the five garlic plants that survived to maturity, only one of them was what you might call a show-stopper. The rest, well, you might call them “little buddy.” At least I could put them in my pantry and enjoy the spoils of my patience. I can’t do that yet?! What? Wait.

Garlic must first be cured before it can be stored. The Final Test of Patience. One of my professors sent me a link that will take you through the curing process. Check it out. Three more weeks of waiting. Balls. Of course, you can totally use some of it right away. You only have to cure the garlic you plan on keeping around.

So, what’s next for my garlic? I’ve used the smallest head already. It’s noticeably more flavorful than grocery store garlic. The other heads have cured nicely, and are just about ready to store. I’m going to save the biggest one and replant that on Columbus Day. Patience never ends, right?

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