Category Archives: Food and Drink

Food and Drink

Some Notes on Steak

Buy your beef from a local rancher and have the cow slaughtered in late spring. Keep it in the deep freeze, do not buy beef out of season.

Buy a young cow that has gotten lean from winter, and now fattened a bit on tender spring grasses and wildflowers. This combines young tender muscle with a sweet fats. Have you ever smelled a feedlot, why would you want to eat anything from there. I go in with neighbors and find a quarter cow lasts us most of the year.

Get your cow butchered properly. None of these industrial meat packing plants.

Prepare the steak with a little salt. Chop up some mushrooms and red peppers, and other vegetables such as cucumber, broccoli or asparagus. Whatever is in season. Put olive oil on the vegetables.

Close up the grill and heat it up to about 500 degrees. Get the cast iron hot. Now open then grill and either move the coals away to indirect heat or turn the gas down low. Put the steak on it and let the hot cast iron mark your beef. Put the vegetables on some foil or a basket and close up the grill with the steak and vegetables together.

Close the grill and wait a bit. Your grill should be between 250 and 300 degrees. I find that cooking at a lower temperature allows the fat to melt into the beef instead of getting tough and gristly. Melting the fat is the key to the whole process. That delicious flower and spring grass fed fat will melt into the muscle and create a tender, moist and delicious steak. The aroma of the vegetables and added humidity as they grill alongside the beef will keep your steak from drying out.

Check periodically you will know when to turn the steak when the fat on the streak looks like melting butter. After you turn the steak put the vegetables on top the steak and cook until you have it medium rare to medium.

Now remove the steak. Now wait. You must let the steak cool. If you cut the steak too soon the fat will be pushed out and the steak will lose its flavor. You must let the temperature drop to about 120 degrees F before you serve.

I find that steak prepared thusly is quite flavorful. The meat requires no aging or marinade in my opinion. Eat the vegetables and meat together and drink some hearty red wine or an stout beer.

Squarefoot Garden Part 2: Garden Box Construction

This is my first year at this. Thanks to the many folks who sent me tips after my inagural posting. I spent this weekend building the boxes. I’ve built three different types of boxes. The first is a typical 4 ft x 4 ft garden box with a 6 inch depth.

I’m putting this box in the back of our already productive strawberry bed over where some mint and fennel has been a bit to aggressive. The bottom of the bed is lined with landscape cloth and I did work the soil a bit to level underneath it. There shouldn’t be much of a problem with weeds coming up.

The other boxes I’ve created are 2 ft x 8 ft boxes. These will also provide 16 square feet for planting purposes. I’m going with 2×8 beds because I’m going place them in the side yard which gets a lot of sun but isn’t wide enough to accommodate the 4×4 configuration. One of the boxes has been made double height (one foot height) for purposes of planting potatoes, beets and carrots and other deeper growing vegetables.

Construction of the boxes was very simple. I purchased 5/4″ x 6″ x8′ boards and used scrap 2x4s to make the corners. 2″ decking screws are used to put everything together. I lined the insides with landscape cloth and stapled it in place. The idea of using raised beds with a specially engineered soil is to maximize plant density and avoid having to dig up parts of the yard. Since the beds are lined on the bottom with landscape cloth you can simply set them on the ground and fill them up. I will admit some digging was required to level the beds, but this is substantially less than the typical sod removal, tilling, etc that the rest of the garden has required.

I have scaled back the square foot garden beds to 64 square feet from my original plan of 128 square feet. This is because after calculating the costs of soil mix ingredients I was going to go broke growing my vegetables (baring a massive surge in commodity prices). Also while I know this will probably come back to haunt me, I’ve been convinced that I can use perlite instead of vermiculite. This is a source of much controversy on various gardening forums, but vermiculite was quite difficult and expensive to come by while the garden center folks I talked to assured me that perlite would be just fine provided I used a little extra compost instead of the pure 1/3 parts each (compost, peat, vermiculite) mentioned in the book. Time will tell. I’m also planning to get some plastic planters from home depot for the tomato plants and possibly some other plants. We have some very sunny places on our mostly south facing deck and it seems a waste not to use them to maximize the growing potential. I’ve always had pretty good luck with tomato plants and freezing the sauce makes for great eating year round.

In addition to the newly abundant bed space which will be getting some plantings this week, I have my more traditional garden beds underway as well. The strawberries seem to have survived the winter. Last year we had a bit of a wet period after the fruit started coming on strong, so our yield was lower than anticipated, but we still got a few jars of jam. We also have returning blueberry plants, and I hope that the blackberry bush that I planted two years ago will finally get to the size where it fruits. I also hope to get some of the grapes this year (most were taken by the birds last year. Finally I’ve got spinach, broccoli and peas coming up. I’ve also started an asparagus bed, but we won’t get any to eat until next year at the earliest :-(.

For my next post I’m hoping to share my garden plan including a week x week planting and harvest plan.

Breadblog: sourdough struggles

I continue to suck at sourdough. I’ve made two attempts both have been total bricks. Frankly all my baking has been poor this week. The last two loaves of whole wheat have not been the crusty deliciousness I had been turning out for the last few weeks. I’m to be away from oven for a while so I will have to settle for reading bread books and watching video to diagnose what is going wrong.

Breadblog: Sourdough Rye Fail

As I mentioned in last week’s breadblog, I’m really not a huge fan of sourdough beyond pancakes. Since I’m exploring bread baking I feel I should make some sourdough simply to understand the process, also all this wintry weather has be missing waking up to sour dough pancakes cooked on the wood stove in old Wyoming.

Also can we really call our home, home if we havn’t take the step of starting a sourdough sponge? I mean what better way to establish ones connection to a place than to mix some local honey, grain, and wild yeast into a bread and consume it as a family. Perhaps share some of your starter with neighbors and hope for a reciprocal offer. Bind families and neighbors together, following a pattern as a old as civilization. Yeast after all made it possible to store grain and make flour into bread. This cycle is what led us to settle in the valleys of Mesopotamia, grow crops and set us on the course to suburbia.

With these thoughts in my head, I resolved to make a simple sourdough rye today. After getting my starter going a few days ago I’ve been nursing it with flour and watching it build some impressive bubbling action. I chose a flour only starter, reasoning that this would make a less tangy starter which would probably be better for my unsophisticated pallet.

The results were less than spectacular. The dough stuck to the pan, and did not rise as well as I would have liked. The whole thing fell apart coming out of the pan. On the plus side I devoured most of the evidence, as it was still fairly yummy.

So I’ll have to try this recipe again and refine it. On the positive side it did fluff up pretty well in the oven, the combination of steam and whatever air pockets were in there seemed to do the trick. I’m going to let the last rise in the bread pan go a bit longer. Hopefully as my starter gets more established it will get a bit better. I might also toss in a bit of gluten flour, since I think that will help it fluff up.

Weekly Breadblog: Sourdough

I’m a bit under the weather so my bread making work has been stalled. So I’m going to point you over to the Things to Eat blog. I love sour dough pancakes so I’m including a recipe below. I am not a huge fan of sourdough bread but in the interests of a thorough exploration of bread making I do intent to explore the loaves.

To make sourdough anything you will need a starter. This is a living colony of various microorganisms that live off your flour and provide the leavening action for your breads. Over time your sourdough starter will take on a distinctive character based on the flours you feed it and the temperature, humidity of the local area. It is also not uncommon for there to be starters that have been running for some time. Growing up in Wyoming I recall a number of families that had sourdoughs going back generations handed down from baker to baker or shared from one friend to another. I think that there is probably a great deal to explore in the communal nature of bread baking.

Matt’s starter recipe

Want to know how easy this is? Put a cup of flour and a cup of water in a container. Leave it out until it bubbles. That’s your starter!
If you leave it out in the warm air, you have to feed it every 6-8 hours–almost more than I feed my dogs. So refrigerate it and feed it fresh flour once a week.

Here are a few sourdough things to try out

Sourdough Pancakes — this is really my favorite thing. We had an old wood cooking range in our house back in Wyoming and occasionally we’d get the treat of sourdough pancakes. When we went skiing in Jackson Hole we’d always make a point of getting a big breakfast at Jedediah’s Original House of Sourdough and load up on flapjacks, sausage for a full day of skiing up in the Tetons.

Sourdough Rye — is the classic sourdough bread. It was a staple of many family tables from the early middle ages on due to rye’s ability to be planted as an overwinter crop and suitability for cultivation on lower quality land. Ergotism was once a widespread disease caused by the infection of rye by the ergot fugus. This isn’t really a concern any more but makes for an interesting trivia and reading while you wait for your dough to rise.

Whole Wheat Bread

This week in bread blogging. After a week of shoveling snow my arms are too sore to kneed. I’ve pulled out the bread machine and used the dough setting, but then baked in the oven.
Baking was done at 450 for 25 minutes to an internal temp of 205 degrees. To make the crust I threw 2 cups of water on the floor of the oven just after I put in the bread. Be careful doing this I almost burned myself with the steam.

Here is the ingrediant list
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup gluten flour
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Saturday night pizza blogging

A sample of my latest pie. For sauce I used an organic marinara from trader joes with some oregano mixed in. Cheese is a fajita mix from costco. Flour is just all purpose. After a day of shoveling I’m doing it easy using machinery to kneed and mix it. Faster than delivery given the state of the roads. Beer is Otter Creek Spring Ale. Otter Creek is in Middlebury VT where I studied Arabic and drank gallons of the stuff. Middlebury is also home of Segue LMS.

French Bread

This week in baking, I’m exploring French bread. I started with this recipe as a baseline but added a tsp of sugar to go with my bread machine yeast. I let a pan of water steam in the oven for 30 minutes at 450 before putting the loaves in. Also I covered the loaves in a warm wet bath towel for the final rise and brushed some egg white on the surface before I put them in. The results were pretty good.

Pizza Making Tips

Homade pizza is easy to make, but often people give up after a try or two because it is easier to call The local pizza place. I’ll admit I’m just as guilty as ordering delivery, especially since Lost Dog’s newest location in South Arlington opened up near us. Homemade is a lot cheaper. Here are a few tips to make it yummy.

Tip 1. Hot oven. Some recipes set the oven to 375 or 400. I find though that a really good pizza needs 500 degrees. Also you need a pizza stone or a special pan so you get a crisp crust.

Tip 2 Kneed More — you should be able to stretch the dough thin enough to see though it. This often requires kneeding for longer than you’d like. Of you’ve got it lined up the bread will e like a soft pillow when it has risen and will easily stretch out with gravity and tossing it by hand. If bug holes show up when you try to stretch it out you didn’t kneed it long enough.

Tip 3 Flour combination. I use 7/8 bread flour to 1/8 whole wheat or other more flavorful flour to give some texture and complexity.

Tip 4 Cheese and Topping fun — you can really go crazy with mixes of cheeses and toppings. Try making a small salad out of your proposed cheeses, topping combo and sauce. If it works for the salad, it wil work on pizza.

Finally here’s a base recipe I use.. Though I switch out a quarter cup of whole wheat flour, and add a little more sugar. The recipe says to cook at 350 for 20 minutes, ignore that, try 500 for about 10 minutes or so. It is done when it is golden brown.

Offer your rebuttals, additional tips and comments in the space provided below.

Baking Bread

Here is the result of my latest breadmaking expeirement. I’m exiting crusts and various flours and substitutes. Today we have 3 cups bread flour, 3/4 cup yogurht, 3/4 cup water, 2tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt, 2 tblspn olive oil, 3 tblspn honey and 1 cup of rolled oats. Kneed with whole wheat flour, let rise, form, rise again. Preheat to 500 degrees. Put in Dutch oven for 15 minutes and then put in the dough. Turn oven to 375 and cover for 20 minutes. Remove cover and cook until temp is 200 degrees internally.