Thursday, February 10, 2011

Playing In the Kitchen

Probably my favorite past time is playing in the kitchen. Really, doing anything with food peppers my ragu: growing it, prepping it, cooking it, preserving it. It's all fantastic. (By way of clarification, I do not grow food in my kitchen. At least not on purpose. Other than the occasional moldy hot dog bun, the growing takes place solely in the garden, at least until I learn the art of yogurt and cheese making.)

My family and friends know about my kitchen obsession, which is why they have gifted me with some of my favorite little food-related things. Like this gorgeous wooden bowl that my Aunt Carol gave me for my birthday 2 years ago. I've had it stashed in a cupboard because I didn't want it ruined. (My kids ruin my things. It's a dead certainty. I've learned to hide things.)

I've taken the bowl out every so often to look at it and feel its incredible smoothness, then tucked it back away. Today I figured enough was enough and put it to use - you'll see how in a second.

See those darling pitchfork and spade salad servers? Mike's sister gave them to us at Christmastime. Love them! (By the way, the cool basket holding the butternut squash? Also from Aunt Carol. It will figure largely in the Easter centerpiece, I think.)

This mortar and pestle came from Aunt Carol, too. (Are you seeing a pattern here? Her generosity extends way beyond kitchen gadgets. There are handmade quilts, lap blankets, doilies, Christening gowns and more, along with the most beautiful handcrafted cards you ever saw. Then there are the hysterical long chats, taking my kids to the movies, and crafting classes together. We love our time with Aunt Carol. And no, you can't have her. She's ours.)

Back to the mortar and pestle. The rosemary and peppercorns weren't just for the purpose of staging this photo. They're part of one of the kids' and my culinary projects today. But before we move away from this handy little rustic tool, let me point out the remnants pressed into the interior of the bowl. Adam and I were remarking that we like how whenever we use this to grind something, we always get a little bit of whatever we made before, and somehow that works out just fine.

The kids and I spent a few hours in the kitchen today, and had a very productive, fun day.

We ground the peppercorn and rosemary and added it, along with some crushed oregano, to olive oil to make an infusion that eventually will be wonderful as a base for pasta sauce, or a marinade for chicken or pork. We'll let it sit in the fridge a few weeks, then give it a try.

We also put together a garlic, red pepper flake infusion, which is fantastic over pasta and as a cooking oil for chicken to be used in pasta.

We heated the oil mixture until you could smell the garlic, then brought it back to room temperature, twisted a lid on and put it in the fridge as well.

While we were working in the kitchen, we decided to throw together these amazing beans again, since Adam hadn't tried them yet. We added a bit of edamame for variation, which was a great addition, but I think I like the original better. Next time, I'll use sesame oil to cook the beans, thin the sauce some and serve it as a stir fry over rice.

It's been a long time since I've made homemade bread, so today was the day. While I typically grind my wheat and make 5 loaves at a time of whole wheat bread sweetened with honey, today we tried a molasses oatmeal bread, because Mike tried a similar bread awhile back that he raved about so I thought I'd surprise him.

Our inaugural use of the bowl was for raising the dough...

...which gave way to this beautiful loaf of bread.

See that little wooden trivet? Adam made that for me in Cub Scouts when he was 10. Gotta love kid gifts, and I do.

Remember that beautiful quinoa recipe I mentioned last time? Well, we tried it today and it was amazing. Adam and I were over the moon, while everyone else liked it but weren't sure about the texture of the quinoa. I told them they'd have plenty of time to get used to it, because we were going to start having lots of quinoa around these parts. Unlike some rices and most pastas, quinoa doesn't take on the flavor of surrounding ingredients, it brings its own nutty, distinctive flavor to the dish. So good. We were going to provide pictures of the beautiful ingredients and the finished product but the limitations of Adam's snazzy phone camera proved too much, so regrettably, we had to go without. Trust me - it was all beautiful!

Topping off our fun day, my sister Lynda came by with Valentines for the kids. She's the amazingly crafty one in our family, and the girls loved their mailboxes. Two of these are for my girls, the others are for Lyn's daughter Ellie and her little friend. So cute.

Lyn gave the boys Valentines, too, but we completely spaced taking photos and by the time we remembered, we were too pooped to do it. So, take my word. They were cute.

(By the way, yes that's some seriously retro linoleum counter top that we are so going to replace - as soon as we get the tile in and replace the windows. Gold-veined counters are only one of the joys of owning a house that was initiated in 1927 and "improved" in odd little ways over the decades.)

Tomorrow, Adam and I will make an olive loaf, for which we started the dough today. We're branching out in all sorts of culinary directions. Hopefully we'll be healthier - not plumper - for our efforts.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Upon reading this, Adam proclaimed that I misspelled "ragu" up there at the top. In fact, it should have been spelled "ragout." He's right, of course, but still my answer to him is, "Spell room and board, buddy!" And that's how I reward my children's attempts to assert their intellect.

Love from the farm,


  1. Your mortar and pestle is gorgeous - looks like it will work really well with its rough surface. Thanks for that bean recipe, I'm going to give it a try. I have some beans from my garden in the freezer that I need to use up.

  2. Let me know what you think of those beans. I don't know why I love them so, but I do! Also, let me know if you change anything on them - I'm thinking the stir fry dish is sounding better and better! Hope you're well! T