Goose Fat and Blackberry Shortbread

This year, I got what just might be the greatest birthday gift of all: a jar of goose fat! I used some of it to fry potatoes for a German meal, but was unsure with how to use the rest of it up. I wanted to put it in pastry, but the texture is such that some pastries were out of the question. After some serious soul searching, I felt that the best way to use my goose fat would be in tandem with the blackberry jam I made from last week’s berry picking experience. The result: shortbread with a light, flaky texture and an incredibly rich sweet and savory flavor. I’ll definitely be making these again (if anyone ever has extra goose or duck fat they want to send my way, I would be most appreciative).

1/2 c goose fat
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4  c granulated sugar
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 1/2 c flour (this may be a bit more or less depending on the texture of the fat, the humidity in the air, etc.)
blackberry jam (about 1/4-1/3 cup)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Cream together all ingredients but the flour and jam using a mixer.
-Gradually add the flour until the dough is very stiff and almost crumbly, but still holds its shape.
-Pinch off about 1 tbsp – 1 1/2 tbsp of dough and shape into a circle with your hands. Depress the center a bit so you have a place to put the jam. Place on a greased cookie sheet.
-Repeat with the rest of the dough.
-Spoon a small amount of jam into the depressions in each cookie.
-Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they just begin to turn golden (you don’t want to overcook them).


Chilled Pea Soup with Shrimp

It’s pretty common for me to dream about food, but not all that often that I have such a vivid dream about a dish that I wake up really excited to cook it. It might be the warmer weather here, but last night I had a dream that I made a chilled pea soup topped with shrimp and diced veggies. When I woke up, one of the first things I did was head to the store to get some good produce and some really fresh Gulf shrimp, and head out to my garden to grab some herbs, tomatoes, and celery. This recipe will make 2-3 bowls (I just had the one, but there is at least one more serving left over in my fridge), and because you shock the warm soup in an ice bath, it not only doesn’t require hours of chilling time but it stays bright bright green.

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium/homemade)
1 pint heavy cream
16 oz bag frozen shelled peas, thawed
1 sprig fresh mint (I used Lebanese mint because it’s a bit milder than the peppermint I have, but any mint will do)
1 sprig fresh chamomile
2 small sprigs fennel fronds
1/2 – 1 tsp salt (depending on how much salt your stock has)
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic
1 stalk celery
extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large cucumber, diced (reserve 1 tbsp for garnish)
1 avocado, cut in a small dice
1/2 bell pepper, cut in small dice
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 lemon
Sour cream

-Cook your shrimp as desired (I grilled mine with salt, pepper, and olive oil, but you can also saute yours). Set aside to cool to room temperature.
-Dice the onion, garlic, and celery, and set aside a little onion for the garnish. Saute the rest of the onion with the garlic and celery with some olive oil until golden.
-Add the stock and salt, and heat until simmering.
-Meanwhile, fill a very large bowl with ice cubes and nest a smaller bowl in it, making sure the ice is around the bottom and sides of this small bowl. You’ll pour the soup into this smaller bowl to ‘shock’ it. This cools it down (it is chilled soup, after all), and shocking it helps the peas keep their bright green color.
-Add the peas to the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes.
-Shock the soup by pouring it into the bowl nestled in ice.
-Pour the soup into a blender, along with the cream, cucumber, mint, fennel, and chamomile. Blend until it’s as smooth as you would like it to be.
-Pour the soup into bowls. Top with diced vegetables (make sure to squeeze the juice of half the lemon on the diced avocado right after you cut it so it doesn’t oxidize), sour cream, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. I also put a couple chamomile flowers on top!

Pickled Turmeric

I got a bunch of fresh turmeric from Red Hills Online Market last week with the intention of testing it out as a pickle. The recipes I found mostly used lemon juice, but I have a ton of oranges left over for making a 60-person King Cake for a New Orleans-themed party, so I decided to use them up. Here’s the recipe that inspired me, although I’m using the juice of more pieces of citrus so the proportions are a bit different. If you want to use lemon juice or learn more about the healing properties of turmeric, check it out! Next up, I’m thinking of doing a lacto-fermented turmeric pickle. If anyone has other suggestions for fresh turmeric root, let me know!

Fresh turmeric, washed and peeled (I peel it my rubbing it with a spoon. This was about 1/2 a pound, which is the size the bags I got were).
1 1/2 tbsp salt
Juice of 3 oranges (depending on the size of your jar–I wanted my juice to cover my turmeric).

-Slice the turmeric into 1/4 inch pieces (it stains all the things, so bear that it mind before you set it on anything you don’t want stained).
-Place the turmeric into a jar.
-Add the juice and salt, put the lid on, and shake to combine.
-Pop it in the fridge and wait a few days

Note (aka Pickled Turmeric for the Lazy): I made some without peeling it or even seeding the oranges, and it turned out fine. Peeling it *is* a bit of a pain if you have especially knobby turmeric. The seeds of the oranges just end up in the brine, and if you decide to use the brine for something (brines are great in salad dressing…) you can always fish them out, so don’t stress yourself out about getting every single one.

Candied Violets

When I was a kid, my mom and I would candy violets every spring. We would eat them by themselves or use them as decorations (they are cute on cakes). I started some seeds a while back and just harvested a tiny handful of violets, so I decided I would candy them! Here’s how to do it:

Candied Violets
1 egg white
violets (washed and completely dried)

-Sprinkle a layer of sugar on a plate.
-(Very) carefully paint the egg white on the flowers (I usually just do the fronts, if you’re brave you do the backs too). I use my finger for this because it gives me the most control, but you could use a small paint brush too.
-Set the flower painted side down in the sugar, making sure all the painted surfaces are covered.
-Let the flowers dry.
-That’s it!


Coffee Liqueur

I love homemade coffee liqueur, but for some reason I haven’t been doing much infusing lately so it’s taken me a while to get around to trying it. I’m getting some yummy raw cream in a couple weeks, so now seemed like the perfect time to make something tasty to enjoy it with. I had initially thought about using clear liquor for it, but then it occurred to me that the caramel-y notes of the rum I had in the pantry might go really well with the coffee I have (I prefer beans from Central and South America, so that’s what I used here). Make sure you’re using good beans here! Just like using wine in cooking, you want something you enjoy the flavor of as that flavor is going to carry over to the finished product. The number of recipes I saw online that encouraged people to opt for cheap grounds made me cringe! Some recipes added vanilla and lots of spices, but I want to try just the straight coffee infusion this time around and see how the flavor of these delicious coffee beans comes through. I just put it up today, so I’ll be checking it every few days and we’ll see how it turned out! As with other infusions, I’ll make a simple syrup (sugar and water, I add a pinch of salt too) to add to it to sweeten it up a bit after it’s infused.

Update: I strained it after 4 days and it was perfect. Snuck a little bit of coconut cream from my dinner (trying my hand at haw mok pla using the leaves from my banana trees, along with one of my favorite things–lime rice!) and had a pre-dinner cocktail that was really delicious but also made it incredibly hard to concentrate on cooking. Mmm.

Coffee Liqueur

2 cups dark rum (not spiced)
1 cup whole coffee beans, coarsely chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt

-Combine rum and coffee in a container with a sealing lid (I always use glass or other nonreactive containers, just in case).
-Let sit until the coffee flavor is as strong as you would like it (I’m guessing  2-3 weeks).
-Strain the infusion and set aside.
-Combine water, sugar, and salt in a pot. Stir and heat until the sugar and salt dissolve completely.
-Add the simple syrup to the infusion.
-I like to drink it with some cream or half and half (or even just milk).

Kumquat Marmalade, Part 2

A little while back I shared my recipe for maple kumquat marmalade. We Floridians are rolling in fresh citrus this time of year, so my friends who gifted me the kumquats for that marmalade gifted me another gallon bag of them in exchange for using my canning pot. These kumquats were perfectly ripe and so tasty, and when you get citrus like that the best thing to do is make sure you are bringing out all those great flavors (instead of masking them behind other ingredients). Making this was such a fun experience: few things in the world beat taking the time to slow down and experience a perfectly fresh ingredient while it’s being prepared (my whole house smelled like fresh citrus, it was delightful). Adding fresh bay leaves to my citrus preserves is my new favorite way to bring in some exciting flavor elements that are subtle enough to let the main ingredient(s) shine. I canned 3 jars of this stuff this morning, so I’ll have plenty to last me once our citrus trees are done fruiting.

Simple Kumquat Marmalade
1 gallon (I’m guessing it was ~2-3 lbs worth) fresh kumquats
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 – 1 c sugar (depending on your tastes)
2 fresh bay leaves
1 c water

-Slice the kumquats in to little rounds, taking care to remove the seeds as you go.
-Place the sliced fruit in a nonreactive bowl and add half the sugar. Toss to coat the kumquats evenly.
-Let sit overnight to remove some of the bitterness from the fruit and start the preserving process.
-The next day, add the kumquats, the rest of the sugar, bay leaves, salt, and water to a pot and simmer until the water is absorbed (it will still be chunky, you just don’t want it to be soupy).
-Place in to canning jars and process in a hot water bath (or just keep it in the fridge).

Preserves Galore

I’ve had all sorts of exciting things going on lately (new research projects, travel, what have you) so I’ve been grossly neglecting my food blog. I’m planning on posting some new goodies soon, but until then, here are two of the recipes I’ve been using this month as I’ve been preserving my excess produce. I just put the rest of my garden in a few weeks ago (it takes up half the yard!), I’m getting ready to plant horseradish crowns (which should be shipping soon), and my fruit trees all seem to be producing, so I should have plenty of preserving to do as the summer progresses!

Ginger beer: This stuff is so good. I drink it with or without rum, but I’ll go through the giant batch I made in about a week or two.

Sauerkraut in a jar: I love this because I can play with the batch size depending on what size jars and cabbage heads I get, and because it doesn’t make my whole kitchen smell. I might be doing a cooking demo at an Occupy event this month, and if I do, I’m planning on sharing this recipe! Remember to take the cabbage leaf off before you gift it or can it, or you might get some doubtful stares from the recipients.

There are some other things I’ve been making that I don’t use recipes for. Fresh cheese, for example. Just heat milk, add acid (I live in Florida, so the most fresh tasting option is lemon juice), stir, and strain. I’ve been experimenting with rennet-based cheeses too (that’s been hit or miss, but I’ll get there).
Bread is another thing I don’t often use recipes for. If I’m trying a new technique I might look at one, but for the most part I know how I want my dough to feel.

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of blogging again, but until then, I’ll try to post recipes from elsewhere on the web that inspire me!

Goodies from the Sidebar

I’ve been a little behind on blogging lately thanks to school and other fun stuff. Here are the things from my side bar from last month!

Added to the Pantry: February

6 pints sauerkraut
1 pint buttermilk
1/2 c butter
1 c garlic and shallot scape pesto
6 herbed burger buns
4 beet veggie burgers
3 pints preserved tangerines

Independence Days Challenge: February

Plant Something: 3 kinds of tomatoes, Montpelier green beans, assorted peppers, cucumber, pumpkin, okra, potatoes, Jacob’s cattle beans, asparagus, artichoke, basil, watermelon, Landreth stringless beans, lots of herbs and flowers.

Harvest Something: 1 lb garlic and shallot scapes, 3 lbs braising greens, 1 lb lettuce, 2 lbs baby rainbow chard, 1 lb radishes.

Preserve something: Grated frozen hash browns, chicken stock, 6 jars sauerkraut, 3 jars preserved tangerines.

Waste Not: Using scraps to make stocks, sauces, and juice; composting unusable scraps, repurposed metal scrap from behind the house to make a trellis.

Want Not: Bought bulk goods, purchased some milk and meat direct from local farmers, prepared yogurt, butter, and buttermilk from local milk.

Eat the Food: Using only a hand basket at the grocery store to avoid over-buying; trying at least one new veggie-based recipe a week. Buying only local, bone-in meat to use bones for stock, buying fish that’s lower on the food chain and mostly from the Gulf Coast (about an hour or two away).

Build Community Food Systems: Sharing extra veggies with friends and neighbors, and eventually with local food banks/Occupy, or selling to local farm stands. Sharing preserved goods with neighbors.

Skill Up: Garden layout! I drew inspiration from Shaker gardening techniques and dug trenches between every two rows of veggies to keep things organized and keep my feet from compacting the soil. Also learning about how to prevent tomato blight organically using baking soda, milk, etc.

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways

From left to right: Peppery tangerines, chai spiced, and herbed.

Here in Florida, you stumble across tasty winter citrus every time you go shopping. The last time I went to get produce at Tomatoland (kind of like a permanent farm stand/small grocery store), there were big stacks of tangerines calling my name. I bought dozens of them, thinking I would make some marmalade, but I’m still eating up my last batch of marmalade and wanted to do something a bit different. I always have preserved lemons in my fridge: when I’m almost out I just toss some more together and wait a few weeks. Usually I just add salt and sliced lemons to a jar, but I’ve been wanting to add spices. These tangerines provided the perfect opportunity to experiment! I had grand plans for waiting to post this until the tangerines are done preserving (it does take several weeks), but I felt eager to share the fruits of my labor while there’s still plenty of time to use in-season citrus. Given how easy it is to make these things, they’re pretty much guaranteed to turn out well, so that makes it a little easier to share now too. A couple notes here: you don’t have to be a slave to the measuring spoon with these. I usually just add a layer of citrus and sprinkle on salt (and herbs and spices, if I’m using them) between each layer. As I add a new layer of citrus, I press them down before sprinkling with salt. Basically the process looks like this:
Slice citrus into wedges, salt bottom of jar. Add a layer of wedges, press, sprinkle with salt. Add another layer, press, salt, and repeat until your jar is full. Honestly, I have never measured the salt and they turn out fine. Just make sure you are  salting and packing them tightly so that your citrus releases its juices. Then, leave the jars somewhere cool and dark for a month, shaking them when you think about it. Keep an eye on them the first few days, though: if they haven’t released enough juice to cover the fruit, add some more freshly squeezed juice to the jars and re-cover. After 3-4 weeks, you’ll have soft, yummy citrus you can add to just about anything, plus delicious brine that makes great dressings and sauces!

Chai Spiced Tangerines
I always have this spice mixture around, too. If you go to the link, you’ll find the proprotions of the spices to use (make sure to toast them first!), and you can use them in chai syrup or blend the dry spices with tea. I use them to flavor sauces and desserts too. These tangerines would be good in sweet and savory applications: I could see them going well in a rice dish with lots of raisins and toasted nuts, or sliced and put on top of a chocolate cake.
For this recipe, makes sure your spices cool completely after toasting. You can leave the toasted spices whole or you can grind them in a spice grinder. I made mine a couple days ago and ground them, so I went with the ground spices. I used about 2 1/2 tbsp of the ground spices for a pint of preserved tangerines. I also used sea salt in this and the other recipes because I like it’s clear, briny flavor best. You can also use kosher salt if you feel so inclined, but you may have to adjust the amount.

1/4 c sea salt
2 1/2 tbsp ground chai spices
2-3 tangerines, cut into wedges

-Sprinkle some salt and spices in the bottom of a pint jar.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Top with another layer of salt and spices.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt and spices.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Peppery Tangerines
These tangerines use spices that I see in a lot of recipes for preserved lemons, which means I’ll be substituting them in recipes where spiced, preserved lemons are used (Moroccan cooking, for example). There are plenty of examples over at Punk Domestics to provide inspiration!

1/4 c sea salt
2 small bay leaves
1 dried cayenne pepper, halved (you could substitute other peppers here: guajillo peppers, for example, would make for a nice smoky addition)
1 tsp peppercorns (I had tricolored peppercorns, but you can use black peppercorns or whatever ones you have around)

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the cayenne pepper.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add bay leaves.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add peppercorns.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Herbed Tangerines
The flavors I used here remind me of the flavors found in foods from Provence. I’m planning on using these tangerines to spice up French dishes and to flavor roasted chicken.

1/4 c sea salt
1/2 whole nutmeg nut (I had one that I had partially used for grating, if you only have a whole nut you can just use that and rough up the surface so it releases its flavor).
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp lavender flowers

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the nutmeg.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add rosemary sprig.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add lavender.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

This recipe is on Punk Domestics!

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways on Punk Domestics

Chocolate and Herb Pots de Creme

I’ve recently purchased a bunch of really delicious eggs from a local farmer, and am trying to figure out creative ways to use them up. Custards always spring to mind, but when I went to the fridge I found that the things that would make a normal pot de creme were not all present. Instead, I improvised for the dairy using some of my homemade yogurt and it turned out really well! Slightly less sweet and slightly more tangy than your average chocolate custard. And of course, because I’m obsessed with putting herbs in everything, I had to put some in my dessert too. I decided to try a little experiment with this recipe after they were in the oven, and thought I would turn them into creme brulee. I’ve made creme brulee before plenty of times before, but I wondered how it would work with some more flavoring crushed in with the sugar. The verdict? As long as the pieces of herbs/zest/whatever you’re using are small, it should work (I have only tried this once, bear in mind, so while it worked super well with this recipe, I can’t attest to every variation!) I used some lavender buds and some rosemary and ground them up with a mortar and pestle. I added some vanilla sugar (obviously regular ol’ sugar works here), ground a bit more, sprinkled it on my pots de creme, torched it*, and voila!
*I have a propane torch specifically for these kinds of tasks. You can get them at the hardware store and they are much sturdier than the flimsy ‘culinary torches.’ If you don’t have one, I hear that putting the cremes under the broiler works well too.

Chocolate and herb pots de creme
3 eggs
1/2 c plain yogurt
pinch salt
4-5 oz semi-sweet chocolate (either chips or a bar that’s been broken up)
1 tsp lavender flowers
1 small sprig fresh rosemary

-Heat oven to 350.
-Beat eggs and add to a pot with the other ingredients.
-Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it simmers and thickens considerably.
-Strain out the rosemary sprig and lavender, and pour the mixture in to small ramekins (it filled 4 of my ramekins, but I have some extra tiny ramekins for some reason so it might just fill 2 of yours).
-Place ramekins in a cake pan or roasting pan with high sides.
-Make a bain marie by pouring hot water into the pan (NOT the ramekins!) until it is about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. For this, I usually just fill my kettle before I cook and turn it on a minute or two before the custard is done so it has time to heat up.
-Place in the oven, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick you’d like your custard to be.
-Cool slightly or all the way, and serve.

Herbed sugar (optional)
If you want to turn this into an herbed creme brulee, here is what you do!

1 pinch lavender flowers
1 pinch rosemary leaves
3-4 tbsp vanilla (or regular) sugar
tiny pinch salt

-Place the herbs in a mortar and gently grind with a pestle. Add sugar and salt and continue grinding to mingle everything together.
-Sprinkle on top of your pots de creme when they have cooled slightly.
-Caramelize the sugar using either a torch or broiler (do this immediately before serving).