Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Stew

It might not pretty up well for the camera, but let me assure you, this is one of the best meals I've made in quite awhile. And it's all thanks to three things: dumpstered stew meat, garden-fresh veggies, and Barbara Tropp's China Moon Cookbook.

I am obsessed with this cookbook, written by an Anglo woman who loved Chinese food and devoted her life to studying its complexities. Her recipes are lyric and complicated, and while cooking her food requires patience and heart (and a lot of hard-to-find ingredients), it is worth it. What I love best about her cooking is that all of her dishes rely heavily on pre-infused oils and vinegars, and pre-made spice mixes. So while you have to make a bunch of stuff that's inedible on its own before you get around to making the good stuff, once you've got this flavor arsenal behind you, whipping up a mind-blowing meal takes minutes.

This stew is made with dumpstered beef, homegrown garlic, onion, potato, and scallions, work-garden grown zucchini and bell pepper, and store bought carrot and mushrooms.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pullet Eggs

We're about to experience a 62% increase in egg production around here. Two of our pullets have started laying (yay!) and once their tiny eggs get up to snuff and Puffendorf (the Rhode Island Red) gets in on the fun, we should finally have enough eggs to trade/sell a surplus!
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And 200 Pounds of Onions

Tristan found 200 lbs. of onions in a dumpster. Apparently there were more, but this was all he could fit in the car. We're not sure what, if anything, is wrong with them. I checked the food recalls; nothing. They are New Mexico grown, too! We'll have to see if we can find a way to store them safely through the summer. Onions like to be stored at 35-40 degrees, and we don't have a refrigerated space that can handle these puppies. In the winter, an improvised root cellar would probably work just fine, but they may sprout before temperatures drop into that range.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Pound of...

...Potatoes! I went hunting around in the potato patch today, hoping to find a few small nuggets to use in a stew. I found some pretty nice sized potatoes, especially considering that last year our potatoes were marble sized. I picked maybe 6 potatoes and had a full pound!

The secret to success this year vs. last year? I read in our handy dandy Organic Gardening in the American West that potatoes like acidic soil. Our soil is alkaline. So we used acidified compost and mulched them heavily with straw, creating lots of acidic space for the potatoes to grow in.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buy Nothing Week 2009

My friend Abby wrote this great post about personal finance on her blog today. She even mentioned me! Well, I was so flattered by the reference that I was inspired to bring back Buy Nothing Week. Of course, it helps that I recently quit my 8-5 boringawful job in exchange for a fulfilling half-time job that pays, well, half as much. I'm currently struggling to adjust to my new income level, and it couldn't hurt to do an economic fast to get me off on the right foot.

So, to kick off Buy Nothing Week this evening, I went dumpster diving and came home with about 15 packages of bacon, some turkey cutlets, pork tenderloin, chicken Italian sausage, and 3 dozen eggs. We still have some dumpstered meat in the freezer from last time, so I'd say we've got plenty of protein to last us for...much longer than a measly week.

Wish me luck!

Bicycle Wheel Pot Rack

Bicycle parts litter our carport and our kitchen has no good storage capacity for pots and pans. Inspired by a DIY coffee cup holder I saw at the amazing Satellite Coffee in West Philly, we designed this bicycle wheel pot rack. I think it looks pretty cute.

1 bicycle wheel
1 chain ring
s-hooks (As many as you have pots)
1 metal ring
3 metal hangers
strong twine or wire
1 ceiling hook

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fall Garden

It's time to get going on our fall garden. I've started a lettuce mix, broccoli, curly kale, fennel, and spinach inside, in hopes of getting a better germination rate. It's been so dry here, no monsoon season to speak of, that it's nearly impossible to keep seeds planted outside happy, even with mulch. So far, so good with this experiment. We're probably going to build hoop houses with shade cloth for the stuff that doesn't transplant well, like root veggies.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fermented Spicitude

I am embarassed to say that there is kimchi in our refrigerator that has been there almost as long as we have lived in Santa Fe. It has seen the back of three refrigerators, and is nearly 1/2 gallon in quantity. Tristan claims this stuff is still edible. In an attempt to coax him to throw the stuff away and stop attempting to serve it to loved ones, I'm making a new batch.

The cabbage I am using is from the farmer's market. Green onion, white onion, and garlic all = homegrown.

Before you begin, you should note that the first step requires 4 hours for the salted cabbage to bleed moisture. Make sure you don't get cranking at midnight.

1 medium Napa cabbage
salt (enough to thoroughly salt the leaves)
1 small head of garlic, peeled and finely minced
one 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup Korean chili powder (this is hard to find in NM. The first time I made kimchi I used regular red pepper flakes, like what you'd put on pizza)
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 teaspoon sugar
(rubber gloves-optional)

Step 1. Half your Napa cabbage, then slice just the core (not the leaves) through each of the halves.
Step 2. Salt the cabbage in between each set of leaves, focusing more salt on the core area than on the ends of the leaves. Let rest for 2 hours, turn, let rest for 2 more hours.
Step 3. Drain and rinse the cabbage, squeeze as much excess water out as possible. Cut the cabbage into large but manageable chunks.
Step 4. Mix the other ingredients together in a bowl. This and the next step are generally done by hand, but you may want to wear rubber gloves to avoid fish sauce hands and/or burned body parts.
Step 5. Mix the cabbage and paste thoroughly (easiest with your hands). Pack into a clean glass jar and cover loosely (I just put the lid on but don't screw it shut to allow gas to escape during fermentation).
Step 6. Let sit in a relatively cool room temp area, out of direct sunlight, for 2 days, or until bubbling, and then refrigerate.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fruit of the Dumpster

Tristan and his visiting friend Hannah scored bags and bags of apples from our favorite dumpster. In addition to making dumpster pie 2, Hannah made almost 2 gallons of apple sauce, which we've frozen. In fact, we freeze so much food from the dumpster that soon we are probably going to need to find ourselves a chest freezer. 


Harvested this twin onion from the garden the other day. The individual bulbs are probably the biggest we've had so far. I only planted one little bulb there, so it must have split somewhere along the way. 

That's More Like It

Thanks to a generous lesson from my wonderful new employer, I learned how to safely identify one edible mushroom that's prevalent in the mountains here. The mushroom is boletus edulis, aka "King Bolete" or more familiarly, "porcini". These mushrooms can be found during the summer and fall in pine forests here.

A group of four of us found about 4 pounds of fresh porcinis this morning. We probably lost a half to a full pound due to wormy mushrooms, and once it was cooked down we had about 1.5 lbs of finished product. These mushrooms don't store well, so you either have to cook and freeze them or dry them immediately. We plan to use these babies on homemade pizza, and for the ultimate in gourmet local/free/homegrown food? Omelettes with eggs from our chickens, homemade feta from the goats we milk, and hand-gathered porcini mushrooms. Yes, it's getting mighty fancy around here...