Adventures With My New Canner

by Anne Maxfield on August 3, 2015

Accidental Locavore Ready to CanYou may remember that a couple of months ago, the Accidental Locavore was sent one of the new Ball freshTech Electric Water Bath Canner and Multi Cookers, but I hadn’t had a chance to put it through its paces. This week at the CSA we were encouraged to pick as many green beans as we wanted, which seemed to be the perfect “test drive” for the canner. I’ve always loved dilly beans, and with dill growing abundantly in the next row at the farm, and my own garlic just getting harvested, it was time to get busy!

Accidental Locavore Green Beens for CanningOne of the reasons Ball created the canner (and a big selling point), was that they wanted to make canning accessible for everyone. And they did. Trust me, the hardest thing about the canner is finding a place to put it — after that, everything is a snap!
Because Ball was being very generous they included dozens of jars, too, so I was all set. To start, you wash the jars, rinse them and put them in the machine. Fill with water to top them, add the lid and wait for the machine to bring the water to a simmer. 10 minutes later your jars are prepped. There was no mention of what to do with the lids and rings, so I put them in the pot too.
Accidental Locavore Filling the CannerWhile the jars were heating, I prepped the beans and made the brine with the easy recipe that came with the canner. I halved it, since it turned out that the massive bag o’ beans I picked was only a pound and a half. You then stuff the beans into the jars, one jar at a time, with a sprig of dill and a garlic clove. I looked longingly at some nice cilantro but decided to play it straight this time. Add the brine, wipe the rims and place back in the machine. Simple enough.

Accidental Locavore Dilly BeansOnce all the jars are back in the machine, you add water to cover and place the diffuser rack over the jars. Lid goes back on, and machine gets turned to “canning”. When the water boils, set the timer for 10 minutes and all the hard work is done.
After the time is up, you carefully remove the lid, and release the water through the spigot on the side. If you were stupid like me, and forgot to remove the plug to the spigot, no worries, a pair of tongs pulled that right out! When the water has run out, you simply lift the jars out onto a dishtowel or cutting board and let them cool for 12 hours. Et voilà! The whole thing took about an hour and a half, but I’m sure that once I get more accustomed to it, it will go even faster (it did). A week or so later, the beans taste great and I’ve already made another batch!

Accidental Locavore  Jars of Dilly BeansMy verdict: It’s going to make an avid canner/pickler out of me! It’s really easy to use and because it’s all preset, most of the worries have vanished. In addition to the booklets that came with it, and because I’m such a newbie at this, I was referring to the canning book by Ball, the Complete Book of Home Preserving, that my cousin gave me a couple of years ago, for technical questions and terms. So, if you’ve got the space and are yearning to can (Peter, I’m talking to you), this is your tool! Just be sure to have the companion book because you’ll have questions and it has all the answers. Big thanks to Ball for sending the machine. I’m going to have to find a more accessible place to put it as I’ll be using it a lot!

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Grilled Eggplant and Lemon

by Anne Maxfield on July 30, 2015

Accidental Locavore Grilled Eggplant and LemonIf you’re part of a CSA, you know that there are always a couple of veggies that appear once too often to really inspire you. For the Accidental Locavore, that vegetable is eggplant. It’s not that I don’t like eggplant, I actually love the stuff; it’s just that my husband doesn’t. This, from bon appétit, looked interesting (to me anyway) and serves 4:

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 small eggplants, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 cup labneh (Lebanese strained yogurt), or Greek yogurt

 

Accidental Locavore Soaking Red OnionPrepare a grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Soak onion in ice water 10 minutes to mellow its flavor. Drain, pat dry with paper towels, and transfer to a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, toss eggplant, za’atar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper in another medium bowl. Grill eggplant, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5–8 minutes; transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Halve any large rounds; set aside.

Accidental Locavore Grilled Lemon SlicesIn a small bowl, toss lemon with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill lemon, turning often, until lightly charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool slightly. Cut lemon slices in half and add to bowl with onion. Stir in mint, Sherry vinegar, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper. In another small bowl mix garlic and labneh. Spoon labneh mixture onto a platter and arrange eggplant and onion mixture over it. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: A huge hit! This was so good that Frank, the eggplant avoider, had seconds, declaring that it was the best thing I’d made in a long time. It was delicious! The grilled eggplant was a nice contrast to the creamy labneh and the crunch of the onions. We were also lucky because the eggplant, mint and onions were all from the farm, so fresh and local. I need to remember how good grilled lemons or limes are and use them more often! I used labneh which I got at Murray’s in the city, you can often find it in better grocery stores, but if you can’t, a thick Greek yogurt would be fine. If you don’t have access to a grill, either a grill pan or roasting everything on sheet pans in about a 400° oven would probably work fine. Give this a try and see if it’s as big a hit at your house.

 

 

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What’s Your Go-To Comfort Food?

by Anne Maxfield on July 27, 2015

Accidental Locavore Kerry's BookAfter thoroughly perusing Kerry Altiero’s new cookbook Adventures in Comfort Food, the Accidental Locavore started thinking about comfort food. While there are some foods that would be almost universal, on every list there are bound to be others that just don’t appeal. For me, chicken (or any other kind of) pot pies don’t even make the top 100 and there’s a reason for that. When we were kids and my parents went out we would get pot pies. Not the good ones (if there are such things), the frozen kind that were three-for-a-dollar. Play-Doh like crusts, requiring a jack-hammer to open them, revealing a sludgy beige mess with the occasional pea, carrot chunk and once in a blue moon, a horribly overcooked morsel of chicken.

Frank on the other hand, puts pot pies much higher in the ranking. “If it’s done well, it can be thoroughly enjoyable – a meal in itself.” Also on his list, meatloaf, liver with onions and bacon, chicken, mashed potatoes, pasta – especially spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. He thinks some form of pasta is on almost everyone’s list.

Raw liver on wooden boardLike pot pies, liver would never be on my list of comfort foods. We agree on mashed potatoes, and spaghetti and meatballs. I’d have mac and cheese right up there – actually almost anything with cheese, or potatoes, or pasta. All that really-bad-for-you white food. Toast. A good roast chicken is a great meal, but I’m not sure it’s comfort food to me, but corn on the cob sure is (as are perfect tomatoes). Polenta?

Accidental Locavore Noshis BurgerAs much as we love a good burger (and fries), that doesn’t make the list either. Ditto pizza. Frank has a good point when he says that comfort food requires sitting down and enjoying it, however, there are lots of really memorable meals that we’ve sat down and enjoyed that were truly memorable but hardly comforting.

Don’t you think nostalgia plays a huge roll? I’d probably put apple sauce on my list because it was something we always got when we were sick. Not Jello – too artificial, but definitely ice cream cones, especially in silly flavors like peppermint stick or loaded with what we knew as jimmies (sprinkles to the rest of you). For many people, peanut butter fits that bill, but I’ve baited one too many mouse traps for it to have any appeal.

Comfort food is often food our mothers cooked well. Frank’s argument for liver is because it was one of the dishes his mother mastered. My mother cooked a lot of things well, but some of them, like her tiny noodle casseroles, just showed up on the plate one night too often.

Accidental Locavore CokeAnd beverages definitely fall into the comfort category. Besides hot chocolate, and maybe tea, the king of the comfort food drinks has to be what their competition calls “Big Red from Atlanta” a classic Coke, really cold, in a glass bottle.

Accidental Locavore Chocolate Chip Cookies IIWhat have I forgotten, or what do you want to defend? Chocolate chip cookies? Twinkies? Post a comment and let us know your list. Enjoy!

 

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Thai Fried Rice

by Anne Maxfield on July 23, 2015

Accidental Locavore Thai Fried Rice (2)The beauty of fried rice is that it’s great for all those small bits of leftovers you have cluttering the fridge. The Accidental Locavore had a bunch of stuff that needed to be put to good use and it was lunchtime…. Make sure everything is prepped and ready to go, this comes together really quickly! Generously serves 1:

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup meat (thinly sliced pork, chicken, shrimp, etc)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or run through a press
  • 1 extra large or jumbo egg, well beaten
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice, preferably Thai jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 good squirt Sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Garnishes

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • Thai basil
  • Mint, chopped
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Soy sauce

Accidental Locavore Making Thai Fried RiceGather all your ingredients near the stove. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If you need to cook any of the meat, add that now and stir-fry until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 30 seconds. Pour in the beaten egg and cook until scrambled. Add the rice, pressing it against the pan and then stir-frying it for about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, Sriracha and scallions and toss until well-mixed, about 30 seconds. Taste and add more fish sauce or Sriracha as needed. Serve with your choice of garnishes and enjoy!

My verdict: Since my favorite Thai fried rice is about 3000 miles away (in Rancho Mirage, CA), this is a fine substitute! This is really just to get you started–feel free to add whatever is taking up room in your fridge. The day I made it for lunch, we had half a wonderful Thai sausage from Jacuterie, roast pork and a rotisserie chicken, so they all went in along with some broccoli, and a mushroom or two. Any vegetables can be tossed in, just be sure to add them early if they need to be cooked. I love cilantro, mint and Thai basil on top, a squirt of lime and maybe a dash of soy sauce. And don’t let the wok scare you; if it’s well seasoned it’s super easy to clean! What would go in your fried rice?

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