Thursday, March 28, 2013

Simple Garlic Soup

I haven't posted any cooking in a while so here is a simple method for making a very "peasanty" dish of garlic soup. We're talking cheap eats here and it is still cool enough to enjoy some good soup. People don't often think of making soup out of garlic but there are myriad recipes around especially from cooks that lean toward the French side of things. Julia Child has one for example. Here is my take on a really simple but wonderfully comforting soup that you can make for pennies a serving. The trick is adding the thickening eggs and cheese at the end just before serving. The slow cooking of the garlic renders it smooth and delicious. As always when I publish a recipe it is only a suggestion so feel free to make it your own. Also look for the take away technique here and that is in the extraction of flavor from something and then adding to it to produce something really nice. See the variations below.

 In a medium sauce pan add
1 quart or so of water or if you like something richer then chicken broth though I think water is best. a bay leaf or two
three whole stems of flat leaf parsley
a couple of stems of fresh thyme... maybe as much as a teaspoon but leave the leaves on the stem as you will want to fish them out later
10 - 15 cloves of garlic, peeled, and chopped
about a teaspoon of kosher salt maybe less if you use broth (taste it after it cooks and you remove the herbs and adjust the salt to your taste)


1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks
about two ounces of freshly grated hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Simmer the bay leaf, parsley thyme, garlic, and salt for 45 minutes to an hour then remove the sage, parsley, bay and thyme. Leave it off the fire. Using a fork, whisk all the thickener ingredients except the oil in a small bowl until smooth and then slowly drizzle in olive oil while still whisking...sort of like making an aoli. Temper this mixture with about a quarter cup of the warm broth and then add the binder back to the pot. Now all you need do is whisk this mixture over low heat until it thickens to the consistency of buttermilk or kefir... just not watery.

This is tradionally served in a bowl over chunks of stale bread and topped with a drizzle of olive oil.

This make 4 nice servings. Note that this is not a make ahead soup but you can make the garlic broth ahead and then rewarm it and add the thickening just before serving.

Variations: While the garlic alone is very nice you can easily substitute shallots (5 or 6) or even an onion or two or mix garlic with shallots and onions. Try different herb combinations as well, such a fresh rosemary or sage. I haven't tried it yet but I imagine you can use a similar method to extract the flavor from a blend of herbs alone and then thicken it. All kinds of possibilities here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good Breakfast But More Flurries

That groundhog is on my "no birthday card" list. Snow flurries again this morning and overnight...birdbaths frozen. Not my idea of the end of March. Anyhow, there doesn't appear to be any damage to the blueberries which are just beginning to flower and there is nothing in the garden yet that can't take a bit of frost and the babies in the greenhouse all look fine this morning as the little heater kept it about 50F overnight. Working again today from noon til 10p...yeah it's a long shift but they begged me to stay longer tonight since the computer neglected to schedule anyone to close the store tonight. What's an extra hour? I do have the next three days off so that's something.

In light of the less than spring weather I whipped up a cheater version of Eggs in Purgatory for breakfast which, if you haven't tried it, is a nice change. The recipe linked above is from Mario Batali and is excellent. I cheated this morning since I was only going to have two eggs. I always try to keep some fresh salsa on hand as I use it a lot to give otherwise not too exciting things a kick. I use 3-4 tablespoons of Jack's Special Medium Hot as the base and just poach the eggs in the simmering puddle in a small frying pan. The Jack's Special is from Garden Fresh and it is IMHO the best readily available fresh salsa on the market.

I also use the stuff on my favorite canned tuna as a nice light lunch. Again, IMHO, the best canned tuna around is Henry and Lisa's solid white. Sustainably caught using hook and line it is a sashimi grade tuna filet in a can. I just dump in out of the can and give a liberal dousing of salsa and it makes a great lunch. I get mine from Natural Foods Warehouse but you may be able to find it other places. Once you try it you will be spoiled for any other canned tuna...and yes it is a little pricey.

An hour to practice the guitar and off to work. I'm scheduled for the garden center but I doubt they will open it up as they didn't yesterday and it's even colder and windier today so my guess is I'll wind up at returns of self check...arrrhg! I hate both.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where Is Spring?

Flat out cold and blustery today. Missing spring in a big way. I even saw a couple of snow flurries this morning. It was raining most of the weekend and none too warm either which was fine since I had to work. Closed Saturday night (10p) and then back for a store meeting at 6am though I had the rest of the day off. Needless to say there was no gardening going on but I did get new metal shelves put in Madam's craft closet and she is busy sorting all her goodies and restoring everything this morning.
Another 3 to 10 shift today and the same again tomorrow but with the weather being so ornery I might as well work. Everybody is happy in the greenhouse and just as eager for the warm weather as me.
I guess it could be friend in Halifax UK posted pictures of the 8 foot snow drifts on Facebook and I am not jealous.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

Even though I have to work this evening 3-10, I did manage to get something planted today in the garden. Regular green peas and Sugarsnaps as well as red and green cabbage. If the forecast rain for tomorrow doesn't appear until later in the day I may get the potatoes in as well. I couldn't let the first day of spring pass without at least planting something now could I?

A Happy Spring to one and all.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Cycle Starts

I have a day off. It's warm and clear and the garden appears dry enough to till so that's the plan for today. All the tomatoes, peppers and such are growing and will be ready to go out in a few weeks as soon as the soil warms and the dangers of a late frost are out of the picture. I could wax poetic about how this is the evolution of the Goddess from the wise old hag of winter into the fertile young Goddess of Spring with all the promise that that brings but let us just say that for us gardeners it is an exciting time. Yes, it is the beginning of a lot of hard work and if you are a serious gardener it is also a mystical time. All the myriad generations of birth, life and death are safety stored in all the seeds and bulbs and a just waiting to have at it again.

Now the challenges of drought, flood, insects and weeds will challenge us for the next few months as we try and coax another harvest from our Mother Earth. Off to play in the dirt and begin the flirtation with the Goddess. Will the love and effort be returned? We shall know soon enough.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader Going Away

I just got a notice that Google reader is going away in July. Anyone have a recommendation for something to replace it? Am I the only person that thinks it is a pretty good product? Too bad.

Saturday, March 09, 2013


I ran out of suet for the birds yesterday and forgot to pick some up before I left work last night so it required an early morning run to resupply before I head back into work at 1pm. I just put out the fresh supply a few minutes ago and before I even was back inside the red-bellied and the hairy woodpeckers were hard at work on the stuff. They are probably just beginning to feed this year's babies but it is nice to know they appreciate the effort. Going to be a nice day here in Hotlanta with a forecast high of 65F. Now if any rain will hold off for just a few more days I may actually get the garden tilled and some things planted like peas and kale. It looks like Monday may bring thunderstorms which, of course, coincides with my day off. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Poison Me, Poison You

If the amount of Roundup that goes over my counter at the Depot is any judge then the 200 plus million tons of the stuff sprayed in the U.S. every year is a serious underestimate. It’s surely amazing that the regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect us continue to allow these millions tons of Monsanto’s  Roundup and copy cats, to be sprayed on food crops ignoring mounting evidence that  the herbicide’s key ingredient, glycophosphate, causes birth defects, endocrine disruption and myriad other health problems.

There is a a new study out that indicates that the most widely used herbicide in the world is even more toxic than previously thought. Not surprisingly when you consider we are dealing with Monsanto but Roundup contains “confidential” – and unlabeled – ingredients that affect all living cells, including human cells, according to the scientific journal, Toxicology. Most of the regulatory decisions around these herbicides are based on the toxicology studies done for glycophosphate instead of looking at Roundup’s full formulation, which includes the secret added ingredients.

Read more here 

Wasting Away

Still not through with this cold. At the stage where it is pretty much completely in my chest and I spend most of the day and night coughing up small bits of lung. Needless to say I will miss another day at the gym but the good news is that I don't have to work until tomorrow afternoon and then it is only a 5 hour shift.

Since I can't do exercise I did the next best thing and fixed Pain Perdu (French Toast) for breakfast and to make sure it fit entirely with an utter and complete falling off of the wagon, I smothered it in Irish butter and maple syrup as well as 4 strips of thick cut hickory smoked bacon. That'll show 'em.

Now to continue my slide I will go finish the next phase in the making of a couple of loaves of whole wheat sourdough bread. Take big bites!

Good News Not

If you have any money in stock market maybe via a 401K or something I'm sure you are pleased that it has returned to 2000 levels with its run up yesterday...Congratulations you are where you were 13 years ago.

Seriously, it is really difficult to get all giddy about the about the Dow going over 14,000.  Robert Reich doesn't feel to giddy either, and explains why.

The key thing to note is that only the wealthiest 1% in this country make any profit off the stock market and are better off than they were 13 years ago. They also pay very low, if any, taxes on said profits. The rest of us (you know the other 99%) are actually worse off than we were in 2000 and we pay the full boat in taxes even on our minimum wage job.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Another Drop In the Bucket

No worries right? Nothing to see here just move along.

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped, new federal figures show.

Scientists say the rise in CO2 reflects the world's economy revving up and burning more fossil fuels, especially in China.

Carbon dioxide levels jumped by 2.67 parts per million since 2011 to total just under 395 parts per million, says Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That's the second highest rise in carbon emissions since record-keeping began in 1959. The measurements are taken from air samples captured away from civilization near a volcano in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
This is not good and if you have been paying attention this isn't the first drop in the bucket and the bucket is rapidly getting full and when it does actually fill it will be the end of mankind on this little planet.
What is so frustrating is that the world is facing two big problems right now...climate change and shrinking employment/economies and addressing climate change with investment in non oil based energy resources, clean industry and other pro-environment initiatives would solve both these problems at once. The frustration being that our leaders are focusing on exactly the opposite. How to get more oil. How to get the dirtiest oil out of Canada and ship it down through the U.S. for export to China. Oh and reducing and already shrinking deficit. Idiots.

Snow Surprise

A dusting of snow this morning that wasn't in the forecast for the Atlanta area. The Georgia mountains were supposed to get a couple of inches but not around here. Now the 35-40 mph winds have moved in but at least the sun is appearing.
I was out and about early to the dentist for my 6 month checkup and cleaning and got and attaboy. Now if I can just get the report on last week's hemoglobin A1C and Lipids blood tests I will be through with preventative maintenance for a while.
One or two more trays of veges to get planted today and I will be ready for the someday when the garden will finally be dry enough to till. All the tomatoes and peppers are done as well as a few herbs and the marigolds I use for pest protection. Started a new heirloom variety of eggplant yesterday as well called Diamond which got good reviews from the Seed Savers so we'll see. Last year's eggplant were very disappointing.
Moved the new seedlings of shallots and leeks to the greenhouse yesterday so they will start to harden off and be ready when I can plant.
Getting later and later for planting the spring peas but we'll just have to be patient.
I hope everyone is surviving the "lion" part of March.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Name That Fish?

It is getting harder and harder to be a responsible shopper. You try and pay attention and only buy products and food that is safe, healthy and not full of crap. You try and buy meat and poultry that come from responsible producers and now we discover that all of our efforts to buy environmentally sound seafood has got a fifty/fifty chance of not even being the kind of fish we think we are buying.

Oceana, an international ocean advocacy group, has released a report on national seafood fraud [PDF], and the results are disconcerting. The report, which is one of the largest on seafood fraud to date, found that one-third of fish was mislabeled. Oceana performed DNA testing from 2010 to 2012 on 1,215 fish samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states. In this study, Oceana found seafood fraud everywhere it tested, with rates hitting as high as 52 percent in Southern California.

Here is the breakdown:

You really need to read the article. One thing I'm wondering is if this applies to both fresh and frozen seafood as it doesn't really specify in the article. The article does say that the number one offender is red snapper with tuna as the followup. Of note is that tuna is evidently be substituted by escolar which is known to contain neurotoxins.