Friday, January 30, 2015

Wind Wimp

I should be in the garden but I'm a wimp. I just got back from taking Zoey for a walk and the wind beat me up. It's not really that cold (45F) but the wind is a steady 20 mph or so with gusts of probably 30 or more. I dislike it immensely. My task for the day in the garden was to continue putting wood chips in the paths between the beds. This necessitates laying newspaper down first which is impossible with any wind. There...I've justified staying in and reading and drinking tea.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Johnny Cakes

Updated below: Johnny cakes or Journey cakes as they were originally called are a quick and easy way to add some novelty and good taste to a meal. That's especially true for a nice winter meal of beans, chili or vegetable soup. They are super easy. All you need is some corn meal, salt, milk, butter and a griddle or big fry pan. Actually, you don't even need the fry pan as another name for them is "hoe cakes" as you can use the back of your hoe to cook them over an open fire whilst working in the field,

The following basic recipe will make about 16 cakes but you can easily double or triple it for making a bunch and since there is no leavening you can make the batter a day or two in advance and likewise keep extra for a couple days.

Johnny or Journey or Hoe cakes

1/4 cup butter (if you use salted butter cut back a wee bit on the salt)
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup plain cornmeal ( I like yellow but white
is fine just make sure it is NOT self rising)
1 1/2 Tsp salt
3/4 cup boiling water

In a small pan (or in the microwave) heat the butter and milk until the butter melts and set aside.
In a medium bowl mix together the cornmeal, salt. stir in the water, mixing well then add the milk/butter.
Using a quarter cup measure cook the cakes on a medium hot griddle or fry pan(or hoe). If the pan is the right temperature it should take about 3 minutes until the edges start to brown. Flip and cook on the other side about a minute more. These are best served hot.

You can fancy these up with some tasty additions to the batter. Try some green onion or chopped hot pepper. Minced shallots or garlic is nice. Use your imagination. A little sorghum, molasses or honey isn't a bad idea either.

Update: I should have mentioned that you want a batter that will flow a bit like pancake batter. If it is too thick add a little more boiling water (this is especially true if the batter sits for a while). Too thin add a little more cornmeal.  If you have to spread the batter out manually on the pan then you need to thin it a bit.

I should also note that I add a tablespoon of Bob's Red Mill Polenta to the mixture to create a little more texture.
one more thing...I only got 12 cakes out of this recipe last night. That's enough for the two of us but you should probably go for the full batch if there are more than two.

Image from Country

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Easy French Onion Soup

It is forecast for more rain this afternoon and I am in the mood for onion soup. Here is
the recipe I use. You'll see a lot of recipes for all beef broth but I think that hides some of
the onion flavor so I like to cut it with some chicken broth. The key is to fully caramelize
the onions...they should be rich and dark before we move to the broth part. Sometimes it
helps to add a bit of white sugar to the onions which will encourage the caramelization.

It is believed that the original onions soups were made with just onions and water and it
was only the caramelized onions that brought flavor. Meat based stocks were a luxury for
the peasants. You can, of course, use water and or a vegetable stock here but I really like
the recipe below. Since there are only two of us I typically only make a half recipe so I
don't have to deal with left overs. I should mention that the only really safe bowls or
crocks for the broiler are stoneware or something like Pyrex. Regular old dishes might
crack. I have a special set of onion soup crocks that work great. Just be careful.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds thinly sliced sweet or red onions (about 6 medium onions)
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine (I use vermouth)
4 cups  low-sodium beef broth
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme stripped or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Half a good baguette slice into 3/4 inch slices on the angle buttered lightly
3 cups grated Le Gruyere cheese


In a large heavy-bottom pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sliced onions, salt,
and pepper and continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions
become a deep golden brown and very soft, about 30 to 45 minutes and depending on the
moisture in the onions even longer. Be patient this is where all the flavor comes from.
Add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. If you are using dried thyme add it now along
with the white wine and scrape up any fond on the bottom of the pan and simmer for 5
minutes. Add the beef stock and  chicken stock, fresh thyme, and bring to a simmer.
Cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Preheat the oven 400F and toast the lightly buttered bread slices. 10 or 15 minutes
should do just want them lightly browned but nice and crisp.

Ladle the soup into 4 to 6 oven-safe crocks or bowls. Top with the toast and a handful of
grated Le Gruyere. Arrange the crocks or bowls on a half sheet pan as they will be easier
to handle.

Place the crocks or bowls under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is
melted and begins to brown.

This recipe makes four generous servings or 6 starter servings

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Seed Day

Ok, madam is away for the day, so after taking Zoey out for our walk it is seed catalog day. All the catalogs spread on the kitchen table and then from arugula to watermelon we look at each catalogs offerings and select the varieties we want to try. I always lean toward Seed Savers Exchangeand heirloom and next Botanical Interests followed by Territorial Seeds, Park, Burpee, Jung and then all the smaller ones like Humble Seed ,Sustainable Seed Company, and all the rest. I'll make my lists for each company and then order them on the web. Still haven't decided if I am going to try corn this year but just to be only the safe side I'll order seed. For sure this year is Bloody Butcher and Hopi Blue and another yellow sweet corn of some variety. All the rest is up in air.