Monday, April 18, 2011

Eating Local in Memphis, Exam-Style Part 2

Some random things before I drag myself to (the last week of) class (ever).

Two local breakfasts:

Omelette with Flora Farms duck egg (1 duck egg+a little milk is PLENTY), Whitton Farms sorrel, Bonnie Blue Farms goat cheese, plus some Jones Orchard strawberries on the side.

Wheatberries, Jones Orchard strawberries, pecans.

Food news Memphis can use: Food trucks are coming to Court Square tomorrow from 11-2, in support of City Council legislation that would allow more opportunities for these trucks here. I'll definitely be there to grab lunch. If you're Downtown, try to stop by!

Gargantuan tomato plant from Bennett-Burke Nursery! (My awkward leg for height reference.)

A particularly encouraging fortune.

Finally, gratuitous cute kitten picture of the week: these clothes were dirty anyway, right?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Risotto with Sorrel and a Shredded Salad of Many Greens

Two posts in one day, oh my! First, this isn't likely to become a habit. Second, it was opening day at the Memphis Farmer's Market, and I shot out of bed like an excited fanboy on the morning of Comic Con today. I get so unreasonably excited about the start of the season and all of the tender young things at the market: baby onions, baby greens, baby tomato plants, baby garlic. No human babies at the market this morning, though; it was too cold. Anyway, opening day = cause for celebration.

The new pavilion extension is coming along and looks great.

I ended up coming home with two tomato starts from Bennett-Burke Nursery, a Goliath and a Rutgers. Those two men are wizards, I swear. The seedlings are up to my knees already, and it's April. April, people.

Also scooped up Jones Orchard strawberries, Whitton Farms sorrel, and Flora Farms mixed lettuces. Sorrel is a green that tastes like lemon. Or kiwi. Or strawberry. Something slightly acidic and tart. Lunch was another greens-and-grains combo. The sorrel gave the salad some kick and made the risotto faintly citrusy, as well as olive green. Oh yeah, I used Bonnie Blue Farms goat cheese in the risotto. Pro tip: goat cheese freezes well, if you've got an odd bit left that you're not going to use immediately.

I cut the recipe down to make risotto for one, but it could easily be doubled or tripled as written below.

Spring Risotto with Sorrel and a Shredded Salad of Many Greens
both adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

For the risotto
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 handful of sorrel (1 cup trimmed leaves)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup short-grain rice
3 cups simmering vegetable or chicken stock
a couple ounces of goat cheese

Melt the butter in a saute pan [I used my wok], add the onions, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about five minutes.

Add the sorrel and cook until it has collapsed into the onion after several minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.

Add the rice, stir it about, and cook for 1 minute.

Pour in one ladle-ful of the hot stock. Simmer until it has been absorbed, then add the rest, one ladle-ful at a time. Stir energetically and continue adding liquid after each addition is absorbed.

After 10 minutes.

After 20 minutes.

After 25 minutes.

When the rice is tender, stir in the goat cheese, taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

For the salad:
Seriously, just shred up whatever interesting herbs you have around and add them to a handful of mixed lettuces. Here I used the sorrel, the mixed tender lettuces, and some spearmint. Deborah suggests napa cabbage (crunchy), butter lettuce (tender), dandelion greens (bitter), parsley, radish leaves, etc. The idea is to mix it up with flavors and textures for a party on the taste buds. Wash and dry the greens, then pour over your favorite vinaigrette -- mine is 1 garlic clove smooshed with a pinch of salt, add three parts olive oil and one part vinegar, plus some ground pepper.

Eating Local in Memphis, Exam-Style

Taking finals never. ever. becomes any easier. It does, however, become more annoying. Luckily, I'm about to take my last set of law school finals. ever. ever.*

I subsist mainly on coffee and takeout during those four unholy weeks each semester. When I do make food, I try to cook things that have plenty of protein to keep me focused (and from mindlessly grazing). Here are some recent noshes:

In the boring-but-serves-its-purpose corner: toasted quinoa, black beans, and scrambled eggs, mixed up with a little bit of salsa.

In the oh-dear-God-I-can't-even-think-about-cooking-right-now corner: a New York Club from Fino's From the Hill. Sometimes I want to marinate myself in that tomato-onion dressing.**

*and then there is a tiny, pesky bar exam lurking at the end of July.

**kidding. not really.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Baby Bok Choy with Sweet-Tart Fresh Mint Sauce and Toasted Quinoa

Baby veggies and baby kitty. Chewie is two this month, so I suppose she is not really a baby anymore. She's my baby, though. My furry, angry baby.

This was a quick and filling lunch to tide me over through Race Judicata this afternoon. The U of M law school sponsors the race every year to race money for Memphis Area Legal Services, and I am going to volunteer. (And, um, chow down on Rendezvous barbecue, sliders from Bardog, and beer afterward [the other day's post notwithstanding...].)

Another big grain-and-greens lunch here, this time with baby bok choy from Gracious Gardens and spearmint from the U of M edible garden. I've been really getting into whole grains lately (steel cut oats, wheat berries, quinoa, barley...) in anticipation of fresh summer grain salads. They're fun, and they keep me full for a pretty long time. The first time I made quinoa--the so-called "mother grain," which you can read more about here--I was kind of meh about it. My friend Leslie told me to toast the grain first and cook it in broth, rather than water. Genius! This turned out much more flavorful than my first attempt.

Baby Bok Choy with Sweet-Tart Fresh Mint Sauce and Toasted Quinoa
mint sauce recipe adapted from

For the quinoa
1/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed (rinsing gets rid of the soapy saponins that coat it)
1 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth or stock

For the mint sauce and salad
1/4 yellow onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup tightly packed spearmint leaves, chopped
small bunch of baby bok choy

First start your quinoa...

Place your rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan, turn the flame to medium, and cook it for about 5 minutes or until you can smell a nice nutty flavor and/or the grain turns somewhat translucent.

Add the broth/stock. I make stock in vast quantities in my Crock-Pot, using vegetable scraps I save in my "stock bag" in the freezer. Then I freeze the stock in ice cube trays to make it easy to portion out later (apologies to my roommate for hogging the ice cube trays when it is stock time). Here I just dumped the frozen stock straight into the saucepan and let it melt over the flame. It worked fine.

So, bring the stock to a boil, then lower the flame and cook for 15-20 minutes until the grains have absorbed all the liquids, stirring every now and then.

Make your mint sauce...
Okay, first a pro tip on mincing garlic, onions, whatever spherical thing you need to mince. If it's an onion you've got, stick it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before you cut. This will buy you about 2 minutes of tears-free chopping, which may be all you need if you work quickly. It also helps to use a santoku knife, if you've got one. It has little scalloped-shaped notches on it that keep veggies from clinging to the blade, thereby irritating you.

First, cut the garlic several times lengthwise, almost to, but not quite through, the pointy end of the clove. (Yeah, I know, the picture, but do as I say, not as I do!)

Then turn your knife parallel to the cutting board and, holding the garlic slices together tightly, gently slice through the center of the clove, again going almost but not quite to the pointy end.

Then turn your knife perpendicular to the cutting board again and slice downward. Ta-da! Little mincies.

Onion can get the same treatment.

In a medium bowl, stir together the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and vinegar, and let stand for 20 minutes. This softens the flavor of the raw onion. Then whisk in the olive oil. Right before you serve, stir in the chopped mint.

To slice my bok choy, I first separated leaves from stems and sliced each separately, but I don't suppose you have to.

Combine the dressing with the sliced bok choy, plate with some toasty quinoa, and have an alternately tangy and nutty lunch!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Warm Barley, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Salad

It's shaping up to be a fairly perfect weekend out there. Yesterday I went to a wedding on the Carousel at the Hickory Ridge Mall -- check out pictures of the happy couple here and here -- and today the SO and I have grand plans to eat at Fino's and get out of town. Exams? Haaaa... ha.


Yeah, I'll do work in the car.

Anyway, ever since I got back from the pacific northwest, I've been trying to bring myself back to where I started with this blog: mindful, mostly vegetarian eating. I've noticed myself being a bit more cavalier about my meat sources when eating out. And yes, I realize that my choice to avoid factory-farmed meat while eating out won't really have an effect in the grand scheme of things. But personally, I feel that I have made a deliberate decision to support local growers, keep my money in my community, and hopefully thereby stimulate, encourage, and enable the development of sustainable (buzzword! ack!) farming methods. So, I am reminding myself of that more often when I am out. Cheap meat's cost is too high.

In that spirit, here are a couple of simple, filling, spring-ey meals. Using up the last of the root vegetables while welcoming in the tender young greens. I knew I wanted to use grains, sweet potatoes, and black beans in a salad but had a devil of a time finding a recipe that suited my needs (read: that didn't take forever), so I just kind of made up my own.

Local veggies here include sweet potatoes from Dodson Farms and a bitter green mix of endive, chard, arugula, chervil, and other things from Flora at Bluebird Farms. Also, a huge duck egg from Flora.

Warm Barley, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Salad

a sufficient quantity of barley, cooked according to package directions. I made a cup of dried, which probably turned into 2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked. You probably only want a cup of cooked barley for this salad.
one medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into half-inch chunks
about 1/4 cup dried black beans, which is maybe 1/2 cup cooked
about 5 tsp teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt, pepper, dried rosemary
a clove of garlic, chopped

I soaked my beans overnight and cooked them with the garlic and rosemary, then added in some salt at the end. If you are using canned beans, obviously skip this step.

Toss the sweet potato chunks with just enough olive oil to coat--about 2 teaspoons' worth--then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and crushed dried rosemary. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then, until soft.

Make your barley while the sweet potatoes cook.

When the sweets are done, toss the barley, sweets, and black beans together. I finished this off with a vinaigrette of 1 garlic clove mashed with a little salt+3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil+1 tsp white wine vinegar+freshly ground black pepper. It's my standard vinaigrette, but it's so good.

Then I made basically the same vinaigrette for my bitter greens salad, but wanted to use some of this fancy vinegar my friend Laura brought me from Trader Joe's in Nashville. Thank you, Laura! It was quite tasty.

The nonfussy lunches are the best.

Another thing I have been making a lot of lately -- scrambled eggs with salsa, wrapped in corn tortillas. Two little ones for breakfast stave off the embarrassing 10 AM stomach rumbles. The addition of some greens this morning was a crunchy counterpoint to the soft duck egg.