Saturday, January 2, 2010

Getting Short Ribs and Tilapia Meuniere

Yes! In spite of colds, cold temperatures and other nastiness, we made it to the Pearl Market before opening today and got a couple of packages of short ribs.  I'm going to see if these are as wonderful as I've been led to believe.

In spite of the fact that we'd planned to spend New Years on the boat, we're at home. Both George and I are down with colds and we just didn't feel like being on the boat right now. We came home on New Years Eve and have stayed through the weekend. This means we went to the Pearl Market for our first farmer's market visit of the year, instead of the Austin market. Truth to tell, I'm not ill-pleased with being at the Pearl Market again. Some of our favorite vendors weren't there - the mushroom folks and the lamb folks weren't there, but our favorite goat cheeses, camembert cheeses, herb plants, grass-fed beef, eggs, and veggie folks were all there.  We walked out with our basket uncomfortably heavy and at least two bags in addition.

On the way home, we tried to calculate the percentage of our food now coming from local vendors. I'd say about 75% of our veggies, probably 60 - 75% of our meat, and maybe 40 - 50% of our cheese come from the market. Flours, spices and baking goods are still sourced out of state - except for locally produced cornmeal - and that's a significant percentage for us as we bake all our own bread. We are eating far more seasonally, which is something I've long wanted to do. I'm also learning, at long last, to think more in food. I find it surprisingly liberating to work around fresh foods I find at the market rather than work from recipes and try to find ingredients. I'm freeing myself from dependence on recipes and learning to cook by technique instead.

Tonight's supper was tilapia meuniere, made from tilapia caught fresh yesterday morning, packaged last night, purchased at the market this morning and cooked tonight. Nothing could be simpler, and I see why Julia Child raved over sole meuinere as her first meal in France. It's perfection!

One of the surprising benefits of becoming locavores - eating locally produced foods - is that we're developing relationships with the growers of our foods. I had a conversation with my favorite egg lady, who also has lots of veggies. She mentioned a kind of burgandy okra, which had me almost in tears.  My grandmother grew burgandy okra and passed seeds to me, which I've since lost. Seeing my look, she promised me burgandy okra - she'll grow it this year.

Bread isn't the only food we're making ourselves. I've been making many of our cheeses, having been introduced to The Cheese Queen through Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I've been making our mozzerella, yogurt, yogurt cheese and cottage cheese. I wish we could source local milk, but at least we have HEB's organic milk, which seems to work just fine. George has taken up beermaking - and thus far hasn't blown anything up! We're drinking his first project, a light German ale. It's okay, but I admit, I'm not a beer fan. He has a double hopped IPA in the fermenting vat at the moment. We'll see how it turns out. I'm growing our sprouts as they seem so much fresher than the ones at the store. I made Pad Thai with the first crop of mung bean sprouts and it was the best I've ever made! I got trays for growing our own microgreens as well.  I'll have to report back on them later. We're growing our own herbs hydroponically - a technique I want to learn more about as I may need the knowledge while cruising. Six of my seven herbs are up and doing well. The parsley is still on one of its seven trips to the devil and back, but I think it may be about ready to pop its head up.

As of today, we've eaten in a restaurant once in over a month... and I got sick from it. I don't know what's in restaurant food that upsets my digestive system, but it's something. I suspect preservatives. Other than coffee, which does tend to upset my system, I can cook as rich as I want at home and feel just fine. We've also moved away from eating any processed foods, no high-fructose corn syrup and no soybean oil. This isn't a vow of anything and I don't try to keep the kids from eating whatever they want... although I've noticed that they've lessened their dependence on processed foods. The shopping list, to which we all contribute, tells its own tale.  The food is undeniably better, too, which makes it easier to take each step, one at a time.

I'm fighting my cold with a remedy that at least makes me feel better, whether or not it actually helps my cold. I mix apple cider, the juice of a tangelo (from the market), a cinnamon stick, whole cloves, whole allspice, and about a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger, simmered together. It's warming and spicy and makes me feel better for at least as long as it takes to drink it!

In a knitting update, I finished both hats. The second was, indeed, a waffle hat which turned out quite well. I'm now at work on George's socks - a pair to replace the pair that had to be retired.  you can only darn socks if there's anything left for the darning to take hold of!  I may look at Elizabeth Zimmerman's socks with the sole knitted separately, so the sole can be removed and reknit as necessary.

More later about tomatoes, greenhouses, and reports from the herb front.

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