Monday, March 1, 2010

journies through old florida by way of Cross Creek

Last year I was very much in love with old florida, and part of our farming life and our return to our home state has been to fulfill and re-create the romantic visions we have of it. Such a journey is incomplete without the wisdom of elders, and here in Florida there are far and few between... they are here you just have to look really carefully for them. Pick through the yankees (me) and New Yorkers (but thank god for them, they've given us good pizza & Italian ice, of which I could not live without). A somewhat easier and more portable route is to make your way  through old Florida literature to learn some of the necessities of rural life here. Which brings me to my relationship with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek, the 1st book in my Florida love series.

Have you ever started a book that took you ions to finish? Last winter Doug & I visited her homestead near Gainesville and I started reading it. I got through the first half in a few days and then we left for Mexico and I got sidetracked, etc, etc. etc.

Last night I finished it, and what a treasure it is of old Florida ways and lifestyle. Especially for those of us in the swampy citrus parts.

It starts out as beautifully as it ends:
"We can not live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shriveled in a man's heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men." 

And closes on a similar note: 
"It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used, but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time."

Even though Rawlings herself was a Yankee carpet bagger who exploited Florida (like so many today) to benefit her writings, she did, as you learn in the pages of Cross Creek develop a strong bond and connection to the people and land of the creek. Something that gives a Yankee like me hope that I can do a bit of good and make right some of the wrongs :)

Next up, Zora Neale Hurston's, Their Eyes Were Watching God, if I can locate my copy. I'm embarassed to admit I've never read it, but I will I will and hopefully much quicker than I did the last!

Monday, February 15, 2010

dehydrate & be merry!

Okay, so even though I've professed my hatred of gadgets, I was pretty excited to get my sister-in-law's dehydrator as a Christmas present. She upgraded to a fancy dancy one, and I got her old one, and I was thrilled! Dehydrating is a great way to enjoy the bounty of summer & fall and save for winter months! Last week I went a little dehydrater happy and dehydrated my little heart out...

dried peppers
dried tomatoes, perfect for pizza!

dried bananas, soaked in OJ for about 5 minutes. these make a great snack & taste just like banana pudding! 

I also tried out a few new "raw" recipes with things are were not from Doug's farm.... 
Dehydrated Almonds with Garlic & Salt 
The recipe calls for just salt, but I added a T of garlic powder to the marinade! 

Everything turned out really yummy, and although I don't know where I stand on the whole "raw" food issue, I am experimenting more & more with it. I feel great when I eat raw, but I know that I can't do it 100% everyday. I still love my breads & pastas tooo much :) For farmers especially however, I think its a great way to really get the most out of your harvests!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crusty Bread for Everyone!

So, prior to the Fall, I was set on finally learning how to make a nice crusty loaf of bread. I bought the book, but like many things realized I would need some proper tools before I could begin my artisanal journey in breadmaking. Thanks be to Christmas and a birthday, a few months later I had the peel, stone & gusto to start my first loaf and I have to admit I'm pretty darn impressed with the results.

I was also amazed at how EASY it was to do it, given the proper guidance & tools. This one calls for no proofing & no kneading, which I find amazing!

Here is my recipe, Organic Crusty Bread Recipe (adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)
3 cups warm water (100 degrees F)
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/2 T sea salt
6 1/2 cups Organic All Purpose White Flour

Makes 4 loaves.

Tools Needed:
Baking Stone
Pizza Peel
Broiler Pan

1. In a large bowl (16 cup capacity), add water, then sprinkle the yeast & salt in the same bowl. Don't worry about mixing.

2. Then add all 6 1/2 cups of flour at the same time. With a wooden spoon mix all the ingredients just until it is all moist with no dry patches.

3. Let rise until double about 2 hours. Once it has risen, put it in the fridge for up to 3 hours or overnight. (It can stay there for up to a week until you are ready to bake).

4. On baking day, divide dough into 4 parts. Flour your pizza peel well. NO NEED TO KNEAD THE DOUGH! Just cloak it with flour & shape into desired form. Then place it on the pizza peel. Let rest 40 minutes. Make sure you have enough flour on the bottom so that it does not stick.

5. Put stone on middle rack of oven, and an empty broiler pan on the rack below it. Preheat for 20 minutes at 450.

6. Once dough is rested, sprinkle tops with flour, & cut by making a criss cross or line pattern on it by slicing 1/4" down into top of dough (see pics).

7. Now add 1-2 cups of water to your broiler pan. It will start to steam. With a flick of the wrist slide loaves onto the stone.

8. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool on racks. The loaves will be golden!

This dough is very versatile, if you wish to divide it and bake one loaf at a time it works great that way. I also used some of the same dough to make sticky buns!

Monday, January 11, 2010

winter salads

A great way to make and use local ingredients in the winter is to be creative with your salads. I get bored with what people usually expect of a salad... lettuce, tomato, cucumber... they're all well and good, but anyone notice that in most parts of the country this is a bonafide summer salad?

In the winter you need to improvise. Last night I made up this easy winter salad using up some veggies in the fridge from the farm. I also finally, just bought a manual vegetable slicer with several attachments for grating, slicing etc. Normally I HATE gadgets, I just hate the extra clutter really. I prefer a simplified kitchen. Whe the hell needs an egg slicer? How lazy are you that you need this? But, believe me folks this is one thing you absolutely need! It saves so much time if you eat alot of vegetables. Although I do have a good food processor, clean up is ridiculous if you only need a few things sliced, and this wastes no electricity. Needless to say, I was so excited when we bought it. I asked Doug, isn't this great as I showed him how quickly I sliced up a head of cabbage. You know its true love when your husband gets as excited as you about your vegetable slicer!

Winter Cabbage Salad Recipe with Asian Dressing
1 small head of cabbage
2-3 carrots
2-3 stalks green onions
Handful of snow peas

1/8 c rice vinegar (or whatever you have, rice vinegar is milder)
1/4 c oil
2 T tamari soy sauce
1 t crushed red pepper
1/8 c sugar

Shred up your veggies. Whisk up your dressing, pour over and let sit a few minutes before serving to marinate. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds & fresh ground black pepper.