Eatin’ Good in the ‘Hood

There’s no question that my neighborhood is home to more than its share of excellent cooks.  Whether its Jason of the weekend breakfast bonanza or John of the sourdough loaves and chocolate chip cookies, or (if I do say so myself) my local food fetishism.

Shall I just come right out and say it?  I’ll bet I eat better than you.  Maybe not as elaborately as you; maybe not as expensively as you, but damn, we sure do eat well around this house.

I’ve been making heartier fall meals lately–the weather is cooler, and even though I’ve been spending way too much time inside staring at a computer screen, I have managed to burn some calories walking the dog down to the park in the afternoons to justify the meals I’ve eaten and am going to tell you about in a moment. But first, Vega.

Vega is no lap dog.  Well, she will be if you let her, but her 94 lb. body is a bit big for sharing a spot on the furniture.  She’s also a devil on a leash–as well-trained as she is to stop (most of the time) at our borders when chasing cats out of the yard, I’ve never gotten her to heel worth a darn.

As a result, walking her generally required a visit to the chiropractor the next day. But I picked up this slick $10 no-pull harness the other day, and it’s amazing what a good dog she is.  The improvement in her good dogginess is almost as big as when I finally broke down and got a flip-top trash can.

Anyhow, besides sitting in front of my screen and walking the dog down to the park yesterday, I also managed to make an amazingly good root soup.  First, I chopped and roasted carrots, celeriac, parsnips, and a couple small onions with cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder, marjoram, salt and pepper with some butter and EVOO.

Then I caramelized another small onion and a handful of sliced leeks before adding several diced potatoes to the pot along with a stock made from the leek tops (I am drying the rest of the leek bottoms).

Once I’d cooked the potatoes to tender perfection, I stirred in the roasted (and slightly caramelized) roots, then pureed the whole thing with a bit more leek stock.  I threw in a dollop of yogurt as well, and added a few more of the same spices as I saw fit.

The result is a hearty soup of an almost porridge-like consistency–perfect for fall and winter evenings and for lunches on days (like today) when you finally drag your sorry butt outside to rake the leaves and do the fall clean-up (along with the summer clean-up you never got to).

Local ingredients: my parnsips, carrots, celeriac, leeks, and onions; Gary Bye’s Yukon Gold potatoes.

But wait! There’s more!

Tonight seemed like a good night for a hearty and slightly more complex meal–I spent much of the day out doing yardwork, and I wanted something special.  Knowing I still had a little ricotta cheese in the fridge, and knowing we haven’t eaten pasta in awhile, I decided on a lasagna.

The sauce was made with grassfed beef, my home-canned tomato sauce, and a few veggies–sweet red pepper, celeriac leaves, onions.  I added herbs, of course, and cooked it down to a not-to-thick consistency (because I was not cooking the pasta in advance).

The cheesy layer was the leftover ricotta, plus a dollop of plain yogurt, a forked-apart chunk of Dimmock Dairy’s cheddar-blue cheese, and a few rounds of cooked squash that didn’t fit in the freezer bags, and an egg.  I used Bionaturae organic whole wheat pasta.

I added a little red wine & water around the sides before I put it in the oven, and had it covered with foil for the first forty-five minutes or so to cook the pasta.  The first fifteen minutes, I cooked it at 425; then I turned it down to 350 for the last forty-five.

Not only was this tasty tonight, but the leftovers will be great for lunch tomorrow, when it’s actually supposed to be pretty warm out–meaning I’ll be back messing around in the yard instead of indoors cooking.

Local ingredients: my tomato sauce, celeriac leaves, peppers, basil, onions, squash; Dakota Harvest’s grassfed Dexter beef; Dimmock Dairy cheese; Justice’s egg; Evergreen Farms garlic.

And yes, there’s still more.

Even though I threw a little squash (Neck pumpkin, actually) into the lasagna filling, I still had a bit left.  I didn’t think I could tackle a whole pie tonight after everything else I’d accomplished (or didn’t, but at least started), but custard is easy enough!

Into the blender went 2 eggs, about 3/4 cup milk, and maybe 2/3 cup squash, plus various spices.  And now it’s–OH Crap!  I Forgot the sugar! Just a minute…(yes, please take this time to chide me about my bragging above)

OK, NOW it’s cooking for maybe 45 minutes at 325 in a water bath in the oven–luckily it wasn’t cooked enough yet that I couldn’t whisk about 1/3 cup sugar in there.  Whew!  If I hadn’t been typing this, I wouldn’t have remembered!

The custard is going to go alongside a little scoop of not-local-at-all Hagen Das Fleur de Sel caramel ice cream.  If you haven’t tried it yet–don’t.  I don’t want anyone else eating up all the best ice cream in town.

Local ingredients (in the custard): my squash, Burbach’s milk, Justice’s eggs.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by lejohns on October 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    ah, comfort food!

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