Monday, August 31, 2009

Fresh Is Best

Last night the temperature dropped to 48. In AUGUST! It had been kinda chilly all weekend, so when I was trying to come up with what to serve for the regular family Sunday night dinner, I was thinking fall type things. And then Mama Bird and I went to the farmers markets, to a booth that was selling tomatoes for a dollar a pound (if you bought more than 5 pounds). So of course we bought 5 and a half pounds! That of course meant we were going to have chili. So we then had to figure out the other things we needed. Onions, cilantro, and chilies. The beans we used were from a can, but we don't really know where to find fresh beans, or rather, the right type of fresh beans. Anyway, using my canned beans (from Whole Foods, 4 cans red kidney, and 2 cans black), and the 1 and a half pounds each ground chuck and ground pork we started the chili. Sweating the onions and some garlic (picked up at the market the week before) first, then adding the meats. I mix my own spices for this dish and those came next. Following that comes the tomatoes. Now, before we could add them to the chili, we had to skin them. To do that you dip them in boiling water for about a minute and the skin just comes right off. So with our now skinless and chopped up tomatoes we add those and the two whole red chilies and the diced jalepeno. We had purchased some beef broth to add if the chili was too dry. Five plus pounds of tomatoes provide ample amount of liquid, just so you know. The beans get added last and only after everything has simmered for about thirty minutes. Once the beans are added it's another twenty minutes or so and it's ready to serve. We had ours with a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, and chopped green onions. Oh, and queso fresco. It was divine!
It's true that when you use the freshest ingredients your food tastes better. This most certainly proved it.
So now I have an entire container of beef broth to use. Tomorrow I'm going to another farmers market and buying onions. Yellow onions to make french onion soup. I'll need to pick up some gruyere cheese to smother the top with, but that's not a problem. We also have a bunch of fingerling potatoes to use. Those we intend to roast with salt and pepper (a little olive oil too) and serve it with a little side dollop of sour cream that has green onion, chives and a smidge of garlic.
Yeah, I'm back on a food kick. After I told Mama Bird my plans she sighed and said "I'm gonna get fat". She won't.
Also at the markets this past weekend, one of the booths had giant bunches of basil for only a dollar each. We bought three. In addition to the two we had gotten at a different booth earlier. Basil is hard to find at the other booths now, so when we first saw it we jumped on it. And then we found it for cheaper (and better quality) we decided to make a ton of pesto and freeze it. You can freeze pesto for up to three months, and I'll keep making it as long as I can find basil at the market. I have to keep that freezer stocked!
Everybody has favorite autumnal foods, what are yours?

--Little Bird is back in the kitchen!

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's The Little Things

This is a question for the women who read this. All three of you.
What do you keep in your purse?
A wallet, sure. And in that wallet are credit cards, money and ID. I bet your keys are in your purse too. A hairbrush, some make-up, perhaps a phone. Anything else? Anything that you value?
If you keep anything at all that you value in your purse never, EVER hang said purse from the back of a chair when you are anywhere but home. It will eventually get stolen. Then you have to replace those things. AND whoever took your purse now has your home address and your keys. That's worse than having to replace all that stuff.
My mothers purse was stolen yesterday. Right off her chair. People saw him, but didn't realize what he was doing. Most of the stuff is replaceable. But (and here's where it gets kinda sad) the only hairbrush she had was in that purse. It was a really good hairbrush, the kind of thing you have for years. Of all the hairbrushes she has owned, this was her favorite. So when her purse was stolen she couldn't even brush her hair. Something so simple, so everyday. Her stolen purse interrupted her very basic daily life.
After she came home (my step-father and I took care of cards and keys) she and I went to get her, among other things, a new hairbrush. As soon as she got out of the store she ripped the brush out of it's packaging and brushed her hair. You could literally see her start to feel better. Reclaiming that little tiny part of her life made a difference. It was... moving to see it happen.

Salsa with Corn

1 ear sweet corn
2 large tomatoes
1 serrano pepper
1 smallish red onion

Roast the corn (on the ear) after brushing lightly with olive oil. You can also put it under the broiler, but keep an eye on it. It will need to be turned a couple of times.
While the corn is roasting, chop the tomatoes into pieces smaller than a half inch. You can leave the skin and seeds in or not, whichever you prefer ( I like to leave them in).
Remove the seeds and membrane from the serrano pepper and discard them.
Dice the pepper finely. Be very careful not to touch either your eyes or your nose until you wash your hands very carefully).
Dice the red onion, again you want really small pieces.
After coming back to the kitchen after wiping your eyes from the onion fumes, start removing the stems from some cilantro.
You can add as much or as little as you like, but you don't want the stems. I recommend chopping the leaves a bit as well.
Mix all these things together and allow to sit so the flavors really mix.
If the corn is done by this time, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, remove it from the ear with a knife (or one of those nifty corn "zippers"). Allow the corn to cool completely before adding to the mixture. You can eat it right away, or put it in a sealed container and chill overnight. Serve with corn chips or heat it up and serve over chicken.
It's a great mix of spicy and sweet!

--Little Bird with a public service announcement

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Windows And Jets

I've learned an interesting lesson this past week. If the windows are open at my folks' place, I can stay with the cats for a longer period of time. I now know why my step-father ALWAYS has a window at least cracked! We had a heat wave here in Chicago recently and I had closed the windows and turned on the a/c. I itched. I sneezed. I turned off the a/c and opened the windows today. It's not as bad this way. And the heat wave seems to have passed.
My folks are extremely lucky to not be in town this weekend. The air show will be here. Fighter jets and freaking HUGE planes will be buzzing our buildings for two days. I hate the air show. And they are doing practice runs all week. Nothing says "good morning" like an F-15 (I have no idea what kind of plane it was, so I'm using a name I know) screaming past your window at 8 am. I should point out that they are at roughly the same height as my windows too. It sounded like the thing was going to come crashing into my living room. I wasn't at my folks' place so I couldn't tell you what the cats did. But I can guess. They must have freaked. And hid in the closet. And I know one of 'em puked.
Why do we even have air shows? Friday morning about a million people will descend on my neighborhood and trash it. The maintenance guys are putting up the orange hurricane fencing now in an effort to keep them off the grass. They'll have to post one guy up on the sundeck to keep non-residents out. If we have to have air shows, why can't they be out in the 'burbs?
Other than that, it's been slow around here. With the folks being in Europe for a bit, and not due back for a few more days, there's not all that much to do. The markets are nice, I live off of them nearly exclusively. Which means the food is good. I've been walking (primarily to the markets) and I have somehow managed to lose some weight. I am now down ten pounds from the starting point. When I reach my goal I'll tell what that was, but not before.
The ice cream ball is getting a little use, but not too much. I don't want to gain weight, I want to lose it. Nor have I used the fry daddy. To be honest, I'm a little afraid of it. I don't want to start a fire. Or burn myself. And I regularly burn myself on my oven so you can imagine what damage I could do with the fry daddy.

-- Little Bird itches, a bit