Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

The Rewards of Playing with Food

Harvest for dinner

One of my favorite ways to play with food is during the harvest process—creating what some folks call food porn. After the work of picking, digging, and cutting the fruits (and veggies) of my many hours of springtime labor, I enjoy the reward of creating artistic visual images.

There are a couple of benefits to this reward. One perk is that I get to let my artistic eye run wild with the challenge of varying colors, shapes, and sizes while I create each morning’s still life (before storing or otherwise processing the food). Another benefit is that I have a catalog of photographs to reference when curiosity or impatience niggles about harvest times and quantities of years past.

Past harvests

My default is to arrange our bounty in baskets, bowls, or in different areas of the garden around the house. I love to discover new ways of playing, sometimes finding that my supervisors (aka cats) enjoy the challenge as well. I recently discovered others playing with their food on Instagram—some with quite a bit of humor—which I’m guessing will seep into my subconscious and sneak into future photos.

I was thrilled to see that without knowing it I cut my first cabbage this year on the same date as I did last year. My mind likes noting fun coincidences, especially involving dates and numbers. That discovery sent me down the rabbit hole in my photos and I ended up noticing several other coincidences. It’s nice to know that some things are consistent even when the world seems chaotic.

Harvest Dinner

The other main avenue of my play with food is in the kitchen. I’ve shared plenty of photos and recipes in past blog posts. I think most who know me understand my compulsion to play in the kitchen is as strong as my need to play with clay, to paint, to draw, and to garden. I can’t swear to it, but I like to believe that the positive and playful energies I employ help the food maintain its healthfulness. I certainly believe that those energies help my garden maintain its abundance.

A favorite playtime activity this year is roasting my freshly picked vegetables in the oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or so). The photo above shows a recent dinner. It includes potatoes, zucchini, yellow crookneck, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, beans, garlic cloves, basil, and oregano. Every bit of it came from our garden (except for the olive oil coating the veggies).

If you don’t otherwise document your garden, I highly suggest using photographs. They’re a quick and easy way to keep track of your work and rewards, and the digital varieties are date stamped. If you are so inclined, I definitely urge you to play with your food. It can be very gratifying!

Photos by Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Cooking with Kale and Chard

rsz_good_kale

Kale packs a powerful nutritional punch to meals. Photo by Carole Coates

Cooking with either kale or Swiss chard is as easy as filling a pot with a little water and a lot of greens and placing it on a heated stove burner. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, there are lots more easy and interesting ways to eat these two vegetable powerhouses.

Preparation

Both vegetables should be washed thoroughly to get rid of any lingering garden soil, then chopped. The easiest way to cut kale is to fold it in half lengthwise and use a sharp knife to trim along the edge of the tough stem. Then give the leaves a few crosswise chops. (You can toss the stems into a freezer container and use them to make a healthy stock later.) Chard is ever so much easier to prepare since the stems are tender and tasty. Just pile a few chard leaves, stems and all, one atop the other and give the whole thing a few rough chops in both directions.

Basic Cooking

Personally, I like sautéed greens. Just add a tablespoon of olive oil or butter to a skillet, turn the burner to medium, fill the pan with greens, cover, and cook until they begin to wilt. The big mistake people make when cooking greens is to overcook them. To add more flavor complexity, cook with a couple of garlic cloves or some chopped onions. Add other seasonings to taste.

Go Deeper

Cook more than you need for one meal and refrigerate the extra portions for the next day. Cooked chard can be added to a stir fry or an omelet. It's also an excellent bed for scrambled eggs, adding lots of vitamins and minerals to your breakfast menu. Both vegetables make a nice addition to quiche. Here’s my favorite recipe. It's so easy.

Kale cooked with potatoes makes for a hearty dish. Boil as many potatoes as your family typically eats. Then cube them. Meanwhile, sauté a couple of minced garlic cloves and/or a half-cup or so of chopped onion (measurements aren’t important here) in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add the cubed potatoes and let them cook on medium to medium-low heat until their edges brown a bit. Add a good-sized bunch of chopped kale, cover, and simmer for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Served with my award-winning cornbread and you have a meal.

You can find a number of kale salad recipes on the internet, but this one is my favorite. It’s easy to make, keeps for days in the fridge, and gets more tender and tasty with each passing day. You can prepare a big batch and have kale salad for lunch all week. Trust me, you won’t get tired of it. If you long for crunchiness, add a side of tortilla chips.

Here’s a toast to happy, healthy, easy eating.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts by following this link. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Food Destination: Alabama's Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Part 2

The Gulf containers reused for restaurant at night

Orange Beach and the Gulf Shores in Alabama are experiencing a culinary renaissance, embracing a fishing hook-to-table mantra, covered in part 1. For some restaurants, it crosses over to the décor, too, with a coastal version of shabby chic. Imagine the movie, Castaway, but definitely not on a lonely island, since these places are packed with boaters, beach combers, families and ecotourists winding down after a day of birding, biking or kayaking. While one restaurant adds to its kitchen space and storage by re-purposing shipping containers, another seemingly hobbles together driftwood, drapes canvas umbrellas and recycled surfboards.

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010, currently the worst marine oil spill in US history, this coastal community has buckled down, cleaned up, and emerged even more vibrant than before. The disaster led to massive legal settlements from BP, leasing the rig from owner and operator Transocean, funds which helped communities and businesses effected to recover.

Today, sea life in the Gulf of Mexico, while still being monitored, seems to have rebounded. The great news for foodies travelling here is that the seafood is safe to eat, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The Gulf’s marine life, however, continues to be threatened by plastic waste and the growing “dead zone” caused by chemical agriculture runoff flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi River and other waterways.

“What used to be wax paper and fried everything, has become flip-flop fine dining,” laughs Kay Maghan, Public Relations Manager for Gulf Shores and Organic Beach Tourism, eager to share how the area is quickly becoming a food travel destination. “We create an atmosphere here like you’re dining with family and friends while keeping the quality and creativity of what’s on your plate like something you’d expect at top restaurants in the city.”

What photographer John Ivanko and I found on a recent trip here confirmed this sentiment, deliciously so. Wear what you want, but don’t let that beachy casual style lower your expectations on what’s on your plate.

 The Gulf watermelon shrimp salad

Re-purposed Containers House the Hip Bar and Restaurant, The Gulf

If there ever was a restaurant that captured a sense of living the good life on an island, The Gulf would be it with its al fresco dining experience, deliciously crafted seafood dishes by Chef Wesley True, and outdoor bar with mixologists shaking craft cocktails to order. The boxy blue settlement overlooks the sugar white strip of beach head of Alabama Point East, the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Perdido Pass Bridge, under which a steady flow of dolphin-watching and fishing boats pass. There are numerous outdoor couches around fire pits, rows of picnic tables under palms and twinkling lights and a family and dog friendly vibe.

The restaurant itself is a grandiose example of re-purposing at its finest. The kitchens are constructed inside shipping containers, cleaned up and all painted a deep coastal blue and stacked like Legos. Call this castaway-like décor “shabby coastal chic” with tables made from reused wood and creative use of other salvaged materials, like a hanging lounge chair constructed out of driftwood.

 The Gulf Berry Mojito

Does this use of shipping containers exempt the restaurant from some building code requirements? Of course not. This place is Spartan clean. One thing is clear at The Gulf: they take pride in doing things according to their vision and values. They create a welcoming, comfortable spot, offer generous portions of made-to-order dishes prepared with local ingredients when possible, and serve craft cocktails from outdoor bar. Folks gather and relax, especially when the music sticks to their well-curated vinyl collection.

Be prepared for a winding line while ordering at counters. But that’s a good sign when the locals eat as well as the out-of-towners do. Grab a cocktail from the bar as you may need to linger in line at this popular joint. Sometimes, the bartenders will even put on a show when making their signature blackberry infused Mojitos or bloody Mary’s. 

 The Gulf fried grouper sandwich

When you do get to the ordering counter, you’ll have a range of options: fried-grouper sandwiches, tacos, fresh cut fries to share alongside unexpected combination salads like a watermelon and shrimp salad mixed with watercress, farro, feta cheese and a dressing of mint, almonds, carrot yogurt and red wine. Chef True likes to mix it up, keep it fresh and unexpectedly gourmet, especially when you consider you can dine with your toes in the sand.

Oyster Abundance at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club

Don’t be misled by the “Yacht Club” name. The Flora-Bama Yacht Club takes flip flop fun to the extreme as this legendary spot brings together all the classic elements you’d want in a waterside, beach bar dining where guests arrive by boat, paddle board, kayak or car. The weathered wood, graffiti pitted and rambling structure offers local seafood and their own variation of the bushwacker with a cherry infusion. Geographically defining its name, the restaurant straddles the Alabama-Florida state line.

Chefs Haikel Harris and Billy Highland work hand-in-hand join a team of area chefs and activists who run the NUISANCE Group, which stands for “Nuisance, Underutilized, and/or Invasive, that are also Sustainable and Available, through Noble Culinary Endeavors.” He and other chef leaders serve up education with your meal as he has a mission to creatively cook underused and underrated local fish including Lionfish. NUISANCE now organizes a Lionfish Festival that features some of Chef Highland’s innovative ways to use Lionfish such as in nachos. 

“On a good night, we go through about 1,200 oysters,” laughs Jacob, wearing a tie-dye t-shirt and a smile. Alabama has historically been the largest processor of oysters in the country; the warmer waters of the Gulf give these local oysters a softer consistency and a sweeter flavor than those from the north that might be tougher and saltier. New to oysters? Test the waters with one of the grilled or roasted dishes, including char-grilled Louisiana oysters topped with Sriracha-cured bacon, butter, New Orleans BBQ sauce, and cheese.

 Flora-Bama Yacht Club oyster shucking

The Flora-Bama Yacht Club is a proud member of the new recycling program that helps the environment through healthy oyster beds. Run by the Alabama Coastal Foundation, oyster shells collected through this program go back into Alabama waters to help more oysters grow, provide habitat, limit erosion and improve water quality.

For some authentic southern entertainment after dinner, stroll across the street to the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package, where country and blues jam into the wee hours of the morning and where bras are draped across the stage. Hey, what happens in the Flora-Bama Lounge, sometimes, stays at the Flora-Bama Lounge.

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam and millions of ladybugs.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Cajun Blackberry Cobbler

blackberry cobbler

“See those baby alligators,” I whispered, while motioning Brittney closer. On the side of a canal within the 1.4 million-acre Atchafalaya River Basin in south Louisiana, it was no surprise we found the reptiles lurking near the edge of the water. As she walked closer, Brittney spotted them as they slithered off while calling for their mother.

Problem was, we had just found a blackberry patch near the water’s edge, the only one producing after searching all afternoon as we dodged water moccasins. After a careful scan of the water, I felt it safe enough to venture deeper into the bush. I was lured farther down the bank by gobs of perfectly ripe berries. So many, in fact, that when you think you’ve picked most of them, looking from another angle uncovers a dozen or so more. That afternoon we ended up with around five pounds of berries with plenty of time to walk back before the sun set over the swamp.

“What should we do with the berries we don’t eat?” Brittney’s question was more rhetorical than anything, as we both knew very well we’d be making some sort of dessert. 

“How about a cobbler,” I copied, knowing there needn’t be an answer. Cobbler it was. 

Cajun Cobbler

A cobbler is a long-standing tradition in the South. What differentiates it from a pie is there is no crust on the bottom, only the top. Some like to layer the crust while others sprinkle it on. This version is a different take on the dessert, more like a cake than a cobbler with a few ingredients from my neck of the woods. In south Louisiana, sugar cane grows in abundance, not corn or soybeans. Thus, we have plenty of fresh, pure cane syrup to go around. The staple here is made by Steen’s, down the road in Abbeville. Their syrup is still kettle-cooked to perfection the old-fashioned way. It’s my “secret” ingredient, offering a touch of sweetness and a taste of home no matter where I am. 

local blackberries

Ingredients

1 stick butter
1/2 cup Steen’s pure cane syrup
4 cups blackberries
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups Maple Hill organic grass-fed yogurt (or whole milk)

steens pure cane syrup

Instructions

1. Melt butter

2. Mix Steen’s syrup, flour and yogurt

3. Add melted butter

4. Carefully mix in blackberries

5. Pour into cast iron pot

6. Sprinkle more berries on top.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 45 minutes or until golden brown

Photos by Jonathan Olivier

Jonathan Olivier is traveling throughout 2018 with his partner, Brittney, with the goal of learning everything they can about farming. He is a freelance journalist, having covered the environment and outdoors for OutsideBackpackerREILouisiana Sportsman, and a host of other publications. In 2016, he published his debut novel, Between the Levees. Follow Jonathan on his website and Instagram.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Uncommon Choices in Berries

Would you like to add a variety of new flavors to your berry patch? With so many amazing options available, that aren’t your typical berry, why not add a few new varieties? Let’s add some well-deserved change to those jams, jellies, pies, cobblers, and fruit salads. Weather derived from hybrid combinations or simply long forgotten species the choices appear almost endless.

Dewberry

A gorgeous Dewberry plant

Dewberry Photo by Bob Mullica

These sweet delicious berries can be eaten raw or baked into cobblers and pies or made into amazing jams and jellies. A low growing perennial armed with an abundant number of juicy berries, similar in taste to blackberries, yet larger in size and milder in flavor. They grow upon a vine rather than a bush preferring a full sun location in zones 6-9.

Honeyberry

A zesty little berry that will simply melt in your mouth. They can be eaten fresh from the bush or substituted in a favorite blueberry recipe. Extremely hardy by nature enduring temperatures to -40F. Two different varieties are required for proper pollination. Honeyberries prefer partial to full sun located in zones 2-9.

Tayberry

A unique delightfully flavored berry deriving from loganberries and blackberries. The fruit is sweet, large, and amazingly aromatic. Want to add an amazing twist on your homemade wine? This is the berry for you! Tayberries also make wonderful jams, jellies, and pies. Harvest time falls between July and mid-August, zones 5-8.

Loganberries

Loganberry photo by Andrew Fogg

Loganberry Photo by Andrew Fogg

This tasty hybrid is a cross between blackberries and red raspberries. Providing long, tasty, dark red fruit; in both thorned and thornless varieties. They are ready for picking throughout mid to late summer, ideal for zones 6-10.

Gooseberry

Fairly easy to raise in partial shade to full sun, zones 3-7. They come in green, white, and red varieties. This very sweet berry ripens in late spring to early summer, making it a perfect addition to any berry patch. Gooseberries have old world, unmatched flavor for producing homemade pies and preserves.

Jostaberry

A Jostaberry is a unique hybrid of a gooseberry and a current. A great thornless plant that thrives in full sun to partial shade, zones 2-8. Two or more bushes will be needed for adequate pollination. This dark colored berry is three times the size of a standard currant. Each plant can easily produce 10-15 lbs. of fruit.  

Boysenberry

Boysenberry photo by Niall Cook

 Boysenberry Photo by Niall Cook

Imagine the delicate taste of a longberry, blackberry, and raspberry all infused together in one delightful creation. Easily trained to vine up trellises, arbors, and fencing. This gorgeous vine is sure to capture the eyes of many. It is said to grow in zones 6-9 however, they are not suitable where temps fall below 5 degrees F, without providing extreme winter protection.

Ligonberry

The snowier the winter the better this bush will produce. Related to both blueberries and cranberries, this sweet little treat is line no other. They even produce two crops per year, the first being harvested in July-August and the second September-October time frame. Varieties are available for zones 2-8. A wide range of possibilities in baking.

Gojiberry

I’ve been hearing a lot about the Gojiberry over the past few years, about its amazing nutritional properties. The Gojiberry grows from a tree ranging from 10-12 feet tall. The sweet-tart berries are harvestable in late summer in zones 3-10. These berries add a unique flavor in juices, teas, smoothies, or even muffins. You will want to plant the tree in a sunny to partially sunny area for it to thrive.

KiwiBerry

Kiwiberry photo by Jeannette Spaghetti

Kiwiberries Photo by Jeannette Spaghetti

This grape sized fuzzless berry is amongst my favorite. Do you love kiwis but hate the hassle of skinning them? This perfect little berry can be eaten on the go with no problems. The flavor is sweeter, richer, and more acidic than the common kiwi. Harvested in September through early October in zones 4-8. The vines require both male and female varieties to grow but the unique jams and jellies you can produce with this berry is so worth it.

Pineberry

Do you love strawberries? This disease resistant berry grows in the same fashion. It looks like a strawberry except, it’s white with red seeds when fully ripe. It may grow and look like a strawberry but it tasty more like a pineapple! Harvested in spring through summer in zones 5-8.

With so many amazing berry choices, why do so many people stick with the common? I for one, am looking forward to adding a few of these great varieties to our farm. We have already purchased pineberries and kiwiberries to plant this spring. Are you willing to try something a little different?  


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Let Food Be Thy Medicine

delicious plate of tilapia

A plate of baked tilapia (raised in our aquaponics greenhouse) with fire roasted vegetables, including kale, as served right here at Farmstead Creamery. 

Dan Buettner, in his recent TED talk that shared lessons learned in the study of vibrant centurions, noted that longevity is 10% genetics and 90% lifestyle choices.  Second on his list after meaningful social connections was “Eat Wisely.”

Of course, we’ve all heard the message that we need to pay attention to what we eat, in tandem with leading an active lifestyle, but what does that actually mean in an everyday practice?  How can we get to that place where the Greek physician Hippocrates’s admonition of “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” has a real and profound impact on our own lives?

The answer is not as daunting or complex as it may seem.  “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” says renowned food expert and journalist Michael Pollan, which is a great guiding principle when making that key choice about what’s for dinner.  In this article, I’ll unpeel the benefits of a few awesome foods you can add to your wellness toolkit this week.  Why not try eating your way to a more vibrant you?!

Kale

Top of the list for super foods, kale is a member of the broccoli family.  It’s rich in magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C—a combination that makes it even more potent than spinach for lowering blood pressure.  In some cases, consuming kale regularly has been shown to lower blood pressure as much as taking a blood pressure medication.  Add kale to your salad, soups, eggs, and stir fries.

Blueberries

Packed with the highest intensity of antioxidants, which help fight aging and certain types of cancer, blueberries can also help lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.  The chemical that gives these berries their blue color (anthocyanin) is the source of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Blueberries are low in calories and are known to help improve memory!  Make fresh or frozen blueberries a healthy snack choice, add them to your oatmeal or granola, and mix them in your smoothies.

Green Tea

Savored since ancient times for its health benefits, green tea has not only its own antioxidants (catechin) but also promotes your body’s ability to make nitric oxide, which has been shown to increase arterial diameter by 40%, lowering blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 31%.  Macha green tea, especially, has been linked with preventing several common cancers and can even be beneficial for dental health.  Studies in Japanese society (where green tea consumption is more common), showed that drinking several cups a day offered major decreases in mortality rates from all causes.  Green tea does contain caffeine, so you can swap out your coffee at the next break when you need a warm, uplifting cup.

Fish

Two to three servings per week of fish increases the Omega3 fatty acids in the diet, which improves cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.  Most of our dietary vegetable oils are high in Omega6, which, by themselves, are harmful to heart health.  Increasing Omega3 intake in proportion against Omega6 reduces risk substantially, whether this is sourced from fish, walnuts, duck eggs, olive oil, or flax seed, for example.  Oily fish like salmon are preferred for this purpose, though generally eating more fish than red meats is a healthy choice.  Tilapia raised in a clean environment has also been shown to be hearth healthy, with its boost of magnesium, potassium, and calcium.  And no, this doesn’t mean eating more fried fish because the cooking oils bring in more of those Omega6 rates again!  So poach, bake, broil, grill, or pan-fry in olive oil your next serving of clean-raised fish.

Garlic

With an active ingredient of allicin, this aromatic Sulphur compound is released when the cloves are crushed, chopped, or chewed.  But it’s valuable for more than just its culinary characteristics.  Just two cloves a day may lower blood pressure as effectively as a prescription medicine after 24 weeks, as well as can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 10-15%.  Garlic can help stabilize blood sugar levels and aid in preventing cancer, so chop them up and add them to all sorts of dishes, including roasting them with your favorite root vegetables. 

Yogurt

When they say “go with your gut,” it’s true.  Research is continually finding connections between the health of the bacteria in our gut and our emotional and mental well-being.  But not all of the flora in your alimentary tract are friendly.  Foods rich in natural and healthy bacteria cultures, like yogurt, help to improve and maintain beneficial bacteria.  There are more microbes in your gut than cells in your body, so keeping that colony happy and healthy is no small undertaking!  Make sure your choice of yogurt is labeled as having “live” or “active” culture.  It’s high levels of calcium and vitamin D can also help to prevent osteoporosis and other bone ailments.  Have some yogurt with your blueberries for breakfast or a snack, and try plain, unsweetened yogurt in a variety of savory dishes for a fun twist.

Dark Chocolate

Yes, you read that right, chocolate (in small amounts) is actually good for you.  70% cocoa or more kicks this treat into the healthy bracket.  Rich with flavonoids (which dilate blood vessels), dark chocolate has been found to improve blood pressure and your mood.  Consuming just 30 calories a day (one small square from a classic chocolate bar) has been demonstrated after 18 weeks to be effective in lowering blood pressure and raising HDL (good) cholesterol.  More is not better, though, because of the refined sugars.  So take your daily dose of a square of dark chocolate without having to apologize to anyone!

Ready to eat your way into vibrancy?  I hope you try including these delicious and healthy foods into your grocery list, pantry, refrigerator, and regimen.  Why not?  And there’s all sorts of other foods that will help to improve health and well-being.  Go for foods with deep natural colors (beets, broccoli, oranges), strong natural aromas (cinnamon, basil, onions), and distinctive natural flavors (asparagus, cashews, watermelon).  These characteristics are often markers of chemical compounds that can have their own, distinctive health benefits to offer.

This week, let food be thy medicine of choice.  Watch for more upcoming tips on great foods for wellness and longevity.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Photo by Kara Berlage

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com


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The Great Scape-Sourdough Boule Recipe

 Great Scape Sourdough Boule

For several years when my garden lay fallow, I let my garlic go. As a result it slowly proliferated, invading the edges of the veggie beds. Over the past couple of years, I’ve prioritized regaining control. One of the ways I’ve worked at this is to cut off the scape (the curly top that develops into the seed) before it matures and drops seeds back to the ground.

One year I fermented some of the scape. While our youngest son loved cooking with the result, I wasn’t so enamored. Last year rather than composting the abundance of scape, I researched and found a recipe for pesto. I decided to try it and ended up with a lot of scape pesto in my freezer. Because it is best after a few months of mellowing, I waited until winter to try some of my bounty.

I decided to try incorporating it into my sourdough bread. I’ve been making some version of the recipe below for over 20 years. I knew it could handle the scape. Since making that first boule a few months ago, this new version has become a weekly favorite. I heartily recommend creating pesto from your garlic scape for use this fall and winter!

My own method is simple. I harvest the scape, rinse it off, then chop it with my food processor until it resembles quinoa grains in size. I scoop the pesto into regular-sized muffin tins and place them in the freezer. When frozen solid (several hours later), I move the “muffins” into Ziploc bags and back into the freezer they go. Whenever I want to use one for either bread or a meal, I simply take it out and let it defrost.

Great Scape Sourdough Boule

Yield one loaf.

There are some oddities here as compared to most sourdough recipes. I don’t have and don’t want to purchase a kitchen scale, so my measurements are given in cups rather than grams. Also, you won’t find a lot of kneading in normal sourdough recipes. I prefer to work by feel. I like the intimacy and work of kneading so this recipe includes it. As a result, the texture of this bread is more like regular bread with less springy holes than classic sourdough.

Scape Boule Ingredients

Ingredients for the levain:

2 cups 00 flour
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup sourdough starter

Ingredients for the bread:

1-1/2 cups 00 flour
1/3 cup (1 muffin cup) of chopped garlic scape
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 cup finely-grated cheese (optional: I’ve used parmesan, gruyere, cheddar, and gouda)

Directions

1. Creating the levain: Thoroughly combine the ingredients for the levain in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a cool, dark place for at least 8 hours. I usually make this up mid-day and leave it to work up a good bubble overnight.

Making the bread

1. Add the scape, salt, granulated garlic, cheese (if using), and about a third of the flour to the levain. Mix thoroughly.

2. Dump another third of the flour onto your board (kneading area) and spread so that it’s a large enough area to hold your dough.

3. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured board. Fold in the edges of your dough and begin to incorporate the flour with a quick, light kneading action.

4. This is where your sense of touch will come into play. As necessary, slowly incorporate more flour (that last third). Your kneading will become more normal and may take 10 minutes or more. The goal is a dough that is slightly tacky but no longer sticky—too sticky will result in a loaf that spreads too much and becomes flattened; too much flour will result in a dry loaf with little spring at all. Don’t stress too much—practice will help you achieve your perfect loaf. Less than perfect outcomes still result in edible artistry.

5. Place the dough in a bowl lightly coated in olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (about an hour and a half).

Cooking the bread

1. Sprinkle rice flour (or cornmeal) on the bottom of a dutch oven. Gently deflate your dough and form into a ball. Pinch together the bottom as necessary. Place the ball into the center of your dutch oven and cover. Set timer for 40 minutes. I love my Lodge dutch oven because I can use it upside down. This allows for easy scoring and access to the loaf.

2. Uncover bread when timer goes off and slash the top with a sharp knife. I often make more than one variety of bread at once so I like to use different patterns. One of my favorite designs for the Scape Boule harkens to the curly tops.

3. Once the top is scored, place the covered dutch oven into a cold oven. Turn the temperature to 450 degrees and set the timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the top of the dutch oven. Reset the timer for 15 minutes. Check bread. It should be a lovely golden brown and make a thunk noise when done. I usually cook mine for another 4 minutes at this point.

Nomilicious Great Scape Dinner

This is a wonderful stand-alone bread or equally fantastic when paired with garlic scape pesto pasta, a green salad, and mead. This bread also makes lovely croutons for your salads or soups—simply cut into 3/4-inch pieces and brown them in butter and olive oil. You may sprinkle with granulated garlic and parmesan when finished cooking. Nomilicious as toast for your breakfast egg sandwich with a side of krautchi!

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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