Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fennel Challenge: Marmalade Smothered Roast Duck with Fennel and Potatoes

So here's the last Recipe Challenge for February. Number 4. It's a simple, but tasty one. It's good comfort food. I have no idea what next months ingredient will be. We'll have to see what the Farmers' market brings us.

Since Jessa posted her marmalade recipe on my other blog, Dog Island Farm, I've been on a marmalade makin' kick. Our last batch was a Lemon Huckleberry Marmalade. A coworker of mine had given me a giant basket full of Meyer lemons. We had foraged a bunch of huckleberries last fall and they were sitting in the freezer. So I chose to go with this marmalade for this recipe. I've also roasted duck with a cranberry orange marmalade. Both work well, so I'm pretty sure any high quality marmalade will work well with this. I'd love to try it with a ginger lime marmalade as well.

1 whole duck
1 c marmalade
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
3 large "thin skinned" potatoes such as yukon gold cut into 1" chunks
1 fennel bulb trimmed and sliced into 1" slices, saving branches

Preheat oven to 375 deg F
1. Drizzle oil in the bottom of a roasting pan.
2. Rub marmalade all over duck and place breast side down in pan.
3. Place sweet potatoes and potatoes around duck. Cover duck with fennel slices.
4. Cover and roast in oven for 1 hr. Increase temperature to 400 deg F, uncover and bake until leg joint reaches 180 deg F.
5. Serve warm with potatoes and any side vegetable.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Every Rancher Needs

The USDA recently deregulated Roundup Ready Alfalfa, created and patented by Monsanto. Lynda over at The Wisdom of the Radish wrote a great post about why there is absolutely no need for RR Alfalfa other than pure, unadulterated greed.

The USDA has once again bowed down to corporations and began allowing something that hasn't been thoroughly studied for safety.

A couple of years ago I had heard that ranchers in the midwest had been complaining that their cattle and hogs were having issues with fertility. The issues hadn't started until they started feeding their livestock GMO feed. Then a Russian biologist did a study on hamster and possibly found a link to infertility from ingesting GMO feed.

It just came out this week that scientists have found a previously unknown microorganism that could be responsible for the infertility and spontaneous abortions that ranchers were concerned about. And this microorganism is in a much higher concentration on crops that have been sprayed with Roundup compared to those that haven't.

So this begs the question: What are GM crops doing to us? After all, nearly all non-organic processed food products are made from one or more GM crops - corn, soy, cotton, canola, peanuts, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, sugar cane, rice, zucchini and sweet peppers.

Vote with your fork. Only buy organic food. If you can't afford it then buy whole foods that haven't yet been genetically modified and process your own.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fennel Challenge - Coulibiac

There was slight panic this weekend when the organic farmer I get my fennel from didn't have any this week. It's been raining heavily off and on all week and they couldn't get out to the fields to pick any. So I decided that I'd just have to move on to something else. Kale? Sure. So I bought some kale from the other organic farmer that we buy produce from.

We then trekked over to the Oxbow Public Market because I needed to get some kosher salt from the spice merchant. Lo and behold, there was fennel waving to me from the produce stand. I excitedly bought two bulbs. OK, so now what do I do with them? We headed over to the Fatted Calf (also at the public market). Hmmm, pork? Chicken? Lamb? No, duck. A whole duck. Hmmm, with citrus. Then Jeanette said "Oh! I have a great recipe with fennel that you can do that involves salmon. Sounds promising and since I need to do two fennel recipes this week (started a week late on this challenge) we'll do both duck and salmon. She explains the dish to me. It's a traditional Scottish savory pastry with salmon, fennel, onions, mushrooms rice and eggs. We run over to Kanaloa Seafood Market and buy a pound and half of salmon. The salmon just so happened to be sustainably farm raised Scottish Salmon. Perfect!

Now the hard part. The puff pastry. I obviously can't go out and buy some premade puff pastry, so I was going to have to make it. We were low on butter. I only had enough to do half the recipe. So I made do. But unfortunately, we didn't have enough butter to make the hollandaise sauce that traditionally goes with this recipe, so we served it with sour cream. In my opinion though it was very tasty and didn't have to have the hollandaise.


1.5 lb Salmon Fillet, cut in half and skinned
2 12"x12" puff pastry sheets
1 cup cooked white rice
1 med. onion, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped finely
1/2 tsp Hungarian Paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dried Marjoram
Dried Rosemary
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 deg F
1. Season salmon fillets with salt, pepper a dash of dried marjoram and rosemary. Saute onions and mushrooms with paprika until onions are translucent. Add fennel at end to soften.
2. Layout one sheet of puff pastry on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. Put layer of 1/3 of the rice then layer of 1/3 onion mixture, 1/2 of the salmon and 1/2 sliced hard boiled egg. Repeat one more time and then put the rest of rice and onion mixture on top.
4. Cover stack with 2nd puff pastry. Seal edges.
5. Bake for 1-.5 hours.
6. Serve with sour cream.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 20 - A Bit Preoccupied

Sunday -
Bacon wrapped braised rabbit with fennel, sweet potato mash and swiss chard from our garden.

Monday -
Fended for ourselves.

Tuesday -
BBQ chicken (we finally had to get rid of Escape Chicken) with cauliflower puree

Wednesday -
Puree of Squash soup with bacon from squash we grew.

Thursday -
Eggs, sauteed potatoes and mushrooms from the farmers' market, and Sausage from Angelo's Smokehouse

Friday -
We went to an Urban Farmer get-together to discuss the goings-ons this Spring.

Saturday -
Grassfed London Broil with rice.

Reflections -
Wow! What a whirlwind week this has been! It all started on Wednesday when the Dervaes Family (look them up if you don't know them because I refuse to link to them now) posted a letter on their website. At first I thought it was a joke. When I realized it wasn't I was livid. And disappointed. The following days didn't make me calmer. The more I thought about it angrier I got, which resulted in a post that was more snark than anything. Definitely not typical for me. Don't get me wrong, I can be snarkier than most, but I try to at least have some level of professionalism on my blog. Because I realize what the Dervaes' don't - the Internet is FOREVER.

In other news though, we went whole hog and bought a 250+ lb hog. Next week it will be slaughtered and butchered. Just think of all the sausage I'll be able to make! I'm currently curing some Maple cured smoked bacon and brining a brisket for corned beef.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fennel Challenge: Bacon Wrapped Braised Rabbit with Fennel

Just the first challenge of Charcutepalooza and I'm finding myself inspired. Inspired to take chances with cooking. It also inspired me to take on my own challenge. Each month I will take a new ingredient - one I'm not familiar with but is readily available at our farmers' market or in our garden (yes, I'm growing things that I've never even tasted before - such as salsify) and create one dish a week with it.  They will be completely my own. I will take inspiration from other places - be it online or in cookbooks - but they will not be the same. Some may be spectacular and some might be total flops. But I will post them here. I will take chances and no longer be intimidated by foods I'm not familiar with.

This month I chose Fennel - by accident really. It had always intimidated me - which makes the challenge that much more interesting. To be honest, I had only eaten Fennel twice and both times it was marinated (great recipe by my friend Leslie that I would love to get from her sometime).  While last week's recipe included the bacon I had cured, I wanted something that incorporated more bacon! We also had a fresh rabbit in the fridge waiting to be eaten.

So I set out to combine fennel, bacon and rabbit. In my opinion, the dish was simply ok. Nothing spectacular. Tom, however, practically licked his plate clean. I guess, for me, the problem was the bacon <gasp>. I've never been one to like to eat animal fat. I always trim it off of meat. I only like my bacon cooked until extra crispy. So with this dish, the bacon is not crispy, so I didn't really get to enjoy it as fully as someone that likes to "chew the fat" so to speak. However, if you like your bacon anyway you can get it, then you may actually enjoy this dish, like Tom did. I do have to say that the rabbit came out great and the fennel added a subtle touch of acidity. The bacon fat did help it quite a bit, since it is such a lean meat. We served this recipe with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Swiss Chard with garlic.


1 dressed rabbit - 3 to 3 1/2 lbs
1 c flour
1 Tbs Marjoram
1 Tbs Garlic Salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbs oil (we used bacon fat)
12 slices of bacon
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 Tbs Herbs de Provence
1 c chicken stock
1 c white wine

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Butcher the rabbit into 6 pieces.
2. Add oil to a dutch oven over medium heat. Combine the flour, marjoram, garlic salt and pepper. Dredge rabbit pieces in flour mixture and sear in dutch oven, placing done pieces on a paper towel lined plate until all pieces are seared.
3. Place as many pieces of rabbit on the bottom of dutch oven as possible. Cover each piece with 2 slices of bacon and then half the sliced fennel. Repeat with second layer of rabbit.
4. Sprinkle Herbs de Provence over fennel and then pour over chicken broth and wine. Cover and place in oven. Cook for 1 hr 30 min.
5. Let rest for 5 min. then serve.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Being Critical of Others

I recently started following the blog of a family here in the SF Bay Area that is living the Zero Waste lifestyle. Recently they had a news segment done on them and it apparently led to a lot of criticism. They had debated about getting publicity because they weren't sure they wanted to deal with said criticism. This is something we've thought about too.

But then you lose spreading your message and possibly inspiring others to do the same. I've gotten some criticism myself, but I don't regret sharing our story.

Someone commented on Zero Waste's blog and I thought it was interesting. It basically said that people think  their lifestyle is too stifling, restrictive and unfair to children (of course it was anonymous, which makes me crazy). They also said that it is hypocritical that they own a car and that living in a rich area "does not help" their message. They also stated that those of us that disagree with those that criticize are just as lame. Hmmm, interesting thought.

Everyone has limits. Many would find it too stifling and restrictive to live in a 750 sf home. Some would say that not buying fast food for my stepson when he wanted it would be "unfair." That doesn't make either of us right. It makes us different. We make different choices for our families. But to be critical of someone that chooses to be more "restrictive" than you do does not give you a right to try and make the feel bad for their choices. Instead people should celebrate our differences.

The other thing that got to me was how people thought the Zero Waste home should give up their cars, which aren't part of their goal even though they've greatly reduced their use and that they should live like paupers. Just because you can afford to live comfortably doesn't lessen your message. I think it strengthens it in some aspects because it shows that someone that can afford to buy whatever they want and do what they like is willing to reduce their waste so drastically and make that commitment and sacrifice. They've stated that it saves them money, which anyone regardless of income, can benefit from.

I'll be the first to admit that where we live allows us great opportunity to go without grocery stores. And while we live in a very economically depressed area we have cars so we're able to travel (generally short distances from our work or home, but further than people without cars can go) to find our food. We aren't reliant on food stamps so we can shop for food outside of grocery stores.  We have land to grow and raise much of our food. We live in an area where fresh food is always available due to a mild climate. The purpose of what we're doing is to educate people and let them know that they can make a difference no matter how small it is. It's to educate people to make better choices when they do go to the grocery store.

I guess my point is that I don't want our message to be lessened just because of where we live.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week 18 & 19 - A New Feature!

Sunday - 
We just kind of snacked because we went to the Twain's feast.

Monday -
Pizza with sausage from Angelo's meats, sauteed onions and peppers, homemade mozzarella and mushrooms from the farmers' market.

Tuesday -
Frittata with our hens' eggs, spinach from the garden and mushrooms from the farmers' market. Oatmeal cookies for dessert. 

Wednesday - 
Lasagna with grassfed ground beef, foraged mushrooms, homemade mozzarella and homemade pasta.  And sauteed cabbage from our garden.

Thursday - 
Fried pheasant breasts and legs with rice and peas from the garden.

Friday -
Pastured pork roast with potatoes and carrots.

Saturday -
Impromptu dinner party with homemade spaghetti, sauce, salad and garlic bread. Lemon meringue pie for dessert.

Sunday -
Snacky day because we were so busy running around and doing an interview.

Monday -
Carne asada from the last of our of grass fed steer. Sad day. Homemade tortillas and grilled onions from the farmers' market and spanish rice.

Tuesday -
Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup with Bacon!

Wednesday -
Eggs overeasy with a baked sweet potato and bacon (I love breakfast for dinner!).

Thurdsay -
Sausage cabbage soup that was so effing good! 

Friday - 
Pot roast with potatoes and carrots.

Saturday - 
Split pea soup with bacon! I sure love bacon. Ha ha.

Reflections -
I totally forgot to post the previous week's menu so it's added to this one. I must have been too busy with bacon! I've never eaten so much bacon in my life. I put it in everything and everything has been amazing!

Actually on a more serious note, I think I've finally taken my cooking to a whole new level - and not just because of bacon. My meals have gotten a lot tastier. Especially my soups. The Sausage Cabbage soup was very humble in ingredients but a powerhouse of flavor. And no, it didn't have any bacon in it. After the Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup with bacon I really felt inspired to explore different ingredients in the kitchen. I had never cooked with Fennel. I'm thinking of trying a new ingredient, whether it is a fruit, vegetable, grain, meat or spice each month. So February will be the month of Fennel. Each week I'll come up with a new recipe for that ingredient and share it here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fennel Challenge: Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup with Bacon!

So what to make with that bacon? Honestly, we could just fry up slices and eat it straight. But Charcutepalooza is inspiring me to come up with interesting recipes.

A friend of ours accidentally left some fennel bulbs from the farmers' market in our fridge. Not knowing when we'll see each other next she said to go ahead and use them. Hmmm. I've never cooked with fennel before. Well, here goes nothing!


2 fennel bulbs, bottom trimmed and stalks cut off reserving leafy tops
1 onion, coursely chopped
olive oil
1/4 lb bacon slices
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
4 cups chicken broth
2 large yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half

1. Preheat oven to 375 deg F.
2. Cut fennel bulbs in 1/2" slices. Put fennel and chopped onion on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.
3. Divide the bacon in half. Leave one half in slices and cut other half in 1/4" chunks. In a dutch oven cook slices until crispy. Remove slices from heat and put on paper towel to cool. Cook bacon bits in a fry pan until crispy. Put slices on paper towel to cool.
4. In dutch oven with bacon grease from slices add cumin and caraway seeds. Cook until fragrant - about a minute.
5. Add chicken broth, potatoes, fennel and onions to dutch oven. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook on medium high until potatoes are tender. Add bacon chunks, milk and half and half and use an immersion blender or food processor to make soup smooth.
6. Serve with a garnish of bacon slices and fennel leaves.

Remember the Bacon

Tasty tasty bacon. Saturday morning I finished the bacon. I pull out the pork belly. It had changed texture and color slightly. The belly was definitely firmer and the color redder. I rinsed off the spiced, herbs and residual salt. I then put the belly on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven. The instructions said to slow roast it at 200 deg F. Unfortunately the lowest setting for our oven is 260 deg F. It still took 90 minutes for the internal temp to reach 150 deg F.

Holding myself back, I put the bacon in the fridge to cool. By lunch time it was ready. I cut a slice for everyone to try. Cooked it up crisp. Yum! Something I will definitely be making again. Next time I plan to smoke it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kentucky Fried Test Tube Meat

Sounds delicious doesn't it? Vegans are rejoicing. A meat that doesn't cause the death of animals. I get that premise, but something about it just skeazes me out. I just don't trust humans to create food in labs. We were the ones that came up with margarine. That was just so fantastic for us. Then we came up with high fructose corn syrup. Even better! Genetically engineered crops are an abomination. I can honestly say that when test tube meat comes on the market I will not be eating it.