It’s funny, though, as much as I gear myself away from kitchen-land, it’s still an important part of me. I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a fabulous new food idea that I can hardly wait to try. Today, I woke up at 3am asking myself why I’d never thought of making Rosemary Yogurt before! And then I woke up again at 5am, unable to sleep, and got the yogurt started. This is how I did it. It turned out every bit as amazing as I’d imagined it to be! Maybe even a little bit more so. Read more
(with and without Gluten)
As you may know, gnocchi is a type of Italian pasta, usually homemade, most often made with mashed or riced potatoes and unbleached flour. There are many other different varieties of gnocchi, as it can be also made with anything from sweet potatoes, ricotta cheese, cream puff dough, spinach, chestnut flour, semolina flour, and more. I have a version that uses acorn meal in my upcoming cookbook. Many versions use egg along with the potato and unbleached flour, but I prefer only to use eggs when I make the gluten free versions, as they really help to bind the gluten-less flour to the potato. The gluten-y gnocchi (pronounced NYO-key, in case you were wondering), come out perfectly without the egg, and then it’s vegan-friendly, as well!
To Process Acorns:
Pick acorns. Just ripened is ideal, but in New Mexico I have often picked them while still a bit green. Be sure there are no holes on the surface of the acorn shell, which indicates worms. Once you get them home, the sooner you can roast them in the oven the better. If you can’t do this right away, stick them in containers in the freezer, and roast them as soon as you get time. Roast them (with the shells on) at 300 degrees until the nuts inside the shells darken and become fairly hard, if you’re using them for cooking after roasting. The length of roasting time will differ according to the size of the acorns. If roasting for storage not in a freezer, cook them until the nuts inside the shells are very dark brown and your fingernail will not make even a tiny dent in a nut, but take them out before they blacken. Then you can store them in glass jars or, preferably, food grade plastic containers with some holes punched into the tops of the containers, for some air ventilation to prevent mold. After shelling, in my experience, the hard nuts can be kept in glass jars for at least a year, although this may be different in damper climates, I’m not sure.
I was going to make my beloved Acorn Cornbread on Thanksgiving day. But, as things went, our household decided to go to the Indiana River that morning, to give thanks to Mother Nature in our own way. It was an incredible morning, with a light drizzle of rain, and fog drifting all over the forested mountains. I swam in the very cold river., and sang, and we all sang and howled like the pack of happy little creatures that we are, out in the wild with no one around. We saw an incredible rainbow, and, later, Monica brought us to see a whole field of Darlingtonia plants, which completely blew our minds.
Not to mention, that on the way there, a whole flock of wild turkeys gobbled along a road side while we drove slowly by, admiring their beauty. My housemates talked to the turkeys from the inside of the car, saying things like, “We’re so glad you’re so alive!, ” and “Be free, little ones!” and although I could appreciate these well-wishes, I have to admit my canyon-ized self was also wishing we’d thought to pack a shotgun in the car along with our jars of tahini, and that it hadn’t been so long since my last target practice with Wolf.
I find it so interesting to think about different cultures and how we all affect each other– value systems, food traditions, religion, society expectations, the sharing of stories, role models and and so much more! I’ve been so happy to see that so far this blog seems to attract a wonderful diversity of readers across the world, and I want to help encourage this by engaging input from other places.
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To be honest, it took me quite a while to fall in love with lamb’s quarters.
But once I learned how to make “quelites”, a traditional Mexican dish, I became very attached. Maybe I even need them, like I “need” cheese in my life. Certainly, my enchanted pantry would be a sadder, less magical place without them.
This month, I’m attempting to gather up enough to see us through the winter. Many an evening I’ve been spotted by the local wildlife running barefoot upriver to the lamb’s quarters patch, piling up my greens for the night in an old sarong, then wrapping it up and slinging it over my shoulder for the mile walk back to the kitchen.
I have three ways I like to preserve lamb’s quarters or “goose-foot,” Chenopodium album, a plant that is known in the US Southwest more often as “pig-weed” or “quelites”. The Spanish word “quelites” refers to the traditional Mexican dish or the lamb’s quarters plant itself. It can also refer to amaranth greens, and they are often prepared the same way. Most often, they are boiled and then sautéed with minced onions and red chile, sometimes adding mashed beans near the end of the cooking time.
The first easy preservation trick is pesto. Lamb’s quarters pesto might sound odd, but its flavor is wonderful! I don’t love all herbal pestos, and I was skeptical, since I’m not a huge fan of raw lamb’s quarters…but this is one that makes me very happy.
The second is to boil it and freeze it, which also works very well. Of course this takes up precious freezer space, however, so my third and favorite way to preserve lamb’s quarters is to dry them.
My new favorite spice blend!
Ras el Hanout (which means “top of the shop” in Arabic) is a Moroccan spice mixture used in their cuisine to flavor everything from grilled meats, vegetable tagines, to a hashish candy called majoun. Traditionally the number of spices used is at least sixteen and up to more than a hundred.
In her amazing book, The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert, one of my great culinary heroes, (more about her another time!) has pared down the number of spices to make a delicious facsimile of the real deal. I’ve become rather obsessed with it, putting it in everything from bowls of yogurt and peaches to lamb’s quarters stir fries with goat milk. I’ve been mixing it with honey and butter on toast, and even sprinkling it into my Earl Grey tea with cream! You will be seeing it as an addition, or a suggested “optional” addition in some upcoming recipes. Any of these spices are available online from Mountain Rose, if you don’t have them handy.
After assembling the spices, doing the actual work only takes about 15 minutes, and less if you’re using a electric coffee/spice grinder. Here’s her method and one of her recipes for “Faux Ras el Hanout”, along with my notes as to a few changes I made, and a few more I will make next time I make it, along with the reasons why. Read more