Archive for December, 2012

African Grey Parrots Love Beets

African Grey Parrots love beets.

African Grey Parrots love beets.

Charles Earl Grey the 7th is our African Grey Parrot.  We  called him Charlie until one day he said “It’s Charlo.”  Mealtime with his flock (us) is a favorite time of day and he enjoys most of the food we eat.  He has a bit of a sweet beak as his muffin must have jam and butter and his pancakes, maple syrup.  He likes many vegetables, among them beets.  The only thing about beets is that we need to remember that he had been eating them the next morning when we see his droppings as they are bright “beet red.”  The first time we saw this we thought he was bleeding internally.

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Mushroom Sauce for Pasta or Polenta

Here's the dish just after the tomatoes have been added.

Here’s the dish just after the tomatoes have been added.

This simple but savory sauce is perfect for a drizzly late fall evening.  It’s hearty without using meat, so hearty that my dedicated carnivore husband didn’t notice that meat wasn’t there.  You could add some meat, I think chicken thighs would be good, but it stands on its own as a vegetarian dish.  I used our Hen of the Woods wild mushrooms, picked in October and further enriched the mushroom taste with some dried Porcini which I reconstituted in warm water (reserving the water to add to the sauce).  If you buy the mushrooms, you could use the regular button mushrooms but add in some more exotic ones like Cremini or Portobello to boost the flavor.

Begin with sauteing onions and the mushrooms in olive oil then add a generous amount of chopped garlic (I added five cloves for the two of us).  I used fresh Rosemary for my herb, snipping in the needles from a 4″ branch and added some salt and red pepper flakes, for a bit of heat.  When these ingredients are cooked, add peeled tomatoes (I used one of my pint jars of plum tomatoes, canned last summer) and the reserved mushroom soaking water, taking care not to add any of the grit that might have collected in the bottom.  Cook this down while you boil the water for the pasta.  I used wild mushroom ravioli from the market.  Barilla makes wild mushroom tortellini which is dried and I think that would also work well.  If you can’t find wild mushroom filled pasta, any pasta would do, just be sure to add the cooked pasta to the sauce and cook them together for a couple of minutes to marry the flavors.  Top with grated cheese.  I like Romano, with its more robust flavor for this.

The finished dish.

The finished dish.

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Extend the Gardening Season With Row Covers and Layers of Leaves

Here's my Kale, sung as a bug in a rug.

Winter weather is right around the corner but we can still have fresh vegetables with a little advance planning.  If you still have carrots, a thick layer of leaves will keep the earth soft enough to dig them for many weeks to come.  Parsnips shouldn’t be picked until they have been touched by frost.  The frost sweetens them and develops the flavor.  Cover these with leaves too and mark the ends of the rows with stakes so you will know where to dig, if snow covers the ground.  The soil may freeze but there will be days over the winter where it warms up and you can go out and dig enough for a week or two as the carrots and parsnips last well in the refrigerator crisper drawer.  Kale is one vegetable that stands up well to repeated frost.  It eventually succumbs, but that day can be put off with row covers.  I secure the covers to the hoops with clothespins so I can easily pull back the cover to get at the kale.  I have given kale recipes in the posts for December 13th and 17th, 2011 and more complete instructions for parsnips with recipes in the post for February 18th, 2012 (see archives).

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Wring the Most Meals from Your Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass

Here's what's left after picking the meat off the bones:   broth, meaty pieces and bones.

Here’s what’s left after picking the meat off the bones: broth, meaty pieces and bones.

Thanksgiving is long gone of course, but the turkey lasts for many more days.  I love the traditional dinner and always make enough so we can repeat the feast several times before I have to get inventive and make a different meal.  We had turkey with trimmings for four days (when the gravy ran out) and pie for breakfast for another day or two after that.  We had turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce for lunch for five days.  This may sound boring, but we both love real roast turkey (not those packaged, saline infused cold cuts) and making Thanksgiving dinner is enough of a job, I welcome the time off from cooking.

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Turkey “Tetrazzini” with Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and carrot slaw

When the easily accessible meat has been used, there are still a few meals left in the carcass.  You only need to break it down to get at those morsels for soups and other dishes.  I have friends who put the carcass out for the crows and vultures, a very worthy action, but I am too much of a parsimonious Yankee to do that.  To break down the carcass, pull off the thigh bones and wings and put them into a large stockpot.  There is a natural joint at the base of the thigh that you can find by probing with a knife point, if it doesn’t come off easily.  (Push in the knife point and wiggle it around cutting the sinews that attach the joint until you can pull it loose.)  The body can be broken into two sections by cutting down through from the base of the ribs to the backbone, and if that isn’t small enough to fit in your stockpot, the carcass can be cut along the backbone, separating the “torso” and the “hips” into four pieces.  When all the pieces are in your stockpot fill to cover the bones with water and simmer it, covered, for about an hour.  Let it cool and separate the meat from the bones.  Set larger pieces of meat aside and save the smaller bits for soups.

When all was done, I had enough broth and turkey left over for four containers of turkey soup.

When all was done, I had enough broth and turkey left over for four containers of turkey soup.

It is amazing how much meat remains.  I had enough for two full meals and five containers of soup.  The first meal I made was Turkey “Tetrazzini,” a simplified version of the famous soprano’s chicken dish.  I sautéed onions, mushrooms and a little garlic together, added some of the reserved broth and some white wine, salt, pepper and herbs.  I reduced this to sauce consistency while boiling up some noodles, then added in some of the larger turkey pieces.  I like to add the noodles to the sauce and cook them together for a minute or two to marry the flavors.  The second meal was Turkey cacciatore style, which means “the way a hunter would make it.”  Presumably a hunter in the woods would be able to gather mushrooms for the sauce which also includes tomatoes, onions and garlic, etc.  I simplified this too, using some of the marinara sauce I canned this summer, adding more broth and reducing it after sauteing the mushrooms.   I added the turkey a couple of minutes before serving it over linguine.

For the soup, I used the remaining broth after straining it to be sure there were no bones.   Instead of thickening it with flour or something similar, I broke up leftover rolls and stuffing and used my hand blender to emulsify the broth after they had a chance to soften.  I then added salt & pepper, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and a parsnip.  For the starch I chose brown rice and I flavored it with herbs; parsley, sage and thyme.   We had it for lunch and I had four containers for the freezer.

Here's the Turkey Cacciatore, ready to serve.

Here’s the Turkey Cacciatore, ready to serve.

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