07 August 2012

Summer Good-on-Everything Aioli

The summer is just flying past, and since I'm working out-of-state for weeks at a time, I haven't been able to keep up with crafting and cooking. But on the few days I get to spend at home, I've been trying to get in some sewing and some quick but delicious meals. Sunday was one of those, and it really was delicious - Roasted Shiitake Mushroom Sandwiches with Garlic-Basil Aioli. You can get the full sandwich recipe over at the Red Owl Blog, but here on Grow, Knead, Pickle & Sew I wanted to share this easy and versatile recipe for the aioli I used.

First, let me say that making a traditional aioli would include emulsifying olive oil and farm-fresh egg yolks a la homemade mayo, but since we're going for quick here, you'll notice that the recipe calls for store-bought mayo. If you're going the healthy, homemade way (which of course I recommend - do as I say, not as I do) then you should by all means make up a batch of mayo first, especially if you use the incredible Julia Childs whey-fermented recipe.

This aioli can be used as a sandwich spread, as a dip for roasted potatoes, fresh veggies or as a topping for a summer quiche. Also, I want to plug Alm Hill/Growing Washington, as they are selling some incredible basil right now at the Wallingford Farmers Market (Seattle on Wednesdays). 

Garlic-Basil Good-on-Everything Aioli - 2-3 servings


  • 1/3 cup mayo 
  • Heaping handful fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 medium clove garlic 
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until thoroughly mixed. There is no need to chop anything if you're using a food processor, however, if you don't have a food processor you can mince the garlic and basil as finely as possible, then mix all ingredients very well by hand or hand-mixer. 

Eat immediately or cover and refrigerate. 

10 July 2012



An abundance of shiitakes has graced our little urban farm over the past few weeks, and we've been having fun experimenting with recipes both old and new. I just can never get tired of the rich and tangy taste of shiitakes. I'm so glad we're growing them this year!
We have to thank our friend Anna for introducing us to the joy of cold soba noodles in the summer. Chilly weather doesn't stop us from making these delicious buckwheat noodles, but it's oh so much more satisfying when the sun is shining. We had them for dinner on Sunday, holding our bowls in our laps on the porch swing, and marveling at the 8pm sun still going strong. This was the first time we've used sliced shiitakes in this "soup", and it definitely won't be the last!  This recipe is infinitely versatile, and it's one of those more-or-less to taste recipes that you can tweak to your liking. Plus, it's a really simple way to introduce yourself to Japanese cooking! It may look daunting, but it's actually quite simple and takes less than 30 minutes of prep. Here's how we make ours:
Cold Soba with Shiitake Dipping Sauce 
Serves 2-3
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 1/4 tsp bonito flakes OR fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbs mirin or rice wine (optional)
  • 1 package soba noodles
  • 2 - 4 shiitakes
  • Toasted sesame oil or other oil for sautéing
Optional Add-Ins
  • Tamagoyaki (egg pancake - get easy recipes here and here)
  • Nori (seaweed) cut into strips 2" x 1/4"
  • Chives
  • Matchstick-sliced cucumber
  • Grated ginger
  • Wasabi
  • Sesame seeds
  • The sky's the limit!
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and follow the package directions to cook the soba noodles. Let them boil until they are al dente. Drain, rinse in cold water and put in fridge to chill.
  2. Whisk together soy sauce, sugar, bonito flakes or fish sauce, mirin (if using) and water in a medium-sized bowl. The ratio of these ingredients can be adjusted to taste keeping in mind that this is a dipping sauce as opposed to a soup. A little too salty to slurp is just fine.
  3. If you're using grated ginger or wasabi, now's the time to mix them in.
  4. Allow the sauce to chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Slice shiitakes about 1/4" thick. Sauté in oil on medium heat until cooked through, then chill.
  6. When all ingredients are chilled, distribute noodles into bowls. Arrange other ingredients on top: shiitakes, nori, tamagoyaki, chives, cucumbers, etc...
  7. Here's where we break the rules. Traditionally, the sauce is served in a separate bowl, and chopsticks are used to grasp the noodles and other ingredients and dip them into the sauce. We tend to splash sauce all over ourselves (plus we like to eat on the porch swing) so we find it easier to just pour the sauce over the noodles.
  8. Eat and enjoy!
Note: All of these ingredients can be found in your local Asian market, and most of them can be found in the international section of your local grocery store. Let me know in the comments if you create your own version. I'd love to hear from you!

06 August 2011

eBook Giveaway - The Key to Taking Pictures Like a Professional Photographer


Another fantastic giveaway through the Grosgrain Fabulous blog - Kathleen really knows how to throw a party! Over 600 people in the hat for this giveaway, but since they're giving away 3 eBooks there's a better-than-usual chance of winning! Check it out and learn how to fool people into thinking you're a pro photographer.

30 July 2011

Homemade Veggie Broth - You'll Wonder Why You Ever Bought Broth!

I started making my own broth several years ago. I'd decided to go vegetarian and let me tell you, there is a shortage of good-tasting veggie broths out there. I tried almost every brand available at the store, including the condensed powder/paste types, and none of them pack the flavor punch I'm looking for. Lets face it - chicken broth tastes good! It's salty, oily, yellow... ok, actually I'm really not a fan of chicken broth. But it can add a ton of flavor to rice and veggies, and I'm a (most of the time) vegetarian who loves food with a lot of flavor. I'm also a conservationist who values the "waste-not-want-not" philosophy and I try to minimize waste whenever possible. It occurred to me that all the veggie scraps I was composting could be used for a higher cause... a tasty veggie broth made with real vegetables instead of powder or paste!

Well, I can tell you that I've never gone back. My broth is an always changing flavor medley of whatever vegetables are in season and it serves as the base for soups, gravies, stews, rice pilafs, steamed veggies, pasta sauces, and anything else where you could use water but want some extra flavor.  Here's how it's done:


What You Need:  
  •  1-Gallon glass jar with tight-fitting lid (I got mine as a jar of pickles from the Cash-and-Carry. The pickles, sadly, were not good but the jar has served me well!)
  •  1 or 2 large zip-lock bags
  • Large soup pot
  • Mesh strainer
  • Vegetable scraps
Whenever you prepare vegetables, keep the scraps - all the ends, peels, greens, etc. I especially like to save scraps from onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes (oh yes, these are some of the best!), potatoes, garlic, zucchini, spinach, cabbage, etc. These are the veggies that will give you the best straightforward flavor. Then I love to add bits from seasonal veggies that will add a unique angle - turnips, chard stems, beet ends, green beans, kale, lemon or lime peels, apple cores. These veggies (and fruits) will impart flavors that are a little more distinctive, so you'll want to be careful which ones you mix together and maybe plan what your corresponding recipes will be. You may want lime peels if you're planning on making some thai soups or curries, but wouldn't want them in if you're planning a minestrone or thyme/rosemary/sage white bean soup. You get the idea.


Put these scraps into your ziplock bags and keep them in the freezer. They'll keep for a few months, but I bet you'll accumulate enough for a broth in just a couple of weeks. 


When you're ready to make your broth, make sure that your glass jar is clean. I run it through the dishwasher on hot to be sure that it's as sterile as possible without actually boiling the jar, although you could do that too. If you're going to can this broth and store it outside the fridge, then of course you'll want to follow canning principles, but I keep mine in the fridge. Put all of your frozen veggie scraps in your soup pot. One to two bags full is perfect. Fill the pot with at least one gallon of water. This does not have to be exact as long as the water covers the veggies. Add 1-2 tsp of kosher or fine sea salt (to taste) and whatever spices you'd like. I have a rosemary bush, sage bush and bay tree, so I add those fresh, but dried herbs work too. I also crush several garlic cloves and toss them in with their skins. 


Bring the pot just to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer for at least an hour. Taste, and if it's too weak for your liking, keep simmering until you're happy. Depending on what veggies I have in there I'll sometimes let it go for up to two hours. I'll also add more salt/spices if I feel like it needs it. 


When you're happy with the flavor, turn off the heat and let the pot cool for 15 minutes or so. With a wooden spoon or potato masher, press the veggies down against the bottom of the pot to squeeze out as much flavor as possible. Place the glass jar in the sink with the mesh strainer balanced on top of the opening. If you don't have a mesh strainer you can use your colander, but you may get some unwanted veggie-bits in the broth. Carefully pour the broth through the strainer into the jar until not-quite-full. If there is any liquid left, I always feel slightly guilty about pouring it down the drain, but hey! You've already given your veggie scraps a 2nd life!  You should feel great about that! Discard veggie scraps in the compost.


If you put the lid on your jar while it's hot the pressure from the cooling liquid will seal it on really tight, so I like to leave the jar on the counter for a few hours to overnight with the lid just resting on top. Another reason to let it cool is that putting a jar of hot liquid in your fridge will raise the temperature in there, forcing the cooling element to kick on and increasing your energy use (and bill!) The broth will keep in the fridge for about 3 weeks. Once you get past 2 weeks, be sure to give it a sniff before using it. And if it goes bad before you use it all, no worries. You'll most likely have another bag of frozen veggie bits ready by then to make another batch!


Next time I make a batch I'll take photos and add them to the post. What is your favorite veggie broth-based recipe?




 

25 July 2011

Adventures in Indigo-Dying


About a week ago I told you all about my recent adventures in tie-dying and promised a new project - dying a bedsheet set with indigo dye. Well, yesterday I spent a good chunk of the day setting up an indigo vat and spiral-dying our sheets. As you can see, they turned out great! The process was a little more tedious than tie-dying, as there are multiple dips and turning overs, but the great part is you don't have to wait 24 hours to see your results! As soon as the fabric is done resting, you just rinse it out in the tub and you can see your handiwork immediately. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me walk you through the steps to creating your very own beautifully blue sheet set.

1. Purchase new or used 100% cotton bedding in your bed size. We have a queen, and I found some lovely 400 count 100% cotton sheets at Goodwill for $6. This didn't include the fitted sheet, so I decided to just dye the flat sheet and two pillowcases. It is important to have bedding that is 100% cotton or other natural fiber (linen, hemp, etc) without any polyester or nylon, because the indigo dye will only bond with natural fibers.

2. Purchase an indigo dying kit. I got the Jacquard Mini Indigo Tie Dye Kit from Joann Fabrics online for $9 including shipping with a 50% off coupon code from my favorite coupon code blogger Mommy $aves Big. Even though it's called "Mini", don't be fooled. It makes a TON of dye and can dye up to 5 pounds of fabric or the equivalent of 15 t-shirts. The kit contains indigo dye crystals, a bag of powdered reducer (allows the indigo to turn blue and bond with fabric), two sizes of rubber bands, wooden blocks and popsicle sticks for creating designs, one pair of gloves and an instruction manual.

3. Gather the following materials:  
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid
  • Stir stick - long enough to reach the bottom of the bucket without submerging your hand
  • 1 large or several medium size pans/tupperware lined with saran wrap
  • Small container for mixing the reducer - I used the cut-off bottom of a 2-liter bottle because the kit cautions against using kitchenware that will touch food later.
  • Large tarp or plastic sheet
  • Paper towels or rags for cleanup


4. Set up your dye vat. Fill the 5-gallon bucket with 4 gallons of warm tap water. Pour the indigo crystals in and gently stir with your stir stick until dissolved. Fill small container with 2 cups of hot tap water and pour in the reducing agent. Stir until dissolved, then pour into dye vat and stir gently in one direction until dissolved. Then gently reverse stirring direction, scraping the stir stick along the side of the bucket and slowly lifting until the stick is out of the liquid. Cover and let the vat rest for one hour.


 

A note about this step. When I tried to dissolve the chemical reducer in the hot water it didn't completely dissolve and in fact clumped up a bit. It could be that my tap water wasn't hot enough, but in any case, I stirred until it didn't seem to dissolve any more, then poured it into the vat. The clumps dissolved once they were stirred into the vat, so don't worry if you don't get them completely dissolved in the hot water.


5. Prepare your material. Wet the sheets and pillowcases (or whatever material you'll be dying) thoroughly and ring them out so they're wet but not dripping. It's time to create your designs! There are tons of different methods that you find online or just experiment and make it up as you go along. You can crumple the material up in a ball and tie it up with string/rubber-bands to create an all-over starburst-like pattern. You can fold the material in accordion folds and put the wood pieces on the outside to prevent the dye from reaching that part of the cloth, creating blue outlines that repeat at the accordion folds. You can paint designs with wax, then dye the entire cloth. Later, iron the cloth over an old towel, melting the wax into the towel and revealing your design






I wanted a spiral design in the sheet, echoed in the pillowcases. I looked everywhere online and could not find any evidence that a spiral design is even possible with indigo so I was a little worried that it wouldn't work. I went ahead and tried though, and it worked just fine. I used the same twisting technique that I'd used previously for the colorful tie-dye, laying out the wet fabric, grabbing the center point and twisting until the entire piece is in a tight circle (see photos). This is easier done with the pillowcases than the sheet, of course, as the sheet tends to get stuck under your (damp) knees and the tarp can get bound up as you twist. But just take your time and keep working the fabric until you have it how you want it. You have an hour to wait for the dye vat anyhow! I used rubber bands to secure the pillowcases, but they wouldn't stretch far enough to reach across the entire sheet so I found some twine and used that to tie up the sheet. It doesn't matter if you tie it up with 6 equal wedges, like in the spiral tie-dye project, because we're going to dip the whole piece in one color this time. So just tie it in whatever way ends up holding it tight.











One of the pillowcases, spiraled and secured with rubberbands


The sheet, tightly spiraled and tied with twine

6.  Commence dying! Indigo's chemical properties require some care during the dying process so you'll want to move slowly and gently during all steps. The dye needs to adhere to the material prior to being exposed to oxygen, which is when it actually turns blue. The dye vat's color is a yellow-green color, but at the top, where the indigo has been exposed to oxygen, there is a blue foam that crackles and pops. This layer is called the "flower".


When you're ready to dye, put on the gloves and scoop the flower off the top of the vat and set it aside. I used a disposable pie-tin, but any non-food related container would be fine. Now that I think of it, what I should have done was rinse out the bottom of the 2-liter bottle I'd used for the reducer and put the flower in there. Next time!

Bright green color after one dip in the indigo vat

Hold your bound fabric in both hands and squeeze to minimize the air pockets in the fabric. Slowly lower it into the dye and hold it, submerged, for about one minute. The instructions didn't give a lot of specifics about this part, so I just slowly turned it and gently squeezed once in awhile. It was a lovely day yesterday, so I used this time to listen to the birds and enjoy the sun (you know, to basically space out and enjoy not really working for a minute). When the minute is done, squeeze the material under the surface to squeeze out the liquid and slowly pull it up and out. Avoid splashing, as the more oxygen introduced into the liquid means the more foaming on top and the less unoxidized indigo left to dye your fabric.


After two dips and 10 minutes of oxidation



Set the material in your saran-wrapped pan or tupperware and let it rest. At this point it looks neon greenish-yellow, which would have really freaked me out except that the directions were clear that this was to be expected. As the indigo is exposed to oxygen the blue color deepens. Let the piece rest for 10 minutes, then flip it over to expose the other side and wait another 10 minutes. In the meantime you can be dying your other pillowcase and sheet(s). After 20 minutes of resting, the material should look fairly dark blue, possibly with some dark green blotches. If you want your final project to be lightish blue, you can stop here. If you're going for a darker blue, as I was, then you should repeat the dipping and resting process a few more times. I dipped and rested 3x for each piece to achieve a fairly deep blue color. I almost wish I'd done a fourth dip, though, because it was difficult to fit the spiraled sheet in the 5-gallon bucket and swoosh it around, so I don't think the dye penetrated as much as I would have liked. I felt like the spiral was going to fall apart if I moved it around too much. The smaller pillowcases turned out nice and dark, but the sheet would have benefited from another dip or two.



After your final resting/oxidation period, I recommend removing the ties/rubber bands and opening up the fabric for 5 minutes or so. Wherever you see yellow, the fabric is going to oxidize and turn blue, but if you rinse it now then it will turn white. I found that opening up the yellow parts and oxidizing for just a short time allowed a light blue to emerge, giving the piece extra dimension. You can skip this step if you want the colors to be more dark blue vs. white. 


Opening up a pillowcase after the 3rd dip to allow oxidation of the dye on the inner portions
The sheet, opened and oxidizing after the 3rd dip


Next, carry carefully to your tub and rinse out the dye in cool to warm water. The instructions seemed to imply that you should rinse until the water runs clear, but when you're working with a sheet you might be looking at 20 minutes+ of rinsing. At least, I rinsed for about 20 minutes until my back was killing me, then I said "enough!" I threw them in the wash with some mild homemade detergent (mmm, I'll have to post the recipe. It's so simple and unbelievably inexpensive!) and then in the drier. 




I'm so happy with the finished product! The cotton is exquisitely soft and the spiral pattern came out just how I wanted it. Each piece is unique, but with the same echoing spiral. 


The indigo vat will be good for a week or more, so just cover it up and store it until you're done with it. The instructions say to dispose of it down the drain, and I expect that is so that it goes through your city water treatment system. Some websites describe indigo dye as hazardous waste, so I think you won't want to pour it out in a storm drain or into your well-water drainage system.



 Leave a comment telling about your experiences with indigo dying. I'd love to read about what you've made. What is your favorite indigo design? 







22 July 2011

Red Owl Mushroom Farm



If you want to find out more about my other life as the partner to a mushroom farmer, check out redowlmushroomfarm.wordpress.com or the Red Owl Mushroom Farm page on Facebook. Lots of gorgeous pictures of oyster mushrooms and up to date info on which species we'll have at each farmers market and how to get grow-your-own-mushroom kits to grow delicious, healthy and wacky-looking food at home!