I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Eating Diary

7/17/13

Chicken and sausage gumbo (from the freezer), a salad of local arugula, tomatoes, cucumber, plus kalamata olives, avocado.  Homemade buttermilk dressing.

7/16/13

Jambalaya.  Local ingredients:  onion, garlic, anaheim chili, cabbage, thyme, basil, lard.  Perhaps some stock ingredients (certainly the pork bones).  not local:  Ham (from TN), sausage (from Alabama), paprika, cayenne, bay leaf.

7/15/13

Eggplant parmesan.  This time, I only had one egg, but that worked.  I slightly overbrowned the eggplant.  After it was about half cooked in the oven, I put some basil sprigs on the mozzarella, which I did to soon.

local:  tomato, eggplant, egg, mozzarella,

not-local: olive oil, parmesan,  bread for crumbs, flour, carrot, celery, sugar

The big three ingredients were local.

7/14/13

 

 

6/30/13

A lot of cooking this day:

Biscuits:

I made the recipe with half lard, half butter.  A smidgen too much salt, but otherwise, these were the best yet.  I made them thicker, and thus the recipe from Neal only made 5 biscuits where it should have made 6.

The flavor, lightness, and crispness of these was perfect.  I need to work on the size (and consider a larger cutter).  The next change:  I got aluminum-free baking powder.

dinner and tomato sauce:

I made tomato sauce from 4 pounds of local tomatoes, according to Marcella Hazan’s first tomato sauce recipe:  You halve the tomatoes, cook them 10 mins covered then 90 mins uncovered, run through a food mill and discard peels & seeds.  Cook (for 3 lb) 2/3 cup chopped onions in a scant cup of olive oil until translucent, then cook 2/3 cup each of chopped celery and carrots for a couple of minutes in the oil, then add the tomatoes, a smidgen of sugar, 4 tsp salt.  Cook 20 minutes and you’re done.

I used a cup of this (the described recipe produces 5 cups.  I await roma tomatoes to do it right!) to make eggplant ptarmigana, with Brown Dairy mozzarella.  Local vs. not:  tomato, carrot, onion, eggplant, mozzarella, eggs.  Not local: celery, olive oil, bread crumbs, flour.  6 local, 4 not.

The eggplant parm was great.

Ginger beer and etc.

I also made ingredients for the 4th of July:  Simple syrup with damara sugar, ginger beer, and ginger syrup.

Ginger beer:

Here’s some things I learned;  About 3 pounds of ginger, peeled, produced a bit over 3 cups of ginger juice.  26 lemons produced the amount of lemon juice I needed.

the ratio is:  1 oz ginger juice, 2 oz. lemon juice, 3 oz. simple syrup (which I made with damara sugar), to which I added 8 oz. warm water and an eighth tsp. beer brewers yeast.  Shook and set aside for 48 hours.  We will see how this works!

Ginger syrup:

I had better than a cup or so of the ginger syrup left after the beer-making.  After it had sat on the counter much of the afternoon, to my surprise, a white precipitate was on the bottom.  I taste it– it was really peppery, at a more extreme than ginger.  I made syrup as follows:

Ginger juice, about a cup plus, with the white precipitate, a cup and a half of damara sugar and water (each), a tbs of mulling spices, cook until just boiling, then turn off heat and let sit for 10 or so minutes.  Strain into bottled.

6/29/13

Biscuits again.  This time I had lard.  Did two things:  Sifted the flour before measuring, which put 1/4 less flour in the biscuit dough, which produced a biscuit dough that was way, way too wet.  I think sifting is  important, but that did not work.  I wish I could find a reliable recipe that used weights instead of volume.  I used the lard.

I think the biscuits either did not rise quite as a I wished or were just rolled a little bit too thin.  Other than that, they were spectacularly light and crumbly-crisp.  This is the first time I’ve made biscuits that were that light and that crumbly-crisp.  The lard mattered.

Because of the wet dough, which led me to add flour and work it in, I may have worked the dough a little longer.  I need to think about that one.

We ate dinner out at the Wheelers.

6/28/13

Jambalaya with cabbage.  Local onions, garlic, cabbage, thyme, not local sausage, bay leaf, ham, celery, basmatic rice, Korean red pepper  5 local, 6 non-local

6/27/13

Squash pasta, this time used onion in it.  Local:  Squash, onion, garlic, thyme Not local: vermouth, pasta, parmasan, olive oil  4-4

6/26/13

Wednesday: grilled hanger steak with herb butter, skillet corn, fingerling potatoes.

local: steak, onion, garlic, corn, potato, rosemary

not local: butter, lemon juice, parsley

6 local, 3 non-local

6/25/13

Tuesday was the new city farmer’s market, and I got peaches, tomatoes, and shrimp.

The shrimp were wonderful jumbo ones, fresh from the coast. I made a past dish of my own invention:

make stock from the shells (with onion, carrot peels, some celery). Strain when done.

julien carrots (use the peels in the stock)

Cook the carrots for a bit in some olive oil. Set aside. When the stock has cooked 20 mins, strain and add the carrots to it. While awaiting pasta water to boil, cook the garlic a bit (DON’T BROWN) in olive oil, pull from oil, then add red pepper flakes, then add the shrimp. Cook until BARELY done, turning a lot. Set aside.

Heat some vermouth. Put the stock in a skillet and, when hot, add the vermouth (the idea here is to avoid protein’s precipitating out when you combine stock and wine. I’m not sure this does the trick and will post further as I study this). Add the carrots. Simmer.

When the pasta is done, combine it, shrimp, stock/carrots in a pan, taste for salt and pepper.

6/24/13

Joyce and I split a chicken breast (smothered with sautéed red onions and fresh thyme), along with pan roasted small summer squash with garlic and thyme, and butterfly pasta with roasted plum tomato sauce. Salad.

Local: red onion, thyme, squash, garlic, tomato, onion, salad greens, chives, egg (for salad dressing)

Not local: chicken breast, butter, olive oil, salad dressing ingredients (mustard, lemon juice, worchestershire, parsley).

9 local, 7 non-local.

6/23/13 (Sunday)

Afternoon

Made salade niçoise from Julia Childs recipe tonight– although for years I’ve used capers in it (thinking that was in the original) and it the recipe doesn’t have them.  This is that rare moment when we have most of the ingredients– the end of local lettuce (and potatoes), the beginning of local tomatoes and green beans.  I had wonderful Italian tuna.

local:  red boiling potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, eggs, savory, chives, basil

tuna, salted anchovy, salted capers, parsley, olive oil, banyuls vinegar, vermouth, dijon mustard

I added an avocado for Joyce.  And, whoops! Forgot the pitted Kalamata olives.

I also made stuff for later– about a gallon and a half of chicken stock (local? well, thyme, onions, carrots.  Haven’t been able to replace my bay tree, embarrassed not to be growing parsley this year, and have no local sources for chicken, celery) and did the following:

roasted plum tomatoes for sauce

cut the tomatoes in half and put them cut side down in a roasting pan.  Put some garlic in amongst the tomatoes, and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper.  Put thyme sprigs on top.  Bake in a 375 deg oven until very browned.  Pull out, cool, remove peels and thyme sprigs.  Use the tomatoes and garlic to make a fresh tomato sauce for pasta.

Morning

I’ve been teaching myself to make biscuits.  It’s odd– I have always liked them, have very strong views and dislikes, but never much ate them at home (my Connecticut mother never thought a normal meal would require bread, and on the occasional times she’d have biscuits with a big breakfast would buy a particular brand that were small ones that came in a small aluminum tin in the freezer case.  My Mississippi grandmother made corn muffins usually, and so I’ve not been that much around people making them).  I tried a couple of versions– James Beard (whose shortbread biscuit is definitional for me for strawberry shortcake) in particular, and then settled on Bill Neal’s buttermilk biscuit in his Biscuits, Spoonbreads and Sweet Potato Pie book.  It’s an odd recipe, obviously one he used in his restaurant cut in half (thus 7/8 cup of one thing, 3 1/4 tsp of another), and keep tweaking it.

I wish he used weights instead of measures, at least for the flour.

Among the things I’ve learned:

He is right, of course, about using soft biscuit flour (White Lilly in specific).  It is lower in gluten than all-purpose flour and makes a fluffier, lighter biscuit.  It is also far more forgiving about the risk of over-working.

I think the flour should be sifted (Neal calls for that) and the biscuits spaced relatively closely on the cookie sheet (he doesn’t suggest one way or the other about that), but have only just focused on those issues.  Aside here– I’ve been cooking the biscuits on silpat, which I assume does not make a difference.

What I haven’t been able to do is vary the fat I use, and that, I think, may be why I haven’t got it exactly right yet.  I’ve been unable to get my hands on local lard (that is, un-hydrogenated) since I started this, and so have only used butter (I don’t use shortening).  I think that may make another difference.  I’m not posting a recipe yet because I’m not close enough and am still basically working with the Bill Neal one.

After writing that, I got lard rendered by Stan’s when I went to the Farmer’s Market on Highway 7 North.  We’ll see what happens next.

6/22/13

Mid-Town Farmer’s market:  Linda Boyd had plum tomatoes, the Bosts had the first sweet corn of the season.  Got cucumbers, garlic, scallions, a salad green (they weren’t sure what it was at Yoconabottom!), yellow fingerling potatoes, and from Woodson Ridge, tomatoes, basil, cabbage (I’m buried in cabbage!), squash, boiler potatoes, Swiss chard.  Also, the little Hispanic church/day care at the intersection of Highways 30 and 7 was selling tamales as a fund-raiser so we got some of them.

For dinner, I decided to use the basil I got at Woodson Ridge.  This year is the first time in decades I’ve not had basil in my yard, because of being overwhelmed with work (I am pretty sure and hope that’s why)– both work and getting my mom out of her house in May.

I’m going to put the recipe this time, for food processor pesto.  Later, I’ll put up the recipe for making it in a mortar and pestle.  The recipe is also interesting with other nuts like pecans, although it doesn’t have the resin-y flavor that is part of classic pesto.  Don’t bother with the tomato if you don’t have access to fresh local ones.

Pesto with spaghetti

for 2 as an entire meal, for as a pasta course

2 cups basil
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 tbs pine nuts
half tsp sea salt
black pepper to taste  (at least four grinds, perhaps more)
a knob (1 1/2 tbs?) room temp unsalted butter
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan plus more for serving
a medium tomato

1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Salt it.  Put the tomato in the water for 15 seconds and then remove and put under cold running water until cool.  Set aside.

2.  Add spaghetti to the boiling water and return to a boil and cook the length of time manufacturer directions call for.

3.  Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, black pepper, butter in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend until smooth.

4.  Add the olive oil in a stream while blending.  Remove lid and with a rubber spatula blend in the grated cheese by hand, not with the food processor.

5.  Slip the peel off the tomato and core and seed.  Dice and set aside.

6.  Turn the pesto into a large skillet.  When the pasta is almost done, scoop out about a half cup.  Stir just enough of it (and no more than needed) into the pesto to melt the cheese and blend it.

7.  Strain the pasta, shake it a couple of times, then add to the skillet and blend thoroughly.

8.  To serve:  Put a serving in a pasta bowl, bring some pepper over it, then sprinkle with fresh-grated cheese.  Top in the middle with some of the diced tomatoes.

6/21/13

Was sick that night and did not eat.  Joyce had take-out from Maharaja.

6/20/13

Stir fry

carrots, peas, cabbage, onion, garlic, egg (all local) plus rice, ham, ginger, soy, mirin, sesame oil. Forgot to add the scallions at the end.

Beef with ginger 

Sliced skirt steak (local) plus ginger, soy, mirin, sugar.  Recipe calls for lots of cilantro, which I didn’t use.

7 local, 7 not

6/19/13

Very nice meal out at the City Grocery– basically a tasting menu from the new chef.

6/18/13

I’ve been keeping a notebook of recipes and what I’ve been eating for years, using it to work through recipes. I’m going to experiment with using this page to keep a daily log.

Chicken breasts with rosemary

This has become a default dish for a healthy, quick protein:  One chicken breast, cut in two equal pieces, pounded thin, then coated with a relatively generous amount of chopped, fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, cooked about 4 mins a side on a very hot griddle.

Green beans with savory

I make a savory tea by cooking a bouquet garni of fresh savory, parsley, and bay in boiling salted water for like 12-15 minutes, then cook the green beans in that for 4-5 minutes till done, then infuse some melted butter with more savory while all that’s going on, and strain it and toss with the beans, then salt and pepper.

New potatoes with parsley and chives

I took some new potatoes from the spring, trimmed a band of skin around the “waist,” cooked in boiling salted water about 15 minutes, then tossed with melted butter, chopped parsley, and chives.

Green salad 

Standard green salad:  Baby romaine, green olives, avocado, tomato, salt, pepper, my homemade ranch dressing (egg, dijon, red wine vinegar, oil (canola this time), garlic, parsley, chives, lemon juice, buttermilk, sour cream, worchestershire, salt, pepper)

local: 9 local, 12 not local other than salt and pepper