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Monday, August 4, 2008

More summer food! Roasted Garlic, Cabbage, and Beef Jerky

Hey everybody! I know you've missed me, but take heart. I've made a new commitment to blog more. I'm going to shoot for twice a month, but we shall see. At any rate, things should be picking up again quickly. The summer is rolling along slowly and I must say that this is one of the most pleasant August's I've ever spent in Iowa. Normally August is unbearably hot and muggy, but for some reason things have been cool and breezy. (I guess we're due after that winter and spring) I'm back to work for the fall semester and have been cooking a lot of simple fresh foods.
I've been reading a lot, too.
Most recently, I've picked up this book:



You may have heard of Michael Pollan thanks to another book of his, The Omnivore's Dilemma. If you want to learn about how our country has gotten into the mess we have as far as food goes, this is a great place to start.

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan mentions a fantastic farm that can be found just a few minutes from Iowa City, Highland Vista Farm.
This is a true century family farm that raises cattle, pigs, and chickens and sells them in a sustainable way. The cows are grass fed, which is extremely important for getting the most nutrition out of meat. The farm sells directly to consumers and local restaurants. You can even go out to the farm and meet the family that raises your meat. The more I've learned about food the more I've been forced to take responsibility for the choices I make. I've learned that I need to vote with my dollars and invest in my local economy. People like the Rodgers family are leading the way towards a better approach to food, and I'm happy to support them.

Aside from all the deep reflection, I've been doing a heck of a lot of cooking. Summer=farmer's market and farmer's market=great easy food. When the ingredients you use are great, you don't have to do much to them.

I'm contemplating a change in format before too long, but for now I'm going to just throw up the pictures and names of what I've been cooking. So here goes.

Roasted Garlic
This is the easiest thing ever, I promise you, and the reward is well worth the tiny effort. I have a little roaster thing, (I know, I know. No unitaskers. But it's PRETTY) but you can just bundle the whole head of garlic in tin foil. Slice the top of the cloves off, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast at 350 for about an hour.




If you've never had roasted garlic, you must give this a try. The resulting product is almost nothing like raw garlic. It's very sweet and rich, and spreads very easily onto warm bread. (Yum.)

Cabbage

I think cabbage has gotten a bad rap, mostly due to its...um....olfactory properties. To mitigate this issue, I've developed this method of preparation, which yields a tender tooth to the cabbage AND manages to mask its trademark stink. How did I manage to solve this conundrum, you ask? Why, the way I solve most problems: with bacon.

Chop six to eight slices of your favorite bacon. (I originally made this with this delicious garlic pepper bacon.

Pepper bacon is well suited to this recipe, but any bacon really does fine. It'd be fantastic with pancetta.)


Heat those up in a sauce pan until they render their fat and get crisp.




Remove from heat. Drain off the fat, leaving yourself 3-4 tbsp. worth.

To prepare the cabbage, cut each head in half, removing the core. (It's pure white and very hard.) I'm using plain cabbage, but napa cabbage or bok choi would be delicious.



In the pan with the bacon fat, add the full head of cabbage and 2 tbsp. vinegar. (I normally use white vinegar because I have an inexplicable taste for it. There's something that so reminds me of my childhood I think. If you are adverse to white vinegar, apple vinegar is a great complement to the cabbage.)






Beef Jerky

This was so easy and delicious. You don't need a dehydrator or other fancy equipment to accomplish the texture of this jerky.
I went to my co-op's meat counter and picked a piece of flank steak that was around 1.5 lbs. Flank steak is your friend, but you have to know how to treat him. He is cheap and tasty, but MUST be cut against the grain AND cooked for a loooong time.

I asked my butcher to slice the flank steak against the grain on his slicer. It's much faster and cleaner for them to do it for you. If your butcher won't cut your meat for you, find another butcher.

Place your thinly sliced flank steak into a plastic sack with your marinade:

1/2 c. canola oil
1/3. c. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste

Let this stuff hang out for a while, (30 minutes-18 hours) the spread it out on cooling racks over sheet pans. (If you haven't tried it already, this is my favorite way to cook bacon. It is much more even than the pan and all the grease drips onto the sheet pan)





Cook the meat at the coolest setting your oven has. This may be "warm" or around 250 F. Cook overnight. You will wake up to beefy perfection. Cheap, lean, full of protein, tasty, and compact. (Sorry, no after pictures. You know)


Happy eating and take care, dear readers. Next post marks a different style and purpose for my blogging. I think it will be good for us both.

p.s. Check out what I've been doing to my house!









Hugs and kisses.
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