Sunday, December 30, 2012

Serene Gardens: Garden Center & Cafe

In preparation for the upcoming Japanese International Dinner, I've been experimenting with traditional recipes from rural Japan. Dishes from mountain farms are simple in construction but contain an unforgettable depth of flavor.

I've been reading Japanese blogs like The Humble Bean and Bohnenhase. Books like Japanese Farm Book and Washoku. I've also visited a number of restaurants in the area, sampling their food. Ichiban was my most recent stop prior to Serene Gardens and I liked their plating and flavors, but Serene seems to be one step beyond them.
I drove through picturesque and slightly nerve-wracking wintery weather to get to the garden center and discovered an exquisite hideaway. They opened in April of 2012, but it appears as though they have been there for years, rather than months; their website photos show a fully developed garden and center.

When I first stepped in the shop I noticed the intense scent of pine from the boughs and wreathes. It was such a delightful change from the artificial scents blown in most shops this time of year. The colors, fresh plants, the pottery all worked together, pulling me in further.

The center's commitment to providing organic and sustainably sourced product was wonderful to see.

There are a large number of gardening tools and other supplies, including items for Ikebana.

There are also a large number of distinctively Japanese items for sale.

The dining area is spacious and beautifully decorated.

A large Christmas tree sat in it's center, covered in all sorts of fun Japanese ornaments.

The front counter pulls you right in. I was eager to start ordering and chose a loose leaf Pu'erh tea, chocolate mint fusion, to begin with.


I also ordered a tuna roll. The wrap was so fresh that it had a tackiness not often found in local sushi shops. They were served with a modest amount of wasabi and freshly sliced ginger.

This soba, buckwheat noodle, soup with soy and bonito base, cubes of tofu, broccoli florets,  slivered carrots, minced green onions, and slivered mushrooms was hearty and rich.

This year-round garden center and cafe is not that far from Buffalo or Niagara Falls and is worth the adventure of traversing the Grand Island bridges! Family and pocketbook friendly, I'll definitely be back soon.

Serene Gardens on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 28, 2012

Free Mushrooms, From Poland with Love

Over the last year, I've taken on more and more unique cuisine. Although most would not consider Polish, or pretty much any food from Eastern Europe, particularly if you live in western NY, to be particularly exotic or adventurous, they would be wrong.

Aspic for one, is a dish from a distant time and no modern palate, most especially white bread Americans, could handle the cold gelatin with it's bits of meat and fat and colorless vegetables immobilized until melted on the tongue. Or calf brain cutlets. A favorite of my Scottish Nana, she would have her daughter, my Grandma Betty, stew them in butter and then fry them in bread crumbs and eat them with strawberry jelly and minced pickles, just like the people of southern Poland. Or how about beef hearts braised in heavy cream and salty brown gravy stuffed with barley pearls? No? Too exotic? Too adventurous?

With all of this "adventuring" has come offers around the globe to taste and sample cultural gems. Pictured above are Boletus, Borowiki dried forest mushrooms from the primeval forests of Podlaskie. I received an email at the beginning of December, asking if I would like to try free mushrooms. Skeptical, I opened the website, and discovered the "Green Lungs" of Poland. This operation takes place in forests over 8,000 years old for only a few weeks a year. Harvests are done by hand, with families going out together and making a day of it.

I recieved this mailer right before Yule, below is the recipe I used them in.

Indyk z nadzieniem pieczarkowym or Roast turkey with mushrooms

Cook turkey gizzard, heart, and neck in 4 cups water along with 1 portion diced kale and several peppercorns and allspice grains 1 1/2 hours or until giblets are tender.

Soak 1/2 pound stale bread in 1 cup milk. When soggy, run through meat grinder with giblets, kale, and raw turkey liver. Grind only the skin and meat of neck, discarding bones. I used a stick blender since I didn't have a grinder.

In 3 tablespoons butter simmer 12 ounces fresh, chopped mushrooms and 2 chopped onions until tender. Combine with ground mixture, add 2 beaten egg yolks (or 2 tablespoons of sour cream), the leftover milk if any,

several tablespoons bread crumbs, 2 beaten egg whites (or 1 tablespoon more of sour cream) , 2 tablespoons each chopped fresh dill and parsley and salt & pepper to taste.

Fill turkey with dressing, pin or sew up closed, and roast in 400 degree fahrenheit oven, allowing 25 minutes cooking time per pound. Baste alternately with melted butter and a little water (about 1 cup) and later with the pan drippings.

During last 1/2 hour of roasting, add another 12 ounces or more chopped or thinly sliced fresh mushrooms

(I reconstituted the dried mushrooms for this part) to pan drippings and let them simmer.

Pour the pan drippings and mushrooms over the sliced turkey and dressing on a platter or thicken with a little flour and sour cream, simmer briefly, season to taste, and serve in gravy boat.

We had this for our New Year's dinner with a large salad with sweet peppers, minced cold leftover brussels sprouts, and pomegranate seeds. It was outstanding!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yule Gadget Fast

It's that time of year again where the extras get shut off and put away. No electric gizmos, no television, no purchasing anything but basic essentials, no car use except when necessary, no phone use except when necessary.

I'll welcome visitors and mail and am happy to go visit folks via walking.

Want to go on a Yule fast with me? If you do, tell me all about it.

I'll see you all on December 28th!

Much love - Annie

Bistro Bread

This recipe came from Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë François's Artisan Bread in Five website. Which is stretching it a bit, as it really takes what seems forever for this to produce it's perfect crumb and crust...but perhaps the 5 minutes isn't for how it takes to make it, but rather, how long it takes to eat the whole loaf.
You start with a 6 quart container with a lid, into which you pour 3 cups of lukewarm water (105/110*).

Add 1 tablespoon of yeast. Make certain to use fresh! Then add 1 1/2 tablespoons flake salt. Let rest for 20 minutes.
 Add in 6 cups of sifted white flour. Stir with a large wooden spoon. Cover but not snugly, leave just enough space to allow some gases to escape, or you can pop a hole in the middle of the lid and snap it onto the container. Leave the dough in the bottom of the container undisturbed for 2 to 4 hours (depends on room temperature, cold rooms take longer than warmer ones).

At first it's flat and dense...

...and after a while it fills the whole container with it's pale air-filled loveliness.

The dough will eventually flatten out and shrink slightly. Remove the lid, sprinkle several tablespoons of flour, cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Set the oven to 450*. Measure out one pound (16oz) of dough. Gently form and set on waxed or parchment paper for 40 minutes. Heat a glass lidded crockpot, pizza stone, or cast iron pan in the oven while the dough rests.

If you use the pizza stone, sprinkle it with coarse meal before setting the dough on it. If the cast iron pan, add a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set a metal pot with one cup of hot water 5 inches under the stone or cast iron.

The crockpot will not need anything. See this link for the crockpot bread directions.

Make five slashes with a serrated knife 1/4 to 1/2 inch in depth to prevent the bread from splitting or cracking on top or the bottom.

Bake for 35 minutes, do not open that oven door until the time is up!

Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting into the loaf.

The remaining dough can be covered and refrigerated. Over time the dough mellows, making for even more lovely bread.

Here is another loaf. This one is 50% hard red berry wheat, locally grown and ground.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Flu Bustin' Hummus, Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

My family is finally over the flu and what did I make to help kill off the last of the Influenza Virus? Flu Bustin' Hummus!

This recipe can be made at the volume suggested and then split into four tupperware-like containers, one for now, three to freeze or share, or you can divide the recipe to your liking prior to blending the batch.

It can be very spicy! With 20 cloves of garlic, I guarantee it will knock not only your nose askew, but those viruses as well!

20 cloves of Organic garlic
1 1/2 cups of Organic baby spinach
1/4 to 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 cups of Organic chickpeas
1 cup of plain Organic Greek yogurt
2 freshly squeezed Organic lemons
4 tbls Organic tahini

Blend in batches and mix well together and then pour into the containers.

For some odd reason it looks like Dr. Seuss's Oobleck, but who cares, it is Duh-licious!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pineapple Teriyaki Turkey

This recipe is excellent for all of your leftover turkey, though any poultry will do.

Start rice in a pot on the back of the stove. In a fry pan, use whole butter or ghee to fry mustard seed, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and coconut powder. Once the butter just starts to brown, slide all of the seasonings into the rice pot, stir once, then cover.

In the same pan add the poultry that has been marinating in pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, malt vinegar, and flake salt. At this point you can also add your vegetables. I used baby carrots. Cook on medium low for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add frozen peas to the rice, fluff with a fork, re-cover, letting sit for the last five minutes that the turkey is cooking..

In a large bowl, pour in the rice then add the glazed turkey. Dish and enjoy!