...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Something Else a Little More Intricate...

Purple Kohlrabi
Now that things have slowed down slightly I am back to spending more time planning meals and cooking.  I've had another itch to make "something a little more intricate." Tonight I decided to prepare one of the recipes hanging on my "Recipes I'd Like to Try" bulletin board in the spice pantry--Kohlrabi and Summer Squash Empanadas.  It had been hanging there so long that the squash is out of season so I had find a substitute ingredient.  After cleaning the fridge on Sunday I'd updated my list of "What Vegetables Are Currently Hanging out in the Fridge," which helps me keep track of what's lurking from our garden, our CSA box, and the farmers' market.  This is a handy resource when I need to plan dinner.  I've often wished for a website where one could simply type in the ingredients they have or want to use and it would search a database for a recipe to match (please let me know if any of you have heard of such a site...or is it just in my dreams?)  So I decided to substitute red bell peppers for the squash.  The peppers are by no means a textural or flavor trade-off, but I thought they'd mesh well with the other flavors in the recipe.  So I set out to make empanadas, a treat Ben always oohs and aahs about because it reminds him of the years he spent teaching English in Chile.  He occasionally reminisces about dishes he had there and I do my best to make something suitable.  Of course, I'm hardly capable of making traditional empanadas--not because I don't have several authentic recipes from which to choose, but because I like to do things a little differently and try new things.  I also used rendered bacon fat in the pastry recipe; part of any kind of homesteading is home economics and this was what I had on hand versus the vegetable shortening the original recipe called for--plus, I was down to my last stick of butter.  Enjoy the extra flavor; this is not low-fat.  Here's my spin.

Kohlrabi and Red Pepper Empanadas
Makes about 2 dozen empanadas

This time of year we have a lot of kohlrabi around--either in the garden or stored in the fridge.  It will store at fridge temp. all winter, but I'm running out of room.

Empanada filling
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
2 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into a small dice
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into small dice
2 large scallions, both white and green parts, finely sliced
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. butter
salt and pepper to taste
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1 recipe pie crust (see below)
1 egg (for egg wash)
hot sauce

In a medium skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and brown.  Add kohlrabi, pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss well and cook 3-4 min. until kohlrabi are softening a bit.  Add red peppers and continue to cook 4 min. more.  Add scallions, nutmeg, and another pinch of salt and pepper.  Mix well and cook one min. before removing from  heat. Season more to taste, if needed.  Set aside to cool.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out dough a little thinner than pie crust typically is.  Use a bowl or round cutter and cut into 6-inch-ish circles.  Put scraps in a pile to "relax" and re-roll just once at the end so you can yield more circles (freeze the remaining crust to use again later.)  Brush the edges of the circles with egg wash, add a tablespoon or two of filling and fold over.  Press edges together with a fork to seal and place empanadas on a lined baking sheet.  Brush with more egg wash before baking.  Bake about 15 min. or until golden brown.  Serve with hot sauce.

Savory Pie Crust
Makes 2 crusts

I know my nutritionist/dietitian friends who are reading may cringe at the thought of bacon fat (all in moderation, of course).  The bacon fat can be substituted with lard, more butter, or vegetable shortening (even better, right ladies?!)  

2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 c. chilled bacon fat, cut or broken into small pieces
5 T. (or more) ice water

Golden brown and ready to eat
Blend flour and salt in food processor.  Add butter and bacon fat.  Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Gradually add cold water and pulse until the dough comes together.  Push dough into two flat disks and refrigerate at least one hour.  Pull out 10 minutes before you plan to start rolling it out.  This can be made ahead and frozen, if needed.

While I'm on the topic of using what's in the fridge, I will also provide a recipe for all those wonderful fall mustard greens you may plan to enjoy--so nutritious!  I'm growing a lot of them in my fall garden and will need to continue finding recipes for them.  This dish can use up a lot of mustards really fast.  I've also found that I can puree them and mix into some egg salad to give my daughter an extra kick of nutrients without her suspecting.

Mustard Greens with Lentils
Makes 6-8 servings

Adapted from Eat Fresh, Stay Healthy by Tony Tantillo and Sam Gugino

Lentils with Mustard Greens
2 lbs. mustard greens
Kosher salt
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 cups brown lentils
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. minced onions or shallots
1/4 t. ground black pepper
3 oz. crumbled goat cheese, optional

Cut off bottom 1/2-inch of mustard greens.  Then, with bunch on its side, cut crosswise into strips 1/2-inch wide.  Rinse and drain.  In 4-qt. pot, bring 2 qts. of water and 2 t. salt to a boil.  Add mustard greens, cover and allow to return to a boil as quickly as possible.  Cook 7 min. total, stirring once or twice to cook evenly.  Skim off greens and drain in a colander.  Save cooking water.  Run cool water over greens to retain color.  Add bay leaf, garlic, 1 t. salt, and lentils to mustard green broth.  Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer.  Cook 20-25 min. or until just tender.  Drain, remove garlic and bay leaf.  Meanwhile, gently squeeze out moisture from mustard greens.  Put in a mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar, shallots/onions, 1 t. salt, and pepper.  Add cooked lentils to mustard greens. Pour dressing over and toss.  Sprinkle with goat cheese, if desired.  Serve warm.

Yesterday I also made sorghum cookies and homemade bread.  Feels great to bake bread again.  To be honest, I didn't bake as much bread as I had wished this summer.  I strive to find a simple recipe and I may have finally found one.  The recipe for Cottage Granary Loaf from Bread for All Seasons by Beth Hensperger is easier than the recipe seems and is a beautifully fluffy and airy loaf.

We are mentally, but not yet physically, preparing for some internationally fabulous house guests this weekend.  Ben's childhood pen pal from Germany, Carsten, and his lady friend from Ghana, Naana, will be joining us in Milwaukee.  We are so excited!  This will motivate me to clean up a bit of the yard and garden before Friday.

I did a preservation presentation at Kohl's Corporation last Tuesday and in my thank you card was this awesome magnet.  I love it!

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