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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Celebrating Fall & Farmers with Chicken with Tomato Sauce & Black Olives

From 40 pounds of tomatoes: 1 pint dried peels, 2 pints soup, 3 liters juice, 6 quarts sauce, 3 pints salsa, 5 cups jam.
Monday, with the help of friends at Red Hog Farm, I butchered our fifteen 16-week-old Le Poulet meat chickens. Tuesday afternoon, I bagged and put all but one bird in the freezer. That one went into the evening's supper, browned in tallow rendered from the fat of the cow we bought from the Deck Family Farm, simmered in a pint of sauce made with tomatoes from Frog Meadow Farm that I canned over the weekend, onions from PD Farms, garlic from Greenthumb Garlic...and Natural Value black olives from California. Honestly, after several long days on my feet, I was too beat to make anything else...so we just had this simple stew all on its own...but it would have been great with some quinoa cooked in chicken broth and a Caesar salad.

2 tablespoons tallow or other fat suitable for high temperature sauteing (coconut oil, ghee)
1 chicken, cut up (I save chicken backs for making stock)
salt, pepper
1 large onion, saute sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pint tomato juice
1 14-ounce can pitted black olives

Melt fat over medium-high heat in a large, heavy bottomed saute pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken pieces, then brown on each side for 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan onto a clean plate. Add more oil if necessary, then cook onions until soft (about 6-8 minutes). Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and deglaze the pan, scraping any cooked bits off the bottom. Add olives and chicken. Bring sauce to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 Tuna Put-Up + Gluten Free Thai Fish Cakes

Albacore Tuna in the Ocean
For health reasons, I am increasing our family's weekly consumption of seafood. We can't afford quality, sustainably caught fish at retail prices, so I have been organizing bulk purchases with our buying club and working directly with fishermen whenever I can. This summer, we purchased 22 pounds of sockeye salmon fillets through Iliamna Fish Company's CSA and my husband caught two chinook salmon on the Willamette. He may fish for salmon again this fall. Recently, I ordered ten pounds of Marine Stewardship Certified halibut fillets from Azure Standard. I would like to stock up on other fish and seafood as well. Dungeness crab are high on my list, as are Oregon pink shrimp and Pacific sardines, but this week, it's all about tuna.

Albacore Tuna in Jars Before Processing
Last year I made my first foray into canning tuna at home. I bought three whole, flash-frozen fish (each about ten pounds) from an Astoria fisherman. The canned tuna was marvelous--even my husband, who has always insisted he does not like canned tuna, liked Chez Musser brand tuna. As so many have said, once you've canned your own, you'll never go back to the pet food sold in grocery stores. (By the way, don't feed your cat canned tuna, it has too much sodium. Offer occasional raw or cooked tuna. My cat prefers raw tuna and I only offer him what I would eat myself.) While I was determined to can my own again, I did not relish the process and mess of filleting several tuna at home. Also, while many people in our buying club were interested in stocking up on tuna, they didn't know how or didn't want to fillet their own.

Albacore Tuna in Sealed Jars
I was still unsure about what to do when I met someone who mentioned off-hand that she and her friends bought tuna pre-filleted by the fishermen who caught it. Well, Hello! Why hadn't I thought of that? Google led me to Oregon Tuna, a family owned operation that fishes off the Pacific and docks in Warrenton. Our buying club ordered 150 pounds of filleted tuna from them altogether, which I picked up at the dock on Wednesday, filling four coolers to their brims.

I appreciate tuna because it's local, abundant, and versatile. Because we're buying smaller fish than those caught for commercial canneries, I worry less about mercury contamination, but still limit our tuna consumption to no more than one serving a week. The 42 pounds I canned and froze this week will provide my family of four just that for most of the year.

Before I begin a big preservation project always have a plan for what I'm going to do. Most frequently, I follow a divide and conquer approach. I decide on several ways to preserve and figure out ways that I can keep some of what I have on hold while I process the rest. In this case, I wanted 48-50 half-pints of canned tuna, which would require about approximately 20 pounds of loins, and that I would have scraps and loin ends leftover from canning, as well as some whole loins. 

We now have
  • 50 half-pints, canned
  • ten 1-lb packs of loins for sushi, searing, or smoking, frozen
  • four 1-lb packs of loin ends for fish cakes, frozen
  • three tail pieces (about two pounds) for smoking, frozen
  • one 3-lb pack of loins for November canning class, frozen
  • one pound of scraps leftover from canning for Thai fish cakes.
Albacore Tuna in the Freezer
I adapted the Thai Fish Cake recipe from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. These were simply delicious served with a quick pickle of cucumbers made with rice wine vinegar, though I might have made a relish with cucumbers, lime juice, fish sauce, chile sauce, and sesame oil if I were serving guests. Also, I realized while we were eating that lemongrass would have made a wonderful addition to these fish cakes...probably just a tablespoon finely minced would be perfect.

1 pound fresh tuna, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients except coconut oil. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Form mixture into 2-inch patties, they will be quite moist. Gently place each patty into the pan as you form them. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes on each side until golden brown, turning carefully (I used two spatulas to turn mine). Drain on a cooling rack.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steak & Red Peppers with Coconut Curry & Zucchini

It's funny, I'm sensitive to raw sweet peppers and even the smell of them turns me off most of the year (when they're not in season here anyway), but as the weather cools in late summer and the local bells finally ripen, I begin to crave them cooked. One of my favorites is Chicken Paprika with Red Bell Pepper, but last night, I had a couple steaks, red peppers, and a hankering for a coconut curry. This dish incorporates coconut oil, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and grass-fed beef, all healing foods. Instead of rice, I fried up zucchini to sop up the delicious gravy.

4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red peppers, sliced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound steak, sliced into strips
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick half-moons

In a heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers to pan and cook until softened. Add ginger, garlic, steak, turmeric, and curry powder. Cook for several minutes, then add fish sauce and coconut milk and deglaze pan. Bring to a boil and cook until coconut milk thickens.

In a separate pan, heat the other 2 tablespoons of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, making sure each piece is flat in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on each side until brown and crispy. Serve topped with curry.