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pantry staple

Pumpkin Seed-Herb Sauce

TIME: 15 MINUTES; SERVES: 1 PINT

This sauce was born from having an excess of wilting cilantro in my fridge. I was going to make zhoug, a spicy cilantro sauce that’s made with fresh jalapenos and garlic, but I wanted to beef it up to serve alongside salmon. I was looking through my assortment of seeds and nuts for pesto inspiration, and thought the toasted flavor and color of pumpkin seeds would be perfect. With further research, I discovered a traditional sauce from the Yucatan region called Sikil P’ak, taken from the Mayan words for pumpkin seed and tomatoes.

This adaptation swaps tomatoes for rehydrated, smoky chipotle peppers. I added half an avocado for extra creaminess as well. Now it’s a staple in my fridge—I eat it alongside fish, roast chicken, or slathered on veggies. It’s delicious stirred into crème fraîche for a rich accompaniment to soups or stews.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup cilantro, stems and leaves
1 cup parsley, stems and leaves
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tbls. sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbls. capers, drained
1/4 tsp. each ground coriander, cardamom, and cumin
1/2 avocado (opt.)
2 dried chipotle peppers, or 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded (opt.)
1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

METHOD

  1. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the chipotle peppers and let sit for about 10 minutes to re-hydrate. Remove from the water, (but reserve water for thinning the sauce), cut in half and discard the stems and seeds. Roughly chop.

  2. While the peppers are re-hydrating, spread the pumpkin seeds evenly in a pan over medium-low heat. Toast until they start to sizzle and pop, stirring often to avoid burning. Remove from heat.

  3. Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Adjust seasonings. Thin with the chipotle water if necessary.

  4. Spoon into a jar and drizzle olive oil on top. Will keep for 1 week in the fridge.

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Pickled Okra

TIME: 20 MINUTES (not including canning time); SERVES: 4 PINTS
Adapted from Linda Ziedrich’s, The Joy of Pickling

Okra is one of my favorite veggies that we grow (it is our logo, after all). I love okra in all different forms: grilled, roasted, raw, and of course, pickled!

These are fun to pull out at a dinner party in the middle of winter, or give as gifts throughout the season. Most people know okra for its mucilaginous qualities—careful not to cut past the stem and into the pod (where the goo lives), or else the brine will thicken and become very unappetizing. It’s also important to use fresh, smaller okra. Large okra can be tough and fibrous—another unpleasant surprise when chomping on a pickle. It’s best to buy okra at a farmers market, or grow your own! Okra doesn’t keep for more than a few days, so stray away from okra with black or brown spots and soft stems. You want green, crisp pods for the best pickles.

INGREDIENTS

4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
4 small dried or fresh hot peppers (red and yellow varieties are pretty)
4 lemon slices
4 tsp. pickling spice, or a mix of: dill seed, mustard seed, bay leaves (crushed), coriander seed, black peppercorns, allspice, cloves
1 quart water
1 quart apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1/4 cup kosher salt (non-iodized)

METHOD

  1. Divide the garlic, lemon, peppers, and spices evenly between 4 sterilized pint jars.

  2. Trim the stems from the okra, but do not cut into the pod itself. Stuff the okra into the jars.

  3. Mix the water, vinegar, and salt together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

  4. Ladle the hot brine into the jars, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. If you are not canning them, let the jars cool, then transfer to the fridge. Wait 2 - 3 weeks before eating.

  5. If you are canning, process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Store for at least 3 weeks before eating.

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Roasted Nut or Seed Milk

TIME: 20 - 30 MINUTES (not including soaking time); SERVES: 3 1/2 CUPS
Adapted from Julia Turshen’s, ‘Small Victories‘

Even if you don’t have a lactose allergy, this “milk” is delicious in both hot or iced drinks. You can use any nut or seed you prefer, but like Julia Turshen, I’m a big fan of hazelnuts. Feel free to add different flavorings as well: a bit of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, and some of your favorite sweetener makes a yummy Horchata-esque beverage, or a delicious base for chai and coffee drinks. Roasted and pressed nut milks are traditional in many cultures; I encourage you to experiment with nuts/seeds that can be grown locally & organically in your region.

*Rather than purchasing roasted nuts, look for raw nuts that have been kept in cool temperatures—a rancid, roasted nut is one of the worst kitchen surprises.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup raw nuts or seeds of choice (hazelnut, almond, pumpkin, etc.)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Spread the nuts/seeds on a baking sheet and roast until browned—but not burnt—and fragrant, about 12 minutes (8 minutes for seeds). If you hear them popping, give them a quick stir.

  3. Transfer toasted nuts/seeds to a quart jar and add enough water to cover by at least 1” (the nuts will soak up the liquid). Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

  4. Drain the nuts/seeds and discard the liquid. Place in a blender with 4 cups fresh, cold water and process on high until smooth, about 30 seconds.

  5. Drain the nuts/seeds in a “nut milk bag” or cheese bag over a bowl. (Pro-tip: tie and let hang from your kitchen faucet—it can take a while to strain). Squeeze out the remaining liquid by twisting the bag from the top down. Compost the leftover nutmeat or spread outside for the squirrels.

  6. Add optional seasonings at this point. Keep in a quart jar in the fridge, and drink either warmed or iced. Shake well before use.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pressed Hazelnut Milk

Pressed Hazelnut Milk

Roasted Hazelnuts

Roasted Hazelnuts

Cinnamon-Hazelnut Latte

Cinnamon-Hazelnut Latte

Crème Fraîche

TIME: 5 MINUTES (plus 3 - 5 days to culture); SERVES: 1 PINT

Crème fraîche is one of the most important staples in my kitchen. This French version of sour cream is an incredible cultured food that costs only a few dollars to make, and has all the probiotic health benefits of high-quality, fermented dairy. The high-fat, low-carbohydrate content is perfect for those following a Keto diet, and making your own allows you to choose organic, grass-fed cream instead of conventional, ultra-pasteurized.

Crème fraîche is particularly useful in cooking because it doesn’t curdle when heated and can be simmered in sauces and soups. Purists may choose to purchase a true crème fraîche culture, but I find using cultured buttermilk to be just as effective & delicious.

INGREDIENTS

1 pint heavy whipping cream, preferably grass-fed & organic. Steer away from ultra-pasteurized for the best nutritional value and flavor. Raw cream is ideal if you have access to it.
2 tbls. cultured buttermilk

METHOD

  1. Stir the buttermilk into the cream.

  2. Cover with a cloth or loose fitting lid.

  3. Set on the counter away from direct sunlight. Fermentation will occur more quickly in a slightly warm place.

  4. Stir every day. After a couple days, you will notice the cream thickening. Once it is thick and slightly tangy, transfer to the fridge with a tight fitting lid. It will keep for up to 2 weeks.

*There’s a certain schedule that I stick to: Every week or so, I purchase a whole, organic chicken, a quart of buttermilk, and a pint of heavy whipping cream. For the chicken, I follow Samin Norat’s recipe for Buttermilk-Marinated Chicken, saving a couple tbls. of buttermilk to make crème fraîche. Once I finish off the roast chicken and the crème fraîche has cultured, I start the process again (and if I have saved enough chicken carcasses, I’'ll simmer a batch of bone broth as well).

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Pastured-Chicken Bone Broth

TIME: 8 - 12 HOURS; SERVES: 4+ QUARTS

I’m fortunate enough to share a property with some of the best growers of pastured pork and chicken. This is essential when making bone broth: that the source is the purest one you can find. You’ve probably heard of the benefits of bone broth and its almost “miracle-working” hype. Essentially, it’s the product of animal bones (chicken, beef, pork, etc.), acid (apple cider vinegar) and vegetables/seasonings, cooked on low for many hours. The bones themselves eventually break down into collagen, essential amino acids and necessary vitamins & minerals. This causes the ‘gel’ effect when cooled, similar to a rich gravy, or pan drippings.

After contracting a digestive parasite several years ago, bone broth was the only thing I could ingest without feeling terrible. From this experience, I do believe it has a great capacity to heal and nourish. When I’m feeling under the weather—especially from a stomach bug—bone broth is the golden elixir that brings life back into my being. I love it as a warming mid-day snack with lemon and salt, or first thing in the morning to jump start my digestive system. I also use it as stock for any soup, stew, or gravy. Bone broth is the perfect way to transform kitchen scraps into a nutritious & versatile staple.

If you have a crock pot, this is a great way to put it to use. If you prefer cooking on the stove top, I sometimes leave a pot covered, on the lowest heat overnight, and in the morning have a delicious savory treat to sip on. Make a habit of buying whole chickens (or stew birds!) and saving the carcasses in your freezer. Adding chicken feet is particularly useful in getting the most gelatin & collagen into your broth. Once I have enough carcasses or chicken parts to fill a large soup pot, I’ll make a big batch of broth and freeze it in plastic quarts or bags.

INGREDIENTS

Chicken bones, enough to fill half of a large soup pot (necks, back, feet, etc.). After roasting a whole bird (Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken!) I’ll put the carcass into the freezer for easy prep.
A few glugs apple cider vinegar
A couple bay leaves
1 tbls. black peppercorns
The following veggies are optional:
1 bunch parsley with stems
A few carrots with tops
A few stalks celery with leaves, or 1 - 2 celeriac, chopped
1 head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half
1 - 2 onions, unpeeled, cut in half
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh lemon juice

METHOD

  1. Place the chicken bones/parts in the soup pot, enough to fill 1/4 - 1/2 way to the top.

  2. Pile all the other goodies in, except the salt & lemon.

  3. Fill with just enough filtered water to cover. Add the vinegar.

  4. Turn the heat on medium-high and let slowly reach a steady boil. It’s important to keep an eye on the broth before it boils to skim off the brown scum that will rise to the top. This scum is filled with impurities and should be discarded.

  5. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to very low, cover, and let simmer for 8 - 12 hours.

  6. Let cool, then strain. Everything left behind should be very mushy and flavorless. This is okay to compost.

  7. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste.

  8. Let cool completely, and place in glass jars in the fridge, or plastic containers / quart bags in the freezer.

Crock Pot:

  1. Place all ingredients in the crock pot, and set on low for 8 - 12 hours.

  2. Follow the remaining steps for straining and storage.

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The Joy of Roasted & Grilled Veggies

The grill is a great option when it’s too hot inside to imagine turning on the oven. But in the Fall, I typically have the oven on for several hours a day, roasting loads of veggies to nosh on throughout the week. Whenever I have an excess of root vegetables, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet potatoes, apples,—anything—I chop ‘em up and throw them in the oven.

Generally, I stick to 4 rules:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  2. Coat the veggies in high-heat oil & season generously with salt & pepper (include other herbs and spices depending on the veggie).

  3. Spread out in a single layer. Use more pans if necessary to avoid overcrowding.

  4. Rotate the pan halfway through; wait until they’ve browned on one side before flipping.

Roasting time varies on the vegetables & how they’ve been chopped, but also on the type of pan, the specific oven, etc.. For more delicate items, I check after 15 - 20 minutes. For starchier, sturdier veggies, I’ll check after 30 - 45 minutes. Oftentimes I’ll mix a variety of similar veggies together, like carrots and turnips, fennel & onions, or peppers and eggplants.

Veggies prepped for grilling

Veggies prepped for grilling

Grilled Tatsoi

Grilled Tatsoi

Roasted beets & sweet potatoes over micro greens

Roasted beets & sweet potatoes over micro greens

Okra skewers

Okra skewers

Ghee & Clarified Butter

TIME: 15 - 20 MINUTES; MAKES 1 PINT
Adapted from The ‘Pioneer Woman’

I see jars of ghee at the store ranging from $15-$25, and it baffles me because it’s so dang easy to make!

You may be wondering, what is ghee, anyway?

Ghee is the next step in the process of making “clarified butter”, or butter that has had the milk solids removed through cooking. Clarified butter can often be consumed by those who have slight sensitivities to lactose, or who are following a restrictive diet. I’ll choose ghee when I want a nutty, caramelized flavor, or need to cook something at high heat. It is shelf stable, and has a higher smoke point because there are no milk solids to burn (ghee’s smoke point is 485 degrees, compared to butter’s 350 degrees.) Making your own also means you can choose the quality of butter, rather than paying for an inferior product at a higher price.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound (4 sticks) high-quality butter, preferably organic, grass-fed (either unsalted or salted works), cut into chunks

METHOD

  1. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

  2. After the butter melts, it will start to bubble and separate. This is the whey separating and floating to the surface.

  3. Skim the whey off. You can either compost it, feed it to your pet, or (if you aren’t sensitive to dairy) save it and put it in smoothies, soak beans or grains in it, or marinate meat. Whey is very versatile and high in protein.

  4. Continue to cook the butter until it turns clear and the milk solids sink to the bottom. You can either turn the heat off at this point (you’ve made clarified butter), or you can continue to cook for a caramelized, nutty flavor. You want to brown—not burn—the milk solids on the bottom of the pan. This takes about 10 minutes longer depending on your stove and pan, so keep a close eye on it.

  5. That’s it! Let the ghee cool a bit and if you want to make sure the very last bits of milk proteins are removed, strain through cheesecloth, a paper towel, or a coffee filter. Store covered at room temperature.

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