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Dinner With TCR! February 5, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Dinner with TCR.
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Well, at long last, a reprise of a popular installment here at LBT: my dinners!  😆

Actually, I’ve long been focused on other things, but tonight I ran into the proverbial Wall, and just needed a break from churning my works.

So I threw together some odds and ends which I expected to enjoy in solitude, but unexpectedly liked the looks of them, and decided to go Global with my fare.

So here it is, a picky-plate of healthy and savory tidbits:

A baguette topped with a purée of white beans, lemon juice and way  lots of garlic:

_MG_7500

…topped with white anchovies and roasted red peppers, and paired with a salad of organic baby greens, onions, grated Romano cheese, Kalamata olives and toasted almonds, moistened with a red wine vinaigrette.

I’m eating it as I type this, and loving every second of it!

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Long Hollow Bison Farm. January 20, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR.
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Down in Hadley there’s a place I like to check out once in a while, a farm where American Bison are raised. They’re impressive beasts:

Bison Eye

They’re big. In fact, the old bulls are HUGE.

And they take the job of protecting their calves seriously – don’t expect to sneak up on them unnoticed:

Bison Herd

They’re majestic in the snow, and look totally at home in the winter weather.

These animals area raised for meat, and if you’re an omnivore, it would be hard to get better meat than this – grass-fed, roaming big fields, protected from predators (other than us.) I know some people object to the practice of people eating animals, but since it’s more common than not with people world-wide who can afford it, I have to conclude that there’s something of nature in it.

I’ve been trying to get a more blizzard-y photo of them, but they’re an hour’s drive away, and while that’s close for us “hill-town people,” it’s still a dicey drive in a heavy snow.

Time will tell if I succeed.

A Delicious Gift! September 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, macro photos.
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Driving through Buckland the other day, I spied three off-white clumps affixed to a slain golden birch.

Of course, I stopped to investigate, and unlike The Cat, my curiosity was rewarded with culinary gold – Hericium erinaceus,  commonly called Lion’s Mane. It’s a tooth fungus, highly prized for its intense mushroom flavor and its prolific fruitings.

Plus, it’s beautiful, so much so that it’s said to be delicious if you can bring yourself to pick it.

Well, I did. I had a long slender knife in the car, with which I sliced the baby-head-sized growths off the birch log. They weren’t brand new and pristine, but rather a couple of days old, but still firm and white.

I shook the bugs out of them (yeah, bugs know good  when they see it) and pocketed my booty, speeding home to make a great dinner at the right price.

Here’s a close-up shot of the “teeth” of this delectable tooth fungus:

They’re equivalent to the gills under the cap of common agarics  in that they’re the spore-bearing structures of this mushroom’s fruiting body.

And Holy Cow, did they make one one helluva cream of mushroom soup, sauteed lightly in butter, then added to a reduction of heavy cream seasoned with garlic and curry powder.

I’m two pounds happier for that find.  😉

TMI. September 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, Love and Death.
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This is today’s incarnation of my compost:

I marvel at it daily, but just realized that it’s been years since I shared it with you.

My bad.

Shroomin’! August 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, macro photos.
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After a dreadfully hot and dry start to the summer, which meant that the local mushrooms weren’t blooming, we’ve had a good mix of rain and sun lately. Consequently, we’re seeing a lot of mushrooms in the woods and at roadside.

I’m totally all over that. Free food of a mysterious and slightly dangerous nature… not really, because I’m faint of heart… but the “free” part is all true, and there’s nothing like freshly foraged food.

The Boletes are out, some pretty good to eat and some really choice.  I’m fond of Red Capped Butter Boletes, which are really hard to confuse with anything else. Firstly, they’re a bolete,  so they have a spongy underside instead of having the fine gills of most other mushrooms. Plus, they’re bright red on top, butter-yellow on the underside of the cap, and shading from bright yellow to a vibrant red moving down the stem. There are other red mushrooms, but none which look like  the Red capped Butter Bolete, so it’s a safe choice for mycophagists.

Here’s a freshly picked RCBB lying next to a Russula, which has both gills and a pure white stem which snaps like a piece of chalk when picked:

Some people eat Russulas, some people are sickened by them, so I just keep to the boletes and whatever else I know to be safe and delicious.

I also found some chanterelles, including red (rare,) yellow (common) and black (exquisite!) The black aren’t uncommon so much as they’re invisible on the forest floor. I’ve hunted then fruitlessly for hours, then suddenly realized I’d been walking through them most of the while.

The ones I got this week were thin tubes, a bit browner than their more trumpet-shaped black brethren:

I put a load of these into a cream sauce, and they’re exquisite, with a strong nutty flavor and a texture suggestive of al denté  penne. They’ll meet their end on a bed of polenta tomorrow.

I have a variety of really choice boletes to prepare tomorrow, including king, queen and yellow-footed in addition to the red capped butter boletes. I’m not sure if I’ll get to eat them or just dry them for later; I’ll be away for most of midweek, and don’t want them to go to waste!

This Year’s Garden! July 26, 2012

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Gardening this year has been an uphill struggle; The Ladies built raised beds last year, which has helped tremendously by containing the produce and excluding the weeds, but the lack of rain has necessitated putting a chunk of each day into keeping my efforts from turning to dust.

So Tuesday’s rain was a great relief, and the garden rejoiced:

The watering system I rigged up sat blissfully idle today.  Thank You, Father Sky.

Our garden is a mix of what we planted and the “volunteers” which appeared as a result of last year’s reseeding (we’re going with a no-till model, and just being grateful when Free Stuff shows up!  🙂 )

Among the volunteers are carrots (which provided nice white flowers but no carrots to speak of,) onions, garlic, leeks, some kind of vining things which might or might not be pumpkins (half the fun is the expectant waiting,) and two little trees in the mid-ground which I think are apricots – again, time will tell!  😆

So far we’ve harvested and enjoyed rhubarb, asparagus, lettuce, radishes, snow peas, beans (green, yellow and purple,) squash (summer, delicata and zucchini,) purple potatoes (more volunteers!) cucumbers, broccoli, kale and rainbow chard – I’m growing leaves!!

And we have flowers interspersed, some (such as the marigolds and aliums) as companion planting for pest control, and some just for eye-candy.  Glads:

…and zinnias:

The rain really freshened them up, and they were a joy to photograph:

We’ll have sunflowers later on, but right now they’re just buds:

We’ve been sharing our bounty with a fat little woodchuck (she and I have a love/hate relationship,) but there’s still as much as  I can eat and more.

Thank you Mother Earth; Thank you Father Sky.

Tubers! May 31, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, Politics and Society.
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This past Tuesday afternoon I stopped in at the Tuesday Market, a farmers’ market downtown in the little Massachusetts city of Northampton.  It’s in a cobbled courtyard behind Thorne’s Market, and it hosts a dozen farms/farmers proffering their produce and plants.  I threw Elliot on the box and went to see what might be seen.

It was cool, very much like so many other farmers’ markets I’ve been to in these parts, but perhaps a bit more up-scale – not the vendors, as they’re all of the earth, but the shoppers.  They were decidedly more urbane than most I’ve seen at these things, with clean-faced children named Dakota and Montana and Leaf.  I spied a beautiful little three year old angel with green eyes and vibrant red curls sipping a fruit smoothee and asked her parents if I might photographer her.  They proudly said “yes,” but Step Two was asking her,  and she said “no.”

So you get tubers.

Beets, carrots, radishes red and white:

Sweet, organic and ripe with the love of the gardener.

Elliot liked the beets, and demanded that I take one more shot at a 6 degree swing:

…canted to 2 and 8 o’clock.  I’m satisfied with the result.

Both of these shots are from Elliot, hand-held and unfiltered.  I’m liking E as a candid lens, though I usually shoot him on a tripod, and frequently with hand-held filters.

This market delivered a surprise which I’ll probably post next!

The Garden, So Far. May 22, 2012

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Our garden is slowly planting itself, using my enthralled hands.

In the west yard:

In this photo, Brussels sprouts, onions, tarragon, broccoli, sage, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, lacinato kale, rainbow chard, celery, radishes, carrots, several squashes, dill, leeks, peas, beets, beans and garlic.  That leaves two and a half beds for the rest of our summer guests…

In the dooryard, the new raised beds now hold garlic, basil and five kinds of tomatoes:

It’s not done, but it’s getting there.

Flowers to follow, and there will be lots of them.

Work Hard, Sit Loose. May 7, 2012

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I spent the weekend building raised beds in the dooryard, a place to grow tomatoes away from the nightshade blight which haunts our garden.  I got 2X12s from a local sawmill yesterday, real  2x12s, not the planed down sissy-boards they sell at Home Depot.

Jeezus,  they were heavy!  Took me 45 minutes to get the four twelve-footers on top of my ride!  Crushed the roof rack and stove in the roof on the way home, despite my gentle driving.  Guess that’s what you get when it’s growing one day and boards the next.

Anyway, I diced up the wood and assembled the boxes, toasting my drill along the way:

…and got one of them filled with a mixture of top-soil and composted cow manure before I bonked.

I had just enough of a reserve to light a wood fire and grill dinner in the yard as the light faded:

Viande a la Ronde,  served with pain grille,  kim-chee and spicy brown mustard, plus a suitably classy libation.

Now it’s off to bed with me.

G’night.

Florida Mountain Turnips! December 21, 2011

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Among the local wonders of this season are the World *ahem* Famous Florida Mountain Turnips.

Now, if you’re a “Turnip Person,” you’ll really appreciate this.  If you’re not  a Turnip Person, this might be a good time to go clean the refrigerator.

So.  Florida Mountain Turnips are grown up the hill from here in Florida, MA.  They’re more properly (and widely) known as Laurentian Purple Topped Rutabagas, on accounta they were brought here from the Laurentian mountains in North Central Quebec, they have purple tops, and, um, they’re rutabagas (Brassica napus, a cross-breeding between true turnips and cabbages. )  They’re a soft, pale yellow on the inside and as sweet as root crops of the cabbage family get, due to the early and frequent frosts up there.  I could plant them here, within ten miles of their Florida home, and they just wouldn’t come out the same.

Damn.

Lucky for me, several Florida growers sell them.  I stumbled upon this sign along Route 2:

…and followed it to the home of one Mike Gancarz, who sells said “fresh” turnips.

“How Fresh,” you might ask?  Well, here’s Mike:

Here’s The Snatch:

…and voila!   Fresh Florida Mountain Turnips!

“You can’t get them any fresher than this,” he proudly proclaimed.

“I could if I wanted to get down on my hands and knees and eat ’em out of the dirt,” I replied.

We both laughed, then I paid the man $18 for 20 pounds.

Not bad for the Real Deal.

Come Christmas I’ll be bragging about how good they were.

OK, you picky flatlanders can shut the fridge and sit back down.  I’ll find something for you-all presently.