Monday, December 22, 2008

Free-Style Baby Turnip, Potato & Pork Sausage Casserole


I like the name of this one.  Basically, we found some local baby turnips at the co-op and bought them even though we had no plans for them and Tore remembered hating them as a child.  They sat in the fridge for a few days before we remembered we had them; and I had the job of planning a supper around them.  


We had most of the ingredients we used on hand.  I took some inspiration from a few other recipes, but this one is a Local Okra free-stylin' recipe that I can safely say had not been done before.  Believe it or not, it was a huge success.  Try it, and see for yourselves!  All ingredients are organic and the sausage is from Full Moon Farm here in Athens.

(this one is pretty loose, guys--that's the point!)

a dozen or so baby turnips
3 or 4 yukon gold potatoes
about half a pint of cherry tomatoes
2 small shallots or 1 large
6 garlic cloves
half a pound of ground pork sausage 
half a cup of bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups 'no-chicken' broth
about 3 tablespoons fancy whole grain mustard (we like Inglehoffer brand)
cheese of your choice (we had some Stilton left over that we used, so blue cheese would be great)

So, this was an experiment.  I would encourage anyone who enjoys cooking as much as we do to this as often as possible.  Sure, you will have miserable failures here and there, but when you really get it right, it can be so rewarding.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Start by dicing and boiling your potatoes and turnips in water.  You won't have to boil the turnips for as long as the potatoes, so just add those in after the potatoes have been going for a few minutes.  You just want to cook until fork-tender.  Meanwhile, chop the garlic and slice the shallots very thin.  


Add these, along with the broth, to a casserole dish.  


Take the sausage and add the bread crumbs and knead together.  Form into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Drain the root veggies and carefully add them to the casserole dish.  Now add the mustard and stir to combine as much as possible.  Place the meatballs evenly and then bake until the sausage balls are almost cooked through.  


The last step is to add the tomatoes and cheese.  Add in the tomatoes and stir around a bit to distribute.  Then top with cheese--as much or as little as you want.  Bake until cheese is melted.  Bon appetit!  


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slow-cooked Venison & Red Wine Stew


Venison! With the first mention of it to just about anyone, you will no doubt hear the words 'gamey' or 'lean' used over and over. When marinated properly, venison is a delicious and healthy local and organic meat option. It doesn't really get much better for Local Okra. We have used it to make all kinds of wonderful concoctions from the traditional southern country-fried cube steak to garlic, ginger, and sesame marinated baked tenderloin. We even used it in a traditional Swedish dish called koldolmar--cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and ground meat.


This stew is a throwback to the slow-cooked beef stew my Mom makes. It's pretty simple. You put your meat roast in the slow cooker, add some liquids and spices, let it cook for a few hours and then add your veggies. This is an easy week night meal that can feed the whole family. Well, unless your family eats like Tore!

The red wine is crucial in this recipe because the flavor helps to cut the gaminess and the acid helps to tenderize the venison. We used Malbec, but you can use any full-bodied dry red wine.


Recipe (all ingredients are organic):

1 venison roast
4-5 yukon gold potatoes
4 carrots
20-30 mixed mushrooms
1 large yellow onion
8-10 cloves of garlic
veggie 'no-chicken' broth, 2 cups or more
1 cup dry red wine
soy sauce, 3-4 tablespoons
fresh rosemary (we have two bushes in our yard)
1 bay leaf (this one was local and free at the Co-Op!)
Crushed red pepper--we used cayennes from this Summer
black pepper
4-5 tablespoons flour


Start by cleaning the roast and cutting it into bite size pieces. Put it in a crock pot/slow cooker and add the wine and enough of the stock to cover it completely. Add the soy sauce, some black pepper, and about half of the garlic. Cook the meat on high for about 2 hours.


Meanwhile, chop all the veggies and refrigerate until you're ready to add them. After two hours, add the veggies, herbs & spices, and the remaining broth.


If you don't have enough broth to cover the veggies, add a little water. Keep in mind the veggies will cook down and add more liquid to the pot. Let cook on high until veggies are fork-tender. Remove some of the broth and whisk it into a separate bowl with the flour to make a paste. Whisk until smooth and then stir into the stew. Turn your crock pot off at this point and let the stew thicken. Serve with crusty bread and more of the red wine!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brew Night: Coffee Stout

Since Local Okra is dedicated to all things local, sustainable, and delicious, what's more appropriate than a tasty batch of home-made beer? With that in mind, this post will kick off the homebrewing section of Local Okra - with hopefully many more to come.

We've been brewing our own ales and lagers for about a year now - tonight will be either the 10th or 11th batch. We've made everything ranging from scotch ale to hefeweizen to pilsner to a belgian saison - and all have been extremely delicious.

Tonight, we got a coffee stout started, which should have an alcohol content of around 8%. This is the kind of beer that will wake you up, put hair on your knuckles, and then slap you across the face. So how do you go about making this tasty beer, you ask? Let's go through a somewhat simplified account of what goes into a batch of homebrew.

The very first step of brewing is to make what's called the "grain tea." It's in fact quite similar to making a pot of tea, but instead of tea leaves I'm using a few pounds of crushed grains to add flavor and color to the beer.


So, first, I filled my brew-pot with about three and a half gallons of cold tap water.


Then I heated it to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, I cut off the heat, placed my grains in a porous mueslin sack, and added it to the hot water, letting it steep for about half an hour.


Then I removed the grain bag, and brought this dark and delicious concoction to a boil. Now it's time to add the malted barley - the sweet stuff that will later become the alcohol in the beer. To this batch, I added about five pounds of liquid extract and three pounds of dry extract, getting us to a total of eight - this is what gives us our final ABV of 8%.


The grain tea now becomes a hot and sweet mixture that we call "wort." I bring this wort to a boil, and add the bittering hops.


The wort will boil for sixty minutes, and during this period you usually add more hops at different stages - but this coffee stout only calls for the first round of bittering hops, so I just let it boil for the full hour.

The next step is to cool the wort, so that we can add the yeast. Most ale yeasts are comfortable working in the range of 60 to 80 degrees F. So after the hour boil has completed, I cut off the heat and place the brew-pot on ice. The wort needs to be chilled to about ninety degrees.


When the wort is cool enough, I add it to the fermentation bucket. This is a plastic bucket with an air-tight lid and an air-lock to let carbon dioxide out. When poured into the bucket, we've got about four gallons of beer. To get to the magic number of five gallons (the standard homebrew batch size), I add another gallon of cold spring water. The cold water also helps bring down the temperature to about seventy degrees.


At this point, it's time to add the yeast. I used a Wyeast London Ale liquid yeast. After stirring vigorously to aerate the beer, I snap the lid on, and put in the airlock.


The bucket then goes into a dark corner with a constant temperature of about 70 degrees. Tonight's work is done! The beer will sit in this fermenter for about a week, where the yeast will eat the sugars in the beer, and create the by-products of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 escapes out the airlock, but the alcohol stays in the beer.

Whoo! We're officially on the way to making a coffee stout (the coffee is actually added much later in the process, right before bottling). Check back for more updates!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shout-out to Levi and Full Moon Farm

This morning for breakfast, we had some local pork sausage from Full Moon Farm, thanks to our good friend Levi. It was the first sausage we've had in years and it was well worth the wait.



Please see our links for info on Full Moon Cooperative Farm.

Here's what they're about:

Farm Ethic
We farm with intention and sensibility.
We farm to improve ecology through wise economy.
We farm to improve our land and preserve its agricultural value for future generations.
We farm with respect for the safety of our workers, our customers, and ourselves.
We farm to protect the environment we all depend on.
We farm because we love to farm.

Fried Local Catfish Tacos, Baja-Style


We did something here at Local Okra that we don't often do--we deep fried. And it was glorious.

It's a well-known fact that the best way to eat catfish is southern fried, so that's just what we did. We are fortunate to have Lake Sinclair (middle GA for those of you not in the know) catfish, crappie, and/or bass in our freezer pretty often. My Mom and Dad spend so much time at their lake house in Putnam county that they even get their mail there now, so you can imagine how much fishing they get to do. My sweetheart of a dad always cleans any fish Tore and I are lucky enough to catch before we go home, along with whatever they have in the basket. So, you get the idea--these fish are pretty damn local.


My favorite fish tacos are the ones you can get just about anywhere in southern California. This recipe is kind of my take on the first fish taco I ever had. What ties it all together is the Baja-style version of tartar sauce (I even made a special version for Michelle, minus cilantro), which goes perfectly with fried catfish. You also can't forget the cabbage, red onion, or the avocado. You can use pre-made corn tortillas for these, but why would you when you can make your own so easily? Tore started making them after spending a few weeks in Tepoztlan, Morelos, MX and since then, we eat them exclusively. They are that much better.


We served these with rice and fried plantains.....and lots of mexican beer (thanks David & Michelle!).


For the catfish:

catfish filets (1 large or two small per taco)

garlic--2 cloves, finely chopped
coriander seeds, crushed
olive oil

2 cups flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
canola oil
1 lemon

We marinated the catfish filets for several hours with a little olive oil, crushed coriander seed, fresh garlic, salt, and pepper. To begin, heat the canola oil in a large frying pot. In a deep mixing bowl, combine the flour and corn meal. Dredge the filets in this mixture and set aside until you're ready to fry. Fry until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of the filet. Make sure to wait until your oil is good and hot. As you pull the filets out, hit them with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Keep finished fish in a warm oven.


For the sauce:

2 garlic cloves
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo (we used organic safflower mayo)
2 large jalapeno peppers
juice of one lime
pinch of cumin
pinch of chili powder
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender until thoroughly combined and then refrigerate until ready to use.


For the tortillas:

2 cups corn masa (we used Maseca brand)
1 1/2 cups water
pinch salt

Knead mixture until you have the consistency of dough. Divide into 16 pieces and then use a tortilla press to press each piece. Carefully transfer to a flat pan (on high temp) and cook 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side. As tortillas are done, put them in a dish and cover with a cloth to keep warm.


For the plantains:

two plantains
canola oil

Slice plantains about half an inch thick. We deep fried them in the same oil we used for the fish, but you can pan fry them with a lot less oil as well. Fry for about 10 minutes and salt immediately after taking them out. Cover with chopped cilantro.


The white basmati rice was cooked in a rice cooker with veggie 'no-chicken' broth and some turmeric, paprika, and cumin. Nothin' fancy there.


We enjoyed this meal and a few hilarious games of Uno with our good friends Michelle and David. Michelle brought a ridiculously delicious pumpkin pie as well. AND, Daisy finally got a kiss!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Parsley Pesto Spaghetti with Grain Sausage


The idea tonight was to make dinner for Tore while he was in class talking about Vidalia onions. I knew I wanted to make some pesto with the parsley still growing in our garden, so I picked up a few items at the Daily Co-op after work and put this together. All ingredients are organic and the pesto is almost completely local--the pecans were collected from our back porch just hours before preparation.

Here's the recipe (I must say this was exceptionally delicious):

1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms (Pennsylvania)
1/2 a pint of grape tomatoes (Florida)
1 medium zucchini (Florida)
2 apple sage flavored grain sausages (vegan faux-sages made by Field Roast Grain Meat Co.)
black pepper

For the pesto:

7 large garlic cloves (locally grown)
1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley (VERY locally grown)
about 20 pecans (also VERY locally grown)
4 oz. of shredded parmesan cheese (Wisconsin)
olive oil

To start, I had to crack the pecans using our lovely Swedish nutcracker sent to Tore from H├Ârby, Sweden by his grandmother for Christmas last year. It has really come in handy with our abundance of pecans.

I had to use a flashlight to go out and get the parsley, and my biggest fear was stepping in dog poop while on this mission. Luckily, I came back unsoiled.

In a food processor, I put in the parsley, the peeled garlic cloves, the parmesan, and the shelled pecans. Pulse that for a few seconds and then slowly add olive oil until it's the right consistency--sometimes I add a little water if it seems too thick.


Meanwhile, I boiled a pot of water for the noodles, chopped the veggies (sliced the mushrooms, cut the tomatoes in half, and made matchsticks of the zucchini), and cut up the faux-sage. I cooked the mushrooms in some olive oil by themselves for a few minutes before adding the faux-sage--add salt and pepper at this point.


Right before the noodles were ready, I added the zucchini matchsticks to my mushrooms and faux-sage for about a minute or two and then at the last minute added the grape tomatoes--you just want to warm those up, but not really cook them.


All that's left is to drain the noodles and then return them to the pot, add in the pesto and faux-sage & veggies and you're ready to eat.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spicy Roasted Sweet Potato & Bell Pepper Soup

To kick things off we started with a good seasonal soup. We picked up some sweet potatoes and green bell peppers at the local co-op, so that was the inspiration. Add to that a crusty baguette from a local bread maker and you've got dinner. This was simple and relatively quick for soup, but tasted so fresh and delicious.
Recipe (vegan!):

4 sweet potatoes
3 green bell peppers
1 and 1/2 whole heads of garlic
3 to 4 cups organic 'no-chicken' veggie broth
1 cup water (if necessary)
1 can organic light coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon curry powder
crushed red pepper flakes (we used three dried whole cayennes)
thai basil leaves
salt & pepper

Peel the sweet potatoes and dice. Core and slice the bell peppers. Remove peel from garlic. Toss all with olive oil and spread out in one layer in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees until potatoes are tender (about 30 minutes depending on your oven).
Let cool after removing. Transfer veggies to a food processor and process until smooth--you may need to add a little water. Transfer mixture to soup pot and add the remaining ingredients, reserving a few basil leaves as garnish. Bring soup to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

We also enjoyed one of Tore's home-brewed ESBs (Extra Special Bitter). More on that later...


Welcome to Local Okra!

Hi, everyone!  Thanks for stopping by.  I have been wanting to do a food photography blog for a long time and I finally have the motivation to do it.  I always thought it would need a theme or have something interesting to say and not just be a bunch of "food porn."  It was Tore who inspired the idea behind Local Okra.  

For the past several years Tore and I have been vegetarians (3 years for me and 6 for him). Well, we actually ate seafood here and there as well, but no meat whatsoever.  We have always tried to cook/eat what's healthy for us and the world in general, but very recently our food philosophy has changed to include local, organic and sustainable meat.  So check back here for recipes, photos, and philosophical rambling.