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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

homemade bloody mary mix

spring officially arrived on march 20th, and i have yet to officially acknowledge it here. (probably because it's barely broken 50 degrees in seattle in the last 6 weeks and that's a buncha--sorry, what? me? oh no no, i'm not bitter!)

so, a month late and without further delay, my spring 2011 posts will begin the way all things should--with a big ol' bloody mary.

bloody marys, full octane or virgin, embody everything i consider wonderful. rich, red tomato awesomeness, black pepper, salty brine, spice that makes your eyelids sweat just a little--YUM. i used to keep a bottle of mix on hand for a jolt of tomato/spice in the morning or as a mid-afternoon boost, but last summer decided to try making my own.

i started by juicing pounds and pounds of tomatoes using my juiceman, and froze the juice until i could get around to my project. last week i finally thawed some and went for it. ya know, it was really, really good! the juice simmered with chopped veggies for a while, then it was all blended into essentially a drinkable, spicy tomato salad. it tastes terrific on it's own as a juice, and is a great base for customizing your own bloody mary with more horseradish, worcestershire, black pepper, lemon, preserved lemon, lime, olives, pickled veggies, bacon, seafood--and the poison of your choice. (if you're really into heat, try adding a bit of hot monkey vodka from portland's new deal distillery, but be warned--you'll wanna take baby steps adding this stuff. it is seriously fiery!)

i've looked around online and realized that i could've just cooked my tomatoes down instead of put them through the juicer. i think next year i'll definitely try this approach, since the yield using the juice is kind of low--can't remember how many tomatoes it took to get a quart + a pint of juice, but it was plenty, and the juice cooked down to a quart of bloody mary mix. anything that adds to the yield is a good thing, if you ask me!

homemade bloody mary mix
makes about 1 quart
(all measurements approximate, and mostly "to taste." experiment with your own, and leave suggestions in the comments! i'm totally giving this another go in a couple of days!)

1 quart + 1 pint juice from fresh tomatoes
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1/4 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 red pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped and loosely packed
some salt, some fresh cracked pepper

combine all ingredients and simmer, partially covered, about 1 hour. vegetables should be very tender, juice should be slightly reduced. allow to cool a bit and blend until pureed. (may need to blend in batches.) don't blend hot! it will blow the top off of your blender and you'll be cleaning up tomato juice for weeks.

return to pot and taste. (i simmered a bit longer with the added spices--not sure if it was necessary, but i felt fine about it. ) add the following to taste:

more fresh cracked pepper
more salt
lemon juice (i added juice from almost 1 whole lemon)
couple of splashes of sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce (make your own, it's stupid-good!)*
1 tsp prepared horseradish (put a little of the juice mixture in a bowl, whisk in the horseradish, then add the mix back to the pot for easiest integration.)
dashes of your favorite hot sauce

stir, taste, add. stir, taste, add. when ya like it, chill and enjoy as is, or wait until saturday morning and spike it up!

tomatoes and red bell pepper from last fall from alvarez farms
carrots from willie greens organics 
pint glass from one of our favorite stops in prosser, whitstran brewing!

*note: omit or use vegetarian worcestershire for a vegetarian/vegan version

Friday, April 1, 2011

kale, sausage and leek gratin--failure avoided!

we stopped by stokesberry farm's booth at the ballard farmers market a couple of weeks ago, hoping to pick up a whole chicken for roasting. janelle told us she didn't have chickens that day, but offered to show us their chicken sausage with sage and garlic just as an fyi. ok, great, good to know, thanks! about 5 minutes later we were back at her booth, money in hand. i'd just bought some gorgeous kale and leeks from anselmos farm, and had a solid vision of a kale and chicken sausage gratin in mind.

i'd wanted to make the sausage and winter greens gratin from edible seattle for months. when i pulled up the recipe, however, i realized that it was calling for more greens than i'd purchased, and it did not use leeks. so my first revision was to leave out the chard and collards, and add the leeks. revision #2--we had breakfast sausage rather than italian, but at this point we were still largely on track. i followed the rest of the recipe as written, got it in the oven, and then *zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz POP*, smoke started coming up through the eyes on the stove. the lower heating element in the oven was aflame. the oven, tragically, was dead. thus, revision #3--i had to cook the gratin on the stove top, stirring occasionally so it didn't burn on the bottom, then add more cheese to the top and finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to get a crunchy top.

this was a damn good gratin! after all the changes i made on the fly, i couldn't possibly type out what the final recipe was. but that's the beauty of a gratin, and of a well-written recipe--you can make substitutions, you can add your personal touch, evidently in some cases you can even cook it without an oven, and it's still going to be great. just start with awesome ingredients, like the chicken sausage with garlic and sage from stokesberry farms, which was, by the way, so totally delicious that we almost ate it all before i could get it mixed in with the greens.

check out the original recipe, sausage and winter greens gratin, and do with it what you will!

sausage from stokesberry sustainable farm
kale and leeks from anselmos farms