couscous gf style, some mango salsa and halibut

I have been missing the quickness and versatility of couscous lately. So I decided to try a few things. First, I broke up some GF spaghetti noodles and put them in the spice mill. Not gonna work. Second, I did a search for GF couscous online. There was one recipe and it recommended grinding up some basmati rice. I went with that idea. Threw a 1/2 cup basmati into the spice mill and pulsed until it looked coarse enough. Repeat until you have as much “couscous” as you need. I then threw it in the pot with turmeric (or maybe I used a generic curry powder that has turmeric in it), a shake of red pepper, salt and pepper. Add water or broth and cook for a much shorter time. I didn’t pay attention to how long it took, sorry, but it didn’t take long. Have chopped scallions and cilantro ready to toss in when finished.

I couldn’t just eat couscous, nor was I planning to. I based the whole meal on my craving for some mango salsa and some organic mangoes I found. Yes, these were not grown in Michigan. But it was less fuel than if I went to Mexico for a vacation, although I would rather do that.

Mango salsa:

one peeled and pitted diced mango

minced mild white onion (1/4 of a med onion)

one or two serrano peppers – deseeded to tame the heat

chopped cilantro to taste

salt and lime juice

Of course I couldn’t just eat mango salsa. When I think of mango salsa I think of grilled fish. So we thawed some Trader Joe’s frozen halibut (this stuff is a bargain) and drizzled it with olive oil, salt pepper and I think I put a bit of coriander powder on it.

The rainbow swiss chard has been calling my name from the garden for a while. I was waiting for the leaves to get larger, but that seems unlikely at this point so I just went and picked what I thought to be two serving’s worth from the garden, chopped them up, heated up some olive oil, threw in some garlic and red pepper flakes and then the chard. Add some salt and you are done. All together, it looked like this:

halibut, gf couscous and mango salsa

and this:

halibut, gf couscous and mango salsa

It was delicious. Halibut is such a satisfying fish, especially topped with cool and spicy mango salsa on a bed of swiss chard and gf couscous. Now I am not sure why this text is suddenly now in blue and underlined, but it must be a sign that you should whip up this dinner asap.

i’m out

Organic ramblings

Organic food is a really interesting topic. Let me say right now that I don’t seek out organic produce. Especially when the organic produce comes from California and I live in Michigan and I can buy locally produced goods or veggies. I seek out sustainably grown and raised food as much as possible and as much as the checking account allows. I am all for using less pesticides and taking less trips across the farm field (less fuel), but I work with agriculture daily and understand the reality of feeding the masses too. For that, I support IPM, integrated pest managment. This means that you would only use pesticides if a certain pest reaches a known threshold and over that threshold crop damage will be done. Then you spray. Our society as a whole demands perfect looking food.

For example, in the cherry industry, there is a zero tolerance for a pest called the cherry fruit fly. Zero means zero. You can take a semi load of cherries in (and yes, that is a lot of cherries, about one long afternoon’s harvest) and they test every load before processing them into cherry pie filling. If there is one, yes one, cherry fruit fly larvae in the load, the load is rejected. How is that for an incentive to use more pesticides? You lose a crop because no one wants to bite into a cherry and have a worm in there. I say, eat the cherries whole and you will never know – just kidding.

Every state has what is called a “spray calendar” printed by their cooperative extension office (from where ever your state agricultural university is, ours is Michigan State University). This is a calendar of when to spray what pest. Typically it is known that during the first week of say June, in certain areas of the state “pressure” builds up of a certain kind of pest, meaning it reaches that spraying threshold. This could be a bacteria or a bug, and it is typically weather driven, a certain amount of warm days, a certain amount of damp, or rainy days. So this calendar tells people when to spray. If you use this calendar, you would be spraying by the book so to speak and spraying regardless of knowing whether the problem is really out there, it might be a preventative spray, or it could be unnecessary. Pesticides are not cheap. An 80 acre fruit farm will spend probably $20,000 over a summer in pesticides. So, if you don’t need to spray, most farmers do not want to spray. Add to that, that it must be pretty still out so nothing drifts off site and guess when it is really still out in summer? At night, in the middle of the night. Whenever I am at the farm up North on a summer night, you can always hear the hum of a sprayer in the distance all night long. I actually like the sound as it is the sound of food in the making, of a tractor and of a lively hood.

I am perfectly happy eating a slightly damaged apple or a scarred cucumber, but lots of folks aren’t. I don’t think they understand what this means in the end, that more pesticides will be used to give them pest free veggies. It will take a lot of education to get there nationwide. Yes, those of you reading this blog are mostly foodies and understand these things already. Most of you already shop at farmer’s markets or grow things in your garden, but you know you are not the norm.

What started this discussion today? This org chart. I like the idea of organic food, but did you know that most every organic item you find in the store is now owned by big nationalized corporations? To me, shipping deletes any positive effects of less pesticides. It all affects the environment in one way or another. Organic production can still uses some types of pesticides, but they are not the same ones as typically used for mainsteam production, they use natural ones.

So what am I trying to say? Know where your food comes from if you can and support local and sustainable agriculture if you can. My garden is organic and I try to buy products that I know are produced in Michigan whenever possible. I am certainly not an extremist of any sort, but just like to help with awareness. Consider supporting farms that use IPM, especially local ones, just as you would organic ones. All farmers have it in their own interest to treat the land they use wisely, because if they don’t, the land won’t be there for them.

one more reason to love home

i’m out

Ah…those little moments and some delish grilling

I know all three of my readers (if there are more, please feel free to comment for no reason at all!) are wondering why I haven’t been posting photos and blogging more often. I am sure I mentioned in an earlier post that we are putting my house on the market and we finally have. The sign is in the front yard and the house is looking spiffy. However, just because I don’t blog does not mean for a second that I don’t cook. I cook everyday (with the exception of the three days the kitchen cupboards were being painted) and I take photos most days. They are all on flickr.com. I just haven’t had/taken the time to write up some bloggity and cut and paste photos.

But first, before I do that, a little gushing moment. My significant other (boyfriend seems too trite, we are buying a house together after all) works in Ann Arbor now. This means he commutes an hour a day one way, plus a little bus time. One bonus to this is, he parks his car just a couple of miles from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Yesterday afternoon he asked if we needed anything from either store. Well, I had just driven though A2 for work last Friday (visiting a hog farm that had a complaint filed against it – a little idea as to what my day to day job can entail there). It had been a while since I had visited TJ’s, so I went there and stocked up. They have GF waffles and pancakes in their freezer by the way, and since I had to throw my Belgian waffle maker out for fear of it burning down the house, this is convenient, esp when I have house guests over because I don’t cook a lot of breakfast foods. But I digress. I was there on Friday, yet forgot to get the all so important mint shampoo we use from Whole Foods, so I said, we are low on shampoo and shower gel. Some how I have three giant bottles of conditioner. Therefore he made a trip over there after work.

I started cooking up some saag paneer, beef korma and aloo bhaji soup for dinner, because when I am in the mood for Indian, I want a variety, and always have to make one veg, one meat and one soup. So far, it seems that they don’t really combine veggies with meat in one dish, they are always separate – garlic, onion and tomatoes don’t count as veggies, those are seasonings. I have been studying Indian cuisine lately, as you probably could tell.

In walks my wonderful guy with two big brown bags from Whole Foods. He starts pulling items out and it is like Christmas to me. This guy knows how to get me. He unloads a pack of garlic and herb marinated lamb kabobs, chipotle marinated skirt steak kabobs, an herbed goat cheese, a rogue blue cheese that used penicillin vs bread mold to inoculate the culture, a new variety of frozen GF pizza crusts to try, a new variety of Gluten Free dark beer from England, and a Michigan made hard cider. I melted. Who wouldn’t? I looked at him and said, your bill was over $100 wasn’t it? He replied yep! We started laughing as we can’t seem to go to Whole Foods with out spending the paycheck. I should mention that he picked up several specialty beers for himself. And he remembered to get shampoo.

Ok, now for some cooking. I recently took the challenge given to me by a friend when I said I had too many cucumbers and they send me a recipe for barrel fermenting my pickles. I now have a 2 gallon container sitting on my counter for 4-6 weeks fermenting. It is actively fermenting, it sounds just like beer and has gone all cloudy. Very cool. We found these fermented pickles in the local grocery store next to the eggs and are trying to duplicate them. I hope it works!

We have been grilling a lot lately to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Grilled peaches with honey, black pepper and a creamy blue brie-ish cheese. Grillled asparagus and grilled polenta. Grilled corn and grilled salmon with a yummy garlicky glaze.

grilled peaches with blue cheese, honey and black pepper
grilled asparagus and grilled polenta
grilled filet of salmon with tacoma glaze

No recipes this go around, just yummy photos.

i’m out