Friday, February 28, 2014

Making Musgo (OR my Friday night cleanse)

Throwing away food is like stealing from the tables of the hungry and the poor.   --Pope Francis 


We all know about busy work weeks, and how things can get ahead of us if we allow them.  I have just finished reading a very compelling book by Jonathan Bloom entitled  "American Wasteland"
 and must say that it has given me new resolve to not. waste. any. food.

I knew an older woman years ago who made a soup she called "Musgo".  I had never heard of such a soup, and asked for the recipe.  She said "Ha, there is no recipe.  You just throw everything from the fridge that 'must go' into the pot!"  I don't know if this is regional, or related to one's ethnicity, but up here, near Minnesota's Iron Range, they call the same soup 'booya'. 

It is becoming my Friday night wind down/relax/clear my head and thoughts exercise.  I go through the fridge, and evaluate how I must use what items before they spoil and I would have to toss them.  Believe me, this is much more appetizing and responsible than throwing away tuppies that look like petri dishes or liquified vegetables and fruits.

Tonight's "musgo" is a concoction of broccoli, roasted sweet potato and Brussels sprouts, eggs, spinach, boiled potatoes, and poached chicken left over from last night's dinner (to be served on the side).  I started out thinking that I would make Heidi Swanson's Broccoli Gribiche from her "Super Natural Every Day" cookbook.  You can see her website here 101 Cookbooks

But.  I had these must-gos, so this is what I came up with (and it was delicious!!)
I pulled together a variety of add-ons to the potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and broccoli.  This gets the creative juices flowing if I can see what I have to work with right in front of me.  The quinoa didn't make the cut, already too many carbs with the sweet potatoes and the russets. The marcona almonds and feta didn't make the final recipe, either, but they certainly could have been added, were I in the mood.

Four eggs were hard-boiled for addition to the salad.  I always use organic brown eggs because I don't like the thought of chickens being fed slaughterhouse waste.  Much preferred is a free range, natural diet, both by me and am sure also by the chickens.  From spring to late fall, I buy locally produced eggs from a variety of friends in town that raise chickens.  But, thankfully our local grocer sells organic eggs so we can have them all year around.  Incidentally, the color of the eggshell is an indicator of what?  The type of chicken that laid the egg, not whether or not it is organic.

The roasted sweet potato and Brussels Sprouts from Tuesday night's dinner.

Fresh garlic was minced and left to stand for 10 minutes. This allows the separate compounds in the garlic clove, which are isolated until crushed or minced, to mingle.  This mingling is what you need PRIOR to introducing the garlic to heat.  The cancer-fighting component in garlic, alliinase, is heat sensitive and will be destroyed if introduced to heat before the enzyme is allowed to trigger the reaction.  Want more of this type of info?  Read the book and/or see the website here: Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

I digress. But, before I can go back to the recipe and cooking at hand, I want to mention the roots on this head of garlic.  This head is a California product.  The roots are cut off with knives by the workers in the garlic fields.  Most supermarket garlic is from China, and you can tell because those heads don't have roots remaining.  Personally, I prefer to eat organic, but next would be anything grown in the US (big ag practices notwithstanding) because, frankly, anything from China is suspect to me after the way-to-frequent food scares over there.  Want to know more about garlic and how it is harvested?  Read the book "The American Way of Eating" by Tracy McMillan.  You can see her blog here American Way of Eating

The russets being crisped up with a whisper of extra virgin olive oil, the minced (and rested) garlic, and a sliced shallot.

The broccoli was stolen from Gracie's frozen organic stash (she eats broccoli to combat her cancer) and as it was a bit wet, I added the spinach on top of it and used the broccoli to steam the spinach.
The broccoli got just a kiss of char before I pulled it off the heat.

The dressing.  Wow, it's just delicious.
The dressed salad.  Colorful, earthy, hearty, and just what the doctor ordered for a very cold and snowy night on the Canadian border.  I hope this post will inspire you to be creative with the 'must gos' in your fridge, as well as inspire you to read any one of these excellent books.
 Bon Apetit!

Musgo Friday Night Salad

1/2 pound broccoli florets, either frozen or fresh
4 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 sweet potato, roasted
1 cup Brussels sprouts, roasted
2 russet potatoes, boiled (or leftover)
4 eggs, hard boiled, one yolk reserved, balance chopped coarsely
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced

First, saute the russet potatoes in a swirl of olive oil to crisp them up.  Add the sliced shallots and the minced garlic and saute another few minutes until the shallots are soft.

In a separate pan, add the broccoli and spinach.  If the broccoli is frozen, no water is necessary.  If the broccoli is fresh, add a 1/3 cup of water to allow for the steaming process.  Cover the pan and steam for approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

The dressing:
1 hard boiled egg yolk
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Add the evoo slowly to the yolk, stirring until smooth.
Then add
2 tablespoons tarragon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of capers
Whisk until smooth.  I prefer to put all ingredients in the bowl, then whiz with an immersion blender.  But, if you don't have a hand held immersion blender, you can do it manually in the order listed with a whisk.  This is my adaptation of Gribiche, a French sauce incorporating mustard, cooked eggs, and an oil.

Add the dressing to the broccoli/spinach and potato mix.  Add in the roasted sweet potatoes/brussels sprouts medley and the chopped up hard boiled eggs.
Serves 4 generously.  I like this room temperature, but can be served chilled, as well.
recipe copyright K. Cyriacks 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What's in a Name?

Before Kimberly and I started this blog, we talked at great length about what we could use as a name that would capture the essence of who we are and what we hope to accomplish with the blog, as well as in life. Recently, several people have commented on the name, so perhaps it's time to do a little explaining.

Sunlight gives us power
But moonlight gives us grace.

I don't know to whom I should give credit, other than the quote is on a print that I purchased at the Ely Blueberry Arts Festival from Sue Rowe Studios in Stillwater, MN.  Perhaps it is hers?

This is so very powerful and meaningful to me. Kimberly and I happened upon it at the festival, (which we attend together every year and do up a splendid Blueberry themed table).  I was so moved, that I wept upon reading it.  And, so, it hangs in my office where I can read it every day.  It is a constant reminder that I want to incorporate grace in my life, it represents the special fondness I have for my sweet Gracie girl, and is a visual cue for me to be thankful for the special friendship I have with Kimberly.

The photo above is of Gracie, my Flat Coated Retriever.  She is now nearly 10 years old, and has been the inspiration for my business, Gracie's Plant Works.

Gracie and me with Patty, my business partner.  We are a retail greenhouse selling organic, heirloom vegetable starts, are specialists in heirloom tomatoes, and also hard to find and interesting annuals and perennials.  It is fantastic work, and is physically demanding, but rewarding on so many levels. 
And the story continues.....

Every year since the early 1980s, Todd and I get together and celebrate New Year's Eve with
Kimberly and her husband, Kim (yes, Kim and Kim).  Kimberly is always good for coming up with a thought-provoking question to pose as a starter for the conversation over dinner.  Every New Year's Eve, we have come to expect Kimberly's  'question of the year'.  In 2012, she asked us all about what we want to see in the upcoming new year.  I said I wanted more grace in my life and to be more graceful in my approach to life and towards others.

Are you starting to see a pattern?  Indeed.  Thus, A Graceful Table was born.  We want to share our love of cooking and entertaining, of gardening and preserving the harvest, as well as our what is becoming a vast collection of plates, linens, and flatware.

It may also be important at this point to mention that we list the manufacturers and patterns of various pieces on our tablescapes because we think that people may be interested to know.  We are NOT compensated by anyone for promotional consideration and are not advertising for them, rather sharing info with other tablescapers for their edification.

A special thanks to Sarah at Hyacinths for the Soul for the most recent comment and impetus for this post.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I need some green in my life!!

In case I haven't mentioned it, we have a lot of snow.  This is me, up to my hips.  I'm 5 foot 6. I can't even imagine how the wild animals, especially the deer, are making it in such deep, fluffy snow.
 A touch of red was all it took to cheer me up this afternoon.
I needed some green in my life, and I mean right now. So it was decided (by me) that I would do a mini tablescape for movie night.  Honestly, it cheered me up seeing colors other than the gray and white landscape outside. 

Doesn't this chase away the winter blahs?

Petite silk hydrangeas promise that spring will soon arrive.
The green napkin rings are like matte-finish stones surrounded by silver filigree. 

I fell in love with these sage green plates the moment I saw them.  I love the edges because they're so interesting, and also a bit botanical. 

 Another 'love at first sight' were these copper chargers. 
It must be the weather, I loved these floral chargers at first glance, too.

It's always handy to have white or off white dishes for contrast. 

The final stack.

Hope this makes you feel better today, too.  Spring surely can't be too far off, can it?

We're joining Kathe with an e for You're Gonna Love it Tuesday

and Marty from A Stroll Thru Life  for the 205th Inspire Me Tuesday!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lazy Girl's Solution to the Food Pyramid

OK, I have actually never been accused of being lazy, so maybe I am just plain tired out from all the shoveling and snow removal this winter.  We got another 12 inches on top of the nearly 2 feet we already had, and the wind is howling.  What's a girl to do?  
Make a quick, easy meal to enjoy in the cozy warmth of the house.
 The roads are impassable, so I had to use what I had on hand.  With every meal, my goal is to have a protein, a carbohydrate (the good-for-you kind), and a vegetable or three.  A quick check of the food on hand revealed sugar snap peas, spinach, and a beautiful lime.  I removed the zest of the lime with my trusty Microplane, then cut it and squeezed out all the juice.  You get a much more intense lime flavor if you use the zest in addition to the juice; just don't grate down too far, you don't want any of the white part, it's bitter.

 Here's my zesting Microplane.  Couldn't cook without it.  Well, OK, I could, but it is an indispensable tool in my kitchen.  I have another with larger holes, too, for grating hard cheeses, chocolate, or vegetables.  A note of caution:  please be sure to handle these carefully, or plan to have a Band-Aid at the ready.  They are super sharp!

 I blanched the spinach and the beautiful mange-tout peas together in the same pan.  Mange-tout is French for edible podded sugar snap peas - 'eat it all'.  The farro was simply pulled out of my freezer, as I generally cook a large batch, portion it into zippie bags, and freeze.  Actually, I do this with all of my grains.....wild rice, pearl barley, farro, brown rice, etc.  Note to the Ziploc folks:  Please stop printing that block at an angle.  It makes me crazy.
 To the lime zest and juice, I added some extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, sea salt, black pepper, and an avocado.  A quick spin with the immersion blender and the dressing was ready.
The final ingredients were some freshly grated parmesan cheese and chopped pistachios.  That was a thinly veiled bribe to entice my hubby, as he loves pistachios but doesn't like cooked spinach.  
Mission Accomplished:  A Protein, two vegetables, and a grain.  The entire meal took about 30 minutes from start to plate.  This salad paired beautifully with the seared sea scallops, which I did with crispy shallots and a squeeze of lemon juice. At the last minute, I tossed in a couple shrimp, again to appease the big guy, who isn't crazy about scallops, but are my favorite!  Bon Apetit!

The Recipe
The Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
dash of sea salt
couple grinds of black pepper
juice and zest from one lime
1 avocado
1 clove garlic
1 minced shallot

Add all to bowl, blend with immersion blender until smooth.  (disclosure:  this makes more dressing than you'll need for 2 people, but it will be great on a lettuce salad tomorrow)

The Salad
1 cup sugar snap peas
4 cups washed spinach leaves
1 cup cooked farro (Emmer Wheat)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts

Add spinach and snap peas to boiling water and cook briefly, about 1 minute.  Pour into strainer and douse with cold water to stop the cooking and maintain color. Squeeze a bit with your hand to get rid of as much excess water as possible.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, add enough dressing to cover.  Serve cool or at room temperature.

Recipe copyright K. Cyriacks 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Need some fiber in your diet?

While I haven't mentioned it yet on the blog, I co-lead a group of local women who all want to eat healthy.  I love this group, and have a lot of fun with my co-leader, Thea Sheldon.  Thea is a life coach, and one of my favorite friends.  I've set up a link so you can see her website at Prime of Life Coaching.  We all enjoy the camaraderie of the group, and we meet once a week to discuss a different topic.  Tomorrow we will talk about the importance of fiber in your diet.  SO, in preparation for the big demo tomorrow,  I decided to create a salad using high fiber foods, which most people think is dry and bland. Well, not THIS salad.   
I started out roasting brussels sprouts with some garlic cloves.  If you have never tried them and you think you don't like brussels sprouts, please do.  It's like vegetable candy!  I cut the sprouts in half and peeled and smashed some garlic cloves. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over all and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about half an hour, or until they are brown and caramelized.  Remove from the oven and cool.  I also roasted a small butternut squash to add to the salad but didn't photograph it, as I imagine you've got the idea.
Finished roasted brussels sprouts, fresh out of the oven.
The basics of this salad is pearl barley and green mung beans.  These are not necessarily common, every day grains and beans, but definitely worth getting to know.
Chopped, roasted garlic and minced shallots for the dressing.
A shout out to my pal Lucy of California Sun Dry Tomatoes - I love their products!

Ingredients assembled to make the dressing.

Finished dressing - Oh my goodness is this good!

Adding the Feta cheese to the salad.

The finished salad. 

 The Recipe
The salad
2 cups cooked pearl barley
2 cups cooked green mung beans
1 cup roasted brussels sprouts
1 cup roasted butternut squash
1 cup cooked edamame (soybeans)
1/2 cup diced sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled

The dressing
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (use freshly squeezed, if you have a lemon on hand)
1 minced shallot
4 roasted garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Blend all dressing ingredients with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.  
Toss the dressing with all the salad ingredients, and serve either cold or at room temperature.

recipe copyright K. Cyriacks 2014