Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wok It To Me! (first meal from the garden)

As I get ready to leave for Austin today for a Mid America Arts Alliance meeting, I contemplate what to color coordinate with my surgical mask. Just making light of the situation but with the swine flu pandemic raising its ugly head, I am more afraid to go into a big city and would just prefer to hang out here on the farm.
I promised a recipe and some food history so I'm writing this as I wait out the rain storm that is raging across Texas (4 1/2 inches so far in the last two days.
As a child, one of my fondest memories was eating at this Japanese restaurant we used to go to once a week in Fashion Island, Newport Beach. I was born in Newport Beach (so I am the real OC girl thanks to my dad's side of the family). Just for the record, I thank my lucky stars for my Texas roots from my mom's side and I really feel more Texan (as the saying goes, I got here as fast as I could).
Back to the story....I loved that my entire family would order a Japanese dish called Sukiyaki. The Japanese waitress (in full kimono attire) would bring out all the ingredients and cook it for us at the table. It was my favorite Japanese dish till I discovered sushi a few years later.
Stir Fry is actually an Ancient form of Chinese cooking but all cultures have variations and that is why I like to mix up some of the unique flavors from each culture. My Stir Fry includes Mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice seasoning) and I top my dish with some Sambal Oelek , a fiery hot chili paste popular in Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore. Do not be afraid to cross cultures in your cooking adventures!
Stir Fry is an ancient way of Asian cooking. It traditionally involves cooking in a hot pan with small amounts of fat or oil, cooking rather quickly to preserve the color and texture of the ingredients. Beef was not a traditional ingredient in Chinese cooking till around 4000 BC when cattle was introduced from Western Asia. It was quite expensive and exotic so it was used sparingly. Buddhists would not eat meat so a protein was developed around 1000 AD during the Sung Dynasty using soy which became known as bean curd or tofu.
There are two traditional ways of stir frying, Chao & Bao. Chao is similar to Western sauteing (layering the ingredients) where Bao uses the technique of cooking all at once. I like the Chao method for this recipe.
Here are a few tips to make your cooking easier:
1) WASHING & DEVEINING GREENS - Fill your sink with water and allow your greens to float for several minutes, swish them around with your hands to knock the grit or dirt off. Drain and repeat one more time. The easiest way to devein your green is to grap the washed leaf by the stem (closest to the root) and with a very sharp knife, run the blade downward along the main vein on each side. Allow the leaf to fall back into the sink and put the stem in your compost bin. Repeat till all leaves are done.
2) ORGANIZE YOUR INGREDIENTS - The key to a good Stir Fry is to have everything cleaned, sliced and ready to go. This is called "Mise En Place" the French term for "Put In Place", a religion for chefs like Anthony Bourdain, he refers to it often.
I like to line up everything in order including spices etc..
I cannot express the pure joy of pulling up the greens straight from the ground and placing them in a pan less than an hour later! The Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix I grew was from seeds purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This is by far my favorite seed catalog and you can order it from rareseeds.com

Dragon Greens Stir Fry Recipe

2 handfulls of Asian greens (baby bok choy, Chinese kale, Thai mustard), cleaned & de-stemmed
1 bunch green onions (6+),cleaned and intact, remove only the tips
3 fresh garlic pods, sliced thin
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
1 handful of shiitake mushrooms, sliced medium thin
1 cup of edamame
1 small stalk of ginger, sliced thin
1 container of firm tofu and/or 1 beef loin steak (sliced thinly)
The following ingredients are for stir frying and flavoring:
*Japanese Aji-Mirin
*sesame oil
*chili oil
*sesame seed
*soy sauce or teriyaki (I prefer teriyaki for this)

Stir fry the onions & bell pepper in a blend of sesame & chili oil (spoonful of each), once translucent, add garlic & green onions.
Gradually layer in edamame, mushrooms. You may need to add more sesame & chili oil as you go...always just enough to cook without becoming oily. Remove from heat and add the washed greens, stir them around and allow to wilt.
In separate pan: heat a spoonful of sesame oil & a splash of chili oil for flavor. When hot add the sliced beef and or tofu. Season with sesame seeds, Mirin, ginger, Teriyaki or soy sauce. Allow to sear for a few minutes. Add to the Stir Fry vegetables and serve over jasmine rice or noodles.
Makes 4 servings

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oh No! Yet Another Mouth to Bottle Feed

Being a published food writer and former restaurant owner, one day, I suppose I will get to write about my heirloom garden and recipes that I want to share.
But for now, we have had more pressing matters here around Feed Me Farms. One of our Brahma Mommas had to be put down after slipping in a muddy pasture severely breaking her hip and leg. Keep in mind, our cattle are like pets, especially our heifers who live their entire lives here on the farm munching away on coastal grass and lounging in the meadows. Sadder still was the little calf that was orphaned.
This would be my second calf to bottle feed as I had just finished weaning ZZ Topinha (my first bottle fed calf that could not get proper nourishment from a bad udder). I had fed ZZ since day three of her life but this new calf would be a different story, she was already six weeks old and wild as can be. She had really never had any human interaction.
All that was about to change. My real life cowboy and his cousin roped her and placed her in my make shift nursery corral. There she was joined by ZZ Topinha and Beauregard. Beauregard is a one year old miniature Zebu that came to live with us recently. Beau is smaller than the calves and is already full grown so he is here by default.
As she ran around the corral bucking, kicking and trying anyway she could to bust out, her name suddenly came to me. Jezebel!
We decided the best way to get Jezebel to take a bottle was to learn from a pro, so back to the bottle for the weaned ZZ too.
Off I went to prepare 3 huge bottles and see if we could get this little one to drink, the plan was to give her two of the bottles and ZZ would get one for show.
Here is a step by step in case you find yourself in this very same predicament (with or without an experienced calf to lead the way).
Step One - As long as the calf is more than a few days old and has had it's mothers colostrum it is o.k. to feed it a milk replacer purchased from Tractor Supply or your local feed store. I also like to feed one electrolyte gel pack in case of dehydration. I have found that the non-medicated milk replacer is better and the calf is less likely to reject it. I use warm water and once the replacer is mixed, I put a dab of molasses on the tip of the nipple. The molasses seems to get their attention.
Step Two - Using a calf halter, tie the calf to a post or fence and walk and talk gently to it. We actually brushed Jezebel to calm her and then proceeded to drip a little of the milk on the tip of her nose to activate her sense of smell.
Step Three - If the calf will not take the bottle on its own, it's time to take action. Grasp the calf's mouth and pry her lips open. Cows only have lower teeth so do not hesitate to place your fingers inside. Position the bottle in her mouth and give the bottle a squirt. It may take a few trial and error starts and stops. Do not get frustrated, back away, allow the calf to take a break and then start all over again.
If you are lucky, you will have a ZZ Topinha like we did to show the new calf the ropes. ZZ was happy to lick the dripping milk from Jezebel's mouth after sucking down her own training bottle!
Just when we thought we could get away for 48 hours or so, we are back to square one - bottle feedings twice a day. In a way I am secretly happy, I was sad the day I thought I had given ZZ her last bottle. The world really does work in mysterious ways.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Extreme Bathtub Chick Fights

Got your attention! Actually, we just moved the baby chicks in from their brooder in the art studio due to the lack of electricity. Because of chicken killer dogs that live in the house, the chicks had to be placed in the only secure place we could think of, the one and only bathroom.
This seemed like the best idea at the time (for them, not for us but I guess that's why we have perfume and deodorant).
If you are raising chickens in an outdoor building area and something happens to their brooder, here is the quickest and safest thing to do. Step one - gather them up one by one and place in a card board box that can be closed while transporting. The important thing is to transport them to a warm, dry, safe area first. Step two - take newspaper or old feed sacks (we like feed sacks because they are sturdy)and line the tub. Be sure and cover the drain well. Add some wood shavings on top. Step three - add their feeder and waterier to the opposite end of the tub (farthest away from the drain). Hang a portable heat light or mechanics light and just add chicks.
I can attest that these little peckers are much more entertaining than reading a book while using the facilities.
We had them in the tub for two days until we could restore power to the studio.
Back to reading magazines for toilet entertainment!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead...

Or maybe just our scarecrow! Never thought that my first real entry would be about a minor disaster, but you never know what will or can happen next around here. We had to travel to Austin for a Texas Historical Commission Conference (for my real life museum curator job) for several days. On our way home we traveled through bouts of extreme Texas weather. As we approached our farm we could see that rain and wind had been quite plentiful. At the time, we were happy because this area needs the rain to fill our stock tanks and help our coastal grass to grow for the Brahmas.
We arrived at our entrance and noticed that the normally brightly lit barn and art studio were completely plunged into darkness. My heirloom kitchen garden was under water and our scarecrow was leaning sideways as if he was performing extreme yoga. We checked the water gauge and low and behold, two and a half inches of rain had fallen in a few short hours.
Now for the bad news: As we made our way to the barn area, we noticed that electrical lines were down all over the pasture. I was quite frightened, the only light we had was the lightning that would flash eerily on occasion. During one of the flashes we saw a terrible sight. Our large main barn that was housing my three miniature donkeys, one bottle fed calf & our newly acquired Zebu miniature bull was ripped open like a sardine tin can and the electrical wires were all dangling around the entrance.
I immediately began to cry and feared the worst. We could hear Beauregard (the Zebu) bellowing and all three donkeys (Dusty, Frank & Billy) were braying and standing near the gate. My biggest concern was for ZZ Topinha (the bottle fed Brahma calf). I have raised her from day three of her birth when her momma could no longer nurse her.
In the midst of all the chaos, there she was - sticking her head through the gate mooing excitedly thinking only of her two bottles that I normally bring out with me.
Next stop, the art studio which for now is serving as a brooder area for our thirteen little chicks. They were all alive and well but getting chilled so we would have to "hatch" a new plan for their upkeep.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bloom Where You're Planted!

WWhhooo....have decided to chronicle my adventures in heirloom gardening, farm animals, gourmet cooking, food history, farm life vs. city life and whatever else happens on this 1,200 acre plot of earth that we tend to. Every week or whenever the urge hits, I will share my experiences and adventures with others who have either taken the plunge and leapt off the rat race wheel of the city or with those who dream of doing it someday. I hope to reach others out there who share my love of cooking, raising livestock and specialty breeds, shopping from my very own produce section of my heirloom garden and just attempting a more green existence. I will be getting my hands and boots dirty for all of you who are living it or dreaming it. There are others out there blogging on these subjects and I want to thank them for being the real cyber pioneers. Westward Ho!

Stay tuned....

happy hour @ FMF

happy hour @ FMF
party till the cows come home