Monday, June 6, 2011

It's Summertime. . . and the livin' is easy and the eatin' is good.

For some ambience, click on this link and put this music on (from Porgy and Bess, the iconic song --  Summertime, and the livin is easy, fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high.)

Next, fix yourself your favorite cool summer beverage.  While regular tea is not an Oklahoma product per se, the Coop's fine beverage producers have fine teas blended right here in Oklahoma. Or, make a quick trip through your "tea garden" and bring in a variety of mint leaves, some bee balm, crush them a bit and steep them in hot water. Pour over ice and relax. Don't have a tea garden? Put that on your list of things to do. Don't have land for a garden? That's fine, herb tea plants grow great in containers and typically will do fine in dappled shade or on a sunny windowsill. 

Third. . . before we get to FOOD, let's talk just a bit about energy conservation.  Here are my two bestest and most effective ideas for energy conservation:
  • Cook outside!  Every BTU you cook with is a BTU that your air conditioner will have to remove, so you pay TWICE for the energy to cook inside:  Once when you cook the food, and then again when your AC works overtime to remove the heat and humidity. 
  • Shade the outside of your windows and doors.  For that matter, shade ALL of the exterior envelope of your home, but if you can't do that, get some shade over your windows and doors. These are typically the worst insulated systems in your building envelope. Even an expensive double pane/argon filled/low E coated window is still only R-3 or 4 at the most, compared with R-19 of the typically insulated 2 x 4" frame exterior wall.  (Or compared with R-33 of my 9 inch thick walls.) If nothing else is available, duct tape some auto sun shades together and hang over the exterior of the windows.
The reason for "exterior" shading is that once the sun hits the window or the door, even if you have curtains inside, the heat will get inside via conduction. Heat always moves to cold, and your nicely AC'd interior is surrounded by solar BTUs that are quite anxious to find their way inside your (hopefully) well-insulated building envelope.

The less money you spend on energy, the more money you can spend on local foods!  And eating local foods is much better than making energy corporations rich, don't you think?

Now for some summer foods.

One of my favorite summer salads is cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. Well, the way I am, I also add some chopped jalapenos.  Chop up the vegetables, mix equal parts oil and vinegar, add a dash of salt, and voila, great summer salad. As to amounts. . . I typically do two medium cucumbers (sliced as half moons), one medium onion (roughly chunked), and 4 tomatoes (use a serrated knife, slice in half, then slice each half in quarters. I would add 2 large jalapenos sliced in rings.  For this much veggie, I would use 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt.  It's good freshly made, and it's really good the next day. And yes, you can use a chopped up walking onion from your garden instead of a regular bulb onion, or a handful of chopped fresh onion or garlic chives.

Since summer time is not much of a time to heat your oven, my favorite summer breads have always been skillet top breads.  I would simply use my regular bread recipes, only instead of forming into loaves, I would pinch of a bit of dough about the size of a golf ball, roll it out, and then bake it on a cast iron skillet.  I do this with AND without oil, getting subtle differences in the taste and surface texture.  Sometimes I deep fry the dough to make a yeast-raised fry bread.  That's "to die for" as they say these days. And if you want cornbread, just make your favorite cornbread batter and but cook it like a pancake batter.

One of the best summer foods is the simple hamburger.  Make it from ground beef, ground buffalo, ground lamb, mix it half and half with ground pork or even sausage. You can be creative with the seasonings.  I often mix finely chopped herbs with the ground meat before forming the burgers (sage, thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper) and maybe add just a dash of teriyaki sauce.  Form into balls and press out with your hands, or put a ball of ground meat on the back of a saucer and place another saucer over it and lightly press to form a patty. 

Put it all together and throw it on the grill or into the skillet.  For the classic "onion burger"... after you put the patty on the skillet, cover it with thinly sliced onions. When you flip it, the onions caramelize as they cook. Handle the meat as little as possible.  Don't "massage" or "knead" it, mix it only enough to combine whatever you are adding to the ground meat or to mix the different kinds of ground meat. One of the interesting things about the ground meat bought from the coop is that it is typically very lean, so there isn't a lot of shrink during the cooking. 

And please, make extra!  You're getting the grill or the skillet hot, so why not cook twice the number of burgers that you need and refrigerate or freeze the others for eating later?  A great lunch is simply a cooked hamburger patty, smeared with some mayo or mustard, layered with onion, pickle, cheese, and wrapped in a leaf of romaine or slid into a bun. Burgers with eggs for breakfast?  WHY NOT?  Burgers with eggs AND chili AND bacon for breakfast?  WHY NOT?  INVITE ME! If you're worried about your ability to eat such good food, I'll help. 

I am really impressed with the amount of vegetables available this month through the cooperative. It is obvious that there has been tremendous growth in the capacity of the local food system between this year and last.  I am writing this Monday evening, and you'll find LOTS of vegetables still available.  Many vegetable producers add to their listings as the order progresses and they become more certain about what they will have available. 

Right now you can find various kinds of greens, cabbage, onions (several kinds), radishes, tomatoes, beets, turnips, cucumbers, microgreens, leeks, celery (this is a FIRST), carrots, garlic, fresh herbs, mushrooms, potatoes, jalapenos, zucchini and yellow squash. Makes me hungry just to write about this.  But extra, while the buying is good, and preserve for eating later!  Your freezer is your friend when it comes to eating local. You will want some nice local veggies this winter, won't you? Well, buy now so you can eat later.

And speaking of extra. . . how is your food storage doing these days?  We all know how I preach on this subject and in fact I can hardly write any bobaganda without reminding everyone that there are a hundred and one things that could happen tomorrow that would interfere to the point of ruination with the orderly working of our just-in-time food system.  Troubles on that scale would likely impact the coop.  If terrorists have hit the fuel supply, we wouldn't have fuel to run our delivery days just as the supermarkets wouldn't have for their supply trucks. So always remember this ancient wisdom. . . "Remember the time of hunger in the day of plenty."  The world is consuming MORE GRAIN every year than it is producing, and that means that we are slowly drawing down our world food security grain stocks.  This year's wheat harvest in Oklahoma was gravely harmed by the unstable weather we experienced (severe cold coupled with extensive drought), and there is no guarantee that this troubled weather cycle will not continue. 

As an experiment. . . do an inventory of all the food in your house, and then realistically ask yourself how long you could feed your household with that amount of food.  Would it be a radically different diet from what you're used to? If so, that's a danger sign, since a time of trouble is typically not a good time to start a new way of eating.

Store what you eat, and eat what you store. If you eat hamburger, then store hamburger.  And make sure you have a backup way to keep your freezer cold. I have a marine battery, an inverter, and a small generator, spent about $300 total.

Summertime, the living is easy, enjoy it while it lasts! Don't delay, the June order closes this coming Thursday!  Log in right now and get some of this good Oklahoma eatin' for your own household.  Y'all bon appetit, you hear?

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