Saturday, July 30, 2011

CSA veggies + Farmer's Market Sausage

.... 2 Great Tastes that Taste Great Together.

This week the CSA bag was enormous.  The fruit is rolling in, and they sent it all to us in one day!

But fruit for dinner wan't going to cut it, I needed something more.

Last Sunday, I had picked up so beautiful lamb sausages - mixed with plum & dill.  It sounded vaguely Eastern European, or Scandinavian (all that dill).  It needed salad and the potatoes I still hadn't decided what to do with were the obvious choice.

So.... Link Lab's Plum and Dill Sausages,

with Roasted Dill Potatoes

& Fennel and Purple Cabbage Slaw

The best order to do this all, so everything’s ready together –
1.     Slice all the potatoes & veg,
2.     Start the potatoes roasting,
3.     Start the fennel softening,
4.     Start the sausages grilling,
5.     Make the dressing
6.     Get everything on their way to finishing
7.     Quickly soften the cabbage
8.     Serve it up hot!

But to keep you from going bananas (Yes, I’m looking forward to the new Planet of the Apes movie… I admit it.), I’ll separate the recipes in the usual way.

The beginning of this recipe is the best – 

Grilled Lamb, Plum & Dill Sausages

Find really good sausages.  Poke em’ so they don’t explode.  Grill ‘em.

If you can’t find these specially, get something else  - and mirror that herb in your roasted potatoes.

I stumbled upon these by Link Lab, 
sold by the sheep farmer at the 
Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market
I love lamb and herbs, so the Plum & Dill
was worth a plunge into the unknown
Here's Linda Martiny herself!
Provider of Tasty Lamb.
Know your farmer.

Poke them liberally to let the juices run (instead of exploding) out.  Grill them up by marking then at high or medium high heat, and then cover and let them cook at medium heat the rest of the way through.

You can check by eye (peek inside and make sure they are cooked through), or poke them with a thermometer, and make sure they are 160˚F (since they contain pork as well).

Roasted Dill (or insert herb) Potatoes
Use 1 medium, or 2 small potatoes per adult

Per each medium potato -
Large pinch of chopped dill (or other herb)   
Pinch of salt & ½ a pinch of pepper
½ tsp of oil (nothing fancy – the flavor will mostly get cooked out)

Start the oven heating to 425˚F
Cut each potato half so it gives you 2 blocky pieces (rather than 2 thin flat pieces).  Cut into slices as skinny or skinnier than your pinky.  Toss with oil, salt pepper and herb.
Spread out in a large flat pan with a lip (large baking pan/half-sheet pan/cookie sheet with a lip).

Slide the potatoes into the oven for 10 minutes.  Pull out the pan,  jiggle, toss and turn the potatoes with a metal spatula to release any stuck ones.  Return the potatoes to the oven for about 10 more minutes.  They are done when they are easily pierced with a fork (hence, fork tender), and maybe have a few crispy edges.  How long they take will depend on the age and variety of the potato, and the size you cut the potatoes.

Fennel & Purple Cabbage Slaw
(Green works fine too, but I had purple)
I made a black bean & garlic dressing to add to make it extra savory, instead of the regular creamy or vinegary dressing.

1 fennel bulb, stalks removed
1 tiny head of cabbage, or half a small head.
½ a regular sweet onion

2 tsp oil (I used bacon drippings…. Extra yum!)
½ tsp salt
¼ C water - optional

1 tsp Chinese black bean & garlic sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar (+ more to taste)
pinch salt& a few grinds pepper
1 Tbs olive oil (or canola)

Cute tiny purple cabbages

 Prep:  Cut the cabbage and fennel into quarters, through the stem, and slice out the hard core piece from both vegetables.  Then thinly slice the onion, cabbage and fennel.

In the bottom of your salad/serving bowl, with a fork or whisk, briskly combine the black bean & garlic sauce, rice vinegar, salt & pepper.  Continue to stir, and slowly add in the oil. (all dressing ingredients can be placed in a tightly sealing container and shaken.)
Toss with ½ of your sliced onion – and set aside.

Heat a sauce pan over medium-low heat with the 2 tsp oil.  Stir in the fennel and ½ tsp salt, and let this begin to sweat and soften the fennel.  This will take a little while, so keep checking in with it.  If it is getting brown, turn down the heat.  Keep stirring occasionally, and checking for softening.  You are going for something that still has a little crunch and plenty of body. 
If after 8 min or so, the fennel is still tough, add the water, and turn up the heat to medium-high and let the fennel simmer. 
As the fennel approaches done, put ½ the sliced sweet onion, and continue to stir to soften.
Right when the fennel and onion are just about done, add in the cabbage, and stir to combine everything.  Let this sit over medium heat for about 5 minutes to just soften the cabbage.
Add this mixture straight from the stove to the dressing and onion mixture, stir to combine. Add any extra vinegar, salt or pepper. Nom!

Sizzling sausage, toasty potatoes and irresistible slaw.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


 NOTE: Before I get going, I must state unambiguously, I am a fan of the "empty calorie" dessert as long as it meets a few criteria; The flavor, texture and experience of eating it should be decadent and satisfying, and the ingredients should be of the highest quality possible.
Such criteria leaves a very flexible border.  So of course, a few bites of the very "foodie-est" chocolate cake make the list, as does a surprise rocket-popsicle from an ice cream truck at the end of a backpacking trip.  But cool whip mixed with chocolate-pudding-from-a-box to make "chocolate whip" never does, nor would 'cookies' from a "100 calorie pack."  Neither is really food, and neither meets any of the 1st three criteria.

The fruit from Eastern Washington is starting (at last) to roll in.
And I realize something odd about myself - I have gotten out of the habit of eating things that are sweet.

Part of it is the "do without dessert" ethic that has ruled much of my life.  This is an idea I carry around in my head from a variety of influences.
Much of the dessert I've eaten has come only after I am full.
Much of the dessert I've eaten has been "empty" calories; fat, sugar & flavorings.
Many of the people I've eaten dessert around spend a huge amount time talking about how fat it will make them as they were eating it (what a buzzkill).
Much of the dessert I've eaten was an afterthought, an extra.

As a result, in my Puritan-influenced mind, dessert is, on a daily basis, too much.  Sweet, the flavor of dessert, is then left out of my daily food intake.

And only part of it is this "fear of dessert," another part comes from the years when I only got my hands on under ripe fruit.  There was a point where I actually believed I stopped liking nectarines (my Very Favorite Fruit!), because every time I got one, I didn't like it.

But then, I got my hands on a perfectly ripe, tender and unbruised specimen.  Ah Hahhh!

So as I restart the tradition of Dessert, and fruit as dessert in my house -

The moral of the story is - plain fruit as dessert ONLY works with beautiful, ripe, in season fruit.
A banana in November, or a crunchy, mealy, tasteless peach in March do not.

So for the moment, bring on the cherries, and I'll figure out what to do with the excess so they CAN be enjoyed in November.  But I'm not going to fool myself and believe they would work "fresh and plain" in November.  They'll need a little sprucing up.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Break for Beets!

(and I mean Take a Break!)

Back from the cruise, I at last get my next bag from Tiny's CSA.

Cherries!  Well that's easy.  Cherries go with everything & nothing.

Deeper down in the bag I have fennel, baby onions, lettuces, cabbage, peaches, potatoes...
And I have the beets left from before we left.  That is one of the best features of beets - they'll be there for you.

 Beet salad with Wilted Onions and Fennel,  Orange-Fennel Dressing & Toast


3-4 baby beets
1 small fennel bulb sliced thin
1 baby (small, early) onion sliced thin
3 Tbs goat cheese

1 Tbs fennel fronds - the feathery parts only, chopped
Juice from 1/2 of an orange + 1 Tbs white wine (or similar) vinegar
- or - 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp goat cheese
1 clove green garlic minced
salt & pepper - to taste
1 Tbs + a little more olive oil (break out the good stuff)


Preheat the oven to 450˚
Trim the leaves and the scraggly root end off the beets.  Give them a good scrub, and rub some oil on them.  Put them in the smallest pan they'll fit it in a single layer.  Pop them in the oven for 40 - 50 minutes.  They are done when a knife slides in easily.  (This can be done a day or two before...)
Let cool, and scrub/peel the skins off.  Wash your hands immediately to avoid the dreaded "pink finger"!
Chop roughly into bite size pieces.

Slice the onions and fennel thin.  Place in saute pan over medium heat, with a little oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Start a sweat of these ingredients - warm them to soften and release some liquid.  Take them off the heat when they are still crisp.

Make the dressing by stirring the juice/vinegar with the teaspoon of your goat cheese.  Stir in the minced fennel and garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
slowly add the oil while stirring the dressing with a fork.

Combine all the vegetables with the dressing.  Only stir a few times to avoid turning everything pink.
Scatter the crumbled goat cheese over the salad.

I added a couple of pieces of toast, brushed with olive oil.

Enjoy yourself, and leave behind a bright pink puddle.

Galley Edition - 11 Crabs in 3 days

Audacious and Ludicrous Gourmet Crab Enjoyment in Puget Sound
( click on the Crab Dishes to get to the recipes)

They're Monsters!!!!!

6 Crabs on opening day means:

Day 1

Fresh crab, steamed and then cracked in the cockpit with Garlic Bread, and melted butter for dipping.  We had apples and carrots for lunch, and limes in our Mount Gay and tonics, so that counts as salad… Right?

Get out the crackers!
(Caught short?  Break out the pliers.)
The pointy toes mean crabs come with their own picks.
Day 2

Breakfast on the fly (coffee, juice & granola bars) to pick up the pot as we head north to the islands. 

5 more Dungeness!  (it would have been 6, but 1 was a survivor – jumped off the boat!)

Lunch that day – Crab Melts and apples. This was especially appropriate while ‘hove to’ waiting for a favorable tide, at an infamous passage.  The leg meat from the 1st 6 crabs created an impressive pile of Crab Salad.  Gourmand proportions.

A 2 mile walk (round trip) for provisions landed us a half dozen eggs, buttermilk pancake mix and some veggies. 

Dinner that night – another crab crackin’ good time! 

And the trek to the store meant a Big Green Salad – we were ready for it!  What a way to start the season.

Day 3

Remember those 6 eggs we got last night?  That means breakfast is Crab Omelets.  Too much you say?  But wait, there’s more.

Lunch, after nesting at a mooring with our cruising partners, is Crab Cakes!  More salad on the side.

Dinner – more Big Green Salad, and a pile of Crab Salad made from all the leg meat left.  A loaf of sourdough, and correct beverages make it a lazy summer dinner to write home about.

Day 4

I know I said 3 days, but as long as we eat it all by the end of lunch, it counts as 3.

So for breakfast, a share of the lump meat goes into Crab Crepes.  That packet of buttermilk pancake mix thinned way down made this happen.

And for that last lunch?  Crab Quesadillas.  If you happened to bring tortillas you are all set.  If not, left over crepes might even be better.

What happens next?  Sail around outside your crabbing grounds, and eat some of the food you had actually packed for the cruise.  And then catch some more crab.

Crab by the bucketful!

Dungeness Crab Quesadillas

A brilliant recipe for cruising since it works as a recipe to plan for, or as a way to use up the odds and ends of a bunch of other meals.

Basically, the American Quesadilla has come to mean a tortilla - or other flatbread - folded around cheese - and sometimes other filling - and pan toasted, until the cheese melts.

At the end of my three days of craBonanza I had; body meat, a little crab salad, swiss cheese, and leftover crepes from breakfast.

Lunch turned out to be:

Swiss cheese and a mix of the crab meats placed inside the crepe,
folded in half, and sizzled with the last of the crabby butter left over from the nights we cracked the crabs, in a flat bottomed pan until the cheese melted.
With some apples on the side, it was a wonderful last hurrah to these  lovely crabs.

If I were planning this, and found myself near a farmers market (and this does happen often cruising around North Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands), I would also grab some fresh goat cheese - and some parsley, or basil or thyme.  Hey, if I found the market, I might as well make the most of it!

For each quesadilla:

1 tortilla or other flat bread
1 palm full of crab meat
1 palm full of crumbled or grated cheese (swiss if fresh goat cheese isn't around)
(optional herbs)
A little butter or oil to give the tortilla a nice browning and crispy edges.

Assemble each quesadilla with the cheese crab (and optional herbs) on on half of the tortilla, and place in a heated pan.  peek at the bottom after 2 minutes or so, and watch until it starts to brown.  Flip the quesadilla over, brown the other side, and melt the cheese.

Cut in to pieces (or not) and enjoy as hot as you can.
Apples go very well with this (and Salsa Verde if you are enjoying this on land).

Dungeness Crab Cakes

After a few nights of fresh crab, straight from the shell, I craved something a little more complex.
Since we had a chance to grab a few things from the store - I decided to go for crab cakes.
This was particularly ridiculous since I have never even made them at home.

However, a boat provisioned for sandwiches and salads has everything you need for crab cakes - if you can get your hands on an egg.
These will make very loose crab cakes - more crab, less cake, but they are delicious, and the sort of wonderful, ridiculous thing to do in a surfeit of crab.

Dungeness Crab Cakes... I didn't know until now,
but I've been dreaming of this all year!
Cruising Crab Cakes
(this recipe is proportional.  The recipe works with about 1 heaping Cup of picked crab body meat.  Multiply the proportions for the amount of crab you have.)

Left over bread from previous crab nights, or other bread - toasted until crunchy
                    - or - several plain, Saltine type crackers.
A chunk of onion a little bigger than your thumb, chopped fine
1/3 a red bell pepper, chopped fine
A small handful of parsley -or- half a stalk of celery, chopped fine
(When you are done, all the chopped vegetables should come to less than half the volume of the crab meat)
1 lemon or lime (optional, but very nice)
Salt - to taste
Mayonnaise - amount to be determined
1 egg

Toast the bread until it is crunchy.  Crush it (or the crackers) to crumbs.  You should aim to have approximately as much crumbs as vegetables.
I do the crushing it in the bottom of my broiler pan with another rectangular pan I have on board that fits inside.  Another excellent method is to place the bread in a tea-towel or zip-top bag (with all the air pressed out), and smash it with a sauce pan.  This is an excellent job for idle crew.

Stir together the crab, crumbs, all the vegetables, a sprinkle of salt, and squeeze in the juice from half of your lemon/lime.  Start by adding 1 or 2 tsp of  mayonnaise.  Taste for seasoning - add more salt or lemon as needed.  I do this by hand to get a feel for the mixture.
Then take a handful, and squeeze together.  If it completely falls apart, add a bit more mayo, until it *barely* holds together.

Crack the egg into the mixture, stir that in, and let the mixture sit at least 15 minutes to let the bread crumbs soak up a little more liquid.

Form crab cakes between the palms of your hands, just before you cook them.  They should be the size that your hands make when you gently cup them together, and be no thicker than your hand.  (You really can make them any size you want of course...)


The crab is already cooked, so really you are just frying the egg and the bread to get it all to hold together - and taste more delicious.  This means a quick pan fry - and very gentle flipping.

Heat equal parts butter and oil - enough to *completely cover* the bottom of your skillet/flat bottomed wok in a thin layer.  Don't skimp, or the bread crumbs and egg can't do their jobs.
Making sure each cake has plenty of room around it, place as many cakes as will fit.
Watch one cake, and, as it begins to get brown and crispy on the bottom, flip it, and it's pan buddies over - Very Gently!
Don't be dismayed if a few fall apart.  You will get better at handling these with practice.
These are, after all, much more crab than cake.

Some salad on the side, and a glass of white wine makes this, with the view, an occasion you dream of 11 months and 20 days of the year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Advanced Crab Cleaning

When you've had an especially lucky day (7 keepers in 1 pot is our record), the idea of cooking 7 whole crabs may be daunting.  And you most likely have no desire to wake up every hour and keep changing their water through the night.

So if you have gotten comfortable handling the monsters, and you are confident in your stance that crabs - despite their size - have the brain capacity and complexity of a cockroach (they do)....*

You can turn this:

into this:
a bucket o' crab ready for cooking.
Which fits into the pot for steaming much more easily - and will be done in about 8 minutes.  I can fit the cleaned halves of  5 crabs in my pot.  The 7 crab day required two batches.

How to:
Stand on a dock facing out towards the water.  This is best done with grippy gloves.
Holding the crab by the back of the shell with one hand, grasp around 1 set of legs and claws close to the shell with one hand, and then do the same with the other.
Bonk the crab's "face" on the dock to pop off the shell.
Break the crab in half along the edge of the dock.
Clean off the soft stuff** and the dead-man's fingers (gills) under running (fresh) water.
All of this can go straight into the sea.  That is where it came from.

Here's what it looks like - more or less.

Ta Da!  Clean crab ready for the pot!

Alternate method:  A small hatchet or bone cleaver can be used to chop them in half.
Then remove the large outer shell and clean off the soft, inedible parts as above.

*Living in water is what allows the crabs (and lobsters) to get so big.  Water supports their body structure and provides their gills with oxygen more efficiently than dry air on land that feeds the tube system cockroaches use to breathe.  OK... I'll stop, maybe you don't want to know more.

** Biology Warning - Possibly more than you want to know:
The "soft stuff" is the crab's digestive system (intestines, liver, etc.) where the crabs food is digested and it's blood cleared of waste.  Yes, crabs have blood of a sort.
If crabs die before they are cooked all this stuff starts to disintegrate rapidly and will begin to taint the meat.  Thus, crustaceans are cooked live, or killed and then cooked or cleaned instantly.
The liver & fat found under the shell is tasty, and is enjoyable when prepared correctly.  We're just not doing that here.

Crab Crepes

     A galley just isn't the sort of place I can keep my usual stocks of baking ingredients.  However, a nice little container of self-rising flour and another of sugar can expand your cooking horizons.
    Or, if you forget - or get a bright idea - a small packet of pancake mix can solve the same problems.  Look for one that has only flour, baking powder/soda and maybe buttermilk.  Avoid anything that has fat (an oil of some sort) and sugar (anything ending in "-ose").  This limits your options.

Crab Crepes
(the leavening will make these puffier than a standard crepe.  If you have plain flour - lucky you!  Use it.)

1 C self-rising flour or pancake mix
1 egg
1 Tbs oil
1 C milk
+ about 1 more C milk or water

Mix the egg, oil and first Cup of milk.
Stir this into the Cup of flour.
Stir the extra liquid in, until you have a thin batter that will spread around the pan just by rotating the pan.  If you can, let the batter sit for about an hour - this is a help, but not essential.

Heat a tsp of butter or oil in a skillet or flat bottomed wok.  Test with a drop of batter - when it sizzles the pan is ready.  Pour in just enough batter to barely cover the bottom of the pan (or make the crepe size you want).  as the batter starts to firm up, shake the pan to loosen the crepe.  As soon as the crepe has a little color on the bottom, and is sturdy enough, flip the crepe with a spatula.
Let the crepe get a little brown on the bottom, and stack on a plate.
Make all the crepes you need for breakfast.
After breakfast, use up the rest of the batter to make crepes for quesadillas later.


Crab & Cheese - A small handful of body meat, and some swiss cheese.  Roll into a finished crepe, heat gently to warm the meat and melt the cheese.

Crab & Tart Stone Fruit - Crab season and stone fruit season start together.  If you happen to hit a farmers market just before, or during your cruise, pick up a nectarine, pluot, plum or even a peach.  If there is some fresh goat cheese, grab that as well.
Cut up the fruit into bite size chunks, and stir about a tsp of sugar in with it.  Let that sit and get juicy (macerate) while you are making the crepes.
Fill your crepes with a small handful of body meat, a large spoonful of the fruit, (and if you got your hands on it, a bit of the goat cheese) roll up the crepe, and heat gently to warm the ingredients.

If crab for breakfast is too much for any of the crew, a little butter and sugar is nice too - or just some of the fruit.

If your batter is too thick, it is easy to thin.  If you added too much liquid, stir in a little more flour/pancake mix.  Crepe batter is quite thin and runny, so try a small crepe before you despair.

Crab Omelets

It is breakfast time, and you have a pile of crab in your little refrigerator from all those crustaceans you just couldn't eat.  What to do, what to do?

For two people - expand as necessary.

Crab Omelets

1 handful of body meat (leg meat would work too)
1 handful of shredded swiss cheese or 2 slices

3 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

leftover, crabby butter from the crab cracking -or-
a little oil

a skillet or flat bottomed wok

Beat the eggs, add a pinch of salt & barely any pepper.
Heat a tsp. or so of butter or oil in the pan.  Test with a drop of egg to make sure it sizzles.
Pour 1/2 the egg mixture into the pan.  Roll the pan around to make sure the bottom gets covered.
As the egg starts to solidify, shake the pan to loosen the omelet.
When the egg is no longer liquid - but still soft - lay down the cheese along the center, then half the crab.
Roll or fold the omelet.
Let it sit in the pan just another moment.
Slide onto a plate - get someone to eat it hot.

Repeat the whole thing, and eat this one hot all by yourself!

Crab Melts

A great quick lunch (or dinner) when you want something hot, and are loaded up with crabby goodness.

Crab Melts

Left over bread from cracked crab night -or-
Toasted English muffins (sourdough is my favorite)
(I like to toast them at about 350F for 10 min or so to make the top crispy - this is optional, but keeps the bread from getting soggy.)

Enough Crab Salad to cover the bread
1 slice swiss cheese

Spread a nice thick layer of the crab salad over the toast, pop the cheese on top, and warm in the oven (350F) until the cheese melts.

Serve with some fruit or veg.

Garlic Bread on a Boat

Garlic bread in the galley means taking advantage of what you have, and not missing what's not there.

     To keep the bread in good shape I get a hard crusted loaf (one you can flick with a finger, and it doesn't dent), in the frozen and/or par-baked state, if I can get it (If your local grocery has "fresh baked bread" talk to the bakery counter.  They have it in back).
    I bring this bread on board already cut in half (just because my crew is small) and frozen in a sturdy, closable plastic bag.  When it is time for bread, I leave it out to thaw if it hasn't already, slice it, place the pieces in the bottom of the broiler pan that came with my oven, and bake it at 350 for about 8 - 10 minutes.  Really until the edges are starting to get a little crispy, and it smells like bread.

Garlic Butter (an excellent job for idle crew - increase recipe as needed)

When you take out the bread to thaw, pull out half a stick of butter (4 Tbs) and let it warm up in a sturdy cup or small bowl.

When it is smoosh-able by fork, stir in

1 clove mined garlic (or 1/2 tsp powdered garlic)
salt to taste

Simply serve this at the table for all to spread on their toasty bread as they would like.

A Big Green Salad on the Boat

Salads are one place where Julia Child really gets the first "Last Word."
It is all about the dressing, and as she said, there is nothing like one made fresh.

     In a galley, where refrigerator space is at a premium, giving up real estate to a salad dressing bottle is out of the question.  So, what to do instead?  Use the pantry ingredients that have other jobs, but were always intended for making salad dressing.

     All successful oil & vinegar or vinaigrette dressings have just a few essential elements, and the rest is poetic license.  You just need a fat, an acid, an emulsifier and some seasoning.  Such an open ended recipe is perfect for the galley cook working at the end the stores, or with unfamiliar material.
     Fat can be oil, melted butter, or even bacon drippings (yum...) or some combination.   For acid we often think of vinegar, but it can be a citrus juice or anything sour.  Mixes of acids from what you have on hand can make some serendipitous flavors (lime juice and rice vinegar, lemon and balsamic).
     The job of the emulsifier is to add body to the dressing by getting the oil to hook itself to the vinegar even if just for a little while.  Mustard (prepared or powdered), egg yolks & anchovy paste all fit the bill, and have a decent chance of being on board.  Mayonnaise will even work in a pinch, since that is a vinaigrette that has just been whipped to another state - peek at the ingredients to see what I mean.
     Seasonings are all about personal style.  I like to add salt and pepper to taste, and usually a minced clove of garlic (or the powdered equivalent). This is a great place for seasoning salt or your secret spice blend.

The measurements are standard, but do not suffer from being eyeballed, and then adjusted as you go.

Dressing for a  Big Green Salad

1 tsp mustard (or 1/2 tsp dry mustard)
1 garlic clove chopped fine (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 Tbs vinegar or citrus juice - a little more if using powdered ingredients
A pinch of salt and pepper

Mix these together with a fork in a cup or in the salad bowl.  Then while stirring, slowly pour in

2 Tbs oil

 All these ingredients can also be put into a small jar/tupperware and shaken vigorously by some crew member just sitting there, watching the cook work.

     Toss this with whatever tender, leafy greens you get your hands on - lettuce, cabbage, spinach, and add in thin slices of whatever vegetables and/or tart fruits are on hand.  Some excellent combinations include; onions & mandarin orange slices, tart apples & celery, onions & sour plums.

This, of course, all works on dry land too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 7 - Part I - Hutong; the Market

Today was the day Tavin and I went for a guided tour of an everyday market in a Hutong. 
Thank you Sophia!

            What, you ask, is a Hutong?  Quickly, they are the traditional local communities that used to make up Beijing (and I suspect most urban centers throughout China).  Each one has many houses, connected wall to wall.  Courtyards within the walls, small streets for travelling between.  Along with the houses, they are inhabited with small specialty shops and a central market for daily shopping.

The Hutong
Excellent place to learn about
all things Beijing - old and new

Tavin and I were instructed to arrive at this particular house at 9am sharp.  It turned out to be a welcoming hangout for both visitors and Ex-Pats of all sorts.  Due to the vagaries of subway and sidewalk travel, paired with finding our way to somewhere we had never been, we gave ourselves plenty of time. 

This is when I also learned many houses, even now, in the Beijing Hutong have only a cold running tap, and are not plumbed for sewage. 

What's a chamber pot?
Oh, you modern kids.

Since Murphy’s Law was intact, we arrived 20 minutes early.  And we found the ‘neighborhood’ toilet.  We got to see part of the parade of the locals going into the toilet (which was a modern flush facility – though squat only) to empty their plastic chamber pots.  


Sophia greeted us with tea, and since it was plenty chilly, we held it and drank it gratefully.  As I had mentioned earlier, Late January is the slow tourist season, for so many reasons.  Result?  Tavin and I were the only Tourists.  Loved It!  
I discovered that a childhood in the Seattle area, particularly wandering Uwajimaya and Pike Place market had prepared me well for the offerings of a northern Chinese Market.  Watching a *few* hours of Iron Chef (both versions) didn't hurt either.
            Why specify “Northern” Chinese?  Well, you go south, and things get tropical, and that is NOT what a PNW girl knows.  Further, there is a greater use of dairy, dried lentils and beans, wheat, millet and other grains in addition to rice.  This made for much more I could identify or guess at intelligently.

When you look at this - remember, this is LATE JANUARY, and it is literally Freezing Cold outside.  This *whole market* is about the size of your local large grocery store's produce department - or a big 7-11.  The variety of Fresh Food is staggering!  The prepared food is tofu, cleaned fish, bread & pickles.  The only packaged food are some spices and yogurt.
While we may turn our nose up at a country/world wide food-o-sphere, I think that's just because we (the US) has gone the wrong way with it. 

OK, just look:

Tofu - noodles, sheets, smoked,
frozen, stinky, fried
and regular
Clockwise from top left corner - cilantro w/ roots
mushrooms, Anaheim-type chili pepper,
cucumber (with blossoms so you know it is fresh)
& turnip

L to R: Potatoes, garlic scapes,
lotus root, summer squash, cauliflower
L to R: Enormous radishes, turnips,
long radishes & carrots

L to R: lotus roots, lettuce roots &
daikon (roots).
Mushroom-a-rama, pea pods & celery

Clockwise from 12:
Iceberg lettuce (really!) globe eggplant,
summer squash, tomatoes, daikon,
shitake mushrooms, lotus root,
Japanese eggplant, carrots,
potatoes & onions 
L to R: garlic scapes, cucumbers (again
blossoms as freshness measure)
lettuce roots, leeks.
All this produce in Feb - while freezing outside?
greenhouses & transport are important in China

The deli hot-case:
all manner of barbecue, sausages
and braised, spiced meats.  Don't miss the
4 preps of chicken feet; steamed, fried,
curry spice & barbecue
Basically a Chinese antipasto bar:
all sorts of pickled and spiced veg, tofu
mushrooms, noodles and salads 
Noodles - bottom left
savory donuts, toast, sesame cakes and
chili fried peanuts in the pan

Fried bread, steamed bread (hum-bao!)
and an egg sandwich!
See you can get a sandwich in China,
You just need to know where to look.

Top to bottom:
lentils, beans,
beans, rice & millet
more beans and grains - including
chick peas, black beans &
black rice in the bottom row.

2 millet-y grains
Chicken parts, chicken
& the infamous Black Chicken
(better for its broth than its meat I have been told)
Clockwise from top left:
pork kidneys, pork ankles,
pork bellies, ?,
chicken wings, breasts,
drumsticks, chicken feet,
pork livers

Fresh chicken (brown & white),
preserved chicken
duck & quail

Pickled everything!
bamboo shoots, lettuce, mushrooms
eggplants, cabbage &
strange tuber-y things
All sorts of spicy pickles - garlic,
chilis, tofu, veg & ????

Seafood!  fish, squids
& bamboo shoots...
Fresh frogs! Live inna tank.

Dried chilis, chili flakes
pepper corns & whole star anise
Dried mushrooms, roots
nutmegs (w/ & w/out mace)
& lots of stuff I don't recognize.

At last Tavin and I got our hands on the (so far) fabled excellent drinking yogurt of Beijing.  And it was good.  Milky, and tart with a hint of sweetness (traditionally honey).  The fun bit was, as tourists, they want you to drink it RIGHT THERE, as they are expecting those nice porcelain jars back.  A local could take a few home, but we had to drink the yogurt all up, and leave them in the bin with the other empties.

This is the market within walking distance of a HUGE number of people.  Americans have gas station convenience stores or 7-11's serving this purpose.  A TOTALLY different view of feeding ourselves.  I can't say more.