I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

daring kitchen, june

Summer has arrived! When warm weather hits I go a little overboard from the withdrawl of winter and grill just about everything. I was, seriously, wondering if an egg dish could be grilled the other morning. 
The challenge this month brought a break from the grill: making cannelloni. You know, the big pasta tubes stuffed and baked, yeah, those. But homemade. Yay!

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes! 

I decided to make all the pasta at once, so tried two fillings in one meal. It made for a lot of pots on the go, but thanks to sous chef M (our 12-year-old daughter) things went smoothly. One batch had a filling of blanched spinach, ricotta and parmigiano reggiano cheeses. The other was con carne - a meat filling. The fillings were made using the recipes Manu provided, the sauces were made (béchamel for the veggie, tomato for the meat), and the pasta prepared.
Egg volcano!
Family milestone moment: M made the béchamel sauce by herself, stirring the roux and adding the milk and seeing it all thicken. Not quite the same milestone as first steps, but kitchen-wise it was pretty cool :) 

I once saw a person on TV make pasta on the counter. No bowl. I've always liked doing that with the kids around, because they think it's funny, and hey! one less dish to clean. The flour and salt are made into a little mound on the counter, a hollow made in the middle, and the eggs broken into it so that it looks like a sort of volcano. With eggs ... okay, the image does sort of break down there.

Flour working in

Anyway, the eggs are gently fork-whisked, and pull in the flour as they do so. By the time you've pulled in the walls of your bowl, the dough has formed enough that it's not running all over the place. 

The pasta rested before being rolled out by my hand-crank Olympia pasta maker. The sheets were cut to size, boiled quickly (I love, love, love how fast fresh pasta cooks!), then rolled around the fillings, covered with the correct sauce, and baked. 

Test taste: delicious! We liked them both. D said the meat ones were like lasagna rolls, and we all loved the spinach ones, too. A fun thing about these is the chance for variations on the theme. I'm thinking mushrooms with pancetta might be interesting, with a chasseur type sauce. Hmmm... 
After baking - we liked them both!

While many steps were involved, this is really an easy dish to make. The fillings and sauces came together quickly, and the pasta takes time but is straightforward (and so delicious!). M and I chatted and laughed as we rolled the pasta around the filling, and were rewarded with delicious smells as it baked. 

Tonight, though, it's back to the grill with venison and some polenta I made this morning.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

expanding the operation

This year on the farm, we decided to go a bit bigger. No new buildings (well, except a planned pool house for the new pump and filter), no grand land acquisitions. Just, more birds.

The meat chicks have been a great success. We find the meat far better tasting and textured than factory meat, and love knowing exactly where and how the chicken was raised. And it's hard to get more local than our own yard, really. Unless I raised them in the kitchen.

Which isn't happening.

Last year's trial of ducks was another great experiment. As with the chicken, we enjoyed raising them (frankly, they're more fun to raise), and again the meat was wonderful. So this year, we're getting more of the same.

The first group of chicks, 26 versus our usual 16, is now a month old and growing well. I had to expand their outdoor run so that they have plenty of space, but that was just a matter of some plastic fencing and posts that we pounded into the ground. A second batch has been ordered for the end of the month, along with ten ducks, up from last year's five. I'm hoping to squeeze in one more round of chicks before fall as well. 

For two weeks starting at the end of June, there will be over 75 domestic birds on the farm. Here's hoping they don't go all Hitchcock on us.

While ordering the ducks I asked about getting them processed. I take the chickens to a place that takes care of everything (including meat inspection) for $4. Hand them over flapping, get them back as grocery store-style roasters. For $4 each, they are welcome to the mess. We learned last year, though, after having our ducks,that they don't do waterfowl. Oils and pinfeathers mean that they can't pluck them.

So last year, we did them ourselves. Now, that was a learning experience. Turns out, however, that processing ducks runs a person about $15. Per bird. 'Sharpen your knife,' I told D, 'we're doing it again.'

Then we got to laughing when I jokingly suggested that people get friends to help them move; why not have friends to help with the ducks? Have a plucking party, everyone takes home a free duck! D laughed and said, 'now that sounds like a sure way to not have any friends.' Well, he does have a point there.

Also on the animal front, Titus the puppy has arrived at the farm and is rapidly growing and exploring everywhere. I'd forgotten the joy/insanity a puppy can bring. It's like having a very active toddler, that chews shoes.