Saturday, April 22, 2017

Morels and Ramps!



Today I went morel hunting with my friend Ellen and we found these beauties!  We also found lots of ramps.  I wanted to make a pasta dish with the morels, so I stopped at Zingerman's on the way home to get some cheese and was confronted with a line....



Insider's tip: when there is a line like this, just walk up to the green door and tell them you are there to buy cheese and they will let you right in.  Way ahead of all those people.....they will shoot you with hateful stares.  You will feel like a celebrity! But the fact is, we locals know that if you are just going to the deli counter, you can walk right in anytime.   Don't wait in line for an hour to get a $20 sandwich!  Instead, just get cheese and deli meats from the counter and some bread from the bread counter and make the sandwich you want for much less!  I was looking for something Parmesan, but not actually Parmesan, for the pasta dish I had in mind.   Zingerman's is always staffed with lots of enthusiastic "foodie" types, and I met the eye of the young, clean shaven ginger gent behind the counter that sporting a maize and blue Zingerman's T shirt.  From his accent I could tell his was a rich UM student from the east coast, and his name is probably something like "Declan" to reflect his proud, but wealthy, east coast Irish heritage.  Like all young bucks that work at Zingerman's, I bet he brags to his friends about his amazing palate.  His dudes in the Conservational Ecology program or whatever he's in at Michigan probably call him "Deek" for short.  I got more death stares from those waiting to place an order for their $20 sandwich, and I stepped up to the counter to summon some cheese mongering from my new friend Deek.   Zingerman's has the best cheese counter in Michigan, no doubt.  They have hundreds of cheeses and they will give you samples of anything you want.    So I told Deek that I was looking for cheese to put in a pasta dish with the morels I just foraged, and he stared at me blankly. "I am not familiar with that recipe".   I wanted to tell him that there was no recipe yet, I was just thinking of something from food I gathered from the forest floor, but I figured it was going to take too long to explain to the lad what a morel was.   So I told him this instead:  "I want something Parmesan-y that isn't actually Parmesan" and he gave me a knowing look!  He suggested this cheese:


I took a sample and it was just what I was looking for...perhaps Deek is new because he accidentally cut me .71 lb instead of the half a pound I requested, but he apologized and have me a sweet discount.   I didn't mind, I'll put it to good use.  Perhaps I had him all wrong.... maybe his name isn't actually Declan after all.   Maybe he's just Dave and he goes to Washtenaw Community College.   So much for my stereotyping!  I stepped in front of the hundreds of people waiting to pay for their Georgia Reubens or their Pimento Cheese with pretzels (don't wait in line for the pimento cheese, make it yourself with two-year-old raw milk cheddar from Grafton Village you can get from the cheese counter) and paid for my cheese and left. It took all of 5 minutes.  Remeber this: only the tourists let Zingerman's make them a sandwich.   When you live in Ann Arbor, you make your own sandwich with their stuff!

Deek, or Dave, or whatever his real name is, did me right with the cheese.  He might not know what a morel is yet, but this cheese he selected was excellent!  If you can't find this special Italian cheese, a Parmesan or an Asiago would work just fine. 



Spring Pasta with Peas and Morels
Serves 4

8 oz. fusilli pasta, cooked and drained, reserve 1 c. pasta water from cooking
8 morels, sliced in half vertically
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. dry white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. grated Piave cheese (or Parmesan)

Saute mushrooms in butter and olive oil until lightly browned in a saute pan, about 5 minutes.   Add frozen peas and cook until peas are hot and bright green.  Add pasta, pasta water, wine to the mushroom mixture and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 7 minutes.   Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.   Mix in cheese and stir until melted.    

I'm looking forward to making using my ramps and some diced potatoes in a frittata for breakfsat tomorrow, along with the rest of that delicious cheese.  Thank you Deek, or whoever you are.    You know your cheese, even if you don't know what a morel is!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Check out the history of the D.W. Ferry Seed Company 


I made a great soup the other day, said my husband who doesn't like a) soup for a meal and b)  stuffed peppers.    I was reminded of this soup the other day, thanks to FB "On This Day" feature, since I saved a recipe last year at this time.    I can remember years ago, when I bought a half bushel of green peppers right before the first frost from a farmer up in Romeo, and I struggled with what to do with all of them.   This recipe would have been a good answer, had I known about it.   The FB recipe I saved  via Pinterest save I had seemed to have a lot of issues, so I just used it as a guide and went my own way.  Note the brown sugar is key!     





I realize that my soup isn't very photogenic, but it was really delicious.   Even my husband, who shouldn't have liked it at all, really did enjoy it.  Here's how I made it.....


Stuffed Pepper Soup
Makes 10 servings

2 lb. ground beef
1 c. white rice
2 c. water
4 green peppers, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped similarly
28 oz. can diced tomato
27 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1 teaspoon pepper
2 c. water

Brown ground beef in a large Dutch oven   Meanwhile, in another pot, cook rice in water until tender.     Add peppers and onion to beef and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.   Add rice and remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes.  

I ended up freezing the leftovers for my son to enjoy when he doesn't have time to cook.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Michigan Tech Wives Cookbook


Being a fan of old cookbooks, I am always on the hunt to find new items to add to my collection.   One day I was googling around and found this recipe for Michigan Tech Wives Brownies which intrigued me because it mentioned a cookbook.   Down the rabbit hole I went.....and sure enough, I found that there was an organization called the Michigan Tech Wives Club that became popular after the war and the influx of GI Bill students. As an MTU student,  I had heard stories of young families living in quonset huts on the east end of campus.   Evidently the MTU Wives Club were very active and organized the first nursery school on campus, called the Michigan Tech Cooperative Nursery.  It was located in the barracks behind the Institute of Mineral Research.  I'm in Houghton this week, so I went to the MTU Archives to see what I could find out about the group, but they didn't have much.    I kept looking on line for the cookbook to buy somewhere, and I couldn't find it for sale, I was lucky enough to find that someone had scanned it in.  So here it is, for your reference Happiness Is....A Tech Wives Cookbook.   Ironically, the Michigan Tech Wives Brownies recipe wasn't in there.    I suspected it wouldn't be.....the last reference of the MTU Wives Club that I could see anywhere was in the late 1960s MTU Winter Carnival Pictorials (the wives liked to enter into the skits competition) and the recipe calls for mini chocolate chips, which I am pretty sure are a relatively new invention.  This book was published in December 1967.   I don't even remember mini chocolate chips being around in Houghton when I went to MTU myself in the 1980s.   In fact, it was hard to get peanut butter chips up here back then for my favorite chocolate cookie recipe.   Whenever I could find them at Jim's Food Mart, the only grocery store in town back then, I'd buy as many as I could, or I would bring them up from downstate.    There are others in the book that look tasty I'd like to try, although there wasn't any local recipes like pasties or chow chow in it.  

The inscription in the front cover is really touching...


Even though MTU is much different now and the MTU husbands are just as likely to be cooking as the MTU wives, I love the fact that these ladies got together and made this book.   I'd love to see another MTU cookbook.....maybe this will be my next venture.  I couldn't find a picture of the MTU Wives Club, but this photo of MTU's Winter Carnival Queen Candidates evokes the same vibe for me

MTU Winter Carnival Queen Candidates 1965

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Pie of the Month Club: Cherry Pie



Once again this year, I donated a pie of the month for St. Joseph Catholic Church  Silent Auction.   My friend Liz bought it for her husband's Christmas present. So once a month, I bake him a pie and deliver it to their house,   One of my favorite pies to make is cherry, and I was really interested in trying out an awesome looking lattice top I saw on Serious Eats.  I found their instructions to be very difficult to follow, however.  I had some leftover vodka pie crust dough in the freezer, so I thought that would be good to use.  I didn't want a crust recipe that would crack with all the handling this lattice top requires.  

To make the lattice top, I rolled out the dough into a rectangle, and did my best to cut strips using a pizza cutter that were 3/4 inch wide.   I used a quilting ruler to do it:



Then, I started to lay out the herringbone lattice by using Serious Eats description, but they left much to be desired.   I eventually just figured it out my eyeballing it and making each row have 3 over and 3 under and staggering the weave by one each strip.   



I then gave it a quick fork crimp and egg wash....

 
And that was it.  If you get your weave off, the vodka crust is very forgiving.    You can keep trying until you get it right.

I made my filling from frozen Michigan pitted sour cherries.

Cherry Pie

Vodka Pie Crust


For filling

4 c. frozen sour pitted cherries
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix together in a bowl until frozen cherries are covered.  Let stand for 15 minutes until cherries are partially thawed but still icy.  Fill the pie crust as level as possible, do not mound.    Make lattice as shown above, cover edge with foil and bake for 50 minutes.   Remove foil and bake for about 20 more minutes until top is golden and the fruit is tender.