Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Sunday Joe and I went on the annual organic farm tour sponsored by Somos la Semilla (We Are the Seed). We went last year (you can see my posting about it at and had a great day, so were excited to do it again. Last year all the farms were off the I-19 corridor (more or less), around Arivaca, Green Valley, and Tumacacori, but this year they added four new locations around Patagonia (Arizona, not South American), and since we love going to Patagonia, we decided to just do that part of the tour since Patagonia is quite a drive from the other concentration of farms, east on I-10 and then south on state highway 83. The first thing we did was have lunch at our favorite coffeehouse, not the best lunch we've ever had there, but not bad.
 Across the street is the city park, which runs the entire length of the town proper, which means Patagonia really has two main streets, one on either side.
 It's an old ranching town, though there used to be mining nearby as well, and a couple of large companies are trying to bring it back - most of the townsfolk are very much against that, given the environmental damage caused by large scale open pit mining, which of course is what they want to do. The town has a real funky charm, with a lot of old adobe buildings in varying states of repair, and of course some newer buildings too, with the two kinds often nestled next to each other, cheek by jowl.
The town is small and very walkable. . . with interesting ruins.
 The first three places on the farm tour, however, were sort of a bust. The Patagonia community garden is near the middle of town, but there was no one there to explain anything so we just walked around looking at the plots - it's nice but we didn't learn much. Patagonia is higher and cooler than Tucson, so gardening is undoubtedly a little bit easier - some folks even had tomatoes, which are difficult to impossible to grow in Tucson. The blossoms won't set fruit once it gets into the high 90s.
 This is the drive back to the highway from Deep Dirt Farm Project. You won't see pictures of the farm because after seeing several over-directive signs (Tours are at 9, 11, 1, and 5. If you are late, wait for the next one.) we turned around when we got to the first parking area and decided it wasn't worth waiting at least two hours for. That's just not the way these farm tours are conducted, with such military precision. Maybe we missed something wonderful, but I guess we'll survive.
     We also visited the Native Seeds Search experimental farm. Native Seeds Search is a wonderful organization dedicated to preserving traditional crops of the southwest; check them out at I get my tepary bean seeds from them; I wrote about that a while back and you can see it at!/2009/11/gardens-yesterday-and-today.html. I didn't take pictures because, well, it wasn't all that scenic. It's a rough time of year here, with the summer stuff dried up and dying and the fall things not really started yet. But a nice young man showed us around and I learned a few things, which is always good. Then we headed up the road toward Sonoita and then east to Mias Chivas Goat Farm, which was definitely the high point of the day.
 Look at that sky lowering over the high plains grassland (parts of the movie Oklahoma! were filmed around here). You can see virga in the middle, rain that never quite makes it to the ground.
 I am totally in love with goats. They're smart, friendly, funny, and beautiful And their milk makes amazing cheese and other things, like soap. Who could resist this face? The folks at Mias Chivas were welcoming and informative and let us taste fresh goat milk and several different cheeses that they sell at the farmers' market in Patagonia at the community garden, every Sunday from 9-12. I bought some chèvre and a couple of bars of patchouli-scented soap. And then we headed home.
When we first got out of the car at Mias Chivas, a man who was leaving had said that if this was our last stop, we'd saved the best for last. He was so right!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheesy Stuff

You probably didn't realize you were longing for someone to provide a grilled cheese sandwich tutorial, did you? I love grilled cheese in all its infinite variations, as long as it contains real cheese and not some "processed cheese food" stuff. The real keys to making a fantastic grilled cheese are to:
1. Use good cheese
2. Use good bread
3. Grate the cheese so it will melt better
4. Grill it on a heavy pan, like cast iron, at a fairly low heat. It's amazing how quickly it can go from golden to black.

So without further ado, here's how I made my most recent sandwich:
First, spread something interesting on one side of a slice of good whole-grain bread. In this case, I used my homemade pesto. You can find the recipe at . Then sprinkle on about 1/3 of the grated cheese you'll use for each sandwich. Layers of melted cheese help hold the other layers together. Here I used a nice extra-sharp cheddar.
Then add a layer of tomato slices (or crisp, thin apple slices, but not with pesto - that sounds weird).
 Sprinkle on half of the remaining cheese.
 Add some sliced onion (this would also be good with the apple variation). I like red or sweet onions, when the sweets are in season.
 The last of the cheese.
 Put the top slice of bread on and butter it.
 Flip it over and put it on the griddle (I love my cast iron) or in the pan, and then butter the other side.
 Grill on both sides on medium low as long as it takes, checking often. It's better to take a few minutes longer and enjoy perfection than rush and get unsatisfactory results. This one got a wee bit browner than I'd like but not enough to need to scrape any burnt stuff off (it looks darker in the picture than in real life).
Serve with a nice bowl of soup(this is my pumpkin-peanut butter soup; the recipe is at and some fruit. All those lovely flavors held together by the cheese are a real sensuous treat.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Scones

Today I thought it would be nice to try some savory scones for a change. Actually, I felt it was something I should do, not necessarily something I wanted to do. Can you sense a certain lack of enthusiasm? I do, after all, simply adore sweet or at least semi-sweet scones. But returning to the source of my inspiration, Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café, I decided to try my own adaptation of her savory variation, Chile-Cheese-Corn Scones. Everyone has things in their refrigerator that they consider staples. For us, those include feta cheese and Kalamata olives (much more affordable now that both come in nearly quart-sized containers at Costco, which must mean other people also include them in the things they can't live without). We also have a lot of rosemary growing in the back yard, and so, this morning, we had Greek Scones, a rather delightful cross-cultural collaboration, I think.
Greek Scones (makes 9)
Non-stick spray
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (fine-ground, not polenta)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2/3 c. buttermilk
1 large egg
1 cup (packed) crumbled feta
1/3 cup rough-chopped pitted Kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it and a 1/3 cup measuring cup with non-stick spray.
     Place flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and rosemary in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; process briefly to combine.
     Cut butter into thin slices and distribute them over the top of the dry mixture. Pulse several times until butter is uniformly cut into dry mixture so it resembles a coarse meal.
     Pour the buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measure and beat the egg into it. With the food processor running, pour buttermilk mixture through feed tube into the dough, then the olives and feta. Turn off the processor as soon as it all comes together (just a couple or few seconds - you don't want the olives and feta to lose all their identity).
     Remove the food processor blade and scrape any dough on it back into the bowl. Using the sprayed 1/3 cup measure, scoop out blobs of dough and drop onto prepared baking sheet, a few inches apart. I got 9; if you want bigger scones, you won't get so many and you'll need to bake them a little longer. I think these are the perfect size.
     Bake in the center or lower 1/3 of the oven for 20 - 22 minutes, or until little golden brown spots appear all over. Cool on a rack at least 15 minutes before serving.

I've found all these scones (including those I posted last week) keep quite well for a few days, so I'm looking forward to having one of these for lunch with a nice bowl of gazpacho when I go back to work. As you can guess, I've revised my opinion: savory scones can be absolutely delightful!

A few words about ingredients:

  • I don't always pay much attention to whether I use salted or unsalted butter, but in this case, because the feta and olives are so salty, I recommend making sure the butter isn't. 
  • And 3 tablespoons may seem like a lot of sugar - I was concerned about that myself - but it's actually just right; it seems to somehow balance and heighten the other flavors. 
  • Rosemary is one of my very favorite herbs, but it wasn't always. When I was growing up in Idaho, where it can get very cold, no one grows rosemary in the yard, so all we had available was dried rosemary, which in my opinion is worse than none at all. I suppose you could grind it in a coffee grinder, as we do some other spices and herbs, but if you just chop it or, worse, use the leaves whole, they never really soften up and are unpleasant in the mouth, no matter how much flavor they may add. They can even pose a choking hazard. I think 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. of dried dill would be an acceptable substitute (or 1 T. fresh) because although it won't taste the same, it is used a lot in Greek cooking and should be delicious with the feta and olives.

I hope if you try this recipe, you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was. Now if only I knew how to say "Bon appétit!" in Greek!