Of Spinach, Tomatoes and Sourdough

Hoop House Spinach, Early April 2011

Originally, we planned to spend this past weekend at the farm, but early in the week, D. informed me that he had the backup pager for work.  That means that he has to have access to a telephone and the internet, just in case something happens.  The internet does not exist at the farm.  Wireless service does not exist out there with our carrier either.  Hearing this news, Wednesday morning I put together sourdough starter.  I made a loaf of sourdough a while ago.  It was a normal three-day starter, but just the perfect amount for one loaf of bread, not enough to commit myself to keeping  it going.  I still have reservations about whether or not I want to commit myself to keeping sourdough on hand.  I’m also wrestling with the size of some of the recipes in the book that I’ve been using.  The plan this week was just  to make a couple of loaves of sourdough French bread and I mixed the ingredients together with the starter to make a sponge on Saturday morning, covered  it with a dish towel and looked at it now and then to find that it was bubbling fairly vigorously.  So far, so good.  When it was time to finish adding ingredients and let the loaves rise for an hour, I put everything together, everything except the salt.  At that point a couple of things went wrong.  The sour dough rose so quickly that it doubled in size in 23 minutes rather than the hour the recipe prescribed.  I think it was at that point, that I recalled that I forgot the salt since I had turned the page earlier to make sure how much flour to add, how long to let it rise and how long the loaves needed to bake.  I baked them anyway since it was really too late to do anything else.  The texture was o.k., and the crust turned out really well, but the taste was bland and sort of off.  Next time, I’m going to cut the recipe in half and remember to add the salt.   Nothing like a mistake to hammer home the importance of something like salt in a recipe.

We took advantage of the weekend home to work on the garden here at home.  We turned over the plot and I planted three kinds of peas, green onions, radishes and poppies.   I did stick the flats of onions and leeks outside for the afternoon so that they could get some real sunshine.  The rhubarb is coming up and some of the prairie plants are coming on as well.  We have to wait on lettuce, beets and just about everything else.  D. also bought a garden wagon with removable sides.  Actually, that’s for my birthday which was last month.  He also made arrangements to purchase a utility trailer this week so that we can more easily pick up the rototiller that we’re buying from a friend’s brother-in-law next weekend as well as for any other hauling we need to do in the future.

We’d like to get most of the food in the chest freezer used up before the spring vegetables start coming in.  We still have several meals worth of the hen of the woods mushrooms.  We’ll use some of them in stroganoff later in the week.  Today, I used what was left of the frozen tomatoes to make chili along with roasted chilis, onion, ground beef from Jordandal and some of the chili puree from the Turquoise Room recipe.  I figure I have a whole jar of this stuff now (actually two, but one is in the freezer) and it’s hot, so I have to keep finding applications for it a spoonful at a time.   To make up for the sad sourdough bread mishap, I used more of the starter to make biscuits tonight, this time cutting the recipe in half so that we have a reasonable amount since I’m not serving midday dinner to an entire family and paid farm hands, which seems to be about the situation for which these recipes seem to be designed.  I was very happy with the biscuits and I will definitely make them again.

Even though we are trying to use up food that we have on hand, Friday night, I inventoried the meat that we have in our freezer and realized that if we were going to eat meat four times a week for the next two weeks, that a trip to the farmers’ market was in order.  I was hoping to hold out until the first outdoor market in a couple of weeks, but no.  The winter farmers’ market seems pretty popular with the breakfast they serve and the music, but it’s a tad crowded for me.  D. won’t even go.  Even though he doesn’t trust me to buy cheese curds if he isn’t there.  True to form, I came up empty for cheese curds.  I saw plenty of cheese, but didn’t notice any curds.  I pretty much wanted to get in, buy a variety of meat and get out all in less time than it takes the city ramp to charge me for parking.  When I walked in, I noticed one vendor had tomatoes for sale.   They looked pale and I doubt they are any good.  I didn’t buy them.  I doubt it’s a good use of fuel to try to keep a greenhouse warm enough and light enough in this climate at this time of year to grow and ripen tomatoes.  I made my way over to Jordandal’s table, bought my meat and noticed that the vendor next to them had spinach for sale.  Really vivid dark green spinach.  The sort of spinach that has been wintered over in a hoop house.  It was ungodly expensive and I bought a whole pound of it.  Unlike the tomatoes, this is the perfect vegetable for this time of year.  Intense flavor, great nutrition, little energy used in production.  Spinach thrives wintering over in a hoop house.  Spinach that has wintered over is some of the best spinach one could eat.  If you have the opportunity, I suggest you seize it.  We had some of it in an omelet for breakfast this morning.  More of it will show up in a quiche tomorrow night.   I’m sure we should eat some of it raw as well.

I just fed the sourdough.  I don’t know for how long I can sustain it.  It seems my desire to bake outpaces our desire to eat baked goods.  Maybe I need a different job.

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