A cyclical feast

Food, food, food. At times, I believe that’s all I think about. There was food to be had for the people cycling in and out of the house today. Alas, two of our guests could not stay, as one was sick (and the other nursing him along), and one of my sisters never showed up at all and wouldn’t answer her phone. Too bad for all of them, because the food we had was quite good – and I finally took a taste of ribs that I smoked. Boy, are they tasty.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and since I could easily go well over a thousand waxing lyrical about the food, I’ll just proceed with some of my less-than-fabulous photos.

I made pitas and hummus on Saturday in advance of the feeding of the masses. The hummus is simple enough. Toss some chickpeas, tahini, salt, pepper, roasted garlic, and lemon juice in the food processor.

Pulse it a bit to get it going, then start with the olive oil.

Adjust the seasonings and the consistency, and in the end you have a great spread that cries out for fresh pitas.

To make pitas, though, of course you need dough. Put the ingredients together, scrape the dough into an oiled bowl, and let it rise awhile, dimpling it down every so often if it threatens to crawl out of the bowl.

Divide and conquer – I mean, divide, roll into a ball, and flatten out slightly. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes.

Roll out each dough portion and let them rest for about 10 minutes.

Bake on a stone for a few minutes, and you have UFOs in the kitchen. Or at least nicely puffed pitas.

The pitas turned out very nicely indeed, complete with a great pocket into which hummus (or anything, really) could be stuffed. Next experiment for pitas: whole wheat pitas. My sister also wants me to make some regular flatbread wraps.

Sunday I was up at 0730 after a few hours of sleep, ready to get the ribs out of the brine, rubbed, and ready to go on the smoker. With that prep out of the way, I dashed off some guacamole and made some barbeque sauce while mom made some deviled eggs.

And some lemon bars. Start with the mix.

Prepare the bottom for the bars.

Put it together, bake it off, and sprinkle with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

These are great. Chewy, light, lemony. Perfect.

The ribs went on the smoker just after 1100 and came off around 1530 or so – about 4.5 hours on the smoker in total, and tender to the point that a couple of the bones slid out of the slabs as I was pulling them off the grates.

The smell in the house with all this cooking going on was fantastic. While the ribs were smoking, I had made the dough for my mushroom, caramelized onion, and feta tart, rolled it out, and pressed it into the tart pan.

The mushrooms were sauteed, the onions nice and soft from their stint on the stove, and the feta was mixed with an egg and bit of heavy cream. The tart shell was blind baked with my favorite kind of pie weights – beans.

After about 15 minutes, the weights were pulled, the shell was docked, and it was put back in for another 10 minutes or so. It was then time for assembly: the mushrooms, onions, and feta mixture was poured into the tart shell and the pan put back in the oven to cook for about 30-40 minutes.

This was my experiment for this dinner: I’ve never made a tart shell from scratch before, and have never made a savory tart before at all. It turned out incredibly well.

Nicely done inside, and tasty.

I had some dough left over after rolling off the excess, so I freeformed a smaller tart with some of the onions, a sliced tomato, some more feta, and a sprinkling of basil. This also turned out very well.

The ribs, meanwhile, had rested and I cut them into individual portions.

Together with the Italian bread, the roasted red peper-sweet potato soup (which is gone now), and some brownies and biscotti (courtesy of a guest who couldn’t stay), it was a full and satisfying meal all around. We sent doggie bags home with people as well.

In other news, I am seriously leaning toward buying some land – a large enough plot to do some light farming (gardening, perhaps a dairy cow and a few chickens for eggs) and build a house. We have seen a lovely, cleared piece of property with a few buildings on it, including a couple of manufactured homes, which would do quite nicely to let us get started, have someplace to live, and do some appropriate planning for a house raising. For a long time, I’ve considered living on a farm, or at least in a farm environment, and ever since I saw the property, I’ve been thinking of all the things I could do with such a property. We’re planning to go and actually look at this particular property (4.77 acres) this week sometime, before we head out to San Antonio for a week.

The more I think about it, though, the more I’m convinced that I would absolutely love to be able to grow my own vegetables, fruits, and herbs to feed the family and put some away, if only to know exactly what is going on them and how they are being grown and harvested. My sister is adamantly opposed to raising stock for slaughter – she would get too attached to whatever animals there were, and couldn’t bear the thought of killing them for food – so any stock we would have would be for their other benefits only, like milk and eggs. Personally, I think people should know where their food is coming from, and they should see it at least once, but for now and for some time into the future, the nicely packaged meat from the grocery (or Costco) will be that view of where food originates. Still, I could easily live with buying meat from elsewhere if I could grow most of the rest of what I need. It would be quite nice to grow my own red peppers for roasting, for instance, instead of having to pay exorbitant prices for peppers from Mexico. Having other vegetables year-round, via greenhouse and hydroponic growing would be quite nice, too.

I can’t wait to see the property and walk around on it a bit. I wonder if the current owners would object to any photos…

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