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Peasant gourmet dining on a northwoods homestead.

We are so far off the grid we can't even see the sidewalks. The nearest power and phone lines are 10 miles away. We use solar power for energy, have a cellular phone for communication, and even use a computer, but we heat and cook with wood that we cut and split ourselves. We grow our own food, hunt and fish, and preserve food that we don't immediately consume.

When we first moved to our new homestead in the northern woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula over three years ago, our friends and family thought we were nuts. There were times when us two city kids were so overwhelmed with work that I would have agreed with them.

We often hear things like "Oh, I couldn't do that. I couldn't give up indoor plumbing," or "I would be too cold in the winter." Then there's "I need more space than a little cabin," and most frequently "Don't you miss dining out? I have to have a good restaurant nearby." My mother was actually preparing herself for me to be wan and gaunt the first time I visited after being up north for six months. (I had gained weight!)

We encourage these friends to visit. If we're lucky enough to get a taker in the winter, we snowmobile them in to a warm, cozy, spacious house and show off our indoor plumbing. Then they would be introduced to dining in the woods -- no restaurants, thank you very much.

There is no reason at all not to eat "gourmet" on the homestead. Although I'll freely admit that a summer repast is easier because of the availability of fresh ingredients, my recipes include alternatives. To me, that's one of the glories of cooking in the woods: there are endless creative variables. It's also a necessity to be flexible and creative when there's a good chance that some of your supplies are limited, and what's available is on the storage shelves in the basement.

For me, it's also an endless delight, because I love to cook. Turning out a really nice meal from scratch is pure pleasure.

After this meal, if your guests still feel that living, and eating, on a homestead has too many hardships for them, let them stay home.

Stuffed mushroom caps on pasta Caesar salad Crusty French bread

Sounds good, huh? Well, it is. I will list alternatives at the end of the recipe. This is a favorite, because it's easy and very cheap to make. We forage for mushrooms here in the woods. (We have taken mushroom identification classes. Always always know what you are picking.) We also cultivate our own, since portobellos are so expensive.

I like using garlic oil, and it's very easy to make. Just peel 12 cloves or one head of garlic and place in a pint jar. Add a teaspoon each of basil and oregano and fill with olive oil. Let it sit for a week, and it's ready to use. When the jar is half empty, add more herbs and refill with oil. The garlic will last for up to a year, then use the cloves and start over.

First the French bread:
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 package or 1 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 to 4 cups flour

Mix water and yeast, stir to dissolve. Wait five minutes. Add salt and gradually add flour until you have a soft dough. Turn onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes. This longer kneading time is crucial to a good dough.

Let rise two hours. Punch down, knead lightly. Let rise one hour. A double rise is also crucial.

Punch down again and knead lightly, divide into four pieces, let rest 10 minutes. Lightly grease a cookie sheet, then sprinkle with cornmeal. Form the four pieces into "torpedoes." Cover and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 450 [degrees] F. Slash each loaf twice with a razor. Spray with water for a wonderfully crunchy crust. Place in oven. Spray again after five minutes. Continue baking until total time is 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Can be reheated by popping back in the oven. (If you wrap it in foil, it will soften the crust.)

Next the Caesar salad:
3 teaspoons garlic, crushed or chopped
5 3-inch strips anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, torn
into pieces
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a large salad bowl, blend the dressing ingredients in order one at a time. Stir, don't whisk. Put lettuce in bowl. Toss just before serving. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Serve.
Stuffed winecap mushrooms
(Per person)

2 winecap mushrooms, stems
removed, washed and patted dry
1/8 cup chopped spinach
1 tablespoon ricotta (soft cheese)
2 leaves fresh basil, chopped
Sliced tomato
Sliced eggplant
Mozzarella cheese
Garlic olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Baste mushroom caps with oil and grill five minutes on each side. Mix spinach, soft cheese, salt, pepper and basil, stuff one cap. Place a slice of tomato on top, sprinkle with mozzarella, set aside. Baste sliced eggplant with garlic oil and grill. Place in other cap and sprinkle with oregano, top with mozzarella and place both caps back on grill, covered, until cheese melts. Nestle into bed of hot pasta.

If using one of the alternate wild mushrooms, just mound the filling in the center, then flatten somewhat with the tomato and proceed.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon water
Add later:
2 more eggs
1/8 cup parmesan cheese

Put flour on board, sprinkle with salt. Make a depression in the center. Scramble eggs with oil and water. Work eggs into flour, adding more water if necessary to use all the flour. Knead gently until smooth. Cover with cloth and let rest for 30 minutes. Divide in half and roll out thinly. Cut to desired size. Toss with more flour to keep from sticking together. Repeat with the second half.

Cook pasta 7-8 minutes in boiling water.

Meanwhile, scramble two eggs with 1/8 cup parmesan cheese in serving bowl and set aside while pasta cooks. Drain pasta quickly, don't rinse. Immediately put in bowl with egg mixture and toss. The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs.

Substitution list:

Hard cheese: Parmesan, romano, asiago

Soft cheese: Feta, mozzarella, ricotta, farmer's, goat cheese

Oil: Olive, corn, vegetable, canola

Greens: Spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens

Lettuce: Romaine, leaf, head, spinach, Swiss chard, even cabbage (shredded)

Mushrooms: Portabello, winecap stropharia, beefsteak, giant puffball (cut into steaks), large capped store-bought, large oyster. Any wild mushroom must be cooked on high for at least 10 minutes.

Pasta: Angel hair, spaghetti, homemade egg noodles

Sauce: Pesto, butter, garlic oil, egg and cheese. Tomato sauce is too heavy for this dish.

Toppings for mushrooms: Thin sliced tomatoes, pre-grilled slices of eggplant, grilled onions, shrimp, smoked fish, venison sausage or just about anything.

And you can grill, fry or oven bake.

Stuffed trout with wild rice

Homesteading isn't all work. When the weather is just right and the mood strikes us, it's off to the lake for some fishing. When luck is with us and we bring home some fish, this could very well be on the menu. This recipe is for two 12 to 15-inch fish. (Trout, salmon, etc.)
2 cups soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon sage, ground or crushed
l/2 teaspoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon slices

Melt butter in saucepan and saute onion and celery. Add bread, sage, basil, salt and pepper. Toss and set aside. Variation: Add raw shrimp or crab, whole or chopped, to stuffing mixture.

I have a method for de-boning a fish and leaving it whole. It looks really impressive on the plate.

Gut the fish and leave the head on. Scale if necessary. Turn the fish belly up. Insert filet knife under ribs at tail, working upward close along ribs, forward to head. Repeat on other side. With scissors, snip spine off at tail, behind the head and beneath the dorsal fin. Pull bone out, working with fingers. Wash fish thoroughly and pat dry.

If this much work isn't for you, just filet the fish and put stuffing between the two filets. Secure with toothpicks and proceed.

Stuff fish with stuffing mixture. Place on sheet of foil, place two or three slices of lemon on fish and seal foil. Grill or bake 20 minutes until done. Remove from foil onto individual serving platter. Remove lemon slices and replace with fresh ones. Garnish with parsley, dill or nasturtiums. Serve with wild rice and mushrooms. Presentation is everything! (Note: Fish skin will slide off easily with fork.)
Wild rice

3 cups chicken broth or 3 cups water
and 3 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup wild rice
l/2 cup white rice
1/2 pound sliced wild mushrooms or 1
can mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped fine
Green pepper to taste, chopped fine
1/2 stick butter or margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil water, add wild rice. Cook 30 minutes. Add white rice, cook 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, butter, onions, green pepper, salt and pepper. Cook until rice is tender. Add any vegetable from the garden, and you have a feast any would-be homesteader couldn't get in the fanciest restaurant.

Wild mushroom and onion pizza

This is one of our favorite mid-summer treats. Always know what you're picking. Some wild mushrooms are easy to identify. Get comfortable with a few (or even just one) and stick to them. Use any of the wild mushrooms in this recipe, but the chantrelle is our personal favorite.

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
1/8 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 cups flour


Add: 1 teaspoon basil, oregano, or garlic. (If using garlic salt, omit salt)

Mix water, sugar and yeast, let rest 5 minutes. Add oil, salt, herbs and egg. Gradually blend in flour. Knead a few minutes, then cover and rest 30 minutes. Divide in half and pat onto pizza pans with oiled hands.
Easy sauce

8 ounces tomato sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Blend together. Let stand for 30 minutes to meld flavors.

Assemble pizza: Pat pizza dough out on pan. Spread half the sauce on each pizza and sprinkle lightly with shredded mozzarella cheese. Layer wild mushrooms and sweet onions over entire pizza, top with more shredded cheese. Bake in very hot oven (450 [degrees] to 500 [degrees] F) until crust is golden, at least 10 minutes.

When we make ours with chanterelles we have created a $50 pizza almost free!

Antipasto salad

Layer lettuce, julienne sliced salami, ham, and Swiss cheese, sliced spiced beets, thin sliced red onions, pitted black olives, feta cheese and sliced mild hot peppers. Pour Italian or Greek dressing over entire salad and serve.
Greek dressing

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon peel or powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup wine vinegar

Mix all herbs together. Add 2 tablespoons water, let stand 5 minutes. Add oil and vinegar. Let blend at least 30 minutes. Store unused dressing in icebox.

Chicken parmesan

This is a personal favorite because it's so easy, looks complicated and tastes great. Serves 4-6.
4-6 pieces boneless, skinned chicken
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Mozzarella cheese, shredded


1 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
2 quarts home-canned tomatoes,
1/2 teaspoon each oregano, rosemary,
basil, marjoram, thyme
1/2 tablespoon salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar


8 ounces dried spaghetti, cooked
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

I don't give amounts for frying oil or milk for dipping, because you use what you have or want.

Make the sauce first. Saute the onion and garlic in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Add tomatoes, spices and sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced and thick. This will take 2 to 3 hours.

Cook the chicken when the sauce is done. Mix the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Dip chicken in milk first, then in bread crumbs. Heat oil in pan, brown chicken on both sides in batches. Place browned chicken in sauce. When all chicken is browned, continue cooking in sauce for 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to direction and drain. (Our personal preference is to use homemade pasta; see recipe above.) Put pasta in frying pan used for browning the chicken and add vinegar. Stir to loosen bits of chicken. Keep hot.

To serve, place serving of pasta on plate (preferably heated) and spoon sauce over it. Tuck a chicken breast in the middle. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and serve with salad and French bread.

Variations: Two pints of home-canned chicken for six servings. Use boneless pieces. Messier, but still good. In lieu of home-canned tomatoes, 32 ounces of tomato sauce will do nicely. Use whatever cheese is available. Don't leave out the rosemary or basil.

There are times in the dead of winter that we crave a taste of summer. That's when we dust off a jar of salmon we caught in August and make hot fish pie. That may not sound real appetizing, but you'll change your tune when you've tried it.

The puff pastry is probably the most complicated part of this meal, and it ain't no big deal. It takes time, but when you're snowed in like us, you've got plenty of time.
Puff pastry

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
5-6 tablespoons cold water

Sift flour and salt, cut in 1/4 cup butter. Sprinkle water over mix and blend with a fork, adding drops of water until everything sticks together. Form into a square, smoothing edges. Wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface until you have a 12-inch square. Dot two-thirds of it with 1/2 cup soft butter. Fold unbuttered end first over center, then buttered edge, forming three layers, then fold again, making a small square. Roll out into a 12" square and fold again. Chill at least 30 minutes.
Hot fish pie

1 pint jar salmon or other fish (you
could easily use a can of salmon)
2 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dill
3/4 cup cooked wild rice
l 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water

Dill butter

1 cup butter
2 - 4 teaspoons dill, to taste
4 tablespoons lemon juice

Melt butter, add dill and lemon juice.

Cook the wild rice. Boil 1 cup of water, add 1/4 cup rice, cook until tender.

If you're using a can of salmon, drain in a colander and remove the bones and skin. Save the juice for the soup pot. Break into large chunks. Toss all ingredients together gently.

Roll out pastry thinly and cut into four squares. Place 1/4 of the rice/fish mix on each square of pastry. Brush edges with beaten egg and fold the pastry over to form rectangles. Seal the edges to enclose the mix. Brush the pies with remaining egg and bake on baking sheets at 400 degrees until brown. Cover with foil and cook for a total of 20 minutes.

Transfer a pie to a warm dish from your wood stove warming oven, top with dill butter and serve with your choice of green vegetables.

DEBORAH MOORE Makwa Ridge P.O. Box 151 Big Bay, Michigan 49808
COPYRIGHT 1999 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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