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All sorrows are less with bread. — Miguel de Cervantes

October Bites

 

4-Summer best peppersochesterPubMarket_0085

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Don’t forget to chop up some local hot peppers to freeze in a bag for seasoning everything in the winter.
(But remember to use gloves or wash your hand VERY thoroughly!)

Improvisation of the day
Fish cakes with Roasted Red Pepper and Tomatillo Salsa. Take left over flaky white fish — I often make too much —then pulse with onion an a good handful of fresh herbs from the garden, as well as half a hot pepper. Salt to taste. Stir in crunchy bread crumbs and egg. Salt Form into patties and coat with more bread crumbs. Saute in very hot olive oil over medium-high until crispy brown on both sides. Serve with roasted red pepper from the garden and a touch of tomatillo salsa from the freezer from my ice cube batch I froze earlier this season harvest. Place on a great bun.

Time for roasted peppers…now for later
Last of the season’s sweet peppers. I love saving ‘em for later to use on sandwiches or in an antipasto with anchovies. Grill whole under broiler, on outdoor grill or directly over gas flame, turning until charred. (Or if you have a ton of them and no time, you can stuff ‘em into a brown bag and roast ‘em at 375 or so in the oven until shriveled. Cover (or leave in the bag) until cool. Split and remove stem and seeds, pulling off most of skin or scraping it off with the flat side of a large knife. Use or freeze, separated with wax paper for later use. (Sometimes I just freeze them whole and do the work in the winter.) Great staple!

The best of life in a sandwich
Salt and fat, sweet and winey. Sausages mingle with cook plums in this heavenly sandwich…. and we all know that cooking transforms even the most mundane plums into ambrosia. Recipe here.  Excellent and easy plum cobbler here.

Now that it’s happy apple season
Why not take a look at commericial apple’s awful past. The history of the misnamed Delicious apple here.

Last of the season
Naomi’s Parsley Pesto with Fresh Savory: Make a pesto with parsley instead of basil. (Pesto is basil, olive oil, pine nuts or walnuts, garlic & a hard cheese in the Parmesan family). Instead of basil, add 3/4 parsley & 1/4 summer savory. You can also substitute a spring of rosemary leaves for the savory or try cilantro pesto with 50/50 parsley and cilantro. (Use on the pizza above too!)

Keep up to date on new labeling laws for California’s olive oil here.

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Apple season ideas + apples with oysters?

Recipe link: Oysters with Apple Mignonnette

Now’s the season to bite into a just picked apple, so tangy it cleans your teeth. When you can, buy directly from the farm. Right now, farmers markets are stocked with crates brimming with green and red apples.  The Vendors are orchardists who are know about the flavor and best use for each variety, whether it’s to cook or eat out of hand.  Better yet, go directly to the source. Take expedition to the nearest orchard, where the trees are now heavy with crop, and pick them yourself, which makes them taste even better.

Apples go in and out of season, so it’s best to ask your local orchardist what’s available and try it. Eating a wide variety of apples assures us that future generations will have access to a bio-diverse crop. Be sure to sample a range of varietals — from McIntosh, for a flavorful sauce to complex Macoun, best eaten out of hand, and including superb baking apples, such as Golden Delicious or Mutsu.  Taste heirlooms and regional varieties, like Pippin, and Rhode Island Greens, both great for pies too.

In fact, it’s fun to turn dessert into apple tasting where three to seven varieties are compared for flavor and texture. We often get stuck in one favorite, like the fabulous tasting and widely popular Honey Crisp, but each apple has its season, which is sometimes short, and is best eaten when it peaks. Some hold better than others, so savor those that don’t and eat the keepers all winter long.

Freshly picked raw apples marry perfectly with local cheeses, which abound, especially cheddar, blue or fresh goat cheese.  Or slice apples and throw them into salads, where their sweetness loves to be paired with a bitter fall greens like escarole. For a treat, I love them in an apple mignonette atop oysters on the half shell. (Recipe link above.)

Cooked, apples transform into a fall ambrosia. And homemade sauce blows the canned stuff away. I always pick up several giant bags of utilities apples — sold in bulk so inexpensive — to make sauce with mixed varieties in it.  It’s a snap. Simply cut the apples in quarters, peel and all, then cook in a large pot until very soft with a little water or cider at the bottom to prevent burning. Put through a food mill, which miraculously removes the stems, seeds and skins. (Alternatively, you can core and peel apples, but even for a once year venture, a food mill is worth the price, and you can often pick them up at garage sales.) You can sweeten your sauce with sugar, honey or maple syrup and season it with lemon and Christmas spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. But, I much prefer it made with solely apples, served warm, when its flavor surprises even the most sophisticated diner. Each year I make enough to freeze extras and eat it all winter long, as a snack or dessert, topped with yogurt, baked into a cake, or, as my husband enjoys it, with pork.

You can also stew apples to serve with vanilla ice cream.  Simply peel and chop, then flavor with local honey, brandy and spices. Simmer until soft. For guest, thin with a splash of cider for a dessert soup. Serve in a shallow bowl with the ice cream in the center.

Or simmer apples into tangy chutney to accompany cheese or grilled poultry. For each cup, combine one tart apple, peeled and chopped, with ½ cup chopped onion, 3 Tbsp raisons, ¼ cup brown sugar and cider vinegar, ½ tsp mustard seed and chopped fresh ginger with salt cayenne pepper to taste. Combine the ingredients then cook until the apples are soft and the flavors are married, about 30 minutes.

Berkshire Botanical Garden's Harvest Festival 2014

Please join me Oct 11-12 for dynamic community event like no other…

I’m producing this wild and wonderful festival!

Learn more

This 80 year old festival is like no other, so please join us.

I added a farmers market, tasty local food trucks, local artisan foods section and more. Also, goodies at the Botanical Bakery and Cafe, including Red Lion Inn Butternut Bisque and lots of homemade cookies and pies.

And of course there are 100+ fabulous vendors of all kinds, especially crafts, as well as a silent auction, giant tags sales of all kinds and continuous entertainment and live music.

And we’re famous for our kids activities from the hay jump to hula hooping and haunted house, obstacle course….

All on 16 acres at the stunning Berkshire Botanical Gardens to benefit their educational programs.

That’s what I’ve been  up to….

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September Bites

A few tasties for the last weekend in September, some from my facebook page, where I post frequently. Link here.

apple sauce
Mixed drops ready for sauce

Apple season
Warm apple sauce link here. (My first blog post). Connie’s Apple Cake for the perfect brunch: Link here.

Make Apple Butter using a slow cooker
Link here

Radical idea from Michael Pollan
A barcode telling the story of the food you are buying. Link here.

Yes! Magazine always has good news to share
To Save Family Farms from Corporate Buyout, Retiring Farmers Connect with a New Generation. Link here.

Play with your produce!
The chapter that wrote itself in my book, The Locavore Way, was “Play with your produce.” It alphabetically lists each ingredient and what you prepare with it without a recipe. This link from Dan Barber’s site does the same thing differently and it’s great: What’s in the CSA share that week is photographed with how to use it without a recipe written in clear words on top of each ingredient. Cool!Facebook only link is here

End of Day September Ratatouille

images-1Summer in a bowl, using the quickest version I know…

I conjured this up at 9 or 10 last night,  not my sharpest time, so I used the food processor to help out. The results may not be as pretty as hand cut produce, but the flavor is  summer’s finale in a bowl — glorious. (And the colors still pop.) The fresher the veggies the tastier the dish, and I picked up these up at a nameless farm stand, a tiny screech stop in nearby Richmond. Serve at any temperature with crusty bread. Later this week, I may simmer skinless chicken thighs in the leftovers until cooked through, then sprinkle them with chopped garden celery or parsley leaves. Makes about 2 quarts, but whoops. nighttime cooking, I didn’t really measure.

5 cloves garlic
1 large sweet onion
1/4 cup olive oil, preferably fruity
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2 small to medium eggplants, about 1-1/2 pounds
flour
1 medium zucchini
1 medium summer squash
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons capers
salt
1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes
freshly ground pepper

Pulse garlic in food processor. Peel and cut onion in 4 and pulse just until chopped but not beyond. Add to oil to pot and simmer over medium heat until onions are transluscent, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, halve peppers lenghtwise and pull out stem and core, shaking the seeds out. Cut each half in half and pulse in food processor until chopped. Don’t worry if they are cut unevenly. Add to pot.

Slice eggplant. Stack and quarter slices. Pulse in food processor, in batches if needed, until chopped.  If any large pieces remain, leave them behind and pulse once more. Add to a bowl and toss in just a touch of flour to coat. Remove eggplant to pot, leaving any excess flour behind.

Slice zucchini and yellow squash and add to pot. Also add capers, throwing in more or less, depending on how much you like capers (I like ‘em). Then, add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, or until eggplant is soft and tasty.

Core or cut off tops of tomatoes and pulse just to chop. Drain off some of the juice. The more you drain off the thicker the result, your choice. (Reserve any fresh tomatoes juice and drink with a touch of salt.) Add tomatoes and cook 5 more minutes. Add salt, if needed, and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.

Sweet Pepper Bulgur

What can you cook up with all these last-of-the-season onions, tomatoes and  peppers? You’ll love the sweet flavor and dense, sticky texture of this versatile grain salad. It is easy to prepare and particularly good cold. Bulgur, which is also called cracked wheat, can be found in specialty and health food stores, as well as in some supermarkets. Serves about 8

l/4 cup olive oil
l large sweet onion, small dice
2 bell peppers, mixed colors (or 2 red or 1 red and one yellow)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 cups diced ripe tomatoes in their juices*
2 cups medium or coarse bulgur (not fine)
About 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 generous handful of coarsely chopped parsley
Juice of one lemon

l. Add the oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, peppers, garlic and jalapeno. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the peppers softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Pour in the salt and 1-1/4 cups water, adding an extra 2 tablespoons water if the tomatoes aren’t very juicy. Bring the mixture to a boil then add the bulgur. Immediately reduce the heat to very low and cover the pot for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Cover, turn off the heat, but keep the pot on the burner until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

3-When the bulgur is nutty and tender-firm but not crunchy, empty it into a bowl to cool. Toss with the parsley and lemon juice, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot, cold or room temperature.

 

I was the founding director of Berkshire Grown, an early innovator in the local food movement, and I’m thrilled they’re running these fun and informative workshops. My workshop is on September 18th, a Saturday, 10:00-noon: It’s an Herb Extravaganza, focusing on preserving fall herbs, mostly through drying and freezing with great herb sauces and pestos. Cost: $40.00. Location: My West Stockbridge Massachusetts teaching kitchen (To register and for information call 413 232 7174) Please join me!

Registration is required for all the Share the Bounty classes. Visit Berkshire Grown, a non-profit supporting local farmers, for details on other workshops. Call or email me about mine! (Number above)

Apples and figs at the Emily Dickinson Museum

Amherst MA – On Saturday September 25,  the Emily Dickinson Museum. Free, on September 25th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. landscape historian and gardener Marta McDowell will lead a workshop on apples and figs, two fruits that the Dickinson family grew. During “Put down the apple Adam”: The Dickinsons’ Apples and Figs.  McDowell, will discuss the horticulture of apples and figs and how they were eaten and preserved. The program will begin with a talk, followed by a tasting of heirloom apples, figs, and products made from Dickinson-era recipes.The official museum website is www.EmilyDickinsonMuseum.org

 

Tortilla Blintzes with Summer Fruit

peachesUsing tortillas, rather than the traditional crepe wrapper, results in a crisp crust that’s lighter. It also cuts down considerably on the preparation time, making these a snap to prepare.

The unctuous filling is elevated by best fruit of the season. (Now’s the time for peaches and blueberries.) This flexible recipe allows you to vary both the filling and sauce, using what’s readily available. Feel free to come up with your own variations.

Ideal for a romantic brunch or surprising dessert wrap. Serves 2

1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint) or 2 cups strawberries (1 pint), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3-1/2 tablespoons sugar (or better yet, to taste)
1-1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional, when in season only: 2 small ripe nectarines or peeled peaches, sliced
2 small taco size flour tortillas
1 teaspoon unsweetened butter
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, optional

1. Combine the blueberries or strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste) and l/2 teaspoon ginger in a small sauce pan with 2 tablespoons water. Heat, over medium high heat, stirring frequently, just until some of the blueberries burst or strawberries soften and a sauce forms. Add up to 2 tablespoons extra water, if necessary. Reserve. (You can serve strawberries raw, if you prefer. Just let them sit in the sugar for 20 minutes or until they form a bit of a sauce and serve as is or mash with a potato masher if you like.)

2. Mix the ricotta, vanilla, l sliced nectarine or pealed peach (If it is in season), l-1/2 tablespoons sugar, and l teaspoon grated ginger.

3. Place 1/2 the filling in the center of each tortilla. Carefully fold in the sides and roll, tucking in the ends carefully. (If you prefer, you may heat the tortillas to make them more pliable, but if you are careful, it isn’t essential.)

4. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet. Carefully add the blintzes seam side down and cook, until well browned on both sides and warm all the way through, about 2-4 minutes on each side. Add the nuts during the last minute of cooking, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

5. To serve, place a blintz in the center of each plate. Spoon the berry sauce over. Sprinkle with the remaining nectarine slices, if you are using them, and the toasted nuts, if you are using them. Serve immediately.

Tip
If you’re making lots of blintzes, these can be made in a very hot pre-heated oven on buttered parchment paper.

Query
If you can find fresh local ricotta near Northampton, MA, please let me know where!

Pick your own fruit in the Berkshires or anywhere you live.

 

Baked Peaches or Pears with Ginger Snaps and Chocolate


Local peaches or pears are in. Eat them out of hand until you can’t stand it, as the season is short. Today I stuffed them with ginger cookies, almonds and chocolate. They barely made it to the fridge, but they’re good warm or cold.

1 ounce ginger snap cookies (5 small, 4 large)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips or grated chocolate
1 tablespoon brandy or cognac
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg yolk (small egg, if possible)
2 firm-ripe pears or peaches (cling free peaches*)
1 teaspoon butter, optional

1-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2-Pulse cookies, almonds and chocolate in the food processor until they are crumb sized. (Don’t over process. Better too large than too small.) Transfer to a small bowl and add the rum, sugar and egg yolk. Mix thoroughly.

3-For peaches, cut them in half and remove the pits. For pears, cut them in half lengthwise; scoop out the core with a spoon. Scoop out about a tablespoon or so the center of the peaches or pears to enlarge their cavities for the filling. Finely chop the scooped out flesh and add to the ginger-chocolate mixture. Spoon a little of the filling into each half. If you are using it, top each with chopped or thin shavings of the butter.

4- Place fruit in an baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes or until the filling firms up and forms a crust. Let cool. Transfer to a serving dish.

*Late season peaches are usually cling-free, meaning that you can cut around the pit and pull the two halves apart easily.

Today’s personal produce rant

Eat produce for its flavor, not its caché. At least in principle, no one is opposed to biodiversity, but I have a pet peeve about the growing popularity of varieties that don’t cut the mustard. (Especially when old favorites are forgotten.) Give me GREEN beans like meaty Roma varieties. Yellow beans are OK but mostly leave me cold because, like white asparagus, they miss the point — their green beany flavor.

Seedless watermelon, don’t get me started — all sweet, no watermelon flavor. The same for supersweet corn, which isn’t corny enough for my tastes. Instead savor heirloom varieties right after they’re picked, but before the turn to starch. (Supersweet doesn’t get starchy, because it’s designed to get sweeter over time, but tastes like saccharrin.) And, while fashionable white peaches are excellent for their subtlety, where’s their acidic bite? Gone flat. Yellow tomatoes have less acid, true, and some are extraordinary, I agree, but a good Brandywine screams, “I’m red, ripe and have swallowed the sun!

Know your farmer.

We’ve got a long road ahead of us, as big-agribusiness still rules the roost. But this excellent USDA is packed with good information tipping us in the right direction, including a September 14th  article, Scientists Agree: Toward Sustainable Agriculture Systems in the 21st Century. (Took you long enough!)

With oodles of resources, this website recognizes the importance of regional food systems with direct farm to consumer sales, and that’s good news for us all. Direct  sales have increased from $551 million in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 2007, with Massachusetts leading the way. These kinds of sales, like those in CSAs, farm stands and farmers markets, are about relationships between people, not corporations, and that builds more humane communities. Direct sales also leave more dough in farmers’ hands and fresher food on consumer’ tables. They also boost local economies, because food dollars stay close home, rather than being shipped out to corporate headquarters. All good.

 

Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Feta

Salt Alert:
Apologies to those of you who thought you really needed 14 teaspoons of salt in the cucumber soup.
It was a typo: It’s 1/4!

Savory, sweet and salty — what more can you ask for? Crisp watermelon and flavorful heirloom tomatoes make this salad a summer classic. I used Brandywine tomatoes and peppermint from my garden. Local watermelon is now available, and there may be a local feta producer near you. Feel free to add peeled, seeded and diced cucumber if you like. This is truly refreshing….

2-1/2 cups 3/4 to 1 inch cubes of heirloom tomatoes
About 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
About 20 mint leaves
1 small scallion, green and white, sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups 3/4 to 1 inch cubes of watermelon
About 1/3 cup crumbled feta

1-Place a colander over a bowl. Add the tomatoes and toss with the salt. Let sit 1/2 hour or for up to 2 hours.

2-Stack and tightly curl the mint leaves, then slice thinly. Add to a small bowl along with the scallion, lemon juice and olive oil.

3-Toss the tomatoes with the watermelon. Then add and toss with scallion-mint dressing. Pour off any excess liquid. Taste, adding additional salt if you like, remembering that the feta is salty. Pile the salad on a platter or individual plates, sprinkled with feta cheese.

Nurture vs Nature
Because my daughter Emma is adopted, I’ve always been particularly interested in questions about nurture vs. nature. Now, I’m not insinuating Emma is lamb-like, but this sweet article on sheep is worth considering….

Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup with International Variations

Pickling-Cucumbers

 Kirby Cucumbers

Local yogurt and cucumber anyone?  Here are some international variations on this refreshing soup.

A few tips
Because they’re easiest to find, I’ve designed this recipe for standard cucumbers, but I prefer the taste of kirby (pickling) or Armenian cucumbers. Better yet? You don’t have to seed them, unless the kirbys are very large. Cucumber loose their flavor fast, so use ‘em the day your buy or pick ‘em.

Makes about 4 Cups

l large cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
(or 2 kirby or standard Armenian cucumbers)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 teaspoon salt
3 cups plain yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped mint, or more
2 teaspoons chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
About 2 tablespoons milk or more, only if needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Optional: Fresh lemon juice to taste

1-Toss the cucumber and salt and let sit for 1/2 hour.

1. Add the garlic yogurt, most of the mint, the chives and pepper. (Reserve some mint of garnish.) Stir vigorously. Add a little milk if it needs thinning.

3.  the cucumber and add to the yogurt mixture with a little milk, if needed, to reach the desired thickness, along with the olive oil. (Amount will depend on the thickness of the yogurt.)

4. Chill for at least an hour. Taste for salt, pepper and mint, adding more if needed. If you wish, add fresh lemon juice to taste. Ladle into chilled bowls. Sprinkle with remaining mint.

International Variations

Persian
Prepare recipe above
Replace the mint with l tablespoon chopped dill
Stir in 2 tablespoons raisons
Ladle into chilled bowls.
Garnish with chopped hard boiled eggs

Indian
Prepare recipe above, but don’t chill
Toast 3 tablespoons walnut halves over medium heat, stirring frequently until aromatic
Set aside to cool. Chop.
In the same skillet, toast 1 teaspoon cumin seed. (Do not burn)
Stir the cumin into the soup.
Chill for l hour. Ladle into chilled bowls.
Garnish with walnuts.
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