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There is no love sincerer than the love of food. — George Bernard Shaw

Today’s Garden Harvest

 

august harvest in bowl

Doesn’t real food look great?

This harvest came from my little community plot at FOG in Florence here.

Today it’s Tomatillo Salsa on Grilled Haddock
Tomorrow it’s Tomato Basil Sandwiches

What are you cooking with your harvest?

August Tasties

CambridgeFarmersMarket_0022Picture from photographer Jason Houston. I ate mine on the way home….

This week
Restaurant Day Celebration. This Tuesday and Wednesday you can savor farm fresh specials at one of the many Pioneer Valley restaurants! (CISA sponsored.) Check them out here.

Great answer
A popular NY Times article told us why we shouldn’t let our children grow up to be farmer here.  Some good points, sure, but here’s a great rebuttal covering why we should! More here, including an answer from farming evangelist Joel Salatin, 

Orgasmic Oysters
Just back from The Cape. FINALLY ate enough Wellfleet oysters to satisfy. They might just be the best food in the world. Read more here. Who is going to the oyster fest this fall?

Zucchini overload?
Try Julia Child’s Zucchini Tian here in honor of her birthday. Sometimes it’s best to go with the classics.

Good new for new farmers
Read about in incubator farm here.

Brined Rosemary Chicken Breasts with Garden Salsa
Made some salsa tonight to go with chicken breasts brined in salt water, garlic and rosemary for a few hours. (No proportions needed; just add plenty of salt!) Grilled them over charcoal in the driveway (live in an apartment now) and served them with smothered with a simple August salsa of chopped heirlooms and basil from my garden, chopped jalapeno, onion, garlic… you?

Ready for Peach-Paprika Pie?
Recipes for making the best of summer fruit here.

Just for fun
Strange recipes from the 50′s and 60′s take me back:) Let’s start with Beef Fizz. Described as “sheer wizardry as a pick-up,” this “refreshing” beverage recipe calls for a can of condensed beef broth mixed with a half cup of club soda and garnished with lemon. Read more here.

I’m a huge fan of Jeni’s Ice Cream
Flavor and food sources collide in deliciousness here.

Is it possible for anyone to start their winter garden now?
Start one up if you’re more organized than I am! (here)

 

Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup

My husband may be the love of my life, but soup is my culinary ballast, reliably providing a warm hug, asking little in return, only a bowl to hold it and a spoon to consume it. And this soup is summer’s embrace. Tuscany-in-a-bowl, serve Poppa al Pomadoro when tomatoes are at their peak: Local tomatoes should be good enough to savor straight, eaten like an apple, juice dripping down your chin. Serves 6-8

Serve hot, cold or at room temperature. Left-overs make a fabulous baguette sandwich as my daughter, Emma, discovered.

8 cups chopped, skinned & seeded summer tomatoes & their juices (see #1)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
About 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
About 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 cups peasant or Italian bread, torn up (include crusts), stale or toasted (1/2 lb)
2-3 cups chicken stock or water
About 35 basil leaves, shredded or torn into small pieces
Up to 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
Up to 1 teaspoon sugar, optional
Coarsely ground or cracked pepper to taste

1. Plunge about 8 tomatoes into a pot of boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off their skins. Cut in half and seed with a spoon, reserving their juices. You can seed them through a sieve if you like, letting the juices run through into a colander. Cut into wedges. You should have about 8 cups with the juices. (Note: You will need more tomatoes if you use plum tomatoes. Simply use what’s best!)

2. In a medium pot, sauté the garlic and hot chili pepper flakes in the olive oil over low heat until aromatic, about 1 minute tops. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the tomatoes render their juices, about 20 minutes, stirring periodically to break them up.

3. Add the bread and 2 cups of the chicken stock or water. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the bread. Stir most of the basil, reserving the rest for garnish. Taste. If needed stir in: up to 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, up to 1 teaspoon sugar and up to 1 cup additional stock, depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Let rest for at least an hour before serving.

4. To serve: Taste, adding salt and cracked or coarsely ground pepper, if needed. Ladle into warm bowls. Garnish each with about a 1 teaspoon olive oil and a few leaves of torn or slivered basil. (You can stack the leaves, rolled them and slice them.)

Sustainable Monsanto?

Corporate doublespeak is hardly novel, but it particularly irks me when Monsanto jumps on the sustainability bandwagon for PR purposes. The main producer of terminator seeds, designed to take on ownership of the world’s farms, Monsanto uses keeps using the old argument that they intend to feed the world. We know otherwise. They intend to fill their pockets. Read about the supreme court’s recent ruling on bio-tech crops and encourage every investor you know to stay away from Monsanto and all its affiliates.

Summer Rolls with Scallops, Corn and Garden Herbs

Summer rolls. I added some of the vegetables to the dip too.

These appetizers and have a fresh, bright flavor. I used local carrots, herbs and regional scallops. You can find the rice paper wrappers and dried maifun noodles in most gourmet or Asian markets, as well as some supermarkets and health food stores. Makes about 12. Easily doubled or tripled

The Rolls
1.5 ounces maifun noodles
1/4 pound scallops, muscles removed, sliced
1 ear of corn, shucked and kernels removed
1 carrot, grated
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts, optional
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
l/4 teaspoon hot chili pepper flakes
l/8 teaspoon salt or to taste
about 12 triangular rice paper wrappers

The Dipping Sauce
1  tablespoon lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
A generous pinch of hot chili pepper flakes, or to taste

Optional Garnish
Sliced scallion greens
Toasted sesame seeds

l. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and corn. Cook for 2 minutes or until the noodles are soft but not mushy. Turn off the heat. Drop in the scallops  and let them sit in the hot water until almost cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. If you are unsure, you can pull one out and look. Uncooked scallops are a touch translucent.

2. Drain the pot in a colander and run cold water over the ingredients until they are cool. Firmly shake the colander to remove the excess liquid.

3. Add the noodle mixture to a bowl with the remaining summer roll ingredients, except for the rice paper. Toss.

4. Assemble. Place a dishtowel on a work surface. Fill a medium bowl with warm water and submerge 3-4 sheets of rice paper in the water, one at a time. When soft and pliable, about l minute, pull them out and pat dry. Arrange sheets on the towel with wide end towards you. Place about 1 rounded tablespoon of the drained filling in the center of each sheet. Fold in the sides and roll away from you. Set on a plate and complete the rest of the summer rolls with the remaining ingredients. Keeps wrapped well for l day covered in the refrigerator with a moist paper towel.

5. Combine dip sauce ingredients and serve with the summer rolls, sprinkled with scallions and sesame seeds, if you like.

Sustainable scallops in my summer rolls?

Sometimes being PC is exhausting, especially when I try to buy regional fish that is also sustainably raised and caught. Our oceans are a mess and issues of sustainability are complex. But the resources mentioned here, as well as the story of how I decided to buy these scallops should help you make sensible fish and seafood selections.

The easiest approach is to use FishPhone when you’re shopping. Check to see what’s regional. Then text 30644 to The Blue Ocean Institute’s sustainable seafood text messaging service with the message FISH and the name of the fish you are interested in buying. They’ll text back an assessment and better alternatives to fish that have significant environmental concerns.

I can’t get a cell phone connection at my home and like to make my decisions before I go shopping. So here is how I went about it: I wanted something regional and adore shrimp in summer rolls, but regional shrimp isn’t available here right now so I bought scallops, which have a similar enough taste and texture. Switching the kind of fish you buy is sometimes a good solution.

But I wanted to know if buying scallops was an environmentally acceptable way to go. So, I checked The Monteray Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. Their site told me that farmed scallops from China and Japan were the best choice now, but that wild regional scallops were a good alternative. Being a locavore, I bought the regional scallops, the closest sustainable selection. My reasoning?  Support local fisheries, local economies, and buy food that uses less fossil fuel. Go for the freshest fish. And finally, I prefer the flavor of wild caught fish!

Seafood choices can be complex and the Monteray Aquiriium also has a downloadable guide (just scan down on the page) that is extremely helpful.

 

Chock Full o Blueberry Muffins

oatmeal blueberries, 8:7:13

T’is the season. So gorge yourself on blueberries while you can. Pick-your-own, eat ‘em till you’re sick of them — out-of-hand and in everything from oatmeal to salad. Then freeze the rest to savor in these blueberry muffins when ground is frozen and you crave the taste of summer. (Find a pick-your-own farm near you here.) This makes Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or toasted wheat germ
3/4 cup sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups fresh or frozen unthawed blueberries
1 large egg, preferably fresh and summery
1 cup milk, preferably local
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted local butter, melted and cooled

1-Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in center of oven.  Generously spray or grease muffin holes and top of tin.

2-In a large bowl, with a fork or whisk, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and the salt. Stir in the blue berries. In a small bowl, mix egg with a fork, than stir in the milk and butter.  Mix the wet mixture into the dry mixture, JUST until just combined.

3-  Using wet hands or a spoon, loosely form the batter into about equal size balls, about the size of the tins. Drop each into a tin, then bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until they start to brown. Let cool thoroughly before removing from pan.

The Sweet Corn Bible in Ten Commandments

 corn2

Pictures from the wonderful Berkshire Food Journal. Visit them!

I         Only Eat Corn When It’s In Season Near You
The local corn season is short and sweet. So savor it while it’s available until you are fully satisfied. Start by celebrating each year’s harvest with a corn on the cob corn dinner, piling up cobs like cord wood. After that, eat it so often that when the frost comes you’re almost relieved to see it go. Then wait until next year. The flown in stuff doesn’t make the cut and waiting makes the local crop taste even better.

II         Buy it directly from the farmer or Grow Your Own
It’s a pleasure to buy from directly from those that grow it. Farmers markets abound in the country, city and suburbs, so you’ve got no excuse. But, if you don’t know where the closest one is, search one using this Local Harvest link.  And don’t forget to screech to a halt when you see a farm stand. Meeting your farmer puts people, not faceless corporations, back into the food chain.

Urban farmers out there: Grow your own. It’s a commitment, because you need a roomy backyard or a community garden. (You’re likely to be luckier than I was here in the country. A family of raccoons took one bite out of each cob as soon as it was ready to harvest!)

corn 3

III         Try Varietals
Sweet corn, the kind you and I eat in August, has been hybridized almost forever. Since the 80′s, SuperSweet corn, which can be up to 10 times sweeter than the conventional corn, has become hugely popular. I like corn that takes corny rather than just sweet, and you may have corn preferences too. So taste around. Eating all kinds of corn keeps a larger spectrum of it available, yielding more flavor choices and a bio-diverse world.

IV         Start with Corn on the Cob
When the first crop is ready for harvest feast on it in its purest form, so its flavor shines through. You can’t beat it steamed in water for 3 or so minutes then tossed with butter, salt, and pepper. Then move on to topping variations by mixing room temperature butter or (olive oil) with flavoring ingredients to taste.

Here are a few —
•White Miso Compound, a favorite in my house. Just stir in a touch of miso paste.
•Herb Butter, using your favorite herb, such as basil, or dill For Herb-Chive Butter add chopped chives or scallion greens.
•Garlic Butter. Simmer butter or olive oil with minced garlic.
•Lemon Pepper Butter or olive oil, using cracked pepper and lemon zest.
•Chipotle Butter, going light on canned minced chipotle peppers
•Parmesan Butter.
• Your new invention!

For a smoky flavor,grill corn. (See above!) Remove the silk but not the husks, and then soak before grilling. Or for a deeper smoke, grill husked ears directly. The browner the kernels the smokier the taste, But don’t overdo it, because you still want to taste the corn. (I like a cob grilled with some bright yellow and some nicely browned kernels.) Corning grilled over wood will add the best flavor, next best is charcoal and then gas.

V         Shuck More than You Need
Once you start shucking keep going.  I never shuck less than a six, because shucked corn is fabulous to have on hand. Steam or grill it for kernels to use in other dishes. (Or eat cold or reheated, as I’ve been known to do for breakfast.) Keep cooked corn in the fridge for a summer staple.

VI         Go Kernel Crazy
When corn’s in, its kernels add a sweet summery taste to everything. To remove kernels, husk, remove the silk, and then slice down the length of the cob with a sharp knife. Use already cooked corn, or you can steam or microwave kernels for a minute, then add into any kind of vegetable, grain, or cooked dried bean dish. Shave kernels right off the cob into any kind of chili, stew soup or salad.

Sweet corn and tangy lemon pair well in summer salads. Make a lemon dressing with 1 part fresh lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil, adding some minced garlic and a touch of mustard if you like.

Use on:

•A Summer Bean and Corn Salad with canned, drained and rinsed cannellini beans and halved heirloom cherry tomatoes, adding herbs for the garden if you like.
• Summer Bulgur Salad, with cooked bulgur, corn kernels and tons of chopped parsley
•Warm Rice Salad with warmed left over brown rice from your Chinese take-out restaurant, with kernels, cilantro and scallions  and freshly grated ginger. You can even add cubes of chicken or fish.
•Pasta salad with other seasonal vegetables and herbs, spiking it with vinegar and coarsely grated Parmesan.
•And don’t forget to add corn kernels to your favorite potato salad.

VII         Combine Corn and Tomatoes
Corn and tomatoes come into season together and were born to marry. Make a homemade tomato-corn salsa using chopped tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños and a touch of garlic and onion. You’ll never look at the jarred stuff again. Enjoy fresh tomato salsa with corn pudding for which recipes abound. Shave lightly cooked corn kernels atop a tomato, mozzarella salad for a sweet and pretty hit that balances the acidity of the tomatoes.

 VIII         Entertain the Corn Way
Corn holds up to an entire meal, so go for it! Hold a potluck or cook your own feast with corn in every course. Remember it’s a long wait until next year so eat up. Or cut cobs in half and hold a corn variety tasting within a meal or on it’s own. Supply your own or have people bring their favorites.

IX         Take Corny Vacations
Visiting relatives or hitting the road this summer? Drop by a local farm stand or farmers market and pick up corn. Eat out at restaurants that boast of local corn. Top it off with by finding a corn maze in the area and bringing the kids, or the kid within.

X          Spread the word
Share stories about where your great corn comes from. That will help keep your farmer in business and their variety of corn alive and well. Besides, it pleasure to enjoy great food together.

“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn, “ says Garrison Keillor.

 

August Bites

photo copy

Bites from my Facebook page…

♥ Don’t miss my Summer Harvest Class Tuesday, Aug 5, Different Drummer in Northampton. Learn more and register here. I’ll will be showing the class how to grill, fry, stew and bake summer veggies to bring out the full flavor of the season. Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with Sesame Mayonnaise; Green Zucchini Fritters with Goat Cheese and minted yogurt, Southwest Savory Fresh Corn Soup Fresh with Poblano Chilies and Fresh Tomato Salsa. Tomatoes Provençal with fresh herbs, bread and cheese; Harvest Fruit Kuchen….

♥ Read Honey Sharp in the Berkshire Edge about Gideon’s Garden here

♥ Don’t forget to make Corn Pudding with Fresh Tomato Salsa here

Savor Romano beans as I did: Big thick Romano green beans from my garden — lots of ‘em, simmered for almost an hour with diced slab bacon, my tomatoes, onions and garlic. Melt in your mouth great… (more goodies below this picture.)Romano-beans-picked1

Savor the peach crop: Watch for the first of the freestone peaches to make this perfect dish. Drop into boiling water, immediately rinse and slip off the skins, section and saute very briefly with a touch of butter, sugar and your favorite fruit liquor. Light it or just tip the pan towards the flame to burn off the alcohol — careful now — then serve it over yogurt or ice cream.

Gardening anyone? Before and after. What a difference between my little community garden plot in May and July….

photophoto copy

 

 

Eggplant Heaven

eggplant dish chinese

Cooking eggplant stumps many of us, but like mushrooms it’s the meat of the vegetable kingdom — substantial, robust &  full of character — and so is well worth devouring. See below for everything do to with eggplant:)

This easy-to-prepare dish was lumped together with a bunch of other summer improvisations a few posts ago, but deserves its own page now that I have a picture.

Easy Improvisation Eggplant
This used the balance of my farmers market shop plus a few staples. Just saute about 6 sliced Asian eggplants over a very hot flame in a little oil and a couple of flattened garlic cloves, turning once until done, about 12 or so minutes. (Taste if you’re unsure. Better over than under cooked. Seared is good too.) Remove the garlic, if you don’t like it (I do), and lightly salt to taste.

Mix several very generous heaping tablespoons of hoison sauce with Siracha, a Southeast Asian chili sauce, to taste. Stir into eggplant. Look around for something fresh and bright. (I found cherry tomatoes and cooked corn.) Add and toss again with a nice drizzle of sesame oil.  Optional, or if I’d had them: Scallions, cilantro and ginger.

Eggplant unmasked (from my book, The Locavore Way)

Eggplant is available in various sizes and shapes— I especially enjoy skinny Japanese eggplant — all kinds of eggplant take
similar cooking techniques. Although it’s still open to debate,many people feel that eggplant is less bitter when it’s peeled and salted before cooking. All agree that salting keeps eggplant from absorbing too much oil. If you salt, blot dry before cooking.

Eggplant without recipes —

Pierce a few times with a fork, roast eggplant whole, uncovered, until quite soft, 20 minutes to 1 hour at 400°F (grill whole for a smoky taste). Or split and steam for a silky texture. When done, split and scoop out flesh, discard skin and seeds.

Make an eggplant “caviar” by chopping or mashing the flesh with olive oil, garlic, and other ingredients, such as
diced tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs.

Blend steamed flesh into babaghanoush or grilled flesh into smoky eggplant soup.

Dice and sauté in a summer stew, caponata, or an Asian flavored dish, as above.

Try slicing, then brushing with oil and grilling until soft. Use grilled slices for a tasty veggie antipasto, a no-fry eggplant Parmesan, or in a sandwich with garlic-basil oil and tomatoes or sesame mayonnaise and bitter greens.

Roll and stuff grilled eggplant slices, or layer with ingredients like local cheese, tomatoes, and basil.

Fry slices and add to any number of dishes. (Of course!)

 

More summer improvisations....

mugwort noodles with veggiesFriday night…

Noodles in Rosemary Oil with Market Veggies and Tornado Dust

The kitchen is mostly packed, but I left out a few vital items and happily Thursday is market day in West Stockbridge. Luckily, I still have my trusty rosemary plant out, ready to bring to my new home.

I threw this tasty vegetable mixture over pasta, but I’m sure it’s equally good over a thick slice of toast made with quality bread, rice or you tossed with cooked grains or boiled baby potatoes.

Amounts for this recipe are approximate, so go by feel: Briefly simmer about 1 tablespoon very coarsely chopped rosemary in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a handful of chopped onion and a market basket baby zucchini, sliced on the diagonal. Cook over a medium high heat, shaking the pan occasionally until some of it is browned.

Add two or three tomato handfuls of wedges. Turn a few times with a clove or two of chopped garlic, just until the tomatoes melt a bit. Add salt and plenty of cracked pepper to taste. If you can also add a heaping tablespoon or more of Tornado Dust or it’s equivalent. (I get mine at my local bagel joint, Great Barrington Bagel.) Essentially, it’s the topping for everything bagels, and I had it left in my fridge, although most of my supplies are now packed.

Add about 1/2 a pound of mugwort soba noodles noodles (or your favorite pasta?) to plenty of boiling water, and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with the veggies, which should be fairly juicy from the tomatoes and zucchini. Eat immediately.

images-1Saturday night…

Naomi’s Classic Tabouli Improvisation

The queen of herbs, dear friend, primo herbalist and acupuncturist Naomi Alson, make this for us last night. The key, she says, it to add TONS of herbs.

Take a ton of parsley leaves with some stems from the garden or market, adding purslane, if you have it, as well as some dill and mint leaves too. Chop. Toss with cracked wheat, AKA bulgur, that has been soaked in lightly salted hot water and drained well. Toss with herbs. (There should be as much or almost as much herb as wheat.)

Add a handful of diced red onion and a couple of tomatoes. Toss again with freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, salt and ground pepper to taste.

Best eaten that day, but fine the day after. It you like, add some pealed and diced kirby (pickling) cucumber at the last minute. Classic. Perfect.

 

 

Savory Corn Pudding with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Corn Tomato Soup

The browned cheese on the top and soft cornmeal on the bottom sandwich a custard studded with corn. Use an 8 inch square pan for a creamy texture or a larger pan for a firmer result. The accompanying salsa is also a favorite with chips (so double or triple it, if you like.) It leaves the canned stuff in the dust!  (From my first book, now out of print, One Pot Vegetarian Dishes) Serves 4 entrees with salad or 6 side servings

The Pudding
1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably stone ground and local
¼ cup shallots (or onions), chopped, whatever is local
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
l tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pinch dried oregano or ¾ teaspoons fresh
2 tablespoons butter, local if possible
2 cups local milk
1-1/2 cups fresh local corn kernels
3 local eggs
1/2 cup local cheddar or Monterey jack

The Tomato Salsa
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1-1-2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onions
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
l  to 2 jalapenos, to taste, seeded and minced, or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
pinch salt

l. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8 by 8 inch or gratin dish.

2. Combine dry ingredients: In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, shallots, baking powder, sugar, salt, cayenne, mustard, and oregano.

3.Combine wet ingredients: In a pot, heat the butter until mostly melted, about l minute. Add the milk, and heat until the milk is hot and the butter completely melted, about 2 minutes.

4. Mix wet and dry ingredients: Gradually pour into the cornmeal mixture, whisking to remove lumps. Stir in the corn, egg, and remaining tablespoon of cilantro.

5. Pour into the baking pan and bake until the top is starting to firm, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the cheddar on top. Turn the oven to 375˚F, and bake until the pudding is set, about 15 minutes.

6. Serve: Accompany with the salsa, which should be made while the pudding is cooking by simply mixing the ingredients in a bowl.