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

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.
images-1

Chilled August Vegetable Soup with Peaches

tom,corn, peach soupThis cool of mix of farmers’ market vegetables and sweet peaches is spiked with the gentle heat poblano chilies.

Why is it that the fresh taste of the season paired with certain places — in this case my new home in a tree-lined neighborhood in Northampton— enhances my eating pleasure? Perhaps it renders the simplest meal specific, rather than generic. Is this true for you?

So here it is — soup as an ideal late night summer supper, accompanied by the pulse of crickets.
Serves 4, 2 for a hearty dinner

Ingredients

1/3 cup chopped poblano chili
1/3 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 scant cup peeled*chopped ripe tomatoes and their juices
1-1/4 cup peeleds* chopped ripe peaches
About 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or more to taste
About 1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
Slivered lemon verbena leaves, optional (or your favorite herb)
Salt to taste

Procedure

1-Cook the chili and shallots over a medium heat in the olive oil, just until the shallots are  transparent, but not brown.

2-Add the corn kernels and the stock and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and peaches, reserving about 1/4 cup of the peaches for the garnish. (Something I should have done when I created this recipe but did not:)

3-Remove about 1 cup of the soup, mostly solids if you can, and blend until smooth a blender. Add back to the hot soup and simmer for 1 minute to marry the flavors. Salt to taste and chill.

4-Serve cold, generously salted. Top with small dollop of yogurt and a garnish a toss off cucumber, the reserved peaches and lemon verbena, if you have it.

A few simple tips: Make sure the chili is seeded before you chop it. *To peel the tomato and peach: score the bottoms with an X. Drop into boiled water very briefly, remove and then peel. Not essential, but after I shucked and peeled the corn, I snapped the cobs in half and added them to the simmering stock to help season it. A confession: I used the stock to drop and peal the produce, as it was already on the simmer.

Almost end o the summer lunch?

egg corn salad in bowl

Truth is, I like my “hard” boiled eggs undercooked, especially when they’re made with rich goose eggs. The grated veggies are golden beets, which I steamed for 1 minute, then tossed in salt, vinegar and a touch of garlic. The corn was scraped right off its ever-loving cob right into the greens, which were tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Now that’s lunch!

Simple Beet Borscht

Made with light-colored heirloom beets. For a super bright color, use classic red-purple beets.

If you’re a beet lover, Eureka! Here’s a simple summer soup that’s beety, refreshing and pretty. If you’re not — and I’ve seen grown men cry over beets —this recipe is one of the easiest ways to introduce beets to the unconverted.

These local beets are from Markristo Farms at The Great Barrington Farmers Market in MA, but local beets are in season and easy to find at farmers markets, farm stands and sometimes even in supermarkets (just check the label or ask). To find a farmers market near you, try the Eating Well Guide. Local yogurt, sour cream or cream isn’t tough to find either, and garden and market herbs abound.

Cooking note: I adore the taste concentrated taste of roasted beets, but they are still good steamed on the stove or in a stay-cool kitchen in the microwave. I love this soup best in shot glass or espresso cups as a snack, appetizer or first course. This recipe fills about 3 bowls, 4 wine glasses, 6 shot glasses or espresso cups

Ingredients

1 bunch beets, about 1 pound with their tops
1-1/2 cups or more buttermilk, or to reach desired consistency
1/2 teaspoon or more kosher or sea salt to taste
A pinch of cayenne or white pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
A dollop of sour cream, yogurt or a drizzle of cream
A sprinkle of chopped dill and/or chives

Procedure

1- To cook the beets: First cut off their tops, and if they are fresh, reserve to cook later.* Wash the beets to roast or steam until you can easily penetrate them with a knife.

2-To roast: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place beets on a large foil sheet. Seal the long and short sides together to make an enclosed bag. Cook for 30 minutes to 1-1/2 hours,depending on their size. To steam: To keep your kitchen cool, you can steam beets in the microwave. Place beets in a microwave proof bowl or measuring cup with about 1-2 inches of water. Cook until done, for 20 to 40 minutes, checking water once to make sure it isn’t completely evaporated. You can steam beets on top of the stove in a covered pot in the same manner.

3-When beets are cooked, let cool covered. Remove their skins, which should slip off fairly easily. Chop beets in a food processor. With the motor running, add buttermilk until mixture reaches the consistency of a soup. (The soup will thicken a little when cooled.) Add salt and pepper to taste, along with a balsamic vinegar. Chill.

4- To serve: Taste again for salt and pepper, adding it if needed. If you are using it, add dollop of sour cream, yogurt or a drizzle of cream. Sprinkle with herbs.

*Using beet tops — Beet Greens Italian Style

Plunge fresh beet greens, without their end stems, into rapidly boiling water for 1 minute (up to 3 if they are really big). Drain and run under water until cold. Chop and toss with a light coating of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Use as a side dish, part of a composed vegetable salad with each component separated, on a baguette as is or with other sandwich goodies.

 

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)