Thursday, December 31, 2009

Party food

Outside the temperature is a frightful 8 degrees F. and I really don't care to know what the wind chill might be. I'm snug in my kitchen cooking party food for the Walpole Grocery, our cute little gourmet market right here in Walpole, NH.

Inside Barbara and Krystyna demand Tingfood

Susie plates up some spring rolls

John serves up sesame noodles

Barbara gets her lunch

Sesame noodles and chicken satay

Happy New Year to all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Garlic Potato Soup

For the last five years, Jennifer has held an open studio sale so that she and I and other artists have an outlet for our need to create. This year, we also fed our need for community with a pot luck supper so we could spend more time with friends who live too far away and who we don't see often enough.

Feeding the community and ...

...the imagination and more...
To go with the main dishes of turkey and veggie chilis, I made Twice Baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese from my new favorite food site, culinate. I used homegrown yukon gold for this do-ahead kind of mashed potatoes and followed the recipe exactly, not easy for me since I always tweak everything. I assembled the dish the night before and carried it south in a cooler. When it was time to eat, 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven was all that was needed. It was convenient, portable and oh so very good topped with turkey chili and a small dollop of sour cream.

What I really want to share with you, however, is the soup I made with the extra baked potatoes that didn't make it to the pot luck. I rough chopped a half dozen or so of the medium size ones and added them to my Fresh Garlic Soup, making it thicker and heartier. Topped with a scattering of sauteed wild mushrooms, this soup feeds your body and your soul.

Garlic Potato Soup with mushrooms

Homegrown goodness

The recipe:
4 cups potatoes, cooked and roughly chopped
2 heads of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 large leek, or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 sage leaves
4 cups chicken stock
2+ cups of water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Sauteed mushrooms (optional)
salt and pepper

In a soup pot, bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a boil, add all ingredients, simmer gently uncovered, until garlic and potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove sage leaves and puree soup in a blender or food processor. Return to pot, stir in Parmesan cheese. For thinner soup add water as needed and adjust seasoning accordingly. My husband likes crunchy croutons with his soups, but I think this soup needs nothing more than an arugula salad, fresh picked from the garden, with thin slices of apples, a sprinkling of toasted nuts and your favorite dressing. Mine is creamy blue cheese.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crispy Kale Snack

Even as I glean every last bit of kale from the garden and crisping them in the oven, Walpole is a colorful blaze, a perfect picture of fall in New England.

View from March Hill Road, Walpole, NH. Photo by Amy.

Red Russian Kale, the only kind I grow, is delicate and hardy

Kale and Swiss chard rule the garden at this time of year and as I'm staring down a huge basket of kale, taking up half my kitchen, I get an email from Maggie telling me about her new way with kale. The idea is simple, toss fresh kale with olive oil, spread them out in a single layer on a large cookie sheet and roast in 350 degree oven until crispy but still green. Maggie's directions were to

"toss torn 3-inch size pieces with oil. Bake 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until crisp and crunchy."

My Red Russian only needed 10 minutes and stirring was not necessary. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or freshly grated Parmesan. Serve immediately, these are so easy to make, fun to eat and criminally addictive.

Crispy Kale Snack

Cook's tips:
- Line cookie sheet with parchment paper to prevent kale from sticking.
- Don't let the kale get brown, at that point it can get bitter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Travelling Harvest

I'm getting ready to make my annual pilgrimage to see Mom and my seven siblings in Montpellier, in the south of France. As glamorous as that may sound, I don't feel all that glamorous. In fact, I feel more like a farmer going to the city with my goods, for here's what I plan to bring--

Almost 8 lbs of lemongrass

3 lbs of Maitake, courtesy of Krystyna, my mushroom connection. She keeps me supplied and safe.

A 12 foot row of Thai basil I plan to pick and take with me.

Why, you may wonder, am I lugging my harvest across the ocean? A little bit is insanity but mostly because I'm grateful to live in a place with rich fertile soil and where there's so much rain that mushrooms grow wild with abandon. Meanwhile, in Montpellier, there has not been a drop of rain since June and my mom's garden is parched and barren.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Save the Fruits of Summer

When school buses roll and a chill is in the air, I'm relieved that the summer heat and humidity are finally gone and I can get out and enjoy the garden once again. At the same time, however, I'm filled with a sense of urgency to get on with harvesting and preserving. Here are some fast and easy ways I use to put up fruits and vegetables for the winter.

Onions and garlic are easy and carefree to grow. Keep them through the cold months by tying them into bundles, hanging them to dry then cleaning and storing them in a cool, dark place.

Garlic ready for the cellar or, in our house, the front hall closet -- it's dark and cool.

To make pickled hot peppers, simply slice, put in jars and fill with vinegar. After a week, they're ready to be sprinkled over nachos or pizzas for extra heat.

This is Emily's German Pickled Zucchini. The secret to this recipe is the unique flavor of Gurken-Meister, a German pickling vinegar. She gave me a bottle (she likes to do this) and a list of ingredients. Even with no instructions, this was easy to make and used a ton of the overgrown zucchinis from the garden.

German Pickled Zucchini
2 lbs zucchinis, cut into bite size pieces
3 red peppers, cut into bite size pieces
3 onions, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup Gurken-Mesiter
2 cups apple juice
1 cup sugar
1 TBS dill
1 TBS mustard seeds
1 TBS peppercorn
2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot, bring to a boil. Boil for three minutes. Put into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes 2 quarts.

When Emily first brought these pickles to knitting night in small, pint jars, they were gone instantly. They disappear just as quickly at our house without the knitters so I now put them in quart size jars or larger. The vegetables become sweet and crunchy, good with grilled meats and sandwiches.

Plum and Cherry Brandy
When fruits are plentiful and ripe to bursting, the fastest way to save them is to put them in a jar and cover with vodka. I add one cup of sugar to 1 quart of vodka, but use more or less according to your taste. After six weeks, decant and serve. Intoxicating with only a slight sweetness.

This Blueberry Bounce is vodka infused with blueberries, sugar, herbs and spices.
Just right over fruit desserts and as an after-dinner nightcap.

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning was my inspiration for some of these creations. The book highlights "traditional but little-known French techniques for storing and preserving edibles in ways that maximize flavor and nutrition." It's a good read.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweet and Sour Cucumber

Here's a recipe to get you through the hazy, hot days of summer.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber

In my farmers' market days, I served this relish/salad along side my Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, but this fresh relish really goes with everything. Try it with hot or cold meats, alongside lunch time sandwiches, or all by itself for guilt-free snacking. It is a perfect way to deal with cucumber glut from the garden.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber
4 to 6 small cucumbers, thinly sliced into circles or half moons
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt

Garnish (optional):
little tiny hot chili peppers (as much as you can take)

In a sauce pan over low heat, dissolve sugar in the water, remove from heat and stir in vinegar and salt. Makes two cups.

Put cucumber and onion in a serving bowl, add marinade to cover the vegetables. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate until ready to eat but the flavor improves as it sits. It will keep for about five days in the fridge, except at our house, where it doesn't last that long.

Cook's tips:
Double or triple the marinade, it keeps in the fridge almost indefinitely. Easy and convenient.

Pick cucumbers when they're still small, when the seeds are just starting to form. At this stage they're popping crisp and distinctly sweet.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Garden: Wild and Weedy

With all the rain we've had this summer, my rambunctious garden is like a child only a mother could love - no matter how unruly, it's still the object of my affection.

Can this garden be saved?
My mistake here was mulching with hay. Apparently there's a big difference between hay and straw: Hay contains weed seeds and straw does not...oops.

Tomatillos and potatoes threatening to take over the strawberries.

I'm hoping the watermelon will crawl over and crowd out the weeds.
Wishful thinking?

The asparagus rises above all obstacles.

Cucumbers finally getting the long awaited summer heat.

It's time to harvest all the lettuce before they bolt.
When I have a lot of lettuce and fresh herbs, I serve Spring Roll Lettuce Wrap, and that's what I did at our monthly supper club. Six of us chowed down almost half this row, six heads of lettuce, a light meal with lots of moans and groans.

Thai basil, another good candidate for Spring Roll Lettuce Wrap.

Garlic and weeds

My favorite, Patty Pan, has the best texture and flavor of all summer squashes.

Swiss chard, onions and black turtle beans.
The brick mulch keeps Ben, our garden tiger, from claiming the garden as his own.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lao Food Festival

Every year on the Fourth of July the Lao-American community from across the country converges at the Buddhist temple, Wat Lao Buddhavong, in Catlett, VA, to celebrate America and to recreate a bit of their homeland.

Food plays an important role in Lao society. Walk into a Lao home and the first thing you're asked is "Have you eaten yet?" Even religious offerings show respect by offering foods to the monks and this event was no exception.

Alm Bowls collect food for the monks, Catlett, VA.
See photo of alm giving during morning procession of Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang

A couple of my siblings and I drove ten hours, from New Hampshire to Virginia, to walk down memory lane and reminisce about our childhood in Laos. We were not disappointed. We were transported back by the sights and sounds, and most of all, by the food, too complicated to make in our own kitchens. That could now change, however. We were inspired by the experience and vowed to start making some of our favorite native dishes. So stay tuned and if you have a favorite Lao recipe, please email me or share it in the comment section below.

For food lovers interested in authentic Lao food, this is as close as you can get without a visa. There are two festivals each year--July Fouth and the Lao New Year, usually in April, according to the lunar calendar.

Here's a sampling of dishes typically found at festivals and celebrations from the old country.

Tum Mak Hoong - Green Papaya Salad - hot, sweet and sour

Savory and sweet coconut pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk, fried in a cast iron mold.

Grilled meats infused with the ever present lemon grass, chili peppers, and fish sauce

Pickled mangoes, a sour and salty treat

Tropical Mangos and Lychee Nuts

Traditional Lao costume

Sweet drinks and desserts

Grilled coconut sticky rice in banana leaf

Sesame Balls filled with sweet mung bean paste

Kao Lam - bamboo logs filled with coconut sticky rice and taro or black beans

Kao Lam is enjoyed warm or at room temperature for snack or dessert.

Lao Links I like that you might enjoy:
Lao Bumpkin
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