A Capsule Wardrobe for the Well-Dressed Salad

A Capsule Wardrobe for the Well-Dressed Salad

Have you heard about \"capsules\"? If you are a Pinterest fan or follow the fashion world, “capsule” wardrobes are the BIG buzz. To be honest, I don’t think this is all so new, but, hey, I’ve been around a while. The concept of a capsule wardrobe is to begin with five or six basic pieces of clothing and build a wardrobe with some accessories and creativity. Goals include saving you time, money and stress. But why am I talking about clothing? I’m not really. I’m talking about homemade salad dressing. More »

Celebrating Not-Quite Fall with Not-Quite Apple Cobbler

Celebrating Not-Quite Fall with Not-Quite Apple Cobbler

It\'s not quite fall, but you can sense the change—cool air in the morning, a tinge of red on the leaves, a deeper blue in the sky and a quickening sunset. Sigh. Appetite changes, too. We remain creatures of the seasons, even if we have all but lost that tenuous connection. I start craving butternut squash soup, cinnamon tea and pear or apple cobbler. But it is rather bittersweet for me. More »

Southern Comfort:  Herbed Ham Hocks and Beans

Southern Comfort: Herbed Ham Hocks and Beans

We had a little taste of fall this past week—rainy, chilly and gray for several days. My husband Don thought this was a great time for some comfort food. My thoughts were going in the same direction, too, and when my friend Deb’s special guest came up from Texas, I knew we needed to head south for a dinner. What could say \"southern comfort\" better than ham hocks and beans? More »

 

Walking on the Wild Side with Tiny Tom Turkey

turkey and cranberry galette

Well, yes, it HAS been a while. I got a little sidetracked this week when I got THE CALL. And THE WORD was persimmons! My neighbor, friend, farmer and expert forager Travis announced on Tuesday that the persimmons were ready, and he knew just where to find them. How could a green gal refuse?

So all of Wednesday was devoted to scouting out the persimmon trees (We began a 5:30 a.m.); harvesting them via a large stick hurled high in the air (Travis did this, but you probably guessed that.) and then scavenging the ground for the bounty (Thank goodness for that headlamp on Travis’ hat!), and finally—for what took literally hours—washing, seeding and pureeing the ripe, sweet, sunset-colored flesh of the persimmons (my job).

So stay tuned for an old-fashioned persimmon holiday treat. For now, though, let me just say this: Sometimes you get just what you asked for and, still, you are not prepared. For instance, my conversation with Shawn Mullens of MOB Farms at the market back in October went like this:

Me: Shawn, the turkey last year was a big hit—but maybe too big. Remember it was 24 pounds?! Remember that I’m a vegetarian and Don is just one little guy?! Is there a way to request something smaller? Maybe quite a bit smaller?

Shawn: (smiling and shaking his head in the affirmative) I remember. What about a wild turkey this year? We raised some, and they are much smaller than the domestic turkeys, like the one you had last year. A little gamier in taste, maybe, but definitely smaller.

Me: Ok, let’s go with the wild turkey. Sign me up!

I walked away minus my deposit thinking “small…. right….probably 19-20 pounds if it’s an ounce.” And I began to prepare:

I logged in the big disposable roasting pan on my shopping list because I knew my roasting rack would be too small—I’d been through this before, you see.

I made sure we’d have plenty of money in the checking account to write the final check on Nov. 21 because last year I shelled out $80 in addition to my upfront deposit. (I’m not complaining about this, by the way; last year’s turkey is still talked about as ‘one of the best ever.’ I’m just clarifying the situation as it unfolded.)

I cleared the entire bottom shelf of the refrigerator so the turkey could slide right in once we got it home.

And, finally, I began lining up the recipes for leftover dishes so that the roasted bird could be divided and organized before storing. There’d be soup, of course, and perhaps a pot pie this year. Some meat could be frozen for a quick weeknight meal for Don and, like last year, those big drumsticks would be removed prior to roasting for a pre-Thanksgiving special dinner in 2017. The rest I’d deal with after the holiday.

When I stepped up to the back of the truck on the evening of the 21st, I pulled out my checkbook and handed Laura Blumenstock my receipt. “Notice it does say as small as possible” I said to her with a smile.

Here you go, Toni. You owe us $6.” Huh?

Six dollars?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said. “You got a wild bird, right?” I nodded. “He was the smallest we had… not even 10 pounds.

I looked at my Thanksgiving turkey and realized my roasting rack would be just fine. The legs would be browning on the bird and, if we wanted soup, there’d be no frozen easy-weeknight-meal for Don. Tiny Tom (as we came to call him) was the size of an overgrown hen. Scratch that pot pie.

But every twist and turn in the best laid culinary plans presents opportunities. If this was the smallest turkey I’d ever roasted, what was the advantage? Brining. Brining is the secret to moist, succulent meat, but the process would have been out of the question with last year’s turkey—no stockpot in my kitchen could have held it and the two-plus gallons of water needed to submerge it. Who am I kidding? If I did have a stock pot big enough, no one in the house could have lifted it to get it back to the frig. However, this year, Tiny Tom presented no such problem… he only offered the opportunity to try something new.

turkey brining in salt solution

It is critical when brining to have the exact ratio of water to salt and to completely submerge your meat.

And it worked. I brined Tom for about six hours prior to putting him in the oven in a solution of two and a half gallons water with two and a quarter cups of kosher salt. He actually bobbed up to the top a little—so tiny—so I weighted him down with a dinner plate to make sure he stayed submerged.

Once he was out of the brine, rinsed, patted dry and ready for the oven, I remembered Shawn’s comment about gamey taste, so I decided to tame some of Tom’s wilder side by stuffing him with a big sliced orange, yellow onion quarters, black peppercorns and a sachet of fresh thyme, bay and sage—just a little subtle flavor and extra acidity that would infuse his meat. Then I buttered and oiled his backside and put him in a 325-degree oven for about three hours. Half way through, we flipped him for a perfectly cooked, juicy breast.

stuffing ingredients

This stuffing was just right for our little bird. Not a hint of gaminess and a lovely citrus smell in the kitchen.

roast turkey on serving platterSo there he was, all in one piece, all on the table. He was full of flavor and gobbled up by the meat lovers. There were leftovers, but only a small supply. And, you know, I was kinda sad. I had grown really fond of Tom—that little but mighty tasty turkey.

And as I packed away his scrawny carcass in the frig for stock, I knew I just had to come up with some “ultimate leftover dish” to pay him his due. Here’s what I did….

Not only does my Roasted Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Galette use up the leftover turkey, it salvages the leftover cranberry sauce, bits of cheese from the appetizer board and (for the vegetarian version) extra chard, spinach or kale that didn’t make it into the holiday salad bowl.

Perhaps you recall my post on sweet and savory rustic tarts? I’ve never found a better crust recipe than this one, whether I’m preparing dinner or dessert. And, maybe you remember the amazing cranberry sauce recipe that my friend Debbie Ward of Silver Tablet Marketing shared with me last Christmas. And even if neither of these recipes rings a bell, I think you’ll like this left-over but never-to-be-forgotten dish.

Any roasted turkey pieces (or chicken or ham for that matter) will do—I used a mix of light and dark boneless meat with some of the gravy still clinging. And, any cooked cranberry sauce should work, too. However, cranberry relish (uncooked) should not be used and canned cranberry sauce that retains the shape of the can it came out of… well… I will not even comment. Take a look at mine from last year to see if your recipe is similar. If it is, it should work fine. Two of my leftover cheeses were from Marcoot Creamery—Havarti and a Ewe’s Special. I also had leftover grated Parmigiano Reggiano. So use what you have; even a spoonful or two of that cream cheese you didn’t need for the cheesecake will work. Get those creative juices flowing.

Roasted Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Galette

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Serving Size: a quarter of the tart

Roasted Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Galette

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • One and a quarter cups wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour.)
  • One-half teaspoon salt
  • One-half teaspoon each dry thyme, basil and oregano.
  • Eight tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • One-quarter cup plain Greek yogurt (I went with local Windcrest Dairy—my all-time favorite.)
  • One-quarter cup ice water
  • Two tablespoons lemon juice
  • One egg yolk
  • For the filling:
  • One cup shredded cheese
  • One-quarter cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste (I would go easy because your turkey and cranberry sauce already have a lot of seasoning. You want the cheese filling to just serve as a rich backdrop to the main flavors.)
  • One egg white

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and herbs. Add the butter and combine with your pastry blender. Add the yogurt, water and lemon juice and mix gently until a soft, smooth dough forms. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Remove your refrigerated leftovers (the turkey and the cranberry sauce) from the frig so they “calm down” a bit. Make sure the turkey has been sliced or torn into fairly small pieces.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients. Beat until smooth (hand mixer works great and quick).
  5. Remove the dough from the frig and roll into a circle, about one-eighth inch thick—does not need to be perfect. (Yeah!) Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  6. Spoon your filling onto the pastry, coming to about one-half inch from the edge.
  7. Place the turkey pieces on top of the filling on one side of the tart and spoon the cranberry sauce onto the remaining half. Fold the dough edges up and over, pinching any creases so they lie flat. Brush the crust with the egg yolk and sprinkle with some extra Parmigiano Reggiano, if you have it.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden.

Notes

Note that the prep time does not include the time it will take to chill the dough, which takes a minimum of one hour.

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I felt a lot better once Tiny Tom had a spectacular encore. He really was the star of the show. I send my thanks to Laura and Shawn for taking such good care of him over the past year. Maybe next year I’ll buy two wild turkeys and put one away for Christmas in my new… oh, yeah, I wasn’t going to mention that freezer any more, was I? Gratitude is, thankfully, a hard habit to break.

Showstopper Squash Bowls with Pumpkin, Lemon and Rosemary Rissotto

kabocha squash

Well the clock is ticking. Turkey defrosting in your frig? I pick up mine tonight: local, humanely raised and incredibly fresh from MOB Farms. I may be a vegetarian, but I just can’t help getting excited about the challenge and tradition surrounding the Thanksgiving turkey. Last year was so special—my first local bird… all 24 pounds of her! This year, after a discussion with Shawn Mullens, who is part of the MOB Farms operation and an herb grower at the Land of Goshen Community Market, I opted for a wild turkey, somewhat gamier in taste and a smaller, leaner bird.

But what I’m really here to talk about is squash, a new-to-me squash called Kabocha (aka Japanese Pumpkin). Mine is a gorgeous, russet-colored orb called “Sunshine” that I bought early in the fall from Bruce Haas at Daydream Farm. Kabocha is super sweet and will make the perfect roasted bowls for my pumpkin, lemon and rosemary risotto (Supposedly, you can even eat Kabocha’s skin!). If you are looking for an “Ooooo and Ahhhhh” dish to impress on Thursday, this might be it. Not that hard to make, but it is a last-minute kind of thing because of the risotto. So pull in those troops and have someone help you mind the risotto while you get that turkey to the table.

Rooting Out Flavor and Balance with Sweet Potatoes, Beets and Turnips

recipe ingredients

I love sweet potatoes. Roast them, steam them, puree them—any way you fix them, it’s fine with me. Well, just don’t candy them. What! No marshmallows? No maple syrup? No brown sugar? No.

You see, I was not always the great fan of sweet potatoes that I am today. When I was growing up, sweet potatoes usually appeared mostly around the holidays… highly decorated and sugared, apparently right from Santa’s workshop. Everyone went “AHhhhhh” and “Oooooo” when my grandma brought the sticky, puffy, cinnamon-scented casserole dish filled with sweet potatoes and topped with perfectly toasted marshmallows to the table. Everyone, that is, except me.

Something about them just didn’t taste the way it should. And over the years I’ve decided that the problem was balance. Nothing in the dish, except maybe mounds of salted butter, created any sort of contrast. Everything was just too sweet, so ultimately flat and one-dimensional. Well, everyone is entitled to her opinion, right?

Now I’d like to think that my aversion to candied sweet potatoes pointed to a rather sophisticated palate in a precocious young child, that somehow I instinctually knew the key to a great-tasting sweet potato dish was creating colorful balance and contrast rather than monochromatically piling sugar on sugar. But, truth be told, I probably just didn’t care for the sweet potatoes, thought them stringy and weird. I’m sure if my grandma had poured maple syrup over the mounds of buttered mashed white potatoes I could consume by the gallons, I’d have happily kept on eating without even coming up for air.

Granola Bar-Pumpkin Pudding Squares

granola bar-pumpkin pudding square

Last week I was stuffing little paper sacks with homemade granola, Halloween pencils and erasers, and fairy princess glow wands for the little trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. We only had a few little ones this year, but they were all quite enchanting. So there I was at the starting line of the holiday season trying to perfect a gluten-free, dairy-free “treat” for my special trick-or-treater, my daughter Heather. I wanted something healthy but delicious, something that could be the star of the dessert table (Think ahead to Thanksgiving.) or a healthy midday snack, something—above all—that involved chocolate and pumpkin. Because… it was Halloween, ya know.

What I landed on was a combination of two recipes: one for granola bars and the other for dairy-free baked pumpkin pudding that I have always loved to make in the fall. Putting the two together—with just a bit of tweaking—produced a wickedly rich, substantial dessert that just screamed autumn. What’s more, it gave me a chance to roast my first pumpkins of the year. If you recall the pumpkin post from last year, you know I’m a firm believer in cooking those pumpkins that decorate the porch—who puts food on the front porch and then just throws it away?

Okay, I’ll Try Okra!

Here we are at the very end of the market season. The Land of Goshen Community Market held its final market day on October 15; other local farmer’s markets will follow suit in a couple of weeks or so. Hugs, kisses, tears and best wishes for the coming winter abounded on our last day. Community. It is what I will miss most about the market over the winter. But I couldn’t let the season end without an act of bravery; I finally started cooking with okra (a vegetable I have avoided for years) during the final market countdown and landed on three recipes: two are passable and one was a standout.

Here’s the thing that always comes up when you talk about okra: slime. Even people who absolutely LOVE it, talk about the slime, sometimes with fondness, sometimes with disdain. But slime always enters the conversation, even when the goal is to dismiss it.

In reality, there is much more to okra than slime: Okra is a vegetable that has traveled through history and across continents, has woven its flavor into many cultures, has played a significant role in the sad story of slavery, and remains a staple ingredient in regional cooking in the United States.

Southern Comfort: Herbed Ham Hocks and Beans

bowl of ham hocks and beans

We had a little taste of fall this past week—rainy, chilly and gray for several days. My husband Don thought this was a great time for some comfort food. My thoughts were going in the same direction, too, and when my friend Deb’s special guest came up from Texas, I knew we needed to head south for a dinner. What could say “southern comfort” better than ham hocks and beans?

My take on traditional ham hocks and beans uses fresh herbs from my garden and onions and garlic from my market buddies. My friend Dara, owner of SS Backwards Longhorns sold me some ham hocks a few weeks ago, and I knew they were going to be spectacular in this dish.

Even though I’m a vegetarian, I can appreciate the high quality of local meat I get at the farmer’s market. Dara and her husband Scott deal mostly in grass-fed beef, but for her market customers, a limited amount of pork is also available.

Falling in Love with Harvest Green Beans

Green Bean Salad with cherry tomatoes and adzuki beans

Well it is officially Autumn… I’ve ordered my Thanksgiving Turkey from MOB Farms. But with high humidity and temps in the upper 80’s, it’s kinda hard to “feel the fall love.” So my menu continues light and cool a bit longer.

A lot of crops in the Midwest seem to get two chances at my table: spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, raspberries and green beans are among our favorite produce that show up in both spring and fall. Just as you start longing for those long-ago spring delicacies, they reappear. And actually—in a good year—the early autumn produce is superior to its spring counterpart with better texture, richer flavor and perfect timing for canning and freezing.

I again will be freezing at least a couple of big bags of green beans in the next few weeks. But we also like to have a few dishes right out of the field. For instance, I love this savory-sweet blend of steamed green beans, cherry tomatoes, red onion and red adzuki beans tossed in a lemony basil vinaigrette. It hits all the high notes of summer and ushers in the deep melodies of fall. Gotta love all the harmony on the table.

Celebrating Not-Quite-Fall with Not-Quite Apple Cobbler

Mock apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream

It’s not quite fall, but you can sense the change—cool air in the morning, a tinge of red on the leaves, a deeper blue in the sky and a quickening sunset. Sigh. Appetite changes, too. We remain creatures of the seasons, even if we have all but lost that tenuous connection. I start craving butternut squash soup, cinnamon tea and pear or apple cobbler. But it is rather bittersweet for me.

It isn’t that I don’t like fall. I try to appreciate the turning of the seasons and the magical qualities of each day. But truth be told, I’m a summer gal at heart. Saying goodbye to summer seems to get harder each year, so I like to create “transitions” that help ease me through. For instance, over the weekend I gave a dinner for friends that began in “summer” and ended in “fall.” Well, sort of.

We started off with my previously posted Cold Cucumber Soup…. SO summer. Then we moved on to marinated and grilled vegetable kabobs. Everything on the skewers is at the peak of flavor right now. Aren’t they pretty?

vegetable kabobs from Delicious Living Magazine

By far, this is the favorite grilled vegetable dish every summer. Serve it alone, with rice or as a side to fish and meat.

Farm to Table: CSA Dinner at Biver Farms

Me with Keith Biver at the Wednesday night CSA dinner

Last Wednesday evening, Don and I were invited out to Biver Farms for the weekly CSA dinner. That’s me with Keith Biver just before things got started. People who are enrolled in Biver’s CSA program get a big bag of fresh produce each week, a selection of what is ripe and ready on the certified organic farm just outside Edwardsville, IL. They can pick their bag up most any evening after Wednesday, but most CSA members sure try to make the informal “dinner night”. As Frank Biver puts it: “We sometimes have quite a wing-ding out here.

And they do. Everyone shows up with something they have made (or, if they were super busy, purchased) to share at dinner, and Rosie Biver is the “hostess with the mostess,” serving a few cocktails and her own really yummy creations. Don was all over her stuffed jalapeños with cream and cheddar cheese and…wait for it…BACON wrap. I swear, people think my poor meat-eater husband never gets any protein. Well I saw him down three of these while we were there.

Me and My Friend Henry: Cool as Cucumbers

cucumber soup with cherry tomato garnish

The dog days of summer are here. While new fall produce is coming in every day, some summer favorites are beginning to thin out, cucumbers among them. So let’s make the most of what is remaining by finding more than one place for them on the dinner table.

Henry

Poolside with my good friend Henry–expert in safety management, gentleman farmer and budding chef. I really meet the nicest people on this blog!

I think my favorite part of doing this blog is talking food and green living with other people—not to mention eating food with other people. Sometimes the conversation begins at my market on Saturday mornings and can take on a life of its own as people chime in with their tips and recipes. Sometimes I email chefs whose recipes I’d like to feature or use as inspiration. Sometimes they email back! And sometimes, my friends share samples of their own masterpieces—a great plus to being a food blogger! Such was the case with my friend Henry—a pool buddy-who showed up with his latest creation in his little poolside cooler—his signature Cucumber and Yogurt Salad. To die for!

Henry has a “regular” job at a local university taking care of emergency management. Can you say stress? But at night, he heads home to his small farm, complete with row crops, a stand of maple trees (I have the syrup to prove it.), set-aside prairie and pond, a chicken-eating (not kidding) sheep, no Internet (still not kidding) and his best dog-friend Bear. Henry loves the farm, getting close to his food source—he has rendered his own lard from his own hog, BTW—and mastering the arts of home cooking. My kinda guy.

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