Come Home!Shop & Eat Local
One of the many benefits of making this change is how delicious and nutritious things become—not just for the pollinators we hope to attract but for us, too. I thought a couple of recipes using what grows without any help in the backyard was worth its own post. Featured on our buffet today are stinging nettles, sweet violets and dandelions.
As the sun sets on Earth Day 2022, we may all be a little overwhelmed, a little lost and feeling far from home. Given the most recent report on climate change, we may all be feeling that the home we love—this beautiful planet Earth–has already slipped from our hands, that there are no magic ruby slippers to click to get us back before everything started to go terribly wrong. But I’d like to suggest that just like those ruby slippers Dorothy wore throughout her harrowing adventure in The Wizard of Oz, we’ve always had the power to “go home”–we’ve always had the power to heal and grow a healthy ecosystem right where we live, right in our own backyards.
Every spring, as the first fresh produce comes to market, I start planning for the winter months ahead. Some vegetables lend themselves better to freezing than others, of course. My new potatoes, spring onions, carrots, leeks and asparagus usually just get enjoyed fresh (though I have frozen asparagus with success for winter pureed soups). The spring broccoli and cauliflower are good freezer candidates—if you can contain your appetite not to eat all that goodness right up. And a winter staple after the last of my stored garlic is gone has always been garlic scapes—good to freeze and great garlic flavor for soups, stews, sautés. And this year, one stuffed bag of scapes remained. What to do?
In the snowy depths of wintery February, I like to think that Valentine’s Day comes along to warm our hearts with homemade cards, paper mâché roses and sweet treats of rich chocolate, creamy caramel and crunchy toasted nuts. Actually, I do more than think about it; I bake!
Long ago, when my daughter was in grade school and my grandma lived with us out in the country, I used to make this rice pudding dish. The original version came from a way-back issue of Cooking Light Magazine and involved a lot of low-fat ingredients that I would not be using today. But we loved it—all of us—even Grandma, who was not a rice fancier. This dish was meant as a dessert, rather a decadent one, even by Cooking Light standards, but the enticement of warm rice pudding on a cold December day made this a special weekend breakfast treat in our house. Even if I added the optional amaretto liquor!
I cannot think of a more autumn vegetable than squash—any kind from pumpkins, to butternuts, to Acorn. Squash is comfort food that can be served at breakfast—maybe in a hash or just roasted with maple syrup—enjoyed at lunch—as in little squash bowls filled with hearty grains—or for dinner, which is where we are landing today. A Squash and Potato Casserole that can be a weekend meal with plenty of leftovers or the star attraction for that Thanksgiving buffet.
For the entire summer, I have luxuriated in the most amazing organic carrots—quite the treat at the farmers market because they are not usually plentiful, organic or not. Carrots take up lots of garden space and can grow in really wonky shapes and sizes—not at all like the pristine orange spikes you find in the grocery stores. That’s why carrots are prime food waste in the conventional world of agriculture—cheap, only perfect and taken totally for granted. Market carrots can be a hard sell to perfect-produce loving consumers.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting with goat milk—I was thinking sort of gamey and strong. I was so wrong! Eddie’s milk is sweet and light and unbelievably versatile. I’ve had it in coffee, on granola and, of course, in these oats. The overnight oats, by the way, are not only delicious but also quick and easy to prepare–great for busy school and work mornings when nutrition is so necessary, and time is so nonexistent.
Everyone knows that summer is my absolute favorite season. One of the reasons why is the abundance of summer fruits, especially the stone fruits—the peaches, plums, nectarines. Soft, sweet and dripping down your chin. Mmmmm. So once Friedel Family Farm started loading their market table with all these Lucious fruits, I was inspired to develop a few recipes. I am particularly proud of this galette because it came together with a lovely flavor balance of semi tart fruits—plums, peaches and blackberries nestled in a super-short sugar cookie crust.
If I am given my choice for dessert, I usually choose something creamy like ice cream or pudding with a short cookie or crust. A refrigerated cream pie is divine! Crème Brulee with shortbread pure heaven! I like cake, of course, but it’s never my first choice; my grandma favored pies and cobblers with incredibly short flaky crusts, so perhaps that is where my preferences began. But put a slice of real pound-of-butter pound cake in front of me…particularly lemon pound cake that has been chilled in the fridge…well, if I must.
Childhood memories fogged around me for days earlier this month when my friend Sally invited me out to her farm to pick mulberries. Sally has several trees and forages daily as this bountiful berry ripens…and ripens…and ripens. Yep a lot of berries, sweet with their own very distinct floral flavor but fragile, with only a short window to use or preserve or freeze.
I cannot imagine my kitchen without the spirits of my grandma and mom or the voices of my favorite chefs and best friends. In one way or another, they all have inspired, informed and contributed to every recipe I have ever developed. This has never been truer than in the development of these fluffy, rich rye rolls.
So when I start planning spring meals, I like to do something special in the meat category, something as unexpected and exciting as Swiss Chard for the vegetarian. Lamb, a clean, sustainable, locally accessible choice is often where I turn for inspiration. Lamb, in my opinion, really knows no season—kabobs on the grill in the summer, shepherd’s pie in the fall, a stew for the winter table. For Spring dining this year, however, I decided to do something exotic—and yet, homey. A pot pie with ground lamb, but seasoned—HEAVILY—with Indian-inspired spices. It got me smiles and a really great smelling kitchen!
My grandma’s chocolate custard pie was one of my favorite desserts. Her pie tasted old fashioned, not too sweet, with big chocolate flavor and a traditional flaky crust—none of the graham cracker nonsense. The pie was baked, so not a cream or chiffon pie—rich custard that couldn’t have come from a box, if you know what I mean.
As most Green Gal readers know, I worship the ground Chef Vivian Howard walks on. So it should come as no surprise that when her PBS series A Chef’s Life came to its final episode, I was inconsolable and weepy for weeks.
And then…this fall…she was back! And she was headed Somewhere South, on an incredible trip to places–yes, but more importantly into cultures, somewhat familiar but also far from her own table, not only through counties and regions of the South but also through history—much of it never told in mainstream—and deep into Black, Creole, immigrant and Indigenous cooking traditions. I’ve seen every episode and am still watching. My two favorites are about porridge and greens, which got me started on the dish I’m sharing below. Because, of course, I wanted to celebrate, too, in my kitchen!
Last year I made the decision to start ripping up my front yard—eventually I mean to rip up all my yard. The plan is to give back some of my land to the Earth: remember last year’s post She Went Native Right in the Front Yard? With the help of local native plant expert Tom Shirrell and my daughter Heather, I took out several feet of typical, useless suburban turf and handed it over to cone flowers, foxglove, monarda, hyssop, yarrow, milkweed and bee balm. A transformation from “doing something to the Earth” to “doing something for the Earth” had begun.
In college, I took two years of French. I loved studying and speaking this beautiful language. You can literally read a grocery list in French and create poetry. Pommes de terre, les haricots verts, et rôti de boeuf—that’s potatoes, green beans and roast beef, y’all.
But today? It’s pain perdu!
The kitchen as classroom—it’s certainly not a new concept. A culinary hero of mine, Alice Waters, was one of the first chefs to identify this idea with her Edible Schoolyard Project, a project that has since taken on a life of its own and been replicated in myriad ways globally, helping children understand where their food comes from, that a healthy plant-based diet can be delicious when deliciously prepared, and how cooking fosters skills that we all need. This idea is different from seeing a kitchen as a place where one learns to cook; it’s reimagining this functional space as a place where one cooks to learn.
It is summer! And for my family this year, it has been the season of gardening and living green. We finally expanded and fenced in our vegetable garden. If the crops fail, I won’t be blaming the deer this year. With a little luck and a lot of faith we may get some tomatoes, beans, potatoes, Brussel sprouts and kale. My little strawberry plant is still too small, but I did spy one tiny berry! I have expanded my herb garden, too, and our front yard is teeming with the pollinator plants I’ve been putting in for the past three years. While we will never be farmers, or herbalists, or native plant experts, it all feels wonderful. So satisfying. So connected to the Earth. And at the end of the day…I’m sore as hell and Don has a smell way beyond sweaty. You, too? I’ve got suggestions, so keep reading.
I’d like you to meet a new special friend: Here’s Maya, or rather Maya Two. She’s a gift from my friend Jane Zappia—yep Pop’s Pies Jane Zappia. Jane called at the end of March and said: “Would you like some sourdough starter? I have more than I need.” OMG. Can you say Soooooo Hippie! Of course I would!
I have several friends with whom I share a lot of passions—love of the outdoors, farmers markets, gardening, and environmental activism, among many other loves. Food is always top of the list, and I’m sure this is not a surprise to you. Conversations with my friends about food come up all the time, and sometimes these heart-to-hearts on all things yummy, healthy and local turn into something really special—in this case, bacteria. Say what?
Don and I have only made one brief trip to the fabled French Quarter, but we loved the history, the cultures and the food…especially that Cajun and Creole cooking! The Louisiana city simmers with beauty and sizzles with passion. The traditional dishes are seasoned with myriad cultures—African, French, Native American, Spanish, and Caribbean.
Needless to say, it’s the herbs that make this dish a standout—yep, you guessed it: fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. And in this season that is famous for stressed out and frenzied households, I have decided to share the recipe on the blog. Many of you will already know how to roast a chicken, I’m sure. But in case you don’t and have reached the end of a harrowing day of shopping, cleaning and whatever else the holidays have thrown at you, roasting the Scarborough Chicken will make a wonderful comforting dinner and will…well…make you feel better. Jenny and I promise.
Afterwords Books is a family-owned local bookstore, celebrating 10 years in Edwardsville. Customers can purchase new and used books, take advantage of a trade-for-credit program and join a book club like ours—there are clubs going on all the time at Afterwords, for every age and interest. Little shoppers also can enjoy the free children’s story times, while others participate in a thriving monthly documentary club. People come to shop for books at Afterwords, to be sure, but they linger for the community, conversation and coffee and tea.