Think Green, Think Fresh

Summer is officially here, and it’s hotter than the hubs of hell. Although I’m still obsessed with turnips, it’s time to move on to other vegetables. Typically when it is this hot I turn to lighter fare. The heat saps me so I want something that is quick and easy to make, and uses seasonal produce. I also like options that allow you to use what might be on hand. This pasta dish comes together quickly (than 20 minutes). Although I have used fresh spinach and sugar snap peas, you could just as easily use shelling peas, asparagus or cherry tomatoes. I’m finding a lot of uses for ricotta these days. I find it refreshing and lighter than a sauce using heavy cream. Spaghetti or linguine are you best pasta choices, but feel free to use what you have on hand. Remember when you add your vegetable to the pasta water, that you want to barely blanch them. I suggest 1 minute so the freshness of the vegetable comes through. The tartness of the lemon is the perfect contrast to the ricotta and vegetables. This recipe can be doubled if serving 4 or more people.

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES AND LEMON RICOTTA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ounces pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas, sliced vertically in 3 pieces (it’s a nice way to expose the interior of the peas)
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice, plus a few extra wedges to serve
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile make the ricotta sauce.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, olive oil, cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, taste and adjust seasoning to you preference.
  3. In the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time, add spinach and snap peas to the pot. Stir and push the vegetables into the boiling water.
  4. Drain after 1 minute, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water (you will use this to thin you sauce if needed.)
  5. Return pasta and vegetables to the same pot, add the ricotta sauce and a few tablespoons of hot pasta water (you will not use all of it!). Stir well to evenly coat the pasta in sauce, you want a smooth and creamy texture.
  6. Serve immediately, drizzling extra-virgin olive oil over each bowl; add a sprinkle of extra cheese.

Serves 3

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“There is nothing that is comparable to it, or as satisfactory or as thrilling as gathering vegetables one has grown.” —Alice Toklas

Your My Thrill

You do something to me! It was so unexpected when it happened. Caught totally off guard, I find I just can’t get enough of my new love! There are so many ways to use these little gems, and this recipe is perfect for a breakfast or brunch. Full of cheese, eggs, kale, cream and bread cubes it is a meal by itself, or if you prefer, with something simple from the grill. Turnips have the added benefit of not being a carbohydrate. They have less than half the calories of potatoes or sweet potatoes; and can easily be swapped out in recipes. So you can literally eat them with abandon!

TURNIP AND KALE GRATIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme is wonderful)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 bunches kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn (you can use any type of kale, I find Tuscan and Red Russian particularly good)
  • 6-8 medium turnips, trimmed, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I don’t peel mine, however if you do feel free)
  • 3 large farm-raised eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, grated (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated (about 1 ounce)
  • 2 cups day-old bread such as ciabatta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium pan, bring garlic, cream and thyme to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onions, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally until they turn a nice light amber color, about 20-30 minutes. Add a splash or two of water if they start to stick to the bottom of your pan. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in same skillet. Working in batches, add your kale, tossing and letting it wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt. Cook until kale is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Add to bowl with onions.
  4. While kale is cooking, cook turnips in a large pot on well-salted water until crisp tender, about 2 minutes; drain. Transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Drain and pat dry. Transfer to the bowl with onions and kale.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk eggs, Fontina cheese, pecorino cheese, and cooled cream mixture in a large bowl to combine. Add onion and kale mixture, along with bread; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 8 x 8 casserole dish and bake uncovered until well browned, 40-50 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Gratin can be assembled 12 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Serves 6

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“The best things happen unexpectedly.”

Not On My Radar

Today I am grateful. Grateful for living in the country on our vegetable farm. It provides a much needed counterbalance to the daily stress and anxiety of watching our world unravel by the seams. So many things are out of our control; so I focus on the things I can do to live a meaningful life. These include keeping in touch with those I love, planning for an uncertain future, reading, playing games with Val, and above all cooking with as much creativity that I can muster.

If I am an obsessive cook, Val is an obsessive farmer. She loves growing vegetables that are unfamiliar to us. These include some vegetables that don’t necessarily excite me, like turnips. Turnips have never been on my radar. When there are so many vegetables that I love, why grow turnips? When I expressed this to Val she simply said, “Then learn to like them.” She was obviously not detoured. So grow them she did, while I did my part and explored recipes for ideas on how to use them.

I found myself gravitating to recipes that featured them roasted. I figured most vegetables that are roasted are usually sweeter. Really, I didn’t know what to expect, so I tried a simple side dish that roasted them, then tossed them with a vinaigrette while warm; I imagined similar to a French potato salad. It was certainly worth a try. I made a vinaigrette using scallions, tarragon vinegar, whole-grain mustard, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh parsley. I reasoned if I liked everything else in the recipe, I would have a good chance of enjoying them. I butterflied a whole chicken for the grill and we were in business.

I roasted and tossed the turnips with the vinaigrette and the sharpness of the mustard with the vinegar and olive oil smelled wonderful. I went out to finish up the chicken, when Val appeared shortly after with a piece of turnip between her fingers. “It’s time.” she said and popped it in my mouth. Frankly, I was stunned! This was a turnip? This was what I had been avoiding? It was absolutely delicious! Wow. Val stood there with a smirk on her face. “I assume we should grow these again?”

It’s safe to say, I am now a convert. I was so impressed with them I decided that I could use a similar strategy to roast them with chicken. This time I pan-seared chicken thighs, then pan-roasted turnips with fresh tarragon, course mustard, garlic, lemon zest, white wine and chicken stock. I then finished the whole thing covered in the oven for 25 minutes. I have found that turnips love roasting, tarragon and mustard for sure.

ROASTED TURNIPS IN MUSTARD-VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon tarragon or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 24 small or 10 larger turnips, cut in half or wedges depending on size

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, scallion, parsley and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut the turnips in half through the stems if small, quarter or cut in sixths if larger. In a large bowl toss the turnips with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the turnips on the baking sheet and roast for about 18 minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes or so, transfer to a decorative bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Serve.

Serves 4-6

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH TURNIPS, TARRAGON AND LEMON

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 medium to large turnips
  • 6-8 sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a heavy oven-proof Dutch oven on a stove top over high heat. Pat the chicken thighs with paper towels, then rub with the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add to pot and sear 6-8 minutes per side, or until well browned. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. Turn heat down to medium. Pan roast the turnips, adding a bit more olive oil if needed, until lightly golden. Add the tarragon, mustard, garlic, vinegar, wine and stock. Bring to a simmer. Return chicken thighs to pot.
  3. Transfer to oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove from oven and take out chicken thighs; cover them with tented foil.
  4. Place pot back on stove over medium-high heat. Reduce liquid by a little less than half. Stir in heavy cream. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken.
  5. With a slotted spoon, remove turnips and place on each plate. Top with a chicken thigh; then spoon sauce over both. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves 4

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“This is about trying new things, and getting out of your rut.” — Teri Gault

Mediterranean Dreaming

After 3 inches of rain last night, it is a steamy, warm day here in Michigan.  Although the farm really needed the rain, humidity generally puts me into salad mode; and there is no better time for salads than summer. I enjoy leafy salads, I like to get outside the box and create salads that use other ingredients.  Anything Mediterranean comes to mind, so a layered salad of hummus, ground lamb, and veggies hits just the right cord.

This layered salad makes a particularly nice presentation at a gathering on a large platter. You can also make individual plates if you rather. The hummus can be made a few days ahead to save time on the day of assembly. Macerating the cherry tomatoes in red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil adds even more flavor. You can also top it with crumbled feta cheese. Garnish it with parsley, cilantro or mint. It makes a good appetizer for a crowd along with other Mediterranean sides or can be used as a main coarse. I find that I typically have leftovers after I construct the salad, which are just as good the following day. Serve with pita or naan.

MEDITERRANEAN LAYERED SALAD

FOR HUMMUS (from my first cookbook Basics with a Twist:In

  • 2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained but reserving their liquid; save 1/4 cup chickpeas for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

METHOD:

  1. Place drained chickpeas in a four cup glass measuring cup and heat in your microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Heating your chickpeas allows them to break down in the food processor much easier.
  2. Feed your garlic through the tube of your food processor.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except liquid from chickpeas. This liquid will be used to thin the hummus if needed.
  4. Process for at least 3 minutes. Your hummus should be very smooth and creamy. If you feel you need to thin it slightly, add chickpea liquid 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Taste for salt and/or additional lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

FOR LAMB:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout

METHOD:

  1. Brown the ground lamb in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic, onion, pine nuts and Ras el Hanout. Saute until onion is soft and translucent. Depending on the age of the lamb, you may need to take a few paper towels held with tongs and absorb any unwanted fat. This can sit until you are ready to assemble your salad.

FOR VEGETABLES AND GARNISH:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups sliced cucumbers, quartered
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs, such as parsley, cilantro or mint
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Place cherry tomatoes in a small bowl; sprinkle with red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little coarse salt. Mix and let macerate for 30 minutes. Keep tomatoes and cucumber separate.
  2. Chop herbs.

ASSEMBLY:

On large decorative platter, spoon hummus over bottom leaving a little space near the edges.  Next top with lamb leaving an edge to show the hummus. Sprinkle reserved chickpeas around the edges.

Sprinkle cucumber over lamb. With a slotted spoon drain cherry tomatoes, then sprinkle them on top of cucumbers. Garnish with herbs. Sprinkle with crumbled feta if using.

Serves 4

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

Peas, Peas Me

Now that we have moved from spring to summer the fresh food possibilities have exploded.  Strawberries, sugar snap peas, fresh shelling peas, leeks, herbs, beets, garlic scapes and greens, show us how wonderful fresh food can be. Local farmers markets are teaming with everything, and it will only get better. Although we are still challenged with world events and the Covid-19 pandemic, seasonal produce helps to alleviate feeling glum, (at least it helps me to live in the moment).

I’m one of those people whose addiction to crunch surfaces in many ways; this salad for instance. It’s the best in early summer when fresh sugar snap peas, shelling peas and herbs are plentiful. I blanch ever so slightly the fresh snap peas and shelling peas to bring out the vibrancy of their color. This salad works well for a picnic, pot luck or in your screened in porch.

SUGAR SNAP PEA SALAD WITH CIDER VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS  FOR SALAD:

  • 2 pints sugar snap peas, stemmed
  • 1 cup shelled or frozen peas
  • 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced or 2 spring leeks thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, coarsely chopped
  • 8 fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste

FOR VINAIGRETTE:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons filtered water
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamari sauce (I use Braggs Liquid Aminos)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup cold pressed sunflower oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium pot of salted water, blanch the sugar snap peas for 2 minutes, drain, then place in bowl of ice water. Drain and cut in half on a diagonal. If using fresh peas, blanch for 2 minutes, drain and place in bowl of ice water. Spin both vegetables in a salad spinner, or drain on paper towels.
  2. Slice spring leeks in small rounds, using white and light green parts only.
  3. Chop dill and mint. Place all ingredients in large bowl and toss gently with your hands.
  4. Combine all ingredients for vinaigrette in a pint Mason jar. Shake vigorously. Dress salad with about 1/4 cup dressing (you will have left over dressing) and toss gently.
  5. Serve immediately

Serves 4-6

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“Ahhh 2020 is challenging us; but this too will pass.”

 

 

Packing A Punch

There are days that start out well, then take an unexpected turn; like yesterday for example. I went to bed a little early and woke up abruptly when I heard a crash. I ran into the bathroom to find Val laying unconscious in a large pool of blood. I’m normally a steady Eddie in a crisis, but ever since Val’s brain surgery two years ago, our mantra has been don’t hit your head! I immediately called 911 to call an ambulance. As I followed the ambulance in my car I thought “Jeez she hasn’t been off our farm since March 9th because of Covid-19, and now we’re off to the emergency room!” After having a cat-scan it was determined that Val broke her nose and suffered a concussion. The good news was I brought her back home at 4:00 a.m. this morning. The lesson learned was don’t take a power slide on a tile floor. Floor 1, Val 0.

There are some punches that I can appreciate; like the first fresh garlic of the season. My go to recipe is Iberian Garlic Shrimp and boy does it pack a punch! Combine 2 heads of fresh garlic with roasted cherry tomatoes and sauteed shrimp and you have yourself a bowl full of yummy! Make sure you have a baguette to sop up all that goodness.

IBERIAN GARLIC SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 heads fresh garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds large raw shrimp (13-15 count) shelled and de-veined
  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 16 ounces linguine, cooked in salt water according to package directions
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded pecorino

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place cherry tomatoes on baking sheet lined with foil. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over them and roll them around with your hands. Sprinkle with flake, or sea salt. Roast in upper 1/3 of oven for 25-30 minutes.
  2. Place a large pot of salt water to boil. Cook linguine according to package directions. Drain.
  3. In a large pan over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic. Saute garlic until softened, but not brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp and saute, tossing frequently until just done, about 2-3 minutes. If you think it needs additional time, take it off! It will continue to cook off heat.
  5. Place drained pasta in a large serving bowl. Top with shrimp and oil; then with roasted cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and zest, then chopped parsley and pecorino cheese.

Serves 4-6

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“Instead of giving up in the face of adversity, you should face it with a positive attitude and a smile.”  —Anurag Prakash Ray

Escape To Your Garden

As we approach the solstice, we enter the time where we start seeing results from our hard work. We don’t have the advantage of greenhouses, so we get excited when the first radishes are pulled and our garlic scapes peek their pointy little heads out of the hard-neck garlic. Garlic scapes are one of those early culinary treasures that let us know we are getting closer to our garlic harvest. Look for them at your local farmers market where you can often buy them in quantity at a decent price. We sell ours in 30 count bundles.

There are so many ways to use these little gems. I chop and freeze several quarts for use throughout the year (you don’t even have to blanch them!) They are excellent in soups, pesto, scrambled eggs and potato salad. This salad in particular is a favorite, as it has no mayonnaise, making it a hit at picnics and potlucks. It’s simple, yet packed with flavor. I find I make it several times each summer. It’s excellent with virtually anything grilled.

BRICKYARD FARMS SCAPE POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds new potatoes or Yukon Golds, (skins on if new, peeled if larger)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup garlic scapes, sliced in 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Flaked salt (I use Maldon) salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pitted and quartered kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. If using new potatoes, leave whole, then cut in half after you drain them.  If using larger Yukon Golds, vertically slice in quarters, then slice each quarter into forkful pieces.  Boil potatoes in salted water until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Saute scapes in olive oil on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Mix the Dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper with a whisk. Add this to the sauteed garlic scapes.
  3. Pour over warm potatoes and fold in gently. Add kalamata olives, and mix again. Garnish with fresh parsley
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature. This will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (if there’s any left!)

Serves: 6-8

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“We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s really our garden that is nurturing us.”  —Jenny Oglow

Walk on the Wild Side

Wow, it’s been quite a week. My sadness for our country is overwhelming. I bow to my black and brown brothers and sisters who in spite of the pandemic have peacefully protested for justice for George Floyd and for themselves. We have not been listening. Historically, it has always been the youth that have demanded change. Although the timing of such things is not in our hands, the call for justice is asking us to lend our voices to promote it. I am proud of our country’s youth and have confidence they will help to lead us out of this quagmire.

Here, we still farm. This week we have planted, caged and wired 400 tomato plants. When they become ripe, we will savor their sweetness, dust off our canners and prepare for cooler months. We will sell some, process for our future and take what we have remaining to local food banks. Our land is sacred to us. It has fed many families for 2 decades. As we age we are confident this land will find its future in the hands of like minded people of service.

This week we needed a sturdy salad that we could enjoy when we were too tired to cook. This amazing salad will hold for 5 days in the frig and only gets better as the dressing macerates the veggies in the salad. It has crunch, texture, and an appealing nuttiness that compliments the lemony dressing. It’s great for a picnic or potluck, since it’s completely stable with no dairy. I think you will agree it’s a keeper.

WILD RICE SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups good quality long grain wild rice
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup green onions (white and green parts), sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, halved and sliced thin
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped, fried, drained (optional)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a heavy medium pot bring the rice, water and salt to a boil. Adjust heat to medium and simmer until tender, 45-55 minutes. Drain, and place in a large bowl.
  2. To toast pecans, heat oven to 350 degrees F and place on rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  3. Add celery, green onions. parsley, and mushrooms to bowl. Mix gently.
  4. In a pint mason jar, measure avocado oil and fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Shake vigorously.
  5. Add pecans and dressing to bowl and mix thoroughly. Place in decorative bowl or platter. Crumble bacon on top. Serve.

Serves 6-8

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“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” —Mahatma Gandhi

 

When Sweet and Sour Collide

The days and weeks are blurring together as we continue to self-shelter. The things that make the days distinct from each other are often absent. Monday seems the same as Wednesday, as we work on the farm; not at all sure that our efforts will hit their intended destination. The pandemic has changed virtually every known thing to the unknown. Then, something happens that feels disproportionately meaningful. A delivery of asparagus, from a dear friend’s garden, or eight pounds of beautiful red rhubarb for use in something delicious. These small things are a welcome distraction. I cling to food, love, nature and friendships like a life-line on a sinking ship. There are times when I sit down to write this food blog that I question the why of it; does it even mean anything anymore? But food it what we do here. We wake up thinking about it, and dream about it as we sleep.

When you have a passion, it is so important to continue to keep the faith, and do what you love. It is how each of us affects our environment for the better. Stay present. Do your best. Stay kind. Fight for justice. There is sour as well as sweetness in life; and we must always remember this going forward each day.

So this week I made pasta dishes, grilled, and turned all that lovely asparagus into soup; each dish a celebration of late spring. Then came the rhubarb; the deep red kind that you can only find with the old varieties. I just love the stuff. First, I made a simple syrup for cocktails. Next, I slow roasted some with sugar, white wine and vanilla to serve with maple-yogurt. But the bulk of it was turned into Rhubarb Chutney. Combined with apple cider vinegar, sugar, spices, red onion and golden raisins. Wow! I love how chutneys seem to be a surprise with every mouthful. This can be used with roasted chicken, pork tenderloin or even over ice cream. I cut way back on the sugar, as I feel that what is typically recommended is usually more than my palette can take. This lets the rhubarb shine, while allowing you to appreciate its overall savoriness. I was pleased with the results that yielded 11 half pints. I then processed it in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Beautiful red rhubarb

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup can sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch cubes (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup (generous) finely chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine first 8 ingredients (sugar through red pepper) in heavy Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Add rhubarb, onion and golden raisins; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil as you thoroughly mix ingredients.
  3. Cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly, 5-8 minutes.
  4. Fill 1/2 pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head-space. Attach lids and rings. Water bath process for 15 minutes.
  5. Let cool completely.

Yield: 5-6 jelly jars

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

A Self-Sheltering Pantry

As we approach week 10 of self-sheltering, I started to contemplate the future in terms of preparedness. I’m hardly a conspiracy theorist, nor am I a doom and gloom kind of person. I am however a planner. My father used to instruct, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” After being caught off-guard during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I wanted to create a pantry that would sustain us if the predictions of a ‘second wave’ come to fruition this fall and upcoming winter. The idea is to have provisions for a 4 month stay-at-home if necessary.

At the beginning of my recent cookbook Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat! I have a section called A Well-Stocked Pantry. It was an attempt to combine a balance between fresh and convenience. When approaching non-growing seasons (late fall and winter) and the desire to leave the confines of our homes as little as possible, it’s important to take a closer look at what to have on hand for our families.

Before I get into this, the other point I want to make is the same one I make in my cookbook: cooking together creates intimacy and better relationships. After all, if we need to self-shelter, why not focus on the upside which is obviously more time. During our current episode, I’ve taken up bread baking. I have been intimidated by the mere thought of it for decades. To my surprise, I couldn’t be more pleased with the results! Whether you live together as a couple, or have children, cooking together has enormous potential to add richness to your life. Sitting down together to a meal prepared with your own hands, rather than opening a box gives you the satisfaction of making mealtime more meaningful. Cooking done with care is an act of love.

The following suggestions for a Self-Sheltering Pantry are by no means exclusive; feel free to adjust them to your family’s needs and/or preferences. Quantities should be adjusted for the number of your family members. A note about the cost of products; if income is limited, focus on non-perishable items first. For example, rice, dried beans, pasta and frozen and/or canned vegetables will give you the biggest bang for your buck! I would also consider discovering water-bath canning to take advantage of the fresh produce available during the summer months. I put up roasted tomato sauce, whole paste tomatoes, Asian pear sauce and chutney, pickled beets, tomato juice and cherry tomato soup. The quality of home-canned products is wonderful, and you get the added satisfaction of doing it for your family. 

When we think about refrigerator basics it’s important to keep in mind that the goal is to leave our homes as little as possible. This means that milk, and buttermilk for example should be powdered rather than fresh. I use half and half in my coffee, so I would switch to evaporated milk. These are the kind of choices that will allow you to stay safe in your home as much as possible. Certain aged cheeses have a long shelf-life so consider Parmesan, Pecornio, cheddar and/or Jarlsberg.

  • Plain yogurt, both regular and Greek (these products are good long after their fresh dates)
  • Unsalted butter (you can freeze butter without issue to extend its shelf life)
  • Aged cheeses (should not be frozen, but shredded cheese can be frozen)
  • Eggs
  • Jarred pesto
  • Carrots
  • Celery (consider chopping and freezing this vegetable to extend its shelf-life)
  • Citrus (lemons, limes and oranges) the zest is as beneficial as the juice

Let’s think about freezer basics. We want to remember that vegetables in frozen bags are preferable to boxes, as you remove the quantity you need and re-freeze. I prefer frozen vegetables to canned, but there are times that stores run quantity prices on canned, so be a smart shopper. Also, if you make your own stock, this too can be frozen, so do not throw away those roasted chicken carcasses! Consider what animal protein your family prefers and stock up on them during the summer. A note about meat: due to the current issues with commercial processing plants, you might consider purchasing from your local farmer that offers beef, pork, lamb and/or poultry

  • Frozen vegetables (corn, broccoli, spinach, hash browns, peas)
  • Frozen berries
  • Bacon
  • Animal protein of your choice
  • Sausage in bulk (such as Italian or breakfast)
  • Smoked sausage
  • Pizza crusts (homemade pizza is sooo much better than pre-made)

On to canned and jarred items. Even though I water-bath can a ton of tomatoes, I also have commercial canned tomatoes and beans on hand. We cook so much with these items I need the quantity. Although I do have canned beans on hand, I am an advocate for dried beans. They have a very long shelf-life, and once you learn how to cook them you will be amazed at the difference in quality. Many broths and stocks now come in cartons rather than cans. I purchase stock rather than broth due to the sodium content. Keep in mind how easy it is to make your own stock for pennies.

  • Canned tomatoes (whole, diced fire-roasted and crushed)
  • Tomato paste
  • Stock
  • Beans (cannellini, chickpeas, black beans, kidney)
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Olives (Kalamata and green)
  • Full fat coconut milk (for curries and soups)

When we think about grains and/or legumes we can think in a much more expansive way, as their shelf-life in almost indefinite. I’m a cookbook collector, but the internet is loaded with recipes using any of these suggestions. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes and ideas. Food even during a pandemic can be an adventure.

  • Quick cooking polenta
  • Stone-ground cornmeal
  • Oats
  • Jasmine and brown rice
  • Arborio rice for risottos
  • Pearl barley
  • Lentils (green, brown and red)
  • Beans! (black, chickpea, kidney, pinto)
  • Wild rice
  • Dried pastas (spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, fettuccine, lasagna & orzo)
  • Plain dried bread crumbs
  • Quinoa
  • Grits

I had to laugh the other day when I realized when I did my Well Stocked Pantry in my new cookbook, that I neglected baking supplies! I’ve always considered myself a cook, not a baker. However, since my foray into bread baking started, these ingredients are indeed paramount!

  • All-purpose flour
  • Bread flour
  • Yeast
  • Baking soda
  • Non-aluminum baking powder
  • Cane sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Powdered milk
  • Powdered buttermilk
  • Canned condensed milk
  • Cocoa

Now we are onto oils, vinegar’s, condiments and flavorings. These are unique to the way each of us eats. None the less, they are important items to have on hand for flavor enhancement for many dishes. You decide which are important to you.

  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable or avocado oil
  • Dijon mustard (both fine and coarse)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Anchovies
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Dried herbs (dill, thyme, sage, oregano, Italian seasoning blend, bay leaves)
  • Spices (such as chili powder, cumin, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, curry powder, ground mustard, ground ginger, nutmeg, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper)
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Capers (I personally cannot live without them)
  • Vinegar (balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, apple cider, rice and sherry)
  • Asian condiments: soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, oyster sauce, gochujang sauce

Let’s consider what nuts, seeds and dried fruit to keep on hand. Consider using them in baked goods, salads and stews. They add interest, flavor and contrast.

  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Raisins (regular and/or golden)
  • Dried apricots
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sesame seeds
  • Tahini
  • Nut butters
  • Prunes, cherries and cranberries
  • Dates

Pantry vegetables are a little tricky as their shelf-life can vary depending on their quality and your ability to keep them in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place. I suggest you keep only hardy vegetables on hand. Potatoes and garlic should not be refrigerated; keep them in baskets or bins. Do not store them in plastic, which will encourage mold. Keep onions, shallot and garlic separate; it’s especially important to keep potatoes and onions apart since they can cause each other to spoil.

  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fresh garlic

Last but not least is the miscellaneous section. We all have items that are not negotiable during stressful times.

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Booze
  • Cocktail ingredients
  • Chocolate

Remember when contemplating what to have on hand for your family, you know them best. This list is by no means meant to be a complete rendering of everything you might need, but it certainly will help.

“If ever there was a time for Twisted Basics it’s now.”

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