Kitchen Stories and Recipes

EASY Sage Recipes

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This cool rainy weather has me reaching for sage a little more. It adds warmth and depth to so many dishes. 
Here is a super quick and easy soup you can make any night of the week: 
Simmer whole leaves of sage in broth in a pot, on low on the back of the stove. In another pot, sauté onions, garlic, carrots until tender and starting to caramelize. Remove (and discard) the sage from the broth and add the infused broth to the vegetables. Add any of these options: shredded cooked chicken, cooked beans, small pasta or rice (cooked), diced tempeh or tofu. Just before serving, add a handful or two of fresh spinach, chopped parsley, and a few grates of lemon zest. Very easy weeknight soup. 

I also love to use sage with roasted meats, chicken and vegetables. I stuff whole handfuls of sage inside the cavity of a chicken before roasting it. Add a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, and it will add tons of flavor to your chicken. I also like to finely chop 5 or so leaves of sage along with 2 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or two of lemon zest, and and a 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt. I just smash and chop it all into a paste right on the cutting board, but you could also put it in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Then I toss washed and chopped root vegetables with this mixture, drizzle everything with olive oil, toss again, and roast in a preheated 400F oven for about 40 -45 minutes, until soft and caramelized. Or I will take the lemon / sage mixture and rub it all over a pork roast or beef roast before it heads into a hot oven.

These are all simple things to make in big batches so that you can use leftovers for lunches or hurried week night dinners. 


If you aren't able to harvest sage out of your own garden, you can find ours at  Market, Healthy Living Market and Cafe, Shelburne Supermarket, Lantman's MarketNatural Provisions Market & Deli, and Hunger Mountain Co-op. Warm up and enjoy! We will sell bulk herbs (1/2 a pound or more)directly to customers if you arrange it ahead of time. We have thyme, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and mint. This is a great way to dry and put away herbs for the winter. I keep paper bags of herbs loosely closed all winter long.

Sweet Potatoes Slip Sale 2016

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Sweet Potato Slip Sale

June 11th and 12th, 2016

8:00 to 6:00 pm

 Red Wagon Plants greenhouses

2408 Shelburne Falls Rd  * Hinesburg, VT

Proceeds from the sale benefit the educational programs of Vermont Community Garden Network.

For more information, call 482-4060

Sweet potatoes can be grown in Vermont. Under ideal conditions they thrive and can yield up to 5 pounds per slip. During this benefit sale, we will be selling sweet potato slips in 4" pots, with three slips per pot. These get transplanted 18" apart, in loose, well drained soil. You can also grow them in containers. They like warm, southern exposure, and can be trellised to save space.

Here are some resources for more information on Sweet Potatoes:

The Vermont Community Garden Network has information on their programs and the sweet potato sale here.

This  article on the Mother Earth News website highlights growing methods for northern gardeners and best ways to store the tubers.

 Here is a photo essay on how some ingenious customers are growing their sweet potatoes in Starksboro.

Recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Herbs

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch batons

3 TBS olive oil

salt and pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped parsley, chives, and or cilantro

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 small pinch of cayenne

1 tsp lemon juice

  • Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place 2 large cookie sheets in the oven so they are pre-heated as well
  • Toss the cut sweet potatoes with the olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl
  • Arrange them on the hot pans in a single layer.
  • Roast for 20 minutes, and flip them over with a spatula, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until tender and browned.
  • Meanwhile, toss the herbs, garlic, cayenne and lemon juice together in the same bowl
  • When the hot fries come out of the oven, sprinkle the herb mixture on the fries and serve immediately

Growing Instructions for Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato slips are cuttings that come from a parent vine. The slips grow best in a loose, sandy or silty soil that drains well. If sweet potatoes are grown in a rich dark soil they may discolor but are still good to eat. • Transplant the slips into garden beds during June, preferably in the late afternoon or on an overcast day. When transplanting, lay the slips on their sides with 2/3 of the slip buried a half inch under the soil. Water enough to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. • Plant the slips 10 to 18 inches apart in rows that are three to four feet apart. The rows or raised bed should be elevated 4 to 8 inches above the ground level to allow the sweet potatoes room to form. • Keep the cuttings watered while they are getting established. The leaves that were originally on the planted slips will dry up and fall off leaving just the vine stem. New leaves will emerge from the cuttings as the slips become established. • The sweet potato vines will cover the ground reaching 5 to 10 feet in length. Hoe around the vines to cultivate weeds and mulch with hay if desired. • Deer love sweet potato leaves, so be sure your planting area is fenced if deer are aproblem. A flying gold colored beetle may chew round holes in the leaves. The vines are tough and will keep growing despite insect damage. • Sweet potatoes are dug and harvested in late September through mid October, a day or two before the first predicted frost. Most of the sweet potatoes will be just below the parent plant. Each plant can produce up to six sweet potatoes. • After harvesting, dry the sweet potatoes on the ground for two or three hours. Allow them another 10 to 14 days to cure at room temperature or above, before storing the sweet potatoes at a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees F. • Unlike Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes should not be kept cold in a garage, refrigerator or outbuilding. If properly cured and stored, they will keep until April. Enjoy!

Giving Thanks with Braised Thyme and Turnips

A few years ago, I worked for the Intervale Center as a farming consultant for the New Farms for New Americans program run by the Association of Africans Living in Vermont. My job was to help new Americans, primarily refugees from Bhutan, Somalia, and Burundi, in finding markets for their beautiful produce and to help them understand and navigate the vagaries of our cold climate, on-line seed purchases, calendar planning, etc. Most of the time, probably all of the time, I was the one doing the learning. It is an experience I look back on fondly and feel thankful that I was able to get to know these smart gardeners and farmers. Every time I walk into Stone Soup in Burlington and see braised Hakueri turnips at the hot bar, I think of Michel and François who established a long term relationship with the restaurant by growing these perfect and tender roots. They still grow and sell them for Avery and Tim at Stone Soup, and it all started with a face to face meeting, in 3 languages, a seed catalog, and a warm feeling or two.

A fitting Thanksgiving side dish, don't you think?

Braised Hakurei Turnips with Thyme

Serves 6 as a side dish

1.5 pounds Hakurei turnips, the small white ones. About 2 bunches

6 healthy sprigs of thyme (about 1/2 a clamshell package or 1/3 of a bunch)

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut off the greens, but save them for another use. They are delicious!

Wash and scrub the turnips and cut into halves or quarters, depending on size. If very small (1 to 1.5 inch in diameter, leave whole). Each piece should be about 2 bites worth.

Add turnips to a medium saucepan with water and salt and thyme.

Bring to a boil, and immediately lower the heat to medium-low. A strong simmer, low boil. Leave the pot covered for 6 to 10 minutes. When the turnips are tender but not mushy, uncover the pot, add the butter and honey, and gently shake the pan to mix. Cook another 5 or so minutes until the water is mostly evaporated and the turnips are cooked through but not falling apart. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.

Want to grow your own? 

If you haven't grown your own white turnips, consider it for next year. They are easy to grow, last long into the fall, and are sweet and delicious. While rutabaga and traditional purple-topped turnips have their own charms, these white "salad" turnips are delicate, sweet, and can be eaten raw or cooked.

For a fall crop, sow seeds of Hakurei turnips directly into a shallow furrow in the garden in mid-August. They prefer loose, deep soil that drains well. A little compost is always a good idea, but not too much as it can stain them or create crooked  growth. When the plants are a couple of inches tall, thin to 1 plant every 2 to 3 inches. Keep well watered. That's it.  They are a perfect crop to follow an earlier planting of peas or beans or lettuces or greens.

Sage Brown Butter and Ricotta Gnocchi

Here is a quick dinner that sounds difficult to make. But it is really easy. Sage is still looking great in our garden with the long, warm fall we have had and it pairs beautifully with butter in about 5 minutes of gentle cooking. The ricotta gnocchi is a little more involved but not much, and if you have ever tried to make potato gnocchi and felt discouraged, redemption is at hand. These are super simple to make.  We first ate these when our friends Marjorie and Marian of Orb Weaver Farm made them for us, and we have been hooked ever since.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta (1 pound) Have you had the yummy one from Mountain Home Farm?
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 ounces), divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 10 to 15 whole sage leaves, depending on size. About 1/4 cup.
  1. Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 cup cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.
  2. Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into 2 ropes that are about 1 inch thick. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife. Place in 1 layer on a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet while you work.
  3. Cook gnocchi in 2 batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water), adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally, until cooked through (cut one in half to check), 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.
  4. Meanwhile, cook butter with sage in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Gently toss gnocchi with brown butter in skillet and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt.

For a great photo explanation of this, click on any of these pictures for a link to the "Inspired Taste" website. They do a great job of explaining the simple process. 

Shorter days, winding down, and it is alright.

Our greenhouses start up in February, when we begin the bustle that does not end until the final sales of early September. During that 6 moth period, we are in constant motion, putting in 14 hour days at the beginning of our season for a solid three months and gradually tapering down to a normal 8 to 10 hour day for the remainder of the year. Work moves into the office where I am planning out next year's varieties; we are also busy with greenhouse clean up and putting everything to bed for the winter.  When the maples signal that autumn is here, I am ready for a little slowing down. A little time to enjoy the fruits of the garden, to eat those fall greens that quietly draw attention amidst shades of yellow, red, and orange. I finally have time to cook, to preserve some of the bounty with the help of the canning pot, dehydrator, root cellar and freezer.

I tend to be a creature of habit and make more or less the same things each year, because I know my family loves them and because I  am not willing to give up precious time and space with experiments that might not work, that might join the sad jars and mystery freezer bags that lay untouched. I do try one or two new things each year, but only after they have been enthusiastically recommended by trusted sources.

Here are some of the tried and true that show up every year in our winter pantry:

Sauerkraut. I use this recipe from Sandor Katz, fermentation guru, author, and person of note who just recently spent some time teaching his craft in Vermont.

Plain and easy,  roasted and frozen tomatoes. I wrote about this one last year, and you can read that here. This is the easiest way to make tomatoes that will taste great in a sauce mid-winter. I have more time to cook in the winter, so I don't bother making sauce to freeze or can during the height of summer. But if i have these in the freezer, I can turn them into sauce, soups, add them to braises, etc.

Fancier, slower, seasoned roasted tomatoes. These are a different beast. The tomatoes are slowly roasted, like 8 hours of slow, in a 240F oven with olive oil, garlic, herbs. I sometimes do different batches and label them as such so that they can be used in various dishes during the winter. For example, I make some that are sprinkled with just oregano, or just cumin. But most of them are made with olive oil, thyme, and garlic. And a little sea salt.

Here are some of the tried and true that show up every year in our winter pantry:

Salad Burnet Dressing Recipe from a Customer

Ruth Henry, one of our many loyal customers, came in a little while ago asking for salad burnet. This is not one of our most popular herbs, and frankly, one that I never grow because I never know what to do with it. She assured me that it is amazing in a special salad dressing she makes. Naturally, this peaked my curiosity and she promised to send along the recipe. Here it is! And now I finally have a reason to plant this pretty little herb that tastes like cucumbers.

Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your "secret" recipe with us! Mum's the word!

" As promised this is my family's recipe for salad dressing using Salad Burnet......It's a big hit with lots of flavor! Enjoy"

Herb Salad Dressing 1 cup salad oil 1 cup honey 1/2 cup basil vinegar 1 clove crushed garlic 1 tsp salt 1 cup of finely chopped green herbs such as burnet, basil, chives, parsley 1  tsp celery seed 1 Tbsp paprika

Shake everything in a jar. Keeps in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Planning Now for Great Eating all Year Long

Lori and Doug's Garden
Lori and Doug's Garden

Garden Planning for the Seasonal Kitchen

Growing vegetables in your backyard, community garden or in some containers by the kitchen door is a great way to feed yourself -- whether it be just a few ripe tomatoes in August or a full-fledged homesteader's garden, you are on the right path to feeding yourself and your family. Gardening is a great way to improve how you eat while spending some contemplative time outside. With all of these benefits in mind, it is easy to jump into gardening enthusiastically, and you will reap even more rewards with a little bit of planning.

In Vermont, our gardening season seems short but can be stretched almost year round with a few simple tips. I always recommend that people take a look at how their vegetable gardens have been in the past and find just one or two things they would like to improve so that they can grow more of it for a longer season. For example a common question I hear is "how can I keep cilantro from bolting?" Well, in short, you can't! But with a few changes in your gardening practices, you can grow it all spring, summer, and fall without ever seeing it go to seed. The trick is to understand the life cycle of each vegetable or herb and how to best plant it to maximize it's harvest. With certain crops, like zucchini, it is best to understand how prolific they are and to plant them conservatively so that the entire garden (and thereby your diet and your neighbors' diet) is not taken over with just one thing. It is also helpful to plant things seasonally so that the harvest is not so overwhelming in August with little to eat before or after. Or sometimes we just want fresh salads all summer, but don't replant and are left salad-less after July 1st.

Succession Planting for Successful Gardening

Certain crops should be planted multiple times throughout the season to ensure a continuous harvest. This is called succession planting. How often you plant is a matter of taste and space and time. The following list describes the maximum you could do with each crop, but adjust according to your needs and priorities -- this is just a guide. If you want to make sure you have a certain vegetable all summer long, then you can follow the guidelines. If you want it a little less, then create your own modified planting schedule.

Planting Guide

Lettuce can be grown from seed or from transplants. Seed grown lettuce is often grown in a row that can be cut and will re- grow a few times - think of mesclun. Transplanted lettuce can be grown to produce full heads like what you find in the store. Both methods require regular planting every week or two for a continuous harvest.

  • It can be planted from seed in mid-April to mid-August for cut greens
  • Or it transplanted for full heads from late April / early May through early August.

Some people will transplant a few plants and plant some seeds at the same time in a different area; this method provides two generations of lettuce and two types of salad greens. Once the cut lettuce becomes bitter in the heat of summer, it is best to pull it up, recondition the soil with compost, and plant something else. If the goal is to always have fresh lettuce, it is very simple to do if you remember to replant it. You can even purchase a number of plants and hold some in their pots in a shady spot and only plant out a few each week. You can seed it yourself in trays or pots and follow this same method. Having several varieties, cold-tolerant ones for spring and fall plantings, and heat-tolerant ones for mid-summer, will produce the best flavor.

Cilantro is very similar to lettuce in its growing habits. It will grow up to a point and then goes to seed, called bolting. It will bolt more quickly in summer heat and, conversely, will stand ready to harvest for many weeks in the cool weather of fall--even early winter. It is good to time plantings so that cilantro is ready to harvest before June 21 (the solstice), and then plant more afterward. It can be transplanted or grown from seed. Like lettuce, it is simple to do both at the same time, thereby giving the gardener two generations. Cilantro seed is coriander, so it does have a use if you enjoy that flavor. There is nothing you can do to prevent cilantro from bolting entirely, but you can slow the process down by placing your mid-summer plantings in a partly-shady spot.

Dill can be treated just like cilantro, and, like coriander seed, dill seed heads have a use in the kitchen, so it is fine to let some of the dill patch go to seed. The seed heads can be used in pickles. you can also let them self-sow or save the fully dried seeds in a paper bag for replanting.

Basil can be planted multiple times for best results. Plants can be pinched to slow down the flowering, but best flavor will come from newly replanted basil plants. This is a heat loving plant. Should only be planted once soil temps are in the upper 50's - usually last week in May or first week in June. Basil's flavor is at its peak right before it starts to make flowers.

Cucumbers, cantaloupes, and zucchini and summer squash are best in quality when well tended.Just a single plant or two of any of those is usually enough for the home gardener, but by planting it two to three different times, the quality will always be good.

  • The best planting dates are: June 1st (or last week in May if you are in a warm spot), July 1st and July 15th.

This method will ensure a continuous harvest of prime looking vegetables. Just remember to pull out and discard the pest- and disease- prone older plants. If your compost gets very hot and is well managed, it is okay to compost these plants. Pest problems will diminish when the older, less healthy plants are removed.

Arugula, Cress, and other cutting greens for saladsare best if sown or transplanted on a weekly or biweekly basis. Again, a small amount can be seeded next to the transplanted crops in order to give you 2 generations at once. This way you can have smaller quantities coming in at various times.

Broccoli gives the gardener a couple of options.

  • It is best if transplanted and can be planted 3 dates in the spring and 3 dates in late summer for a continuous harvest.
  • I would choose late April, early May and mid May for the spring plantings and
  • then Early August, mid August and early September for the fall plantings. Full heads can be harvested and the plants can stay in the ground to produce side shoots.

Green Beans are best when fresh and young. The seed is relatively cheap, so it is better to rip out old plants and have new ones coming along regularly. Having smaller, multiple plantings also means that no on is stuck picking beans for hours on end. Sow new seeds when the previous or first generation is about 6 inches high.

Boc Choi, Cabbage, Scallions, and Cauliflower can also be planted multiple times. Cabbage holds well in the heat and

  • can be planted every couple of weeks late April through early August.
  • Boc Choi and Cauliflower are not as heat tolerant and should be planted around the same dates as broccoli (see above).
  • It is best to use row cover like Reemay on these young transplants so that flea beetles do not destroy the plants.

Spinach is another one that does not do well in the heat, but can be planted multiple times in spring and late summer. It can also overwinter with a little straw mulch for very early spring eating.

  • Frequency of planting can happen every week mid April to early June and then early August to mid September. T
  • he last plantings in September are the ones which will be over-wintered and eaten the following spring.

Apply straw mulch on overwintering spinach in December once the ground is frozen.

Beets, Carrots, Turnipscan be planted every two or three weeks from mid-April until about the third week in July. Summer carrots are not the same as fall carrots and certain varieties do better in summer than in fall. The flavor of fall carrots is much sweeter, so I usually plant a larger patch in the fall. Fall carrots can also be stored all winter without going bad due to their lower moisture content. I don't love summer carrots, so I often skip those. Remember, it is all about what you like to eat.

Celery and Celeriac are slower growing and

  • can be planted 1 to 3 times during the season, from mid May until early July.

These need lots of water and benefit from straw mulch to hold the moisture evenly around the roots. Bulb Fennel and radishes are similar to lettuce -- they can be planted each week if really loved, but they bolt in the heat and do best in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall.

  • They are best if planted late April to early June and then again late August to mid September.

They are cold tolerant and hold well in late fall. Radishes are grown from seeds and fennel is best transplanted. Fennel also benefits from a straw mulch - even moisture around the roots is what helps it make larger roots. Corn -- it is possible to do multiple plantings over different weeks, but an easier method is to plant all at once, but with various varieties that have different days to maturity. There can be a 40 day span between early and late varieties.

Peas can be planted every week, but this requires a lot of harvesting, irrigating, trellising, and variety research. It is possible though. More practically,

  • the home gardener can sow 2 or 3 varieties in late April with various days to maturity.
  • Fall plantings are sometimes successful but are weather-dependent. These should be done in mid August.

The following are generally planted just once a year, but the harvest can be staggered with a few tricks

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant -- try a few varieties of each in order to not have everything at once. Determinate tomatoes will provide you with a big harvest all at once which is a good thing for people who make big batches of sauce for canning or freezing. Determinate tomatoes are the ones that grow until a certain height and then mature all at once. Indeterminate tomatoes are the ones that grow indefinitely until the frost and the fruit ripens gradually August until frost or disease kills the plant.

Peppers and eggplant are best if transplanted in early June once the soil warms up. One planting is usually plenty, but again an assortment of varieties will keep the harvest varied, staggered and interesting.

Onions and Potatoes are generally planted all at once, and again a few different varieties will provide you with a longer period of fresh eating. Both onions and potatoes can be stored for long periods of time in cool and dark conditions. Both can also be eaten fresh as young, green onions or new potatoes. Both can be harvested, cured, and stored for eating year round, though some onion varieties store much longer than others.

Winter Squash is another crop that is planted just once and can be stored. It is best cured for a week or two in a warm spot before eating.

Sage Cookies

 

I first made these cookies when a group of us from Red Wagon Plants took an herb cooking class with Jessica Bongard of Sweet Lime Cooking Studio last summer. We had such a fun time making herbal treats together, and I thought I would share this recipe. I just made it for our Open House and it was such a tasty way to use sage in a not-too sweet treat.

Sage Cookies 

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour 1/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal 1/2 cup butter (one stick), room temp 2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage 6 Tbsp milk 1 egg white, beaten with 1 Tbsp water (egg wash) fresh little sage leaves coarse sugar to sprinkle

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Whisk together flour, sugar, and cornmeal in medium bowl
  • Cut in butter using a fork, until fine crumb forms
  • Stir in chopped sage
  • Add milk stir with fork
  • Make dough into 2 balls
  • Roll out to 1/8 inch thick
  • Use 2 inch cookie cutter, onto cookie sheet
  • Brush with egg wash, add sage leaf or two, brush with egg wash again to seal
  • Sprinkle with sugar
  • Bake 12 minutes, until edges brown, turning pan halfway through

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Rosemary

Rosemary is a great herb for winter use. It can be grown as a houseplant, it can be used fresh, dried, or frozen, and it adds a warming, deep flavor to roasted vegetables, all kinds of braised meats, roasted chicken, pork, lamb or beef, and can be used in soups and dips. Here are a few ideas that will help you make friends with this uplifting and aromatic herb all winter.
As a houseplant, rosemary is best brought indoors as late as possible. It can take some really cold temperatures, down into the teens, and still look rugged and healthy. When you do bring it indoors, give it a large pot, and keep it away from direct heat sources (woodstove, radiators) and place it in a window with indirect light (east or north facing). In winter time, in your house,  rosemary would like to have cooler temperatures and moist air. You can give it moisture by spraying the foliage with a spray bottle of water every couple of days. And only water the soil when it is very dry.  You are trying to recreate a foggy, cool San Fransisco winter.
When you harvest fresh rosemary or buy it in the store, the sprigs can be kept in the fridge, in a plastic bag that is not sealed tightly for up to 3 weeks. It can also be left out on the counter in a basket, where it will dry nicely and can be used all winter. Once fully dried, pull the leaves off of the stem and place in a jar, in a dark, cool place.
Here are some ideas for using the rosemary:
Toss a sprig under any meat you might roast - a holiday turkey, ham, chicken, lamb, roast beef, or pork loin. While roasting, the rosemary will add wonderful flavor to the pan juices and the gravy made from those pan juices.
Finely chop the leaves and add them to the onions that are sauteed for making stuffing or other casseroles.
Infuse some whole milk or heavy cream over low heat for about 15 minutes with a sprig of rosemary, and use this in making creamed soups....squash, tomato bisque, broccoli, any kind of vegetable potage, potato-leek, etc, These soups will all benefit from the earthy, woodsy fragrance and flavor of the rosemary-infused cream or milk. 
For a rosemary dipping or basting oil, finely chopped 1 or 2 TBS rosemary, mix with 1 or 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper and add in 1/2 cup of good olive oil. Serve in a small bowl and drizzle with a 1/2 TSP of balsamic vinegar and use as a dip for bread or raw veggies.
The same mixture can be used to baste a roasting chicken, or drizzled on roasted root vegetables (before roasting, you can toss the veggies with the herb oil), or used as a sautee oil for greens such as kale and chard.
Rosemary can also be used as a fragrant addition to hot baths, massage oils, and home made cleaning products. It is one of the most versatile herbs we can grow, and even though it prefers a California climate, with a little persuasion and help, it can adapt beautifully to our Vermont weather.
We've been harvesting lots of rosemary this fall, and you can find it locally at Healthy Living and City Market and in the Boston area through Farmers to You.
Happy gardening and cooking,
Julie

Please try this at home.

Does your counter look like this during tomato season? Do you feel pressed for time, don't want to be indoors too much with the canning pot, yet hate to see a single precious tomato go unused? Well, I can relate. I love to eat tomatoes in winter, the ones from our garden at least, but I don't love spending all that time indoors, canning and fussing. I have been trying something new this year, and I want to share it with you just because I think you will really like it.

I have been roasting the tomatoes in a hot oven, peeling them, and then throwing them in ziploc bags for the freezer. This gives maximum taste for minimal work. I know you can just throw raw tomatoes in bags and throw those in the freezer, but then you are left with watery, ice shattered, flavorless blobs. I prefer to let the oven do a little work to concentrate the flavors and then have an item to pull out of the freezer that tastes special, an item that has some flavor layers already built in. I used to make this with olive oil and garlic and herbs, but realized that I can do a simpler version with naked tomatoes that is quick, easy, and lends itself well to the preserving process.

Roasting tomatoes is super easy.

You just lay out some paste tomatoes (it works with other tomatoes too, but the cooking time will be longer since they are more watery) in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Pre heat the oven to 400F.  Don't add anything - no oil, salt or anything else. We are just going for tomato flavor here. This will allow you to really customize your dish the way you want it when it is time to use the tomatoes in winter. Slide them into the hot oven. Wait 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, take them out of the oven and flip them over. Tongs are handy for this process. If they have released a lot of water, you can drain off some of it, carefully, in the sink at this point.

Then they go back in the oven for another 30 minutes. The beauty of this recipe is that you don't have to watch over them. There is alot of what is called "passive time" in cooking and this method is chock full of passive time- I love that I can be doing other things while this is going on.

When they are done roasting, I turn off the oven, walk away and ignore them for a while until they have cooled down or I am done whatever project I started or wait until even later that night, when it is dark and the late summer sunshine is no longer tempting me out of doors. Then it is time to peel them. Just cut the tops of with a small serrated knife, and the skins just slip off in one or two quick motions. It is super simple. The fleshy, juicy, thick tomatoes have been reduced to a lovely consistency and can just go into freezer bags at this point.  I usually get two quart bags out of one cookie sheet;s worth of tomatoes.

So then what do you do with all those frozen tomatoes? Sauces, soups, stews,vegetable sautees, pizza, lasagna, and more will all benefit from these. Anytime a recipe calls for whole canned tomatoes, you can substitute these. I will be posting recipes using these tomatoes throughout the winter, so if you find yourself with a good supply and a lack of ideas of how to use them, check bag for some tips. Enjoy!

 

 

Apple Pie Beats Chores

When today rolled around, I had lots of good intentions to do a bunch of garden chores, exercise, get some office work out of the way, and lots of other tasks that good intentions depend upon. But instead, the chores, tasks and lists took a back seat to making an apple pie with my daughter.

She made her first crust, which I learned from my father, which he learned from Molly Stevens, and you can learn how to make it by reading this. Yes, that is right, 3 sticks of butter for a double crust pie. Gulp. Hope to get in that exercise.

The apples came from Boyers' Orchard in Monkton, and they were just tossed with a little lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Nothing fancy. The beauty of apple pie lies in simplicity. Getting me to agree to cinnamon and a double crust is about as wild as I will go - I would rather have an apple tart, single crust, with unadorned thinly sliced apples arranged in a pretty pattern. But I suppose that is the French in me.

 

A little egg wash goes on the crust, and vent holes are made to let out the steam so the crust does not turn to a watery mess. The beautiful creation goes into a 475F oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 425F. Check on it after 20 minutes or so, but it usually takes an additional 40 minutes or so to cook.  I often turn the heat down one more time for the last 20 minutes.

 

Garden Breakfast for a Cold and Rainy Day

The weather's turning and so is my attitude towards the kitchen. In summer, I would rather be outside, just like you, and it can be hard to make time for all that garden produce to make it into anything but some quick salads and grilled dishes (at the beach, no less).  Here is a great dish that works for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and pretty much anything in between. I made a big batch last Sunday and it kept us happy pretty much all day.

A green bean and ham hash - take some of those older green beans from the garden (the ones that did not get killed by the frost because they were hiding under the cover of leaves) and chop them up into 1/3 inch pieces. I like Romano beans for this, the wide and flat kind that is loaded with extra flavor and can be cooked a long time if you like a slowly simmered green bean, which I do, in case you are asking.  Chop up an onion, some garlic, and a potato. Chop everything pretty small, this is hash, not stir-fry. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil, add the onion, garlic and potato and cook until starting to soften, about 8 minutes over medium heat to high heat. I also added pimenton, a smoked paprika, at this point. If you don't have any, a little sweet paprika and cumin might be nice. Keep stirring the onions, garlic and potatoes every minute or so, but letting it all stick a little and brown is okay - that is how you build flavor. Once the potato is softened somewhat, add the chopped or sliced green beans, some chopped ham (I bought an incredible petite ham from Bread and Butter Farm last week) and a good splash of cooking sherry, white wine, broth or water (my order of preference for the liquid). Scrape the pan so the browned bits get incorporated into the liquid, lower the heat, and put a lid on the pan. At this point, the vegetables are both sauteeing and steaming. Wait about 10 minutes hear, stirring once or so and adding another splash of liquid if it is getting very dry. Add salt and pepper to taste, after 10 minutes, and a splash of cream, half and half, or milk - the dairy helps bind all the flavors and keeps the vegetables from getting dry.  Stir and sautee another 5 mintues or so, adding another splash of dairy as needed, and that is it.  This is great served with an egg on top, over easy or over hard, or scrambled on the side. But really, it is great on its own with nothing else and will keep you going for the whole day. So you can go out and pick apples, take a hike, put the garden to bed, and all the other stuff that still keeps you outside a little longer. Winter is not here yet!

High Priority - Roasted Ratatouille for the Freezer

I have to admit that I don't love frozen vegetables for the most part. So if you have a favorite way to freeze a vegetable from your garden, please share it with me. Here is one I like and eat willingly out of the freezer come the dark days of winter. I want to share this simple thing with you in hopes you might have a similar beloved thing to pass on to me. For some reason, this year has not been a year when I put up a lot of food for winter. A few jars of tomatoes and this amazing thing I will now show you are the only things I have done. No beans, no salsa, no jams, no chutneys. Well there is still time, so maybe I will play catch up and do a plum chutney with the amazing plums passed on to us by our friend, Yvan.

This recipe starts in the spring. I basically plan part of my garden just so I can have all the right veggies to make this. You need

  • onions
  • garlic
  • peppers
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini or summer squash

The garlic gets planted the previous fall, the onions go in in late April, and everything else goes in June 1. I like to freeze about 10 to 20 quart bags of this ratatouille, so I usually plant about 6 pepper plants (3 Ace and 3 Italia) ,  6 San Marzano tomatoes, 6 eggplants (usually a combination of Listada di Gandia, Orient Express, and Hansel), and 1 zucchini plant ( I do two plantings, one June 1 and one July 1 that way the plants are always healthy). Most households do not need more than 1 zucchini plant. Really.

Harvest all the veggies, wash them well. And start chopping. This year, I was a bit lazy and bought a few disposable pans to do the roasting. It made for easy clean up, but the veggies did not caramelize as much as they would have on metal or pyrex. Lesson learned.

So basically you just chop up all the vegetables into 1" chunks or so. The proportions are different every year, but it is usually about 1 part onions, 1 part peppers, 3 parts eggplant, 2 parts tomatoes, and 2 parts zucchini. I chop everything separately and then add it to the pans. I then drizzle olive oil over every thing. Add lots of salt, good sea salt is best, and then handfuls of chopped herbs to each pan. I like a blend of thyme, oregano, and rosemary. But other combinations work well.

Preheat the oven to 375F and slide in the pans. Turn and toss every 20 minutes, until everything is cooked and starting to caramelize. The overall cooking time really depends on the amount you are doing, the type of pan you are using, the thickness of the vegetable layer in each pan, etc. Basically, cook it until the whole house smells really good and the veggies are very soft and starting to brown. If I were making this for a meal to be eaten that night, I would do a single layer, in pyrex, and let it get golden brown. This is much harder to do in big batches in a home oven, and since freezing compromises texture and flavor anyhow, I think of these roasted veggies as additions to other recipes all winter long, not the main showcase in a meal.

Once everything is cooked, let it cool down completely, and then carefully scoop it into plastic quart-sized freezer bags. I usually use a measuring cup and one of those funnels for jars, since it makes life a little easier. Once frozen, the veggies can be used in pasta sauces, on pizza, in lasagnas, in soups and stews, as fillings in calzones, or as a topping for polenta, etc. You get the picture. It's such a nice way to have a little taste of summer in the winter and uses up so much of that amazing garden produce. Even in a summer like this one, when I have had to take some time away from gardening and preserving, I made sure to do some of these roasted veggies for the freezer.

Best-dressed pasta goes for the layers

Turn on the oven - 400F. Go to the garden and look for cherry tomatoes.

Take lots of said cherry tomatoes and cut them in half and dump them into a glass or pyrex baking dish, a big one, so that they are in a single layer.

Add some finely chopped cipollini onion. Or red onion, or sweet onion, or any kind of onion really.

Add a few or more tablespoons of olive oil. A good one. Don't skimp here, you want everything well coated, slippy-slide like.

Grab some herbs like savory, rosemary, oregano, sage, (and/or) thyme and chop them up finely or coarsely, depending on the look you want and your tolerance for stems in food.

Add plenty of good sea salt.

Toss together and slide pan into a pre-heated 400F oven. Forget about it for a good 45 minutes. Check and stir / flip once, about half way through. It will start to get caramelized and yummy. You can do this ahead of time and just let it sit in the turned-off oven for a while. Gets better with time, promise.

Meanwhile, do the second flavor layer......

Heat up a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy saute pan (1/2 cup or so).  I used cast iron and it was lovely.

Chop up some sweet onion, red pepper, hot pepper.  (If you need quantities, try 1 medium onion, 1 large red pepper or 2 small, 1 jalapeno or cherry bomb or 2 thai hot peppers, or more to taste. No rules here.)

Add onion and peppers to hot olive oil, and let it fry for a while. Stir every now and then. These will sizzle gently for about 10  minutes. They will soften, get fragrant, etc.

Chop up about 6 cloves of garlic.

Chop up about 4 tablespoons of herbs - a combo of oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme is nice. But really, any woody, fragrant herb will do here.

Find some paprika. My favorite is Pimenton (the smokey kind) but if you don't have that, you can use sweet or hot (if you can take the heat.) If you don't have any paprika at all, just skip it; the dish will be good without it.

Add garlic, paprika, herbs, and about 1/2 tsp salt to olive oil and peppers in the pan.  Stir, and turn down the heat. This will simmer together another five minutes or so over low heat. More time is fine. But 5 minutes is the minimum. Again, expect fragrance here.

You can get the pasta water going at this point.  You know...big pot, lots of water, salt.

Once pasta water is boiling, add the pasta. However much you need and while it cooks finish off the sauce.

Here is how:

Squeeze a lemon. Turn sauce # 2 off ( the one on the stove, not the one in the oven) and take it away from the heat. Add the lemon juice. It may sizzle a bit, so stand back. Stir together. Add some chopped parsley or basil (one or the other, not both, please).

Take roasted cherry tomatoes out of oven. Add the sauteed peppers and herbs to the tomatoes, scraping up every savory bit. gently and lovingly merge the two sauces. Serve in a bowl with a nice small ladle.

This is a rich, olive oil intense sauce. Use sparingly over the pasta with lots of freshly ground black pepper. The flavors add up to more than the sum of the parts. Really.

Some possible additions, if you must:

  • anchovies ( with the peppers and onions on the stove)
  • olives (pitted and chopped, added at the end with the lemon juice)
  • capers (can be added at the beginning or at the end. Gives you two different flavors either way, experiment with which you like best).
  • scallions (toward the end of the cooking time in either of the two sauces)
  • freshly grated parmesan (to pass around at the table)

But really, the beauty of this sauce duo is the simplicity. Don't overdo the flavors right off the bat. Try it as is. Just swoony and simple.

 

Corn and Poblano Chowder

One of our customers, Michelle Reiter,  sent us this recipe which sounds and looks so incredibly great. She was making a hot soup during that broiling weather we had last week, so you know it has to be great! Thanks, Michelle! And this reminds me to make a note to grow some poblano's next year! The plants sold out before I could get one in the garden, and yet again, I am poblano-less. They are one of the varieties that seem to get more and more popular each year as people plant them and come back for more the following season.

Poblano Corn Chowder

Cut kernels from: 10 ears sweet corn (5 cups)

Puree in a blender: 3 cups corn kernels 1 cup whole or 2% milk Saute in 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat in soup pan: 2 poblano chiles, seeded and diced 1 ½ cups white onion, diced 1 teaspoon garlic, minced Cook 4-5 minutes

Add: 2 cups chicken broth 2 cups corn kernels 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon cayenne Simmer 5 minutes

Stir in: Pureed corn 1 ½ cups tomato, diced ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled Simmer to heat through and melt cheese, about 3 minutes Garnish servings of soup with choice of avocado, lime, and/or cilantro

What are some of your favorite varieties this year? What are you making with them? Let us know and we can post your recipes, suggestions, ideas. This is the time of year when we start picking out the seeds for next season, so speak up, please!

Impatient Tomato Tastings

The first tomatoes of the season are always a bit of an anti-climax. We wait all year for the fruit to come out of the back yard as opposed to some distant clime, and then take a bite. It's not as sweet as the memory, not as drippingly hot and gushy as the movie running through my brain. The first tomatoes aren't the best ones. That is all there is to it. I tend to pick them a little early, eager for a bite and am met with a disappointing crunch when there should be a mush. In a week or two, I won't be so impatient, the vines will be dripping with ripe fruit, and I will eat them three meals a day, going from scarcity to abundance in a flash. Soon, every slice of bread will be adorned with a smear of mayo (the junky kind, not the healthy kind. Sorry) a thick, red, juicy slice of tomato and a sprinkle of good salt. This will be all I eat for a while. I know it's coming. But for now, I decided to document the earlier tomatoes and taste them, giving them a ritualistic importance of sorts. I try to put blinders on in the face of their slight un-ripeneness and photograph them, carefully laid out on the counter. Soon there will be baskets of tomatoes, heaping, unnamed and tangled together. But for now. We will carefully label, taste, and report. Here goes.

Pink Beauty is just an iconic tomato - it always perfectly shaped, blemish free and has an almost electric dark pink hue. The Purple Russians tend to crack a little, but nothing too detrimental (their good sides are showing for the photo shoot). The Juliet, as many of you know, is my favorite all-around tomato. It has huge yields of oval fruit that are great raw, for snacking, salads, sandwiches, and salsa (not too watery); but the real charm is that they work really well as a cooked sauce tomato too. The Viva Italia is a very pretty paste tomato - early and blemish free and very disease resistant. The Glacier is an heirloom, super early, does well in very cold climates (Huntington, Lincoln, Ripton - no problem), and is the one tomato you will be eating weeks before others ripen.

We tried them all, carefully slicing, chewing, thinking.....

All were slightly under-ripe and slightly lacked that "I've been baking in the hot sun" flavor and texture. We have had some rain the past couple of days, and the flavor is affected by that. But they were good - not middle of August good, but good. The Pink Beauty has a really nice balance of sweet and acid flavors, a slippery, silky texture and makes beautiful shiny slices.

The Purple Russian was a winner, flavor wise and texture wise. It is juicy, especially for a paste tomato, and has the most buttery complex taste that lingers on the tongue and leaves me wanting more. The plants are nothing pretty - they always look shaggy and stringy somehow, so I have never gotten too excited about putting them in my garden, but customers rave about them, and now I know why. Sweet, unctuous and complex. A new favorite and you will hear me raving about this one in the greenhouse next year. It would be perfect raw or cooked, and I am sure any sauce made from these would be a deep purple red color.

The Juliets were a little bland compared to the first two, but still full of good, bright flavor - lively on the tongue and a nice meaty texture.

Viva Italia were lacking in distinctive flavor (a little too acidic for my taste), but in all fairness,  they are much nicer when cooked. We will have to do another taste test with just paste tomatoes, cooked simply in some olive oil and lightly salted.

The Glacier is cute as a button: plump little orbs, slightly mis-shapen and full humble darlingness. The flavor is great for an early tomato - they are a little bigger than a cherry tomato, can be sliced for salads or sandwiches or cooked down for a quick sauce. They tend to ripen 3 or 4 at a time, a nice feature since they are so small and just one of them won't take you far. I would put this at the top of the list for early tomatoes. But if you only have room for a couple of plants, there could be some better choices.

I would love to hear what you are loving or not loving in your tomato selections. Any varieties you want to recommend for next year? Any you think should be discontinued? Let us know. And we love pictures! I will do this taste test again, later, when the plants are loaded and the fruit is at peak flavor!

The Garden in July, a Few Tips on Creating Micro-climates, and a Beach Picnic.

This summer, the weather has been garden perfect for many crops. All the heat lovers are thriving and the crops that like it cool and moist are doing well where they have been watered and are getting a little shade. I have a nice stone wall thanks to Charley of Queen City Soil and Stone, and the shady side of the wall is a perfect place for crops like celery, mid summer lettuce, artichokes, and boc choi. They benefit from the afternoon shade the wall creates. Additionally,  the moisture that builds up at the base of the wall from the terraced soil above it creates a perfect micro-climate within the garden. You can easily achieve this in any garden with strategic rock placement - not a full-fledged wall necessarily, but a few stones stacked up to retain moisture on a slope or to allow for  north-side shade in a fully exposed garden. Look around your garden for other mico-climates like tall plants that can be used to create shade for summer plantings of lettuce. Right now, I have lettuce planted in odd spots throughout the garden - under a  sunflower, at the base of the stone wall, and under some tomato plants.

The eggplant has been tremendous this year and last night, we had a great meal of marinated eggplant while sitting at the lake, scooping up piles of the salad with pieces of pita and a little feta. Here is the recipe. I used a combination of the Gretel and Machiaw eggplants (pictured above).

Marinated Eggplant adapted from smitten kitchen.com

  • 1 lb long, Asian eggplant, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 3 tbs olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of feta, crumbled

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with a layer of oil and layer the eggplant slices in a single layer.

Bake them until soft (about 20 minutes), turning once and drizzling with a little more olive oil about half way through.

Blend the vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, capers, and mint together. Place eggplant into a bowl, drizzle with the dressing, and stir to combine. Let rest for at least a half hour or place in fridge (up to one day). When ready to eat, sprinkle with feta. Eat with flatbread, while sitting near a cool body of water.

Beautiful, Edible Flowers Workshop

We were a small but enthusiastic bunch that gathered to learn new uses for edible flowers last Saturday. Cheryl Herrick, who helps us with marketing and is a freelance writer and food blogger, took us through some of her favorite ways to use blossoms from the garden.  We started by talking about safety, and making sure that any flowers you want to use for eating are non-toxic and are grown safely.  She stressed that if you're feeling experimental, channel it by finding new uses for the flowers that you know are safe for consumption.

The first thing we made was a simple canape with sliced cucumbers, a small dab of creamy goat cheese, and a nasturtium flower or leaf or viola bloom on top.   (If you're averse to cucumbers, sliced zucchini would be a fine substitute.)

Next we talked about liqueurs.  Alcohol extracts all sorts of compounds from plants, so that flowers or herbs or fruits soaked in it can sometimes have strong and surprising flavors.   Because of this, it's good to keep things simple if you decide to experiment - one flower or herb at a time in either vodka or brandy or bourbon, saving simple brisk flavors (think thyme, or mint, or anise hyssop) for vodka, and stronger ones for soaking in the others.  Then we put together a Nasturtium-Bourbon Liqueur - but now we have to let it sit for three months to age!

Nasturtium Liqueur Recipe 1 pint

  • 1 c. bourbon
  • 1/2 c. nasturtium blossoms
  • 1/2 c. fruit, chopped, optional (we used a handful of blueberries)
  • 1/2 c. simple syrup

Mix, cover well, let sit for 3 months.

Then it was on to Imperial Rolls, which are an uncooked spring roll made with a rice paper wrapper, and can be filled with a variety of ingredients.

Imperial Rolls makes 8 (enough for a snack for 4)

  • 8 rice paper wrappers, soaked one at a time for about 15 seconds in cold water, just before you're ready to make them
  • 4 cups well-washed lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup diced extra firm tofu
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro or basil
  • ~1 T. fish sauce (or substitute umeboshi vinegar or tamari)
  • 8 edible flowers (we used nasturtiums, violas, and borage)
  • sweet chili sauce or more fish sauce for dipping

Make by placing one soaked wrapper in front of you on a plate or cutting board.  Place about 1/2 cup lettuce, some shredded carrot, basil or cilantro and cubed tofu in a line on the wrapper.  Drizzle over just a little bit of fish sauce.   Fold one edge over the filling, tucking the filling in so that you can roll tightly.  Tuck in the other sides, and place a flower on the open part of the wrapper.   Roll the wrapper, which will stick to itself, while using your fingers to compress the filling so it can be rolled fairly neatly.  Cover with a damp towel until the others are done, then serve with your preferred dip.

Finally, we made some candied flowers by brushing flowers with some reconstituted powdered egg white, and sprinkling on sugar twice.

The sugar should have been superfine (which you can make at home by pulsing regular granulated sugar in your food processor for 10 seconds or so), but we tried it with what we had.  They then need to sit for at least 24 hours to dry, depending on the weather.

And then we packed up our goodies and were done.  It's going to be hard to wait three months for the liqueur, but we're told it'll be worth it!

Our next workshop is going to be a fantastic one on canning with no added pectin with Robin Berger on August 7.   Robin is a fantastic canner and cook who worked with us this summer and blogs at hippoflambe.  Give us a call to register at 802-482-4060.

Butter Lettuce, I love you

Green butter lettuce has to be my all time favorite lettuce....perfect texture, a color that can only be described as translucent and pearly, and a delicate flavor that truly is butter-like. I eat it in all sorts of situations and for all sorts of meals. Breakfast is toast with a thin spread of butter, snipped chives, some shavings of cheddar and a pile of butter lettuce leaves. Lunch is butter lettuce with a white wine vinaigrette, a piece of bread, and maybe a little tuna with herbs. Dinner will always include a butter lettuce salad with lots of snipped chervil. Or perhaps some grilled flank steak with butter lettuce, cilantro, thai basil, shallots, and a little hot pepper drizzled with a light sesame dressing.

Late May and June are the butter lettuce weeks. I plant a four pack of the lettuce every week from mid- April through August and I am rewarded with huge, green and white pillow-like heads of tenderness.  Here is a blog recipe from David Leit, who also appreciates this delicacy.

He is recommending a blue cheese dressing, which will be great later in the summer, but for now I cannot get enough of the delicate flavor and taste, so I will stick to my lighter dressings.