August 18, 2015

Garden in a Jar!

Putting Up!

Suddenly, the temps have turned; a few are trees tipped red and gold. The afternoon light is softer and the evening sky turns indigo earlier day by fleeting summer day. My heart thumps. Change, loss, grief? The ancient tug of fall. Hurry, get the garden in, gather all that's ripe and ready. My youngest son just left for college, so soon. Must everything end so soon?

Hurry, I think, don't linger, get to the garden, gather and cook. It's a good time to make pickles and condiments to relish later in the year. These recipes are relatively quick and easy and because they're stored in the refrigerator, they do not need to be "canned" with a water bath. Because the quantities are small, the work is less messy and they will taste very fresh for several months after being made. Engaging in this simple work makes it easier to kiss summer good bye.

Quick Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage
Makes about quart

You can eat this a day or two after making it and it will keep at least a month in the refrigerator.  Fabulous with grilled brats, it's a must with roast or grilled pork.

1 large head red cabbage, shredded
1 large yellow onion, shredded
1 tart apple, cored and chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch grated nutmeg
Several peppercorns
water to cover

Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan adding just enough water to cover them all. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook just until the cabbage is wilted. Spoon into a large canning jar and cover. Allow at least a day or two for the flavors to marry. 

Ginger Carrot Relish
Makes about a little over 1 quart

This slightly sweet and spicy relish is great on the cheese tray or served on grilled or roasted chicken.

1-1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon  honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 pounds carrots, cut into strips or shredded

Put the vinegar, water, ginger, honey and salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the carrots. Stir and allow to stand until the carrots are limp. Spoon into jars and cover. Store in the refrigerator at least 2 days before enjoying.

Beet & Horseradish Relish
Makes a scant quart

5 to 6 beets, scrubbed
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 sweet red peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2/3 cup grated fresh horseradish

In a preheated 325 oven, cook the beets until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Peel, and chop fine.

In a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and horseradish to a boil. Add the beets, onions and peppers and turn off the heat. Allow to cool and turn into the canning jar or jars. Cover. Refrigerate and allow two or three days before enjoying.

July 5, 2015

Strawberries !

photo by Mette Nielsen

Strawberries taste best freshly picked and eaten right away while still warm from the sun. Wait until blueberries and plumbs appear to make cobblers and pies, as heat destroys their delicate perfume. Enjoy the berries whole or slice and fold into whipped cream, yogurt, and softened ice cream. 

A hit of acid perks the sweetness, a drizzle of lime, lemon, or balsamic vinegar; or sprinkle with a grind of pepper, a little chopped basil, is all you really need.

In a hurry, try this whip of yogurt and whipped cream and sliced berries, put in the freezer for a few minutes to firm and then serve semi fredo. 

Strawberry Frango
Serves 4 to 6

1 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more to taste
Mint sprig for garnish

Slice the strawberries and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream until it hold stiff peaks. Fold in the yogurt and the sweeten with brown sugar to taste. Fold the sliced berries into the mix and turn into individual glasses or a large serving bowl. Put in the freezer until firm (but not hard) and serve right away. Garnish with mint.

June 22, 2015



Photo by Mette Nielsen

Early summer is the season for marriages - culinary being my favorite kind. There's melon and prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella, watermelon and feta, and of course, strawberries and rhubarb. What a jam!  Shockingly tangy and sweet, intense as summer itself. This simple recipe is for small batches, easier, quicker and tastier than more traditional jam. Store these in the refrigerator and enjoy ASAP.  

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam!
Makes about 5 1/2 pint size jars

2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups strawberries, keep the small ones whole and cut the small berries
2-1/3 cups sugar

Put the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar into a stainless steep pan and allow to sit for several hours, or overnight, until the berries release their juices. Put over medium heat, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring gently, until the fruit is soft looking and translucent, skimming off any froth that appears on top, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Transfer into hot, sterilized jars and allow to cool. Cover with the caps and store in the refrigerator. 

May 6, 2015

Why I love cookbooks

Deborah Madison
Literary Treasure, Culinary Luminary

There are people who see cookbooks as instructional guides, manuals to making a descent meal. And there are those of us who love to read cookbooks. As a teenager I discovered Joy of Cooking on my mom's crammed cookbook shelf, started to thumb through the pages and was hooked. I'd tuck it into my book bag to read like a novel when I should have been studying and later, in college, when I felt lost or homesick, I turned to cookbooks for they both sooth and entertain. Beneath a cookbook's lists of instructions and steps to follow lie tales as rich and deep as any to be found in fiction. They are forays into families' homes and glimpses into far off lands redolent with garlic and rosemary, saffron and cardamom. Recipes are stories with happy endings, of being sated and cared for in a way that feels gentle. I'll even suggest that the intentions of a cookbook author are the same as those of a novelist, to use both creativity and format to transmit an experience to the reader.

Last night Deborah Madison spoke at a gathering for the University of Minnesota's Library Foundation and celebrated the Kirschner Collection of cookbooks. She told of how cookbooks guided and informed her on a lifelong journey as chef, cooking teacher, gardener and writer. Drawing deeply from the volumes written before her, Deborah saw how to lift up vegetarian cooking to satisfy even the most stubborn omnivore. Through cookbooks, she realized she could make meatless meals taste good, by recreating a classic meat ragout into one with meaty-tasting mushrooms. The illustrations and photos in classic cookbooks helped her create gorgeous meals of beautiful plates for her ground-breaking restaurant in San Francisco, Greens. Later, she relied on cooking and gardening books to transition into the different phases of her very successful career.

Through reading and using cookbooks, Deborah found her voice -- warm and inviting, confident, inspiring. Deborah's books invited you into the kitchen, into the garden, as you stand at her side learning to make a lovely stir-fry or hearty soup, while you hear stories of her remarkable life. 

So. whenever I'm feeling lonely or flat, I turn to cookbooks, especially Deborah's. Her recent work, Vegetable Literacy is a masterpiece as well as a very dear good friend

May 5, 2015

Spring Love & Radishes

Radish Butter
Photo by Mette Nielsen 

Perky red, peppery, crunchy and utterly delectable, radishes add spice and snap to spring meals.
It's early yet, but with the warming weather, we should soon see those pretty French Breakfast radishes with white tips as well as the big, marble-like bulbs. Members of the mustard family, radishes grow quickly from seed, about 4 to 6 weeks. So plant them now. 

The best way to eat radishes? Sliced thin and layered on top of pumpernickel smeared thickly with cultured butter and finished with a sprinkle of coarse salt. Ignore suggests of cooking radishes, they turn limp and loose their crisp, spicy bite with heat.

Radish butter makes a fabulous spread for crostini and sandwiches and a pretty addition to the bread plate. Make it ahead, it will keep, covered in the fridge about a week. Let it soften a little before serving.

Radish Butter
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 stick unsalted cultured butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped radishes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, work all of the ingredients together. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator about a week. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.