Sunday, May 6, 2012

Strawberry Daze

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Oh, the strawberry season is too short!  And this year seems to be an exceptional year for strawberries.  I've gotten them from a couple of different farmers this year and they have been heavenly.  This Saturday at Market Square, the Colvin's may have had the best strawberries EVER -- at least my sister and I both thought so.

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I mean, EVERYBODY loves strawberries, right?

So -- what have we been DOING with all these strawberries?  Well, let me tell you...

Last year I learned how to really put up jam and found a recipe for Strawberry Lemon Marmalade that has made me famous among my jam eating friends.  It was in the Better Homes and Gardens Canning magazine that came out last year (a special edition that had LOADS of excellent canning recipes -- see if you can put your hands on it, and you'll be happy, I promise.)  The link is to their recipe for Orange Marmalade, but the Strawberry Lemon version is at the end.  It is surprisingly easy and so worth the bit of time it takes!  So far this year I've put up 12 jars.  I don't know if I'll do more or not ... I have a sneaking suspicion that if I don't I will probably regret it about December.

This year I stumbled across this Strawberry-Balsamic-Thyme Jam recipe -- it may be the best all-around strawberry jams I've ever tasted.   I expected the balsamic to stand out, but it didn't; instead, it gave the jam a wonderful depth without being overly sweet.  I could barely taste the thyme, and don't know if my plant was too young to have a strong flavor, or if the herb was just there to brighten things up a bit.  At any rate, it is also well worth the effort.  So far I've put up 8 jars, and will probably do another batch of 8 if the strawberries don't play out before I get to it.  This, I suspect, is the jam that will make the best tarts.  EVER.

And did you know there is such a thing as Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream?  It is next on my list of things to try.  The recipes I'm looking at are:

My all time favorite strawberry ice cream recipe last year was a Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream from David Lebovitz's book, The Perfect Scoop.   There are a lot of copies of the recipe out there on the web, (like this one) but I would really recommend that you just go pick up a copy of the book.  I LOVED that the ice cream wasn't too sweet, with a lithe bit of tartness from the sour cream.  And it was CREAMY.  Oh my.

My hubby, however, wasn't wild about the sour cream taste in the ice cream.  He wants his ice cream to be rich and sweet sweet sweet -- he wants it to taste like he remembers the ice cream his dad used to make in the back yard tasted.  So, I'm still on the hunt for a perfect strawberry ice cream recipe.  I tried this Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream recipe from Williams Sonoma.  In my book, it is absolutely a keeper.  Hubby, however, wants his even sweeter.  I think I'm going to have to go get him a pint of Ben & Jerry's....

Ice cream aside, you can't have strawberries without thinking strawberry shortcake.  I generally don't care for the typical store bought or home-made biscuit style shortcake.  This recipe for a lemon flavored French Yogurt Cake from Bon Appetit came at the perfect time and gave me a perfect sub for shortcake -- cover a slice of this with a bunch of sliced and sugared strawberries, with or without the whipped cream, and you are in a very nice place.  A very nice place, indeed.

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I really wanted to find recipes using strawberries that weren't deserts.  We all know that strawberries are made to go on a spinach salad with bacon and almonds, right?  You DO know that?   But I wanted to find something else.

And then, I did.

I found this recipe for Strawberry-Avocado Salsa from Cooking Light and HAD to give it a try.  I made it today and served it over chicken breast tenders that had been marinated lightly in oil, lime, salt, pepper, garlic, chili, and cumin then grilled.  It was amazing.  I loved it.  Even better -- MY HUSBAND LOVED IT!!!  The recipe says it makes four servings -- in my house it was lucky to be enough for two.  We didn't lick the bowl, but I think that was only because we both have good manners.  If nobody else had been watching, I'm not sure what either of us would have done...  I'm going to double the avocado next time, just because I would have liked to have tasted it a bit more, but this recipe is definitely on the KEEP list.

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Oh, what a life.  So many strawberries and such a short time in which to eat them...yet we must carry on, dear friends, we must persevere.

 And that's that.  So, what about you guys?  Any great strawberry recipes to pass on?  Let me know!

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade
Strawberry-Balsamic-Thyme Jam
Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream (from Mike's Table)
Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (from Zoe Bakes)
Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream (from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop)
Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream (Williams Sonoma)
Lemon flavored French Yogurt Cake (from Bon Appetit)
Strawberry-Avocado Salsa (from Cooking Light)

Monday, March 26, 2012



Market Square -- Saturday mornings -- opening day May 2, 2012.
Be there or be square.   (hee hee)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kale and Broccoli Saute

As promised -- here is my favorite recipe, I mean, METHOD for cooking up kale and broccoli.  Fortunately, both are still in the grocery stores right now at a reasonable price.  And while they aren't nearly as good as what we can find from our local farmers in season, it is certainly good enough that we clean the pot!

Basic ingredients:
Kale & broccoli -- how ever much of each you like -- I use
1 - large farmers market size bunch of kale (or 2 smaller grocery store sized bunches)
1 - head of broccoli
2 or 3 pieces of bacon
a few Tablespoons of olive oil
splash of good balsamic (optional)
1/2 - 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
a small handful  -- 1 - 2 Tablespoons of pine nuts

I wish I had loads of nice photos to take you along step by step, but I just don't.  Sorry.  Use your imaginations ... I know you can do it.

Start out with a big bunch of kale.  Italian kale is good, but my favorite is the curly kind.  I mean, really, it is so fluffy.


Wash, dry, remove the stems, and chop.   I chop it into what I guess you would call a "rough chiffonade" by rolling a bunch of the leaves up into a giant cigar shape and slice about every 1/2" - 1" or so.


(I like to use scissors sometimes -- )

Once the kale is chopped, the real fun can begin.

I take 2 pieces of good thick bacon, stack on top of each other, cut them lengthwise, and then cut into even little 1/2" squares.  Again -- I like to use the scissor for this -- works great right over the pan.

Favorite pot to use -- my All Clad dutch oven.  THIS IS MY FAVORITE POT IN THE WORLD.  Anytime I get mad at my honey I remember that he got me this pot for Christmas about 10 or 15 years ago and then I'm not mad at him any more.  It's THAT good.  I use it for everything, on the stove and in the oven.  Have I convinced you yet?  Seriously -- worth the investment.

Okay, back to business here.  In a large heavy pot of some kind -- if you don't have a dutch oven, a large skillet will work fine -- slowly cook the bacon bits until brown.

Your house will smell excellent.

Remove the bacon and put in a small bowl.  There will be a fair amount of bacon grease left in the pot.

Do. Not. Touch. It.  (Bacon grease is goooood.)  Add a swirl of olive oil to make things even more interesting, and throw in all that chopped up kale.  (Go ahead -- quit being so afraid of fats.  We'll talk about those sometime, too...)

The kale will be piled high and will sizzle and pop a bit.  Stir it around and it will very quickly cook down. Kale needs a bit of time to cook, so this is where you leave it for a few minutes over low heat.

While it is slowly cooking, grab your broccoli and chop it up.  I only use the tender stems and heads of the broccoli, because that's my favorite part, and I chop it up pretty fine.


Throw the broccoli into the pot with the kale and stir around until it turns really bright green.

Add about 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable stock to the pot and simmer.  The stock should be just enough liquid to make a little steam rise and keep your vegetables from sticking to the pan as they cook.  Remember we're not making soup here or "boiled greens."  This is also where I think it needs a little bit of something acidic to round things out, and like to lightly sprinkle it with a good balsamic.  I suspect that wine would work, too.

While everything simmers, toast a handful of pine nuts.  Some people recommend toasting the nuts in the oven, but I prefer to do them in a small skillet on top of the stove.  Just throw the nuts into the dry skillet and toss around over the heat for just a few minutes until they smell very "piney" and start to turn golden.  Be sure to keep them moving and watch closely that you don't burn them -- they are too expensive to have to throw away.   And I have to add a cautionary statement here about pine nuts (and I've just found this out) -- apparently -- and OF COURSE this would be true -- they are very high in calories.  So, use some sense and remember that a little goes a long way here, okay?

Once the nuts are toasty, set them aside (I put them in the bowl with the bacon pieces).  Stir the kale and broccoli around to be sure most of the liquid is cooked out or absorbed, sprinkle the bacon / pine nut mix on the top, and let it settle for a few minutes over the low heat to let the flavors mingle just a bit.



Leftovers make a fantastic lunch to warm in the microwave or saved to stir into wild or brown rice for a great rice dish.  Even little tiny bits of leftovers (you know -- the little bit that isn't really enough for a full serving?) can be used in an omelet.  I keep thinking that one of these days I'm going to stir this stuff into a little cream sauce and toss with fettuccine...if any of you try this first please let me know!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Colvin Family Farm

I was happy to find the Colvin Family Farm featured in a really nice article about local farms.

These guys have some really great produce -- and they are SO MUCH FUN to visit with on Saturday mornings at the market!  I'm looking forward to spring and getting to see them again.

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Read about the Colvins in this online edition of The Furrow magazine.
Visit their web site HERE.

Sunday, January 1, 2012



I RESOLVE: do better.

Really -- this past year has been amazing, and I've followed up with my resolution to learn to cook everything I could find at the Farmer's Market -- except that I've been too busy cooking to blog about it.

In all honesty, I've had a pretty steep learning curve this year, and was very unprepared for all there was to do.   In 2012, I think I may have it figured out.


But what a wonderful year it has been for me!  I learned so much, and doing the project not only led me to change my habits in the kitchen, but extended to areas that I never expected and has left me with a richer and fuller life.   Who would ever have expected that?

In June, when produce was at its peak and I was scrambling to learn all I could as fast as I could, I had a couple of weeks when I just didn't watch television.  Once I realized that I hadn't watched TV for two weeks, I decided to try and skip it for the entire month.  Two months later I realized I no longer watched TV at all, and this much healthier habit continued until not long ago when the new Survivor season started.  (Let me just say, we ALWAYS watch Survivor.)  But that's all I watched, pretty much, and have continued to be off the couch.  Surprisingly, or not, I've noticed that I sleep better now.  Is there a correlation?  I don't know.

Without planning to, my husband and I started eating our meals at the table, rather than in front of the TV.  (I'll admit it -- that's where we tended to eat!)   I'm not even exactly sure how it started, but it did, and now we set the table together, put the meal in serving bowls, and sit down to eat and talk.  That's pretty good stuff, people, and I highly recommend it.

I've also learned to clean the kitchen as I go.  That may sound simple or like not much, but it is an incredibly good habit to develop.  If you wait until after the meal to do all the cleaning, it is overwhelming and you begin to dread cooking.  If you clean as you go and then can finish up the cleaning in about the same amount of time as it takes to make a cup of coffee, you're much more likely to feel good about cooking again the next night.  And you'll feel better about your evening.   AND you'll have more energy to go for that mile walk before the sun goes down.

Now if I could just get myself in the habit to sit down in front of the computer and talk to you folks once a week...

I'm going to try.  I really am.

Happy 2012!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nearly Over

This morning as I walked up to Market Square I realized that this was the next to the last Farmers Market of the season.

It's hard to say good-bye...

But temperatures are going down and holiday decorations are going up and I guess our farmers deserve a rest.

Actually, the Holiday Market will begin the first week of December and run for three weeks.  Although the focus is on crafts and gifts (or so I've heard), several of the farmers will have booths, so it isn't completely over yet.  The Holiday Market will open later in the day, around noon or thereabouts.

There is still plenty of produce to be found right now.  We haven't yet had a hard freeze and the cool weather means that lettuces and greens are again at their peak.  It goes around like that, you know -- we start the season with greens and end the season with the same greens.

Winter squash (butternut and acorn) are still plentiful; potatoes and sweet potatoes are better than any you can find at the grocery; broccoli and cauliflower are amazing; peppers seem to be everywhere; brussels sprouts are coming in; and, believe it or not, tomatoes are still out there and pretty dad gum good!


Can I mention broccoli again?

We have a new favorite dish of sautéed kale and broccoli, topped off with crispy bacon and toasted pine nuts.  I will share the recipe -- okay, not a RECIPE exactly -- I will share the METHOD in the next day or two.

But you don't need to do anything fancy with this stuff -- if you're in a hurry you can chop up the amount you want and microwave it with a tiny bit of water for just a couple of minutes, top with a sprinkle of grated parmesan, and you're ready to go.

If you're REALLY in a hurry, you can just eat it raw.

And if you cooked too much you can make it into a creamy cheesy soup or fold it into an omelet.

We've always eaten broccoli around here, but most of the time it came from a package in the freezer.  Now that I've gotten used to having it around fresh and raw, I'm going to keep it as long as I can find it.

Broccoli is my hero.  If I could think of anything that rhymed with the word "broccoli", I would probably write it a poem.  But I can't, so you're all safe.

For now....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

07.24 At The Kitchen Table

Lettuces, then strawberries, then blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant -- now tomatoes and peaches. I've been in love with them all to the exclusion of all else at some point this summer.
HOW I want to show you all what I'm up to! But, if you remember, I mentioned a while back that I was having technical difficulties ...

We started the summer with the refrigerator going out. I replaced it with a beautiful samsung four-door french door model -- you know the one -- the kind with the refrigerator bit up top and the freezer down below, with a middle refrigerator drawer just for What's-His-Name's lunches so he quits fussing about too many veggies getting in his way. I have finally gotten used to it, but if you are considering getting one, I would recommend that you find a friend who has one and take a look at it FILLED. It really does take some getting used to.

Since we had to get a new refrigerator, it only seemed reasonable to get a range at the same time. I've learned that if you are planning on getting a matching item, you'd better get it now or not at all -- things are discontinued all the time and without notice. (Aaargh. And that's all I have to say about that.) So we did.

Note, if you are getting a new range:
Get a convection range if you can.
If it has any kind of touch screen, go the extra bucks and get the glass screen.
Check the measurements WITH the handles and make sure they don't block your cabinet door from opening...


And now, it's the computer.  I've been fighting with that thing for a while now and have long been saving either for a new computer, a second camera, or a trip to outer space. (They all cost about the same...) Well, I guess I'm just lucky that the space shuttle is not running any more and that I really don't NEED a second camera, because my computer is giving me fits.

Note -- (well, more of a question, actually):
Is the phrase "giving me fits" strictly a southern phrase, in the same category as "pitching a fit"? Hopefully y'all know what I mean...

Anyway. The time has come. I am going to order my new computer tomorrow, and will hopefully have it by Thursday(?), and will hopefully THEN have photos and all kinds of good stuff to show you.


Meanwhile, let me let you in on a great kitchen secret or two:
  • Don't store your tomatoes in the refrigerator -- keep them on the counter. If they are ripe, just don't let them get in the sun.
  • Don't be afraid of weird looking tomatoes. Many of the heirlooms are wonderful! Our new favorite this year is Nyagous, a small Russian black heirloom tomato. FABULOUS!
  • The best way to eat a tomato -- slice it, sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt (or not), eat.
  • The second best way to eat a tomato -- slice it, top with couple of fresh basil leaves, top that with a slice of fresh mozzarella -- sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, let stand for 15 minutes to an hour (room temperature) and then drizzle with a tiny bit of really good balsamic. Eat.
  • The best way to eat a peach -- slice it, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar (or not), eat.
  • The second best way to eat a peach -- slice it, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar, top with a scoop of homemade peach ice cream, top with a spoonful of homemade raspberry jam. Eat.
Get the picture?

Now -- here's a scene from the Farmers Market on Market Square last weekend . I was really not feeling well that morning, but these guys cheered me up so much I felt better!  I had to use my phone to get the video, so it isn't all that great, but if you listen closely for the song you'll be humming it the rest of the day. :-)

Dancing in the Square With A Long-Legged Girl from Linda M on Vimeo.