I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a decent honeydew in my life. To me, they always taste like cucumbers pretending to be melons. I’m just no good at picking them out, and when I ask the produce guy to pick one out for me, it's barely any better. It’s disappointing because I read food blogs where the writers wax poetic about the nectar-perfect honeydew they just tasted and I want to experience the sweetness of which they speak.
So I tried growing one myself.
It was the last melon plant in the school garden to set fruit, and then it just took forever and ever to grow. It pretty much didn’t change size at all in September despite the heat and my attentive watering. With a hard frost projected last weekend, I finally had to pull the plug on my runty garden-grown honeydew. It didn’t smell even remotely fragrant, but I cut it up anyway. It was very green inside. Too green. I tasted it. Surprisingly, it didn’t taste any worse than supermarket honeydews, but it was clearly underripe. Rather than throw the whole thing in the compost, I tried something. I tossed the green melon cubes with 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon lime zest. Wow, what a difference! The 12YO and I ate the whole melon in less than a minute. OK, the melon was tiny, but still, it was suddenly delicious!
Now I know what to do the next time a melon lets me down, although I’d probably double the syrup for a full-sized honeydew. Who knows, maybe it would work for cucumbers, too!
Can you believe the summer is halfway over? But the good news is that tomato season is upon us, and that includes the sungold cherry tomatoes we planted at the school garden. I was worried because the plants developed some sort of leaf spot early on, but it doesn’t seem to have affected them at all. They’re coming in all lush and beautiful. This variety is ripe when bright orange.
We also have corn!! I was surprised to find decent-sized, fully formed ears of corn on our plants so early. Of course, that’s not the whole story. The rest of the story goes like this:
One or more animals are tearing the plants apart to get to those delicious cobs. I’m not sure who the culprit is, but my guess would be squirrels or raccoons. Or maybe it's the deer again. But as my 9YO says, we humans are too greedy. We should let the animals have some too. And he’s right. They don’t know we planted that food for ourselves. For them, it’s simply a case of finders-keepers. The important thing is that no creature in the vicinity of the garden went hungry that day. At least that’s my PR-friendly story. (Meanwhile, I’m already mentally constructing a cornstalk-based critter catapult.)
Watermelons! I found two bowling-ball-sized melons (candlepin, not duckpin) dangling heavily over the retaining wall when I got back from vacation, so I rushed to put something underneath them for support. I wonder how long it will be before the animals figure out how much water is contained inside those juicy melons during these dry times.
The cucumber plants are producing like crazy.
The cabbage is looking happy underneath its chicken wire enclosure.
We got some good garlic despite my late planting.
My broccoli, however, needs work. Only one plant made it this far for a variety of reasons, and that one plant produced a head of broccoli the size of a single floret. I should have picked it and eaten it right then and there, but I thought it would get bigger so I left it to keep growing. Nope. It bolted straightaway. I was disappointed, but I'm sure the miniature broccoli-hating contingent is cheering right now.
It’s always a race to use up all my CSA produce before we go on vacation. Here’s a nice little lunch that saved a zucchini and a pattypan squash from certain doom. These summer squash latkes are light and tasty, and you can customize them with whatever herbs you have within reach. Fresh cilantro with jalapeño. Basil. Oregano. Thyme. Fry these little pancakes until crispy and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Delicious!
Summer Squash Latkes
2 medium summer squash
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Greek yogurt, for serving
Grate the squash with the large holes of a box grater. Wrap the shredded squash in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze it dry.
In a medium bowl, combine the squash with the scallions, jalapeño, egg, flour, and baking powder. Season with salt and pepper. Mix gently just until combined.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmery hot. Spoon 1/3-cup mounds of batter onto the hot pan and press lightly to flatten. Cook over medium heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Flip them and cook 3 minutes more until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter, adding oil as necessary. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Makes six.
Source: Adapted from Food & Wine
Summer is finally here! Which means while the kids are away enjoying some much-needed time off, the garden will be growing like crazy (we hope).
Nine classes came out to the garden this year, as well as the neighborhood Daisy troop. Thanks to all of those snow days tacked on at the end of the school year, two of the classes got to harvest what they sowed: radishes and sugar snap peas.
The rest of the classes will have to wait until the fall to see their carrots, green beans, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, and nasturtiums. Some of those will come up in the middle of the summer and will require a second secret planting to satisfy expectations. Kids don’t want to hear your excuses about the length of summer vacation versus the speedy growth habits of certain plants. They’re not impressed with your multitude of photos set forth as proof of a bountiful harvest. All they know is someone ate their carrots and it wasn’t them. They want to see and hold and taste the actual thing they planted.
I get it. Lesson learned.
Other things I learned: Corn takes up a lot of space.
Ditto for pumpkins. But this year, we have a pumpkin patch!
(A major shout-out to all the families helping to water and weed the school garden this summer. I really appreciate it!)
Despite the complete and utter lack of rain, the school garden is in great shape. Just look at all those strawberries I picked yesterday, and it’s not even June yet. Luckily, the deer haven’t figured out how to crack my strawberry defenses. Give them time. As some of you may recall, the deer mowed down every one of my two-dozen plants last year leaving only stems. That makes this year’s fruit doubly sweet.
The garlic I planted in the fall came up. Huzzah!
The rhubarb looks great as always. It doesn’t ask for much. I like that in a plant.
The cherry blossoms have come and gone on the Nanking and Montmorency cherry trees. In their place, I’ve spotted a whole bunch of young cherries, which the birds are eradicating one by one even though they’re not even remotely ripe. There’s one bird, a finch song sparrow I think, who keeps energetically cheeping at me from the exact opposite side of the cherry tree’s crown as I circle it with my accusations. It’s almost as if I’m the one invading its territory instead of the other way around (there’s no nest in there, I checked). My arguments have fallen on deaf ears. It’s hard to stake a valid claim on a tree against a bird when you don’t even know how to fly. They don’t take you seriously at all.
I tried putting a net over the tree, but I can’t reach the top and the netting keeps falling off and blowing away. I’m worried some unsuspecting animal is going to get trapped in its web. I base this fear on how many times I’ve ensnared my own hand during this process. Instead I may settle for netting a few individual branches with a zip tie so we at least have a prayer of seeing some ripe red cherries this year.
What else? Oh, the oregano, thyme, lavender, and sage came back this year. That was nice. They’ve never come back for me before. The rabbits or some other nibbling thing chewed a hole through my plastic chicken wire enclosure for the collard greens, kale, and cabbage, but so far they haven’t done nearly as much damage as the deer have done in the past. The peonies are almost ready to bloom. The ants are standing sentry on the swollen bulbs, putting up their little fists whenever I come near. The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings from Waltham Fields went in over the weekend, and we’re trying tomatillos this year, too. I just put my seed-grown cucumbers and melons in yesterday.
We’ll see what June brings!
One benefit of all that snow we had this winter is that I decided to take spring into my own hands. Using my salad green containers that were destined for the recycling bin, I started some seeds indoors for the school garden.
I tried this last June, and those plants turned out well, so I was dismayed to observe that my mid-March seedlings were shaping up to be stringy and pathetic. I consulted my magic Google box and learned that a north-facing window with approximately five hours of weak sun per day is not enough light to produce robust seedlings. They just keep growing taller and taller and taller trying to find more light that never comes. You green-thumbed readers probably already knew that, but I have to learn these things for myself, apparently.
I tried to give the seedlings a pep talk, something to the effect of “if you need more light, why don’t you grow more leaves?” Then I watched as the nearest seedling miraculously grew six inches right before my eyes, then 12 more as it twined itself up in my direction and, in a final burst of energy, slapped me hard across the face with one of its yellowing, paddle-shaped leaves before flopping over in defeat.
Wow, photosynthesis really packs a punch!
To redeem myself, I did some research on supplemental lighting systems and, lo and behold, I discovered what we already knew: that I’m too cheap to shell out that kind of cash for a head start on the season. Then I came across this excellent tutorial on how to build a four-foot-long adjustable grow light out of PVC piping and a standard fluorescent shop light using only a drill and a hacksaw. I drilled the holes and cut the PVC, and then the kids helped me assemble the piping and fittings. It reminded me a little bit of the tinker toys of my youth, except the end result was both functional and perfectly presentable. Then I shoved the rest of my half-dead seedlings under the light and waited.
Within just a few days, the plants started to perk up, and then they just took off growing multiple sets of big leaves that were destined to weigh down their long, wiry stems. But the seedlings that had the benefit of beginning their charmed lives under this homemade grow light from the start look like something you’d find at a garden center. Now I have dozens and dozens of plants ready to go into the garden: kale, collard greens, swiss chard, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, parsley. They just need to spend a little time outside getting used to the wind and the sun (not to mention weaning them off my faux opera falsetto they’ve been forced to endure because drastic times called for drastic measures).
The whole setup cost less than $50, including the automatic timer that turns the lamp on at 6:00 am and off again at 10:00 pm. I was so excited about it that I went out and bought the materials to build a second one.
This year's school garden saw a mix of success and failure. Many things thrived. The herbs flourished. The sungold tomatoes produced well. The nasturtiums blossomed all summer long. We had at least five pumpkins, though a couple were found smashed open. There were a wide variety of plants that we successfully started from seed. But it soon became clear that at least one deer family made the garden its primary food source for the summer. Here's what I learned.
Things Deer Love
Apple trees: leaves and bark
Cherry trees: leaves and bark (and fruit)
Strawberry plants: everything but the stems
Swiss chard: ditto
Green beans: ditto (with a strong preference for haricot verts)
Sweet potato leaves
Melon plant leaves
Pumpkin plant leaves
FYI, it's hard for a plant to grow without leaves.
Things Deer Don't Seem to Care For
Tomato plants, thank god
Herbs of any kind
The biggest tragedy was the plight of the apple trees. I had dug several deep holes and planted the rootstock, then lugged five gallon buckets of water over to their location every week all summer long because the hose didn't reach. They seemed to be thriving. Then I went to water them one day and found that all the leaves were stripped off and a lot of the bark. I strung up strong-smelling dryer sheets to dissuade the deer, changing the scent every few weeks to throw them off. A couple of leaves grew back, spotty and discolored, but then the deer came back and ate those, too. Both trees promptly died. It was heart-breaking after all that work.
Now I understand what I'm dealing with. I have to somehow learn to coexist with these eating machines. I have a few ideas, starting with this hoop-like structure with poultry netting that I built for what will be next year's greens bed.
Any other ideas are most welcome!
Now that school is back in session, it's challenging to return to the usual state of structure and restraint. But it's very necessary, both for the belly and the budget.
We're still getting tons of cucumbers in our farmshare, so here's a nice way to use them. Fresh and flavorful, this tangy salad goes well with grilled meats and various end-of-summer pastas like this one.
Dill Cucumber Salad
I used to salt the cucumbers ahead of time to extract some of the water, but now I don't bother. The liquid they give off tempers the bite of the vinegar.
2 large cucumbers
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Slice the cucumbers very, very thinly. You can use a mandoline, but if you don't own one, cut them as thin as you can with a sharp knife. Slice the onion thinly, too, and put the vegetables in a medium bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt. Add the rice vinegar, chopped dill, sesame seeds (if using), a pinch of red pepper flakes, and ground black pepper to taste. Toss well and refrigerate until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.
Cucumbers, onion, dill: Waltham Fields Community Farm, Waltham, MA
I was cleaning out the 8YO's backpack last week when I came across a big stack of handmade cards. Being a nosy mother, I started flipping through them and discovered that they were for me—for helping his second grade class plant pumpkins in the garden the week before. Another stack of cards came home the next day from a class of first graders that had planted sunflowers with me.
The cards were so sweet and earnestly rendered. I loved reading them and seeing what made the strongest impression on each child based on what they decided to draw. Here are some of my favorites:
Watering the pumpkin seeds.
Anticipation of the fall harvest. (It's a rather ambitious forecast—I'd better get busy planting some insurance pumpkins!)
I may have forgotten to mention that pumpkins don't grow pre-carved.
Some kids were fascinated by the wildlife in and around the garden. Others loved tasting the snap peas, mint leaves, and lemon balm.
So on behalf of everyone's favorite garden cyclops, thanks kids!
Here's wishing everyone a happy (and fruitful) summer!
Remember how I was complaining that a half-dozen college guys moved in next door? And how I was bracing myself for frat parties every night? I don't want to jinx anything, but the school year just ended and not a single frat party was had. Also, get this, those same college guys are building the most amazing garden in the front yard.
It all started when one of them came by to ask if they could borrow a shovel. Theirs had broken and they were in the throws of a major garden construction project. At least that's what the fresh-faced youth said. I was reluctant to give up my shovel as I assumed "garden" was code for "secret keg storage bunker." But my shovel was right there, we could both see it, so I couldn't exactly say we didn't have one. He returned it promptly and then the project was abandoned for weeks. Typical, I thought. Even the promise of icy cold beverages buried deep in the earth couldn't sustain the efforts of the slacker generation.
Then, last week, that same kid emerged with tub after tub of seedlings. Nah, seedlings imply puny little green sprouts. These were sprouts on steroids. They looked like beanstalks fit for a giant. Spinach, kale, sunflowers. Five-gallon buckets full of mystery plants were suspended from the beams of the porch, vines cascading down between the columns.
What the hell? Do they have grow lights in the basement? My own sprouts emerge only tentatively and in the feeblest of fashions. Our yard adjacent to theirs consists of massive weeds and unruly raspberry canes mixed in with the remnants of our demolished upstairs porch scattered everywhere. The only thing growing at the moment is our pile of white trash.
Meanwhile, just over the property line, raised beds were being built. Terracing was carved into the hill. The term "hardening off" was used, and not in the way I expected a college guy to use it.
So why am I over here acting all pissy about such a positive development?
I'll tell you why. Because for years my story about why I'm such a crappy gardener has been that that our yard is not suitable for gardening--not enough sun, poor and rocky soil, north-facing slope. It's the shitty terroir, not me. Then along come these whippersnappers who recreate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon a mere three feet away. They've single-handedly ruined my cover.
I've been doing pretty well with the school garden of late, or so I thought, but now I totally have to up my game. Come September, we'll see who has the better garden, them or me.
It's on, College Boys!
A few weeks ago, I found myself with a glut of shiitake mushrooms. A sudden spell of warm weather caused my five logs to flush all at once with these small, rather dry, cracked mushrooms. The next day called for rain, so I decided to keep them out a little longer to let them grow a bit more and rehydrate. When I woke up the next morning, the temperature had plummeted, there was snow on the ground, and I ended up with several pounds of huge, rather waterlogged, partially frozen mushrooms (insert frowny-faced emoticon here).
Frozen mushrooms aren't the best. The way mushrooms grow from tiny pinheads to full-grown specimens is basically by inflating with water. But if that water should freeze, it will expand and rupture the cell walls. The results are pretty slimy. I know because I cooked the frozen ones anyway. Not the best.
On the upside, some of the mushrooms didn't freeze and these banh mi-like sandwiches were a great way to enjoy them. A banh mi is a sandwich that evolved in Vietnam during the French colonial period. It's usually some kind of meat, like pate or pork belly, in a baguette with pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and spicy chili sauce—a fusion of both cultures in one tasty package. For this vegetarian version, shiitake slices are sautéed in soy sauce and garlic, then added to a baguette slathered with Sriracha mayo, layered with quick-pickled cucumbers and radishes, and garnished with cilantro and mint. Fresh-tasting and satisfying, this was lunch all week.
The idea was inspired by a recipe in the vegan cookbook Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, except I unveganed it by adding the mayo back in. Vegans and non-vegans alike will want to check out this book: it's full of things that even I would eat, and the food photography and overall design is great. And if you have the same pet peeve I have about authors' faces on the cover (no offense to anyone's face—all I want to see is the food), you can remove the dust jacket and underneath it, printed directly on the cover, is a nice colorful alphabet soup with little pasta letters spelling out "Let's Eat."
Avoid super-crusty baguettes for these sandwiches unless you want the roof of your mouth shredded. Aim for something mid-way between a soft sub roll and a traditional baguette (Russo's shoppers: try the medium sub rolls that come in bags of three on the bottom shelf). Also, I used regular red radishes, which turned the picking liquid pink and gave the vegetables a rosy hue by Day 2. If you want a more manly sandwich, maybe stick with the traditional white daikon radishes.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup thinly sliced English or Persian cucumber
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced 1/4-inch thick, stems removed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Salt to taste
4 soft baguette rolls
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Fresh mint leaves
For the pickles, whisk together the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Stir in the vegetables and let them sit in the liquid until ready to serve.
For the shiitakes, preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil and then the shiitakes. Sauté until they soften, release their moisture, and brown a bit in spots, 5 to 10 minutes depending on how much moisture they contain. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds before adding the soy sauce, stirring until well mixed and fragrant. Remove the mushrooms to a shallow bowl to cool slightly.
For the Sriracha mayo, whisk together the mayo, Sriracha, and salt. As written, the spice level is about medium, but you can adjust it to your liking by adding more mayo or more Sriracha.
To assemble the sandwiches, split the baguettes lengthwise by cutting out a narrow wedge from the top. Then hollow out the rolls a little by pulling out some of the extra bread inside to make room for more filling. Spread the inside generously with Sriracha mayo. Add some cooked mushrooms, then some pickled radish and cucumbers, and then cilantro and mint. Eat up. Any remaining sandwich components can be stored several days covered in the fridge. Makes 4 sandwiches.
Source: Adapted from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Since I've been banned from the woods, I've been forced to limit my attention to the stuff growing in my own suburban neighborhood. That is to say, downhill from the poison ivy forest in my backyard. On my walk back from the bus stop last week, I saw what I recognized to be a hickory nut in its husk lying in the street. Perhaps it was abandoned by a squirrel under duress? I pocketed the nut, brought it home, and pulled off the green, multi-lobed husk. Then the little nut sat on my counter for a week while I waited for the hammer to turn up.
When it finally did, I brought the nut outside and cracked it open on the sidewalk without any finesse whatsoever. The shell and nut shards went flying all over the place. But I retrieved them all, and let me tell you—hickory nuts are amazing. They remind me of maple candy the same way pecans remind me of pralines. They're buttery and sweet. I declare them to be the best nuts ever. I mean, I haven't tried butternuts, yet, so maybe I should reserve final judgment. But then the butternut tree in my backyard has canker and doesn't bear nuts, so I may never know what those taste like. Better just to go on record to say that if you are a nut-lover, you better make it your business to find a shagbark hickory tree and harvest some nuts. (Come to find out, there are three—count 'em, three—shagbark hickory trees on the next street over!)
Here's how to distinguish a shagbark hickory tree from other types of hickories that might not taste as good: The bark is gray and looks shaggy like it's peeling off in rough vertical strips. The leaves of hickory trees look like this (shagbarks have two sets of compound leaflets and a large terminal leaflet). The leaves turn color early. In fact, they're yellow right now just as the sugar maples are turning their most brilliant orange-red. You can read more about hickories here.
I just realized I haven't shown you any pictures of our school garden this year.
Bet you thought I killed it.
I did not! It is alive and well!
Volunteers built three new raised beds over the summer, and a few artistic students painted some signs and stakes for labeling things. There's a pizza garden with cherry tomatoes and herbs, a lush bed full of leafy greens like lettuce and chard and kale, and another bed full of pole beans, the radishes along the perimeter having long been harvested. The rabbit population in the area has exploded, so fencing is a new requirement. They really seem to love gnawing the strawberry and cucumber plants down to the ground, as well as the beautiful sweet potato vines I planted myself from slips. Curse those adorable cotton-tailed creatures!
There's a brand new butterfly garden this year with bee balm, milkweed, and butterfly bushes to encourage pollinators, as well as some gorgeous sunflowers planted by little hands.
I was watering the garden today when I came across this guy climbing up the building's foundation?
A giant praying mantis. He was about as long as my hand, wrist to fingertip. I didn't have my good camera with me, but the sun was so bright that it etched out some of the details in shadow. You don't see this kind of visitor every day, so I got him onto a stick and brought him over to the cafeteria window, which overlooks the garden. It was just about noon, so I knew the place would be packed with kids. I nudged the mantis onto the window screen and let it climb around for a little while in plain view of the children sitting on the other side of the glass. This caused a minor riot in the lunchroom as dozens of kids came running over to see. A scant 30 seconds of smiling observation passed before one of the lunch monitors attempted to draw the curtains and, when that didn't work, put her hand over the window in front of the insect to block anyone's view except mine. I already know what a praying mantis looks like, Lady! A part of my soul died a little, but then I tried reaching back into my substitute teaching days, which weren't so long ago, to remember what it's like to wrangle a room full of kids when you're totally outnumbered. Distractions—even educational ones—are not always appreciated. I took that as my cue to remove the regal insect and return him to his comfort zone in the weeds growing wild by the leaky hose. This put me on better terms with the mantis as well!
Next up for the garden: I'd like to see some cross-pollinating apple trees back there. Maybe even some pear trees. Also, we need more cherry tomato plants. More! I gave a garden tour to my son's second grade class last week, and all of the tomatoes were stripped in two minutes flat. One little girl had never tried one before. She loved it. Nature's candy!
I'm going out on a limb to say this will probably be one of my least popular posts of all time. Why? Because I'm pretty sure I'm the only one under the age of 80 who buys Grape-Nuts on a regular basis. But I can't help it. I love that cereal! And I especially love the ice cream!
Grape nut ice cream is one of those flavors that lurks in the far corner of the menu board for one reason and one reason alone: to appease the grumpy guy down the street that orders a single scoop at the same time every day like he has for the past 40 years. If you took it off the menu, you'd never hear the end of it.
For everyone else, though, the decision is tough. What would you rather find in your ice cream: cookie dough, cake batter, candy bars, or Euell Gibbons' favorite health cereal? Then there's the temptation of chocolate-peanut-butter this or coffee-mocha-caramel that or some new maple-walnut-butterscotch-bourbon-pistachio-pecan-praline mash-up, which I will surely love, to complicate matters. Peaceful treaties between historically hostile nations could be hammered out in less time than it takes me to order an ice cream.
That's why I make my own grape nut ice cream at home. I have everything I need right in the pantry and it's always consistently good. (Sometimes grumpy guys have a point!) The secret is in the cereal itself: how those crunchy little nuggets of barley soften and mellow into malty, toothsome perfection. A little bit of malted milk powder sweetens the deal. If you can't find malted milk powder at the store, you can order it through King Arthur Flour or just ask your local ice cream shop for a take-out container of the stuff while waving a couple of dollar bills around. Nothing motivates the teenage summer help like cold hard cash. Or maybe it's the prospect of getting certain indecisive, troublesome female patrons to finally leave. We may never know for sure.
Grape Nut Ice Cream
I make my ice cream the old-fashioned way: with organic raw eggs. You are under no obligation to do the same. If you're worried about salmonella, your options are many: Use pasteurized eggs instead. Or leave out the eggs entirely for a very serviceable Philadelphia-style ice cream. Or pull out your favorite cooked custard-style ice cream cookbook (like David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop) and modify this recipe using egg yolks and a thermometer. Or pull out your favorite cornstarch-based, egg-free ice cream cookbook (like Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home) and modify her base. It's your kitchen after all.
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 heaping tablespoons malted milk powder, like Horlick's or Carnation
3/4 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then whisk for 1 minute more. Add the cream, milk, and malted milk powder, and whisk for another minute until the sugar is dissolved. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually spin for 25 minutes).
During the last 2 minutes of churning, pour in the grape nuts. Transfer the churned mixture into a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.
If you're grilling this Labor Day, tell your burly grillmaster to push the meat aside and make room for some veggie love. Here's a quick recipe to help you deal with the season's influx of local zucchini and long, twisty Asian eggplant. Simply cut them into thin slices, brush them with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the veggies over hot coals until tender, grill-marked, and bendy. Arrange them on a platter and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and slivered basil. I almost added a vinaigrette, but then I thought it wasn't necessary. Your call.
I've spent a fair bit of time over the past few weeks helping to get the kids' school garden cleaned up and productive. A lot of the weeding involved removing mint bent on world domination. I thought of saving it to make pesto, but it was the wrong kind of mint. This tasted more like peppermint. While peppermint pasta doesn't appeal, I couldn't see throwing all of that perfectly good mint into the compost. Plus all that weeding makes you hot and sweaty. Soon I was craving something cool and refreshing. And minty.
Mint chocolate chip was always a favorite flavor of mine growing up, but I'd never made it at home. Turns out, there's nothing to it. Tear up the mint leaves and steep them in hot milk until cool, strain out the greenery, and proceed with the usual steps. Drizzling some melted chocolate over the churned mixture as you pack it into a container to freeze gives you instant chocolate chips (you get to use your favorite chocolate, too). It's a nice reward for an honest partial-day's work.
I make my ice cream the old-fashioned way: with organic raw eggs. You are not required to do the same. If you're worried about salmonella, your options are many: Use pasteurized eggs instead. Or leave out the eggs entirely for a very serviceable Philadelphia-style ice cream. Or pull out your favorite cooked custard-style ice cream cookbook (like David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, for example) and modify this recipe using egg yolks and a thermometer. Or pull out your favorite cornstarch-based, egg-free, gelato-style ice cream cookbook (like Jeni Britton Bauer's Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home) and modify, modify, modify. It's your kitchen after all.
1 cup mint leaves (or more), packed
1-1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Tear up the mint leaves and add them to a small saucepan with the milk. Heat the milk until little bubbles form around the edges. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit until cool. Refrigerate until ready to use (the longer it sits, the more flavor becomes infused). Strain the mixture into a medium bowl, pressing on the leaves to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the leaves.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then whisk for 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and minty milk, and whisk for another minute until the sugar is dissolved. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually spin for 25 minutes).
While the ice cream is churning, heat the chopped chocolate on top of a double boiler (if you don't have one, improvise your own by setting a metal bowl atop a smallish saucepan with an inch of simmering water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer the churned ice cream mixture into a freezer-safe container in layers, messily alternating big spoonfuls of soft ice cream with drizzlings of melted chocolate. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.
To celebrate me losing all of my dessert cookbook weight, let's have a salad!
I've been enjoying this grapefruit fennel salad for months now. It was inspired by a recipe in Amanda Cohen's cookbook, Dirt Candy. If you're unfamiliar with the NYC veggie-focused restaurant by the same name or its comic-book-themed cookbook spin-off, I suggest you seek out the latter the next time you're at the library or your local bookstore. It's an entertaining read as it illustrates, quite literally, the reality of opening a new restaurant, Cohen's stint on Iron Chef America, as well as cooking techniques for vegetables. As the author and heroine of this graphic novel, Cohen dons her chefly superpowers with wit and humility. The book is great fun, as is her blog. Check out this hilarious post on how her celery salad went over at the NYC Wine & Food Fest. If you find yourself defecting to her blog, I'll totally understand!
But back to the salad. Cohen's version includes candied grapefruit lollipops and grilled cheese croutons, which are no doubt delicious, but my version is a little more pared down (read: lazy). I've settled on this basic arrangement: mixed greens with thinly sliced fennel and red onion, segmented grapefruit, and crumbled feta. The salad benefits from having something fatty and salty in the mix, so if you forgo the cheese, fill the void with crumbled bacon, chopped almonds or pistachios, or cubed avocado with a sprinkling of sea salt. The dressing, which I make with anise seeds instead of fennel seeds, is mildly fruity and refreshing. It's the perfect pre-summer salad.
(It also reminds me a little bit of dessert!)
Below are my suggestions, but use what you like in the proportions of your choosing. Just be sure to slice the vegetables very thinly. A tangle of radish sprouts would be a nice addition. The amounts below serve two grownups. Scale up as you wish.
1 to 2 cups mixed lettuce, spinach, and baby kale
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (only cut what you'll use)
1 red grapefruit
Crumbled feta, goat cheese, or queso fresco
Chopped salted almonds or pistachios (optional)
1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest (from 1 grapefruit)
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad, toss the lettuce, fennel, and onion in a bowl.
Finely grate the zest from the grapefruit and set it aside for the dressing. Cut the grapefruit in half and reserve one of the halves for the dressing. To segment the other half, place it cut-side-down and slice the peel off the grapefruit in swaths, following the contour of the fruit. Then turn it over and cut between the membranes to remove the juicy flesh in between. Set the grapefruit segments aside in a shallow bowl.
For the dressing, add the grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice from the reserved grapefruit half, lemon juice, anise seeds, and mustard to a blender. Blend on high, then reduce the speed to low and slowly stream in the oil until smooth and emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. (The dressing can be stored in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.)
Lightly dress the greens and veggies just before serving. Arrange the salad on plates with the grapefruit segments, cheese, and nuts if using. Serve additional dressing at the table.
Source: Adapted from Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey, and Grady Hendrix
You know what I'm talking about. Back in high school, everything is poised to get better. The braces will be pried off soon. The glasses can be traded in for contact lenses, maybe even the kind that turn your muddy eyes a cool shade of aquamarine like a mood ring. You're finally easing up on all the Aqua Net (step away from the can of hairspray, Tammy). The ugly duckling becomes a swan and all that crap. Meanwhile, you're making a little cash throwing together sandwiches on the weekends and you feel real smart with that diploma in your hand.
The world is yours for the taking!
In high school, you can't wait for college. In college, you look forward to getting out of college because all this studying is putting a damper on your social life. Plus, you want a fun job with a decent paycheck. You want a mode of transportation besides your own two feet. Dates at fancy restaurants. A place to live that's not a dump. Vacations. Soon you have some stuff, and you like your stuff, but you want something more. You want love. You want a family of your own. Then you get a family of your own and, for the whole first year, you can't believe what a horrible mistake you've made. No more dates at fancy restaurants. Your place becomes a dump. Vacations take on an entirely new and unwelcome meaning. Sometimes you wish you'd just stayed home.
But then you learn to stop being so selfish all the time and things gets better. Your family becomes your whole life. Does anyone else have kids as awesome as yours? NO WAY! IMPOSSIBLE! And then you realize something. Your kids are halfway through their childhood already. They're going to spend the whole second half hating you. And then they're going to leave.
They say you get better with age, but in what way specifically? Nicer? I don't think so. If anything, I'm getting more crotchety and even less charitable behind the wheel of a car. Wiser? Uh-uh. By my calculations, I'm getting stupider by the day. I've always been a wee bit forgetful, but this is ridiculous. I left my coat somewhere last week. At the library? At Walgreens? Where? How did I not notice my coat was missing? True, it felt colder, but all that ran through my head was: That's New England for you. One minute you're toasty warm in your nice winter jacket and the next minute you're shivering by the parking meters fumbling for change while the icy wind sucker punches you in the spleen and there's no logical explanation for it whatsoever. (I still haven't found it, by the way. My coat. It's puffy and gray with a big hood.)
The other night I looked in the mirror and realized that it's all downhill from here. This is as smart/healthy/attractive as I will ever be for the whole rest of my life. And, I'll be honest, the bar didn't seem very high.
Is this what a midlife crisis looks like?
This recipe is stupefyingly simple. I don't even use stock anymore, just water. It's silky and surprisingly sweet. Snip a few chives on top and you have something tasty and healthful to warm you up on a chilly spring day when your coat is nowhere to be found.
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups water (or veggie stock)
1 pound parsnips, peeled, cored*, diced
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté the chopped onion and celery for 4 to 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Don't let the vegetables brown. Add the garlic and sauté for 15 seconds until fragrant. Add the water or stock and the parsnips. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the parsnips are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool and purée in a blender or with a stick blender until perfectly smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 2 or 3. The recipe can be doubled (just be sure to purée the soup in half-batches if using a blender).
*Some parsnips have a woody central core that runs from top to bottom. To remove it, I usually just slice the peeled sides right off the core, which is a slightly different color. (Then chop up the sides and discard the core.) But if you're not sure exactly where or how big the core is, you can also quarter the parsnip the long way. Then you can see it a lot better. Just trim along the interior edge of each quarter with a paring knife to remove it.
It's so funny how you can walk for an hour and see no mushrooms at all (or at least not the ones you want), and then all of a sudden, you come upon a giant monstrosity such as this one—bright orange like a beacon on the brown forest floor—and you feel like you just found buried treasure, even though it was out there, plain as day, for all the world to see. Maybe nobody walked by, or maybe nobody noticed it, or maybe somebody did notice it but just thought it was some weird gross fungus. Which it is. But it sure is tasty!
I was very excited because this is the first chicken of the woods I've ever found (not to be confused with a hen of the woods, which is brown and tastes different). Chicken mushrooms range from bright yellow to orange, but mine was the color of Circus Peanuts, those old-fashioned marshmallow candies my dad enjoys. The specimen I found was bigger than my head and in very good condition (for a fungus). Also called sulfur shelf, Laetiporus sulphureus got the nickname chicken of the woods because it tastes likes chicken. I agree, it's surprisingly chickeny in texture for a non-meat, so vegetarians take note.
I really wanted to emerge from the woods victorious, carrying my gigantic neon trophy, but it takes forever to clean a mushroom that big (see here). Plus, nobody else in my house is going to eat it but me. So I opted to take just half, sawing off the shelves with the handy-dandy pocketknife I keep around for mushrooms and rapists. Turns out, slicing the brackets off the central stalk makes it really hard to carry them long distances, especially when you're lost. But then, if I hadn't gotten lost, I never would have found the mushroom in the first place since the trail I wandered down basically led to a dead end of No Trespassing signs. Anyone with a trail map wouldn't have bothered going that way. So I juggled my mushroom pieces as best I could while stumbling blindly down the trails, drunk with success and the giddy danger of potential mushroom-poisoning. I found my way back to the car eventually.
Later on, back at the homestead, I double-checked my mushroom identification in various expert reference books. That's when I realized that my specimen matched all of the criteria for a chicken of the woods except for one. L. sulphureus is supposed to have bright yellow pores on the underside of the cap, while the pores on my mushroom were ivory white. This is not a good thing to discover after you've already spent an hour cleaning and trimming your mushroom. That's a major discrepancy in a field where minor discrepancies can be deadly. Even though there are supposedly no poisonous look-alikes for this mushroom, I wasn't eating it until I got some official confirmation that what I had was indeed edible.
After some frantic late-night Googling, I discovered a page on the University of Wisconsin site by Thomas Volk. His name sounded familiar, and it turns out he's a prominent mycologist whose name was dropped several times in Eugenia Bone's mushroom memoir, Mycophilia. Anyway, his DNA research published in 1998 turned up six different species within the previously known category of chicken of the woods. One, Laetiporus cincinnatus, matched the criteria of my mushroom perfectly:
Not only is it edible, but Volk considers it to be the most delicious of the group. Score! I sautéed the mushroom pieces with onions, garlic, potatoes, and fresh sage leaves for a delicious lunch.
I love soup in the springtime. I tend to be a little chilly in these transitional months, even as the temperature warms. Maybe it's the moist spring air, or because I'm exiting my layers a little too enthusiastically. Or, perhaps, it's true what Husband says: that I don't possess a functioning metabolism. Regardless of the reason, I'm in a perpetual state of goose bumps from October through May.
Lately, my cravings have been running increasingly green, just like the landscape. A few weeks ago, I had a pot of asparagus and fiddlehead soup to warm me. Now, it's cream of broccoli. The following recipe was inspired by Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. Even though it was published 15 years ago, the book keeps coming up in conversations with various unconnected people. By the third mention, I knew I had to get a copy of the book. I'm glad I did. French monks really know their soups!
But there's another reason why I love this book. It's because of the image I've cultivated in my mind about the author, which I should note is entirely fictional. I imagine Brother Victor-Antoine alone in the kitchen of his stone monastery in the picturesque Hudson Valley cooking up cauldrons of bubbling soup. Meanwhile, two monks, one quite young and another significantly grayer, are walking silently down the arched, stone colonnade, their dark robes cinched at the waist with rope belts. Suddenly, as they approach the kitchen, their ears are assaulted by a tirade of the filthiest, most abominable swear words ever conceived in French, English, and Latin, as well as some that haven't been invented, yet. The obscenities, amplified by the cold stone, echo across the courtyard.
The young, sheltered monk stops in his tracks with a look of horror. The older one doesn't even break stride. "The soup must be especially good today," he notes. Observing that the young monk is still having trouble recovering, he adds, "Have you met Brother Victor, yet? He has an unholy way in the kitchen, but the soup? The soup is an act of God."
(This is what happens when my new favorite cookbook is written by a monk named Tourrette!)
Cream of Broccoli Soup (print-friendly version)
I love this &*$#@^ soup! May I suggest a light grating of the sharpest cheddar cheese you have on hand? I used Cabot Seriously Sharp.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 lb. fresh broccoli, cut into florets
3 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed
8 cups veggie stock, chicken stock, or water
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the broccoli and potatoes, and stir to coat. Add the stock or water, increase heat, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, maintaining a simmer, and cook for 1 hour, until vegetables are tender. (Note: The original recipe calls for you to add all of the veggies to the pot with the water/stock right away, forgoing the oil. You can do it that way, if you prefer.)
If you have a stick blender, you can puree the soup right in the pot. If you're using a regular blender, let it cool until no longer hot and steamy, and puree in several batches, never filling the blender more than half full. Add the cream, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Reheat. Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Source: Adapted from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. He probably doesn't actually swear (too much!).
The Kindergartener is crazy about birds. He has the Peterson Birding by Ear 3-CD set practically memorized, including the little mnemonics people use to remember the birdcalls. Example: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? (barred owl)
I have a nature-loving friend who is quite artistic. She made the above illustrated poster of birdsongs, which is currently hanging above the Kindergartener's bed. It's completely charming. I thought some of you might like it, too.
(click here for more information)
Ever since my health issues a few years back, I've gone off conventional antiperspirants and deodorants. The antiperspirant/deodorant people assure me there's nothing to worry about, that a link between aluminum and breast cancer has never been proven. My doctors concur. To them I say this: Why wait for the evidence to surface? Why not be proactive? Better to be safe than smelly sorry.
Still, it was a ballsy move on my part. I don't want to stink up the joint any more than you do. My mom suggested using one of those deodorant "crystals." A crystal? Really? I'm not trusting my personal aroma to any mystical forces, geological or otherwise. But it turns out the crystal is actually rooted in science. The smooth quartz-like rock is made of mineral salts that, when moistened with tap water, are transferred to your skin and dissuade foul-smelling bacteria from taking up residence there. Bacteria don't like salt, which is why it was such a useful food preservative before refrigeration (e.g., salt cod).
I was still skeptical. Why would it be that easy? But guess what? That shit works! It works!!! I mean, the salts don't prevent you from sweating—your body was designed to do that—but you don't stink. At least not for 24 hours, give or take. In fact, I happily used the crystal for two whole years. That's how long my $5 crystal lasted before it cracked down the middle and threatened to cut a bitch. And then? Then I tried the spray version and developed a horrible rash. Poison ivy times three. Maybe the concentration of salts in the spray is different? Anyway, now I'm allergic to both versions. I had to stop using the stuff. Total bummer. (If you have sensitive skin, I recommend just sticking with the rock version.)
I was at a crossroads. I didn't want to go back to the aluminum-laced stuff, but the general consensus seemed to be that the other natural, aluminum-free deodorants on supermarket shelves work about as well as nothing at all. I can go without deodorant in the winter, maybe, if you don't stress me out too much, but not in the heat of summer and certainly not on Zumba day. Maybe you don't care if people are dropping like flies as you pass by, but I do, damnit. I do!
So I made the rounds of the hippy blogs describing all manner of homemade deodorants I will never make, with success rates that varied wildly. I scanned the comment sections, taking notes and prioritizing the experiences of rash-prone people and those who didn't sound too crazy. This is what I came up with:
Mix four parts cornstarch or arrowroot with one part baking soda. Rub a light film of organic coconut oil on your underarms, then dust a little of the powdered mixture all up in there. Don't cake it on, just dab enough to keep the oil from feeling sticky.
That's it! You smell nice and faintly coconutty all day long! I keep the powdered mix in a clean sock that long ago lost its match, give it a few whacks under each arm like a powder puff, and store it in a little jar. So far, no rash. It's been working for me for months now, even on Zumba day. Granted, I haven't tried it out in a substitute-teaching situation—the ultimate test—but you'll have to wait until my book is done for that report (FYI: there will be no reports).
I will concede that coconut oil can be pricey, but then again, so is conventional deodorant. By weight, I bet coconut oil is cheaper. Best of all, we're talking miniscule amounts of natural, food-grade stuff. I can't imagine that it's bad for you. Nevertheless, I'm sure I'll contract some weird form of coconut poisoning eventually. Is there a such thing as coconut poisoning? If there is, I'll be sure to let you know. But I just wanted to share my discovery in case you were headed down a similar path yourself. If you have other ideas and experiences, do tell.
We've finally gotten some rain around here, and you know what that means: fiddleheads, ramps, and perhaps morels! I've seen fiddleheads and ramps at the market already. As for the mushrooms, I'm still waiting...
Fiddleheads are the coiled-up fronds of certain edible ferns. They taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans. You can use just asparagus for the soup, however, if immature fern fronds aren't your thing. For the aromatics, you have your choice of onions, leeks, or ramps. Ramps are foraged wild onions with a certain level of pungency that I enjoy. However, they were $17.98 a pound last week at Russo's, and so I will be using the 98-cents-a-pound spring onions until the price comes way down.
This soup tastes just like spring. Like a damp meadow without the mud and mosquitoes. Served warm, it takes the edge off of cooler days, and provides a sample of the warmth and greenery still to come.
Asparagus and Fiddlehead Soup
Always parboil fiddleheads before adding them to your dish to get rid of any bitter toxins.
1/4 lb. fiddleheads, soaked in two changes of cold water, drained
2 Tbsp. butter
2 medium leeks or 1 small bunch ramps or spring onions (white and light green part only), chopped
1 1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends snapped off, remaining stalks cut into thirds
1 medium potato, peeled, cubed
5 cups veggie stock or water
1 tsp. kosher salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Black pepper to taste
In a medium pot of boiling water, parboil the fiddleheads for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In the same pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Gently cook the leeks/ramps/onions, stirring frequently, until they soften but don't take on any color, about 4 minutes. Add the asparagus, fiddleheads, potatoes, stock/water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer until veggies are soft, 10-15 minutes. Set aside some fiddleheads and asparagus tips for garnish. Puree the rest right in pot with a stick blender, or let it cool and pour soup into a regular blender in two batches (never process steamy liquids in a blender unless you want soup all over your kitchen walls—make sure it cools first).
Reheat soup in pot with lemon juice, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, a few fiddleheads or asparagus tips, and chopped dill.
To kick off a month of atypical non-Grinchy behavior, I will be raffling off some of my favorite books to you, my loyal readers! If you've recently arrived here after reading the Edible Boston article on local food blogs, and you aren't sure you have what it takes to be a loyal reader, I'm hoping free stuff will convince you. I have a lot to give away and there are only three weeks until Christmas or something crazy like that, so check in often if you don't want to miss your chance to win. Once the clock strikes 12 on Christmas Eve, I'm keeping whatever's left like some sort of greedy Cinderella who misses the point of Christmas entirely.
Starting us off is Yankee Magazine lifestyle editor Amy Traverso and her great new cooking tome and apple encyclopedia, The Apple Lover's Cookbook. Think apples are all the same? Oh ho ho, you are so wrong. So wrong! Let Amy show you the error of your ways with a primer of 59 apple varieties, from quirky heirlooms to newfangled hybrids. Then be grateful that she was the one that had to do all that research and not you.
Moving on to recipes, there's literally not a single dish contained in this book that I don't want to eat. Apple crisp? Don't mind if I do. Apple pie? You bet! Cider doughnuts? Hell, yeah. Apple-gingersnap ice cream? STOP TORTURING ME!!! It's not just sweet stuff, either. There are recipes for sausage, apple, and cheddar strata, sweet potato and apple latkes, and apple cider-braised turkey with applejack-sage gravy. I made the braised pork shoulder with hard cider, Calvados, and prunes a few weeks ago, and it was so good that I refused to eat anything else for a whole 18 hours so as not to taint the memory. (That's a personal record for me, by the way.)
Quite simply, this is a book everyone needs to have. I mean, unless you hate apples. Is it even possible to hate apples? I might argue you're just confused. Maybe it's scrapple you hate? Anyway, to be entered to win, simply leave a comment on this post with your favorite variety of apple and/or apple preparation, and a commenter will be selected at random by one of those Internet-based number generators. Comments will close at 10 pm EST on Monday, 12/5. And if you don't win this raffle, there's still plenty of time to put the book on your Christmas list. That's the second best way to get free stuff!
Many thanks to W.W. Norton for donating a copy of this beautiful book!
Look at the salad Husband made for me! It's got lettuce, spinach, cucumber, red pepper, celery, chopped almonds, cheddar shavings, and smoked mackerel. Yes, smoked mackerel from Ducktrap River in Maine. Very tasty, cheaper than smoked salmon, and lots of omega-3s. Whole Foods carries it. We also like the Memphis-style smoked bluefish from Dave's Cape Cod Smokehouse, which you can find at the Wayland Winter Farmer's Market (starting January 7, 2012). Perfect for when you don't feel like cooking.
Want to blow somebody's mind this Thanksgiving? Serve these Brussels sprouts. Yes, Brussels sprouts. No, this isn't some kind of sick joke. They're browned, smothered in cream, then braised until silken deliciousness is achieved. Cruciferous candy. Sure, there are plenty of lower calorie ways of making Brussels sprouts, but it IS Thanksgiving after all. And today, I'm thankful for cream!
Creamy Braised Brussels Sprouts
One bite and the ThirdGrader said, Brussels sprouts aren't as evil as I thought!
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. Brussels sprouts (2-3 stalks worth), trimmed, cut in half or quartered
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sprouts until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are tender and cream is reduced and lightly brown. Sprinkle with lemon juice to taste, perhaps more salt and pepper, and serve.
Source: Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens
Don't mind me, I'm just playing around with my new macro lens. You can pretty much count on me getting way, way too close to my food from now on. Just a heads-up.
This here is some luscious beef brisket and root vegetables braised until melty and scrumptious. Serve with mashed potatoes or over brown rice or barley and you've got yourself a rib-sticking meal that will fuel you through any unwelcome pre-Halloween shoveling. Hope those of you who lost power have gotten it back by now!
You can also do this in a slow cooker. Follow the recipe through the garlic part, then throw it all into the crockpot for 4-6 hours on high, 8-10 hours on low.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 lb. beef brisket
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 parsnips, cored if woody, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small celery roots (celeriac), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup roasted tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, or ketchup)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups stock or water
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Season brisket with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Transfer to plate.
Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in pot. Add onions, carrots, parsnips, and celery root, and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Dump in the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, cider vinegar, brown sugar, and stock/water, and give a good stir. Return the brisket to the pot along with any juices collecting on the plate. Liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the meat. If not, add a bit more stock or water.
Bring to a boil. Cover with foil so that it’s flat against the meat and comes all the way up the sides of the pan (you might need two sheets), and cover with lid. Place in the oven for about 3 1/2 hours, turning meat every hour and reconfiguring foil, until meat is super-tender and vegetables are soft and melty. Serve with mashed potatoes or grain of your choice.