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Sugar Snap Peas: Five Italian and Spanish Style Recipes You’ll Love

30 Jun

It is the season for sugar snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon), and we have had a wonderful harvest of sugar snaps in our yard, and we expect more from Restoration Farm, our CSA.

Almost too ready for picking

Almost too ready for picking

So today I made a special sweet pea dish — Pasta with Chorizo and Peas – for my seven-year-old swee’pea who is in charge of peas at home, from planting to watering to harvesting (he gets assistance in stringing the poles as our peas need strings to climb on with their delicate tendrils. We buy sugar snap seeds from Botanical Interests).

Someone eats a lot of peas as he is harvesting. Someone's mother doesn't mind at all.

Someone eats a lot of peas as he is harvesting. Someone’s mother doesn’t mind at all.

He collected peas between World Cup matches today and then we spent a companionable half hour shelling the peas and eating many of them as we watched Costa Rica play Greece in the World Cup and I put the water to boil. At halftime I made dinner to eat during the second half.

Quite a haul! We can freeze what we don't use. But we'll use it all before that happens.

Quite a haul! We can freeze what we don’t use. But we’ll use it all before that happens.

So the following Pasta with Chorizo and Peas  is a new recipe and below that you’ll find links to some of our perennial favorites: Spanish tortillas and Italian pastas. This recipe uses only the peas, but the pods are edible. I sliced the pea pods into my salad, as he doesn’t like those and I find them wonderfully crunchy and sweet.

Rich flavor that doesn't overwhelm the peas.

Rich flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the peas.

Continue reading

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Garden Update (Whew! Maybe I wasn’t too late after all)

25 May

In the past few years I have assiduously reported on our developing vegetable garden. This year, shame and nothing doing and too busy with other stuff has kept me from sharing.

These we planted back in October...of 30 garlic cloves planted, 29 are looking fab and the other, well who cares?

These we planted back in October…of 30 garlic cloves planted, 29 are looking fab and the other, well who cares?

BUT, it turns out my lackadaisical approach, followed by periods of intense industry that last about an afternoon, have worked out so far!

Will they be ready in time to plant outdoors?

tomatoes from saved seeds: Will they be ready in time to plant outdoors?

Maybe it’s that the raised beds make life easier. Maybe we know what we are doing somewhat more. Maybe the crazy cold winter and early spring meant that a late start was all one could do.

baby kale and chard: forgiving and vigourous (and delicious when you put the ones you thin into raw salads

baby kale and chard: forgiving and vigourous (and delicious when you put the ones you thin into raw salads

Whatever the reason, the vegetable garden is going WELL and we’ve started harvesting and I might even have Puerto Rican calabaza going this year.

This may or may not be arugula babies: I need reading glasses these days so I can't tell! but in the garden I just taste

Peas are also very forgiving: plant early whenever and they just go for it!

So…garden pictures. And especially for parents who are trying to garden with their kids, a cool idea for radishes that engages their interest (even if your handwriting sucks). Write their name in radish seeds and watch the early sprouts delight them!

The first few letters looked great. The last few...well it's N-D-R-O

The first few letters looked great. The last few…well it’s N-D-R-O

Looking good! Who woulda thunk it?

Looking good! Who woulda thunk it?

Keep your dedos cruzados that this Puerto Rican pumpkin works out...didn't think it would work, so I don't have a transplanting location or plan!

Keep your dedos cruzados that this Puerto Rican pumpkin works out…didn’t think it would work, so I don’t have a transplanting location or plan!

Cranberry Sauce…Finally!

1 Dec

I have never posted a cranberry sauce recipe before because frankly every time I tried I ended up with a lip-puckering nasty gloopy mess and we’ve just used lingonberry jam from IKEA instead.

A happy surprise for the table

A happy surprise for the table

So this year, I did not even tell my family I’d bought cranberries! I told no one that I was going to attempt it again. I just put it together surreptitiously on the day, figuring that if I failed yet again, no one would be the wiser. And wouldn’t you know, it came out deliciously — just the right tartness and sweetness, beautiful color and rich texture. It was great on the turkey and the ham, and even on bread! I have visions of using it on duck or venison one day…(Mad Dog? Are you there?)

I used a recipe from Simply Recipes (one of my go-to spots for solid fundamentals clearly presented) and then played with proportions and seasonings. And it’s a good thing I went for it. Unbeknownst to me, there was no lingonberry jam in the house, so we would have had to do without. Some things are just meant to be, and this was one of those things!

I will absolutely do this again next year for Thanksgiving, and will very likely not wait that long to try it again.

The blueberries were left over from the summer. Had them in my freezer: serendipity!!!

The blueberries were left over from the summer. Had them in my freezer: serendipity!!!

Cranberry Sauce

¾  Cup sugar

¾ Cup water

7 oz package fresh cranberries

1 Cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Orange/Clementine zest (barely 1/4 tsp)

¼ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. In the meantime, wash and pick over cranberries. Add cranberries, bring to a boil again and then lower heat and simmer until the cranberries are mostly popped (about 10 minutes).

Stir in blueberries, spices and just a tiny bit of zest (use only the colored part of the peel. The pith –white part – will make things bitter). Cook for a bare minute, then remove from heat and cool enough to pour into your serving container. Then cool to room temperature and refrigerate. The sauce will set as it cools.

 

The Garlic is Planted!

16 Nov

Since garlic was one of the few things we managed to grow successfully in this summer of failures, I decided we should plant more than last year.

It can be tough for little hands to get the head started in separation, but if you get them started, they can separate them.

It can be tough for little hands to get the head started in separation, but if you get them started, they can separate them.

I followed the lead of our CSA, Restoration Farm. Since they planted last Saturday (and we went to help for a little while, which refreshed our memories on how to plant) and Caroline said she follows biodynamic practices for most auspicious sowing moments, we planted a day or two later, which was about as soon as I could manage.

note that the bottom end is free of the root residue, but not cut off. Leave it intact!

note that the bottom end is free of the root residue, but not cut off. Leave it intact!

We used the tomato bed, since it is a good idea to rotate vegetables every year. If any pests or blights have made a home in the bed, when spring comes they won’t find their usual victims waiting to be destroyed. Instead, they’ll find something else that they don’t like very much and can’t harm. We’ll put the tomatoes where the peas were and where there should be a whole lot of nitrogen that they left behind.

turning the earth and smashing apart clods is happy work

turning the earth and smashing apart clods is happy work

The bed is about 10′ by 3′. Farmer Dan suggested we plant the garlic every 9 inches in rows 1 foot apart, which meant we could stretch a measuring tape across and Leandro could learn a lot about the 9 times tables. So we turned the dirt, outlined three rows and made holes every nine inches (How many cloves do you think we planted?). We separated the heads into cloves, being careful to leave the cloves tightly wrapped in their papery husks so they don’t rot before they have a chance to overwinter and start sprouting in the spring.

An impromptu math lesson with a measuring tape and the nine times tables

An impromptu math lesson with a measuring tape and the nine times tables

You stick them in, root end down and pointy bit up, cover and, if necessary, water. Then you play football in the backyard until the sun gets too far down in the sky and it gets cold.

And the answer to how many is: 30 cloves, each of which we hope will result in a new delicious head of 4 to 10 cloves next summer. And in the meantime, we can just forget them!

Long Island Organic Poultry and Egg Source – Updated for 2013

12 Nov

This one is for my homies: my readers here on Long Island. I welcome anyone else who has certified organic birds on Long Island to contact me so I can post it! Everyone else, be sure to click on links for additional information on what makes poultry organic and best practices for making the most of your real farm-raised bird.

Local, Fresh and Organic: We’ve been getting our eggs and Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas) birds from Makinajian Poultry Farm in Huntington for a number of years now (They’ve been around and family-owned since 1948). We didn’t discover them by ourselves; once we joined C.S.A. – first at Sophia Garden and now at Restoration Farm – eggs and Thanksgiving turkeys were optional shares. It’s a good thing, as a drive to their farm in Huntington is kind of a hike for us to do on a regular basis – 30-40 minutes from our house. It’s a nice place to go though – farm animals in the front yard, coops out the back and a sweet country-style store…Worth a visit!

The eggs and poultry are organically raised. Importantly, it’s all fresh – the organic eggs you buy in the supermarket can be weeks old (the USDA says eggs are fresh 45 days after being laid), while these are farm to table.

If you want a turkey for Thanksgiving, you should order it now! Click the link or here’s the number: 631-368-9320. And don’t forget to bring your order number when you pick up; it’s troublesome for them to find your order when the line to pick up is out the door…

From the Makinajian Facebook Page

“We will start taking orders for Thanksgiving on Nov.1. We have turkey, turkey breast, duck, goose, capon& cornish hens all available to order. Please call for all prices.”

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment– brining the bird

I usually order extra turkey necks for the gravy and often pick up one of their homemade pies (still warm!) while I’m there. They also have organic produce…pretty much anything you might have forgotten to pick up for the Big Eat. Note: I do brine the bird overnight for extra tenderness and flavor and will probably do it again this year. I’ll let you know all about it!

Amazing Escarole and White Bean Soup (with tiny meatball option)

5 Nov

My friend Marianne and I cook together most Sundays, putting together at least one big dish that we can pack for lunch a few days of the following week. My lentil soup is a regular feature of Sunday night cooking, as are roasted vegetables, But a glorious head of escarole at a recent end-of-season Restoration Farm pick-up proved inspiring and nostalgic.

The veggie version

The veggie version

For Marianne it was all about her Italian nana who Marianne swears made this soup out of a handful of leaves, a pinch of ground beef and water. Grandmothers from those days were like that…they somehow conjured the most memorable, intoxicating flavors out of thin air like fairy godmothers.

Me, I need a good stock to help me out. Especially because my own abuela never made anything like this that I can remember, so I don’t know where I first had escarole soup, or why it provokes such sighs of nostalgia in me, or how I knew that mine has to have white beans, even though Nana Manone doesn’t seem to have included them in hers. And I wasn’t planning on meatballs, but since Nana used them….(which might explain the water instead of stock) Marianne’s big brother Peter will have to shed some light on this one, if he remembers.

The meatball version...with a handful of pasta in my lunch

The meatball version…with a handful of pasta in my lunch

In the meantime, I defrosted my prize homemade chicken stock in the fridge and softened the beans and grudgingly defrosted some raw but seasoned ground beef and prepared myself for battle. Continue reading

Provenςal Vegetable Tian (a magnificent summer vegetable send-off!)

12 Oct

It was a recipe I’d been saving for just such a moment. It was stuck to the fridge with a magnet, getting spotty with splashes and splatters from the sink, wrinkly from the vapors of steaming pots and sizzling pans.

The olives provide proper punctuation to the vegetables.

The olives provide proper punctuation to the vegetables.

It was one of those tear-out recipe cards from a Martha Stewart magazine, so of course the picture was luscious and perfect in that casual, unstudied, flooded with natural light, Hamptons kind of way that makes you want to chuck out all your furniture and start over with a fresh new color scheme that changes with every season so that your perfect children are filled with wonder and delight every time they come back from their posh boarding school for a long weekend with their equally perfect friends.

Ergo, when the moment came and I had my opportunity to emulate those graceful denizens of the airy heights of impeccable style in my own small way, well of course I had to seize it!

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it's almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it’s almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

Piles of late summer vegetables were languishing (I think this new world of mine needs to “languish” a lot, don’t you?) on the counter, in need of some using. And as it happens, they were just the vegetables I needed for that bloody vegetable tian Martha recipe that has been languishing on my fridge for two years like an accusation. And as it happens, the recipe was pretty easy, as long as you are somewhat competent with a knife. It didn’t require anything odd or fashionable. Continue reading

How to Blanch, Blend and Freeze Paste Tomatoes for Raw Sauce

14 Sep

Yay! Home-grown paste tomatoes!

Don't they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Don’t they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Boo! Not enough time or energy to make paste!

 

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Yay! Shortcut!

We’ve finally got some joy out of our backyard garden. Three raised beds (the fourth strawberry one doesn’t count because it is not expected to produce in the first year) and all we got was garlic, decent peas, decent lettuce, some kale, ONE zucchini…and a lot of failed everything else.

Live action! Padushi uses hi immersion blender to finish the job

Live action! Padushi uses his immersion blender to finish the job

Therefore I am inordinately happy about the fact that I have harvested a couple of pounds of paste tomatoes, with more greenies getting pink on the vine.

So…here’s the easy way to deal with the ones we’ve picked on a Thursday night, near collapse from the workweek and doing a million other things at the same time. Didn’t bother cooking them down. The raw fresh taste will still be there in the winter!

FREEZE! or use immediately....

FREEZE! or use immediately….

Raw Pureed Paste Tomatoes for Freezing

1) Get a big pot of water on the boil.

2) Get a bowl of ice water ready.

3) rinse the tomatoes (if you must).

4) drop tomatoes in the boiling water.

5) as they split, pluck them out and plunge (I love the word plunge) them into the ice water,

6) when they cool, pull the peels off.

7) chop, dice, or run through a mill or processor.

8) use or store or freeze.

DONE!

Don’t Throw Them Out! Easy Sauteed Beet Greens

3 Sep

So I’m at the Greenport farm stand with Vinny, buying fresh local stuff for our Caribbean cooking extravaganza (see chipotle jerk slow cooker chicken if you haven’t already) and just for dinner in general. Vinny selects some beets for grilling which is new for me and therefore very exciting. But I am not distracted enough by this to miss the shocking fact that Vinny has told the nice woman at the farm stand to go ahead and cut off and discard the beet greens, which she does.

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that's when the beet greens are best too!

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that’s when the beet greens are best too!

“Wait!,” I say, when I find my voice. “You are not gonna take those?”

“What do you do with them?” asks Vinny.

And he is drowned in words, as I and the nice woman at the farmstand tell him — at the same time — how delicious they are and how good for you and how easy to prepare. Vinny is always game for a new adventure, so we take the greens back with my promise that I will show him how to do them.

This veg adds color and texture to your plate. They have their own natural saltiness.

This veg adds color and texture to your plate. They have their own natural saltiness.

Beet greens, which should be removed about an inch above the root as soon as you have a chance, are full of folate, phosphorus, zinc, and a bunch of other good nutrients They are low glycemic and filling, and for more on the nutrients, click here. While beetroot will keep in the fridge, beet greens should be used quickly. They are super tasty and make for a fast vegetable side. Plus, you pay for them! Why aren’t you using them?

The greens, which admittedly cook down to nothing, were a big success and Vinny also kept reminding me to put it up on the blog. So here it is! (for a fancier recipe that incorporates roots and greens, click here)

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil...and that's just what I did after taking this photo.

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil…and that’s just what I did after taking this photo.

Sauteed Beet Greens

1 bunch beet greens (cut from beets about an inch from the root bulb)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic (or ½ Tbs) minced

Salt to taste

Chop the greens roughly (or not, if you like a longer leaf), removing the tougher stalks. You can roll them up and slice strips too. Thoroughly rinse and spin the beet greens.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet on medium, letting the garlic get golden without toasting. Add beet greens, stir to coat and cook on medium until completely wilted and tender (you may need to add a Tbs of water if things get too dry). Salt to taste and serve.

Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

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