Spring

Baby Kale and 10 Ways to Use It

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by Susie Middleton

kalemixLet’s talk about spring greens, specifically baby kale. I am very excited that baby kale is finally making it into mainstream supermarkets. I’ve seen more of it just in the last couple months, since I first mentioned it in a blog post back in February. Mostly I am excited because baby kale is a much more versatile veggie than mature kale. It is also tastier, more tender, and a whole lot more palatable. Roy and Farmer both eat the stuff without blinking.

I’ve never been a big fan of the tough leaves of huge, curly-type kales, and in fact, when I wrote Fast, Fresh & Green four years ago, I insisted that everyone par-boil kale before using it in most other dishes, or confine it to soups and braises. I still think it’s a good idea to soften kale first before adding it to pastas or gratins, but now I don’t necessarily freak out when I see chefs and cooks “sautéing” raw kale. With a young or tender variety, a simple sauté is just fine. (But try “sautéing” the older, tougher leaves and you will still have something pretty chewy on your plate.) I’m even embracing kale salads!

Citrus in Salads

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by Russ Parsons

citrussaladThe cook's year can be divided in two: tomato and not-tomato. But sometimes, even the best-intentioned, most locavore-crazy among us so crave a sweet, tart bite in our salads that we break down and grab one of those cottony out-of-season tennis balls. You've done it too. Don't try to deny it.

In some cases, though, there's an easy alternative. Because happily for us, beneficent nature has ensured that the not-tomato months pair up perfectly with the drowning-in-citrus ones. And in a lot of dishes, a little bit of citrus will give you just what you were hankering for — certainly a lot better than an out-of-season tomato.

This is not a universal solution by any means. I'm trying to picture laying a slice of grapefruit on top of my hamburger. But it does work out often enough that it's worth exploring.

The first time I tried it was more or less by accident. It was dinner time, and I had some lettuce and some cheese. And not much else. But wait, my neighbors Don and Carol had dropped off a sack of tangerines from their tree — perfectly balanced between tart and sweet. What if I put some of those in the salad along with some hazelnuts?

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Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish-Potato Mash

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by Joseph Erdos

lambshankEven though spring is officially here, I'm still craving comfort foods, like stews and braised meats. Since cold weather isn't a prerequisite for braising, this past weekend I braised short ribs. After a low, slow braise, the meat turns buttery, soft and absolutely tender enough to cut into with a fork. With Passover and Easter just around the corner, a braised meal is just right for a holiday dinner with family. Instead of the more typical brisket for Passover, why not bring braised short ribs to the Seder table?

Every year around this time, I love to enjoy Passover foods even if I'm not Jewish. (I am still waiting for someone to invite me over for Passover.) I love matzo ball soup and can't get enough of chocolate-covered jelly rings, which I add to my homemade sorbet. But I'm in love with short ribs. It's definitely still popular—I saw it on the menu at Orson restaurant when I was in San Francisco last month. A meal of short ribs is literally a stick-to-your ribs kind of food. So, no, I wouldn't eat it every day, but on special occasion, why not?

Bunny Love

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by Susan Russo

carrotcakemuffinsChances are you didn't buy a bunny for your child this Easter. I know this because according to The Humane Society, sales of bunnies are down this year. That's a good thing, since many American kids fervently love their bunnies until the Tuesday after Easter.

So that got me thinking... since fewer bunnies were purchased this Easter, there must be lots of extra carrots around. And what better way to use up carrots than in carrot cake muffins?

These muffins are a tasty collision between Morning Glory Muffins and classic carrot cake. The sweetness of the grated carrots, crushed pineapple, plump raisins and toasty coconut is balanced by earthy walnuts and spicy cinnamon and vanilla. Since carrot cake cannot be eaten without cream cheese, each muffin is topped with a heavy drizzle of pineapple cream cheese frosting that's good enough to eat by the spoonful. I know.

Sink-side Splendor - Seasonal Floral Arragements

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by James Farmer III

springflowersThe kitchen sink – epicenter of the kitchen and the house. We wash, prepare, cook, and serve from this spot, spending many an hour at this oasis. I love to keep little mementoes of my garden forays at the sink, reminding me of what’s blooming just outside my door. Making arrangements for my house at the sink gives me leftover blossoms, buds, and leaves to stick in my cache of containers awaiting a fresh floral look. And since the sink is such a personal, and well used piece of the home, my collection of “specials” is a close hand reminder of dear ones.

Mema’s silver tray, Aunt Irene’s mother-of-pearl salt and pepper shakers, a bud vase I stole from Mimi, a sprinkling of blue and white, a favorite Mason’s ware platter and a various and a sundry assortment of soaps stand guard as stylish and nostalgic items.

The seasons change but my assortment doesn’t too much. These items are neutral enough – silver, Depression glass, transferware or blue and white – to withstand the changing times and uphold the blooms of the current season. Red berries at Christmas, greens in the winter, spring buds and summer herbs, and autumnal hued leaves all find their place at my sink-side sanctuary.

Lenten Roses

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by James Farmer III

lentenroseDuring the season of Lent, an herbaceous perennial sends up its hearty bells of florets on sturdy stems – bridging the gap between winter and spring.

As with the season of Lent itself – a wintry season of contemplation, spiritual focus, and petition - these symbols of new life out of the deathlike state of winter are emblems of the newness of spring, rebirth, and rejuvenation.

Helleborus is the genus name for Lenten Roses to which these perennials are often referred as Hellebores. Hellebores range from garnet to ruby, lilac to lavender, and to the purest white. Once the flowers begin to fade, the petals become chartreuse and lime green, lasting for months on their stems and for days in arrangements. Some of the flowers are the simplest, five petal blossoms you’ll ever see, while others are compound arrays of florets with freckles or dark nectaries complemented by bright sepals.

Leathery leaves, pretty and green, make for a delightful texture in the garden. The dark green of the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger, is quite stunning around Christmas time and into January. The pure white flowers dangling above the glossy greenery are beautiful sentiments for the Christmas Holidays. From there, cultivars and cross species of Helleborus orientalis will begin to emerge and bloom through the winter and especially during Lent…quite an appropriate name, eh? From bloom time to color to texture, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a Hellebore to suit your garden’s fancy.

Herb Gardening

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by James Farmer III

herbsI love herbs. I grow them, I cook with them, I eat them and sometimes just smell them for instant links to memories and tastes. Growing up in Hawkinsville as a child, our farm provided space a plenty for me to dabble in herb cultivation. It was there, on our farm, that I first learned what organic gardening was, though I did not know my “organic gardening” was “organic gardening.” I knew our cows ate our grass, drank our spring water, and breathed our surrounding air. So, I knew, somewhat instinctively, that their manure was just good… basic, natural fertilizer – the byproduct of the cows’ natural digestion. What better fertilizer, compost amendment, and soil conditioner could there be?

But what truly struck me was the saying, “you are what you eat.” Since my cows were eating our natural grass, I knew their manure was safe. Same theory went for their meat and milk. Of course, I composted the manure and thoroughly washed the produced, but that simple, basic cycle of good things in, good things out stuck with me and I still believe it today. Those tomatoes, melons, herbs, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and corn were just amazing, and nothing beats a farm fresh produce basket!

Back Door Gifts and Cinnamon-Rhubarb Muffins

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by Susie Middleton

rhubarbA pile of freshly cut rhubarb stalks appeared at our back door last week, courtesy of our neighbor Ralph. This is one of the strange and wonderful things about living on the Vineyard: People are in the habit of sharing…without much fuss or fanfare. Stuff just shows up, unbidden but much appreciated. In the short time we’ve been living in the farmhouse, we’ve been the grateful recipients of beach plum jelly, wild cherry jam, honey, eggs, lobsters, codfish, sweet potatoes, pickles, warm bread and kale soup, to name a few things.

I was particularly excited to see those beautiful rhubarb stalks, since I won’t be harvesting any this year from the new plant I plopped in the ground a few weeks ago at the southeast corner of the garden. As soon as I got the plant, it immediately sent up its monstrous flower stalk. The flower is fascinating, but after admiring it for a while, I lopped it off, hoping to return the plant’s energy to its stalks. Still, it’s a baby plant and I won’t be cooking from it this year.

I knew right away what I wanted to make with the rhubarb gift — a favorite Fine Cooking recipe from years ago. It’s a fabulously tender muffin from award-winning North Carolina baker Karen Barker. The tart little rhubarb bits melt into these light coffee-cake-like treats, which are topped with cinnamon sugar. The batter has sour cream, melted butter, cinnamon, and vanilla in it, and it comes together really easily.

Rhubarb. Roasted. Honey-Glazed. Sigh.

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by Sue Doeden

honey-glazed-roasted-rhubarb-018-1Bemidji’s Natural Choice Farmers Market opened for the season yesterday. I was there with my market bag, filling it with fresh butter lettuce, baby turnips, green onions and beautiful rosy red radishes. Oh, and I can’t forget the homemade bread.

I spotted long, slender stalks of rhubarb, too. I didn’t need to buy that, though. A friend supplied me with several pounds of beautiful rhubarb, one of my favorite vegetables of spring.

Vegetable, you ask? Yes. As Kim Ode, author of the recently published cookbook, “Rhubarb Renaissance,” explained in a class she taught at Byerly’s in St. Louis Park last week, since we are accustomed to using rhubarb in desserts sweetened with sugar, we think of it as a fruit. In fact, it is a vegetable that was first used for medicinal purposes centuries ago.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

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by Joseph Erdos

shavedasparagussaladSteamed, roasted or grilled—they're not the only ways to enjoy asparagus. Have you tried it raw? If you were to just bite in its pretty tough to eat. But that's where your vegetable shaver comes in. With it you can create thin ribbons of asparagus that are ready to eat—all without cooking.

This salad is a great way to put a new spin on asparagus. You'll be surprised by the taste of it raw—it's so fresh and crunchy. Just a simple vinaigrette is all you need to make the asparagus shine like it should. Try it as as an appetizer or side dish.

For this recipe you actually don't need a recipe because it's so easy to make. Just use exceptionally fresh asparagus that has thick stems—the thicker the easier to work with. And don't think thick asparagus is tough, it's the opposite. Make a simple vinaigrette with bright lemon juice and you're all set.

 

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