Archive for Food Suggestions

What to do with Overripe Cucumbers

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So you come home from a few days away and find these waiting in your cucumber patch. Should you throw them on the compost pile or is there something you can do with them?  My Danish friend Lisbeth shared this recipe with me a few years ago and I now share my overripe cucumbers with her so we can both make up a batch of delicious pickles.  First you peel and split the cucumbers lengthwise then scoop out the seeds.  I call this the “dugout canoe step.”

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You then put them in a non-reactive pan, salting each layer generously, and let them sit for 24 hours.  After 24 hours they have generated a lot of moisture.  Rinse each one off with fresh water and let them drain (or pat them dry).

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Next mix up a simple sweet and sour pickling liquid of equal parts sugar and white vinegar and add pickling spice.  For these (about 3 pounds) I used 3 C. sugar to 3 C. vinegar and a tbsp. of pickling spice.  Bring the pickling liquid to a boil and slip in as many pieces as will fit loosely.  When the liquid returns to the boil, remove the pieces and pack them loosely in sterilized jars.

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When all the pieces are in the jars, fill the jars with the remaining pickling liquid and add a sprig of fresh dill to each jar.  How you seal the jars depends on how you plan to keep them.  They keep forever in the refrigerator or you can put them through the canning procedure to seal them for storage at room temperature.

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Five to ten minutes in a boiling water bath ensures a good seal.  If you like a bit of “zing” in your pickles you can add a few more red pepper flakes to the pickling liquid.  The Danes add peeled baby onions to the mix.  After two weeks they are ready to eat.  Pull out a “canoe” and slice it as you wish.  The flavor is like a softer watermelon pickle.  Yum!

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Patriotic Pie

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The crust is a little tweaked but this was fun to make.  I made up some strawberry- rhubarb and some blueberry pie filling, fashioned a little tin foil strip to dam off the field for the stars, filled the bottom (removed the dam) and then placed the stars and stripes.

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Garden Update

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Just seeing the profusion of happy garlic scape curlicues makes me smile!

It’s been a busy spring with much to sidetrack my writing including a 10 day stay in the hospital (Takotsubo’s Cardiomyopathy, look it up, it’s sort of interesting).  I’ve recovered for the most part and am back to gardening with my husband’s help.

First the peas!  They bore early and heavily so the experiment was a success.  They are finishing up now as the weather is warming, but we enjoyed several nice stirfrys and some lovely pasta primaveras.  I don’t think I would have had anywhere near this success if I had waited until the weather settled because the inevitable heat of late spring always brings them to a screeching halt.

Next, garlic scapes.  They have reached the height of their exuberance so I snapped them off yesterday and made garlic scape pesto.  Susan W., if you see this, the scapes from the garlic you gave me last summer had double curls, similar to the heirloom variety called Unadilla Double Coil that I got from a farmer in Poughkeepsie, New York.  I wonder if they could be related.  Such a lovely fresh taste, I can’t wait to see how they are as keepers.

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This is a scape from Susan’s garlic!

Lastly, I think I have improved on my strategy to keep my eggplant safe from the dreaded flea beetles.  A few years ago I began covering them with a floating row cover until the flea beetles had completed their life cycle, mid July here, just as the plants are beginning to flower.  The problem with this was that I had to open the cover to water and check their progress.  I recently visited northern Vermont and brought my head net in anticipation of black flies.  In looking over the head net, I got the idea that the fine mesh would make a good substitute for the floating row cover.  An internet search turned up “Noseeum” mesh in 72″ widths, available by the yard.  It is a very promising substitute so far.

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Noseeum fabric mesh protecting my eggplant seedlings.

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Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

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After 30 loaves of squash bread and 9 quarts of minestrone for the freezer not to mention several meals, I am ready to take a break.  This is just from two days!  I only planted three hills.   The food pantry I donate to is only open on Wednesdays but this method has worked in the past.  We’ll see how many people still cook.

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A Walk in the Woods Yields a Mushroom Frittata

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Chanterelles and boletes, trimmed and ready

We found quite a few chanterelles and boletes on our morning walk, one bolete was the prized “penny bun” and a good size too.  I trimmed them, caramelized a vidalia onion and sauteed the mushrooms until they released their liquid and browned a little.  I added fresh thyme and spread the mixture evenly in the pan.  I added salt and a small glug of water to five eggs, beat them with a fork until creamy then spread them over the mushrooms in the pan.  I cooked them on the stove top on low heat until I saw the edges start to harden then finished it off under the broiler (this ensures a tender interior without the trauma of trying to turn it over in the pan).

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Yum!

We rounded off our lunch with a slice of a lemon/ginger/rhubarb pie which I had brought from home.  I gave the recipe for this pie in my July 25, 2016 post on this blog.

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Strawberries!!!

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On Friday my husband and I picked 25+ pounds of strawberries at a local farm.  They were daunting when I got them home.  Of course we wanted jam and I like an old recipe from colonial days.  The New England colonists brought with them Sweet Woodruff, an herb native to Europe, where it was a necessary ingredient in their May wine but they also put it in strawberry jam as a flavor enhancer.  I made 12 jars of Strawberry-Sweet Woodruff jam and 14 jars of Strawberry-Pineapple.

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They’re the reddish ones in the middle

The farm gives out free recipe sheets and there was a recipe for a strawberry/pasta/kale salad which intrigued me but when I tried it we found it underwhelming.  I thought it had promise though so I tried it again, making it a whole meal this time using chicken chunks, quinoa, kale, strawberries and roasted sunflower seeds.  We really enjoyed it.  I used a sweet & sour lemony vinaigrette and garnished it with the zest from the lemon.

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And then there were the other uses:

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On cereal

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Strawberries and cream with a sprinkling of sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strawberries give me a chance to use my beloved old Royal Doulton berry plate that I found at a flea market with my brother. The bowl is perforated on the bottom so the berries don’t get soggy.

I also made a fresh strawberry pie, too sloppy to show you.  It’s been very rainy here and I should have used more cornstarch as it’s more like a thick sauce and spreads all over the plate (but still tasty).

 

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Spaghetti Squash: A Garden Thug with Tasty Possibilities

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Here it is in the fullness of its growth. It spread from its bed to the right and smothered the asparagus. Vines that went through the fence and got outside were swiftly nipped off by deer or who knows, it might have come in the house!

I like to try a new vegetable every year but I was an innocent when I decided to try out spaghetti squash, having no idea it would be so aggressive.  The squash themselves average about a foot long.  The vines on the other hand easily spread 20 feet.  They are a winter squash type and are ripe when they turn yellow and the skin is no longer tender.  I planted two hills and got about 25 squash.

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The ripe squash

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I get an inescapable mental image when I see them like this and understand if you do too.  Ignore that. To begin, you need to cut them in half and bake them at 400º until you can pierce the skin with a sharp knife.  If you cut them crosswise you get longer strands. I found it easier to take the seeds out before baking them but it can be done afterwards as well.

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Pull at the strands with a fork and separate them as you go along.

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This is the palette from which we can create our dishes.  I tried using it as I would angel hair pasta but I found that it got lost in heavy sauces such as marinara or Bolognese.

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It worked very well in place of pasta sheets for a cheese lasagna.  I layered it about an inch thick and pressed it down gently with a spatula.  (above: lasagna plated, below, lasagna in the pan).

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Here it is with the classic “Aio e Oio.” It makes an excellent side dish, here with maple glazed salmon filet and caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I found it really works well with lighter sauces.  I sauteed it to dry it out some then made the sauce and added the squash, turning it in the sauce until all strands were coated.  Aio e Oio (Roman garlic, olive oil and red hot chili pepper with parsley) is wonderful.  I also tried it with a sauce of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and basil and that was terrific as well.  Be sure to salt it as you saute it as it is very bland all by itself.

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