Friday, December 28, 2012

Celebrating Winter

Here is a gift for winter vegetables and hearty eating. Locro, as it's called, comes from South America and is essentially a vegetable stew that takes many forms. In Ecuador and Argentina it's made with potatoes and cheese. In Bolivia and Peru, it features local squash. No matter what's in the pot, locro celebrates indigenous plants. For us it's a reminder of how much we owe South American natives for what we get to grow and eat: squash, potatoes, corn, peppers, tomatoes, beans. Imagine life, or your local farmers' market, without them. And celebrate with this simple, tasty dish.

This is a Peruvian locro to which I've added a few spices that compensate for the unavailability of the local yellow chili pepper, aji amarillo. 

For vegetarians, this with an avocado salad and perhaps some pickled onions makes a meal. 
For carnivores, it can be served in smaller quantity beside roasted or grilled meat, particularly beef.

Happy New Year and Happy Eating.  Coming soon: Bean me up, Scotty! Great winter eating Italian style.

Peruvian Squash and Potato Stew, Locro de Zapallo

For 6-8

2 lbs winter squash like butternut, red kuri, sugar pumpkin,
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
3 tbsp corn oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lg red onion, diced
3 lg garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, roasted and diced
1 Serrano or other hot chili, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground Chipotle chili
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup raw corn kernels, larger are better
salt to your taste
¼ tsp fresh black pepper
½ cup large peas, fresh or frozen
½ cup evaporated milk unsweetened, (this can be optional)
½ lb queso fresco or feta, cubed
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds, optional garnish

Peel the squash and cut into 1” cubes. Cube the potatoes.
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy gauge casserole or soup pot.
Add onion, garlic, and poblano pepper. Sauté on medium heat until onion is soft.
Add chili pepper, and spices. Blend well.
Add potatoes, squash and corn to the pot and stir to cover them with the spice/onion mix.
Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until squash and potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 20-30 minutes.
Add salt, pepper and peas. Simmer 2 minutes to heat peas. Remove cover.
Add evaporated milk and cheese. Simmer just long enough to heat. Do not boil.

Serve over quinoa and sprinkle on cilantro. Top with pumpkin seeds.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Simple, Seasonal, Festive

Season's eatings are getting pretty slim so here's the time to celebrate root vegetables. They're festively colorful, insanely nutritious, simple to prepare and delicious. Here for the holidays is a great way to showcase them: a Root Vegetable Potpie.  The recipe is in my briskly selling, five-star rated book: Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, Wisdom Publications, 2011. Enjoy this alone with a raw kale salad, also seasonal. Or serve it beside fried chicken or the traditional holiday ham.


Serves 6-8

1 lg onion, peeled
1 small rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 white turnip, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1” pieces
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into ½” disks
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 leek, washed and cut into ½” disks
1 sm daikon, peeled and cut into thin disks
1 small celeriac bulb, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 purple or red round potatoes, washed and quartered
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ tsp ground turmeric (this is a rhizome)
3 tbsp olive or peanut (a ground nut) oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground chipotle powder or smoked paprika
2 tsp dried marjoram leaves
1 tsp ground coriander (this is the root of the plant)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ cups vegetable broth or water
½ cup chopped tomatoes
½ cup fresh parsley sprigs, chopped
1 cup dried polenta meal
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp butter
¼ cup grated parmesan, romano or asiago cheese
4 cups water
pinch of nutmeg

Slice the onion into thin disks, slice each disk in half and then in half again.
Heat the oil in a large casserole or small soup pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, black pepper and turmeric and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the shallot slices, onion and leek. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until soft. They will be colored by the turmeric.
Stir in ground coriander, chipotle or smoked paprika and marjoram. Put remaining root vegetables in the pot. Add salt and broth or water. Raise heat to a boil. Cover, lower heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350.  Get a large ovenproof casserole or deep-dish pie pan.

In a large saucepan, boil the 4 cups of water and salt. Stir in polenta and 2 tbsp of butter and stir rapidly to blend, so the polenta doesn’t lump up.  Continue stirring and cooking the polenta for 4-5 minutes, until it starts to release large bubbles.  Remove from heat and stir in buttermilk.

Stir tomatoes and chopped parsley into the vegetables.

Fill the casserole or pie dish with the vegetables and their juice, leaving about ¼” at the top. Using a large kitchen spoon, spoon the polenta over the top to create a crust, up to ½” thick is okay. Be sure to cover the edges and smooth the top.

Cut the tsp of butter into tiny pieces and scatter on top of the cooked polenta. Sprinkle on the cheese and the pinch of nutmeg.
Put the potpie in the center of the oven and put a large cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch any spills.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the top vaguely starts to brown and crisp.  Remove and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Giving All You've Got

So now is the time to share your summer and fall collection with those you love.
Here's what the makings of my annual Season's Eatings looks like:
That's jam inside the green tissue paper (this year I have apricot, blueberry, strawberry and plum). I doubled the piece of tissue, put the jar in the center and gathered the tissue up over the top to tie it. It's easy to get a flower effect from the top after it's tied.
There's toasted spice pumpkin seeds in the little yellow tin.
Hiding under the glossy striped paper is a jar of blueberry apple chutney. It could've been cranberry walnut preserves or rhubarb ginger chutney.
Homemade cookies are in that paper tote.
The silver tin has vanilla spice walnuts, which with the pickled asparagus, are perfect hors d'oeuvres.

There are many ways to roast and spice pumpkin seeds. I put a lb. in a bowl with 1 tbsp corn oil and coated them. In another bowl I mixed together 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground chili powder, pinch of cayenne, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground allspice and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. I rolled the oiled seeds in the spices to coat, then spread them on a heavy baking sheet and put them in  300º oven until they were dried and brown, about 30-40 minutes. You can use whatever spices you prefer: mostly I try for salt and heat.  These are great tossed on salads or served up as a snack.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Spoiler alert

Here's a holiday gift for you: a little know how. Know how to save your life by shopping for specific items at your winter farmers' market.

According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), these fruits and vegetables should only be purchased from a trustworthy local source or only if branded "organic." The run of the mill, supermarket offerings of these items are in all likeliehood poisoned by pesticides.

Here are some of the  EWG's dirty dozen:

This is not the entire list, only what's still available at winter markets so you can avoid the potentially deadly supermarket stuff.

Blueberries are not available right now, but this is an alert to perhaps refrain from purchasing imported ones and waiting for your summer farmers' market in 2013. Better yet, eat the ones you froze from 2012.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Farmers' Market as Pharmacy and Beauty Parlor

A farmers' market can come in rather handy at this time of year when we've put the heat on and dried out our hair and skin. It's got perfect remedies. One of them is olive oil which you can dab or pour on your scalp if it's dry and flaking. Leave it on overnight--use a shower cap to protect your pillow, if you want, or help it to sink in the skin faster with a hair dryer on low setting.

An egg, beaten with 1/2 tsp olive oil is a great cure for dry, lifeless hair. Brush or pour the beaten egg onto your hair and leave it there for at least an hour. Wash your hair and feel the difference in its texture.

If your face has become chapped and red, try spreading fresh yogurt on it like cold cream and leaving it on overnight. If the yogurt is the real deal, with its probiotics in tact, it's almost a miracle beauty treatment.

Honey is also very helpful at this point in time, not just because it is an antibiotic, but also because it will coat the throat and help you stop coughing, especially if you've got one of those dry winter coughs. A teaspoonful will do nicely. You can also try adding a teaspoon to your shampoo to fight scalp and hair dryness.

For pharmacy, keep cranberries--fresh or dried--handy as they're powerful thwarters of urinary tract infections. If you're traveling, take a small baggie full of dried ones because you never know. And they're full of Vitamin C, which helps protect you against colds.

Stock up on plain, fresh yogurt too. If you're headed to the sunshine and sand and happen to pick up some nasty gut bacteria, it'll tackle that and more in no time. And if you're taking antibiotics as the cure, you'll need the yogurt to put the "good" bacteria back in your stomach so you get well quickly.

One last thing: don't peel those potatoes! All the vitamins are in the skin and at this time of year when freshest vegetables aren't handy, you're going to need them. So scrub the skin, cook and enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Putting some Ho Ho Ho in the Ho-lidays

Now is the time for entertaining, and because now is also the time for multitasking stress, here are some hints for elegant simplicity. And of course, for maximizing the resources of your winter farmers' market.

If you're having a cider or cocktail or tea party, try this spread:
1) a platter of local cheeses with a basket of local breads, and decorate the cheese plate with dried figs.
2) Chinese tea eggs : see How to Fix a Leek...  Set them out on a bed of bright greens (spinach, kale, mesclun) sprinkled with fresh cranberries.
3) A wooden board covered with sliced smoked salami, pepperoni and other delicacies like smoked chicken, with a lovely bowl of local mustard in the middle. And don't forget toothpicks although I find most folks will happily swipe meat with their hands.

That should be more than enough. But if you want to go further or are vegetarian, try this:
Get a loaf of dense white bread--pre-sliced is best-- and a Christmas tree cookie cutter. Cut "trees" out of the bread, put them on a baking sheet and bake at 325º until they are light brown and crisp like "melba toast." Coat the trees with basil or coriander or parsley pesto and then drape one thin pimento over like a garland. Presto! Mini Christmas trees!  Or you can cover them with red pepper hummus and decorate the "tree" with olive slices.  Or you can cut stars out of the bread, bake them and cover with quince paste. Possibilities are nearly endless.

If you need a light meal, try a salad. Here's one can be served warm or room temperature: wild rice, dried cranberries, smoked chicken, roasted pecans or almonds, the sections of a clementine or satsuma mandarin, chopped parsley and a hint of red onion. Dress it with raspberry vinegar and olive oil (2 oil to 1 vinegar).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tiz the season...

That joy to the world, the winter farmers' market, is now available everywhere, and amazingly enough, more so than summer markets. One town that had two regular markets has three winter ones! And all are action packed with music, tastings and artisan foods like pickles and smoked meats you won't find in summer.

The ratio of crafts to veggies has reversed. Instead of eggplants and corn, you can by repro vintage aprons and hand-carved salad bowls. But between the bakers and crafters are farmers with mesclun mix, Hakurei or salad turnips, leeks, potatoes, winter squashes and kale. There's plenty of artisan cheese, organic eggs. fish and maple syrup. Plus more meat than ever, much of it smoked into bacon, salamis and pepperoni. All perfect for heavier eating at this cold time of year.

My prize for creativity at this season goes to Treats for Tweets at the Brunswick Winter Market in Maine: cookies and cakes made of birdseed and flowers. Take a peek at what to peck:

Yes they were relatively pricey and yes we live in troubled financial times, but you have to admit these cakes make you smile. So joy to the world! Even if it's for the birds.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving thanks for the turkey trimmings

Better late than never to talk about THE MEAL and the menu that dare not be messed with. But there are plenty of fun, tasty and interesting dishes to go with the turkey.

Chief among them would be a winter squash stuffed with kale and mushrooms; it's on the Kale page of How to Fix a Leek... . This is not only great with roasted or barbecued or even deep-fried turkey, but a great offering to vegetarians.

I am always foolish for celeriac puree with roasted turkey and that recipe too, direct from my French "mother", is in How to Fix a Leek. Couldn't be easier or more low cal.

Another super easy and tasty dish is roasted sweet potato. And thanks to global warming, you can now find sweet potatoes at farmers' markets in the north. Just peel and slice into disks about 1/8-1/4" thick. Line a baking sheet with foil and turn the oven to 450º. Whisk together in a small bowl equal amounts of olive oil and soy sauce. Dip the sweet potatoes in. Set on the baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes until they are lightly brown and soft. Serve as hors d'oeuvres or a side dish.

This year friends of mine are going to slow grill the turkey stuffed with Brussels sprouts, shallots, carrots, potatoes and turnip. Some of that veggie mix goes into the cavity while the rest goes under the turkey as bedding; both ways the veggies roast in the turkey juices, sucking them up. A lot of lemon juice, a pile of fresh thyme, tightly wrap the turkey and put it on a covered grill for hours.

I used to sauté shallots, leeks, celery carrots, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms with tons of thyme and sage. Then I blended the cooked vegetables with rice that had been half cooked in chicken broth, added chopped parsley, and stuffed the mixture into all the turkey cavities to roast. This stuffing was always a huge hit, a delightfully light and tasty alternative to leaden bread stuffing.

Consider stuffing apples with pureed butternut squash or yams, blended with coconut milk and cardamom, studding the apples with cloves and baking them on a cookie sheet at 350º until soft, about 45 minutes. Or you can microwave them in 4 minutes.

Consider braising a red cabbage with onions, caraway seeds, apples and balsamic vinegar for a really flavorful, colorful foil for that turkey. There's a recipe on the winter cabbage page of How to Fix a Leek that can serve as inspiration.
Don't forget the blueberry chutney, cranberry preserve with walnuts and raisins and a lovely crunchy salad of chopped fennel and pomegranate arils dressed with olive oil and a hint of balsamic vinegar.

Bon appetit to all! The eat goes on.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From France with chives

It's cold and dreary here in France but the farmers' markets are still cheerful. What's most in season locally in the north are radishes, leeks, winter squash, lettuces, fennel and cabbage.

My French "sister" whose mother was my cooking teacher brought home a big bunch of those lovely French radishes that are cylinder shaped, pink fading to white. The bunches here are twice what they are in America and happily the radishes are small too, which makes for the best eating. Marie-France's way of preparing them for a first course was to mix soft, fresh goat cheese with a mass of chopped chives, a bit of parsley and lots of sea salt. Then we dipped the cleaned radishes in. The taste and texture combination was sensational and the preparation couldn't have been any easier: it was all in the shopping.

Marie-France and her husband have a 17thC farmhouse and cook in their massive fireplace, usually fish and duck. But I insisted we roast the leeks and they were a huge hit. I simply cleaned and halved them both ways because they were large, drizzled olive oil on them, sprinkled sea salt and wrapped them in foil to put on the fire. Twenty minutes on the coals gave us meltingly sweet leeks to eat with our grilled salmon. Its just as easy to perform this magic 15-20 minutes in a 450 degree oven on a baking sheet without the foil.

Again couldn't have been simpler: twas all in the shopping.
Farmers' market are the ace place when that's the case.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hot Under the Collards

Collard greens, a Southern favorite, are going strong in the frozen north, being a tough cool weather crop. Don't ignore them.  These may top the nutrient crop of all the cruciferous greens. They beat all in lowering cholesterol and do a very impressive job of keeping cancer at bay. Plus they're really tasty. So grab a bunch.

You'll have to strip the leaves from the tough stems and chop them coarsely. After that, you can do  simple, yummy things. Easiest is to boil those chopped greens in heavily salted water for 15 minutes, then drain them well.  Heat olive oil and a touch of butter in a large skillet, toss in the greens and three cloves of minced garlic. Saute 5 minutes over medium to medium low heat. Season heavily with fresh black pepper and salt and serve.  This preparation is great with saucy meat, especially barbeque sauce.

Another equally simple option is to boil the greens 20-30 not with salt in the water but a ham hock or piece of smoked ham. Drain. Shred any ham meat.  Then saute the collards and ham in olive or corn oil for 5 minutes. Season with fresh pepper and serve.  This is seriously good with fried chicken.

I've seen recipes where people boil the greens and then saute them with soy sauce and sesame oil.

For a quick, colorful and seriously nutritious dish, I've chopped the greens more finely and boiled them 15 minutes. While they are draining, In a large deep skillet, I sauté in half butter half olive oil one diced onion and two minced garlic cloves until the onion is soft. I add a chopped tomato, sprinkle in red pepper flakes and stir in 1/4 tsp ground chipotle chili plus 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves. I put the greens in the skillet along with a 13 oz can of cooked black-eyed peas with their juice and cook over medium heat 5-10 minutes. Seasoned with fresh black pepper and about 1 tsp of salt, this is comforting food. Try it with a pork roast.

Just don't walk away from those bunches of flat leaf collard greens now at winter markets.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kale and Hearty

Now that the leaves have hit the ground and frost has turned the lawn brown, a bit of green on the table can cheer the soul. And if it's kale, the most nutritious green in the garden, it can actually fortify you for the onslaught of winter. Since the most common question i get is: "what do i do with kale?", here are a few hearty preparations for right now.

For Pasta: Kale with lemon, garllic and parmesan for 4-6 
This is surprisingly rich. And the recipe is very flexible as to amounts.

1 bunch curly kale, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil (minimum)
1 lg red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 lg or 2 sm lemons
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano or Asiago cheese
salt to your taste
1/2lb penne pasta
optional: 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms and/or 1/2 cup canned pigeon peas or black-eyed peas, drained

Prepare the penne to boil in a large pot of salted water for whatever time the package says.
While that's happening, put 1/4 cup olive oil in the bottom of a deep large skillet and warm over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic and cracked pepper and saute on medium heat until onions are soft and translucent, maybe 5 minutes.

Grate 1 tbsp lemon peel and add to the skillet. If you are using mushrooms, add now. Put the kale on top of everything and continue cooking over medium heat until it wilts. Then blend it in and stir. If you are using the canned beans, add now. Cook 2-3 minutes until kale is soft and shiny, beans are hot.

Add the juice of the lemon and salt to your taste. Blend. Simmer until penne is ready.
Drain the penne, keeping 1-2 tbsp of the cooking water. Salt the penne slightly.
Add the cooking water to the kale. Combine the skillet contents and the penne.
Add the remaining olive oil and cheese, mixing everything evenly. Add more olive oil if needed so the penne glistens.

Buttercup Squash stuffed with Kale, Rice and Black Beans for 4-5
I made this out of leftovers and everybody scarfed it right up.

1 large buttercup or Kabocha squash
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 purple onion, diced
1 lg garlic clove, diced
1 poblano pepper, roasted, skinned and diced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
5 kale leaves, stems removed, leaves chopped
1/2-2/3 cup canned black beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
salt to your taste
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup milk (skim or lo fat or regular)
Instead of the egg yolk and milk you can use 1/2 cup grated provolone or Jack or Havarti cheese.

Soften the squash in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut off the top to make a lid and clean out the interior. If you have the time to clean and roast the seeds to add to this please do. Spread the butter around the cleaned interior of the squash. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
Preheat oven to 350º.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add black pepper, oregano, onions, garlic and poblano pepper. Cook 3-5 minutes until soft. Stir in the kale, rice and beans. Continue cooking over low heat until kale wilts and rice is hot. Stir in the cheese if you are using it, the cilantro leaves and salt to your taste. Turn off heat.

Whip the egg yolk into the milk if you are using them instead of cheese.

Stuff the squash with the rice/bean/kale mixture, pushing it in tightly til it comes just to the top. Pour in the egg/milk mix. Put the lid on the squash, put the squash on a flat baking sheet and bake at 350º for 40 minutes or until squash is soft enough to eat. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes.

Remove lid. Cut the squash in quarters or smaller wedges to serve. If you are not vegetarian, serve with grilled/sauteed linguiça or kielbasa sausage. Everybody can serve this with cornbread for a really colorful, nutritious and delicious dinner.

Raw Kale Salad
The recipe for this, kale with dried cranberries and other tasty tidbits, is in my book Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking.  Serve it with roast chicken or turkey or pork loin.

You can also make a hearty soup from kale, potatoes and linguiça so don't stop here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beet Yourself Up

One of the best values at markets right now is beets. They're large, without greens, and generally sold loose by the pound. Since they're easy to preserve for winter eating, now's the time to buy a half dozen or more. Even if you can't get to preparing them right away, they'll hang on for weeks, waiting for you.

Beets are great with all other root vegetables equally available in bulk these October days: carrots, onions and potatoes. Also cabbage.  Just visualize those cheery colors adorning your counter as days grow darker: magenta, orange, white, red (those potatoes) and green.

Think about combining the beets with the carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage into a hearty, healthy borscht, with or without beef. Think: great, not only is this super easy to make but I can freeze some and effortlessly enjoy the bounty later as a really heartwarming winter meal.

Without meat, here's the simple way to concoct thick, nutritious borscht, a Russian way for 4.

Thinly slice or dice 3-4 red potatoes (you can keep the skin on for its vitamins if you scrub it first) and grate 2-3 peeled beets. Put this in a saucepan, cover with water (or vegetable broth) and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are just tender.  Drain but SAVE the water.

In a heavy gauge casserole or soup pot, melt 2 tbsp unsalted butter and sauté 2 finely chopped onions until they are soft and translucent. Add 1 tsp caraway seed, 1 large carrot sliced into thin disks and 1/2 green cabbage finely shredded or chopped.  Add 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Cover this with the beet water or broth, and add more water to have enough for soup. Cover the pot and cook on low until the carrots and cabbage are tender.

Add the cooked potatoes and beets plus 1/2 cup chopped dill, 1 tbsp cider or wine vinegar and 1/2 cup tomato paste.  Stir to blend. Be sure you have enough liquid now for a soup, adding if you don't.
Cover the pot and simmer on lowest heat for 30-40 minutes.

Serve hot with sour cream and chopped dill. Or cool and freeze in plastic containers.

For meaty borscht, boil in salted water flavored with 1 tsp ground cumin 1 lb short ribs until tender, 60-90 minutes. Remove the meat and scoop off any impurities bubbling around the top. Mince 1 garlic clove and rub it into the meat when it's cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile in a medium skillet, heat up 2-3 tbsp olive oil. Sauté 2 chopped large onions until they are soft and translucent.  Pour the pot contents into the beef broth. Add 2 carrots thinly sliced in disks, 4 red potatoes in chunks, 3 beets peeled and grated, 1 small daikon peeled and sliced into disks, and 1/4 green cabbage shredded. Add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp ground allspice. Stir to blend, cover and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender--maybe 12-15 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped dill and 2 tbsp chopped parsley.

You can either shred the meat and return it to the soup or put it back whole and then dish it out first when you serve, putting it on a separate plate with horseradish. Your choice.  To freeze, it's easier with the meat shredded into the soup.

Beets are also famously pickled to preserve them for winter use. Normally the spices used are dill and mustard seeds but you might try the Persian way with whole cloves, cinnamon and ground allspice, which is in my book Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking.

And finally if you can't wait to eat those beets and want something right now, wrap them tightly in foil and bake at 400º until tender. Cool, peel and slice thinly or chop for a salad of beets, thinly sliced purple onion rings, fresh dill or ground up dill seed, and balsamic vinegar with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can also add very thinly sliced fennel rings (take the core out to do this).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October eating

What's freshest and most abundant just now as the harvest season slinks to a close are hearty crops that take a long time to mature: fennel, celeriac, celery, leeks, storage potatoes and of course winter squashes. Some of these vegetables may seem out of the ordinary to those used to standard supermarket fare, so what to do?

Well, here's a quick, easy heartwarming soup to introduce you to most of them. It will have a subtle anise (licorice) flavor. Think of it as October in a pot. Serves 4-5.

2-3 tbsp olive oil (depending on width of your pot)
3 lg leeks, cleaned and finely chopped
5 celery stalks, cleaned and finely chopped
3 large onions, diced
1 lg fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped (you can save some of the fronds for garnish)
2 baking or 5 red potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 tbsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
pinch of red pepper flakes
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup beluga or French green lentils (the black beluga will hold their shape and color better)

In a large heavy gauge casserole or soup pot, heat the oil over medium. When it's warm, add the leeks, celery, onion, fennel and potatoes. Sauté 12 minutes until soft and lightly colored, stirring from time to time so nothing sticks or burns.  Add 1 tbsp oil if necessary.

Add broth, salt, pepper, coriander and lentils. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook 20 minutes.
Garnish with chopped fennel fronds to serve. (Options: if you want to puree the soup, cook the lentils in a separate pot and add after pureeing the soup.)

Think about roasting some of the red peppers piled high in the market right now, dousing them with a fruity olive oil and pinch of sea salt, then serving them with soft goat cheese and black olives along side this soup for a very healthy, colorful and memorably delicious meal.

You can find more fennel thoughts and what to do with that yummy but ugly looking celeriac in my book How to Fix a Leek and Other Food from Your Farmers' Market, so I won't repeat here. But right now diced or sliced fennel can star in crunchy salads that refresh the palate after a heavy autumn meat meal. (That crunch is refreshing after the softness of meat and mashed vegetables.) To go with the season's first brisket, I chopped fennel and mixed it with pomegranate arils, minced shallot, and a little bit of diced red pepper--dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

This is also the end of mushroom foraging season: time for mushroom paté or marinated mushrooms or yummiest of all, mushroom leek risotto (use mushroom broth in the recipe). I have recipes for the last two in my book: Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, available on Amazon (with 5 star reviews).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pumpkins not in pie

Pumpkins are now piled high at farmers' markets, either sold by weight or piece. Understandably those who need a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween aren't rushing to buy just yet. And those who hate pumpkin pie--I've met four people in the last few months--aren't rushing to buy either. But they're missing out. Pumpkins are great for a lot more than pie.

For starters, a big one--even with a shape more cylindrical than round, when hollowed out makes a perfect container for displaying a pot of mums in the house. The combo is especially delightful as a buffet table centerpiece.

A hollowed out pumpkin with a good shape makes a terrific seasonal serving bowl. I use a very round one to pass marinated mushrooms around, because at a stand-up party, it's easy to stick the necessary toothpicks for grabbing them right into the exterior of the pumpkin. It's also eye-catching filled with chili, particularly black bean chili. and if you still have one at Thanksgiving, use it as a colorful bowl for the stuffing.

A hollowed out pumpkin makes a great cooking vessel. In South America stews are made in it.
Essentially on top of the stove, you make a beef stew almost to completion, then pour it into the cleaned pumpkin, put the top back on the pumpkin and bake it on a cookie sheet at 350º until the pumpkin is soft. When served, the pumpkin flesh comes out with the spoon, becoming part of the stew. A beef stew with raisins, cinnamon and onions, Greek style, works really well in the pumpkin.

You can also bake the pumpkin until it's soft, let it cool, hollow it out and fill it up with hearty corn chowder. Inevitably in serving, small pieces of cooked pumpkin will become part of the chowder.

A medium to large pumpkin, hollowed out, can also be used to cook bread pudding in the oven. Since the bread pudding needs as much time to cook as the pumpkin does, you can put it into a raw pumpkin and follow the pudding's baking instructions.

 In Thailand, a small pumpkin is hollowed out, filled with the simple makings of coconut custard and steamed on top of the stove. When the pumpkin is soft, the pudding should be firm. Sangaya, Thai coconut custard, is made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar--a boon to the lactose intolerant.

Finally,Turkish style, a large pumpkin or equal size red squash can be baked at 400º until it's almost soft, cooled, and stuffed with a cooked mixture of butter, rice, lamb, celery, raisins, pistachios, onions, parsley, dill and cinnamon.Then you bake it another 15 minutes until everything is warm. This is served by cutting 1/2" thick ring shaped slices from the pumpkin, putting one slice on each dinner plate and filling the ring's hollow center with the rice mixture. Vegetarians, there's a similar recipe in a blog post from last March about winter blahs.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Greening the table

Cool weather greens and orange squashes now dominate farmers' markets. I'll save the orange ideas for  October and say goodbye to September with the another easy way to fortify your body in all this changing weather with greens that survive it: chard, spinach, kale--and the ever stalwart dill. We can never have enough recipes for these incredibly nutritious, medicinal plants that many people still don't know. Kale, in most of its varied forms, is thought to be, bite for bite, the densest nutritional care package grown and known, yet a friend of mine who constantly eats in the fanciest restaurants never heard of it until last week when her 4-year-old granddaughter confided she liked kale. (The child likes it because it's been mixed in a baggie with olive oil and salt, then baked in the oven at 400º until it's essentially dried into crunchy "chips.")

Greens Ensemble for 6-8 (think of 4 people with leftovers)

Olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your sauté pan)
1 bunch Swiss chard, thick stems removed
1 bunch spinach, washed, leaves only
1 bunch Tuscan/lacinto/blue kale, thick stems removed
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
salt to your taste (the cheese will be salty)
4 extra large eggs
1 heaping cup shredded or grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Asiago cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 350º. Lightly oil a medium earthenware casserole or glass pie dish.
Chop the greens coarsely.  Cover the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil. Heat it over medium flame and add the greens--best a batch at a time until the preceding batch shrinks. Cook about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted, kale will be toughest. Blend in the dill and put the pot contents into the oiled casserole.

Pour a bit more oil in the saute pan and add the onion, garlic, black and red pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft. Add the pot contents to the greens. Add the vinegar and salt, and blend everything well.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Blend the eggs into the greens.
Top the greens with the cheese, distributing it evenly.
Top the cheese with breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350º about 30-35 minutes or until the eggs are set and the cheese browned.
This should slice into wedges like a pie.

Serve warm, or even at room temperature tomorrow. Serve with pork chops or fried chicken--anything cooked on the grill or stovetop. If you are vegetarian, serve with a bean or chickpea salad. And if there are still fresh tomatoes to be had, everybody serve these greens with a tomato salad for a real blaze of color on your table.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Farmers Market Garlic could save your life

Just a reminder: to save your life, make every effort now to stock up on as much local farm grown garlic as you dare. There's plenty of it at farmer's markets as September ends, all sorts of varieties with varying degrees of hardiness. Any of them will keep you going strong.

Remember, garlic is a vital medicine for the body. Ancient people knew that; they said it dispelled demons, which probably meant parasites and bacteria that made people abnormal.  That smelly odor that puts some people off comes from the sulfur in it and sulfur is a wonder drug. Garlic can clean your lungs, kill bad bacteria in your gut and act as an antioxidant.  Here's a tidbit from a 2007 New York Times story, if you don't believe me:

"...researchers show that eating garlic appears to boost our natural supply of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is actually poisonous at high concentrations — it’s the same noxious byproduct of oil refining that smells like rotten eggs. But the body makes its own supply of the stuff, which acts as an antioxidant and transmits cellular signals that relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.

"In the latest study, performed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added small amounts to human red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide, the scientists found. The power to boost hydrogen sulfide production may help explain why a garlic-rich diet appears to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer, say the study authors. Higher hydrogen sulfide might also protect the heart, according to other experts. Although garlic has not consistently been shown to lower cholesterol levels, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine earlier this year found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack."

So don't fool around taking chances with the garlic you put into your body. You want as much locally grown nonpoisonous garlic as you can store. Don't go into the supermarket for any. Most garlic sold in big stores is now coming from China and much of it can be seriously toxic. If it isn't laced with all the heavy metals dumped into the soil--and remember, bulb crops like garlic grow down inside the soil where they soak up everything in it, it could be thoroughly laced with lethal pesticide residues or other chemical fertilizer residues the Chinese so liberally pump out without caring about the side effects. 

Worse, it's been revealed that some Chinese vendors marinate their garlic in formaldehyde to turn it bright white, thinking that's what we think garlic should look like. So if you're not keen on eating poison like formaldehyde, and have to buy garlic outside a trustworthy farmers market, go for garlic that's streaked with gray or that dull red. If it has a little local dirt on it, that's a good sign it could even be local and thus probably safe.

Another seriously good reason to shop at farmers' markets where you shake the hand that feeds you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Farmers' Markets Can be Your Pharmacy

More and more research is confirming what some of us already suspected: vegetables and fruits are lifesavers. They have all the medicinal qualities of pills and chemotherapy and are of course much tastier and friendlier.  So think of it this way as Hippocrates did in his famous oath to doctors: "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food."

Latest news is that once a cancer appears in the body, its spread to other organs--metastasis--can be thwarted by the glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kohlrabi and kale; lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color; and lupulone, a flavonoid in hops which is the essence of beer.  This potential to turn on metastasis-suppressor genes is distinct from  and possibly far more important than a vegetable's ability to act as an antioxidant.

This is only the beginning of understanding.  Last fall, British researchers found a compound in leafy greens that appears to be a critical factor for "keeping infections at bay and maintaining a healthy gut."

So think of your Farmers' Market as your local pharmacy and your insurance carrier all in one. Shop so you don't drop.

Easing into Autumn

As we passed the autumn equinox on Sept 21, we entered new produce time at our farmers markets. Gone are the Himalayan high piles of hot weather crops like eggplant and cucumbers, replaced by piles of various kale and bitter greens, mounds of orange squash and baskets of garlic, onions and leeks. So it's time to ease into cooler temperatures without blowing your winter wad of squashes and root vegetables. You don't want to be already sick of them by October, do you?

Stick to cool weather greens for now. Your body can use their super nutritional boost as it prepares for the winter slowdown. And if you cook them now, your freezer can save them for you to enjoy in February. Greens in February!

Here is a simple, tasty, surprisingly hearty and very nutritious way to do that: Kale and Lentil Soup. It uses much of what's most available just now: garlic, onion, carrots, and nicely answers the question I am so often asked: what do I do with kale? It's a very inexpensive pot luck contribution that will warm up a cool evening party. Plus it takes less than an hour to make, start to slurp.

Serves 4 hearty portions or 6 smaller ones

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp celery seeds or 1/4 cup finely chopped celery leaves (available now at markets)
1 med onion, diced
3 whole cloves
2 med carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 lg garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cup lentils, washed
pinch of cinnamon
4 cups vegetable broth (if it doesn't contain tomato, add 1 small roma tomato diced)
2 cups water
1 cup loosely packed chopped kale, no stems (I just now used 4 large leaves of Tuscan kale)
1-2 tsp salt (to your taste)
1/3 cup Ditalini pasta or very small macaroni
juice of 1/2 lg lemon
 a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat olive oil over medium flame in a large saucepan, casserole or small soup pot.
Add spices including celery and sauté 1 minute to flavor the oil.
Add onions and sauté 2-3 minutes until they are soft. Add cloves, carrots and garlic.
Sauté 3-5 minutes to soften.
Add lentils and cinnamon and stir to blend.
Add broth, water and then the kale.
Bring the soup to a boil over higher heat, reduce heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook 25-30 minutes.
Add salt, pasta and lemon juice. Add 1 cup of water if the soup looks too thick. Stir to blend. Cover and cook 15 minutes.
That's it!  Ladle into bowls and garnish with a pinch of the chopped parsley to serve.

Serve for lunch with a simple green salad that has some cheese in it or with a cucumber salad.
To turn this into a mighty vegetarian meal, serve with a slice of tomato or green tomato pie. Or serve with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.  If you are not vegetarian, you can add sausage to the soup, or you can serve it before the meat course.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saving for a Zany Day

There's nothing quite so joyful as recycling all the miscellanea in the fridge into something absolutely fabulous. And this point in September when the season is switching, new vegetables coming on, is the perfect time to scoop up all those farm fresh leftovers and recycle them into something to savor later on when you're way to busy to cook but need something to save the day. Do not throw those precious tidbits away, not even in compost.

I say this as someone who just cleaned out the refrigerator and in less than 30 minutes had such exquisitely thick and tasty minestrone soup, I wanted to eat it all instead of saving it for a snowy day. But what joy it will be to pull this from the freezer: pure and perfect soup stocked with the warmth of summer. I also have to say mine was stocked with a secret piece de resistance, a real Reggiano Parmigiano rind I had been saving for a moment like this. Once you taste minestrone laced with the richness of that cheese, you'll start collecting them like I now do. And the Italians do. (Store in the freezer.) I only had a tiny sliver of one but it still imparted plenty of magical flavor to my soup.

There is no fixed recipe for this treat. Just take all the leftover vegetables you find in the fridge. You're in luck if a tomato is among them. Hopefully also an onion. I had two inches of a leek, a handful of cooked green beans, a tomato, a small red onion, a piece of green pepper, 1 inch of a tiny eggplant (zucchini would be much better), a dying heart of celery and two smallish carrots. I also fortunately had leftover fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, necessities for this. Minestrone needs beans or lentils and I had a 1/2 cup canned cannellini beans just sitting there waiting to be useful. And they were. (The last time I threw this together I didn't have beans ready so I threw in raw brown lentils, which an Italian would do too.)

Gathering all that up was the hardest part. I covered the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil and heated it over medium flame. I tossed in 1 tsp of dried oregano, 1 tsp dried rosemary and 1 tsp cracked black pepper to season it. Then I threw in the onion, minced, that shred of leek, also minced and the piece of green pepper chopped. While these were softening up, I sliced the carrot into thin strips, chopped the green beans and celery into bite sized pieces, and sliced the eggplant very thin. I threw all this into the pot, stirred and poured in a box of vegetable broth. Then I dunked that Parmigiano rind.

I seasoned the soup with a big sprinkle of red pepper flakes and a tsp of salt. I chopped the tomato, threw it in with all its juices and and left the soup to come to a boil. While waiting, I chopped the basil and parsley leaves and tossed them in. When the soup began to boil, I added 1/3 cup Ditalini, a very small pasta, but orzo will also work in a pinch. As I said, there is no fixed recipe here. In fact, at this point I decided to add water to make more soup and probably put in two cups. Finally I threw in those cooked cannellini beans. If I'd used lentils, they would've gone in with the vegetables because they need 20 minutes minimum to cook.

I let the soup boil 15 minutes to cook that ditalini, which helped to thicken it. The cheese rind fell apart, which is what it's supposed to do so it gets absorbed into the soup. The soup was done. Of course I had to taste it to adjust the salt and other seasonings, and that's when I found I couldn't stop tasting it. It was extraordinarily delicious. And it's going to be even more so when I dig into it later on and remember the summer that created it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting Crusty

As the days grow a bit cooler and the produces piles higher and higher, it's time to take a little more time to get creative with all those fruits and tomatoes. Last week when I overdosed on peaches, I found I just couldn't make one more crisp, not matter how much everybody loved it, not one more peach crisp. (although I did just put one in the freezer using up the peaches that were sitting in the fridge with no place to go. That taste of summer will make a very welcome dessert in winter chill.) So I started playing and came up with a winner: peaches and cream pie. Easy as pie!

For starters, I made a thick cookie dough crust. I quickly combined in a food processor 1 1/4 cups flour, 5 tbsp unsalted butter, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 cup brown sugar. When that was blended, I added an egg to bind it into clumps. I buttered a 9-10" pie dish and patted the dough into it--which for me is a lot easier than rolling. To be sure the crust would really brown, I pre-baked it at 350º for 10 minutes. (I had to put another pie plate on top to keep it from rising.)

While that was happening, I sliced up 3 large, juicy peaches and arranged those petal like slices in concentric circles over the pie crust--three layers. I sprinkled the peaches with cardamom and nutmeg. I also had a tiny bit of shredded coconut to use up so I threw it on top. So far so good. Now in a medium bowl, I whisked together 1 cup heavy cream (the first time I used plain, thick yogurt, which you can do, but I like the sweetness of the cream better) with two extra large egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tbsp flour and 1 tsp vanilla and a splash of rose water. I poured this over the peaches. (It's so thick it has trouble getting down among them so you have to help by shaking the pie plate slightly.) I baked the peaches and cream pie at 350º about 35 minutes until the custard was set and lightly browned on top. Also the crust was brown around the edges. That was it! Didn't need to serve it with whipped cream or ice cream. The crust was as crisp as a cookie, the custard perfect with the sliced peaches. The first group who ate the first pie scarfed all down but two pieces which they greedily set aside for breakfast. The second group two days later took seconds and I finished the last piece for breakfast.

Then came the tomatoes and the idea of a tomato pie. Not a pizza, mind you, a real pie dish pie. I reviewed a pile of recipes, some with a double crust, some with sliced tomatoes instead of chopped, some with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella, etc etc. And decided to make my pie up. It wasn't that hard. You can buy yourself a 9" pie crust or you can whip one up in a food processor as I did. I whizzed together 1 cup flour, 6 tbsp unsalted butter, a dash of vinegar (makes crust flaky) and a pinch of salt. Then I added 3 tbsp heavy cream to blend it all. I rolled this out for a 9" pie dish which I faithfully buttered before fitting it in. Thinking the tomatoes would be juicy, I brushed the crust with a beaten egg to "seal" it. I plunked a heavy weight on it and baked it at 350º for 10 minutes to be sure the bottom would be nice and crisp in the end.

As for the pie, I chopped a small red onion just plucked from the farmers market and spread that on the bottom of the warm pie crust. Then in a food processor I combined 8 large basil leaves, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp pine nuts and a sprinkle of black pepper into a paste which I spread over the onions. I cored 3 large tomatoes and cut them into chunks which I lifted off the board in order to leave all that juice behind and arranged them evenly in the pie shell. I sprinkled 1 tsp dried oregano over them, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes and 2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs that I hoped would soak up any excess juices. I did not put in salt because salt would've drawn all the juice from those tomatoes and made a very messy pie. Best to salt when eating. Finally, in a small bowl I combined 1 cup grated pecorino cheese (I happened to have that around but parmesan or asiago work just as well) with 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese and 3/4 cup mayonnaise (which was in all the recipes I read). This makes a gooey paste to be spread across the top of the pie. I drizzled 2 tsp fruity olive oil over the top. That was it! Baked at 350º about 35-40 minutes until the crust was brown, the tomatoes bubbly and the cheese top lightly browned. I ate this immediately with an ear of fresh corn and cucumber salad. I can see serving it with grilled chicken or flank steak. It serves 6 easily. If you aren't so anxious to dig right in, you can keep it overnight in the fridge and reheat it to serve the next day. This cooler time of September, it's a really warm, welcome way to gorge on all those precious tomatoes. And something different for a change.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Seeing Red

Now's the moment to take advantage of all those tomatoes flowing into farmers' markets, heirloom or not, because they're not going to be around for long. And winter is long. So for a few minutes on a rainy day, you can sock away some delicious tomato dishes to pull from the freezer in February. That's how you carry the goodness on and treat your body.

The easiest trick I know for preserving the color, taste and nutritional bounty of fresh tomatoes is a simple Provencal soup made almost entirely from them. All you need is a fresh onion diced, 1 tbsp dried thyme or 4-5 fresh sprigs, 4-6 tomatoes, a dried chili or pinch of red pepper flakes and about 15 minutes. Start by melting two tbsp of unsalted butter in a medium or large heavy gauge pot. Throw in the diced onion and thyme and sauté over medium low heat until the onion is soft. While it's cooking, chop the tomatoes. (If you really want to be fancy you can blanch them first in boiling water for 1 minute, run them under cold water and slip off their skins but I don't bother anymore.)

When the onions are soft and translucent, add the chopped tomatoes, some ground black pepper and the dried chili or flakes. Cover and cook over medium low heat until the tomatoes dissolve and you have what looks like thick sauce --depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes 5-10 minutes. Stir to blend, add salt to your taste and a handful of fresh parsley. You can now purée the soup--it should stay thick--and ladle it into freezer containers. Serve it with buttery garlic croutons and drink up the soul of summertime.

If you are more ambitious, you can make tomato jam, which usually goes on bread with cheese. It's especially tasty with the softer goat cheeses. I am still working on the optimum recipe for a tomato pie.

If you just plain want to eat those tomatoes right now but can't think how to be creative beyond mozzarella and basil salad, try stuffed tomatoes: You have to start with equally sized medium sized ripe tomatoes. Cut them open at the stem end and hollow them out, leaving a good inch for your container. For 6 tomatoes, cook up a cup of orzo according to package instructions, drain it and coat it with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Put the orzo in a large bowl, add 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro depending on your taste. Add 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts and 1 clove garlic minced. Add 4 scallions finely chopped and 1 can tuna fish packed in olive oil. Blend everything and dress it with the juice of 1/2 lemon and olive oil. Stuff this into the hollowed out tomatoes, arrange on a platter and serve with crusty bread and a platter of cheeses.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


It's high tide corn and tomato season, time to glom in as much of local, pure, non genetically altered product you can scoop up at your local farmers' market or farm and binge eat. It's all going to go away soon.

If you're already weary of corn on the cob--steamed, boiled or grilled, and you've frozen all the blanched kernels your freezer will hold, here are some ideas for what to do now, in addition of course to the corn pudding recipe in my book, How to Fix a Leek...

Corn pancakes: yes there are corn fritters and they are seriously delicious but I'm thinking of the much easier, simple pancake. At your local supermarket either in the foreign foods or baking ingredients department, you are likely to find a small plastic bag of special corn meal called masarepa. Grab a bag, either white or yellow. The instructions on the package are very easy: you mix the masarepa with warm water, knead it into a dough and let it sit 10 minutes. I say: add 1/4 tsp chili powder, pinch of salt and for every cup of masarepa 1/2 cup corn kernels. After the 10 minute time out, you heat up a frying pan with 1/2" of corn oil, scoop up some corny dough, flatten it into a pancake--I prefer them 2-3" in diameter, and fry it on one side about 90 seconds or until it is crisp and starting to brown. Then flip it and do the same. These pancakes are great for breakfast, brunch or supper with black beans and/or salsa on top or a sunnyside up egg or a spoon of sour cream. They're also great served with spicy sausage, a bowl of chili or grilled flank steak.

Corn salad: slice cooked kernels off the cobs into a large bowl--figure a cob per person and let's do this figuring 6 people. Toss in 1/2 avocado chunked, 1 large tomato chunked, 2/3 small can red kidney beans drained well, 1/2 small green pepper minced, 5-6 pitted black olives thinly sliced, and 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds. (If you are not vegetarian you can add some finely diced slices of pepperoni.) Dress with olive oil and fresh lime juice--2 tbsp oil to every tbsp lime juice. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Then top with 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves. This is a very refreshing salad to serve with lobsters, grilled chicken or rice and pine nut stuffed peppers. (Spoiler alert: I made the salad in the photo with cherry tomatoes and green pimento stuffed olives because that's what I had on hand at the time. This salad is flexible!)

Corn soup: (with a nod to Steve Poses) there is chowder with corn, potatoes, onions, roasted poblano pepper and evaporated milk. And then there is this pureed soup for 6, which you can make faster. Cut the kernels from 5 ears of fresh corn and puree them in a food processor or blender. Melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter in a large, heavy gauge saucepan. Add one small minced onion and sauté it over medium heat until it's soft and translucent. Add 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder or smoked Spanish paprika and stir to blend. Pour in the corn puree and heat it for 5 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, a dash of hot sauce or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes and 2 cups heavy cream plus 1 1/2 cups milk. Gentle heat over medium being careful not to boil (because of the milk.) Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 lb. shredded cheddar. Then ladle the soup into serving bowls and top each with a smidgen of minced green chili.

Corn side dish: (this is Mexican) Heat oven to 350º and get out a 2 quart oven proof dish.
Cut the kernels from 5 ears of corn. Roast 5 poblano chilies, cool and slice them into thin strips.
In a heavy gauge saucepan, melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter. Add 1/2 medium red onion diced and 1 clove garlic minced. Over med/low heat sauté until onions are soft. Add the chili strips, cover and cook about 8 minutes until they are soft. Add the corn kernels, and 1 tsp salt. Blend everything and pour into the oven dish. Cover tightly (foil will do) and bake 20 minutes. Add 1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese and continue baking another 20 minutes. Serve hot, if you dare with a dollop of sour cream. You can eat this simply with fresh tortilla or scrambled eggs or roasted chicken. It will not reheat or last so make the most of it right away.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More on blackberries

If you are feeling ambitious, here is a recipe for blackberry filled cookies, 4 dozen of them, adapted from an old "hippie" recipe that avoided the evils of butter, sugar and white flour. I love 'em all.

Blackberry Glaze filling
Bring 3/8 cup of honey with 3/8 cup of water to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 1/2 cups crushed blackberries. Cook i minute. Cool.

For the cookies:
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp buttermilk
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour, cake flour if you have it.

In a food processor or mixer, beat the egg with the sugar. Add baking soda, flour, salt and butter. Beat to blend.
Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Chill this dough for several hours.

Butter or grease a large cookie sheet. Heat oven to 325º.
Using a normal spoon, drop the dough onto the baking sheet and flatten slightly. Do not let the cookies touch as they will spread a bit.

Using the back of the 1/4 tsp measure, make a small well in the center of each cookie and fill this with 1/4 tsp of the blackberry glaze.

Bake 12-15 minutes until the cookies are firm and crisp.
Store in an airtight tin or freeze in an airtight container.


Sorry to have been absent but part of whatever ails me has become total loss of appetite and 12 lbs in 3 weeks.
But I am back to cruising farmers markets, determined to go on. Mid August is of course the height of the season for those favorite all-American crops, corn and tomatoes, but it's also blackberry time and since their season is much shorter and they are much less beloved, let's start there. After all those little black thimbles are full of antioxidants and fiber with a bit of calcium thrown in.

Blackberries don't make great jam unless you are willing to strain the seeds out of the hot, cooked jam. They are the stuff of the famed French brandy, cassis, but let's not go there. They are fine in a pie or crisp but most people tend to turn them into cobblers which have more cake and less blackberry. A few of these fruits go a long way. My absolute favorite is a simple Provencal clafouti and the real French housewife recipe, so simple a 6-year-old can make it, is in the book, How to Fix a Leek... Now available for $2.99 as an eBook if you want to download it onto your tablet or smart phone and take it with you to the market.

I got my hands on a pile of blackberries this past week and after staring at them for days, yesterday I decided to play with them and try something new. Not a crisp or cobbler, not a pie. Or at least a plain blackberry pie. And because I so love blackberries in that pudding-like clafouti, I came up with a blackberry custard tart. I had six people for dinner last night and it vanished from the dish five minutes after it was served.

So, if you want to go a step beyond the ridiculously simple clafouti, here you go:
For the crust, I made a cookie dough, the easiest kind to create.

In a food processor--and mind you, I did this in a mini one, so know you don't need fancy expensive equipment-- combine 1 1/3 cups flour with 1 stick unsalted butter cut into pieces. Process just until coarsely blended. Add 2 tbsp brown sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 egg, 2 tbsp milk and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. (Optionally, if you are a ginger fan, add 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped.) Process into lumps.

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 9-10" pie plate. If you have a metal one with holes in the bottom, this crust will be crisper. If you don't, you can try baking it empty for 10 minutes or not, as you see fit.

Press the dough into the pie plate all the way up the sides and a little over the top so you can crimp it between your thumb and first finger to make it look pretty. Be sure it is even all around. Now optionally you can bake it 10 minutes if you want to make it crisper in the end.

Otherwise pour in 3-4 cups of fresh, clean blackberries and distribute them evenly.

In a medium size bowl, combine 4 egg yolks, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 cups of any combination of the following that produces a thick liquid: heavy cream, yogurt, ricotta, mascarpone, creme fraiche. I used up 1 cup of heavy cream I had on hand, mixing it with 1 cup yogurt. (As it happened 1/2 of that was lemon yogurt and it added a delightful tang to the pie.) Mix all this together with a hand beater or whisk.

Pour into the pie shell.
Bake this at 350º about 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Serve warm or at room temperature just as it is or if you want to jazz it up and can take the calories, top it with whipped cream.

If you want to go even further, I found a recipe for blackberry cookies which I will post shortly.
Then onto what to do with corn when you can't face it on the cob one more time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Uh Oh GMO where you least expect it

The latest list of the 10 most common GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the supermarket right now has tied in 9th and 10t place zucchini and yellow or crookneck squash. Yes those innocent looking cylinders in yellow and green. So if you are making ratatouille right now at the perfect time for it or planning to stuff squash for a light summer supper, if you are getting ready to grill zucchini or yellow squash with your other vegetables on skewers, get your squash from a trustworthy source like a local farmer or your next door neighbor. We all know the joke about trying to give zucchini away. ;-) It's so ridiculously prolific, the name we use for it is actually the plural. Zucchino is singular. So it's also ridiculous that big ag would play with zucchini genes to prevent viruses that lower harvesting and thus profitability.

How to Fix a Leek and Other Food From YOur Farmers Market, available now as an ebook on Ibooks, if you can't get the hard copy, has recipes for stuffed squash and zucchini pie so I won't repeat them here. I'll just throw out more easy, tasty options like zucchini sauce for spaghetti and zucchini mousse that really use up all that wretched excess.

Zucchini Mousse au Gratin

6 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
3 tbs butter
6 scallions, minced
1/4 c parsley, minced
1/4 c fresh dill, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
2/3 c sourcream
4 tbs bread crumbs
2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350º.
Steam zucchini 20 minutes. Drain, shred and drain again.
Melt 1 tbs butter in a skillet and saute scallions until wilted.
Add zucchini, herbs, salt, pepper and sour cream, stirring to blend well.
Saute 4-5 minutes.
Oil a 1 1/2qt casserole.
Spoon skillet contents into casserole. Top with breadcrumbs, cheese and 2 tbs butter.
(YOu can wrap and freeze the casserole at this point to cook at a later date.)
Bake at 375º for 30 minutes.
Place under broiler for 3 minutes to brown the top.
Serve with a tomato, arugula salad and perhaps warm farro cooked with celery and carrots.
If you are not vegetarian, serve this with grilled chicken.

Zucchini Sauce for Pasta

1/2 c fruity olive oil
4 lg garlic cloves peeled
1 tbsp dried basil and 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 lg onion, diced
3 medium zucchini, sliced into thin disks
1 red pepper, roasted (a jarred one will do just fine), chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts (if you can find ones NOT from China)
1/4 tsp salt
dash nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste (probably 1/8-1/4 tsp
1/4 c parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated

In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, dried basil and parsley.
Saute 1 minute to flavor oil.
Add onion, zucchini, fresh basil, roasted pepper, pine nuts and salt.
Saute over medium low heat for 30-35 minutes or until zucchini is thoroughly wilted.
Cool 10 minutes.
Pour skillet contents into a food processor. Add nutmeg, black pepper and cheese.
Puree into a thick sauce.
Serve on pasta. A tomato or spinach pasta makes this more colorful because the sauce is whitish.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Catching Up to August

From early April to the end of June I was away doing cooking service first in Vancouver, Canada and then Ulan Baator, Mongolia. The result was extreme exhaustion. Also sadly, something mysterious but debilitating has prevented many activities, including at times going to the farmers' market. But I'm trying and my physical struggle, which may be the result of eating toxic garlic, onions and other produce sent to Mongolia from China--or may not be, makes me want to shout louder and louder: only buy the local food. Shake the hand that feeds you.

I don't care what the local farmers charge for garlic these days: sometimes $2 a head, sometimes $6 a pound. I also like it better if it has a purplish or even gray hue, for that means it's not been toyed with cosmetically. Since it is a bulb that grows in the ground, and is a heavy feeder from the soil around it, garlic is one of the most tainted foods coming out of China where the soils are contaminated with heavy metals, sewage and toxic pesticides. There have even been reports that the Chinese marinate their freshly pulled garlic in formaldehyde to turn it white. American supermarkets are full of garlic from China these days--read those bin labels-- because it's cheaper than what used to come from California where the growers have been decimated. Don't touch it! As my grandmother used to say: you get what you pay for. Garlic has remarkable health properties--all that smelly sulfur at work--but now an equally remarkable chance of destroying your health. That makes cheap garlic very costly.

Beware of anything that grows under the ground because whatever is in the soil it will absorb. That's why leeks, onions, carrots, etc and mushrooms which sprout from the soil all contain trace elements of minerals like iron. Trust your local farmers, even one not certified organic, because if they don't use pesticides--and most at markets these days don't--the soil will be clean.

Everything in the East was two weeks early this year so corn, tomatoes and blueberries are nothing new any more. Even the eggplant is here so you can make all the ratatouille you want: all ingredients from garlic and basil to zucchini and onions are on sale now. If you get tired of eating it plain hot or cold, throw it over penne or rigatoni. If you're not vegetarian, chop some spicy sausage or pepperoni in too.

One organic grower, Small Wonders Farm, introduced me to the heritage smoky Paul Robsons, which are blackish red with a bit of green peeking out around the stem. "I like them better than Brandywines," she said, referring to my and many peoples' favorite heirloom. She also had some very tasty almost lookalike Black Krims, but they didn't have the romantic smokiness of the Paul Robsons.

Cleaning out my fridge last week I came upon some languishing Hakuri or Tokyo turnips, sweet enough for salad, and a few baby carrots. So I grated them together into a refreshing slaw dressed with fresh chives, lemon juice and olive oil.

But my main activity, when I have strength, has been to recycle all the unwanted carrot tops, celery leaves, beet greens, pea shells and wilting chard into very useful vegetable broth. I don't have to pay $2.95 for a box any more. I just pile all that refuse into a pot, cover it with water, add salt, cover the pot and boil it on low heat for 30 minutes or so. Once it's cool, I pour it into jars or freezer containers. It's made my rice, farro and ditalini pasta exceptionally tasty. I've even cooked corn in it to give it flavor so I don't rush for butter. There is no need to measure and no way to mess this up, if you simply put in enough water to cover what's in the pot.

And last week, I recycled some raw milk from local farm into incredible yogurt, perfect for all the berries coming off the vines right now. More about that when I have strength again.

Friday, April 13, 2012

More than I can chew....

I will post shortly about eating in mud season. I've just been outrageously busy.
I've formatted How to Fix a an e-book: it's currently available from Smashwords and will soon be available from ibooks and Amazon as well. I'm formatting a special California edition too.
I'm also working on a grant proposal for the Culinary Historians.

Right now I am in a Buddhist monastery preparing the kitchen garden and more importantly the kitchen to receive our precious teacher who is recovering from a stroke and needs lots of TLC.
And really right now, as in two minutes ago, I got word that my other book, Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, just won a Silver medal in the food category of the independent book awards known as Nautilus.

When I am finished here, I will be heading to Ulan Baator, Mongolia, by invitation, to help revive a struggling vegetarian cafe.

But I will catch up to all the market news and don'ts.
For now think root toot toot: onions! Onion pizzas, onion soup, baked stuffed onions.

Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Killer Food

Reasons to buy your food from a familiar and friendly farmer in your area just keep on coming.

This week scientists confirmed what science already suspected: the cause of the honeybee holocaust is all those plants embedded with a powerful neocortinid pesticide that knocks out their nervous system. Yet this year 100% of America's industrial corn crop--including supermarket and Walmart corn sold on the cob, planted on enough land to fill 80% of California --will contain it. Without bees busy work, crops cannot pollinate and if they can't pollinate they can't fruit. Bees are crucial to our survival. To save them is to save ourselves and the best way to stop the supply of toxic corn is to stop demand for industrially raised corn. So think about only eating corn in its original summer season and only buying it from a local farmer who used heirloom or saved seeds.

This week methyl iodide, the toxic fumigant fast tracks the killing of insects, fungi and bacteria in the soil low growing strawberries are planted in, was abruptly withdrawn by its maker from the market. We owe this victory to ordinary people speaking up, smacking down corrupt regulators. But it could prove to be Pyrrhic, particularly if demand continues apace in all the off seasons for strawberries.

The lethal dangers of methyl iodide's widely sprayed predecessor, methyl bromide, were publicized a few years back, scaring those who bothered to read the news into only buying organic ones. Methyl bromide not only destroys the ozone layer, it's extremely toxic to the farm workers and those who just happen to live near fields sprayed with it. Then there is what it may do to the strawberry and the person who eats it. For these reasons, methyl bromide was banned in 1987 by the international Montreal Protocol. But US corporations found a way to keep on keeping on by consistently filing for annual "exceptions." Eventually, clinging as they do to lickety split convenience, they took up methyl iodide as the new magic bullet. Now they won't have that poison to play with.

Nobody knows for sure what next quick fix commercial growers will find. The old-fashioned ones used by small, local farmers are simple practices like crop rotation and black plastic. Their strawberries may not be picture perfect, but at least they will not poison you.

News is not much cheerier on the protein part of the food pyramid either. Fish farming is proving to be the same hazard to our health and the health of Mother Earth that industrial monoculture farming is. All those fish packed into pens become a toxic waste site that's killing everything else in the sea. And they're being pumped full of antibiotics whose effectiveness is eroding rapidly. Crowding is Nature's no-no. Say no to farmed fish and get what fresh seafood you can from your local marketeer.

People fighting the good fight against the wantonly indiscriminate use of antibiotics in industrial feedlots and the creation of even more resistant human killer super bugs finally got the Federal courts to force the FDA to stop its 40 years of waffling and ban this dangerous practice. But given the money of the meat industry, nobody is betting it will. So if you don't want to promote the creation of more killer bacteria immune to all that pharmacology has to offer, and are not vegetarian, eat locally pasture raised beef, lamb, pork and chicken. The way to change the world is to change yourself.

Tomorrow is April 1 and I wish this ghastly news was only an April Fool's joke. But it isn't. So don't be a fool. You are literally what you eat.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Whole Truth

If anybody still needs more reasons to actually shake the hand that feeds them, which is to say food shop at a local farmers' market, here are a scary trio that came this week. The first is that dogs are dying across this country because their owners loved them enough to feed them packaged chicken treats. Turns out the chicken used to make them came from China seriously embedded with poisonous chemicals.

The second is that our food supply has become increasingly international because we like to eat summer produce all winter and because we think food has to be dirt cheap like what comes from China. And with this increase in imported food, our death and poisoning from it has skyrocketed. Supplies are just too big to trail. The FDA/USDA can't even guarantee all the homegrown commercial stuff. They rely on the suppliers to police themselves.

As it happens, some watchdog groups can guarantee and have for years that pesticides banned in this country are sold to the ones below us and come back in on the fruits and vegetables. That alone should be reason enough to not eat in winter seasonal fruits coming from the summer time of South America. Stick to made in the USA: apples, pears, oranges, grapefruits, even Hawaiian papayas.

But here's the real clincher, reason 3: local Los Angeles ABC news exposed the big lie called Whole Foods. Frankly it isn't hard to see in its smaller stores like the one I visit in San Francisco that it's really just a gussied up sugar shack, putting very slick organic gloss on all the sweets it sells to drink, nosh and gobble. The sweets at least in that store so frustratingly outnumber the fruits and veggies and assortment of beans, I think of it as Unwholesome Foods.

But that's not the worst. ABC news found the biggest whopper in the company's relentless marketing spin is how Whole Foods tosses the word "organic" onto its own in-house label: 365, without actually knowing--or evidently caring-- whether or not the food inside really is. Almost all the bags of frozen "organic" 365 vegetables their investigator found at a local store said in small print on the back: Product of China. Even the special "California Vegetable Medley"! A Whole Foods spokesperson admitted no one in the organization had any way to know whether China monitored or even imposed American standards for organic on produce labeled as such. It just trusted its suppliers. The way shoppers blindly trust Whole Foods.

So those organic frozen vegetables might be just like that killer dog treat chicken. How's that for 21st Century style trust-busting?

Monday, March 12, 2012

The wherein of the green

The greening called St. Patrick's Day marks the last gasp of farmers' market winter greens like kale and collards as well as the first sprout of spring ones like dandelion. So it's an auspicious time to go green in the kitchen and think green and at least see green on the table if not in the wallet since this is also tax time. Greens are the super octane fuel that makes your body run, so indulge in some good-looking food.

Dandelions may be a pain on your lawn but dandelion greens are a traditional spring tonic in Mediterranean countries, welcomed at the table because they can cleanse the body of winter sludge. Farmers sell them bunched in what looks like large sheaves but they do cook down. Chop them up, boil them in heavily salted water for 15 minutes, drain well, dress with fruity olive oil and crystals of sea salt and sit down to some spring cleaning. You can add a twist of lemon if you like.

To give the dandelion greens more tang, you can let them share the pot with a few handfuls of chopped turnip or radish greens.

To make a whole and super healthy meal of them, while boiling the greens, stir up a pot of polenta. Season it with a pinch of chili powder, toss in the last corn kernels from the freezer and a tbsp or two of plain yogurt.
Dish out a bowl of polenta and cover the top with cooked dandelion greens. Bring on the freshly ground pepper, then eat and be well.

If dandelions haven't sprouted yet, there's still kale, collards and chard. Curly kale can be cut up raw as the basis of a salad. You can toss in dried cranberries, currants, roasted pine nuts and lemon peel before dressing it with olive oil and lemon juice. Or for more magnetic color, you can mix it with grated roasted beets and raw carrots before dressing it with olive oil and balsamic or sherry vinegar.

Chard straddles all seasons, almost all cultures too. In end of winter mode, it can be combined Palestinian style in a hauntingly spiced stew with beef, chickpeas and rice. In the lighter spring mode, it's welcomed as a vivid addition to lentil soup. Here's the Palestinian recipe for 4:

1+lb lean stewing beef cut into equal size serving chunks
1 lg yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 tsp allspice (5 berries if you have them)
1 tsp cardamom (5 pods if you have them)
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 c. beef stock
4 c. water
1/2 c medium grain rice, rinsed
2 tsp salt
1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained
1 lg bunch chard, stems removed, washed and chopped into small pieces
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
juice of one large lemon, freshly squeezed

In a medium or large stockpot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and brown beef with the onions.
Add beef stock and water and bring to a boil on high heat. Lower heat.
Add spices. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until beef is tender. Skim off any foam or impurities.
Stir in rice, chickpeas and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Cook 10 minutes.
Add chard, stirring as you do. Decrease heat to lowest, cover and cook.
Mash the garlic with 1/2 tsp salt.
In a small saute or frying pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
Fry salted garlic paste 1 minute to lightly brown. Add to the stew and blend.
Stir in lemon juice and serve immediately.
Garnish with flat bread to soak up the juices.

To lighten this up, consider doing it with spring chicken and chicken broth instead of the beef.

Support your body. Support your local farmers, the hands that feed you. Eat greens.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Here comes Homemade

Even after all these years, people still get effusive about my jam. It's their kids most favorite or they bought special bread for it or they didn't want the jar to empty. Always it's about the fruit, the taste of it, the fact that they can actually taste the fruit, that my jam tastes like genuine fruit: strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, blueberries, and lately quince. The gratitude is startling--and a bit embarrassing at this point.

I never set out to make jam that was revolutionary, just jam that I could eat. It's just farm fresh fruit with spice and a bare minimum of sugar because my body cannot tolerate the stuff. The first time or two, I followed the directions of the canning jar company and realized there was far more sugar, sometimes three times as much, as fruit boiling in my pot. No wonder it upset my stomach. So I reduced the ratio until it was reversed. And nothing fatal happened. The major difference between my homemade jam and even the most expensive store-bought jar was that mine when opened had a much shorter shelf life--and you could taste the fruit.

That's how I learned that government standards for commercial jam require the fruit to be essentially paralyzed --botoxed, if you will, by sugar--a killer substance as bad for you as bacteria. Jam made to be sold has to be prepared to live forever, like a zombie.

So here's real news: that is starting to change. At a slow, slow, quick quick pace, state after state has been enacting what's colloquially known as "cottage food laws" to allow people like me to sell our homemade jam--and pickles and breads--without special licensing and commercial standardizing at outlets like our local farmers' market. So look out! Here come taste revelations...and revolutions.

The laws are in part a response to the pressures of the depressed economy, for many among those who no longer had an outside job took to working in their kitchens producing food to sell. Kitchen entrepreneurship is running high. And so is the quality of the small batch food for sale.

The newest states in the act are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois and Texas. They joined Michigan, New Mexico and Maine, where the law is not so much about "non-hazardous food products" like bread and jam as it is about at long last freeing its small chicken farmers from the stringent and expensive processing rules meant for massive poultry factory farms. So the family with those chickens pecking around outside the barn can now kill and sell them to you openly without fear of being shut down.

The hero of this particular win-win story is Jeff McCabe, a Democratic Maine state representative who had tuned into all the talk about locally produced foods and spoke up so that, as he put it, more Mainers can buy food from down the road instead of from a giant poultry processor thousands of miles away. It's not just that the money stays home but "farmers have a little more freedom to develop a relationship with their customers."

States where legislation is pending right now--and of course being attacked by Big Ag and big brands--are California, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and South Carolina. Hopefully soon, if you want to know what real homemade jam can taste like, you won't have to whip it up yourself or wait for me to gift you.

P.S. These cottage food laws are mostly to enable the sale of jams, preserves, pickles, relishes and breads-- which are all considered "non-hazardous foods." They are not necessarily about raw milk or its cheeses. That's another fight.

And speaking of food fights, sadly, Mainer Jim Gerritsen and his organic farming troops were thrown out of Manhattan court in their attempt to stop Monsanto from suing them when its pesticide-embedded seeds drift on the wind onto their acreage. The judge claimed they had no standing and no merit. Justice is blind.