Posts Tagged ‘Harvest Foods’

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September 27, 2015: Tri-color “Salt” Potatoes

September 27, 2015

Tri-Color Salt PotatoesOne is never sure what will work. Sometimes, what can seem at first mundane, is virtually unheard of to the world at large.

Back in December of 2010, I was stuck for a topic/food/recipe for the blog, and I got a brainstorm: I had never seen a recipe for “Salt Potatoes” in any of the sundry food blogs and magazines I subscribed to. At the time I thought that was because I couldn’t imagine anyone documenting such a common dish.

How wrong I was.

Growing up, salt potatoes were at least a weekly dish. We kids didn’t mind. Salt potatoes are tasty, go well with many meals, and with eight kids to feed…cheap and plentiful! Having an Irish woman as a mom probably added to the frequency with which she added them to the weekly menu.

Writing the original article, what I didn’t consider was how common this dish is to my locale and why. You see, I hail from Syracuse NY, which in an earlier American history was where much of our salt came from. The natural deposits of primeval salt in the local lakes made salt production easy and cheap. One main street of Syracuse is named “Salina Street” due to the impact the industry had for residents.

So, with cheap salt supplies and Irish workers digging the nearby Erie Canal, salt potatoes were pretty common. They are still often sold at open markets and fairs, often replacing french fries as the potato treat of choice.

So, I was pretty surprised when my (to my mind..a very, very basic) recipe was picked up by a national food blog! The recipe was “featured” as best recipe of the day and yielded my best day for the blog, with a total of 125 hits!

My sister Mary Lou, happened to call that day and I was excited to tell her the news. When, knowing my range as a chef, she asked what recipe was featured, and I told her…there was long pause. “WHY?” she asked! Turns out what a native Syracusan considers commonplace was not so for the rest of the world!

Salt Potatoes are indeed so basic, it is hard to improve them, but recently I picked up these tri-color baby potatoes in a local farm stand and these upped the ante! As well as color, each potato had its own individual taste, and I was surprised to find the inner part tinged with a slight color of the outside. The one that appears black, is actually a dark purple like a beet, so the inner potato had light purple color!

A good chef is always looking to improve on even the most basic recipe! Adding this one to my repertoire of cheap, easy, aesthetic, fun, and unusual dishes!

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August 30, 2015: European Breakfast

August 30, 2015

European BreakfastLast Christmas, Teja and Barb gave me a fantastic gift: a sturdy, white-ceramic lined 10″ fry pan. One of the most perfect cooking tools I’ve ever owned (I’ve never had a pan that so easily cleans to a spotless finish) it is too large for most meals I make for myself, and sadly, since I don’t entertain for large groups as much these days, I don’t use the pan as often as I would like.

The Trip_2010The Trip To Italy

I’m a big fan of the two “The Trip” movies. These are about two friends who travel (the first in England, the second in Italy) reviewing food in restaurants as they go. The movies are much, much, more than this simplistic overview, but the food was the first hook for me. The big English Breakfast that the boys experience in the first film caught my attention. I remember similar breakfasts at B&Bs from my trips across Ireland and I found I missed them. As I was cleaning up, early this morning, I was looking at my beautiful pan and it all came together. I had all the makings for an European Breakfast!

Normally, the European Breakfasts are big on meat. The Irish ones were very meat-heavy ones: sausage-links, bacon, and even blood-sausage were prevalent at just about every B&B I visited. Since my visits to Ireland, I have been a steady vegetarian, but I keep an eye out for the best meat substitutes. The choice ones, these days, are made by Quorn, who have even developed a good bacon substitute (or “facon” as I know it) which is something I thought I never would experience (‘tho Quorn’s is closer to “Canadian Bacon” than what we know as bacon, it still is pretty good.) Their sausage patties are the best, so in a thin layer of olive oil, they were the first to hit the pan.

Next was a combo of sauerkraut with juniper berries that had been steeping in the sauerkraut juices for an hour. I like a slightly crisp edge to the sauerkraut, so that is why I put it in early.

Next, was a little bit of butter and 1/2″ slices of fresh tomatoes that my bosses, Jim and Wendy, had given to me from their garden. A grind of pepper, sprinkle of oregano, turning ever so often. No need to tamper too much with Nature’s (and a good gardener’s) perfection.

Then, it was pinto beans mixed with a little molasses. followed quickly by a couple of tablespoons of chopped leeks. Last was an egg, topping the leeks.

Altogether, ‘tho delicious, it was a little too much breakfast for me really, these days to be honest…I’m usually only game for a bit of cereal, a small yoghurt or some such, but I enjoyed the bounty…and an attachment to a memory of bounty, where a big breakfast like this took me 40-50 miles on my bike to the next destination…an Irish town I had just barely sketched out on my map…far from home.

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September 27, 2013: Harvest Moon Cornucopia

September 27, 2013

Harvest Moon CornucopiaLast week, I got an opportunity to visit my friend Ellen, whom I had worked with at my last temp job. The job was a miserable, dirty one scrounging trough and cataloging old financial records. What made the job palatable were the fine people assigned to get this odious chore done.

Ellen was a particular solace. She is one of those rare individuals who is not only easy to converse with, but who constantly looked out for her fellow workers. To my memory, not a single day went by that Ellen did not supply us with baked goods, either made by her or from various bakeries. She also had a knack for bringing in cleaning supplies, that she had collected from sundry supply centers to repurpose to people she knew. With every penny counted, it was a relief for me not to have to worry at all where detergents were coming from. While reading a story of Lafcadio Hearn, where he cites the particular human quality of “active beneficence” it was a revelation to look beyond my page and recognize a living example of this quality in one of my fellow workers.

Ellen’s active beneficence does not end with her fellow humans. She is very committed to programs that help to neuter abandoned cats and dogs, and even uses her own home as a half-way house to help place strays to willing and responsible owners.

Ellen used to tell me about her husband, Jack and his fine garden. As gardening is one of my  interests that have fallen to the wayside due to hard financial times, I was curious to see his.

And what a garden! Even in late-Summer, Jack’s garden had an obvious bounty of peppers, sunflowers, squashes, eggplants, various greens and tomatoes. Through the blur of my imagination, I could picture how full it looked a month ago, at the height of a home garden. I love talking to experienced gardeners like Jack. They are always full of helpful advice and knowledge, and especially a pride in what they have grown.  I found his use of support of vines by 5′ aluminum poles to be a practical (and perennial) solution. To be truthful, I did not absorb all he told me about the individual pepper plants he had, but one thing stuck: watering peppers well decreases the capsicum (the “heat” element) of peppers.  I found this true when I made a tomato and cheese omelette  and topped it off with not only grilled spring onion and peppers from Jack’s garden but also with Ellen’s wonderful homemade salsa.

Tomato and Monteray Jack Omelette, topped with Ellen's homemade salsa and Jack's grilled spring onions and peppers

Tomato and Monteray-Jack Omelette, topped with Ellen’s homemade salsa and Jack’s grilled spring onions & peppers

Jack and Ellen supplied me with a cornucopia of delicious veggies from their garden:

Garlic; Tomatoes; Spring Onion: Summer Squash; Eggplant(both Globe and Japanese varieties); Swiss Chard; Bok Choy; Various Peppers; Thyme; Cantaloupe; Beets and Beet Greens.

Harvest Stir Fry

Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Beet Green, Spring Onion, Pepper stir-fry with Black Rice/Orzo and Basamati Rice in veggie broth and Thyme

I also made  fine stir-fry from all the greens, onions and peppers. A splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus a grind of pepper was all it needed. I made a combo of black rice+orzo and basamati rice, both cooked in the veggie broth from the green leavings and flavored with Jack’s fresh Thyme.

As Ellen was taking me around to show me her flower gardens, it was clear where she had gotten the habit of repurposing. Generations of her family members had repurposed, what was essentially junk, into quaint, personal, and eclectic decorations for the yard: a huge, brightly colored windmill and the painted planters made from old factory hardware held Ellen’s beautiful late-Summer flowers.

I wanted to meet all the animals, both owned and boarded. I first met “Nippy” a miniature Pincher who, despite his name, did not nip at all, but was quite friendly. He was a bundle of constant energy ‘tho, and did not once stop moving until we had a tug of war with a tennis ball, where his abundant energy was momentarily stalemated by mine.

Next was a beautiful Siamese: clear, crystal blue eyes with soft fur of shades from brown to black. At first skittish, he quickly decided I was the OK sort and cozied up. Ellen said he was most likely abandoned due to the “imperfections” in his markings. Ellen had matched him up with a young Cambridge couple, so he was off shortly to a new, posh life.

Then there was a tiny black kitten. As I picked him up, he was so gentle and content that my first thought was “Oh, here is an old soul.” The poor little thing was suffering from a cold and as soon as my attention was on him, this set off Nippy to rough-housing with him, in a bid for attention. The besieged kitten finally had enough of his ears being chewed on and gave Nippy  a soft bat with a hiss and went up on a table, snuffling out of reach.

As I was heading home, my trunk full of Ellen and Jack’s active beneficence, the tawny Harvest Moon skipped over the bough-tops and I thought of those words we associate with this season: harvest, bounty, cornucopia (the “horn of plenty” representing the harvest bounty.)

HMC-BannerI do admit, in my darkest hours, I consider my own late harvest to be a bitter one: my good and earnest labors left wasted as if a barren field. Still…life is painted by so many forms and is colored by so many sundry good things…so I will take these precious moments: the generosity of the wise and the good (which can never be undervalued); the cleverness of repurposing our resources; the richness of a well-tended garden and the bounty of the good Earth.

Even the little ones had lessons to teach: the friendly comfort of a sultry, posh kitty; the stillness-in-tension from a hyperactive puppy; and the zen-like patience of a beleaguered, snuffling kitten.

By this age, I am supposed to be wise, yet often feel anything but (save if wisdom be the stoic acceptance of one’s ocean of ignorance.) But, the cornucopia of kindness and experience, acquired my Harvest Moon evening west of Boston, is something I can safely say is truly known.  One could not  wish for a better bounty.

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September 08, 2011: A Summer Harvest

September 8, 2011

Green Tomato Relish

This last weekend, I had the chance of doubling up on social occasions as Teja and Barb were christening the patio we built together with a party, the same day as my former student, Isaac, was moving not too far away from Teja’s. I started at Isaac’s and got to meet his friend Kelly, and her friend Andrea, who was helping them to move also. Isaac and Kelly had a nice garden in the back and they cleverly transplanted all they could, into buckets they could take with them.

For years, I had a really good vegetable garden, but the squirrels that live in my oaks ate everything they liked and dug up all the rest. I was loath to kill the squirrels and so, switched to flowers, which they leave alone. These days, I have no money for even the flowers, so the garden had gone to seed and weeds. I do miss the fresh-grown veggies very much.

As if a good days work and the congenial company weren’t enough compensation, Isaac had harvested what they couldn’t take from the garden, and gave me a full bag of delicious fresh foodstuffs. He included herbs, squashes, beets, heritage carrots, peppers, and green tomatoes that I turned into relish. Isaac and Kelly’s tomatoes yielded about 4 cups.

Green Tomato Relish:

  • 4C. Green Tomatoes (diced)           •  4C. Green Cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 1 Onion+3 Cloves Garlic (diced)    •  2C. Mixed Peppers (diced)
  • 2 C. Veggie Broth                              •   2C. Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp. each of Brown Sugar and Crushed Hot Peppers
  • 1/2 Teasp. of seeds of each: Fennel, Dill, Celery, Dill, Cumin,
  • 1/2 Teasp. of Sal de Mer & Peppercorns + 2″ Cinnamon Stick (all spices tied up in cheesecloth and tied w/twine)

Over medium heat in large pan, fry onion and garlic in about 4 Tblsp. vegetable oil until soft, with crushed hot peppers. Add tomatoes and cabbage. Continue cooking. Add diced peppers shortly after and cook. Add stock and vinegar, and bag of spices. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Cool relish with spice bag, then remove. Seal relish in sterile container and chill.

After moving Isaac and Kelly, it was on to Teja and Barb’s for a cookout. Dan, once again brought his fine sous-vide chuck steak done to a tender, pink perfection, which I cubed and made kabobs with, then grilled. See my August 21, 2010: Welcoming Party for the Girls article for more details on this dish. It was a splendid night of superb company in front of the warm fire on the new patio.  My friends have been exceptionally supportive through my recent hard times with my struggle to find work. When I consider how much they have given me: the advice, emotional (and sometimes economic) support, and just knowing they are out there somewhere in the world, has made all the difference. I think of Isaac, of Teja, of Barb, of Dan, of Deena, Carolyn, Lisa last week, Yoshio the week before: kind and generous friends, all.

When I was a gardener, it often occurred to me that there was an analogy between the garden and the affairs of the human heart: you plant with promise and hope that all those tiny seeds will survive to full term. They don’t. Animals take some. Winds, heat, disease…even water, which the plants need so much, take others. Even if all seeds start to grow, there is that awful culling which a gardener has to perform, so that some of the plants survive. (That was the only part I hated about gardening. I always wanted ALL the seeds to grow!) Like relationships, gardening can be a tough, time-consuming, and often a dirty, nasty business. You do it with the devotion it deserves, because both gardens and relationships are worth it and that for the simple fact that this kind of devotion is love personified.

I stand at the edge of my present garden and the physical reality is a fallow mess, with nothing to harvest but weeds. However, when I think of the pleasant company and good will of my friends…I realize that I already have my summer harvest (both physical and emotional) and I could not ask for a more bountiful one. So, I face the reality. I close my eyes, and dream…of a more perfect garden.

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