Archive for Side Dish

Rougail Zucchini

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The English call them marrows, and – at least according to Agatha Christie (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, if I remember correctly) – take great pride in growing the zucchinis to very large vegetables. They call young zucchinis “courgettes” (the French word for zucchinis) and the big one “marrows”. In the US, we call them baseball bats and we lock our cars in the summer so treacherous neighbors don’t surreptitiously leave bags of them as “gifts”.

But, people, marrows have their place – besides the compost pile, that is. One just has to rethink how to use them.

First, they will keep for several weeks at room temperature – unlike young fruit which get limp real fast. So you don’t have to use them right away.

Of course, we make zucchini bread. And would you believe it, but I finally made my first zucchini bread – ever? Very good at breakfast, I must say. Also very versatile, since the zucchini tastes pretty neutral: add a couple of tablespoons of poppy seeds for a little crunch and an Eastern Europe inspiration; some chopped candies ginger and honey for a spicy cake; chunks of apples or pears for a creamier cake. Etc. You get the idea.

How about zucchini pancakes? (recommended by my friend Rose; I have not made that, but it’s worth a try… I suppose). Zucchini fritters, that’s quite tasty too.

Grated and squeezed hard, packed in one-cup containers, they also freeze well. None of that mushy texture. So you can make zucchini bread in winter.

But faced by mounds and mounds of grated zucchinis at the end of the season, and memory jogged by a post of Michael Ruhlman, I thought about the rougails from my native island. Read more

Making Radishes Lovable

There is somebody in the house who’s not so fond of radishes, especially radish leaf soup or stir-fried radish pods, but I’ve just hit the jackpot!

I made something with radishes where the reaction was: “I can eat radish like that all day long!” I am sure that was an exaggeration, and I won’t serve this at every meal. But I must admit it was good.

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In fact, the current crop of French Breakfast style radishes has peaked: they are gathering strengths to make seeds, and you can tell because the root is starting to a be little hollow. Still… I can’t throw them out.

Thanks to VeggieBelly, I’ve had fresh pickles on my mind – hers was mango, but hey, I don’t have mangoes, I have radishes – and what else do I have growing now? let’s see spring onions and cilantro – lots of cilantro as a matter of fact, and it’s starting to bolt because it did not like the few days above 90F (32C) that we had – so I need to use it.Voila, Quick Pickled Radish Salsa was born! We’ve tried it with several dishes, and we like it best with stir-fry beef, simple pork stew, hamburger steak and served with rice. Definitively need the rice to make up for the saltiness (and heat) of the pickle. And inspired by Marisa of Food In Jars who puts everything in jar, I jarred it. (if the radish salsa is not consumed right away, the radishes will start to turn pink throughout, continue to exude some juice and the texture will change somewhat – still very good – just not the same).

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Quick Pickled Radish Salsa Read more

Lovely Lemony Sorrel

There are indubitable signs of springs out there (besides the 2 minutes of additional daily daytime we are getting now).

For once, the snowdrops are nodding their tiny white bells in the still blustery gusts of wind and then, then!, yellow IS swelling the buds of the early daffodils. But for the ever hopeful kitchen gardener, a much surer sign that spring is coming is what’s budding, swelling, germinating, pushing up or otherwise showing signs of life in the vegetable garden.

Is there something fresh I can sink my teeth in – or at least wake up my taste buds (pun intended) with? Something green? With a little bite? Something… live? I have talked about reliable mache growing outside in winter, but a few other denizens that grow happily enough in a cold frame provide fresh taste at this time of the year: spinach, cutting celery, parsley, arugula, and sorrel are among them. They do not need a cold frame per se, but the protection provided by a cold frame allows them to send forth new leaves much earlier than their unprotected brethren, left totally outside in what is otherwise a generally bleak landscape at this time of the year.

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Sorrel might be less well known on the list, so let’s talk about it, a little, shall we? Read more

Fall Salad Days

I think I love my kitchen garden more in the fall then in the spring: cooler temperatures are accompanied by a lot less bugs and the beds are brimming with salad greens (sorrel, lettuce, frisée, endive, mache, arugula), cooking greens (tatsoi, pakchoi and other mustard, kale, Swiss Chard), peas (the shoots of which are delicious in salad too – besides the pods), carrots, celeriac, beets (the tops of which are also edible) and some cabbages. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash & pumpkins have been harvested and stored. The last of the tomatoes were brought in to ripen and the peppers picked before the first frost will remain good for a few more weeks.

But what I really love in that time of the year when we often have a little spell of Indian Summer with sunny warm days and mild nights is to feast on big bowls of fresh mixed greens salad. Back in August I was urging you to go and plant your fall garden. Remember? I hope you did sow your fall garden seeds then and are now harvesting the leaves of that effort. I am.

The two pictures above explain my planting fervor back in the heat of summer: the first one was taken on September 12 after transplanting various seedlings that had been sown in August. The second one was on October 24. (Click on the picture for a larger – and cleaner- version.)

The result is lots of salad lunches! Read more

Peach Salsa

(no picture of the salsa…. I know, I know…)

Ripe Yellow Peaches

Tomatoes however are really wonderful this year. And so are peaches (albeit I don’t grow peaches, several orchards in Rappahannock County have been keeping me happy: I have bought 2 ½ bushels to date).

So as I am cooking for others (well, for me too, of course!), I try to emphasize the bounty and freshness of our wonderful local produce. For example, on Saturday, we cooked for a lovely little party (21 people + 6 kids) where the hostess was very happy that we incorporated many fresh local vegetables and fruit in the menu. She wanted something simple but elegant to celebrate the wedding of one of her children: since the family loves peaches and peaches are so good this year, I made several dishes incorporating peaches: a fresh peach ice-cream with peach sauce, a lovely peach and blackberry salad macerated with lemon-verbena syrup. And then I made a side dish that had both peach and tomato (the other garden winner for me): a peach salsa served with Lamb Kebabs that had been marinated with olive oil and spices and herbs of the Mediterranean basin (cumin, coriander, thyme etc). Read more

Eating Red

Baskets of Tomatoes by S RowandYesterday’s tomato harvest from the lower garden was rather healthy – with the biggest tomato weighing in at more than a pound (from one of the “German Tree” plants grown from seeds purchased from Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds). So from now on – for the rest of the summer until the fall – there probably will be (I hope!) a pot of tomatoes simmering on the stove almost constantly. Whatever tomatoes I have harvested that day goes into the pot: German Tree, Flame, Roma, San Marzano, Super Sweet 100, Early Girl, Big Beef, German, Celebrity … in the pot. Right NOW. I know, I know some cultivars were bred specifically for sauce or canning (the Roma types), being more meaty and less seedy. But I just use whatever I harvest: I have over 70 plants and the tomatoes are coming fast, so they need to processed fast.

I put them in a big pot with just a little water, bring it to boil and then simmer. After a while – which depends on what else I am doing – I will process them through the manual food mill to separate the seed and skin from the pulp. I decide then if I have time to make sauce by simmering a few hours longer with a chopped onions, some minced garlic and herbs, or if puree is good enough. And then they are canned. They’ll be used in the colder months to make the slow-cooking dishes of winter: lasagna, spaghetti a la Bolognese, puttanesca sauce, meat balls in red sauce & sunny stews. And simple red pizzas – albeit not slow-cooked, a good pizza from scratch is a dish worth opening a good bottle for.

Freezing works too, except the freezer is getting rather full already.

As far as eating them now: tomato sandwiches, gazpacho, tomato salad in its many many many incarnations are now a staple at the table.

And still, once in while, I’ll make a pot of Fresh Simmered Tomato Sauce that will not be frozen. The sauce will keep for a week or so in the fridge and can be used for pasta and pizza (grilled if you please, I am not using the oven in this heat!). Easy to prepare, it’s a nice sauce to make on a day you are home – maybe coming back from the farmers’ market with a load of tomatoes. While it takes a several hours to make the sauce, the active time is not that great. You can start the sauce and the onions in the morning after picking your tomatoes and let it cook for several hours. If you are not around, turn the heat off, and when you are back, turn the heat back on. The only special utensil you need is a food mill to remove the seeds and the skins. Read more