Archive for Vegetable recipe

Thoughts on Canning Tomatoes

Students who take my canning class tell me that one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to canning is … surprise!…  time. (the other is the commendable desire not to sicken one’s family)

I will not prattle about how time used now is time saved later … and other opinions/musings/ramblings etc. I have expressed myself about food preserving in general and  canning specifically before here.

I will not give an on-line canning lesson either – that’s much better done in this nifty, detailed and clearly written USDA guide.  And here, also are the answer to a bunch of commonly asked canning questions from the same source.

All laid out for water-bath canning tomato sauce

But I am here to tell you that canning tomato sauce does not have to be a day-long process. Tasks can be broken down is steps that be performed over several days, with the last day being a couple of hours. Total time is somewhat longer than if done at once. But, for for me, 4 times 2 hours is more manageable than 7 hours at once. Read more

It’s Okra Time

I used to start okra early in cell packs. Not until after the spent peas or favas were pulled out in early summer, did they get finally planted out – all miserable after such an over-extended stay in tight quarters. In bad years, I would even try to use them as a late crop and direct seed them sometimes in July – or even early August. Like I do for beans. What a waste. Never could they produce a good crop. Never could I harvest enough. And I resented the space they took too.

okra buds

Young okra pods and okra buds

Okra loves the kind of weather I despise: hot, muggy, sultry, air so  thick with suspended water vapor you feel you are in a  steam sauna… bugs a-bonus and no icy fount to cool in. That what they want to grow and fruit. If I must put a sweater on, okra sulks. The wrong side of 60° F for more than 2 days, and okra retires!

So, having decided that okra deserves its own bed early on, and needs not languish until after I belatedly pull up something to make room to cram it in, I  direct seeded in mid-to-late-May. It has been loving it. Make enough mistakes and you can learn too! Read more

Mushroom and Spinach Soup


This recipe was originally published in the Seasonal Table Column that I write for Flavor Magazine (Oct-Nov 2011 issue).

As the weather cools off, spinach is happily growing for us again, a versatile green delicious raw or cooked. I love the earthy combination of spinach and mushrooms, in salads, stews or soups. And since cultivated mushrooms are available year long in the Mid-Atlantic, some foraged, some grown outdoors like shiitake on logs and others in mushroom houses, local mushrooms are fairly easy to find. You can use any mushroom for this soup, including white mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms. And for a splurge, go for shiitakes or oyster mushrooms or any other that strike your fancy.


Mushroom and Spinach Soup Read more

On Making Tomato Paste

10 pounds of tomatoes = 12 fl oz of tomato paste.

Or conserva as the Italians call it.

Three years ago, I was using  Saveur Magazine’s recipe and Italian-type tomatoes to make tomato paste.  I have since learned to use any tomatoes to make tomato paste, not the just the processing type (although they are unquestionably preferable), because you know, I do plant a lot of tomatoes (big, small & medium, and giant) and in good years, we have lots of fruit.  Since the beefsteak tomatoes have a lot more juice, the trick is to get the water out of them. I steam them: I know, it sound contradictory, but it works. I also found that I’d rather use a lower temperature and more time, to avoid burning the paste – which is extremely easy to do toward the end.

The paste does not take a lot of active time (except for the food-mill part) but requires you to be around so you can stir it every hour at the beginning of the oven time, more often as the puree changes to past.

And of course, you could spread the work over a few days: Steam to tomatoes on Day 1 (refrigerate), pass through the food mill on Day 2 (refrigerate) and bake on Day 3.

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A Good Year For Morels

It’s been a good year for morels… they are even reported to be growing in people’s front yard or back yard or back door. Not mine though. Keith has to go hunt them in the woods. It’s such a good year in fact that our world famous restaurant The Inn at Little Washington is selling them at the Inn Shops. It is said that many morel hunters will show up at the Inn’s back door to sell their catch… it must be very many with lots of bags then…

But after a dry winter, we’ve had rain, lots of rain (some with flooding), extremely mild spring temperatures – we’ve only hit 85F (yesterday) and it’s cooling off again. Some years we have high temperatures much earlier in April. I think morels like a mild spring with some cool nights (but not frosty). In other words… they like my kind of spring weather. Read more

Winter Pickles: Sunroots aka Jerusalem Artichokes

Undemanding. Vigorous. Pretty in a blowzy sorts of way. Tall. You could almost be talking about me. But not quite: Helianthus tuberosus is what I mean. You know: Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes, sunroots, earth apple, tobinambours. Look at them in that somewhat blurry September picture, towering over the arches of the cold frame  – well over 8 feet tall (the arches top at 4 feet tall and the ground is sloping up, so the prospective is somewhat distorted). But tall they will grow in decent garden soil, and that only from spring to fall as they are an herbaceous  perennial –  impressive, no?


The bright yellow  flower is cheerful and pretty too, in an unsophisticated care-free sorts of way – although small when compared to the overall plant size. Nothing like its fat headed cousin the annual sunflower.

Some people actually things sunroots are “invasive”. Well… for those of us on the Eastern North American seabord, that’s impossible: Helianthus tuberosus is native to Eastern North America (from Quebec to North Florida and as west as North Dakota). How can something native be invasive? Read more

Snow Day


What is it about a snowy day that makes me reach for comfort food?  It’s rather funny actually. We’ve had horrendous days this winter, cold and blustery, wind blowing at 50 miles an hour in 20 degree weather and no snow cover – terribly hard on animals and plants, and humans too. And no special yearning for comfort food. And then comes the much awaited much hoped for snow, finally. Finally, since the previous snow storms went either North, South or West of us, leaving us desperately parched, and feeling cursed. All in all, it was not that much, maybe 5 or 6 inches of wet snow. But I am grateful. And let’s face it: I like snow in winter.

And so maybe it’s a little celebration of sorts this need for comfort food? A sign that, after all, things are OK; Read more

Roasting Cauliflower

In the colder months, we roast, braise, bake and generally use the oven without hesitation. Roasting vegetables is a great way to make their flavor really shine.  For cauliflower (as well as for other members of the cabbage family), roasting also mitigates the “boiled-cabbage” odor that can permeate the house – one that so many people find objectionable.  And while we have plenty of other veggies at the moment (roots, tubers and hardy greens) that are delicious roasted, cauliflower is possibly the vegetable that really benefits from roasting. If you ever had boiled or steamed cauliflower and lamented its ensuing sogginess, you know what I mean…

A few weeks ago I was hired to make side dishes for a large birthday party, and roasted cauliflower with capers was on the menu. Another version – a little spicier – is one I also like, as it combines ginger (a favorite spice of mine), garlic & jalapenos.  The dish can be served immediately while warm – or at room temperature. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated; in which case, take it out of the fridge about 1 hour before serving time to bring it to room temperature. It’s – in other words – perfect for the potluck parties that are looming around at this time of the year.

If you have had boiled cauliflower before and did not care for it, try roasting it before totaling giving up on it.


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When The Garden Gives You Lots Of Greens…

… start a vegetable weekly subscription and make Mongolian-style sauce (lots and lots of it!)

I certainly grow more than we can eat – and we eat lots of veggies! Yet I don’t grow enough for selling at a Farmer’s Market or to a restaurant. But even with all the preserving I do, it’s too much just for us. And let’s face it: some things don’t preserve that well anyway (lettuce sauerkraut, anyone?). Or I have no need to preserve them, because I’ll be growing them through the cold months. Why preserve when you can eat fresh? You know: the mâche, arugula, mustards, lettuces, onions, kale, turnips, spinach, Swiss Chard, and other greens.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Find a few people who don’t have a garden, are interested in super fresh food, and are willing to receive whatever I grow. That’s what a girl does.

So my mini (or rather “nano”) subscription scheme started last year. I am not a professional grower, so I do not want to commit for the entire “growing” season, and I want to give myself, and my clients, a way out if  I can’t sustain it – or if they don’t like it. So I offer the  subscription in 7 to 8 weeks increment (Spring, early summer, high summer, fall) and only to a handful of clients. A chef’s CSA.

So far so good.  We are in week 2 of spring, and that’s what my Thursday subscriber got today:


Rougail Zucchini


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