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mint cropped

There’s nothing like mint during the dog days of summer. I’ve got a pot of mint growing outside the back door, and I love to snip some and toss it into anything I’m cooking. It makes almost anything better. Two of my favorite summer mint recipes:

Chilled Mint Borscht

beets: 4 large or 7 or 8 small
1 onion, chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium summer squash or zuchinni, chopped
2 cups chopped red cabbage
5 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup sour cream
1 TBSP worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP sugar (or to taste)
handful of mint leaves

Wrap beets in foil and roast in a 350 degree for @ 1 hr. or until tender. When cool, peel and chop. Saute onion in oil. When soft, add carrots, squash, beets and cabbage. Cover with chicken broth and simmer until all vegies are soft. Puree in blender in batches. While blending the last batch, add the sour cream and mint and blend until the mint is chopped and the sour cream well mixed. Stir this into the rest of the pureed soup. It should be shocking pink now. Add the vinegar, worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt and pepper to your taste. Chill before serving.

Edamame Mint Pesto (this makes a great spread on crackers or on a sandwich)

1 cup of loosely packed mint leaves
2 anchovies
2 cloves garlic, loosely chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 ½ cup shelled edamame (the size of a Trader Joe’s package)
¼ cup almond meal
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

In a food processor, process mint, anchovies, garlic and olive oil until mint is well chopped.
Add remaining ingredients and pulse till the mixture becomes a coarse puree.

Makes about 2 cups.

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Re-entry after a retreat can be tough. After being very quiet for two weeks, the speed of the regular world can feel unpleasantly jangly. I’m trying to heed the advice of one of the retreat teachers and spend some time each day at the pace of trees, rocks, and plants.

This morning I ambled down to the water, and oh! the scent of roses! The wild multiflora roses have been blooming this week, soaking the atmosphere with their seductive scent.

For the other 51 weeks of the year they are a nasty nuisance, aggressively trying to take over the yard and gashing me with their vicious thorns when I try to hack them back. (The cutting only makes them more vigorous.)

But this week, their cascades of tiny white blossoms and swoon-worthy fragrance are pure, transient beauty.

Next week, they’ll be back on my enemies list, but for the moment, it’s love.

Every year when I order my garden seeds, I imagine myself starting a fall crop of cold-tolerant veggies after the summer harvest is over.  Not once have I ever followed through, in spite of ordering countless packages of broccoli seed. Whereas planting seeds in the moist spring soil feels fresh and hopeful, by hot mid-July (when I’m barely keeping up with the bugs and weeds) it has no magic.

Fortunately, we are surrounded by farmers who do plant for fall, who can provide us with fresh local vegetables all winter long, available at a growing number of winter farmers markets. 

But we’re not talking tomatoes and beans, we’re talking about hearty greens and root vegetables, as well as the veggies that store well like potatoes and winter squashes. You have to make seasonal adjustments in your cooking, but that’s okay…there are plenty of recipes that go well with winter.

Here are a couple I’ve been making lately:

THAI CARROT AND SQUASH SOUP

1 TBSP oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6  cups of chicken broth
1/4 cup white rice
1 TBSP cumin
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of Cayenne pepper (optional, or you may prefer more if you like your soup hot)
8 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 – 3 tsp fish sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
juice of 1 – 2 limes
fresh cilantro

Saute the onion and ginger in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 45 more seconds,  till fragrant.

Add the broth and rice and bring to a boil. Add carrots, squash, and dry spices. Reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are soft and rice is cooked.  Add coconut milk and stir.

Puree the soup in your blender in batches. Return to pot and add fish sauce, soy sauce, and lime. (Start with the smaller amount of lime and fish sauce, then test for flavor and add more if you like. I like lotsa lime juice.) 

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

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Thank you to our neighbor Fred’s daughter, Liberty, for the Kale Salad below. After I had it at Fred’s house I pestered him till I got the recipe. It’s an answer to the question, “What the heck do we do with all this kale?” asked by anyone who belongs to a CSA.

KALE SALAD

1 bunch kale washed and dried
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 carrot peeled and grated (or however you want it)
1 zucchini, quartered and then sliced thinly 

Grip the kale firmly and strip leaves from stems to make “pants.” Cut into thin slices. Massage the kale in a big bowl with the olive oil to break down the fibrousness. Add salt and massage more. Add the other stuff. 

“Hail Kale” Caesar Dressing

1 cup cashews, soaked 20 minutes (or more)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ribs celery
2 TBSP tamari
2 TBSP agave or honey
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP miso paste
2 cloves garlic 

Puree all dressing ingredients in a blender until creamy, toss with the salad. Leftover dressing is good on all kinds of other salads.

 

 

 

There are four assorted fruit trees in our yard. We do nothing to encourage them  – no pruning, no spraying – so usually they yield a scattering of malformed, worm-riddled fruits that fall to the ground without ripening.

But every once in a while, one of the trees gets happy. Two years ago it was the peach tree. This year it was the apple. There must be a thousand apples on this tree, and while not completely spot-free, they’re big and tasty. I think the variety is Honey Crisp, which is a sport of Golden Delicious.

We picked a bunch of the low-hanging ones last weekend (the best ones were tantalizingly out of reach).  And I made applesauce, and this:

This Swedish Apple pie is really good, especially warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream. But let me tell you the best thing about it: you can start it when your guests are in their car on the way to your house, and have it in the oven by the time the doorbell rings. It’s that quick!

 

No-crust Swedish Apple Pie

Peel and slice 3 – 4 pie apples (Granny Smiths are good) and toss with 1 TBSP sugar. Mound in a pie pan. It should be 2/3 full.

Mix in a bowl:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon

Pour the batter over the apples and spread to the edges of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or till golden brown

The first clue I had was the envelope addressed to Barnstable Tree Service on the hall table. Then I discovered green caterpillars all over the hood of my car, dead. Clearly, the trees in the yard had been sprayed, an annual event I greet with mixed feelings. Without a doubt, it’s nice to end the rain of poop. Read the rest of this entry »

At the risk of sounding like a crank, I want to talk about the Big Lie of gardening, the one set forth in hundreds of glossy magazines each spring, illustrated with mouth-watering photography. It says that gardening is a way to bring happiness and tranquility into our lives.

I’ve been a passionate gardener most of my adult life, and I’m not saying that I’ve never experienced pleasure or beauty while gardening. Read the rest of this entry »

Brussel sprouts

If I were trying to live off the land on Cape Cod, I would be very grateful for brussels sprouts. I planted a lot of them in the garden last spring and they’re still hanging on today, in spite of weeks of freezing weather and deep snow.

 Last night I snapped a dinner’s worth of frozen sprouts off the stalks. Once thawed, they behaved just like fresh. I’m quite fond of the earthy vegetal personality of brussels sprouts, but until recently I never ate them any way but boiled or steamed, with a little butter (a touch of mustard is good, too).

Then, last year, I had addiction-inducing salad of shaved raw brussel sprouts at a trendy restaurant in New York City. That one had Jerusalem artichokes in it, (not something I’m likely to have in the fridge), but I’m wild about fennel and often have some on hand. This is my own version of that New York salad. 

(Incidently, if you imagine living off the land on Cape Cod, visit one of my new favorite blogs, http://www.starvingofftheland.com/)  

Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Fennel Salad

1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed of stems and any discolored leaves, sliced very thin with a sharp knife
Half a fennel bulb, cored and sliced very thin
1/4 cup pecans, toasted in an oven and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Toss everything together with 1/4 cut good olive oil, @ 3 TBSP fresh lemon  juice and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.  Salt to taste.
Let sit for a few minutes before serving to let flavors mingle.

starting seedsI started seeds today: tomatoes, chanterais melons, zucchini, eggplant, and brussels sprouts. I pushed the seeds into peat pellets and set them out in two lasagna pans covered with saran wrap. Once they sprout, I’ll put them in a sunny window. Come August, I hope my tiny seeds will have turned into a bounty of fruits and vegetables.

Starting seeds is a springtime ritual, a tiny miracle, and a rich metaphor. Read the rest of this entry »

mud-playI like mud. I always have, judging from this picture of me at the age of three. (That’s my sister in the background, looking appalled.) To play in the mud is to embrace the funky side of life, getting dirty, wet, and cold, and loving it.

Today, I thought about my lifelong affinity for mud as I dug a big hole in the backyard. Read the rest of this entry »

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