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Smitten with Squash: Glazed Brussels sprouts & butternut squash (with a bit of food history thrown in)

brussels sprouts

On a chilly October morning, a stroll through my favorite farmers market yielded a large sack of winter squash from a lone man in the last row, his cheeks cherry red from the harsh wind. Unsure what to do with these odd-shaped ugly ducklings, I knew I was yearning for comfort food, seeking solace from a constant internal roar brought on by a chaotic job. Winter squash were not part of my cooking routine, but I sank into a rhythm as I peeled away the sandy brown rind of a butternut squash. As I revealed its gorgeous burnt-orange flesh, appreciation for the beauty of this squash struck me. 

 

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Eat Your Medicine: Five common herbs that pack medicinal clout

herbs

Although I grow an array of vegetables every season, sometimes I still look across our fields and imagine lush medicinal gardens boasting fantastically named choices like feverfew, juniperus, damiana, or blackwort. Maybe, I think, I could even pull off some false unicorn? 

 

Then I realize that with the amount of wild plants bordering the farm — stinging nettle, evening primrose, lambs quarters, and plantain in abundance — along with culinary herbs, I really do have the medicinal garden of my dreams.

 

Many herb books make a distinction between culinary and medicinal herbs, but the truth is that there are numerous plants that overlap those categories. That means it's possible you're already getting a nice dose of medicinal power just by throwing some fresh herbs into your dinner. Here are five of my favorite picks, with a few ideas on how to use them.

 

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Root Vegetables: Slow-roasted goodness

turnips2

If you find fall root vegetables unfamiliar and baffling, you’re not alone. Turnips and rutabagas are often big and unwieldy; they’re hard and seem to need forever to cook. Celery root can be shaggy, dirty, and mottled green. And sunchokes look like — well, like nothing else in the market. They’re knobby and woody on the outside, like bloated ginger root. Once you get past their looks, however, there is plenty of delicious local flavor to be unlocked in these fall vegetables.

 

Rutabagas and turnips are like siblings who are constantly being mistaken for one another. In fact, what Americans call a rutabaga or a Swede (to the great amusement of the rest of Scandinavia) is called a turnip in some other English-speaking countries.

 

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Kitchen DIY: Homemade corned beef

homemade corned beef

Even though St. Patrick’s Day is half a year away, I’m going to try to convince you to make your own corned beef. 

 

The word “corned” was originally a term used for the word grain or kernel. It refers to curing beef with “grains” of salt. We eat this dish every couple of months. It’s so good that I can’t possibly make it just once a year in celebration of my husband’s (very minimal) Irish heritage. And for the record, this version is the best corned beef I’ve ever tasted. Full stop.

 

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Vino 101: Provence in a different light 

cezanne provence

Ah, summer in Provence. Even for those who've never been, the mere mention conjures images of lavender fields, azure seas, and quaint villages stacked on hilltops or hugging the coast. Food lovers dream of a sunny cuisine based on the ample fruits of the land and sea — ratatouille, bouillabaisse, and pan bagnat, preferably in a seaside café, all of it washed down with a classic Provençal rosé. 

 

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Absurdly Easy: Chai tea, with a kick of spice and sweetness

chai tea

I've come to find that certain situations are handled best with a hot beverage. Waking up to a gray morning, for instance, or stretching out on a quiet afternoon with a book in hand. Or, say, after getting caught in a warm August rainfall on a Sunday walk (hey, since when does it rain around here?). My beverage of choice for these times: a steaming cup of chai tea.

 

There’s something endlessly soothing about the warmth and spiciness of chai tea. The heat of ginger and spices – cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns – steeps with black tea to create a rich, spicy concentrate. Mix this in equal parts with milk, and you’ve got a rich, creamy drink that’s unlike anything else.

 

I’ve ordered chai at coffee shops all around town. My favorite versions have a strong punch of spice and just a hint of sweetness. But why shop around? It turns out that the perfect cup of chai can be made right in your own kitchen.

 

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Summer's Last Hurrah: Curried corn and zucchini fritters with cilantro mint chutney

corn and zucchini fritters

Recently, I realized that there's only a few weeks left of my children’s summer vacation. It was a punch to the stomach. Only a couple weeks left to get out there and drink in the summer, to make memories. They are seven and five, and for anyone that has or has had children of these ages, you probably understand why I feel that these ages are perfect.

 

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Kitchen DIY: Homemade ricotta cheese

ricotta bruschetta

If the ultimate DIY project is one that is surprisingly easy, and drastically better than the store-bought stuff, then I’ve got the world’s greatest food project for you: homemade ricotta cheese. 

 

Ricotta cheese was never a serious player in my food repertoire. It had typically been a background note, layered in lasagna, stuffed into pasta shells, stirred into a casserole. Never did it stand out as a main ingredient to celebrate.

 

But then, recipes for homemade ricotta started popping up on the Web. And, some of my favorite bloggers were singing its soft, creamy praises. I’m always up for a cooking project, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

 

And here’s what I learned: wow, it’s easy, and wow, it’s good.

 

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