Recipes

Roasted Tomato Soup for a Fall Supper

If you’re wondering why I would be talking tomatoes in October, you can rest easy. I’m not talking just any tomatoes. I’m talking ugly ass tomatoes. And I mean that in a nice way. Ugly ass tomatoes are like rainy days. Bear with me – this is a super tortured simile. You know how when it’s sunny, you feel guilty if you’re not outside? After a while, a rainy day comes as a relief because you don’t have to feel bad about poking around inside the house, right? Well, in August, when the tomatoes are gorgeous and bursting with life and flavor, you probably feel guilty eating them any way but raw. Turning a beautiful August tomato into sauce seems wrong somehow. But right now, giant buckets of ugly ass tomatoes are being sold for a song at the farmers markets. You don’t have to feel guilty about roasting them, simmering them, or cooking them into sweet caramelized submission because they are cheap, plentiful and so very ugly ass. And, like a rainy day, what a relief!

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Celebrating Squash at Prairie Garden Farm

My trek from suburbanite to flower farmer extends over two decades, dozens of how-to books and magazine subscriptions, and the practical (read “backbreaking”) experience of digging in dirt and watching things grow. My friends and family sometimes question my sanity, but walking to the barn in the early morning, hearing the turkeys call from the wetlands below and watching a bald eagle soar above assures me that I made the right choice. Part of seeking an “idyllic” country life stemmed from the wish to produce and preserve much of the food I eat. From chickens to grass fed beef to chemical free garden produce, I have tried it all and have been rewarded with healthy, abundant food for going on ten years.

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The Code of the Mason Jar. A Canner's Manifesto, Part II

It’s beautiful to me to have traditions that tie me to the seasons. Progress has gone to great lengths to insulate us from the natural rise and fall of the year; air conditioning and gas furnaces keep us the same temperature all year; car trips extend that same homogeneity to travel; it doesn’t much matter when the days get shorter because the lights are always on. The cumulative effect is that we feel we can effectively ignore the sun, the moon, and the weather almost all of the time--except as the subject of light conversation. The year grows flat and featureless. 

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The Code of the Mason Jar. A Canner's Manifesto, Part I

Making homemade pickles has been a whimsical annual tradition in my family since I was a boy, and when I first lived with my bride-to-be out West, we thought it would be nice to carry on the tradition despite being far from home. The enthusiasm that produced those first few jars of pickles soon begat small batches of jams and jellies, experiments with dilly beans, a few stewed tomatoes, some apple sauce, and so on and so forth. 

We have always cooked and gardened together, and soon found out that canning is very much a logical, aesthetic, and creative extension of those activities. Each year we have done a little more of each, and each year the three pastimes have fed one another, producing always more abundant, delicious, and inventive results. This trend has continued happily and unabated into our marriage and through our move home to Minnesota, but recently I’m growing concerned about its proportions.

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The Healthy Taste of Sour Foods

Like bitter flavors, sourness is Nature’s way of waving a red flag over a substance that is unripe, spoiled or otherwise inedible. But for those of us who don’t mind a bit of tartness on the tongue, this warning signal may actually be the first sign of some healthy benefits.

Tip of the Tongue

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Autumn, Cooking, Motherly Love: Part 2

The first part of this story began with me reminiscing about my mother, her cooking and why it is the most real food ever. After writing Autumn, Cooking, Motherly Love: Part 1, I decided to invite my mom out to spend the week cooking with me. Before I share her recipes with you, I'd like to relay a few lingering thoughts I’ve learned from these experiences in the kitchen, with my mom. 

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Autumn, Cooking, Motherly Love: Part 1

I’m going to dedicate this entry to my mom, my dearest, best friend in the world. My favorite memories from childhood are simple and often connected to three simple things: fall, my mom, and my mom’s cooking. My mom’s cooking, in my mind, is the most authentic, wonderful and delicious that I have yet encountered. I now live near L.A. where the wealth of restaurants in a one mile radius outweighs the number of people in my entire hometown, but I would rather have her cooking on any given day than that of a premiere restaurant with an award winning chef. I say all of this only because I absolutely cherish what she was able to accomplish in our home and in her kitchen on a meager budget and without a Whole Foods anywhere in the state. That’s sort of like a modern day miracle.  (Don’t tell, but I still don’t think she even knows what a Whole Foods is).

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Saving Beans, Making Chili

As an avid but admittedly novice gardener, there is always one area where I tend to let things go. Some years I put everything in the ground, remember to water, but let the weeds go crazy. Other years, I get behind in sowing seed and too much or too little comes up. Sometimes watering is inconsistent and my garden suffers and bears little. However, there is one problem I have every year: keeping up with the beans. 

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Pin-Up Girl Eggplant - A Savory Dish for those Purple Beauties

I don't know about you, but I find it virtually impossible to walk by an eggplant and not pick it up. They are just so beautiful. The heft, the mysterious deep purple skin, the smooth contours just speak to me. They are the plump and saucy pin-up girls of the vegetable world and I am always seduced. I had visions of creamy curries and crusty parmesans as I filled my basket with one, two, OK, three too many at the Kingfield Farmers Market on Sunday. But as much as the aubergine beauties might have been calling to me from my kitchen counter, the last honeyed days of summer were calling me even more.
Instead of hopping on the computer and hungrily searching my favorite food blogs for recipes, I went for a long and lazy late afternoon swim at Lake Harriet. My son and I swam way far out past the buoys until we could barely recognize the rest of our tiny family on shore.
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Inventing Carrot Pie

Even though we belong to a CSA, even though we visit our local farmer’s market most weeks, and even though we buy much of our produce at the local co-op…we still have a garden. Our garden is a 20’ x 20’ space in the Parks Department’s community garden, out on the edge of town. (How far on the edge? If we get there before 9am, we can drive across the road and watch horses and cows sharing a stream and fields.) We started our garden in mid-June, which felt criminally late to me, and thanks to a cold spring, the vegetables have taken their time getting settled in and producing. 

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