Rhubarb: Memories and New Inspirations

When I was young, my grandfather lived in the country near Rochester, Minnesota, and had an abundant vegetable garden. Walking down its paths in the spring, you would see what would be rows of carrots, greens, potatoes, eggplant, a trellis where the french beans would climb, and then, in the corner of the garden, a huge rhubarb plant, already lush and green. I remember pulling up a stalk of that rhubarb with all my might. Dipping it in sugar I would crunch into it and pucker my lips as its juice ran down my chin. Its taste always reminds me of this childhood happiness. I must say this is still my favorite way to eat rhubarb—there is a spontaneous joy in picking a stalk, cutting off the leaves, and eating it then and there. Yesterday afternoon, I was in the Linden Hills Coop in Minneapolis and saw one of the cashiers sitting at a table taking her break.

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Spring Green Puttanesca Sauce and a Few of My Favorite Things

If you are a woman anywhere near my age and I started singing Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . . . chances are good you would pipe in immediately with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens! All together now! Brown paper packages, tied up with striiiiing. These are a few of my favorite thiiiings! OK, I’ll stop. But I know you’re feeling it. Try as I might, I can’t get my kids interested in The Sound of Music. I guess children in lederhosen made out of curtains singing with a nun can’t compete with the likes of Harry Potter and The Black Eyed Peas. 


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Everyday Salad Dressings

The greens are growing wildly in my garden, the spinach is getting munched up as soon as the leaves are as big as half dollars. Soon, I will be buried in salad greens from the crunchy and mild butter crisp lettuces at the farmers markets, to the mix of lettuces and other cutting greens in my garden. Add in the mustard greens and dill that grow everywhere in my yard now and I'm set to eat as much salad as I can handle. The only way that is going to happen is if I have great dressings constantly on hand. This is key. I mean, I love a spot of salad with every little thing, but if I have to make dressing every time or suffer through another bland canola oil based bottle of store bought dressing (for $5 bucks, no less), then there is no way this massive influx of greens will get eaten. Some will inevitably end up a slime project in the bottom of my crisper.

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Feeding the Family: Spring Asparagus Recipes

It's been a rough "spring" here in Minnesota. There have been a few peeks of sunshine, followed by gray rainy days, and even snow. While we're fortunate not to have tornadoes, everyone looks a little glum, save on those few, lovely days that have been far too infrequent of late.

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The Bitter Melon Truth

“Why so blue, Red?” Spinach asked ironically.

“They called me a vegetable wannabe,” replied a less-than-cheery Cherry Tomato, pointing to a group of gourds nearby.

“Ignore them,” Rhubarb tartly advised. “They’re just Bitter Melons.”

You’ve probably come across them at the farmers’ market - strange produce that look like cucumbers with a bad case of warts. Perhaps you stopped to examine them, wondering how they would taste. Maybe you even asked the friendly vendor what they were, only to turn away at the word ‘bitter’, leaving behind those lonely knobby gourds for another curious shopper to find.

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Judith Fertig's "Heartland" Cookbook Celebrates Local Food in the Midwest

Judith Fertig's Heartland: The Cookbook is big and beautiful, filled with lovely farm photos (like the one on its cover) and cozy stories from cities and towns across the Midwest. It's the kind of book that anyone with an interest in farm-to-table food in the Midwest would be happy to give -- or get -- as a gift. Just having it on my kitchen counter makes me feel good.

Heartland's terrific photos and engaging stories would make it a perfect coffee table book, if it were just that. But at its core Heartland is a cookbook, and an excellent one at that.

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Dorie Greenspan's Leek and Potato Soup: Perfect in France and North Dakota

If I am going to get a new cookbook, the best possible situation is to have my dad next to me when I do. I can’t think of a better companion for looking through recipes. Who else but my father reads through lists of ingredients with as much relish as I do, as if they were suspenseful novellas? Who else immediately starts thinking about how to change -- and improve -- recipes that we haven’t even tried yet? Nobody, that’s who.

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A Pressure Cooker is "The Single Most Important Piece of Cookware You’ll Ever Own"

"The Single Most Important Piece of Cookware You’ll Ever Own." That's what it says on the cover of the little instruction book that came with my pressure cooker. My purchase was inspired by the amazingly healthy, hearty Italian farming family I lived with in Sicily for three weeks. The family followed a macrobiotic diet, and their pressure cooker was used at least three times a day. I decided that if I couldn’t bring their sunshine, olives, and almonds home with me, I could at least try to re-create their cooking methods.

A few months after returning to snowy Minnesota, my memories of perfectly cooked greens and grains fading quickly, I pulled a shiny but average-looking stainless steel pot out of the box, flipped through the uninspiring recipes included in the booklet, and rolled my eyes at the cookware company’s brash claim. Two years later, however, while I haven’t quite worked up to three times a day, I use my pressure cooker several times a week. I am a total convert.

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Lemon Meringue Pie Brings Sunshine During a Long Winter

Here in the last stretch of North Dakota winter (I hope!), the landscape continues to present itself in shades of white, grey, black, and brown. I started knitting a spring scarf last weekend, in the hopes of luring warmer weather. When I pull into the garage each afternoon, the old Weber grill looks more and more forlorn. My daughter, Cora, feels a deep sense of betrayal that the groundhog promised spring would come early -- liar!

Recently, my husband’s parents came to visit from southern California, and while they did not bring any warm weather with them, they did bring a bag full of fresh Meyer lemons from their backyard tree -- not certified organic, of course, but organic nonetheless. A whole bag of yellow orbs bright as the summer sun and, I know from experience, bursting with juice and flavor.

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Feeding the Family: Simple Good and Tasty Oats

McDonald's recently added oatmeal to their breakfast menu. Behold, the ingredients of a "simple" bowl of McDonald's oatmeal:

Oatmeal: whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.

Diced Apples: apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).

Cranberry Raisin Blend
: dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative).

Light Cream: milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

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