Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cover those veggies: peanut sauce

What a plateful of naked vegetables and rice needs is a thick, sweet sauce to pull them all together.

Welcome this African inspired peanut sauce, based on a recipe from the Moosewood classic, "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant." The Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY was part of a movement that tutored a generation of hippies and vegetarians in a new American cuisine, in which we seek out inspiration from everywhere in the world for methods and spices, while still eating what grows locally.

This peanut sauce is not made from such local stuff. But I start with local onions, and substitute local tomatoes (put up last year) for the juice in the original recipe. Plus, it's a delicious way to eat local vegetables.

Another kitchen tip: Buy bananas ahead, ripen in a bag, then freeze them in Ziplocs for smoothies, or to add to this dish.

Peanut Sauce

4 cups chopped onion
1/8 cup peanut oil
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 T freshly ground ginger root
2 mashed, ripe bananas
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup apricot juice
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste

Saute chopped onions until clear, then add cayenne, ginger, and banana. Stir for 5 more minutes, then add juices and stir in. Simmer ten minutes, then add peanut butter and salt.

Serve over rice and steamed vegetables. Also excellent with chicken.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dark and Stormier Cocktail

This spicy ginger drink makes hot summer nights easier to bear.

I like my ginger beer wicked hot. Sometimes I get Sally Fallon's recipe for brewing my own ginger beer to work, and sometimes I don't. When it fails to culture, I now have a product I can buy that's local and as good as I can make at home.

At the Taste of Massachusetts Wine Festival last month, a long line snaked all around the Tri County Fairgrounds. I noticed ginger beer in the program, and made a beeline for it. Green River Ambrosia bottles a Ginger Libation with serious punch. It's so good, Dave bought a case of it, right there. Kevin and I have been buying it, a couple bottles at a time, from Liquors 44 or River Valley Market, both here in Northampton. Drink it chilled over ice, for a kick equivalent to beer, fizz like a soda pop, and a powerful ginger flavor. If I can't use the whole bottle at once, I save the bottle from going flat for a day or two by tightly securing the top of the bottle with a sandwich bag and a rubber band.

Ginger Libation is one of the ingredients in a Dark and Stormier. A regular Dark N' Stormy uses non-alcoholic ginger beer and a shot of Gosling's Black Seal rum. Several versions of the Dark N' Stormier exist, including this one here that has a recipe for brewing ginger beer using Champagne yeast. Here's our own more emphatic version.

Dark and Stormier


1 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1 oz Kraken spiced rum
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
4 oz Ginger Libation


Fill a highball glass (or any 8 oz glass) with ice. Juice the lemon half over the ice. Add a shot each of ginger liqueur and spiced rum. Top with Ginger Libation and stir. Serve with a brightly colored straw.

Check out this post on Hard core soft drinks for a recipe to brew your own alcoholic root beer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You can't "beet" free greens

The "Eat More Kale" campaign might finally be working. But there are other leafy green vegetables out there, if you're open to some introductions.

Kale is cool these days. Everybody's eating kale salad, kale crisps, and drinking kale smoothies. I like a little kale in my salad, but mostly, I like it steamed or braised. I eat some kind of greens nearly every day, more in the summer when they're abundant. Our farm share has been running for a month, and always starts up with plenty of tender young greens. The first shares include turnips, beets, and kohlrabi, all with their greens attached. I've been cooking them all up together in a quick saute with garlic scapes and onions.

These greens feel like "extra" because in past years, I wouldn't have kept the greens. This year, I've been separating the greens from their bulbs or roots, sorting the edible leaves, and composting the rest, to make it easier to fit everything in. Often I'll decide what order to cook vegetables by how unwieldy they are to store. A whole Napa cabbage reduced to two recipes of mustard cabbage with cumin and tomato? Yes, please. I put half in the freezer and we ate the other half last week.

Strawberries were here and now they're gone, ditto sugar snap peas. We captured a few quarts of each and froze them, but we're already moving into green bean season. The year runs so fast, especially in the summer. Before I know it, it will be tomato season.

This past winter was a difficult one for the two of us. A chronic back problem flared up, and I have spent almost a year in bed, on heavy pain medication. Physical therapy, chiropractic, and orthopedic specialists haven't yet put me back together again. I can't ride my bike five miles to pick berries, this summer.

Euro-sealed sugar snap peas
After a winter of having to be taken care of, I want to be back on my feet, but I still rely on Kevin more than I did last summer, and one of those ways is that he now gets the farm share on Mondays after work, instead of me biking out there myself some time during the day to do it. I still process most of what he brings home. I can stand more comfortably than I can stoop or sit, so I wash and stem and label and freeze. We have a new Euro-sealer this year, too. Kevin put up some root vegetables from the winter share, to get us through the spring. We still have a few frozen items hanging around from past seasons, and are putting up some more every week.

Food is one of my love languages, and an easy tongue for some that can bridge awkwardness on both sides. Lee used to come over with fruit I'd never tasted before: durian is one of his favorites. A friend who's new in town, but grew up in upstate New York, often brings me food gifts when she comes over. One time she brought a beet salad, and the last time I'd eaten a beet salad was when I made one for my former girlfriend, Carolyn, when I was first courting her. I have been telling myself for years that I don't like beets, remembering one I tasted as a kid (off June's salad, in a fancy restaurant in Maine.) Now I ask Kevin to bring home beets in the farm share so I can roast them, and eat their greens. Roasted, they have a wonderful texture. Sometimes they're still a bit more earthy than I'm accustomed to, but I want to invite in more flavors again. I find myself craving Carolyn's beet enchiladas, a dish I would never have considered making without having tasted hers.
Fresh lamb's quarters

This time back from visiting New York, Nellie brought a pint of enormous blueberries from her mother's yard. Kevin took half of them and made blueberry pancakes that reminded me of a childhood summer, picking wild blueberries and eating them in pancakes cooked over a fire.

She also brought back two kinds of weeds she likes and has talked up to me, for me to try. One is purslane (feature image), and tastes very mild, like iceberg lettuce, so I've washed it and added it to my salad mix. The other is lamb's quarters, which have matured enough that Nellie suggested cooking it instead of eating it raw. The leaves are delicate, like spinach. I've sauteed them gently with a little bit of scallion and garlic scape from the farm.

The up side of not being able to get the farm share, is that now Kevin gets to enjoy the pleasure of the share room and u-pick fields. He reports that he sings and dances in the share room, he's so happy about the vegetables. I know the feeling: the produce glows from the weathered wooden bins, like the treasures in a video game. This is what we were born to find, and it's deeply satisfying to do what we're made to do.
Lamb's quarters sauteed with scallions and scapes

Able to choose based on their natural vegetal allure, Kevin brings home a few things he would not have requested, when I was making the farm run. He has been beguiled by the Swiss chard. He shows it to me explaining that it just looked so beautiful, he couldn't not take some.