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Archive for the ‘Seasonal Foods’ Category

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Radical Chic, after all, is only radical in style; in its heart it is part of Society and its traditions. (Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers -1970)

Ramps. I’m sick and tired of ’em. You hear about them here there and everywhere. They are the new Darlings (or rather they are hanging on by a thread to being the new Darlings, but that is merely because there has been no contender for the title) of the Hip Veggie world.

For the past several years, ramps have been vociferously promenading the Red Carpet that was previously pranced upon by arugula merrily towing its attendant baby veggies.

Surely the time has come for a change. Ramps, my dears, are passé. I do not want to read of ramps anymore in drinks, salads, crusts, and soups. Soggy old ramps! Your day is past.

It is time for a New Star on the Red Carpet and it really should be Creasy Greens. From Dave’s Garden:

At the first hint of spring in the Appalachian Mountains, folks start looking for “creasy greens”. They are the earliest of any of the wild greens, often poking through the snow, and although traditionally hunted by foragers they are now grown commercially. Creasy greens are usually cooked long, like kale, mustard or turnip greens but they are equally good raw in a fresh salad.

Here’s a personal story about the Soon-To-Be-Star from The Herbwife’s Kitchen

When I was a tiny kid I used to love climbing around the hillside above our pasture looking for creasy greens in the early spring.

I still love creasy greens.

Creasy greens are Barbarea verna, in the mustard family. They taste a little mustardy, a little sweet, a little bitter. Reminiscent of very young collards, but wilder.

I like to pick them when they’re about to bloom, when they’re a lot like “wild broccoli” (or broccolini, rapini, broccoli raab, or whatever they’re calling it these days).

This season’s Spring Fashion is done with. Let’s get Cutting Edge. Start to think Creasy Greens.
You can even grow your own from Heirloom Seeds! To be ahead of the crowd!

Creasy Greens. Watch out for them. My fashion prediction is that you’ll see  them everywhere next Spring. And they won’t be cheap, dressed up in their new Red Carpet attire!

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I’ve sometimes seen a purple potato

And I always hope to see one

The only remaining question is

Is it better to see or eat one?

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Here’s a very interesting recipe: Cod with Lapsang Souchong Oil and Puree of Violettes

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It’s good to know what sign you are, to eat accordingly.

BBC GoodFood can help with this. I like what they advise for me.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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One can also explain why just Christmas ham wound up on the Christmas smorgasbord. The wild boar was probably tamed sometime during the Bronze Ages. Its meat was tender and succulent and soon became the cult animal of the Vikings. Valhalla was the Vikings paradise and where warriors met to hold nightly feasts. Every night they dined on a special boar named Sarimer which was roasted over an open pit. Beautiful amazons served mjöd, a beer brewed from honey and hops, to the warriors. Then, abracadabra, each morning lively little Sarimar reappeared in his pen once again, grunting happily and eagerly awaiting a new slaughter for the evening feast.

(Source: Nordstjernan.com)

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The Fast Food Feminist posted a collection of links to sugar plum recipes last year around this time – along with some philosophic musings.

Here is the post:

Sugar: Many Ways of Sweetness


Photo Flickr-Phil Gyford


Are there different ways to be “sweet”? Women are defined in general presumption to be like the rhyme “sugar and spice and everything nice” (whether we wish to be or not)(personally I have no problem with the sugar or spice part but that word “nice” does tend to grate on my nerves)(nice nice nice blech)(reminds me of how guys sometimes look at a girl and say “Smile!” to her. Pah. Smile yourself, my friend.)


Does sugar have more than one flavor or bite?

I decided to look to sugarplums for wisdom.

Sugarplums are thought of as a Christmas sweet – though many people have never seen or tasted one. What are they?

Fast Food Feminist put on her detective hat to find out.
Food Reference.com tells us that sugarplums were originally sugar coated coriander, rather like the sugar coated seeds which many know from the end of a meal at an Indian restaurant. In olden times these were called “comfits”. Comforting things.

tells us that Queen Isabella and Benjamin Franklin loved sugarplums. I’m not sure whether that fact will make me run out to chow down on some, though the examples shown are well-rounded and solidly bourgeois and even look as if one alone might make a delicious meal.
has a different take on the sugarplum, saying they may have been actual plums preserved in sugar. I wish sugar could preserve me, too, but so far there is no proof that this could occur.

website has an excellent recipe for sugarplums made in the Victorian fashion (always so jolly, you know) that includes crystallized ginger, which I personally adore. It’s pretty fast to make, too.

Those who prefer the intellectual gourmandism of Saveur Magazine
will likely swear by the recipe provided in their forums.

There is a blogger named Sugarplum
who this year did not make sugarplums at all but who instead provided sweetness in life through cranberry-pistachio bark, a recipe I too know and love, as much for its fastness as for its foodie-ness and imagined femininity though of course one does have to imagine a bit to guess at that.
knows sugarplums as wild plums to be gathered from the fertile earth, then to be carefully laid out, sugared and dried. A simple feast, an earthy thing of honor.

The women who write in the Traditional Witches Forum
speak of the same ingredients and technique for sugarplums as Saveur does. Which brings to mind the question: Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Playing on the sweetness and light of sugarplums,
gives us a recipe for Sugarplum Tofu with Udon. Another way of sweetness, this one with a corporate relations link at the top of the page.

Sugarplums are many things, of differing varieties.

Therefore sugar apparently is as you like it, if we follow the wisdom of sugarplums.

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There have been a few changes since last year: Whole Foods changed the title of their recipe to not include the word ‘sugarplum’ but rather just ‘plum’. I wonder why. Was the word ‘sugarplum’ just a bit too perky for Whole Paycheck Foods? Oh well. Likely we’ll never know.

And the link to the sugarplum recipe from Diary of a Kentucky Cook is now here.

Sugarplums always start their rounds this time of year – the visions of them created by the well-known poem, dancing round in our heads – is so warming, so old fashioned, so slow food. But sugarplums are fast food.

They are so easily made in the home kitchen today. Most recipes are just chop stir shape for the most part.

It’s funny to think of sugarplums being fast food.

Now if I had to grow the ingredients that went into them, or if I had to dry or shell things, or chop down sugarcane or even peel and distill the stuff to make sugar, then to my mind sugarplums would be slow food.

Actually I’m sort of glad that sugarplums are fast food. I don’t have a whole lot of time around the holidays and no wish to wear an apron (or chefs coat for that matter) for two or three weeks straight.

So I will dream of fast food tonight.

Sugarplums. They dance in my head, and rather quickly too!

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When cold winds blow I fall in love, and it’s always an onion kind of love.

Leeks, scallions, golden globe, purple sweet, pure white angelic, cippoline for me-poline. Each one sits in its basket of adornment sending little beckoning love glances my way, and I can not demur. I must have them, have them now and have them as much as I want.

Luckily they are not a love of the sort that means fancy clothes, perfect makeup, a new haircut or a new jewelry in the form of any sort of kitchen thing. My onions take me as I am – they are solid, always there, rarely frowsy, and don’t bite my bank account.

Yesterday I picked up a red-netted bag of plain yellow onions at the grocery store. Their skins were sleek and glowing.

I placed one on the cutting board. Now this particular one was not meant for any starring role. It was merely going to be tossed into the split pea soup that was developing in the pot with some wild abandon, for split pea soup needs an abundance of onions to be what it should be. (What should it be, you may ask? It should be the soup your children demand on a weekly basis – the soup that melds siblings who pick opposite sides of any plane of existence or idea as a way of life – into siblings who agree wholeheartedly – at least for the moment of the life of the pot of soup. That is what split pea soup should be.)

my humble yellow onion
from the red netted bag

was so very full of life

that it cried milky tears when I
struck it with my knife

It was a good soup. It was an excellent onion.

With the rest of the family of red-netted onions will be made some onion soup. Onion soup is most serious stuff. It breathes deep things into those who take their swallows of it, as long as there is not too very much cheese added to the toasted crouton. If you add too much cheese you will be made stupid.
At least for the rest of the afternoon or evening.

Onion biscuits will be made from it – so simple. Caramelized onions, wrapped up in biscuit dough and baked, they are a sort of Simple Simon Onion Tart. Onion biscuits know how to de-materialize very quickly. Various hands will grab them and whoof! Voila. Gone.

Cippoline agrodolce is a must for me, sometime around Thanksgiving. It doesn’t have to be the exact day, but it has to be around the day. It’s not about the day, it’s about the thanks which cippoline agrodolce always inspires.

My list of onion love goes on and on and on.
I do hope you have onion love too.
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I’ve posted here an onion love note from Dana Jacobi’s website. Dana writes and cooks both wonderfully, with the bonus that with her recipes you will be aiming towards being healthy rather than otherwise:
Onions in Three Flavors

Fabulous idea. Love made real, in those little bites of flavor!
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I need some poetry. Some onion-y poetry to prove my onion love.

Here is one from Sydney Smith (Lady Holland’s Memoir, I, 11, Recipe for Salad)

Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl
And, scarce suspected, animate the whole.

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The countdown has begun. The plans are being discussed. The larders (that means cupboards and refrigerators for those of you who prefer modern speech) are being filled and filled and filled.

It’s the Day to Be Thankful. Or (more commonly) the Day to Get Stuffed Till You Hurt. Add a pinch of the usual dissonances that happen when family (sorry, Family) must gather from all their own homes to the Gathering Place of Holiday and what you have is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day used to be the start of the Holiday Season. It was the date on which one could expect to have to start worrying about gifts, money, food, people, other people, parties, diets, party clothes, decorations, credit card debt, wrapping paper, ribbons and tape, red tape, lines at the stores, malls with parking lots the size of small cities, office gatherings filled with charming lechery from the least charming people who’d slugged down a bit too much punch (make that wine – punch is ‘out’), plans for alliances and non-alliances, health club memberships for the New Year when one would get Skinny and Gorgeous, and what stuffing would be served and with what on what day. Ham, Turkey, Roast Beef. We need large ones. We need Heirloom ones. (I always think of the turkey-pluckers on these days, their fingers chilled as those pinfeathers continue to stick even after the boiling water dipping machine and the tossing around like a whirlwind feather-removing machine have done their industrial jobs yet not well enough, not well enough for whatever-price per pound these babies are costing their investor-eaters).

We need Brussel Sprouts, and God Only Knows Why.

Thanksgiving is not the start of the holiday season anymore – Halloween holds that place of honor as the plans grow more startlingly consumptive (yes, two meanings to that word!) and well-caramelized.

We have a lot to be thankful for. But let’s get real. Are we really celebrating an American Traditional Thanksgiving at our tables with this meal of choice and habit?  Or . . . is it all a little trick played on us?

Could it be that a writer invented this holiday as we know it and celebrate it, and that somehow we have simply forgotten the real way of the holiday in an excess of the sort of jolly jingo-istic sentiment that seems to grab the masses by the throat heart, and with the soft prettiness of it all manages to serve up a paint-the-kitten-on-velvet-by-numbers kit for dinner?

One does like things to be nice nice. Nice nice is so nice.

Lets’ try this on for size, instead – for our Thanksgiving dinner:

First, wild turkey was never mentioned in Winslow’s account. It is probable that the large amounts of “fowl” brought back by four hunters were seasonal waterfowl such as duck or geese.

And if cranberries were served, they would have been used for their tartness or color, not the sweet sauce or relish so common today. In fact, it would be 50 more years before berries were boiled with sugar and used as an accompaniment to meat.

Potatoes weren’t part of the feast, either. Neither the sweet potato nor the white potato was yet available to colonists.

The presence of pumpkin pie appears to be a myth, too. The group may have eaten pumpkins and other squashes native to New England, but it is unlikely that they had the ingredients for pie crust – butter and wheat flour. Even if they had possessed butter and flour, the colonists hadn’t yet built an oven for baking.

“While we have been able to work out which modern dishes were not available in 1621, just what was served is a tougher nut to crack,” Ms. Curtin says.

A couple of guesses can be made from other passages in Winslow’s correspondence about the general diet at the time: lobsters, mussels, “sallet herbs,” white and red grapes, black and red plums, and flint corn.

That makes for a different sort of table, a bit.

Then how did this reality of a holiday which-is-not actually occur?

Until the early 1800s, Thanksgiving was considered to be a regional holiday celebrated solemnly through fasting and quiet reflection.

But the 19th century had its own Martha Stewart, and it didn’t take her long to turn New England fasting into national feasting. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular Godey’s Lady’s Book, stumbled upon Winslow’s passage and refused to let the historic day fade from the minds – or tables – of Americans. This established trendsetter filled her magazine with recipes and editorials about Thanksgiving.

It was also about this time – in 1854, to be exact – that Bradford’s history book of Plymouth Plantation resurfaced. The book increased interest in the Pilgrims, and Mrs. Hale and others latched onto the fact he mentioned that the colonists had killed wild turkeys during the autumn.

In her magazine Hale wrote appealing articles about roasted turkeys, savory stuffing, and pumpkin pies – all the foods that today’s holiday meals are likely to contain.

In the process, she created holiday “traditions” that share few similarities with the original feast in 1621.

In 1858, Hale petitioned the president of the United States to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote: “Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand Thanksgiving holiday of our nation, when the noise and tumult of worldliness may be exchanged for the length of the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart.”

Five years later, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

“[Hale’s] depiction is wrong much more often than it’s right,” says Nancy Brennan, president of Plimoth Plantation.

So. Is it Turkey Day or is it not? I’d say it definitely is Turkey Day in some ways. In more ways than one.

In the final analysis one must gather one’s turkeys where they may, as they batten the hatches momentarily against the onslaught of the rest of the ravaging hoolidays holidays to come along on the rampage in short shrift.

One of my favorite questions in the whole wide world is raised by all this. The question is: What is real?

When it looks really pretty and nice, it’s worth poking at to be sure it is true. Or even real.

Enjoy your bird no matter the feather! Even if you are quietly thankful, and choose to not stuff yourself or any bird, fish or fowl whatsoever. Eat what you like, for the day belongs to you – not  to some dead editor of a ladies magazine who lived a long time ago.

And if the bird pecks you, peck right back. It’s the holiday season, after all. And listen up, all you groaning-table and screaming football fans:

‘fasting and quiet reflection’

appears to be quite American after all.

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Source of quoted material: The First Thanksgiving CS Monitor November 2002
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From a different Thanksgiving day:

A Modern Woman’s Thanksgiving


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Some foods or recipes have hints of luck about them. There are many different varieties of luck, of course.

Beans and Taters is a dish steeped in luck.

Though it’s known all over the South,  you won’t find a recipe for it in most of the usual cookbooks where “native Southern recipes” abide. And though the phrase “beans and taters” is one immediately recognizable and known to most Southerners (particularly those with rural roots) you won’t find it listed in slang dictionaries or in regular dictionaries or in the larger (Oxford on food, Cambridge on food, Southern Culture) encyclopedia sets. There is a newly released (this year) Encyclopedia of Southern Culture  which has an entire volume on food and food culture. I’m hoping to see if it is listed there!

You hear about beans and taters through luck if you’ve not grown up knowing it. My luck happened when a neighbor in an area of the rural South telephoned one day asking for a ride into town. Her car (pronounce that as that ve-hi-cle please, and with no self-consciousness either) had broken down. Luck had run out for her, in that moment.

During the ride into town, her young son was talking about food. He wanted some special thing for supper, that night. His Mom’s response . . . “Way things are going we just might be eating beans and taters for some time!”

But “beans and taters” was said with a musical lilt when she said it. And there was no sadness in her voice. Apparently beans and taters (yes, very musical the phrase is) is a dish born of bad luck but one that has good luck inside it. It is filled with pleasure, gladness, and gratitude. It is loved.

Luck also touches beans and taters in their very inception – the lithe green beans or sturdy other sorts of beans are ready to pluck from  their vines in the garden at the same time those tiny new potatoes are ready to start digging up. Just look at any farmer’s market right now if you don’t have a garden, and see them sitting there on the same table – the two are silent partners.

Luck being what it is, beans and taters is not just one unchangable recipe. There are many recipes, and they rise from an oral tradition. Two of these recipes stand out as the most common examples: A green bean and bacon stew topped with little shiny new potatoes steamed on top . . . and a pinto and saltback or bacon stew sided by fried potatoes. These make the meal – there’s not any need for too much else but cornbread –  unless of course there is more bounty to have . . . if the luck is running strong the beans and taters can move quietly from the center of the table to settle in as a side dish to serve with one of those huge picnic spreads of fried chicken, chow chow, sliced tomatoes, the endless variety of things from the fields and garden that crow and  holler from the rural end-of-summer table.

But they say one chooses their own luck, and I still feel lucky to have heard the words “beans and taters”, and to have tasted them made by my own hands after the fact, in my own home kitchen.

The only print resource I’ve found with a recipe for beans and taters is in a book by Loretta Lynn titled “You’re Cookin’ It Country”. Her recipe is made with pork jowl, sugar, salt and pepper, fresh green beans and new potatoes – and when she writes of beans and taters the luck emerges again in the form of grace. The hunger of poverty, the pride of finding something to hold on to when nothing seemed to be there, and the joy of taste and comfort those lucky beans and taters hold within them are the heart of her tale.

I’m thinking of that saying: “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all”. This guy’s got it wrong. He’s just got to find himself some beans and taters.

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If you have a garden, the cucumbers may be trying to take over, gripping everything they can in viney puckers, dropping a little cucumber here and a larger one there – just like so many pods in a science fiction movie trying to take over the world.

If you don’t have a garden it’s a pity. I don’t right now. But then again there’s the Farmer’s Market where cucumbers will be piled in boxes awaiting their fate.

What to do with them. Gazpacho. Salads – simple, complex, Oriental, Germanic. Raita to side a curry or tzaziki to dollop into pita with  grilled faux gyros of ground lamb and beef tossed together with herbs and spices.

Then there’s pickles.

I know of a pickle that many people have never tasted, never heard of. It’s an odd sort of pickle. A rough and ready sort of pickle without the least bit of pretension to finesse. It’s called a Maine (Sour) Mustard Pickle.

The only place I’ve ever had these pickles (aside from when I make them) was in Maine – made by my grandmother who was not a cook by any means and by my aunt who is a good home cook, the first good home cook I ever knew. The taste reminds me of my family, and of the history of my family. The taste is not all sweet, but very real.

It’s best to make these pickles in a real pickle jar – but if you don’t have one they can be made in what you do have.

The big expense will be dry mustard. Surprisingly it isn’t cheap in the usual grocery stores. It can be found in bulk at the ‘health food store’ sometimes at more affordable prices, though.

If you like pickles and if you like mustard, these are worth a try. They will start off gentle and become more sour as time progresses – denser, more puckery.

Here’s a recipe:

Old Fashioned Sour Mustard Pickles

Cucumbers
2 quarts of apple cider vinegar
½ cup salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup ground dry mustard
Some garlic cloves, peeled (optional)

Wash and dry the whole cucumbers and garlic and pack them into jars or a crock, the bigger the vessel the better.
Mix together other ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Close jars or crock and store in a cool place.
The pickles will be quite sour within a week.

(From Snell Family Farm)

P.S. “Kirby” style cucumbers are best for this recipe somehow but the larger cucumbers cut in chunks will do though they will pickle faster and taste even stronger. 🙂

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