May Flowers

Gardening, spirits, local foodie delights

Summer eats July 23, 2011

One of the challenges in eating a mostly local diet is that you are at the whim of mother nature. The rain or lack thereof, the temperature, and of course the time of year. I overheard at the farmer’s market today that they didn’t have any Cornish hens because the rain had changed the growth of the chickens and they weren’t ready to slaughter yet. This year we didn’t get any snap peas from the CSA because they didn’t survive the very wet spring. In fact our CSA (by their own reckoning) had the worst start ever, with the yield being less than half of average.

But over the last week, we’ve been flung headfirst into the bounty of the local produce. We always hit a point in the summer when we are overwhelmed with volumes of food and what to do with it. Last year it was peppers. This year it is with squash and zucchini.

So last night we had a summer veggie meal. Baked cheesy summer squash and broccoli, hakurei turnips in lavender cream, and corn on the cob. The squash and turnips were from our CSA, the broccoli and lavender was from our backyard, and the corn was from the farmers market. Several folks on Facebook asked for the recipes so they are below.

Last year I bought gobs of blueberries with the intent to freeze or dry them so I could have yummy blueberries in the winter. I unfortunately, didn’t get to them before they began to ferment on the porch (no room in the fridge). This year, I am not letting that happen again. I am in the process of preparing about 2 lbs. of them to dehydrate.

Don’t be fooled by the “nature’s best” packaging or placement in camping stores, dried fruit has a lot of sugar. Added sugar. Lots of it. The way to get around this is to make fruit leather, but most grownups don’t want to eat fruit roll-ups. Though fruit leather is fabulous in its own right. But I wanted to make dried berries to snack on, or add to recipes. I have 3 books on drying foods, and they all agree that blueberries are best when glaceed. I’ve done this once before, making candied dried orange peel. This is a 4 day process. On the 1st day, you make a sugar syrup and then cook the berries (to 180 degrees), turn off the heat, let cool, cover and let them sit for 24 hours. The next day, you strain the berries out of the syrup, add more sugar to the syrup, add the fruit back in, heat it back up to 180 degrees, turn off the heat, let cool, cover and let sit for another 24 hours. This is repeated for 2 more days (more sugar, heat, steep for a day, repeat), and at the end of the process, you finally dry the berries in the dehydrator. And you have some yummy blueberry syrup to boot.

Baked Cheesy Summer Squash and Broccoli

I made this up, so this is to the best of my recollection, and in the true spirit of eating what is available, use what you have, not necessarily what I used. Add some tomatoes, mushrooms, green beans, whatever you have on hand. The key to good summer squash and zucchini is removing the excess liquid, so you don’t end up with watery, soft, mushy veggies. The same goes for tomatoes. If you add tomatoes, start by slicing thinly and then spread on paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt. Blot dry. Add them in a layer after the sauteed veggies, before the cheese.

1 large onion, thinly sliced
chopped garlic
2-3 cups of broccoli florets (about 2 small heads, 1 if you are buying the big honkin’ stuff at the grocery store)
zucchini & summer squash (I used a variety: a large yellow scallop (aka flying saucer, aka pattypan), a couple small yellow straight necked, a couple small zucchini, a variegated zucchini) – probably about 2 – 3 lbs worth
olive oil
8 oz of cheese, shredded (I used 1/2 mozzarella (I think) and 1/2 aged gouda
1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded
Fresh basil leaves, julienned

1. Preheat oven to 350, and grease a baking pan.
2. Chop the veggies. Start with the squash and zucchini, thinly slice, and place in a colander. Toss with a liberal amount of salt. You should be able to feel the grainy salt on the zucchini. Let sit while you chop the rest of the veggies. The salt sweats some of the moisture out, making for less soggy squash.
3. In a large skillet on medium high heat, saute onion and garlic and fresh pepper in a liberal amount of olive oil until brown and caramelized.
4. Add the broccoli and saute until broccoli turns bright green.
5. Squeeze any excess moisture from the squash, then add to the skillet. Saute until the squash is cooked and begins to brown. This is when you know you’ve evaporated the excess liquid.
6. Transfer the sauteed veggies into the baking pan. The veggies shouldn’t be layered too thick, they should just cover the bottom of the pan. Add the shredded cheese, top with parmesan.
7. To julienne basil, stack the leaves together and roll tightly into a cigar shape. Slice thinly across the rolled bundle. Sprinkle the basil atop the veggies and cheese.
8. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly (throw the broiler on for a couple minutes to brown the top of the cheese if you wish).
9. Serve immediately. Bon apetite!

Hakurei Turnips Braised in Lavender Cream

Hakurei turnips are not like normal turnips. They are sometimes called salad turnips or japanese turnips. They are smaller, and all white, and very sweet. These are great just to peel, slice and eat fresh or put in crudites. Or in cream. What isn’t to like about anything cooked in heavy cream. For the lavender, you want the leaves, not necessarily the flowers (though it probably doesn’t much matter). A couple sprigs, strip the leaves and chop (or not, they’re tiny leaves to start with).

1 bunch Hakurei turnips (about 5)
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
1 t. lavender leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper

1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine cream and lavender and salt and pepper to taste. As soon as it begins to bubble, cover and turn off the heat, letting the lavender steep.
2. Meanwhile, trim the tops off the turnips (save these, turnip greens are yummy too!!). Peel turnips and cut into wedges. Place wedges in the cream and turn the heat back on low.
3. With the lid on, let turnips simmer about 10 minutes or until they are just tender and the cream begins to thicken slightly.
4. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Serves 2-3 as a side dish.

This recipe is from a blog by someone named April Fulton, though I can’t find her blog on the web anymore. So we will carry on the recipe, April. It’s awesome.


Return of the Basil Cucumber Martini July 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dita48 @ 9:59 pm
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Lois had this inspired idea last year for a great cocktail. The basil is bushy, the cucumbers are coming in. Why not enjoy a cool drink of summer made with Hendricks Gin.

Now people tell me they aren’t gin drinkers. Neither was I. The well gin or even Bombay Sapphire that are the only available choices at most bars tastes like a mouthful of Pine Sol to the uninitiated (and for the uninitiated, that flavor comes from the juniper berries that are a key ingredient in gin). But there are several varieties of gin that I have come to love. (more…)


Merry Cherry Berry Fruit Leather June 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dita48 @ 6:20 pm
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Well, strawberry season came quickly this year, with the warmer than usual May. The first summer farmers market, I was utterly unprepared for flats of strawberries. But we bought one anyway. After a week of strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I scaled back to 4 quarts the next Saturday. But then Mom and the kids went strawberry picking (an annual tradition), and she sent over a basket (roughly 8 lbs.) (more…)


Veggie burgers February 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dita48 @ 2:50 pm
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For anyone that is considering joining a CSA, I must issue a warning. You had better like greens. Collard greens, beet greens, kale, more kale, mustard greens, turnip greens. We were so grateful last year to be accepted into the Crown Point CSA, and worked very hard to not waste any of our share. We cut the greens off the beets and turnips. We rejuvenated wilted greens by soaking in cold water overnight in the fridge. We saved everything. This meant a lot of creative veggie-centric meals, and a lot of putting up. Alex, the resident bearded dragon, ate like a king (er, queen – as we found out last summer). The greens we couldn’t consume, we froze.

So, now, in February, we are reaching the bottom of the cold storage. We’re down to one head of cabbage, a few turnips, and a couple onions. Last week we finished the squash and potatoes. Now we turn our attention to the remainder of the veggies in the freezer. AND THERE ARE A LOT OF GREENS. (more…)


January Farmers Market January 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dita48 @ 10:53 pm
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The farmers market was PACKED today. There was a line to get into the parking lot, waiting for cars to leave. The booths were sparser than last month. I missed the lamb guy. We have bought merguez sausages from him in the past, very tasty. I hope he is there next month.

We bought apples, pears and cider from Huffman Fruit Farm
Buffalo jerky from Red Run Bison farm
Cheese from…um…the cheese guy

We go to this market practically every time they hold it – weekly in the summer, and monthly in the winter months. You’d think the cheese guy and the buffalo guy would – I dunno – start to recognize us. Now the woman from the fruit farm knows me! She taught me to cram the apples into the peck bag, really squeeze them in. Now she teases me that I know how to pack a peck.

We started fervent shopping at the farmers market last year when we got in the CSA, and slowly, we developed contacts with all sorts of farmers there. It is good to know where one’s food comes from. I especially like the personal connection – knowing the distance my food traveled and who was involved. Not the anonymous styrofoam packages in the grocery store.


May Flowers

Filed under: Uncategorized — dita48 @ 12:55 pm
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In the dreary depths of winter, starting a blog called May Flowers seems hopeful. The discussion arose today that a clever newspaper column, called Dyer Streets (which I hadn’t noticed until it was pointed out to me that this was a play on the phrase Dire Straits), is named after the columnist, and you couldn’t call it that if the guy stopped writing it. So, after brainstorming what our columns would be called, I very much liked May Flowers, about gardening. Of course I intend to also share about my passions that stem from gardening, namely, eating. And drinking.

In addition to our own gardens (vegetable and ornamental), we also belong to a CSA, and are continually putting up food for about 9 months of the year. This time of year, we are mostly eating root vegetables and stuff we canned. :)