Monday, May 23, 2011

Strawberry Cranberry Pie

Cranberries are out and strawberries aren't in yet, but in my freezer... I'm torn on this freezer thing.  It's the only way to survive doing local and seasonal in New England.  If it wren't for my freezer, I would have been eating tasteless tired fruits and veggies from thousands of miles away all winter and spring.  But what if I wanted to be really hard core, and really just eat what was in season here and now?  Ok, there's no way I'm ever going to do that kind of hard core, even if I could (insert image of me in the Middlesex Fells with snowshoes and shovel foraging for roots in January).  But what if I wanted to be soft core, and really focus my diet around the foods that are available here and now, supplementing as need be first with what I can store up and then with what I can get at the store? Well, that's basically what I'm trying to do.  But then I hit this dilemma: the rhubarb finally are ready to pick, and I could make rhubarb pie, but I also have leftover frozen cranberries and strawberries that should get used up before I start freezing this season's goodies, and the combination sounds tantalizingly like strawberry rhubarb.  What to do?  Well, maybe just eat a lot of pie this week!

The cranberry strawberry combination is fantastic, like the tangy-sweet of strawberry rhubarb with a little more depth and warmth.  But make sure to cook the cranberries for a good long time before putting them in the pie.  On my first try, I didn't do that and got something like cranberry-strawberry soup in soggy crust. 

2 cups frozen cranberries
½ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
4 cups frozen strawberries (small or chopped)

2 cups flour
2 sticks cold butter
½ cup ice water

In a medium-small pot, bring cranberries and sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from the cranberries has released and then reduced to about 1/3 cup. This should take 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crust.  Stir in with strawberries. Pour into pie crust.

Cover with latticed top crust, and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes prior to serving, to allow the juices to thicken.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bone Marrow and Gardening

Dave and I had the good fortune to be sent to Craigie on Main for his birthday last month. We had a delightful meal which included bone marrow. I'd had it once or twice before, and I have to say, it's one of the best things I've eaten. It's not for the faint of heart, nor people averse to fat. You really check into your basic animal instincts when eating it. I decided to make it myself, so got some frozen beef bones at Whole Foods. They usually sell them to people for their dogs, so the price is right. The butcher split them in half, lengthwise, for me.

I roasted them in a cast iron frying pan at 425 for 30 minutes. I put a few slices of whole grain bread in the oven at the same time, to dry out. When the marrow was bubbly, I pulled the pan from the oven, put it on the table, and gave everyone a spoon. We sprinkled sea salt on top, and smeared the marrow on the bread. Any that had melted on the bottom of the pan was sopped up with extra bread. I think this is the quintessential soul food.

This year, I am drastically altering my plans for the garden.  For the past few years, I've tried to fit in a little of everything, which resulted in a lot of nothing. So, I am going for the "more bang for your buck" approach. What is expensive at the farmers' market, something you always want more of, easy to grow at home, and prolific? Why, tomatoes! So, instead of one eggplant, two peppers, 5 beans, one cucumber, and a squash or two, none of which produce more than one or two fruits, I am doing only tomatoes. And garlic. And lettuce. And melon. But that's it! And, in the raised bed, I'm only doing tomatoes and garlic. Everything else is in pots and bags. The farmers' market and CSA farmers are so much better at everything else I want to eat, so why compete with that? Instead, I will be rolling in tomatoes and garlic and happy. Stay tuned.

Herb planter
The other new addition to the back yard is an herb planter. I was inspired by a gorgeous green wall by Recover Green Roofs in Somerville. I was really tempted to try it myself but felt a bit overwhelmed at the materials and expense, and then lightning struck, and I realized all I had to do was get a $25 linen shoe rack.

My sister, daughter, and I spent a few lovely hours buying herb seedlings and seeds, and then planting them in the planter. It hangs off the side of the porch, thus saving tons of space, and providing some shade. We added parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, dill and cilantro seeds, nasturtiums, chamomile.
Dill sprouts

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Spring" Pork Loin Roast

We were going to grill this, but it’s spring in New England: in spite of sun that actually got warm this afternoon, by 4pm clouds had rolled in and it was cold. By 5, it was raining. Of course, many of our friends grill right through the winter, but we’re wimps and a pork loin is so delicious roasted that for this there’s really no need to endure any chill beyond what you catch running out to the garden for the herbs.  (There ARE things growing in the garden, about four of them: thyme, oregano, chives and mint.)

Heat 2-3 T olive oil in an oven-proof pan.  Brown a 2-3 lb pork loin roast along with 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced, and 2 large sprigs each of thyme and oregano.  Place in oven heated to 425 and roast 45-60 minutes.

Serve with its juices and an Early Spring Chimichurri.

Very finely chop 1 bunch chives and 1 bunch mint. Using a strong spoon, crush/mix (as if you were muddling) with 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 T olive oil, 1 tsp. coarse sea salt, and ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper.

Large cut oven fries make a perfect side and cook just the same amount of time as the meat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

seeing the bottom of the freezer (thanks to white bean kale soup)

With relatively minimal effort, I froze enough fruits and vegetables last Summer and Fall to carry over to Spring!  In fact, I did such a good job that I was afraid about a month ago that I'd end up having to use last year's stuff even as this year's came in.  But Spring here is fitful, we're in the lull between the end of the winter farmers' market and the start of the spring ones, and about all I'm harvesting from the garden yet are herbs and rhubarb.  So I'm reaching the bottom of the freezer.  Way down there were the delight of a few lost bags of strawberries and one of cranberries (my first attempt at strawberry cranberry pie proved the flavor combo is fantastic but I've got a little work to do perfecting things like liquid production and baking time...), and, oh, more kale.  Ok, the part I didn't do so well in the freezing department last year was planning for things like variety over the winter and early spring.  But as I complained to this person and that about so much kale, I kept getting reminded of how nicely it pairs with white beans in soup.  And there's an added bonus: white bean kale soup has the light bright look of Spring with the hearty warmth we still actually need in New England in early May. 

White Bean Kale Soup
Serves 6

1 package white beans
2 bunches frozen kale
1 medium onion
2-4 carrotts
2-3 stalks celery
1 clove garlic
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs each, fresh thyme and oregano
1 lb sausage (not pre-cooked)

Boil beans in 4-6 cups salted water until soft, about 2 hours
Roughly chop onion and saute in olive oil, in a large soup pot, until translucent, about 5 minutes
Smash garlic with the flat side of a knife, slip skin off, and add.  Saute 2-3 minutes longer.
Roughly chop celery and carrotts and add.  Saute five minutes longer.
Cut sausage into 1/2-1" chunks (hint: sausage is easier to cut like this if it's frozen; if you cut it frozen, do it when you start the beans and then let it thaw) and add to pot.  Saute, stirring frequently, until the sausage is browned, about five mnutes longer.  Pull the leaves off the sprigs of herbs and add.
Pour beans and their liquid and chicken broth into pot.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, then simmer 30-60 minutes.