Phyllis' Kitchen...And All Around the House
By Phyllis Fitzgerald
To paraphrase that wonderful song from the musical, Oklahoma, “Green is Bustin’ Out All Over!” Not just the grass and trees, but at the Bardstown Road Farmers Market. While we have been going all winter with meat, eggs, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and a few holdovers from fall, greens of all shades are really coming into their springtime glory. And soon the other colors will decorate the green for a riotous palate.
Even during the winter, we die-hards enjoyed the roots and hardy fare, and there were other advantages, as well—things we sometimes overlook. It occurred to me this winter to pay attention to how I could patronize the farmers market in new ways. Here’s what I mean: invariably, I need to take a baby gift, a hostess gift, a cheer-me-up gift to a friend, and the farmers market is the perfect place to buy such a gift. For instance, these are some the gift opportunities that presented themselves this winter:
· I purchased some “Sweet Baby Soap” from Summer Shade Soaps to see if it would help with dry skin. I loved it so much that I have bought it for 2 friends whose dinner parties I had attended, and taken it to a baby shower.
· Wild Carrot Farm makes several amazing condiments: a Smoky Tomato Salad Dressing, a Hot Pepper Butter, and a Chipotle Hot Sauce. I have purchased all of these and used them in various ways, including Christmas stockings for my adult kids, who think the Chipotle Hot Sauce is the best hot sauce they’ve ever tasted.
· The apples from Jackson’s went in a basket, through the woods, to Grandma’s house, and were not intercepted by the Wolf!
· Field Day Family Farm managed to have those fabulous carrots, black beans, and other delicacies all winter.
· Valley Acre Farm provided our turkeys, ducks, geese and chickens for Christmas and other meals. We even cooked a goose for guests a couple of weeks ago—a first for our family—and it was great!
· Then there’s DreamCatcher delicious breads and soups, which I’ve taken to people who were a bit “poorly” during the winter, as well as preparing a pork tenderloin dinner for someone needing TLC.
· Several of my friends have loved the granola and sweet breads, as well as jams and jellies from Full Heart Farm.
· T.C. Fisher’s honey has graced a few biscuits at family breakfasts.
· I took the fabulous olive tapenade from Red Clover to a party as an appetizer. Everyone loved it.
· I selfishly bought all of Kenny’s award-winning cheese, “Ted,” and served it to my family and friends, who keep asking when they can buy some, as it is not always available. Good cheese is an incredible gift, and we have a couple of other cheese vendors now in the spring market.
· Perennial Favorites constantly has beautiful cut flowers that brighten anyone’s table, and are a frequent gift for friends.
· Oh, yes! And Ruth Duncan’s homemade peach preserves have been enjoyed by guests and grandchildren all winter. That, and honey, too!
Who says there’s nothing to buy at the farmers market in winter? So, instead of stopping at the wine store or MegaMart the next time you need to take a house warming, baby-welcoming, birthday or dinner party gift, think of our farmers and artisans who produce wonderful food and pleasant useful gifts for our use, and for our gift-giving. And these were just the winter vendors; every week, old friends are returning with wonderful fresh, local produce: plants, cheese, and other foods to keep us cooking, busy and healthy all summer.
Rhubarb: Last week Gypsy Ridge offered fresh green rhubarb, which tastes just like pink/red rhubarb: that tangy fruit stem that cooks up into a jam, pie, side dish, or whatever, and is perfectly delicious. My favorite way is to cut the stalks into ¾” pieces and bring to a boil with a couple of tablespoons of water and about 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to each stalk, depending on how sweet you like it. By the way, do not use the leaves; they are poisonous. Here’s recipe for a lovely muffin—a bit different.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, sour milk, or yogurt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup oil
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cup diced rhubarb
½ cup nuts, toasted and chopped
¼ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. In a second bowl, combine buttermilk, brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Add rhubarb and nuts, stirring until just moist. Fill 12 greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Combine the last 4 ingredients and sprinkle on top of batter. Bake in preheated oven at 375 until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes 12 muffins. Adapted from “Simply in Season,” by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.
Rapini/Broccoli Rabe The last couple of weeks, Field Day Family Farm has offered rapini, which is sometimes called Broccoli Rabe. I asked Ivor Chodkowski about it: “We had a couple of rapini like greens. One was a mix, so the tops of a couple kinds of kale, collards, a little cabbage and Brussels sprouts. The other was upland cress, related to broccoli, but more distantly. It is very closely related to watercress. It has that kind of spiciness as well.” He did not recommend eating these raw, as they are pretty spicy. However, his rapini was very tiny, and perfect for sauteing. Just saute with some garlic in olive oil until it wilts, adding a little salt and pepper at the end. One pound produced 4-5 large, delicious servings. The tiny stems need not be trimmed, but larger stems might have to be removed as it gets more mature.
Asparagus: It lasted about 5 minutes at the start of the market, but more should be available this week. Research shows that cooked asparagus is better for you than raw asparagus. If you steam asparagus, you increase its antioxidant value by 30%, says Jo Robinson, author of “Eating on the Wild Side.” Most of us know that you should break the asparagus tough end off and use the spear end for steaming. If you’re not sure where to break it, never fear: it will break at the exact spot where the spear end is tender. The tougher end may still be used by shaving the stems with a potato peeler, cook until tender, and use to make soup. In case you didn’t try it last week, Lelia Gentle from DreamCatcher made some fabulous asparagus soup from the tough ends after shaving them first.
Sheila Lukins, author of “Ten: All the Foods We Love, and Ten Recipes for Each”, offers this incredibly easy brunch egg salad that uses just the tips of the asparagus. Frankly, I’d cut up the tender part, and use all of it in this recipe; you can’t have too much of a good thing like asparagus.
Asparagus Brunch Egg Salad
1 pound medium size asparagus
6 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves (a.k.a. dillweed)
½ cup prepared mayonnaise, such as Hellmann’s—or be really decadent and make your own!
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1. Cut the tips from the asparagus (about 1” long), about ½ cup. (Or cut the tender part into 1” pieces.)
2. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus tips and cook until they are just tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Pat them dry and set aside.
3. Place the chopped eggs in a bowl and season them lightly with salt and pepper; toss with the dill.
4. Combine the mayonnaise and the mustard in a small bowl, and fold this into the eggs. Then gently fold in the asparagus. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Serves 4.
Find lots of local food ideas on “The Local Life,” Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. on WCHQ, 100.9 F.M. with the radio show about food and sustainability, co-hosted with Patty Marguet. Or check out www.phyllisfitzgerald.com for other recipes and food ideas.