Category Archives: Market & Garden

Winding up a Book During Tomato Time


It’s September and that means that there’s still more gearing up to do before my new book, Vegetable Literacy, goes to press. We’ve just been through the first round of copy edits, always a hard (2-week) moment because I never have any idea how many mistakes it’s  possible to make. It’s been Ray Ban outlet vetted by my ethnobotanist friend, Jay Bost, for glaring errors in the plant department, and I’m hoping I’ve caught them all. I’ve been though the photoshoot with Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton – great grueling fun. I cooked nearly 50 dishes in a short week and of course the weather couldn’t have been hotter or more miserable during that time. Fans were whirling everywhere.  I’m working on the introduction, and thinking about all the people I want to thank, people who helped with their wisdom, experience, encouragement. Then there are references to reveal.  Writing a book is never just writing a book. All of this is a big part of it. And in the meantime, everything else recedes to the back and slips away. Birthdays. Meetings. Taking my pooch to the groomers. I honestly can’t wait to clean my office.

While I love a task, I’m ready to change gears. It’s fall. Leaves are starting to yellow. The buzzards are getting ready to fly back to Texas or wherever they spend the winter, and the garden is starting to falter here and there —one bean plant giving up the ghost, a squash deciding it’s had enough of all this production, the amaranth starting to redden.

But the tomatoes! That’s what’s getting me through these final weeks. It was a hard year for vegetables, especially the tomatoes, but now they’re coming around and they are what I want to eat. Every day. Twice or thrice. Thick slices of beefsteak typse with avocadoes. In BLTs with lean bacon from the farmers’ market, or pasta tossed with an assortment of every kind of tomato, uncooked, chopped and covered with olive oil, capers, olives, garlic, herbs. Or salt roasted little guys over ricotta and grilled eggplant. To be fair, there are plenty of shishito peppers, eggplants, Romano beans and chard, among other good things to eat. But when you have a good tomato, it doesn’t take much more to have a meal.

I know we all know that, now. Everyone’s writing about tomatoes, picking them, buying them up at the farmers market, putting them up, and eating them like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t. And the great thing is you don’t have to be in the end stages of writing a book to enjoy them to the point of ray ban da sole outlet having a daily swoon or two, and I hope you’re doing just that, even if all you’ve got are the little ones.

Grilled eggplant with salt-roasted tomatoes and ricotta

The Chard Among the Goosefoots

The goosefoot family of plants, the chenopodiaceae, is one we’re all pretty familiar with even if we don’t know its longish name.  It includes spinach, beets, and chard, but also a host of edible wild (and cultivated) plants collectively known as “quelites”.  Among them are lambs quarters, magentaspreen, orach, pigweed, and the cultivar, Good King Henry.  Quinoa and huanzontle also reside here, as do a number of wild desert plants, like Four Wing Saltbush.  All have masses of small edible seeds. Some, like huanzontle, are eaten while they’re still in their flower form. Others, like quinoa, are eaten once the seeds have formed and dried. Some of these are amaranths which used to be botanically closer but are still pretty similar in some respects, especially taste. Below is a bouquet of amaranths from a farmers market in Arlington, MA.

Amaranths from the farmers market

One botany book of mine succinctly sums up the goosefoots as a group of rank and weedy plants, which some clearly are. Epazote, the only herb in the family, certainly could be described that way, as can a number of the wild goosefoots that grow around my neighborhood. When I note the summer pollen index in the morning paper, much of it is due to the “chenopods”, the wild weedy ones just going to flower in June

But why goosefoot? Because the leaves are supposedly the shape of a goose’s foot. And they are, sort of. And how do I know? While visiting a u-pick berry farm in the Cuyahoga National Park, a small flock of geese had gathered behind a fence. As my friend and I approached their enclosure they ran Magliette Calcio A Poco Prezzo towards us, their long necks outstretched, hissing with unbridled menace because while we were proper visitors to the farm, in their eyes we were also likely to be thieves. I asked the farmer if he’d be willing to pick up a goose and show me its foot so I could see its shape. He did so, thrusting a big, orange leathery-looking claw-like appendage in my face. It was a powerful looking foot, but its shape was both broader and simpler than I had expected. It didn’t match up exactly with the shape of the leaves in this family, although it did roughly enough.  This webbed foot was rather broad and many goosefoot leaves like spinach and chard, are narrow.  Maybe some geese have narrower feet? Still, it is possible to see the resemblance, especially when you think of other leaves in other families that have absolutely no similarity, like artichokes and salsify, two members of the daisy family.

Aside from the one herb, the seeds and the beetroot, the edible parts of this family consist mostly of leafy greens (also reds purples, and magentas), tender leaves that are edible raw when young, cooked when older, and highly nutritious at any stage. There are not nearly as many edibles as in other families, like the cruciferous (cabbage) family or the solanaceae (tomatoes, potaotes, eggplant), but they are all easy to prepare, not difficult to grown, and they pair well with one another in all sorts of ways. The greens of these various plants are essentially interchangeable and taste very much the same, the wild ones being somewhat stronger.

Among them, I’m partial to chard.  It grows pretty much easily everywhere. It yields edible stalks as well as extremely handsome leaves. Just the appearance those thick leaves with their bubbled surfaces, not to mention the translucent golden, rose and purple stems of the rainbow variety, make my mouth water, even though chard isn’t as exciting as, say, mustard greens or broccoli raab. It is, however, ever reliable, useful, and can be prepared in all sorts of ways. Just steaming or braising the leaves until they’re tender, then turning maglie calcio poco prezzo them in some good olive oil, sea salt and pepper flakes is a simple act that goes far in the taste department. Chard is always compatible with lentils (in a soup) and potatoes (added to boiled ones or a mash.)  My favorite frittata, the Provencale trouchia, is based on slowly cooked chard and onions with basil. Another dish I never tired of is chard cooked leisurely in its own moisture with a few tablespoons of rice and a lot of cilantro, cumin and garlic. You don’t end up with a lot, but the few bites you get are intensely satisfying. Chard can also serve as somewhat neutral but bulk-supplying element when cooked in a soup with stronger tasting but less substantial greens, such as sorrel, nettles, and lovage. It can stuff a crepe or nestle into a lasagna. The combination of eggplant and chard is oddly meaty. The leaves can also be used to harbor fillings. And on and on.

Rainbow chard

All in all chard is an extremely useful green that can be led in this and that direction depending on its herb or spice companions. And you know what else you can do with it?  You can put the leaves in a vase and put them on the table to admire for a day, then cook it. Here’s a recipe from my work in progress, “Vegetable Literacy”.

Chard, Ricotta and Saffron Cakes with Micro Greens Makes 12 3-inch cakes

These can serve as a tidy little nibble for a pass-around, made slightly larger for a first course, or large still for a vegetable main course.

Enough chard to make 10 to 12 cups trimmed leaves

2 pinches saffron threads

1 cup white whole -wheat pastry flour or spelt flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 farm eggs

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup whole milk

3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee

Thick yogurt or sour cream and micro greens

Wash the leaves and cook them in a covered pot until they are wilted and tender but not overcooked, so keep an eye on them and taste them frequently once they’ve wilted. When done, put the greens in a colander and set them aside to cool and drain.

Cover the saffron threads with 2 tablespoons boiling water and set aside.

In one bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking powder. In another bowl, mix the ricotta, cheese, eggs and milk together. Add the oil, butter and steeped saffron threads, then whisk in the flour mixture.

Returning to the greens, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop them finely and stir them into the batter.

Heat a pan with olive oil, ghee or butter.  Drop batter onto the pan, making small or larger cakes as you wish, and cook over medium-low heat. The batter is quite thick and it will not Cheap NFL Jerseys behave exactly like a pancake.  You need to give it plenty of time in the pan and it will still be very moist. Cook over moderate heat until golden on the bottom, then turn the cakes once, resisting any urge to pat them down, and cook until the second side is also well-colored.  Serve each with a spoonful of sour cream and a garnish of micro greens.


Color and Carrots

Mixed giant carrotsCarrots are on my mind for two reasons. One is that I keep unearthing giant monsters from my garden. The second is that I seem to have ordered 9 seed packets for different carrot varieties so I know it’s going to be a carrot year. I didn’t know that I liked carrots that much. It’s more that I wanted to learn the differences that distinguish different varieties from life rather than looking at a picture—their shapes, flavors, and colors.

Strange how important color can be in food. As a college Oakley Sunglasses cheap student I worked in a lab at UC Davis where ice creams were different colors than their flavors would suggest. We gave them to students to eat and asked them to identify the flavors, which they found very hard to do.  Banana isn’t usually green; pistachio isn’t pink, strawberry isn’t yellow. Without the colors in their right places, the tasters were stumped. We put colors and flavors together in very particular ways, it turns out, and with the ice cream flavors matched with their colors, there as no problem and much relief.  As kids, my brother, who worked for a different lab at UC Davis,and I thought it would be amusing to make blue mashed potatoes from the Peruvian tubers he was studying. We thought it would be fun because it would be off-putting, and it was. There aren’t a lot of blue foods, maybe for a reason. Except for blueberries and blue corn flour, blue does not invite one to dig in.

Which brings me back to carrots.

Even though lots of people are growing them and buying them, it seems a bit fussy to call for particular colors of carrots in a recipe. If I saw a recipe for a white carrot and cumin puree, I might think, “Oh? And what’s wrong with orange?”  But if white carrots are what you have, well, you give things a try.  I’ve had a lot of them, very late harvest, gigantic white carrots that I keep finding buried in the ground. Naturally  I wondered what would happen if I made a white carrot soup. It would taste like carrot, but it wouldn’t look like carrot. Would my guests know what they were eating?

Garden writer, Leslie Land, who ate this soup, thought that blindfolded, one might guess that it was based on potato and something rooty. In fact, there was not potato (just a tablespoon of rice). She then put for the idea that flavor is associated with pigment and that orange carrots have more flavor—an idea she has promised to research the minute she gets home. It’s true—the flavor was not robust, though to me it was clearly carrot. But maybe because they were pretty old carrots was why they weren’t’ more carroty. The jury is still out on the flavor component.

I suspect that a white carrot soup can mess with your head. It tastes like carrot but looks like potato, parsnip, celery root, anything but carrot.  A soup made of yellow ones is less disturbing, slightly more carroty, and in fact, pretty and delicate to behold.  If you use those purple skinned orange cheap oakley carrots in a soup, though, you’ll end up with the ugliest brown soup you can imagine. I did that once and I couldn’t eat it. I couldn’t’ get past the color. But the flavor was amazing which suggests there might be something to Leslie’s theory.

I’ve been using my lighter colored carrots in an almond-carrot cake where they work beautifully, giving the cake a soft, rich golden hue instead of intermittent orange streaks.  I recently braised some yellow carrots with orange cores that I bought from Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, tossed them with coconut butter and lime and they were gorgeous (and quite worth eating). Roasted purple carrots mixed yellow, white, and a few orange ones are full of drama, but the inclusion of the orange fellows lets you know that you’re eating carrots. Going back to the soup, I thought that a very fine dice of orange carrots plus the tender greens would be helpful, letting you know where you are in the vegetable world, and so I did just that.


Ivory Carrot Soup with A Fine Dice of Orange                                                      Makes about 5 cups

This is an extremely simple soup, intentionally so, as I was just going for the purity of color and flavor. Try it also with the pale yellow carrots, but not so much the purple skinned ones. They turn brown.

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 pound of white carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon raw white rice

sea salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

A sprig of thyme

4 cups water or light chicken stock

A few tablespoons finely diced orange (and/or other colored carrots, for garnish) plus some of the finer greens, chopped

Warm the butter and oil in a soup pot, add the onion, carrots, rice 1 teaspoon salt and sugar. Cook over medium heat for several minutes, turning everything occasionally.

Add one cup of the water or stock, cover the pan, turn down the heat, and cook while you heat the remaining three cups of liquid.  When hot, add it to the pot, maintain a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the thyme branch. Puree the soup. Taste for salt and season with pepper.

Simmer the diced carrots in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then drain.

Scatter the diced carrots plus the minced greens over the surface of the soup just before serving.

Mouse Nibbles and High Winds

Despite the wind, putting on a jacket, grabbing a fork and going outside was actually easier than driving to the store, not to mention a better choice than burning up fossil fuel for some Jerusalem artichokes and a leek.

Our miserable windy spring weather has begun. On Leap Day, winds from our area turned into tornadoes in the mid-west. Here they were merely fierce, cold and loud, bringing sand and dust on their breath and doing a number on the cottonwood trees, pruning the live limbs over the dead ones. It’s not much fun to go out in this weather, but in the interest of being frugal as well as being curious, I did. I couldn’t resist prowling Ray Ban outlet around my beds to see what was there. I came back inside chilled, but with arms full— more hairy salsify roots, a few leeks, plenty of red skinned Walspinel Jerusalem artichokes and a few giant carrots, mostly white and pale yellow. I’m so amazed at how generous the garden has been given the neglect it’s endured since the fall. Plus it kindly stores my harvest for me, which is convenient since it won’t all fit (or last) in the refrigerator. And so I am grateful, too, and inspired to do better.

What’s interesting about cooking from a garden is that you just look at what you have and go from there.  Not that I don’t do that pretty much everyday regardless of where my food comes from, but the garden messes with your head in a different way than your well-mannered vegetables from the co-op do. It gives you a few salsify roots, maybe one burdock, a yellow carrot with mouse nibbles on it and a whole lot of white carrots. The leeks are too tough for the spring braised I’m hankering, but I’ve got to use them somehow. The bearded salsify I now regard as a bit of chore to deal—I see why it went out of favor— but there it is. (And a fresh package of seed is on the way!) I have one thin burdock root.  I wash the dirt off my collection, take the water outside for a peony, then stare at my harvest. Eventually a dish takes form.

In this case, it was a soup, which is always most forgiving when you’re faced with a bit of this and more of that. I thought it would go in one direction, but instead it went in two. I used the burdock, those red-skinned Jerusalem artichokes, the leeks, a few salsify roots, and some mushroom stock I had made from a pound of forgotten funghi, plus a cup of home-made chicken stock. When I got all the vegetables trimmed, sliced and into the pot, I was taken aback by their forms and hues. They were gorgeous, their earth tones subdued and subtle.

JA, salsify, burdock soup

When I finished cooking the soup I was reluctant to puree it as intended, so I served the vegetables in their thin broth. That thinness was deceptive though, for the flavor from the roots was earthy and big and not too sweet. I added a pinch of truffle salt. I love that with weird roots. It was a light soup, good for the first course at dinner, with big surprising depth.

JA Soup unpureed

I pureed what was left, as I had intended in the first place. It was simple, beige and flecked with the skins of the sunchokes, but the flavors wandered around among the earthy, sweet but not too sweet natures of the roots. Truffle salt went on this one too.  No cream. Not only didn’t I have any, I didn’t want to dilute the flavor. No green, either, though sunflower sprouts would be good and right in the same family as the Ray Ban outlet Prezzi Jerusalem artichokes.  It looked dull, but then it surprised.  I did keep some vegetables intact plus added a few breadcrumbs for texture.

JA Soup with Breadcrumbs

I want to give you a really worked out recipe, but what I have is more of an approach. I know I can’t ask someone to go out and look for a salsify root, after all, or assume they have one growing in their back yard. Your soup will be fine without it. But do try the burdock – it’s a good partner with those sun chokes. And don’t be afraid of a soup that doesn’t look like much. The drama is really in the flavors – except that the cook gets another bit of drama when she looks in the pot early on and sees all those beautiful, odd vegetables.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Burdock and Salsify Soup with Truffle Oil                    Serves 6

(These are more-or-less amounts, as they can be in a soup.)

1 1/2  tablespoons sunflower seed oil

1 or 2 leeks, thinly sliced, or an onion, diced into ½-inch pieces, about one cup

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 small yellow-fleshed potato, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 white or yellow carrot, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 burdock root, about 4 ounces peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick and covered immediately with water and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice

1 salsify root, (should you have it) peeled, sliced in rounds and put in water with the burdock root

sea salt

41/2 cups, in all, chicken stock, mushroom stock, or water

1 tablespoon flour

Tuffle salt (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the leek or onion, Jerusalem artichoke, potato and carrot. Drain the burdock and salsify and add them to the pot. Turn immediately to coat with the oil. Sprinkle over 1 teapoon sea salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the 1 cup of the stock, cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, sprinkle over the flour then stir it in to the vegetables. Pour in the rest of the stock, bring to a boil then simmer, partially covered. Check after 15 minutes, take a taste, and make sure the burdock is sufficiently tender. If not simmer 10 minute more, or until it is to your liking.

Either serve the broth with the vegetables and a pinch of truffle salt. Or puree the soup.

If choosing the latter route, you might have to add extra liquid, which could be any of those you’ve used so far, or milk or a little light cream.  Taste for salt, consider a little pepper, and serve with or without the truffle salt.

Two Long Roots: Salsify and Scoroznera

A friend came to visit one Thanksgiving bearing a gift of carefully wrapped salsify roots she got in her Wisconsin CSA box.  She brought them because she had no idea what they were, much less what to do with them.   Unfortunately I didn’t have a great deal of experience with them myself. Salsify and its black-skinned relation, scorzonera, have long been out of fashion although both were popular in colonial gardens.

You pretty much have to grow these vegetables yourself if you want to know what they are. Salsify, I know from experience, is easy to grow. I don’t know yet about scorzonera. You scatter the large seeds on top of the soil instead of burying them and they soon put down roots and begin to make plants and grass-like leaves that are striking when they move in the wind. Several months later you should have roots. Mine were ready in the fall, but I wasn’t ready for them so I left the roots in the ground and nearly forgot about them until early February when those long leaves on the ground jarred my memory. I got my fork and dug them up. As you can see, they’re pretty gnarly looking. Each root is covered with a thicket of smaller ones, which give it its other name, goat’s beard. It’s also called oyster plant because many say that when cooked, it tastes (faintly) of oysters.  I’ve never found this to be true, but when I unearthed my crop I broke off one of its side roots and inhaled the main root where it was torn. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I detected a whiff of the sea – faintly briny and fresh.

Salsify roots freshly pulled from the winter garden

Unlike the pale-skinned salsify, the black scorzonera root is smoother and longer. Both roots are white inside and, like many members of the daisy family, have a tendency to darken unless plunged immediately into a bath of acidulated water. The two can be used interchangeably. Like lettuce, the roots of salsify, when broken, release a milky substance, and like chicory roots and Jerusalem artichokes, they contain inulin, which is good for controlling blood sugar and providing a pleasing sensation in the mouth, maybe a sensation that resembles an oyster. As for varieties, there are not besides Mammoth Sandwich Island Salsify and Black Giant Russian Scorzonera, except in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook where there are several varieties of each. The paucity of choice indicates only a mild interest in either plant from breeders. I believe there are more varieties of rutabagas than oyster plants, a vegetable that is the favorite of very few.

The roots of both plants, once scrubbed and peeled, can be steamed, braised, included in soups and stews, mashed, baked in gratins or dressed like salads. Young salsify roots can  (apparently) be eaten raw in salads as can the tender greens, or grated and made into little fritters. Both roots, however, are extremely mild which means that either more robust flavors need to be introduced to make them more interesting, or the accompanying ingredients need be delicate and complimentary. The few times I’ve had possession of either vegetable I’ve enjoyed Gafas Ray Ban outlet them steamed then finished in brown butter with breadcrumbs, a rather classic treatment of vegetables on the whole.  But then, what’s not good with brown butter and toasted breadcrumbs? More can be done and would be, if we saw these vegetables more often. If you are at a loss as to what to do with salsify and scorzonera, use them as you would carrots or parsnips or, as one seed catalogue suggests, treat them like asparagus. Or try this Salsify Chowder.

Thinking of the oyster-seafood connection, I thought of chowder, then I thought of corn but not frozen. Instead I used freeze-dried corn, which I’m currently intrigued with. They dehydrate into actual corn-flavored kernels.

If you prefer not to eat dairy, omit it. Make a stock from the leek trimmings and potato peels and use that, or chicken stock. If you really like dairy, decrease the water by 1 cup and replace it with milk or even half-and-half. If you’re in between, you might want to use 2% milk. It will be more of a pale white than creamy looking, but it will still taste good.

Winter Chowder of Salsify and Dried Corn                                                      Serves 4

2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar

1 to 1 ½ pounds salsify or scorzanera

1 small onion or 1 large leek, the white part, diced, enough for 1 cup

2 celery stalks, peeled if need be, and diced

2 or 3 yellow fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, about 12 ounces, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons butter

sea salt

½ cup freeze dried corn

1 cup whole milk

a little finely chopped parsley or tarragon to finish

freshly ground white pepper

Put the lemon juice in a bowl with the water. Scrub, then peel the roots one at a time, slice them into ½ inch rounds or chunks and immediately put them in the acidulated water.

Prepare the rest of the vegetables. Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion, celery, potatoes, then the salsify.  Give a stir to coat everything with the butter, then cook over Ray Ban outlet medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, add the corn followed by 3 cups water or stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook, Covered, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Puree two cups of the vegetables with the milk and additional liquid from the soup if need be, and return it to the soup. Taste for salt. Serve with a bit of fine green herb in each bowl and freshly ground white pepper.

Like many soups, this is even better the next day.

Koroneiki: From Tree to Table

I grew up around olive trees and my brother, Mike, makes olive oil in California. As kids he once convinced me to eat a raw Mission olive, saying it was just like those in the can, only free because you could just pick it. You only fall for that one once because there is nothing more unpleasant than an olive right off the tree. Something has to be done with them. Like turning them into oil.

At the gorgeous Westin resort in Costa Navarino, Greece (the lush green area of Messinia) olive trees are innumerable. About 7,000 of them were transplanted to the resort when a reservoir was dug not far away. (All but 3 survived.) Many of them are fairly young while others are old and venerable.


The variety is Koroneiki, a modest tree that produces very small olives that are harvested green and transformed into a lively, pungent oil. (The city of Kalamata is not far from the resort, so Kalamata olives grow in the area too, but those big meaty fruits are for eating, not pressing into oil.)

My brother grows some Koroneiki olives and presses them as a single varietal. His trees are many but his crop is small. “You think you’re picking a lot, but they’re so small they’re never as many as you want,” he says, something that was corroborated during my recent visit to Costa Navarino..

October is when the harvest starts and I was fortunate to witness its beginning. Rather than picking the olives from the branches, as my brother does, the trees were first pruned of their large branches, then beaten to release the olives onto the nets on the ground.  It takes a strong motion of your whole Ray Ban outlet arm to separate the olives from their branches; they’re too green to come off voluntarily. Although it looks easy, it’s not, and I speak from experience for I gave it try.  Once the trees are well picked, the larger branches are tossed aside, smaller clumps of leaves deftly picked out by the workers, the olives are poured form their net into sacks, then off they go to the mill.


I got to tag along for the next part, their transformation into a golden green elixir. Time is of great importance when it comes to making oil. If the olives aren’t pressed within 24 hours (and preferably sooner), they begin to deteriorate and rancidity sets in, so there’s a definite sense of urgency. As soon as the olives were picked, packed and loaded into a pick-up, we drove through the hilly green countryside up to the mill where they were immediately unloaded, washed, cleansed of any remaining leaves, then crushed to a paste.


In less than an hour, a river of green oil began to gush out of a pipe, an amazing site to see if you’ve only dealt with drizzles from a bottle. Even better was having the chance to taste this just-pressed olive over bread that had been grilled over the coals. This is an experience I hope everyone can experience. It has nothing to do with this business of being served a dish of olive oil with your bread in a restaurant. This is oil in its most pristine form, and from this point on, some say, it’s all down hill. But fortunately it’s a gentle slope. You have about a year to enjoy the oil. It is packed in a can, which makes it safe to carry home. (Helpfully, the oil and other products from Costa Navarino, are now available through Dean and DeLuca.)


This beautiful oil is produced, cooked with, eaten and sold at the resort. Its green and grassy flavors play perfectly with the vegetables that are also grown there. Add to the oil and produce the Greek varietal wines that are offered and I found I was eating in a way where the taste of terroir is absolutely vibrant.  I have excellent Greek cookbooks that I use, vegetables from my garden, access to homegrown Koroneiki olive oil and excellent wines, but they all add up differently somehow, good, but subtly different, the Greek version being possibly more intense, saltier, wilder. This is one reason why it’s so valuable to travel and eat food and drink wine from its place of origin. But I have to admit that today, that authentic experience can be hard to find. Cost is more a determinant than Occhiali Da sole Ray Ban outlet locale, just as it is here, and not everything is as indigenous as we’d like to think. But at Costa Navarino there is an unusual commitment to local foods and traditional ones as well, not only their olive oil, but also their vinegar, sea salt, jewels of spoon sweets, olive oil biscuits, Kalamata olives in a wine syrup and other exceptionally fine foods that show up at the resort in a variety of ways. That you can spend days in blissful comfort gazing at the Ionian sea plus eat well in a resort that presses and uses its own oil is rare indeed, but it certainly makes for a more delicious and interesting world that such an effort has been made at Costa Navarino.

Garden Cleanup, Cardoons and Carrots and What I Learned

My Monster carrots

Since it’s been chilly in the mornings for a week or more I decided to tackle my severely overgrown beds to make room for some chard, collards, lettuce and other plants I wanted to eat during the winter. With the night temperature only 13 degrees away from freezing I knew this was something I should have done earlier and that I’d better get them in the ground fast. I also had to finish tying up my cardoons and wrapping them in paper for blanching.  It’s more challenging than you might imagine corralling these enormous spiny leaves, getting them all together in a bunch, then getting the twine and some paper secured around them.  The larger plants were so heavy they needed to be further tied to a sturdy stick to remain upright. I don’t know that I’m doing this at the right time or even remotely correctly, but I’m determined to have properly blanched cardoons at least once this winter. After that I’ll plant them as ornamentals for they are exceptionally handsome plants.

The huanzontle, or Red Aztec Spinach, grew tall and extra-voluminous. I didn’t have much success in the cooking department having waited perhaps too long to commit its seed heads to the kitchen. The buds that should have been eaten while green were now a dusky scarlet. I really wanted to free up that bed for other vegetables, but I also wanted to see just how intense the color would get. I ended up with a weak compromise, cutting away some of the heavily seeded branches and using them to cover a bed I had dug a few weeks earlier and planted with all the half-used packages of radish, turnip and bok-choy seeds left from other gardening seasons. I figured the seed heads would protect the ground and the new seedlings, which had in fact come up.  And if any haunzontle sprouts appear next spring I figure I’ll have a second chance at making those huanzontle fritters I like so much.

Until this summer, one of the toughest challenges in gardening was to actually harvest anything that made it to the edible stage.  My confidence wasn’t strong, hands-on knowledge was iffy and it always seemed so remarkable that anything grew at all that I could hardly bring myself to pick it. Instead I watched the gorgeous purple kohlrabi betting bigger and lumpier until they were fibrous and tough beyond redemption. I let the chard go to seed and then tried eating the prunings; I let the lettuce make it’s bitter towers then flower instead of just eating it and planting more.

But since moving my garden into the sunshine and away from competing roots of the apple trees greedy for water, I realize that I no longer have that problem to such a degree, although I was still reluctant to use everything up by eating it.  So not surprisingly I managed to find some gnarly and neglected Oakley Sunglasses cheap carrots of such heft that I would have walked right past them if I had seen them at the farmers market. But since they were mine, I looked at them with awe and immediately wanted to rinse of the dirt and barbarically roast them whole.  Some beets too, had gotten away from me. One weighed in at pound and others were close to that. Again, they wouldn’t have been my first choice at the market, but both they and the giant carrots turned out to be sweet and delicious when I cooked them. Those damn Fairy Tale eggplants that I had planted in excess finally had to go even though they were still producing. I’d had enough of fiddling with them, plus they weren’t my favorite variety in the end, so up came two plants and with them, 38 eggplants, many of them now too pale and seedy to be much good. I never dreamed I’d be able to do such a thing—yank up a producing plant, but I did. In it’s place, collards have been planted.

I saw my gardening mistakes from the season: too much of this, not enough of that and no skill at keeping the crops coming. But I saw some surprising success, too.  The black-eyed peas, which have been the most entertaining plant ever, did just as well in their open bed with no drip and only intermittent care as they did in the coddled home of their store-bought soil-filled raised bed and its steady drip system.  Ditto the Rosa Bianca eggplant and the daikon.  The tomatoes really did need more room than I had given them, and they all listed towards westward, as if trying to climb out of their cages to smother whatever was in the next bed. Next year I’ll put them more towards the west end of the lot and give them a lot more room, just the way the gardening books tell you to.  I had planted some chard seeds next to a row of chard that were already about 10-inches tall. (I learned that a single row provided far more than I could possible eat, giving me plenty to share.) These newbies had spent the summer shaded by their big brothers and sisters so they cheap oakley never really grew up, but now I viewed them as bonus cache of transplants.  I moved them to a new bed and put a cover over the hoops in hopes that I’ll have some fresh greens during the winter after all. Cumin and anise were fun to grow, but not a very efficient use of limited space. However the anise is very pretty in bloom.  The vetch seeds have turned out to be really vigorous and hopefully they will do something good for this tired looking dirt, along with the red clover. The amaranth I planted which was supposed to be red, instead made pale green frothy looking seed heads that are towering over the too close tomatoes. I should probably pull it up, but I’m going to wait until it forms seeds, then I’ll use it as mulch for another bed. If new plants come up, fine.  And they should. After all this splendid amaranth appears to be a gigantic version of what’s growing in my garden as weeds. Finally, when I dug up a celery plant, I realized what I really had were four or five celeries (lesson: next year thin more rigorously) that had grown together and produced a massive fusion of the same snaky roots that will be found covering the nearby celeriac. And that, by the way, is really doing really well, but I’ve no room for anything else in the kitchen.  I really am cooking as fast as I can, so the celeriac will have to wait until we cook our way through the eggplants, carrots and beets.

I think I see a root cellar in my future.

New and Different at the Farmers’ Market: Grain

A writer asked me the other day what I was noticing that was different in the farmers’ market this season.  She gave me an example: one chef she had spoken to was thrilled about finding pig’s ears in his farmers market. I can’t say I’m in search of pig’s ears myself, but I have noticed some new items creeping into markets that I’m very happy to see, and that is grain.

In our Santa Fe farmers’ market a baker is selling bags of local wheat milled nearby—nutty whole-wheat flour with flakes of bran throughout. This comes from the effort on the part of the baker and others to revive wheat growing in Northern New Mexico and we’ve been fortunate to have bread made with Ray Ban outlet native wheat for the past few years. But a 5-pound sack?  This is new. We also have corn meal, both blue and yellow, that’s rough and gritty and truly redolent of corn. It makes a terrific cornbread and is more interesting than most of even the good corn meals you can buy.

A few weeks ago in Davis, California, Massa Organics had not only their organic brown rice, but also wheat, wheat berries, and an amazingly sublime jar of almond butter made from their organic almonds. They sell at a number of farmers’ markets in Northern California and I always buy their rice when I have the chance to because it is organic and also because I like the family and appreciate what they’re doing. Does it taste radically different?  It’s good, maybe better than most. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it the nuttiest, sweetest, sexiest brown rice ever.”

I don’t know that I’d go that far, but I do treasure every nutty little grain, sexy or not. As for their almond butter, (now that’s sexy!) you could serve a teaspoon for dessert ray ban baratas and probably get away with it. And if you left the jar on the table, it would be gone within the hour. With crunchy bits of almonds laced throughout the creamy almond butter base, Massa’s almond butter goes far beyond any other I’ve tasted for sheer goodness, and I’ve sampled a lot of almond butters. It’s pricey and worth it. (You can order all their products via their website

Near Portland, Oregon, Anthony Boutard grows and sells his frikeh (parched green wheat) at the Hillsdale farmers

market, corn meal and polenta made from Royal Calais Flint Corn, and very good Amish butter popcorn. The kernels look like little pearls. Popcorn isn’t that new to farmers markets –I’ve seen it sold shucked and still on the ears from Chicago to Ithaca – but Anthony also mills some of the Amish butter kernels into an aromatic flour that makes delectable cakes and corn breads.

I have also seen quinoa for sale (and the greens) in Colorado as well as wheat bran, and other wheat flours in markets around the country. The interviewer told me that she saw bags of wheat —Red Fife, I imagined and she thought it was, too—in Seattle recently at the farmers market section of Pike’s Place market.

Those of us who still bake and believe in the goodness of well-grown whole grains find the appearance of locally grown grains in our markets a boon.  They truly are a pleasure to Gafas Ray Ban outlet bake with. They are more flavorful than most and are not bromated or fumigated, which means the grains and flours are alive and prone to provide a home for moths unless kept in the freezer. So if you find grains and flours in your market, stash them away in the cold, but try not to forget about them.

I’d love to know what you readers have seen in your farmers markets that depart from the usual good vegetables, meats and eggs, and of course, fruits that are actually ripe and truly delicious. Drop a line and let me know if you can —and many thanks if you do!

Ramped up Spinach Soup with Lovage and Sorrel

Ramps are an east coast thing. We don’t have them here in New Mexico, and we don’t see them at Whole Foods, which is fine with me. They belong where they grow, and the same is true of fiddlehead ferns, as delectable as they might be. This means that every spring for years I’ve watched food people getting all excited about something I’d never tasted or been able to get my hands on. But all that changed last week when I got some ramps in the mail from Robert Schuller of Melissa’s.

They arrived in a big box that was carefully padded and well packed, but no amount of paper or plastic could keep their garlicky leeky smell from seeping through the cardboard. There was no mistaking that there were alliums in that box. Hidden among the folded mounds of paper there they were, resting in Oakley Sunglasses cheap their plastic bag. I carefully pulled the big clump of mud-covered alliums out of their bag and looked at them.  It seemed they might not travel all that well, at least not for days on end as these undoubtedly had, from somewhere back east to Los Angeles and finally to New Mexico. The greens were a little funky but I immersed them in a tub of water and got to work cleaning them.  After a long time and many changes of water I ended up with a tangle of skinny little buggers with shanks and roots like leeks and leaves like lily of the valley, and smell that was as much garlic as leek.IMG_2034

Not wanting to waste anything of my one chance with ramps. I covered the trimmed roots with water and simmered them slowly to make, in effect, a ramp broth. I left it on the stove when my husband and I went out that evening, and when we returned he exclaimed, “What’s that smell? It’s like wood, mushrooms and garlic!”  It was interesting that just the roots simmered in water conveyed their homeland of woods and fungi, but I couldn’t smell a thing due to my encounter with juniper pollen late that afternoon. I woke in the middle of the night with the thought, “It was the ramps he was smelling! Of course!”

Once they were cleaned and wrapped in a dry towel and returned to the refrigerator, the next question was what to do with them.  I consulted Elissa Altman who sent me an older piece from her blog, Poor Man’s Feast, which featured ramps on toast with quail eggs. That looked very good, but no quail eggs here, alas. There were some other thoughts—risotto and ramps, sformata wit ramps, but I decided to use half my collection a soup made with the first spinach, sorrel and lovage from the garden— and that ramp broth.  It cooked in about 10 minutes and after being pureed, ended up looking like Ireland and iron in a bowl. On the way to its becoming soup I scooped out some of the vegetables, added butter and toasted breadcrumbs and found them to be extremely good just like that, fortifying and somehow essential. Still, I went ahead and finished the soup. When it was finished, I could have drunk the whole pot. I detected and savored the ramps, but was also happily overwhelmed by the lovage, which I adore. It was then I realized that this soup tasted like a lot of spring soups I make because of those lovage leaves, only the ramps made it better.

This might not have been the best use for such a rare allium, but I’ve still got some left and those I’ll cook with softly scrambled eggs —chicken eggs, not quail, and no lovage.

What would you do with ramps?

Ramp, Spinach and Lovage Soup                                                Makes about 4 cups

3 ounces or 2 cups chopped, cleaned ramps

2 ounces or a big handful, small sorrel leaves

8 ounces spinach, big stems removed

2 tablespoons butter

3 cups ramp broth or chicken stock

Sea salt and pepper

4 lovage leaves

Clean everything as needed. The ramps take a while so you might want to have those done ahead of time. Keep the stems on the sorrel if the leaves are small, unless you can’t resist ripping them off. I never can.

Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the ramps, sorrel and spinach leaves, season with a teaspoon salt, and turn about in the butter for a few minutes.  Add the broth or cheap oakley stock, bring to a boil, and simmer just until the ramps are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the lovage, then puree then taste for salt and season with pepper.

Serve very simply – just a pool of green, or with cream swirled into it.  I used the creamy top of some yogurt and its slightly tart culture flavor was perfect. I also added a few pinches toasted breadcrumbs for texture, but you can skip this.


Chervil, Spring’s Herb

I’m not sure whether the early spring we’re enjoying is a false one or the real deal, but it does bring to mind chervil.

Chervil is the smallest of the herbs residing in the umbellifer family, a delicate annual with lacy looking leaves that more closely resemble fern-like carrot greens than, say, parsley. I adore this warm, fragrant herb but find it difficult to grow as it prefers coolness and moisture, features that are hard to provide in the windy high desert.  I have grown it, though, and it is always the greatest treat to enjoy during its brief stay in the garden, especially since it isn’t easy to find in a market and when you do, much of its elusive flavor has fled. Chervil may lend itself better as an indoor plant in difficult climes.  I saw two absolutely lush, dense pots of it at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa last spring, that had been started inside then brought out and parked in a sunny spot.


Chervil is a spring herb and as such, is compatible with spring vegetables —asparagus, the first little turnips, the first carrot, the early new potatoes. It also goes beautifully with fish, like spring salmon, sole and trout, and with poached chicken. Somehow, chervil is not an herb for lamb and beef.  Its sprigs are refreshing to come across in salads of new tender lettuces (or a chicken salad for that matter), it also complements delicate egg dishes, is divine with cream sauces and is, of course,  an element in French sauces, such as the Bernaise. A little chervil can do wonders for cottage cheese and ricotta, too, and its flavor can be preserved to a degree when steeped in vinegar, such as champagne or white wine vinegar. By the time the heat of summer  is upon us, chervil has gone to seed. But by then, we’re onto basil and other herbs and vegetables are no longer the tender ones of spring.

Chervil’s perfume is clearly touched with licorice, but the dose is not an aggressive one. It’s certainly subtler than tarragon, with which chervil is paired in the mixture called fines herbes (along with parsley and chives). Chervil is often listed as an ingredient in French recipes, but with parsley given as a substitute, which I find odd because even though they are familial, they are very different: parsley has none of the delicacy and none of that licorice taste. They’re both green umbellate herbs and that’s about it.  I think parsley is suggested not for its flavor, but because chervil isn’t wildly available here and parsley is plus it’s what we use pretty much anywhere and for anything. However, you could come closer to a substitute by mixing parsley with other licorice  scented herbs, such as fennel greens and tarragon.

I once saw chervil for sale in Napa Valley’s Oakville Grocery —for 32$ a pound! This was in the early eighties when we were all embarking on the great food odyssey.  I remember being astounded, even though the observation that chervil doesn’t weigh all that much entered my mind. Still, you might want to use enough to make a chervil soup. Ironically, wild chervil, a related but different plant altogether, has become a huge problem in Vermont as a weed that’s overtaking pasture grasses. If only it were the edible kind.

Delicacy is the main quality to consider with chervil, which means it should only be used fresh and not dried. It just turns grassy and unidentifiable. Also it’s most Occhiali Da sole Ray Ban outlet effective when added at the end of a cooking stint, not at the beginning, where its ephemeral nature will just go up in vapors. If you can get your hands on some, add sprigs a salad of butter lettuce hearts or chop the leaves and scatter them over new steamed potatoes along with butter and crunchy sea salt. Forget your smoked salt for now. It’s all about green, licorice magic.