Saturday, July 31, 2010


After dinner strolls out to the garden have sparked a new routine. . .berry picking. Half of the ripe little gems make it into the pail, the remaining go right down the hatch. Easier than pie!

Feast your eyes on this incredible research, revealing the many wonders of blueberries. Sourced from Wikipedia:

Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients, with notably high levels (relative to respective Dietary Reference Intakes) of the essential dietary mineral manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber (table).[19] One serving provides a relatively low glycemic load score of 4 out of 100 per day.

Nutrients and phytochemicals

Blueberries, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy239 kJ (57 kcal)
Carbohydrates14.5 g
Dietary fiber2.4 g
Fat0.3 g
Protein0.7 g
Vitamin A54 IU
- lutein and zeaxanthin80 μg
Thiamine (Vit. B1)0.04 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2)0.04 mg (3%)
Niacin (Vit. B3)0.42 mg (3%)
Pantothenic acid (B5)0.1 mg (2%)
Vitamin B60.1 mg (8%)
Folate (Vit. B9)6 μg (2%)
Vitamin C10 mg (17%)
Vitamin E0.6 mg (4%)
Calcium6 mg (1%)
Iron0.3 mg (2%)
Magnesium6 mg (2%)
Phosphorus12 mg (2%)
Potassium77 mg (2%)
Zinc0.2 mg (2%)
manganese 0.3 mg20%
vitamin K 19 mcg24%
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Especially in wild species, blueberries contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases,[20] including inflammation and certain cancers.[21][22][23]

Research on the potential anti-disease effects of blueberries

Researchers have shown that blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit mechanisms ofcancer cell development and inflammation in vitro.[24][25][26][27] Similar to red grape, some blueberry species contain in their skins significant levels of resveratrol,[28] a phytochemical.

Although most studies below were conducted using the highbush cultivar of blueberries (V. corymbosum), content of polyphenol antioxidants and anthocyanins in lowbush (wild) blueberries (V. angustifolium) exceeds values found in highbush species.[29]

At a 2007 symposium on berry health benefits were reports showing consumption of blueberries (and similar berry fruits includingcranberries) may alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer's disease and other conditions of aging.[20]

A chemical isolated from blueberry leaves can block replication of the hepatitis C virus and might help to delay disease spread in infected individuals.[30]

Feeding blueberries to animals lowers brain damage in experimental stroke.[31][32] Research at Rutgers[33] has also shown that blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infections.

Other animal studies found that blueberry consumption lowered cholesterol and total blood lipid levels, possibly affecting symptoms ofheart disease.[34] Additional research showed that blueberry consumption in rats altered glycosaminoglycans which are vascular cell components affecting control of blood pressure.[35]

A study soon to be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that supplementation with wild blueberry juice enhanced memory and learning in older adults, while reducing blood sugar and symptoms of depression.[36]

Marketing of Blueberries as a Superfood (Anti-Oxidant Properties)

Based on the promising research discussed above, magazines and newspapers have recently begun to hail blueberries as a superfood. Example: an article in the July 2010 issue of Chatelaine magazine mentions the blueberry as a food that can increase the body's natural ability to heal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stewed Okra

I love late summer for a few reasons:
1. Goldenrod
2. Nighttime cricket serenades
3. Stewed Okra

My grandmother-in-law, Zelma, was born and raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina. At the grand age of 94, more than most of her memories are fleeting. Yet, if I mention okra, a twinkle appears in her eye. Just last week, when I told her our crop was coming on, she beamed and said with the sharpest clarity of earlier days, "Okra! Is there anything better than okra?"
She grew up with this dish as a summertime staple. I don't even attempt to compare this version to hers, but hopefully it is slightly reminiscent. Enjoy.

Stewed Okra:
*1 sweet onion, chopped
*3 Tbsp butter
*2-3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 1 large ripe heirloom tomato, chopped
*3 cups bush beans, rinsed, stems removed, chopped
*3 cups okra, tops removed, sliced into 1 inch pieces
*2 cups water
*2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
*sea salt and pepper
*1 cup chopped basil, divided

Place a heavy pot over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp butter, and onion. Saute for 3 minutes before adding garlic. Saute a few minutes, stirring often, then add the chopped tomatoes.
Simmer slightly. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Add bush beans and water. Stir.
Add okra, balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 cup of the chopped basil. Adjust seasonings, cover and simmer until beans and okra are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add additional water while cooking if needed.
Remove from heat.
Stir in the remaining Tbsp butter and chopped basil. Great over rice, or served with poached eggs, and/or local sausage.

Sometimes I start with a few strips of pancetta or pastured bacon in the heated pot. Remove the meat once brown and crispy with a slotted spoon and set aside. Use the fat in place of the butter. Serve okra with the crisp bacon sprinkled over top.
Also, you can make this in the winter months with your frozen okra and canned beans of any kind. I like a white bean or pinto. You can play around with this forever, adding all sorts of personal variations.
Red wine is a nice flavor to add as well.

Okra pods contain high levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid antioxidants such as xanthin, lutein, and beta carotenes. In fact, in the world of green vegetables, okra contains the most. These properties are essential for healthy vision, while also maintaining healthy skin. Such properties also help create a natural defence against lung and oral cancer.
Okra is a good source of vitamin C, K, B6, dietary fiber, folates, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and magnesium. Okra helps maintain a healthy digestive system and is commonly used as part of weight loss routines.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lovely Beasts

It's happened to all of us who like to grow okra. You harvest the first tender pods, turn your back for a split second, and the renegades turn into beasts. Somehow they missed your eye and grew into mammoths. Tough, stringy, and magnificent. I can't stand to throw them in the compost. So I just bring them in, stand them up in a stemless wine glass, and put them front and center.

The tender youngins are simmering on the stove. Stewed okra recipe to follow. . .

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rustic Cast Iron Skillet Quiche

While cleaning out the freezer to make room for new dwellers, I came across an extra disk of pastry dough. Jackpot. I threw it in the fridge and rolled it out the following evening for quiche. The majority of this dish was harvested from our humble little acre. Total bliss.

Rustic Cast Iron Skillet Quiche: (serves 6)
*6 fresh eggs
*2 cups fresh jersey milk
*1 sweet onion, sliced
*a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
*4 strips pastured thick cut bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped into pieces
*3 cups fresh spinach leaves, rinsed
*1/4 cup local cheddar, shredded
*basil, chopped
*sea salt

Follow crust making steps from April's Nettles Quiche post. Instead of using a basic pie dish, place pastry in a large, buttered cast iron skillet.

Preheat oven to 375.
Whisk egg, milk, sea salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
Sprinkle half of the chopped onion and tomato in the bottom of prepared crust. Add all of the fresh spinach. Top the spinach with remaining onion and tomato. Pour the egg mixture over contents. Sprinkle the bacon, and cheddar over top.

Bake on center rack of oven until middle of quiche puffs and the top is golden. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving, garnished with chopped basil.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Creamy Cashew Bush Beans

I think I may have lost track of what I was doing this Spring, and planted one too many rows of purple bush beans. It's been that way with everything this season. Our basement is quickly beginning to resemble a conspiracy theorist's bomb shelter as it fills to the brim with potatoes and onions.
After an unusually long NC winter, I think I am not the only one who got a bit over zealous in the freshly tilled garden dirt.
All I think about now, is a shiny, new chest freezer for all the overflow. No flat screen, high definition piece of hardware to watch the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" for this gal; just a cold, extra box to put my beans and okra in. In fact, I would truly rather open a chest freezer, and stare at frozen vegetables for an hour.
Due to the abundance of this year's bean crop, I have tried to come up with different ways to prepare them, to avoid an unwanted taste aversion. So far, so good. This creamy cashew version is right on time.

Creamy Cashew Bush Beans:
*1 1/2 Tbsp butter or duck fat (reserved from your roasted duck)
*1 sweet onion, chopped or sliced
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1 tsp mustard seed
*generous pinch cumin
*a handful of cherry tomatoes or 1 small garden tomato, chopped
*sea salt and pepper
*3/4 cup whole raw jersey milk
*1/4 cup roasted cashew pieces
*2-3 cups green beans, rinsed and trimmed

Place butter or duck fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium/low heat. Saute the onion until slightly tender. Add the garlic, mustard seed and cumin. Stir in the tomatoes.

Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the milk and cashews. Allow to simmer, stirring often until milk slightly thickens. Toss in the green beans. Cover and cook until beans reach your desired level of crunchiness, stirring occasionally. Plate beans, spooning extra sauce over top.

Monday, July 19, 2010

East Fork Farm Lamb Kabobs

Try this- go to farmer's market, buy a pack of pastured lamb kabobs from your favorite meat grower, take them home, rub on them with spices and herbs, put them on the grill, pick em' up with your fingers, and place in your mouth. . .

. . .the end.

Dry Rubbed Lamb Kabobs:
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*1 large garlic clove, minced
*1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
*1 tsp paprika
*1 tsp tamari
*1 tsp fresh grated ginger
*1/2 tsp sea salt
*1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
*1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
*red pepper flakes to taste, optional

Prepare grill or cast iron griddle over medium heat. Blend all ingredients for rub, together in a small bowl.
Rinse lamb kabobs. Pat dry with paper towels.

Massage a small amount of the rub into each piece of lamb. Place on the grill and cook until medium rare. Please do not over cook, you will miss out on all the sweet, tender, lamb kabob love.

Allow to rest before enjoying with plenty of beautifully prepared garden veggies.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


They may be my favorite thing to grow. Call me boring, but onions give me some sort of strange thrill. Maybe it's because we started them from seed back in February, giving them periodic haircuts until they filled out and were ready for outdoor soil, enough time for a relationship to form. I like how they look, planted in stick straight double rows, bulbing out as the weeks pass. Tugging onions out of the ground and imagining them hit a buttery cast iron pan, makes all the time spent on this flavorful bulb more than worthwhile.

Onions, (Allium cepa) are widely recognized as medicinal. Chemical compounds such as quercetin, provide anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant, and cholesterol lowering benefits. Across the globe, onions are used topically to relieve stings, blisters, and sea urchin wounds. Onions break down osteoclasts, helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Pielomeric chemicals in onions reduce symptoms of sore throat. Onions have also been widely used to treat asthma, bronchial infections, lower blood pressure, and provide a balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Not to mention how onions pick up a wide array of minerals from the soil and provide high amounts of vitamin C. They contain antimicrobial traits, reduce infection and blood clots, and embody a very high concentration of beneficial phytochemicals. The endless varieties add tremendous flavor to any dish. Bon appetit!

Monday, July 12, 2010


A popular dish in the south of France, tapenade is traditionally served on toast or bread, yet is exceptionally good with fish, chicken, or tossed over roasted fingerling potatoes. During hot summer weather, it's salty, briny quality is a fine companion. Keep a jar of it around, and slather the next item to come off the grill.
Here is an incredibly easy recipe, no oven required.

*1 1/2 cups pitted assorted Greek olives, drained
*2 Tbsp. capers
*1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
*2 cloves garlic
*1-2 anchovy fillets
*3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
*1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
*black pepper to taste

Pulse all ingredients but the lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor. Slowly add liquids with blade running until a course paste forms. Adjust pepper to taste. Store in a glass jar fitted with a lid. Refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grandmothers, Friends, and Rose Tea

A package arrived from my grandmother today. I was in a fluttery daze while unwrapping the contents. They just don't make things the way they used to. Her contribution completes a collection of tea things from both sides of the family tree. My father's late mother Barbara, left behind a similar, and completely unique, mismatched set, which somehow fell into my excitable hands.

My friend Dana, is somewhat of a medicinal herb guru and has a devout interest in most things naturally pristine, (while also sharing an equal love for old-fashioned tea sets). At any given moment, one could find anything from a straw hat filled with rose petals, to a freshly found, and recently deceased indigo bunting, inside the cab of her truck. Not to forget about the steady presence of "Foreigner's Greatest Hits," often within close proximity to the driver's seat. A person like this not only keeps you entertained with tales from the woods, but has an uncanny way of sharing hospitality where ever she goes.
On many occasions, while gardening together, Dana will have had the forethought to bring along a cooler filled with ice and assorted iced teas for those lucky enough to work along side her. A godsend on a hot day. Or anytime for that matter. Here is one of my favorite blends, which Dana explains as having cooling properties.

Dana's Cooling Rose Tea:
*4 green tea bags
*a handful of fresh rose petals (a cooling medicinal)
*5-7 crushed rose hips (contains refreshing vitamin C)
*local honey (full of native pollens, offering homeopathic properties)
*1 quart jar

Steep the tea bags, rose petals and rose hips in quart jar filled halfway with boiling water, for about 20 minutes. Add honey to taste, keeping in mind that the tea will be diluted by ice. Fit the jar with a lid and gently shake. Fill the jar with ice cubes. Strain into a tea pot and add additional ice. Pour into tea cups and enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010


My favorite food image of late, provided by Saveur. This beautiful woman proudly sells freshly butchered whole animals and smaller cuts, during a Moscow city market, representing a completely different Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Under communist rule, food was rationed to minimalistic canned, frozen or pickled items.
The brief article, written by Sharon Hudgins, speaks of Russia's new found freedom. Open air markets now burst with a variety of locally produced goods, demonstrating the power of politics and it's close relationship to food and societal wealth.

I love her apron!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Wonder. . .

if J.Crew knows what I do with their bags?

*East Fork Farm mild lamb sausage, waiting for it's side of pan seared purple bush beans.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beet Vichyssoise

Some reasons to make this:

1. A beet bomb just went off in the garden
2. Today is milk pick-up day, (fresh, raw milk, beckoning a dish featuring it's loveliness)
3. To enjoy one of the most shocking colors in nature
4. A cold, and refreshing meal for a heat wave
5. No other word instantly makes you sound more sophisticated than vichyssoise.

Beet Vichyssoise:
*4-5 red beets, peeled and quartered
*2 small sweet onions, quartered
*3 celery ribs and leaves, chopped
*2 garlic cloves
*4-5 small (freshly dug) gold potatoes
*5-6 cups high quality chicken stock
*sea salt and pepper
*2 cups fresh milk

Place all ingredients, except for the milk, in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until veggies are soft, about 1 hour. Allow to cool. Working in batches, blend contents of pot in a blender or food processor. Return to pot. Whisk in the milk. Refrigerate until cool. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or creme fraiche, and chopped celery leaves.
I like to serve this with a side of sauteed beet greens.

*Hippocrates was known to use the leaves of beets to bind wounds, and since early Roman times, beetroot juice has been considered an aphrodisiac.
Beets contain high levels of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C. A great source of calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, folic acid, iodine, manganese, potassium, and the greens are loaded with fiber.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Local. Pastured. Whole. Roasted. Peking. Duck.

Words only muddle what this duck represented, but I'm going to give it a shot:
Beauty. Luxury. Nourishment. Generosity. Freedom.

Whatever the folks at East Fork Farm decide to bring to market, I want to try. I trust this family so wholeheartedly in what they do, I know whatever they raise has been raised above and beyond the finest standards.
Ducks, like rabbits, pose challenges when raised outside of a cage. Though this Peking duck variety does not fly, they are still difficult to reign in. The same is true with rabbits. The tendency to tunnel makes them uniquely demanding to pasture. Yet Stephen and Dawn do it anyway, because they acknowledge raising animals under natural systems as a rightful challenge, and it shows in the final product. Each morsel from their farm proves their hard work and commitment.
Roasted whole, with apples, lemon verbena, garden onions, and celery from Gaining Ground Farm, this duck was one of the finest meals I've had.
Appropriately cooked and served on Independence Day, I couldn't help but draw a few parallels on the subject of freedom. This meal was one free from cages and additives, degenerative illness and corporate profiting. It symbolizes freedom for small farmers to do what they do, and make a honest living while doing so. Freedom for consumers to vote with their fork. Freedom from neon lit grocery store aisles, (and Kenny G supermarket remixes). Freedom to let the taste buds experience luxury the way they were intended.

Whole Roasted Peking Duck:
*1 young, local Peking duck
*2 small sweet onion, quartered
*2 local apple, cut into 2 inch chunks
*3 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
*2 sprigs lemon verbena
*sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking dish with parchment. Prepare onion, apple, and celery. Rinse duck under cold water. (If the butcher was generous enough to leave you the neck, rinse and set in a small saucepan, and cover with water. Simmer on back burner of stove, while duck bakes, adding water as needed.) Dry duck with paper towels. Place in the center of baking dish.

Arrange apples, onion, and celery around duck. Stuff duck with the celery leaves and leaves from 1 sprig verbena. Score the skin of duck breast with a small sharp knife, and prick all over. Salt and pepper. Add leaves from second verbena sprig over top of the duck. Place a splash of water in the bottom of pan.

Bake for 2 hours. Remove from heat and allow to rest before slicing and serving with apples, celery, onion pieces and gravy. (Remember to save the bones for stock).

Duck Gravy:
Remove neck from saucepan, and reserve liquid for stock and gravy. Using a fork, pull away neck meat. In same (now empty) sauce pan, add about 1 Tbsp of cooking liquid from duck, over medium heat. Mix in 1 Tbsp flour. Whisk into a paste. Allow to brown slightly. Add 1/2 cup cooking liquid from the duck, neck meat, and 1/4 cup simmer liquid from neck. Whisk until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over plated duck. Enjoy!

*Original recipe card, straight from the farm:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake With Grilled Peaches

South Carolina organic peaches. The grill. Dark chocolate. Whipped cream. Fourth of July. Why not?

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Grilled Peaches: (From January's "Dessert Dilemma" post)

*1 cup raw cane sugar
*3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
*3/4 tsp salt
*1/3 cup olive oil or melted butter
*1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
*1 1/2 cups hot water
*1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
*2 eggs
*1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two layer pans.
Place sugar, cocoa, and salt in a large bowl. Pour in oil (do not mix). Place baking soda in a separate bowl; stir in the hot water and add to cocoa mixture. Mix with an electric mixer until cool, about 1 minute. Beat in flour, then eggs and vanilla. Pour equal amounts batter into each prepared pan. Bake about 15-18 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pans.

Grilled Peaches:
*2-3 local peaches, sliced

Place a grill pan over medium/low heat or prepare outdoor grill with low burning coals. Coat grill rack or pan with butter. Grill peach slices for about one minute per side. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate while preparing whipped cream.

Whipped Cream Frosting:
*1 cup organic heavy cream
*1 tsp vanilla
*2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Whip cream in a large bowl using an electric mixer, until cream begins to thicken. Add vanilla and sugar. Continue beating until thick and fluffy, being careful not to over whip (or you will end up with butter). Spoon half of whipped cream onto 1st layer of cake. Smooth over surface. Add second layer on top and repeat.

Arrange grilled peach slices over top of cake. Sprinkle with blueberries if you like. Slice and serve.

Happy 4th!