Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Strawberries make life worth living July 3, 2009

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 12:33 am
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Up here on the North Shore, we haven’t seen the sun in….a long time. It’s achieved record-setting proportions.

 

Strawberries are the last sweet shred of life I am clinging to. We picked up some Marini’s strawberries from the Marblehead Farmer’s Market on Saturday. On Sunday, no egrets made strawberry shortcake.

 

Strawberries
Slice up the strawberries, add a tiny bit of sugar (maybe a teaspoon) if the strawberries are not very sweet. You can add lemon juice if they are excessively sweet (if you believe in excess in that department).

Pound Cake (from Joy of Cooking, ca. 1964)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix 4 c flour
1 ts salt
4 ts baking powder
Set aside.

Mix 1 cup milk
2 ts vanilla
2 Tb yer favorite likker (that would taste good in a pound cake. No sour pucker. Ew.)
Set aside.
Cream 1 1/2 cups of butter, and then add
3 cups of sugar (gradually).

Add 8 eggs, one at a time; beat thoroughly after each one.

Keep mixing and alternate adding flour mixture and wet mixture. Stir until thoroughly blended.

Baked in a greased loaf pan for 15 or 20 min, or until a toothpick comes out reasonably clean.
Whipped Cream

Take a pint of heavy cream. Whip it up in your mixer, and add (slowly) up to 5 Tb of sugar and 2-3 ounces of your favorite dessert-embellishing liquor (we prefer bourbon or Grand Marnier in these parts). Once it looks like whipped cream, you are done.

Combine and pretend it is summer.

-goldlentil

 

Seed Catalogs and Black Lung Kale February 16, 2009

Filed under: gardening,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 5:46 pm
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(Black Tuscan Kale from digitalflowerpictures.blogspot.com)

(Black Tuscan Kale from digital flowerpictures. blogspot.com)

Mid-winter: the point where I am perfectly happy to eat virtually the same thing for dinner for almost two weeks in a row. Stored apples are no longer worth eating, and my stash of frozen blueberries is sadly decimated. And yet there remains two feet of snow/ice/frozen goop on the ground and I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to get the lid off the compost container in the garden. I’d say there is no hope, except that seed catalogues are starting to arrive and the days are getting longer (daylight! after work!). Seed catalogues are remarkably reviving. I’ve ordered some of the basics for my community garden, but the exciting varieties are still to be chosen. The standards– green/yellow bush beans, peas, turnips, broccoli, spinach, and even a few tomatoes (yes, heirloom) for the masses– have all been ordered. What I’m contemplating is what new things to try this year, or what oldies to bring back. Ground cherries? Flying saucer summer squash (supposedly they do quite nicely as winter squash as well, but I find there is too little flesh for the effort)? Should we even bother with carrots? Maybe some hot peppers? Some weird type of eggplant?

 

Definitely, I’m ordering the black lung kale (known to much of the rest of the world as Black Tuscan kale). It’s the one vegetable that I’m truly enamored with. I find it to be downright beautiful: graceful on the plant, complex and deeply green on the plate. This variety of kale is surprisingly tender, with a mottled texture that takes well to both eating raw (when muddled aka tenderized) and cooking lightly. Even better, kale is one of the best vegetable sources of minerals out there as well as having numerous handy little vitamins and anitoxidants. Basically, it’s good for your blood, your eyes, your bones, your brain, and your digestive tract.

 

Some people have been known to overwinter it, but I’ve never tried. Generally, I just have a day of boiling water, dripping kale, and freezer bags towards the end of the season. It defrosts quite nicely, for eating plain or tossing into pasta, stews, stir-frys or almost anywhere else you want something green and leafy. I threw a bag in a pan of cooked onions, garlic, oregano, sliced roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and a little block of frozen basil this weekend and was surprised as always how much better it is than a box of frozen spinach from the store. The kale held its shape well, and provided a nice earthy counterpoint to pasta and a sprinkle of feta and that was equally lovely as leftovers without the pasta the next day. Not to mention it was mostly organic (non-organic seeds) and pretty much free.

 

But what else to plant…

 

-groundcherry

 

The end of farmer’s market season October 25, 2008

It’s a very sad day; we went to the last Marblehead farmers’ market of the season. We stocked up on cheese; feta; red-wine lamb sausage; gala apples; and fougasse (our newest discovery, a circular flat bread with sesame seeds, salt, and pepinas on top that tastes like a distant but infinitely superior relative of the fresh pretzel). We also came home with pea tendrils, dandelion greens, and a jerusalem artichoke. The pea tendrils will go into a stir fry, the dandelion greens will serve as the base for No Egret’s Hot Bacon Salad, and the jerusalem artichoke, which is new to us, will be used in a stew or shephard’s pie later on in the month.

(photo from wikipedia)

(photo from wikipedia)

 

My apple of the day is the Cameo, which is red-striped over yellow. It has a nice aromatic taste and the apples are small and crunchy, just the way I like ’em. Cameo is a surprise cultivar from Washington and is thought to be a cross between red delicious and yellow delicious (delicious is quite the euphenism for those bland supermarket apples—it almost moves me to quotation marks).

 

Best of luck to those of you finishing off the Eat Local Challenge.

 

-goldlentil

 

Macoun Apples October 6, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Regional food — blueheronlocal @ 5:50 pm
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(from nyapplecountry.com)

(from nyapplecountry.com)

I bought a big bag of Macoun apples at Connors Farm in Danvers. No egrets and I did not go into the corn maze. We did, however, sample the hot cider donuts, which were way more flavorful than, but not as light as, the ones at Russell Orchard.

 

Macouns are delicious—firm flesh with a tart/sweet flavor—a northern-climate-friendly cross between the McIntosh and the Jersey Black. It is named after W. T. Macoun, who was a Canadian apple breeder and botanist who named 105 apple varieties in the beginning of the twentieth century. He is credited with helping the popularity of McIntosh apples in Canada, and was a strong proponent of home gardening and gardening in vacant city lots. The Macoun was developed in Geneva, New York, a year before W. T. Macoun’s death in 1933.

 

-goldlentil

 

Pie! September 26, 2008

Filed under: Book Review,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

Wondering what to do with the twenty-five pounds of apples you just brought home from the orchard?

 

I heartily recommend the book: Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich. It’s 600+ pages and worth it. Recipes for every kind of pie on earth and an encouraging and down-to-earth author to boot. He skips the pie snobbery and shows you how to make pie by hand, food processor, and electric mixer. With fresh or frozen fruit. A good investment!

 

[Ed. note: Put out by a local, independent publisher, too!]

 

-cara

 

Honeycrisp Apples and the Lost Cultivar September 24, 2008

Filed under: Agriculture,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 8:24 am
Tags: , ,
(thanks, minnesotaharvest.net!)

(thanks, minnesotaharvest.net!)

If it weren’t for David Bedford, there would be no honeycrisp apples. The honeycrisp trees (then known as MN 1711) were tagged for removal at the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center, when Bedford, head of the apple breeding program, noticed that these trees were in a terrible growing spot. He thought they would have promise in a better site, so he let them live. It was a good thing he did. The honeycrisp has become an exceedingly popular apple. It has the perfect apple texture and its flavor is subtle and sweet. The apple grows to large proportions and stores well. And the trees love the cold weather.

 

Creating new apple cultivars is a long process and many cultivars never make it to the stage where they get nice names like honeycrisp. It took the honeycrisp thirty years to be released as a cultivar after it was grown from a seedling at the U of M in 1961. There are many reasons for this: The trees need to grow big enough to produce significant fruit, they need to produce fruit consistently from year to year, they have to survive the harsh Minnesota winter [Ed. note: Take it from me, North Shore natives, the Minnesota winter is intense. The snow never melts and when the wind blows you can feel aching sinus cavities you weren’t even aware of.], and for this particular cultivar, the U of M was treading lightly. In the late 1970s they had three cultivars metaphorically crash and burn. The regent and honey gold didn’t survive the winter (see above) and the red baron mysteriously turned yellow and orange and stayed yellow and orange. Oops! However, the honeycrisp was a clear success.

 

Originally it was thought that the honeycrisp was a cross between the Macoun and honey gold; however, when the U of M folks tested its DNA, they realized that it was a cross between keepsake and another cultivar that did not survive the testing process. Apple fanatics everywhere must be wondering “What other apple varieties were grown and destroyed that I will never taste???” (That wouldn’t be me, of course.)

 

You can buy and pick honeycrisps at Russell Orchards in Ipswich.

-goldlentil

 

(Thanks to Minnesota Harvest for the fascinating, detailed account of the growing and creating process.)

 

A Tale of Sausage and Fairy Tale Eggplants September 18, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:02 pm
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So, you have fabulous artisan sausages from the farmer’s market – pork, portobello and asiago, or – our favorite at the Marblehead Farmer’s Market — lamb, red wine and feta sausage.

This is a special meat product – better sounding than scrapple (the Queen Mother of breakfast meats), a bit drier than pork sausages, juicy without being too greasy, and with the suggestion of feta cheese and wine.  And the little fuzzy sausage donors are raised in Vermont, where natural food was invented.

When I lived in Philly a decade ago, I used to go to fantastic markets and get really nice sausage; here’s a great way I learned to enhance the flavor and preserve the juices.  Sausage itself is a flavoring agent – the juices and even the glaze on a pan from browning them add vital meat essence to otherwise poisonously boring vegetarian sauces.

No Egret’s Beautiful Wine Sauce

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lb. sausage
1 cup decent Merlot or dry red wine (Spanish wines are really nice in this)
¼ cup (mixed) of fresh oregano, fresh basil, fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
½  cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
½ cup chopped red peppers
8 oz. feta cheese or goat cheese
Your favorite Pasta

Lightly brown the sausage in the oil, and then add herbs and garlic (add more oil if necessary).  When it’s sizzling, deglaze with the wine and simmer for 10 minutes or so.  Then, add the feta (we used Israeli sheep’s milk feta from Trader Joe’s, because we forgot to buy local goat cheese from the goat cheese folks at the farmer’s market) and cut the heat.  Serve with raw tomatoes and peppers sprinkled overtop.  Serve with Pasta and fried fairytale eggplant.

 

Fried Fairytale Eggplant

 [Ed. note: Fairytale eggplant won the All-American Vegetable Selection in 2005. The last time an eggplant won that award was in 1939. You think I make these things up?]

Halve about 10 fairytale eggplant – the little light-purple ones – and coat in egg.  Roll in corn flour and fry until crisp and brown on each side.

 

-no egrets

(photos by Mike Martin)