Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Today was a busy day. I spent a lot of time in the garden pulling lettuce that had turned bitter, replanting the lettuce real estate, and fertilizing (fish emulsion - gross). Then I came inside and stood over a boiling pot of water while I canned pickles. I decided to relax at the pool (oh my God it was hot) afterwards. When I got home, I looked into a fridge that was stocked with Schlafly Summer Lager and Simply Lemonade and decided the time was right to make a shandy.

lager beer
lemon wedge

This one's pretty easy. Take an ice filled glass. Fill halfway with lemonade. Top with lager. Stir. Garnish. Sip. Relax.

Man oh man this is refreshing.

A Gifted Gardener

I am not one. It's kind of funny, cause I have a decent sized garden for someone who lives in an urban area and I am out there all the time and I am constantly doing things that would make the casual observer think that I am a really good gardener. It doesn't hurt that (not to brag), our little slice of heaven is really good looking. And every once in a while we get lucky and get a bumper crop of something, but as far as I can tell, it's only luck.

Case in point: today, I am tending to my cucumbers. I put up a trellis last week and every few days, as they grow, I kind of train them to follow the trellis. We are starting to get little baby fruits (yeah I know we are behind everyone else) and today I noticed some odd looking cucumbers.

Hmm. That doesn't look like a cucumber.

Neither does this one.
Oh wait, it's because they aren't cucumbers. Somehow I managed to plant a couple of cantaloupe plants smack dab in the middle of my cucumber patch. And I even put the little tag from the starters down next to them. Way to pay attention to what I am doing!

Seriously, it's a miracle that anything grows out there for me. On the upside, I'm kind of excited about growing cantaloupe now!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cucumber Salad

When cucumber season hits, I find that we experience a little shift away from lettuce salads towards cucumber salads. I try to keep it interesting by mixing up the ingredients a little bit and giving the cucumber slight variations in texture by changing the way I prep it. Last night I used the peeler to create little ribbons of cukes.

Cucumber Salad
1 cucumber
ground pepper
half of a hot pepper, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
dash of soy sauce
several mint leaves
spring onion, sliced

I slice up the cucumber using the vegetable peeler. I got this cuke from the farm share, so I don't mind leaving the skin on. If I got it from the grocery store, I would remove the waxy skin.

I keep peeling until I reach the seeds. I don't eat the seeds. This part goes to the compost.

Once I have all my ribbons, I toss them with a pinch of salt and let them sit in a strainer for about 10 minutes to drain out extra moisture.

In the meantime, I mix the ground pepper, hot pepper, lime juice, vinegar, olive oil and soy sauce until I have a nice emulsion.

Add drained cucumbers to dressing, top with chiffonade of mint and onion, and toss.

At this point, the salad can be eaten or refrigerated overnight to let the flavors deepen. Best served super cold with bbq'd pork steaks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ozark Mountain Blueberries

If you are looking for proof in a loving, benevolent God, look no further than the humble blueberry. They are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins while being low in calories and filled with flavor. I love these little blue guys. And I loved them even more when I met Paul Lais last year at Soulard Farmers Market.

One Saturday last summer, I was looking for some local blueberries. There were none at Tower Grove. So I headed to Soulard, where I had heard there lots of them. I had nearly walked around the whole market and only seen little blueberries packaged in plastic clamshells that were clearly not from around these parts, when, like an oasis, I came upon the Ozark Mountain stand. Blueberries everywhere. The guy said that he grew them down in Springfield, MO and suggested I sample one. Tart and sweet at the same time. Amazing. I bought a bunch of them. Then, every Saturday after, I went back and bought more. I remember the last time I talked to Paul. I said, "Next weekend is the 4th of July. Are you gonna be here?" He said he would be.

Well, it was raining cats and dogs on the 4th of July. I got up, got dressed and headed to Soulard. By the time I parked and got in, I was soaked. I made my way over the the Ozark Mountain stand and it was empty. No blueberries. No Paul. And that was the last time I ever saw either one of them.

Luckily I had the foresight to stockpile and freeze. I think we finally ran out of our stored berries back in February. The happy ending to the story? It's blueberry season right now and Paul and his berries are back in Soulard. I bought a gallon last Saturday and God willing, I will buy another gallon next Saturday.

Frozen blueberries are great in muffins, pancakes, cobblers, and pies. In fact, you name it and you can probably substitute frozen for fresh. Don't thaw them, just add them as they are. Here's how I freeze mine for future use.

Step 1: Rinse and spread on a towel. Pick through for stems and funky berries.

Aren't they perfect looking? I'm obsessed with these berries! (Blueberry fun fact: blueberries contain the same compound that cranberries contain that help prevent and eliminate urinary tract infections.)

Step 2: Spread in a single layer on a waxed paper lined baking sheet.

Step 3: Place in freezer until they are frozen solid. (I guess an hour would probably work. I usually put them in there and forget about them for a few hours.)

Step 4: Measure out 2 cup portions, bag in vacuum bags and suck all the air out. I label with date and origin as well.

During the winter, I find that our frozen Springfield berries taste better than the fresh ones available in the supermarket.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Drunken Blueberries and a Sailor Jerry Rum Sauce

More tales of leftover bread. I bought an amazing cinnamon brioche at Companion and have been eating it for toast. I've also got a half a loaf of some french, over a half of a loaf of plain brioche, a fresh stock of croutons and a tub of breadcrumbs in the freezer, so I figured I better get to the business of using this bread before it becomes a nice breakfast for the birds over in Lafayette Park. Brioche, if you're not familiar, is a rich, eggy, buttery tasting bread. Bread pudding is the obvious answer.

I didn't have any half and half so I had to run to the store. I also didn't have any rum or whiskey to make a sauce so I figured I would pick that up at the grocery store as well. Well, I don't normally buy booze at the grocery store. Randall's liquor warehouse is just a couple of streets away from me and that's where I typically buy our beer and wine. The people who work there are really nice to me and we tend to chit chat for a bit when I am in there. I had just been to Randall's a couple of days before buying some wine and made some comment to the girl who was checking me out about the frequency of my wine purchasing habits (I'm there a couple times a week) and she said something like, "You're just buying wine. It's not like you're drinking a bottle of the hard stuff every day." So who should I see at the grocery store when I have a bottle of 94 proof booze in my cart and not much else? My girl from Randall's. So I hid from her. That's totally normal and healthy.

Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Drunken Blueberries
1/2 to 1/3 of a loaf of cinnamon brioche cut into cubes (a few days old)
4 eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup dried blueberries
Sailor Jerry spiced rum for soaking (a half cup of so)
butter for pan

Sailor Jerry Rum Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup half and half
4 tablespoons Sailor Jerry spiced rum

I call them drunken blueberries because I give them a little bath in some Sailor Jerry. After they've been soaking for about 20 minutes, I begin to assemble the pudding.

Whisk four eggs together.

Add half and half, sugar and vanilla.

Add the cubed cinnamon brioche. (I actually cut the cubes earlier in the day to give them a chance to dry out even further.)

Then add the drained, soaked blueberries. Mix by folding gently. Place in buttered pie dish.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. The bread pudding will rise in the oven and then deflate as it cools.

Make the sauce while the bread pudding cools by melting the butter, then adding the sugar and the cornstarch and whisking until incorporated. Add half and half and cook until it boils. Add rum and boil for another 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the alcohol taste burns off. Don't stand over this while it's cooking. The smell of the alcohol is strong in this one.

Spoon out a little slab of pudding and drizzle with sauce.

The Captain describes the taste as "Sailor Jerry berry". That about sums it up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Home Made Croutons

I've been making my own croutons for a while now for several reasons. (Wow, this sounds like the beginning of every essay I wrote in grade school.)

1. I have an excess of bread due to overpurchasing at the Companion factory. (It's a sickness and I can't and won't help it.)
2. Having looked at the ingredients in a bag of croutons, I have decided that I'm not really interested in eating all those chemicals.
3. (Kind of tied to #2) I don't find a lot of value in a bag of crouton. They are way overpriced for what they are.
4. They are really simple to make.

Home Made Croutons
left over bread
olive oil (a couple tablespoons, it really depends on how much bread you are using)
Italian seasoning (see olive oil)
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take whatever left over bread you have and cut it into crouton sized pieces.
Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with Italian seasoning and pepper. I have a couple of different brands of Italian seasoning that I like to use. Manzo's (http://www.manzoimporting.com/newmanzoimporting/Welcome.html) makes a great bread dipping spice that I like to use, but it's a little on the garlicky/salty side, so I cut it with Penzey's Tuscan Sunset (http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeystuscan.html). I find a mix works for me. Both spices are a blend of basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper and some other stuff. Add spices with a gentle hand; they are easy to overspice.

I bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, stir and bake again for another 10. Once they are crispy, they are done. I let them cool then place in a resealable plastic container for future use. They are so much more delicious than the store bought croutons.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Greens with Roasted Beets

Okay, so I totally stole the idea for this recipe from my sister. I was returning home from my afternoon at the food club and saw that I missed a couple of calls from her. She had picked up her half share earlier in the afternoon, so I had recently seen her. She says, "I roasted the beets and put them on a bed of the greens and topped it with the goat cheese and some white balsamic vinaigrette." I think to myself, "Hmm. That sounds like a good idea." So I copycatted her. Here's what I did:

Greens with Roasted Beets and Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 beets
1 scallion
a few radishes
handful of oregano
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil + more for roasting
crumbled goat cheese
chopped pecans
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean, trim and dry beets. Splash with a bit of olive oil, and enclosed in aluminum foil. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn off oven and leave beets in there while you go sign up for a pool pass at the new Y. (You can skip the sign up for a pool pass part, but turn off the oven and leave them in there for about 30 minutes or until a knife pierces them easily.)

Mmm. Tender roasted beets.

Using a paper towel, rub the skin until it comes off. Use a paring knife to remove any stubborn sections of skin. Refrigerate until chilled. I gave them a few hours.

Rinse and dry the leaves from a couple sprigs of oregano. Give them a rough chop.

Add oregano, vinegar, oil and some salt and pepper to a glass jar. Shake and taste. Adjust seasoning.

Dice cooled beets. Assemble salad of greens, sliced radishes, beets, sliced green onion, and a bit of goat cheese and pecans. Top with a couple tablespoons of dressing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grilled Rustic French with Basil

Mmmm. Fresh basil.

I love it when my fresh herbs start going crazy and I am always looking for ways to use them. This one is a nice snack to nibble on while grilling outside. Grab a date, a glass of wine, and chill on the patio while grilling with this snack.

Grilled Rustic French with Basil
several thin slices of rustic french bread
olive oil
parmigiano reggiano
chiffonade of basil

While my chicken cooks on the east side of the grill, I place my sliced french on the west side (which is turned off.) The residual heat gives it a nice toast. Toast on each side for a minute or two.

Remove toasted bread to a plate.

Drizzle some good olive oil on bread. Add freshly ground pepper. Shave some fresh parmigiano reggiano on top.

Top with chiffonade of basil. Try not to eat it all at one time.

Chicken Breast with Garlic Scapes and Scallion

Got some scapes in the farm share this week. Scapes are the part of the garlic plant that grows above ground. Farmers typically cut the top off of the plant to encourage the growth of the bulb. I googled "scapes" and it appears that pickling and pesto are the two top uses of this unusual vegetable (is it a vegetable?) I thought I would try something else.

Chicken Breast with Scapes and Scallion
2 bone in/skin on chicken breasts
2 scallions (spring onions)
4 scapes
juice of half a lemon
zest of half a lemon
1 inch of grated ginger
spash of fruity white wine
salt & pepper

Here's what the scapes look like:

Chop the scapes and the scallions, add grated ginger, lemon juice, lemon zest, S&P, and spash of wine.

I put some extra S&P and olive oil in a couple of prep bowls. It saves me from having to wash my hands a bunch of times.

Loosen the skin from the breast. Take half the mixture and stuff underneath the skin of each breast.

Rub each breast with olive oil, S&P.

Place breasts, skin side down, on preheated medium grill. Cook, turning frequently for 20 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, and cook for another 20 minutes or until juices run clear.

When about 5 minutes from being done, I throw some snap peas (some home grown, some farm share) on the grill in a heavy duty pan. I put a little butter, olive oi, fresh thyme and S&P in the pan. Heat until warmed, but still crispy.

I garnish with some parsley, not because I dig 1980's style garnish, but because I firmly believe that parsley is packed with nutritional value.

Yum. It's like springtime on a plate.