Saturday, June 25, 2011

strawberry bonanza extravaganza

phil and i went strawberry picking today at Littlewood Farm in Plainfield, Vermont.  Littlewood is a sweet little organic vegetable and strawberry farm in the Winooski River Valley. It's about 10 miles from our house, but today was the first time i had ever been there. PYO strawberries is in full swing at the farm--$4/lb.

the rain had been threatening all morning but phil's weather radar said it would hold off til noon.  the minute we got to the patch, it started raining. we however came prepared--raincoats and boots!

every time i pick berries, i am reminded of why they are so expensive at the grocery.  hand-picking delicate little pieces of fruit, slumped over, digging around for the most aesthetically pleasing. lucky for me, i didn’t care what my berries looked like--just that they tasted ripe and sweet!
in about an hour we had a heaping tray full of perfect-for-us berries. Nearly 9 pounds!

and then began the task of deciding what to do with them. shortcake, bread, tarts, smoothies, cupcakes, jam, ice cream, cheesecake, daiquiris, chocolate covered strawberries---can you say predicable?   every website has a scrolling carousel with the same strawberry recipes--recipes that most of us have tried and loved, but tried a million times. i really wanted something new, different.  not that strawberries aren't perfect as is, right off the stem...but i was ready for an experiment.

in all my searching i only found two recipes that caught my attention:

1. Wheat Berries with Strawberries and Goat Cheese: not much of an experiment, but i do love wheat berries and it was the first savory dish i found. Below is my adaptation of the recipe by giada de laurentiis. this recipe will definitely serves 4-6 people, easily.

2 cups soft white wheat berries, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Dressing:
1/3 cup oj
juice and zest of one lemon 
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil  
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, packed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 medium strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3 cup (4 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see note)

For the wheat berries: In a large pan, combine the wheat berries, chicken broth, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until the wheat berries are tender, 60 to 70 minutes. Drain the wheat berries in a colander (the berries will not absorb all the liquid) and set aside to cool, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange and lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, honey, mint leaves, salt, and pepper until smooth. Pour the dressing over the wheat berries and add the strawberries, goat cheese, and walnuts. Toss until all the ingredients are coated.
Note: To toast the walnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using.

i forgot to mention, that before all this cooking started we did breakdown and make strawberry mint margaritas! Tequila, strawberries, ice, mint, lime--and blend.

2. Strawberry Jalapeno Poppers: the clear standout, from the California Strawberry Festival, Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest.  The following an adaptation from Berry Blast Recipe Contest finalist Allan Oerlemans of Ventura, CA.

wanton wrappers
cream cheese
fresh strawberries
Oil for frying
Remove tops from jalapenos, slice long way. Remove the stem and chop strawberries. Spread small amount of cream cheese on wanton paper. Place jalapeno slice across wrapper. Spoon heaping teaspoon of strawberries on top of cheese and jalapeno.

Fold sides of the wrapper in, then roll.

Use a small amount of water to help hold the wrapper closed.

Fry in oil until golden brown.

Remove from oil onto a bed of paper towels. eat them hot--so tasty. the recipe suggests serving these treats with strawberry jam. i ate them plain. might try them with a salsa fresca next time, but i really like that they aren't super sweet.  I love the bite of the good!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

celebrating the sun, season

yesterday we had a wonderful solstice celebration. good food and drink, great company, perfect weather and a few heart felt games of cornhole.

the menu included roasted dill potatoes with garlic mayo, cold soba noodle salad, caprese salad, mango shrimp, grilled veggie/chicken kabobs (no recipe here--be creative: lots of veggies. marinate everything overnight with your favorite spices and quality olive oil and vinegar), veggie pot stickers with spicy soy dipping sauce, quinoa salad with mint, feta and cucumbers, build your own berry shortcakes, and pimm's cup.

1 pound new red potatoes, bite size dicing
1/3 cup fresh dill
quality olive oil
salt, pepper, cayenne---to taste

Dice potatoes toss with dill, oil, and spices.  Roast at 400 until tender. About 20 minutes. Serve with garlic mayo (made with 1 clove garlic, diced and 1/3 cup mayo).

15 ounces soba noodles
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 carrots, grated
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup smoked tofu, diced

Cook soba noodles--add to boiling water and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). While noodles are cooking, mix all other ingredients together. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. Toss noodles in with veggie/sauce mixture. Refrigerate minimum of 1 hour--I made the salad the night before. Serve cold.

1 cup baby mozzarella balls, drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

mix ingredients, drizzle with oil and vinegar and season to taste. so fresh, so simple, so good.

1 ripe mango
8 ounces fully-cooked shrimp, i used salad shrimp
1/4 cup finely-diced red onion
1 large avocado, diced
1/4 cup finely-chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and dice the mango. Mix the mango and the shrimp together in a bowl. Add the avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cover and chill until time to serve.

1 red onion, diced
2 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup white cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 package wanton wrappers
Canola oil

In a wok, add a little oil and saute onions and ginger. Add the mushrooms and stir. Add the cabbage, carrots and chives. Season. Cook until mixture is soft. Add the sesame oil and cilantro when mixture is cooled. Check for seasoning. Assemble wanton wrappers with mixture. In a hot non-stick pan, coat with oil and place dumplings. When bottom gets brown, add 1/4 cup of water and immediately cover. This will steam the dumplings. Carefully watch the dumplings and completely evaporate the water so that the bottom gets crispy again and sticks to the pot. Makes about 25.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cucumber
4 oz feta
juice of one lemon
1/3 cup fresh mint
1 tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic
quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa and let cool (one cup quinoa, two cups water--takes about 20 minutes to cook). Let cool.  Add diced cucumber, mint, feta and tomato to quinoa and mix. dress with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  

1 pint blueberries
1 carton strawberries
1/2 pint blackberries
Country Style biscuits
whipped cream
homemade strawberry rhubarb compote (my first attempt at cooking with rhubarb--rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon, cooked until tender and delicious!)
Bake biscuits, wash and mix berries together.  assemble as you please, top with plenty of whipped cream....YUM!

1 part Pimm's No. 1 (gin based liqueur)
1 part lemonade
1 part cucumber water
spash of ginger beer (reed's is a great option)
dress class with lemon wedge and cucumber slice

We had this version while on vacation in Asheville.  The cucumber water (64 oz warm water, 1 cucumber, juice of 1 lemon--mix and refrigerate) gives this drink a refreshing, clean taste.

Happy summertime!

Monday, June 6, 2011

on the road

I've been on vacation since the end of May, which I thought would leave plenty of time for blogging.  Not so much.  But I have had lots of time for visiting and eating, of course.  Each time I have stopped in to see someone, I have labored over what to bring (sorry Lauren--IOU).   My favorite bottle of wine is a bold red and not condusive to this heat.  My favorite berries are still coming from distant lands.  And my favorite chocolates didn't survive the road trip from Vermont.

Granola has been the great stand in this time around.  I found this recipe in a February issue of Martha Stewart Living. I was looking for something sweet and delicious to make Phil for Valentines Day and found this recipe to be the only standout.

photo courtesy of

Makes 7 cups--i typically double or even triple the recipe.  
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut chips (i get these gorgeous flakes in bulk from Hunger Mountain Coop)
  • 1 cup almond slivers (Martha calls for pecans or walnuts, quartered--use your fav)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (grade B adds the best flavor, and i have been using Phil's homemade gold!)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (but use your favorite dried fruit)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix together oats, coconut, nuts, syrup, oil, sugar, sesame seeds, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread granola in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for 40 minutes. Add cranberries, and bake until granola is toasted, about 10 minutes more. Let cool completely.

If you're looking for a granola that clumps, this isn't it.  It's got a great crunch and sweetness, but it doesn't really clump.