Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blueberry cake with streusel topping

I love blueberry season. My kids love to go blueberry picking. I love to go blueberry picking. We pick TONS, and freeze them to use all year long.

While we were recently out of town, my mother-in-law stopped in to check our mail for us. While she was here, she left a section she'd pulled out of the Boston Globe about blueberry cakes. Hmm, I'm game! I tried their winning recipe for a blueberry cake with streusel topping. It sure was a winner--absolutely delicious, and it will certainly be something I make each blueberry season.

I followed the recipe exactly, so I'll just include a link here. Well worth a try!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Far Away Flavors, Local Food

One of my favorite things about eating locally and gardening is that it forces you to experiment with your cooking.  I'm sure that a few years ago, I never would have dreamed of making ratatouille considering the fact that I had never eaten it before.  Maybe for kids in France this is a normal part of summer.  For me, its hot dogs, ice cream and slush puppies.  But with a CSA box overflowing and a tiny garden doing the same, you have to branch out from the hots dogs and find some new foods to associate with each season.

Branching out for me often means incorporating spices and flavors not traditionally found in "local" food.  It took me a long time to embrace new foods (I had never even tried hummus until I was in college!) but now it's my favorite part of cooking.  For the most part, recipes are easily adapted to local produce.  There are obvious exceptions - I'm sure I will never find local avocado.  But most vegetables and meats can be grown right here just as they are grown far across the world.  Or, many recipes from far off lands do fine when you swap in your own favorite, local vegetables.

The first "foreign" dish that I tried this year was a Thai curry, based on one that I LOVE from our local Thai restaurant.  Now, to be fair, this was largely NOT local when I cooked it (a few weeks ago).  However by now, most of the veggies I used are in season, maybe with the help of a greenhouse or some other clever farming techniques.  I had this dish in mind when I chose my peas - I love the snap peas in the pod that they use in their mango curry.  Add other seasonable vegetables like summer squash, cherry or grape tomatoes, zucchini, and bell pepper and you've got yourself a fairly local meal.  The coconut curry sauce, mango and the rice will never be local, of course, but that's a small price to pay, in my opinion. 

And one last disclaimer:  I totally cheated and used the canned curry paste.  I know I could make my own but I'm still new to this cooking from scratch thing so one step at a time.

"Local" Thai Curry

Small can of curry paste (I prefer the yellow)
2 cups Coconut milk
1 mango, diced (optional - but DELICIOUS!)
1/2 cup snap peas
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow summer squash, cut into strips
10-12 cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 - 1lb meat/chicken (cut in pieces) or shrimp (optional)

Add curry paste, coconut milk and mango (if using it) to deep pan, bring to a boil and then simmer.
Add meat/chicken (if using it) and veggies.  If using shrimp, add later as shrimp cooks faster than veggies.
Simmer until vegetables are tender and meat/chicken/shrimp is cooked through.  Serve over brown jasmine rice.

For those of you who also love Thai curry, what are you favorite veggies to add?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fresh pea soup

My CSA has been giving us a bag of shelling peas each week--a lot of work, but yummy!

I wanted to try to find a use for pea shells, so I decided to try this recipe that uses the pea shells to make a broth for pea soup. Well, I started with that recipe, and then took out all the "fancy" and made it "homey".

I'm also going to try my hand at making this recipe universal for any starting quantity of peas. I hate when recipes call for x amount of something and I get either more or less in my CSA share. So this is all approximate quantities--use what ya got!


Whole peas in pods, washed well
A few sprigs fresh thyme
Heavy cream
Sour cream


Shell the peas, reserving the shells in a separate bowl. Remove any very dirty/icky parts of the shells.

Place the pea shells in a large pot. Add water to cover the shells. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 or so minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the pea shells.

Continue simmering for about 20-30 minutes, until the broth has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, slice an onion and saute in butter until browned and softened. I used one small onion--I started with about one pound of shelling peas and it ultimately made 2 bowls of soup. If you like onion, use a lot. If you're not a huge onion fan, just use half a small onion.

After the pea shell broth has reduced, add the peas, sauteed onions, and the leaves off a few sprigs of thyme. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, until the peas have cooked.

Remove from the heat and hit it with a stick blender (or put it in a regular blender). Be careful here--let the soup cool a bit so it doesn't splash and hurt you. Also, if your soup is too low in the pot and the stick blender is splashing a lot, either transfer it to a smaller pot or add some vegetable stock until the liquid level is high enough for the stick blender.

Blend until chunky. You don't need to get it totally smooth.

Stir in one tablespoon heavy cream and one tablespoon sour cream. Taste, and add more cream and sour cream if you'd like. I found one tablespoon of each was perfect for my 2 servings of soup. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or cold. Yum!


Part of why I've been lax about posting recipes here is that I got a job writing for a local Patch site. Every week I post a recipe, often featuring local ingredients. How lucky am I--to have a job writing, cooking, and sharing my love of eating locally? Feel free to visit me and say hi! I have a new recipe published each Tuesday morning.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

End of asparagus season

Our farm announced at the farmer's market today that this week is the end of their asparagus season.  It's bittersweet for me because I love asparagus but it does mark the beginning of summer/end of spring in these parts.  And summer brings so many sorely missed veggies and fruits of its own that we all get over it pretty quickly.

When it comes to asparagus (fresh and in season, at least) I am a purist.  Toss'em with olive oil, salt, and pepper, throw them on the grill and call it delicious.  However, I have two problems with this way of preparing asparagus.  One, I don't know how to use our new grill.  I'm sure it's simple but if I learn then I will have to use it and my husband will stop and we don't want that, now do we?  As much as I enjoy it, it's nice to have a break from cooking!  The second problem is the children.  Only one of them will dare try grilled asparagus and even then, there's a 50/50 chance of her actually eating it.  So, I needed another, indoor, kid-friendly recipe for my asparagus.

It didn't take me long to find this quiche recipe and declare it a winner.  Since we are also doing an egg CSA this season, this would kill two birds with one stone.  Enter some local cheese (calls for Swiss but I often use cheddar in my quiches), cherry tomatoes and bacon from the farmer's market, and High Lawn Farm cream easily found at Whole Foods, and this recipe is a perfect locavore meal.


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (10 inch) unbaked pastry shell
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups light cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. Cut eight asparagus spears 4-in. long for garnish. Cut remaining asparagus into 1/2-in. pieces, using only tender parts of stalks. Steam asparagus until tender but firm. 
  2. Brush bottom of pastry shell with egg white, In a bowl combine asparagus, Swiss cheese and bacon; mix gently. Place in bottom of pastry shell. In another bowl, beat eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper until smooth. Pour into shell. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. 
  3. Arrange the asparagus spears, spoke fashion, on top of quiche; place cherry tomato halves between spokes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome Spring!

Hello World! Most (all?) of New England is finally out of hibernation and Spring has never been more welcome. After 2 straight months buried under snow, it's amazing to finally see plants and trees coming to life yet again. Kind of magical, if you ask me.

I'm not sure what inspired me, but I decided I wanted a piece of that magic for myself and built a raised bed square foot garden. OK - my husband built it and helped me fill it but I did all the rest! This is my first ever gardening attempt so I'm keeping it small but still ambitious. I hope you'll cheer me on as I post my little garden's progress here. And of course I'll share my culinary creations born of it.

We did our first plantings and sowing on April 3rd, right after the snow melted from that lovely April Fool's Day storm. We chose cinder blocks as our building material because both Hubby and I are terrible with tools. Plus, we have the added bonus of planting inside the blocks which I think is pretty cool. Here is a shot of the raised bed just after filling it:

And here it is after our first plantings:

In the blocks, we put ever-bearing strawberries and in the bed, there are shallots (left) and leeks (right). As for seeds, we sowed arugula, spinach, bunching onions and snap peas (also in the blocks, all the way to the right where there are no strawberries).

On Monday (April 11th) we had our first sprouts - Arugula!

The next day, up came the spinach:

Then today, the peas, just barely:

The strawberry crowns are also looking healthy:

Here is everything else I'm planning to plant/sow:

bell pepper
swiss chard

The arugula will be my first harvest (if I don't kill it) and I'm thinking about an arugula-Parmigiano-prosciutto pizza...YUM! Anyone know if they make prosciutto locally??