Tuesday, December 22, 2015

rather a burger

A big gray ghost of a pumpkin has been lurking around this household for several weeks if not months. Foisted on me by my friend, RuthieAnnie, as a doorstop or a centerpiece, it has taken legs and moves from the center of the dining room table to the center of the porch and has even been glimpsed out on the deck. I expect, given time, it would be haunting the beach or down by the ponds.  It was a ghostly jack-o-lantern on Halloween; then, a few weeks ago, I said to my dotter, I think we should celebrate Thanksgiving by breaking open this big, gray squash. Her exultant answer was “Yes”. Turns out, though, that she thought I was talking about shooting it or using a sledgehammer, not making Thanksgiving more difficult by actually butchering and then cooking it. 
Few nights ago I decided to break into it in a civilized manner, if that was even possible. Finally, thinking I might lose a finger or even an arm, and just short of disemboweling myself, I put it in the sink over the drain, to keep it from rolling and to get it down to my level, and with the help of an ice pick, a cleaver, and a hammer, finally extricated two lovely crescents. They were a rich orange, moist but not mushy. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I was pretty proud of myself, still breathing hard while trying to listen to Leo, whom I had not seen all day but who had chosen those moments of physical extremity to talk to me about, oh, I don’t know, something about what to do with the Costa Rican coffee he gets from the Audubon Society: should he freeze it?
Why don’t you just do what you’ve been doing with it for the last year or so, I said. Why are you asking me?
Hurt, he said, “I’m just trying to include you in the decision-making process.”
I give you that it is excellent coffee and I will back you up in whatever decision you make, I said. But, Excuse me, I add, do you not see what I’m dealing with here, this monster I’ve managed to break into?
“Yes,” he says, “I hope you win.”
Well, I’d better, I tell him, because this is dinner. Or, if you want something else, you can order it. I was thinking pizza, of course.
“...order it...,” he muses.
Or scramble it yourself, I mutter, disturbed that my squash butchering heroics have gone under-recognized. I was thinking eggs, of course.
“No, that’s fine with me,” he says. “I’d rather have a hamburger, but...pumpkin’s fine.”
A hamburger! How long have I lived with this man. No matter how good it sounds, deciding to have a hamburger at 6:30 on a Saturday night, without prior thought, is pretty impossible. In the olden days (but even then not on a Saturday evening), having a hamburger would involve no more than dashing up to the locker by 4:55 at least and buying a pound, then grilling it. But those days have been gone a good 5 to 7 years, and now the only hamburger I buy is frozen, from the farm. It needs to be planned on in the morning because it needs to be thawed.
It’s only 6:30, maybe you can get a hamburger from Evie at the Wallingford Deli, I suggest.
“No. No,” he says, holding up a brave, forbearing hand. “Squash it shall be!”
I melted a very good chunk of butter in the cast iron frying pan, placed the squash crescents in the butter, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, added 4 very large whole cloves of garlic with the skin on, a couple of bay leaves, threw over all some sliced shallots, put the top on the pan and put it in the preheated oven. About 400°. Baked it for about 20 minutes, took the pan out, turned the crescents over – they were tender – sprinkled with more salt and pepper, basted with the pan juices, scraped a bit of nutmeg, then drizzled a few drops of maple syrup over, put it back in the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
In the meantime I garnished two plates with the most exquisite little ruffled leaves of baby kale that I’d got from Josh and Meadow Squire at the Farmers’ Market, then placed a squash crescent on each plate, garnished with a neat creamy scoop of chèvre, poured the pan juices over the whole thing, added the roasted cloves of garlic, and we did, I have to say, feast.
Half way through I said, Oh, look at this, it’s a spaghetti squash. That rich burnished, orange flesh was indeed separating itself into the spaghetti texture, a fact that I don’t see mentioned anywhere in reviews of the squash, which goes by the name of Jarrahdale.

“I noticed that,” said Leo.
I noticed that he was treating those precious roasted cloves of garlic as plate-detritis and I asked him if he knew how to eat them, treating them like artichoke leaves, scraping out that unctuous paste from the husk with his teeth.
Not only could we each not clean up our plates of maybe a tenth of that humongous squash (good thing Dakity dog loves squash), but there the rest of it sits on the counter grinning at me like a mal-formed jack-o-lantern, and after I steam enough for a pumpkin pie, I do believe I know where the rest of it’s going to appear next:  in the compost bin!
One must choose one’s battles in this festive season, and mine will be wrapping presents not exploding pumpkins.
Copying a farmer making her last appearance at this winter’s Farmers’ Market on Saturday, I say to you all,
Happy Everything
And thank you ever so much for reading.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


Up there, near the fork, a little spoonful of smelt caviar to go with my eggs and toast soldiers
Shopping Saturday occurred last weekend – that’s the first Saturday in December, on which my favorite bazaars and Christmas fairs occur, when I get my wreath for the front door, usually at the school Christmas Bazaar, but this year from a selection across the street at St. Patricks church – it was a short walk to bring it home to hang on my front door. Too, that’s the weekend that the Rutland County Farmers’ Market has its holiday fair at College of St. Joseph, and I have to stop by there before or after the Winter Farmers’ Market simply for old times’ sake if nothing else. Remember the years it was held at the Unitarian Church, all the farmers united, so colorful and chaotic? Well, it’s different now but I always find several dear people to catch up with.
I make discoveries, like just how oblivious I can be. I stop to look at the knitted items that Wendy Cijka (pronounced Chicka) of High Pond Goat Farm has for sale. A few years ago I bought a gorgeous black shawl from her for a nice amount of money to be spending on myself with Christmas just around the corner, wrapped it up and put it under the tree. I opened it Christmas morning to my utter delight! This year I emerged from my oblivion an eensie bit to realize that she offers a delicious fresh chèvre made from her goats’ milk. It’s a family operation with her husband, Stephen, son, Joseph, and daughter, Emma. You can find it at Gourmet Provence in Brandon and the Middlebury and Rutland Area Food Co-ops.
I could have eaten the whole container of it, and that in spite of being fresh from the Winter Farmers’ Market, on West Street, where I’d scarfed up quite a large Vietnamese steamed dumpling from Good Karma Kitchen. This was a pale, pillowy thing drizzled with just the right amount of soy sauce and dabbed with the perfect sear of  red pepper. I wish I had one of those right now, but Oh!, I do have some chèvre. Excuse me a moment...
All right, I’m back. I’m a little scattershot today because I had meant to write about butter, as usual, so best to get going on that subject, right? Because butter makes everything better, as does wine, and, come to think of it, egg yolks, especially when there’s a prune filling involved. Damn, the french are good with these things. What other country would dare to boast prunes. I learned of their luxness from my grandmother, who simmered them with a little water then put them into a sauce dish and doused them with fresh heavy cream and ate them for breakfast, delicately slipping the pits back onto the spoon. Now, of course I’d never do that! Would I? Way too lux, wouldn’t you say?
Last August I wrote about clafouti, some of you remember – an eggy, buttery, fruity dessert, somewhere between an omelet and a cake. That set off a round of different versions of clafouti among me and friends, including the one in Larousse  Gastronomique, that was clearly the loser, until finally I tried David Leibovitz’s Far Breton, which in my opinion was clearly the winner, with its prune filling and eggy batter.
Not to mention ease. These sweet things are so simple to make, not what you think of when you think  ‘French’ at all. Shame on you, Julia Child, for inculcating the idea of difficulty in our French food consciousness.
So when I came upon Melissa Clark’s recipe for Gâteau Breton in the New York Times cooking newsletter, I had to make it. Why? Because, usually simply a butter cake from Brittany, this one, along with lots of butter and egg yolks, has a filling aux pruneaux.
Clark mentions a soft, buttery crumb, but I found it had a crisp bite. Both of us thought it resembled shortbread, however. She bakes it for 50 minutes or until golden. Mine was a little browner than golden at 45 minutes. I’d go maybe 40 next time. For prep, factor in the time it takes to chill the dough, about an hour, although I found myself dealing with two hard hunks so I might try not refrigerating them at all next time. I don’t pie crust, which no one can believe.  
I didn’t have superfine sugar so I just put granulated sugar –  with the flour, as it happened – into the blender and processed it fine. Maybe that fine flour made my finished product crisper. I used a tart pan with a removable bottom and didn’t use parchment paper, just buttered it well. I might spray it with pam next time. And then butter it.  And finally, you know, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, think about gifting yourself one. So much easier and much more precise. Mine is a Mira digital, about $17.
Gâteau Breton
adapted from Melissa Clark in the New York Times.  Outrageously easy and so so good.
  • 2 ¼ cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons/300 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/200 grams superfine sugar
  • scant teaspoon of flaky sea salt
  • 8 ½ ounces/240 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon), diced, more for buttering the pan
  • 5 plus 1 extra-large egg yolks
  • 16 nice sized pitted prunes
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons water
In a food processor, pulse to combine flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add 5 egg yolks and pulse until mixture comes together as a dough. Divide in half, form into disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 2 hours or until firm.
Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium heat combine prunes, rum and water. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 5 minutes). Use a fork to mash into a thick purée. Let it cool.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper. Between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll one of the dough halves into an 8-inch circle. Transfer dough to prepared cake pan, pressing into edges. Spread prune or apricot purée across dough, leaving 3/4 inch border around outside edge. Roll the second piece of dough into an 8-inch circle, transfer to cake pan, press around outside edge to stick the pieces together and seal in fruit purée.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and beat lightly. Brush over top of cake, then use a fork to score a crisscross pattern into the dough. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes (cover with foil if cake is browning too quickly). Cool in pan 15 minutes. Flip onto a plate, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
I did not let mine cool completely but sliced it when quite warm into 4 quarters, then cut each quarter into half-inch slices. Half slices of this would fit easily among cookies on a platter.
unfortunately, I did not remember to take a photo of it. It was gorgeous, though. 
I guess that just about covers my food fortnight. Well, I didn’t touch on the caviar I made out of Donna and Hunky’s smelt roe, nor Zoe’s incredible scalloped oysters, nor even Robert’s lovely venison, not to mention the fact that if you do make the Gâteau you’ll have 6 egg whites needing to be made into meringues, but we’re out of space!
Enjoy this holiday season, okay? Relax, and Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

numinous sproots

little Dakity brings her 3 year old Irish Jack Russell intensity to the sere woods of this autumn

This sere stick season leads up to my favorite holiday, at least in part because Thanksgiving has been the only one devoid of the threat of gifting, that horrendous word for shopping until dropping. But more than that it is the gathering aspect of it, of family and friends, in the kitchens and around the tables, and I won’t mention the television and game aspect, although that’s part of it too, or it was. People still do gather, right? And cook? And feast?
Well that’s the thing – gardening is about done so it’s time to think of feasting, at least until the light starts coming back again. For now, I’m still picking sorrel and mint and swiss chard and kale, and the occasional dig yields crisp Jerusalem artichokes. But the onerous fall chores are pretty much done. The leaves are ground up and in the compost along with Ruth Ann’s and Rob’s sheep poop and the occasional rodent that has given new meaning to Dakity’s days. Exhilarated, she backs out of her hole at my call, ears alert, paws muddy. Marc has made trellises for me that will give new life to the Nimtz roses when the ground warms up next June. Fingers crossed. The garlic is planted and maybe I even have time to get some spring bulbs in before the ground freezes.
But all is not well in the world. Zoe sat right here the other day and asked me if I didn’t sense a certain element of doomsday in the air. And of course there is, what with Paris hysteria, the ignoring of other even more severe tragedies, the Big Lies certain politicians propagate to a massively gullible populace, and its mood of selfishness and NIMBYism. Isis. Trump. Ben Carson. Syria. Refugees. The world is insane. But it always has been and we always, with some halts, keep on going.
I responded that I was glad she was above DC, which is kind of like I’m glad she is above the Mason-Dixon line, or maybe the target area. Somehow it seems like going north would be safer than going south when it becomes necessary to get up from the supper table and move on up or down the highway. Because, I mean, fewer of us would head toward even more cold.
Or maybe what I really mean is that things get simpler the colder it gets. Heat brings all kinds of complications. I mean, self-rising flour? Something slightly indecent sounding about that, isn’t there? Self-rising, indeed! Too lazy to put some baking powder or soda into the bowl with the flour, are you? Then get on down south, Dear. Make some of those biscuits out of that lily-white, silken-soft, self-rising flour. Be sure to put on your frilly apron while you’re at it.
Funny, isn’t it, how when faced with doomsday the mind can just so easily swing back to food. ‘What are we going to find to eat,’ is the sentiment, because one does need to eat, doesn’t one. And someone needs to be figuring that out, the other way is hunger, pure, unsolicited starvation. How do you think we’ve survived all these years if not because someone took it upon themselves to think about feeding everybody. Pilar comes to mind, in the cave, in the mountains of ... Spain, wasn’t it? We cook on a heated rock or stone if need be. Because isn’t it much pleasanter to cook a meal than build a bomb; to sustain by life rather than by death?
In light of troubles in the world, and especially at this time of year you wonder about your own gluttony – the extravagance of being able to think about what specialities you are going to contribute to the Thanksgiving table, whether Jasmine will really find the good kind of oysters (I have been shocked at the sudden awfulness of those I used to buy in little pull-top cans at grocery store fish departments), if Nathan will get the consistency of the dressing right – when there are so many people in the world who are hungry, who die of hunger, or who are addicted to fast food, or who have no kitchen. No bowl. No chance.
Nevertheless, we go on, we incorporate changes, we help where we can. It is not the first year I haven’t done Thanksgiving in my kitchen, no, not at all, but it is the first time my daughter and her partner, Jesse, are doing it for the family, in their own house! Jesse’s baking a ham, a Wallingford Locker one, of course, and he’s preparing squash and mashed potatoes.  Zoe will make her traditional scalloped oysters (these are ordered from Green Mountain Fresh, which guarantees they will be the good ones). Me, I’m bringing the Italian Green Tomato Mincemeat Tart with crème fraiche, a lovely Brussels sprouts casserole, and... whatever else seems to need to be done. Zoe will make another pie, maybe apple, and maybe P2 will bring the requisite green bean casserole. It will be delicious. There will be mountainous leftovers. We will eat for a week.
The idea for those Brussels Sprouts in béchamel came from a recipe Ruth Reichl tweeted recently. It was a cauliflower casserole that I adapted to Brussels sprouts because that’s what I had. Next day Carol Tashie posted a similar recipe on her Radical Roots Facebook Page. Of course I used Radical Roots Brussels Sprouts. The ham trimmings came from a Plew Farm smoked jowl that I keep in the freezer and shave off what I need. It was sweet creamy Larson’s unpasturized milk that I used, and though Ruth called for a different kind of cheese, the raclette I’d gotten at Ooh La La bakery was perfect. The hard cheese was a Champlain Valley Tomme from Bridport Creamery. Everything available at the Rutland Winter Farmers’ Market.  Last minute shoppers note that there’ll be one more market before Thanksgiving on Wednesday from 3 to 6 at the Vermont Farmers’ Food Center. Remember that who controls the food supply controls the people. Buy local!

Ruth called her recipe Cauliflower a la Joe Beef. I think hers is the slightly easier one and why mess with perfection.  Nevertheless I’m calling mine,
Radical Brussels Sproots
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
To make the sauce, combine 1 1/2 cups of milk with a bay leaf, a chopped clove of garlic, 1/4 cup ham or prosciutto trimmings and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Make a béchamel by melting 3 tablespoons of butter and whisking in 3 tablespoons of flour and cooking, whisking, for a minute or so. Slowly add the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue until it’s thick, then stir in a quarter cup of grated raclette and a quarter cup of grated hard cheese. Add salt and pepper and keep warm.

Salt a large pot of water, bring it to a boil and toss in a pound or so of trimmed Brussels Sprouts. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain.

Toss the sprouts with the cheese sauce, pour it into a casserole dish and scatter a mixture of grated cheese and bread crumbs over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes until bubbling and golden.
I have to say every beautiful step of making and eating this dish is totally satisfying. Leo and I had it for supper last week. With just a tiny green salad and homemade bread. Absolutely numinous.  
Numinous is a puzzling word, having nothing to do with numbers but denoting, for some reason, the spiritual. It comes from the Latin word  nūmen, which means ‘nod’, in a divine way I guess, and it might be what you feel when you are surrounded by trees and the mysteries of wildlife and the workings of your own legs as you climb a path through them. I think that’s what keeps you going in stressful and tragic times. We continue to use our bodies, to bring new souls into the world, and to eat. It’s what we do. Have a wonderful and numinous Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

crooked little trail

Even in this fall, so generous with its glory, the time change has been painful. It’s bad enough that the days are getting shorter so quickly, without a whole hour suddenly yanked out from under you. So I’ve decided just to ignore it. Oh yeah, I changed the clocks, but instead of going to bed at 11 o’clock by the clock I’ll go at 10, or even 9, or maybe 8. I’ll get up when the clock says 6, or whenever I damned well please. Somewhere that feels like it would have been 7 a week or so ago. My natural wake-up time. We’ll eat dinner at ... well, maybe 7, still. The only problem is wine – I’d feel too guilty if I drank when the clock said 4, so I’ll just wait until it tells me 5.
This morning, the tiniest crescent moon in the dark eastern sky below the most radiant Venus I’d ever seen, then a beautiful pink sunrise, but only for about 10 minutes, that I would’ve missed if I’d gone by the new time. Like a sheep. The weather has been so clement that I find myself still outside digging Jerusalem artichokes or cutting down perennials until it’s pitch dark, and skunk-o’clock, I tell my little dog, Dakity.  In we go.
Perhaps that’s why I have not experienced that moment, that happens each fall where I’m cooking pork chops and apples – something too substantial – and it’s dark, and we’re sitting reading at the table, and the storm windows have replaced the screens in the door, the fire is licking up the chimney, and instead of feeling bucolic I feel claustrophobic, depressed about the whole thing. But this year there’s been a variety or openness about the hours and the days, and a different headset about getting dinner on the table. What do I want to eat? What needs to be cooked? 
The other night it was Late Fall mushrooms from the maple stump in the yard, baked butternut squash, some Brussels Sprouts’ tops (the new IN thing this year) in the sauté pan, and beets boiling forever, like nigh onto 2 hours.  Maybe I stored them a little long in the fridge.
Not a bit o’meat here, you’ll notice, or at least Leo did. But the next day I started a three day stint of making bone broth. Got some beef knuckles and marrow bones from Bald Mountain Farm Store on Cold River Road at the Hubbard place, put them in a lobster pot, covered them with water and boiled them slowly all day. In the evening I mashed some of the marrow fat on bread and salted it. What a treat! The second day I went through the freezer and found some meaty shank bones, and some pot au feu juice, added them and boiled again,  slowly, all that day, too, as well as the next. We had an Asian beef salad in homemade pita that second night, noodle bowls the third – soba noodles with scallions and shredded carrots, doused in boiling broth, and eaten. Because that pure bone broth is incredibly tasty, and some say very healthy. The only addition I made to it was half a carrot that was left over from shredding for the noodle bowls. And some salt.
After I strained all the bones out – they were falling apart by then – I simmered the broth down some more until it cooled and solidified into 5 pint jars.  More bouillon than consommé, even.
The reason the idea of bone broth took hold of  me is that nonsense – I’m sure you read about it – about red meat causing cancer. Really? Are we making any differentiation between grass-fed, organic beef and the gawdawful industrialized crap most people are used to eating? It made me mad, and so I made an essence of good beef –  its very essence.
And, because I’d gone to Bald Mountain, I had those bones. And a lot of stories. I had emailed them in the morning asking if they’d be open that afternoon. Oh yes, they were always open, was the answer. When I got there, sure ‘nuff, they were all locked up, but with a note on the door saying someone was around to open up for me if I would just call this number. I called the number and ... left a message. And I was irritated. But then I began to look around.
The first thing I noticed were some big humped birds resting on the old red trucks in what must be the Hubbard truck graveyard. Turkeys? No. Peacocks. Or peahens. And then a big brown bunny hopped by (Theo told me later that there were white ones as well, and, well, of course spotted ones, too.) Big brown and black and white chickens were stalking about their fenced-in yard. A Big Old Dog (named Tank, I found out later), ambled by emitting a ferociously lazy grumble. Turkeys in the distance. Angus across the road. All the animals are BIG! And then Brigid came back – blond and chic and kind of shy and full of stories – and let me in. She is Theo’s mother, married to the original Ted R Hubbard’s son. Theo is the one who dreamed up this organic meats store. She told me that the original Ted R Hubbard, back in the 20’s (I may have these generations mixed up or I may’ve missed one) was raising hogs and he’d go to various houses and businesses around town to pick up their table scraps to bring home to feed his pigs. Soon a lightbulb went off and he realized there was money to be made in this going to people’s houses and taking away stuff they didn’t want anymore. Getting paid for it as well as feeding his pigs with it. So was born “Ted R. HubbARD, Trash Hauling”. All these years later there are pigs on the farm again, and chickens and beef and... well, peacocks, looking like nothing so much as big ole guinea hens. Or Aryan war helmets.
Next day or so I stopped by for a strip steak – it’s all grass fed beef, not an ounce of grain, and they’re proud of its marbling – and Brigid asked me if I would like one that wasn’t frozen. Apparently she thaws some and keeps them in a separate fridge for those who want to cook a steak for dinner and don’t have time to thaw it. When I asked about the birds – peahens or peacocks? – she told me the story of an old peahen whose mate had gotten squashed somewhere, she just pining away for chicks, and so Brigid took one of her hens’ eggs and gave it to the peahen and she hatched it and nursed it and is now followed around by a large brown chicken.
That number I’d called? Theo called me back just as I was getting in the car after talking with Brigid. It’s a little hit or miss but it works.
Those shorter days got me cooking more than beef broth, though. In interstices of time, I made three jam jars full of the simplest – and best – chocolate mousse in the world – recipe below. On a different note, I made a sauce with all the vegetables on the counter that needed to be cooked – mostly tomatoes that hadn’t ripened on the vine and a few peppers, and gnarly little apples.
I’d started that pita dough in the morning with a couple cups of flour, a teensy bit of yeast – ¼ teaspoon at the most – salt, some yogurt and enough whole, raw milk to make a rather stiff dough. I figured it would get a little more liquidy as the day went on and it fermented and rose, but it didn’t, and the pitas were not that great. I just took golfball-sized pieces of dough and flattened them out in a tortilla press before I griddled them. They worked with the shredded beef salad.  
Then I added more flour and a little water to the leftover dough and let it sit out all night to rise. It didn’t rise much, but the next morning I tossed it anyway – I was tired of dealing with it – into a sizzling hot cast iron pan that I’d heated along with the oven to 450°, covered it and baked it for half an hour, then took it out of the pan, turned it on its top in the oven turned down to 350° for another 20 minutes until it sounded hollow when thumped. It turned out to be a pretty good loaf of bread, tender and tightly grained because of the milk and yogurt, but tasty and pleasant!
Turns out that bread – slathered with the butter I talked about last time, which is cultured by Ploughgate Creamery from Fayston, and available at the Co-op – when topped with the aforementioned chocolate mousse – makes a pretty good stand-in for Pain au Chocolat or even a chocolate croissant. And the mousse could not be easier to make (nor the bread, for that matter).
Chocolate Coconut Mousse
  • 7 ounces very dark and good chocolate, chopped coarsely
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) whole coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
Melt the chocolate over hot water – that is, heat some water in a pan, place a bowl over, not in, the simmering water, add the chocolate pieces, stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is just melted. Take from the heat. Pour and scrape the coconut milk into a blender, turn on low, scrape the chocolate into the coconut milk and then add the chia seeds. Process until smooth. Pour into 4 ramekins or 3 jelly jars. Decorate with dried, unsweetened coconut if you like.  Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
The jelly jars make nice little gifts for your favorite people, and you still have enough for your ownself.
Food leaves its own crooked little trail, doesn’t it? Hungry or not, you gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

factual fats

I don’t mean to be mean-spirited*, but it’s Sunday again and I’ve just read the paper and there’s skinny little Miss-New-York-Times-Health spouting about What To Eat to Live Forever. Actually, she’s not a miss and she’s almost surely older than I am, although that’s neither here nor there, proving only that we’re both still alive and with conflicting notions of what one should eat to be healthy and still enjoy it. The photo accompanying her column makes her look more glamorous than mine does me, but I’ll bet it’s at least as old as mine and possibly older. Mine was taken in 2007, so imagine. 

So, this newspaper personality – Ms NYTH – has almost become reconciled to the fact that saturated fat – mostly animal fat – is not going to kill you, probably, but old ideas die hard, and she still hasn’t accepted the fact that good grass-fed animal fats might be GOOD for you and that a preponderance of vegetable oils are probably not. It’s the old Omega3 vs 6 controversy Actually, she doesn’t seem to know the importance of differentiating between industrial meat and grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. She does get her mind around white bread being a refined carbohydrate and probably poison to her body. That’s something I have a hard time with, simply because I love it so much. She picks on potatoes more than white flour, which is okay, too. But as for bread, I like to fool myself that if I slather it with enough very good cultured butter I will have mitigated wheat’s nascent nastiness.  Butter, by the way, is at the top of the list of foods rich in Omega3s.
Although farmers are said not to use glyphosate, Round-Up, on wheat seeds, they do, possibly, use it as a side dressing or aerial spray before harvesting, as a desiccant. If they do, that might go a long way towards explaining our growing allergy to wheat. In my opinion, Snopes lacks authority on this matter.

Ms NYTH quotes a doctor who obviously has not kept up with the latest in nutritional wizardry either, and then she quips, on her own, “Olive oil, like canola, avocado and nut oils, is monounsaturated, and while it has as many calories as meat and dairy fat, it does not raise serum cholesterol or foster fat-clogging deposits in blood vessels.” These are her words. I mean, So What! Has she not studied the studies, seen the headlines, read the many many utterly flabbergasted articles  confessing that butter is good for you, that cholesterol in food does not translate to cholesterol in the blood stream? After all these years?

Then she gets into the glycemic scale, and glycemic load, mostly in an attempt, I think, to excuse pasta as a food. I mean, if white flour is anathema, what is pasta but purely white flour. Unless you eat whole wheat pasta, which defeats the whole idea of pasta. Unless the mere pressing of white flour into a ribbon changes its composition? I’m complicit in that I tend to think that if you make your own bread and start with a tiny bit of yeast, say ¼ teaspoon to a pound of flour, and make it work hard all night in a cool place to rise, in the process fermenting itself a little bit, that you will make a loaf that is not quite as bad for you as a more quickly rising loaf. Which only goes to prove that we all have methods of lying to ourselves.

She likes skim milk, too. I would say that there’s probably nothing much worse for you than skim milk, especially for kids. Good milk is whole milk, especially unpasteurized, unhomogenized whole milk, which I buy at the farmers’ market from Larson’s Farm. Growing brains need good fats, and dairy fat from healthy, grass-fed cows is a good one. I think it hardly needs saying anymore that a whole food, as a rule, is better than one of its parts. Think of broccoli and beta-carotene – people were becoming ill from ingesting lots of beta-carotene tablets – it is the whole food and the synergy of its parts that is the important thing.

But, then again... How many times must something be said? Well, every week, perhaps. Over and over.
The destruction that the war on fat has wreaked on this country, on the whole middle of the continent, on the waters of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, on our bodies, has been astounding; almost as destructive as the war on drugs. Once in a while we seem to be coming to our senses about both, but I was appalled to look at the front page of the Herald the other day, and find Rutland’s new police chief quoted as saying, "I am not a proponent of legalizing marijuana, and it is my sense it is not taken seriously."

What does that even mean? That we continue to be bullied into not putting certain seeds into the ground? That we continue to rely on drug cartels to supply us with the most innocuous “drug” of all? That we can continue to drink our livers to death but are prohibited from inhaling or ingesting a naturally grown plant that can lessen pain, side-effects of other drugs, nausea, and even epileptic seizures; the oil of which is said to cure all kinds of things, even cancer, but research on which is prohibited? That we continue to fill our prisons with marijuana users?

My, we are enlightened, aren’t we. I’d say over my span of years we’re averaging one step forward and two steps back! Have another piece of bread. Maybe it’ll change your life!

Because one must have something like bread, something crisp and tasty to eat along with all the raw vegetables, mustn’t one? A year or so ago I found a recipe for The Life-changing Loaf of Bread. It was developed by Sarah Britton on her blog My New Roots, or at least that’s where I first found my iteration of it. I see that David Lebovitz recently reposted a similar recipe on his blog that he called Josey Baker’s Adventure Bread. Almost everyone has a version by now.

This recipe is a bunch of varied seeds and nuts held together with psyllium seed husks rather than flour. It is scrumb-tious. I made it every week for a long time, sliced it thinly and froze it. It was easy to take out a slice or two every day and griddle them before slathering them with good butter. Then I started to press it onto a cookie sheet into a thin sheet, which could be broken up into crackers, and thereby no need to toast it. I haven’t made it in a while, but it’s a good habit to keep up.

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread
This entire loaf has about 90 grams of carbohydrate (minus the optionals) and makes the best toast ever!

  • 1 cup / 5 ounces sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup / 3 ounces flax seeds
  • ½ cup / 2.3 ounces hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 ½ cups / 5 ounces rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 4 tablespoons psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
  • 2 hands full of raisins * (these burn if they’re on the surface, so don’t use them in crackers)
  • coconut *
  • sesame seeds*
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
  • 3 Tbsp. 2 ounces  melted coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 ½ cups
1. In a mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Combine maple syrup (or stevia), oil and warm water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Spoon into a thin bread pan, either silicon or lined with parchment, tamp down, smooth out the top. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing.
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast.
To make crackers, follow the recipe then line a flat cookie sheet with parchment, upturn the bowl of ingredients upon it, smooth out in a rough rectangle, cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll it out into a thin sheet with a rolling pin.  Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. For thinner crackers you can divide the ingredients in half and roll and pat them out on two baking sheets. Bake them for slightly less time once they’re flipped.
Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven, flip the whole cracker over (if it breaks a bit, don’t worry!) and peel the baking paper off of the back. Return to oven to bake for another 20 minutes, until fully dry, crisp, and golden around the edges.
Let cool and break into pieces that suit you. They can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.
*Really. Well, I don't think I've ever written a more mean-spirited column. Only including it here because it was published, and this is a record of publishment. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

intuition jellish

Two things collided in my senses – one, my friend Julie calling excitedly about the wealth of walnut+-sized crabapples weighing down her tree. I had stolen those crab-apples two years ago when she had been gone, the first year she’d owned the property, and made jelly out of them. Full of pectin they were, and jelled solidly, so solid that I had to melt it and add a bit more liquid  before jarring it. The flavor was not entirely full but still really good. I cannot remember if I added sugar to them, but I think a minute amount.

Last year there were no apples. Bad year. Bad, bad year.

The second thing that happened was that just about the time I got Julie’s message I was worshiping at the throne of some Anaheim peppers that I’d bought at the Market from Alchemy Garden. They were sweet and bursting with juicy flavor and hot without being at all scorching. My Oh My, I thought, Julie’s crabapples and Lindsay and Scott’s peppers are a match made in heaven. No. THEY might have been made in some kind of fruity heaven but it was up to me to make the match: The apple-sweet pectin and minced peppers, a bit of garlic, some onion, perhaps tarragon for dragon’s breath? Divine jelly.

On second thought... in addition... and, too,  a small parcel of tiny sweet red peppers – almost a peppadew (was there just a tinge of sweet heat?) – sat in my fridge needing to be used in a constructive way. Waiting to be needed, in other words.

So there I went, travelled to the crabapple tree, bowed down, asked... She said yes and I partook of 2 or 3 pounds of her less-than-golfball-sized fruit. I sorted them at home in the kitchen sink and cleaned them and ignored spots that did not seem made by critters – few were – and put them into my slow-cooker and let them come to juice. I drained them – hung them in cheesecloth and let the juices drip into the bowl beneath. On Saturday I bought two pounds of Anaheim chilis along with a few hotter peppers and in due time cored them and ground them together with two cloves of garlic and a small shallot. I say ground them, and I did mean to get my grandmother’s old meat-grinder out and clamp it to a table and actually grind them – I craved
that authentic texture – but it turns out it was getting late in the evening and I was tired so my super-conscious evidently, like a bossy husband, decided not to remind my sub-conscious mind of my intention... and they got all chopped up in the food processor. 

By that time I was thinking of sugar, and of looking up a proper recipe for proper Pepper Jelly, and so I did, and it called for cider vinegar and 5 cups of sugar to 4 cups of peppers. Although my aim was jell, it was not a boatload of sugar. Perhaps it would turn out to be a relish.

I decided I needed a little more apple juice and so I went up to other friends’ summer house and picked the last of their apples from their ancient and heritage trees. That proved to be maybe half a dozen big ones, and went home and cleaned them up and put them in the slow cooker for a few hours. 

By the time I poured those into cheesecloth to drip their juice into a bowl to add to the already crabapple juice I had decided that when I added those three mixtures together (the peppers and the two juices), on the morrow, and cooked them down, the apple juice would be purer pectin and probably they would be sweet without added sugar and jelled without added pectin, which was another thing I was worrying: Adding pectin. And by the time I had done this, it was late and I went to my rest. 

On Sunday, the bespoke morrow (and, incidentally, the day I write this), I did not rest more, but first – after thought – boiled down the two juices to half their beginning volume – instead of cooking the life out of the pepper mash at the same time – but at the last minute remembered those tiny red bell peppers and I slit them and found so few seeds that I didn’t bother with them and just tossed them – stems and all into the juice.
I think just now, as they are cooking away, that I will save them in a separate jar, their tiny sweetness just cured in the hot. They will be good with cream cheese.

In a few hours, when the juices are reduced, I will add the pepper mash and cook that together with the juices and then decide whether it needs more pectin to be proper jell, and/or more sugar. I doubt both, but perhaps a bit of that cider vinegar.

We shall see.

Later, and quite a bit, it is still liquidy and I am going to put a stem of tarragon to it and then a cover on it and put it on the porch overnight. Tomorrow I will put it, whatever its consistency, into jars and that will be that.

​​Monday noon report: This is really peppery and appley  quite piquant, if not really hot, and a great pleasure to eat on tortilla chips with Greek Yogurt, which I've been doing all morning. It'll be great on any roasted meat, fish, or fowl, as well as slathered over a block of cream cheese. Hmm, I'm even thinking about it topping triple chocolate ice cream.

The little sweet red peppers? They should have been stemmed. 

It's not quite jelled yet but I'm thinking it is jelled quite enough. It's jarred and going in the fridge.
And although I have made this sound like a long and drawn-out process, that long process has only been a series of moments not all counting for much time each in itself.

It will snow soon enough. Do yourself a favor and follow a jellish whim. It can’t hurt.

email snimtz@gmail.com 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

september clear

A week ago I was leaning over the counter eating a luscious little Chanterais melon from Dutchess Farm and finishing up Jacob de Zoet’s thousandth autumn. I’d sprinkled the orange flesh with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. It tasted so sweet and so refreshing and had such a clean, honeyed scent, as well, that I couldn’t help imagining this elegant globe lying in a field on the end of a vine for so long – all this long hot, dry summer, really –  in Steve’s Castleton field– growing larger – but not very large, some as big as softballs, some hardball size, and some slightly larger than a golf ball – and rounder, the delicious seed pod expanding from that tiny yellow blossom, under the sun and the rain, to end up here in MY kitchen, satisfying MY hunger, while this extraordinary September light pours through my clean windows.

We’ve been busy practically all summer working on the windows of this old house, painting, mending, taking down storm windows and putting them up, and, all the while, washing them. We washed them several times until they gleamed, but next day early morning and evening sun illuminated smudges that were awe-inspiring. I tried Windex. I tried my own DIY of one part water to one part ammonia to one part rubbing alcohol. Smudge City. I tried microweave cloths, paper towels, newspaper. “Take the storms off once more,” I directed my helper. Belatedly, I googled the experts. A drop of dish detergent in hot water and a squeegee, they said.

That worked. Just in time for this September sun to angle down in the way I’ve gloried in for *gasp* forty years now, to warm all the well-worn wood in the most delightful way.

We take the mysteries of the growing season so much more for granted than we do the mysteries of fall. We eat directly off the vine, with very little preparation, because everything is so glorious it’s best just fresh. Plants are a great leveler, feeding rich and poor alike, in great houses and humble – in both you find people gnawing corn off the cob.

The mystery of this particular crux of seasons, is that while this lights slants more and more from the south, some of us are still picking basil off the bush, tomatoes off the vine, and cutting okra from its stem, too, while mountainsides are incredibly slow to turn crimson and gold, and unusually dun-colored leaves spiral off the trees over the deck and you have to pluck them out of the tarragon before you pick it. Our frost comes later and later. So, apparently, does the color.

What we’ve been eating most of all this highly prolific summer is vegetables – and one of my favorite ways of preparing them is to fry them. Eggplant, green tomatoes, just-ripe tomatoes, zucchini, okra. I slice them (except I leave the okra whole), dip them into a tempura batter and fry them in lard that Pine Woods Farm in West Pawlet has rendered from their own pigs, or in some butter and olive oil. I’m not tired of them yet. I gave a recipe for that tempura batter a few weeks ago. It’s mostly a scoop of flour, salt, coupla tablespoons olive oil, water enough to make a thinnish batter, let it sit, then add a whipped egg white before using.

But now, with September light, a different mode makes itself known. Last Saturday, before I went to the Rutland Farmers’ Market as usual, I threw a couple of still-frozen lamb shanks into the slow cooker – my kitchen could use some warming up but if it had been warmer I would have plugged the cooker in on the porch, which I did a few times this summer. I was very happy to find lamb at the Dorset Farmers’ Market two weeks ago – I do not believe Rutland’s has anyone selling lamb anymore. The question begs to be asked: Why Not?

Along with the shanks went some chopped tomatoes, red wine, garlic, shallot, celery, and whatever herbs I found quickly in the garden – a bay leaf, oregano. A Hungarian hot pepper. Slices of fennel. An anchovy or two (read Karen Ranz’s latest Rutland Bites article, Amping Up Flavors for Cool Weather Cooking. It’s excellent). Two shanks, maybe a teaspoon of salt. I set it on low and left for pretty much the whole day. When I came back at three the shanks were tender and melted into a glutinous sauce. I turned the switch to warm and later on boiled some potatoes and carrots and served the shank stew over them with some good Kate’s Butter from Maine. I added some of the veg cooking water to the stew. It was awe-fully good! That first dish of the proverbial “long simmered stew’ season.

I used what I had. You don’t need a recipe – you need lamb shanks and flavors and some wine and tomatoes for making the stew, and then some vegetables or pasta to serve it over.

Enjoy your veggies and this extraordinary September light; and go wash those windows. It’s worth it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

bitter beer and sweet dried figs

Enigmatic and evocative words sprang out at me when I opened my book first thing this morning. Sometimes books are sources of unexpected food inspiration, as this was, from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell. “Eelattu brings two beakers of bitter beer and sweet dried figs.” Nothing more is said. Mitchell does not ordinarily talk about food, but the bitter/sweet picture this brings to mind is irresistible.
And it brought to mind some food scenarios that have occurred to me over this last fortnight.

First of all, Mother Nature’s on the move again – the other day my scalp jetted sweat while I gazed at the Malabar Spinach at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, and today (it is Sunday) I’m thinking about building a fire in the fireplace. Brrr, dank and dark.

Do you all know about Malabar Spinach? I thought I did, but I didn’t. What amazing surprising stuff! The plant I was melting around had thick, almost succulent leaves, on a red-stemmed vine with tendrils of beautiful little waxy pink and white flowers. It was spinach! Yet with a hint, said our guide, of the texture of okra to it. Actually it is not spinach. It tastes like it, apparently, and relishes hot weather so will last all summer. I wish I’d plucked a leaf of it to taste –  after all, it’s probably freezing to death by now!

Next day I was on my way back from Bennington when I decided to stop at Al Ducci’s in Manchester. Al Ducci’s is no longer Al and Nancy Sheps’ love child. It’s been sold, but I know nothing about the transaction except that it’s bustling and Nancy is now happily vending gelato from a cart, and the clerk told me I could probably find her at the Farmers’ Market. Oh. Reminded, I would certainly check out a different farmers’ market. I did find her there. I also found another wondrous plant – tiny, tender, beautiful little pink and white ginger corms with their angular bamboo-like tops still attached. They were nothing like the round little leaves of the native ginger that grows in my shade. It is a spectacular plant that everyone at the market was talking about, and that peeked out of most people’s bags.

I bought summa dat, of course, as well as a loaf of the amusingly named Stevie WONDER Bread from Earth Sky Time Community Farm. It is, somewhat ironically, white, shaped like an old-fashioned loaf of bread, with shoulders, but much heavier than the original WONDER bread (made by Monsanto, wasn't it?) – and great for grilled cheeses. (Right now I’m eating this amazing sandwich of Stevie Wonder Bread, sliced Wallingford Locker ham, with Hellman’s and very thinly sliced baby ginger.) A mandolin comes in very handy with baby ginger. Careful now!

This Sunday morning, cogitating on the subject for my column this week, the exoticism and simplicity of those words from David Mitchell reminded me of those cunning little ginger corms and I regretted that I hadn’t noticed the name of the farm that grew them. A little investigation remedied that, however, and I realized that Karen or Steven Trubitt of True Love Farm would be at the Dorset Farmers’ Market this very day. And so I drove down and pestered Steven, who was very busy selling those ginger clusters, and he gave me Karen’s number to call, saying that she was anyway nicer than he was and would answer all my questions. Customers, though, broke in to tell me that although Karen was very nice she was not nicer than Steven (although they may have been taken in by his exuberant hair and smile).

I did call Karen and she did tell me that they grow fava beans and broccoli raab, two of my favorite foods, in the spring, and that they have had some success in teaching people to eat them. I told her that I frequently urge my readers to, for heaven’s sake, buy the odd thing when they see it on the farmers’ stand and try it – farmers are not going to grow what they cannot sell!

And we did agree with Steven that two of the best things to do with baby ginger is to pickle it and candy it, both of which processes work better with fiberless, tender young ginger. You can also, of course, freeze it, since it will not last a long time fresh. We put our heads together to figure out how to pickle it, and I now have about 3 ounces of it, thinly sliced, salted and slightly fermenting in a bowl in the kitchen. Later I will add a syrup of ¼ cup of rice vinegar to ¼ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I am not sure how long this might last in the fridge, but I imagine it could, too, be frozen if it is not lapped up like ambrosia fast enough.
There were other – wonderful – discoveries at Dorset. Besides finding what I think of as Rutland’s own Young La and Yoder’s and Ruane Farm there, I rediscovered Woodcock Farm’s cheeses, including a favorite chevre-type sheep’s milk called Summer Snow, and a rich nutty yellow Blue cheese. Oh. My. Goodness.

I urged all of these purveyors to come to the Rutland Market, and Woodcock’s new PR and sales person, Jordan, is particularly attracted by the winter market and the Vermont Farmers’ Food Center and the role it is playing in this whole area’s food industry! Woodcock Farm was one of the first Winter Market vendors back when the market started up in the back of the Co-op.

One more vendor caught my eye and followed up by tantalizing my taste buds. Sandra Kraehling’s Pan Latin Foods are scrumptious. I tried a corn cake topped with lightly grilled vegetables, sour cream, and then, for good measure, a zigzag of creamy ancho dressing. It was called Alepa de Choclo, and it was excellent. I found that it’s usually called Arepas de choclo, with  choclo meaning yellow corn. I believe they’re usually made of a batter that includes corn kernels, yellow cornmeal, and a fresh cheese, that is then cooked on a griddle.
I had hoped to have a recipe for you but must’ve gotten my signals mixed. There are quite a few online, but since I haven’t tried them I can’t recommend any particular one.  If you know of one, please let me know.
In the meantime, the very serendipitous event has occurred, that fennel and melon season have concurred, and I’ve been able to make the salad I talked about in the last column. The only difference I’ve made is the shaving of thin rounds of baby ginger in with the rest. 

As we enjoy the disparate and yet complementary tastes in this dish, the porch and patio are scattered with wild leaves that evoke such e words as enigmatic, and perhaps even elegant, and certainly elegiac, and Mother Nature tiptoes subtly into autumn.

email snimtz@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Okay, this is what I think, before even a glimpse into Larousse Gastronomique – “fritters” imply frying. Fritters do not result or benefit from a lot of rules.  Got a dab of this veg or that fruit – or a boodle of it either – then add an egg or two and some flour and a bit of salt and maybe some chopped aromatics and fry it up in spoonfuls and you’ve got a fritter. The amount of flour depends upon the amount of veg or fruit versus how many mouths you have to feed. I’d bet in olden times you’d be hard-pressed to find a corn kernel or strip of zucchini in a hard-times fritter.
I didn’t grow up with fritters. They weren’t a staple in my family’s food arsenal. Dumplings, yes; fritters, no. Obviously we put more stock in boiling than in frying. But not always. Anyway.
As a matter of fact the first fritters I remember eating – and they were mysterious to me – were the corn fritters made by Leo’s mother, Ida Mae. And those weren’t round puffy well-coated fritters at all (like the apple fritters you guiltily reach for in the baking section at Price Chopper), they were flat like pancakes but lacier, with sweetcorn kernels in them. I don’t remember if she served them sweet or savory, but I’ve adapted her instructions, “oh, nothing, easy, simple, little egg, little flour, corn...”, and learned to make them savory – with chopped garlic and a bit of hot pepper and onion in with the corn, but then to top them when they’re just out of the buttery pan with a few drops of maple syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt. I’m making those tonight.
We’ve been enjoying zucchinis up the yingyang because they’ve been plentiful in my garden this year and I l-o-o-o-o-ve the flavor, the freshness, the wateriness, and it will be a cold dark day in heck before I buy one in February from the culinary department store, from California, or Egypt, or wherever. So enjoy them I have, while I may, with no apologies, especially to Leo, who’s been on the verge of being a baby about them, sniffling a bit, squinching his eyes and fists, about to give voice to dissent; dissuaded perhaps because of my attitude, which is – Just do it! Eat the wonderful soba noodles and zucchini strips with ricotta and olive oil and lots of pepper, and a little parm that awaited him after an Audubon meeting the other night. And perhaps he was dissuaded from any hissy-fits the next night when I made zucchini fritters in the form of fat little pancakes sprinkled with chopped parsley, Hungarian peppers and Egyptian onions and lots and lots of freshly and coarsely ground black pepper. And topped with that great ricotta from Maplebrook Farms – a pint of that good stuff goes a very long way.
I took a platter of those to our beach gathering to mix and mingle with all the other great food and they were polished off quickly, further quenching any even faint zucchini roars from Leo the Lion.
Unfortunately, a quick circuit of my zucchini vines finds very few pending ones coming along, so that season seems to have just about spent itself. For this year.
A season that has not quite renewed itself is that of fennel – apparently it is available as an early summer crop and again as a late one. I’m embarrassed to say that I’d kept a bulb of it in the fridge for far too long and when I pulled it out the other day and, after skinning it of some of the outer layers that had aged rather unfortunately, sliced it thinly, I combined it with tiny cubes of muskmelon and chopped garlic and teensy squares of Hungarian pepper and thin slices of Egyptian Onion, all of which I dressed with a bit of white balsamic vinegar and olive oil and, again, lots of coarsely and freshly ground pepper, and some sea salt, only to discover that this unlikely mating – muskmelon and fennel – was an absolute holy alliance! I only hope that the end of melon season overlaps the beginning of fennel so that I can experience it once again. Without recourse to the Egyptian department store; which, of course, I would never do.
Keep this in mind, Dear Reader, because it is one of the few instances that I’m giving you notice of something that’s about to come IN to season rather than just going out.
Corn, however, will be here for the duration and so I offer you:

Ida Mae’s Corn Fritters
I say these are Ida Mae’s, but when I asked Leo if his mother’s corn fritters were savory or sweet, he said “corn’s sweet, maple’s sweet, how could they not be sweet.” I think hers were an egg, a little bit of flour, the corn and possibly some salt. But this sweet/savory is the way I have adapted, and we both like them this way.
·         2 eggs, whisked until frothy
·         2 tablespoons flour
·         2 cups cooked corn kernels
·         1 tablespoon chopped onion
·         1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or cilantro berries
·         1 teaspoon chopped garlic
·         1 teaspoon chopped mildly hot pepper – Jalapeno or Hungarian
·         Salt and pepper
·         Olive oil and butter for frying
·         maple syrup for topping
Combine the first 7 ingredients – egg, flour, corn, onion, cilantro, garlic, and pepper – the batter should not be thick and pasty, but light and slightly runny. Then add salt to taste – start with half a teaspoon.
Drop by soupspoons full into a hot mixture of olive oil and butter and fry over medium high heat until golden, flip and do it again. Eat hot with just a few drops of maple syrup.
Fritters are simply a way of incorporating food onto the table or into our gullets; mixing vegetables, fruit or fish, fowl, or ... mushrooms into a paste of some sort, whether it be tempura, choux, waffle. Larousse Gastronomique translates fritter into ‘beignet’. Yes, that’s New Orleans for donut, of course. It really is just spreading real food out thin with flour and egg. It’s what we do.

Go for it! 
I leave you with a photo of the fennel and melon salad