Over the last nine months I’ve been working for Schenectady Greenmarket. In that time, my life has changed quite a bit. One main area of change is my kitchen. Sure, I have always been a pretty ardent home-cook, rarely eating out, rarely purchasing prepared foods – but I haven’t the kind of person that eats truly seasonally. All that has changed since now most of my grocery shopping is done on Sundays as I run around the market.
Among the celeriac, beets and kohlrabi, there has been one humble reawakening – carrots. This cooked carrot salad is now a staple of my weekly dinners and lunches. It brings sunshine and warmth to my day regardless if it is actually sunny outside (and -12) or snowing.
Spicy Cooked Carrot Salad
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
1 lb. carrots – diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 t. sweet paprika
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
2 T. chopped parsley
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
1. Boil the carrots in salted water until tender but not soft (about 3 minutes).
2. In a large bowl, smash the garlic with a pinch of salt. Stir in the paprika, hot pepper flakes and lemon juice. Whisk in the oil.
3. Add the carrots and half the feta cheese. Toss until fully combined. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top and serve.
This salad is wonderful on its own for lunch, perfect wrapped up in a pita with falafel or grilled chicken and amazing served for dinner next to some freshly grilled chorizo.
I’m in the process of getting back into the groove. I was in Vegas for a conference last week and I’m now off to another conference in Syracuse tomorrow. The only thing that seems to be getting me through the daylight hours is caffeine – a lot of caffeine.
Lucky for me, I just received a “new” coffee maker. Actually, it’s an ancient relic. A glass percolator that’s 6-cup designation is more like only 2 1/2 cups. It is beautiful, all gold and black and grandma-looking. I think that it was an unopened wedding gift from the 1960’s that somehow found its way to me. I am in love with my percolator, though I’ll admit that there have been a few issues along the way. Brewing a morning cup of joe in a percolator is more of an art than a mindless act of flipping a switch.
For example, if you let the water come to a full boil then you get a mess and a cup full of grounds. Actually, no matter what I do there is a small silt layer at the bottom of the pot every morning. I think that I need to purchase a larger ground coffee than the black-dirt richness that I bought for my other love – my silver one-cup espresso maker.
But regardless, I do not care. Good, bad or silty – my ancient percolator makes me think of breakfasts of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and grapefruit served in pretty breakfast nooks full of sunshine…even when all I have time for is a rushed cup of coffee in my car on the way to work.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a big St. Patrick’s Day observer. I don’t like the smell of corned beef and cabbage cooking away on the stove and I never understood what’s appealing about boiled veggies. I have made only one corned beef dinner in my life and that was only because a boyfriend asked for it. I will leave the corned beef to my friend Bridget, author of Ranch Wife Life. Bridget is a cattle rancher in Eastern Washington and works for the Washington State Beef Council. Her recipe is tested, tasted and approved and the veggies are roasted, not boiled – a plus in my book.
The one thing I do like about St. Patrick’s Day is Irish Soda Bread. I love it toasted with butter and honey. Why is it only an annual treat? Soda bread is simple to make, quick to bake and intensely satisfying to eat. It should be a weekend standard, not just a holiday treat.
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 T. sugar
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until a ball is formed.
- Turn dough out onto counter and knead for three to four minutes.
- Form into a round approximately seven inches wide and two inches high and cut cross on top.
- Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife comes clean when poked into bread.
I love food and I love to eat, but I’m not above confessing that during the week my dinners are less than extraordinary. Weekends are meant for good food, weeknights not so much. To be honest, weeknights are the path of least resistance (and fewest dishes). I’ll eat ice cream from the carton (spoon), cereal (bowl and spoon) or, most often, tortilla with cheese (cutting board, plate, knife). Great meals with more than a bowl or heaven forbid a pot are not in my regular Monday thru Friday rotation.
So, I live on tortillas. I tried for a long time to find an easy, delicious tortilla recipe. The results were just that: easy and delicious – but they were also hard and crisp. I ended up experimenting and came up with the following easy, delicious and soft recipe. No, they aren’t traditional, but they are good…Really good. I keep them in a zip-top bag in my fridge and pull out one or two a night for dinner.
1 1/2 t. yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 t. sugar
2 t. olive oil
3/4 c. (plus or minus) flour
1. In a medium bowl, combine yeast, water and sugar. Let sit 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and combine until it forms a slightly sticky ball.
3. On a well floured surface knead dough for 3-4 minutes. Return to bowl and cover with towel. Let rest 15-30 minutes.
4. Divide dough into 8 balls. Roll out to 7-inch disks.
5. Heat a dry skillet. Place dough on the skillet one at a time, cooking 45 to 60 seconds each side. Place cooked tortillas onto a plate to cool.
This holiday my family will sit down to a delicious meal and give thanks. We will thank the cow that was raised with love and care, the cow that when slaughtered, fed my family for the year. We will thank our friends, also farmers, who raised the potatoes, acorn squash, carrots, corn and beans that fill the table (and our freezer). And we will thank the land that grew the grains we harvested, fed the cows with and helped pay (some) of the bills. We will also thank the local farm businesses that add flavor to the meal – Battenkill Creamery’s amazing eggnog, Cowbella butter, Sweet Spring Farm chevre.
But these thanks are not limited to my family’s table. We are truly blessed to live in a caring, close, farming community in Upstate New York. Across the state and the country families, not familiar with their farming neighbors, will be giving thanks for all that the agricultural community does without even knowing it.
The holidays focus on thanks, grace and love. As you sit down at the table this season to enjoy friends, family and food please take a moment to thank the farmers who made your meal possible as well…
Whether you know their names or not. Whether you know the sound of their laugh, the way they swear and throw a wrench when the tractor breaks or the dirty jokes they love to tell…
You know the warmth of their hearts. Because despite their farming practice, they grow your food with grace, love and thankfulness.
There are many things we turn to when we need comfort and we all need comfort right now. Personally, I bake and eat and bake again. This weekend I’ve been compulsively baking a new, delicious, truly comforting cake that makes you feel safe and satisfied and, believe it or not, a little in the holiday mood. The end product is a dense, chewy cake not quite like a muffin, not quite like a bread…something I can’t find a comparison to.
I’d recommend you try these simple, easy cakes today or tomorrow or whenever you need a little cheer over the next few weeks.
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1T baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. whiskey
Pre-heat to 400 F.
- Melt butter and add honey. Take off heat and let cool slightly while you mix dry ingredients.
- In large bowl combine dry ingredients and whisk together so it is evenly mixed.
- In medium bowl lightly beat eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and whiskey. Continue to mix as you slowly drizzle butter into wet mixture.
- Add wet to dry until fully combined. Dough will be sticky and thick but to loosen a little you may add 2 to 3 T buttermilk or cream.
- Spray 10 inch round spring-form pan. Spoon batter into pan, using back of spatula to even out. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked into center of the cake.