Fleur-de-Vows&Wows

Sometimes I have a recipe that I just can’t wait to share, and that launches a blog post. That is the case today. I found a recipe on Margaret Roach’s blog A Way to Garden, modified it to my own kitchen and kitchen garden harvest, gave it a new name, and voila!Autumn finery

Taste of India Butternut Soup

1 medium size butternut squash

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons garam masala

13.5 fl. oz. can coconut milk, unsweetened

2 cans water

Garnish with a pinch of calendula petals atop a nest of freshly chopped chives

Halve butternut squash, scoop out seeds, and place flesh-side down on baking sheet in a 400-degree oven. Roast until soft. Cool, then scoop and mash the flesh, discarding skin.

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add garam masala and cook a little longer.

Place mashed squash into soup pot and add spiced onion and garlic. Add coconut milk and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. At that point, cool and ladle about half of the soup into a blender and puree. Add puree to soup, leaving some chunks for texture, and heat to serve. Garnish with chopped chives with a few calendula petals on top. (Or any fresh herb you have handy.) Laurie Lynch Vows

Wedding Wandering: My mother and I spent last weekend at the wedding of Celso (our Brazilian Rotary Exchange Student from years ago) and Sarah at the lovely Washington’s Crossing Inn on the Delaware. The celebration among family and friends led to much storytelling. I especially enjoyed the remarks by a fellow who met Celso when they were both students at Kutztown University. I can’t remember if he misheard a conversation or what, but the young man originally thought Celso’s name was “Cellphone”. These high-tech youngsters.

While my mom and I were waiting outside the restroom, she struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was waiting for his wife. I was otherwise occupied until the man came up to me and said, laughing, “She’s frisky!”

“Frisky? She’s 85 years old!” I replied.

“She can’t be,” he said.

“I’m not 85,” my mom agreed.

Exasperated, I firmly said, “Look, I’m her mother so I know she’s 85.” Oops, I meant to say “her daughter.”

The fellow looked at the two of us and said, “You’ve both had too much to drink!”

Indonesian Beauties

River Wandering: On Sunday, we took the scenic way home and drove up along the Delaware River to Frenchtown. I have been looking forward to visiting the shop “Two Buttons” run by Elizabeth Gilbert and her Brazilian husband. (Elizabeth wrote Eat, Pray, Love, among other books.) The shop is filled with Balinese delights and the coolest dressing room I’ve ever seen.

Two Buttons Dressing Room

Two Buttons Dressing Room

Web Wandering: My chef-phew Wille got a story published on the Edible DC website. Check it out. I hope he will make us some pici when he returns.

http://edibledc.com/recipes/tuscan-countryside/

Fleur-de-Calendula

Gardens work in mysterious ways. The Ianto Evan’s polyculture garden I started in spring produced zillions of radishes, meager chard and carrots in summer, but late summer into fall it has become a gold rush of calendula flowers.

I’ve read about Calendula officinalis for years, but I’ve never grown these rays of yellow, gold, and orange. What a pity.

With the cold weather moving in, I wondered how to preserve this treasure trove of blossoms.Perma

Calendula seems to be the Superwoman of herbs. Its anti-inflammatory and healing properties are touted for urinary tract infections, athlete’s foot, and pink eye.

The tea can be used as a gargle for sore throat or a mouth rinse for canker sores or ulcers. A drink of calendula petals will ease tummy aches, calm painful menstruation, and reduce fever by inducing sweat (but please, no more than 2 cups per day). A dab of calendula brew on a cotton ball is reported to be good for anything from diaper rash and insect bites to burns, wounds, and acne. Why, if you have an itchy scalp you can even rinse your hair with it.

With all herbs, there are a few caveats: first, go slow and don’t go overboard. And, the big one: If there is any chance that you are pregnant, steer clear of using calendula internally, as it stimulates menstruation. But, from what I’ve read, a pregnant woman can use it externally as a salve or massage oil. It is said to relieve lymph congestion, reduce stretch marks, and ease breast soreness.

So, getting back to my calendula patch. I decided to dry a basket of the flowers. I read that “overnight is usually long enough to dry the delicate blossoms”. Well, I turned my dehydrator on the lowest setting on a Wednesday evening and figured by morning, I’d have dried blossoms. Wrong. I went to work, got home, and they still weren’t dry. Thursday night. All day Friday. Friday night. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, they were ready to be placed in glass jars for keeping. 72 hours, not 12, too, too long.Dehydrator

One teaspoon of the dried herb in tea ball with a cup or so of steaming water, steeped for about 15 minutes, is all it takes to make the magic potion, when I need it.

In the meantime, soup season is approaching. I’ve heard it said that in Holland no broth is made without calendula petals. That, I will enjoy trying. There is something poetic about sprinkling these tissue-paper thin petals in a soup pot, conjuring up its peasant name—pot marigold—the poor woman’s substitute for saffron. Laurie Lynch

Spirit of the Mountains: With the change of the season, I’ve been listening to a CD created by my girlfriend Mary’s husband, Harrison Edwards, many years ago. It remains a favorite. “A collection of vivid instrumental music inviting you to soar with the thousands of hawks and migrating raptors as they pass over Hawk Mountain as they pass each year during their fall migration.” Soaring I am, even in Centre County.

Done

Calendula Petals, Pure Herbal Gold

Spirit of Tuscany: My chef-phew Wille has been working in the kitchen of an Italian resort since early September, soaking up the sunshine, landscapes, and the romance of Tuscany.

“I fell in love…” he said in a phone call that sounded as close as if he were calling from Tyrone. There was a hesitation, a pause, “…with pecorino.”

“Oh, the cheese (specifically, ewe’s milk cheese),” I answered the little trickster. He reports that in Tuscany, pecorino can be eaten alone or accompany “salumi,” the Italian equivalent of the French term “charcuterie,” or, as we say in the USA, “preserved meat.” Pecorino is also beloved for dessert when it is eaten with a slice of pear, just like Wille’s Nonno used to do at our dining room table.

Wille’s favorite salumi are two “oldies”: prosciutto crudo (cured ham) and salame (spiced, salted pork and pork fat forced into casing and aged for several months) and a new discovery: finocchiona, minced pork and fennel forced into casing and cured. And I’m sure he washes them all down with plenty of Tuscan wine.

At the resort, there is a different menu every day for the vacationers—Tuesday night is always outdoor pizza oven night—and sometimes Wille even cooks staff meals for 35, which includes the kitchen, farm, maintenance and laundry crews. Quite an experience.

An Old Italian Saying: “Non far sapere al contadino quant’e buona la pera col pecorino.” (Don’t let the farmer discover how tasty pears with cheese are.)

Fleur-de-FallToDo

marchiocongarzoneI puzzled over the sentence: “I’m happy for the Navy, which has found a place in Brussels.”

Yes, we’re bombing in the Middle East but I didn’t know the U.S. Navy sailed into Brussels. Then, I figured it out. Google Translate, my international friend, converted my daughter’s English name, Marina, into Italian…and came up with “Navy”! Marina, by the way, is ready to carve her niche in Brussels when she starts an apprenticeship with the European Commission Oct. 1.

Sure, there are some glitches but Google Translate has been a godsend in allowing me to exchange emails with my dad’s Italian cousin, Settimio, and his son Luca. We each write about family happenings and garden successes in our native languages, and with a zip and zap of the computer, get the other’s email translated into our native language. (Years ago, my dad had to take letters from his Italian relatives to his barber, Tony Felice, for translation.)

In his last email, Settimio commented on Marina’s new job and talked about the job he retired from at Barilla, an Italian pasta company. Barilla, he told me, is now making pasta in the U.S. When I buy pasta in the supermarket, I buy Barilla. But Settimio’s email led me to the company’s website…where I found this accompanying artwork. I loved it so much I decided to share it with you. Eggs are obviously important ingredients in Barilla pasta!

Fall has tiptoed into Centre County with foggy mornings and sunshiny days. There is enough chill in the evening air to make me head to the kitchen to roast vegetables. I had a huge bag of mushrooms from southeastern PA and found a recipe for White Bean & Roasted Mushroom Soup from the blog She Wears Many Hats. I tweaked it a bit to suit my garlic-and-sage-loving taste. Laurie Lynch

White Bean & Roasted Mushroom Soup

1 pound mushrooms, halved or quartered

2 large sweet onions, quartered

6 cloves garlic, slightly crushed

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

10-15 fresh sage leaves

8-10 stems plus a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves

48 oz. of chicken or vegetable broth

3 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, not drained.

Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Toss mushrooms, garlic and onion in olive oil, add about a teaspoon of salt and pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Add sage leaves and thyme stems. Roast at 450 F degrees for 10 minutes, stir, and roast for 15 more minutes.

While roasting vegetables, add broth, beans, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of thyme leaves to a large stockpot and simmer over medium heat. When vegetables are done roasting, cool slightly. Ladle about two cups of white beans and one cup of broth into blender. Add roasted garlic, onions, and herbs. Cover and blend until smooth.

Tiger Stripe Figs

Tiger Stripe Figs

Add pureed bean mixture back into stockpot, stirring until smooth. Add roasted mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste. Warm over low heat until ready to serve.

To Do: Try something new! I was at Wegmans the other day and found the most beautiful fruit—Tiger Stripe Figs. They taste as delicious as they look.

To Do: Last spring, we were visiting my sister and her husband in Connecticut. Their Golden Retriever puppy broke a cluster of leaves off a potted coleus. I took the broken piece, put it in a bottle of water to root, later planted it in soil, and ta-da, what I now call Tulla’s Tail Coleus. This is the time of year to move such tender plants inside for the winter.

Tulla's Tail Coleus

Tulla’s Tail Coleus

To Do: I’m teaching a garlic planting workshop Sunday, Oct. 12 1-2:30 p.m. at Rock Springs, PSU’s Ag Progress Days site. Sign up!

Garlic_2Workshop_flyer-

Written on Slate: “My grandfather used to say that over your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” –Brenda Schoepp, Farmer

Fleur-de-Discoveries

Having Marina home has been a perfect finish to summer—although summer is not yet over and Marina is not yet back in Belgium.

As promised, there has been no shortage of BLTs (in payment of her editing help), and watermelon and corn on the cob, for that matter. But Marina did tinker with our old favorite, and now BBT is our sandwich of the summer of 2014.

For a few years now I’ve grown Salad Leaf Basil, an heirloom variety from Renee’s Garden. It’s milder than Genovese Basil, but I mix both to make pesto, add to sliced tomato salads, etc. Marina hasn’t been back in the States for a few summers, so this was her introduction to Salad Leaf Basil—and I had a bumper crop, both at home and in the Master Gardener high tunnel.

In the high tunnel, protected from wind and weather extremes, Salad Leaf Basil was a showstopper. The large, blistered leaves easily billow out to 6 inches long and a good 5 inches across! When washed and wrapped in a paper towel and stashed in a Ziploc in the crisper, they stay fresh for several days without getting the dreaded black spots so common on most basil leaves when refrigerated. So, Marina substituted Salad Leaf Basil for ordinary lettuce and—Shazam!—our old classic improved a notch above perfection. (The photo shows the size of one leaf—next to Settimio’s huge Cuor di Bue tomato slice.)BBT

The culinary creativity didn’t stop there. Marina brought a recipe for Chocolate Mousse Pie she discovered while living in London (lovefoodeat.com), and added a twist from our herb garden.

Chocolate Mint Mousse Pie

For the crust:

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup coconut oil

2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

4 Tbsp. sugar

5-6 Tbsp. cold water

For the mousse:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup beet puree

Fresh mint, chopped, to taste

Chocolate MintTo make the pie crust, place coconut oil in the refrigerator until it is solid. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar, and slowly use your fingers to combine with the coconut oil. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add enough cold water to make a ball of dough. Keep it in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Roll dough into ¼ inch thickness and place it in a pie plate. Patch it together if it breaks or tears, it will be just fine. Bake the crust at 350° F for 8-10 minutes. Let it cool completely.

Peel and boil beets until soft and blend it into a smooth puree. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler until smooth. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Now add the beet puree and mix well.

Pour this chocolate-beet mixture into the prepared pie crust and smooth the surface with a flat spoon. If you have mint in the garden (Marina chopped a small handful of chocolate mint) sprinkle it on top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the mousse filling completely sets. The beets give a garnet glow to the chocolate and are a great way to expand your vegetable repertoire. Laurie Lynch

Mellow Yellow: Ever since Richard found Sandy 3 on Craigslist we’ve known he is the perfect dog for my mother. But recently we discovered Sandy can not be beat for Nonna’s grandchildren either. Her youngest, Nick, and his girlfriend Sarah were visiting the other day. They decided to play the card game Castles, but needed a playing surface…

Castles

Written on Slate: “You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” –Nate Berkus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleur-de-TasteOff

My mom and I helped at Tait Farm’s Tomato Festival Taste Off earlier this month. They had an array of 61 varieties, pretty good for a bad tomato summer.

Tait Taste Off by Chris Igo

Tait Taste Off by Chris Igo

The winners were:

  1. Sun Gold
  2. Matt’s Wild Cherry
  3. Mountain Magic (late-blight resistant “salad” tomato)
  4. Pruden’s Purple (of the top 5, the only full-sized tomato)
  5. Jasper

In my garden, Poona Kheera cucumbers and Zephyr summer squash are flooding the beds but our tomatoes are coming on like a droughty trickle. I’m growing several plants from seed given to me by my dad’s cousin Settimio who lives in Italy. One beautiful Cuor di Bue (Bull’s Heart) tomato yielded enough slices for BLTs for mom, Marina and me. We’ve been getting a good many paste tomatoes, but so far, none of my Green Zebras. If it is any consolation, Settimio didn’t have the best tomato season in Northern Italy. Temperatures were in the mid-70s all summer long…but, by the end of July, he had already made 100 jars of tomato sauce and 10 jars of pickled cucumbers, picked 100 zucchini, as well as baskets of raspberries and strawberries, and was looking forward to white and black grape harvest. In mid-August, he planted 300 seedlings of radicchio, Treviso’s famous chicory, which will be ready to eat at Christmas. Makes me feel like a rookie! Laurie Lynch

Belgian Wisdom: The other night we had a few glasses of Prosecco. Marina put the opened bottle back in the refrigerator with the handle of a spoon inserted into the neck of the bottle and the cup of the spoon sticking out. I questioned what she was doing, and she replied, “It’s the Belgian way.” The next evening, we got the bottle out, poured three glasses…and the bubbly was still bubbly! I’m befuddled as to why this would work and plan to make this my September experiment.

Brussels Sprouts Wisdom: A Lemont Farmers Market shopper asked if we sell Brussels sprouts leaves.   I told her we were done selling for the season, but had never heard of eating Brussels sprouts leaves. She said she likes them more than the sprouts themselves. So, the other day when I was making Chard Pie and was short on chard because we’ve been long on nibbling bunnies, I added leaves from my caged (and protected) kale and Brussels sprouts. The “chard” pie was as good as ever. Customers are often the best teachers.

I found my original Swiss Chard Pie recipe in Taunton’s Kitchen Garden magazine in the mid-1990s. Over the years I’ve subtracted a few ingredients and added others, but it remains a family favorite.

Garden 101 Chard Pie

1 bunch (as much as I can hold in one hand) of chard, kale, and/or Brussels sprouts leaves

4 cloves garlic, chopped

Olive oil

1 cup green olives, sliced

6 eggs

½ cup plain yogurt

¾ cup feta cheese

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray lasagna-size pan with Pam.

Remove leaves from stalks, tearing into 3” pieces, and place in bowl. Chop chard stalks into ½” pieces and sauté with chopped garlic and olive oil in large pan until soft. Add leaves to mixture and place lid on pan until greens are wilted, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and toss in sliced olives.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs with yogurt. Add feta cheese and sprinkle in red pepper. Pour egg mixture over greens and stir, making sure greens are coated. Place mixture in prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes until firm. Slice into squares and serve. Leftovers make a good breakfast, hot or cold.Night-Blooming Cereus

Female Wisdom: The other night there were four (we had a houseguest) crazy ladies dancing in the moonless night at 101 Timber Lane. My mother’s night-blooming cereus (a gift from my VA Beach sister Leslie) was blooming! (Leigh insists it was because she kissed the buds the night before, coaxing them to open before she left town.) Selenicereus grandiflorus is in the cactus family and rather gawky looking 364 days of the year. But on the one night the blooms open it is a starburst of intoxicating fragrance and shimmering beauty. The flowers are so amazing that mention of the plant pops up in books, including Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Jerry Spinelli’s Love, Stargirl . After a night’s performance, the blossoms close up and hang limply, exhausted ballerinas in tulle petals of cream and pale pink.Tired

 

Written on Slate: “She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” –Anne Dillard

 

Fleur-de-GoldenImage

It is an image I hope will be etched in my mind forever. It was Wednesday, my second market day in August. Three generations–my mom, Marina and I–were sitting at our stall in a former coal bin at the Granary (a grain elevator built in 1885) at the Lemont Farmers Market.

A woman comes up to browse, and I go into my hard-neck garlic spiel, onto Picasso shallot, Zephyr squash, and Poona Kheera cucumber patter, and finally, the Harner Farm apple pitch (my sister Larissa is married to Earle Harner), discussing what little I know about Zestar and Paula Red apples.

Poona Kheera

Poona Kheera

“I’ll take one of those golden cucumbers. My son loves cucumbers,” the woman says. Beside her stands a youngster of about 7 or 8. I explain that Poona Kheera cucumbers are originally from India. They come out of the garden with tiny black bristles that I brush off, and the skin is so tender it doesn’t need to be peeled. She hands the cucumber to her son. He turns it horizontally, like a cob of corn, and bites into it.

As they continue walking down along the row of vendors, the boy snacks on his cucumber. It is one of those I-wish-I-had-my-camera moments. Laurie Lynch

Fritter First-Aid: The garden (and daily rainstorms) have rewarded us with a bounty of cucumbers, squash, and zucchini. To try something a little different, Marina and I made Zucchini Fritters. I found a recipe that called for 1½ pounds of grated squash (salted and towel dried), one egg, ¼ cup flour, and added chives and chopped garlic. Made a dipping sauce—3 T. of rice vinegar, 1 T. Tamari, 1 tsp. sugar and a couple shakes of red pepper flakes—an interesting accompaniment. Problem was, after frying ¼ cup portions of the batter in oil, our fritters fractured. They tasted fine but crumbled into several pieces. Does anyone know the secret to creating firm but tender Zucchini Fritters?

Snack First-Aid: Sue Smith, champion of all things Lemont—the farmers market, Friday night concerts on the green, Strawberry Festival, and Granary restoration—brought a bowl of homemade pickles to market this week, giving each vendor a taste. (Last week, it was cherries.) Then, in Sue-Smith-style, she handed each one of us her recipe for Refrigerator Pickles. Marina and her dad made a similar batch last week. ‘Tis the season!

Sue Smith’s Refrigerator Pickles

6 cups sliced cucumbers and 1 onion, sliced

Mix together 2 cups sugar, 1cup vinegar and 1 T. salt, and pour over cucumber and onion slices. Fill jars and refrigerate for four to five days before serving.

BTW: At the Lemont Farmers Market we’re known as Garden 101. (Last summer it was Garlic 101 but I’ve expanded my offerings.) The Lemont Farmers Market runs through October, Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., but I am only there during August.

A Plug: The fearless threesome went to see The Hundred-Foot Journey the other night. I loved Helen Mirren, food, and France before buying the tickets, so I’m hardly impartial, but I give the movie two thumbs up.

Some Thugs: Last week was a tough one. My ATM got skimmed. My email got scammed. I made a trip to Rock Springs, but not to the Philippines. In the words of Dino, a former F-d-L customer: “If they would only put their energies toward making rather than stealing.”

Written on Slate: When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, fault lies in yourself.” –Techumseh

Fleur-de-StewedAnts

The Fedon girls drove close to 1,800 miles this weekend to turn back the clock and celebrate an old friend.

Stu Dance and his wife Jean were dear family friends. They had four daughters. My parents had five. Two other couples in their “group” had two daughters each. But it was more than the overabundance of Double-X chromosomes that held everyone together. We had fun! Both children and adults were each other’s best friends. Our Avalon, N.J., summer vacations cemented the relationships with Cooler-by-a-Mile escapades, and Stu was often the ringleader. And yes, there were lots of weddings with such a crew!

Stu's Girlfriends

Stu’s Girlfriends

Stu taught us how to waterski, flounder fish, and sing along with his ukulele. He loved jelly-filled Kohler’s Bakery doughnuts (most of us were partial to cream-filled), Hatfield scrapple fried extra-crisp, and cocktail hour. We each signed the wall at the Avalon Avenue house as soon as we could write our names, sat on the front porch singing “Ja-Da” to Stu’s strumming, and walked to Stone Harbor for breakfast at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.

At Penn State tailgate parties, Stu always had a joke to tell or story to share. While other kids grew up posing for snapshots when the cameraperson said, “Che-e-e-e-e-e-se,” we hammed it up to Stu’s enthusiastic, “Walla Walla Whiskey!” (I continued the same refrain into adulthood and motherhood, however socially incorrect.)

Stuart Lee Dance III was born in Istanbul, Turkey, when it was called Constantinople. His childhood years were spent in Tokyo, Japan. His younger brother and parents returned to the U.S. just before Pearl Harbor.

Stu, Jean and the girls left and returned to State College three times during his career. In retirement he and Jean cruised the Chesapeake Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway on their trawler “Last Dance” and were active community members—earlier this year Stu was named Volunteer of the Year for his work with Centre County’s Aging in Place.

For 85 years, Stu taught everyone he met how to celebrate life. This weekend, he taught us how to celebrate death. Four years before his memorial service on Saturday, he sketched out the details. He even wrote his own obituary.

For a man known to wear gaudy Stewart-plaid pants, his funeral began with Scottish bagpipe music and progressed to the Presbyterian congregation and friends singing “Amazing Grace” with the pipers.

One of his granddaughters read his favorite poem, “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss, and a grandson read Stu’s favorite Psalm (23). There was a sharing of remembrances by family and friends, a prayer of Thanksgiving read by one of his daughters, other prayers and hymns recited and sung by those in attendance. The Celebration of Life ended with a grandson playing the ukulele as his grandfather had taught him, singing with his sister and cousin, “Bye Bye Blues.”

The reception was filled with old friends reconnecting, sharing Stu-Stories, singing the old ukulele tunes, and reflecting on a life well lived, down to the very last chord. Laurie Lynch

Southern Solution: My vegetable garden is booming with too many cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini. I issued an edict to my sisters that they COULD NOT bring any of those vegetables to the house this weekend—they could only take some home. My sister Leslie shared the bounty of her Virginia Beach garden with all of us: a bag of okra.

I’ve had okra in gumbos, used as a thickener (or slime-er) depending on your attitude, but was at a loss as to how to prepare okra any other way.

“Slice them thin,” Leslie instructed. They look like pretty little green stained-glass windows with five white seeds circling the center. “Then, place them in a Ziploc bag with cornmeal and ground pepper, and shake. Sizzle a good amount of olive oil in a pan, drop in the discs of okra, and fry. Drain on water towels, and serve.” Mmm, mmm good!

Written On Slate: “There’s something about the ukulele that just makes you smile. It makes you let your guard down. It brings out the child in all of us.” –Jake Shimabukuro