There’s something going on in our neck of the woods. My guess is that the local foods movement has reaped a fascination with cooking for the 20-something generation.
First came a request from my nephew Andre: Next time you come to State College, can you teach me how to make jam?
It was one of those 90+-degree weekends and no AC in the kitchen, but we persevered for the sake of the preserves! Andre mashed and stirred and ladled and canned his way to a half dozen or more beautiful jars of blueberry jam on that muggy Saturday night. I’m sure more than a few beads of our perspiration flavored the batch.
And now, it’s elderberry season. We have a bumper crop and our wooden ladder stands ready, leaning on the hammock tree, for me to climb to the upper berry clusters that flip and droop when heavy with black, ripe fruit. Plenty for the birds, our customers, and us. We’ve gotten calls from as far away as Lancaster from people in search of the berries because so many wild elderberry bushes are being hacked down or sprayed with pesticides to eliminate the “weeds”. One person’s weed is another’s treasure. A few days ago I was filling baskets of elderberries to the sounds and smells of a merry weed-whacker ridding his stream bank of anything taller than 2 inches.
Next on the cooking lesson hotline was a call from my son, Richard. He is living in State College with my mother and he was making dinner. He wanted to double-check the directions and yield for couscous.
I patiently waited until the next day to ask if the meal was successful.
“Nonna kept asking, ‘What do you call this rice?’” Richard told me. “But she ate it.”
Nonna didn’t need to know that couscous isn’t rice, but granules made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat (or, depending on the country, barley, pearl millet or corn). I can’t type Arabic, but the Arabic name for this dish, traditionally served under a meat or vegetable stew, is pronounced “kuskus”, meaning well rolled or well formed, which is how we get the name “couscous”.
So, my son, who honed his tact and coping skills as a Rotary Exchange Student in Brasil, is polishing those traits as he lives with his 81-year-old grandmother. “It’s not rice, Nonna. It’s called ‘couscous’. It is so good they named it twice – cous cous.”
Three is a charm, and my third cooking lesson request came from Destiny, the young woman who wrote about Fleur-de-Lys Farm Market for a Kutztown University writing project.
She emailed to see if I would share my recipe for pesto or show her how to make it. With 20 years or so of pesto-making under my apron, I don’t follow an actual recipe … so I had to make it first to measure how much basil fills the salad spinner, find the actual measurement of a good handful of walnuts, and figure out how much olive oil makes the sauce moist but not runny. Then, I made a date with Destiny.
I asked Destiny if she had a food processor. “No.” So, my first advice for the bride-to-be was to list a Cuisinart on her bridal registry. Then, we went through the following steps.
1. Place 4 or more cloves of fresh garlic and a cup of walnuts in the Cuisinart fitted with a metal blade and pulse a few times.
2. Add four cups of washed and spun-dried, fresh basil leaves. Pulse until leaves are chopped. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Process the mixture while slowly pouring in 2/3-cup olive oil. Scrape bowl, pulse again, and then fill about four 1-cup containers with the pesto and freeze.
4. To prepare, thaw pesto. Mix with one pound of cooked pasta. Toss in one cup of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and a sprinkling of pine nuts, if you’d like. Serve hot and yummy.
Destiny, who is planning a June 2011 wedding, left with a batch of fresh pesto, the recipe, and a Written on Slate engagement memento:
Love, be true to her.
Life, be dear to her.
Health, stay close to her.
Joy, draw near to her.
Fortune, find what you can do for her,
Search your treasure-house through for her,
Follow her footsteps the wide world over,
And keep her husband always her lover!
— Old English Toast to a Bride
This week at Fleur-de-Lys Farm Market: Taxi, Violet Jasper, Egg Yolk, and Tim’s Black Ruffle tomatoes, chartreuse Armenian cucumbers with long, wrinkly ribs, tromboncino squash, elderberries, blackberries, kale, chard, German White garlic, Picasso shallots, purple and red sweet peppers, red, white, and blue potatoes, eggs, honey, and our Veggie Sampler boxes (a selection of cucumbers, squash, and peppers).
… And, a Saturday Barn Sale: The Queen of Yard Sales snapped me and our outbuildings into shape last weekend and we’ve organized boxes and bins of assorted paraphernalia for your recycling pleasure. A bounty of baskets, boxes of Victoria magazines, tons of children’s books, sports gear for youngsters (cross-country skiis, baseballs and bats, rollerblades, skateboards, boogie boards, bicycles, etc.), games, gobbledygook, craft and canning supplies, and even an old-fashion iron bed. One woman’s clutter and memories can be your treasure! Laurie Lynch