After a summer hiatus of tending a few other projects, I'm returning with new recipes.
One of my projects has been to try to figure out how to transform the fruit yield from our new upstate property from the above – that's six gnarled peaches and a stunted apple – to something one can eat. By spring, we hope to have done some strategic pruning, minimal organic spraying, and a small planting of apricot, peach, and apple trees.
It's been a learning experience. Our single blueberry bush was wasted by birds. My daughter's strawberry-growing project, now encased in layers of wire mesh, continues to be thwarted by squirrels and chipmunks.
Our vegetables have faired a little better. We managed to harvest some cool-looking 'purple dragon' carrots. And the asparagus patch, started by the capable hands of the previous owners, came up nicely.
The most exciting harvest has been the fall harvest of raspberries. As long as we can manage to pick them before the birds. Stay tuned for a raspberry scone recipe...
When I made the raspberry sauce from our family’s recent berry-picking expedition, I immediately thought of a childhood favorite: spaghetti ice. This was (and probably still is) a popular kind of sundae that I had eaten in Germany. Vanilla ice cream is passed through a press with little holes in it so that it comes out as soft-serve ‘spaghetti.’ Then it’s topped with raspberry sauce and grated white chocolate for the parmesan.
I tried to replicate this at home using a well-chilled potato ricer to shape the ice cream. It didn’t look quite as convincing as the ones from the ice cream parlors of my childhood but the skeptical looks on my kids’ faces vanished as soon as the spoons hit their lips.
A recipe that calls for okara, the soy bean pulp leftover from making soy milk, may seem kind of esoteric. But these last weeks, I'd been working on a how-to post for Serious Eats about silken tofu and soy milk. So the question of what to do with all the by-product of okara, was a practical one. When I made my first couple of batches of tofu, I just dumped the okara in the compost bin. But after a while, I started having a guilty conscience over wasting the stuff, considering that it's supposed to be very nutritious and that many dishes could be made out of it.
It needs to be cooked further before eating, as the soybeans aren't fully cooked. One night, I simmered them with some vegetables, ginger, soy sauce, garlic, mirin, and added lots of lime juice. That was great, but I couldn't serve okara every night this week. Then I focused on making something I could keep in the fridge and add to whatever dishes I happened to be making.
This toasted okara comes together very quickly and easily and makes a savory vegan and gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs. It's also a nice protein-packed topping on salads and steamed or sauteed vegetables.
Makes about 1 cup
Preparation time: 25 minutes
1 cup okara
2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
2 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 300F. Whisk together all ingredients.
2. Spread okara mixture on a baking sheet.
3. Bake until deeply golden and crisp, about 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure even toasting.
4. Cool completely. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Yesterday, on the way to our friends’ post-wedding brunch, I stopped at the local community garden to drop off some overly ripe compost. After gingerly emptying the stinky bags into the compost bins and rinsing off my hands – no one wants to show up at a party smelling of rotting food scraps – I paused for a moment. I picked two lavender blossoms and two sprigs of lovage flowers and divided them between my daughters as a gift for the newlyweds.
The lovage, in particular, made me smile. It seemed like ages ago that we had sat by a campfire and played a game where you guess the definitions of unfamiliar words. One of those had-to-be-there moments, but for my future husband and this future groom who were just beginning to know each other, it sealed the deal on their friendship. Together, they were completely in stitches as one read the other's definition of lovage: a ton of love. Just watching them on the brink of peeing in their pants from laughter was a joy.
My daughters delivered their little bouquets to the couple and we grown-ups indulged in a little reminiscing. The party spread out onto the terrace where a small potted vegetable garden was beginning to grow under the care of the bride and groom. Before I left the party, they gave me one of their homegrown radishes. I brought it home, photographed it, and without it ever having to undergo refrigeration, prepared and ate it. Leaves and all.
So to make a long story short (too late!) here’s what I made with it. They’re not recipes. I used what happened to be in my fridge, which wasn’t much, but luckily for me was just right.
Radish and salt on buttered bread. I had picked up a baguette on the way home. When I opened the fridge, I found a small nugget of Stilton and some fresh chives, along with their blossoms. With a light sprinkling of sea salt and a schmear of sweet butter, they all made for a beautiful and simple open-faced sandwich. If I didn’t have these ingredients, maybe I would have done radish, butter, and rye bread out of the freezer. If I didn’t have that, radish, butter and salt. I could have reduced it down to radish and salt or, ultimately, just radish and it would have been delicious.
Skillet sausage with onion, rhubarb, and radish greens. I chopped up the bright green leaves and tossed them in with browned chicken sausage, onions and rhubarb (which had been softened and mellowed by cooking it with a dash of salt, and a few teaspoons of sugar). The radish leaves needed just a minute or so in the heat before they were wilted, tender, and an even brighter green. Only the freshest radish leaves will perform this well. Store-bought radish leaves are often dried out and blemished and not worth eating. But if you get radishes at a farm stand or luck out at the store with some nice-looking radish greens, cook them right away. You can simply add them as a supplement to other cooked greens. Even if you just have a small amount, the chopped greens make a fresh addition to soup, cooked grains, or a quick pasta dish.