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These tried and true favorites make the most of what's fresh right now. Enjoy these six sweet ways to celebrate July's bounty of blueberries, peaches, raspberries and more.


Blueberry Honey Yogurt Tart with Gingery Graham Cracker Crust

This chilled tart is the perfect way to end to a hot day. Drained Greek yogurt sweetened with a little honey provides a creamy, slightly tangy base for the fresh blueberries that are just coming into season. The crystallized ginger in the graham cracker crust adds a fabulous little zing.



Wild Wineberry Sorbet

Wineberries are invasive but so tasty that I forgive them (more info on foraging for them here). Go pick some, then turn whatever actually makes it home with you into this refreshing, simple dessert. If you don't have wineberries, you can still enjoy this quick, cool dessert with good old raspberries.



Chocolate Raspberry Tart

A buttery shortbread crust holds this out-of-this-world combination of chocolate and raspberries. It is so good! It takes a bit more time to prepare than most of the recipes here but is well worth the effort.



Peach Cobbler with Biscuit Topping

This is one of my go-to summer desserts. This perfect recipe comes courtesy of a Cook's Illustrated many years back. The biscuits are made with yogurt and come together quickly. You do have to turn the oven on but not for very long - less than half an hour total. Always a hit!



Dark Chocolate & Orange Beetroot Cake

This lovely chocolate cake gets both moisture and some of its sweetness from the beets that are just coming into season. Adapted from Sarah Raven's lovely cookbook, Fresh From The Garden, this  cake has a perfect crumb and a fantastic, sophisticated flavor profile. You can drizzle with a chocolate glaze or serve it with fresh whipped cream sweetened with a little maple syrup.



Peach Frangipane Tart

This lovely, rustic tart pairs the juicy sweetness of fresh peaches with the rich, nuttiness of frangipane nestled in a flaky, buttery crust. I use store-bought puff pastry to make life easier. Dufours puff pastry is the gold standard if it's available near you (though it is NOT cheap) (if you use it regularly enough, you can buy a 10-pack on Amazon) but any brand will yield a reliably tasty tart crust.



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After that long,frigd winter, I'm particularly grateful for all the bright, fresh flavors popping in my garden right now. It's luxurious to walk outside to gather a few sprigs of dill for my morning eggs, some basil leaves for garlic bread, a handful of cilantro to garnish a stir-fry or a few fuzzy leaves of apple mint to add to a cucumber-yogurt sauce.

To make these lovely flavors last beyond the summer, I rely primarily on the freezer.



I like to freeze chopped, fresh dill, parsley, cilantro and basil as they hit their stride.

It's easy- just rinse and dry them, take the leaves off the stem, chop coarsely, mix with a little olive oil and fill an ice cube tray with the bright green paste. Once they've frozen fully, pop the fresh herb cubes out and store them in a heavy duty freezer bag for up to a year. But don't forget to label the bag - it can be difficult to tell which green thing is in there once you've got a shelf full of them.



I also like to make big batches of pesto - both regular and garlic scape pesto - to freeze for the year ahead. All you have to do is toss a couple of these little, green bricks into a pot of hot, buttered pasta or a pan of polenta or risotto and you've got an instant, summer-infused treat. The only difference from the herbs above is that I sometimes opt to freeze the pesto in larger portions in these great Beaba silicone trays I bought to freeze baby food for our first son 10 years ago. We're way past that stage now but still use them all the time.



My friend, Liza recently told me she freezes her homemade chimichurri sauce -a great idea! So I made a big batch this morning with our cilantro, parsley and oregano and froze half of it.



Once tomato season arrives, I will roast them with tons of of thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary and freeze them in quart bags. One thing I love about this technique is that you can use herbs that are already flowering and you don't even need to remove the stems.



My buddy Liza also gave me the idea of making sofrito - the base for many Spanish and Caribbean dishes - and freezing it. Check out Nourished Kitchen's recipe for Spanish-style sofrito here - this one, which is cooked first, includes tomatoes rather than peppers and features Mediterranean herbs- rosemary and thyme.

Or try Serious Eats Puerto Rican style sofrito which is raw and features peppers and culantro (you can substitute cilantro). Liza also adds a little oil to the batch she plans to freeze so she can just pop a cube into the pan and get cooking.

Once pepper and tomato season rolls around, I plan to make both kinds and freeze them.


Although the freezer is my favorite, I also dry fresh sage, mint, rosemary, oregano and summer savory. You just rinse the herbs, dry them thoroughly then hang in a dry, covered location that is out of direct sunlight, has good ventilation and no mold issues. Make sure not to overfill your bundles or hang them too close to each other - you want the air to reach everywhere.

Depending on the weather conditions and the herbs you've chosen, it can take up to two weeks for them to dry out fully--you're looking for a crispy crunch when you crumble them between your fingers. If its been rainy out, I'll pop them into the food dehydrator for an hour or so to finish them off. Once they're bone dry, I crumble them into a Mason jar, cap them and store in my cool, dark, dry pantry.



There is little I find as satisfying as filling my freezer and pantry with delicious things to eat. Primal urge to survive the winter in style - ✔.

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Earlier this spring, I ruthlessly clipped the runners on our tangle of strawberry plants and they're rewarding me by producing like never before! There are actually enough for us to enjoy a few perfect berries in spite of the chipmunks taking a heartbreaking, single bite out of 80% of them. And they are amazing - delicately sweet and tart.

Right now is the time to enjoy them and here are six recipes you might like.

1. Pair fresh strawberries with a vanilla panna cotta - their sweet, tartness is a wonderful companion to the creaminess.


2. Make a strawberry rhubarb pie- if you've never tried it before, the combination of strawberries and tart rhubarb is surprisingly wonderful. And lots of butter and sugar don't hurt.


3. Muddle some berries with lemon juice, fresh mint and sugar to make a refreshing strawberry mint lemonade.


4. Add some other berries, apple or invasive Japanese knotweed to make a delicious strawberry crisp.


5. Make the summertime classic, strawberry shortcake.


6. Make your own jam and enjoy it all year long.


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Many years back, I discovered the joys of wild ramps. A few years later, I discovered how threatened they've become due to unsustainable harvesting :(

Ramps (allium tricoccum) are a slow-growing plant that's native to the northeast United States that takes many years to mature. As a result, digging them up by the roots threatens their survival as a species.


RAMP RULES

Here are the basic rules you need to follow to help ensure the survival or wild ramps:

1. Don't tell people about any ramp patches you know of. As Gandalf said to Frodo, "Keep it secret. Keep it safe."

2. Don't dig them up by the roots! Mother Nature is watching and she will put you on the naughty list.

3. Harvest a single green leaf from fully mature plants in a big, healthy patch, taking only what you know you will actually use.

4. Say something if you see unsustainably harvested ramps for sale (as in anything other than just the greens) in stores or farm stands. Be polite in your educational efforts - you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But I suspect a little gentle shaming via social media could be very effective if they are not inclined to listen to you in person...

5. Share this post with others to spread the word.

6. Plant your own patch of ramps and leave those growing on public lands alone.

We've planted some seeds and transplanted some young ramps to a suitable spot on our land over the years and I can attest to the fact that they grow and spread extremely slooooowly so we're just leaving them alone in hopes that someday they will grow into a flourishing patch like this one.


Here are some places you can order ramp seeds and sustainably-grown plants from. Keep in mind that they are only available at certain times of the year.

Ramp Farm in Richwood, West Virginia
304-846-4235 or rampfarm@frontier.com

Edge of the Woods Nursery in Orefield, PA
610-395-2570 or info@edgeofthewoodsnursery.com

Amanda's Native Plants in Dansville, NY
585-750-6288 or amandasgarden@frontier.net

Archewild in Quakertown, PA
855-752-6862 or contact@archewild.com

Happy growing and sustainable harvesting.

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My mom had a birthday yesterday so I busted out the flour sifter and the cake pans to make something to give her year a sweet start. My 5-year-old assisted me - he really loves to bake.


I chose this recipe from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl - a book I enthusiastically devoured about two years ago and still return to for recipe inspiration.


It features all the usual lovely suspects -- cocoa powder, butter, flour, sugar, eggs... But the reviews I read on Kim Severson's post about it in the NY Times Cooking section were so devotional that I had to try it.


After having some struggles in the past with the layers getting stuck in the pan, I followed Ruth's instructions of using both parchment paper circles AND a cake release and it was smooth sailing - those babies slid right out into my eager midwife's hands.



I made two changes to Ruth's recipe.

1. I cut the recipe in half to fit two 9-inch cake pans since my family is pretty small and I did not need enough cake to feed 20+ people.

2. I increased the frosting amounts a bit as I found that half of Ruth's originals led to a bit less frosting than I needed to easily cover a 9-inch layer cake and I'd hate for you to be similarly caught out. But you can find her original recipe on her site in case it's helpful.


It's delicious! Hope you enjoy it.

-- print recipe --Ruth Reichl's GIANT Chocolate Cake
Recipe is halved and adapted slightly from My Kitchen Year

Ingredients

For the cake:

* 3/4 cups boiling water
* 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
* Slightly less than 1/2 cup whole milk
* 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
* 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
* 3/4 cup cane sugar
* 3 large eggs (try to find pasture-raised - they're much better for everyone involved)

For the frosting:

* 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 3/4 cup whipped cream cheese
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans with circles of parchment paper (I just put the pans on top of the paper and trace the bottoms with a pencil, then cut them out with scissors) and butter the paper. Drop a little flour (or cocoa powder) in the pans and turn to coat all sides then tap out the excess - this is called a "cake release" and goes a long way to helping you get the cakes out of the pans in one piece once they're done baking.

2. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa until smooth. Then whisk in the milk and vanilla. Sift together the flour,baking soda, and salt.
If possible in a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time,beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternating flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour. The batter may look curdled.

3. Pour half of the batter into each pan and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the pan, 25-30 minutes (mine was done at 25). Turn the cakes out onto a rack to cool completely.

4. Make the frosting: melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water then let it cool to room temperature. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy (I had regular cream cheese so I just beat it with my electric beaters for a while before adding the butter to it). Add the cooled chocolate and the remaining ingredients and beat until thoroughly combined. Assemble cake only when the cake layers have cooled completely.

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