Category Archives: Farmers Markets

Prickly Pear Sorbet

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This recipe is quite simple. You will need an icecream maker of some kind, but even the very inexpensive ones work well for this. You will also need a fine sieve.

8 Prickly Pears (they call these Tuna) in Mexican markets. They come in yellow, orange and pink. My favorite is pink.

1 cup of simple syrup (half water/half sugar till sugar melts) or light agave syrup. Sometimes I put fresh mint in the syrup too.

Juice of three limes

1/4 cup raspberry liqueur  such as Framboise. This step can be eliminated if you do not want the liquor.

Often times you can find these pears growing wild and in gardens. In Mexico they also candy them. In Italy they are used to make gelato ad sorbet in the fall.

When making your simple syrup, you can add spices, in this case I used one cardamom pod, mint, a cinnamon stick and 3 star anise. These just flavor the syrup slightly.

Using a fork, cut off the ends of the prickly pear. Commercial pears like you would find in a hispanic grocery will have the little prickles removed. If you harvest them your self, you will need to be more careful. Hold the fork on one end, stand the pear on the other end and using a sharp knife cut just the skin from the pear. Then cut into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pour in the simple syrup, lime and liqueur. Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Strain carefully, there are a lot of seeds inside. Cool the mixture.

Process as you would in any ice cream or gelato machine. Pack tightly in freezer containers. It will be ready to eat within a couple of hours.

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Pesto: Summer’s Gift

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There are few things that can compare to home made pesto. It evokes the essence of the garden, all of that basil and garlic… but it also has a richness and depth because of very good olive oil, lots of Parmigiano Reggiano and most importantly pine nuts and pistachios! As my basil plants dictate (it takes ARMFULLS of basil), I make a big batch and freeze it. It does keep well in the refrigerator too, at least 6 weeks.  I never use a recipe, but I paid attention this time to the amounts so you too could make some of the best “green sauce” in the world. If you have a smaller amount of basil, you can divide this recipe. Just remember to taste the pesto for balance and seasonings. It should have a little tang to it and also be rich and slightly crunchy. Some people use other nuts, such as walnuts, but I promise nothing can compare with the combination of pine nuts and pistachios. The are expensive, but really worth it in this instance. And a little pesto can go a long way too! 

Ingredients:  

1 1/2 cups pine nuts

1 1/2 cups pistachios

16 cups of basil leaves and flowers if you have them. I sometimes add parsley and arugula to the mix, but the predominate flavor needs to be basil. 

Zest and juice of three large lemons

3 heads (not teeth, full heads) of garlic, skinned and cut into chunks

1 1/2 -2 cups of good olive oil you judge when the consistency is ideal

2 tablespoons smoked sea salt (non smoked is fine too)

3 tablespoons fresh cracked pepper

1 tablespoon raw sugar

1-2 tablespoons crushed red pepper

3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (you can do this in the food processor ahead)

 

You will need a food processor for this. If you do not have one, a blender works, but you will have to do it in smaller batches. I have a very large Cusinart, so I do a big batch at one time. 

Method: 

Get all ingredients in place. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet. Do not crowd them too much. I did two batches for this recipe. 

While the nuts are cooling, fill the processor bowl with basil, slightly packed, but not too tight. You should have some basil left over, this will go in after the first part is ground. 

Add the salt, pepper, red pepper, 1 cup of olive oil, garlic, all of the lemon zest and juice. Pulse till the basil is reduced in volume, add the rest of the basil and more oil. The oil and the lemon juice allow the basil to be ground down into a paste. The lemon juice is used for flavor, but also to keep the pesto bright green. Add all of the nuts and process again, adding olive oil as needed to make the paste. Add the cheese and more olive oil as needed. It should be a thick paste, but one that easily drops from a spoon. Once you have it all ground up, taste, add more seasoning if you need it. 

Freeze in containers the size that you are likely to be using it. I find that about 1 cup servings are good for two people. This is great on pasta, pizza, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, crostini, chicken, steak and even on scrambled eggs.  I also like to dip bread sticks in it. However, my favorite way to eat it is over pasta. 

Most WONDERFUL Crispy Okra and Curry Leaf Raita

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My friend Ruta Says: “Odly enough, children in India love okra. But it’s hardly surprising; whether sautéed, fried or stuffed, the vegetable is prepared in a way that makes it’s texture pleasing rather than gooey. In this recipe, for instance, the okra becomes crunchy and addictive on it’s own; stirred into spiced yogurt, it is even better. This can be eaten on it’s own, or served with thalipeeth.”
Ruta wrote the book  5 Spices 50 Recipes, a wonderful play on Indian cooking that makes delicious Indian food accessable for every home cook. Several years ago I was invited to a press dinner at her home in Berkeley, California where we cooked and ate a most amazing meal. I have only changed the recipe slightly, adding a bit more mustard seed and added flavor and crunch of curry leaves. They may be hard for you to come by, but they are available at most Indo/Paki grocery stores. I grow my own. If you cannot find them, the dish is still quite good without them, but even better with them. The flavors and textures in this Raita make my mouth sing. You will want to double the ingredients after you have made this once, it is highly addictive.

Ruta has a new book out now, Quick Fix Indian. There are also rumors that she is planning on a restaurant in Goa where she spends some of her time.

 Ingredients: 

8 ounces fresh or frozen, cut okra

3-4 stems of curry leaf, leaves pulled off of the stems.

6 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 cup plain whole or low fat yogurt

¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (I used my smoked salt for this)

½ teaspoon sugar or jaggery grated

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more if you like a real kick)

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (so good for you)

2 teaspoons mustard seeds (I use half golden and half black)

Method:

Wash the okra and towel dry each one thoroughly. Slice into ¼ inch-thick rounds. If using frozen okra, do not thaw.

Heat 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is very hot, add the okra, toss and let sizzle. Toss occasionally. The okra will slowly crisp and turn brown. Note: frozen okra may not crisp as well, this is OK, just be sure to brown it well. Once all of the okra is well browned, remove to a paper towel lined platter and set aside till ready to serve. Repeat with the curry leaves. They crisp up really quickly, so keep your eye on them.

Make the tadka: Whisk the yogurt with the salt (to taste) and sugar place the cayenne and tumeric in a small pile on the raita, but do not stir in yet. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a butter warmer or small skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering th pan with a lid or spatter screen. After the mustard seeds stop sputtering, pour the hot oil directly on top of the cayenne and turmeric powder. This cooks the powdered spices without burning them. Do not stir the dressing in yet.

For presentation prior to serving, place the crisp okra & curry leaves on top of the dressing. Stir the okra and dressing into the yogurt while serving. I promise you will be licking the bowl in before the night is over.

Serves 2-4

 

Grilled Corn and Lobster Chowder

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It is the peak of summer. Time for lobster and corn on the cob. While both are abundant, I decided to make a Chowder on a rainy summer day. It is not hard at all. I used lobster tails that I found on sale and some claws I had frozen for this, but usually I use live lobsters. I always save the shells for stock. This makes enough for 6 servings and reheats well.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 (1 1/2-pound) cooked lobsters, cracked and split (reserve shells) Boil in Spice and Tea Exchange Crab and Shrimp Boil
  • 4 ears corn

For the stock:

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2  yellow onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry vermouth

For the chowder:

Method:

  • Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect.
  • Grill the corn by removing the stocks and silk, spray lightly with olive oil. Grill on medium heat for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Allow the corn to cool, then cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs for stock. I use a great corn cutter made by OXO. It really works well. There are not a lot of gadgets that impress me, but this one does.

For the stock:

  • Melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs.
  • Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the milk, cream, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.

For the chowder:

  • In another stockpot place the shallots, celery and butter or olive oil. Stir until slightly translucent.
  • Add the potatoes, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add the flour and stir in and add a ladle full of the stock.
  • Remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard.
  • Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn.
  • Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the cooked lobster, the chives,  and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot.

Squash Blossoms

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Squash or pumpkin blossoms offer up multiple opportunities. While in cooking school in Mexico, we used them as a filling ingredient for quesedillas, empanadas and tacos. They were also tossed in salads and soups for color and nutrition. Of course they are also lovely when filled and fried or baked. Squash blossoms are a unique ingredient. Unless you have a big patch of squash or pumpkins, you are at the whim of the farmer who brings these highly perishable ingredient to market. At the Charleston Farmer’s Market yesterday, I spied a little box of the blooms and grabbed it. My mind was swimming with filling ideas as we drove home. I decided on some queso fresco that I bought at a small Hispanic market on John’s Island with herbs and peppers & a little mascarpone for smoothness.

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The recipe:

Ingredients

10-12 squash blossoms

1/2 cup queso fresco ( you can also use a creamy feta) allow it to warm up to room temperature

1 jalapeno or hotter pepper if you want more spice cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons mascarpone or cream cheese

a hand full of grated jack cheese

1 Tablespoon TSTE Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 Tablespoon of TSTE Aleppo chile

6 sprigs of cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

For batter:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 can or bottle of beer

salt and pepper

Method

About 2 hours before you plan to serve, mix the beer and flour together with salt and pepper. Cover and leave on the counter.

Clean blossoms by brushing off any soil, do not run under water. Pull out the stamen.

For filling:

Place the cheeses, cilantro, Vik’s Garlic Fix, aleppo pepper, jalapeno and salt and pepper in the small bowl of a food processor. This can also be done by hand, but if you are doing it that way, you will need to finely chop the pepper and cilantro.

Pulse until the filling is smooth. Using a spatula, fill a small zip lock bag. Push all of the filling down so that there is no air in the bag. Just before filling cut a small piece of the corner off and pipe the filling into the blossom, carefully wrapping the petals around the filling. Leave the top 1/2 inch unfilled and twist to enclose the filling. Refrigerate.

In a large pot or fryer heat peanut or canola oil (at least 3 inches) to 375 degrees.

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Put a few stuffed blossoms into the batter and then place carefully into the hot oil. After about a minute of frying, turn the blossoms and allow them to fry till golden. Remove with a spider and drain. Serve immediately.

ImageYou can find another post of mine about squash blossoms made with sourdough batter here on my Hawaii blog.

Grits in a Rice Cooker: perfection

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We arrived in Charleston to our new home a little over a week ago, though most of my household goods are still en route. I shipped a few things ahead so we would have some basic items. One of those things was my rice cooker. I wanted to make some grits and though that maybe I could do it in the rice cooker. I did it and it was so easy. No stirring and they stayed warm and ready to eat with the warming function on the rice cooker. Here is the way to do it. I of course recommend stone ground grits from the Low Country, or at the very least from the south. The grits I used were purchased at the Charleston Farmer’s Market from Steve Dowdney at The Colonial Charleston Kitchen. This recipe serves four but could easily be doubled and I am sure it would work equally well with polenta.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup stone ground grits
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon course ground black pepper

Method:

Place all ingredients in rice cooker on porridge setting and forget about it till you are ready for dinner.

 

Charleston Farmer’s Market

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Today I got to go to my first Charleston Farmer’s Market. My friend Holly Herrick took me through and introduced me to all kinds of wonderful farmers and producers. I took home a full load of fun things to work with from tomatillos to fresh chorizo. I got a half bushel of those great South Carolina peaches and some stone ground grits from the Colonial Charleston Kitchen.

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I had a Vietnamese Five Spice Pork Taco for breakfast

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And, the best thing about going to the farmer’s market is what you make for lunch! Two big slices of a “Pineapple” tomato, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with smoked salt and fresh ground pepper. Image

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 Monday afternoon, James Island has a farmer’s market, so of course I will have to check that out too!