Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Squash Spoonbread

In the Deep South, spoonbreads are our version of bread puddings and Yorkshire pudding and other European pudding-esque breads. Referred to as “spoonbreads” for their gooey texture, consistency, and easy enjoyment with a spoon, these quick and easy delights have arisen from surplus and derelict circumstances alike – too many squash to eat at once or not enough of this and that to make a complete recipe!

This Squash Spoonbread came out of a surplus of baby crookneck squash, thankfully! Shredding these delicious little gourds on my standing mixer’s shredder attachment (what a fun toy, p.s.), one quickly realizes why vegetables are so healthy – they are all water with a bit of fiber and some nutrients for color! Now, the butter may demise that perfect combo of natural, healthy complements, but it sure does make it good! A shredded onion, Vidalia preferably, adds great texture, moisture, and flavor too.

After shredding the squash, I mix in some all purpose flour, a box of Jiffy Corn Mix, a dusting of Bisquick, eggs, butter, salt, pepper, and a scant bit of sugar. This batter quickly turns into a thick consistency and bakes at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. So easy! A pat of butter just makes it that much better and the presentation of this quickbread is simple and elegant. Served as a side, complement, or snack, this dish is sure to win favor and ensure your place on the road to garden living.

Gardener and Cook’s note: be sure to pick yellow, crookneck when they are small… the larger they grow, the more hollow and tough they become…a tender baby squash is ideal!

Squash Spoonbread

3 cups of shredded squash – you can use a shredder attachment for a Kitchen Aid, a food processor, or grate with a box grater.

1 small Vidalia or half a big onion

2 large eggs

1 stick of melted butter

Pinch of Salt, Pinch of Black Pepper

Tablespoon of sugar

1 package of Jiffy Corn Bread mix (or 1 ¼ cup of cornmeal with tsp of sugar)

½ cup of Bisquick (this gives the spoonbread some fluff)

¾ cup of all purpose flour

  • Cut off the stem of the squash and shred them.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, Bisquick, corn bread mix, salt, pepper, and sugar with the shredded squash.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together and then combine them with the above mixture.
  • Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour this mixture into a greased baking dish…9x13 works just fine.
  • Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes…watching it closely after 15 and cook to desired gooeyness!
  • Cut into squares or wedges and serve with a pat of butter.
From this Farmer’s garden to your kitchen…enjoy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Vegetable Pasta

Summer is in full swing and so is the heat! One advantage of the sweltering temps is the abundance of produce coming in from the land and gardens. Squash, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, and onions are brimming over the harvest baskets. Finding ways to use, combine, and take in all this wonderful produce can be a culinary quest this Farmer loves to take.

Take the aforementioned veggies and combine them into a dish that is as fresh and delicious as the season itself. One of my favorite combos is to take this garden goodness and make a pasta dish that can easily feed a family or is perfect for a dinner party. You are only limited by the veggies, so I hope you’ve planted mounds of squash, rows of corn, and trellis of tomatoes! If not, peruse through your local farmer’s market or fruit stand and indulge in this season’s treasure!

A two “pot” meal, this dish is a breeze and very elegant in its simplicity. Browning some shallots and onion, Vidalia’s of course, in a pan with olive oil and butter; render these down until crispy and caramelized. Throw in the chopped tomatoes, squash, and zucchini and stir the mixture together. Add your salt and pepper to taste and for a bit of heat, a dash of some red pepper flakes.

Once the veggies have softened, toss in some minced garlic, chopped or small basil leaves, and freshly carved corn. Stirring the last few ingredients into the pan (which is getting pretty full) add a gentle pouring of heavy cream and some white balsamic vinegar. The vinegar releases any caramelizing bits from the bottom of the pan and wakes up the fresh flavors of the vegetables and herbs.

Adding the corn towards the end keeps it crunchy and the texture of the soft vegetables, crunchy corn, and cream is just delightful. Fair warning – your kitchen is going to smell divine! Once the cream begins to simmer, toss the whole pan into a baking dish filled with cooked pasta. A fun size such as bowtie or penne works wonders for this dish. Mix the vegetable mixture and pasta in the baking dish and cover with some fresh Monterey Jack cheese (I love the one from M&T) or Parmesan. Sprinkle the cheese with some Panko bread crumbs and bake until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs toasted…350 for about 15 minutes or so.

A whole meal in itself, this Summer Vegetable Pasta is as close to the garden as you can get. The very essence of summer produce and flavors, this dish is sure to be a hit for you and yours. I even use some green tomatoes for a little bit of tartness to pair with the sweet of the ripened red ones. The colors, the flavor, the texture, and the smell are so fresh and delicious…when you have a dish like this one, it is worth the heat. Serve by itself or with The Farmer’s Cucumber Salad and Squash Spoonbread. From this Farmer’s garden, kitchen, and table – happy gardening and cooking…and eating too!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peach Tart

Slightly rustic and simply elegant, this easy dessert is a mainstay in this Farmer’s kitchen! The complement of basic ingredients with pretty fruit is what makes this dish so elegant. Peaches in the summer, apples in the fall, pecans in winter, and strawberries in spring, the dough for this tart is quite versatile.

Just shy of true pie crust dough, this tart dough is a perfect blend of the slightly sweet with just enough puff and flake. Sweet and tart peaches are the piece de resistance for this lovely dessert, and a glaze of peach preserves adds a beautiful sheen to the tart and makes the perfect dollop for serving.

Fresh from the farm peaches are wonderful just about any way you slice them. For this dessert, I leave the skin on, which helps hold the shape of the peach wedges. Arranging from a center floret of peach slices and concentrically ringing the dough with the fruit is quite beautiful if you roll the dough into a circle. If you roll your dough into a more rectangular shape, lines of peach slices make for a great presentation as well.

With such wonderful access to summer produce, I’m constantly trying different recipes from this season’s bounty. Peach crisps, peach cobbler, peaches and cream, peach pound cake….so many wonderful things to do with peaches…this peach tart being a favorite of mine. The dough and simplicity of the fruit is so good, and the glaze of preserves or jam dresses up the dish and adds a dose of sweetness to the tart peaches. Such a compilation of basic flavors and ingredients is always a winner.

Gather your garden goodness or the freshest fruits from the farmer’s market and make a peach, or plum, or apple or pear tart as homage to the season. Store this recipe for tart dough in a handy place, for it can be used throughout each season and throughout the year. From the orchards of Middle Georgia and this Farmer’s kitchen, I hope this peach tart becomes a favorite of yours!

Tart Dough

2 cups of all purpose flour

½ tsp of salt

1 tbsp of sugar

1 ½ sticks of butter

½ cup of ice water

· Combine the dry ingredients with your fingers in a large mixing bowl. If using a food processor, then just pulse to mix.

· Slice the cold butter into cubes and mix with hand mixer or pulse in food processor until the dough begins to clump into a ball and the butter is pea size or smaller.

· Pour the ice water into the mixture, slowly, continue mixing simultaneously until ball of dough is formed.

· On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large “pat” and chill for about an hour.

· After chilling, roll or spread out the dough into your desired shape…the rustic feel of an imperfect circle or rectangle is what makes the simple elegance of this dessert so pretty.

· Slice 6 or so peaches into wedges and arrange on the dough to suit your own fashion. Cover with sugar, about half a cup, depending on the sweetness of the fruit and your own sweet tooth.

· Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the dough is golden brown… Glaze with peach jam or preserves and serve with a dollop of peach preserves as well. Whipped cream ain’t bad either!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Berry Conserve

Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are coming into season and what a good season it is! There is nothing like the freshness of local produce, the best of summer’s offerings, and the memorable taste these fruits create. Unless, though, you can eat pints of fresh berries every day, these delicacies of nature are not long lived on the shelf…YET…there is a way to enjoy their flavor for days in a variety of ways!

A conserve is similar to a jam, yet this method of conserving fruit differs from jam and jelly, since a conserve (con, like a criminal – serve, as in time – ha!) usually contains the whole fruit rather than the juice only. Easy as pie (and delicious on a pie), conserves are a quick fix to a plethora of produce.

Taking the strawberries and blackberries I had left over and just could not finish, I added the berries into a small pot (large pot for larger quantities) set on medium heat. Once the berries hit the heat, they begin to release their juices and natural sugars and your kitchen will begin to smell divine. A dip of water, a splash of sugar, a squeeze of lemon, and a hint of good vanilla are all you need to complete this delicacy. Bring the concoction to a boil for a few minutes, stir around, and remove it from the heat and your conserve is complete.

Now how to eat this treat is probably the toughest part, for it is fabulous on cake and ice cream, zippy as a vinaigrette, or delectable as a seasonal marinade. Of course, in making such a tough decision of how to enjoy your conserve, this Farmer recommends you simply try all the options thus allowing your palette to be your gage. Cake and ice cream are probably my favorites, for the slight tartness of the conserve paired with the sweetness of the cake or ice cream is simply delicious. But in a vinaigrette and as a marinade or even sauce for pork is fantastic – oh the tough choices we must face!

Literally stemming from the meaning of preserving and conserving, conserves are an excellent way to protect the fresh flavors of the season for a few more days and even months. Canning your conserve will ensure you with the flavors for months as well, but I have found that I must make conserve specifically for canning, for I will use up every drop of the nectar whenever I make a batch – it’s that good! Mimi often makes conserves for Christmas gifts and it is always a hit!

Each season offers its bounty and an opportunity to conserve its flavor and freshness. As each new crop comes in, experiment with combinations of fruit or single specimens alone. Blueberries make a gorgeous, deep sapphire colored conserve as raspberries create a rich ruby glaze. Scuppernongs and muscadines are wonderful in late summer and cranberries make a delicious condiment for the fall and winter months. Pecans and walnuts can be added for crunch and compatibility and a dose of additional seasonal goodness as well. Plums, paw paws, and peaches – whatever the berry or small fruit – are perfect for conserves. Experiment with your garden and land’s produce for your own ode to the season.

From this Farmer’s garden and kitchen, conserve with a conserve and extend the joy of each season’s produce.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chicken Cordon Blue and Brussels Sprouts…Who Would have Thought?

It is warm outside and the herbs and summer crops are starting to come in. Nothing beats the flavor and freshness of homegrown herbs. On one of my pilgrimages to M&T Meats in Hawkinsville, I decided to try their chicken cordon blue. After chatting with Mr. Phil, I soon learned that this French classic has been given a dose of Southern hospitality a la Hawkinsville!

Fresh, locally grown chicken breasts were split and stuffed with one of my favorite local cheeses Monterey Jack from M&T Meats. Creamy and full of garden goodness, this cheese was the perfect surprise and binding agent for this dish. A piece of ham was also placed inside the chicken breast, which was further seasoned with a perfect blend of herbs – parsley, thyme, and oregano. Wrapping the now split and stuffed chicken breast were two pieces of M&T’s famous thick cut bacon and a further outer coating of the aforementioned herbs.

Eating such fresh products makes all the difference and I recommend you purchasing from your local meat shop whenever you can. Taking the now Hawkinsville infused chicken cordon blue home, my supper time menu was set. I did need a green element and I was having a hankering for Brussels sprouts. I crave these little cabbage-esque flavored sprouts every now and then and the best way to prepare them is to roast them. Olive oil, salt and pepper are all you need, and a garnish of basil, lemon, and rosemary at the end is tres magnifique. The heat from the roasted veggies wilts the herbs and releases their essence and the lemon juice. Squeezing a bit of the lemon juice add an extra dose of zest to the sprouts. This is just delicious my friends! Cutting the sprouts lengthwise gave them more surface area to caramelize, which is the point of roasting – to bring out the natural sugars and caramelize or oxidize the sugar through heat and chemical reactions. That’s a bit of a scientific way to say “it makes ‘em good.”

Once I was home, I placed the chicken breasts in Dutch oven and covered them with a can of cream of celery soup and some water. Baking the covered dish @ 375 for an hour cooked the meat thoroughly and the liquid kept everything moist. For the last 10-15 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon, remove the breasts from the Dutch oven and place them on a roasting pan, broiling them on low until they reach desired crispiness. You will have to turn them carefully to ensure crispy bacon all around. Trust me, the hassle is worth it. You can also leave them in the Dutch oven and remove the lid to broil them…this doesn’t brown the bacon all around but gives a nice, crispy cover.

Easy and fun to make, this quick meal was surprisingly elegant as well. I’m sure some starch would have been fine too, but this duo plated beautifully and was quite filling on its own. If you are not close to Hawkinsville, then make up your own chicken cordon blue recipe. The combo of fresh herbs, chicken, bacon, and cheese made this dish special and delightful. From this Farmer’s home, garden, and table…enjoy a classic French dish with a Southern accent!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Summer Setting

An excerpt from my upcoming book “A Time to Plant” …

With the bounty of produce at hand, summer is an ideal time to bring the garden indoors and enjoy the benefits of nature’s bounty at your table…especially in the air conditioning!

My inspirations often stem from interesting places and the springboard for this tablescape was a green plumb. The vibrant green yet soft and strong simultaneously led me to think of the different shades of greens that abound. Table linens depicting exotic summer flora and fruit and napkins in an ochre chartreuse proved the perfect pairs for the green inspired tableau.

Though the linens boast gorgeous colors in vivid rich hues, a simple gathered arrangement of garden greenery and faint colored blossoms was ideal for the centerpiece. Using a silver plateau inverted to hold oasis, I mounded and layered leaves of variegated hydrangea, acuba, hosta, fern fronds, and pale blue lace cap and ‘Ayesha’ hydrangeas. The tapestry of greens and soft florets were grounded with creams of ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea that carried the cream theme into the cream glazed earthen ware from Provvista Desgins.

As for other elements of the setting, the garden inspired natural theme was continued with hydrangea leaf chargers, arrayed in concentric rings around and under the plates. Since the wild green plums were the inspiration for the tablescape, bowls brimming with the tart fruits served as perfect take home gifts for guests and place settings.

For the backdrop of the tableau, blue and white jardinières filled with ‘Nikko Blue’ and ‘Glory Blue’ hydrangeas served as sentinels on my console, guarding and framing the dessert of peaches, crème fresh, and angel food cake. The blues of these hydrangeas picked up the faint blues of the lace cap and ‘Ayesha’ blossoms on the table, serving now as an accent color emboldened into a statement of their own. This is a quick way for punch and pizzazz to a table setting or display – run with a theme, use an accent color in a soft fashion, and then saturate the backdrop with the color for aesthetic prowess and pleasure.

Twirling twigs of curly willow danced and delighted atop the hydrangeas, adding a touch of drama and movement to the arrangement. Their green shoots picked up on the homage to the color and its tones that interwove throughout this setting. When a theme is inspired from a single color, continuing it throughout the entire tablescape adds harmony and congruence to your event.

A casual dinner for four or soirees for dozens - Whatever the season, whatever the celebration, use nature as your inspiration to set your table. From this Farmer’s garden and table to yours, make the seasons memorable with their own offerings and bounty, enjoying every moment with your friends and family.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The “A” in my hydrangea acronym LEONA, Annabelle is a showstopper in the garden and a must have in the landscape. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle,’ is the Latin name for Annabelle hydrangea and this species of hydrangea is one of only two native hydrangeas to the US – the other native species being H. quercifolia, the Oak Leaf hydrangea.

Native throughout Appalachia and into the Delaware River valley, H. arborescens can be found growing as an understory bloomer beneath the canopies of dogwood, beech, and birch. Mountain roadsides and stream beds host native habitats as well for this hydrangea. A cultivated species of the genus, ‘Annabelle’ is a terrific garden entity for its presence, cutting attributes, drying capabilities, and seasonal interest.

Here in the Deep South, ‘Annabelle’ will begin to bloom in mid May and bloom well into June. Once July and August come around, the creamy white blooms will turn lime green and make excellent additions to a dried hydrangea composition. Blooming right after Oak Leaf and just before ‘Nikko Blue’ and ‘Limelight,’ ‘Annabelle’ is your ticket to hydrangeas from late spring into early summer.

Light and water…’Annabelle’ can take direct sun with plenty of water. Remember, hydrangeas will tolerate shade but need sunlight for photosynthesis and bloom production. When planting hydrangeas, find a garden spot, such as an Eastern exposure, that receives several hours of sunshine and can glean hearty amounts of water. After all, hydrangea is derived from the Latin terms for “water vessel.” ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Limelight’ can tolerate the most sun in the Deep South and will appreciate a good dose of water when exposed to more sunlight.

Allow me now to gush about this flower proper…dinner plate size blooms I kid you not! Spanning up to 10” in diameter, the blooms of ‘Annabelle’ are a spectacular spectacle in the garden and mounded in floral compositions. Take an armful of these gorgeous mounds of tiny white florets and arrange them in a punch bowl, tureen, or cache pot for a glorious effect. Mix them with broad leaves of ginger, papyrus, fatsia, hosta, or philodendron for a cool and classic combo. And since these lovely blossoms are a neutral color, compose them with the beginning buds of ‘Nikko Blue,’ and ‘Endless Summer’ for a handsome array of summer’s splendor.

Once the white blooms have turned, you’ll witness your ‘Annabelle’ blossoms fade into a glorious array of greens, from ochre to jade to chartreuse. Once the blooms have turned from white to lime green, you can cut and arrange them for they will dry in place. Adorn your mantelpiece, bookshelves, or entry hall with lovely bouquets of ‘Annabelle’ and friends and keep them for months on end once they have dried.

I hope “LEONA” finds her way into your garden and ‘Annabelle’ in particular for a dose of mega blooms and drying prowess. This Farmer has made ‘Annabelle’ a perennial favorite in my garden and I hope you do as well…from the Farmer’s garden to yours…happy gardening with ‘Annabelle.’

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...