Tag Archives: garden recipes

Tasty Tuscan Kale and Potato Supper

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This was originally published in June 2013..but its worth the repost. Tuscan Kale is a beauty… a textured, rich dark green packed with nutrients and flavor…summer’s ending now so we want to savor and enjoy that fresh goodness now as often as possible….

Well it has been a while since I have been here..but don’t think for a minute that I have not been cooking! Life has called me to turn my  attention elsewhere momentarily and write in alternative venues but still cooking and eating and savouring the experience continues, althugh without documentation…. until tonight, when taking delight in the fresh produce of  early summer, I have been inspired to share another in-the-moment culinary creation that was satisfying, sensuous, simple and simply delicious!

Tuscan KaleThe “Star” ingredient tonight was kale, and specifically a variety called Lacinato, or “dinosaur” or “Tuscan” kale, distinguished by its ‘ knobby (not curly) leaves and more delicate taste. Mine was organic as well, and admittedly a bit pricey, but actually as I am committed to eating deliciously for pleasure AND for good health, it is something I factor into my life and budget whenever  can.

“Tuscan” Kale is quite pretty..green leaves with a hint of blue, and a plant that was favored by Thomas Jefferson in his beloved gardens in Monticello. I must say that I will look for this on a regular basis from now on and will grow it as an heirloom in next year’s garden.

Tonight’s dinner was impromptu on a very warm night, when I wanted something sustaining and “green” with a healthy carb or starch. A one-pan dinner. You will note in many of my recipes that I use some of the same ingredients on a regular basis in my recipes but I assure you that as you focus on a variety of main ingredients and use these as supports, that each delicious dinner/supper will have its own unique flavours and textures and it will taste new and original!

So here we are..Tuscan Kale and Potato Supper, with some flavorful surprises, and packed full of nutrients and good vitamins and fiber for you!

Ingredients  *note: I use what is available in my kitchen. Feel free to substitute what is available in yours!

1 small bunch of Tuscan kale, washed and chopped in thirds, 2 gloves of garlic chopped, 3-5 large basil leaves torn, 2-3 cocktail tomatoes seeded and chopped, 3 thin slices of canadian bacon chopped, 2-4 green or black deli olives chopped, a large diced cooked potato set aside, several small chopped chunks of soft mozzarella cheese, a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation in one large frying pan

Heat pan, add some olive oil for saute-ing (not “frying”), add chopped kale and stir until softening, add garlic and continue to stir (do not burn garlic,  add diced canadian bacon to brown a little, add a little more olive oil as needed and a little water or canned chicken broth. Cover and steam to soften, add chopped tomato, stir..salt and pepper to taste, a squeeze of lemon, add torn basil, cover and simmer gently..there should always be a IMG_5340little broth…add chopped olive..taste along the way, always! for your own personal pleasure.Adjust seasonings. In a separate bowl..a deepish one…place cooked diced potatoes, add the chopped soft mozzarella and top with the hot kale mixture. I also added a little finely-grated parmesan cheese and mixed.

A TOTAL Sensuous Supper with incredible flavour to savour! Enjoy!IMG_5341 (Never accept a boring meal!)

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Foodie Flops: Behind the Scenes on a Cooking Blog

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IMG_8081  Well, an important word these days in presentations is “staging”. In getting ready to sell your house, for instance, there is now a whole lucrative business set up to “stage” your home hopefully  enticing prospective buyers in FEELING that this place is a must-have. New paint, new rugs, candles, scents, lighting and WONDERFUL and artsy photography to highlight the beauty of your space and create that illusion of perfection. Who wouldn’t want to live HERE!

It is the same way with our blogs..especially cooking blogs with their lovely kitchens (or so it appears in carefully cropped photos) with decorated plates, lovely crystal goblets, spanking clean pot-holders or tablecloths, and mouth-watering close-ups of delicious, delectable entrees, appetizers, soups, stews and delicacies. Beautifully staged to create the illusion of culinary perfection or display expertise and finesse beyond the abilities of a mere ordinary kitchen cook in a small, humble or multi-purpose kitchen space.

HA! Guess what? Those are the culinary creations and photos that “made it” through the sometimes messy and goofed-up experiments at the stove, ktchen counter or oven! SOMETIMES, behind the scenes, we have magnificent flops that will never appear on a decorated table for guests or in public on our cooking blog!

Last week, I had such a goof -up with a recipe I make every summer using the bounty of garden tomatoes that are shared amongst friends. I couldn’t wait to prepare this, and carefully selected the tastiest sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes, shopped for the best mozzarella and parmesan, and searched for small curd cottage cheese and the freshest, most aromatic home-grown basil. I cheated on the pie crust and purchased one of the frozen rolled logs of dough that can simple be defrosted and rolled open and laid into the pie dish because pie crust simple takes too much time and effort for me right now.  Oh so deliberate, careful and lovingly anticipated!

With beautiful music in the backround for mood, I sliced the tomatoes to perfect equal thickness, salted and drained them on paper towels. I prepared the cheeses, the basil..the filling… and blended them to  smooth perfection as well in the nutribullet. Laid the tomatoes in the pie dish, layered with the filling, topped with the rest of the sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil and parmesan, placed it in the pre-heated oven and then.

And then, after about 10 minutes, I realized with dismay, that I had not lined the pan with THE PIE CRUST FIRST!  In fact, the pie crust was not even un-rolled.

What’s a cook/chef/kitchen witch to do??? Certainly can’t take it apart and start all over, can’t toss. Well, the only solution was to un-roll the crust, line another pie pan and bake that separately on the oven shelf under the tomatoes.

At the end of this kitchen time…we had one pie plate of browned baked tomatoes and cheese filling, and one separate plate of crust. This one was NOT a winner visually after cooling the crust, breaking it into pieces into a serving dish and spooning the tomato/basil and cheese mixture on top. And it was really not a show-off candidate to impress you on my Sensuous Soups and Suppers blog here.

But… it still was delicious and offered me more than a few dishes for lunch over the course of the week…and yes, the flavors were nevertheless, sensuous and satisfying.

This recipe comes from a wonderful book that was found on sale at JOB LOT for $2.99 years ago…one of those amazing “steal deals” that appear once in a while for an alert shopper. I bought perhaps five copies extra to give away for gifts. Perhaps you can find it still on Amazon or ebay. The book is: Smith and Hawkin “Gardener’s Community Cookbook” ,  compiled and written by Victoria Wise.

The recipe will be posted shortly in the next day or so…check in again for “Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pie”.  (A tease. I’d love for you to come back to my blog).

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Ribolitta! Tuscan Bread Soup (Fare for Peasants AND Kings)

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Ribolitta

A couple of days before Christmas, a friend lent me a wonderful book ” The Wisdom of Tuscany: Simplicity, Security and the Good Life-Making the Tuscan Lifestyle Your Own” by Ferenc Mate’.

Often conversations with friends these days include  laments about the state of our U.S. economy, the fast-paced frantic lifestyles that have often destroyed the community, conversation and lingering celebration around the family dinner table, if it even exists anymore. We lament that even at tables in the home and in restaurants, while waiting for food to be served or orders taken, cell phones and hand-held gaming devices have supplanted the open waiting time that used to be a lovely opportunity for conversation, sharing, and EYE-CONTACT with companions.

It is for this reason, following such several talks with friends on this topic, that I received, read, and relished this wonderful book of another way to live, to savor life and to go about relationships with people, the land, and food based on a whole other set of values that seem to have dissolved here in mainstream commercial, materialistic, consumeristic America.

TuscanyThe book, like others of similar genre, includes recipes native to that culture. And what a celebration they are. Italians are passionate people. And so is their cooking. As close to nature, fresh, whole and un-adulterated as possible. The burgeoning grass-roots movement here amongst those who are choosing to live more gently and more enthusiastically on the planet, is now witnessed by the growing and vociferous awareness of poisonous and deadening practices of mass industrial farming practices. As a result, many of us have been forever or starting to support local farms, farmers markets, artisan bread and cheesmakers, grass-fed beef and small well-maintained and humane poultry producers and it is good for us to do so, not only for our health, but for passion, celebration and our spiritual/psychological selves as well. And for those of us who can, growing our own food is the best of all!

It is good to live simply and it is possible to live with sensuality and celebration as well. This is why I love this book, and I highly recommend it, both for its memoir, its stories and its simple recipes of good WHOLE food fit for Peasants and Kings alike.

I chose to make a Ribolitta..Tuscan Bread Soup. Over the years I have been given a number of recipes for this but never made it. Yesterday was THE day since I am homebound recouperating from a winter cold and virus. What I needed was a soup for nourishment and healing…and reading this book inspired me to put a peasant pot of culinary richness together for well-being and delight. This recipe is a composite of traditional recipes and using what what was in my own fridge and cupboard. I invite you to follow the basics, and create your own soup with what you have on hand! And that is the way it is in Tuscany…use what is available at any moment, and the way it is in my own kitchen as well.

Ingredients:

Olive Oil ~ a large can of whole tomatoes smashed in their own juice (not in puree) ~ 1 (15.5 oz)can of canellini or chick peas, drained and rinsed ~ 1/2 cup diced carrots ~ 1/2 cup diced celery ~ 2-3 cloves garlic chopped (I get my garlic from a friend’s garden), 1/2 vidalia onion diced, 1 small zucchini diced ~ 2 small red potatoes peeled and diced ~ four large leaves of swiss chard torn or cut into short ribbons ~ 1/2 cabbage sliced/chopped ~1 Italian mild sausage, cooked separately and chopped ~1 32-oz package/can of chicken broth/stock (organic if possible) ~ diced fresh mozzarella or queso blanco ~ grated parmesan ~ dried basil, parsley and marjoram unless fresh is available ~ a nice artisan Italian bread with crust, cut into cubes.

Preparation:Gently saute diced carrots and celery for about five minutes, stirring. Do not brown. Add onions and stir for several more minutes..do not brown. Add garlic and stir to release flavor and scent. Do not burn, but saute until everything is slightly softened.

Add the smashed tomatoes and juice, fresh vegetables (zucchini, cabbage, potatoes) but not the chard.. Cover with the chicken broth and simmer, adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs Go lightly at first and taste. I cannot give you an exact amount because it depends on the other ingredients and what I like. You can always add but you cannot subtract a flavour! Taste taste TASTE along the way and adjust to your pleasure.

Add beans, cooked sausage when the potatoes are cooked. Simmer for five minutes. Add the swiss chard..simmer until it softens into the soup.

Add the cubed bread on top of the soup. Simmer gently. And stir.

Put some chunks of mozarella or queso blanco in the bowls. Ladle soup over the cheese.. Add a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan (or packaged if that is what you have) on top.

A glass of beer, or a red wine is the perfect complement to this.

*** Please note that soups and stews ALWAYS taste better on the second day and following days as the ingredients mellow and blend into more complex flavours. (If it lasts that long)

Let’s live well, with celebration, creativity, conversation, and companionship in the kitchen and around the table!

Support your local farmers and farmer’s markets, local beef and poultry farms, buy your eggs from friends who have chickens, tend to your own window herb garden, and best of all if you are able…grow your own food.

With love from Christine, Greening Spirit/ The Cook

A-Maizing CORN CHOWDER!

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Heirloom “Glass Gem” Corn

It’s getting COLD! How about a nice warm pot of CORN CHOWDER!!!

Americans love corn….fields of it, on drives through the countryside, fat husks of it promising exquisite crunch and sweetness in personal preferences of white, yellow or a mix of both at roadside farm stands summer until early fall, large festive tied stalks of it to purchase and decorate lawns and light posts at home in the spirit of Autumn. At farms with mazes to get lost in, a favorite addition is now the corn box, in which adults and children alike lay down in the abundance of golden kernels to make “corn angels” rather than “snow angels in the medium, or with which to pretend they are sifting endless bounty of golden wealth like fine gems.

 

Indeed, corn is a symbol of bounty in today’s modern world…but it is a very old cereal grain dating back thousand and thousands of years. Data varies but archeological research puts corn’s ancestor…a grass called teosite..as being present on the planet for 80,000 years and cultivated by humans in its ancient to modern forms for at least 7,000 years.

Over that span of time..vast experiments with and improvement in that a-maiz-ing plant has made it one of the most well-known and useful crops on the planet today, used for a variety of food and commercial products.

There are SO many kinds of corn grown for different purposes. The most well known varieties grown today are Flint Corn (sometime called Indian Corn) used for decorative purposes with its many colors of red, gold, orange, brownish and white kernels. Dent Corn (“field corn”)  is what we see mostly along road-side fields and in huge tracks of plantings (and I suspect in the corn mazes), it’s main uses as livestock feed, bio-fuel, and commercial food additives and industrial products. Sweet corn is the one we use as food, bringing us delicious flavor and brightness during our warm summers and early fall. Varieties of sweet corn have their champions…some love the yellow sweet corn, or the Silver Queen white sweet corn, or..my favorite… butter and sugar sweet corn  with it’s combination of pearly white and pale yellow kernels.

I think one of the reasons we so love corn is because it is an old food, with stories and myths around it that connect us to our common ancient roots as humans inter-facing with the natural world. It is a REAL food that is sacred to indigenous peoples of both North and South America (it’s first natural home). It is NOT a Pringle. It is FOOD…and food is what sustains all of us no matter where we live, or what political party or religion we belong to.

For this reason, corn is a symbol of the playfulness and imagination of the natural world, its evolving co-creation process with humanity, and the blessings of the gods, Mother Earth and the Great Spirit. It is a Holy/Whole-ly Plant. And we do give thanks for its a-MAIZING-gifts to us.

Let’s now celebrate its goodness to us with a big pot of corn chowder, prepared with gratitude and love!

The Greening Spirit’s  Favorite Corn Chowder

Recipe from Red Rooster Chef Norman J. LeClair in his wonderful book of foodie memoirs “Culinary Expressions” (Dome Publishing, 2002) Italics are my own adjustments. Preparation is my own way of doing it, apologies to Norman LeClair.

INGREDIENTS: 1 teaspoon olive oil, 4 oz.salt pork sliced (I substute bacon when necessary) 2 cups chopped onions, 4 cups chicken broth, 1 lb potatoes, pealed and diced, 1 bay leaf  (and pinch lemon thyme or sweet marjoram), 1 15-oz. can of cream corn (avoid that sweetened with corn-syrup), 2 cups of corn kernels, canned, frozen or fresh, 1 cup of evaporated milk or half-n-half.

Preparation:

1. Saute pork or bacon in olive oil until crisp..don’t burn. Add chopped onions, saute untiol onions start to turn color. Add chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaf and marjoram. Bring to a light boil, cook about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaf and salt pork (leave bacon if you used that.) Add cream of corn and corn kernels. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add evaporated mile or cream. Ladle into bowls…top with oyster crackers. Serves 6-8

Re-printed from my http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com  BLOG (check it out!)

***Note: if you enjoyed this essay,  might you click the “LIKE” button so WordPress takes notice?? Thank you!

Can a Simple Supper Be Sensuous? YES!

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I cook (2)There  are so many extraordinary and beautifully photographed food blogs online these day that are so inspiring and tempting and truly I love them because I love good food…one of the truly earthly delights!  I celebrate all the good cooks and writers who so generously share their culinary inspirations and secrets! Thank you, thank you, all you good, adventurous and tasty people!

My own blog here entitled Sensuous Soups and Suppers is not extremely sophisticated and shares simpler, easy to prepare suppers that I cook for family, friends or myself on a daily basis. However, I pair the word Sensuous  with the concept of “simple”  because for me,  if what is on the cutting board, in the pan and ultimately on the dish is not full of color, shapes, scents, textures and flavours..all the qualities that trigger our SENSES… it will never appear at supper time again. Simple does not mean boring, or without daring or imagination.

A quick but flat, tasteless, mushy, colorless dinner is a true disappointment at the end of a day, after “paying our dues” to the larger world of work ..and especially so if the one dining is also the cook who spent a lot of time hoping and planning to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour (and play) in the kitchen preparing a tasty reward at mealtime.

So what is Simple and Sensuous Cooking?

#1. Simple for me means not too many ingredients, and an immediate hands-on experience with them to appreciate their uniqueness in their natural state. I am talking vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices here. Meat and seafood are other categories and not eaten raw.

#2. Simple usually means that food preparation is not a major project taking up lots of time except for the cooking and seasoning tasting and adjustings in things like soups, sauces and stews that require longer cooking times. I recently attended a wonderful lecture by Dr. Ed Iannuccilli who wrote a wonderful book entitled “What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinners?” in which he told wonderful stories of growing up in an immigrant Italian family with a Grandmother who cooked sauces and a variety of delicious courses of meats, pastas and vegetables all week long in preparation and anticipation for the large family gathering of kids and adults who would gather for Sunday dinners every week at her home. What happened was that that was her role in the family and therefore her good vocation and work in the world but  done at home. Wow have times changed! We no longer have that kind of time, and other roles..many of them all at the same time..make up the hours and days of our lives now for the average family or single person. Simple here therefore means..”it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare at the end of the day”.

#3. Simple means also that for the most part, a meal has only 2-4 different things on a plate…and simpler still..everything is cooked and eaten layered in one deep dish or bowl..a little salad, or a little bread and a glass of wine as well rounds it all out.

NOW, about  SENSUOUS, the Power and Teaser Word of this blog! Let me explain. I also happen to be an astrologer, so I will use that terminology as a frame of reference for the qualities of cooking and eating that I share here.

I am a Taurus, with a Cancer Rising. Both of these signs are very connected to gardening  for beauty, for food, and nourishment, for natural healing, rest and pleasure . Both of these signs are very indulgent when it comes to food from the garden but for slightly different reasons. Taurus grows things, and when eating , eats for sensual pleasure, celebration and delight, and can be quite extravagant. Because Taurus is an earth sign, earthly pleasures like color, shapes and designs, scents, flavours… eartlhly “temptations” therefore ensuing!.. are primary motivations. Cancer grows things in the garden as well, but as the sign of the “Mother”,  food must provide optimal nourishment, satisfaction, and community around the table, family/community-style. Therefore, a Cancerian cook, want the food to be appealing and serve the purpose of keeping family around the table, hearth and home and to never miss a meal!

The purpose of this blog therefore is to serve  Pleasure, Culinary Temptations and Celebration with  color, texture, scent and flavor on your plate and into your body, as well as to be delicious enough to bring you, family and loved ones back to the table on a regular basis for nourishment of body and the continuation of community.

So ending with this so I can go forth and start to prepare my own dinner tonight..I leave you with this example of a very simple but sensuous dinner from several nights ago. Yes, I usually make everything myself, but on a hot and tired evening, I will bring home from our local prepared foods shop which specializes in delicious vegetarian offerings to help me out when even “simple” on some nights, takes too much time. I’m not at all adverse to having some other cook tempt and satisfy me with their culinary artistry and expertise as well!

Simple Sensuous Supper

One Simple and Sensuous Supper in July 2013 on a very hot night

~Gently sauteed (in a little butter) portabello mushroom slices until a little golden, seasoned with salt and pepper and shredded basil, two sweet organic carrots cut in strips, a scoop of prepared Turkish Farro (with farro, chick peas, slivered almonds and slivered green and red peppers, feta cheese and a mild dressing of olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

~A glass of Casal Garcia rose’ wine (well two, actually)

~And for desert,  fresh plump blueberries and one square of dark chocolate.Simply Sensuous Supper 2

The textures were varied, the colors interesting, the flavours absolutely delicious and the comfort and satisfaction 100% ! A lovely meal

. A Simple and Sensuous Supper indeed!

“Break-the-Fast” Morning Peppers, Onions and Mushrooms!

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If you are one of the morning people who have to jump up early, grab a coffee and toast or a quick bowl of cereal, jump in the car and race off to work or school, this breakfast isn’t for you. But you could cook it for dinner, and in fact most people would do just that.

For me, giving up most wheat, cutting back on grains, letting go of some extra weight that I do not need and having some time in the morning for reading, writing or cooking before I work allows me the pleasure of eating vegetables for my own break-the-fast. Although this may seem strange or un-appetizing to some, for me this works very well, giving me energy to start things off AND allowing some of those extra pounds to start melting away.

If you MUST have meat for breakfast, this works very well with sweet or hot cooked sausage chopped and added as well, or a chunk of toasted artisan whole-grain bread for dunking. Who said breakfast has to be cereal or eggs…and god forbid…pop-tarts, or granola bars that truly are NOT food to begin with!

Always in my recipes here, the emphasis is on fresh ingredients, sensuous flavours and textures, AND simplicity of preparation and time requirements. I learned much about this kind of immediate and simple preparation from my former Italian mother-in-law Maria, and my father-in-law Bill who would whip up the most savory and sensuous delights in a large pot or cast iron skillet with an ease and imagination that still is fresh in my memory altho he is gone now, and she is in her 80’s and we live far apart. And I must admit, with the multitude of cookbooks that are in my collection, I always loved the recipes tucked in the treasure  “Under the Tuscan Sun”  by Frances Mayes…meals prepared with the freshest whole ingredients in season and with a minimum of kitchen time. And of course, ultimately shared!

Ingredients:

3 medium Italian frying peppers, sliced thin, 1-medium vidalia onion sliced thin, 2-3 garlic cloves chopped, 2-3 cocktail tomatoes IMG_5354seeded and chopped, i portobella mushroom cap sliced, fresh basil (or dried if fresh is not available), olive oil and a splash of canned chicken broth handy if necessary for “unsticking”), salt and pepper.

Preparation:

Heat large skillet. Add a light coating of oil. When quite hot, add peppers and onions, stirring constantly..do not brown or burn. When peppers and onions have a “sheen” from the olive oil and the releasing of their moisture, turn down the heat a bit and continuing to IMG_5356watch and stir. This will take some minutes to bring them to a semi-carmelized kind of state, but still firm Add a little salt and pepper to taste…keep stirring periodically. When softened, add the mushrooms and garlic, stirring (don’t burn!). When mushrooms are cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, s splash of broth or water and the chopped basil..cook gently until the tomatoes fall apart and the basil is wilted. Taste and taste again to adjust seasonings to your pleasure. Serve in a pretty dish. (I added a sprinkle of parmesan as well).

IMG_5357It is important to be attentive to your cooking when involved in “Sensuous Cooking”… multi-tasking while going back and forth to the stove (like cooking and doing FB at the same time), or cooking and stirring with the phone cradled between ear and shoulder or even with a headset can surely spell disaster for your ultimate culinary delight and pleasure. For me, preparing food in this way is a kind of sensory art form..yes..it is like making art…and it deserves your attention and presence and focus. For me, this is also like a meditation..a “Be Here Now” experience..and very grounding. And of course when you eat REAL food, you become grounded as well as body, Brain, and spirit have the best fuel to propel you into your life.

Take time, take TIME when you can to feed yourself well, and sensuously! And by all means when you can, SHARE the feast!   IMG_5358