Counter Culture

My counters have been busy this week: from the stacks of china and glass to be put away after my daughter’s baptism dinner to the mountain of baking on my to-do list, and then the testing of our new ice-cream machine! Yes, we are now the proud owners of a Cuisinart Automatic Ice-Cream Maker!!! This was our first attempt:

The kids decided on mint chocolate chip and we happened to have the chocolate and green chocolate chips to add. We all loved the results and the next night we tried raspberry frozen yogurt — also very delicious. Making one’s own ice-cream means you can control the ingredients, especially the sugar. So far we’ve been using about 1/3 of the amount called for in ice-cream recipes. No doubt ice-cream recipes will begin to appear on The Cooks Next Door.

Getting my CSA each week is something I really look forward to. I love the challenge of using the vegetables we get.

Here’s some of what we’ve eaten recently:

Swiss Chard — I made this Swiss Chard Lasagna and it was so good I hope to make it again soon
Kohlrabi — a relative of the cabbage, I added mine to coleslaw
Peas — we ate the sugar snaps raw and the boys shelled the shell peas to be steamed for dinner
Cabbage — we all love coleslaw and that’s what we did with our beautiful cabbage
Kale — I made an amazing Italian sausage, white bean and kale soup which I plan to make again this week
Mustard Greens — I used these greens in place of spinach in a Greek rice salad
Herbs — we’ve been given a lot of “cutting celery” which I’ve never heard of before. It has the appearance of overgrown parsley but tastes more like celery. I’ve been using it in salads and as a substitute for parsley.
Basil — I came home with a shopping bag full of basil and decided pesto was in order. The recipe I found gave options for freezing, which was perfect for me. Seven little jars found their way into the freezer.

BASIL PESTO
(Food Network)
Print this recipe

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (I left these out)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing, transfer to air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in the cheese.

Makes 1 cup.

Last, but not least, the children and I went black raspberry picking in the nearby woods last week. When we got home we made handpies with the berries we found. It made me think of my childhood and the memories I have of berry picking. Hopefully my children will someday look back and remember the fun we had (even though we all ended up being eaten up by bugs!!).

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Market Fresh: Peas

Spring is here! And with the arrival of this season, gardens will be planted and early vegetables will soon be ready for harvest. We enjoy peas so much – fresh from the garden, we will eat them raw. The bursting pea pods are a beautiful green and the round peas that come tumbling out of the pods are stunning. In the winter, I keep the freezer stocked with frozen peas (we don’t care for canned at all). So today, I’m sharing the simple ways that we enjoy peas.

PEAS

1 lb. fresh peas, shelled (or frozen)
2 tsp. butter
salt & pepper to taste
fresh mint (opt.), chopped (or another herb like chives)

Cook the peas in 1/2 c. water until tender. Drain. Add butter and gently toss until melted. Season to taste. Garnish with fresh mint if desired. Serve hot – add a small pat of butter to the top for presentation.

We also very much enjoy chilled peas or fresh-from-the-garden (or Farmer’s Market) peas as a salad topping or as a simple salad of peas, onions, herbs, and a creamy dressing. They are wonderful in pasta salad or on any lettuce salad – especially when we top it with other vegetables.