A spot of tea

This will be all about muffins and tea. If you don’t like muffins or tea, it’s okay if you want to read this instead. Or this.

img_7570All right, all you muffin and tea lovers, let’s get started. This winter I had the pleasure of writing an article about herbal tea for Edible Madison magazine. I grew up with a Scottish grandmother who drank tea every night after dinner, so I have fond memories of family dinners when the tea pot and china cups would come clinking out of the kitchen, someone would pour me a cup of black tea and I would fill it the rest of the way with milk. But when I received the Edible Madison assignment, I didn’t know much about the subject of tea, so this article was a hoot to research and write. I also got to hang out with some interesting tea people at some delightful places like Anthony at Macha on East Johnson St.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I received a message from a farmer named Tony who was wondering if I would be interesting in sampling his “living” herbal teas that he grows on a farm in Mondovi, Wis. I have a soft spot in my heart for farmers, and a new appreciation for tea, so I of course said yes. A few days later I received some Sacred Blossom tea in the mail.

I love these teas, mostly because they are so beautiful when they are steeping (and they taste really delicious, too.) But also because it’s obvious that these herbs were grown with a lot of love and care. Please check out Tony’s website and his kickstarter campaign to support a Wisconsin farmer who is doing something really special in the world of teas.

And while that tea steeps, start making some muffins! My parents found the recipe for these Morning Glory muffins in the New York Times. I made them last weekend and baked another batch yesterday. I am in love with them. They are a little finicky (you need to shred carrots and apples, toast walnuts, melt coconut oil, etc.) but I think it’s fun and they turn out really well. I consider myself to be a lousy baker, but I’ve been having luck lately with muffins. I will post the recipe as appears, not as I did it, because if you followed my directions it would be something like this: Measure flour, (don’t) measure cinnamon, spend nine minutes looking for baking powder, realize half-moon is sitting on the television, read Reggie Jackson, read Reggie Jackson, read Reggie Jackson, read the Bunny Book, read Reggie Jackson, read Reggie Jackson, realize you were supposed to use the large mixing bowl for the wet ingredients, measure the baking soda, read Reggie Jackson, abandon muffins completely and run out the door to meet a friend for happy hour when your significant other gets home from work, remember the next day after yoga that you started making muffins, locate (wrong-sized) bowl of dry ingredients, locate left-for-dead carrots in veggie drawer, make a cup of tea, finish mixing batter, bake muffins, eat most of the (still warm) muffins while standing at the kitchen counter.

img_7646

But here’s how the newspaper said to make them:

_______________

Morning Glory Muffins

From the New York Times

INGREDIENTS
1 cup/120 grams all-purpose flour
¾ cup/85 grams whole-wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup/177 milliliters whole milk
¾ cup/160 grams packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup/90 grams shredded carrot (from 2 medium carrots)
½ cup/77 grams shredded apple (from 1 medium apple)
½ cup/57 grams unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
¾ cup/90 grams finely chopped walnuts, toasted
¾ cup/112 grams raisins
½ cup/118 milliliters melted coconut oil

PREPARATION
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, dark brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir carrot, apple, coconut, 1/2 cup of the walnuts and 1/2 cup of the raisins into the wet mixture. Stir in the melted coconut oil.
With a large rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and raisins evenly over the tops of the muffins.
Bake until puffed and set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the muffins, in the tin, to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then remove the muffins from the tin and let cool completely on the rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

_______________________________

And while it feels like spring out there today, I am hoping for more winter days with a steeping cup of hot tea and a batch of muffins in the oven. Happy Saturday.

Advertisements

A reunion of sorts

There has been a head of napa cabbage from Troy Farm lingering in my fridge for approximately the same time since I last wrote here. The cabbage fared better than my creative self, which has missed taking photos, trying new recipies and bouncing words around in my head. So the cabbage and this site made plans for this rainy November afternoon.

IMG_2877

My sister was the one who first told me about this recipe for smothered cabbage. She read about it on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, who adapted it from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This is the perfect thing to make on a cool Sunday when you can drift around home smelling the onions, garlic, oil, butter and cabbage melt into each other. Next you add broth and rice and then more butter and parmesan cheese. The result is a thick soup that isn’t too easy on the eyes, but makes up for it in taste.

____________________________________________________

Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup

From Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by way of Orangette

Ingredients:

1 batch Smothered Cabbage (see below)
2 cups (475 ml) chicken or beef broth*
1 cup (235 ml) water, and maybe more
2/3 cup (about 135 grams) Arborio rice**
2 Tbsp. (28 grams) unsalted butter
About 1/3 cup (roughly 1 heaping handful) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Kosher salt
Freshly ground lack pepper

In a good-size pot (about 4 quarts), combine the cabbage, the broth, and 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice, and then lower the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow but steady simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender but firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. If you find that the soup is becoming too thick, add a little water. The soup should be pretty dense, but there should still be some liquid.

When the rice is done, turn off the heat, and stir in the butter and the grated Parmesan. Taste, and correct for salt. Serve with black pepper and more Parmesan.

*I use veggie broth or water to make it vegetarian

**I like to use brown basmati rice

Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style

1 small yellow onion, chopped
½ cup (120 ml) olive oil*
1 (~2-pound / 1 kg) Savoy or green cabbage, quartered, cored, and very thinly sliced
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar

*I used a combination of safflower oil and butter

Put the onion and olive oil in a Dutch oven (or another pot of approximately the same size), and set over medium heat. Cook and stir until the onion is pale gold, and then add the garlic. Continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant and looks cooked through, a few minutes, and then add the sliced cabbage. Stir a few times to coat the cabbage with oil; then continue to cook until it’s wilted. Add a couple of generous pinches of salt, a grind or two of pepper, and the vinegar. Stir to mix, and then cover the pan and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1.5 hours, or until the cabbage is very, very tender. If the pan seems dry at any point, you can add a tablespoon or two of water. When the cabbage is done, taste for salt, and season as needed.

_____________________________________________________

Happy Sunday. It’s time for me to dig in.

Yellow rockdoor

One of my favorite things about working at the farm is learning the names of the varieties of vegetables. The green curly kale I knelt next to early this morning is named winter boar. The snow peas- since mowed down- were called blizzard and sumo. The garlic we dug out on Wednesday is music and porcelain, and a midnight purple tomato hanging on her vine goes by indigo rose; she could just as easily be in a dusty bar somewhere listening to Merle Haggard on the jukebox. We pull three varieties of beans- maxibell, yellow rockdoor and dragon tongues. Even the weeds sound like a poem to me- purslane, pigweed, foxtail and thistles.

IMG_2187

I am drawn to words. Recently Dan and I biked to the construction zone that used to be Johnson Street to visit the impossibly too-cool-for-school Johnson Public House because I wanted to try a cold espresso beverage they were calling lavendar brown.

IMG_2181

It was tasty. Dan thought it resembled Thanksgiving dinner in a next day’s sandwich. I also recently visited Spring Green’s Sh*tty Barn to listen to a band called Spirit Family Reunion- I had never heard of them, but I liked their name.

IMG_2067

Later that night I ripped that sold-out poster down (with permission) to hang up in what will become my new home. I had seen the house earlier that day and stood in a field on my phone before the show with my realtor (ugh. I think this makes me a grown-up) as we made plans to sharpen our figurative pencils and make an offer the next morning. And to my still somewhat disbelief, the offer took.

IMG_2060

And while I contemplate home ownership, I cook. I turn back to soothing tomatillos and avocados whirled into salsa varde, eggplants roasted and blended with lemon juice, flat-leaf parsley and tahini to become baba ganoush, and I improvise a hearty tabbouleh salad with spelt berries. I bake zucchini bread. And I steam yellow rockdoor beans and cover them with pats of butter and sea salt. Someone else was drawn to those.

IMG_2116

My mom gave me this recipe for zucchini bread- I’m not sure where she got it. She says she likes to eat it with peaches. I like to eat it cold out of the refrigerator.

__________________________________________________________

Zucchini Bread

Combine:
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

Add:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup nuts- walnuts or your choice

Makes 2 regular loaves in a loaf pan- metal or glass. Bake 350 degrees for one hour or when it smells good and is getting brown on top. Let it cool a bit before you take out of the pans. I usually grease the pans with a little oil.
__________________________________________________________

Happy August.

Early summer soup

This morning a steady mist of rain spread out over the farm as I crouched in the mud snapping collard greens off their stalks. In jeans, a sweatshirt and a rain coat I felt cozy as the temperatures barely hit 60. As much as I love summer, I don’t mind the occasional cool, rainy day; they remind of summer camp- hunkering down in the lodge, a chance to don a sweater, a change of pace. Moving on to pull weeds from the winter squash, my mind wandered to soup. Making a deliciously simple potato soup for lunch is something that my mother pulls off on a regular basis, regardless the season. I think it is something that she inherited from her parents. When I picture my grandpa, it is often at the stove. Either the small gas one that sits in front of the brick-lined kitchen wall of the northwest Iowa cottage or the one sixty miles away at his home where I could hand-crank the bell on the door that led inside to the kitchen, announcing my arrival. At the cottage he popped his homegrown corn to perfection; at home he stirred his award-winning fudge. But I think he loved potatoes the most. To make a simple potato soup, cut up some potatoes and put them in a pot with just enough water to cover. Gently boil until the potatoes are cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Mash up the potatoes to the desired consistency and add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mine never tastes as good as my mom’s.

After returning home from the farm today I wanted to make an Iowa-inspired potato soup for lunch, but I have turnips haunting me from my crisper drawer and garlic scapes curled-up, hovering on the bottom shelf waiting for something extraordinary to happen to them. I also took home two beets today from the farm, deemed “farmer food” due to the fact that some worms also wanted a few bites, so into the pot they go. And don’t forget the neglected leek, long forgotten under kale and lettuces.

IMG_1901

So I chopped up turnips, a couple of potatoes and beets and added them to leeks and garlic scapes sauteed in olive oil and butter. I added dill and red pepper flakes. Right before serving I blended it all up, added salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

As the vegetables simmered on the stove, I sauteed more garlic scapes, dill and chives in olive oil and made herbed croutons from the 1/2 eaten loaf of sourdough bread leftover from my lunch a few days ago. Danger Boy watched the whole thing, perched under my muddy jeans and garlic scapes.

IMG_1922

Please use the following recipe as a guide- I don’t have a tendency to measure things- and adjust it to whatever vegetables are haunting you.

____________________________________________________

Early Summer Soup with Herbed Croutons

Soup ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
4 garlic scapes, finely chopped (use only the part below the bud)
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
5 white turnips, cut into chunks
2 beets, cut into chunks
herbs (I used dried thyme, pepper flakes and fresh dill)
4 cups water (or veggie broth, if you like)
lemon juice
salt + pepper to taste

Crouton ingredients:

1/2 loaf of good, old bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used dill, chives and a chopped garlic scape)
salt + pepper

Directions:

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leek and scapes and saute for a few minutes. Add the root vegetables and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rip the bread into bite-sized pieces. In a skillet, saute the fresh herbs in the olive oil. Remove from the heat and add the bread, tossing to coat. Pour the bread onto a baking sheet, making sure to spread the pieces out. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
When the vegetables in the soup are tender, blend it with an immersion blender until smooth. Add fresh herbs and as much lemon juice as you like (I like a lot, Dan likes a little, so I add more to my own bowl). Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a pour of olive oil, more dill and herbed croutons.

_____________________________________________________

Cultivating and cooking are in our bones. This soup will warm yours.

Cheers.