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My Chicana landlady during grad school shared this simple, uniquely flavorful dish, with ingredients that were hard to find in 1970, but today come from my own garden. For the recipe, the knowledge and the table laden with comida casera – ¡Muchas Gracias, Tia Yvonne!

12 Anaheim chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, etc.
6 oz jack or colby cheese, sliced into 12 pieces, 3” by ½” by ¼”
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, ¼ tsp salt until very fluffy
oil or cooking spray
2 large very ripe red tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, slivered, or large bunch chopped chives
1 or 3 serrano chiles, diced very fine – optional
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 oz grated cheese

Slip the slices of cheese inside the chiles carefully. Heat a tbsp of oil in a saute’ pan, or coat heavily with cooking spray. Roll a stuffed chile in the beaten egg and place in skillet: repeat with two more. Now turn the first (the underside should be lightly browned and a bit crisp), repeat with second and third. Now remove the first to an ovenproof dish when both sides are browned and crisp, and follow with the others. Repeat with remaining chiles, three at a time.
When all the chiles are fried, combine the tomato, onion, serranos and cilantro, and pour over the stuffed fried chiles in the baking dish. Place in 325 oven for about 15 minutes – it doesn’t take long, you just want the flavors to blend. Top with grated cheese, return to oven just long enough to melt cheese. Serve with flour tortillas.

My absolute favorite recipe, food, flavor – of all traditions, all regions, all styles, all categories, all time.

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Roasting Garlic

Easy – and you don’t need a fancy-schmancy ceramic garlic roaster, either. Use a whole bulb of garlic, and remove most of the papery outer wrapper. Snip the tip off each clove. Set the bulb on a square of aluminum foil, fold the corners up, and add a tablespoon of water. Fold the foil together and pinch to seal. Set on a baking sheet in a 325 oven for 15 minutes or until the cloves feel soft.

Let cool a bit, then just force the baked pulp out of each clove, onto a slice of toasted crusty bread. Spread, and add sliced tomato, basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and whatever else is handy.

But if you’re going to light the oven anyway, why not roast a dozen! Add the roasted (mellowed, sweet, rich) puree to homemade salad dressing, broth, pasta sauce, juiced vegetables, gravy, pesto, risotto, scrambled eggs or a marinade. Keep the extras in a covered container in the fridge.

Sunrise on a hot Midsummer’s Day: perfect for curing Garlic

Garlic Pasta

Start water boiling for a pound of pasta. If this were me, it would be fettucine.  Separate and peel cloves from a bulb of garlic – about a dozen. To peel easily, lay on cutting board, lay a knife flat over it and whap it with the heel of your hand. Remove skin, leaving cloves whole.

Start the pasta cooking. In a saute pan, heat a quarter inch of olive oil till it ripples, then add garlic and brown. Yes, brown! As long as it doesn’t char, it won’t be bitter. Then chop coarsely a big bunch of chives, add to oil, saute’ a few seconds and turn off heat.

The pasta will be nearly done: now ladle 2 cups of the cooking water into the pan of sauteed garlic. Season with a little fresh-ground black pepper.  Drain the pasta and divide into 4 bowls. Top with crumbled Romano, or well-rinsed Feta, then spoon the garlic and broth over all.

The small amount of starch in the cooking water carries the flavor better than just adding seasonings to the pasta, yet it’s a light sauce. You could add a few peeled, chopped ripe tomatoes, or fold in some soft goat cheese. But it’s excellent as is: a first course, side dish or main meal.

Garlic Soup

Simmer 12 cloves garlic, 6 sprigs fresh sage, 2 bay leaves, a celery heart, 12 cracked black peppercorns, and 2 tbsp olive oil in 6 cups water, covered, for ten minutes. Strain, mashing garlic to release flavor.

Spoon a cup of the broth over a slice of day-old country bread and top with a poached egg.

Or use the  savory meatless broth in any soup recipe. Store in a glass jar in fridge up to 2 weeks.

Maybe because I grow Garlic, I consider it not just a seasoning, but a vegetable in its own right

Using Garlic

1. Peel and coarsely chop 4 or 5 cloves, and cook in butter over low heat until soft. Add some chopped fresh parsley, and toss over pasta. Top with grated hard cheese.

2. Peel cloves of garlic and split lengthwise in 4’s. Make slits in any thick cut of meat you are preparing, and insert slivers of garlic – 2 or 3 per planned serving – then proceed with roasting or grilling.

3. Peel 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, and puree in blender with one-half cup each mayonnaise and buttermilk. Season with cracked black pepper. Use as a dressing on blanched, chilled vegetables.

4. Toast some slices of crusty bread lightly. Then spread with a mixture of 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 cup shredded parmesan, 3 tbsp minced flatleaf parsley, 2 tsp ground black pepper and 4 finely minced cloves of garlic. Set under broiler just till golden. This is the definitive answer to soggy “garlic bread.”

5. Peel and mince coarsely 5 or 6 cloves of garlic. Toss in a quarter inch of hot olive oil, being careful not to scorch them, till they’re brown and crisp. Pour them, oil and all, over steamed broccoli.

You are all friends, so I say this without fear of sounding condescending. (It will sound condescending, I just don’t fear it. ) I chuckle at NYT Food writers all of a sudden “discovering” things that I’ve been promoting since 1996, like Green Garlic, or Epazote. Like this makes them so cool. (It’s like 7th graders and sex: okay guys, you discovered it, you didn’t invent it.) This week, it’s foraging in your own yard. I won’t even include the link. You don’t need it, you have me.

A relative of Spinach, Beets and Chard, it was brought to North America as a garden vegetable, but escaped and got labelled “weed.” Still delicious.

Yesterday at Market, all 5 lb of Lambsquarters  I brought were sold: some to brave new customers (hope you love’em), some to long-familiar cooks. So we (ahem) are ahead of a lot of Times readers, writers and their pet chefs.

It’s been a while since my last Recipe page, and Lambsquarters are good right now, so here. Recipes call for a half pound, which is the size bag I sell. In the country this quantity is termed a “cooking mess.”

“Spinach” Crepes with Goat Cheese

1. Queso Blanco: mild, crumbly, fast-to-make.
In a copper bottomed stock pot, heat 2 quarts fresh goat’s milk to 180 and keep hot ten minutes. Stir in 2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar. You will see the curd start to separate. Line a strainer with a large coffee filter or clean white handkerchief. Ladle curds and whey in and leave for an hour. Turn curds into a bowl and add 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Toss to mix thoroughly, and refrigerate till ready to use.  Let stand at room temp while you do the other stuff.

3. Blanch lambsquarters just till bright green and limp. Drain well, reserving a cup of liquid, and turn out on  cutting board.  Chop very fine, cutting in several different directions until all leaves and stems are reduced to quarter-inch pieces or smaller.

4. Chop a medium onion very fine. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a saute’ pan, add onion and saute till soft and golden-brown.  Add lambsquarters, and season to taste with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a little cayenne. Add reserved blanching liquid, cover, reduce heat and simmer ten minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Turn off and cover.

1. I am not going to tell you how to make crepes. Make a dozen unsweetened ones. Stack on a plate and keep warm. Or make ahead and refrigerate.

5. When the greens and cheese are done, fill crepes by spreading 2 tbsp cheese along one side, then top with greens, and roll up. Lay side by side in a shallow baking dish: may make 2 layers.

6. You can warm them a little and serve as is: or, top with a rich bechamel sauce, some shredded Swiss cheese and place under a broiler for a few minutes.

                                            “Saag” with Lambsquarters

Among my favorite Indian recipes are those featuring Saag. These include Saag Aloo (potatoes), Saag Paneer (cheese) and Saag Ghosht (lamb stew). It’s been explained to me that Saag is a general term for various tender cooking greens, some of them foraged, that are available in India. Western-adapted recipes call for chopped frozen spinach, or for chopping and sauteeing fresh. Prepare Lambsquarters as for the crepe recipe above, and omit the seasoning: then use as spinach in any Saag recipe. Lambsquarters will be a little more substantial than spinach: I don’t consider this a bad thing.

Braised Lambsquarters

 Chop 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, or a stalk of green garlic, coarsely. Saute’ in 1/8 inch olive oil till golden and sizzling. Add washed and coarsely chopped lambsquarters, with some water still on leaves,  reduce heat, cover and cook till a fork goes through them easily. Serve over cooked pasta (I like fettucine) and top with crumbled Feta.

Korean-Style “Spinach” Salad

Blanch whole lambsquarters just till bright green and limp, then drain quickly and plunge into ice water. Let stand till cooled, then drain, squeezing out as much water as possible.  Toss with 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp each garlic powder and cayenne (or if you have green garlic and chiles, chop very fine and throw ’em in), 1 tbsp soy sauce, and top with sesame seeds. This is great over cold rice on a hot day. It keeps a long time because of the sesame oil, which is a natural preservative.

The image above, if I do say so myself, is a very accurate one of Lambsquarters. So now you may find it in your own garden. Just snap stalks where they’re tender. Cut it back like Basil to keep it leafy, and leave a plant to self-sow in Fall, in a spot that won’t be disturbed.

Okay, readers – this is my Christmas card! Enjoy!

Writing’s been a little blocked the last couple of weeks. On December 20 our Mom Rosemary died, age 99, after a very good life, but then a gradual and what must have been for her, heartbreaking decline. So although we were relieved to see her at rest and at peace, Christmas was, well, subdued.

In the two weeks we spent going back and forth to her bedside (and two of my sisters spent at her bedside) a lot of pre-Christmas stuff just didn’t happen, including blogging. Can’t complain that it didn’t snow, and that temperatures have been mercifully mild, but there’s also been a shortage of sparkly frosty scenes. Then I thought, what better seasonal images than those below?

Tamales are traditional Christmas fare in Northern Mexico, for logical reasons. Corn has always been associated with divinity in this culture, and the wrapped husks recall the swaddled Christ Child. When Fall ends, the hogs have been butchered, the lard rendered, the corn processed with lime into tender masa flour, the chiles harvested and dried and the husks cleaned and sorted.

Then, tamales are best made in a gathering, and the hours of steaming allow for a perfect warm, relaxing visit. Thank you, Steve and Alaina, for your beautiful efficient kitchen, your bright home, and a friendship that begs to be shared over good food.

Mentioned to a customer that I was ‘revelling’ in Garlic: the largest bulbs are saved out for seed, and the good-sized ones for Market, leaving a whole bread tray of “using Garlic,” not pretty enough to sell. She chided me a bit: “We don’t expect perfect vegetables! That’s a supermarket tactic!”

Left, Bogatyr; center, Chrysalis Purple; top, California White; upper right, Spanish Roja; lower right, German White: I think this year's is my best ever Garlic crop. Or maybe just the prettiest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I don’t imagine you require perfection, along with freshness, flavor, sustainability and freedom from chemicals. But produce should be pretty. There is great beauty in growing things, and our work is lightened by admiring it. It’s only fair to share that, along with the other fruits of our labor.

Cf. pasztphoto.smugmug.com/Growing

... a tiny Eight Ball summer squash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four or five gardeners, at Market yesterday, had the same comment: all male blossoms on their Zucchini: no little squash!  I noticed years ago that male blossoms always appear first, and lots of them, before the first female blossom with a tiny fruit at the base. Thinking it through, it seems producing pollen is a quick and “inexpensive” survival strategy for the plant’s genes. Producing a fruit and ripening it to viable seed stage takes a lot more energy and carries more risk. Patience: those tiny beauties will be along!

To help you revel in your own Garlic, or a farmer’s….

Home made ranch dressing: 1 cup each, mayonnaise & buttermilk: 1/4 cup aged Feta; 2 tbps (about 6 good cloves) minced fresh Garlic; bunch minced Flatleaf Parsley; plenty coarsely ground black pepper. Combine in a quart jar, cover with tight lid and shake. Let stand a few hours. Shake again before using.

The best butternut squash always seem to sprout in the compost pile. This is the prettiest one of a couple dozen, but it was hard to decide.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Speaking of fruit: I have no hope of putting to rest the old “Tomato – fruit or vegetable?” conundrum. It’s always seemed a false distinction, like asking if a horse is a mammal or transportation. But I’ll try it once more. Botanically, any seed-bearing structure is a fruit: so green beans, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and pea pods are all fruit.
 
“Vegetable” refers to how we use it. Apples, pears, peaches, berries and plums are sweet, and are usually served as dessert, or at least in sweet dishes. Plant foods that accompany a meal are thought of as vegetables, altho they may be (not all are!) seed-bearing structures, and therefore botanically fruit.
 
You really should be aware, however, that there are restaurants, some not far away as I write, where the menu lists, under “Vegetables,” the following: cottage cheese, jello, macaroni, applesauce and hushpuppies.
 
 

What I call "pretty": good germination of a late sowing of Black Turtle beans

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Week July 10 – HOT
Sunday – Greenhouse – grill goat ribs – Potluck @ Vick’s
Mon – weed squash – sow beans, Fall greens
Tues – early – clean goat stalls – re-till M-1, set parsnips, celer, sweet p’s
Wed: Rake rows, sow radishes – Pam to weed T-1 – till – rake rows
Thurs: work on mower – mow??? !!!-  till M- 6- spread manure
Fri – Market prep

And remember, 6A and 6P – milk; then every AM – pick Squash, and Wed-Thur-Fri PM – pick Squash Blossoms

That does it: Zucchini is my favorite vegetable! Besides blossoms and fritters, 3 small tender ones, sauteed, some pasta, Feta, and salad = supper.

Thanks to Hyacinth and Trillium, there’s a full gallon jar of Feta in brine, in the breezeway fridge. Suppose I could get a cheese press and try homemade Cheddar, Gouda or Jack cheese. But there are limits to home based temperature control and cultures. So, rather than a “passable” Cheddar, the goats’ milk makes outstanding soft Chevre, Neufchatel (it’s just molded chevre) fresh curd and Feta.

Since there's no strict rule for what's an herb, in this recipe I consider Chives a vegetable

Common, ordinary, taken-for-granted or neglected herbs: rewarding to grow, easy to use. Want to add more green to your diet? a big bunch of Chives, Dill or Flatleaf Parsley adds Vitamin C, iron, fiber and flavor to simple, familiar dishes.

 

 

Chive Pasta

Huh? You’re kidding! No, it’s this simple. Also, this good. 

Get water boiling for a pound of pasta, such as fettucine or linguine. Go cut a bunch of chives* – as much as will fit in your circled thumb and forefinger. (The culinary term for this measurement is “a big bunch.”)
Start the pasta cooking while you trim chives.  Cut them about ¾ inch long.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and crush a clove of garlic (or 2 or 3) in the oil. Cook on low heat until garlic is soft and brown. Add chives, stir a few times and turn off heat.
Now your pasta should be close to done. Before draining it, ladle  two cups of the cooking water over the chives & oil in the skillet. Run some cold water into the pot, let stand a few minutes, then drain. Noodles will be less likely to stick together.

Turn heat on again under chives, and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. A chopped sprig or two of parsley or littleleaf basil may be added – not enough to overpower the delicate chive broth. Simmer just a minute. Variation: fold in a half cup soft goat cheese for a thicker sauce.

Divide pasta into 4 bowls and top with crumbled Feta or Romano. Spoon very hot chive broth over pasta. 

 Herb Potato Salad

Did you think the potatoes were just there to hold up the mayonnaise? When you want to be able to taste them…

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled
1 large bunch Dill, chopped fine
1 medium bunch Parsley, chopped fine
1 medium bunch Chives (or half a dozen scallions) chopped fine
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil (or olive-veg blend)
salt and pepper to taste 

Simmer whole potatoes in water just under boiling, until one can be pierced with a fork. Drain off water and leave potatoes in covered pan to cool completely (this keeps them from crumbling in salad.) When cooled, cut them in halves or quarters, or leave whole if very small. Drizzle with oil, add Parsley and Chives or scallions, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill or serve at room temperature.

You could also use Chervil, Sorrel or any other fresh green herb that’s abundant when new potatoes are in. This is a good picnic or buffet salad because it doesn’t need to be kept as cold as the ones containing mayonnaise. (Potato salads have more flavor served at room temperature anyway.)

Like Chives, beyond "sour cream and baked potato," leafy Dill goes way beyond "Pickles"!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dill Yeast Muffins

1 envelope yeast, dissolved in
¼ cup warm water

 Mix together in a large bowl:
1 cup cottage cheese, warmed slightly
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp dill seed
4 or 5 stalks leafy, green dill, chopped
1 small onion, grated
Fold in dissolved yeast. Add:
3 cups flour, beating well after each addition, to make a soft dough.Let rise till doubled, stir down.

Drop into prepared muffin tins, filling half full. Let rise until doubled, then bake at 375º until tops are browned. Brush with melted butter. Makes 12 medium muffins.

Parsley Bruschetta

How about a lively alternative to Garlic Bread?

For every ten slices of crusty bread, combine

¼ cup butter
½ cup Parmesan cheese
A big bunch of chopped Parsley
2 finely minced cloves of garlic (or more)
1 Tbsp freshly-ground black pepper

Toast the bread lightly in a 300º oven – do not brown. Divide mixture and spread on bread. Turn oven up to 350º and toast bread until cheese melts. Serve hot. (If you LIKE soggy garlic bread, eliminate the first toasting.)

This mixture, with the addition of a cup of good breadcrumbs, can also be used for a vegetable gratinee. Split small zucchini or eggplant lengthwise, parboil in salted water 5 minutes, place cut side up on a baking sheet. Add halved Roma tomatoes. Spread generously with Parsley mixture, and bake at 400º until zucchini is fork-tender.

*Growing tip: cut chives at the base, even if you only need a few. Cutting just the tips causes the entire stem to die back, and eventually will weaken the plant.

Braised Shoulder of Goat with Kasha 

(also good with neck roast or shanks)

Heavy stockpot or Dutch oven; cast-iron skillet

2 – 2 ½ lb shoulder of young goat
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & black pepper
3 stalks green garlic, chopped
1 dried green chile
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs sage
water to cover
2 cups uncooked kasha
1 egg, thoroughly beaten
5 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, same
1 large onion, same
1 Tbsp butter

Saute’ garlic in very hot olive oil till golden. Add meat, and brown on all sides. As each side is browned, salt & pepper it to taste. Add bay leaf, chile, crushed, sage and water, reduce heat, cover and let simmer.

In a dry skillet, stir kasha with wooden spoon until heated thru, then add beaten egg, and continue stirring till kasha is coated and mixture is dry and fluffy. Add to pot with meat & keep simmering.

Melt butter in skillet, and saute’ first carrots till lightly browned, then celery, then onions last, stirring until any liquid is absorbed. Add to meat, broth & kasha, reduce to very low heat and simmer, covered, until meat is tender. Serve with country bread. 

Neck Pot Roast of Goat with Lentils

Heavy stockpot or Dutch oven

1 goat neck roast, about 1 lb
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
6 large carrots
4 large turnips
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
2 cups brown lentils
6 medium new potatoes, boiled in skins then cut in quarters
3 good sprigs thyme, salt & black pepper, ¼ tsp ground allspice

Brown garlic in oil, then add meat & brown on all sides. While meat is browning, cut vegetables (except potatoes) into fork-sized pieces. Remove meat to a dish  that will catch juices, turn up heat and toss vegetables till all are golden and liquid is absorbed. Return meat to pot, add seasonings and enough water  to cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Add lentils and simmer till tender. Serve with potatoes on the side.

 Grilled Goat Ribs 

1 section goat ribs, cut into 4 pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
8 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt & pepper
olive oil to cover

Up to 24 hours ahead, place ribs in shallow ovenproof dish, sprinkle with seasonings and cover with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight or till grill is ready.

Over hot coals, quickly sear ribs very brown on both sides. Return to dish, cover with foil and bake in 350 oven 15 to 30 minutes.Serve with brown rice, salad with vinaigrette, and a spicy fruit chutney. Serves 2

Avgolemono with Goat Meatballs

Large stockpot

1 lb. ground goat
1/2 med. onion (chopped)
1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp chopped parsley
¼ cup uncooked rice
1 egg
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 c. stock
2 egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix goat meat, onion, mint, parsley, egg and rice. Season with salt and pepper and add 1/4 cup stock. Mix well and form into walnut size balls. Bring the remaining stock to boil and drop meatballs into it. Simmer for 45 minutes. Beat egg yolks, add lemon juice. Slowly add some of the hot stock to yolks while beating. Stir egg yolk mixture into remaining stock, cover, let stand 5 minutes off heat. Makes 4 servings.

 Goat Meat Pies

heavy skillet, baking sheet with rim

1 lb ground goat meat
1 lb finely chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
salt & finely ground pepper  to taste

1 recipe pizza dough for large size, thin crust

In a heavy skillet, brown meat, onions & garlic, crumbling meat fine. Continue cooking on low heat until onions have all but disappeared. Allow mixture to cool.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough into a 1” rope and pinch off a 1” piece. Flatten with fingers into a 4” circle. Place 1 teaspoon of meat filling in center, then pinch edges together in a half circle. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with remainder of dough and filling.

Cover and let sit till dough is lightly puffed, then bake at 350 till golden brown. Serve with sour cream or tzatziki for dipping. Meat pies can be frozen in ziplocs, then reheated to serve, with great convenience and no loss of quality.

Update: Whoa! Forgot! No matter how you prepare these cuts of goat, cut the meat off the bones to serve it, then save them for stock. Soup made from broth of goat bones is light golden, delicate and savory. If you like it darker, leave bones in a 450 oven 20 min.

Those “Other” Cuts

Please note: we determine profitability in raising food animals by yield: you’ll hear us say a kid, lamb or beef “dressed out” at so many pounds. With goats, that scale weight may be 40% of the live weight, so a  60-lb animal might yield 25 lb of marketable meat.

Wait: marketable? I remind myself that at least 2 lb of that are going to be organ meats: difficult to “sell” in both senses. But, after the original investment in breeding animals, the cost of feed (have you written your Representative about ethanol subsidies yet?), processing – OK, $90 per kid USDA – and an item I always forget to include, transportation to and from the processor, that couple of pounds might be a significant portion of my margin on that animal.

So, think outside the grill for a minute: Liver
Easy: young goat liver is fine-textured and mild. Slice, dust with seasoned flour, and brown quickly. That’s it. Or use in any pate’ recipe, fortified with bay leaf, sage or rosemary, or in place of chicken livers in classic chopped liver.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/330158

Kidneys: My resistance threshhold here is low, since my Dad, in Britain during the war, developed a taste for Steak & Kidney Pie, which Mother made with lamb kidneys any time we could afford steak. Google recipes, or my neighbor Gretchen of Greensleeves Farm, who has also spent time in the UK, says: trim out membranes, slice crosswise, fry quickly in hot bacon grease and serve with scrambled eggs.

Heart: I Googled lamb heart recipes, and found dozens, but before investing in ingredients, I tried the Liver approach (based on experience with beef heart.) Trim membranes, slice very thin, dust with flour seasoned with garlic powder, black pepper, smoked Spanish paprika and salt, and brown very quickly in hot lard. Pour off most of the fat, brown some onions, and serve with plain rice.

They were tender absolutely delicious, with flavor very like young beef, owing no doubt to the concentration of iron. No liver-like quality at all.

Fries: I’ll let you know ;-)

No, it’s not pie… I forgot to get pics of those three pies… I’ll squeeze in the Cobbler recipe here soon.

(Written Nov ’10, and lost in Drafts file ever since)As usual Time Change has my eyes snapping open at 3:57 AM, doing the math to figure out that in Summer, it would be time to get up, and debating whether to. 4A is too early for most farm work, but it’s handy for blogging, so I start coffee and look at my neglected Recipes category.

What’s wrong with me? There are zillions of recipes in my Documents! Oh wait – there are zillions in your Documents too? Uh-oh! As everyone re-discovers real food, we’re drowning in recipes.

And everyone is elbowing each other aside with with exotic additions and startling combinations: Sea Salt with Everything keeps popping up. Can anyone actually tell a difference?

So, a different approach. Among my zillions are a couple dozen favorites, not that different from yours. There are a few things I’ve discovered on my own, fresh or just helpful. You may add them to your own favorites. Or, even better, they may inspire you to find your own small, simple changes. Since I spent yesterday making pies for my sister’s TG dinner, I’ll start there.

The theory in our family is that you have to have 3 pies, so there’s “something everybody likes.” The practice is that nearly everybody has a small piece of each one. I’m the pie baker. My late mother-in-law, getting ready for TG dinner, once said “I don’t really like [some shortcut] but it’s so easy!” Given a choice between something easy which I don’t like, and something hard or complicated which I do, I’ll take the hard way, 10/10.

So all the crusts are scratch (half-butter, half-lard; 1/3 cup shortening & 1/2 tsp salt to each cup flour; you know the rest). We’ll have the Mandatory Pumpkin, made with roasted butternut squash, which is drier, sweeter and less stringy than pumpkin, plus bakes up a prettier color. Split and bake the squash instead of steaming or boiling, and it’s even better.

And the ancient dilemma of the gummy bottom crust is solved*.

Butternut squash is sweeter, drier, less stringy and brighter colored than pumpkin.

We have the Alternative Pie, for theoretical guests who “don’t like Pumpkin,” but have yet to appear. Wild Blackberries are good this year, so that’s it. Otherwise Apple or Cherry or other fruit. The key to fruit pie which is tart, not acidic, and smooth, not too sweet, is to dot the fruit with butter between the lattices.

Yes, lattices >:-[

Then there’s Pecan “for Dan and Mike,” my brother-in-law and nephew. In our childhood, Mother proclaimed Pecan pie “too rich,” part of her disdain for most things Southern. So no one actually admits to liking it, but since we’re accommodating two smart, kind, talented men who graciously married among us, we are justified. And everyone has “a tiny piece.” Mother included.

Most recipes call for either brown sugar and light corn syrup (mine), or white sugar and dark corn syrup. Now I can’t remember whether it was deliberate or expedient, but one year I used cane molasses instead. (Look for “Pure Cane”: corn syrup may be added to products labelled Molasses.) This gives a dark, full-flavored custard, that critical bit less sweet than corn syrup. Works in chess pie too.

Thanks to Pecan Pie*.  I noticed that on Pecan, the bottom crust always got crisp. OK – sugar, butter, nuts and molasses are conductors: milk, egg and pumpkin are insulators. So have the Pumpkin ingredients at room temp before you pour them into the crust.

Other than that, you’re on your own. Full recipes on request, but who needs’em? A last example of my approach: picnic food, the venerable Banana Pudding, made with lemon pudding mix. Try it.

Okay, one more: Cobbler. Like Baked Apples, a plain, familiar dessert: but if I hear one more person say, “OMG! Blackberry cobbler! I haven’t had that since I was a kid!” I am going to seriously wonder what’s wrong with our culture. (Yeah right ;-)

Use any fruit or berries you like, and sweeten to your taste. Preheat oven to 425, put the berries in an oven-proof dish, and set them in the oven while you make the topping. Follow biscuit recipe on sack of White Lily Self-Rising Flour, but use butter instead of shortening, cream instead of milk, and add a tablespoon of sugar for every cup of flour.

When the berries are good and hot, dot them with butter, then drop the dough by teaspoonfuls in an irregular pattern, leaving space in between. Sprinkle dough with coarse sugar and a little cinnamon (or ginger if using peaches). Return to oven and bake till topping is puffed and browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

A family tradition since... well, as long as I can remember!

1 c molasses

1 c sugar

¾ c oleo – 1 ½ sticks (we now use butter)

2 eggs (beaten)

4 ¼ c flour

½ t salt

2 T cinnamon

2 T ginger

1 T soda

½ T vanilla                                                                  Bake 375º  8-10 min or less

My mother’s oldest sister, Esther Smith, never married, but lived with our family during our childhood. We never knew what a babysitter was: there was no need with a live-in aunt. She helped Mom with cooking, canning and gardening, and knew more about baseball than any other person I have ever met.

            At Christmas time, she took charge of baking gingerbread cookies. Although I don’t remember her using a recipe, this is exactly what she wrote down for me a few years before her death in 1985.  She assumed I knew what to do with these things, and we assume you do too. Merry Christmas!