first strawberry!

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When I was little I planted strawberries in the garden beds. As a child I delighted in picking the fresh berries that the birds didn’t get.

This year I decided to plant strawberries again. This morning I picked my first ripe berry. I have to admit it was just as much fun picking that berry this morning as it was when I did the same thing when I was about 10 years old!

Strawberries make an attractive plant, and they are an easy groundcover in flower beds. They like to grow among perennials and roses in particular.

I grow them mostly as a decorative ground cover. I don’t know how many berries I will get in the end every year because I have a lot of birds, but it’s fun to grow them.

When I want delicious fresh strawberries (as in more than one or two) I can either stop and visit Sugartown Strawberries on Sugartown Road, or pick them up at the East Goshen Farmers Market or West Chester Growers Market!

pumpkins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask anyone who knows me – I love pumpkins.  I was at Sugartown Strawberries yesterday….so I photographed what else?  PUMPKINS.  Rows and rows of pumpkins, dozens and dozens of pumpkins piled in a jumble of orange. They tell me hay rides start next weekend!  Sugartown Strawberries is located at 650 Sugartown Road Malvern, Pennsylvania 19355.  Their phone number is (610) 613-0525 and you can find them on the web and on Facebook.

And on your way back and forth next weekend, also don’t forget to check out the fall fun at Woodlawn Landscaping & Nursery on Paoli Pike (they are right there at the intersection of Paoli Pike and Sugartown Road).

 

roasted butternut squash soup

October = Fall = start of soup season.  I like butternut squash soup.  Mine is different because I roast my squash (roasted vegetables add more depth to soups) and I add garam masala, mace and ginger, instead of just nutmeg.  I will be making this later today, thought I would share the recipe now.

I was over at Sugartown Strawberries yesterday afternoon and was inspired to make soup due to the perfectly beautiful squash fresh picked by Farmer Bob. (And as a related aside, Sugartown Strawberries starts hay rides next weekend I think)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1       medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and seeded (mine today is about 3 pounds)
  • 4      tablespoons   butter
  • 1      large white onion, minced
  • 2      carrots minced
  • 6      cups chicken stock
  • 2      tablespoons corn starch
  • 1      pint light cream or fat-free half and half
  • 6      fresh sage leaves chopped fine
  • celery salt and ground pepper to taste
  • mace and ground ginger to taste
  • small  dash of garam masala to taste

Directions

Halve your squash and remove seeds.  brush with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper and place face down on a sheet pan lined with non stick foil or parchment paper and roast skin side up about 40 -45 minutes at 350 degrees (you want squash to be roasted and cooked to be able to easily slide out of the skin.)

When squash is done, remove from oven and leave to cool

Place butter in dutch oven or soup pot and melt.  Add sage leaves to pot, followed by onion, carrots and a little celery salt. Over lowish heat gently cook onions down to the point just before they caramelize. Remove from heat.

By now your squash should be hopefully cool enough to handle.  Remove from skin and put small pieces into your soup pot with the onions and stir. Fully incorporate your squash (yes, there will be an unattractive mush in your pot at this point) and next quickly whisk in corn starch and incorporate.  Slowly and gently whisk in light cream or fat-free half and half – do not boil but bring the heat up almost   so all is incorporated.

Add the broth. Stir, stir, stir until all is incorporated and blending together and broth is heated through.

Reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes covered.  Next take a hand blender (you know one of those little blender wands and puree your soup right in the pot.

Check salt level and adjust accordingly.  Add ground pepper and additional salt to taste and add a good shake of both ground ginger and mace and a judicial  pinch of garam masala.  A lot of people do this with just nutmeg, I think the garam masala, mace,  and ginger taste better.

Keep on simmer/warm stirring occasionally until you serve.  This is a soup you can serve the same day or heat up the next day.

This is a soup that does NOT freeze well, so make it fresh and finish in a couple of days.

Additional serving suggestions:

Garnish with rough chopped flat leaf italian parsley and  a smattering chopped toasted pecans and a teaspoon of crème fraîche in the center of each soup bowl  or serve plain.

 

 

 

fast and fresh tomato sauce

Oh lordy I have so many tomatoes!  It’s “almost” pomodoro time – yep – simple and sweet.  And you slice the garlic, not chop.  Sautée some onions, add fresh herbs….it will be delicious…this is not quite a pomodoro and only “almost” because I have meat and do add a little tomato paste, but omit the meat and paste and it will be more traditional.

Simple, fast, fresh.

A few cloves of thin sliced garlic (today I used six)  

3 small onions sliced (3 little yellows from the farmers market in thin slices and then rings)

fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, divided

tomatoes (I have half a pint of yellow cherry tomatoes and a bunch of ripe red)

fresh mozzarella (bought this crazy amazing mozzarella from the Hamptons  home)

salt

pepper

fresh oregano

fresh parsley

4 sausage patties (Italian sweet – they were in the freezer – or you can omit meat altogether)

a small amount of dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted in white wine

hot pepper

smoked paprika

tomato paste

olive oil

pasta of choice

Brown the sausage.  Remove from pan, drain out on paper towels.

Toss a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in pan and cook garlic and onions.  Until sort of starting to caramelize (a golden brown color but not burnt).

Add the reconstituted mushrooms, juice and all.

Add the tomatoes. (which have been chopped, except for cherries, which were halved)

Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, a dash or two of hot pepper flakes and a dash of smoked paprika

Cook down a bit.  Add some paste.  The smallest can is 6 oz – use one of those if you use paste.  Add cooked and now crumbled sausage back to sauce.

Cook your pasta.

When you put pasta and sauce together add chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano) and diced up fresh mozzarella.

Serve with a nice bottle of wine if you so choose, some crusty bread and a simple salad of arugula and romaine.

Enjoy

clucking right along with greek yogurt marinade

Well, today we need something simple that can be cooked quickly and has little clean-up.  I have incredible looking tomatoes from Sugartown Strawberries, and I was feeling like grilling chicken.

But I am tired of all the regular types of marinade.  Someone was telling me about using plain yogurt to marinade chicken, so I thought why not use plain Greek yogurt?

Here’s the marinade:

2/3 cup plain greek yogurt

Lemon juice – maybe 4 tablespoons or juice of one good-sized lemon

Juice of one orange

4 Tablespoons oil – olive, vegetable, whatever

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons mild or sweet Paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala ( I get mine from a little Indian grocery store I visit once in a while)

1/2 teaspoon Tandoori Masala  (I get mine from Jayshree spices you can find them online)

1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (I get mine from Zamouri Spices you can find them online)

I mix it all together with a whisk and some fresh herbs – sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano and fresh mint (mine is curly mint which is technically a spearmint I believe).  You can either rough chop the herbs or just sort fo tear up the mint leaves and strip the rest from their stems.

Toss into a ziplock bag to marinade for a while and grill.

I will end with that is my favorite cooking tip of the summer: using ziplock plastic bags for marinades.  Easier clean up and so not a problem to mush your meat, poultry, or seafood around *gently* in a ziplock bag.